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Some Thoughts On the Week’s Comics (Week of April 19th, 2017)

This week involved a lot more comics than previous recent weeks…and of course, that meant a higher quantity of immediate-reads, too. As I’ve been doing the last few weeks, since I’m not getting to full-on single-issue reviews, I’m just offering some of my immediate thoughts related to given issues, even if it’s more meta-textual than about the actual issue.


Batman #21

batman(2016)_0021I’ve been looking forward to this issue for months. Though I’m a good 19 issues behind in READING the title, I had no real problem jumping in…this feels sort of like checking in on a tv show that typically has a lot of slow episodes, where I can jump in after awhile and know I have missed stuff, but not have any trouble coming up to speed with the current episode I’m actually watching.

Essentially, it seems Batman is finally ready or able to "get serious" about this button he found waaaay back in DC Universe: Rebirth #1.

However, he faces an unusual threat over the course of the one minute it takes Barry to get to the Batcave.

For a detailed synopsis and coverage of the issue, check out Chris Sheehan‘s review at his blog, Chris is on Infinite Earths.

This seemed to be more action than substance to me…but darn was it pretty to look at! (Despite the physical violence). I got the "lenticular" cover–quasi-3-D with a shift from Batman to Flash; though I really dig the standard cover, too! This is one of VERY few issues that have seemed actually WORTH a $3.99 cover price (the "enhanced cover" justifies the cost, much as such covers did in the ’90s.) Also AS an "enhanced" cover, where it’s basically still the same image as the standard cover (except the standard one does a "splitscreen" thing), it’s not "just" slapping another artist’s stock image on the thing to sell more issues. It’s a story that looks to be central to the throughline of Rebirth in general, and thus–with ’90s logic–is ok with me to have this as an extra cover, where I do NOT care for variants in general.

I’m very much looking forward to the next few issues of the story, and really hope the Flash issues hold up to the visual quality and story quality of this issue…if not delving deeper story-wise!


Superman #21

superman(2016)_0021I’m much more interested in Superman Reborn: Aftermath stuff right now, so this Black Dawn stuff isn’t really doing it for me. Despite that, I’m actually enjoying the heck out of this title in its own way, especially with Batman and Damian guest-starring, seeing Damian and Jon interacting, and the whole "family element" that seems strong in this title.

We get some development of stuff with the Kents’ neighbors, we get to see the Super Sons in action along with Superman, and even have a returning element from the beginning of this iteration of the Superman book.

I’m sorta anxious to get along to the "back to Metropolis" stuff that I believe is coming up…but at the same time, I’m glad that it wasn’t something that was "just there because now it’s always been there" with zero explanation except that it’s how it is.

I’m wondering what developments are going to mean for certain supporting cast characters that I was starting to like with the pre-Reborn status quo, and hope they get handled well/believably, as roughly 20 issues seems far too short a time for their presence.

I’m quite enjoying the character-sharing going on, and that even without having read the main Batman book or most other titles lately, I still get a dose of them here.

As good as this title’s been…even a less-than-thrilling issue of Superman still beats the heck outta most other titles out there for me!


Highlander: The American Dream #3

highlander_american_dream_0003I was not sure what to expect from this series, and in a way, still don’t. But I actually read #s 2 & 3 back to back, and I’m enjoying it. I think I’d much prefer this as a full singular story than issue-sized chunks, but it’s cool reading Highlander again, and really feeling this is a solid prequel to the original film.

The art feels rather "off"–if I was just looking at this, I would not recognize Connor MacLeod as himself…he doesn’t really look to me like he does as portrayed in the films, in whatever time he’s shown. I get more of a Casablanca Humphrey Bogart vibe here than I do Connor MacLeod or Christopher Lambert.

Story-wise, though, this holds the feel of the original film’s continuity and does not feel like it strays into the tv series’ continuity. In this case, I’m liking that. I like(d) the tv series quite a bit, but it seemingly "retconning" the films is one thing…this holding to them is a welcome change…especially on the understanding/assumption that this is a limited series, hence the subtitle The American Dream.

Whatever the case, this far in, I’m pretty much "stuck" with the singles, now, barring a full-blown double-dipping. Given the price of IDW‘s collected volumes, though, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. All the more with having no idea if they’ll hold the Highlander license long enough or "bother to" put out enough for any significant collection(s). I do definitely look forward to the next issue(s), though I’m tempted to stockpile ’em til the 6th issue to read all at once.


