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The Weekend Haul: Weekend of November 2, 2019

This past weekend yielded an interesting haul. It started with the Akron Comicon.

I believe the first time I’d attended the Akron Comicon was in 2012. I got to meet Norm Breyfogle, Mike W. Barr, and a couple other creators. Along with meeting them, I got copies of Prime #s 1, 11 and the Prime Time TPB along with Detective Comics #604 (my first-ever issue of the title) signed by Breyfogle. I got Mantra #1 and my Batman: Year Two collected volume signed by Barr.

In 2013, I went again, and got to meet Jon Bogdanove and got Superman: The Man of Steel #1 signed.

I don’t think I made it back again until 2018.

And now 2019.

Which proved to be quite a disappointment for me. Two creators in particular I’d looked forward to seeing at the show had to back out. Additionally, the "guest of honor" (I think that’s MY phrasing, not the official show-phrasing) was an old Cleveland, OH-area tv host from the 1980s–predating MY experiences in 1988-onward–so I had zero interest in his presence at the show as I obviously had no nostalgia/connection whatsoever.

The show was at yet another "new location," this time in Cuyahoga Falls–just outside of Akron proper. Certainly some quibbles on the name of the show tying to location and such, but whatever. Prior to arrival, I was picturing this rather small (for a convention) location from a friend’s wedding I attended years ago. My primary concern was parking. I cannot speak to the parking situation after Noon or so, as I actually got to the show around 11 or a little before. (I was leaving the parking lot shortly after Noon and there were a few open spots). But it seemed to me a rather small amount of parking for a show expecting a lot of people. I was burned a couple years ago by a different local show on the parking, which has made "parking" a #1 concern for me with plans to attend any convention.

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I had no trouble getting into the show. I essentially followed a couple in, following signage. I was rather surprised to find no line (having had a pretty good wait to get into the Hall of Fame City Comic Con a few weeks ago). Someone with a scanning rod or whatever those things are called–hand-held metal-detector scanners–was checking everyone on the way in. No problem there–just a few seconds, non-invasive, though I was momentarily worried that stuff on one of my carabiners would set it off. No issues, though. I was directed to a table where there seemed to be several stations–picking up pre-ordered tickets, buying tickets with cash, and using a card. I was using cash, so once I realized the stations, had no further wait.

I was then directed to another table for a "swag bag" (I got the term from the bag itself, I don’t recall exactly what was said to me–I was by then already getting some low-level anxiety from being in an enclosed, densely-populated space). A table had several posters I was going to look at, but I saw (volunteers?) putting them into bags and was handed a bag of my own, so I thanked the worker and went on in to get out of the entranceway foot-traffic. After the show when I inspected this "swag bag" I discovered two Netflix She-Ra posters…and a double-sided 5.5" x 8.5" flyer for some sort of bowling and/or restaurant. Nothing comic-related. Nothing listing comic shops in the area, nothing offering a show-floor layout or vendor list, no random trinkets or promo cards for geek/gaming/comic/hobby/etc stuff. If it was merely a "courtesy bag" (cuz hey, how many people necessarily think to bring bags in with them to hold stuff they buy?) that’d be one thing. As a "swag bag" it was almost insulting. BUT as I wasn’t there for any Akron Comicon items, no big deal.

I was primarily on the hunt for:

  • Uncanny X-Men #141 for $30 or less
  • Uncanny X-Men #350 "regular" cover (non-shiny) for under $10
  • X-Men #45 for ideally $4 or less
  • Wolverine #145 "shiny" cover for under $10
  • Spectacular Spider-Man #200 (for under $5)
  • Spawn issues for under $5 each

I did see a Marvel Legends reprint-edition of Uncanny X-Men #141 for $2.50 that I passed on (I have it already, somewhere, and we just had a $1 True Believers reprint in the last couple weeks, if I wanted anything other than the original). I did see a couple of "wall books" instances but as I’m just looking for low-grade $30 or less, I’m not interested in the $100+ wall-book copies.

I did find the Uncanny X-Men #350 regular edition, and it was only $5…so there was some definite satisfaction in that! The same dealer also had X-Men #45, also for $5; I figured for the convenience of taking it off my mental list and not having to hunt, it was worth the "premium." Plus I was able to simply hand over the $10 I got back from my admission $20.

