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The Weekly Haul – Week of August 29, 2018

Last week was a mixed sorta week. Not huge, not tiny, with some bargain-bin stuff but not a huge stack!

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GI Joe: A Real American Hero hits #255–which marks the 100th issue of this IDW run! It’ll be great to see if this can make it to #309/310 and/or beyond–matching or surpassing the original Marvel run!

The second issue of X-Men: Grand Design: Second Genesis is the latest in these series of hyper-dense X-men issues.

I’d missed out on the Astonishing X-Men annual weeks ago, but I’m a sucker for "reunion" issues, with these original X-Men, so went ahead and got it, even though I’ve little to no intention of much else X-Men-related.

And a dose of TMNT with the latest ongoing issue ,and the conclusion to the 5-issue/weekly Bebop & Rocksteady mini.

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Bargain bins yielded four Marvelman hardcovers, each for less than the price of "cheap" contemporary Marvel comics (these hardcovers about $3.50/ea vs. comics’ $3.99 cheap and too-plentiful $4.99/$5.99+)

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The rest of these bargain-bin issues were a 50-cent bin (rather than my preferred 25-cent bin)…but even at 50 cents, lots of great stuff! Unfortunately, mostly #1s with little in the way of "runs."

The Mighty Magnor, which seems to be a "newsstand edition"…I’m not sure offhand if this is the same contents as the pop-up cover issue, or a different series entirely. Zorro #1, Radioactive Man #1 (I would have loved to have gotten the #1000 issue they did), and a Marvel Action Hour: Fantastic Four issue for the goodies included in the bag.

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This 4-issue TaleSpin mini was an excellent find! Firstly, for having all four issues (at 50 cents apiece, that’s still only $2 for the entire series compared to $3.99/issue for contemporary Marvel stuff!) and secondly for having just watched an episode of the new DuckTales series that involved Don Karnage and the sky-pirates!

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Some mixed Archie-published stuff. Street Sharks was a mid/late-’90s thing; I believe they had a cartoon and know they had a toy line. I’m not sure off the top of my head if I had any of the comics, but finding these in-person, wasn’t going to pass on ’em! Then there’s the Conservation Corps issues. I knew them specifically through a TMNT Meet the Conservation Corps special (which I’m sure is what the intent was). I’m really not keen on these now, but there’s still a bit of nostalgia for the property in me regardless, thanks to that TMNT issue. And long before I was aware of it being any sort of older black-and-white-comics property from another publisher, I recall the Zen: Intergalactic Ninja comics, and though I think I have the first issue, I never remember if I have the others.

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A couple of Uncle $crooge comics because they were there, and especially the 250th issue!

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A couple of Disney movie adaptations. I’m not certain off the top of my head if there are issues like this for Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King, though I know there’s a more recent squarebound adaptation of The Lion King that I got just last year. Whether new material or re-purposed, I’m not sure. I like these "iconic" covers…though Aladdin is missing Rajah, the tiger…which seems a bit out of place.

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More Aladdin issues…

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A Little Mermaid issue and two spin-off Sebastian (the crab) issues. I am pretty sure I have Sebastian #2 somewhere, but not sure about #1…and this way, I have them, and together!

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A couple of Beauty and the Beast issues…

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Several random issues; these three are "squarebound"/prestige, so a bit more stand-out to me on the 50-cent price point; worthwhile for "bulk" alone, at minimum. The Chillers issue is basically a prose story with illustrations…I got it more for the potential of the poster than the product itself otherwise.

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…and an excellent "diamond in the rough" is the first issue of Disney Adventures! I had a copy of this back in the day, but it was lost to Time. I received it as some sort of "replacement" for something ordered through one of those Scholastic Book Group catalogs they’d give out in grade-school to order books. I hadn’t expected it, but remember enjoying it well enough…and then long being amazed at how long the magazine lasted…with the fact that I’d gotten in at the very first issue. Having a copy of that again made it the #1 thing of all of these, for me. Though I’m not 100% sure exactly what I remembered the cover image being–it’s different from the actuality–I still recognized this at a glance!

