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The Mighty Thor #700 [Review]

mighty_thor_0700_lenticularThe Blood of the Norns

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Walter Simonson, Matthew WIlson, Russell Dauterman, Daniel Acuna, James Harren, Dave Stewart, Becky Cloonan, Das Pastoras, Chris Burnham, Ive Svorcina, Andrew MacLean, Jill Thompson, Mike Del Mundo, Olivier Coipel
Letterer & Production: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Artists: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson
Lenticular Cover: Stephanie Hans (based on the original cover of The Death of Captain Marvel by Jim Starlin)
Associate Editor: Sarah Brunstad
Editor: Wil Moss
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: December 2017
Cover Price: $5.99

Along with Cable #150, I think this was the issue I was truly most curious about, content-wise…and sadly, number-wise. It’s a #700…I think Marvel‘s first. Much like Thor #500 was their first #500 issue back in the ’90s. Then there’s the lenticular cover, playing off of the classic The Death of Captain Marvel…one of my definite Starlin favorites with the whole Captain Marvel/Adam Warlock/Thanos/Infinity Gauntlet/cosmic stuff…a certain classic within my own life and time as a comics reader.

I certainly did not care for the higher price of this issue…but at least it’s a singular issue/narrative (albeit with a number of art teams on its many segments) and not a regular-sized main story with a ton of pointless-ish "extras" and add-ins and such just to inflate the thing artificially. And getting the lenticular cover edition makes it feel a bit more like a special issue and certainly physically/tangibly feel like it’s more worth its price. The quality of the lenticular effect is not good, though, with neither image particularly clear, though it seems the "classic" image is easier to see for backgrounds and title, while "Lady Thor" is fairly easy to see in the center.

Art-wise there’s a bunch of folks on this issue, names both familiar and not to me, perhaps most familiar being Walter Simonson, or Walt Simonson…a classic, notable, significant creator in the history of Marvel‘s Thor title. Given that there’s a lot of stuff happening all over the place–different settings, different times, different characters and types of characters–this issue actually benefits from a number of different art styles. While I don’t much care for some stuff, I can’t deny that overall, characters that I’d recognize look good in this issue, and even ones I don’t. Where the art takes a less-classic or less-realistic turn, it still works with the context of the story segment.

The story itself is lengthy enough and all over the place enough that I’m not gonna try to summarize it in detail here. Plus, not being "up" on the last few years of the characters’ stories outside of internet hearsay, I don’t know that I’d get specifics correct as is. Essentially, there’s a big attack happening that causes the knowledge of everyone’s fate to be removed…now that no one knows what WILL happen, the possibilities are endless. In the course of this, we check in on a bunch of different Thors and Thor artifacts. I still can’t get over this sense I get in reading this that "Thor" has become a "title" more than an actual NAME, and that’s probably where I most balk at the last few years of what I’ve heard of things. THOR might somehow become unworthy to carry Mjolnir, but that shouldn’t change that his NAME still IS Thor. Someone else might get the wield the hammer, but I don’t get how THEY suddenly become THOR. Especially while the genuine god is still around. I don’t know if it’s the same name historically, but at least for this issue, I loved the name given to Throg: Simon Walterson, a play on Walter Simonson.

As said, I’m not "up" on the last few years of stuff, so I’m sure there’s plenty throughout this issue to be appreciated that I don’t, and that I didn’t even notice, for that matter. That said, and all other complaints aside…I didn’t really WANT to like this issue.

But I did like it.

I tend to hate when something feels just like an opening chapter of a bigger story, arbitrarily chopped up into issue-sized chunks. This issue probably gets away with that, then, because it’s lengthier. And being a few days after I bought it, the price wasn’t so fresh in my mind and I was just reading the story FOR the story. The extra pages, the story touching on a number of different characters…this just felt like that much bigger a chunk of story overall. It’s by no means complete, but I didn’t feel lost the way I thought I would, and didn’t feel shortchanged when I got to the end of the issue. While this issue kicks off a presumably six-part The Death of The Mighty Thor, that and the lenticular cover are the only real references I picked up to a pending death, outside of the notion of Jane Foster’s cancer, period, being a built-in timer o sorts.

I also definitely enjoyed the fact that "Odinson" was in the book…he may be "unworthy" but is still present and part of the story, so it’s seeming (from this issue at least) like he’s not been absolutely shunted out of his own book.

I really don’t know if this is something ongoing readers would enjoy or not. I believe Aaron is the same writer that’s been on the various titles the last few years, chronicling the ongoing Jane Foster Thor stories, and much of the art team(s) I suspect are from those titles…so this is probably pretty consistent with the overall story that’s been unfolding. And I can’t speak for other fans who have felt put-off by the changes and such.

But me? I enjoyed this issue far more than I expected or intended to. I don’t know if this really falls into the Legacy headline or not, or if the inclusion of Odinson and other versions is simply TO fit into Legacy. But I’ll actually consider picking up the next issue if it’s not out on a huge week and there’s no confusion over which cover is the standard cover (this issue’s lenticular cover is marked as a variant, but due to marketing and hype, I consider the lenticular covers the main covers regardless of markings from the publisher).

