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The Weekly Haul: Week of March 15th, 2017

This week was a smallish week again, though I got four new comics instead of only the 2-ish apiece the last couple weeks.

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The two Super books. I almost want to wait on reading Super Sons until after Superman Reborn is done, but probably won’t. I already read Superman #19 and posted my thoughts on it). God Country was quasi-accidental, and I’m annoyed (yet again/as always) with variant covers crap (seems despite supposedly cutting back, every time I turn around, Image has stuff with variants out!)

I broke down and bought the $4.99 Star Trek: Deviations one-shot figuring maybe it’d be a "fun" read, but it wound up being rather blah to me, especially after reading the piece after the story about its genesis. And the waste of valuable pages for "sketches" and such involving a variant cover, rather than more pages of actual story. And three two-page segments about three other Star Trek books IDW is currently publishing…all of which referenced something about 3 pages, yet each only had ONE page of actual "preview," and STILL only two including the page that’s nothing but an AD for each series.

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On a higher note, taking advantage of a week of Half-Price Books coupons (but having waited til they got to 30% off an item), I snagged Superman in the FIfties, which I believe leaves me now only missing the In the Sixties volume.

I’ve become quite the fan of the Aliens stuff the last year-plus again, and this "art book" (for slightly less than two Marvel single issues) will more than outpace the time it’d even take to read those two Marvel issues, just reading captions and enjoying the art!

And because I didn’t want to risk "missing" it and it was already cheap enough to basically be a "waste" of a high-percent coupon, I snagged the Green Lantern volume, which puts me one closer to a complete run of these older ones. (Probably just in time for them to start doing those fat $20 ten-to-twelve-issue collections of Kyle’s run)…

I’ve got my eye on a couple other things for the 40%-off coupons Friday and Saturday. I may do a quick weekend post if I score what I’m considering. Alternatively, might just post to Facebook and be done (I do sometimes post photos and other stuff "exclusively" to this blog’s Page…there should be a link on the left of this blog post).

For now, looking forward to next week’s Action Comics issue and "hoping" for a rather "small" week again…

Action Comics #975 [Review]

action_comics_0975Superman: Reborn Part 2

Pencils: Doug Mahnke
Inks: Jaime Mendoza
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover: Patrick Gleason & John Kalisz
Associate Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks To: Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: Early May 2017
Cover Price: $3.99

[ SPOILER WARNING! This issue WILL BE SPOILED below…even the Second Feature’s title may give it away! ]

While this issue’s cover did not grab me the way Superman #18’s cover did last week, it had its own way to stand out, in the form of the large S-shield on blue as the main background, and the shadowed Clark Kent tugging his shirt open to reveal the classic "bleeding-S" first used with 1992’s Doomsday! / The Death of Superman. I didn’t even consciously notice until later that the title’s logo–Action Comics–was done as a white outline, virtually disappearing with the rest of the cover standing as itself. The green bar on the left seemed a contrast to last week’s issue…but when I held the issues together, they fit together perfectly, pretty much as I’d expected (except I’d figured chapters 1 & 2 would be top-left/top-right with chapters 3 & 4 as bottom-left/bottom right, respectively rather than top-left/bottom-left so far).

And these are–to best of my knowledge–STANDARD covers, the NON-variant covers, just being covers in and of themselves, no fancy tricks, no bags or accessories or foil or die-cut cardstock or 3-D lenticular/hologram stuff.

Just a 38-story-page issue (one 20-page lead story and an 18-page companion piece) for only $1 more…making an EXTRA-SIZED anniversary issue cost…the same as a 20-page Marvel comic.

Since virtually the beginning of Rebirth, the "human Clark Kent" has been a mystery. Things took a turn toward the creepy with the character lately as it became particularly obvious there was something "off" about the character, beyond our not knowing him any better than characters in the comics. The "slow burn" of that "subplot"–a through line in the books for most of a year–finally comes out in this issue as we learn the identity of the mysterious doppelganger.

After Jon disappeared, Superman and Lois go immediately to "the Other Clark"’s apartment seeking their son. Jon’s nowhere to be found…but the couple meet Clark and "our" Clark finally realizes who they’re facing. Though the figure is revealed…we get a few pages of shape-shifting with Superman glimpsing a number of prominent figures in his rogues gallery. Ultimately, a new threat arises, as we’re left on a cliffhanger for the next chapter exactly at the staples of the issue.

[ SPOILERS TO FOLLOW! ]

I generally–and this time is not an exception–find it interesting when I find myself guilty of something a main character is accused of. In this case, I did not see this coming, though in retrospect, I should have. I think I "got" it right before the first of the splash pages featuring other villains, as things all clicked into place, making sense across the months in a believable way that I really dig…though the particulars still have some shaking out to be done.

