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Ultraverse Revisited: Mantra #3

ultraverse_revisited

mantra_0003Kismet Once…Kismet Twice…Kismet Deadly!

Writer: Mike W. Barr
Penciler: Terry Dodson
Inker: Al Vey
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Designer: Moose Baumann
Editor: Chris Ulm
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: September 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

We open on Lukasz–Eden–being held down by the Repo Men! They’re trying to get her mask, the source of her magical armor off, for their boss. Meanwhile, Eden’s kids are looking for her and don’t recognize her as the masked woman all the commotion’s about. Eden fries the Repo Men and makes her escape. She flies off and confronts their boss, eventually forcing a deal of sorts, pointing out that she’s the only person on Earth the mask will even work for, so it’s not in the guy’s interest to possess it anyway. She then–belatedly–remembers the kids, and collects them awkwardly from Child Services, deals awkwardly with them in the car and back at their house, and doesn’t quite convince Evie that everything’s alright. (In fact, Evie realizes quite a difference and goes to Gus–her brother–claiming this isn’t their mom!) The next day, the kids are handed off to their grandmother, after a brief run-in with Brent. Lukasz begins trying to track "the Judas" that betrayed Archimage, which leads to private investigator Dalmas. While in his office, a magical creation of Archimage’s–"Kismet Deadly"–challenges/tests Lukasz. Lukasz finds a ring in Dalmas’ safe that leads to Hamath…who in turn is killed when Kismet Deadly re-manifests, before Lukasz points out what "living" actually entails–including death! Mourning Hamath’s death but facing the practicality of it, Lukasz is decked from behind by someone whereing what looks like an Infinity Gauntlet knock-off. We then shift to someone else bound to a chair, and see that Warstrike is tracking Eden/Lukasz. Finally, Lukasz wakes to find himself before Boneyard, apparently to be a bride.

Since there’s no "previously" page, it was quite helpful that this issue basically opened right where #2 had left off…or close enough that opening on Lukasz being held down reminded me that we left off with these Repo Men pinning the body to take the mask. It’s interesting to see the development of the "superhero name" Mantra develop here: Lukasz thinking back to what he was told–to let "Change, growth, power" be his mantra; and someone overhearing the word "mantra" being spoken and taking it as the woman calling herself "Mantra." And thus, we have an on-panel, on-page explanation/reason for this body being called Mantra. Hokey as it may be, this is something I really enjoyed seeing here (and usually enjoy generally)–having some "moment" specifically reference something with its own title–book, movie, comic book–and yet not make a big deal of it. Someone hears this woman say the word "mantra," thinks she’s called herself "Mantra," tells others, and voila! Super heroine named Mantra! That Lukasz doesn’t quite "get" it and/or seems a bit annoyed by it is an added touch I like.

Story-wise, there’s a lot going on here…this is definitely a rather "compressed" issue (compared to the "decompression" in comics of the last 15+ years into 2018)…yet we still manage to have a sort of "subplot" and "immediate plot" dichotomy going on. There’s a lotta stuff happening, and we’re getting actual forward progression; Lukasz is actually going through tracking leads down and such rather than simply talking about it. As a single issue we get to see all sorts of stuff–Lukasz as Eden, Lukasz in action, Lukasz dealing with the kids, Lukasz interacting with the grandmother, and Brent; Lukasz putting this new body to use; we see Warstrike, we see Boneyard, we have references and context to Archimage and why Lukasz is in a woman’s body, etc.

Visually, this is definitely a pretty issue to look at, and I really like the coloring–especially for the stuff with Kismet Deadly. It’s just a sort of bright-and-colorful that I don’t feel I often see in comics, period (new OR old). As a late-30s male, and whatever other factors one may want to bring to the table, I do feel that I have a different sort of "appreciation" for the art than I did even as a kid…despite the art definitely grabbing and holding my attention even then! There’s that "cheesecake" element to this stuff without being graphically gratuitous…and I rather like the line it walks where a straight up live-action adaptation would almost certainly be PG-13…but it doesn’t cross the line into R-rated territory. One panel when Eden snaps at Evie threw me outta the story for a moment…Evie does not look AT ALL like a child to me, and taken out of context I’d absolutely swear her face is that of a full-grown woman, on the page. So, pretty as the art is generally and all that, it’s not perfect. But this is a comic book, and from the ’90s at that, and when it’s really one single panel and not even a page that does this, that’s not bad.

