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MORE Valiant Variant Annoyance!

I complained several weeks ago about discovering that my copy of X-O Manowar #31 was only one-HALF of an image…no wrap-around cover, no gatefold. I’d have to buy TWO COPIES of the SAME ISSUE if I wanted to actually have the entire cover image.

Now I find out the same thing’s happening with #32 as well!

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And I don’t even like the image all that much from this perspective.

Aric’s butt, or what looks like it could be Giant-Man’s foot from The Ultimates coming down on an armored figure.

If you have a four-issue arc…put the halves on subsequent issues. If you have a 3-issue arc, do a wrap-around cover or a gatefold, or AT LEAST provide some sort of pull-out poster or something.

if it’s just a cover, why do it?

And for those who would say to me that it’s no big deal, if I don’t like it I don’t have to buy the variants/multiple-copies-of-the-same-issue, I say: if it’s no big deal, then the publishers should QUIT DOING IT!

I’ve already "accepted" variants as a "Thing" but darn it…I’m sick and tired of even "just" sticking to my "standard, most basic" or "A" cover or such winding up with only half an image.

Seems there was a 5-part interlocking series of variants for X-O Manowar #0…FIVE. BUT I can overlook that as those were a variant image entirely, and didn’t impact me with my standing order of "A-cover or most basic non-variant" for my pull list. I bought one single copy of that issue, got the image that had been used in advertising/previews for the issue, the standard image I’d come to associate the issue prior to its release.

With these 2-part interlocking covers where they ARE the standard covers…I don’t have that choice. OR I have to seek out a rarer variant just to have a single image for the cover…and the image may or may not be all that relevant to the issue in question.

Much as I’ve stayed "loyal" to Valiant, maintained a blanket "everything single-issue Valiant puts out" for my pull list…this is frustrating and annoying enough to have me asking myself what it would look like if I dropped Valiant entirely.

Or shifted to collected volumes only. After all, those (TYPICALLY!) have only one cover, and there’s the chance the variants might be included as bonus pages/backmatter there, and let me avoid the "issue" of variants with the singles.

X-O Manowar #31 [Review]

xomanowar031aSmall Packages

Writer: Robert Venditti
Penciler: Diego Bernard
Inker: Alisson Rodrigues
Colorist: Wil Quintana
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artists: Raul Allen, Emanuela Lupacchino
Assistant Editor: Josh Johns
Associate Editor: Tom Brennan
Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

Hard to believe this title is already on #31. Particularly in an "age" where it seems hardly anything makes it much past #12 or even 25. All the more significant because with the #0 issue, this marks 32 for the title, and having been following it since #1, that’s 32 issues I’ve been following X-O Manowar month-to-month in the single issues…in this "age" of the collected volume, graphic novel, or bookshelf-format books.

This is the second part of this Enter Armorines arc…though in a lot of ways this feels like a first. The arc continues the trend of new takes on "old concepts" for Valiant; and we get a fuller introduction to the Armorines in this issue. Aric is pulled into things in the wake of the Armor Hunters incident to meet the Armorines–soldiers outfitted as a defense against a repeat of that incident. Unlike Aric’s armor that has all sorts of abilities, the Armorines’ armors each have a specialty. Their creator points out that rather than having an "all in one" unit he can make more money keeping things divided, as well as even being able to make money when the only difference is a paintjob (a commentary I liken to the notion of variant covers with comics). Of course, the Armorines aren’t quite the allies that Aric expects, paving the way for the conflict of the next couple issues.

Story-wise, this isn’t a bad issue, though I didn’t pick up on a subtlety at the beginning until I went back and looked at it again after reading the issue in full. I definitely appreciate that Armor Hunters has not been swept under the rug for the next shiny thing–we’re getting actual fallout and development based on the events of Armor Hunters, and there’s some time for this to breathe before we get into another event later in 2015.

I’m not terribly particular on the art–the visuals are not bad, nor do they blow me away. The issue’s opening works visually, especially once I know the context, and the rest of the issue simply "is" for me.

However, I am not AT ALL happy about the cover image being only one panel of a multi-panel image FOR THE SAME ISSUE. As much as variant covers are probably my biggest pet peeve in comics…multi-part connected images ON THE SAME ISSUE are my biggest pet peeve WITHIN the notion of variants. If I were to base picking this issue up on the cover, I’d be more than done with this book on that principle. Since I follow the book for the story and don’t tend to pay MUCH attention to the covers long-term…I’m annoyed on principle right now, but hopefully the story will crowd that out for my long-term memory. (The splitting of the image across versions of the same issue is in stark contrast to the wraparound cover on #26!)

