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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!

astonishing_x-men_(2017)_0001_blogtrailer

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Curse Words…for Curse Words: Dropped Due to Variants

If you’ve been reading this blog for ANY length of time, you know that I–as a general rule–loathe variant covers. Primarily "ratioed" variants, but with very FEW exceptions, variants in general, their very existence.

And this week just REALLY reminded me WHY.

And though I COULD blame the comic shop, I personally place the blame squarely on the publisher, FOR doing a variant. Or allowing a variant. Or WHATEVER the case is.

curse_words_variants

After actually rather enjoying the first issue, and looking forward to the second issue, the day finally came: Curse Words #2 was on "the list" as out on February 22nd.

Having been "burned" by a "surprise" variant on Moonshine #2 (which, by the way, immediately prompted me to NOT pick it up ,and thus lost me on singles on that series), I was "re-aware" of even Image doing variants on stuff (something I’d be more inclined to attribute to DC, Marvel, IDW, Boom, and Dynamite!).

So, when I saw two different covers, neither of which was visually "familiar" to me, and I was already expecting there to be a "new" or "unfamiliar" (because I ONLY bought one cover of #1!) issue, I figured fine, they did a second issue with variants, I had not really seen any "marketing" or such for the issue so was not (for once) pre-disposed to preferring one specific cover…so I grabbed the more appealing (to me) cover of the two or so I saw.

Got it home, even included the thing in my photos for my "Weekly Haul" post, none the wiser of anything.

But then I went to READ the thing.

And I saw that the word "Second" was NOT followed by "Issue" after all, on the cover.

Nope…it was followed by "Printing."

I managed to grab a second printing of #1, the issue that I already owned, that I bought and read weeks ago.

And of course, much as with most publishers, comics are not some "returnable" thing, so it’s not even like I can take the thing back to the shop for a refund or such. I’m stuck with a second copy of the first issue now, and no copies of the second.

Frankly, to say that I’m "annoyed" is an understatement.

On principle, I’m done with this book as single issues. I might snag the collected volume(s), but I will NOT support it any further as single issues.

Should I have noticed that it was not actually the second issue? Maybe. BUT when I know the second issue’s due out, with a cover that’s not mimicking the first, and I’m grabbing my comics in a hurry and just want to get stuff and get out after a long day at work, I’m not gonna examine every stupid facet of a cover. I buy comics because I want to read the story, not for stupid covers!

Maybe the shop should have put something with the issue to indicate 2nd printing. Maybe they should’ve shelved it with last month’s books instead of right next to the brand-new 2nd issue (but probably more sales having them together, so someone can immediately see and pick up BOTH issues if they’re looking for them/curious!).

So, I hold Image responsible…with no idea if the "idea" or "push" came from a creator or not. Just use the same darned cover, and mark it as a second printing! IF I wanted more "art" from something, I’d buy a darned print or something!

And on top of this…folks wonder why I tend to gravitate toward collected volumes for new issues. At least THERE, I’m FAR LESS LIKELY to wind up getting some 2nd print of something I already have, with just a cover in quick passing to go on.

Wolverines #1 [Review]

wolverines001Writer: Charles Soule
Artists: Nick Bradshaw, Alisson Borges
Inker: Walden Wong
Colorist: FCO Plascencia
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Editors: Katie Kubert and Mike Marts
Cover: Nick Bradshaw, FCO Plascencia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

In a lotta ways, I’m lost. I recognize some characters, of course (at least by name/vague recollection)…but it’s rather difficult to reconcile this as taking place in the same continuity as the stuff I grew up reading in the ’90s and early/mid-2000s. It’s also quite a challenge to consider that Wolverine–Logan–is really, truly, permanently, not-coming-back-ever-never dead-is-dead DEAD. Moving on…

Thankfully, the “Previously…” page is there–I don’t have to track down all those Death of Wolverine follow-up minis I skipped. Sure, they’d flesh out the DETAILS, but for where this series and this first issue in particular picks up, that’d be superfluous for me.

We open on a bloodied Mystique getting psyched to go through a door; then jump “back” to present. Where we find Mystique, Sabretooth, Daken, and X-23 being forced to work with some escapees from Dr. Cornelius’ experimentations. The mission is to locate/retrieve an object to help them survive. Unfortunately, the Wrecking Crew has also appeared in the vicinity, and confrontation ensues. Though the object sought is located–the adamantium-encased remains of the late Wolverine–this success is short-lived with the appearance of an old villain I certainly would not have suspected. The villain absconds with precious bounty, leaving our protagonists’ situation in disarray.

