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Some Negativity in the Form of Questions

I don’t like being negative, nor causing random (negative) ripples or fights on the internet; I don’t like flame wars, I don’t like raining on others’ parade, etc. (That’s part of why I have this blog–I can simply put MY thoughts “out there,” but I’m not inserting them into discussion forums or other places in some consciously disruptive fashion). But for now I want to vent a bit, with several questions that have arisen and that I’ve wound up with photos to illustrate said questions (in the course of prepping photos for other blog posts).

Who in their right mind is going to buy multiple copies of a reference book like The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide?!?

overstreet_dual_covers

I mean, I am long used to their having multiple covers, but those usually seem (to me, in my memory) to be singular covers, just different artists and even focus on different publishers in subject-matter of the cover. Pick your favorite, so you’re not locked into a cover you despise, for a book you may be utilizing frequently for a year or more. That I can be ok with.

What I’m not ok with is something like this, where on a freaking REFERENCE BOOK they’re taking a singular image and splitting it in half. Not even doing a wrap-around cover type thing, or some insert, or whatever. If you want the WHOLE of the SINGLE IMAGE, you have to have TWO COPIES of the exact-same, not-supposed-to-be-“collectible”-itself book.

And of course, I’m pretty sure they already do multiple editions, with the volume available in hardback and paperback. I myself several years ago bought a year-or-two-old edition to have for reference of a bunch of ’90s stuff–not for the so-called “prices” or “values” listed, but as a resource to determine relatively authoritatively exactly how long various series lasted. (How many issues were there of X-O Manowar vol. 1? Instead of trying to corroborate stuff online and do a lot of Googling, just flip to the listing in Overstreet and see what the final issue listed is.)

Needless to say, I won’t even be tempted to pick up this year’s edition as a replacement or “update,” and I’d be truly curious at the effect of this “diptych” cover stunt on sales (probably not much, since I’m just one person, and grumpy at that, and it seems very few people feel so strongly on stuff as I do).

Why must there be umpteen to half a hundred variant covers rather than some sort of “art-gallery” special issue to “celebrate” a series/issue/milestone?

Valiant is just digging its hole even deeper…this totally, completely turns me OFF to even the contemplation of randomly buying X-O Manowar #50 as a new issue!

xo50_has_50_covers

Are there REALLY so many Valiant collectors that will truly be interested in and hunt down FIFTY COPIES of the same exact issue JUST for some covers? IF you want to celebrate the character, let other artists “weigh in on” the character, you want “bonus sales” without commissioning/contracting a whole extra story to publish…

What ever happened to the “art gallery” issues? Publish some 50-page “issue” that’s nothing but cover images (with or without cover text/logos) as something like X-O Manowar: A Celebration of 50 Issues or such. Sell it as a poster book. something.

How many people are totally turned off anymore to the constant glut of VARIANT covers? I would honestly be willing to argue that the last several years and present are far worse in terms of “variant covers” than the “Collector’s Age” of the 1990s ever was with variant/”enhanced edition” comics, with the “newsstand” and “direct market” covers.

Yet another thing that will leave me willing to not even buy new issues, but go and be fairly content to drop twice the cost of a “new” issue on a random late-Bronze-Age comic from a back-issue bin.

Why do book designs have to be ruined by “branding” on something that has had dozens to hundreds of books published in its course of existence?

While I might otherwise have some interest in purchasing new Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms books; Elminster specific volumes or something with Drizzt…I flat out refuse to buy any such mass-market paperback with that ugly D&D “swish” on the spine.

d&d_swoosh_on_books

Frankly, I don’t “get” it–does anyone specifically read Dragonlance or  Forgotten Realms books because they’re a sub-brand of D&D/Dungeons & Dragons? Speaking for myself–I sure do not. I’m interested in either property for the property itself, and I truly feel like these are marred by that “swish” on the spine.

I can appreciate the “branding,” of wanting to promote D&D over an individual setting, but I absolutely do not have to like it. Nor, in that regard, do I have to buy any of the newer editions thus marred by the branding.

What, exactly, is the POINT of the extra half-inch or whatever to have “oversized” mass-market paperbacks???

I absolutely loathe the things and refuse to buy them…and they can even put me “off” from a whole series of books if I’m not “chomping at the bit” TO read them.

mmpb_wih_oversized_mmpb

I’m trying to track down the hardcover edition of The President’s Shadow, having only just recently finally finished The Fifth Assassin. I’ve been getting Meltzer‘s books in hardcover since/including The Zero Game back in 2004 or so, so I don’t have much interest in the MMPB (I’ll get the e-book first, honestly). But even if I was interested in the MMPB, seeing it on the shelf like this, next two a couple of the earlier books simply reminds me that even if I switched to paperback, it’s impossible for me to have a complete set of his books that actually go together on the shelf, without at least a couple of the more recent/”middle” ones sticking out like glowingly-red sore thumbs, having been released in the “oversized” format.

