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My Marvel Digital Journey, Month #2

uncannyxforce026When I first decided to try the Marvel Digital app, I justified it to myself on cost of print counterparts. Read a couple stories and that’d pay for itself, compared to buying the collected volumes.

For that first month, I ultimately read about 50 issues, working out to everything being like having read a bunch of 25-cent bin books. For “only” $10 spent, I was quite pleased with myself.

But getting into Month #2, I found myself devouring issues, and REALLY found myself taking advantage of the content-to-price ratio.

First, I decided to read/finish the final part of the run of Uncanny X-Force I’d dropped after frustration with the shipping frequency and art changes and general bad attitude toward Marvel and $3.99 books.

uncannyavengers001Finishing that, I followed a story thread into Uncanny Avengers; then followed stuff from that into the “core” event mini for Axis. Then I backtracked on Magneto’s story…and then decided to backtrack further to get the context for him going off on his own. But knowing the books had run side-by-side, I decided to pair Uncanny X-Men with All-New X-Men.

And in the reading I tried to include Annuals, which led me to the Arms of the Octopus “Special” issues; I also read all the tie-ins of the Battle of the Atom crossover.

Amidst all that, I also took about a week and a half “off” from the comics to read two full-length books: A Street Cat Named Bob, and The World According to Bob.

avengersxmenaxis001All in all, for what amounted to just under 3 weeks of reading, I breezed through nearly 120 issues, all from within the last several years; well over $400 had I bought the issues in-print as they were coming out, and still significantly cheaper than even a 25-cent bin.

All that X-reading has me looking at my third month definitely including the entirety of the first Wolverine & the X-Men, probably the middle Uncanny X-Men run, and the female X-Men title. I might throw in the core AvX series as a re-read. I also find myself interested in reading stuff because I “can,” that I would not otherwise have any real interest in…though some of it I’m content to save for another month or two, when the app catches up to immediately pre-Secret Wars continuity.

Skeptical as I was to start…the way it’s played out–having a tablet I like and plentiful wi-fi (at home and at work)–this has been amazing for my getting back a “joy” in (Marvel) comics.

My list of comics read:

  • xmen_battleoftheatom001Uncanny X-Force #25-35
  • Uncanny Avengers vol. 1 #1-25
  • Uncanny Avengers vol. 1 #8AU
  • Uncanny Avengers vol. 1 Annual #1
  • Avengers & X-Men: Axis #1-9
  • Magneto (2014) #1-14
  • All-New X-Men (2012) #1-26
  • Uncanny X-Men (2013) #1-22
  • X-Men: Battle of the Atom #1-2
  • X-Men (vol4) #5-6
  • Wolverine and the X-Men vol. 1 #36-37
  • All-New X-Men (2012) Special #1 (Arms of the Octopus 1 of 3)
  • Indestructible Hulk Special #1 (Arms of the Octopus 2 of 3)
  • Superior Foes of Spider-Man Special #1 (Arms of the Octopus 3 of 3)
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Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Gambit and the X-Ternals #4

aoa_revisited_logo

gambitandthexternals004The Maze

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Salvador Larrocca
Inker: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Marie Javins
Cover: Salvador Larrocca, Al Milgrom
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: June 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

We pick up some time after the previous issue, and find our focal characters split. Dazzler and Exodus appear, and find the remains of the Nanny robot that was tasked with protecting Rogue and Magneto’s son. We then change scenes to later and elsewhere, to Apocalypse personally interrogating Rictor over his failure. We flash back from there to Gambit and Lila running from Rictor and those characters’ confrontation…and back to Apocalypse. Another flashback shows Jubilee with a child running from Guido (Strong Guy) who has apparently betrayed the group. We see more of the interrogation, and flash back to Rictor vs. Strong Guy and Strong Guy vs. Gambit. Gambit is forced to make a decision…and we move back to Apocalypse and learn of Rictor’s outcome as well as Strong Guy’s…and end on Gambit and Lila.

This issue is a great illustration (no pun intended) of how great single-issue comics can be when treated AS a single issue, even if it’s part of a larger story or mini-series or such. The storytelling is stylistically quite different from the previous issues…instead of things simply unfolding chronologically, this issue picks up "at the end" and while we learn of where things ARE we’re caught up on how things got there from where we ended from the previous issue. Though the characters, their mission, and this 4-issue series are part of one ongoing story, this is "just" one more issue, existing AS an issue, as its own entity, rather than simply being the fourth chunk of a singular story that was split into four equal pieces to be serialized.