Mr. Mxyzptlk is our "Mystery Clark," having used his powers on HIMSELF, even, to complete the act–forgetting himself who he was and truly believing himself to be the genuine article. However, the imp is highly cheesed-off at being "forgotten" by Superman…an accusation I realized immediately I’d been guilty of myself…being unable to remember the last time I read a "new" story with the character! As punishment, Mxy will have Lois and Clark forget Jon even exists, though they won’t forget Mxy!

Art-wise, I have mixed feelings on this first half of the issue. The visuals are quite good, and I mostly like ’em…there’s just something slightly off, that I’m apparently not used to…or not consciously, anyway. Mahnke‘s style is very good, but some of the faces–particularly the villain splash-pages–seemed a bit off, and it’s definitely unsettling to see Mxy in this way…reminding me slightly of the character’s tone in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? without going quite that "sharp" and such.

Story-wise, this seemed way too short a segment, with a good quarter of the issue being a villains-show-off (#975, anniversary issue, lets see a bunch of best-known Superman villains!) and not really much plot advancement to the Reborn story other than actually pulling off "the mask" so we could see who’d be the antagonist of the rest of the story, or so it seems.

This is made up for by the Second Feature.

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The Man in the Purple Hat

Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Ian Churchill
Colorist: Mike Atiyeh
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Assoc. Editor: Paul Kaminski
Editor: Mike Cotton
Group Editor: Eddie Berganza

Mr. Mxyzptlk has Jon Kent as his prisoner. We learn that Clark had told Jon stories of him when he was younger…though Mxy was simply "The Man in the Purple Hat" or to Jon, "Ruppletat." Mxy reveals what he’s been up to for years–having been captured, held, and tortured by Mr. Oz, keeping him "off the table" while Oz’s plan for Superman has unfurled. Mxy had contented himself initially with the sincere hope that Superman would be along to save him within days (when Mxy wouldn’t show up at Day 90, surely Supes would check into why the imp hadn’t reappeared for the traditional every-90-days challenge!) Time passed and no one ever showed up to rescue him…so he had to escape on his own. Once he did, he saw a way to kill two birds with one stone: hide himself from Mr. Oz while helping his buddy Superman in the process, but putting the "Secret Identity" back in the bag. Mxy had to mind-wipe himself to complete this…and was none too happy when he redisovered his own secret…and now he’ll have his revenge utilizing Jon to get at Clark.

I’m pretty sure it’s Churchill‘s art in this segment that put Mahnke‘s art in the first to seeming less thrilling to me. Churchill’s work here is great, with one of the best renditions of Jon Kent I can think of, and a sort of detail to Mr. Mxyzptlk that’s going to make other artists’ take look weak by comparison.

Story-wise, I love that Dini gives us a clear, reasonable explanation for Mxy’s actions and motivation, and this single story’s impact drives back to last May and retroactively adds to those previous issues! This gives us a spotlight on both Jon and moreso, Mr. Mxyzptlk and bridges the gap between whatever his last appearance was and now, while setting him up as an extra-scary antagonist. This is a strong complementary piece to the main story…expanding and contextualizing without having to me its own separate ISSUE or chapter, which will presumably make the "core" chapters that much tighter a story in the end.

We even get some breaking of the "fourth wall" without breaking continuity…and actually suggesting the rich DC multiverse all the more in a way that totally fits Mxy’s character, and allows readers a smile and "a-ha!" in recognizing other ways in which Mxy has appeared over the years.

This is an "anniversary" issue…that is, attention is on the issue’s NUMBER: #975. The round 75, marking off 25 issues since the 950th (which was still part of the New 52 Action Comics #s 0-52 numbering hiccup)…and 25 to go until the big #1000 mark next year.

While a new reader could certainly wade in and likely follow the story a bit…this issue as a whole is like a gift to the readers who’ve been following stuff for awhile, and is certainly a huge treat for me, paying off some ten months of stuff and doing so not only to mere satisfaction but in a way that leaves me eager to continue with the story! It makes sense to me, is believable within my conscious following of stuff, and does not let me down. The "villain pages" in the first story are a bit disappointing as those pages go way too quickly for me just trying to read the story…but they’re a sort of "special" thing for an anniversary issue, and aren’t the cop-out they’d have been if this was not an extra-sized issue.

Action Comics #975 is well worth its price simply for number of story pages, and is a great payoff to months of story-build while keeping things going for whatever’s coming as Superman: Reborn continues.

The Weekly Haul – Week of January 25th, 2017

At least for Wednesday, this was another "basic" kinda week. Nothing really extra or spectacular…just a huge week OF new books!