And despite that, now they’re back to the “regular” paperback size…so there doesn’t even seem to be any commitment to one or the other, thus there isn’t even consistency to the books, whatever format, regardless of my liking them or not.

In a time when buying a movie shortly after initial release costs a premium and it seems fairly routine for prices to drop within a few months until it’s on the bargain racks within a year…does Disney truly sell more keeping the higher price, or would people who’d buy it at a lower price continue–like me–to pass on stuff?

Loosely, conceptually, I’m very interested in this Descendants property. I love “legacy” characters, seeing a universe expanded on, digging deeper into stuff I’ve already enjoyed…and thus, I was originally looking forward to the home-media release of Descendants last year or whenever it was.

how_long_until_discount_descendants

But the thing was not “on sale” for the “week of release” if I noticed it then, and I have been unwilling to pay the whopping $18 for a 90-minute “tv movie” that I know darned well is gonna be cheesey and hokey and more of a “guilty pleasure” than much else.

And month after month after month, I have never seen the thing on sale such that I’d be willing to purchase it. I think it might have once been “on sale” for $16.99, but $17 vs $18 is negligible for me compared to $15 or $13 or even $10. $15 would be seriously pushing its luck, $13 a bit more reasonable, and at this point, $10 ($9.99) would be ideal.

And this is at Target and Walmart, to say nothing of other retailers and such.

To me, the $17.99 is an odd price–more expensive than the $10-15 many movies cost, but not quite the “premium” $19.99+ units. Yet, this definitely is not something I would ever pay $20 for…and negligible as it may be if one’s got the money available to spend on something like this, I’m not paying the extra $3 just on principle, beyond the $15 or $14.99 I’d otherwise have been willing to pay.

And with this stuff outta the way, back to the usual content, most likely.

I continue to “find my comic book joy” in 1990s 25-cent issues, and increasingly in the notion of actually hunting down late Bronze Age comics. Contemporary comics–at $3.99 and increasingly $4.99; characters and properties being driven into holes into which I’m uninterested or unwilling to follow; variant covers in general…as publishers strive for some mythical “new readers” audience and increased month-over-month year-over-year and other buzzwords sales in a modern market…they just keep putting me off entirely to their product(s).

On Learning of X-O Manowar Ending at 50

xomanowar0001I’m still sorely burned by Valiant over last year’s Legends of the Geomancer crap–burned, and still have not forgiven or forgotten. But I’m rather saddened to learn that apparently the current volume of X-O Manowar by Venditti is going to end at #50. With several specials/one-shots and an annual, about 56 total issues of X-O Manowar.

I’d rather see a creator choose to leave, or at least get to choose to end a story, and I cannot begin to even pretend to have any sort of behind the scenes or insider knowledge or such, but I’m just assuming he’s choosing to end his current run, rather than it being cancelled out from under him. And while this isn’t going to be the first "long time" series to end from the current Valiant, I believe it WILL BE the longEST running series they’ve ended. Of course, they’ve kept characters going and done new/related iterations of books (see Bloodshot into Bloodshot and Hard Corps into Bloodshot Reborn, as well as Harbinger into the followup mini and Imperium and such).)

xomanowar0035But that leads into the bigger problem for me: it solidifies that there is no point whatsoever for me to buy Valiant single issues! If it’s WORTHWHILE, it will be put into a "graphic novel" or collected volume and I can get an entire story in one go for a similar price, but without the wait, the variant covers, and all the crap involved in that whole side of things.

If numbers don’t matter or it’s "just a number" that’s replaceable and nothing is truly intended to be any sort of longer ongoing series with any real individual HISTORY…then there is no INCENTIVE for me to buy the single issues…especially not for $3.99 an issue, with the flimsy paper and often slightly "off" cuts and such (stuff I overlooked while they were on my good side, but just one more negative point once they burned me).

The "numbers problem" applies across the board, though–who would have EVER thought that SPAWN would be THE highest-numbered uninterrupted/non-rebooted American comic book being published in its time? (Though Action Comics and Detective Comics are "returning to classic numbering" this summer, their numbers are no longer pure because DC is counting 52 issues of the New 52 series as if they’d been sequentially-numbered issues of the continuing series for both).