I picked this up to give it a shot–I’m currently buying all 3 weeklies from DC Comics, might as well give Marvel‘s a try. Moreso than that, though…the cover intrigued me. Kinda generic in a way, but it certainly grabs my attention, seeing the adamantium-encased body of Wolverine surrounded by individuals tied to him (from life, and from what he gave it for). We only get the arms of Deathstrike, Sabretooth, Daken, and X-23 (with a couple of the Weapon X kids in the background)…no Mystique. But that’s not something I even noticed until writing this review.

The actual story is ok enough…where I’d thought the premise of the series might be the characters tracking the body, the cover suggested otherwise, which was why I bought this. And since (thankfully!) the cover suggests these characters around the body and the opening of the issue has them seeking it…hardly spoilers to say that yeah, they find the body IN THIS ISSUE. However, the villain that showed up and left the group in bad shape gives the characters a new quest/hunt, which should sustain the weekly nature of the series for a bit.

I appreciate Soule being on this, given my understanding that he’s the architect of the death of Wolverine…good to see that he’s the one to follow-up “long term” on the development, rather than just killing the character and moving on. And while I wouldn’t think I’d care about the characters involved, have not kept up with them (for example, the last I recall of Sabretooth, he was beheaded by Wolverine…though I’m loosely aware there was a recent-ish story that saw his return) the interactions are not too bad here and I’d be interested in seeing more, seeing these characters in a world without Wolverine.

The issue’s visuals are not bad…there’s a cartooney quality at points that’s mildly distracting and reminds me of Humberto Ramos‘ work. Not a terrible thing, but not entirely my cup of tea. On the whole this simply has the look of a comic book…I credit that to the strong linework (and I suppose that’s a shared credit with the inking). Ultimately the art’s relatively neutral for me…neither a significant turn-off nor a draw. It’s just there, it does its job, and I’m satisfied with it.

Had Marvel priced this at $2.99 as an enticement to investing in FOUR issues monthly, I might’ve been tempted to give it a shot on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, this is a $3.99 book…and a large contributing factor to my having been almost completely driven me away from Marvel stuff is their pricing. Their $3.99 price point combined with frequent double-shipping was a huge turnoff…and if 2 issues at $3.99 apiece each month is enough to frustrate me away from Marvel books, DOUBLING that frequency does nothing positive to my mindset.

I did see somewhere (Bleeding Cool, perhaps) that this series is scheduled to be collected in monthly volumes…provided those are not $20 apiece and I can find ’em at a discount, there’s a possibility I’ll go a bit further into this series that way…or perhaps consider an advance/pre-order for a discount on almost certainly inevitable Marvel Omnibus.

If you don’t mind the $3.99 and are a fan of Soule‘s work with Wolverine and/or Wolverine’s death so far, this may be a decent series to consider. As a single issue this fits the norm…the overwhelming part of the price comes from the realization of the series’ shipping frequency.

[ My thoughts on the final issue of The Death of Wolverine (the week it came out) ]

Spoilers on The Death of Wolverine

deathofwolverineshiny004b

Yeah…spoilers.

I’m gonna spoil the thing.

That means I’m definitely giving away how the issue ends.

Talking about how it ends means the issue and series will be spoiled.

Beyond the title itself being a spoiler.

‘Cuz I’m gonna spoil the details of how he dies, etc. And I’m going to assume you’ve read the issue if you’re reading this, or you don’t care.

From here on, the blame’s on you, Bub.

So, I’ve never bought into this, not really. For one thing, we JUST HAD a Death of Wolverine in 2008, and a Wolverine Goes to Hell in 2011.

deathofwolverinetpb2008 wolverinegoestohelltpb

But now, hardly 6 (and 3) years later, after whatever the heck’s gone on in the last couple years’ worth of Wolverine comics with Marvel Now and such since AvX…we have an event mini-series showcasing the death in the title itself.

deathofwolverineshiny004b

I might have bought the entire mini at $3.99 an issue with the shiny covers. They can even kinda get away with it, in my mind, on the notion of shiny covers = shiny metallic claws. But for $4.99…nope, no thank you.

And I only bought this issue to read the conclusion for myself before having it spoiled for ME, and to gauge my interest in the series in general. But I’d already been put off at the notion of a 4-issue “event mini-series” followed by a 7-issue follow-up mini, and then the various other tie-ins.

