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It’s A Real Good Thing, Valiant…

Don’t you agree? It’s a real good thing, Valiant functionally cutting out fans who have bought every single issue published to July 2015. It’s a real good thing to intentionally limit a book to 4% the print run of a hyped “event” book. It’s real good, really, to use actual story content of the comic book universe to “bribe” individuals into being some sort of “marketing team” to push something, just so they could get CONTENT.

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That it is possible for someone who was “all-in” buying one of every single issue the company was putting out (blindly, sight unseen, by faith and as a show of support for the company) to get an issue on the secondary market–for $35, $40-something, $50 and up–is not a viable thing. Not when–prior to this–one was able to, for 39 months, get at least *a* copy of a story-issue (even if not some rare/premium variant cover) for COVER PRICE.

It’s also a real good thing, leaving me in the state I am, now with a negative slant toward the publisher and its books, compared to the positive I had before.

And That’s Done It

I received confirmation late this afternoon from my comic shop that my drop request was received and has been processed.

While there may be some lingering issues already ordered for me and such (that I’ve asked still be passed to me, I’m not interested in making the comic shop absorb extra costs on top of what Valiant has already “cost” them), this officially leaves me with 4 titles I’m “officially” sticking with: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, TMNT: Current Mini-series (right now, Casey and April), TMNT Color Classics, the tie-in book based on the current TMNT animated series, and Letter 44.

No DC.

No Marvel (though I’m happily enjoying the Digital Comics Unlimited to READ a lot!).

and now, No Valiant.

Plenty of back issues for DC. A number of collected volumes of classic stuff. The Digital stuff from Marvel, to READ (but NOT own) stuff. and for now, despite my ire over the Legends of the Geomancer thing…I’m interested yet in the Deluxe Edition hardcovers from Valiant, and will be sticking to those, if anything from the publisher (for the foreseeable future).

I don’t know that I was 100% convinced myself on dropping the singles. But I hit “send” on the email last night.

And then part of me contemplated whether or not the shop had received the email or if it got lost in the busy-ness of stuff…and would I have to bring the matter up again?

In the next week or so, I’m expecting a handful of collected volumes from a recent Marvel blow-out.

After that, perhaps I’ll try some Image vol. 1s for a few weeks–the cost being a bit less yet on par with what I was spending most weeks on Valiant. Maybe I’ll buy a game or few–a number of Munchkin expansions I’m interested in, as well as several other games.

I want to read the Alan Moore Saga of the Swamp Thing volumes at long last. Maybe finally take the full plunge on Transmetropolitan after a couple of “false starts.” Maybe finally catch up on some of the TMNT Adventures paperbacks.

Maybe just actually SAVE some money.

Time will tell, I suppose.

I expect some doubt and reconsideration, maybe even a hint of “regret” in the near future. But I’m glad I opted to run with my “principle.” That I “pulled the trigger.” Yeah, life will go on. Does go on. Is going on. It will take some getting used to, not having Valiant stuff in my stack most weeks.

But I really, truly DO need to ENJOY what I’m buying. To be happy to be paying what I am. To be looking forward to what I’m gonna read, and not feel like I’m wasting money or harboring negative feelings over stuff.

Plenty yet to read. Loads to re-read.

Gimme a few weeks, and it probably won’t phase me. Angry as I am NOW, maybe in a month or few I’ll genuinely wish Valiant the best of luck. Right now, I don’t give a crap, though I dislike the sense of schadenfreude I’d take satisfaction in at the moment.

Regardless of crap with this publisher, a number of other elements in play right now, a part of my life. One day at a time…

How to Lose Buyers and Alienate Readers

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I bought X-O Manowar #1 the day it came out back in May 2012. I’ve bought at least one copy of every single (story) issue that Valiant has published for nearly 40 months. I’ve paid their $3.99/issue. I’ve had expensive overall comic weeks because Valiant insists on “clustering” issues, often leaving me with weeks with NO Valiant, while those others might have 3 books apiece.

I’ve bought issues for friends, to just GIVE them. “Here, try this, it’s good, I promise!”

I’ve talked Valiant up. Friends, coworkers. Made sure to reference them whenever there was opportunity. Pointing out how UNLIKE Marvel or DC, I could follow an ENTIRE COMICS UNIVERSE, and had been, since its inception. How unlike Image, the disparate books still functioned together as a universe, though they fit different genres.

I even pointedly bought the various vol. 1 editions to “support” those.

