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The Weekly Haul: Weeks of April 21 & April 28, 2021

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Well…I made it 3 1/2 months before missing a week, and thus doubling-up on these Weekly Haul posts! So, here you go, if anyone other than me myself cares about these! (Since these largely are a way for me to have record to go back to easily and see what I’ve snagged).

Whatever.


Week of April 21, 2021

Second-to-last week of April…and one of THE biggest weeks…and most complex weeks! Wound up piecing these together from two local shops and mail-order!

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Radiant Black is my chance to follow a Higgins series, since I won’t buy his Power Rangers stuff specifically because it’s (currently) published by Boom. TMNT is a staple…been buying this monthly since #1 nearly ten years ago. and Alien #2 is…well, it’s Alien, but it seems that Marvel is really half-arsing it…especially after they DOVE into numerous Star Wars and Conan titles virtually immediately. If all they were gonna do is a Dark Horse-tone book and a series of variant covers, but not even launch into a bit of world-building/re-establishment…seems like they’re squandering the license.

Way of X is the second book in the "third wave" of titles to launch for the Hickman-era of the titles. X-Force is "the next issue of a series I’m buying regularly now." and the Carnage book is…I don’t even know. I started getting the Wolverine anthology like this, and this one kinda slipped in with it. Maybe I want to support Marvel doing this sort of title? Maybe I just want a taste of "classic" Carnage? Who knows/

Amazing Spider-Man is a "next issue," ditto for The Walking Dead Deluxe. And apparently I neglected to realize I’d already bought the Star Trek: The Next Generation issue a couple weeks ago. Oops.

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Then there’s the new issue of Usagi Yojimbo, which I think has surpassed the Mirage run now, number-wise. I wasn’t keen when its Dark Horse iteration switched to mini-series near the end of its run…but I’m more than agreeable to a new #1 when it’s from a new publisher. I believe the continuity is ongoing, though, regardless of publisher. I’m in for a good, solid read whenever I get around to diving in to catch up on the IDW run. Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters is a title I’m not sure what to make of…but feels like something to support for NOT being published by Boom. Hey…it’s Oni, so why not? I followed Letter 44 for 30-some issues or whatever it was from them…

Then there’s the 15th volume of Dawn of X, which I’m determined to at least finish its run up to X of Swords…but also supporting out of principle. It’s great to see an entire family of books being collected like this, for someone who wants to go all-in on the X-stuff. It seems like it’d be interesting to do this for more families of titles…and then collect the INDIVIDUAL series into their own books later, rather than this being the "side thing."

While I’m years behind reading any, I have great respect for the products put out by TwoMorrows, and definitely appreciate historical comics stuff, so Back Issue is a great magazine I like to get when I notice it…even if it DOES pile an extra $10ish onto the total. Well worth it for the content and time it’d take to read the issue cover to cover.

Also snagged a classic back-issue of the classic Warlock series…brings me ONE issue closer to having the full series!

As to Comic Shop News, I’d be more interested in the Milestone stuff if it WASN’T DC at this point, and wasn’t yet another attempt at relaunching the line. I wish the Milestone folks plenty of success, though DC is just so thoroughly on my crap-list that I’m steering clear. Also figure there’ll be enough variant covers and other speculator things associated, and I’m not gonna be "speculator-bullied" into buying it JUST to not have to pay higher prices later. Either it’ll be a speculator’s dream, or it’ll be fair-priced if not bargain-priced down the line. The latter two would mean I can get it later.

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Snagged Ultramega #2, Stray Dogs #3, The BeQuest #2, and a GI Joe: A Real American Hero: Serpentor Uncoiled special online. These arrived on Tuesday, so still count as the week of the 21st. Still have to read their first issues, but…whatever. I’m hardly any smart guy when it comes to stuff.


Week of April 28, 2021

And now we catch up to the "current" week with the 28th, and FOUR X-books…one of them FREE!