Spawn #272

spawn_0272This is my 16th issue (17 if we count the Spawn Kills Everyone #1 from last year when there seemed to be a delay) keeping up with this title…doubling my prior "longest run" with the title.

This is, though, a title where I’d be hard pressed to really summarize an issue, or retain many character names "consciously," though I’m getting to occasionally recognize characters in the title.

But I’m enjoying the series enough and able to follow along each issue pretty well–or well enough–and so I stick with it.

Of course, with this not being a "favorite" or anything, if they manage to annoy me with variants or a price increase straight from current $2.99 to $3.99 or such, I’ll almost surely drop it cold-turkey. At the same time, I’m kinda hoping to just stick with it to #300…though that’s a good 2 years (at least) away.

Time will tell, but between "jumping in" around #257 and just sticking with it, along with the $2.99 price point when so many others have climbed on to $3.99, this is a welcome monthly-ish title to me. I also greatly appreciate the high number, as it is now THE highest-legitimately-numbered series out there, as far as Marvel/DC/Image/Archie and such go (and excluding the iffy-ness of some of the Disney titles that have not been in constant ongoing production).


It’s nice having an assortment of titles from an assortment of publishers to go through in a given week. Also to have shorter, weekly, compact "event" stories that are "just" crossovers between titles, and not full-blown separate mini-series with tie-in mini-series and entire tie-in story arcs in other titles [The Button]. I’m certainly looking forward to the next chapter of that, as well as the next issue of Action Comics, and figure we’re due for new TMNT stuff.

That said…looking forward to a considerably smaller week as far as new issues at full price go!

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Showing Off the Shelves: The Flash (November 2016)

My Flash stuff is the most recent "subcollection" to take off for me, having "started" with The Secret of Barry Allen and not really counting the Flashpoint volumes to pulling those in, and adding a number of other volumes in 2016…including having pre-ordered the Flash by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato Omnibus prior to being laid off.

flash_shelf_late_november_2016

As Flashpoint was an "event," I’d had those books grouped with my other "event books," but decided that as the only "event series" that I have like this (and keeping what I do have of Blackest Night with the Green Lantern stuff, made sense to me to move Flashpoint over to fit in right after the Road to Flashpoint volume, leading directly to the Omnibus (which has the first 25 or so issues of the New 52 run).

I would hope that there’ll be another omnibus collecting the back half of the series, but for now, I’m more interested in/looking forward to The Flash by Geoff Johns vol. 3 and The Flash by Mark Waid vol. 1!

BREAKING: #Amazon Discovers Boxes Still Legal for Shipping!

I heard footsteps and the sound of something being dropped by the front door. Dreading what I might find when I looked, I checked anyway. I was expecting a book I’d pre-ordered months ago but figured this would be another fight with ’em, trying to get something that is minimally damaged at best.

After all, for ages now, Amazon‘s had this flat-out refusal to ship books with any sort of care or pretense of care! I was wondering if my book might be in just a bubble mailer, or one of those crappy "cardboard envelopes" and picturing the various damages the book’s suffered.

Imagine my genuine shock and "holy $#*^!" moment when I saw an actual, genuine BOX! Like, a box-box, 3-dimensional, not an envelope of any sort, but a real live virtually vintage Amazon BOX!

amazon_actually_used_box_11222016a

And of course, I had to document this. It’s like some unicorn randomly ringing the bell and asking to be photographed! Considering I genuinely cannot REMEMBER the last time I received ANY book from Amazon IN A BOX, this is a momentous occasion!

amazon_actually_used_box_11222016b

After my initial surprise, I once more had some trepidation spotting this hole in the box, obvious damage to the box, which could indicate some massive damage to the book inside. No snark to that statement–something like this could mean something was driven into the box, obviously the box is punctured, so who knows what sort of damage might’ve been done to the book? Alternatively, if part of the book made the damage, then who knows what it suffered in doing so?

amazon_actually_used_box_11222016e

To my further surprise, on opening the box, not only did Amazon use a BOX…but they used packaging material in a vain ATTEMPT to "protect" the book!

These flimsy, crappy air-bubble things mostly don’t do a darned thing and are flatter than not, but SOME air remained in the ones on "top" here. And once I removed the book itself, I realized it’d been laying on one (then flat), but it seems likely that this one on top truly DID protect the book.