Another dealer actually had Wolverine #145…albeit the NON-shiny version that I got 20 years ago. I’m interested in getting the "shiny" version since I was not able to get it back then. But for the nostalgia and such, and already having a sinking feeling on the convention, I was shifting into the mindset of wanting to at least buy enough to "justify" my $10 admission…so, $6 for that. Not exactly a waste as it’s a convenience copy now of a key (to me) issue AND it’s no worse than some modern $5.99 comic that I would not appreciate the way I do this one.

Finally, Another dealer had Spectacular Spider-Man #200 for $4.50; but he gave it to me for $4 since he didn’t have change (a pleasant surprise, and I thanked him for the discount!).

I browsed the dealers that had comics; I think I saw two with Spawn issues; but as "usual" they were early (pre-26) and/or 290+ with nothing I was missing between 62-256. I did find a couple with some TMNT comics, but of course they were IDW series or the IDW reprints for the most part; several Mirage issues but no prices and I figured I’d go back to them after I’d had a look around the rest of the show floor.

But I quickly had my fill of the place, and with other stuff planned, decided to cut my "losses" and just leave, rather than get to where I myself felt like I was wasting money on buying stuff and just accept the "loss" of "admission."

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I then went to Kenmore Komics and picked up some stuff; chief being Hope #5 (of 6).

I’d completely forgotten I was intending to look for Uncanny X-Men #325 along with 350 and the X-Men #45, but located it here, and for the same $5 I’d paid for the latter, so well worthwhile.

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I also found 5 Spawn issues for $4 apiece (so no worse than buying 5 random modern comics) to continue to close up the holes in my first-100 issues of the series; I’m now 12 issues away from having 1-100!

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Continuing my journey for the day, I headed to Hazel’s Heroes, which I knew thanks to Facebook was having a "Not at Comicon" sale. Unfortunately, by this point nature was calling, so I ducked into a Marc’s in the same plaza to use the restroom. While in the store I found this Justice League Chibis Complete Set for a whopping $3.99. Considering I’d paid half that a few years ago for a single packet with 3 of these, on that pricing it was well worth buying this set to get the rest. I’m quite certain I got Green Arrow and Superman from that packet and can’t remember the 3rd (Cyborg, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, or Batman, probably). I’m a sucker for Robin stuff, and while throwing money away for the day…why not?

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Once into Hazel’s Heroes, I found a treasure-trove of old Wizard issues for $1 apiece as well as some fairly beaten-up copies of tpbs for $1. Thankfully, I’d recently gotten rough photos of my Wizard shelves and was able to zoom in to the spines to see what issues were not presently…present. Though several are issues I know darned well I SHOULD have…they weren’t on the shelf when I took the photos, and for "only" $1 and rarely if ever coming across Wizard in bargain and/or back-issue bins…I snagged these.

Also for "only" $1, grabbed the Dawn of the Age of Apocalypse and the Twilight of the Age of Apocalypse books. These are the original editions from back in 1995 or so, and rather inferior books at this point. But I’m mildly interested in getting a complete set eventually, and as these fall out of apparent favor with newer, fatter editions, I’m not at all opposed to grabbing them for $1 each!

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Then for general back-issues, the sale was something like comics up to $8.99 were $1, $9-something was $3, and so on.

I found the TMNT Adventures: Year of the Turtle #2 which leaves me only missing the first issue of the mini from having the complete mini-series; and 5 or so of the quarterly "special" issues from the series.

I snagged a couple of the Uncanny X-Men issues from just before #350, thinking a re-read of those might go well with a re-read of #350 itself. I didn’t factor in having several more issues handy or not, so it leaves me still "missing" several for these "convenience copy duplicates." Perhaps I’ll just leave those for Marvel Unlimited.

Since they were functionally $1-books, grabbed a few more X-issues for the heckuvit/with meaning to me.

And as one of "those" issues I like getting just to get, a couple more of the deluxe edition of 1991’s X-Men #1 with the gatefold 4-part single cover. I still intend to eventually frame a couple copies of the covers–the exterior as the large 4-part image; and the interior cover is its own vertical 4-panel poster.