I really enjoyed this shift in style, despite a bit of confusion at first. I certainly would have benefitted from a "Previously…" page as I did not recall the ending of the previous issue; but as this issue unfolds and we have the flashbacks and glimpses of the present, one is caught up rather easily (though Guido’s betrayal is still a bit iffy to me).

I was distracted enough by the story that the art was just "there," good and all but it didn’t distract me. I simply followed the story and appreciated the visuals for what they were.

I did not recall the events of this series or issue, but here found it a fitting end…concluding the adventure, leaving things at a place simultaneously dark and light, and directing readers to the end of the Age of Apocalypse itself by way of Amazing X-Men #4 and then X-Men: Omega.

Age of Apocalypse Revisited: Gambit and the X-Ternals #1

aoa_revisited_logo

gambitandthexternals001Some of Us Looking to the Stars

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Tony Daniel
Inker: Kevin Conrad
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist: Marie Javins
Cover: Tony Daniel
Editor: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: March 1995
Cover Price: $1.95

This was twenty years ago, real-time. Gambit was ‘only’ introduced about 4-5 years prior to this issue’s original release, and there have been several “ongoing” Gambit books in the interim, so it’s no longer a ‘special’ thing that Gambit’s headlining a series. Nor is the character the same sort of “mystery” he once was.

But for the time, this was the character leading a ragtag group of rebels, having himself split off from the X-Men due–in large part–to “losing” Rogue to Magneto.

We meet Jubilee running from an Infinite before they’re intercepted by Guido. The two are joined by Sunspot and the momentary battle is over. On returning home they’re met by the most dangerous man they know–Magneto. Who is there with Gambit…and the team’s led to their new mission. After a fight in the Morlock tunnels they’re made aware of the wider universe…and with the unleashed power of Lila Cheney, the team is sent to the other side of the galaxy, after the M’Kraan crystal. Magneto–on Earth–realizes just how fragile all his machinations truly are.

I find myself less impressed in this issue with Daniel‘s art. It’s not bad by any means…but it’s not as good as I’d expect presently on name alone. Then again…this is from two decades ago. There’s a certain style to the linework that registers this firmly in my mind as a ’90s comic without even having to see the cover, indicia, or anything else officially dating it. There’s certainly plenty of comic art out there far less appealing to me, but by and large this issue does not thrill me visually.

Story-wise this is much of what I’d want in a first issue, particularly the sort this actually is. This is coming out of the events of X-Men: Alpha which has set “everything” in motion for this epic Age of Apocalypse ‘event’ and itself introduces us to “new” characters beyond Magneto and Gambit, and their role in things. We’re introduced to the mission itself and the means by which the characters are able to have any chance of cosmic reach in a ruined world…and we’re given the wonder of just what they’ve gotten themselves into: events that we’ll see play out in coming issues.

I’m more enamored with the “idea” of this book than the execution…yet, on the whole I enjoyed this. But then, I’m quite enjoying the entirety of my re-reading of these Age of Apocalypse issues, and this definitely rides that wave a bit. I don’t know that I find this issue singularly important in a stand-alone sense, but it works in the grander scheme of the present X-Universe these are taking place in and given I do not recall details…I’m definitely interested in revisiting this group of characters and their Shi’Ar adventure.

The ‘90s Revisited: December ’94 X-Books

As the events of Legion Quest were reshaping the ENTIRE line of X-books for the start of 1995, even the titles not directly involved in Legion Quest itself reflected the fact that story was going on, with each title ending with the reality-ending crystallization wave washing over things, most of the books being left on a cliffhanger. While I wasn’t originally going to cover these other titles due to not being direct tie-ins/chapters of Legion Quest, I figured I’d touch briefly on them after all. Here are the resultant five “mini-reviews” of the rest of the December 1994-shipping X-Books.

WOLVERINE #90

wolverine090The Dying Game

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Adam Kubert
Inks: Mark Farmer & Dan Green
Lettering: Pat Brosseau
Coloring: Marie Javins
Cover: Adam Kubert, Greg Hildebrandt, Tim Hildebrandt
Editor: Bob Harras

This is one of the more "iconic" issues of this series for me–and certainly harnesses the "feel" of this "era" of the comic for me. The cover is the first thing that stands out, with a hybrid Kubert/Hildebrandt Bros. image–the distinctive Hildebrandts image that would be great on its own, with Kubert‘s art overlaid to the side, and the series logo is almost an afterthought or a formality.

The issue’s story is fairly simplistic, with Wolverine returning to the X-Mansion to keep an eye on the imprisoned Sabretooth while everyone else is away. Wolverine starts out refusing to fight, but pieces things together about the time Sabretooth pulls an escape, and the two brawl. Ultimately they wind up with Wolverine on top, having popped two claws, one to either side of Sabretooth’s head. The villain taunts Wolverine, threatening everyone he loves and cares about, and right as Wolverine pops the third claw–into Sabretooth’s brain–the crystallization wave hits and this never happened, as this universe ends.