No obvious damage to the book’s cover, and since the hole left the cardboard punched down INTO the box, it indicates (to me) that something hit from the houtside…but in most likelihood, the gap between the box itself and the book was maintained by the bubble enough to allow the box to take the damage WITHOUT sharing said damage with the book itself!

These bubbles by no means kept the book STILL within the box–it could still slide around and take damage from being rattled during shipping–but this is more packaging material than I’ve seen in the last (at bare under-estimated MINIMUM) dozen books I’ve ordered from them!

This is not ideal, truly acceptable packaging…especially compared to the actual care and quality from InStockTrades/DCBService (which have CHEAPER shipping and I can’t imagine even with their customer base that they do a fraction of Amazon‘s business!) but considering the complaints I’ve had, I didn’t want to not share this today!

amazon_actually_used_box_11222016c

Look–even the cat is wary of this unfamiliar, rare, and foreign object!

The ’80s Revisited: The Flash (1987) #1

flash(1987)_0001Flash

Writer: Mike Baron
Penciller: Jackson Guice
Inker: Larry Mahlstedt
Letterer: Steve Haynie
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Editor: Mike Gold
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: June, 1987
Cover Price: 75 Cents

I’ve been quite aware of The Flash–particularly Wally–since my initial foray into comics back in 1989/1990…my earliest conscious exposure to the character offhand was Adventures of Superman #463. Mr. Mxyzptlk forced the two to race…and this stands out to me because of the fact of Wally constantly eating, the notion that even with the super-speed, he was still burning calories and all that (to my 8/9 year old self, the simple “have to eat to keep going” was enough). I became more aware of the character with guest-appearances here and there, and the “key” role he played at the start of Zero Hour, and as I learned more about “continuity” and such, I became aware of Barry and generally got to where the Flash was an accepted character for me.

I didn’t start picking up any issues of his actual series on any regular basis, though, until #197 (Geoff Johns, first issue of the Blitz arc) in 2003 or so, and I’ve moved forward from there. I’ve become aware of several creative teams, and it was all the positive “buzz” for Mark Waid‘s run and then the (at the time) up and coming Geoff Johns that eventually led to me trying the series. But outside of maybe a couple issues, I really have never actually gotten (around) to reading Wally’s series, particularly from this period.

So jumping into #1 here rather arbitrarily was definitely an interesting experience.

We open on Wally–now 20–at a convenience store and come to find out he’s marking time before a “surprise” party for his 20th birthday. He’s no longer a teenager (and now being The Flash and not Kid Flash, no longer a “teen” Titan). He’s “graduated” into the role, stepping into the costume previously worn by Barry Allen, and he’s got huge boots to fill. Before the party can really get rolling, Wally receives a phone call: a heart is available for a transplant…in Seattle. And conventional technology cannot get it there in time, so it’s up to Wally to race the heart to the opposite coast. He extracts some conditions, pointing out that he’s doing a favor, and these doctors are getting paid huge sums, but he (Wally) could use medical insurance (wow…30 years ago!) and such…that it’s the principle of the matter. (To say nothing of the fact that he needs the calories for such an extensive trip). Along the way Wally encounters someone who was apparently attacked by Vandal Savage, and witnesses other situations he can’t stop for…but he eventually arrives and the transplant’s a success, and (after 17 hours’ sleep) Wally gets to meet the patient, who conveniently has some knowledge of (at least the rumour of) Vandal Savage. After being returned home (via plane), Wally receives a package…with a heart–and meets Vandal Savage.

I just double-checked…and this issue is “only” 22 pages of story. So much in it, and clear to follow, and it’s all crammed into 22 pages. We meet the main character, and start off on this key day–he’s now The Flash (not Kid Flash), he’s just turned 20; we see him with friends/teammates for context; we get details about who he is, what he is, how he got here, limitations of his powers, etc; we see him in action AS the Flash; clear differences between THIS Flash and his predecessor are highlighted; immediate threats overcome and a new threat set up, and close on the introduction of a “big bad” for the upcoming issues. Basically, this is an excellent sort of first issue!

This issue looks and feels like a mid/late-’80s book…which is quite appropriate. Guice‘s art is top-notch, and I really like it here. The detail may not quite be quite the level of, say, George Perez of this time, but it’s quite good and works very well for me, with all relevant characters looking as I’d expect for my contextual knowledge of the time, they look familiar/recognizable, and the visuals never failed me as to what was going on.