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I also got another copy of the Image Firsts edition of Spawn #1–I’m suck a sucker for that cover image!–as well as the DC Dollar Comics Superman #75 (for what the issue is, I’m happy to buy multiples. Plus, then I have copies to give to (a) friend(s)!) Also got another copy of The Adventures of Cthulhu Jr. and Dastardly Dirk #1 for a friend.


I spent slightly more at Hazel’s Heroes than I did the convention, and I got a LOT MORE value out of it.

And I spent as much solely on Spawn at Kenmore as I did at the convention, where no one at the convention had issues of the title I needed.

I’m happy enough, really, with what I got at the convention…but that $10 admission brought the average price of the issues up to $7.50 apiece, essentially…and with a bit of shuffling on how much for which issue I probably would have been better (or just as well) served ordering the issues online and sticking to the comic shops.

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The Weekly Haul: Week of October 30, 2019

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Well…I was a week late posting last week’s edition, but here I’m essentially "early" for this week’s edition. Go figure, huh?

That’s what life does, though, I guess!

This was a large-small week. Relatively "small" in quantity. Small in quantity, but big in price.

Let’s get to it!

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #99

This is the 99th sequential issue I’ve bought for this series, beginning a little over 8 years ago in August of 2011. This is by far THE longest single uninterrupted "run" with any comic series for me with no "breaks." Even though I followed 2004’s Tales of the TMNT to its concluding issue, there were months at a time where I wasn’t able to get (an) issue(s) and would have to catch up 3-6 issues at a time with online orders and such. So as the title heads to its 100th issue, it’s also a big deal for ME in tracking that length! That this issue–#99–is $7.99 was unexpected as I expected this for the 100th issue. If it means the 100th will be even bigger…great! I’m all for more content. THOUGH even as MUCH as I allow TMNT to be my "exception," variant fatigue is even seeping in HERE to me. As well as this being the longest I’ve followed any single series in one go…part of me begins to wonder if even this could use a "break." Get to 100 and take a break for a few months. But then, look how long it took me to pull the trigger on other stuff I lamented pricing/etc. before finally dropping.

 Tales from the Dark Multiverse: The Death of Superman #1

This is another $5.99 #1 issue. At least it’s squarebound so quasi-"prestige format." Despite having a large #1 on the cover, the code in the barcode box that tells which cover you have (regular or variant(s)) is 0211, meaning this is being considered a #2…if these are one-shots, I’d expect that code to be 0111. I got sick enough of $4.99/issue with X-Men stuff the last few months; $5.99 is really quite out of the question for a "series" for me. Perhaps it IS DC trying to be sneaky, a la Marvel by making it look like one-shots while actually considering it a series?

The Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer #1

Then an issue I’d forgotten was coming: I believe this brings the John Constantine from the ’80s Books of Magic (back?) into canon; certainly a younger version of the character not being aged in "real time" from his first appearance. But I think I’d seen that this version may be a lot more Vertigo-esque than we’ve had since a version of the character crossed back to the main DC universe back in 2011 at the end of Brightest Dayin Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing. I was also rather surprised to see the Black Label…um…label on this. I thought it was Sandman Universe, not Black Label. Considering All-Star Superman was moved to Black Label and is not an "adult" or "mature readers" comic, it seems rather odd to me that BL would mean "adult" in and of itself. Whatever it means, I am truly growing tired of seeing it all over DC‘s output with their inconsistency and lack of clarity about stuff. So that’s a ding against this as well. Whether I’ll pick up and go with the ongoing series at the end of November remains to be seen. I’ll likely try the first issue at least, but more than likely will fall back to wait for collected editions.

DC Dollar Comics: Superman #75

This is one of THE more appropriate reprints, and feels like one of THE best-done for a DC Dollar Comics edition vs. a replica/facsimile edition. It’s $1, which is 25 cents less than the original issue was 27 years ago; and this comes out within 2-3 weeks OF the 27th anniversary of its original release! I was a bit surprised at DC keeping so MUCH of the classic cover intact…they even KEEP the original UPC box from the Direct Edition stating the creators, and put a NEW UPC box on the other side of the cover for the current edition. They also replicate part of the original corner box including the flying Superman image, and the cover dress/placement/font of the phrase The Death of Superman!. I almost feel like I would prefer this as a replica edition…I do not believe ANY reprint of the issue since the original 4 printings has had the gatefold back cover; so the effect has never been the same for the issue’s ending. I do find it odd that this reprint has a "To Be Continued in The Death of Superman" seeing as this is the end of that story. But much as with the Batman #497 a couple weeks ago…this is one of THE single issues I am absolutely MOST familiar with, and thus far more "sensitive" toward than most other reprints.