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The Weekly Haul: Week of November 1, 2017

This week was a rather large week for new comics! Lotta interesting and interesting-ish stuff out…

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I need to catch up on my actual READING of them, but I’m really digging these one-shots focusing on the various Bat-men. For what I feel compelled to get new in the week, it’s great that there’s a new chapter each week, and does not feel like an overwhelming amount with say, five or six (or seemingly so) or more chapters out in a week. PLUS, the shiny foil covers are fun as they’ve not (yet) been used to fatigue, and for something called Metal, they’re truly appropriate!

Then there’s TMNT/Ghostbusters 2…a fun crossover conceptually, and I enjoyed the first series, so why not a second? And getting at least a weekly dose of TMNT through this, plus the "regular" stuff? Makes for a good month!

As anyone reading this knows, I’m sick and tired of variants, in general. An honest exception is where it’s warranted…such as with this week’s Superman #34! Shows that the 800th issue can be celebrated without having to DERAIL an entire numbered series! It’s observing the anniversary without having to BE a #800!

After the Jetsons backup in one of the specials back in the spring, I certainly wasn’t going to not check out an actual series that looks like it follows up on that! And I’m amused at the "return" of some more obscure characters lately, what with Deadman here, Ragman recently, and Mister Miracle. Then Usagi Yojimbo, which has been trucking along over the years; even with some hiatuses apparently, but it’s back, and I’m enjoying it thus far.

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Now, here’s where location and promotion can pay off: Black Lightning takes place locally, apparently–Cleveland, Ohio–and I don’t think I’d realized, but apparently the creator is local, too! So of course I’ll check this series out! I’m giving Harley and Ivy/Betty and Veronica a chance for the heckuvit…it’s a novelty thing. DuckTales ought to be a given, but I’m still not ready to commit month in/month out…especially as I’m behind on watching the new cartoon.

I need to catch up on actually reading Bane and Astonishing X-Men; already having several issues defeats the point of a collected volume, so "cheaper" to finish out the stories (plus the convenience of having all the issues in-house when I do finally binge-read).

I was not going to bother with Captain America, but some strong positive words on it from a shop owner went a long way with me. It gets this one issue, and I probably won’t come back til the novelty of whatever #700 is…but then again, maybe I’ll end up sticking around until #700. Time shall tell!

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The Lion King is one of my all-time favorite films (period, no sub-categorizing or such for "animated feature" or stuff like that). So for the price of two DC issues (or 1 1/2 Marvel issues), got this mini-graphic novel sized book. I think it might just be a print edition of a digital comic I’d bought years ago, but especially if so, cool to have this in print.

And somehow, I’d missed the DC Essential Graphic Novels edition for 2017, so definitely glad to have it for 2018…my OCD demands I still seek out a 2017 edition to go on the shelf with previous years!

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The Deadman issue is another with an "enhanced cover," which–again–I’m enjoying from DC for the nostalgia and such, and rather judicious use. It certainly fits for something like this title, and as long as it’s only for the first issue, I’m cool with it. (If every issue was this way, no-go!). Even if the $4.99 cover price was because of this, I’m ok with that as well, from DC, in this case: no real hubbub over the cover, so it was just there, and so I was willing to pay the extra. And if the issue would have been $4.99 anyway, then heck yeah, give me something extra! (Like the foil on the Dark Nights/Metal issues!)

And then as a bonus for the week, there were left over comics from Halloween ComicsFest, so I was able to get some of the non-kids-oriented comics (Sabrina, for one) and several other issues I’d missed out on with only choosing the ones I did last weekend. I was satisfied with what I’d gotten over the weekend…so these are definite bonus on top of that, making an expensive week feel that much more substantial!

