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Some Reflecting on Recent Phoenix-y…Stuff

phoenix_resurrection_0005I’d had high hopes for Phoenix Resurrection/The Return of Jean Grey series. I was especially looking forward to the return of the character, period. But this 5-issue "event comic," quasi-weekly series gave me two $4.99 books with three $3.99s tossed in, and other than "Psychics disappear, X-Men encounter several foes thought dead, and find out Jean is living in a Phoenix-created artificial reality," not much seemed to really happen. Add to that some half-arsed (to me) marketing about a Jean Grey tie-in issue where I thought I had missed something at the start of the ‘event’ and then made darned sure to grab when it actually came out the week of the finale, and I wasn’t overly keen on it.

Then for that supposed-tie-in to basically have nothing at all to actually do with the Phoenix Resurrection series/event itself, it’s like…why, exactly, was I just conned into buying the final issue of a series, when it’s not the end of the character, not about the character I wanted, and doesn’t offer anything meaningful to my reading of the earlier issues of Phoenix Resurrection? It seems that the Psych Wars arc had stuff earlier that did pertain to Phoenix Resurrection, and I didn’t get those; but this is tangential at best.

jean_grey_0011Once several issues were out, I wasn’t going to "just" hold off for a paperback–gotta give Marvel "credit" for that–pumping this out as a weekly thing rather than monthly. Rather than "have to" wait even just a couple months for a collected edition, seemed simpler to just continue with the singles, getting to read the serialized story closer together at least. But there’s also the fact that we knew blatantly from the start well before the first issue even hit that yes, this WOULD actually have the REAL return of the REAL Jean Grey…so it’s not like it was, say, a decade-later third mini to go with Phoenix: Endsong and Phoenix: Warsong, where we could "wonder" if it would actually end with Jean back among the living or not, or leave her dead. Like reading something called The Death of Superman, you know the outcome…and so the journey there, the details become all the more important. And for me, frankly, this series failed to deliver on that. Nothing much in it was singularly memorable, really; except the confirmation that yeah, Jean’s back, and a brief cameo near the end of the final issue..

We had the surprise of a temporarily-resurrected Cyclops (and then being left with a corpse, not even "just" the renewed absence of the character). Sure, Jean wanted "one last talk" with her husband/former husband/whatever they considered themselves. But how fitting would it have been to have also brought him back, with her? Resurrecting her, bringing him back, them having to learn to deal with each other again after how things were going with them just before her death, to say nothing of the actions Cyclops himself took after M-Day and AvX and all of that? (‘course, with Xavier apparently being back, too…almost seems "no harm, no foul" or such…) But it was basically "just" a cameo.

jean_grey_10_psych_warsI suppose I figured with a weekly 5-issue series titled with The Return of Jean Grey, we’d get MORE in the way of a contained "struggle" with her of simply being back; like they’d find her during issue 2, have 3-4 with stuff going on and her re-meeting the still-living, and perhaps by 5 have some big crisis come about because she IS back, where she’d have to face it and maybe face the likelihood of being killed again or something. As such, with the various X-characters dealing with missing psychics, the appearance of characters thought dead, etc. it seems like this would have worked far better as a bunch of subplots perhaps scattered across several titles, that would all then lead together into a one-shot issue; where the characters–having been brought together by events–would be there, and Phoenix Resurrection #5 could have been the oneshot or whatever.

A couple weeks back–the week after Phoenix Resurrection #5–I saw a lone copy of Jean Grey #10 remaining, and flipped through it and saw Phoenix stuff, so went ahead and bought it, feeling rather curious/suspicious. Sure enough, that one issue, not even branded as part of Phoenix Resurrection, had more conflict with the Phoenix Force and such, was more satisfying (BRIEF though it seemed!) than the entirety of the actual Phoenix Resurrection event/mini-series.

xmen_red_0001Then there was X-Men: Red #1. A bit larger physically, and $4.99 as a single issue…like last year’s X-Men: Prime, X-Men: Gold, and X-Men: Blue #1s. It’s got Nightcrawler, and our returned "real" Jean Grey, the adult, original, non-time-traveling character. Something to the issue as a whole has me considering getting #2, though I was not overly impressed with the issue or this newer take on Jean. I wanted her back as part of a team, back interacting with Cyclops, Wolverine, and various other ’90s mainstays…or something. On the five issue mini-series and now "headlining" a new series…I’m not seeing anything but "nostalgia" to "sell" me on the character. Like…great, now she’s back, but now what? What makes her singularly interesting and worthwhile TO get this sort of treatment?

I guess time will tell.

