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The Weekly Haul – Week of October 12, 2016

This week proved to be another "small" week for me, though also "key" and "expensive" in others.

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Firstly, yet another week with a new Superman comic (Action Comics, specifically)…I’d have to dig back, but I’ve gotta be getting close to the half-year mark of the week-to-week actively wanting to get the next Superman-related comic out that week, just for the next bit of story. And unlike even the New Krypton stuff (which PALES by comparison to Rebirth!), this is a FUN excitement, a new/updated status quo that I like and am not just going with. And rather than tease me with pseudo-triangle-numbering, the two main Superman books are just coming out, telling solid stories, and now with this issue of Action we’ve even got footnotes again–referencing the sister title (Superman) as if BOTH TITLES are actually taking place in the same timeline, part of the same universe, etc! We also get a nice reference to another series that means next issue will be interesting as well…

I was going to hold off on Supergirl, but that cover just grabbed me! Not so much the rendition of the character herself (this art style is not very much to my liking for her) but the Cyborg Superman, and the promise of potential that it holds in that image.

And I pulled the trigger on the Hellblazer volume to get that outta my system…I don’t think vol. 15 is due for another few months, and unfortunately, I worry too much about stuff going out of print these days, thanks to Marvel refusing to keep anything in print all that long or predictably. This volume is also a bit more of a "key" volume than I’d considered initially.

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With Hellblazer vol. 14: Good Intentions, these new editions have fully caught up to where I came into the series back in 2001 (just over 15 years ago!). This single volume combines three previous paperbacks, as it collects Hard Time, Good Intentions, and …Freezes Over. Sixteen issues in one volume; three story arcs…plus material from Vertigo Secret Files: Hellblazer.

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Now begins the steady march through as the new editions finish, and hopefully over the next several years, we’ll get a full Hellblazer library of volumes that actually look like the single series that they are, and allow one to–in this format–have the entirety of the 300-issue 25-year series.

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Even if the new, numbered editions do not end up spanning the entirety of the run…I do have–with the probable exception of the Hellblazer: Bad Blood mini–the run between the new editions and the smaller "original" editions.

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Acquiring Critical Mass (and TPB pricing)

Usually, I’m not one for buying a tpb the week it comes out, nor for buying it at a shop instead of waiting to get it on Amazon or some other site or finding it at a used book store.

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But this volume is a bit of a milestone: it begins the collection of Paul Jenkins‘ run on the title–brand-new-to-collected-format material I have been interested in reading for well over a decade!

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I’ve been trying to keep up with these new editions, and fully intend a serious re-reading project at some point. Until then, though, I add to the shelf, while removing my older editions to make space for these numbered editions.

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This volume collects 13 issues, and while not the thickEST of the Hellblazer volumes in this new run, it’s still a very nicely-thick book. The best part is that despite that whopping issue-count…the cover price is STILL ONLY $19.99. And truthfully, I felt the need to buy this one in-store because so few volumes carry such a REASONABLE, respectable ratio of price-and-content.

I’ve no doubt that a Marvel volume of this size/this many issues would be at MINIMUM $34.99 if not $39.99. Of course, for Marvel, that’d be a “mere” $3/issue contained within as opposed to the seeming “standard” of $4-$5/issue contained.

This volume works out to about $1.54/issue…which is LESS THAN COVER PRICE for the individual issues it contains. Truly a benefit of the format, and a large part of what draws me in: the bargain of having en entire story or run of issues in a single volume…at a better price than the single issues. All the more as these issues are from the mid-1990s so nearly 20 years old and (at least in my experience) not the easiest to come by in bargain bins.

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These new editions are becoming a larger part of my overall Hellblazer library. With many of these replacing 2-3 prior volumes, I’m also liking how the collection is shaping up with the thicker volumes instead of a bunch of skinny little things.

I’d thought this 9th volume wasn’t going to replace anything, but then realized that the first issue of the collection–#84–wraps up the material reprinted in the Hellblazer: Rare Cuts volume. At the time, that volume had stuff that hadn’t previously been reprinted, but it was primarily from the earliest part of the series–and these editions have filled in the gaps that Rare Cuts had tried to fill.