True Believers: X-Men: Moira MacTaggert #1

This one’s "just another" reprint to me. I believe it reprints X-Men #96; just a couple issues into the post-Giant-Size X-Men #1 era. I’m not sure when I thought the character had first appeared, but I would not have guessed it correctly.

True Believers: X-Men: Karima Shapandar, Omega Sentinel

This one’s another that I definitely recognized the cover image but would not have been able to tell you a number. I WAS pretty sure it was an X-Men Unlimited issue, and the indicia bore that out–originally published as X-Men Unlimited #27. As it was a quarterly title and #1 was in 1993 AND it took two quarters off during the original Age of Apocalypse for X-Men Chronicles…I’d place this as being an issue from 2000 if I had to hazard a guess. Which makes it relatively recent as True Believers reprints go.

Batman Annual #4

Not much in thoughts for this, except I’ve gotta catch up on reading the main title. I’m not sure how "between-the-issues" this one might be, though it looks like it may read well enough on its own…time will definitely tell!


One $7.99, one $5.99 two $4.99s and three $1 issues. $27 for 6 issues. When I got back into comics in a big way–particularly summer 1992–I could get 20 comics for $27, with a bit left over!

Next week looks to be decently-smallish…I’m tentatively planning on Legion of Super-Heroes solely for the stupid plastic ring, assuming one is available with it. I’ll pay $3.99 for the ring and a bonus comic…if I’m not enthused about a comic with a bonus ring.

And looking ahead…I’m not seeing anything offhand about more True Believers for November…I was starting to think these were basically weekly with a different theme each month. I guess not?

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My Spawn Collection at 300

As of Spawn #300’s release–September 4, 2019–my Spawn collection isn’t all that large.

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But it includes #s 1-19, 25, 30, and 257-300! Granted, in this photo, I have the 2019 Free Comic Book Day edition of #1 on top. I also have the Image Firsts edition. And the homage to Ultimate Spider-Man #1 edition of the Director’s Cut in there.

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I have my real, actual #1 framed alongside the #1-homage cover of the Director’s Cut hanging on the wall down to the basement.

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At a glance it disappears into a sea of framed stuff, but it’s still there! It’s how I like displaying the occasional variant that I do buy for the art!

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Then I have a shelf of miscellaneous stuff that hasn’t been rehomed elsewhere as yet. Several bust banks, a Kotobukiya Professor X, the Neca Shredder…and Spawn figures I got a couple years back.

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In this photo are a couple of early-ish (maybe not FIRST wave, but certainly from an early one!) Spawn action figures. These are standard-size; I’m not sure exactly what scale…they just are what they are. I also have my ORIGINAL Medieval Spawn figure minus its cape elsewhere, but when I had the chance to buy one that had the cape (and the sword) I jumped on it! Of course, with the originals, I do remember it being quite cool having a figure that also came with a "full-size" comic book. (And this was before Marvel Legends, even!)

While I don’t know if they were originally with either of these figures, I do have a couple issues that I think had originally come with some figures.

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And there’s this oversized statue-size figure. I loved the price, and its size. I may not be willing to pay several hundred dollars for a statue, but a couple comics’ price for a plastic figure? Great by me!

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My two original Spawn figures on a shelf of miscellaneous figures…

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A bit of a closer view. Though…wow. Batman is REALLY rather prominent, there!

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OK…there we go. The Spawn figures!

So that’s Comics and toys.

"But what about the movie?!?" you might ask. "Wasn’t there an animated series?"

Got those, too.

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The original film, as well as a "box set" of the animated series (from HBO, at least originally, I think?)


I probably have a handful of other Spawn things around. But other than getting the individual issues the last almost-4-years, I’ve really only dabbled in the character/property. (As I type, I recall I also have at least one of the Spawn/Batman issues…but if I jump up for every memory to add a photo, I’ll never finish this post and get to bed at a decent hour!)

I suppose this is a bit more than I thought when I first started typing tonight…and surely "more" than many people have.

