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Interest vs. Price

ultimateinfinitythumbScanning through my Facebook newsfeed last night, a posted image caught my eye.

Diamond/Previews had posted a cover image for Ultimate Comics Ultimates #25, which seems to show Ultimate Cap, Ultimate Thor, and Ultimate Iron Patriot (?) fighting from the grip of an Infinity Gauntlet.

Now, I definitely think Thanos is getting a bit over-exposed years now UNTIL the next Avengers film. And there’s that part of me with fond memories of the original Infinity Gauntlet story; that part of me that recalls Infinity War #1 that summer before the Death of Superman, and even the more recent Infinity Abyss (was that really over 10 years ago now???).

I also quite enjoyed Avengers & the Infinity Gauntlet by Brian Clevinger, from a few years back.

But the more recent stuff involving the Infinity Gems–and Marvel‘s Illuminati–just hasn’t sat right with that kid in me, so I’ve mostly tried to avoid it. Contemporary writers are welcome to do as they will–but if I don’t like the new stuff, I’ll just revisit the old. My wallet, my choice.

That said…I often enjoy some of the “twists” or “re-imagingings” of stuff from the Ultimate line, and since the Ultimate stuff is not in-continuity with the “main” Marvel universe, I’m far more open to changes/etc. there.

So, back to the cover image. Ultimates (“Avengers”?) facing the Infinity Gauntlet or its Ultimate Comics counterpart. I could really enjoy this. It’s got my interest, my curiosity. Something that’s gotta be on a fairly grand scale, right?

If I knew the Ultimate Comics to be priced at, say, $2.99…the image alone would do more than any generic/mysterious “teaser” has done and I’d email my comic shop to request the issue be ordered/pulled for me.

But I know–like what seems the vast majority of Marvel‘s comics these days–these are at least $3.99. So, since I’m not currently following ANY of the Ultimate Comics titles and I am so sick of $3.99, right now I have no intention of buying in on this.

Sounds like a new creative team, probably a decent one-shot issue or jumping-on point…but the price, that extra dollar that Marvel just HAS TO HAVE serves once again to be an anti-sale for me. Had they “stepped” their pricing and perhaps spent at least a couple years at $3.25 or $3.50 BEFORE going whole-hog to $3.99…maybe I wouldn’t be so vocally bitter.

Sorry, Marvel. I’m intrigued, interested, and I’d be all over this at the $2.99 price point…but at $3.99/issue, I intend to pass on this.

ultimateinfinity

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Ultimate Spider-Man #160 [Review]

Death of Spider-Man: Part 5 of 5

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: Andy Lanning with Andrew Hennessy
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Art: Bagley & Ponsor
Assistant Editor: Sana Amant
Senior Editor: Mark Paniccia
Published by: Marvel Comics

So, this issue is mostly one big fight scene. Seems the Green Goblin’s been busy, and it’s all come back down to Norman Osborn vs. Peter Parker. But unlike that first time the Goblin came back–when it was Mary Jane who was thrown off a bridge, playing on readers’ knowledge of what happened to Gwen in the regular Marvel Universe–this time, it just feels like little more than a ripoff of a two-decades-old Superman story. Yet, it works.

The villain apparently rose…many have fallen, and it’s down to the titular hero to save those around him from said villain.

Face it…the title of the story, the branding of the last few issues of this title and the Ultimate Avengers thing–it gives it all away. Much like knowing weeks before the story even began that Doomsday! was a tale that would end with the death of Superman. It was the journey to get there, watching the hero gradually take more and more of a beating, attempting to dish it back, and ultimately making a final sacrifice to save those he loves from a monster’s rampage.

The story itself–pretty simplistic. I haven’t read the first four chapters of it in this title, and bought (but wound up only skimming) the issue where Peter takes the bullet for Cap….yet, the recap page at the beginning of this issue sum things up pretty succinctly–I don’t need those chapters to “get” this.

The art–maybe not fantastic, but after recently reading the first tpb of the post-Ultimatum Ultimate Comics Spider-ManBagley‘s art–which I’ve always enjoyed and associated with Ultimate Spider-Man–is SUCH a thing of beauty. The characters actually look like I’d expect, as I got used to. The way they looked over the course of all those practically biweekly issues in college and all those TPBs after that when I went back to the series last year and caught up on over 60 issues of story.

As a whole…not truly worth the $3.99 cover price. Not even with that black plastic bag with the hero’s logo in red on it. But y’know? I missed out on Ultimate Spider-Man #1; I wasn’t able to acquire any issues til #4 or so, and was only able to get back to #3. But by and large (I got the first hardcover with those first 13 fantastic issues) I got in at the beginning. So I couldn’t bring myself to entirely “pass” on this ending.