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The Weekly Haul: Week of February 14, 2018

Along with recent toy hauls and Ollie’s hauls, this week was a big comic week! I almost held off on some issues, but figured I’d just end up spending the same–or more–trying to hunt a bunch of stuff down later, or outright forget stuff that I didn’t want to. So…got a bunch of stuff, and here it is!

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I probably should have held off on the Metal stuff. I never intended to wind up so far behind on reading, but at this point, I’ve read up to #2 or so and none of the tie-ins. The shiny covers are also wearing a bit thin…yet, I still appreciate them as identifying markers for the series and its official chapters (i.e. not tie-ins). We’re just a couple issues/months away from Action Comics hitting #1,000. Sideways actually looks interesting, so I figured I’d pick that up. Detective Comics is another regular for me, and I’ve been trying to keep up with several of the mini-series such as Ragman and Deadman.

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I need to "stabilize" what extraneous DC books I’m keeping up with. I’m pretty sure Titans and The Flash are ones I’ll want to–emphasis on Wally West, and with the upcoming Flash War stuff.

Avengers: No Surrender as a weekly and hopefully having something to it. I’d much rather follow a single weekly than multiple separate titles. Though my math was definitely off, if this is a 16-week thing, it’s gonna end at #690…not #700!

Invincible concludes, so figured I’d pick that up to read. Eventually, someday, I’ll get caught up on the entire series. Especially as this caps it off and it’s a finite run.

I’m a fan of Tristan Jones‘ art…he’d posted some stuff on Facebook about this Lazarus issue out this week. I figured I may’ve missed earlier ones, but what the hey…now being aware, I’d grab this one to jump in. D’oh! It’s a 6-issue series, and this is the 6th issue. So, I’ll either have to backtrack on single issues, or nab a collected volume down the line.

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A Valentine’s Day promotion: draw a card from the bucket, and win something. Some free comics from the bargain bins, a graphic novel from the half-off bins, might’ve been other stuff. I drew one for a graphic novel from the half-off bins, and chose this Ultimate X-Men vol. 2. $30 cover price, in the half-off bins, $15…definitely an excellent "door prize" or Valentine’s gift.

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Thanks to a #SciFiJanuary post over at The Crapbox of Son of Cthulhu, I was interested enough to snag this Trekker Omnibus. It’s a little bit beat up and some slight curl to it…but for the price, and very pleasant surprise of its very existence, an absolutely excellent addition to my collection!

And Comic Shop News has had Superman on its cover two weeks in a row now…quite a nice change of pace!

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#DIYJusticeLeague

This week, several blogs teamed up to show different interpretations of potential Justice Leagues–that is, personal dream-teams and groupings of various characters, regardless of company, time, etc!

Here’s a quick list of those of us that participated, and I really hope I haven’t missed anyone! (Give me a holler if I have!)

Please check out everyone’s posts, and even dig back through older posts. Everyone’s got great stuff–on this DIY Justice League theme, as well as their individual "blog missions", and loads of great content!


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The ’90s Revisited: The Phoenix Resurrection – Revelations

90s_revisited

phoenix_resurrection_revelationsRevelations

Writers: Ian Edginton & Dan Abnett
Pencillers: Kevin West, John Royle, Randy Green, Rick Leonardi
Inkers: Tom Wegrzyn, Philip Moy, Rick Ketcham, Jeff Whiting
Letterers: Vickie Williams, Patrick Owsley
Color Design: Mike Tuccinard, Robert Alvord
Interior Color: Malibu Color
Asst. Editor: Scott Bernstein
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: December 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

This issue was a bit of a challenge to read. In it, much as I hold very fond memories of the Ultraverse, this really drives home the notion that my fond memories precede the Black September event, that they come from the "original" Ultraverse, before it "rebooted" into a "Marvel-Lite" imprint sorta thing. And just looking at the credits, if only from a 2018 standpoint, this reeks of non-priority to the publisher. I recognize several names that SHOULD have meant this was an excellent issue–especially seeing Dan Abnett‘s name as a writer. But when you have two writers, four different pencillers and 4 different inkers, two different letterers, two different colorists…this screams "piecemeal" and generic incoherence.