Astonishing X-Men (2017) #1 [Review]

astonishing_x-men_(2017)_0001Life of X – Part One

Writer: Charles Soule
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inkers: Mark Morales, Guillermo Ortego, Walden Wong
Colors: Richard Isanove, Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Jim Cheung & Richard Isanove
Graphic Designers: Jay Bowen, Anthony Gambino
Assistant Editor: Christina Harrington
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: September 2017
Cover Price: $4.99

I was a sucker. I’d seen a poster-image of this issue’s cover, and I vaguely recall the image grabbing me initially when it was first debuted with solicitation or shortly after. Archangel has always been a striking figure for me, and despite the last ten or so years, Bishop (especially looking as he does here) rings quite nostalgic for me. Then there’s Rogue, and while I don’t much care for the “Old Man” version, seeing ‘a Wolverine figure’ here drove it home. But in addition to that, there’s something about the blending of the coloring–the rich orangey-yellow background and the yellow and blue of the logo…and that the logo may not be the “classic” X-MEN logo, but it has a certain blend of the old and new while being its own thing…and NOT coming off as “pretentious” (as if text CAN be pretentious) to me.

I was ALSO a sucker because a local comic shop had sent out an email informing us that any Marvel purchase would get a free “cosmic cube,” and while I am actively disinterested in the current comics Event, I’m a sucker for plastic comic artifacts (such as Lantern Corps Rings), and the Cosmic Cube goes way back. And with Astonishing X-Men #1 being out this week and already having the against-my-better-judgment interest, I figured hey…fine. I tried X-Men: Gold #1 and X-Men: Blue #1, so I could give Astonishing X-Men #1 a go. Especially at $3.99.

After I’d bought the issue (amidst my other purchases), and gotten it home AND read it…THEN I realized that no…this was NOT a $3.99 issue. It was $4.99…so for that, I’m not a happy camper. But where even comic shops are lucky to return comics, it’s not like I can “return” the issue, so I’m sorta stuck with it, whatever “principle” I want to take with it.

I’m not happy that my inattention to detail had me ignorantly buying yet another $5 #1 issue from Marvel (in an industry when other publishers proved $10 vol. 1 collected editions with 5-6 issues).

Buuuuuut…

I enjoyed this issue.

I actually did!

We open on a quick scene, learning that mutant psychics all over the world are dying. Then we come to Betsy Braddock–Psylocke–who is one of the STRONGEST mutant psychics, and the force that’s killing the others isn’t able to subdue her until after she’s sent out a psychic cry for help. We’re also (re) introduced to Bishop; to Angel/Archangel, Gambit and Fantomex, Old Man Logan and Rogue; four of whom are on the receiving end of Psylocke’s cry for help; which draws them all in to her location. The force that’s been attacking the psychics is concentrated, and no longer constrained to just the local psychics. As the group converges, they must face the psychic energy-outlash while saving civilians and surviving themselves. Working together, the immediate, outward threat is resolved…but Betsy reveals that she now knows who is behind it–and that things are worse than even this was. Some of the group must go to the Astral Plane to stop the Shadow King. No time to seek shelter or plan–she sends them immediately, with Angel and Bishop remaining behind to protect them all. Meanwhile, we confirm that yes indeed, this is definitely Shadow King. And he’s got quite a secret…which provides a major “hook” for me regarding subsequent issues of this series!

While I was incredibly skeptical of X-Men Prime, X-Men Blue, and X-Men Gold, I bought the one-shot and #1s to “try,” to go against my anti-Marvel negativity and give the things “a shot,” an ISSUE, at least. And that way I could at least judge for myself how things seemed, and feel like I had more room to criticize–at least I’d have bought the big, over-priced first-issues, and have SOME hands-on “experience,” not just second-hand stuff.