If you’re already buying this title, sticking with the singles after the Ultimatum stuff and the renumbering and the re-renumbering, the changes in art and all that…if you read the earlier chapters of this story…again, face it: you were already going to or have bought this issue already. If you’ve sat things out, wondering at simply waiting for the collected volume: keep to that route. You’ll get a full story. If you’ve avoided this story on principle…hold to it.

This isn’t going to be for everyone. In many ways, I should be appalled at this. To see the character I so enjoyed reading about–and the supporting cast–put in this (albeit fictitious) situation, to see things come to this…it’s horrible. Heart-wrenching. But when you come down to it…this issue makes this version of Peter Parker, Spider-Man, much more real, at least in the moment. We saw his origin. His beginnings. His career. And now, his end.

If you can find this issue, without being taken for a marked-up price…I recommend it. If you’re a lapsed fan of the series, it might be worth getting to be there for the end. If nothing else–consider the collected volume.

Story: 4/10
Art: 9/10
Overall: 7/10

Crash catch-up: Ultimate X-Men

ultxmensmallEvery now and then, I’ll really dive into something. Usually, it’s something that loads of other people have been “in” on for quite some time, that I’m just then “discovering.” Other times, it’s simply a random opportunity that comes up.

Recently, I happened across a run of Ultimate X-Men TPBs at a library I was visiting. I read most of them in less than a week, and revisited that library and another local branch for more. It also turned out that I already owned Ultimatum, and then this past Wednesday for $4 I acquired the Requiem volume.

I’ve now doubled back, and I’m determined to re-read the earlier stuff that I’d read a number of years back, but did not re-read before diving into this run.

ultimatexmenmarch2011

Death in Fantastic Four, and Why I love my Local Comic Shop

ff587cover_marvelstockimageI was home in this apartment tonight when it occurred to me: I didn’t even LOOK for the “death issue” of Fantastic Four. All this hype and such about it…and it wasn’t even—in the actuality of standing in the comic shop—worth my attention, apparently.

I ranted a bit about the issue from an ad a few weeks back in my post Fantastic Four, death and the return of the polybag. I would add to that list of complaints the way the publisher spoiled the story/leaked it to media on Tuesday, when ostensibly they were encouraging (“allowing?”) comic shops to sell the issue on Tuesday to allow fans and readers to get and read the issue withOUT having the story spoiled for them. Also the supposed “bonus” of random signed copies that seem to be cropping up—with a certain limited number of copies inside the polybags being signed by the writer. As if to add a further level to falsely inflate the “collectibility” of the issue.

On a much more positive side, my local comic shop was having an incredible sale on hardbacks (mainly Marvel). $10/pop. I wound up picking up Magneto: Testament (been interested in that for ages) as well as Marvels: Eye of the Camera, which I’d read the first issue back when it came out, but opted to wait for the collected volume. What better time than now? And, after going the library route to catch up on nearly HALF of the original Ultimate Spider-Man series, I’ve been morbidly interested in Ultimatum, but the libraries I frequent haven’t had it. Saw it here, figured what the hey?

So…$75 in books for only $30. And I have friends who’d be interested in reading these volumes as well, so they get increased value for multiple readers…

10dollarhardcovers

tmntatundra01Sales like this are why I love my comic shop. For lack of better phrasing…they often have “convention-level sales” at least once a month—whether it’s freshly-stocked 25-cent bins (yeah, 25…not 50!), random bargain runs ($10 for 45 of 50+ issues of the original X-Force or $15 for 60 issues of JLA, and other such deals), 50-90% off collected volumes. Sometimes these sales seem ongoing…to the point that on the “deals” side of things…I never seem to get a chance to miss going to conventions.

Also, a TMNT book I ordered from Mirage a couple weeks back came in today. Disappointed there’s no text on the spine, but it’s otherwise a great collection of the Archie Adventure Series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #s 5-10 from Tundra, from 1991.

Death of Spider-Man [Checklist]

February 2011
Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates #1
Ultimate Spider-Man #153 (prelude)
Ultimate Spider-Man #154 (prelude)

March 2011
Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates #2
Ultimate Spider-Man #155 (prelude)
Ultimate Spider-Man #156

April 2011
Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates #3
Ultimate Spider-Man #157

May 2011
Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates #4
Ultimate Spider-Man #158

June 2011
Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates #5
Ultimate Spider-Man #159
Ultimate Spider-Man #160

July 2011
Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates #6
Ultimate Spider-Man #161
Ultimate Spider-Man #162

August 2011
?

deathofspidermanchecklist

Ultimate Comics X #1 [Review]

His Father’s Son

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Arthur Adams
Colorist: Aspen MLT’s Peter Steigerwald
Digital Inks: Aspen MLT’s Mark Roslan
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comic Craft’s Albert Deschesne
Production: Irene Y. Lee
Assistant Editor: Sana Amanat
Senior Editor: Mark Paniccia
Cover: Art Adams
Published by: Marvel Comics

Okay…so, I can hardly remember the last time I read an Ultimate comic. After reading from issue #3, I let Ultimate Spider-Man go around issue 80 when I gave in on the realization that the stories just weren’t being written for the single-issue format, and I wasn’t enjoying the pacing for the price per issue. I’m pretty sure I gave up on The Ultimates before that due to lateness, and I don’t recall sticking with Ultimates 2 more than a couple issues. All the hype over Ultimatum and the Ultimate Comics relaunch didn’t pull me in. I read Ultimate Iron Man 2 when I scored the hardback for the $6.