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Cable #150 [Review]

cable_0150_lenticularThe Newer Mutants (Chapter 1)

Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Jon Malin
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover Artists: Jon Malin, Federico Blee (Lenticular Cover Artists: Rob Liefeld and Jesus Aburtov (based on New Mutants #87 by Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane)
Graphic Designers: Jay Bowen, Anthony Gambino
Assistant Editor: Chris Robinson
Associate Editor: Mark Basso
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: December 2017
Cover Price: $3.99

I "sampled" the ResurrXion stuff back in the spring, though between the pricing, frequency, "art," quantity of variants, quantity of titles involved, etc. I opted not to follow the various series. I did apparently buy Cable  #1 as I saw it recently while going through other recent-ish stuff for something, but haven’t yet read that, and otherwise figure it’s been at least a couple years since I’ve bought anything with Cable on the cover, though I’d followed the beginning of his post-Messiah CompleX series, and the final several years of his ’90s series into the first couple issues of Soldier X back in the day. I even sampled a couple issues of Cable & Deadpool at the beginning and end of the run (oops…Cable gets no "credit" for that series, as Marvel tossed it entirely into Deadpool‘s…um…pool).

Long complaining of Marvel‘s pricing, variants, stunts, rebooting of numbering, renumbering, event-into-event-into-event churn, etc, I’ve also long avoided most of their "newer" output–certainly over the last half-decade. But there comes a point where "curiosity" gets the better of me, or "nostalgia," or perhaps just "morbid curiosity," and I check out an issue or few. Plus, I can only complain so much while never actually purchasing something–I can grouse about stuff all I want, but I feel I have to occasionally have some hands-on experience, not just 100% taking "everyone else’s word" on stuff.

So I’ve got Cable #150. After all the hubbub on the "lenticular covers," I opted to go for that version…after all, it was available in-person, at cover price, and said cover price being the "regular" $3.99, I figured at least I’m getting a "fancy cover" for the price. Alas, though the cover has the slick, plastic-y feel (and sound!) of DC‘s lenticulars, I really don’t like this at all. It’s supposed to have both the New Mutants #87 cover from 1990 or so with the 2017 re-iteration of the image. But try as I might, I can’t get a clear, non-fuzzy view of either that doesn’t have distinct bleed-in of the alternate image. If it wasn’t for the non-lenticular version presented as the first page, I wouldn’t really even know what the "newer" image truly looks like! And honestly, the best the cover has looked to my eye is the scan I did for the image above…so not even "just" to the naked, human eye as far as looking at the cover in-person!

Simply as an image, I like the thing. I really dig the nostalgia–we go from Cable’s first appearance in a #87 to his own series at #150…full circle and all that. While I like the Liefeld re-do of the original, it works well as the cover, and I’m glad the interior is a different artist. Malin does a good job of giving a clean, sleek design to the characters while capturing the classic look–including Cable’s ridiculously huge gun, a staple of the ’90s. On one hand, I’m quite glad to see the character simply looking like himself; on the other, I’d swear he’s been through more changes and was looking much older. Of course, there’s also flashback stuff to this, so, whatever.

Overall, there doesn’t feel like there’s much story to this issue. Cable’s with Longshot, investigating the death of an External named Candra. Confirming the death (which shouldn’t be able to happen, as she was supposed to be immortal), they proceed to meet up with old Cable-ally Shatterstar, and the group then goes to confront the last remaining External: Selene. The confrontation proves less than ideal, with Selene thinking Cable & Co. are there to kill her, not question her…and ultimately we’re left with a bit of a revelation that screams "retcon" to me, while leaving us as readers none the wiser, really, and stuck waiting for another issue.

I’m not familiar with Brisson offhand, but this isn’t bad. Strictly in and of itself, I enjoyed this issue…just not the fact it’s (as "always") simply 1/6th of a constrained story arc. I get a sense of the nostalgia being gone for with this, but don’t really feel like there’s much context to stuff…while I expect things’ll be clarified in later issues, this feels more like the first chunk of pages of a singular lengthier story, and not a full story in itself. I shouldn’t be surprised–that’s basically standard practice these days, for the last decade or more. There is a brief ~3 page segment with the character’s "origin," rather broad and boiled down, but hitting a few key points (far from all, and basically touching on none of the development(s) since 1993). I don’t know that anything Marvel would publish on that front for this would satisfy me, though…especially as none of the origin was "new" to me. I’m clearly not the target audience for it, though!

As usual for a Marvel issue of late…the Marvel brand itself is damaged as far as my feelings towards ’em on so many points, and while by no means a bad issue, this issue is not enough to leave me interested in planning on getting the next issue…and Marvel‘s pricing doesn’t leave me all that expectant of being highly inclined to even bother with the collected edition once it comes out.

Though this brings in some ’90s elements and looks like a familiar-ish iteration of Cable himself, this issue by itself does not stand out as anything overly special, either as part of Marvel Legacy or as a 150th issue. With the screwy numbering and not really being a standalone issue, I’d say wait for the collected edition if anything, if this didn’t already draw you in on nostalgia, number, or cover image(s) alone.

