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The ‘90s Revisited: Magic the Gathering: Gerrard’s Quest #1

90s_revisited

magic_the_gathering_gerrards_quest_001Gerrard’s Quest Part 1: Initiation

Written by: Mike Grell
Pencils by: Pop Mhan
Inks by: Norman Lee
Letters by: Michael Taylor
Colors by: Dave Stewart
Separations by: Lisa Stamp, Stu Hiner, Brian Gregory, Harold MacKinnon
Cover by: Mark Harrison
Editors: Peet Janes and Ian Stude
Cover Date: March 1998
Cover Price: $2.95
Published by: Dark Horse Comics

I’ve been “aware of” this series for over 20 years. The original MTG comics were published by Acclaim, under their Armada imprint. Those lasted a couple years with a number of mini-series and specials. This, too, is a mini-series…but by late-1997/early-1998, the license had moved to Dark Horse. Also by this point there was a move toward a unified “whole” in the MTG continuity/story, rather than everything being a mash up of fantasy tropes and generic fantasy-style stories.

Here we begin “Gerrard’s Quest.” Despite that being the story title (even in the indicia!) it is NOWHERE on the cover of the issue. While the “issue’s chapter” IS “Initiation” that is what’s on the cover…where usually it would be interior-only, or in addition to the series’ subtitle. This is solely billed (cover-wise) as Magic the Gathering #1 of 4. Nothing to indicate anything came before…nothing to indicate (now long after the fact) that this is the first chapter of Gerrard’s Quest (as the long-outta-print collected volume is titled and the story referred to in general).

Without even looking back, I’m quite sure that even the Armada books had subtitles on the covers and/or the subtitle logos of whatever set the issue(s) contained stories for. So that’s a huge dislike of this to me from the start. Having only the MTG logo and the title “Initiation” at the bottom of the cover, it suggests to me that the issue is ABOUT some initiation. Into what, though? Is it the reader being initiated into the “I-read-Magic-the-Gathering-comics” portion of the comics audience? Is it about someone joining some group of planeswalkers banding together to save the multiverse? By the cover alone, the ONLY thing really of interest to me would be the MTG logo. The rest of the cover just looks like some generic fantasy-ish thing and even knowing the broad strokes (having read loads of the novels and re-read a bunch of the novels in the last 17 months or so) I’m not immediately sure who any of the characters/entities on the cover are supposed to be, outside of Gerrard.

The story in the issue is choppy and all over the place. It’s rather loose, and really seems little more than hitting bullet points. I’d have to practically re-write the issue to give it a proper summary here. Suffice it to say that it picks up with Gerrard lamenting others dying for him, and the burden of the artifacts that are his birthright, the “Legacy.” The ship he’s on gets to Rath, a lotta fighting happens, someone he apparently knew dies, other stuff happens and…yeah. Having read the anthology/novel Rath and Storm at least twice now (once back in 1999 or 2000, once back in late 2018 or early 2019) I have a vague idea from memories of THAT as to who THESE characters are and what’s going on.

Early in the issue I get the sense that the crew is on their way to Rath and the Stronghold to save Sisay. And then there’s some scene with people related to Crovax and then suddenly the Weatherlight and its crew are there…and after Rofellos dies, Sisay is with them.

What the heck did I miss?!?

This feels like little more than a generic visual review/overview of a prose story. And sure, it ends on a cliffhanger-like note with a to-be-continued promise…but strictly in terms of this issue, I’m not invested in any of these characters. I don’t KNOW who any of these characters ARE from this issue. (I only know the characters because I’ve read the prose novels!) Other than the clear sense that Gerrard’s upset about involvement with his “Legacy,” it’s just…pictures and dialogue.

I like the art well enough despite my clumsy attempt to describe it ahead: the layouts get sorta interesting and creative. The inks and colors work well. The overall visual experience seems a bit rough and angular and almost “gritty,” if that’s the word I’m looking for. It’s not awful, but it doesn’t have the smoother, sleeker sense of shiny wonder and just SOMETHING I can’t find the words for.

I finally tracked this mini-series down recently via a site I didn’t realize I COULD order comics from. Pulling this issue to read, I had visions of covering this whole mini-series…but assuming the subsequent 3 issues are on par with this one…I’m gonna be floundering for words and repeating myself and it’ll generally be a mess! The only REAL reason I would even suggest anyone track this issue/series down is if you’re a COMPLETIST on MTG comics.

Seriously.