With this volume carrying to #96, I figure volumes 10 & 11 will be completely “new” content to my collection, with Son of Man picking up at #129. With several months between volumes, that won’t be something to worry about until next year sometime.

What’s going to be particularly “interesting” to me is when (if?) these catch up to where I “joined in” around #160/161 or so; or just as much a few issues earlier with the start of Azzarello‘s run.

Updating the Hellblazer Library before Constantine

I virtually NEVER buy collected volumes “in-person,” sticking to single issues for in-person purchases, due to pricing. However, I have been quite highly impressed with the re-issued Hellblazer volumes the last year or two.

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This week, I picked up volume 8, which is a rather thick volume, and very certainly physically FEELS like a big book, well worth its cover price. As with the earlier volumes, this one is basically a merging of two of the “original edition” volumes into a single book.

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The new Hellblazer vol. 8: Rake at the Gates of Hell contains the issues previously collected as the un-numbered volumes Hellblazer: Damnation’s Flame and Hellblazer: Rake at the Gates of Hell. This volume is rather significant for ME, as the original Damnation’s Flame was the first Hellblazer book I ever read and it–along with a Secret Files and Origins issue–were my initial introduction to the series and the John Constantine character.

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Part of the heft of the physicality of the volume seems to be that the paper might be slightly thicker…or somehow less compressed. Even with less covers, this new volume is actually fatter than the two original volumes whose issues this contains.

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Now, if I was looking at a Marvel volume collecting this many issues, or simply being this thick, I would certainly expect it to be–at MINIMUM–a $35 book, more likely $40, if not a $50 paperback. But here from DC (well, Vertigo) this is a “mere” $19.99 or to use my above rounding, it’s a $20 book. What makes that EXTRA appealing is looking at the two older editions that I bought over ten years ago.

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When I bought Damnation’s Flame back somewhere in 2003 or so, it was $16.95…and as that predated my online ordering and such, I actually paid cover price plus tax at Comic Heaven.

And in 2004 or so when Rake at the Gates of Hell was put out, it was itself $19.95. A $17 book and a $20 book–$37ish total–yet now in this new edition the entirety is only $20.

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Given that these new editions are actually NUMBERED and contain extra issues the original volumes did not (the original edition of vol. 1 did not contain the Swamp Thing issues, for example. Vol. 1 now has them so you’re NOT left on some cliffhanger that you have to leave the series of volumes to resolve. And this time through–at least so far, in July 2014–the volumes share a cohesive trade-dress so they actually look like a series.

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I’m still missing several of the later volumes of the series, though still filling in those holes, despite the chance that I’ll be double-dipping, “upgrading” to the new editions if the entire series actually gets collected. As-is, vol. 8 takes us up to #83…at this rate, I do imagine we’re looking at an eventual 30 or so volumes if these make it through to the 300th issue; possibly 31-32 if various specials and such get factored in, maybe more if any of the spotlight minis (Lady Constantine, Chaz, Papa Midnight) get mixed in.

The next question is going to be how to “recycle” my old editions. Sell ’em on eBay? Sell them as a lot? Sell them individually? With these new editions, those old ones are technically out of print–so based on the APPARENT “logic” of Amazon 3rd-party resellers, I should probably sell them for about $50-$140 apiece, right*?

(*Actually I’d consider looking toward roughly $10/ea if I could sell ’em all at once, maybe put that into the new editions of Preacher or even Lucifer, with Lucifer having the weight as I already have old editions of Preacher but have yet to read Lucifer at all)..

Bargain Bin Haul: Kid Eternity

Flipping through the quarter-bin today, I found two volumes of the Grant Morrison Kid Eternity mini-series. A bit furtrher into the bin, I found the third. I thought I was missing a fourth until I saw the “of 3” and satisfied, pulled all three.

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I didn’t even notice until I got the issues home and was taking the photo seen above that the three covers form a singular image. Definitely an added “bonus” of sorts. This is ALSO the way such things SHOULD be done, in my opinion–any multi-part non-wrap-around cover image should be DIFFERENT ISSUES, not multiple variants of the SAME issue. But then, these were published some 23 years ago, before all that cropped up.

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Along with the original mini, I also found the full 16-issue run of the Vertigo ongoing series. The first issue of this is the first Vertigo comic I remember ever being “aware of” AS Vertigo, as an “adult” or “mature readers” comic.

