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The Weekly Haul: Week of February 1st, 2017

This week proved to be one of the largest "cheaper" weeks for me in terms of new comics.

weeklyhaul_02012017a

The usual Superman issue, and The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom. And of course, not gonna pass on 25-cent new issues…even something like Vampirella that I’d normally avoid (except the Vampirella/Aliens crossover not too far back).

As part of a store promotion, snagged Jupiter’s Legacy (and hoping I don’t actually already have it!). Saw the low $1.25 price point on the Toy Chest thing and decided I wouldn’t mind looking through it…especially with now being on the hunt for a certain Robin statue.

weeklyhaul_02012017b

As a combination of Image-promotion and the Image graphic novel, got these issues and the book "free" (at least a $13 value at cover price).

weeklyhaul_02012017winston

And perhaps the highlight of the day, got to see Winston briefly, having expected him to not be around with all the foot traffic of a Wednesday/New Comic Day. He was watching for potential customers, and doing an excellent job of it!

Spawn Kills Everyone #1 [Review]

spawn_kills_everyone_0001Spawn Kills Everyone!

Writer: Todd McFarlane
Art: JJ Kirby
Color: FCO Plascenscia
Lettering: Tom Orzechowski
Cover art: Todd McFarlane
Edtor: Todd McFarlane
Publishing Coordinator: Shannon Bailey
Art Director: Ben Timmreck
Publisher for Image Comics: Eric Stephenson
Published by: Image Comics
Cover Date: August 2016
Cover Price: $2.99

I’d THOUGHT it’d been awhile since the last issue of Spawn. Of course, with loving all the DC Rebirth stuff and recent life events going on, it’s caused a certain amount of blurring of time for me, so I didn’t think too much on it. I’ve been enjoying the Spawn title overall and particularly the price point–yet another thing to support given the actually INCREASING price point I"m noticing more frequently on Marvel books I’ve zero interest in.

Despite figuring I’d managed to somehow miss an issue of Spawn itself, I saw this listed, and then saw this last/only copy on the shelf, and once I verified it was actually "only" $2.99, included it with my double-week purchase.

There’s a certain sort of snarkiness to the cover, with a cutesy Spawn on a pile of skulls with a bunch of over-large knives (the size of swords) and a massive gun bigger than he is. In some ways poking fun at other (past?) extreme-ness…in some ways self-lampooning.

The issue’s story goes right along with this. We have this cutesy Spawn railing against his own cuteness (come to think of it, he looks like a Mopeez plushie [I would totally get one of him, provided it has the cape!] and lamenting the lack of recent movie, while all sorts of other comic characters have had movies. So he’s in San Diego at the comic con and makes his way to Hall H to BE his own movie announcement…but encounters a number of troubles along the way, that get dispatched quite graphically and violently, with plenty of call-outs to recent film franchises. And the whole of the thing is rather immature, crude, irreverent, with poop and fart jokes…and yet something to the whole of it left me having quite enjoyed this issue.

I’m not consciously familiar with the artist…but I really dug the visuals for this issue. I like this take on Spawn (or "Lil’ Spawn" or some such), and the art simply conveyed the ridiculous absurdity of the issue. Despite the "graphic violence," it still stayed somewhat cartooney…of course, I would not recommend giving this to a younger reader, but it’s definitely the sort of "fun" issue for adults, whether current, lapsed, or former fans of Spawn in general, or just looking for a truly one-shot issue with a familiar logo on the cover.

This has the "Spawning Ground" thing at the back, and a "Next Issue" box showing Spawn 265, which further lends me the notion of this being a "fill in" issue, to fill the gap between regular issues of Spawn itself. Given my reading experience with the main title and only somewhat noticing it being awhile since the previous issue I’d read, I’m not all that bothered at the lateness..but I’m definitely glad I noticed and bought this issue.

I didn’t see any "notice" in this acknowledging any lateness (and perhaps I really DID miss an issue), but this is a solid one-shot, well worth its $2.99 (compared to how frustrating some $3.99s can be that are not one-off/self-contained issues). Whether you’ve been following the ongoing title or ever did, if you just want a funny (and see other adjectives above) comic, a one-shot for $2.99…this is one to snag.