Story-wise, we basically have these characters from two different universes spouting off at each other, commiserating generically over stuff (the X-Men recognize Black Knight, for one and he them). But once again, there doesn’t seem to be any real INDIVIDUALITY to any of the characters. Night Man shows up outta nowhere and Wolverine welcomes him as if totally expected…just pieces being moved around the board, so to speak. And then for as big a threat as the Phoenix is supposed to be, everyone winds up just throwing their powers or fists at it to drive it through a portal back into its own (the X-Men’s!) universe, and the problem’s solved? If it’s a threat here, surely it’s a threat there…

We get "big" story beats in stuff like Rex Mundi’s "Alternate"–somehow because he–in this universe–did such a perfect job of cloning himself, the Phoenix–brought into this universe from another–subdivides itself to match. We "see" Mantra, and get a moment of her seeing/thinking she’s been "warned" about Topaz, but why does she get the look she does? But there’s zero explanation as to who/what she is, or the relationship…and if nothing’s going to be expounded on, why include it to begin with?

Probably another problem with this comes with reading it now in 2018, after 15+ years of being conditioned to 6-issue (minimum, mostly) story-arcs and year-long mega-crossover-events and the like. As something spanning two teams from two universes, plus so many ancillary characters from one, with a huge, cosmic, universe-threatening entity…it just seems impossible for anything to be done justice. Something like this really WOULD be fairly justified to have AT LEAST one full issue apiece for each of the Ultraverse titles, a couple "main" issues for everyone, and even an X-Men tie-in or few. Not full 3-4-6-issue arcs per title, but at least a few more full-length issues. Everything crammed into just a couple issues after just a couple pages per title…it’s rushed, and sloppy, and overall just generic and mostly incoherent.

As I’ve read these, I’ve become all the more convinced that the beauty and depth and such of the Ultraverse–the "heart" of the Ultraverse–is definitely in its first couple years, its run of titles when they were actually their own thing, before being wholly given over to Marvel and all that.

I had a hard time getting through this issue–I think it took me at least three times situating myself with it to read to get through the whole thing. Where often that would seem a compliment to a well-done, dense comic proving its 2018 "value" of a $4 cover price, this happened for lack of engagement and interest. Really, I forced myself through the issue simply to have read it (and now typing all this, which is far from my favorite sort of review/write-up!)

The cover-art, and the CONCEPT is sound; and the idea of some crossover between the X-Men and most of the Ultraverse, and their facing the Phoenix Force, and it having counterpart/ties within the Ultraverse isn’t all that bad. But this execution of it all is not much to my liking, and really feels like the sort of thing I’d say one is better off passing on. Of course, if you find it in a 25-cent bin–the whole ‘event’, anyway–it might be worth $1 or so to get all four issues; but I’d encourage one to seek out older Ultraverse stuff if you’re just interested in "trying" an Ultraverse title.

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The Great January 2018 Ollie’s Haul

Monday, I’d seen a post in a Facebook group about their "Ollie’s haul."

Ok, sure, great…cool, but not like MY local Ollie’s has had much selection of DC books, nor of such variety within DC.

But then I saw another post later, and still a third not long after that. So I figured there must be something "up."

I went to my local Ollie’s location, figuring maybe I’d find a "couple" books.

I wound up walking out with a larger-than-expected stack of books.

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I’d left dozens of others at the store–most I’d be "interested" in, especially with virtually everything being priced the same as current Marvel single-issues. (The Teen Titans: A Celebration of 50 Years above was a whopping $5.99).

So, Tuesday night, I ended up managing to get to three other Ollie’s locations–thanks to my already-40+ minute commute to work putting me "in reasonable range."

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So, I absolutely blew way, WAYYYY past any intended "budget," but with books up to 80-something-percent off, primarily $20 volumes for $3.99, $50 volumes for as low as $6, and a handful of others at $2.99…the entire selection available was well worth buying.

But as much as even I spend, even I have my limits (among other things, foregoing some fast-food in favor of books) and so to my eye, got the best of the best, the most interesting/worthwhile to me. I’d still absolutely love to get more of the _____: A Celebration of __ Years books (particularly the Lex Luthor, Batman, and Robin volumes, but also stuff like Flash and Green Lantern and Justice Society, Batgirl, and Green Arrow).

This very much unplanned major splurge actually has me contemplating foregoing the Wednesday comic shop routine this week..though I’ll likely stick to a few "key" things and play catchup the following week.

Then there’s also that notion of "retail therapy," and all this running around and such serving as distraction and mental "alternative focus" with missing Ziggy and dealing with learning to live with the loss. But that gets into plenty of other things not for this post.

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The ’70s Revisited: Planet of Vampires

70s_revisited

planet_of_vampires_0001The Long Road Home!

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Pat Broderick
Inks: Frank McLaughlin
Editor: Jeff Rovin
Published by: Atlas Comics (Seaboard Periodicals)
Cover Date: February 1975
Cover Price: 25 cents

I can’t remember where I got this issue. It’s most likely from a 25-cent bin, though also possible that I grabbed it from a dollar bin for the novelty of its age and all. Whatever the case, this thing is from 1975–42 years ago. It pre-dates Claremont on X-Men, and even pre-dates me existing.