All in all, this is a fairly standard-ish issue…nothing overly stand-out (despite the "introduction" of the Armorines) but nothing bad. I do look forward to the next issue and seeing Aric get some payback for what’s done to him in this issue. It’s also interesting to consider that these Armorines–while antagonists in this issue–have the "potential" to be protagonists in their own story.

If you’re following the series, this is a good "next issue" of the ongoing. Being mid-arc, if you’re not already following, you’ll probably be better served tracking down the previous issue or two or waiting for a collected edition. Or if you love variants and whatnot, you could pick up a couple copies of this issue for a larger image (that ought to have been a wraparound cover).

The Weekly Haul – Week of December 31st, 2014

Final comic shops visit for 2014…

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Despite being a really "small" week for DC…since I’ve been getting the weeklies, I didn’t notice a "break" in things at all. Image had a $1 issue, and Valiant actually had one issue out.

I also took advantage of an after-Christmas 20% off sale for a couple more Walking Dead volumes, working on getting caught up there.

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It’s been a number of years since I’d gotten a new Walking Dead "standard" TPB. (I started with this format, and am too far in/committed to switch to any of the other formats). My last was vol. 13, and 22 is the newest. I’d "gone back to" the single issues for a couple years or so; dabbled in digital for a couple years, and outright passed on the series entirely since All Out War ended (thanks to my continued personal boycott of comixology since they did away with in-app purchasing for iOS).

But it’s been bothering me, to look at my bookshelves and see that gap, to be missing nearly HALF of the series, so I’ve been working on "catching up" on the 9 or so volumes I’d not yet picked up. I snagged 3 volumes from Half-Price Books; I’d picked up vol. 22 as an all-new read at the start of Comic Heaven‘s 20% off sale; and then vols. 20-21 this week. I intend to finish up with 14-15 and 17 via eBay or otherwise online to get ’em for around half-ish off.

The Weekly Haul – Week of October 8th, 2014

While not a SMALL week, this was a decent week of comics, with 2 promo-priced $1 issues in the bunch.

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I’ve been looking forward to the X-O Manowar #0 most out of this bunch. With Soule soon leaving Superman/Wonder Woman I might be jumping “off,” as it IS a $3.99 book. And I’m far preferring DC‘s $2.99 stuff…

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…most specifically, DC‘s weeklies.

I remember when it was a big deal when they did ONE weekly (52). And earlier this year I’d thought it interesting their trying two weeklies, but now they’re up to THREE.

I’m “trying” World’s End, and will see how it seems, as I have not followed Earth 2 since its first or second issue.

While I’m questioning a single $3.99 book above…I’m not entirely against the notion of buying three $2.99 books ($8.97) each week. It will be expensive–that’s a $36/monthly investment on top of other stuff. BUT it’s a lot of content (relatively speaking) each month, and a lotta story crammed into a single year.

And I’d far prefer to buy a single weekly title than a bunch of separate titles. Much as the Superman books were functionally a weekly during most of the ’90s.

Armor Hunters #4 [Review]

Armor Hunters #4Kill

Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artists: Doug Braithwaite, Tom Fowler, Trevor Hairsine, and Clayton Henry
Assistant Editor: Josh Johns
Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

I can say from the start that this did not end with quite the grandiose hugeness I was expecting. For an 18-issue (now 19 including the upcoming Aftermath issue) thing, I don’t know what I was hoping for exactly, but this wasn’t it.

But then, I wasn’t buying this because it was Armor Hunters. I wasn’t following the story because of it being “an event” or the “latest event” or anything like that. I wasn’t following it because of chromium covers or variant covers. I wasn’t following it BECAUSE of any of the marketing or checklists or whatever. I was buying this because it was Valiant, and from May 2012’s relaunch to present, I’ve been “all-in” on Valiant.

That said, I found this issue to be a solid one, wrapping up this particular “core chapter” in the ongoing story that is Valiant continuity as a whole.