Story-wise, as said, this is an excellent first issue with numerous “bullet points” touched on that I would hope and expect a first issue to do…I genuinely want to read the next issue, such that I find myself thinking I’d willingly buy the next several issues at “full back issue pricing” (up to $2-$3 per) just for the sake of immediacy on getting to read them (or $1.99 for digital; same reasoning).

I really like that we get a concrete age for Wally–I’m not sure how old I’d’ve pegged him by the early 200s (probably mid-20s at least), and concrete ages don’t often seem to be established for characters. While I get that many don’t want to nail characters down or “limit” them that way, I’m one that really likes that sort of detail, even if it comparatively “ages” other characters. I also really like that Wally seems young-ish (I’m in my mid-30s myself!) and I truly get that sense of his just now stepping up into the Flash role–I can “see” the Kid Flash there, essentially “trying on” the “real Flash” costume; he wears it but does not seem particularly comfortable in it. (And I know from other stuff I’ve read ABOUT the series that that’s something that largely continues for a number of years of stories, such that the reader gets to see Wally’s progression to where he truly comes into his own as The Flash).

I enjoyed this issue, and it was honestly a real treat to read. I know I snagged this copy from a quarter bin, and it’s absolutely worth 25 cents, or $1…as a #1 from when such things were treats and rarities, I’d say this would even be well worth getting up to $5ish. As you can get it digitally for about $2, I wouldn’t recommend going much above that, though, unless you’re particularly interested in owning this issue. It’s well worth the $2 to at least read, and I very much look forward to digging up the next few issues, either from my own collection or re-buying in some form for the immediacy.

The ’90s Revisited: The Flash #142

flash0142Get Me to the Church On Time

Writers: Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn
Pencils: Pop Mhan
Inks: Chris Ivy
Letters: Gaspar
Colors: Tom McCraw
Assistant Editor: L.A. Williams
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: October 1998
Cover Price: $1.99

This is one of those issues whose cover served as an extremely powerful selling point: “The Wedding of The Flash.” OK. I knew Wally and Linda were married…and that it happened SOMETIME before #200, as that was about the time their kids were born, and I was pretty sure they’d been married awhile prior. So spotting this in the quarter bin without any significant “run” to grab, I still figured it would be a good one-off/isolated issue to read.

We open on Wally dealing with Kobra and his crew, and find he’s got a very personal stake in dealing with the current situation: the terrorists are quite inconsiderate, after all, attacking on his wedding day. Linda and Wally put the last-second finishing touches on wedding plans as Linda’s family arrives. While things get into motion for the wedding, Wally can’t quite shake the feeling that something’s wrong or forgotten. The Justice League arrives, and there’s still no villain attack to disrupt things…as Wally and Linda get a moment to confirm they’re going through with the wedding. As the couple prepares to deliver their wedding vows, Wally realizes exactly what he’s forgotten: writing his. Of course, he doesn’t need to write them–he just reflects quickly on their time together, what they’ve been through–and he’s good. As he slips the ring onto Linda’s finger, there’s a flash of light, and he’s alone with no recollection of Linda’s existence nor that they were at the altar to be wed…while a mysterious figure looks on as Linda screams for help.

As said, the issue’s cover grabbed me. This is “THE” wedding issue. Great, ok, cool. Regular-sized, nothing fancy, just a one-issue key moment, something that happens, but while the same length as any other moment in time, is still one of those key moments one can go back to. Right? And being so used to covers “spoiling” otherwise ‘surprise’ villains or guest-stars, giving away what the issue is about (yet, the cover DOES have to “sell” one on buying the issue if they aren’t already planning to, and I’m certainly guilty of disliking generic, unrelated covers)…I figured I knew what this issue was, and was just going through the motions reading/enjoying the story, but I wasn’t expecting to be surprised. But surprise me it did, and now I very definitely want to read more.

The story itself is very good, mixing “regular” super-speed action letting us see the Flash do what he does, and that not EVERY threat has to be spread across exactly six issues of formulaic structure for a graphic novel collection. Some threats can be handled in a few pages to move the story along. Also signifying this being from an age when there were no routine collections of every half-dozen or so issues, the credits page is worked into the story itself somewhat cinematically–or at least, in a “tv” sort of fashion…showing the Kobra attack to be mere prologue to fulfill our expectation of the Flash in action in-costume and allowing the rest of the issue to focus on Wally, Linda, and co. for the wedding itself. Working other key characters in–like Impulse and Nightwing were nice touches, and though I’m more aware of than familiar with Bart, I appreciated the bit with him and seeing dynamics of “the Flash Family” that I’ve often read of but read very little of myself as yet.