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The ’90s Revisited: Thor #500

90s_revisited

thor_500Sunlight and Shadows

Writer: Wm. Messner-Loebs
Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.
Lettering: Jonathan Babcock
Color Art: Marie Javins
Computer Separations: Malibu
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 1996
Cover Price: $2.50

I’ve long been "aware of" this issue. I vaguely recall seeing advertising for it–either in house ads, or Wizard Magazine, or both. And I’ve seen the cover image a number of times over the years. But somehow, I never before now actually got to READ the issue. I don’t THINK I’ve even owned a copy before now, as it’s not one that I "commonly" find in quarter bins and such. So when I recently came across it in a dollar bin, it felt like a no-brainer to pick up, to finally satisfy my curiosity at its content.

Plus, there’s the fact that it was "A Marvel 1st! Fantastic 500th Issue!" (as the cover proclaims). Back when Marvel titles had their LEGITIMATE numbering scheme, and many titles had high numbers, at that. This was Thor‘s 500th issue. Captain America was in the mid-400s; Fantastic Four had hit 400 about a year earlier, and Avengers had just crossed the 400 mark…and Uncanny X-Men wasn’t terribly far behind closing on 350ish, and I think even Incredible Hulk was somewhere in the latter 400s.

One of the more striking (for me) aspects of the cover is that THIS Thor has a rather savage look to him, and lacks really anything familiar-looking except the hammer. Wild, extremely-long hair, some sort of skintight costume that I would have sworn from "memory" was actually a shirtless-Thor getup (a trick of coloring, perhaps, given he IS shirtless within the issue, and the image for the next issue also shows him shirtless), and could almost be ’90s-Sabretooth’s brother quite easily by appearance.

As the issue opens, Thor is in the ruined city of Asgard, wondering what happened and where everyone has gone. He gets in a fight with some Trolls that have claimed the area, and eventually comes across several imprisoned/enslaved individuals…including Dr. Stephen Strange, aka Dr. Strange! Strange catches him up on a bit of recent stuff (presumably recounting the previous issue or few issues, if the reader–like myself–has not read them), and we head into the Enchantress teaming with a Frost Giant. When the Frost Giants attack Asgard’s ruins, they find Strange and Thor battle-ready; as well as a surprise "ally" in Ulik the Troll. Amidst the unfolding situation we learn that Odin had a plan to save the gods, involving their being sent to Earth as mortals with no memory of who/what they truly are. Thor regains his hammer, repels the invaders, and stands amidst his small band of allies as they realize their fight is not over, but must be continued on Earth!

Rounding out the issue, we have some pages of frivolous back-matter…a double-page quiz, a double-page primer of several of Thor’s looks over the years, a double-page ‘family tree’ of Odin; a double-page fact-sheet of Thor’s hammer, and two pages of letters (remember "letters pages"???).

The cover proclaims this as a "Double-Sized Issue!" but I only count 26 pages of story-content. I’m pretty sure–even in the 1990s–regular Marvel comics were NOT short 13-page stories! So that’s a bit misleading…at least if one (like me) counts an issue’s size on its STORY content, not so-called or frivolous "bonus content"/back matter (that if ever TRULY "bonus" would not be included in paid page count anyway). Including the backmatter and letters pages, I only count 36 non-ad pages, which still would suggest a non-double-sized issue would be only 18 pages. So while this might feel like a "bigger" issue (it does have "extra" pages/content), I don’t see that it qualifies as double-sized.

Then there’s the price of the issue: a big, round number 500, a Marvel first at the time, and the cover price was "only" $2.50 (at least the edition I have–if there were variant/other editions, I’m not aware off the top of my head) which is not MUCH more than the $1.50-$1.95ish I think most issues were at the time…while extra-sized issues tend to pose a better value as the extra pages don’t require an extra cover and separate physical production, I would expect a truly double-sized issue to have been in the $3-4 range in 1996.

Art-wise, the issue is not bad. I recognize Deodato‘s name at LEAST from being aware of his Wonder Woman work. Overall, though, I can’t say this issue’s art really stands out in and of itself…what stands out is the "Savage Thor" look as a character design, not necessarily (offhand) the art as art. Presumably Marvel was really going for the changed-up look to Thor, getting away from the ‘classic’ look(s), infusing the character with the wilder ’90s sensibility, and Deodato brought that to this issue quite successfully! Whether its Malibu‘s coloring, the art itself, or other factors, this vaguely puts me in mind of some Ultraverse stuff, with Thor on the cover looking like a wild-haired Hardcase with a hammer. I think the main complaint I’d have with the art is the stupid ’90s trend of double-page splashes where you have to physically turn the entire issue 90 degrees to follow. I’m pretty sure that the same dimensions could fit proportionately on a single page without having to be blown up double-sized, especially when there’s little to no dialogue to be read!

Story-wise, I didn’t really "get" much out of this issue. Something to it felt rather repetitive, as if Thor is always finding Asgard in ruins, the gods missing, and having to seek them out. Or always coming across an unexpected ally in odd circumstances. Or always fending off/facing attacking trolls and/or frost giants or dealing with the Enchantress. I definitely got the sense that this was a latter chapter of a story, and suspect I’d appreciate it a lot more if I’d read the previous several issues. I also have the 21-years-later knowledge of the title running only to #502 or so before reverting to Journey Into Mystery again for about a year, while Thor was in the Heroes Reborn world, prior to the launch of the Heroes Return iteration of the title. That there are 2 more issues of this title AS Thor make this feel like a not-quite-penultimate chapter. Of course, having had only the initial "hype" around the time this issue was originally published combined with its continuing "mystery" to me for just over two decades, I cannot be too surprised that this failed to meet a thus-built set of expectations of grandeur and awesomeness.