I normally don’t care (much) for stuff before the 1980s as any kind of preferred choice in reading, comics-wise…and this issue doesn’t change my mind. That said, this is a #1, with an interesting logo suggesting an interesting concept, and I forced myself to read the thing all the way through!

Basically, we’re introduced to a group of 6 astronauts, part of some mission sent out a number of years ago to Mars, that’s just now returning to Earth. While they were "out there," they heard back about war breaking out, before losing contact with Earth. They stalled awhile, hoping for positive news, but when their resources got to a critical level–if they didn’t head back, they wouldn’t make it at all–they headed back, hoping for the best. After a "rough landing," they encounter a couple different groups of people and are ‘taken in’ by one group, apparently more civilized, after being attacked by "savages." Ushered into a dome, they learn that this is one of the last bastions of civilized society, and the dome is to protect them from incursions from the savage outsiders. War had indeed happened, and led to a huge division in the populace! Our protagonists–allowed to explore–walk in on something they weren’t supposed to see, which reveals a horrible truth, and suggests the "savages" are the population inside the dome, not outside. In righting the apparent wrong, the astronauts ally themselves with the so-called savages, and begin to make an escape from the "vampires" of the dome.

This title’s concept led me to expect/assume this would be about astronauts arriving on some foreign planet inhabited by your typical vampires–the bite-your-neck-and-suck-your-blood sort. Having that flipped–humans returning to Earth to find a group of people who mechanically harvest the blood they need to survive from another group–provides a different take on the notion of a ‘vampire’. There’s also something to the whole thing that puts me in mind of Planet of the Apes, if only loosely so.

This story’s set in 2010…at the issue’s time of publication, that was 35 years in the future. As I read this and as of this writing, 2010 is eight years in the past! To re-time it, it’d be like my now reading a new story set in 2053.

I find it interesting to read something like this–both for the alternate future notion rooted in its time, as well as being work by Larry Hama that predates GI Joe by the better part of a decade.

The art isn’t anything overly special…it conveys the story as needed, getting things across and moving the reader along. Nothing much really stands out, at least to me–this is a comic, and non-superhero at that. The work is consistent enough, but all the characters kinda blend together to a degree, at least on a single reading.

As a whole, this issue felt like something out of the 1970s, as it is. The issue, the concept, the story, etc. The issue makes for an interesting sorta time-capsule of sorts, for comics of the time, as well as concerns of the time in society in general (that fear of nuclear war wiping out most life on Earth).

I’d thought this Atlas Comics line to be an imprint of Marvel at the time, figuring it was just an imprint I wasn’t familiar with, given Marvel‘s history with the name. A bit of quick internet research turned up the fact that this is from a whole different entity…albeit an entity that did have some top names associated with it! None of the titles lasted very long, though, which likely explains my lack of familiarity with this.

I don’t think I care enough to try to hunt down the remaining several issues to see where this title started to go…but it was still an interesting read by itself for the present.

If you find this in a bargain bin, it’s worth a quarter, and maybe even going as high as $1 or so. If nothing else, even for more, you’ll get a lengthier reading experience out of this than you will most contemporary comics!

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I’m pretty sure this would fit right in with Sci-Fi January…check out The Crapbox of Son Of Cthulhu for a bunch of great stuff, currently with the Sci-Fi January theme!

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The ’90s Revisited: The Phoenix Resurrection – Genesis

90s_revisited

phoenix_resurrection_genesisGenesis

Writrs: Ian Edginton, Dan Abnett
Pencillers: Darick Robertson, Mark Pacella, Greg Luzniak, Rob Haynes
Inkers: Tom Wegrzyn, Art Thibert, Larry Stucker, Bob Wiacek, Philip Moy
Letterer: Vickie Williams
Color Design: Robert Alvord
Interior Color: Malibu Color
Asst. Editor: Scott Bernstein
Editor: Hank Kanalz
Published by: Malibu Comics
Cover Date: December 1995
Cover Price: $3.95

As Marvel publishes Phoenix Resurrection in the present, 22 years ago it published The Phoenix Resurrection through Malibu ComicsUltraverse line. Malibu Comics, which Marvel had purchased in order to keep DC Comics from buying the smaller publisher. And with the smaller publisher in-hand…looking back through this issue at least, it seems Marvel had no idea what to do or have done with the small superhero universe it now had in addition to its own.