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Cable and New Mutants are "the next issue" right now/still. But then X-Men Legends is largely the same..but a new classic-X-Factor story, apparently! And the image seems familiar…I’m thinking (offhand, as I’m typing) it’s an homage to either X-Factor #1 or the first annual for the title. And then we have this Hellfire Gala Official Guide…a "preview" book of stuff–designs for characters and whatnot–for the upcoming event. I MUUUUUUUUCH prefer such content be presented like this–and as its own unit–and "free" at that–than as a bunch of content padding out a regular issue claiming "bonus content" when it’s NOT material I want to pay for, nor is it padding out repetetively a bunch of unrelated books for the sake of padding them out with "preview pages" and such. In this way it’s a nifty little bonus thing, can file it with the X-books, and enjoy it AS its own thing.

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Helm of Greycastle…a bit like "Grayskull," right? Nostalgia, looks fantasy-ish, and can check out this first issue. Whatever. Ditto for Summoners War: Legacy. I think this is based on some videogame, but…it caught my attention. So what the hey?

Newest issue of Spawn; #317. This is the 50th issue after I jumped back onto the title, after the cover to #257 caught my eye way back in 2015! (Making this my 51st continuous issue of the series!) This might put Spawn second only to the current TMNT run in that regard! I may have to think more on that…certainly something for its own post, perhaps.

Next is the final issue (I think) of the second story from the CLASSIC Usagi Yojimbo series, now presented here in COLOR.

Finally, an issue of GI Joe: A Real American Hero that…turned out to be a darned variant. I hate variants. #280…I think I jumped back onto the title around 245 or so, so it’s been several years. Haven’t read in I don’t know how long…mostly just "supporting" the titles continuation and such. You can BET that I’d jump off if Hama leaves…this is verrrrrry much HIS book! And I’d love to fill the gap in issues from the low-160s to the 240s and just have the whole thing. But it’s a lot like Spawn, apparently: folks that HAVE the issues are hanging onto them, and they haven’t exactly had high print runs.

And…Comic Shop News.


I’m

I’m a bit worn down lately as "real life" has intruded big-time…particularly with work.

This is my first post in a couple weeks, and I lost the flow of covering Magic: The Gathering – The Shadow Mage. Hopefully I’ll get caught up on that again soon. And I’ve loooooads of X-stuff to read, to where I’ve neglected new comics for way too long and have those to catch up on.

First world problems, I guess?

Who knows what the coming week holds…

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The Weekly Haul: Week of April 14, 2021

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Another week, some new comics…

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Nothing all that exciting this week. Wolverine and Children of the Atom are "the latest X-books this week." Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon is the latest issue of that series…cruising on along on strength of the first issue and Larry Hama‘s name.

Then Star Trek: The Next Generation: The GIft as a reprint of an older story and getting some nostalgia. I’m not much interested in "modern" TNG comics, but occasional stuff like this I’ll check out. Cheaper than "hunting" back-issues to get the story, anyway.

GI Joe: A Real American Hero #279 is another "latest issue/issue-out-this-week."

And the Batman & Scooby-Doo Mysteries is the first time in a few weeks that DC has been on here. But it’s a $2.99 comic! Given their shift mostly to $4.99/$5.99 and such…I’d be just part of the problem if I complain about their prices but then DIDN’T support a $2.99 book!

Finally, for the Comic Shop News issue this week…Looking just at the top, my first thought was "…again?" on The Mighty Crusaders/The Shield. My second thought was "Huh…that looks like Rob Liefeld art…" Unfolding the issue…sure enough, saw the ‘signature’ on the art. Say what you will about the man’s art…it’s typically very recognizable!

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The ’90s Revisited – Magic: The Gathering – The Shadow Mage #2

[I’d ‘revisited’ this series as a whole back in August/September 2012 for a group blog that doesn’t exist anymore. And due to a personal issue with Boom Studios’ comics I refuse to buy their new Magic series. So, instead of buying THOSE new comics, and to have my content covering this series fully on my own blog (so as to not disappear when an external blog shuts down), I’m revisiting–as single issues–the ORIGINAL Magic: The Gathering comics published by Acclaim through their Armada imprint back in 1995!]

magicthegathering_theshadowmage_002Desolate Angel

Writer: Jeff Gomez
Pencils: Val Mayerik
Ink: James Pascoe
Painted Color: Mark Csaszar
Letters: Adam Niedzwiecki
Editor-In-Chief: Bob Layton
Cover Painting: Val Mayerik
Cover Date: August 1995
Cover Price: $2.50