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In addition to the story-art of the issue (and there are 24 pages of the issue itself!) we have a letter column page, and a random "pinup" with art by Paul Pelletier and Al Vey. Just a static pose of Mantra standing amidst some rocks or such, some mist floating, sword drawn…nothing particular going on, just an image of the character. We do not tend to see this sorta thing anymore, unfortunately–today, publishers seem absolutely incapable of doing something like this, as if they absolutely cannot possibly have a non-story image that ISN’T a variant cover. I love seeing this–another artist’s take on a character, shown within an issue featuring that character…yet it is NOT a variant!

I felt like this series’ story’s engaged me more than a lot of others…maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s the art and having 25 more years on me, maybe all that and other factors. Something about the way I read this and enjoyed the issue as a whole makes me think it was no fluke that this was one of my favorite titles back then, as it’s quickly reasserting itself as a favorite of the bunch NOW as well.

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Reign of the Super-Blogs! #SBTU

Once upon a time, a group of blogs came together, forming the Super-Blog Team Up! After a number of adventures together, an unfortunate event came to pass: the Death of the Super-Blog Team Up!

But death ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.

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Before long, something new began to stir in the world of the Super-Blogs. A return was afoot…but not like before.

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A sense of awe descended, as, bursting forth from the void left by the original…a new reign is upon us!


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One of the blogs on the scene is a return itself, having disappeared. With the death of #SBTU, the path was clear…perhaps what the future needs is a bit of the past!

Bronze Age Babies – Super Blog Team-Up: Time, Clock of the Heart


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Another return swinging back into action, for the void left by the #SBTU must be filled!

Chasing Amazing – Remembrance of Comics Past (Super Blog Team-Up Edition): Amazing Spider-Man #393


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Surely death can change a blog group, and an attitude may be more direct! Taking over the matter, we have another stepping forth to take things on!

ITG – Super Blog Team-Up Takeover! Bring on the Bad Guys: Meet The Extremists!


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And with the fall of the #SBTU, a fourth comes forth, bucking obscurity and standing tall, rounding out the formidable group that’s arisen!

Back in the Bronze Age – Super Blog Team-Up: Obscure Replacements, Substitutes and Resurrections in the Marvel Universe!


As the new group strides forth to fill the void, providing content in place of the original #SBTU, some with close ties, others not quite so familiar…there is a Super-Blog Team Up once more!

But even as it can be wondered if any or all are somehow the "real" deal…their presence cannot be ignored, should not be ignored!

For whatever they bring forth to the world, will any be prepared for what may yet come?

Can any blog escape a death? Will death be thrown aside at a single word?

To all things there is a time. All things begin with but a single word.

And as the Super-Blogs reign…there is a word heard by all.

It is there.

Time will tell…

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"Rise."

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The Weekly Haul: Week of May 23, 2018 #NCBD

This week proved to be a rather small week comic-wise, which allowed for me to make a purchase I’d eyed last week but held off on financially.

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First off, IDW is reprinting the original Image run of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles under the subtitle Urban Legends. This is a sort of “forgotten volume” a la Devil’s Due‘s GI Joe series, itself having been reprinted some years back under the Disavowed subtitle. Per usual, the TMNT are an exception to my usual rules for pretty much anything/everything comics–I will “double-dip” at least on this first issue, eventually going with both the A and the B covers–the B covers apparently being the “original” cover images. Since the rest of the Color Classics had the “original” cover image, if nothing else, it might simply be my exception by way of me actually going for the B covers where the rest of the time I try to go exclusively with the A cover.