The art is very good as usual…I really had no complaints there. The style works and fits the story, and I was never taken out of things because of some visual quirk or stylistic twinge or otherwise anything distracting about the “meta” nature of anything with the art. The characters all looked good, the action was easy to follow, everything seemed consistent with what I’ve seen before. The art thus was good in the best way: only consciously “noticeable” because I’m choosing to comment on it in the capacity of this review. In the reading, it simply “was.” Nothing stand-out distractingly “great” but nothing distractingly bad–it allowed the story to take the stage.

Through the issue, we see Aric armor up again with the X-O suit, and reconnect with Bloodshot and the Unity team, as all come back together and the immediate threat of the team of “Armor Hunters” themselves is brought to a close.

The story is relatively simple on the surface for the issue–a lot of fighting as the hunters are laid low while the Earth-heroes take their own share of physical punishment for the trouble. But we also get some interesting elements for moving forward, and I feel like a key “promise” was indeed fulfilled–and satisfyingly so. While I don’t recall now if it was in some preview or interview or such (it may have been outside the “normal, organic” nature of following the comics themselves withOUT having comic news sites or such involved) but in my mind I’ve had the notion that we’d learn more about Aric’s armor in particular, and then as an event we’d have some lasting elements to carry on beyond.

We’ve learned that the armor is one of many, that they exert a parasitic influence over the “host” (that they’re a “host” rather than simply a being that is wearing the armor says plenty), that it’s not some one-shot thing of the armor being able to heal the host, and so on.

We have the lasting impact of Mexico City’s destruction–a city does not just get wiped off the map and get forgotten. That will be a long-term lasting thing in the Valiant continuity, setting it apart from the “real world” where we as readers know Mexico City has NOT actually been destroyed during an alien attack.

We also have the impact of things on Aric with the armor now totally bonded with him, and the limitation that he now lives with–he’s in control of the armor and it won’t just take him over, won’t heal him automatically. He now can WILL the armor to heal him…but in so doing, he cedes that much more control TO the armor, such that if he takes enough physical damage in need of the armor’s brand of healing, eventually he WILL be lost to the armor.

We also have a new relationship between Aric and MERO…as well as the first explanation I can consciously recall of the title X-O Manowar being given beyond some arbitrary X-O class armor also known as manowar armor…as an “Executive Officer” titled “Manowar,” Aric sort of has a “superhero name” now, yet not…but the title is given to him, as a thing, rather than merely being a description of the armor that he happens to wear.

While an 18 or 19 part “epic” is a bit grandiose for such a small family of titles as Valiant puts out, and rather large for ANY “event” or “crossover” as an independent thing…it totally makes sense as it has played out. The core story’s been in this 4-issue mini-series. Given the ties to the X-O Manowar title itself, we’ve gotten Aric’s story here and background on Malgam and the Armor Hunters in that title. Something of this scale would certainly affect the world as a whole, hence Unity’s involvement. Bloodshot’s recruitment fits and as one of the main/big players in the Valiant Universe his action should not be relegated to off-panel “mentions.” And as Generation Zero steps out into the world in general it’s logical that they–and the remnants of the Renegades–would become involved in disaster relief efforts.

Granted that’s a much larger-scale view than “just” this fourth issue, but having read everything, this is “just” a part of that.

Context is vital, and while there’s no gigantic singular event in this issue that in and of itself will HERE change the Valiant universe, if you’ve been following the whole thing or just this mini, or X-O Manowar, this is definitely an issue to get, not to be arbitrarily skipped for some random reason. It’s good and worthwhile, and a solid issue in itself. Of course, if you have not been following anything associated with this, it would thus be a rather strange-ish point to attempt to jump into stuff, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a jumping-on point. (Yet every issue is bound to be SOMEONE’s first).

The Weekly Haul – Week of September 24th, 2014

Finally’ve reached the end of what has been a ridiculously-expensive month of comics with DC’s September ‘event’ done with this week’s batch of books.

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I’m not even sure if there’s a Booster Gold series in the works, or if he’s truly just got a one-shot here, given Futures End is a time-travel thing…but while $3.99 will tick me off and probably discourage it, I’d like to think I’d consider an ongoing again. I picked up Sinestro and Harley Quinn just ‘cuz they were there…figured I could at least check ’em out like this. And Red Lanterns since I got the other Lantern books, might as well get the whole “set.” Next to the Booster Gold cover, that Superman cover is probably my favorite of the bunch, and I’m hoping the issue deals with the “origin” of the mask and such–at least in that I don’t recall it being dealt with in the Futures End series itself while I was reading.