Aside from special oversized issues, in all this time, the cover price has been a standard $3.99. Since I don’t collect variants, since I have pointedly stuck to the advertised/standard/”A” cover, I’ve never had to “chase” an issue. Maybe I don’t have the “talking Aric” QR-code variant of X-O Manowar #1. Maybe I don’t have some “gold edition” Whatever #1. Maybe I don’t have the Whoever variant of Bloodshot #6, or Harbinger #7. But darnit, for that $3.99 per basic unit/issue, for however many issues in a given month (7-9ish), I was happy. I was entertained. I was satisfied.

I was following the ENTIRE STORY, the WHOLE of the comics UNIVERSE being laid out by a gradually-growing, major-to-me publisher.

So color me surprised and dismayed when–in some apparent bid to get their books in front of MORE PEOPLE, Valiant now PUNISHES buyers (fans, readers, collectors) like me, interested in the whole STORY, but making an ENTIRE SERIES ratioed-incentive-ONLY.

For every TWENTY-FIVE COPIES of Book of Death #1, a retailer could order ONE COPY of Legends of the Geomancer #1. Not 25 of BoD and then however many LotG. Granted, there’s some sort of discount in place, and returnability…and maybe on some technical, considering-ONLY-Valiant level it would “make more sense TO order 25 copies than less.”

My comic shop’s been burned in the past on the various Valiant events and stunt covers and such. Very few people with any interest at all (and I’ve seen recent issue tossed in the 25-cent bins, usually non-“A” cover variants, as apparently there’s really no back-issue interest/market for the things around here, either). Suffice it to say, not one copy of Book of Death on the shelves. I had a copy because of my “Every single-issue edition Valiant publishes” pull list.

But no Legends of the Geomancer #1. Don’t EVEN try to tell me to blame my comic shop. Don’t try to insinuate that it’s on the owner to cater entirely to ME. Don’t try to say I should have talked the thing up, clarified and explained stuff to the owner, DONE VALIANT‘S JOB of “selling” the owner on stocking the book in huge, unsalable quantities, just because I wanted–for myself, for my collection, because I have one copy of every OTHER story-issue the company has published–a copy of a single issue.

As said, I’ve bought at least one copy of every single issue they’ve put out for nearly 40 months. A complete run, a complete collection, a complete universe, something that meant something to me, that mattered in context, that I was satisfied with, that I enjoyed, that I was content to spend $3.99 per issue on despite loathing the price point. But…that streak is broken.

I will not pay more than $10 for a single standard-sized comic (outside of perhaps a TMNT comic, the TMNT stuff long being a very special exception). Certainly not for something with a $3.99 cover price.

And on top of the (artificial/intentional) SCARCITY of the issue…Valiant‘s had the gall over the past few weeks of putting out previews for the issue, listing it amidst its other issues, as if Legends of the Geomancer were something just ANYONE could simply, reasonably, get.

Look–when I’m consistently told by my local retailer that I AM his #1 Valiant customer, such that he’s handed me promo books rather than sell or put them on eBay, held copies of classic issues so I get first shot at them, extends a sale price to encourage me to clean out some of his classic Valiant titles–and I can’t even get a copy of the issue? There’s a problem.

For months now, since this was announced, I’ve had my feelings for Valiant shaken. There’ve been cracks in what was otherwise a great deal of good will and positivity toward the publisher. Whatever issues I had with them clustering titles, making use of variant covers to the point I had to SPECIFY that I only wanted “A” covers for my pull list, something being slightly “off” to their physical products compared to DC and Marvel and Image…I still had plenty of good to say about ’em.

I took to online resources–other shops, even eBay–to see what my chances were of getting a copy of the thing in the $10 range, and even half-flirted with the notion of going about $20 including shipping (in the heat of the ‘moment’). But I was met with asking prices of $30, $40, $50, even $80+.

Far beyond my budget and ability, let alone common sense willingness to pay. So, I don’t get the issue. I’m not able to get the issue in any reasonable fashion.

It’s not to be published digitally (through legal sources), nor is it to be reprinted in the inevitable Book of Death paperback collection.

I don’t have the issue.

I don’t have that story.

My collection as I see it, my having a copy of the entire STORY of the Valiant Universe…is incomplete.

Fine–the run is broken. So, no point in trying to keep up with everything, right? I don’t HAVE TO have every single Valiant issue ever published by this iteration of the company…I know that. I get that. I see that. I realize that.

But by being forced to face that, accept it in this manner, I just feel like I’m not the target audience for this publisher. As just some guy faithfully buying a copy of every single issue, pre-ordered sight unseen such that my local comic shop is at least ORDERING SOMETHING from Valiant off of everything they’re putting out as a single issue…

Why do I need ANY Valiant comics?

