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Blue and Gold: NON-Silver Age Showcase volumes

blue_and_gold_04My first exposure to Booster Gold and Blue Beetle that I can recall was Justice League America #69–the Doomsday tie-in that came out back in October 1992 as that storyline kicked off.

They were just these two characters I’d never heard of before that apparently were part of the Justice League. The Blue Beetle was nearly killed by Doomsday–beaten horribly–while Booster was knocked away from the fight (saved by his force field) where Superman caught him, and the creature was given its name.

I would later learn plenty more about the characters and backtrack and keep up with them to varying degrees in the ongoing DC Universe of the 1990s. Unfortunately, I haven’t a clue now when I became aware of both having their own ongoing series shortly after Crisis on Infinite Earths.

I do know that I came across their series in a sale, and have the full runs SOMEWHERE in my accumulation, but that’s a whole other thing.

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I now have both series, complete, in a handy two-volume format.

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The Booster Gold volume came out over 6 years ago, and I picked it up pretty much right away with the expectation that there’d be a Blue Beetle volume to follow before long…never realizing just how long it would actually be!

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Now in early 2015, I finally have my Blue Beetle volume, and despite it being $3 more expensive and some minor cosmetic/visual differences in the trade dress, I’m really pretty happy with it…happy at least to actually have the thing.

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Since I’ve never (yet) read the series I definitely look forward to getting into it and experiencing the stories despite the age of them. While color would be better, since I read for story over art most of the time anyway, I’m not particularly concerned here.

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Though I was specifically interested in both books over the years for the series/content…I also felt inclined to “support” them as post-Crisis on Infinite Earths volumes rather than Silver Age stuff. I would LOVE to see various early post-Crisis titles reprinted like this…especially as DC prepares to move away from “continuity” “mattering” and it seems less and less likely that I’ll have any real interest in their new output.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Gambit and the X-Ternals #2

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gambitandthexternals002Where No eXternal Has Gone Before!

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Tony Daniel
Inkers: Conrad, Milgrom, Christian
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Marie Javins
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Cover: Tony Daniel
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Picking up immediately on the heels of the previous issue, our point of view is back with Gambit and his group, as they suddenly find themselves farther from home than they ever could have imagined being…and facing what they come to learn is the Shi’Ar Imperial Guard. The encounter is not encouraging, and Gambit has the group retreat. Rictor–who tagged along in their cross-galaxy space-hop–goes with the Imperial Guard. While he meets with a certain brutality interacting with the Guard, Gambit and co. meet a local who brings them up to speed on the situation they’ve found themselves in on this alien world. Rictor soon leads the Guard back to the X-Ternals, and the fight again does not go well, but this time the group is rescued by another group–calling themselves the Starjammers…who explain the danger facing all existence.

The art in this issue seems somehow "off" on this read-through…I’m sure it’s not all that different from the first issue, but as has plagued many of the #2s, there’s something to not being the opening chapter, nor penultimate or final chapter that leaves me a bit dissatisfied with the issue and more negatively critical of stuff that wouldn’t otherwise bother me. On the whole, the art works, the characters are familiar and mostly distinct…though just paging through the issue there’s a strange sort of blend to the visuals that–at least just for this issue–seems "off" to me.

The story itself is good, though a bit fast-paced and feeling quite a bit the opposite of "decompressed." This issue’s events could easily (by contemporary standards) be stretched to at least 2-3 issues–as we meet the Imperial Guard, see a fight and retreat, meet another new character and get exposition, see Rictor interrogated, another fight, meet another group, get further exposition, and finally a declaration to end the issue. That a lot is packed into the issue is good, and feels like a lot is going on, keeping things moving forward and giving a bit of that sense of hecticness the characters must be feeling, trying to find their bearings in this screwy new setting they’re thrust into.

With the Age of Apocalypse story exploring a number of different facets of the X-Universe, this series gets to do the "cosmic" side of things. It’s not entirely to my liking, nor is it necessarily a disliking. Though I’ve read some of the stuff with "X-Men in Space" I’m not really used to THESE X-characters "in space" so that throws me off a bit.

All in all, the issue’s rather average; neither landing as something crummy and distasteful nor anything of great significance or notice. It simply is what it is. We have plenty of action and story advancement and are moved into the heart of things away from the simple "premise" of this mini as spun out from X-Men: Alpha.

And like many other issues in the Age of Apocalypse stuff, I find this current re-reading to be almost new as it’s been so long since the last time I read through the entire story that I’ve forgotten details even if I’ve retained broad strokes.

Hooked on the Air Bender

I tend to be a hard sell on most things. I don’t like change once I’m used to something, and I don’t tend to embrace new stuff when the old still works just as well. But once I do give something a shot, if I like it, I tend to go all-in rather quickly.