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I figured I’d already checked out the Prometheus issue, I’d get the first Aliens issue of this new Fire and Stone thing. However, finding out it’s essentially just a big 4-mini-series “event” leaves me thinking I may pass on the single issues in favor of collected editions…and the “hope” of one big single collection of the entire thing, whether hardcover or the standard Dark Horse Omnibus size in paperback.

Doomed #2 finally makes its appearance at least a month late. And Armor Hunters concluded “officially” despite an aftermath issue next month and the (presumable) longer-term after-effects it leaves on the X-O Manowar book at minimum.

Definitely looking forward to getting back to smaller weeks again…this was the second week I didn’t even DARE look at the quarter-bins…those DC books really ate up a lot more than I “bargained” for this month.

The Weekly Haul – Week of August 27th, 2014

A fairly small week. I think I’ve dropped Batman Eternal, passing on it this week. (or at least, maybe I’ll be done with the weekly buying and catch up every few weeks or so).

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Given Valiant has about 9 titles, two in one week is a nice balance: Rai by itself, and X-O Manowar as the week’s Armor Hunters tie-in.

New issue of TMNT: Turtles in Time, and newest Letter 44 address the rest, with Superman as the lone DC/Marvel representative.

All in all a good week’s worth of comics. Best of all, kept things in the $20 range…

The Five Valiant Chromiums

I was going to pass on the later ones after not being particularly thrilled with the initial Armor Hunters #1 Chromium cover, comparing it thoroughly to my favorite “old-school” Valiant chromium cover: 1993’s X-O Manowar #0.

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But I’d requested them, and though the store owner gave me an out–I went ahead and snagged ’em all.

Yeah, I loathe variants on principle, but even I have to make exceptions here or there, and these go with the “old school” “regular and collectors’ editions” format, rather than different images.

Whether one goes with the regular cover or the chromium cover…it’s still the same image and such…one’s “just” paper and the other’s this much thicker, sturdier material. But the fairly “iconic” images–Armor Hunters #1 and X-O Manowar #26–are still consistent. There’s not some random cover by a random artist, or some “theme of the month” or such.

Of course, now that I do have these…it’s back to standard most regular “A” cover available for the foreseeable future!

The Weekly Haul – Week of July 30th, 2014

This week’s haul was rather moderate–not tiny, but not particularly huge or overwhelming in either cost or quantity.

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Since I’d requested them sight unseen, I’ve continued with the Chromium covers, and with these being a VERY RARE EXCEPTION to my usual no-variants rule, I’ve got both editions of Armor Hunters: Harbinger. And I’ve continued with Futures End and Batman Eternal

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I half-heartedly flipped through the quarter-bins for anything new or interesting. I probably already have the X-Factor issue, but not certain–it’s from near the end of the original run, where my collection remains sparser than earlier in the series. I don’t consciously remember the War Story issue, but had the first couple “waves” of War Story issues, so why not. And several Werewolf issues that I believe will make a fine addition to the Vampire issues I bought last week.

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And because–at 90% off cover, Scalped vols. 2 & 3 (I got vol. 1 back in 2007) cost less than $4–I figured why not? I don’t recall how long the series ran, but I haven’t (yet) read the first volume, even, so these’ll add to a hopefully good, interesting reading when I get around to it. And with the discount I’d had on that one seven years ago, I don’t think I’ve topped $12 for the 3 so far.

I am going to have to decide soon if I *really* want to keep up with the DC Weeklies. They’ve not been bad, but I’ve had no problem going several weeks without READING, between actually reading the issues. And with Zero Year ending, I don’t know if the Batman Eternal will start having more direct tie-ins to the main title or not, and I don’t want to be forced (or enticed) into buying yet MORE series on a regular bases, especially when they’d likely be $3.99 to the weeklies’ $2.99.