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The usual Superman issue-of-the-week with the new Action Comics issue. The premiere issue of the Kamandi Challenge hit. While I was hoping for something squarebound and less expensive, for what it is and everything else they’ve had so reasonably priced, I’ll give DC a "pass" on the extra-sized $4.99 issue. And speaking of "passes," since I’m double-dipping for the immediate read, I grabbed a variant of Batman/TMNT Adventures so at least I have some variety. Finally, the last (I think) of the JLoA ___ Rebirth issues that I neglected from DCBS.

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Then the "indie"-ish stuff. Surgeon X #5, though I can’t find #4 and think I might’ve actually intended to let the series go to wait for a collected volume. Oops. And part of me was gonna let Reborn go for the same reason…finding out it’s "just" a "limited series" rather than an indefinite ongoing was quite disappointing. And again for the heckuvit, decided to "try" Loose Ends #1, since the "A" cover was present and I didn’t have much expectations, and it’s a "new series" and #1.

Finally, of course, is the newest AvP issue in the Life and Death mega-arc.

So the week’s added a fair number of "imminent reads" to my alarmingly-quickly-growing "to read" pile, and I’m thinking a lot about what to cut back on sooner than not, given reading habits of the last half-year or so.

Time shall tell!

The Weekly Haul – Week of October 19, 2016

This was another simple, light-ish week overall, for me.

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Snagged the new Superman issue, as well as the first issue of Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye (perhaps hereafter simply Cave Carson). Also picked up Reborn #1 after hearing about it from last week. Curious about it and figured I could check out one issue, at least.

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Last week, at this shop, they had a raffle for their 22nd Anniversary. I won two prizes–a credit in "Toys" that I used to get this Iron Man bust bank, and a credit in "Supplies" that I used to get a new longbox, 100 bags, and 100 boards.

Definitely not a bad haul for the week…though I think next week will be time for another lengthier drive to the usual shop. It’s amazing how much I took for granted the quick/easy access to it when I could go on lunch breaks or after work, only a few minutes "out of my way."

Captain America: Reborn #6 [Review]

By: Ed Brubaker, Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice
Colors: Paul Mounts
Leters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Designer: Rian Hughes
Covers: Hitch and Mounts; John Cassaday and Laura Martin; Joe Quesada, Danny Miki and Richard Isanove
Assoc. Editor: Lauren Sankovitch
Editor: Tom Brevoort

Before I read a single page of this issue, I was impressed by a stark difference I’m entirely unused to. This issue–at least, for the version of the cover that I bought, keeping with the visual style of the covers I’ve chosen since issue #1–sports not only a wrap-around cover, but a gatefold as well. That is, we have a 3-“panel” cover that folds out to the width of 3 comic covers, as a single, large image. Meanwhile, the latest Justice League of America issue from DC features HALF of a two-panel image as each of two different editions of the same exact issue. I dislike variants, but have a much easier time tolerating them when each is at least its own complete image. And the “build-an-image” motif where covers connect to form a larger image is cool, so long as it is multiple different issues–whether consecutive issues of a series/mini-series, or of a crossover/story arc.

Picking up where the previous issue left off, this issue finds Steve Rogers in his Captain America uniform, his body in control of the Red Skull’s consciousness, ready to murder his old partner Bucky, now the current Captain America. Meanwhile, a number of friends/allies fight for not only the rescue of Steve but also of those who have become entwined with the Red Skull and his machinations. Steve battles for control of his body, and unsurprisingly (especially given the title of this series) Steve wins out, the Skull is dispatched, and Steve is left–stable and no longer being bounced throughout his own history–in the present, to deal with a world in which he’s been absent and missed the Secret Invasion and most of Osborne’s Dark Reign.

The art on this book is high quality stuff. While it’s not perfect or anything, It really brings a lot to the story, enhancing the story and never particularly distracting from the reading experience. There are a couple of “iconic” full-page shots that were a little distracting as a result (in a good way, though). Despite the distraction–of noting the enormity of the moments depicted–they were a couple of my favorite moments of the entire issue. One shows Steve and Bucky rushing into battle side-by-side…two Captain Americas existing side-by-side. The other is Steve leaping into the fray, shield raised, the sunlight glinting off it, as many of the characters realize that THEIR Captain America is back.

While I tend to enjoy Brubaker‘s writing, this issue seemed so anticlimactic as to lack any real enjoyment for me. The enjoyment I found was in the art, in those images mentioned above. It doesn’t help that there wasn’t much to “wonder” about in this series. The title itself gave away the ending: Captain America would be reborn…and as we’d pretty much JUST wrapped up an 18-month mega-arc introducing a NEW Captain America into things (Bucky’s transformation from enemy agent to Shield-bearer)…it was pretty darned obvious. This issue in particular was spoiled by the fact that its first “epilogue” shipped some 4-5 weeks ago. Why that couldn’t have simply been held is beyond me–but it gave us an issue of Steve obviously back, obviously no longer bouncing through time, obviously alive, and Bucky alive as well. All that was left was the exact, specific details as to how things would wrap up.

