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One Year Later

A couple weeks ago, I hit the one-year mark of having a new post for this blog every single weekday (Mon-Fri). Over 52 weeks of at least five posts per week.

What started as a personal “experiment” in seeing if I could do a month, then several months, then top my previous “record,” eventually turned into me deciding to keep up the daily schedule to hit that year mark. Then I decided to finish out the month.

When I found myself with nothing prepared Wednesday night, I used that as an excuse to finally ‘break’ my trend. Now I’m free of that…less pressure to put on myself to keep it up.

And while I’m not going to specifically NOT post…I’m probably going to (try to) allow a bit more time between posts for awhile. Take a break from writing ABOUT comics and comics-related stuff and spend more time just simply reading and enjoying them.

This blog will still be here, I’ll still be here, and even if I’m not posting daily for awhile, I expect to have stuff here and there.

Vampirella/Aliens #1 [Review]

aliensvampirella001Writer: Corinna Bechko
Artist: Javier Garcia-Miranda
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Colorist: InLight Studios
Cover Artist: Gabriel Hardman
Cover Colorist: Jordan Boyd
Published by: Dynamite Entertainment
Cover Date: N/A (September 2015)
Cover Price: $3.99

In twenty-seven years, throughout the entirety of the ’90s and the ‘bad girl’ craze and all that…I never bought even one single issue of Vampirella. That impressive run has now come to an end, thanks to a cover and crossover…with Aliens.

Some cloaked/hooded figures in some sort of underground temple on Mars are attacked by Aliens, and quickly revealed to be vampires. Even their enhanced abilities are no match, and they’re wiped out. Some time later, a ship arrives at the station on the surface, carrying an individual with special expertise…Vampirella. She and the station crew investigate stuff and–of course–encounter the Aliens. They also learn that vampires are not the cause of the strangeness but victims. After fending off an attack that left most of the group unconscious with creatures having attached themselves to faces…we see that even Vampirella isn’t immune to Aliens and their larval Facehugger forms.

I don’t honestly know what I expected from this. I’d known the series was coming up, probably even knew this first issue was due out, but I forgot about it all the same, until I saw it on the shelf.

Despite the presence of Vampirella…the cover looks like an Aliens comic. Aside from the ridiculously unnatural near-lack-of clothing on the female, this could be any Aliens comic, by the looks of it. And that suits me just fine, simply being interested in something new with Aliens. I also like the way the two publishers’ logos are…neither one seems out of place, and the way they appear with the issue number and creator names, if one didn’t know better it’d be quite possible to think that one’s an imprint of the other rather than two “competitors.”

I’m not familiar with the creative team, so nothing prior to compare this to in that regard. But in terms of being “an Aliens story,” this is pretty formulaic and familiar…which I actually appreciate and enjoyed as I read this. (That’s what Aliens crossovers ARE, too, to me: something entertaining despite formula…because it’s Aliens vs. ______ [insert character/property]!) So there’s not much story-wise, to me. I’m aware OF Vampirella but know basically nothing about the character or her past stories/continuity. Ok, so she’s a vampire? Cool…that means she’s at least “tougher” than “regular humans” (as we see in this issue). I don’t really “need” anything else…I’m entertained at “Aliens vs. Vampires” here.

Visually…I like the art. This looks and ‘feels’ like an Aliens comic. And that’s more than good enough for me. I’m especially impressed with the cover, though. Different artists, but the styles work well together–the interior art isn’t a match to the cover, but it’s not a jarring difference or anything. And surprisingly–almost shockingly–despite one particular glimpse of a “classic” look to Vampirella herself, we’re treated mostly to a far more feasibly-dressed female figure that doesn’t make me feel dirty for buying an issue with Vampirella in the title.

I’m not sure if this is 4 or 6 issues for the mini-series, but right now (particularly given the issue’s cliffhanger) I’m very interested in the next issue, and will be keeping an eye out for it next month, whether or not I stick with the single issues for the entirety.

Not being entirely familiar with Vampirella, I don’t know if fans specifically of the character will enjoy this (at least for this issue alone), though I can’t imagine (so far) that it particularly contradicts basic stuff with the character. As an Aliens fan, coming to this because of that side? I really enjoyed this.

