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Spawn #263 [Review]

spawn0263Plot/Script/Layouts/Pencils/Inks: Erik Larsen & Todd McFarlane
Color: FCO Plascenscia
Lettering: Tom Orzechowski
Cover Art: Erik Larsen
Editor: Todd McFarlane
Published by: Image Comics
Cover Date: May 2016
Cover Price: $2.99

While I’ve no idea how long I’ll stick with it, Spawn is presently on my pull list, at minimum as my tiny individual way of trying to support both "high/continuous numbering" and the $2.99 price point. This is my seventh sequential issue that I’ve picked up…which may be a record for me now, or at least close to matching any previous time I’ve tried to follow the title.

Spawn–or rather, Al Simmons–has returned to Earth…human and normal (not disfigured)…and without his costume (despite the cover, more on that later). With only tatters keeping him from being fully nude, but still functionally naked, he finds himself gaining unwanted attention from the authorities. Resisting unwarranted arrest, he fights back and lands in the hospital for his troubles–having been shot and then bashed in the head. On waking and learning what his situation is, he requests Terry Fitzgerald…who despite relatable reservations helps him. Simmons gets set up for his new life, including the start to (presumably) a new iteration of a supporting cast and status quo.

The cover is quite misleading…we do not get Spawn–and certainly not in that classic sense–in this issue. Nor do we get an Al Simmons surprised at being human. That said, for one of extremely FEW instances in my life and as a comic person, it’s misleading because I’m actually "up" on this title. Much as the cover for #257 grabbed my attention (which started this whole current "phase" for me), I can see how this cover could be rather attention-grabbing and pique the curiosity. There’s also something kinda familiar about it–I’m not sure (nor am I planning to research the matter) if it’s an homage piece or just kinda evokes a bygone age of comic covers.

Of course, I’m quite enjoying Larsen‘s work–both the cover(s) and the interior art. Things one expects a comic’s art to do are done, and the visual style works well for this title. It "looks" and "feels" like Larsen art–it’s immediately recognizable to me as such, and I like it here.

Story-wise, I’m still far from being particularly "familiar" with characters (I had to do a quick Google search to confirm that Terry is indeed the guy Wanda married and such), but I’m enjoying the reading experience. This issue feels a lot like a "first issue," and functionally could VERY well warrant a "new #1" (and truly, many Many MANY Marvel books have "rebooted" or "renumbered" for far, far LESS a shift than the game-changing status quo we begin here!).

The backmatter backs this up…though I was disappointed at how "quickly" I got TO the backmatter of the issue. There’s no marking at the final panel of the issue, the final page of the story content–nothing saying "To Be Continued…" or any such, nor is it particularly cliffhanger-y. But darn it, I’m actually really eager to see where things go from here, how Simmons deals WITH his new status quo, how he gets back into the action and what this all means. The cynic in my worries at the shakeup being temporary…but even if it is, I have a bit of faith that it’ll at least last a few years. Simmons was gone from the title for some 65 issues–on a standard, unbroken monthly schedule of 1 issue every month on the month, that would indicate nearly 5 1/2 years. So I’m fairly confident that this status quo ought to take us to (if not through) #300 and/or beyond.

New Old Books: Kingdom Come and Hellblazer

Considering I just placed the order on Friday, receiving books on Tuesday is excellent service from InStockTrades! I’ve been keeping up with the new Hellblazer editions–here we have vol. 13–which catches the series up to about where I first came into the series back in 2001 with Azarello‘s run…and off the top of my head, I believe this now gives me a complete run of the entire 300-issue Hellblazer series in paperback volumes! (From here, it’s just a matter of swapping out the old editions for the new on a rolling basis, I think!)

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While I don’t like the cover nearly as much as I liked the image on the original paperback, that had much more of the “feel” of the story…this seems to be what DC is sticking with for now, taking the cover they’ve used for roughly 8 years over the one they used for about a decade or so…or over one of the original covers or even a celebratory new cover image.

That said, I quite like the 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of Kingdom Come, and for a very rare thing, part of that is the extras the book contains.

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I don’t care much for sketch material or pencils-only stuff–I’m just not a “primarily-for-the-art” kinda guy when it comes to comics. And I prefer to write about, talk about comics more than any true interest in actually writing comics, so even seeing script pages doesn’t tend to do much for me (though I tend to prefer those more). But there’s plenty of text with the sketches and whatnot, and lots of images reproduced in full color, some even full-page, and this is a volume, a story, a creative team, a singular truly special isolated thing that (to me) actually deserves “extras” and such be thrown in.

