A Look Back at X-Men Adventures #13

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

It’s funny how adaptations of adaptations turn out in real life. Long before the first live-action X-Men movie was released, an animated TV series (popularly referred to as X-Men: The Animated Series or X-Men TAS) was produced and arguably brought together the fans of both the X-Men comic books along with the animated X-Men followers.

Along the way, Marvel Comics went on to publish a monthly comic book series called X-Men Adventures which themselves were adaptations of the animated series (which itself adapted stories and concepts from the comic books).

The adaptation-of-an-adaptation approach went deep further when the animated series adapted loosely the story of the classic X-Men comic book storyline Days of Future Past (by legends Chris Claremont and John Byrne) which resulted a story told in two episodes on TV. And then there was also a comic book adaptation that followed starting with X-Men Adventures #13 which is the subject of this retro comic book review.

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The cover.

Early story

Written by Ralph Macchio and drawn by Andrew Wildman, the comic book begins in the dark future of 2055 in New York. The city is in ruins and mutants on the loose are being hunted by Sentinels. A very old Wolverine appears to help two loose mutants but ends up getting stunned with them by Bishop who turns out to be helping the automated authority of the Sentinels.

As he turns over the captured mutants, the Sentinels betray Bishop telling him that they no longer required him. Afterwards, Bishop and Wolverine (who woke up) each carry a person under the watch of a Sentinel. Suddenly, the two other mutants use their powers to attack the Sentinel and Wolverine followed to back up their efforts. The Sentinel however grabbed Wolverine.

Quality

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A very old Wolverine in the dark future of 2055.

With the exception of some liberties, this comic book closely followed what was told in the first of the 2-episode Days of Future past animated adaptation. As a comic book story, the story was heavily loaded with details and exposition designed to orient readers about the setting and why the future became a time of darkness in relation to the rise of machines having ultimate power over people.

While the time travel concept of the literary classic involved the mind of Kitty Pryde going into the past, this comic book used the more common concept of having Bishop travel back through time physically which easily reminds me of Kyle Reese arriving from the future in 1984’s The Terminator.

The build-up leading to Bishop’s move to travel back through time was nicely done by the creative team. There was a lot of exposition followed by an incoming attack complete with explosions happening just as Bishop is about to leave. In short, the pay-off was worth it.

The engagement did not end there. In fact, it continued nicely as Bishop meets the X-Men in 1993 with the details of his mission carefully unveiled. Professor Charles Xavier’s reaction to future history (Sentinels taking control of the world) was dramatic and worth re-reading.

As with his other works in the X-Men Adventures comic book series, Andrew Wildman’s art is very good to look at and he knows how to make each scene look engaging whether it’s just an exchange of dialogue between characters or an action scene loaded with a lot of impact.

Conclusion

While it is only half of a 2-issue adaptation of a 2-episode animated adaptation of the Days of Future Past literary classic, X-Men Adventures #13 is still a fun-filled reading experience complete with a lot of engaging moments.

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The money shot by Andrew Wildman!

If you are a serious collector of comic books, be aware that, as of this writing, a near-mint copy of X-Men Adventures #13 costs $6 while its newsstand edition copy is worth $21 in near-mint condition according to Mile High Comics.

Overall, X-Men Adventures #13 is highly recommended. Both dedicated X-Men fans as well as newcomers will have something a lot to enjoy with it.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back at Wonder Woman (2017)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced by means of watching the movie and doing research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

I just love watching superhero movies, especially the ones that were well crafted by the filmmakers complete with solid storytelling, sufficient spectacle as well as memorable performances by the hired talents (both behind and in front of the camera).

Of all the superhero movies made by the forces of Hollywood starting with 1978’s Superman, I can clearly say that 2017’s Wonder Woman is my favorite. Don’t get me wrong. I did not limit myself to just DC Comics superhero movies. I saw all the X-Men movies and their spinoffs, almost all the Spider-Man flicks, almost all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and even the obscure ones. Along the way, there were some great superhero flicks that became modern-day classics like Logan and Avengers: Infinity War.

Still it is the Gal Gadot-led, Patty Jenkins-directed Wonder Woman that I loved watching the most.

Let’s start with my retro review of Wonder Woman, the one film that arguably saved the DC Comics Cinematic Universe for Warner Bros.

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The Wonder Woman movie poster from 2017.