From what I can tell, this week’s Detective Comics caps the Rebirth run on the title, and I think the title passes to (a) new creative team(s) with the next issue and going forward. As such this might be my last issue until #1000 as I’m so far behind reading anyway that I’d just as soon wait for collected volumes until then, but already had enough of this run to want to keep going, and having assumed the creative team was going to be on the book longer.

And we finally have the start of The Flash War, which I “should have” passed on, but figured I’d get even though I’m far behind on reading Flash stuff, and actually had finally “let the title go” when this story was hyped a bit but didn’t actually materialize! Now it’s here, but I might wait for the collected edition for anything past this issue.

I picked up the Executive Assistant Iris Primer and the new #1 on being 25 cents and writer Blake Northcott‘s name, respectively. I don’t remember if I knew she would be writing this, and certainly didn’t remember or recognize that it was going to be out this week… a well-timed post on Twitter Tuesday (or maybe Wednesday morning–I can’t actually remember and it’s not important enough to go look it up) put it on my radar. AND since the “A” cover was available, rather than a B or any OTHER cover.

And though I’d seen it last week, I passed on Myth Adventures One. But having the week to consider, and this week being a smaller week, for the price of  2 1/2 standard-price comics, I got this graphic novel edition–33ish years old–collecting the first four issues (and in color!) of Myth Adventures. (And as I said regarding my purchase of the single issue #10 back in March, I must blame fellow blogger Michael Carlyle, writer of The Crapbox of Son of Cthulu firstly for “inspiration” to get that issue, and then his recommendation of the series that helped prompt this purchase). I also like that its size should be a nice match to the original TMNT color editions.

Finally, this week’s CSN and a checklist for the issues leading to/including the Bat-Wedding and Catwoman #1 this summer.


All in all, I feel like this is one of the highest-quality weeks for me in awhile; with most of the issues being stuff I can/will dive right into reading. First issues/primers/start of stuff, and even the Detective Comics issue I’ll probably read despite not being current with reading the series…like losing track of a tv show but watching the finale to at least have that experience rather than trying to avoid spoilers or being spoiled without context of the episode/issue itself.

I believe next week (finally!) kicks off the new Man of Steel weekly, and I’ve yet to decide if I’m going “all in” on the Bat-Wedding stuff or if I’m just sticking with the core Batman title, as I know the tie-ins will be a collected edition in several months.

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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.

jace_spellbook_from_wotc_site

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).

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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

freex_0003Targets

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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The Weekly Haul: Week of May 16, 2018

Another week has flown by in quite a hurry!

Here’s the stuff from the week of May 16!

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The Superman Special to cap off Rebirth and pave the way for Bendis‘ takeover. Batman has the conclusion to the Booster Gold 3-parter. And after what feels like a bunch of months, New Challengers finally premiered. But I’ve since learned that it’s apparently “only” a 6-issue mini-series, which is really annoying to me as I’ve been SPECIFICALLY trying to AVOID new mini-series, as backed up as I am on reading and minis being concluded before I even get to reading the singles.

I’m even months behind on reading on both TMNT and TMNT Universe.

I continue to like the $1 reprints from various publishers. Marvel has actually reprinted two very “iconic” (to me) issues in the current round of Wolverine issues, under their True Believers #1 banner. (Reprinting X-Men (1991) #25 and Wolverine (first ongoing series) #90.

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Hitting bargain bins, I thought I was grabbing all four issues of the Secret City Saga but in opting to NOT buy duplicates, I apparently grabbed TeenAgents #3 instead. The Legend of the Shield issue grabbed my attention by the cover, and since all four issues were present I grabbed the Legends of the Legion.

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I pretty much do not pass up Superman #75 in the bargain bins. In this case, a copy of the 2nd printing of the “Newsstand Edition.” I distinctly remember this Kamandi: At Earth’s End issue from 1993ish because of the Superman cover.

I don’t recall being consciously aware of the Dino Island comics offhand…but it’s by Mirage and Jim Lawson, so had my attention for the TMNT connection!