The $3.99 for one story chunk is off-putting as ever, put I’ve been pretty much beaten into submission on the fact that all the comics I buy are basically $3.99. While this is certainly an issue worth picking up to try the series, to get to read the story now and as it unfolds, and whatever other usual motivations are present for buyiing a $4 single issue.

Based on this first issue alone, I suspect the eventual collected edition will be of definite interest to Aliens fans, and as we get further into the mini, I won’t be surprised if there’s more material with what will appear to be a distinctly Vampirella tone, for those fans.

Some Raw Thoughts to Start September

[This is a rather raw/unedited post. No fancy formatting, no strategically-placed images. Just some worn-out thoughts from a guy worn out with the ongoing comic-buying thing.]

I’ve seen (but not read many) articles about the apprent “failure” of the DC You campaign, the support remaining behind it, ways it failed readers and ways it reinvigorated ’em. Stuff like that.

But not having read MUCH (going mostly off quasi-clickbaity headlines and links to VIDEOS rather than text), here are some of MY thoughts.

For me, to me, it’s been a failure. I bought the first issue of Batman Beyond, based on learning it was now Tim Drake behind the mask, that Terry had died during Futures End or such, and having an interest in the Tim Drake character, as one of my (pre-New 52) favorite characters. As I type this, I do not recall issue #2, if I even bought it (I’m pretty sure I passed on it). Despite interest in the future Batman, interest in Tim Drake, and having a soft spot for Dan Jurgens’ work…it wasn’t enough to hold me. Sure, the $2.99 price is appealing in an overwhelming sea of $3.99 books, but I just do not have faith in DC keeping the book going longer than 6-12 issues, which would make for a couple of collected editions, likely accessible in a bargain bin in a year or two’s time…or single issues in a bargain bin for 1/4 to 1/3 on the whole cover price.

I’m forcing myself to try a few issues of Constantine, missing the Vertigo Hellblazer incarnation. While the first two issues (I’ve bought but not yet read the third) seemed a lot more in line with that…again, I haven’t a clue how long this incarnation will last; whether the creative team will bail or leave or be let go, or the book will be cancelled, etc. There’s no “history” to it, with “only” 3 issues, while there are 3 HUNDRED issues of the Vertigo series…plus assorted guest-starring roles, specials, and so on.

Pretty much everything “continuing” from before Convergence just simply doesn’t interest me–especially as serialized graphic novels rather than monthly episodes in any sort of truly ongoing story.

And perhaps is was misunderstanding on my end, but the notion that ‘continuity’ doesn’t matter and that ‘story’ is more important REALLY put me off to some of the truly new things (as well as–again–the lack of faith in any true longevity to the series beyond what I can eventually get in bargain bins or discounted collected volumes in a couple years’ time).

And maybe that’s the thing, too, in the face of stuff that’s otherwise just “the latest” thing or the most current in a series of things that puts me “off” of new/current comics while leaving me totally embracing ’90s stuff and older stuff.

Ten years ago, maybe eleven, I was railing against $2.99 comics, up from $2.50 or less. The last seven or so against $3.99 comics, having gone straight from $2.99 with no stops at $3.25, $3.50, or $3.75 between.

And for wanting to follow entire continuities, entire universes…at the rare/occasional $3 and mostly $4/issue anymore, that’s just not possible for stuff like Marvel and DC. Even for sub-groupings or “families” of titles. Marvel double-ships a bunch of titles last I paid attention, and DC…has just really lost me with the New 52, beyond however much they’d “lost” me prior.

Valiant was manageable with only about 9 titles/month, but in terms of single issues for “everything they publish,” they blew it big-time with LotG (see anything I’ve posted in the last couple months about Valiant).

Which leaves me with my old fallback and readily-admitted exception to most anyother “stance” or “principle” I’ll take in comics: the TMNT. 2 books/month (1 ongoing, 1 of whatever the ‘current’ mini-series is), 1 book/month based on the cartoon, and about 1 book/month reprinting classic material…four books/month. I can handle that, and I get the entirety, pretty much, of comic book output of TMNT.