Early Story

The story begins sometime after the end of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice during which Diana finds a long lost photograph recovered by Bruce Wayne. Then she remembers her past in Themyscira where she grew up as the only little girl among the women called the Amazons and her mother is none other than Queen Hippolyta. Concerned that the wicked Aries is still alive, Hippolyta’s sister Antiope trains Diana (initially in secret until they were discovered) to be strong, brave and more capable than their fellow Amazon warriors.

One day, Steve Trevor arrives in Themyscira becoming the first-ever man Diana ever met. Tension rises when the Germans (from World War I Earth) arrive on their island causing the Amazons to fight in defense. A lot of people lost their lives, including someone very close to Diana.

While interrogated with the Lasso of Truth, Steve reveals who he is and what he has been doing. He states that back in his world, World War I is ravaging the world costing many people their lives. This causes Diana to stand up and stop the war somehow (she believes Aries is responsible). Queen Hippolyta disapproves of Diana’s analysis. After privately meeting with Steve, Diana then starts her move for a mission to stop the war in Man’s World.

Quality

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Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in the middle of German soldiers.

Let me start with the performances. Gal Gadot definitely IS Wonder Woman in this movie. Regardless of how many versions of Wonder Woman there are in comics, the Israeli actress truly captured the essence of Diana’s early development which includes her special place among the Amazons (note: she is the only Amazon who was born in Themyscira and grew up from infant into a mature woman), her fateful meeting with Steve Trevor, her entry into Man’s World and how she adapts with the events and people outside of Themyscira. Wonder Woman’s purity on saving the world, doing what is right and emphasizing love and compassion were all nicely translated into cinematic art by Gal Gadot. From doing the action scenes to saving people, speaking her mind among her fellow Amazons and interacting with others as she adapts with Man’s World, I really love Gadot’s work on bringing Wonder Woman to life. As her cinematic work is great, there is no doubt that Gadot will always be iconic to fans of the Queen of Superheroes and superhero enthusiasts in general in the decades to come right beside Lynda Carter (who played the icon on TV), Christopher Reeve (Superman), Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man) and Chris Evans (Captain America). Meanwhile, the portrayals of Diana as an 8-year-old girl as well as a 12-year-old were perfectly done by Lilly Aspell (who is truly skilled with horse riding) and Emily Carey.

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Lilly Aspell as young Diana with Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta.

Chris Pine is excellent as Steve Trevor who is portrayed to be very dedicated to his work, brave in what he does and still shows compassion instead of arrogance towards others. He also has great chemistry with Gal Gadot and, like in the comic books, their relationship is nicely translated on the big screen. Pine’s performance here is, in my view, the best superhero movie supporting role to date.

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Chris Pine as Steve Trevor with Gal Gadot as Diana in disguise.

Connie Nielsen meanwhile is great in playing Queen Hippolyta and all throughout, there is always a sense of leadership complete with a touch of motherly love just like in the comic books. Her sister Antiope was nicely portrayed by Robin Wright as the one Amazon who taught Diana to be brave, strong and highly capable as an Amazon warrior.

Danny Huston, who played the lead villain in the 2009 movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine, played yet another military bad guy here but this time he’s a World War I German officer. He’s a villain with a purpose who not only fights for the glory of Germany but also strongly believes that war is natural and inevitable for humanity. In some ways, Huston’s Ludendorff reminds me Michael Shannon’s General Zod in Man of Steel.

Antiope
Robin Wright is excellent as Antiope.

When it comes to presentation, this film is Patty Jenkins’ 2nd movie as director (her debut was way back in 2003) and the great turnout of Wonder Woman as a high quality movie (as opposed to being a critical and commercial success) only proved yet again that the old saying in Hollywood – The director’s second movie is his/her best movie – is true. Jenkins, who also worked on television, not only prepared a lot to make this movie but also researched Wonder Woman, developed ways to get the most out of the cast members, tweak the written story of the film (by Allan Heinberg, Zach Snyder and Jason Fuchs) and, most notably, she led the production with a lot of passion. To put it short, Wonder Woman is a labor of love (and the No Man’s Land scene is iconic) that not only resonated with fans of the Queen of Superheroes but also with the film critics and moviegoers.

