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Invincible #144 [Review]

invincible_0144The End of All Things (part twelve of twelve)

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Pencilers: Ryan Ottley, Cory Walker
Inkers: Cory Walker, Mark Morales
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Covers: Ryan Otley, Cory Walker, Nathan Fairbairn
Published by: Image Comics
Cover Date: February 2018
Cover Price: $5.99

I’ve read relatively few issues of Invincible over the years. Off the top of my head, I remember reading some sort of #0 issue when the main series was in its 20s on numbering. Whether I read them or not, I remember when Invincible guest-starred in a couple of Marvel issues Kirkman was writing. I want to say I read #50 or so, and I remember the one-issue-summer-crossover-event Invincible War thing. I have the first paperback of the series, and recall getting the first couple hardcovers to read from a library. And at one point, I had the title on my pull list, though that didn’t wind up lasting terribly long. Without digging all that deeply, I’ve previously covered several issues:

And now it’s been a number of years since the last time I read an issue, consciously–I believe there was a 25-cent issue last year that I got but do not recall reading. So offhand, it’s been more than 1/3 of the series since the last I read, and here I went and bought the last issue, and read the last issue. The final issue "ever," until some follow-up special or mini-series or such is done.

I don’t know what I expected, but this wasn’t it. I knew I was buying the final issue, that it comes at the end of the series, the end of a 12-part story, etc.

Needless to say…spoilers ahead!

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Again, I have NOT read the previous 11 chapters of The End of All Things.

This issue picks up with Mark Grayson–Invincible–telling his son about where he comes from. The sense of deja vu that I got reading this makes me almost certain it is a recreation of a scene from the first issue of the series, as Nolan told Mark about himself and such. A fitting bookend sort of scene. We find that Mark is leaving, and Markus–his son–will be remaining on Earth with Scott, a character I’m not familiar with, but suspect was a fairly major character around #100, and apparently Markus’ acting father, or "real dad." Mark himself is now leader of the Viltrumites, and is leading them off into space to a new sort of greatness–as a peaceful people, rather than a warring empire of domination and conquest. And then the bulk of the issue is vignettes of the years that follow–as we see moments from the various characters’ lives, defining incidents, etc. Mark and his daughter visiting Earth, Markus getting his costume, incidents in space, a revelation about Mark’s wife, and finally, a reflective moment as Mark looks out upon the peace that he has led.

This is definitely a final issue sort of thing. It feels more like an epilogue…but then, an epilogue is still part of the story, so, we’re getting into stupid little technicalities there. In part through the use of the slice of life/vignettes, I suspect a number of lingering plot threads were dealt with, albeit over my head as of this first reading, addressing probable concerns such as Mark’s son, what Markus’ life might be like and if he’d follow in Invincible’s footsteps; and of course we see a number of things play out in broad strokes. In some ways, this seems to offer answers long-term and by covering so many years (centuries?) it effectively lays to rest the story as a whole. Maybe there’ll be other Invincible content or revisitations in years to come, but the broad strokes have been established; we see where everyone ENDS UP, even if we don’t have the page by page issue or story-length details.

I’m sure this is not nearly as satisfying for me as it would be if I was a lot more invested in things, if I had read more of the series and more recently. That said, I really like the way it ended, doing all this–while it gives me some idea of a handful of characters that survive, and some idea of those who don’t, and broad strokes of where things wind up, it also intrigues me–makes me want to find out the details, to go back and get to read the entire series from the start, all the way through. Even if I obtain the compendium volumes–and I suspect 3 of those would get the whole series, possibly with room for spinoffs–I have no idea when I’d actually get around to such an undertaking.

That Invincible gets to end like this–on the creators’ terms, that it gets an ending on their timing, and it becomes a "finite story," I think makes it a lot stronger in some ways, and as long as the series as a whole is kept in print, it will be interesting to see how it lasts, and what sort of fans come in "after the fact," that jump into it knowing/seeing it to be a finite story instead of just another indefinite ongoing series without end.