I’m being pushed away anyway, why not take a good, hard, long look…and hey! I don’t need to be buying Valiant.

I’m frustrated, angry, discouraged, upset….all these negatives…over A COMIC BOOK.

It’s not fun anymore.

And to me, continuing to support the publisher in the single issues format is to passively endorse their stunt. To say nothing of those negative feelings building up. Look at a Valiant issue, see anything about ’em and all the talk of that darned book that I couldn’t get?

No. No, thank you.

It’s a principle thing.

After stewing on it all afternoon and into the evening, I decided to hold to the principle.

I contacted my comic shop and asked to remove Valiant from my pull list.

I no longer want to have Valiant stuff waiting for me every week there’s something new from Valiant out. I’m no longer interested in paying $3.99 an issue for several issues at a time to keep up with ONLY “most of” a universe of story.

Does Valiant OWE me anything? No, they do not. NOR do I owe THEM anything. We had a good thing going, but they made their decision–whatever the motivations and expectations and intents…and I’ve made mine.

Am I SPITING myself? No–I can always track stuff down later in bargain bins or eBay lots, or some digital means (after all, by not KEEPING UP with everything, stuff’s gonna slip through the cracks, so no great “need” to get stuff in print). And I have loads of other stuff to read in the meantime. Shelves and shelves of collected volumes that have been neglected or languished lower in the queue. Stories I’ve “meant” to re-read for years. Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. Actual prose novels. Life to live.

Sure, I’m angry right now. And that’s prompted this disjointed, lengthy post. It’s prompted a decision that will leave me with 3-4 TMNT books being pulled for me each month, and pretty much anything else will be in-the-moment off-the-rack purchasing, if it’s actually stocked.

Despite this…I have little doubt that I’ll continue to seek the oversized hardcover “deluxe” editions. And who knows? MAYBE Legends of the Geomancer will be reprinted in the Book of Death deluxe edition someday–getting around the “not digital, not in PAPERback” phrasing. I don’t know, and I suppose I have a few months to a year to wait to find that one out. Kinda moot for now.

Marvel and DC have long alienated me, and Valiant was a sort of refuge. Now they, too, have alienated me, and lost me as a buyer of single issues.

But I’m pretty sure that all things considered? Life most certainly goes on!

X-O Manowar #37 [Review]

xomanowar037Dead Hand Part 4: Red Earth

Writer: Robert Venditti
Pencils: Diego Bernard
Inks: Ryan Winn w/Mark Pennington & Bit
Colors: Brian Reber
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Stephen Segovia & Brian Reber
Editor: Tom Brennan
Editor in Chief: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Date: June 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

While my feelings toward Valiant have taken a definite beating in the last few months, this issue reminded me why I’ll certainly be sticking with this SERIES even if I don’t stick with the entirety of Valiant‘s output.

We come to the conclusion of this Dead Hand arc, and we find things at a bit of a standoff. Authorities on Earth are quite alarmed at what might be coming, and seek to find out what they can of it. Meanwhile, as readers we see that Dead Hand has paused to consider how to proceed, taken aback by the sudden presence of a number of armors (that Aric has called to his side from throughout the galaxy) and then by their defense of life (Dead Hand having been programmed to eradicate the armors, all of whom were to be selfish things causing harm and destruction to life, not defending it). Of course, we get the predictable battle, with somewhat predictable results, then a bit of wrap up and an “out” to allow for future situations.

This issue truly felt like the end of an event series…yet it’s actually “only” the end of a single 4-issue story within the main X-O Manowar title, and there were no tie-ins, cross-overs, one-shots, etc. This was an organic follow-up to last year’s Armor Hunters, taking stuff set forth by that and exploring it further, adding to the X-O/Aric mythos, and serving as another off-earth “cosmic adventure” for our hero that makes SENSE. It also as an arc gave us some more characterization of and motivation to the Vine that will have long-lasting consequences in-continuity (say, like Marvel‘s Avengers‘ initial Kree-Skrull War).

A lot of my feelings come from the arc in general, and this issue lacks some of the core characterization and “moments.” We do have what I would consider a satisfactory conclusion to the arc, while leaving things open for later stuff to develop.

As the end of an arc, this is definitely for the continuing readers, and certainly not geared to be a jump-on point or a special singular issue (see the X-O Manowar 25th Anniversary Special for that or next month’s issue). If you’ve been following the title, it’s well worth getting this issue; any negative feelings I have come from external/”meta” stuff.