And while I almost left these in the bin, I figured 16 issues was a pretty good chunk of the series. Come to realize looking in the back of #16 that it was the series finale, thus giving me the full series.

This entire run cost me $4.75…hardly more than a Marvel, and cheaper than the cover price of one of the Morrison issues, even all these years later.

Catching up on some recent non-villains reading

ASTRO CITY #4

astrocity004This is exactly the sort of story I absolutely love from this series. Astro City brings to life a certain reality of superhumans existing in ordinary society, and rarely does so better than showing us that not every last individual that develops a power is automatically a hero or villain. We’re brought into a world of individuals who have found other uses for their powers, making a living with the use of their power outside the flash-bang of the constant hero/villain battles. In this case, a telekinetic using her powers to assist in the special effects for film, allowing model movement without cumbersome wires. of course, there are those that would see such use as a waste of talent and seek to round these folks up and force them to use their powers for someone’s gain. But that’s where a network of the non-action folks comes in as they have one another’s backs. Great story, great art, and a fantastic self-contained one-issue story. Even when I tell myself I’ll wait for the collected volume(s), it’s issues like this that keep me coming back for the single-issue Astro City experience!

BATMAN BLACK AND WHITE (2013) #1

batmanblackandwhite001Despite overall enjoyment of the one-shot nature of the Villains Month books this September, as a longer-term thing I’ve been gravitating to DC‘s digital-first stuff that basically exists on its own. I saw and passed on this issue the week it came out, but wound up buying it this past weekend on others’ recommendation and ended up quite enjoying it. While the $4.99 cover price is rather off-putting, it FELT like I had a lengthy reading experience out of the deal. The multiple short stories lend an air of added value, as not only do we not “need” to buy the next issue to resolve a cliffhanger but got several COMPLETE stories in this issue. I quite enjoyed the mix of stories and art, and look forward to the next issue. Also, while I usually hate “sketch covers” and such, which this one would certainly qualify as in my eyes…this one works here because it’s perfectly fitting to the contents of the issue and nature of the book itself. Though I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing this image in full color as a poster or such.

TMNT NEW ANIMATED ADVENTURES #3

tmntnewanimatedadventures003I’m continuing to enjoy pretty much any dose of TMNT in comic form, and this title continues to have exactly what I’m looking for in it. I’m really enjoying Brizuela‘s art as it nicely carries the tone of the tv series while keeping a comic look and being its own thing. I did find the story itself fairly forgettable on the whole here, but in a way that could actually be a bit of a strength: it fits so well with other episodes of the tv series and earlier issues of this series that it just blends right in. The cover made me think we were getting an expanded look at Kraang-Prime, which unfortunately was not actually the case; but still made for a cool, interesting cover. There’s not much in the way of solid “mythology” to this series, as it’s truly a companion of sorts to the tv series…but I’m liking it. Now if we could just get a single-issue edition classic reprint series of the old Archie TMNT Adventures, I’d be all set!

BATMAN ’66 #3

batman66003This issue was fairly fun for me. Usually I wouldn’t much care for this sort of thing, but I enjoyed seeing the Red Hood concept introduced into the ’66 universe. It definitely fit well, and kept the typical tone I’d expect from the classic tv series. Unfortunately, I’m noticing a pattern wherein we have a story taking up 2/3 of the issue and another short filler taking up the final third…and I’ve had to basically force myself through the final story. I appreciate the pagecount for the price, but would prefer more to the main story’s segments. On the whole, I’m still getting a “feel” for this series though look forward to what else we get from it. I suppose I could pick and choose from the digital chapters, but while I’ll buy some comics digitally, since this is a title I’m choosing as a “DC Fix” or “Batman Fix” for the month, I’d prefer to buy it in print for the time-being. I do wonder how long until the visual style wears on me…I appreciate having the characters look like the actors’ depictions and such (note Joker’s facial hair in this issue), but I don’t care for some of the other flourishes.