Spawn #263 [Review]

spawn0263Plot/Script/Layouts/Pencils/Inks: Erik Larsen & Todd McFarlane
Color: FCO Plascenscia
Lettering: Tom Orzechowski
Cover Art: Erik Larsen
Editor: Todd McFarlane
Published by: Image Comics
Cover Date: May 2016
Cover Price: $2.99

While I’ve no idea how long I’ll stick with it, Spawn is presently on my pull list, at minimum as my tiny individual way of trying to support both "high/continuous numbering" and the $2.99 price point. This is my seventh sequential issue that I’ve picked up…which may be a record for me now, or at least close to matching any previous time I’ve tried to follow the title.

Spawn–or rather, Al Simmons–has returned to Earth…human and normal (not disfigured)…and without his costume (despite the cover, more on that later). With only tatters keeping him from being fully nude, but still functionally naked, he finds himself gaining unwanted attention from the authorities. Resisting unwarranted arrest, he fights back and lands in the hospital for his troubles–having been shot and then bashed in the head. On waking and learning what his situation is, he requests Terry Fitzgerald…who despite relatable reservations helps him. Simmons gets set up for his new life, including the start to (presumably) a new iteration of a supporting cast and status quo.

The cover is quite misleading…we do not get Spawn–and certainly not in that classic sense–in this issue. Nor do we get an Al Simmons surprised at being human. That said, for one of extremely FEW instances in my life and as a comic person, it’s misleading because I’m actually "up" on this title. Much as the cover for #257 grabbed my attention (which started this whole current "phase" for me), I can see how this cover could be rather attention-grabbing and pique the curiosity. There’s also something kinda familiar about it–I’m not sure (nor am I planning to research the matter) if it’s an homage piece or just kinda evokes a bygone age of comic covers.

Of course, I’m quite enjoying Larsen‘s work–both the cover(s) and the interior art. Things one expects a comic’s art to do are done, and the visual style works well for this title. It "looks" and "feels" like Larsen art–it’s immediately recognizable to me as such, and I like it here.

Story-wise, I’m still far from being particularly "familiar" with characters (I had to do a quick Google search to confirm that Terry is indeed the guy Wanda married and such), but I’m enjoying the reading experience. This issue feels a lot like a "first issue," and functionally could VERY well warrant a "new #1" (and truly, many Many MANY Marvel books have "rebooted" or "renumbered" for far, far LESS a shift than the game-changing status quo we begin here!).

The backmatter backs this up…though I was disappointed at how "quickly" I got TO the backmatter of the issue. There’s no marking at the final panel of the issue, the final page of the story content–nothing saying "To Be Continued…" or any such, nor is it particularly cliffhanger-y. But darn it, I’m actually really eager to see where things go from here, how Simmons deals WITH his new status quo, how he gets back into the action and what this all means. The cynic in my worries at the shakeup being temporary…but even if it is, I have a bit of faith that it’ll at least last a few years. Simmons was gone from the title for some 65 issues–on a standard, unbroken monthly schedule of 1 issue every month on the month, that would indicate nearly 5 1/2 years. So I’m fairly confident that this status quo ought to take us to (if not through) #300 and/or beyond.

Criminal: Tenth Anniversary Special Edition Magazine

criminal_10th_anniversary_magazine_editionDeadly Hands

Editor: Ray Archer
Content Editor: Ed Brubaker
Art and Design: Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser
Production: Drew Gill
Publishing Liasons: Eric Stephenson, Robert Kirkman
Cover: Sean Phillips
Frontispiece: Phil Jacobs
Published by: Image Comics
Cover Date: April 2016
Cover Price: $5.99

I’ve long been “aware of” Brubaker‘s Criminal series. I’ve read a few issues in the past, and quite enjoyed them…as I have most things he’s written/put out, particularly in this sort of capacity. While I’m blanking on the title offhand, I also remember sampling a spinoff/parallel series more recently, but never stuck with it at length…unfortunately, this sort of thing tends to read better in collected format to me, and when ‘everything’ is a mini-series within an overall continuity, I’d just as soon wait for an entire story…just that by the time it gets collected I’m often chasing other stuff and leave the less-familiar/top-of-the-mind stuff for “later.”

