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Giving In: I Bought the Thanos Pop Vinyl

I don’t think I even knew about the Thanos Pop vinyl previously; I happened across it in mid-March in a Hot Topic when I was walking at a local mall.

pop_thanos_vinyl

I was unwilling to pay the $18.99 or $19.99 or whatever the price was. In December 2014 I’d found one of these "oversized" Pop figures of Nicol Bolas (Magic: The Gathering) for about $16, which didn’t seem too bad for what it was. But I was not willing to pay a full $19/$20 for one of these.

Finding this one for about the price of Nicol Bolas and not finding other stuff I was interested in while visiting a comic shop, I decided to just get this before it became a way-expensive hunt later or I paid more including shipping buying online than just buying it and having it in-hand for the instant gratification.

This joins my 1990s Silver Surfer animated series Thanos, my Marvel 3.75" Thanos, and my Marvel Select Thanos…leaving me offhand still seeking the blind box "mystery mini" Thanos and the Mighty Muggs Thanos that was out some years back.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Men Omega

aoa_revisited_logo

xmenomega001_front…Endings

Story: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Mark Waid
Pencils: Roger Cruz
Inks: LaRosa, Townsend, Kesel, Candelario, Hanna, Milgrom
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Colors: Steve Buccellato, Electric Crayon
Cover: John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

While not nearly as "iconic" as the Alpha issue to me…this issue is still one of THE most iconic comic issues of my youth. Though the majority of the context comes from the various individual titles that make up the Age of Apocalypse, this is THE issue they all led into, after spinning out of X-Men: Alpha. As such, while I didn’t remember details of most of the individual series, I remembered where things wound up because of this issue.

We open on a full-page of Magneto, bloodied and energy crackling around him, standing defiantly against an off-page foe, who we find is Holocaust, battering the leader of the X-Men for Apocalypse’s amusement before the villain reveals his final plans. Meanwhile, Angel finds Karma, while in the pens, the X-Men arrive via Blink’s portals. As they contemplate the lack of opposition and come across Beast, we move to see Cyclops and Jean leading freed humans across the bridge away from Apocalypse’s stronghold. Apocalypse’s forcefield is taken down by Angel’s suicide bomb…his sacrifice allows Nate (X-Man) access to Apocalypse…where he finds and is recognized by Magneto as The One that Forge had long ago promised to deliver.

while Nate takes on Holocaust, the X-Men have found the M’Kraan crystal, and Destiny confirms Bishop’s claims and everything comes down to Illyana choosing to help restore broken reality. The three enter the crystal, leaving the X-Men to fight Apocalypse’s forces. On the bridge, Jean realizes the bombs have been launched and throws up a psi-shield…holding them back as long as she can. In the crystal, Destiny guides Illyana in unlocking her powers, getting Bishop back to the moment things went wrong. Back on the bridge, Havok reveals himself, unleashing his powers to take out Jean and Scott before being taken out himself by Weapon X. The X-Men rescue baby Charles, mess up Beast’s escape attempt, while others have fallen in battle and misunderstanding.

In the past, Bishop confronts his past self and Legion, preventing Legion from killing anyone…and closing a loop that sees the X-Men ripped back to their own time and the chronal energies erasing their presence and Legion’s from the memories of all left behind…that events would unfold as they had with no taint from Legion’s obtrusive presence.

Nate finally gets to Apocalypse before being attacked again by Holocaust…using a shard of the M’Kraan crystal he and Holocaust are unexpectedly removed from the equation. The distraction is enough for Magneto to summon the power to rip Apocalypse apart, finally killing the evil mutant and ending his reign. In the last few moments left to him, he rejoins Rogue and his son, while reflecting on the importance of one man to the world itself…as the nuclear blast is about to engulf them. Hope is left behind, in Bishop accomplishing his mission…and preventing any of this from ever having happened.

This issue being what it is, as mentioned above…there’s little separating its nostalgic and emotional, lasting impact on me from the technicalities of the issue itself.