The art is good, and really never left me wondering. It’s not my favorite visual style, and is rather “isolated” here as I’ve not read any significant runs on this title in probably almost a decade. I’m sure I’d appreciate it more in context, and assume it’s consistent with surrounding issues. Where varying visual styles play on actual memory for me with the Superman family of titles, I don’t have that for the Flash, which for every issue of the title I read makes me further regret never jumping in back in the ’90s when these were fresh, current, ongoing episodes of the character.

Despite mentioning “isolation” above in regards to finding this issue and how I see the art on it…the issue on the whole is not the quasi-self-contained or isolated unit I was expecting. I thankfully never got the sense that I “should have” read the previous issue to “get” what’s going on here, so it’s easy to jump INTO…but it certainly doesn’t have a hard-stop point to conclude, and successfully leaves me eager to read more, to find out who the mystery-villain is, to see how Wally and Linda get out of this mess…find out if this truly IS “the wedding issue” or if that “moment” occurs down the road in another issue, etc.

For a one-issue quarter-bin find, this issue was more than worthwhile, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would (in retrospect) gladly pay several dollars for it (though for bulk/quantity I’d prefer to get to load up on the series from quarter-bins!).

Getting Into Comics With High Numbers

I was introduced to comics in late 1988 with a stack of Silver Age books Mom had grandpa bring for me–to my knowledge, he simply grabbed a bunch from a cabinet that he and my uncle kept them in…so there was a mix of “Batman” and “Superman” stuff, and probably other DC characters…possibly some Marvel, but they were more DC guys than Marvel.

high_numbered_first_issuesa

In spring 1989 when I learned that they STILL MADE COMICS, that one could still buy NEW COMICS, brand-new, these stories were STILL GOING ON, it was Mom that bought me my first four comics: Detective Comics #604, Adventures of Superman #453, Batman #439, and Superman (rebooted) #31. Not a #1 amidst them, and at the time absolutely no knowledge nor expectation of backtracking TO a #1. When Action Comics eventually returned to the “Superman Family,” it was still several months before I came across the title myself, and my first issue was #651.

It was Captain America #425-beginning the twelve-part Fighting Chance story–that primarily pulled me into having an interest on that title (and that after it not bothering me at all seeing a #400 on an issue tying into Operation: Galactic Storm), and it wasn’t a new creative team or a new #1 that got me into The Flash…it was simply the start of a new arc at #197 with the ongoing/continuing team that led me into several years of following the book, into Infinite Crisis and all the shenanigans with the character, series, numbering from there.

Maybe once upon a time, a #1 was special or significant…but now with ENTIRE LINES being restarted at #1 and doing so REPEATEDLY, every couple years or so such that it’s actually surprising for anything to hit #30, let alone #50 or up, it’s NOT special, and I for one have less faith in a series’ longevity now than ever before: if a book has lasted 120+ issues, that’s a 10-year run, a 10-year history or pedigree, it means that whatever they’re doing with it, it has lasted a decade or more, and isn’t just some short year-and-a-half flash-in-the-pan thing likely to disappear within a “few” months of me getting involved.

The NEW DC Universe

With the relaunch of DC’s superhero line in September, things start off with 52 #1 issues. Justice League August 31st, and the other 51 in September. The titles for this initial launch have been reported as follows:

  • ACTION COMICS
  • ALL-STAR WESTERN
  • ANIMAL MAN
  • AQUAMAN
  • BATGIRL
  • BATMAN
  • BATMAN & ROBIN
  • BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT
  • BATWING
  • BATWOMAN
  • BIRDS OF PREY
  • BLACKHAWKS
  • BLUE BEETLE
  • CAPTAIN ATOM
  • CATWOMAN
  • DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS
  • DEATHSTROKE
  • DEMON KNIGHTS
  • DETECTIVE COMICS
  • FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF SHADE
  • GREEN ARROW
  • GREEN LANTERN
  • GREEN LANTERN CORPS
  • GREEN LANTERN: THE NEW GUARDIANS
  • GRIFTER
  • HAWK & DOVE

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