While not on the same level as X-Men #s 25 or 41 or Wolverine #75, this is an issue that’s long stood out to me. The ending plays very well with the pre-Age of Apocalypse cliffhanger thing, leaving us hanging a bit on the supposed fate of Sabretooth, what it means for Wolverine to have at long last apparently killed his old foe, etc. (However, the popularity of the characters renders this cliffhanger moot, where some of the "lesser" characters/titles have faded over the years and hold far less memory).

X-FACTOR #111

xfactor111Explosive Performance

Plot: John Francis Moore
Script: Todd Dezago
Pencils: Jan Duursema
Inks: Al Milgrom
Colors: Glynis Oliver
Letters: Starkings/Comicraft
Cover: Tom Grummett, Al Milgrom
Editor: Kelly Corvese
Group Editor: Bob Harras

This issue is one of the more memorable cliffhanger-issues for the month’s X-books, with Guido (Strong Guy) falling to a heart attack, and Reality ends before we learn if he’s actually dead or not.

I remember THAT I’d read a handful of issues of the title from #92-onward thanks to my introduction via the Fatal Attractions crossover the year before. However, other than apparently having read the END, I don’t recall THIS issue’s story prior to reading it this time around.

On the whole, this was a solid enough jumping-in issue…helped perhaps by having read #109 (the Legion Quest Prelude). As I read this issue, I kept mixing up Lila Cheney with Dazzler…two characters I’m familiar enough with name-wise but not so much story-wise. And though I didn’t totally follow–there’s a definite sense I missed plenty with skipping #110–I didn’t feel "lost" or have any particular problem with reading this issue.

That’s probably primarily helped by the fact I read this solely for its "tie-in" to Legion Quest and specifically TO get to the cliffhanger, to have the sense of where the title left off immediately preceding the shift into the Age of Apocalypse itself.

GENERATION X #4

generationx004Between the Cracks

Story: Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo
Inks: Mark Buckingham
Colors by: Steve Buccellato
Lettering: Richard Starkings/Comicraft
Cover: Chris Bachalo
Editing: Tom DeFalco, Bob Harras

I’ve yet to *really* ever read any issues of this title–I couldn’t say for sure if I’ve ever actually read an issue, including this one. I remember getting this when it came out, though, so I probably did read it…just without knowing much about the characters. I’d only partially followed the Phalanx Covenant stuff that led to Generation X, and didn’t yet know (m)any of the new characters. This issue’s very stylistic, which I’m not all that enamored with. The story itself isn’t bad, though I don’t much care for the page borders or the little character wandering said borders and holding up page-number signs. It’s an interesting thing to do, and I can appreciate it setting this title apart, as well as the "meta" nature of it. Perhaps it was even "fun" at the time. It just doesn’t do much for me.

Reading this issue for its "lead-in" to Age of Apocalypse was quite disappointing, as it also "bucked the trend" of the other X-books in doing its own thing and then a tacked-on bit to account for the ending of the universe. Not bad in and of itself–a good way to get around being totally formulaic, but my appreciation does not equal enjoyment–and this was the least-enjoyable of the non-Legion Quest X-issues heading into the big event.

X-FORCE #43

xforce043Teapot in a Tempest

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciler: Tony Daniel
Inker: Kevin Conrad
Coloring: Mike Thomas
Cover: Tony Daniel, Kevin Conrad
Editor: Bob Harras

I definitely don’t remember this issue’s story as something I’d read before. I’m familiar with a number of the characters–perhaps from stuff I’ve read in the last 20 years, where I can’t say for sure I’d’ve been familiar with them at the time. I liked the art for this issue, and it’s interesting to see that it’s Tony Daniel, whose work I enjoyed on Batman a few years back. In addition to appreciating the art, I enjoyed this snippet of story–it was cool seeing a number of different characters/situations without them all having to be together in one space; with these multiple ongoing subplots weaving about. The Reignfire reveal seems like it was rather huge at the time, though not recalling anything of the character tells me that’s not something that’s particularly carried to this day.

That the issue involved communication with Cable and was affected by his absence due to things going on in Legion Quest was a definite treat, showing how the various characters tie together and that this issue is not something "on the fringe" of the X-universe of the time but was still closely affected.

