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Art, Pagecount, and Price in Comics

I’d picked up the first several issues of the new Marvel Star Wars and Darth Vader comics, and while I enjoyed them “well enough,” the “new & shiny” has worn off and I’m back to the fact the things are $3.99 and not feeling as “worth it” to me. (the rapid expansion of the “line” is a contributing factor as well).

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I recently caught up on some of my reading and quickly realized how FAST I was blowing through the issues. I flipped back through and realized how there was a definite LACK OF words on many pages.

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I love the art, and the fact it has a nicely “cinematic” look is certainly appealing–VISUALLY–but AS it does a great job, I can see it, appreciate it, but I blow right through, taking stuff in like quick single frames of a movie.

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I don’t even notice much in the way of “visual sound effects” (possibly the tradeoff for not “covering up” the art) so there’s even less to slow the eye from passing quickly over stuff, taking it in and continuing on; seeing and ‘hearing’ stuff in the back of the mind.

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Granted, for the purposes of this post I’m only providing photos of some of the pages-other pages do have a lot more in the way of dialogue/word balloons–but the fact that so many of the pages go so quick is highly problematic for me as we ONLY get 20 pages of story for the $3.99 cover price.

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[Above pages all from Darth Vader #3; below are from #4]

While I certainly like and enjoy good art in comics–for me, bad art can taint a story, but good art merely adds to a story. I buy comics for the story…without a story that interests me, I don’t care how beautiful the art “in general” is.

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Particularly when I re-read comics from the ’90s and earlier I notice just how “wordy” they seem compared to a lot of modern comics. Caption boxes, plenty of dialogue, even some labels and occasional editorial notes.

Moreso with pre-’90s comics I notice the more consistent “standard” panel layouts where panels seemed primarily contained to boxes…sure, the layouts might not be as dynamic as present-day, but having more distinct panels (in my mind and memory as I type this post) seems to mean “more” panels on a page.

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Particularly when there’s a lot of quick action in-story, just like I’m not going to hit pause or switch to some half-speed mode watching tv or a movie I don’t feel any need or desire to pause in moving through an issue to look closely at every little detail that might be present or marvel at the sheer quality of the detail, etc.

darth_vader_04b  darth_vader_04d

If you’ve read my blog at any length you certainly know that I have a problem with $3.99 as a price point for comics (especially for Marvel and DC, while I’m more lenient on other publishers). Only 20 pages for my $3.99 gets quite annoying; and $3.99 when I can breeze right through an issue in 5-6 minutes would mean I’m paying the equivalent of $40/hr for entertainment. That’d be like spending $60-$80 to watch a movie!

I can buy a prose novel–a STORY–for $8 and carry the thing around reading for those 5-10 minutes at a time here and there for WEEKS before finishing it.

Not all comics are quite so quick a read (and they are certainly of varying quality)…and as said earlier, I really like the art on these issues; it’s just that I don’t find the art alone to be enough to justify the cost in and of itself.

I was already figuring I’d cut my losses and drop the Star Wars books/avoid newer ones–I can pick single issues up later from bargain bins or I can buy the collected volumes or I’ll outright forget ’em and life will simply go on.

The page count and lack of story PER ISSUE just doesn’t work for me.

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Shadowman #7 [Review]

Shadowman (2012) #7 [cover]Writer: Justin Jordan
Pencils: Neil Edwards
Inks: Matt Ryan
Color Art: Brian Reber
Covers: Patrick Zircher, Dave Johnson, Matthew Waite
Letters: Rob Steen
Editor: Jody LeHeup
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

I feel kind of like I missed an issue. Without going back to re-read the series-thus-far, I vaguely remember where the story left off before last month’s #0 issue, but jumping into this issue I found myself wondering if I truly remembered, or had a slight bit of deja vu from reading the catch-up text on the inside cover.

We find Shadowman and his compatriots facing Baron Samedi, and ultimately coming to a sort of “understanding” in their mutual goal of preventing Darque from crossing from the Deadside in to the “real world.” As the deal unfolds, not everyone is on the same page, and one of our heroes seems to make a bit of a mistake that looks like it’s going to cost the group next issue.