I’m not thrilled with high priced single issues, and this was $5.99 with multiple covers. I’m not even sure if I got the "main cover" or not, so I’m a bit less thrilled with that. But assuming I did succeed on that front, and given the extra length of this issue AND that it IS a final issue, a finale, a sendoff…I’ll give it a lot more leeway for a one-time "incident" of high pricing, as it’s definitely double-length, so at least justifies its cost.

The story is solid, as said, and seems to wrap up numerous plot threads and the like. Visually, this shares art by the two artists associated with the series, which is a nice touch, giving both a chance to handle this final issue.

All in all, I enjoyed the issue, I’m glad I got it, I’m not overly troubled by the price (only the use of variant covers), and would certainly recommend this to anyone already following the final story. It may be worthwhile also for you if you’ve read the series here and there, TO see where things have wound up and where they go. Yet, as a #144, if you’ve never read the series, this is hardly the place to start.

I wouldn’t consider this a masterpiece, but it seems like a solid wrap-up to a series, and caps off the series well while transforming it into something it would never be able to be as an indeterminate-length ongoing series.

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The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics #677

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action_comics_0677“…In Love and War!”

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Jackson Guice & Denis Rodier
Letterer: Bill Oakley
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Cover: Art Thibert, Glenn Whitmore
Assistant Editor: Dan Thorsland
Editor: Mike Carlin
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 1992
Cover Price: $1.00

This issue details the background and a then-new status quo with Supergirl, and Lex Luthor II, the son of the late Lex Luthor, arch-enemy of Superman. We see this young couple as they’re new to each other, Luthor curious about this Supergirl’s background, and she’s totally fallen for him, as he’s a visual doppelganger at least to the man who created her and gave her life in a pocket/alternate universe. That background–that readers saw over the course of The Supergirl Saga and subplot elements following, and things that came out in the Panic in the Sky story–is recounted here, as Supergirl tells Luthor. This also serves as further introduction for newer readers as to this Supergirl, her background, and her abilities. Meanwhile, we get touchpoints in other subplots–Jimmy Olsen had been fired but now recently re-hired to the Daily Planet. Perry had been gone, but now is back, and we see him meeting a Ron Troupe. We also see development in stuff with Cat Grant and her career, as well as Sam Foswell, who had temporarily held Perry’s job. We also see Clark and Lois spending time together as a newly-engaged couple and whatnot, as well as reporters. And then the “core” of the issue, as Luthor announces Supergirl has joined Lexcorp, and Clark is quite concerned about what she may have let slip to Luthor–about him, his parents, and so on. The Superman/Supergirl discussion gets heated, she instinctively lashes out, and this physical altercation is caught on camera by one of Luthor’s cameramen–accompanying him as he pursued the Super-duo, trying to keep tabs on his girl. Though Luthor demands the tape from his man and promises it will never see air while he’s around, he neglects to destroy it, which keeps Superman at a certain point of unease, as we see that this bright, charming son of Luthor has a certain questionable, dark streak to him…that as the issue fades out, indicates could be quite threatening indeed.

In retrospect, this is quite a “key” issue, primarily on the Supergirl and Team Luthor front. In fact, much of this issue was pretty directly adapted in the Dirk Maggs audio drama Superman Lives!, which adapted the novelization Superman: Doomsday and Beyond based on this and other comics in the Death and Return of Superman saga.

I quite enjoy Stern‘s writing, and the Guice/Rodier visuals. Everyone looks as I remember them from this time frame…which would be expected, given the pretty consistent nature of the creative teams on the books in 1992, into the Death of Superman stuff and beyond. I even recognized Foswell, as much by name as appearance, given a story this issue is a few months from at this point.

Story-wise, this packs a LOT into a single, regular-sized issue’s page-allotment. Of course, this was in the midst of the best of the “Triangle Numbering” period, where the Superman titles all had their own focused subplots, but collectively served as a nearly-weekly ongoing singular title (with ongoing elements, but Action Comics really taking the reins on dealing with Luthor II’s background, for example, or Superman: The Man of Steel taking the reins on the underworlders, etc).