Astro City (2013) #3 [Review]

astrocity003Mistakes

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Eric Anderson
Cover: Alex Ross
Lettering & Design: John G. Roshell & Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft
Color Art: Alex Sinclair
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Assistant Editor: Jessica Chen
Executive Editor: Shelly Bond
Published by: Vertigo/DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

I’ve always quite enjoyed stories set in a superhero universe that focus on the “regular people” in the world; how they are affected by the mere EXISTENCE of the super-heroes; how their lives are different from ours, for that “reality.” And I’ve found no series more consistent at delivering that than Astro City, whoever’s publishing the title at the time.

While I thought #1 was starting a single ongoing story, it seems that was either a red herring or something to be revisited later, as last issue gave a whole different story, which is picked up again in this issue.

After realizing her mistake and what she seems to have set off–a huge war between Honor Guard and the Skullcrushers–that’s resulted in much collateral damage and loss of life, our heroine first goes home sick, before resolving to take action…self-imposed penance, essentially. She takes it upon herself to use what resources she has access to, to try to assist those negatively impacted by her mistake, though this leads to another unintended result for her…and inadvertently proves her worth to those she most assumes sees none in her.

The art is clear and consistent as usual, the coloring and overall tone maintaining “the look and feel” I associate with Astro CityRoss‘ cover and ANDERSON’S interiors both.

The story feels like a “typical” sort, for this title in whatever its iteration (Wildstorm, Vertigo, etc)…which is to say it doesn’t blow me away in the way that, say, the #1/2 issue did from all those years back, but this is still darned good stuff!

This issue IS the second of a 2-part story, so while there’s plenty of context to “get” what’s going on in this issue, it’s likely far more appreciable if you at least snag #2 as well and read this in context of that…though you do not need to go all the back to #1.

Definitely recommended!

Astro City (2013) #2 [Review]

Astro City (2013) #2Welcome to HumanoGlobal

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Eric Anderson
Cover: Alex Ross
Lettering & Design: John G. Roshell & Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft
Color art: Alex Sinclair
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Assistant Editor: Jessica Chen
Published by: Vertigo/DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

$3.99 sucks. I’m really, really very tired of this price point. I think I’m going to keep making sure that’s extremely well-documented in these reviews and other blog posts until I eventually give up on new comics altogether.

That said, if you’re going to pay $3.99 for a single issue of a comic, there are few better series out there than Astro City. Even when you don’t know what the issue will be about or it deviates from the previous issue or whatever…it’s hard not to look back on a given issue without a bit of a smile and some disbelief at how much it was enjoyed and sheds different light on superhero stuff typically taken for granted or outright not often considered.

This issue focuses on a new employee of a hotline–said hotline turns out to be for a call center that weeds out the truly important calls for the Honor Guard, and in other cases outright makes connections allowing Honor Guard to be sent after villains/terrorists before they have a chance to enact plans that would otherwise leave the heroes reactive rather than proactive. We see bits of her training, the sorts of calls she takes, and the excitement with her teammates when they manage to catch a big call and be part of the overall “process” that leads to the saving of so many lives. Though they largely have to keep the true nature of their work secret from family and non-work friends, they find certain perks within their work…but also learn that one mistake can be very costly.

The art is strong as usual for an Astro City issue; everyone who should look familiar does, and those that don’t still look quite good. While the story itself isn’t your usual fare, the sequences with superhero action look as one might expect (if not a bit on the higher end quality-wise) while the normal people look…normal.

Story-wise, this is another great outing, showing that Busiek knows his stuff–and does very well giving us a look at the human side of things, as “normal humans” interact in a world filled with super-powered beings and threats, and how the culture itself is impacted by their very existence.

While I missed this issue on Wednesday and thought “oh well” I quickly realized that no, I actually really wanted to read this, and it became the entire reason of going back to a comic shop Friday rather than simply waiting and picking it up with next week’s books. There really aren’t many series that do that for me.

Provided you have any background at all with Astro City–I’d especially recommend the first TPB Life in the Big City (there’s even a new edition out now)–you’d actually be fine jumping in on this issue without even having read #1…which is another strength of this series: there are a lot of short arcs and done-in-one issues, rather than the “standard” fare from DC and Marvel necessitating 4-6 issues’ investment just for a single story.

I’d largely prefer to hold off for the collected volumes, but for now, this return of Astro City is such a welcome thing, I’m likely to keep going with the single issues for at least a few more months.

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