Regarding storytelling, I noticed that a key story from Wonder Woman’s origin in the comics (the contest of the Amazons) did not happen at all in the film. While there were die-hard fans of the icon who complained about it, I felt that the contest of the Amazons would have made this movie more complicated and surely would have lessened the impact of World War I as a key story element. Since the purpose of this movie was to emphasize Diana’s origin and her entry into Man’s World with a major mission, I believe that the contest of the Amazons can be made cinematically later in a future movie.

The way the story was told cinematically, it also captured Diana’s reactions to the events that happened around her. The scene in which she saw the village destroyed showed how death and destruction compelled Wonder Woman to accomplish her mission even though others find ending the war impossible. Along the way, the actors – specifically Gal Gadot – really added life into the narrative with their strong performances.

When it comes to on-screen humor, which is popular among moviegoers and is almost a requirement for most new superhero movies that come out, having it done by supporting players Lucy Davis and Saïd Taghmaoui was a clever move since it allows Gal Gadot to portray Wonder Woman without any performance disruption. Considering her short screen time, Davis as Etta Candy is really funny. The amount of humor in this film, in my view, was just right and never annoying.

Spectacle? Wonder Woman is loaded with action, stunts and exciting stuff! The action involving Wonder Woman was brutal and satisfying to watch, and Patty Jenkins’ use of slow motion on key moments was great (even comparable to John Woo’s past work) and at the same time not too excessive. The Themyscira battle between the Germans and the Amazons at the beach was engaging and strategically filmed. Also, it was fitting that the action ramped up nicely starting with the iconic No Man’s Land sequence. The final battle in the film, unsurprisingly, had lots of computer-generated images (CGI) which is understandable considering the fantasy element of Wonder Woman.

More on the action, I love the way Patty Jenkins had Gal Gadot, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen and Chris Pine perform the action themselves which all made their characters even more believable. Of course, there were certain moments in which stunt doubles were used to do the more dangerous moments on behalf of the actors.

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This happened just before the iconic No Man’s Land scene.

Apart from the core cast, a lot of the actresses playing the Amazons trained for several months not just to look the part but also to perform action sequences using weapons with actual skill. The stunt coordinators and specialists hired by the filmmakers deserve praise for contributing nicely on making the cinematic Amazons highly believable. This alone not only makes Wonder Woman stand out nicely among all Hollywood superhero movies but also reflects nicely what was portrayed in the comic books.

The production design is also top-notch. I love the scenic locations of Italy used for scenes set in Themyscira. The filmmakers also did a great job recapturing the look of World War I Europe from the historical pictures to the big screen. The costume designs were fantastic, and the standout designs were, unsurprisingly, the costumes of the Amazons which really made their fantasy culture look believable. The filmmakers decided to have much more colorful visuals instead of following the look of Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad.

On the music, the work by Rupert Gregson-Williams was great. His rendition of the Wonder Woman theme was very lively to listen to. The same can be said about the music he provided in the memorable No Man’s Land scene which had a nice build-up as Wonder Woman made her first full appearance in costume on the field. Other tunes played in the film suited the scenes well.

If there were any weak spots in this movie, it would be certain shots of action that were not filmed with precision. I’m talking about filming action scenes way too close to the camera combined with music video-style editing that’s supposed to make film look flashy. It’s not only disorienting, it also took me out of the movie.

Conclusion

Overall, Wonder Woman is one of the best-ever superhero movies ever made and easily my favorite of them all. It has an excellent balance between storytelling, character development and spectacle, and Gal Gadot gave the performance of a lifetime not only by bringing Wonder Woman into life in cinematic form but also emphasizing what the Queen of Superheroes stood for. As part of the current DC Comics Cinematic Universe, this movie stood out by having optimism and heroism as core themes (as opposed to the dark, gritty and even cynical approach of Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad) and, more importantly, by focusing strongly on Wonder Woman instead of building up for the Justice League movie (which was released months after this one).

Apart from high-quality production values and a strong creative approach, the cast and cinematic performances are easily among the best in the superhero movie genre. Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is an excellent example of a supporting role that is engaging without ever overshadowing the lead role. By the end of the film, you will realize the impact that Queen Hippolyta and Antiope had on Diana’s personal development.

QH
Connie Nielsen made a great queen and mother in this movie.