Though I bailed on Valiant entirely last summer, and even got to where I was disgusted looking at my "new-Valiant" hardcovers in light of stuff…there was a part of me that still hoped to see something like X-O Manowar actually make it to some number above 50; maybe make it to 100.

Perhaps it’s the "changing world" of comics, and the "seasonal model" that Marvel especially seems to have adopted. Maybe it’s what I was already feeling was Valiant‘s own "spin" on stuff–that they weren’t "canceling" titles so much as cycling the properties, rotating stuff to keep things fresh. Whatever.

On the whole, there’s a continually-decreasing incentive to buy monthly comics…between price point, enjoyability, and the constant renumbering by publishers seeking the "in-the-moment" bump of sales that #1s seem to get. And whatever my positive feelings are for Robert Venditti (to whom I wish a long, continued successful career in comics), as far as Valiant itself goes, for me, this is another push away from their product, at least in monthly form (which is not good, if the monthly books are truly the absolute, core "lifeblood" folks claim they are in terms of anyone opting to "wait for the trade" or such).

If the X-O Manowar Deluxe Hardcover volumes are collecting about 14 issues apiece, that’d work out to 56 issues across 4 volumes…I can’t even recall if I got as far as getting the second volume last year, but while I might be inclined to eventually pick them up as a finite series, that does nothing for their monthly books.

I’m glad I’m not trying to be or be in charge of a publisher and having to make whatever decisions. But simply as a fan and NOT considering whatever focus groups or statistics or whatever… I’m annoyed and put-off by the constant variants, constant renumbering, constant spin; in this publisher’s case particularly I’ve also been burned by their 1:25 "incentive content" stunt last year…so, I bid farewell–again, and from afar–sorry to see the title go.

And sorry that it’s more reason for me to continue to stay away from the publisher’s product, as I still haven’t seen anything since walking away to truly be incentive to return.

valiant_still_done

How to Lose Buyers and Alienate Readers

valiant_im_done

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.

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.

three_comics_05132015

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.

The ’90s Revisited: X-O Manowar/Iron Man in Heavy Metal #1

90srevisitedxomanowar_ironman_heavymetal001Heavy Metal part 1

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Andy Smith
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Color Art: Twilight Graphics
Assistant Editor: Omar Banmally
Consulting Assistant Editor: Nancy Poletti
Consulting Editor: Mark Gruenwald
Editor: Lynaire Thompson
Editor in Chief: Bob Layton
Published by: Acclaim Comics/Valiant
Cover Date: September 1996
Cover Price: $2.50

I vaguely remember when this series was originally out. I don’t remember details, but I’m supposing (in retrospect) that the Iron Man connection is what caught my eye…though there was probably Wizard coverage, and I wasn’t unaware of X-O Manowar from the #0 issue at least. Of course, there was the video game, which this is based on or inspired by or what-have-you. Given Acclaim was doing the video game, and had bought Valiant, it makes a lot of sense that there’d be a tie-in comic.

While I’ve found many of the "later" Valiant comics, this issue has eluded me until recently when I noticed both issues of the "crossover" on eBay. Being edged out on the bidding at the last second I looked for other instances, and including shipping scored a copy of both this X-O Manowar/Iron Man issue and the companion Iron Man/X-O Manowar for the price of a single contemporary Marvel comic. While this oughtta be quarter-bin fodder, not finding it that way made it worthwhile to me to pay a bit of a premium just to HAVE the issues.

The cover looks rather odd to me–far from an ideal thing, and rather generic. There’s something a bit "off" to me about both armors…probably the "early digital" art, which may even be a still from the video game (I don’t care enough to investigate further). Either way for a cross-company crossover this does not look like anything special from the cover alone.

Upon opening the issue I immediately saw an art style that did not appeal to me. I don’t know if I’ve seen or liked anything else from Andy Smith, but in this issue, I am not a fan. It’s not horrible art, and it’s certainly far, FAR superior to anything I could possibly do myself. It gets things across and isn’t too wonky or anything…basically it does its intended job but does not stand out as anything special.

Seeing Nicieza‘s name as the writer was an immediate appeal for me…but getting into the issue I felt rather left down. This thing’s all over the place and does not feel developed at all. We jump from villains we aren’t given much about to other villains; and world to world. I found myself confused to realize partway through that we’re actually dealing with MULTIPLE sets of Iron Man/X-O Manowar and not just the two characters being matched up for a single double-universe adventure.