That said, I saw this issue–a 10th-anniversary special–and initially passed on it. A couple days later I saw it at another shop…along with the “Magazine Edition” of it, that REALLY caught my eye. I picked it up off the rack at that point to flip through, and put it back. Then picked it up again, flipped through a bit more, started to put it back, and looked at the price. And considered the format. As well as the fact that this is a 10th-anniversary thing, a special, a one-shot…not some new mini to invest in, not just some “latest issue of ____.” And honestly, the novelty of the thing got me.

While the “regular” edition looked just that–“regular” if a bit thick–the magazine edition is made up to look like some beat-up, well-read, well-worn 40-year-old paper product. And some of the interior pages–of this Fang, the Kung-Fu Werewolf–are as well, really steeping this in the mid/late 1970s.

Essentially, this issue gives us the slice-of-life of a boy–about 12–“on the run” with his dad. His dad had gotten a phone call without explaining, took his son, and they hit the road. We get the story from the boy’s perspective–knowing something’s up, but not fully knowledgeable of the details, just “surviving” the situation. At one stop along the way, the guy buys his son a magazine/comic–Deadly Hands–which he reads and enjoys, and then seeks out further issues. At another town, the boy is turned on to a local shop that might have an issue. While his dad disappears for a couple days, the boy is somewhat befriended by a girl, and the two bond a bit. It’s summer, there’s no school, and they’re free to hang out, do what kids do. Ultimately, the brief moment is spoiled as things come together for the kid’s dad, and we get a less than happy ending, as we truly see that this really is a “slice of life” sort of thing. Interspersed with the main story are pages the kid is reading in the Kung Fu magazine, giving us just enough to be interested in that story as well and nods to the likes of ’70s Marvel (at least, that’s where my mind went, though I’m hardly an expert on this particular genre or history of publication).

The magazine edition is a whopping $5.99. However, because of the thickness, and physical dimensions–of being magazine-sized rather than “just” a standard comic book size–as well as being a one-off novelty/nostalgia thing, I had no problem whatsoever with it. I would be hard-pressed to be willing to pay that for an ongoing series of issues, but as a one-time thing, a brand I recognize from a writer whose work I enjoy, I was willing to pay the price.

Actually reading the issue, I’m glad I did, because I enjoyed this a great deal more than most contemporary comics I’ve read lately. I drew a slight connection here to Watchmen, simply for the fact of the story-within-the-story and such, of reading pages of the story a character in the story was reading–but actually didn’t dig too deeply there. I simply enjoyed this, and the only thing taking me out of the story was looking at the effect of the pages and the jumping back and forth between “actual story” and the “story within the story,” but even that achieved something of its own effect that I liked.

Brubaker‘s name–along with the title itself–are the selling point for me. But while it’s the story that I thoroughly enjoyed, it was the visuals of the package that sold me, and thus Phillips and Breitweiser should not be overlooked. The art itself–particularly of the main story–would not have grabbed me, BUT was quite effective in getting things across, and reminded me somewhat of Steve Dillon’s work. The story–both the main and the Kung Fu Werewolf–is conveyed quite well and gives the required feel to both visually…firmly accentuating the writing and making for an attractive overall package, especially in having now read it cover to cover.

If you’re firmly into super-heroes or such, you may not care for this…but if you’re a casual-ish comics reader and/or interested in comics beyond superheroes and zombies, this was a great read. As said, a big part of the ‘fun’ for me was buying the magazine edition, but for the story itself alone, I’d recommend the issue, giving it a certain positive grade myself. While I don’t have the regular edition for comparison, this was ad-free, except the back cover’s faux-ad, part of the effect of the vintage-magazine appearance. I dare say this is at once representative of the high quality of Brubaker and co.’s work on Criminal, though this may well outshine regular issues for being longer and self-contained (whatever nods to prior Criminal stuff–if any–were over my “ignorant” head in this reading).

