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The Weekly Haul – Weeks of March 1st & 8th, 2017

Week of March 8th, 2017:

This week was a pretty small week for new comics for me: only two new issues!

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We’ve got the second chapter of Superman: Reborn in Action Comics #975 (a 38-page issue for only $3.99!). And the second issue of Blake Northcott‘s All New Fathom.

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Along with the new issues, I noticed a couple of familiar-in-style polybag tops sticking out of the $1 bins…upon investigating, they were indeed issues of Wizard! For being only $1 apiece, I snagged all 8 issues present, figuring I’ll at least enjoy opening them and going through the goodies that came with them…as well as "replacing" posters long since ripped out and lost.

Ziggy was curious what I was doing, so got himself into the photo. A nice little bonus, no?

And because I totally forgot to do it from last week, below I’ll cover last week’s haul.

Continue reading

The ’90s Revisited: Warlock and the Infinity Watch #42

90s_revisited

warlock_and_the_infinity_watch_0042Win, Lose, Draw!

Writer: John Arcudi
Pencils: Mike Gustovich
Inks: Keith Williams
Colors: Ian Laughlin
Letters: Jack Morelli
Editor: Mark Gruewald
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July, 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

This was a hard issue to read. I’m really not familiar with the art team, outside of perhaps earlier work on this title that I read 15+ years ago. While characters are visually familiar from the time, this is hardly the BEST rendition of them. The story is rather scattered and without much context (no "previously page" and not much in the way of in-story exposition). I suppose that’s a good thing by contemporary standards–not wasting much space on that…and this IS a "final chapter" of whatever the story is, as well as a series finale.

Unfortunately, this feels like a rushed, tie-up-as-much-as-possible finale that may have been something seen coming but not entirely "expected."

We basically have a scattered team, with a member physically hospitalized while her mind is active (psychically) with the team; a former member allied with Thanos, another member turned "traitor," and the team’s "home turf" facing a huge storm that could wipe the place out. Out of nowhere, the team’s Infinity Gems (hence "Infinity Watch") all disappear; Warlock is apparently killed; Maxam returns to his own time without further explanation, and the team is left with Warlock heading out on a solo quest to figure out where the gems went. The End.

Frankly, this is a horrible issue in terms of a context-less, isolated cold-read. As said, it’s a series finale, so it’s scrambling to try to wrap stuff up in a hurry as best as possible. For a series that started on such a high note, this is a pitiful whimper to go out on.

Context-wise, from what I recall of reading scattered later issues (I’ve never had the ENTIRE series to read in one go), I can imagine the team and book were headed for a status quo change and some new developments, perhaps plenty of positive, just that stuff got cut short. And a book NOT being given "time" or a new direction given time to shake out, etc. is something that I can "accept" for a story falling flat, even if I don’t like to. In a way, it’s a sign of the times, when series were not written simply as serialized graphic novels, but as episodic things with ongoing developments and actual "subplots" and the like.

A key factor of this issue, though, is its failure to even acknowledge Marvel‘s then "sister" company, Malibu, and its Ultraverse. See…in this issue, the Infinity Gems just simply, arbitrarily disappear out of nowhere, and that’s that. But, if one reads the Rune/Silver Surfer (flipbook Silver Surfer/Rune) issue, we see the Ultraverse character gain the Time Gem, stop time, and snag the rest. Given he steals them all WHILE time is stopped, that explains the sudden, simultaneous disappearance of the gems. It seems counter-intuitive and even a bit shameful to me that that event happens in another book entirely (Silver Surfer got a cartoon in the 1990s, so was more of a "hot" property–so I can see Marvel wanting the bigger brand "out there") with zero acknowledgement in this title…the title in which the Infinity Gems were housed, and the story of their place in the then-Marvel Universe was chronicled for over three years, a long-running title!