And then because there were 6 issues in a row…snagged the first volume of Rune, #s 1-6 for less than half the cost of a standard new comic.

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Finally, rounding things out, grabbed a Lady Pendragon #1…no idea at this point which iteration of the series this was–I remember there being several brief minis–but a bit of nostalgia there. And since it was in the quarter-bin, grabbed Savage Dragon 232 since I think I left off around #230 or #231 with buying regularly, as I’d fallen behind on my reading.

And apparently an extra copy of Rune #1 made it into the stack. But hey…an extra copy of Rune #1’s better than doubling up (or more) on new issues with variant covers!

Here’s hoping the new comics for May 23 are a small bunch and nothing too plentiful.

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Ultraverse Revisited: Exiles #2

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exiles_0002Fugitives

Writer: Steve Gerber
Penciller: Robb Phipps
Inker: Ken Branch
Color Design: Moose Baumann
Letterer: Patrick Owsley
Editor: Chris Ulm
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: September 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

This is an odd sort of issue to me. Partly, it’s weighed down a bit by my knowing what’s coming. Then there’s it being very ’90s in look and feel. The cover is a generic shot of the Exiles team, including Deadeye with the gigantic gun…but we don’t get to see who they’re facing. And the only "blurb" on the cover is "Featuring BLOODBATHTM." (Yet, while Bloodbath is IN the issue, he’s not the core antagonist!) To say that this is NOT a favorite cover of mine is probably the best way to put it without getting too negative.

We pick up from the previous issue, where Exiles Catapult and Mustang have failed to accomplish their mission–of saving Timothy Halloran. He’s been kidnapped, and his mother killed, while they were unable to prevent either. They have to make an escape, as the police have shown up, and they look to be the cause of what’s happened. Bruut winds up not being nearly as out of it as they thought, and they have to fight him along with the police. At Stronghold (the Exiles’ HQ) Amber Hunt freaks out again, and is informed of the fact that she has to make a choice soon or risk the Theta Virus choosing for her. The rest of the team catches the news…they’re getting "bad press" for the situation. Elsewhere, Kort and his crew try to get Timothy to join up, and his body is mutating, apparently with an "unprecedented" amount of Theta activity. As the Exiles prepare to head out to try to rescue Timothy, Amber decides to go through with the treatment…but now has to wait til they come back. At Kort’s, Bruut has it out with Bloodbath for being left behind. Elsewhere in the building, Kort’s tinkering with Timothy goes very wrong, with an explosion unleashing him, apparently changed into a large hulking creature–Mastodon (based on the "NEXT" blurb).

The art for the issue isn’t all that bad, though nothing particularly blows me away. I was actually most caught up by a page where I actually chuckled as I took it in–we have a full-page panel of Bruut taking massive fire from the police. And all I could think about was that the letterer apparently got to have a lot of fun with the "visual sound-effects" on the page with the various colors, visual effects, and the "words" themselves. This entire issue LOOKS LIKE a ’90s comic.

Story-wise, it’s good that we pick up where the previous issue left off, and get to check in on the various plots/subplots going on. There’s general forward movement to the story, and we even end on the introduction of a new ultra-character in Mastodon (though we only get the name in the next issue blurb). However well-intentioned the Exiles are, they sure are shown to be inept or ineffective, continuing to fail at their mission(s) and getting stuck reacting rather than proactively handling stuff.

All told, this issue was a bit of a chore for me to get through. It’s not some horrible issue, but it just felt a bit out there, felt a bit "too" "’90s" for me, especially with Catapult’s speech pattern.

This issue is not indicative of the Ultraverse as a whole, and not one I’d really recommend pursuing–certainly not as a single-issue in isolation; the main reason to read these early Exiles issues is for what they set up and show us heading into the first major crossover/event in a couple more months.

Still, as part of reading all these early issues, I’m glad TO have read it, but very eager to get through and back to the "original 3" for the September 1993 books.

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