I believe this was a time when Iron Man had been "de-aged" or replaced by a younger parallel-dimension version of himself or some such, so that’s not ENTIRELY off-putting to "learn" here but that’s not really explained. And given this is an issue from Acclaim, it’s certainly well-past the X-O Manowar stuff I was familiar with, am familiar with…and having just read a 2015-published issue of the contemporary X-O Manowar series found the character dull and not at all 3-dimensional here.

I’ve often enjoyed Nicieza‘s work, particularly his X-Men stuff, and find myself seeing this as being completely hobbled by BEING a video game tie-in, presumably with a bunch of "checklist" points to be hit during the issue. And with Acclaim and Marvel both getting to publish an issue, there’s probably a certain bit of symmetry that had to be achieved as well. All of which ultimately leads to an issue that I didn’t enjoy.

I would be incensed at having paid full price for this–particularly had it been published in 2015 and passed off as anything supposedly special. However, it’s still something that I’ve been curious about for years, and a definite "artifact" of its time…so despite not enjoying the issue, I do expect I’ll read the Marvel-published one as well just to "get the story," and all that. Unfortunately this does somewhat taint my expectations toward the bulk of the Acclaim-published Valiant stuff and makes me hesitate just a bit on diving into reading any of those anytime soon.

X-O Manowar #35 [Review]

xomanowar035Dead Hand Part 2: Extinction Event

Writer: Robert Venditti
Penciler: Diego Bernard
Inkers: Ryan Winn w/Faucher & Pennington
Colorists: Brian Reber w/Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artists: Lewis Larosa, Jorge Molina, Rafa Sandoval, Juan Jose Ryp
Associate Editor: Tom Brennan
Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Date: April 2015
Cover Price: $3.99

Including the #0 issue a few months back, this marks 36 issues of this title so far. Three years that Valiant’s been "back" in the monthly comics game. 36 monthly issues of a single ongoing title, period. 36 monthly issues with a single writer. And I’ve been reading since the beginning; and even looking back to the 1990s, the original X-O Manowar title was in its early to mid #20s when I became aware of it, and probably wasn’t much past its own 3-year mark when it dipped back off my radar for the most part. Which is all to say: this has to be one of the best "runs" I’ve experienced in a long time.

That said…this is the second issue of presumably a 4-part story. Unlike last year’s Armor Hunters crossover event, this story seems contained to this title. That it continues to draw from that event organically, furthering and developing stuff introduced is a great reward as a longtime reader. While this is not a multi title crossover event…the fact that it deals with stuff FROM one (for me) gives an interesting suggestion: if the initial introduction of the Armor Hunters warranted a huge event, and this Dead Hand thing is those guys’ failsafe and possibly a WORSE threat…SCALE has already been established such that stuff is still quite epic, even contained within this one title.

We open the issue on Earth, several years from now as a couple scientists contemplate an apparent supernova and decide they’d be toast by now if it was actually Alpha Centauri. We then shift TO the Alpha Centauri system where Aric races to contact the high priest on Loam, to get as many Vine evacuated as possible before their planet is destroyed. The Dead Hand protocol has triggered an extinction-level event to wipe out all life on the planet. Though Aric gets through and a handful of Vine escape…the planetary loss is horrific and leaves Aric angry as can be, even as we see how he HAS changed in his ways and dealings with others.

Story-wise, I found myself slightly distracted reading this as I marveled at the fact that I felt bad for the Vine people as well as contemplating Aric’s compassion for them…that they’re not merely some generic race of "spider-aliens" to be loathed AS a race.

The story itself is engaging and–other than the above thoughts–kept me racing through, wondering what would happen, how many would be saved, and seeing a lot of potential for "follow-up" to this issue’s events…particularly if this series lasts a lot longer yet.

The art did what I often prefer: looked good and did not distract. I liked it–I had a good sense of what was going on, and where my mind skipped ahead, forging a very clear expectation, the art quite lived up to it where it could have just as easy been a huge letdown.

"Obviously," as part 2 of a multi-part arc, and in this day ‘n age of comics not being the readiest-available form of entertainment for the casual reader…this won’t be an ideal jumping-on point. But if you’re already following the title, read the previous issue, and whatnot…this is well worth getting. Alternatively, if you’ve read Armor Hunters (the core mini and/or tie-ins and/or the full-event deluxe hardcover due out in a few weeks [as of this writing]…this arc is certainly a worthwhile follow-up to that event. And if you like "cosmic," this arc certainly fits that, and is certainly on-par with anything I know of recent Marvel cosmic stuff…but far more self-contained so far.

Matching to the previous issue (#34), and the above qualifiers…highly recommended!

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