I might try something different here or there–Thom Zahler’s Long Distance, giving in to nostalgia with X-Men ’92 or Age of Apocalypse (with the added benefit of knowing these are mini-series and not an ongoing ‘investment’).

But at this point, I’m sick of the event-into-event-into-event-into-EVENT model. I’m sick of renumbering. I’m sick of the “seasonal” model of Marvel, and I’m sick of a crappy Superman.

I’m sick of the speculator-collector stuff, I’m sick of variant covers, and I’m entirely sick of shrinking pagecounts with increasing prices.

I’m sick of comics being nothing more than serialized graphic novels, where shocks, surprises, and “key” story elements have to be taken in within larger groupings of issues and not simply as the latest unfolding chapter of an ongoing continuous series. An X-Man dies in chapter 2 of a 6-part story, there’s no TRUE bearing on the series until at least the next arc–she might be back or the death undone in 4 issues as the larger story for the “graphic novel” resolves, or the very next “arc” as part of a larger 2-volume thing.

And I don’t like the unpredictability of most “indie” comics…and particularly WITH the serialized graphic novel bit…either I have no idea when/if I’ll get a second issue if I trie a first, or the thing’s geared toward the graphic novel. The “guaranteed-to-be-collected-into-a-single-volume” thing dooms most single issues for me.

Raiding quarter bins, I can buy a 16-issue (more than a YEAR)’s run of something for the price of a single current issue. I can sample smaller runs of various series. For only SLIGHTLY more than buying a 6-issue arc, I can buy a HUNDRED issues from 20 years ago. From a period of definite nostalgia for me, of a time when I simply enjoyed comics for what they were, and following ongoing stories with little regard–outside the occasional in-title “event” or “crossover”–for any notion of collected volumes.

And while I absolutely will NOT knock it–with Marvel Unlimited, I can read 40 issues for about what ONE would cost me, and I can truly “binge-read” series without laying out a small fortune.

So, bringing this stream-of-conscious post to a close: yeah. DC You was a failure for me. It has not drawn me ‘back’ in, it doesn’t leave me at all reinvigorated toward DC, and I’m desperately chasing alternatives to the former “joy” of the weekly/monthly comics-buying experience.

Recent Omnibii Acquisitions

Last December or so, or maybe late November, I ordered the Trial of Captain America omnibus. And I recently threw in and got the Age of Apocalypse Companion volume…and then Onslaught.

omnibii_this_year

While I don’t like the pricing (and have only gone in with significant discounts online)…I have a number of Marvel omnibus volumes…but thus far have only ever bought one DC omnibus. And I have never bought an Absolute Edition despite a couple somewhat having my interest.

I’m a sucker for nostalgia. For the ’90s.

Brubaker‘s Captain America being a bit of an exception. And the Marvel volumes fit much better in with other volumes on the shelf…they’re just significantly thicker.

I’m thinking the Onslaught volume hopefully caps a bunch of large purchases for a bit. Outside of a handful of out-of-print X-Men volumes…I’m largely content to wait–as far as omnibii–for the actual Age of Apocalypse volume next year.

Meantime, some thicker paperbacks have my growing attention on the DC side.

Blast From the Past: How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way

It’s been quite awhile since I bought what I would consider “Comics Reference” books…but I saw this one on a bargain table for $3, and couldn’t talk myself into passing it up.

how_to_draw_comics_the_marvel_way_book

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. It’s an old book–one I remember from my earliest days being into comics, and checking out from the library numerous times just to look through and consider making my own comics.

I certainly couldn’t “afford” it as a kid using limited allowance on comics themselves. But now as an adult…for less than most contemporary comics cost themselves, it was a well-worthwhile purchase, to me.

And despite being marked as “used,” I’d flipped through (have not yet gone singly page-by-page) and it didn’t seem to be marked up, just some shelf wear/fading and such (that I would expect of a book this age).

So I’m happy with it. Certainly FAR happier than what I recall of the library edition the last time I’d seen it, where someone had drawn in it (remember, it was a LIBRARY COPY still belonging to the library and still in CIRCULATION at the time) and otherwise basically ruined the thing.