EXCALIBUR #86

excalibur086Back to Life

Writer: Warren Ellis
Pencil Artist: Ken Lashley
Ink Artist: Tom Wegrzyn
Letterer: J. Babcock
Colorist: J. Rosas
Cover: Ken Lashley, Tom Wegrzyn
Editor: Suzanne Gaffney
Group Editor: Bob Harras

While I certainly did not pick up on the significance of things at the time, rereading this issue brought back snippets of memory–particularly Kitty’s threat to put Wisdom’s cigarette out, and the issue’s end with the jet crashing.

I do not recall consciously noting before now that this was a Warren Ellis-written issue, though somewhere along the way I became aware of his having been the writer in this general time, and being the one behind the Pete Wisdom character. That this seems to be Wisdom’s first appearance is rather cool.

This issue was a welcome glimpse back to the then-status-quo, and a reminder that Kitty and Nightcrawler had a period of time where they were NOT part of the X-Men themselves. I’d also forgotten about other characters, as well as how much I "miss" Moira’s presence in the X-books. Of course, given contemporary things, that’s practically a generational factor.

The cliffhanger of the characters facing a crash-landing that they weren’t certain of surviving was compelling even back in the day, and has me curious about how the point was resolved when everything returned after the Age of Apocalypse…I’m partially torn on digging that issue out to find out versus allowing myself the wondering until after covering the event itself.

Marvel Universe Series IV Revisited, Part 19

While informative, I don’t have all that much to say about this page of cards, except that I probably referred to the Warlock vs. Man Beast card when I got into the Warlock character a couple years later; and though I’m aware of some of these conflicts, they don’t particularly interest me on the whole.

Still, I definitely like that these cards had a bit of informative substance on the backs rather than simply listing an issue # of battle and leaving it at that.

Some of these are a bit of “history” that’s held to this day, I think…while others have mostly faded to just being objects of their time.

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A Haul Worthy of Comic Con (part 2)

The other day I shared a bunch of bargain bin comics I’ve picked up the last few weeks. Cool as those were (especially the Robin stack), the “heart” of it all–and where I’ve felt the MOST “progress”–has been with the X-books.

Here is the bulk of my Marvel haul the last few weeks…again, this would put what I could find at any major convention to shame….three local comic shops can outdo a room of 50+ dealers.

xmenwolverinehulk

I believe with this issue of Uncanny X-Men, I’m only missing Gambit’s first appearance (#266) from having a run on the title from Inferno to 400-something, and even the 400s are getting filled in nicely (see further below).

ironmanhulketc

These were issues I actually grabbed to round out a batch of “$.50/ea or 15/$5” issues. I’m going to have to pull together my Iron Man run soon to figure out exactly what I am missing–I’m pretty sure I’ve got at least half of the 1998-2004 series, and a good chunk of the Extremis series.

mephistovsmarveluniverse

Saw all 4 issues, which I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen all 4 at once or not…I know I’ve seen this in chunks of 1-3 issues, though. And for a mere $1? Heck, yeah!

2099worldoftomorrow

Kinda bummed, assuming someone cherry-picked #1 here. Still…easier to remember I need #1 than one issue in 2-5.

2099doomissues1to26minus2

As I’ve said repeatedly in this blog: I’m a sucker for “runs.” Doom 2099 #1-26 (missing only #2) was too good to pass up…though I’ve been more interested in getting a run of Spider-Man 2099 like this…and leaning toward adding the 2099 line to my “want list.”

captainamericafightingchance

I’ve long been interested in the Fighting Chance story, in tracking down a copy for myself. I once borrowed this run from a friend, and read it–years ago, over a decade back–but I’ve wanted to have a copy for myself. I’m pretty sure I’ve got most of the run from 438-454 or whatever the final issue was around Onslaught, the entire Heroes Reborn series, the entire Heroes Return series, and a part of the 2002 series…so had my eye on this as a point to go “back to.” Finding all 12 issues of the main arc plus the epilogue in one go for basically $3.25? Beats the heck outta “just” a single $3.99 book today!

1016728_654404861255975_924327134_n

And just because it’s a huge issue and was only 25 cents, snagged another copy of #400. Also grabbed Astro City vol.1 #1, first print…for the sheer novelty of it only being a quarter. Had there been more issues of the series, I would’ve snagged those as well–even though I have the collected volumes through Local Heroes.

shinyxbooksissues

I grabbed Prime and Uncanny #300 because of being big issues…and shiny. Can’t beat comics like this from 20 years ago that would easily be $8+ today…and getting both for about 50 cents.

xmanissues

Gradually starting to fill in the X-Man issues. I originally followed ALL the X-titles during Age of Apocalypse, and then a few months immediately after, before dwindling off on the various titles. I kept up with X-Man off and on through the years, which makes it a bit harder to remember what I remember because I read or have just seen the cover image for.