I remember being aware of this issue for awhile before acquiring a copy for myself back in 1993 or ’94–whenever it was that I actually did. I was even more aware of what the content of the issue was, thanks to the Stern novelization The Death and Life of Superman, which included loads of continuity detail from the Man of Steel mini-series by Byrne through key issues up to and including the actual Doomsday!, Funeral for a Friend, and Reign of the Supermen run. Finding that this one issue alone had so much key stuff that factored into the larger story–the comics AND Stern‘s novel–is quite cool on this read-through. It seems so odd in 2018, snagging this for 25 cents to recall that it was not an issue simply or readily available to me as a kid–and I think I may have paid $3-5 for it as a “priced back issue,” at the time.

While many of the “random” single issues from this time period might be relatively inconsequential, this one, and I believe the next, are a couple of rather “crucial” issues, and are much more worthwhile to pick up as single issues than most. That said, a lot of my enjoyment here is from being quite familiar with the history and context of these characters, including knowledge of information that had not quite yet been revealed when this saw publication and would have been originally read…and knowing where things go, and hence how important this is. It’ll be much more enjoyable to one familiar with this period of the Superman comics, or going through everything from the time, than as a one-off if you’ve no familiarity with the time or the Death/Return/etc.

I paid a whopping 25 cents for this particular copy…and that was well worth it to me to revisit this without digging through longboxes looking for a copy, or even having to deal with lugging a box off a storage rack just to get at it.

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A Quarter-Bin Haul: Week of February 21, 2018

Perhaps a bit reckless on the spending after just being laid off, I spent awhile digging through quarter bins that I hadn’t in a long time, and got quite a haul. Of course, for all these comics from that quarter bin dive…it was still (in itself) LESS money than the new comics. And less than buying a mere SEVEN new Marvel issues, or only 9 new DC issues. Far more available to read, to fill in holes in the collection, to have conveniently handy for a bit til they disappear into boxes, etc.

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I’m not actually sure what The New Wave is, but I’m certain that my brain keeps trying to think Nextwave. Since the first few issues were present, I was able to snag 9 issues…enough to definitely check things out and see what I think of ’em, assuming I ever get around to the actual reading of these.

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And a complete run of The Man of Steel? Yeah, why not? I may want to revisit this series this spring anyway, given the current stuff.

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I feel like I recall Batman: Sword of Azrael #1 going for $40ish at one point. So scoring all four issues for a mere $1? Excellent! I still really like that first cover. Anecdotally…I originally bought #1 "off the stand" as a brand-new issue (though it was awhile before I ever got #s 2-4). I’m less sure, but thinking I’d had the choice of it or Vengeance of Bane and chose Azrael.

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And a complete 4-issue mini-series of Black Knight? Why not?

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Some classic Sword of the Atom specials, and the three issue Tales of the Green Lantern Corps mini. Can’t remember if I already have any of the Sword of the Atom specials, but I do have the Tales of the GL Corps mini already.

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Same goes for Guy Gardner Reborn and the Justice League America #70. The Justice League International Special issues are new to me, I believe, and interesting pieces, at that!

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Finally making a bit of headway on Green Lantern: Mosaic. I really need to figure out now which specific issues I’m actually still missing, as this gives me a solid 1-9, and I think I have #18 or so (whatever the final issue was), meaning I should have 8 or less issues to track down now!

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A nice mini-run of the early Kyle Green Lantern issues; I’d previously found a decent run that I believe was missing these, so between that, these,and what I already had, I should have most of the first 60 or so Kyle issues.

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While there were several missing issues, I don’t consciously remember this 2-part Parallax View story, but I’m eager to read it, even "out of order" and "out of context" for now! And while contemporary Valiant is on my $#!^ list, they didn’t do "original Valiant stuff, so I’m still somewhat interested in that run. And hey…Unity #0… not a bad issue, I don’t think, to pick up for only 25 cents!