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A couple years ago after a weekend visit with friends where we watched several “key” Dalek episodes of the current Doctor Who run, I went back and re-watched the Eccleston premiere series and then finally forged into Tennant‘s first series and far enough in to actually get hooked, and sped through the entire run before summer. A A year or so prior to that, my friends had had me watch a couple episodes, and I did watch the Eccleston series, but couldn’t get into Tennant‘s, so just let it go by the wayside.

In a similar fashion, last year the same friends had me watch a couple episodes of The Legend of Korra; and I do recall watching the final five-ish episodes of Avatar a number of years earlier. Then the weekend of the 14th they had me watch the first few episodes of Avatar…and this time it “took.”

It also helps that a couple other friends have also been “into” these and so had also had my interest up.

I don’t like Amazon Prime, and had seen the Avatar box sets at Target and already’d considered picking them up, so I did, and finished Book 1 and all of Book 2 in less than 9 days including that weekend visit with my friends.

And I’m hooked. I have every intention of getting the Complete Book 3 Collection, and then moving on to Legend of Korra…as well as likely checking out some of the comics.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: X-Calibre #2

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xcalibre002Burn

Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencils: Roger Cruz, Renato Arlem, Charles Mota, Eddie Wagner
Inks: Phil Moy, Tom Wegrzyn, Harry Candelario
Colors: Joe Rosas, Digital Chameleon
Letters: Richard Starkings, Comicraft
Cover: Ken Lashley
Editors: Suzanne Gaffney, Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Some of these covers stick out to me and are rather instantly recognizable by image alone, without or in spite of the logos. This cover, though, could be brand new and I wouldn’t be able to tell you one way or the other. I suppose that’s because I only clearly recall broad strokes and not the details of the series.

This issue picks up on Destiny and her vision of Avalon burning. We then jump to an attack on Apocalypse’s forces, before cutting to Nightcrawler suffocating with fellow refugees in a sub. Though he escapes, others are not so fortunate. When the sub surfaces and seeks repairs, the refugees are transferred…and only his hanging back saves Nightcrawler from suffering the fate of the others. His inability to save them, though, leads our hero to attack Callisto and her minions, meteing out death for death-dealing. Finally, confronting Callisto herself, part of Nightcrawler’s mission fulfills itself in the arrival of Mystique.

This is a rather dark story, facing the dark elements in a way that somehow hits me a bit closer than some of the other titles’ situations…perhaps Nightcrawler saving himself but not anyone else–regardless of the fact of his INABILITY to do so. Prior to re-reading this I could only have told you that whatever this issue contains must have happened, but would not have been able to tell even the context of the cover image or anything that went down in this issue. The dark tone fits, as well as Nightcrawler’s own actions–marking him as quite different from his "regular universe" counterpart. I liked the intro page included here, something years ahead of its time: catching me up as a reader without forced exposition/contextualization eating up valuable space within the story itself.

I’m surprised, looking at the credits, to see so many involved with the Pencils and Inks…simply reading the issue, I didn’t even consciously notice anything amiss in the art that would even suggest so many creators involved. That’s certainly a good thing art-wise; or at the least says something about my enjoying the story enough to not notice.

In and of itself, there’s really nothing "special" to this issue; it’s a middle chapter lacking the newness and nature of an intro issue, it isn’t a penultimate nor finale chapter. It moves pieces around the board (so to speak) and gets things in place for the back half of the series.

While I look forward to reading Nightcrawler and Mystique’s interactions in the next issue, it’s not in a chomping-at-the-bit sort of way. I am moreso looking forward to getting to  finishing up on the #2s and getting to month #3.

TMNT Revisited: TMNT Adventures #9

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Full Post at TMNT Revisited
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #9

The Valiant #3 [Review]

thevaliant003Writers: Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt
Artist: Paolo Rivera with Joe Rivera
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
Assistant Editor: Kyle Andrukiewicz
Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant Comics
Cover Date: February 2014
Cover Price: $3.99

While it could just be that it’s the most immediate, this is probably my favorite issue of this mini so far.

The main thrust of the issue is that Gilad (the Eternal Warrior) has allied himself with a number of allies (basically, the rest of the major characters in the Valiant universe) to fight The Immortal Enemy, an entity as old as Time itself that is trying to kill the newest Geomancer. Gilad’s failed a number of times in the past to prevent this, but he’s highly determined that it will never happen again. Meanwhile, authorities behind Gilad’s group are working to get a mysterious box opened. As all this is going on and the heroes seem to be defeated, Bloodshot has been getting Kay (the new Geomancer) to safety and prepares to defend her if needed–he’s her last line of defense. The two learn more of each other, and Kay tests her powers…but the Immortal Enemy continues its path to the Geomancer.