And so, too, I figured for this. $4.99 is too much for a single issue, for a first issue. MAYBE for an Annual, or an oversized special/one-shot. But a $5+ issue should be rare and special…not plentiful as water. Marvel has abused the price point to where I virtually NEVER even bother to look at their comics, because I just KNOW they’re basically the most ridiculously-priced premium-priced things in the market. Real or perception, but that’s where I am.

But I’ve got the issue, I read it, and I actually enjoyed it. We have some prologue. We have character introductions. We have an immediate threat, and we see a group of disparate mutant figures come together, face the threat, and emerge victorious. We then have the setup for an even bigger threat–the one that carries beyond “just” this issue…and it looks to involve other nostalgic elements that work organically with the Shadow King character, as well as perhaps grabbing onto continuity and yanking on a loose thread, in preparation of some re-stitching and mending.

The story is engaging and keeps stuff moving; I can and will allow any “inconsistencies of character” to be credited to the last decade or more of mutant comics and lack of continuity and the apparent attempt here to play with the existing status quo. Visually, I dug this issue. Everyone’s recognizable and I like the visuals; there’s a sense of modernity with the aforementioned nostalgia; new and old, simply making this a good-looking comic. The multiple inkers do not take away from that–I only even know there were multiple inkers due to seeing the credits.

I don’t want to like any Marvel series right now. The X-Men are old favorites, and I’ve felt largely let-down by everything that’s been done with, to, and involving them for years, such that many of them are hardly recognizable to me anymore. I do not TRUST Marvel to not “yank the rug out” from under me, or some sorta bait-and-switch with this. I’ve already seen one or two of the other X-titles tie in to a major crossover event…and I want nothing to do with that, either. So…I might come back for the next issue of this arc, or at least check it out if I notice it on the rack. I am honestly very interested in what this particular story arc holds, and if I’m gonna pay Marvel‘s too-high inflated/”premium” price point, I can justify it a bit easier in smaller doses as single issues than collected volumes.

I actually don’t feel I can really speak to whether old fans or new fans or both would care or not care about this issue…I’m a weird creature when i comes to Marvel, and the X-Men. Suffice it to say that even at that $5 price point and $3.99 otherwise with possible bi-weekly shipping, I’m hooked here where even the likes of Blue and Gold didn’t grab me at this level. That makes this a definite “light in the darkness” of X-Books, and if you can stomach the $4.99 price point, this is about as good an issue for that as any that Marvel‘s put out of late!

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Cover Gallery: Astonishing X-Men

Amidst all the reviews and such, for me (at least) sometimes it’s just really fun to look at a bunch of comics’ covers together, whether it’s admiring a run of a series, or seeing a full story, or some other ‘theme’. Here are the covers to the Astonishing X-Men issues from the original Age of Apocalypse event in 1995 (and as a shameless plug, click on the cover and that should take you to my Age of Apocalypse Revisited coverage of the issue).

 

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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Astonishing X-Men #4

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astonishingxmen004Plot/Dialogue: Scott Lobdell
Pencils: Joe Madureira
Inks: Townsend/Milgrom
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Letters: Richard Starkings, Comicraft
Cover: Madureira, Townsend, Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Doing what comics did well BEFORE they were commonly written-for-the-trade, this issue picks up a bit after the previous issue’s cliffhanger. Where there we saw Blink horrified at finding the eviscerated body of Sabretooth, here we find that she’s gotten over that shock and is now confronting Holocaust over the issue. The "Infinite factory" has been taken apart, and she’s soon joined by the rest of Rogue’s group of X-Men, and together they face Holocaust, each with plenty of reason to take the Horseman apart. The monster holds an ace in the sleeve, though, and escapes…but not before revealing to Rogue that her husband, son, and the stranger Bishop have been taken by Apocalypse…and setting her on a determined course.

Yet again, I found myself enjoying Madureira‘s art in this issue. By name, I’m inclined to want to avoid it in contemporary comics…but here, it’s very good and I enjoyed it. Twenty years ago, it just WAS…and with no name recognition I was–and still am–good with it. There’s a definite "feel" of it being ’90s art–particularly Holocaust’s appearance with the shoulder armor and such–but I’m definitely ok with that.