At this typing, I don’t particularly recognize Cruz‘ name or art…and would have sworn there was someone else on the art. Looking back, Cruz contributed to a couple previous X-issues, and was the penciler on the Alpha issue as well…so while the art isn’t ENTIRELY consistent with the individual series, it provides a definite consistency to the other bookend issue of this entire mega-arc. In and of itself, I really don’t have any complaints on the art…everyone is recognizeable and obvious for who they are…and though many of the characters don’t look quite as well-done as they were in the individual books, given this issue involves so many without being a "jam book," that’s hardly an issue for me. We have numerous inkers and a full roster of Letterers and Colorists…whether that was to get the book out "on time" or to allow more hands to touch the project, be a part of it, I don’t know. It’s really something I mostly notice for specifically scoping out the credits to write this up.

Story-wise, I see Mark Waid on dialogue, as with X-Men: Alpha…which is interesting again as before given I wasn’t consciously aware of him 20 years ago but know him as a writer whose work I like present-day…and realize how much I like his dialogue through this issue, hokey and cheesey as parts are. Magneto’s final moments in the issue resonate particularly for me.

Given the specific issues that things unfolded in, this is the first we’ve "seen" of the "regular" X-Men in the entirety of the labeled Age of Apocalypse issues. The brief bit we get with them–specifically of Storm realizing the true battle was fought elsewhere–is something that has stuck with me since originally reading the issue, and worked its way into my head over the years as a concept that truly influences my understanding and conception of time travel and alternate reality stories…really in a way I can’t quite put to typed words.

The Age of Apocalypse ends, the "true reality" is restored…but this story left lasting repercussions (and characters) on the X-universe and the Marvel universe in general. Fitting in a way, perhaps, that present-day 2015 we’re about to get major changes to the very fabric of the Marvel universe, as I’ve just finished re-reading this tale.

xmenomega001_full

Comixology and Me, One Year Later

One_Year_Later_logoIt’s been just a couple days over the one-year mark. Just a scant handful of weeks after the Amazon deal, Comixology up and with no warning, no advance notice, took away “in-app payments” from Apple device users. I can’t and won’t speak to whatever the situation is with Droid/Google users, as I’m firmly rooted on the Apple camp.

With that one single change, for a number of factors including the simple PRINCIPLE of the thing, I bailed.

Oh, there were arguments for and against the situation. Like how it’s only a couple extra steps to go to a website, even on a tablet/phone browser and do a purchase that way. Or the arguments against, including the hassle of the browser, and having to go through steps of purchase and then still locate/download in a reader, blah blah blah.

My initial gut-reaction? Walk away. Boycott the thing. I’m not spending one more CENT on Comixology purchasing. If they want that extra 30% or whatever by screwing up what seemed (to me, at least) to have even made them what they were, fine…an extra 30% of 0 is still 0, coming from ME.

But I meant it. I wasn’t just saying it because it was some trendy thing to say, or something to be said and gone back on later.

It’s been a year, and I have not spent one more cent on anything Comixology-related. I’ve bought no random full-price issues. I’ve not kept up with anything on a couple months’ lagtime for the $1 off cover price discounts. I’ve bought no bundles, I’ve bought no digital bargain trades, and I’ve not participated in one single 99-cent sale, of which they seemed to have 2-3 per week where I usually bought at least one or two things, often spending $5-$20+ in a given week just on 99-cent sales.

And to make it worse? Thanks to Comixology‘s ‘stunt’, I don’t trust any OTHER digital comics platforms. At least, not enough to “invest.” I participated in a “Humble Bundle” thing some months back for a bunch of Valiant comics on another digital platform, but I never followed up with anything else. I believe I have those comics loaded to my tablet, but I’ve yet to put any serious time into trying to read them, lacking the “guided view” that was a huge part of my buying into Comixology.

Comixology‘s move was one heckuva wake-up call that things could radically change without notice, just literally wake up one morning and “dealbreaker” specific points are different. As “minor” as many would argue the payment vehicle shift was, who’s to say many comics don’t suddenly become unavailable…like if Marvel decides to “take its ball and go home” not allowing Comixology (or another digital platform) to renew a license? (Plenty of other questions along those lines, but that’s a different topic).