I breezed through this issue hardly noticing the art, overall. In this case that’s definitely a good thing–it just fit the story, conveyed plenty, and didn’t really left me wondering what was going on. I don’t care much for lengthy “silent” scenes where I have to “focus” on the art to pick up on what’s going on. I far prefer to read a story and be able to “notice” the action going on behind the words…and this issue struck me as very well balanced in that regard. It certainly worked for me.

The story itself has shifted from what I’d thought was going to be an Eternal Warrior or Unity story to a Bloodshot story, and I think I truly like that. I’m further behind on a lot of my Valiant reading than I’d like to be, so I’m enjoying the Bloodshot emphasis all the more. I’m also definitely enjoying the development of something between Bloodshot and the Geomancer–the two are such different characters, and yet there’s definitely something quite interesting about them being “teamed up” and interacting directly with one another. I skipped the recap at the beginning of the issue, but had no problem “picking back up” with things, and am eager to get to the story’s conclusion despite knowing it leads into Bloodshot Reborn (as opposed to simply concluding as a 4-issue story that sits for a bit before being picked back up).

As a third issue of four, this is by no means a jumping-on point. But it certainly draws from what’s been set up in the first couple issues and leaves me looking forward quite a bit to the final issue, and with some suspicion that Bloodshot’s status quo has been significantly altered…and I’m hoping that Kay makes it through this story and would quite enjoy seeing her as part of the cast of the new Bloodshot series this spring.

I remember expecting skinny squarebound issues when Valiant announced the “prestige format” of the series, having gotten used to that for Marvel and DC “prestige format” comics in the 1990s. What I’ve got instead is a cardstock cover, endpapers, and a pleasant lack of ads. Best of all–the cover price remains “only” $3.99…and I count a full 22 story pages–making the physical quality of the individual issue(s) well worth the cover price, particularly compared against a standard issue. We also get “commentary” in the back with several pages of blended art, showing a few of the story pages divided in quarters showing the layouts, pencils, inks, and colors which is a neat effect…these pages overlaid with commentary in “narration boxes” from writer Jeff Lemire contextualizing some stuff about the issue (no need to have a smartphone with an app to pull up some video short that’ll eat into a data plan for a few words from a creator).

All in all, quite a good issue…plenty enjoyable, high quality, and certainly worth its cover price.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Amazing X-Men #2

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amazingxmen002Sacrificial Lambs

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

We open on a prologue of sorts, witnessing Abyss torturing someone to maximize his own enjoyment of feeding off the kid’s life force. Then we turn back to the X-Men who now face foes who have commandeered the re-wiring of the Sentinels…now instead of being "invisible" to the sentinels, the X-Men are included as targets…a challenge they must overcome in order to be at all effective in helping the humans escape. They also learn that Abyss is holding this boy hostage, and Quicksilver and Storm go after him to save the kid. Meanwhile, Apocalypse determines that he Has Had Enough Of This and prepares to attack Magneto directly.

Like the first issue, this one is something rather different than I thought I remembered…something that might yet be attributable to cover images that I’ve seen repeatedly through the years while not re-reading the contents for years. This issue’s cover…while showing Storm and Quicksilver battling Abyss seems a bit stylistic, particularly in Abyss’ appearance as well as Quicksilver’s silent scream. A coworker asked me about part of it–if Storm was shooting lightning, and I realized that hadn’t even registered to me visually…just a bunch of color and lines.

The story is solid and enjoyable enough (given the dark setting and subject matter). It’s interesting to see the possible romantic relationship between Storm and Quicksilver simmering just under things, and at the least the relationship the characters DO have as-is. Somehow I’ve associated this title more with Rogue and her group than with Storm and Quicksilver, yet at least as of these first two issues, it’s definitely a Storm/Quicksilver-led group…though I believe the focus shifts a bit for the back half of the series.

The art is good, and no real complaints from me there outside of my note above on the cover. Even that isn’t horrible and is more of a "noticed" thing than anything drawing me out of the story or distracting or such.

Nearly halfway through the Age of Apocalypse now, and it seems like the journey’s just begun. Though I’ve not cared much for the "10 years later" stuff through present done with "advancing" the world…I still feel there is an incredible amount of potential for these characters and stories to be told prior to where we picked up in X-Men: Alpha.

And that’s probably part of why I find myself drawn more to Amazing and Astonishing X-Men to the self-inflicted quasi-dread of reading some of the other titles. This book holds as one of the "treats" of the bunch, though.

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