Given the 20+ years since this was published, the 1998 reboot, the JMS reboot, the last few years’ Unworthy Thor stuff, and the new Legacy renumbering to #700 (200 issues SINCE this one!)…this doesn’t feel all that relevant nor particularly memorable or of any real significance…at least as a random, arbitrary single issue.

If you’re seeking it out already because of a personal interest, this is well worth the $1 or so if it’s in a bargain bin. I don’t recommend it just for the sake of reading a #500, or just to read an arbitrary anniversary issue or such. If you’re reading stuff from this period it’s probably more worthwhile, or as a focal issue to build a short reading-run around. Had I gotten this from a quarter-bin instead of $1-bin, I probably would have snagged from #490 or so through #502 and perhaps tried to read the run as a larger single story.

This issue leaves me curious as to the full "end" of the volume, and I realized I have the Journey Into Mystery run that followed as a collected edition, so if I get particularly ambitious, I can probably fill in context before and see where things go quite easily if I so choose.

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Astonishing X-Men (2017) #1 [Review]

astonishing_x-men_(2017)_0001Life of X – Part One

Writer: Charles Soule
Penciler: Jim Cheung
Inkers: Mark Morales, Guillermo Ortego, Walden Wong
Colors: Richard Isanove, Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Jim Cheung & Richard Isanove
Graphic Designers: Jay Bowen, Anthony Gambino
Assistant Editor: Christina Harrington
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: September 2017
Cover Price: $4.99

I was a sucker. I’d seen a poster-image of this issue’s cover, and I vaguely recall the image grabbing me initially when it was first debuted with solicitation or shortly after. Archangel has always been a striking figure for me, and despite the last ten or so years, Bishop (especially looking as he does here) rings quite nostalgic for me. Then there’s Rogue, and while I don’t much care for the “Old Man” version, seeing ‘a Wolverine figure’ here drove it home. But in addition to that, there’s something about the blending of the coloring–the rich orangey-yellow background and the yellow and blue of the logo…and that the logo may not be the “classic” X-MEN logo, but it has a certain blend of the old and new while being its own thing…and NOT coming off as “pretentious” (as if text CAN be pretentious) to me.

I was ALSO a sucker because a local comic shop had sent out an email informing us that any Marvel purchase would get a free “cosmic cube,” and while I am actively disinterested in the current comics Event, I’m a sucker for plastic comic artifacts (such as Lantern Corps Rings), and the Cosmic Cube goes way back. And with Astonishing X-Men #1 being out this week and already having the against-my-better-judgment interest, I figured hey…fine. I tried X-Men: Gold #1 and X-Men: Blue #1, so I could give Astonishing X-Men #1 a go. Especially at $3.99.

After I’d bought the issue (amidst my other purchases), and gotten it home AND read it…THEN I realized that no…this was NOT a $3.99 issue. It was $4.99…so for that, I’m not a happy camper. But where even comic shops are lucky to return comics, it’s not like I can “return” the issue, so I’m sorta stuck with it, whatever “principle” I want to take with it.

I’m not happy that my inattention to detail had me ignorantly buying yet another $5 #1 issue from Marvel (in an industry when other publishers proved $10 vol. 1 collected editions with 5-6 issues).

Buuuuuut…

I enjoyed this issue.

I actually did!

We open on a quick scene, learning that mutant psychics all over the world are dying. Then we come to Betsy Braddock–Psylocke–who is one of the STRONGEST mutant psychics, and the force that’s killing the others isn’t able to subdue her until after she’s sent out a psychic cry for help. We’re also (re) introduced to Bishop; to Angel/Archangel, Gambit and Fantomex, Old Man Logan and Rogue; four of whom are on the receiving end of Psylocke’s cry for help; which draws them all in to her location. The force that’s been attacking the psychics is concentrated, and no longer constrained to just the local psychics. As the group converges, they must face the psychic energy-outlash while saving civilians and surviving themselves. Working together, the immediate, outward threat is resolved…but Betsy reveals that she now knows who is behind it–and that things are worse than even this was. Some of the group must go to the Astral Plane to stop the Shadow King. No time to seek shelter or plan–she sends them immediately, with Angel and Bishop remaining behind to protect them all. Meanwhile, we confirm that yes indeed, this is definitely Shadow King. And he’s got quite a secret…which provides a major “hook” for me regarding subsequent issues of this series!

While I was incredibly skeptical of X-Men Prime, X-Men Blue, and X-Men Gold, I bought the one-shot and #1s to “try,” to go against my anti-Marvel negativity and give the things “a shot,” an ISSUE, at least. And that way I could at least judge for myself how things seemed, and feel like I had more room to criticize–at least I’d have bought the big, over-priced first-issues, and have SOME hands-on “experience,” not just second-hand stuff.