The ’90s Revisited: Spawn #25

spawn0025Tremors

Writer: Todd McFarlane
Pencils: Marc Silvestri
Inks: Batt, Billy Tan
Copy Editor & Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Color: Brian Haberlin
Computer Colors: Brian Haberlin, Tyson Wengler, Ashby Manson, Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Background Assist: Nathan Cabrera
Production: Dennis Heisler
Production Assist: Peter Steigerwald
Big Gun: David Wohl
Published by: Image Comics
Cover Date: October 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

Like seems to be the case for me with what (relatively) few Spawn issues I’ve read, I don’t have an easy time summarizing it. This one, Spawn seems to have been “outed” in the media–the world now knows he exists–and so he has to deal with that. He’s living in the alleys amongst a number of other Homeless, serving as a protector to them, though he seems to be less than thrilled at their growing “reliance” on him. After being attacked by a rogue demon, he confronts the entity and learns its backstory–it’s not actually a demon, but a man who was experimented on, resulting in his current form. He seeks vengeance on a gangster named Tony Twist, and given the situation, Spawn sees more benefit in helping than opposing, if his people are left alone as a result.

I bought this issue with a number of other “quarter books” at a Half-Price Books earlier this year…and I suppose for that price, it was worthwhile. I have another copy–my original–of this somewhere in one of my too-many longboxes, but was interested in this issue this time the same as when I originally bought it: the cover, and it’s Spawn #25, one of those “special number” issues. I also remembered there being something else about this, like it being part of some “creator swap” month, but on reading this couldn’t tell if it was part of that or not.

The story is typical Spawn for me…I’m not really sure how else to put it. I recognize Spawn himself of course, Al Simmons; his (former) wife Wanda, and at least know of the man Wanda is married to here. I remember (vaguely) the sense of–at the time–having no clue what Spawn was ‘about’ aside from being this disfigured entity with a huge cape, apparently back from the dead with some sort of “deal with the devil” thing involving his powers and some kind of amnesia that resulted in his living with the homeless/street people.

The art is good overall…which I pretty much expect from Silvestri‘s work. I’m not overly familiar with it, but I’ve seen enough of it to know that I associate it with 1990s/Image stuff (as well as the Grant Morrison New X-Men story Here Comes Tomorrow back in early 2004). The art fits the book…though after reading the story itself and getting into some of the text/backmatter stuff, I gather that Silvestri was NOT the series artist at the time, and so that was probably the creator swap–the creators maybe kept on plot/writing, just swapped books for art duties or such. Whatever it was, it was over 21 years ago, and for Spawn, nearly 240 issues ago as of Spring 2016.

I was impressed with the cover’s visual as well as the physical issue itself–not quite a cardstock cover, but hardly some flimsy paper, and the interior pages seem good quality as well. Thus, for the physical product itself, the 25 cents I paid was mostly worthwhile. Though I read the issue in isolation, it brought back slight memories of having read it back in 1994, and given my attempting to follow recent/current issues of the title, I’d consider my money well spent…though I maybe appreciated the issue/reading experience more for the backmatter than the story content.

Among other things, while knowing the title has been notoriously late in its time, this issue seems to have come out at a time the book had had some major issues in timing, shipping in this order: 18, 21-24, 19, 25, 20, 26. There’s even an ad explaining things a bit, as well as a “cartoon” image “Todd Can’t Count” trying to poke fun at the situation. I find that morbidly amusing in a way at present, given recent complaints of books RE-numbering and such, and continued amazement that this title is presently–in 2016–the highest-numbered (legitimately) comic that I can think of published in the US (Regardless of returning to “legacy numbering,” Detective and Action from DC lost that designation in the 2011 New 52 reboot). I somewhat recall seeing mention somewhere of Spawn having shipped issues out of order, in some online discussion years ago, but didn’t recall exactly when that was, so coming across it hear piqued my interest, and I’d actually be somewhat interested in working on tracking those issues down. I actually already have the first 12 or 13 issues of the series, so can’t imagine it would be terribly hard to find the rest of the run up to this point; nor overly expensive given what a “hot” book Spawn was at this point in the ’90s. But I suppose that’ll be a back-issue quest for some other time, if it even still holds my curiosity by the time I’d get around to it.