I was greatly disappointed at the LACK of a “previously” page for this issue–having grown QUITE accustomed to them in Marvel’s single-issues, given their easy omission for the graphic novel. So I don’t really know in any detail what came before in this particular mini, nor much of the recent past for the character, except he’d become “killable” with the apparent loss of his healing factor.

This issue lacked much of any substance for me as a result–picking up simply with Wolverine entering a lab facility much like the one so integral to his own history, and finding Cornelius–presumably and contextually the “mad scientist” doctor who was so integral to Wolverine’s past–experimenting on numerous subjects, STILL seeking to perfect the adamantium bonding process.

The hurt-able Wolverine fights a guard–enhanced/upgraded by Cornelius–where blood is shed and it looked like Wolverine lost his claws…or some sort of add-ons. With Cornelius facing ruination once more, he begins the adamantium process on his subjects, and it seems Wolverine tries to stop it–cutting the feed, but as a result being bathed in the liquidized metal.

Cornelius flees, and the adamantium-drenched Wolverine follows. Extracting Wolverine-like justice on the doctor, he then walks to the edge of the facility to face the sunrise/sunset (whichever) where he sinks to his knees and “dies,” the liquidized metal hardening around him.

Whether he suffocates, or the metal was hot and he was burned to death, or what, I’m not actually sure “just” reading through. And while PERHAPS there’s something “fitting” to him being killed encased in the stuff that he was famous for having inside him, it doesn’t work for me. Not at initial reading, not right now. Not for this EVENT.

Had this been just another issue of an ongoing Wolverine series, where he happened to die…an issue UN-hyped and simply ending leaving the QUESTION of “is he dead?!?” hanging, and THEN having followup books to deal with his apparent death…maybe that’d work better for me.

I’m also quite bothered by the price point to the feeling of lack of story. There are a bunch of pages of “checklist” of the numerous variant covers for this series. Unneeded pages, because you don’t need so darned many variant covers (or any at all!)

For Marvel‘s pricing–the $3.99+ cover prices–I’m not about to buy into a minimum of 19 issues of followup to a 4-issue mini-series. Maybe if I find collected volumes cheaply, or happen across stuff in a bargain bin, or perhaps for one or two issues pick ’em up another week when I haven’t already busted my budget. But no certainty.

I “get” that they (Soule in particular, it seems) want to convey the illusion that Wolverine is actually, fully, totally, completely, definitely, really, no-joke dead Dead DEAD not-coming-back-ever-never-Never…but nope, I don’t buy that.

Maybe he’s “off the table” for the final couple months of 2014, all of 2015, and into 2016 (so far planned). Two years? Ok.

Throw in an extra year, let’s say he’s dead through late 2017. Three years. He’ll be back. I honestly, truly CANNOT imagine a Marvel “capable” of resisting the urge to keep THE Wolverine–Logan, James Howlett, whatever his name is–the character that’s been around since the ’70s and all–off the table for more than a few years. Granted, I thought for sure Jean Grey would be back within a year or two and we’re going on 11 years now. But Jean never supported an ongoing solo series, and Wolverine’s topped 300 issues of solo-ongoing issues.

So…I blew $5 on a crappy single issue with a shiny cover. I read the death for myself, and I’m basically back to no Marvel for a bit. Looking back into the issue, I will probably pick up the Nightcrawler “tie-in” as that will likely be a meaningful story, and if it’s just one issue, all the better…I don’t have to invest in a bunch of issues.

On the whole? This is what it is. I shouldn’t be surprised; I’m certainly not at all impressed, and while “they” got me for this issue…I’m thankful that I KNEW BETTER than to get the entire series. All those tie-ins? Maybe if there’s a Death of Wolverine Omnibus or something I’ll consider it.

After all…the lasting element of the Death of Superman 22 years ago wasn’t the death itself–that was just the vehicle to get to stories of what happened once Superman was gone; how the people around him reacted and got on with their lives, etc. And I might’ve just talked myself into an interest in the follow-up stuff with that analogy…but for Marvel’s pricing, frequency of shipping, and driving stuff into the ground in big clusters rather than spread out and “paced.”

So long, Wolverine…see ya soon.

Superman: Doomed #2 [Review]

Superman: Doomed #2Evolutions

Story: Greg Pak & Charles Soule
Art: Ken Lashley, Szymon Kudranski, Cory Smith, Dave Bullock, Jack Herbert, Ian Churchill, Aaron Kuder, Vicente Cifuentes, Norm Rapmund
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover: Guillem March & Tomeu Morey
Assistant Editor: Anthony Marques
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $4.99

[———- Please note: I will spoil this issue’s ending below, denoted by a further note. ———-]

This issue is late. I believe it was originally solicited/scheduled for at least a month ago, sometime in August. I’m not certain of course, but I’m guessing that also accounts for so many involved on the art team for the issue. With all the one-shots I’ve been reading this month on the Futures End stuff, in some ways I’d even forgotten about this story for several weeks, only last week realizing “Hey…Doomed #2 never DID come out, did it?!?”