I have roughly 70 issues of the main Spawn title…leaving me 230 issues to have the full series. Whether I’ll seek to attain that, I don’t know. A couple years ago, I hunted down 100 issues of Savage Dragon in barely a month. I don’t see THAT happening again.

But time will definitely tell!

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A 100-Issue Goal Extension and a Grail

Last month with a rare day off of work, I was able to dig into some quarter bins at a shop outta my usually weekly reach. And had a few good finds that led into a HUGE (for me) find. And then just over a week later, got a Grail comic that I’ve been after for years.

Let’s dive on in…

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I’m a sucker for older TMNT stuff. I need to get my list(s) re-updated to be sure of what I do and don’t still need. I’m pretty sure this Turtle Soup issue is a duplicate, but for 25 cents, not one to pass up. I also hadn’t realized how damaged the TMNT Adventures issue was…but it’s a newsstand edition of one of the first issues I ever got, off a spinner rack in Waldenbooks. A couple of Atari Force issues caught my eye…as did Invasion! #s 1-3 and the Wonder Woman tie-in.

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Then G.I.Joe/Transformers 1-4 (the complete mini-series) for only $1 was a no-brainer. Ditto the Contest of Champions mini and Thor #400.

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Though not quite in order, I realized there was a run of early Marvel Comics Presents, and rather than "cherry-pick" the #1, I snagged the "run." 8 issues…

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…and then the next 8. For less than the price of an issue of the new iteration of the title in 2019, I snagged the first 16 issues of the original.

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One of my earliest #1 issues back in the ’90s–one that was a point of "pride" to me–was Classic X-Men #1. Back when a #1 was actually a fairly big deal and really meant something. It was how I first read the introduction of Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and so on. Finding several of the earliest issues, I figured I’d grab ’em–I’m pretty sure I’d gotten another small run of the title recently, whether this duplicates or enhances that, I’m not sure offhand. And then the two-issue X-Men/Alpha Flight mini is a great find for only 50 cents!

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Continuing on, I thought it was cool to find the 4-issue X-Men and the Micronauts series. And the X-Men/New Teen Titans special! Then a small run of several of the old Annuals. #s 5-7…

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…and on up to #12.

But then I happened on one of the more significant finds (for me)…

A huge run of Uncanny X-Men itself. Beginning with #144 (only a couple issues off from the infamous Days of Future Past from #s 141-142!) and short only 6 issues from giving me 144-238! And I already knew I had #239-onward into the 400s, maybe early 500s, minus #266 (the first appearance of Gambit). So with this 90-ish issue run, I’m only a handful of issues off from being able to push all the way back to Days of Future Past–something I never really considered (Since pulling together all of my X-stuff back in 2012ish, I’ve been aiming for a complete run of Uncanny X-Men from Inferno-onward to the end of "volume one"!)

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And then, after a lotta years’ patience and being determined to find the issue at a certain price point and being completely unwilling to pay "top dollar" for it, since I just want the issue as part of this run…when I walked into the shop only a week after the huge haul, I was informed that a copy of #266 in my price range had (finally!) shown up.

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Then another week later, at an evening "pre" Free Comic Book Day event, I was able to get three of those missing 6 (albeit at a "premium" but still half-off their marked price)!

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$3.50/issue for "key" issues that I specifically wanted, that "mean" more to me for filling in this particular run was a very good price! AND also significantly (to me) cheaper per issue than "just any" brand-new issue I’d get off a new comics rack! #s 171, 198, and 200.

So now, short those other three issues–#s 158, 201, and 221–I’m pretty sure I now have #144-500ish. Which means it’s high time I pull stuff again and get my X-books sorted out again so I can be sure of what I’m still missing from that Uncanny run and decide what my next "grail" book(s) will be to hunt down that may actually be attainable. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1–at $3000+ is significantly out of my reach, though it’d be an amazing acquisition. With the earliest issues of the Mirage series, I’m content with later printings to plug the gaps.

Perhaps the original Image edition of the actual Image run of TMNT–though those are largely a moot thing with IDW publishing the series again; and using the "original" covers, even.