But the quality of the extras, their relevance and insight, the smile I found myself with, grinning as I flipped through them–some of the pages bringing back memories, others a bit of wonder, some just pleasant, collected excitement seeing stuff I haven’t seen in years or am simply curious about and look forward to reading in-depth. And this is without even getting to the core of the book, the story itself, to get to re-read in this format.

I have the original single issues; the original paperback collection, the 2008 paperback with this new green cover, as well as the hardback original edition of the novelization (bought from a local comic shop at initial release), and even bought the mass-market paperback edition of that for a friend shortly into college. I do not have the Absolute Edition and don’t truly expect I ever will unless it’s reprinted and the timing and finances are just right. But for this not being the Absolute Edition, I really dig this one.

Thanks to the online order, but including shipping, I think I functionally paid about $22 for this, which at the price of a mere 5 single Marvel comics and some shipping, I find to be an extremely reasonable price and very much worthwhile for this.

I also find myself feeling a bit old, that I now own a 20th-Anniversary edition of something I remember buying the original first issue of, new, when it first came out. Time flies…

Superman/Wonder Woman #29 [Review]

supermanwonderwoman0029The Final Days of Superman part 7: Fire Line

Story and Words: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colors: Alejandro Sanchez
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Karl Kerschl
Assistant Editor: Andrew Marino
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 2016
Cover Price: $3.99

This is it–the penultimate chapter of The Final Days of Superman, and of the New 52 Superman’s story, period, it would seem, at least as he’s been given to readers since September 2011.

We have Solar Flare Superman facing New 52 Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Meanwhile, Convergence/pre-Flashpoint Superman gets his wife and son to the fortress he’s kept secret from them, and he and his Lois have a ‘discussion’ over the matter. While Batman gets New 52 Lois away from Solar Flare, New 52 Superman and New 52 Wonder Woman do a number on Solar Flare Superman, before the Flare entity gains the upper hand. Learning of the ongoing battle, Supergirl leaves the DEO only partially-powered to join the fray, and we leave off with New 52 Superman in the clutches of Solar Flare.

Which is all a slightly obtuse, quasi-intentional way of expanding on the fact that not much of anything really HAPPENS here, except some pieces are moved around the board, marking time for the concluding chapter yet to come as we head into Rebirth itself as well next week…and to emphasize the fact that we have three different Supermen in play in this issue alone, as well as two Loises who don’t even meet.

Story-wise, this isn’t BAD at all–that’s not what I’m saying. But we basically have a big fight scene punctuated by accounting for several “subplots” (as much as such things actually exist in 2016 DC comics). Being well aware of this being chapter 7 of 8, and of what’s about to happen, and expecting it to unfold in the final chapter of this story and spill into the big Rebirth issue next week, I can’t truly fault the writing for not being able to DO much in this issue except move pieces around the board.

Visually I’m not enamored…while everyone’s quite recognizable, the linework just makes everyone look a bit “off” to me…and that is something firmly accentuated with the addition of color effects, to say nothing of just not caring for–or being used to–a Superman in any sort of armor, whatever its backstory/reason/necessity (or lack thereof). I also don’t care for the layouts…though they vary page to page, many pages seem to have too-big panels with too few words…and whether that’s art expanding to fill a lack of script or a script allowing an expansion of art, I’m not sure…but it makes $3.99 feel that much more expensive for the quick read this issue is as a whole (particularly compared against comics read this week from 1996, 20 years ago, purchased for 20 cents each!).

Finally, the cover isn’t all that appealing…I’ve not gone back to check out later printings of earlier chapters, though I saw a couple in passing and this one seems to fit those. The cover copy “Burning Love!” seems ill-placed as well, and the entire image is a bit misleading as Supergirl is not involved in the core action of this issue.

All in all…this issue is for those following the entirety of The Final Days of Superman, or completing a run of this particular title. If you’re just looking for the apparent death of the New 52 Superman, that should be next week; and if you’re not already following stuff, this chapter does not give enough to justify itself in and of itself for anyone to try to “jump in” just for this particular issue as any sort of “random” purchase.

The Weekly Haul – Week of May 18, 2016

For being a really small week with only one pull-list book and going in planning on one off-the-shelf book…this turned into a huge week of new-to-me comics!

weekly_haul_week_of_20160518a

Been following–and quite enjoying–the Final Days of Superman story, if only for the fact of it being a multi-part story spanning four titles with a new chapter coming out each week, wherein I’m following the story itself and not so concerned about what title any given chapter falls in. Then there’s also Spawn, added to my pulls to support the high-numbering that’s been maintained through an age of renumbering/reboots/etc, as well as holding to the $2.99 price point amidst a sea of $3.99+ books. And I have yet to talk myself out of Power Man and Iron Fist, which I’ve thus far been enjoying overall.