I actually found myself with two copies of this issue "handy," hence reading this as an isolated single issue. One copy I’d pulled when I came across it going through some comic box looking for something else in my collection; the other with a stack of 25-cent-bin issues; I’m certain I acquired both from 25-cent bins. And frankly, that’s what this issue is worth. There’s sentimentalism to be had if you’re fond of the title or Warlock or any of the other characters, but that’s about it. Outside of "free," this issue is perhaps worth the "base" price of 25 cents, but I wouldn’t say much more than that. On the other hand, the first issue is a great read (as I remember) as are a number of the early issues, perhaps through the Infinity War stuff.

Overall, I’d give this a pass; there’s a lot of better stuff out there to be read.

The ’90s Revisited: Captain America #436

90s_revisited

captain_america_0436Fighting Chance (conclusion): Everybody Hurts Sometime

Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Penciler: Dave Hoover
Inker: Danny Bulanadi
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: George Roussos
Editor: Mike Rockwitz
Group Editor: Ralph Macchio
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: February, 1995
Cover Price: $1.50

I’m not sure what I expected out of this issue, but what I got wasn’t it. I’d’ve sworn I read this before, some years ago…having borrowed the entire Fighting Chance storyline from a friend (who had a subscription that incidentally STARTED with the first issue of this 12-part story, which I’d thought was pretty neat at the time!) But this read-through felt like an all-new issue to me, completely unfamiliar and even if I did read it once before, I’d totally forgotten any details (even a bit after actually reading it this time, the details are fuzzy!)

Though it was years after the story was over and done with that I would have read it, I was acutely aware of it going on and remember it really sticking with me as a concept. A whole YEAR’S worth of issues dedicated to a single story! The very thing that gave Captain America his physical ability, to BE Captain America, was killing him! How would that play out? How would such a story end? Surely, the hero would triumph…but wow! What a journey that would be, and such a victory…

Nope.

This issue sees Cap being spit out of some drainage pipe that he was apparently dumped into in the previous issue…pursued by Cobra and Hyde. We get some exposition (super soldier serum killing him, Cap’s under doctor’s orders not to exert himself, he’s thoroughly exerting himself anyway, blah blah blah). Even with his body betraying him, he manages to avoid being killed by the two villains…but at great personal cost. By the end of the issue, he’s pushed himself too far, and with ghostly images of the Statue of Liberty and then-thought-to-be-dead-but not-really-though-we-wouldn’t-find-that-out-for-another-20-years-when-Brubaker-does-TheWinterSoldier-story Bucky flashing before him, Steve seems to lose his battle…he’s paralyzed, a mind trapped in a worthless body.

Hank Pym finds Cap, realizes the situation, and that’s that.

The final chapter, the twelfth issue of a 12-part story…ends on a cliffhanger.

Lovely.

Yeah, yeah…what else should or would I expect…especially reading the issue closer to 2020 than to 2000?

I know Gruenwald‘s name as being one of THE names of this title, and tend to myself think of him as one of the more important writers to handle the character (perhaps for longevity on the title if nothing else). I do like that this issue is squarely a "typical ’90s super-hero brawl" type thing, and Cap is just a super-hero figure, standard ’90s stuff, nothing overly complex (if not simple) about him (compared to sharper, "edgier," more "realistic" takes that would come later). But I found this issue to be rather generic, anti-climactic, and ultimately a disappointment overall.

Of course, as stated above, I think I’d read this once before but didn’t remember anything of it; and this particular reading (either way) was as a singular, isolated issue with no context from any of the introduction and build-up to stuff.

The art was fairly bland…I recognized the characters I would expect to, visually, with no trouble, and there was not much in the way of subtlety to the story being conveyed; any doubt of action was covered by story context.

I’d also forgotten ("realized" after the fact) that despite the initial impact the very notion of this story had had on me, there was an epilogue issue or two that were rather crucial to things, or made a more effective ending (at least looking at cover images and drawing on what I recall of this period in the title’s history).