This issue sees the “last stand” of Earth and its heroes against Brainiac. With Superman having given himself over to Doomsday, his “essence” is basically a passenger along for the ride, or in the mind or such, where Brainiac reaches out, showing how much better things would be with Brainiac free to do his thing, why he should be allowed to, etc. Perhaps most pressing is that if Doomsday–Superman–“Superdoom”–destroys Brainiac, it’ll mean the destruction of all human life on Earth, as the stolen minds will be done for and not returned to their bodies.

While showing Superman visions of what could be, Brainiac continues taking down the last remnants of Earth’s heroes–having apparently utilized Superman somehow to “find” them and get through their defenses. He also reveals his core, true motivation to things, which on one hand could be sympathetic but for the notion of “the good of the many outweigh the good of the few” and all that. Lois plays a key part in things, and ultimately the minds–and thus lives–of all on Earth rest with Superman and a gambit to take down Brainiac before he can remake the universe itself.

Visually, this issue is a jumble. A lot of artists involved, but that can be forgiven as they seem to be utilized for the visions of what-could-be and such. I’ve never been a fan of the “Superdoom” look and have found it ridiculous–still do–so that lends a visual weirdness to stuff for me anyway on top of numerous artists. That said, having made it through all the tie-ins and such to this point–all those styles and renditions of involved characters–I can’t complain too much here. The issue is what it is, and whether utilized to show alternate realities or that’s just a fortuitous element given so many involved, I’ll take it at face value. The only point that I REALLY consciously noticed a huge difference was a sequence that reminded me of Darwyn Cooke‘s art.

Story-wise I’m left with a fair bit of frustration at the sheer length of this “event” and such. It seems that SO MUCH was made of the “Doomsday virus” and Superman fighting it/becoming a Doomsday and so on–that Brainiac’s involvement feels like a bait-and-switch. Like this whole thing could have been done in just a couple issues–perhaps Doomed #1, a single month’s slot of tie-ins, then this #2.

Then there’s the fact that this issue itself doesn’t even definitively end but rather kicks down the door onto something else.

[——————————— Spoilers below ———————————]

In “trying to find a place for” Brainiac, Superdoom–powered by all that Brainiac had sought–pushes Brainiac’s ship into a black hole of sorts, ready to sacrifice himself as well to see that Brainiac’s threat to the universe is over. But in this we see shards of something broken, and in those shards, we see what look to me like glimpses of the pre-52 DC Universe…particularly recognizeable to me are Nightwing and his classic first costume (circa 1989) and of course, Superman himself with the “trunks.”

Like this week’s Futures End: Booster Gold issue, this sees to show that in some fashion or another, the DC Universe that *I* grew up on is still out there somehow, and perhaps something involving Brainiac would be a key to–if not bringing it “back,” then at least accessing it.

[——————————— Spoilers above ———————————]

Despite the enormity of what we see on the last pae of the issue, I still don’t feel this story warranted all the chapters it carried, and that this could have been handled in just a handful of issues. Chances are, with the likes of Bleeding Cool and other online spoilers, this issue will wind up being fairly signifiant in the long run and thus in that regard probably worth seeking out, I wouldn’t particularly recommend it in and of itself unless you’ve been following the story in general.

I’m actually (overall) glad I went and hand got it–despite that hefty $5 cover price–for the feelings elicited by that last page, for capping things off, and giving me an “out” to drop back to spending far less each month.

Except that this issue–and event–leads directly to an aftermath issue in October’s Action Comics, at minimum. The story isn’t over. And rather than a definitive conclusion, an actual “bookend” to things…we’re simply propelled on to “The next thing.”

Superman: Doomed will probably make for a nice, thick hardcover collection, similarly thick paperback eventually…and really, that’s gonna be the way to go. If you haven’t followed stuff so far, just wait for the collected volume. If it’s priced around $30 for this entire thing, that will be quite a bargain compared to the price paid for the single issues involved, and will put the entire story between two covers instead of the umpteen ones across five-some months for the single issues.