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If other "early issues" of JLI and JLE were in the bins, I did not see them with the #1 issues, so I don’t feel as bad about "just" grabbing the #1. They go well with Justice League Quarterly, which I did find several subsequent issues! I’m not sure if there were only these 7 offhand but I don’t think I remember this title being around when I was getting into the main JL:A book around the Death of Superman.

I do like those first issue covers…a fun sorta "running gag" for this era of the title(s), somewhat revisited with the recent Omnibus volume.

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Then there’s Breakdowns, which was mostly present.

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A couple missing issues of JLE, but if I can find those in the near-ish future, this may be a good binge-read! Then there’s Jurgens‘ first issue on the title, with the "new" post-Breakdowns status quo that included Superman and Maxima.

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With getting Starman #1, I might actually have the full series now. If not, I’m only missing a few issues! Forgotten Realms appealed to my D&D nostalgia/curiosity of this era of the TSR comics. Superman #1 for the nostalgia, and to go with The Man of Steel issues. The confrontation with Supergirl shortly before all the Death of Superman stuff appealed to me for the "convenience copy" factor; same for the first issue of her post-Return mini (which did not seem to have its 2-4).

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I’d have to research if the gold-ink cover of Crisis #1 is a first print or not; offhand I’m thinking it’s a later printing, being in the quarter bin. The "key" issues 7 & 8 (Deaths of Supergirl and Flash) were missing.

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But outside of 7 & 8, I was able to snag the entire series. I’m pretty sure I have #7 somewhere…but I’m not sure about #8. I’d definitely be interested in a "cheapo" copy of #8 as a "reader copy" or such, just to have the issue. No need for "near-mint" for me.

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All that DC, and only a scant handful of Marvel issues. And one is a crossover with DC! The X-Men/New Teen Titans crossover…and this may be the best-condition I’ve found of the issue, for only getting it from bargain bins! I was rather surprised at the Contest of Champions being 25 cents..perhaps it’s a later printing, or maybe it’s that the thing’s not in great condition (but hardly "poor" condition). Shogun Warriors was interesting just for beign a #1 from this period. The Incredible Hulk issue looked like an interesting one-off to read. Avengers #1 (the first of about a dozen now in my "comics reading lifetime"!!!) for the heckuvit since it was there and 25 cents; same for the Heroes Return iteration of Captain America #1 (the second of about a dozen such #1s for that title in my "comics reading lifetime").

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The Weekly Haul: Week of February 21, 2018

This week’s new haul was a somewhat medium-sized one: not as small as might be "ideal," but not ridiculously huge…in terms of new comics. I’ll detail the large quarter-bin haul in another post!

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New Superman and Batman issues; as well as Super Sons, Justice League, Wonder Woman/Conan…and maybe the top of the week: Batman/TMNT II.

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On the non-DC side…the seond to last issue of The Mighty Thor‘s arc The Death of the Mighty Thor. I bought in with the 700 issue last year, and decided I’d follow the arc…and we’ll see from there. Of course, with Marvel now announcing YET ANOTHER RELAUNCH/RENUMBERING INITIATIVE, I’m pretty much done with them. I grabbed the Infinity Countdown: Prime for Wolverine (the real Wolverine: Logan, the character introduced in The Incredible Hulk, that joined the X-Men, that had his own 180-ish issue series before all the renumbering shenanigans). I have no intention of actually following the event itself, but if I’m gonna grouse about stuff, I can at least get some actual reading in!

Maestros I need to actually read…five issues in, and I’m just hoping it’s worthwhile. And finally, the weekly Comic Shop News.

Outside of these…I had extra time available to me that I haven’t in a long while, so (perhaps recklessly, but that’s a discussion for some other time) I dug through quarter-bins, and found a lot of great stuff that I ended up getting…which will be the basis of a later post!

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More Life Changes and More Unknown Future

Six weeks shy of my 9-year anniversary with an employer, I was laid off back in 2016. 4 1/2 months later, I began a new job.