Considering where I started on the notion of digital comics, and how quickly I’d turned toward liking them and was beginning to experiment with and think more seriously about flat-out embracing the medium, I can’t even guestimate how much I would’ve spent–and increased my spending over time–since a year ago…especially while ignoring/refusing to consider questions of perpetual availability and Other Change and whatnot.

I refuse to use Comixology…yet other platforms’ lack of Comixology‘s “guided view” makes them less than ideal; and PDFs and the like on my computer don’t work well due to having a “widescreen” that results in–having a PDF viewer “maximized” onscreen–barely being able to see even half a page without manually scrolling around.

And ultimately…where once I was considering a shift to “mostly digital” I now resist the format almost entirely. Though perhaps in a minority and holding to an unpopular view…I’m sure I’m not alone with it.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Amazing X-Men #4

aoa_revisited_logo

amazingxmen004On Consecrated Ground

Plot: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Andy Kubert
Inker: Matt Ryan
Lettering: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Color Art: Kevin Somers and Digital Chameleon
Cover: Andy Kubert, Matt Ryan
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Here we are…the second-to-last issue of the entirety of this (as we’re in 2015 I have to use the word "original" to specify) Age of Apocalypse story.

The issue opens with Bishop in the hands of the Madri as they prepare to "sacrifice" him so that his knowledge does not pass further and inspire others to consider a world in which Apocalypse does not presently rule. Storm bursts onto the scene and frees him, though the doing drains her considerably. While this is going on, Quicksilver and Banshee locate the source of the Madri–Jamie Madrox–as we learn that the Madri are all "just" dupes of Jamie. Meanwhile, Rogue and her group arrive back at the mansion to learn Magneto has been taken and her son Charles is missing. Nightcrawler bamfs in with Destiny; Colossus and Kitty had also arrived with Illyana and now deliver the news that their students died in freeing the girl. Dazzler and Exodus return as well, Gambit and Lila Cheney in tow…but no sign of Charles. Rogue lashes out at Gambit for not returning with her child; while Banshee sacrifices himself to put an end to Abyss, and Madrox gives his own life to shut down the Madri and thus save Storm and Bishop. The various pieces of Magneto’s planning have come together, borne fruit…and the X-Men stand ready to end the age of Apocalypse.

Though this issue does technically continue threads from the previous issue, in many ways it feels more like a filler issue, not belonging to its own series, but rather, tying things together to funnel/filter several things into X-Men: Omega and the end of the overall AoA story arc. There’s a lot going on, though nothing really gets much focus.

The story as such doesn’t work as a solo issue, and even as a final issue, too much "space" is given to converging plotlines for this to really fit the standard expectation of a final issue. I suppose I’d say that this issue lacks much of its own identity as a chapter of an individual thread about to be woven back into a larger whole. Yet, this certainly sets things up and if one reads this issue, it certainly does not make much sense not to continue on to X-Men: Omega.

The art is good. Nothing really stands out positive or negative, though if anything it might be the portrayal of Abyss. I can’t quite figure out if I like or dislike the character’s appearance…though it’s a credit to the visual team that I can "hear" the sound of the character’s movements in my head.

This issue is a sort of bridge between the other minis and X-Men: Omega; particularly Generation Next, X-Calibre, Astonishing X-Men, and Gambit and the X-Ternals…really only leaving out Weapon X, X-Man, and Factor-X, as those series’ finales I believe are more directly connected to the pages of the bookend special.

The end of this issue points out the continuation into X-Men: Omega…which apparently was on sale the same week, so there would have been the double-dose of story, and making this one functionally an extension if one bought both. X-Men: Alpha, 8 4-issue series, two 2-issue series and a profile book…this is–if my math’s correct–the 39th part of AoA, with everything wrapping up in a 40th issue, capping things off.

The Right and Wrong Way To Do Interlocking Covers

I’ve made it more than clear (and will continue to do so) that I hate variant covers as a general thing and on principle.

The worst "type" of variant cover to me is the "interlocking" variant. This forces one to–IF they actually want the "whole" image–to purchase MULTIPLE copies of the same exact issue.