And so, too, I figured for this. $4.99 is too much for a single issue, for a first issue. MAYBE for an Annual, or an oversized special/one-shot. But a $5+ issue should be rare and special…not plentiful as water. Marvel has abused the price point to where I virtually NEVER even bother to look at their comics, because I just KNOW they’re basically the most ridiculously-priced premium-priced things in the market. Real or perception, but that’s where I am.

But I’ve got the issue, I read it, and I actually enjoyed it. We have some prologue. We have character introductions. We have an immediate threat, and we see a group of disparate mutant figures come together, face the threat, and emerge victorious. We then have the setup for an even bigger threat–the one that carries beyond “just” this issue…and it looks to involve other nostalgic elements that work organically with the Shadow King character, as well as perhaps grabbing onto continuity and yanking on a loose thread, in preparation of some re-stitching and mending.

The story is engaging and keeps stuff moving; I can and will allow any “inconsistencies of character” to be credited to the last decade or more of mutant comics and lack of continuity and the apparent attempt here to play with the existing status quo. Visually, I dug this issue. Everyone’s recognizable and I like the visuals; there’s a sense of modernity with the aforementioned nostalgia; new and old, simply making this a good-looking comic. The multiple inkers do not take away from that–I only even know there were multiple inkers due to seeing the credits.

I don’t want to like any Marvel series right now. The X-Men are old favorites, and I’ve felt largely let-down by everything that’s been done with, to, and involving them for years, such that many of them are hardly recognizable to me anymore. I do not TRUST Marvel to not “yank the rug out” from under me, or some sorta bait-and-switch with this. I’ve already seen one or two of the other X-titles tie in to a major crossover event…and I want nothing to do with that, either. So…I might come back for the next issue of this arc, or at least check it out if I notice it on the rack. I am honestly very interested in what this particular story arc holds, and if I’m gonna pay Marvel‘s too-high inflated/”premium” price point, I can justify it a bit easier in smaller doses as single issues than collected volumes.

I actually don’t feel I can really speak to whether old fans or new fans or both would care or not care about this issue…I’m a weird creature when i comes to Marvel, and the X-Men. Suffice it to say that even at that $5 price point and $3.99 otherwise with possible bi-weekly shipping, I’m hooked here where even the likes of Blue and Gold didn’t grab me at this level. That makes this a definite “light in the darkness” of X-Books, and if you can stomach the $4.99 price point, this is about as good an issue for that as any that Marvel‘s put out of late!

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Some Thoughts On the Week’s Comics (Week of April 12th, 2017)

Last week really only had two NEW "new" issues, neither of which I’m giving a full review treatment to…so here are some stream-of-consciousness thoughts on them, as I’ve been doing for the previous couple weeks.


Action Comics #977

action_comics_0977It’s definitely an "interesting" time to be a Superman fan. From following The Final Days of Superman in anticipation of the shift-over to the "pre-Flashpoint" Superman "taking over" the main titles while the trailing-end of Lois and Clark were coming out, to the recent Superman Reborn 4-part "crossover," I’ve largely week-in and week-out been looking forward to each subsequent issue, and thoroughly enjoying that fact alone, as well as the stories themselves. Now it’s a bit weird, with Superman Reborn having just wrapped up, and not yet into firmly-established territory as to what’s "canon" and in what way, as readers and being in a similar boat with the characters themselves. I suppose I’m liking that with the Supermen "merged" and reality re-written (again) into a single timeline, at least we no longer have the "weight" of Clark and Lois having actually lost their REAL families and friends and all that, and existing as refugees on a world and timeline not even their own. Now that they just "are," and always have been, part of this timeline, events are what they are. Then again, we lose that interesting aspect of them "knowing" what most don’t, and the ability to see "parallels" play out and proactively nip situations in the bud on this Earth, having already been through the tough crap on their own. None of this really addresses the current issue I’m meant to be discussing.

Suffice it to say, I was looking forward to this (and look forward to the next) for more establishment of current canon, though this issue still left me in the dark, like I’m being "shown" stuff without really being told or getting concrete confirmation. Some of that perhaps can be blamed on various sites such as Bleeding Cool for jumping the gun and scrambling to be "First!" to draw some conclusion or post a spoiler or whatever.

I’m just in this to enjoy an overall ongoing story and characters and long-form narrative threads with issue by issue tangible story payoff and such. And I’m getting that, so I continue to be happy with these titles.


X-Men: Blue #1

xmenblue_0001I want to like the whole "original 5 X-Men in the present" thing, but it’s worn thin. I liked the concept enough initially that I actually bought into several of the original Marvel Now titles, All-New X-Men as a particular favorite of the bunch. But 4 1/2 years later–some 54 months or so, and at LEAST as many issues–it’s no longer a novelty. Jean Grey was already dead, and had been for the better part of a decade. Angel had recently been "dealt with." With/since the "arrival" of the "O5," we’ve seen major changes to present-day Beast, the apparent death of Cyclops, some shoehorning of stuff with Iceman…and generally gotten to where these "O5" largely ARE their own characters…and functionally (if not actually) seeming to serve as "replacements" for the older "original versions" of the characters.