And I’m definitely a fan of some of the Wizard specials…the Zero Hour book wound up costing me a whopping 20 cents this week!

weekly_haul_week_of_20160518b

For $1 each–or all four of these for the price of a single Marvel–snagged these classic “digest” editions. No real rhyme or reason, just that they were there, lotta Batman on the cover, and they’re those classic digest editions!

weekly_haul_week_of_20160518c

Getting into the bargain bins–freshly stocked, and I thought 25-cents-each (but turned out for the shop’s 29th-Anniversary-Sale, discounted to 20-cents-each), got a couple “shiny” dupes for the heckuvit. Then there’s The Longbow Hunters…I thought I was grabbing “all 3” issues but got home and realized that in my haste to delve into the fresh treasures of the expanded bargain bins, I only wound up with two distinct issues and a dupe-on-the-spot. Win some, lose some, I guess!

weekly_haul_week_of_20160518d

First seven issues of The Power of Shazam!–dupes, all, but I recall several of my prior editions having some sticky residue or such, so worst-case, I have some dupes to choose between when I get to the sorting phase with my collection and that initial-pass to weed out dupes.

weekly_haul_week_of_20160518e

Several one-off gems: a silver edition of The Strangers #1 as well as the mail-away The Solution #0. “Limited,” “hot” books around 1993/1994…25 cents here today! I’m kinda kicking myself for not snagging the bunch, but there were a number of The Brave and the Bold issues. My personal focus being Superman, though, I restrained myself from picking more up just because they were there. They weren’t in great condition, but for the novelty, I grabbed #150…thicker anniversary issue, and something just seemed really familiar to me–triggering nostalgia–with the cover. And then, even though it’s a bit wrinkly–probably water-damaged–DC Comics Presents #85, the “infamous” Swamp Thing issue I’ve been wanting to read or re-read or otherwise have…but couldn’t remember if another copy is truly hiding amidst my longboxes or not. For 25 cents (or as it turned out, 20 cents) absolutely a great purchase.

weekly_haul_week_of_20160518f

Quasi-spoiling the find, I was unable to locate the fourth/final issue, but along with Underworld Unleashed #s 1-3, scored three special tie-in issues that I don’t think I’d ever consciously known existed…or sure didn’t remember, anyway.

weekly_haul_week_of_20160518g

And then totally throwing my budget for the week out the window, nearly 50 issues of Wonder Woman. #s 89-136, and Annual #4. I’m truly curious now to “discover” what I actually own of this series…I have a bunch of early issues from a lot Dad bought for me years ago, and think I recall getting another run of issues somewhere in the 60-80 range, now this. Definitely a good way toward having the entire run, and at the very least, this purchase in itself gives me a four-year run of the title!

All in all…bought 75 or so comics, when I went in planning on 2. SOMEDAY I’ll get around to reading everything…

Blast From the (TMNT) Past: Krang’s Android Body

While I included in a post back in September 2014 about Krang and the Kraang, I didn’t focus much on Krang’s Android Body there in any singular fashion, and what I was able to focus on was the toy itself.

Little did I realize that a couple years later, I would come across the original box it came in while cleaning out the attic at my parents’ house!

krang_android_body_01

Unfortunately, the pink brain-part–Krang himself, the character, is a “new” 2014 edition, part of the Classic Collection series of re-issued TMNT figures. But he still fits, still “completes” the otherwise genuinely-vintage piece!

krang_android_body_02

This is one of the few “accessories” or “vehicles” that I felt was truly worthwhile and fitting…and given what I recall of my obsession with the figures themselves (to the exclusion of vehicles/etc), that’s definitely saying something. And particularly with the new live-action/CGI film about to hit, it’s kinda fitting to find this “original” given how much “more” recognizable this piece becomes.

krang_android_body_03

Here’s the front of the box…”typical” from the line, and its time, with exaggerated art, ridiculous interpretations of the turtles, and just a small image of the actual product (since this was not a window-box). While this body was an “accessory” piece, it did have the “bonus” of the pink brain part of the figure (minus the walking contraption of the “standard figure” release) to make for a fully complete toy in and of itself.

krang_android_body_11

Not much new from the top you don’t get from the front, but it certainly helped cover the bases, making sure that whatever part of the box you looked at, you certainly know what it is!

krang_android_body_04

Same for the side–and they certainly don’t want you to miss that it included Krang himself, rather than you having to purchase the body and then go buy a separate additional figure just to play with it.

krang_android_body_05

Given this “figure”‘s size, the back sticks with that motif rather than showing off a bunch of other smaller figures (or even vehicles). More on that below…

krang_android_body_08

A closer look at the back, and the amazing alliteration that totally fits my present-day sensibility and is something I appreciate far more at present than I ever did as a kid!