amazingxmenageofapocalypse

And I think I’m somewhat building another Age of Apocalypse set…at least if I can find all 4 issues of a given series together. I keep seeing Astonishing X-Men, but finally saw a full run of Amazing X-Men.

xmenunlimitedissues

Also filling in the X-Men Unlimited run. I’m also trying to track down the NON-shiny covers for the various issues that had ’em…while they’re cool and grab my attention, ultimately I actually want to have all “standard” covers in my main run of the series. In this case, the Phalanx Covenant crossover is the main such series of issues.

newxmenacademyx

Academy X is probably gonna be one of the harder series for me to fill in, given how “recent” it is. While $1/issue isn’t bad, I suspect that ultimately I’ll wind up having to suck it up and raid $1 bins for this series…barring more significant “finds” than the handful of issues here.

newxmen

I wound up buying the first two oversized hardcovers collecting this run…and jumped to the singles from there. So I’m backtracking on the singles. My main “goal” is the ’90s X-books through this NEW X MEN run; beyond that will just be bonus.

uncannyxmenissues

Despite focus on the ’90s, I think ultimately I’m aiming for Inferno to the end of the first Uncanny X-Men series…with hauls like this, it’s not too far outta the question.

xfactororiginalseries

I’ve had far better luck with X-Factor than I have with New Mutants…almost to the point that I’m debating whether I even want to track down the New Mutants series piecemeal. I may content myself with the later printings of Cable’s first appearance to the end, or just stick with X-Force.

xfactor2005

Though this “2nd” X-Factor series technically falls outside my “core” range…the renumbering to 200+ (and finding this 43-issue run) leads me to count it as one entire run on the whole…particularly given PAD’s lengthy run here.

generationxissues

I’d forgotten that Generation X only ran 75 issues…but should have recalled, as it and X-Man were both part of this Counter X sub-imprint/branding at the end, and both ended at that #75. This run is nearly 1/5 of the entire series…which isn’t bad at all!

excaliburissues

Excalibur’s in a similar vein as New Mutants for me, except I’ve had much more luck finding a number of issues for it. It’s one of the lower “priorities” for me, but since a lot of my fondness of the ’90s is centered largely around titles that existed during Fatal Attractions and around Age of Apocalypse…this certainly counts!

xtremexmenissues

Finally, a bunch of X-Treme X-Men issues. I’m actually particularly interested in learning more about what went down with Rogue and Gambit, and kinda see them as having disappeared into this series for a few years. How accurate that is remains for me to discover, but nothing wrong with adding another complete X-series to my collection…

This Week’s New Comics haul: 4/17

This was another rather large week of new comics, which leaves me truly hoping next week is a small one!

20130417newcomics

The cheapest of the bunch are the issues I’m not as likely to read as soon–I’m waiting for the full Cyber Force arc to be out (1 more to go), having been picking the series up with the price being quite appealing. Jirni is a typical Aspen book; but fell under my standing request for $1-or-less promo-priced issues.

I continue to be frustrated with Valiant‘s clustering of titles. X-O Manowar #12 is out this week, as is Bloodshot #10…marking the fullness of a year I’ve been following all of the new Valiant books. You’ll see Archer & Armstrong #9 there, too–my THIRD copy of the issue, due to my unfortunate spilled-liquid-on-my-comics-and-accidentally-bought-the-stupid-variant-as-replacement incident this past weekend.

Superior Spider-Man is on my chopping block…I’m pretty much just looking for a good jumping-off point while struggling with the idea of the excitement I had just 3 months ago for this title. It’s not bad, but I’m just losing interest a bit–primarily due to the $3.99 price point for the thing!

Cable and X-Force had bought itself a couple extra issues when I saw the ad for this issue–but unless I’m HIGHLY impressed when I read it, I do intend this to be my final issue of this series…in this case due entirely to the price point.

Finally, a new mini-series of “micro-series” for TMNT, focusing on the villains, begins with a look at Krang. While not particularly fond of the character in the cartoon, the IDWTMNT-verse iteration has been a much more worthwhile character…I consider this much the same as comparing the cartoon Cobra Commander to the comics’ Cobra Commander in GI Joe.

20130417hardbacks

Continuing the goldmine of bargain-priced hardbacks…Ultimate Spider-Man vol. 11 came in this week, for the sweet price of 75%-off-cover, making it cheaper than 3 single issues of Superior Spider-Man…and come to think of it, about the same price as 3-4 of the original singles it collects.

And not being one to turn down “free,” chose the Punisher volume as my “buy one of those, get one of these free” book.

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