I think I’d be more interested if this team was "scattered," but having them serve as an actual group, a team, "headlining" their own group title, there’s just something about it that doesn’t sit right with me, however much I might see potential in and while reading enjoy about the book.

I also have some problem with having my sense of nostalgia toyed with in this whole ResurrXion initiative, as well as the (meta?) fact of having trouble finding some of the issues to even TRY without it being some big multi-store, multi-city hunt, where I am NOT interested in a long-term "commitment" via pull-listing any of these titles.

The $5 price tag sucks as well, and though this is a "thicker" issue, we basically have a main story and a "backup" story. I’d personally have little/no clue as to the character in the "backup," except having read other posts online referring to the character by name and strongly suggesting that it’s an Ultimate Universe mutant character now in "the 616." Which means we likely now have at LEAST 3 "alternate" versions of a "Wolverine" character, while the actual Logan remains in character limbo, which is highly discouraging to me.

As with most Marvel titles, the price and use of ridiculous variants, and other meta/real-world factors had me intending to not EVEN try these #1s…but I gave in, compromising my stance on price point for a single-issue of each, though I’ve no intention of picking up a #2.

What I can say, though, is that I’m "interested" enough to consider collected volumes…again dependent upon pricing and format (I’ll refuse any hardcover under 12 issues, or any paperback of 6 issues or less that gets too close to $20).


While these issues were part of a pretty small week for new comics…the upcoming week looks to be quite huge, both in terms of specific issues (the start of the Batman/Flash story The Button) and in quantity. I’m definitely looking forward to some really good reads out of the coming week’s stuff!

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Late to the Party: On Marvel and Diversity and Sales and Such

It’s been interesting to read the various pieces over the past few weeks (from ICv2, Bleeding Cool, I’ve wound up clicking a couple links to stuff at CBR, etc) on “Marvel and Diversity” and “the Sales Slump” and whatnot. (And you either know what I’m talking about or not…if not, you probably won’t care about what I have to say here, and I’m NOT playing linky-link “name-dropping” with this post).

Why Marvel has fallen so far in MY eyes, and MY willingness to give them money on any REGULAR basis:

  1. Price
  2. Renumbering (Rebooting, Relaunching, whatever)
  3. Variants
  4. “Event Fatigue”
  5. Inorganic Change for Change’s Sake (Parker marriage, Death of Wolverine, character “replacement”)
  6. Hero vs. Hero with few villains in sight
  7. Rehashing old story elements/beating a dead horse
  8. Everything is a mini-series yet nothing is billed as such

To elaborate a bit:

#1: Price

I am a customer. I am not a shop owner, newsstand, etc. If $2.99 is not enough margin for profit, then what the HECK was $1.99 or $1.25 or $1, and other prices before?!? I’m relatively CERTAIN that the leap from $2.99 straight to $3.99 and the full-dollar increpricesments since ($4.99, $5.99, $9.99) are far BEYOND any reasonable equivalency of inflation and the like. And WHATEVER the “logic” or “reasoning” behind it, that does not change MY bottom line as the customer: I see ridiculously-high prices, I’m gonna resist, be more conservative, and be much much more discerning in what I buy than at lower price points. SINCE I am not a shop owner, newsstand, etc. I am not concerned with all the logistics…as a customer, I’m JUST looking at the price that *I* pay in exchange for leaving with the product.



#2: Renumbering (Rebooting, Relaunching, whatever)


My first issue of Uncanny X-Men was #300. First Captain America I remember was around 400. Adventures of Superman was 453, Action Comics was 651. Detective Comics was 604 and Batman was on #439. Avengers was in the late 300s. Iron Man was in the high 200s, and I’m pretty sure I remember seeing #300 hit. Marvel might try to “go back to” “legacy numbering” by “adding up” all their numbers to a huge whole (effectively leaping from #6 to #150, or #25 to #200, or #10 to #300, or whatever). But that’s merely a superficial, hollow gesture: they canNOT suddenly “get back” what they scrapped, abandoned, avoided, blew up for the last 17-20 years.

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In the late-’80s/early to mid ’90s, if I found a book at #440, I could easily backtrack and find #250, or #389, or whatever previous issue, and be fine. Suddenly jump to a “total number” system, and I’m in the same (but worse?) boat as NOW: ok, here’s #607…but, well, there’s STILL no #550-599 or such! Here’s #300, but where the heck are #s 40-299?!? Here’s #150, but where’s anything numbered 30-149? Here’s #200, but where’s anything numbered 180-199 and why is it that maybe the most recent prior story arc tops out at #23? (* arbitrary numbers for concept, I’m of NO mood to look up concrete numbers and titles!)


#3: Variants

venom_variantVariants are one thing if they’re used sparingly, and are ACTUALLY “special.” But when there are variants on virtually EVERY SINGLE ISSUE, and it’s an extreme rarity for anything to NOT have a variant, it’s too much! Worse, having NUMEROUS variants for seemingly every single title, and/or even just on several titles in one month, even multiple in one week, with crazy “ratios” on them…it’s a huge turnoff just on PRINCIPLE, regardless of my not personally caring about/for them or wanting them, etc.