I do think I’ve largely decided that I’ll likely push back to Days of Future Past itself–certainly the 2nd half–as I believe THAT was even where the title "officially" went from the words "The Uncanny" being a tagline to being part of the title itself (a distinction that allowed for the 1991 and umpteen other "adjective-less" #1s of X-Men.)

Time shall definitely tell!

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Ultraverse Revisited: Strangers #6

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strangers_0006The Tao of Physiques!

Author: Steve Englehart
Pencil Art: Rick Hoberg
Ink Art: Dave Simons
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
Color Designer: Robert Alvord
Color Team: Prisms
Editor: Chris Ulm
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

This issue opens with a full-page image of Deathwish throwing Electrocute through a wall. The issue’s title–The Tao of Physiques!–is big and bold on this page, as well an explosive callout proclaiming "All Out Action with The Strangers And" [issue credits]. There’s also a small box saying "Thought he was GONE, didn’t you? So did THEY…"

Essentially, this first page is like an AD for the issue, something you might find in another comic. Or like some sort of ’90s action movie poster, showing a hero vs. a big bad with a title, some hype-y language, names of creators, and some tagline.

This seems like something that absolutely would NOT be found in modern comics, and helps ‘date’ this issue as something out of its true to life time period OF the ’90s. It’s also something that–having recently read a discussion thread on some of the ills of modern comics particularly post-2000–feels all the more welcome as something of a time some quarter-century-plus in the past.

The Strangers have just defeated Deathwish, and help clean up the destruction that resulted from that battle; the various members discussing this need and the "explosion" of Ultras onto the scene and whatnot. They then find a survivor–an old man–in the wreckage and he gets transported to a hospital, with several of the Strangers following. Once there, weird stuff starts happening…and Deathwish rises again! Yrial seems detached and basically AGAINST helping, leaving the rest of the Strangers to deal with Deathwish. As they fight him–and marvel at his still being around when they thought he was destroyed–we see Yrial perform some Voodoo stuff she doesn’t want the Strangers to know about, and it turns out she’s gotten to the bottom of things…as she releases another entity from a dying woman, that seems to balance out the power of Deathwish; the new entity confronts Deathwish and both disappear, while the two human bodies they came from disappear into dust. As the issue ends, we see that the Strangers will next face Prototype during Break-Thru!

It’s kinda interesting to me that the issue ends with reference to Break-Thru but not much "selling" of the event or its premise; and no standout ads for it coming up, nor even one of the Ultraverse Checklist ads. The previous issue seemed almost a done-in-one with the rise of a new villain that had been foreshadowed, but then immediately defeated. Yet here already we have the "return" of the villain, and again a "defeat," perhaps permanently, with the introductions out of the way previously, allowing a full unleashing in this issue. We also get "moments" of development for other characters, the lost art of thought balloons, and generally touching on several plot threads at once (Hugh and Candy, Yrial and Zip-Zap, the whole team vs. Deathwish).

Surfacy as some of the stuff might be, it’s pretty loaded with potential when one looks a bit between the lines, so to speak. We see a growing relationship between Yrial and Zip-Zap…a friendship more than mentor/mentee; for lack of better phrasing, almost like a Storm/Jubilee thing from the X-Men ’92 cartoon, if Jubilee was Storm’s anchor-point rather than vice-versa. Candy is self-aware, but still not truly alive, and wants to know what it is to truly be alive and feel real feelings and such, and takes a lot of her frustration out on Deathwish. I don’t know if these elements get explored in further depth as this series progresses, but I look forward to future issues and finding out!

The art is pleasantly detailed–it’s not over-rendered into false realism but it’s not simplified cartoony. It continues to be strong and consistent with past issues, which is a great thing that seems another element lost in many modern comics. I recognize all the characters that seem like SHOULD be recognized, save for the woman the light-entity comes from; but I suppose that could be argument for a job well done as she was seemingly "just some woman" and not someone we SHOULD have paid attention to (and none of the characters did, either…it was Yrial’s magic that allowed her to even pick up on anything).

In 2019, this sixth issue would be the conclusion of a singular opening story; and we’ve essentially had several smaller stories within this title, including a crossover with Hardcase. But this does kind of cap things off with Deathwish seeming even more out of the picture than the previous issue, and the team more "gelled" than before; and this is the last issue before the first big "event" of the Ultraverse in Break-Thru.