I’m not even sure what intrigued me with this issue. The teaser ads? Perhaps in small part–after all, WHAT is there to be done with Wolverine that’s NEW? Would this be something interesting like the Mary Jane and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series? Would a book about a teenaged Logan in modern high school (thinking “Wolverine” instead of “Sparkly Vampire”) come across well?

So, despite my extreme dislike of the $3.99 cover price, I grabbed the issue–choosing the cover whose image I recognized from the teaser ad. Behind Siege #2 (which was spoiled for me via twitter prior to reading), this was near the top of my stack this week–bypassing Deadpool and even a couple Blackest Night issues.

One of the things that Marvel has done well for many years is “The ‘Previously…’ Page” at the start of their issues. This is a page that is basically prose or just non-story content that serves to get a reader up-to-speed on stuff, contextualizing the story that’s about to begin; it also serves to have the issue’s credits all in one place, so that when this page is omitted, a collected volume flows as one long work, uninterrupted by titles and credits every chapter or so.

Opening this issue, we have a series of images with seven simple sentences that serve to place this story. Context provided–whether as wholly new information, or to catch one up. I’d read The Ultimates, and Ultimate Spider-Man, followed a bit of Ultimate Fantastic Four, and even some of the Ultimate X-Men. The pictures and words tell all I need to know–and the world in this issue is apparently the same as I’d read before, but much changed by Ultimatum. The world exists, but even though I haven’t read in years, I’m not lost.

This issue’s story begins with narration from James Hudson, talking about his son–a son brought to him by an old friend years earlier. That old friend wasn’t able to raise the boy, but knew James and his wife Heather could, and so entrusted them with the child. Now a teenager, and running concurrent with the narration of how the boy came to be Hudson’s son, we see this son discovering what he is, and how his being different changes his life. Kitty Pryde–a name and character I’m somewhat familiar with from both the Ultimate comics and mainstream Marvel continuity–enters, with a classic trapping of such stories: the message from a person to their loved one, recorded shortly before dying. This child–Jimmy Hudson–is confronted with the image of his father, and the reality of who he really is. We also learn the difference in his mutant ability from that of his father.

The story, surprisingly enough as I have really not enjoyed Loeb‘s work for years–is relatively engaging. It’s not perfect, but I remained interested throughout the issue, and that’s quite the achievement in my eyes. As a long-time comic reader familiar with much of the Marvel universe in general throughout much of the last couple decades, names were familiar, but as this is not the mainstream Marvel universe, I had zero problem with the Hudsons being different than the characters I knew before this issue, and rather enjoyed the reference to how James’s codename is come about. There was also something to the realization of who the main character is that is at once obvious and yet not exactly what I expected–and any duplication of a similar character in the main Marvel books works so much better to me here.

The issue reads like an origin issue. We have the introduction of characters who are (presumably) going to be much of a supporting cast. We’re introduced to who assumably is the main character of the book. We learn where he came from, how he is seen by his family and others. We see his discovery of his identity, and what that does to him. We’re left on an ending that both provides actual conclusion to this specific single issue’s story, and yet it is clear this is by no means the end–the issue is not a one-shot.

The art isn’t the greatest I’ve ever seen, but–except for one panel that really put me in mind of Millar‘s Kick-Ass–never really took me out of the story. It’s clear what’s going on throughout the issue, even the effect as we find out Jimmy’s “other” mutant ability. Particularly with no previous issue to go on, Adams’ art actually stakes itself as definitive to me for this character, and does quite a good job of it.

Again–I despise the $3.99 price point, particularly for a mere 22-page issue. As I’d already compromised my principle (avoiding all Marvel $3.99 books) with Siege and Siege: Embedded, I allowed myself a further compromise to pick this up, since it’s a debut issue of a new series, and I was actually somewhat intrigued.

What I got was a very enjoyable issue, that really does what a first issue of any series ought to do…and it stands alone. I won’t be picking up future issues, as I refuse to pay $3.99 as a regular, ongoing price for a “standard” comic.

In and of itself, though, this was a good read, and actually mostly worth its cover price for the experience. While I don’t plan to purchase future single issues…provided the inevitable collected volume is reasonably priced, I expect I’ll have some interest in picking that up to read this story and go from there.

Story: 8/10
Art: 7.5/10
Overall: 8/10

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