And if it means taking some initial “hit” to GET AWAY FROM so many darned variants, then suck it up, cupcake, and just DO it. If you START with “inflated numbers” because of PROPPING stuff up FROM THE START with variants and rely solely on numbers based ON variants, it doesn’t seem like you’re working with accurate counts and reasonable, realistic expectations. (Though I’m not getting into nor do I necessarily care about exceptions or such). I just see a flood of variants such that it’s SPECIAL when there are NOT a ton of variants for something! Again with me being a customer, and not caring about the behind the scenes logistics or logic or reason, it’s just my feeling simply as and from the perspective of being the customer.


#4: “Event Fatigue”

Secret_Invasion_Dark_Reign_Vol_1_1I think MY tipping point was back in 2008 or so, when two “event”/”status quo header” things converged in a single issue; something like SECRET INVASION: DARK REIGN. When “events” just roll into the next event into the next event, then these so-called EVENTS just become STATUS QUO. And when numerous low-numbered and new TITLES get sucked into arc-length tie-ins, it makes the non-tie-in issues into the “special status” or rarities; I haven’t checked but for NOT following, it sometimes seems like there are more tie-ins than not these days, one event to another, such that it’s more common for an issue to BE a tie-in than to not be tying into an event of some sort.

(Might was well just embrace the “seasonal model” and say THIS season is “Civil War II” and everything can just tie to that, then THAT season can be “__________” and everything carries that banner, etc.)

At the VERY least, ONE event should be able to completely wrap up, conclude, end, be DONE and OVER, with some downtime, before REAL-WORLD there’s any teasing/hinting/hyping the NEXT event. When you’re barely HALFWAY into an event and already announcing/soliciting the next relaunch or launch or event or prologue or such (and/or any COMBINATION)…you’re doing too many and far too close together!


#5: Inorganic Change for Change’s Sake (Parker marriage, Death of Wolverine, character “replacement”)

amazing_spiderman_0544This one is certainly far less clear, and I tend to waver on various things depending on exact context, various immediate thoughts, and reasonable conversation. While I absolutely WANT there to be change and GROWTH and for that to be LASTING CHANGE (essentially 20 years now of the Clark/Lois marriage, with a several-year hiccup in the New 52 stuff…and of course, that’s a DC example, not Marvel). Just as I often wondered what it’d be like to “finally” get to the same age as Superman, similar thoughts with Peter Parker. To be years-past high school and college crap; just to actually BE an adult and into another stage of life withOUT all the “drama” FROM high school and college.

And when Marvel‘s shoehorning in a future/older Logan, a clone/daughter female stand-in, I’ve lost track of death/life status of his son, they seem to be bringing in another alternate-reality younger version…it’s like they WANT to have Wolverine, they WANT to have stuff based on that character, but they’re going outta their way to do anything BUT the actual genuine character, rather than SIMPLY dialing-back the character’s presence in EVERYTHING.

When the main/existing titles star unfamiliar characters to the familiar title, I have an issue with it–have new titles and new characters, sure. But save the classic TITLES for classic CHARACTERS. Do stuff organically, and don’t draw crap out. If Thor becomes unworthy, let us IN on it as readers, and follow that story in the course of his own ongoing title, not multiple realunches of the title. (See also: Eric Masterson in the late-80s/early-90s).

I, personally, am NOT going to buy a title specifically/solely on the starring character being “female” or “white” or “non-white” or “straight” or “GLTBQ” or any of those typical “checkboxes” and such. I’m interested in characters that are MORE THAN “just” some “characteristic.” I also don’t want to be preached at, guilted, and so on. Don’t be combative toward me, don’t insult me, don’t tell me I’m wrong or guilty for not embracing every new title and character spun off when there’s already a huge flood of titles and everything is so ridiculously PRICED!

There HAS TO be room for new stories withOUT completely, totally altering characters or changing them outright, especially in some sudden sense. At the same time, I’ll readily admit that some sudden SHIFTS might be required, major significant changes within a single story arc, perhaps…but it has to be “reasonable” and “work,” and not just feel like some “mandate” handed down or that it’s pushing some “agenda” or whatever.

Brubaker‘s Captain America felt far less “general super-hero” than it did a solid spy epic, realistic while holding to classic elements. Bringing Bucky back seemed like such a crap idea, but it was simply DONE WELL and now HAS become an integral part of the character(s). The Iron Man shift from bigger/bulkier armor that (realistically) would need a whole team to transport it was done away with by the Extremis stuff, the bio-armor or whatever it was, allowing Tony to be himself AND quickly/simply go into Iron Man mode.


#6: Hero vs. Hero with few villains in sight

civil_warsWhile I KNOW there was stuff like the Phoenix (AvX) and within that, the X-Men dealt with a new take on Sinister, and I “know” there were some other “villains” in some X-books or that I consciously am aware that there have been various villains plaguing Spider-Man or such… it seems like the biggest events have largely been hero-versus-hero, the larger conflicts being between the heroes themselves, and less of the singular villain threats. While some of this might be more “realistic” or “logical” in a “real world” sort of way…in that “real world” sense, to ME, these “heroes” would also be much more threat than not, and really WOULD themselves functionally be villain figures or legitimate threats/sources of fear for the public. It’s the suspension of disbelief, the fantasy, the larger-than-(real)-life stuff with the characters, the embracing of their being fiction, that made them escapism and entertainment and all that.