All told…this was an ok issue, though not anything I’d encourage hunting down. If the cover strikes your fancy or you want a similarly randomish reading experience, it’s worth the 25-cent purchase, but I wouldn’t recommend paying more than $1, possibly $2 and absolute most for this (and it’s a 21+ year old issue with a $1.95 cover price).

Spawn #258 [Review]

spawn258Story: Todd McFarlane
Art: Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane
Color: FCO Plascenscia
Lettering: Tom Orzechowski
Publishing Coordinator: Shannon Bailey
Art Director: Ben Timmreck
Production Artists: Joe Ferstl, Jordan Butler
Publisher for Image Comics: Eric Stephenson
Cover: Erik Larsen
Editor: Todd McFarlane
Cover Date: November 2015
Cover Price: $2.99

Spawn has made it to Hell and has a message for Satan. Oh, and he fights a horde of demons, leaving only one ‘alive’ to deliver the message.

Oops…sorry! I just gave you the ENTIRE issue right there, including the end.

I noticed this issue was out this week, and having had my interest up from the previous issue, I wanted to check out Erik Larsen‘s first issue. Visually, it’s quite good. The cover is not nearly as impressive as the previous issue, but I like it well enough. And per my usual, knowing I wanted to get the issue, I didn’t flip through the interior…which proved unfortunate.

Story-wise…there are about 3 pages. Art-wise, we have a 20-page issue.

We see Spawn at the entrance to Hell, facing a huge horde of demons that knew he was coming and have been waiting for him. He plans to leave one alive to deliver a simple message to Satan…and the next 17 pages are dialogue-less, caption-less images of Spawn fighting the demons. I suppose SOMEWHAT to the issue’s credit, there’s a countdown of the number of demons remaining, and every several pages you see the count diminishing significantly.

My disgust grew with each page turned that revealed another page or pages with no…actual…words.

This was not billed as a "silent" issue. An issue-length brawl is not my idea of an issue worth being "silent." A fight like this–to me–ought to have been 3-4 pages, max…even if that meant having a grid with 50-100 thumbnail-type panels conveying the length and magnitude of Spawn’s fighting. Not an entire issue.

The final panel provides what turns out to be a sort of "punchline" to the issue as we learn what Spawn’s simple message for Satan is. Perhaps it’s supposed to evoke those action-movie one-liner/groaners (and I can picture David Caruso‘s Horatio Caine from CSI Miami donning his shades while delivering this line) or simply show us how powerful Spawn is, how singularly determined and focused he is on somehow "saving" Wanda.

But I paid $2.99 (THANKFULLY 25% cheaper than the standard $3.99 that most comics cost) for an issue to read…not look at and analyze the imagery, etc. I glaze over with certain action sequences in general in comics. I can appreciate detail and nuance to art…but when there’s some frenetic action sequence and it’s just several pages, I tend to fly through it, "taking it in" as I would a tv show that has a 3-4 second quick-action bit. I also expect forward movement in story/plot…and for me, there’s none of that here…or at least, certainly NOT an entire issue’s worth. TECHNICALLY we move from Spawn facing a horde of demons…to having defeated them. Catch-22: I feel there should be more to the issue–words–to read as he does this, if it’s significant enough to worry him, or bother him, or threaten him. If (as seems to be shown) they’re not truly a concern for him, the sequence could be pulled off far more effectively (in my mind) with turning the page and simply seeing a trail of defeated demons behind Spawn as he passes his message along.