krang_android_body_09

Interesting copy-text to “sell” one on the piece…

krang_android_body_07

And it points out various “features” of the thing, only about half of which I found important or relevant at the time back when I first got this, and the sentiments hold true in 2016.

krang_android_body_06

I’d mostly forgotten about them, but along with the “regular” figures and vehicles, Playmates had at one point had a line of $20 figures that stood about a foot tall–these oversized giant editions of the basic figures. $20 for one figure?!? What ridiculous nonsense! (Nowadays with $14 3.75″ figures, these would probably be $60+ apiece!)

krang_android_body_10

Then there were those Pizza Point things you could clip and save. I don’t think I ever learned what/where/how one could “redeem” them, or if I did, I don’t recall deeming anything “worthwhile” enough to be bothered to do anything about it. So hey, I still have at least 4 of the points available to me. Anything good still available?

krang_android_body_12

The box even has the remnants of the original price sticker, and confirming that I got this from Hills (and not Children’s Palace or Toys R Us or Kmart) (This was pre-Walmart/pre-Target!) (At least for me)

What an expensive thing then, and what a bargain that price would be, now, for such a figure/accessory of this significance and such.

And what novelty to find this original box after all these years, something that it never would’ve occurred to me that I’d saved for any reason! Truly a blast from the past, and a weird sort of “link” to the past, a tangible piece of ephemera in a world of stark contrasts these days–you either find something “mint in box” for HUNDREDS of dollars, or something “loose” for mixed pricing. And here I have originals of the opened box and the loose figure(s).

The ’90s Revisited: Superman #112

superman0112Superman’s Ex-Girlfriend Lois Lane

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artists: Ron Frenz and Joe Rubinstein
Lettering: John Costanza
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Color Separations: Digital Chameleon
Editors: Mike McAvennie and KC Carlson
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: June 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

This issue originally came out during a year or so that I’d stepped away from (Superman) comics. For whatever reason(s) I recall basically leaving off with the end of The Trial of Superman, checking in briefly for the Wedding Album issue, and then returning for the start of the "Electric Costume" stuff. So I’d actually missed this whole half-year/however-long "arc" where Clark and Lois had broken up.

And I guess that’s the thing for this issue: it kicks off the "breakup" arc, and the cover caught me this time about the way it did fifteen or so years ago when I originally filled that gap in my runs on the Superman titles.

Superman deals with an attempted prison break, and then he flies Lois to Mt. Fuji for some alone time to talk about where they’re headed. Unlike the previous time they did this, there is not a happy resolution, as Superman is pulled away to save lives, and Lois’ "point" is essentially proven–that Superman is "on call" more than even a doctor or fire/policeman, and "belongs" to the world more than he ever can to one individual.

The issue’s art is good overall, though the "tease" from the cover constrasts sharply with the bulk of the issue’s art. Reading this issue out of context and as a one-off thing, I’m not overly thrilled with the art compared to plenty of other instances I’ve loved art on a Superman book. However, that’s personal taste in general and not reflective of the quality of the art. This brings back plenty of memory for me of this period in the Super-titles, when they were basically a weekly book with a rotating creative team. There’s no "previously…" page, but as a weekly ongoing thing, there wasn’t really much need for one…I suspect one would have been reading ALL the Super-titles or none; as one of the former, I can’t imagine being able to stick with any single Superman title without the others.

Story-wise, this is a Jurgens issue, and by his name alone I’m pre-disposed to like this, given I tend to really enjoy any/all stuff he did with Superman (and to a degree, still does). This issue certainly is not a chunk of story totally in a vacuum for me–I am very much aware of (roughly) where this is situated in stuff–shortly after The Trial of Superman–and recalling the months-long arc of Superman and Lois "separated" and such, so I don’t have that sense of "what the heck was just happening???" heading into the issue, nor do I have any sense of "what comes next?". That we get some pages of Superman/Clark and Lois talking about things, a sense of what both are feeling, and (Clark especially) going through, this is a heartbreaking kinda story if one appreciates the characters and continuity from the mid/late 1990s.

The cover is what grabbed me for this particular purchase, and the memories it evoked–both with having part of the original image from Superman #59, as well as the first time I’d read this particular issue.

All in all, this was very much worth the 25 cents I paid, for the convenience of an immediate re-reading. As with too many comics I presently own, this was a "convenience purchase," as I already own the issue at least once if not twice over, and would just prefer at the moment to pay the 25 cents over digging through umpteen boxes to try to find it and pull it. (Plus, doing that is something different than grabbing a "random" ’90s issue out of a quarter bin.

I’d love to do a full, large-scale reread of ’90s Superman issues…but for now, I’ll content myself with sticking to occasional quarter-bin finds like this.

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