The story itself moves things along a bit and ties some things up–Sabretooth’s fate, the team’s handling of it, the immediate threat of Holocaust himself, the team dealing with the Infinites, etc. I nearly chuckled at the "smart-arse" back and forth between Rogue and Holocaust, and remember truly laughing out loud in the past when I’d read the scene. "From where I’m standing…" and Holocaust simply punching Rogue away "Then stand over there!" Childish perhaps, but a nice bit of levity within the already dark story.

While functionally a 4-issue mini-series and this is the "finale," the story doesn’t actually end here…just the chapter. The issue ends with a note to follow things into Amazing X-Men #4 and then X-Men: Omega…and that’s what all the AoA series do. We started with X-Men: Alpha with a singular whole, splintered off to the 8 (or 10) minis, and everything re-converges for the true finale in X-Men: Omega.

Were this a contemporary issue/contemporary end-of-a-miniseries, I’d be very annoyed, I think. As-is, seeing this as simply a part of the larger whole and having ZERO expectation of Astonishing X-Men wrapping up as a full self-contained thing, I’m perfectly fine with this, and suspect that (as with this issue) the rest of the #4s will be similar: each leaving me all the more eager to get to the grand finale, having journeyed through the separate sub-stories that make up the overall Age of Apocalypse story.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Astonishing X-Men #3

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astonishingxmen003In Excess

Plot: Scott Lobdell
Dialogue: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Joe Madureira
Inks: Townsend/Milgrom
Colors: Steve Buccellato
Separations: Digital Chameleon
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Cover: Joe Madureira
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: May 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

With this issue, we head into the final half of the Age of Apocalypse story. We pick up on Wild Child being pursued and brought down…and when about to be killed, realize that Rogue and her group of X-Men have arrived to rescue him. On figuring out that something’s happened to Sabretooth, they mount yet another rescue mission. We also find out about Blink and Sabretooth’s past–what has so bonded the two; and we get a moment with Magneto and Bishop discussing Bishop’s ability to take a life, should it be possible to actually send him back in time–as it’s likely he would have to kill Legion to stop him.

This issue is definitely one where Morph stands out–and while I initially suspected this might’ve been where I started to REALLY notice the character, I recall that this series came a couple years AFTER the Fox animated X-Men tv series where we’d had a Morph, and this AoA character is actually the ‘derivative’ of sorts, at least by name.

I enjoyed this one quite a bit (with the USUAL caveat of that being in spite of the dystopian environment and dark situations the characters are actually in). At the time (in general) Rogue was one of my favorite characters…and this version of the character is rather "classic" to me…and in some ways even more interesting to me than the regular version at the time, and certainly moreso than recent years in the contemporary X-books. It’s also kind of odd to see Bishop struggling with the notion of taking a life, given the way he’s portrayed years later and most of the last decade.

I also continue to be amazed at how much a part of the X-universe Jeph Loeb was, prior to having real "name recognition" for me with comics…and sad to notice the contrast in how much of his ’90s work I enjoyed and how little I’ve enjoyed his contemporary stuff, myself.

This begins the third quarter of the Age of Apocalypse story as originally presented, and this 3rd of 4 issues hits a high gear. Given this is a mini-series, and a "temporary universe" as far as we’re (as readers) concerned…given so much is already "different" from the "regular" universe…there’s a heightened sense of "anything can happen" and that it’s pretty certain not everyone’s going to survive the series–they don’t need to, as the ongoing/perpetual nature of the X-Men property in general doesn’t apply to this. Even if major, core characters die, if we’re back to the "regular" books in a month or two, they’ll be "back" and none the worse for wear.