Checking Out Superman/Wonder Woman

supermanwonderwomanissue03It’s kinda interesting at times, the way I’ll “bargain” or “make deals” with myself. Such as recently at JC’s in the Falls. I walked in looking for Amazing X-Men #2 and some 25-cent comics. Happened to see Superman/Wonder Woman #3. Remembered Michael Bailey posting something on facebook recently about it being a good title (in such a way that–to me–served as an endorsement if not outright or personal recommendation).

So I made a deal: ok, if BOTH issues 1 AND 2 are ALSO in-stock, withOUT my having to ask about ’em, I’ll give the series a try. And sure enough, both were, and so I did.

I’m pleasantly surprised. I don’t know how long I’ll stick around–I enjoyed reading these first three issues, having ALL THREE to read AT ONCE. But I certainly enjoyed even just the first issue a lot more than I did Batman/Superman #1. I can tell this is rooted within generalized current continuity, and I feel like I’m getting enough from what I’m reading to not be concerned about tracking down other issues.

I don’t feel lost or left out, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on something for lack of internet “research” or such. I’m just getting…a story.

And after all those Villains Month issues back in September?

Throw Doomsday and Zod into the mix, and not seem gratuitous or watered-down? Yeah, ok, Mr. Soule…you’ve got my attention.

supermanwonderwoman001002003

Letter 44 #1 [Review]

letter44001Written by: Charles Soule
Illustrated by: Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque
Colored by: Guy Major
Lettered by: Shawn DePasquale
Edited by: Jill Beaton
Designed by: Jason Storey
Published by: Oni Press
Cover Price: $1.00

I have a “standing order” at my comic shop: in addition to my “regular” pull-list titles, pretty much anything priced at $1 or less (single-issues) also get pulled. Whether it’s “just” a reprint like the IDW Hundred-Penny Press books, or the Image Firsts or DC What’s Next or a genuine premiere or special issue.

So along with my usual stuff, got a handful of $1 issues today…including this Letter 44 #1. Looking at the cover, and it being from Oni Press (where I stick with DC, Marvel, Image, IDW, Dark Horse, and Valiant, typically) means this almost certainly would not have come to my attention, except that $1 price point.

Only once home and having already read my Valiants for the week, did I look with any interest at the $1 issues…and noticed Soule‘s name on this…a name that came to my attention during DC‘s Villains Month. So I figured this’d be a good issue to “start with”…and it pulled me in.

There’s a new president, who–upon taking office–learns that there’s a LOT going on that renders Earth-bound politics pointless except as a cover for actually preparing the country–if not the world–for potential disaster. Not one day into his presidency, this new president begins to see the tip of the proverbial iceberg as his life–and the way he sees the world around him–is irrevocably changed. The title itself comes from the letter–left from the 43rd president to the incoming 44th–letting him in on the Big Secret..

This very concept plays very well with thoughts I’ve (personally) had in the past, reconciling reality with “comic book reality.” Namely, that while we read about all these huge world-wide/universal threats in (primarily super-hero) comics, since the world has NOT been destroyed and the universe has NOT (that we know of) ended, there’s untold potential of what’s gone on to maintain that. For lack of better phrasing and explanation…this comic immediately fits into what is probably the core “conspiracy theory” I’ll buy into (conceptually, if not the specific situation).

In short…the story grabbed me, kept me reading, anticipating the final page reveal, and I’m very interested to learn what comes next. I was actually so impressed by this issue that–for something I hadn’t even known about seven hours ago–I emailed the comic shop to request it for my pulls, to make sure I don’t miss out on the next issue.

Visually, I’m not blown away by the art, but I’m by no means let down…as this is something I’d not heard of and had no frame of reference for, and is a new property, I have nothing to compare it to, so it just simply looks like it looks; it’s about humans, and they look human, if slightly stylistic and they’re obviously drawings (as opposed to some ultra-realistic/photographic-looking paintings or such, a la Alex Ross).

In short…this surprise issue does what any great #1 issue should do: introduced me to characters and concept, the premise of the series…gave me questions, built anticipation, reveals something of what’s hinted at throughout…and leaves me interested in continuing with the story. Not because it’s some cheesey cliffhanger but because I’m genuinely curious at further development of the characters and the world they live in. It also lets one clearly know the reasoning for the title itself…in this series’ case, the letter left for the new president that changes his perception of the world.

For only $1…I definitely recommend checking this out, if you like non-superhero stories, or want a change of pace. Worst case, you’re out 1/4 of the cost of another full-size issue; best case, you find a new title to follow, having experienced an issue itself and not just some hype.

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