The first one that ever really caught my attention, and totally ticked me off and turned me off to the series as a result, was Justice League of America with #1:

interlocking_jla1

Then there was Geoff Johns wrapping up his run with JSA/Justice Society of America. To "celebrate" his time and commemorate the "end of an era" a large group shot of the many characters that had been a part of and defined during his run was used…split across three covers for the issue:

interlocking_jsa26

This also turned me off to buying Boom! Studios/Boom! KidsThe Incredibles. This team of four, a family, as a GROUP starring in the title–was split across two covers for #0…

interlocking_incredibles000

…and for #1. If they wanted to be cute or "fun" or such, these could’ve been the first four covers, or done as a wrap-around cover. I refused to support this and so never ended up buying any of the single issues.

interlocking_incredibles001

Of course, this wasn’t an entirely new concept. It was done for 1991’s X-Men #1…with FOUR different covers. (Icing on the cake? A "deluxe" edition was also available that was a double-gatefold-wraparound combining all four into a single piece on a single copy of the issue).

interlocking_xmen1991

More recently, IDW did this with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1…four covers and a "deluxe" version combining the four…or so I hear (I haven’t seen a physical copy myself as yet).

interlocking_tmnt001

Bringing all this back to my attention MOST recently was that Valiant pulled this stunt with X-O Manowar #31…

xomanowar031_ab

…AND with #32! And these aren’t even anything special (not to me, anyway!).

xomanowar032_ab

Both could easily have been gatefold covers, which would have been nifty and amusing enough for a change of pace. Or they could have simply been covers for separate issues of the story arc.

Aside from the principle of the thing is that there are some GREAT examples of the interlocking images being used very well! Instead of having to buy multiple copies of the SAME ISSUE, they can reward one buying an entire story, or at least getting the first couple issues of a series.

My first experience with this was the United We Stand crossover story in the early 1990s between the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures and Mighty Mutanimals books from Archie:

interlocking_tmnt_mutanimals.jpg

Next to that, probably my next favorite was the start of the New Krypton arc awhile back in the Superman books:

interlocking_new_krypton

We also had that with the first two issues of All-New X-Men (I cannot figure out where the third panel was used–these were part of a single image on a promotional postcard at the time).

interlocking_allnewxmen

Last summer I found a bunch of Kid Eternity issues and when I’d laid the issues out to photograph for this blog, I was surprised to REALIZE the mini-series provided a single image across the three issues.

interlocking_kid_eternity_mini

I’m sure there are many other examples of both types of interlocking covers; and this does not even get into other problems I have with variants, nor the notion of the pin-ups (vs. variant covers) , wraparound covers, and other gimmicks.

Ultimately, to me there should never be interlocking VARIANTS. Interlocking COVERS are ok but lose all sense of "cuteness" or "funness" when done as variants.

Uncle Scrooge (IDW) #1

unclescroogeidw001Editor: Sarah Gaydos
Interior Designer: Paul Hornschemeier
Archival Editor: David Gerstein
Cover: Giorgio Cavazzano
Published by: IDW
Cover Date: April 2015
Cover Price: $3.99 (48 pages)

Gigabeagle: King of the Robot Robbers

Writer: Rodolfo Cimino
Artist: Romano Scarpa
Inker: Giorgio Cavazzano
Colorist: Digikore Studios
Letterer: Tom B. Long
Translation and Dialogue: Jonathan H. Gray

This first feature goes with the cover, making it seem like the "core" of the issue. We find Scrooge going a bit crazy with stress and come to find out he’s stressing out over the fact that the Beagle Boys haven’t attacked his famous Money Bin in quite some time…which means they’ve gotta be up to SOMETHING. Turns out that what they’re up to is building a giant robotic Beagle Boy, that can physically TAKE the Money Bin…and take it the thing does, bypassing a ring of mines the ducks have put out to stop intrusion. Unfortunately for the Beagles, the AI malfunctions which leads to a tidy-ish ending of the story for Scrooge.

Given this is a new story I’d never read, it was interesting in itself. It’s been years since I’ve read anything Uncle Scrooge or Disney Ducks, so I was just happy to get a new (to me) story without going outta my way. As a story, though, it seemed rather ludicrous and in many ways far too "simple"…there also seemed to be something a bit "off" to the characters (something I can’t QUITE put my finger on). It’s possible I’ve just had years to build up expectation and for the likes of Don Rosa‘s Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck to settle in my head as an incredibly high standard.