Venditti‘s writing continues to be strong, and with no less than 38 (37 plus the #0) issues CONSISTENTLY thus far to his name, has become the iconic writer of the character and book: with his name attached, it’s simple that the story works within its continuity and internal feel. The art is good as well, and I have no particular complaints with it.

In short, I enjoyed this issue far more than I expected to–both in and of itself as a single issue as well as the conclusion to a huge (but short) storyline.

The Weekly Haul – Week of June 3rd, 2015

Secret Wars is in FULL FORCE this week, having so very quickly ramped up in quantity, frequency, etc. Marvel is truly hitting a bunch of nostalgia points with me, which is exactly what they were going for, I know…but they’ve successfully re-targeted me as an audience, if only for the duration of Secret Wars itself (though moreso the tie-ins).

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I have yet to get around to actually READING the original Hulk: Future Imperfect or X-Men: The X-Tinction Agenda stories, but those are classics I’ve long been aware of and actually own (in some form) somewhere in my collection…but haven’t read. X-Men: Days of Future Past was one of THE stories in my youth, and one of the earliest hard-sought reading experiences for me to track down (I had to settle for a children’s novelization of the story before I ever got to read the actual comics!).

And of course, a married Spider-Man? After all my grousing through the years about Brand New Day and all that? An actual Amazing Spider-Man comic with Spidey, Peter, MJ, a baby, etc.? You’d darned well better believe I picked THIS one up.

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On a frustrating note…there are five Star Wars titles that I’m aware of at the moment. WHY an entire 60% of that load had to fall into ONE WEEK is absolutely BEYOND me. A tangible effect, though, is that because of these, I SKIPPED Secret Wars stuff I otherwise would have bought.

I actually read Grayson #1 in the Young Gotham Sampler, and enjoyed it; if the vol. 1 that just came out/is due out were a PAPERBACK I think I’d be all over it. As-is, as a hardcover, it’s gonna wait. And while I’d had spoilers for the end of New 52: Futures End and the Batman Beyond stuff, I still opted to check this one out for myself…ESPECIALLY once I noticed the $2.99 price point (yeah, TWO-ninety-nine, NOT the virtually-standard-now THREE-ninety-nine)!

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And finally on the tail end, my actual PULL LIST stuff: TMNT & Valiant. While good when I actually read ’em, I’m (dishearteningly so) amazed at how much DAMAGE has been done to my feelings toward their stuff in general of late due to the Legends of the Geomancer crap. (Damage that I think has contributed to my embracing Marvel for a bit with stuff I’m truly enjoying and looking forward to.)

I knew going into the shop this week that it was gonna be huge and expensive…I didn’t even step PAST the new issues rack this week. No quarter-bin temptations, no random back issues, etc. Just the new books, paid, and got the heck out.

Imperium #4 [Review]

imperium004Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Colorist: Brian Reber with Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Rafael Albuquerque, Kano, Rafa Sandoval, Cary Nord, Doug Braithwaite
Editor: Alejandro Arbona
Editor in Chief: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant Comics
Cover Date: May 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

This series is an interesting exercise for me so far. It feels like a definite “evolution” of sorts–having begun with Harbinger as an ongoing, bridged with Harbinger: Omegas and then functionally replacing Harbinger entirely. Its story began with what was laid out by the Harbinger run, but as those characters were scattered and moved about we still have Harada actively doing his thing…which presently is more important to the Valiant Universe than the Renegades’ story.

We find some of Harada’s people visiting another dimension, where one of them–Angela–is possessed by something. On their return, they find her eyes and entire visual system no longer exists and there is a self-aware intelligence inhabiting her body, but is not her. She offers knowledge in exchange for continued freedom/access to do her thing (the intelligence claims to be a scientist itself). She builds a machine, shows off her detachment, and by the end of the issue Harada declares a new war has begun.

If that seems a bit disjointed, it’s what I felt, reading this. I enjoyed the reading overall as a “latest segment of story,” but very much feel like it’s “just” part of a bigger story and not so much a cohesive whole by itself.

The art is definitely pretty to look at overall, if a bit disturbing at points…but that does mean it’s doing its job. For the stuff going on in the “other dimension” I didn’t find myself entirely following along, which I definitely do NOT care for…but if it was supposed to be surreal, I managed to pick up on that much.

We “feel” Harada in this issue more than we actually see him, which I definitely do not mind…the series is Imperium, not Harada. I do like the cover–or at least, the one I got–the “main” “A” cover. It’s got the stylized look of the series so far, and thus fits in visually as well as in simply BEING the newest issue. However, this seems to be the arbitrary conclusion to a short 4-issue arc (presumably for a $9.99 vol. 1 paperback) but does not really feel to me like it resolves anything…it simply continues stuff and kicks the door open on a new matter (presumably to be the focus of the next “arc”).