I may not like to draw or be anything of an artist…but this is a nice addition to my collection…

My Marvel Digital Journey, Month #2

uncannyxforce026When I first decided to try the Marvel Digital app, I justified it to myself on cost of print counterparts. Read a couple stories and that’d pay for itself, compared to buying the collected volumes.

For that first month, I ultimately read about 50 issues, working out to everything being like having read a bunch of 25-cent bin books. For “only” $10 spent, I was quite pleased with myself.

But getting into Month #2, I found myself devouring issues, and REALLY found myself taking advantage of the content-to-price ratio.

First, I decided to read/finish the final part of the run of Uncanny X-Force I’d dropped after frustration with the shipping frequency and art changes and general bad attitude toward Marvel and $3.99 books.

uncannyavengers001Finishing that, I followed a story thread into Uncanny Avengers; then followed stuff from that into the “core” event mini for Axis. Then I backtracked on Magneto’s story…and then decided to backtrack further to get the context for him going off on his own. But knowing the books had run side-by-side, I decided to pair Uncanny X-Men with All-New X-Men.

And in the reading I tried to include Annuals, which led me to the Arms of the Octopus “Special” issues; I also read all the tie-ins of the Battle of the Atom crossover.

Amidst all that, I also took about a week and a half “off” from the comics to read two full-length books: A Street Cat Named Bob, and The World According to Bob.

avengersxmenaxis001All in all, for what amounted to just under 3 weeks of reading, I breezed through nearly 120 issues, all from within the last several years; well over $400 had I bought the issues in-print as they were coming out, and still significantly cheaper than even a 25-cent bin.

All that X-reading has me looking at my third month definitely including the entirety of the first Wolverine & the X-Men, probably the middle Uncanny X-Men run, and the female X-Men title. I might throw in the core AvX series as a re-read. I also find myself interested in reading stuff because I “can,” that I would not otherwise have any real interest in…though some of it I’m content to save for another month or two, when the app catches up to immediately pre-Secret Wars continuity.

Skeptical as I was to start…the way it’s played out–having a tablet I like and plentiful wi-fi (at home and at work)–this has been amazing for my getting back a “joy” in (Marvel) comics.

My list of comics read:

  • xmen_battleoftheatom001Uncanny X-Force #25-35
  • Uncanny Avengers vol. 1 #1-25
  • Uncanny Avengers vol. 1 #8AU
  • Uncanny Avengers vol. 1 Annual #1
  • Avengers & X-Men: Axis #1-9
  • Magneto (2014) #1-14
  • All-New X-Men (2012) #1-26
  • Uncanny X-Men (2013) #1-22
  • X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1-2
  • X-Men (vol4) #5-6
  • Wolverine and the X-Men vol. 1 #36-37
  • All-New X-Men (2012) Special #1 (Arms of the Octopus 1 of 3)
  • Indestructible Hulk Special #1 (Arms of the Octopus 2 of 3)
  • Superior Foes of Spider-Man Special #1 (Arms of the Octopus 3 of 3)

Remember Early-’90s Speculation on Image Comics?

Remember when Image was so brand-new it was a company having its comics published by another (Malibu)?

Remember when those #1s were supposed to be so “hot” and “valuable” in the future?

Remember how $1.95 was quite a hefty price next to DC and Marvel‘s $1.25(-ish) cover prices of the time?

Remember that supposed notion that a comic’s “value” could only go up?

wildcats001x16

These 16 copies of WildC.A.T.s: Covert Action Teams cost me a whopping $4. Basically the cover price of two copies of the issue…at its original, August 1992 cover price. With the bound-in card thingie still intact/present.

Maybe these aren’t “mint” and wouldn’t get anything close to a “9.8” if I “slabbed” them (shelling out far more than any copy is “worth” for the price of getting ANY “graded”)…but for a guy who collects for completion and story…the chance to read the entire story (or as MUCH of it as I’m able to get access to)…25 cents is not at all a bad price for this #1 issue.

It’s actually the later issues that would be more of a problem to find. “Everyone” has #1. How many people followed the series itself? How many followed for more than just the first year? Or after the cartoon didn’t last? Or…whatever else. How many saw the bright flash in the pan mature into something with any staying power?

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