The art is spot-on, though…characters looking perfectly familiar and sound quality.

Pure Viewing Satisfaction

Writer: Alberto Savini
Artist and Inker: Andrea Freccero
Colorist: Disney Italia with David Gorstein
Letterer: Tom B. Long
Translation and Dialogue: David Gerstein

I was surprised at the brevity of this feature. We basically see Scrooge sitting, staring at a new tv…and to summarize beyond that is to give away the "punchline" of the short. It’s amusing enough, fits the generic sense of Scrooge…though it felt odd to see Scrooge and a TV together…somehow I’m more used to (if only due to personal faulty memory) Scrooge and radios or such.

While I appreciate the short as a short, it’s nothing special and kinda seems like filler…yet it still works for me, at least visually. It seems a bit extreme and petty as a story…more like a fleshed-out anecdote than anything else…something a character might comment on in passing about Scrooge than something I’d care to actually see on-panel.

Still…it’s just a single page, a "gag strip," and actual content whose page otherwise could have been some sort of ad, so I’ll take it.

Tinker, Tailor, Scrooge and Sly

Writer: Romano Scarpa, Luca Boschi
Artist: Romano Scarpa
Inker: Sandro Del Conte
Colorist: Disney Italia with Digikore Studios
Letterer: Tom B. LOng
Translation: David Gerstein
Dialogue: Joe Torcivia

This second feature is a welcome element to the issue. When someone steals Scrooge’s jacket, he’s thrust into an adventure unbeknownst 10 years in the making. Seems that 10 years earlier, Scrooge had the thing in to a tailor to be repaired, but the tailor hid a map to a treasure in the lining to smuggle it out from under authorities. After twice rescuing his coat from the would-be thief, he takes it to a tailor in town to repair. Knowing she has a crush on him, he works the angle to get the work done for free…though  he doesn’t get to keep the treasure-find to himself.

The art on this story matches the first (which makes sense stylistically and in being the same artist!). Nothing to gripe about there.

There was something more familiar to this story that worked better for me…perhaps because it "felt" like it could be at home as a DuckTales episode or some such. I might’ve preferred this story as the lead, but its presence in the issue is welcome none the less and definitely worth the read.

Overall

I’d have to go back to revisit the Boom! Studios-published stuff from a few years ago but I don’t remember those issues being quite this thick. Getting two "feature length" stories and a "gag strip"/one-page short as a third thing is quite welcome. The lead is 28 pages, and the second feature is 15 pages…44 pages of content including the single-page piece!

And we get numerous panels per page with plenty of dialogue and such throughout so this is NOT a quick read the way many other comics are with half, full, and double-page splashes and pages of near "silence" to be sped through with no text to slow things down.

Combine those factors and you have one of the most fun comics out there for the $3.99 price point. That’s double (or MORE) the content of MOST $3.99 books.

My core complaint about this tends to be my usual: those doggone VARIANT covers. Given the issue is (as I understand) functionally "just" translated/reprint material previously published outside the U.S….throw a couple full-page images/"pinups" in the issue, use ’em as a watermark on the inside cover(s), put one on the back cover…but…enough with the perpetual variants already!

This issue is technically numbered #1 (405) as IDW is looking inconsistent–wanting to publish its OWN Uncle Scrooge #1, yet appease fans of the "legacy" numbering by doing this dual-numbering (yet, I believe they are simply going with the classic numbering for the forthcoming Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories title…so why they couldn’t simply preserve the "legacy" numbering on this as well is beyond me (and even if they numbered this #405 they could STILL have plastered a big #1 or 1st Issue or such on the thing… or gone with #405 (1) to track their own numbering within the "classic legacy" of the Disney books.

The Duck Books are fun, classic fare. Like Archie comics, they may look like they’re "just for kids" or juvenile, but they hold so much potential and there are some great bits, certainly quite enjoyable for an adult…particularly for the bit of nostalgia.