If you’re already following the title, this is worth getting for the continuation of the story. In and of itself as a single issue it’s nothing to jump over or seek out, though if you like Dysart and/or Braithwaite, and can find the first three issues it’d be worth getting those and this for a larger/longer reading experience (or just wait for the paperback). I do look forward to the next issue…not as some second arc, but just as the next chapter of an ongoing series.

Thoughts on This Week’s Secret Wars #2, Mythic #1 and X-O Manowar #36

Doing something they haven’t done in AGES, Marvel had a book out this week I was eagerly looking forward to, that drove my going to the comic shop on my lunch break despite construction and traffic and extending the break to read the entirety of the issue before getting back to work.

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SECRET WARS #2

Given the ending of Secret Wars #1 last week I was eager to see what this new “Battleworld” would be and how the sections would actually be depicted, so of course I had to get #2 as soon as I could, and read the thing as soon as possible after that.

It proved to be a bit of a letdown in that regard and truly felt like a new #1, an introductory issue to some world, with a fair bit “teased” but not much actually shown. I know it’s still only the first chunk of story and all, and “only” the “core” where there are oodles of tie-in issues and tie-in mini-series and all that still coming in the next few weeks and MONTHS, but I was still hoping for something more.

On the other side of things…despite the aforementioned hope, there was also the expectation of something a lot worse. I WANT to dislike this specifically because I’m consciously aware of it being a Hickman book. Unfortunately, I can’t find the same fault and feel in it that I would EXPECT of a Hickman book, and instead read the thing, turning page after page just wondering where stuff was going and if anything would be some overly blatant lead-out to other stuff. But it didn’t feel that way.

I enjoyed the issue on the whole, and am actually more disappointed to consciously realize the thing is not a weekly, and my brain is too caught up in DC’s thing being “only” 2 months…while I fear this Secret Wars thing is gonna be drawn out for half a year or so now.

MYTHIC #1

While it wasn’t pulled for me–its “promo pricing” being $1.99 instead of the usual $1-or-under threshold–seems I was the first one to actually buy a copy of the thing anyway, despite the shop having been open for at least a couple hours before I got there. And it is definitely the pricing that caught my attention for the book along with being a #1.

But reading the thing, it just doesn’t grab me. I got to the end of the issue, and actually went back and counted the story pages, sure that this had to have cut off around 16-18 pages, but no…22 story pages. Which is NOT bad for the $1.99 cover price…but getting to the end of the issue and simply wondering what the heck I’ve just read (not in a good way) does not bode well for me.

The issue’s not horrible or anything, by a long shot…but it just doesn’t grab me. It’s “another” reality-vs-fantasy thing showing that what “should” be fantasy is “true” while all the fiction and “magic” is real, and just feels cliche to me. None of the characters truly grabbed me, nothing to the visuals stood out, and even the cover seems…tired? Overly basic and generic?

Seems that EVERY SINGLE WEEK there’s a new #1 from Image out there, with one “high concept” or another, and though lately I’ve been more willing to try some of ’em instead of ONLY waiting for a paperback, they have incredibly high standards to live up to–even if I can’t exactly articulate some checklist of what those standards are.

X-O MANOWAR #36

Dead Hand part three. Aric failed to save Loam, but vows that Earth will not be destroyed the same way. He puts out a call to other armors around the universe, summoning them to his side to take the fight to Dead Hand even as Earth begins to realize the threat it now faces so soon after the Armor Hunters.

As usual, the art for the issue is good, and the story doesn’t suck. Unfortunately, I have a growing trepidation toward Valiant in general lately over stuff due for this summer–particularly the “Incentive Series” Legends of the Geomancer that has been advertised as part of the Book of Death stuff and yet simultaneously explained as not being needed to “get” and enjoy Book of Death.

Reading this issue I found myself contemplating whether or not the next issue would be my last, ast least in this format or for awhile. Instead of simply enjoying the story, the experience was tainted despite wanting to read this in and of itself.

Ultimately, a couple of good splash pages left me ready for the conclusion, and thinking about how we had an 18-part giant Armor Hunters event last summer…and in this third chapter of four we have stuff going on that seems like it’s supposed to all be so much bigger than the Armor Hunters but the story is given a fraction of the scope.

Despite negatives, though…this marks 37 monthly issues of X-O Manowar that I’ve kept up with…something I don’t think I’ve done with any title from any publisher to this extent in most of a decade.

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