In place of this, I would recommend tracking down the book or ebook of Rath and Storm, edited by Peter Archer, and read that instead. And that’s disappointing enough to say, given this is written by Mike Grell. But if you like his writing in general…find something else he’s written and read or re-read that and you’ll probably appreciate it more. I may yet read the rest of this mini, and maybe I’ll change my mind. But as of just this issue alone…it’s a disappointment and far more in the vein of “early MTG” than the far more epic, storied stuff that would come not long after in the novels and such.

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Weekend Acquisitions: Weekend of September 6-8 2019

Over the weekend, I wound up with a lot of "extra" purchasing that’s a bit beyond "normal." In addition to weekend comic shop visits, I had an InStockTrades order come in, as well as having gone to Cleveland Comic Con 2019 (that’ll be detailed in another post).

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I jumped on the chance to get Savage Sword of Conan #1. As this was a "regular-priced back-issue" (and not a 25-cent/50-cent/$1 bargain-bin issue) I had no qualms with "just" getting #1 since it was available. Plus, it’s from a time when #1 MEANT something and was "special"–in this case kicking off an over 200-issue series! (Whereas modern Marvel seems to MOSTLY max-out at 50 issues before a new #1, if not multiple #1s for the same title (renumbered/new volume) within a single year (or 12-month span).

I also snagged Deathmate: Black, having seen something recently noting it as the first appearance of Gen13. And then at another shop, snagged 2 copies of Gen13 #1. These are for the ongoing series, and not the original mini-series of the same title…but still, for the novelty of it, I was happy to spend the $1.25 (total!) for the 3 issues (again).

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Being on an Aliens kick recently, I’d ordered some recent-ish collected volumes. Though I have the single issues for all but Aliens: Resistance, I was willing to pay the discounted online price, where the full price was not worth it to me. I’ve also been a bit resistant to these "skinny" paperback volumes in light of the various omnibus volumes and library-edition oversized hardbacks and such.

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I was, however, quite willing to pay full price for Spawn: Origins vol. 1 as it was already one of the "Image $9.99 vol. 1s" and so a bargain at cover price.

And Classic G.I.Joe vol. 15, which I believe is TECHNICALLY out-of-print and unavailable online except for massively over-jacked-up third-party scalper prices. This still leaves me missing vols. 10-14.

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The Weekly Haul: Week of February 13, 2019

This week proved to be rather huge for new comics…at least for me, by my own standards! One might even say it was a Giant-Size week!

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Double dose Batman this week with Detective Comics and the Flash crossover. We also have the debut issue of Wonder Twins, which I opted to check out as I’m pretty much giving this whole Wonder Comics thing a chance.

Then there’s the newest issue of Superman as well as the newest Supergirl. And TMNT is into the "final countdown" to issue #100, as #91 hits!

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Marvel actually got me on MULTIPLE issues this week! The usual with Mr. & Mrs. X #8. I "gave in" on Savage Sword of Conan #1…though I’ve no conscious intention of getting #2 and onward. There’s a nostalgia factor here, and I’m willing to "sample" the thing and get the #1 because it IS Conan, and I want to at least have "tried" one issue if I’m gonna be down on Marvel with it. If I’ve never bought so much as one issue, where do I have any authenticity to criticize?

I didn’t even know about Marvels Annotated until the last second. I’m a sucker for this sorta thing…and as a "key" series from my youth, I’m more than willing to "double-dip" with getting this series again, with notes from the creators. Given the story AND visual quality–and this issue has both the original first issue AND the later-published #0 issue–along with the notes, it feels to me like an EXCELLENT (by Marvel standards) value!

Criminal is back and I realize I have yet to read #1. Though I have all the TPBs (I believe) of the series thus far, with this new iteration, I figured I’d give it a few issues as single issues to see if/how it grabs me, AND see what any collected volume may look like, if it’ll be in line with the others, and so on.

And Alien 3 (the William Gibson adaptation) comes to a close. Unless Tristan Jones is doing further covers of the newest Aliens mini, I’m pretty much done with the property as single issues and will opt for the collected volumes.

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And then DC and/or the vendor that handles these at Walmart opted to drop ALL SIX of their MONTHLY 100-Page Comic Giant issues in the SAME WEEK. Even though these are a solid value at only $5 apiece for their size (these’d be $10 through Diamond to regular comic shops)…SIX of them at $5/each still stacks up to a whopping $30!

A mere 8 months into the "experiment" and we already have TWO re-titled/re-numbered books with the Teen Titans book switching to the Titans title, presumably to capitalize on the DC Universe app/service show but other than the logo on the front and a #1 instead of #8, I believe it’s otherwise exactly what we’ve BEEN getting. The same thing with Justice League being retitled to Wonder Woman.

Then we have the new additions of The Flash and Swamp Thing, after "experiment" issues in a Swamp Thing issue last October and a holiday special in December.