While I haven’t cared much for Madureira‘s contemporary work–looking "too stylized" for my personal tastes–the art works really well on this issue and I definitely enjoyed it. Though the cover isn’t nearly as "iconic" as the first issue, looking at it sitting here while I type, I like this one…both the focus on Rogue (despite some wonky perspective with her legs) and the coloring of the logo, playing off the foreground and the generic-ish background.

Definitely a good issue, enjoyable to read and look at, with a nice balance of characters, and keeping the story moving forward while giving a dark cliffhanger that promises an interesting 4th issue.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Astonishing X-Men #2

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astonishingxmen002No Exit

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: Joe Madureira
Inkers:
Dan Green & Tim Townsend
Color Art: Steve Buccellato & Digital Chameleon
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover: Joe Madureira, Tim Townsend
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: April 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

Rogue’s team finds themselves in the remnants of Chicago about to be trampled by its fleeing human population. Sunfire lashes out, determining that he MUST take the fight to Holocaust…but Rogue winds up stopping him, keeping her team together to help the humans here, now…not fly off half-cocked to be slaughtered. Meanwhile, Bishop finds Magneto sitting quietly alone while his young charges race around the globe, and chastises him…before realizing he is functionally saying goodbye to the infant son whose very existence will be sacrificed by "remaking" the world to what it should have been. Further meanwhile, Sabretooth enlists Blinks help to take the fight to Holocaust, eluding Rogue where Sunfire did not…and battling the monstrous son of Apocalypse…a battle that goes roughly as he planned, but not before sending Wild Child away with valuable information to survive the encounter.

Re-reading the Age of Apocalypse epic issue-by-issue in single-issue format for the first time in nearly two decades has been a true delight, taking me back at once to my all-time favorite X-Men story, period…as well as a nostalgic, simpler time when I found the X-Men comics to BE fun and enjoyable and a real treat to read…a time before the Internet and daily spoilers and the Next Big Event being hyped hardly halfway into the Current Big Event…when the Current Big Event mattered, was huge, was all-encompassing, was…THERE.

This issue embodies all that. We have favorite characters–Rogue, Magneto, this version of Sabretooth, Blink, Bishop…we have the latest chapter of an epic adventure, the last adventure, the One That Will Change Everything…as we witness the twilight of the Age of Apocalypse, the last-ditch effort of all those involved to make a difference in this darker world. And while the darkness and death is by no means a fun thing, a fun setting…the story itself, reading this…is.

Madureira’s art works really well for me with this issue…the entirety of the issue just looks very good, affirms my (perhaps altered-by-recently-re-read-issues) memory of how much I loved the look of the book at the time as I quite enjoy it here. The characters are all familiar, successfully distinct where I’d expect and any similarities or indistinctness is minimal and only noticed by looking back through for such things and never took me out of the "reading experience."

The writing–the story–simply "is" for me. And that’s a good thing. I read the issue, and was sucked in and maintained page after page, knowing I’ve read this, vague memories creeping up and ever so slightly reminding me that something happens to this character, or that character actually does survive, etc. But by and large the "details" have been forgotten and so are read here anew as a fresh story that is quite enjoyable. This issue fits the ongoing narrative of the epic, gives a number of characters some significant facetime, and unfolds details that add further depth to them…from Rogue’s reluctance to use her powers on a teammate or see any of ’em throw their lives away; to Magneto struggling with the reality he knows versus the knowledge that everything he’s known for two decades can be (MUST be) somehow undone; to Sabretooth and what he means to Blink as well as seeking to atone for his past.

The reading of this issue "kicks off" Month #2 for me in this journeying back through the Age of Apocalypse…and leaves me extremely eager–moreso than I’ve been so far–to get through the entirety, wishing I had the time to just sit and devour the saga…and yet all the more curious (just for myself) at what the overall experience will be and how my own reading is impacted by taking the time between the reading of each issue to write these reviews, forcing myself to think and self-analyze, at least–on what I’ve read.

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