Being strongly focused on heroism with optimism, director Patty Jenkins and her crew succeeded in making this film without ever succumbing to the extreme views of the Political Left in Hollywood and the loudmouth social feminists. When I see the battle between the Amazons and the German soldiers on the beach of Themyscira happen, I simply saw armed women defending their homeland not from men who intend to rape them but rather men who had no right to intrude in the first place. Even as there were scenes showing men in power in World War I Europe (putting Diana in a powerless position), there still was no feminist-inspired hatred towards men. Also the bond between Steve and Diana developing from friendship into a romantic relationship literally shut the door on extreme feminism.

As a Wonder Woman-focused story, this film succeeded on emphasizing the Queen of Superheroes to both long-time fans and mainstream moviegoers. This movie also had a nice mix of having a fantasy setting with Themyscira moving on to a historic setting with World War I Europe. On the origins of Wonder Woman herself, I don’t mind at all that the contest of Amazons was not told because this movie’s concept is already great to begin with and its running time of 141 minutes was just right.

Wondyclimb
Gal Gadot will be remembered for a very long time for her excellent portray of Wonder Woman in cinema.

With all the greatness it was made with, I kept coming back to Wonder Woman when replaying superhero movies here at the comfort of home. In the cinemas back in 2017, I saw the film three times. Ultimately, I can say out loud that Wonder Woman is highly recommended and it is truly essential!


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

If you are looking forward to Wonder Woman 1984, check out my preview and opinion about the first movie trailer.

X-Men at Toycon 2019

During my time at the Toycon 2019 at SMX Convention Center in Pasay City this past Saturday, I checked out the X-Men stuff. I am a long-time X-Men fan and that particular franchise is my favorite among all of Marvel’s superheroes.

As before, I looked for some back issues of X-Men at one of the few comic book sellers at the convention.

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Lots of old X-Men comic books displayed for sale.
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A copy of X-Men #1 (1991) drawn by Jim Lee featuring Magneto. I did not bother to buy this one.

After carefully searching what was available and calculating with my limited budget, I bought a few copies of Uncanny X-Men drawn in the early 1990s by Whilce Portacio. I intend to have these comic books signed by him in the near future.

As I went around the floor of the main exhibition hall of the convention center, I saw several X-Men statues and action figures. The one that caught my attention was the Dark Phoenix figure.

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Too bad the filmmakers could not find a way to replicate this classic Dark Phoenix form for the big screen. 

And then I went up to the 2nd level of the convention where there was one function hall that had several displays of toys and action figures for people to look at. Of course, the X-Men were there and here are some pictures I took for your viewing pleasure.

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I like this set up showing two opposing sides. I just wished Magneto had been placed closer fronting Charles Xavier.
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The 1990s X-Men look.
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Dazzler, X-Factor, Cable and some X-Men.
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Another 1990s X-Men set.
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I like the set up here with the X-Men and a fallen Sentinel.

For more X-Men insight, check out my Logan retro movie review, my X-Men #1 (1991) retro comic book review, my X-Men: Dark Phoenix movie review, my retro movie reviews of X-Men (2000), X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand.

Check out my first Toycon 2019 article here.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back At Logan

What a journey it has been! When I first saw then newcomer Hugh Jackman play Wolverine in the first X-Men movie back in 2000, I was not that impressed. In X2: X-Men United, Jackman outdid himself and established Wolverine as a very defining action hero for 21st century Hollywood cinema that moviegoers can keep coming back for more.

Then Jackman played Wolverine (referred to as Logan) several more times in the X-Men movies plus the standalone Wolverine movies. His most defining performance as the cinematic icon happened in 2017 with the release of Logan directed by James Mangold.

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Hugh Jackman delivered his best superhero movie performance in Logan.

Set in what is the near future, Logan takes place in a time (note: the X-Men cinematic universe timeline was revised as a result of X-Men: Days of Future Past) when mutants are dying off as a human species. Wolverine/Logan works as a limousine driver and lives at a smelting plant in Mexico with Cabal and a very old Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who has dementia and has been unstable with his telepathic powers which make him a danger.

The future is bleak for them. Logan is very old and his healing factor has weakened a whole lot and the adamantium coating of his skeleton has poisoned him. Xavier meanwhile needs be provided with medication to prevent him from having a seizure which, combined with his telepathic powers, affects all others around them negatively. It has also been confirmed that an incident was caused by Xavier’s seizure which killed off several X-Men members leaving them three. Logan has to work and earn as much money as he could to keep providing the medication.