I’m assuming the pagecount is going to be "standard" for this series, and especially if it holds on that, you really won’t find much out there more fun and more worthy of a $3.99 price point.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Men Chronicles #2

aoa_revisited_logo

xmenchronicles002Shattered Dreams

Writer: Howard Mackie
Penciler: Ian Churchill
Inks: Hanna/Vey/Moncuse/Wiacek
Colors: Matt Webb
Color Separations: Digital Chameleon
Lettering: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Cover: Churchill
Editors: Kelly Corvese, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

We open on Weapon X confronting Magneto. He and Jean are leaving, and Mags will NOT be convincing him otherwise. After the tense standoff, we shift to Wolverine–a huge mutant working for Holocaust. Holocaust, it seems, was once Nemesis–who killed Scarlet Witch in X-Men Chronicles #1, some time before this issue. Magneto doesn’t take Jean and Logan’s leaving all that well and throws himself AND his X-Men into training, none realizing the pending danger of the Wolverine. We also see the deterioration of Gambit’s pursuit of Rogue as we see the blossoming of the Magneto/Rogue relationship…which doesn’t begin to go over well with Gambit. Despite the huge wedge from a heart’s betrayal, Gambit stands with Magneto against Wolverine…though their broken friendship is one of the "key" events to come of the issue.

It may be that the issue is extra-sized and so a bigger single chunk of story, minus issue breaks and fitting into the larger, more complex continuity of multiple titles going on simultaneously, as well as "seeing" a key point in this version of the X-Men’s past (relative to the "present day" waning moments of the Age of Apocalypse unfolding in the main X-books cover dated June 1995). It might be the art, and certainly an enjoyable story. But reading this issue, the thoughts it provoked, and the feeling I had when I got to the end…this is definitely one of my TOP favorite issues of the entirety of the AoA storyline.

There’s only one page in particular (but several, flipping back through the issue) with Magneto specifically, where I feel like I noticed a change in the inking, transforming Churchill‘s work such that I actually paused and looked back to see if there were multiple artists/pencilers on the book, as it just looks quite different from the rest of the book. Otherwise, I really liked the art, and would have to really dig to find anything NOT to like about it. I’m not all that fond of Wolverine’s visual design…but as a generic "evil mutant" he works quite well. I imagine part of that is simply the use of the name in association with someone NOT Logan. (Yet, it makes sense in a world with countless "codenames" if most know "Weapon X" but he’s not using the name…"Wolverine" WOULD be up for grabs!)

Mackie gets a bad rap, I think…or at least, I’ve allowed my opinion to be clouded by his later work, particularly–I think–his Spider-Man stuff of the later ’90s. Here, I just simply enjoyed seeing these characters and the story that we get through the longer segment. Even knowing what was coming, I found it rather authentic seeing Gambit’s naiveté regarding Rogue’s falling for Magneto, and empathized with his hurt and frustration at the unintended "betrayal" of Magneto and Rogue’s developing relationship.

We get some details hinted at previously, and the actual "on-panel" stuff with Logan and Jean leaving and the Magneto/Rogue/Gambit triangle, as well as 44 pages of story plus 5 double-page "historical moments" (basically, "pinups") to round things out. I truly miss–and consider it a "lost art" of late–the inclusion of such "pinups" or quasi-arbitrary art pages in comics. In 2015, these would be an additional 10 variant covers as 5 sets of double-panel interlocking images. In 1995, these were fun bonus pages adding some visual context to the X-Men’s history. If only by labeling, these pages definitely lend credence to the notion of a picture being worth a thousand words.

Given this is essentially a one-shot, simply "a" story of this universe’s X-Men, the issue stands very strongly on its own. Knowing only that this is an alternate reality as well as the general convolutedness of the entirety of X-Men history…one doesn’t have to be following the rest of the Age of Apocalypse to follow this or to take this as "a story." For that matter, one doesn’t truly have to have read X-Men Chronicles #1, even.

For me, at least…the Age of Apocalypse doesn’t get much better than this; and perhaps for its immediate recency as of this typing, if I didn’t before I definitely now hold this as cream of the crop when it comes to Age of Apocalypse stuff.

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