As a total broken-record, I say yet again that this is an issue that doesn’t necessarily work entirely on its own as a single issue in a vacuum; there’s no great reason to go into a 4-longbox-bargain-bin section and pull just this issue as a prize unto itself. You’ll get bits of character stuff for a number of characters; a rise/return of a powerful villain and the team fighting him, and so on–so a bargain bin buy wouldn’t be horrible. But this would be enjoyed a lot more with at least the previous issue, if not as part of a small run of all 6 issues thus far (7 if you also get the Hardcase #4 crossover issue).

I enjoyed this, and I’m looking forward to the next issue as much for continued development of the Strangers as for getting into the event itself.

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Ultraverse Revisited: Hardcase #6

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hardcase_0006Friends and Enemies, Part Two: Returning Favors

Writer: Jim Hudnall
Penciller: Scott Benefiel
Inkers: Mike Christian & Jordi Ensign
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design: Moose Baumann
Interior Colorists: Family Fugue
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

After being stabbed and looking like he was bleeding out, we open this issue with Hardcase having an out of body experience, watching Choice find his body, fend off Hardwire, and try to get Tom to a hospital. While having this experience, Hardcase–Tom–is told by Linda (Starburst) to go back while he can. After waking in a hospital bed, Tom and Choice are visited by an old friend…who turns out to be an "old friend" in The Alternate. She claims she’s trying to help them survive, while "The Man Who Isn’t a Man" prepares to send agents to the moon to get something for him that he can destroy all Ultras with. Thanks to his remarkable healing, Hardcase is up and ready before long to re-confront Hardwire, and being prepared this time, succeeds. When police show up, Hardcase dislocates both of the villains arms, so that he can’t use his fingers against them. After this all wraps up, Tom lays in bed with his mind in overdrive, reflecting on the evening–Choice, as well as what he actually saw while dying.

The art for this title has been rather uneven…but it worked well in this issue, taken alone. The cover is nicely detailed, with Hardcase looking like Hardcase…even though it has him seemingly deliberately looking AWAY FROM the attacking villain. Within the issue, the art seems good as a whole. It seems slightly "off" to me–but then, my primary memory of the title and its art comes from the first issue, so that’s what I tend to judge a lot of the art against. It’s better than a couple of the other early issues, though, and better than I remember some of the later issues. The story’s not hard to follow–the action of what’s going on–and that’s the main thing. It’s nothing to write home about, but nothing I’m gonna really complain about.

Story-wise, we get some solid follow-up on Hardcase’s injury–and that while he’s nearly invulnerable, he can be hurt; but he also heals much faster, so even dire damage isn’t necessarily fatal. That said, we get some hints at forthcoming answers for Choice, and knowing what I do of the Ultraverse, it’s easy to pick up on the references to the moon and such (all the more after seeing them in Prime–which is another "core" Ultraverse title as one of the three originals). We get some resolution to this initial encounter with Hardwire; foreshadowing of stuff to come, and generally have a decently well-rounded ’90s comic that moves everything forward as an "episode" rather than being just a 1/6th slice of some singular graphic novel the way most modern/2018/2019 comics seem to be.

As with many ’90s comics and other Ultraverse issues, one could pick up on context simply reading this issue…but it’s not one I’d recommend in isolation or as some singular target issue. It bridges the previous issue and what’s to come in Break-Thru, contributing a bit of setup for that event and preparing us for Hardcase joining the greater stage of the Ultraverse as a whole. This is well worth a 25-50 cent purchase to have along with the earlier issues…but you’re better off grabbing the first issue than this if you just want a single issue of Hardcase.

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Ultraverse Revisited: Prime #6

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prime_0006Primal Changes

Written by: Gerard Jones and Len Strazewski
Art by: Norm Breyfogle
Letterer: Tim Eldred
Color Design by: Keith Conroy
Interior Color: Violent Hues
Editors: Chris Ulm & Hank Kanalz
Cover Date: November 1993
Cover Price: $1.95

For it being at least 20 years (most likely) since the last time I actually read this issue…it’s amazing to me what a sense of familiarity it has. While I have certain (what I would call) "key" memories of the series in general, some part of my mind wants to stretch or condense stuff, apparently…in an inversely-proportionate way for the way things actually unfolded!