If my summary is brief and vague…there’s something about this series, where it’s one I’m enjoying…but it’s a sort of enjoy-as-I-read-it more than it is remembering-after-I’ve-read-it. As it is with much of what I read these days. I read an issue, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t stick with me much beyond the reading, until/unless I delve back in to construct a better summary for a review…but then I may be over-analyzing, and going back in to pick things apart isn’t “just” the “reading experience” of buying an issue and reading it and planning to continue with the next issue.

As said, I’m enjoying this series in and of itself. The art’s good–I’ve no trouble following what’s going on, there’s no over-fancy or complicated page layouts or funky, stylistic stuff to distract…it’s just good art conveying the story.

And the story itself continues to build on itself–we have the growing threat of Darque, continue to see the characters feel each other out and develop as a group: the duo already familiar with each other before Shadowman was with them, and the Shadowman himself, Jack, who is dealing with his new status quo and with being a new/outsider-y member of the “group” and all that.

As a continuing reader of the series, this is another solid issue. I’m not as “into” this title as say, X-O Manowar or Harbinger…but this is still a welcome part of my Valiant purchasing, and I don’t plan to leave it behind anytime in the near future.

Astro City (2013) #1 [Review]

Astro City (2013) #1 [cover]Through Open Doors (Part One)

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Eric Anderson
Cover: Alex Ross
Lettering & Design: John G. Roshell & Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft
Color Art: Alex Sinclair
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Assistant Editor: Jessica Chen
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

I’m pretty sure it’s been a few years since I’ve read Astro City. The last I recall, I left off during the Dark Age saga: as I’m typing this, I don’t even recall why I never finished. Might be I’d grown bored; maybe I was “protesting” a cover price if they were $3.99, whatever.

This new #1 is $3.99, but since it seems EVERYTHING is $3.99…I’d really have to just give up comics entirely, now, to “protest” the price point (and I am a lot quicker to find any “excuse” to outright “drop” a title as a result).

But Astro City! The series is back–after awhile under Image/Homage, then the Wildstorm banner and limbo when Wildstorm was terminated, I’d wondered where we’d see the series pop up. And now it’s under Vertigo, which while I wouldn’t consider this a title exactly fitting with Vertigo (moreso that I wouldn’t limit this series to the older crowd) means it’s still under DC, which is what it is. And as a new #1…I’ll bite for the first issue…particularly given the nostalgia factor and that I’ve generally enjoyed Astro City stuff that I’ve read.

We open with a strange man speaking to us of some looming threat, and we’re introduced to American Chibi, a sort of “overlooked” heroine of Astro City (that when you focus on the big ones, obviously some are going to be missed). We’re re-introduced to some familiar faces as well as new; see the city introduced to some powerful new alien, and a “common citizen” chosen to befriend him and be his guide to understanding the Earth. And finally, against his protestations, we learn a potentially disturbing fact about our narrator that can cast the whole story in a new light.

The creative team behind this issue is quite familiar, lending a continued consistency to the title as it’s been bounced from imprint to imprint: the cover logos may change, but the story, the art, the characters–those remain constants, creatively.

As the art is “standard” Astro City art by Anderson, everyone who should look familiar does, and I had no trouble following along…and there was no weird anatomy to throw me off with anyone (well, no weird anatomy that shouldn’t be there), no weirdly constructed pages/panels to leave me scratching my head. Basically, the visual side was a smooth ride all the way through the issue, with nice detail and all the right “touches” I expect of an Astro City comic.

The story left me a bit hesitant at first, but quickly drew me in. I quickly found myself first thinking of this narrator in terms of Doctor Who, which (to me) was rather amusing in a way, and then another sort of familiarity set in, and just when I felt I was getting to “know” the him, the end of the issue changes things rather dramatically.

Overall, the issue does what I’d want in a first issue, especially one like this where it’s an older, continuing property, but the RETURN of that property after several years’ hiatus. We get new characters and old; and we get the details pertaining to the story, that we need, in the story. Having a “history” with Astro City, I pick up on allusions to other stuff, other characters–but even so, I haven’t read any of those in years myself, so I’m foggy on details. But that in no way hinders this story; if anything it just makes me want to go back and re-read some older Astro City stories.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a great return to the series’ existence. I’d originally thought to just try this first issue, “for old time’s sake,” and let that be that…but I’m pretty likely to actually go ahead and snag the next issue.