I’ll readily admit that some of the more “classic” villains and “plots” and such are “dated” and maybe don’t work as well in contemporary stories; when you have characters getting so much more well-rounded and developed, the “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! I am ______ and I shall soon RULE THE WORLD!” stuff doesn’t work so well.

But it also seems like there’s an over-saturation of so FEW villains, and so much MORE of the hero-vs-hero crap or merely “situational” stuff. Of course, I’m so far outta the loop and unwilling to “come back” at any great length until my interest and trust is restored (and that’s talking years of consistency avoiding the stuff that pushes me away).


#7: Rehashing old story elements/beating a dead horse

clonageWe already had a Clone Saga. So why does that have to be brought back again (granted, as a conspiracy)? We already had a Civil War…that’s done again? We’ve had numerous “Return of the Phoenix Force” stories. Numerous “Death of _____.”

Merely digging up old story titles to “reimagine” or “sequel-ize” just doesn’t work for me. Some stuff, there’s room to play on nostalgia or have fun “nods” to past things, but being so overt and forced on stuff, it sucks.

I’m the consumer, and from THAT standpoint I don’t really CARE about logistics of new storytelling and creative teams and such, or “synergy” or whatever…I just care about having new, GOOD stories about characters I want to read and not feel like anything’s forced or pushed, and that I’m not being insulted, bullied, coerced, etc.


#8: Everything is a mini-series yet nothing is billed as such

transformers_0080I sorta tacked this point on, but it goes with points 1 & 2 (Price and Renumbering). I am glad to read and follow lengthy ongoing series, because there’s something TO eventually looking back and realizing I’ve been following _____ for 30 issues, or 68 issues, or whatever. But when it seems like Marvel RARELY gets anything past issue 20 or so, and 30 is like some ancient, mystically-high number…and there are so many Omnibus and thicker hardcover/paperback collections where an entire run of a book can be collected into a single volume, I’d much prefer THAT format. If you’re ONLY going to have 6 issues, I’d rather buy/read them in a single volume. Especially if/when I’m paying a PREMIUM for it. If the single issues were CHEAPER, I’d be fine with that, but BOTH formats are premium-priced, so let me have my freaking CHOICE, as the consumer. I don’t want to be forced/manipulated into something or required to double-dip or such!

limited_series_vs_stealth_cancelIt used to be that something intended as a “limited series” would be marked accordingly, and an ongoing/non-limited series would simply be THERE. Granted, occasionally something INTENDED to be a LIMITED series would be EXTENDED to an ongoing series or such (See the 1980s’ Transformers or 1995’s X-Man for examples).

But there wasn’t the “stealth cancelling” and stuf just put out there with NO designation as a limited run (outside of stunts like Malibu‘s Exiles thing in the early Ultraverse days).

You either expect something to last awhile, or you don’t–but you should be up-front with your customers instead of trying to sucker them!


Concluding-ish

There are so many other factors and details and combinations and whatnot. These have all been “main” things, and any/all individually or in any random combination, at a random time, with a certain sort or source of hype, can serve to frustrate me or just set me off such that I’ll drop or avoid something on principle alone, if not flat-out long-term line-wide disinterest and such.

DC is guilty of plenty, but their lower prices on single issues, their far better prices on collected volumes and size of collected volumes (with great/superior pricing) get them a better “pass” on stuff. I’d waked away from them completely for a time, and their Rebirth initiative brought me back I a surprising way and I’ve stuck with stuff. Barely a year into that initiative and they have yet to announce any significant or line-wide renumbering initiative or relaunch or whatever; and outside of their having “restored” Action Comics and Detective Comics to legacy numbering, I hope they–at this point–simply keep the “current numbering” and allow long-standing titles TO amass larger numbers again…to EARN the high numbers.

And even if I can’t exactly put my finger on a reason, Marvel has so disgusted me on so many of these in various ways that their BRAND itself is “tainted” and I just associate the name Marvel with too-high prices, ridiculous stories, variants, lack of consistency and numbering and whatnot such that outside of rare/special/nostalgic things (X-Men: Prime/Gold/Blue and such) I’m just gonna gravitate to DC or TMNT right now.

The Weekly Haul – Week of April 12th, 2017

This was a pretty small week. Weapon X was sold out already (of the REGULAR cover…I think I saw a couple variants,but was not at all interested in those). So I wound up just grabbing several quick things and called it a week.

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New issue of Action Comics, getting into some post-Superman Reborn stuff, though I’m not sure I’m totally "getting" it. And the third and apparently final (with Weapon X #1 not being in stock with a standard/non-variant cover) X-launch issue for me.

The $1 True Believers issues are fun enough, and I continue to be willing to pay the $1 or so for them!

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Figuring I’d be kicking myself for passing on it, for the price of a mere 5 contemporary Marvel issues, I snagged this HEFTY (as in: very THICK!) collected volume with what appear to be the bulk of the Carnage stuff outside of Maximum Carnage. Farrrrr better value than any new "standard price" issue!

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