As with many other "early" Ultraverse issues…the cover is rather "iconic" to me. Not so much in a singularly-standout way, or "this would/did make an amazing poster!" way. But for the sheer oddity of it, the way its weirdness sticks in my memory. We basically a grotesquely-bubbly Prime,either armless or with arms stretched behind his back, a look of distress on his face.

The previous issue left off with a badly-weakened Kevin being taken into government custody, their leader excited about what he’s found. We open this issue with Prime fighting a dinosaur–before suddenly finding himself in space, where he loses consciousness as he can’t breathe. We see that Prime is experiencing a simulation, as Col. Samuels insist he be kept alive. Coming out of the VR setup, Prime attacks, before being calmed down as he realizes it’s The Government and he–Kevin/Prime–can be of service. As proof of the claim, Prime is introduced to then-president Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea. Meanwhile, Kelly’s mother informs her of a call from Eden Blake’s mother–Kelly’s needed for babysitting (see Mantra #5). Back with Prime, Kevin/our hero has agreed to the Government’s testing/etc, in preparation for what turns out to be an astounding mission: He is bound for the moon! (literally!). Another simulation sees Prime facing off with super-agent Wrath (from Aladdin). Prime then sets off quickly for the moon…simply up, up, and away flying to the moon. Unfortunately, he’s not physically capable, and crashes back to Earth after a bad re-entry. Ready to give up, Kevin’s father encourages him to keep trying…though we find out Mr. Green is a lifelike simulation. The REAL Mr. Green and his wife argue over what’s been going on with their son Kevin…Mr. Green blaming himself for everything. Later, equipped with precautionary equipment designed to protect Kevin if the Prime body fails again, Kevin once again "Primes up," this time with a much different body. Now, Prime is READY. Now, Prime can survive in a vacuum without his body having issues. Now, he is (as he proclaims on the final story page) "…primed for outer space!"

The cover is another that both "sort of" shows something from within the issue, while being its own thing. Prime indeed goes into space, where he "bubbles up" which necessitates some modifications if Prime is to be able to survive in space. Kevin, of course, seems quite authentic! Sure, he "Primes up" into this big, buff super-hero…but he’s still "just" a 13-year-old kid. So the idea that he will–under his own (super-) power be expected to fly to the MOON is this ***really*** big deal to him! It also makes sense that he’s not yet disillusioned by "the Government" and such, and sees the Government as "the good guys" and wants to make them proud…almost as much as he wants to make his parents proud.

The art is the usual solid Breyfogle work. I like the familiarity and style, though there’s at least one panel where I’m reminded that there’s some sort of thing with Prime’s face where the actuality of it on the page somehow doesn’t match something in my memory.

Story-wise, this is very much a ’90s comic…visually and structurally, and I like it! There are multiple plot-threads being moved along, with a couple of distinct-seeming subplots: Kevin’s parents, and Kelly. Kelly’s subplot ties this title in to Mantra, where we see Kelly’s side of things prior to Lukasz/Eden returning home in Mantra #5. There’s also the use of Wrath and reference to Aladdin that continues to build on that organization’s place in the Ultraverse as it becomes more of a "thing." We also see more of the Prime-body’s development, that it isn’t just one set default, but takes on properties that the host (Kevin) need at the time or based on stuff handy. I know "Space Prime" becomes a bigger deal in the next issue, but it’s cool seeing the "setup" and development here in this issue–that Kevin doesn’t "just" spontaneously generate that body.

Unlike so many modern comics, there’s a lot to be had within this single issue. It does serve as a bit of a transition from solo title to moving Prime into a larger picture, as the next issue is part of the nearly-line-wide event Break-Thru; which I believe was really the first time many of the characters truly interact with each other.

The setup from the first five issues do mean that this issue doesn’t totally stand alone as well. In a way, it’s standalone, but one will get a lot more out of it having read the previous issues…especially (at least) THE previous issue, #5. For 25 cents this would not be a horrible purchase, but it’d likely be enjoyed with more context–#5, and likely #7 as well. I wouldn’t seek it out as an isolated single issue.

For better or worse…there’s a certain lure to this title that I have to resist, as I want to charge ahead through this series (much as with Mantra) without worrying about the larger context of the Ultraverse…but for this Ultraverse Revisited project, I’m determined to go month by month through all the titles!

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