This Genesis issue was preceded by a month-long promotion in which each of the 7 then-current Ultraverse titles had a 3-page flipbook segment showing the characters encountering some kinda reference to a phoenix, though taken as a whole that made for a disjointed mess. The seven chapters were reprinted/collected into a single issue in The Phoenix Resurrection: Red Shift.

Getting into the main/actual story of the "event" now with this issue, we get a prologue of the Phoenix Force being discovered by some probe from another universe. Before long, through machinations of the Gateway character, a squad of X-Men find themselves once more in a parallel universe that they’ve become increasingly familiar with (a footnote reference to the Mutants vs. Ultras special issue, itself collecting several previously-exclusive American Entertainment editions such as Prime vs. Hulk, Wolverine vs. Night Man, and All New Exiles vs. X-Men).

While bystanders and news media are focused on something coming from the sun, Ultra hero Prime engages the X-Men in combat, because of course they’ve gotta fight. The source of the aforementioned probe–a mother ship that’s buried in the ocean–reunites with a counterpart in the sun, and brings the Phoenix Force to this Earth, and then tries to drain its energy–its life–causing the Phoenix entity to be driven insane with pain. The entity bonds with Prime as a host body, and continues to fight the X-Men, as other Ultras are brought to the scene. (It should be mentioned that apparently the mutants’ powers are severely dampened in this reality…but that’s a crutch that doesn’t much matter for discussion of this particular issue). Eventually, the Phoenix and Prime are separated, and the Phoenix takes a new host, as the issue ends (to be continued in Phoenix Resurrection: Revelations).

Maybe it’s that I look back on the likes of Prime, Mantra, and Rune with memory of more complex, authentic-sounding stories and characters, as well as the same from the X-Men books from the early/mid-’90s (particularly stuff like Fatal Attractions or the Age of Apocalypse and immediate aftermaths) but this just does not feel like it has much depth, nor is there–even in an extra-sized issue like this–much characterization. It’s like the characters were chosen for the book by "popularity" and "mainstream-ness" (plus, of course, being characters appearing in books that survived into the pared-down 7-book line of Black September-onward), and not really for much else. We have a squad of X-Men and some major Ultraverse characters thrown together, but I get no real sense of depth, development, or motivation. The probe and mother ship have a far-too-convenient means of getting the Phoenix to Earth, Gateway seems nothing but "convenience" personified, and we’re told rather than shown that the mutants’ powers are lessened here. Prime comes off as nothing but some petulant kid–while he IS a kid, he’s lacking a depth I feel like I remember from his own original title. Bishop seems to be present for appearance’s sake, and with the mutants not even really trying to use their powers, there’s no particular point to any specific character’s presence…they’re interchangeable.

With the art, I recognize Darick Robertson and Art Thibert as names if not an actual art style here; but having numerous artists on this single issue doesn’t particularly do it any favors…at least for me reading it in a fair bit of isolation here–perhaps they’re the artists on the main books, in which case I’d welcome that (in idea at least), but just jumping into this issue after the Red Shift collection of 3-page shorts, I’m not thrilled with the visuals. I recognize the various characters–there seems to be an attempt to have them all look a certain way, perhaps using a "house style" or such–but virtually nothing stands out to me. Everyone is for the most part a generic iteration of iconic appearance (for lack of better phrasing). The only real stand-out bit for me was the large image of the Phoenix-possessed Prime (though zero mention or visual reference from the Ultraverse side OR X-Men side of the Prime body being healed/repaired after an obvious significant slash from Wolverine’s claws and Jubilee’s reaction to the green goop).

Ultimately, offhand, I didn’t so much "not enjoy" this as I "didn’t ENJOY" it. It’s cool–at least conceptually–to see the mix of characters thrown together and all. But after 17+ years of having "decompressed stories" that are clearly serialized graphic novels, I definitely am expecting much more depth of character and stuff from two sides like this to be brought out.

This is a definite novelty, one certainly worth 25 cents or so as a bargain-bin purchase, if only for the time it takes to read making it more worthwhile than most anything of its size published in present-day. You can definitely dive into this issue withOUT reading anything before it…the "crossover" stuff from the Red Shift 3-page segments are little but token reference-points thus far, making this a better "starting point" if only for having a big chunk of a single story that’s not jumping to a new setting/character every 3 pages. You could do worse than this issue…but much as I’m down on modern Marvel, if you’re looking for "return of Phoenix" stuff, you’d be better served with the contemporary Return of Jean Grey story in the 2017/2018 Phoenix Resurrection, or in 2012’s AvX event series.

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