So ultimately…I do not recommend this issue for a one-issue isolated read. It’s the supposed ending of a major story, yet leaves stuff hanging and just seems like a weak ending for a character such as this after such a long storyline. That said, I would have no problem recommending the run offhand if the entire story and the follow-up issues were found in a 25 or 50 cent bin, just on principle of getting the story for a fraction of the cost of a modern story that’s–at best–equally contrived.

Musing on Marvel Monthly Mailing: Subscriptions in Today’s World

A friend was talking to me about ordering a Marvel subscription for a niece, which has prompted some other thinking for me on the subject OF Marvel and actual subscriptions (like, you pay in one chunk, and then on a regular basis across the next X number of months receive so many issues by mail without ever having to seek out or visit a comic shop).

So I did a bit of poking around–and I do have some questions (but not such that I want to contact them via Live Chat Support or such, as I feel it’s stuff that SHOULD be OBVIOUS withOUT someone having to go through extra steps to know/have answers!)

marvel_subs_01

Firstly…It’s been years since I truly considered the notion of the "classic" mail-order subscription to a comic title. For nearly a quarter-century I’ve had the near-weekly routine of visiting a comics specialty shop (aka "comic shop" aka "Local Comic Shop" aka "LCS") and browsing the current week’s new selections, if not having stuff pre-ordered on a "pull list" or "subscription" in that sense.

In short…it’s something I for one totally take for granted.

Seeing this page hit me, though: save 40% off $3.99/issue?!? That’s $2.40/issue…a hekuva lot better than the $3.99-$4.99-$5.99 price points Marvel has on everything.

BUT…you’re paying lump-sum up front, so while $20 might get you 4-5 single issues this week at the LCS to "try," if you want to "try" 4-5 series you’re over $100, sight unseen, via subscriptions…and on the hook for an entire run.

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But look! New(-ish) titles! Some have already started, at least one hasn’t (that I’m personally aware of), others…I haven’t the foggiest, thanks to all the renumbering shenanigans lately.

On the static subscription page at Marvel‘s website, though…there’s nothing obvious at this point as to where in a series you’ll be started/starting, nor which ‘version’ of a series. Captain Marvel? What is Marvel up to now–5th series? 6th? In hardly a decade? So yeah, you’d have a subscription to something called Captain Marvel but might you be getting, say, #17, a couple more, then #1-8 or 9? Would the subscriptions department even properly carry your subscription over to the "proper" title, or would they take your Captain Marvel subscription and simply funnel you over to Ms. Marvel or such? (Not saying one title is bad, but if I order/paid for one title, getting a completely different title would be disappointing at the least).

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And I’m honestly shocked at the presence of Spider-Man: The Clone Conspiracy appearing here–if one is diligent enough to follow stuff enough to know about the event and that they’d "need" it along with any other subscriptions, I’d surmise that they can find a comic shop and/or would be inclined to go through something like Discount Comic Book Service or such.

To say nothing of the fact that it is a mini-series consisting of 6 issues.

Yes, the copy specifies that it is a 6 issue subscription… but once the first issue has shipped, shouldn’t this have expired an no longer been part of the subscriptions page/site?

After all, it says right there that the last issue processed was #3–meaning that at best your subscription would start with #4! So if you pay $19.46 for a 6-issue subscription right now, you’d begin with #4, receiving 3 issues. Then what? Would you just receive 3 issues of some arbitrary mini-series or followup/event? Would they send you several issues of The Amazing Spider-Man? Issue a refund?

marvel_subs_04

Then there’s the matter of Marvel‘s constant renumbering for their "seasonal model" they’ve adopted.

When it often seems like a stretch for something to "make it" even 12 issues, and even if it is a success, getting renumbered after (often seemingly) little more than 12 issues, that would seem (to me) to play havoc with the notion OF the 12-issue subscription model.

I’ve personally lost track of how many Deadpool and All-New or Estraordinary or Uncanny or Whatever X-Men titles there are, have been, and are coming up and which iteration they are.