Of the original four, only Superman and Batman continue on with their title and numbering.


I’ve a bit of mental "sticker shock" as I look all these over and tally up the costs–seven $5 issues, an $8 issue, and everything else $3.99. At least the Walmart issues don’t have six out every week; and the Conan and Alien3 issues are one-offs at this point. I’m only getting a couple issues of The Flash for this particular crossover with Batman. I jumped back onto Detective Comics for the run-up to #1000, but have yet to decide if or how far beyond #1000 I’m going to go. At the least, I am NOT impressed with the "Decades Variants" and so expect to simply get a single copy of the regular cover edition and let that be that. (Where last year, I got the standard cover, decades variants AND a couple other retailer covers for Action Comics‘ 1000th issue).

Though I’ve been "mid-life crisis-ing" with some purchasing recently…that cannot and will not extend to comics, at least NOT long-term. Huge weeks like this remind me just what a poor value comics truly are, and will push me to all the more drastic decisions regarding what I’ll buy regularly.

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The Complete Life and Death

I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time. It’s been well over a YEAR since the individual comics finished and it seems like forever that the individual skinny paperbacks have been out…and even a paperback edition collecting the entire series has been out for awhile.

complete_life_and_death_library_edition

But this oversized hardcover "library edition" version of The Complete Life and Death is finally out.

This collects the entire Life and Death mega-arc, that spanned four mini-series, each touching on a brand: Prometheus, Aliens, AvP, and Predator.

Even the first issue of the story had comparison to/reference of the previous such mega-arc Fire and Stone…and it’s great to finally have this volume to add to my growing library of these beautiful hardcovers!

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Here’s the book with the other hardcovers and paired with Fire and Stone.

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…and here’s my entire Aliens shelf. Assuming I discovered the Aliens vs. Predator novels in 1995 (I don’t recall for sure as of this typing nor do I feel like looking up copyright dates), that’s less than a decade after the first Predator FILM. And it’s been 23 years SINCE then…so for the majority of the time I’ve even been aware of either property, they’ve been a "shared universe," particularly in the comics.

For me, they just go together.

This shelf is the comics/graphic novels shelf…I have several shelves of novels (I believe I most recently showed those off back in April for Aliens Day 2018.)

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1990s Aliens Toys: Bishop

I remember, as a kid, seeing some Aliens toys while out at some store with my Mom. I’d thought they were kinda cool, but she had zero interest in buying any of them for me.

I think I’d associated them with an arcade game that was at the local skating rink…it’s also possible that I associated them with a bit of a movie I’d seen when Dad fell asleep watching tv; it’s also likely that–this being Kenner–I may have seen commercials for the toys. At the same time–the more I do think about it–I may have already read the novelization of Alien3, and perhaps had already seen the movies, which may have further explained my noticing/taking an interest in these…possibly prior to my getting into the books based on the Dark Horse Comics series.

I recently came across a couple of the figures at a local The Exchange and for the price, went ahead and bought them…though disappointingly, they did not have any of the actual Alien creatures…just a couple of the soldiers.

I was also particularly interested in the "free comic" that was included, quite interested in what that was content-wise. I did not bargain for it to be a rolled up pamphlet with no real story that simply serves as a guide to playtime and/or other toys to get!

Anyway…here’s stuff with the first figure–Bishop!

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The character looks like a "cool" android here, but not much like the film character. Considering these toys were (as I recall) marketed to kids, and (also as I recall in coming across them as a kid) found in the toy aisle with other kids’ toys…it’s just as well that there were differences as I doubt most kids that would’ve been wanting these toys would have been old enough to (responsibly) be shown such a violent R-rated film.

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The back of the card gives a tidbit of information about the character, and shows off the other toys in the line–something that (in this quantity) I wish more toy lines would do to this day. Seeing/knowing what’s out there does a lot more than having to (or happening to) "research" a toy line and whatnot. Show off the other cool stuff and prompt the person with this toy to also want those toys!

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While these were just into the early 1990s, they tried to (somewhat) follow the "clip and collect" thing (something I personally most associate with GI Joe and TMNT figures).

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Also good to have some basic info about the figure without having to "guess" or "not know until purchase" and getting the figure out of the package!

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"Space Marines," huh? "Space ______" sounds cool, I guess. Aliens "attacking," but no significant details. "heavy metal," yeah, ok, sign of the times. Generic text/"tagline"/"elevator pitch" for the line…rather sanitized, but hey…these were for kids!

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The aliens look a bit blocky here…but still cool. I’d be most interested in the Alien Queen and the Scorpion Alien, though wouldn’t mind getting the other two!