If you’ve been following the series so far, it’s worthwhile to snag this issue to wrap up and such. Otherwise, wait for the collected edition–which will HOPEFULLY contain not only this 6-issue mini, but BOTH epilogues: Who Will Wield the Shield? and Who Will Not Wield the Shield?

Story: 5/10
Art: 8/10
Overall: 6.5/10

Captain America: Reborn #4 [Review]

By: Ed Brubaker, Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Covers: Hitch, Guice and Mounts; John Cassaday and Laura Martin, Joe Kubert and Laura Martin
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer and Sankovitch
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I’m not 100% certain I bought/read issue 3 of this, offhand. Even if I not only read issue 3 but also reviewed it, I don’t at present recall issue 3. Despite that, it’s almost an irrelevant point as this issue finds Cap still bouncing through time, the Skull and crew still getting things assembled, and Cap’s allies still playing catch-up.

Skull and crew arrive in Latveria at invitation of Doctor Doom. Doom fixes their time device, while Cap’s allies are finding out what happened with Sharon and how she–and her blod–hold the key to what’s going on with Cap.

As Doom’s device is activated, things come to a bit of a head as a body is present, though all may not be quite as promising as it appears.

The art’s easily the best part of this story. Hitch draws a great Doctor Doom, and I found myself enjoying the visuals even as the story sped through its own pages. Brubaker’s done a great job overall with the Captain America saga. This series seems just a bit much, though, and something feels a bit “off” from what I enjoyed in reading the first omnibus and the 1.5-year saga following up on Steve’s death and Bucky’s installation as the new Cap.

If you’re specifically a fan of Brubaker’s work you’ll probably enjoy this; ditto if you’re a fan of Hitch’s art. If you’ve been following this mini thus far, probably worth finishing out the story. Otherwise, you’re probably just as well holding off for a collected volume.

Plus, with a collected volume…you won’t have two different titles for the same story (three, if we count the fact that this essentially IS the Captain America title right now, outright replacing the main title for its duration).

Story: 5.5
Art: 9
Overall: 7

Captain America: Reborn #2 [Review]

By: Ed Brubaker, Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Covers: Hitch, Guice and Mounts; John Cassaday and Laura Martin, Tim Sale and Dave Stewart
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer and Sankovitch
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Well, I’m glad I picked the cover I did for the first issue…it seems that that was indeed the “standard” cover, meaning if I follow through with this entire series, I won’t be left feeling like one of my covers is out-of-place with the others.

I continue to be baffled as to why this couldn’t just be issue #602 of Captain America (or better yet, #53 or whatever without the renumbering). After all, while we have a different artist in Hitch on the visuals, the story is still Brubaker’s, and honestly looks and feels like any other issue of Captain America. If it’s about the chance at a #1 in the face of combining all previous runs to make the fat ol’ #600…then surely part of the trade dress for this story could have displayed a “part #1” or “part #2” while having the actual issue number in small print.

As said…this story is very much a Brubaker issue of Captain America. Amidst some Lost-styled time-hop scenes of Stever Rogers reliving scenes of his earliest days as Captain America (and his transformation from scrawny kid TO Captain America) we learn a little bit about the time-flashing that likely foreshadows something significant for later in the story. We also see the present as the current Captain America–formerly Bucky–and the Black Widow face Norman Osborne’s “evil” (or is that “dark?”) Avengers and see that Norman’s now got a stake in things as he issues an ultimatum to act as the issue’s cliffhanger.

It seems almost a given to me that Brubaker’s writing is high quality and in top form here–whatever “event” this is billed as, and whatever elements may or may not have been “forced,” he makes the story work in and of itself in its own sandbox that we’ve seen since his run started…while incorporating obvious and relevant elements from the larger Marvel Universe as a whole.

Hitch and Guice provide excellent visuals that capture the tone of the story very well. Though the art may not match up 100% with what the bulk of the Cap series has had, it certainly fits very well with it…having its own style without being a departure from what longer-time readers are likely familiar with. In itself, no complaints from me on the art.

Taken as a whole, this issue was pretty good. I was actually intending NOT to buy this issue due to the price tag and figuring on waiting for the collected edition if anything–but with Marvel’s pricing of late, it’s probably cheaper this way, and I have the feeling this pulled-out-into-itself mini-series will greatly inform whether or not I return to the monthly Cap book this fall.

If Cap’s your thing, this is well recommended. Otherwise…you would probably be more satisfied waiting for a complete arc to read.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7/10

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