Now, last week, again completely outta nowhere, I was called into my manager’s office where I was informed that I was being laid off, effective immediately.

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It’s yet to set in overly much; immediate necessities have been set into motion and addressed.

Something’s different this time around; I can’t really put my finger on it.

It’s discouraging…maybe all the more because I was told it wasn’t something I myself had done or had not done. At least if I had done something, I’d have something to work on improving.

But I’m not putting stuff out here much beyond what I’ve already said.

Still, it’s a significant "life event," that I fear exemplifies "the new normal," where instead of one being able to just get a job, give their all and loyalty to one company, they’re just signing on for some temporary-yet-indeterminate time.

Much as too many comics have been: instead of going indefinitely, hundreds of issues in a run…now most comics only go so long before being put on hiatus and then renumbered as a new run.

Blah.

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Some Reflecting on Recent Phoenix-y…Stuff

phoenix_resurrection_0005I’d had high hopes for Phoenix Resurrection/The Return of Jean Grey series. I was especially looking forward to the return of the character, period. But this 5-issue "event comic," quasi-weekly series gave me two $4.99 books with three $3.99s tossed in, and other than "Psychics disappear, X-Men encounter several foes thought dead, and find out Jean is living in a Phoenix-created artificial reality," not much seemed to really happen. Add to that some half-arsed (to me) marketing about a Jean Grey tie-in issue where I thought I had missed something at the start of the ‘event’ and then made darned sure to grab when it actually came out the week of the finale, and I wasn’t overly keen on it.

Then for that supposed-tie-in to basically have nothing at all to actually do with the Phoenix Resurrection series/event itself, it’s like…why, exactly, was I just conned into buying the final issue of a series, when it’s not the end of the character, not about the character I wanted, and doesn’t offer anything meaningful to my reading of the earlier issues of Phoenix Resurrection? It seems that the Psych Wars arc had stuff earlier that did pertain to Phoenix Resurrection, and I didn’t get those; but this is tangential at best.

jean_grey_0011Once several issues were out, I wasn’t going to "just" hold off for a paperback–gotta give Marvel "credit" for that–pumping this out as a weekly thing rather than monthly. Rather than "have to" wait even just a couple months for a collected edition, seemed simpler to just continue with the singles, getting to read the serialized story closer together at least. But there’s also the fact that we knew blatantly from the start well before the first issue even hit that yes, this WOULD actually have the REAL return of the REAL Jean Grey…so it’s not like it was, say, a decade-later third mini to go with Phoenix: Endsong and Phoenix: Warsong, where we could "wonder" if it would actually end with Jean back among the living or not, or leave her dead. Like reading something called The Death of Superman, you know the outcome…and so the journey there, the details become all the more important. And for me, frankly, this series failed to deliver on that. Nothing much in it was singularly memorable, really; except the confirmation that yeah, Jean’s back, and a brief cameo near the end of the final issue..

We had the surprise of a temporarily-resurrected Cyclops (and then being left with a corpse, not even "just" the renewed absence of the character). Sure, Jean wanted "one last talk" with her husband/former husband/whatever they considered themselves. But how fitting would it have been to have also brought him back, with her? Resurrecting her, bringing him back, them having to learn to deal with each other again after how things were going with them just before her death, to say nothing of the actions Cyclops himself took after M-Day and AvX and all of that? (‘course, with Xavier apparently being back, too…almost seems "no harm, no foul" or such…) But it was basically "just" a cameo.

jean_grey_10_psych_warsI suppose I figured with a weekly 5-issue series titled with The Return of Jean Grey, we’d get MORE in the way of a contained "struggle" with her of simply being back; like they’d find her during issue 2, have 3-4 with stuff going on and her re-meeting the still-living, and perhaps by 5 have some big crisis come about because she IS back, where she’d have to face it and maybe face the likelihood of being killed again or something. As such, with the various X-characters dealing with missing psychics, the appearance of characters thought dead, etc. it seems like this would have worked far better as a bunch of subplots perhaps scattered across several titles, that would all then lead together into a one-shot issue; where the characters–having been brought together by events–would be there, and Phoenix Resurrection #5 could have been the oneshot or whatever.