(At least in the 1990s, even with ~9 titles in the X-"family," there was Uncanny and "Adjectiveless" X-Men, then stuff clearly indicating other teams/characters (Wolverine, or Cable, or X-Factor or such)

With three out of eight titles including All-New, Extraordinary, and Uncanny X-Men along with ’92, I would guess that might be a little off-putting to someone who is not steeped in the week to week  of comics in general nor "continuity."

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When a series has been cancelled–the solicitation provided weeks/months in advance–shouldn’t its entry be removed or at least "frozen" on the page?

Additionally, shouldn’t something be posted about what to do if you ordered a 12-month/12-issue subscription and received less than 12, as to what series you’ll be receiving as a "replacement" or what steps to take for a refund?

It also seems highly insular…someone just wants to get their kid or a family member "a subscription" to a comic series, as a Christmas gift or birthday gift or such, and (Marvel particularly as I’m going off stuff from their site) has so many titles that one somewhat would have to GUESS at what they’re ordering.

Combined with some advisement from someone like me–I know that Marvel does all this renumbering crap, so I can’t even think of what TO suggest be ordered, outside of perhaps one of the titles based on whatever iteration of whichever animated series…though that would almost seem "token" if not "insulting" to kids nowadays (and by "kids" I realize I’m now old enough to consider college students "kids").


While not exactly a same-fruit to same-fruit comparison…I also just considered this: why not offer "pre-orders" directly on collected volumes/graphic novels? If people are going to "wait for the trade" anyway, and it’s so darned important to pre-order, then take ’em directly and make sure they stack up to whatever finances are required to pay the creative team and still profit acceptably and such. If you can refund subscription remainders on perhaps 6+ issues, why not just take pre-orders on twice or thrice yearly collections OF six or so issues, and be able to offer refunds if there aren’t high enough sales to justify getting to the fullness of the "next" book?

Unplanned Books-A-Million Clearance Purchases 11/3

Thursday evening, I found myself at a Books-A-Million for the first time in quite awhile. Where I’d figured maybe I would find a cheap book or a comic frame…I didn’t expect to find a giant stack of books that had my interest for the price.

I eventually pared a stack of about a dozen books down to three:

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I got all three books for the price of 5 standard Marvel issues and a True Believers issue.

I was disappointed that Captain America and the Falcon by Priest that I found in the clearance section was not actually on (discounted) sale. And while they had a bunch of the Secret Wars (2015) skinny volumes for $4.97 apiece, they weren’t the greatest condition nor interest to me. I absolutely would have gotten the Age of Apocalypse one if that’d been there for that price, though!

The Wolverine volume is Wolverine; and collects a few issues from the latter part of The Essential Wolverine vol. 5 and the earlier issues from The Essential Wolverine vol. 6…but in full color. I quite like the Essentials line, but for this period of the title, the black and white/graytone effect gets very muddy and doesn’t work nearly as well, so getting this run in this format is very cool. All the moreso for the price!

The Avengers: Scarlet Witch fits thematically with my Avengers: Quicksilver volume. And I’ve been interested in reading Powers: Who Killed Retro Girl for awhile, especially since getting/watching the first season of the tv show last year (though I’ve yet to be able to see the second/final season).

It’s amazing, though, to consider just how highly-priced most Marvel volumes are, such that I virtually never buy any at "full price," because that price is just not worth it to me; while DC has had a number of volumes that I’m willing to pay full price for (even though I’d prefer cheaper means!)

The ’90s Revisited: Uncanny X-Men #308

uncanny_xmen_0308Mixed Blessings

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Inkers: Dan Green, Al Vey
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: January 1994
Cover Price: $1.25

This issue brought back a number of fond memories, as well as a new feeling as I “noticed” the art rather consciously this time. Having this issue relatively on-hand for this reading is something I must credit to fellow blogger Chris Sheehan, whose comments/discussion of the issue prompted the purchase and encouraged making the time for the re-read. It was his post that prompted me to re-purchase the issue (for the convenience of immediate availability in print without digging through umpteen unorganized longboxes to locate my original copy).