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The rest of the "Space Marines"–though I notice at least one prominent character missing. Ripley had to be included, obviously…but otherwise, apparently who actually wanted any females? I’m not sure who "Atax" is with the "disguise" suit; but otherwise, looks to me like a good mix on the characters generically: A woman, "only" a couple white guys, a black guy, and robot.

And perhaps that was one of the things for the film–quite the good ensemble cast.

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And as with any ’80s or ’90s toy line…of course you had to have "vehicles" to go with the figures! Of these, I’d sorta be interested in Ripley’s power loader…though ultimately I’m not all that interested in any of these.

As for the line itself, I’d love to find the Aliens themselves cheaply, even "loose," though I’d be quite interested in seeing what sort of "story" one gets across all the included "comics" inserts.

And speaking of said inserts…here’s the Bishop one, numbered as "No 1" and apparently starting off the adventure!

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The Weekly Haul – Week of May 3rd, 2017

This ended up being a "decent’ week of new comics–not horrendously expensive, but not all that small or cheap, either! But a bit of a spread on stuff I’ve been looking forward to, stuff I continue with, and some new stuff. Though it would have included Youngblood #1…except–thanks to all the variant covers–the "advertised" cover on the Image website was NOT available. Since I couldn’t get the advertised (and thus assumed to be "standard" or "basic" or "CVR A" or "regular") I did not buy the issue at all…and they lose any chance of my buying into nostalgia and trying any further issues. For screwing around with variants, they lose me entirely.

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This week sees part 3 of the Batman/Flash crossover The Button. A new Superman issue. Though I don’t plan to follow all 12 issues offhand, curious about the Bane: Conquest series, and the cover having a familiar-ish font for the logo and iconic look in itself as an image. New Captain Atom…and a couple new Ninja Turtles!

I am ESPECIALLY happy to see the return of the "classic" ’80s TMNT logo on the Funko Universe issue. E, after even the "classic" toys line adopted a "corrupted" form to make it look more like the newer branding!

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Having just last weekend "caught up" on the Life and Death mega-arc through the AvP properties, I’m rather keen for more all around, so definitely welcome this new Predator series.

I missed the Kamandi Challenge issue last week. And as to Swordquest….twenty-five cents. Not about to pass up that one…all the more with my nostalgia-factor kicked into high gear lately on stuff after listening to the unabridged audiobook of Ready Player One (and presently being "on the hunt" for War Games to watch for myself!).

No bargain/back-issues this Wednesday, no collected volumes.

We’ll see what’s waiting at week’s end…and Free Comic Book Day…and of course, the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie premieres tonight/Friday.

Latest Aliens and Predators Shelf Configuration – September 12, 2016

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aliens_shelf_sept12bWe’re into September, which means a couple of new Aliens related books due out.

I believe this week will see the release of The Complete Aliens Omnibus volume two, collecting two of the Dark Horse novels after the initial trilogy.

And the end of the month will see the release of Alien vs. Predator: Armageddon (Book 3 of a "crossover trilogy" called The Rage War by Tim Lebbon.

We also have the current Dark Horse Comics series Aliens: Defiance in progress, as well as a new Judge Dredd/Aliens/Predator series with an upcoming Aliens: Life and Death (though after 2014’s Aliens/Predator/AvP/Prometheus event and subsequent one-volume collection, I’m just waiting for the one-volume collection this time around, most likely).

There was also a recent collection of general DC Comics/Dark Horse Aliens stuff put out, and more recently a volume of DC Comics/Dark Horse Superman stuff (of primary interest to me, the Superman/Aliens and Superman/Aliens 2 material) published.

Along with the various books and comics, there’s the new Aliens Queen 6" Funko Pop figure that just came out (at least according to a months-old Amazon pre-order that just arrived). While I’ve had the "regular" Alien, this Queen is one of the larger oversized figures… and I quite like it, all things considered.

A couple weeks ago, I found one of the mid-2000s Dark Horse Press Predator novels at a used book shop*. Rather crummy condition, but at half cover price and to have it, I won’t complain much for the moment.

(* not Half-Price Books. I figure it could be missing the cover and they’d mark it up to at least $50 just because it’s out of print and not necessarily due to any great demand beyond myself…)

I believe there are only 3 or so Predator novels I’m missing, now to have all of those; certainly still missing a bunch of comic/collected volumes, but I’ve found the novels a lot more satisfying for both Aliens and Predator, and certainly more "history" with the novels.

And as seen in the photos above, also some cool toys for them–primarily Funko product, with a couple Minimates creatures and a Neca figure thrown in for my kinda bookshelves…

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