A couple weeks back–the week after Phoenix Resurrection #5–I saw a lone copy of Jean Grey #10 remaining, and flipped through it and saw Phoenix stuff, so went ahead and bought it, feeling rather curious/suspicious. Sure enough, that one issue, not even branded as part of Phoenix Resurrection, had more conflict with the Phoenix Force and such, was more satisfying (BRIEF though it seemed!) than the entirety of the actual Phoenix Resurrection event/mini-series.

xmen_red_0001Then there was X-Men: Red #1. A bit larger physically, and $4.99 as a single issue…like last year’s X-Men: Prime, X-Men: Gold, and X-Men: Blue #1s. It’s got Nightcrawler, and our returned "real" Jean Grey, the adult, original, non-time-traveling character. Something to the issue as a whole has me considering getting #2, though I was not overly impressed with the issue or this newer take on Jean. I wanted her back as part of a team, back interacting with Cyclops, Wolverine, and various other ’90s mainstays…or something. On the five issue mini-series and now "headlining" a new series…I’m not seeing anything but "nostalgia" to "sell" me on the character. Like…great, now she’s back, but now what? What makes her singularly interesting and worthwhile TO get this sort of treatment?

I guess time will tell.

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The Weekly Haul: Week of February 14, 2018

Along with recent toy hauls and Ollie’s hauls, this week was a big comic week! I almost held off on some issues, but figured I’d just end up spending the same–or more–trying to hunt a bunch of stuff down later, or outright forget stuff that I didn’t want to. So…got a bunch of stuff, and here it is!

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I probably should have held off on the Metal stuff. I never intended to wind up so far behind on reading, but at this point, I’ve read up to #2 or so and none of the tie-ins. The shiny covers are also wearing a bit thin…yet, I still appreciate them as identifying markers for the series and its official chapters (i.e. not tie-ins). We’re just a couple issues/months away from Action Comics hitting #1,000. Sideways actually looks interesting, so I figured I’d pick that up. Detective Comics is another regular for me, and I’ve been trying to keep up with several of the mini-series such as Ragman and Deadman.

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I need to "stabilize" what extraneous DC books I’m keeping up with. I’m pretty sure Titans and The Flash are ones I’ll want to–emphasis on Wally West, and with the upcoming Flash War stuff.

Avengers: No Surrender as a weekly and hopefully having something to it. I’d much rather follow a single weekly than multiple separate titles. Though my math was definitely off, if this is a 16-week thing, it’s gonna end at #690…not #700!

Invincible concludes, so figured I’d pick that up to read. Eventually, someday, I’ll get caught up on the entire series. Especially as this caps it off and it’s a finite run.

I’m a fan of Tristan Jones‘ art…he’d posted some stuff on Facebook about this Lazarus issue out this week. I figured I may’ve missed earlier ones, but what the hey…now being aware, I’d grab this one to jump in. D’oh! It’s a 6-issue series, and this is the 6th issue. So, I’ll either have to backtrack on single issues, or nab a collected volume down the line.

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A Valentine’s Day promotion: draw a card from the bucket, and win something. Some free comics from the bargain bins, a graphic novel from the half-off bins, might’ve been other stuff. I drew one for a graphic novel from the half-off bins, and chose this Ultimate X-Men vol. 2. $30 cover price, in the half-off bins, $15…definitely an excellent "door prize" or Valentine’s gift.

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Thanks to a #SciFiJanuary post over at The Crapbox of Son of Cthulhu, I was interested enough to snag this Trekker Omnibus. It’s a little bit beat up and some slight curl to it…but for the price, and very pleasant surprise of its very existence, an absolutely excellent addition to my collection!

And Comic Shop News has had Superman on its cover two weeks in a row now…quite a nice change of pace!

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