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Jace’s Spellbook and Why to NOT #ShopLocal

I’ve been pulled back to Magic The Gathering recently, at least in terms of story, the art, the cards, the books–if not yet getting to actually PLAY the game itself. There’s been so much to it–from my history with the game 23 years ago, through the years, and the general nostalgia–that it’s been a real "thing" in my life, in my own way, the last few weeks.

While I have mixed feelings on pricing with stuff, the Signature Spellbook: Jace is quite a thing with Magic, and Wizards of the Coast (the publisher of the game).

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It’s this small boxed set with several cards reprinted with new artwork focused on the Planeswalker character Jace Beleren.

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This set is not even actually out yet–I believe it’s scheduled to become available June 15. That’s…nearly 3 1/2 weeks away. Almost a month.

The publisher’s website shows off the set–the box and its contents. It also shows off–PROMINENTLY–their MSRP of $19.99 (which applies to the US only, but seeing as I am in the US and not seeking it outside the US, that’s a moot note).

jace_spellbook_screenshot_from_wotc_price

Thing is…to pre-order this online (because it’s not out yet, any transaction regarding this would BE a pre-order) it’s pretty much UNAVAILABLE for anything under $45 or so.

That’s online stores, that’s eBay, that’s Amazon, that’s the various MTG community selling sites.

I asked the local comic shop about ordering this, and their distributors apparently don’t have this.

On further research, seems this is only available to certain retailers that are somehow associated with the publisher, in a way that apparently the local comic shop is not. (Ditto another shop I asked).

After attempting to support my local comic shop (which also does Magic) I tried the local game shop. They were happy to put my name down for it…but when I asked the price, to confirm that it was indeed this $20, they had to call someone to check.

I was told it’s $40. The reason being–and I quote–"It’s already going for $45 on eBay."

I opted to "pass on it," then.


There’s the notion of "supporting the local game store" or #ShopLocal. Shouldn’t this then be something to entice someone exactly like me to come INTO the FLGS?

Seeing the ridiculous prices online, that prompted me to actually take action "live" and "in person." So if it was some sort of "force people to #ShopLocal" thing, one could say it worked: it spurred me into action, ready to put out my $20 on the spot today. Yes, I first approached the comic shops–I’m a comics guy first, gamer second.

But then I visited the "actual games store" and…well, $40 MAY be slightly less than eBay or Amazon, but that’s STILL double-MSRP.

While they were checking on the pre-order price, I was looking at the wall, and was getting ready to "splurge" and buy $20 of boosters on the spot, in addition to committing to the $20 later for the product.

I was also strongly considering asking if they were taking pre-orders on booster boxes for M19, the next main set.

And of course, a positive experience would be a good prompt toward going back in randomly for other stuff, as well as maybe spurring me into taking the plunge into Friday Night Magic.


Instead, given the $40 price, I simply thanked them for their time, and walked out.

For that extra $20 on the price of one item that successfully drew me into a local game store:

  • I did NOT buy $20 in boosters (a $20 sale)
  • I am NOT buying the Jace set from them (ought to have been a $20 sale)
  • I am NOT buying a booster box from them
  • It’s put me off from their Friday Night Magic and any subsequent impulse buys and "support the FLGS" sales that would result simply from being in the store for FNM.

And it basically means that rather than transitioning to purchasing through this local game store, I’ll be purchasing stuff (that I can) online or through "the Big Box stores" assuming further purchasing.

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Ultraverse Revisited: Freex #3

ultraverse_revisited

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Writer: Gerard Jones
Penciller: Ben Herrera
Inker: Mike Christian
Ink Assists: Jasen Rodriguez
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Keith Conroy
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: September 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

This issue is yet another that feels chock-full of ’90s…’90s-ness.

Michael and Sweetface are dealing with the police–Michael gets shot, but Sweetface gets him to a neon sign and he’s able to slip back into the electrical pathways and such. By killing the lights in the area, the other Freex are able to escape. Meanwhile, Valerie and Rush end up destroying a lab, as Val gradually comes to realize just how not-good Rush truly is. When the other Freex find them, a fight breaks out–initially Rush and Val vs. the others. In the course of the fight and mouthing off, Rush reveals that he thinks any "natural" Ultras are genetic defects; and that he didn’t know Val didn’t choose to be artificially granted Ultra powers. She turns on him, and he’s run off, and Val "finally" "accepts" who she is–a freak, and one of the Freex.

Once again, this story fits very much into what I recall of the ’90s…both in cheesiness, as well as being quick-paced and "compressed," as the whole Valerie thing would easily be dragged across 6-12 issues in present-day stories–a full arc if not two; and here we have a huge change in her status within the pages of this single issue.

I’m recognizing characters a bit more, but I’m still not good with off-the-top-of-my-head recollection of codenames and character names. This IS "only" the third issue, though, and it’s been several weeks and a number of other titles’ issues since I read the second, so my foundation is growing but hasn’t solidified with this title yet. It continues to be interesting to read the Ultraverse titles this way, seeing the quick pace at which the individual titles are solidifying and then touching to other titles. It’s also interesting to see the various "named" characters and teams. By "named" I mean called out with some other font or a logo, as if there could have been "plans" for them already, beyond merely a "first appearance" in any given issue being an offhanded thing. In this case, The Bloodhounds, which we’ll presumably be seeing more of in the next issue.

Visually, I’m both ok with yet not blown away by this issue. The art’s solid enough, keeping the characters generally recognizable and consistent within the issue itself. I can appreciate some of the creativity in being able to show damage to characters’ outfits and such, and the "strategic placement" of objects or energy to avoid overt nudity while allowing it to be obvious that the characters are experiencing such exposure.

I’m sure it’s that I’m so used to contemporary comics in 2018 and the last few years in general, but it actually (sadly) feels a bit "odd" to see so many "costumed" figures show up in a book such as this. It was perfectly acceptable and natural to me as a kid in the ’90s…and it’s a sign of how much things have changed in 25 years that I’d even think it odd to see costumed villains in a title such as this.

I’m glad that we seem to have a unified group/team of the Freex now, given the contentious start. We’ve briefly explored the characters’ resistance to the very notion of banding together, with Val’s outright rebellion against it, to now having a firmed-up set of characters as the group, where things are ready to move forward toward them facing specific villains instead of each other.

I definitely never read this issue before, so it’s cool reading it for the first time. And having read it now, I would definitely recommend it along with the first two issues–get all 3 together at the same time if you can, or at least it seems now like these three issues make for a good opening arc.

I’m curious for what comes next, even as I’m eager to get into the next issue of Mantra, as well as Prime and Hardcase.

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