I simply can’t believe this is indicative of Larsen‘s extended involvement with the title…and the previous issue interested me enough in seeing where things go that as frustrated as I am with this issue, I’m probably now going to check out the next issue (despite not liking this one) to see if #259 is what I expected of this one.

If you’re a fan of Larsen–particularly his art–or of McFarlane‘s inks, or seeing the two collaborating on art, and you don’t care too much or won’t be bothered by an essentially "silent" issue, you’ll probably enjoy this.

That being said…on my personal standards and expectations, I do not recommend this issue…and would actually encourage passing on it and trying the next issue, if you were considering this one.

Heck, if you want to see a bunch of pages with no dialogue/captioning, there are countless "free previews" out there to show off silent art where you still have to actually buy the issue to GET the dialogue and such…which is what this feels like.

Spawn #257 [Review]

spawn257Voyage to the Center of Hell!

Story: Todd McFarlane
Art: Szymon Kudranski
Color: FCO Plascenscia
Lettering: Tom Orzechowski
Cover Art: Jonboy
Editor/Art Assists: Todd McFarlane
Publishing Coordinator: Shannon Bailey
Art Director: Ben Timmreck
Production Artist: Andy Arias
Published by: Image Comics
Cover Date: October 2015
Cover Price: $2.99

I usually know before I set foot in the store what “new” comics I’m going to be buying. This issue of Spawn, however, was an impulse-buy…and credit really is the cover–a definite rarity for ME. There’s something to the coloring of this one that caught my attention, I think–the Venom-esque Spawn, the red and black of the cape and its shadows…as well as the fact that 257 issues in we still have the classic, original title logo whose coloring ON the cover looks fantastic to me. And as it’s been a few years now since I “checked in” on the title (back around #200) AND noting the cover price is “only” $2.99 I figured FOR $2.99 (compared to $3.99) I was willing to take a chance on a “random” single issue.

For the most part, I may as well be lost, on this issue, read in isolation from any surrounding issues or bothering to try to remember what I’ve seen/read/”heard” recently of the title. Thankfully, there is a “previously” blurb that sets some loose context.

Essentially…Spawn’s (Al Simmons) wife Wanda has been killed, and he wants to save her. To do so, he needs the help of an angel and a demon…which is where Michael and the Violator (Clown) come into play. With their assistance, he gets to the entrance of the Tunnel, where he wants to be…and whatever happens from there, we will see unfold in coming issues (apparently to be drawn by Savage Dragon creator/writer/artist Erik Larsen).

As said, I really liked the cover, enough that I bought the issue. The interior art didn’t exactly stand out to me–I was reading for the story and didn’t really care ABOUT the art. But it works very well and kept the tone and feel I’d expect OF a Spawn book, and never left me wondering at some kind of wonkiness to the visual style. The linework has a certain roughness I like for conveying the dark stuff of the issue…and the muted colors accentuate that very well.

Story-wise, I wonder if I came in at the tail-end of an arc, or part of set up for the coming arc–I’m not really sure. I’m truly not familiar enough with the title or characters to have any real sense of nuances for them, but nothing here stood out as contradictory to whatever knowledge I do have. There’s not really much given in the way of exposition–this clearly is not geared specifically AS a jumping on-point–but I definitely like seeing McFarlane on the story credit, even if not art. That smooths over any roughness (to me) of the story making sense or not…just appreciating the original creator’s on the book. (To say nothing of my choosing to just jump in for an issue without seeking an entry point).

All that said…I’m interested enough in where things go from here, just from reading this issue, that if I happen to notice the next issue, I’ll probably pick it up. I’ve never engaged with this book on a long-term basis, so I’m not interested now in tossing it on my pull-list or anything. I’m also intrigued at the notion of Larsen on the art and seeing what Spawn looks like in his style.

All in all, I’d say this is “just another issue” of the title…if you like the title, you’ll probably want to get it; if you don’t care, there’s really nothing here that says the story itself is anything essential or groundbreaking (maybe the next issue will have/be that).

Still…for my $2.99, I am definitely satisfied with my random purchase of this issue.

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