For a single issue, there’s a lot packed into so few pages. Essentially, though, we have Scott and Jean–Cyclops and Phoenix–walking the grounds outside the X-mansion. For once, there’s no overt threat, no villain interrupting, the world-at-large doesn’t need immediate saving, etc. Just a young man and woman spending time together, enjoying cool fall weather (well, Thanksgiving Day) and doing so amidst a larger group also living on the premises. So we get a bunch of “moments” between characters…and while the couple reminisces, they also come to a decision about their future.

This issue is one of a handful of X-Men comics I recall from the early/mid 1990s where we basically just have the characters hanging out at the mansion, interacting with each other in down-time withOUT having to deal with some villain or crossover or whatever. And reading this in 2016 where every story is written for the trade, and every trade is part of some big event and every event leads into the next with no time between…this issue is highly refresshing. There just aren’t issues like this anymore (at least not from Marvel/DC!).

The story itself is very much what I prefer in comics, giving us the characters, “quiet” “moments” and generally giving us a glimpse of what these characters do, how they might interact when not in the midst of fighting for their survival. We get to see them presented as actual people…which makes them that much more truly relatable (at least, to me!).

I remember thoroughly enjoying this issue over 20 years ago…and I enjoyed the story now. Unfortunately, while I don’t recall noticing the art–back then, if I did it didn’t throw me–but this read-through I REALLY consciously noted the art…and between this and bailing on a Superman story some time back for so disliking the art, I must conclude that as a general thing I dislike Romita Jr.’s visual style. There’s something to the style–sometimes a sense of sketchiness, other times something to faces and lips particularly that just doesn’t work for me and proved flat-out distracting to me, taking me out of the story itself. Which, while a complaint that I have, myself, is not to suggest the art is bad…it’s just definitely not to my taste, and it now being a conscious thing, it’s something I can watch out for.

And then, regardless of the linework and such itself, I had consciously forgotten (but hey, deja vu or such!) how much I dislike the flipping and flopping one must do to read certain ’90s comics, when the artists played fast ‘n loose with the “traditional” comic page and layouts. Some pages read fine, but rather than just varying panels across one or two pages, where one can just page through the issue with a single physical orientation and be fine…here, we’re given some instances with a double-page piece where you have to turn the comic sideways for a top-to-bottom experience with the issue physically turned sideways; others where the issue must be turned on its side for a then-typical left-to-right experience, and so on. Rather than being able to just lay the issue flat and page through, reading, while say, eating a bowl of cereal as breakfast it requires an active, physical experience of manipulating the book, which gets distracting and kicks one out of the story.

All in all, though…this is an excellent X-Men comic that I paid less than $4 for, and got so much more from it than any $3.99 new comic I can think of. If you know your X-Men and enjoy such stories, or have never read this, I’d urge you to give it a shot, if you can get the issue for (or less) that $4. If you find it in a 25-cent or 50-cent bin, all the better!

My Four X-Men 100s

Sometimes, it actually doesn’t seem like it’s been all that long that I’ve been into comics. It can seem so recent, my reading certain stories for the first time, discovering characters the first time, wondering at the mysterious backgrounds and motivations and all that for them.

Characters that were around for a couple years already seemed old and completely established.

Yet other times, reality sets in and I realize that some of those characters had hardly even been introduced, and I’ve basically been around for their whole existence, within a reasonable +/- tolerance.

Rarely is it driven home more for me than with key "anniversary" issues.

Such as looking at these, the even #100s issues I’ve been around for with Uncanny X-Men…that regardless of having been following much at the time or not, I’ve bought "off the shelf" as new issues.

uncanny_xmen_300_400_500_600

Four of the six "round number" 100 issues for the title. #300 in 1993, through #600 this past week. I’ve been buying the title off and on for half of its entire existence.

Which is a mighty scary thought, considering I came to the party 300 issues into the run.

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