One day, a lady approaches Logan to try to hire him to drive her and a young girl named Laura (X-23 in the comics, played by Dafne Keene) to a refuge in North Dakota to escape from danger. Logan accepts reluctantly but discovers that the lady got killed. He returned to the smelting plant and learned that Laura stowed away by discreetly riding his limo. Eventually mercenaries led by Donald Pierce (who met Logan early in the film) arrive at the smelting plant. From this point, Logan realizes why the lady and Laura are targets and then mayhem begins when the little girl fights the mercenaries.

When it comes to storytelling, Logan emphasizes the violent and bitter journey of Wolverine who, at a very late stage in his life, has to accept the reality that he has to make another hard adjustment as a key element from his past comes into his life which is Laura who is actually a clone of him produced from an extracted sample of his DNA. The movie has some parallels with the 1950s cowboy movie Shane (which has some scenes in the film) which added depth to the story.

Logan also emphasizes the element of aging which has not been fully explored in the superhero movie genre until now. Wolverine lived lonely, had no people to love and his personal journey has been marked with violence and death. He could only move forward with whatever opportunities he could find but no matter what he does, happiness will always be unreachable to him. For Charles Xavier, age really tore him down and being almost 100-years-old in the story, he really has nowhere else to go to but death. Not even his legacy of brilliance and teaching mutants to use their powers for good could make any profound changes.

The long journey of Logan, Xavier and Laura in the film is where the character developments really set in. Along the way, there is a scene in which Logan, holding X-Men comic books (made specifically for the story), expressed his displeasure about how people perceive the X-Men and that the pharmaceutical company fed their young cloned mutants with fantasy and lies. Also striking to me as a viewer and a geek were the scenes showing how unethical the company has been with developing the young mutants (X-23’s pals) who decide to fight to escape.

In terms of presentation, Logan was rated R and for good reasons. It was rated R not simply because of very brutal violence and swearing but because its concepts are clearly meant for adults to see. If you combine the concepts of unethical science experiments, mercenary brutality, human rights violations and unchecked destruction, clearly Logan is NOT the superhero movie made for parents and their little kids to watch together. When it comes to action and spectacle, this movie has more than enough stuff to keep viewers entertaining while at the same time it has this particular 1980s R-rated Hollywood action film feel to it.

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Dafne Keene as X-23/Laura. Her great act will be remembered for a very long time.

Performances of the actors were top-notch, specifically Jackman, Stewart and Dafne Keene. Hugh Jackman as a superhero cinematic artist truly evolved! If you disregard the timeline alteration of the X-Men films, you will realize how Jackman’s Wolverine gradually changed in terms of style and expression. In 2000’s X-Men, Wolverine was trying to figure out his place among the mutants as Charles Xavier helped him. In X2, he decided to be with the X-Men and help them out in their situation. In X-Men: The Last Stand, he has to deal with helping the X-Men tackle Magneto who has Dark Phoenix/Jean Grey (the lady Logan has feelings for). In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he struggles morally and dealt with his relationship with his “brother” Sabretooth. In The Wolverine, he moves away from the X-Men and got himself involved with a conflict (plus an old friend) in Japan. In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Wolverine of the dark future goes back through time to his younger self with the pressure to alter history.

Patrick Stewart’s dying Xavier in Logan shows a new dimension to the cinematic art of the actor. He really makes Xavier look hopeless and yet he successfully made viewers more sympathetic to his character than ever before. Last but not least, Dafne Keene as Laura/X-23 proved how talented she really is when it comes to dramatic scenes. Even though she got yelled at by Hugh Jackman, Keene still moved on with her strong performance. Definitely her performance is something to be remembered for a very long time in cinema.

Conclusion

I have seen a whole lot of superhero movies in my life. Just over a week ago I managed to watch Avengers: Endgame and it was a true epic like Infinity War. Even by today’s standards, Logan is a standout superhero movie that delivers spectacle, action, solid performances, some humor and the distinct vibe of 1980s R-rated Hollywood action cinema combined. In fact, I should say that Logan is a modern day classic among all superhero movies.

As such, Logan is highly recommended and I urge you readers to watch it on Blu-ray disc format to get the best visual and R-rated viewing experience.


Thank you for reading. If you find this game review engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com