At the Cost of the Fun of Comics

Marvel spiked the price of many of their comics to $3.99 a few years ago, and it was even admitted that it was basically just because people would pay it.

DC immediately drove me away from Action Comics due to lack of REAL CONTENT for its $3.99 price point with the second issue. I’ve now long since left all of DC‘s New 52 titles due primarily to a simple lack of real interest in the monthly product.

IDW‘s standard pricing is $3.99 for everything.

So is Valiant‘s.

Boom! seems to be that way as well.

Image has a bunch of $2.99 books, but between seemingly “written for the trade” or “limited series,” I’d much rather read Image stuff in collected-edition format.

I think I’m back up against a psychological wall again, comic-wise.

At a time when I’m more interested in a bunch of Marvel titles than I’ve been in over a decade…the fact most of those are $3.99 just kills it for me.

And the more I consider, the more I realize that I’m just so psyched-out by how expensive stuff is, most of the fun goes out. When my entire month’s “budget” is blown in 2 weeks and I dread the racking-up of the $3.99 books yet to come for the remaining weeks of the month…it just plain sucks. It’s a stress I don’t need.

And maybe I need to just cut my losses. Yeah, there’s a lotta stuff out there I’d enjoy reading, I’d like to follow, I’m ready to get in with the new #1s on stuff…

Maybe the surgical approach just won’t work, and I need to just hack off entire limbs. For $13 under what I spent this week alone on new comics I could drop to two TMNT books from IDW at the hated-but-exempted-because-it’s-TMNT $3.99 and 2-3 $2.99 books from Marvel (X-Men Legacy, FF, and Thunderbolts).

Wouldn’t be too hard to convince me to add Daredevil to the group–it’s $2.99; ditto for Hawkeye and possibly Gambit as well.

That would still–for a MONTH’S worth of books–be $4 cheaper than this one week’s new books. That $4 would buy me 16 comics from the LCS bargain bin–over a year’s worth of one title, several mini-series, some one-shots/one-offs/special/stand-out issues, some combination.

xomanowarseriesone20120919.jpgI could use the rest of the month to purchase collected volumes–full price or through Amazon. Hit the bargain bins, spend a bit more to fill in gaps in my 1990s X-books and Valiant collections.

Just plain save the money for other occasions.

Comics are supposed to be fun.

But I’m not sure how much fun I’m actually having, at least right now.

This Week’s New Comic Day Haul and the $3.99 problem

For two comics at $3.99 apiece, I pay $7.98 plus tax. Let’s call it $8 for an even number.

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So…two new comics, and they cost me $8, and I read ’em both in maybe 20 minutes, definitely less than a half hour.

But for $6.75 plus tax (let’s be liberal and call it $7 for an even number) I scored a good-sized haul, a much greater value by far!

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The Essential X-Factor vol. 2 alone has 21 issues’ content in it (got it for $5). The giant-sized Magic: The Gathering card cost me $.25, and the comics cost me $.25 apiece, and the 100 Most Important Comics of All Time is a magazine with plenty of text with pictures; I got an extra copy of the X-Men ’97 Annual to share with a friend.

An Essential can keep me reading for over a week, and if nothing else, the two annuals and the Supergirl issue would keep me reading at least a half hour if not an hour…the magazine might even be an hour’s read in itself if I went cover to cover vs. perusal.

Kinda takes some fun outta new comics and lends continued weight to the idea of bailing on new comics and sticking to back issue/bargain bins and cheap collected volumes.

Value of a comic

In this day and age of rebooting, relaunching, renumbering, and $3.99 comics…I find more and more incentive to quit the new stuff and go back-issue/bargain-bins only. Especially with Marvel comics.

After all, these days $3.99 will get me this:

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Or ~$3.99ish will get me these:

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Cutting the Pull List

pulllistIt’s been at least a year since I did an official, full pull list at my local comic shop. In that time, I’ve found myself buying a number of other titles–several that I just never “got around to” officially adding to the list, and some that I’ve really been going issue by issue on, consciously not wanting to put on the pull list.

After several “holy $#!^!” weeks, it’s time to really cut what I’m buying. Again.

So, here’s the list of what I’ve been buying, and what I’m cutting.

Including the DC New 52s that I had JUST emailed to my shop Tuesday morning.

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