X-O Manowar #26 [Review]

xomanowar026Tall Tales

Writer: Robert Venditti
Penciler: Diego Bernard
Inker: Alisson Rodrigues
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artists: Clayton Crain and Trevor Hairsine
Assistant Editor: Josh Johns
Executive Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99 ($5.99 Chromium Cover)

I’m not often a fan of the main character not being in a book, and for those solely reading this title, that could be a problem this issue. While this IS an issue of X-O Manowar, there’s no appearance or mention of Aric in this issue. Of course, technically, “X-O Manowar” is the armor’s designation whether Aric’s in it or not, but that puts us pretty close to “splitting hairs” territory for the moment. However, as one reading both this and the Armor Hunters mini (the whole ‘event’ for that matter), I have no problem with it, and at worst would liken it to a Marvel event where an ongoing book suddenly becomes “background detail” for a separate “event book.”

I’d said about Armor Hunters #1 that it felt like an issue of this title, and this issue feels like it could be a standalone Armor Hunters issue–even a #1 for an ongoing or such. This issue shows us the “origin” of Malgam and Reebo’s involvement with the Armor Hunters. We find them in a bar seeking their next job, where they stumble across one no one else will touch. Reasoning that if they take on what no one else would they could quickly make a name for themselves, they take it on. Of course, things don’t go at all as they’d planned, and they find themselves in the fight of their lives–for their lives–against a lone Armor…a fight that leads THEM to being the ones in the position of crazy-story-tellers others would mock.

As said, this issue feels to me like it could easily have been a #1 issue of some ongoing Armor Hunters series: we’re introduced to a couple characters, given some context of what they’re about, presented with a challenge, and given an epilogue after that chellenge that leads into What Comes Next. In that regard this would have been a very good first issue, leaving me interested in reading the next in order TO find out what comes next.

As such, as a 26th issue of an ongoing series, it would be easy to say this is misplaced. But for my own background, that’s about all I’ll give on that.

The art for this issue is consistent, clear, and easy to follow. I actually enjoyed the visuals–credit to the entire art team–and never found myself distracted or taken out of the “reading experience” due to anything funky with the art. While Malgam looks different–younger and not yet in a partial/beat-up armor–Reebo is quite recognizable and while the name isn’t as familiar to me yet his appearance IS. Suffice it, then, to say that I liked the art and found no particular fault in it this issue.

The story is quite good, offering us an origin story of Reebo and Malgam AS Armor Hunters, showing their first encounter with an Armor and their introduction to the Armor Hunters group. Since I’m “all-in” with the Armor Hunters event, I have little particular interest in what title contains what story elements in general as long as it has some sort of relation to the overall AH saga. But then, even if one is attempting solely to read X-O Manowar, given that Armor Hunters comes out of this title and holds significant bearing on this title, I see no great problem with this story falling in this issue. While this contextualizes the Armor Hunters mini, I also do not figure it’s any far cry to suspect this will play into later events within X-O Manowar itself, despite Aric not even appearing in this issue.

Though the cover usually doesn’t hold much bearing on my buying an issue when it’s part of something I’m getting “anyway” or that’s on my pull-list…this has gotta be one of my favorite covers of this series, and quite iconic to me of the Armor Hunters event in general. There’s just something to this imagery–of the planet about to blow, the armor racing away, its wearer obviously not happy–that just totally fits for me. That this is a larger than usual image (being a wrap-around cover and all) adds to the whole, and is a nice ‘bonus’ for holding the standard $3.99 cover price. (The chromium edition cover is $2 more at $5.99).

While I’d had no real intention of buying any of the chromium editions after my disappointment in the chromium edition of Armor Hunters #1, I’d forgotten that I’d requested ’em with my local comic shop, so this is the 3rd of the 6 for me, so while the chromium aspect does not–for me–hold up to the quality and appearance of chromium covers from the 1990s, I’m gaining a grudging appreciation for these, in and of themselves.

I really enjoyed this issue on the whole, and while I’ll admit there’s something to be said for its freshness and simply being “the latest chapter,” I think I can safely say it’s one of my favorite issues of the series so far, and another great part of this Armor Hunters epic.

Readers seeking to avoid Armor Hunters will likely have a reasonable disappointment in this issue, while those picking this up BECAUSE of Armor Hunters should find this to be a great piece of the overall picture. While having read earlier X-O Manowar stuff and certainly Armor Hunters #1 will lend further context and significance to this issue, one really does not have to have read any previous issues of X-O Manowar to jump in with this issue if one has read Armor Hunters #1.

I’m very much looking forward to what we get in the next issue, as well as further tie-ins to the overall Armor Hunters event, thanks to this issue!

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