Well, one thing to notice straight away is that you really need to pay clooooose attention to years to know what sort of time has passed! The first issue opened on "Autumn of 1265, by the reckoning of the Sages of Minorad." That issue referenced time in relation to that–a week later, a month later, seven years later. This issue opens in "late Summer, 1280 by the reckoning of the Sages of Minorad." So it’s been nearly 15 years since the events that opened the first issue…and doing the math, we’re opening some 7-8 years after the previous issue ended! So quiiiiite a gap, there.

The young Jared Carthalion is now 14ish, having spent the last 3/4ths of a decade training to take on Ravidel. However, while Ravidel knows where and how to find Jared, knows that Jared’s got access to magic, and even declared that their final duel had begun…he apparently decided to kick back and leave Jared alone for awhile, rather than finishing his would-be opponent while he could.

So we get some verbal exposition–as Jared is pained using his magic, Ezer has had him attempt to train physically so he can put up SOME sort of fight, if not magically. A giant spider is summoned to them and attacks–Ezer immediately recognizes it as "a minion of Ravidel" because of course. This is the last straw, and NOW Jared determines to fight back, and summons a Hurloon Minotaur. In the midst of the giant spider attack, the Minotaur and Jared discuss what’s happening, share introductions (the minotaur’s name is Sings Two Ways, and he and his people were granted a boon by the elder Carthalion that they cannot repay, and thus Sings Two Ways gladly fights in defense of Jared and Ezer). Jared sees the spider apparently winning and steps in and the two slay the creature.

The spider defeated, Sings Two Ways laments he must leave…he’s been poisoned and will die unless Jared returns him to his people. Their home destroyed, Jared and Ezer are now homeless in the rain in the streets of Arathoxia. Jared spots a beautiful young woman and laments his raggedness by comparison. Before long, he and Ezer are in a hospice, the older man dying, and Jared determined to seek out some way to save him. Leaving the hospice, he’s set upon by Yorgo and his gang, and Jared summons some goblins, but is then horrified when they nearly kill the boys and laments, wondering if butchering others is what his power can do. We get a page of Arathoxian politics re: Ravidel, and then find Jared speaking with the Vizier’s wife in House Carthalion, where he has ventured for help. She references "the battle of Aster Fall" (which contextualizes the previous issue a bit) and shows him a Black Lotus, but they’re interrupted by the vizier’s return so she gives him an Alabaster Potion and sends him off. Jared steals the Black Lotus, recognizing its power, but while he tries to figure out how to use it, is greeted by that beautiful young woman–who invites Jared to Beggartown that evening.

After giving some of the potion to Ezer, Jared meets her there, where we find a whole community of thieves/beggars, including Yorgo’s group…and they’re none to happy that Liana has brought Jared into their space. But Jared offers some of the remaining potion to one of the boys hurt by the goblins earlier, though it earns him no thanks. The city’s guards descend on the group from nowhere, and Liana stops Jared from using his magic as that would bring the wrong sort of attention. As the crowd flees…Jared and Liana are suddenly confronted by none other than Ravidel himself! Jared lashes out immediately, but the more experienced planeswalker casts a spell and defeats Jared. Liana steps in–apparently she and Ravidel have some history–and drives the planeswalker off after revealing she has multiple moxes and referencing "The Treaty of the Shard." Ravidel claims a proper duel now would run counter to his plans, so leaves. Hours later, Jared and Liana pose for the page, as we see she’s second-guessed what she was going to tell Jared, as the boy realizes he’ll have to go it alone.

Well…that’s a loooong summary, and I’m sure I really glossed over some key details! There’s enough going on here to fill 3-4 issues in terms of modern comics’ pacing and such. This is a really dense story…and one that relies on the reader to have picked up on and remembered a number of subtle details! The reader also gets to fill in a lot of blanks, between the 7-year-gap between issues to imagining the details of Sings Two Ways’ relationship to Jared’s father, to the nature of House Carthalion. There’s also the curiosity of Ravidel allowing so much time to pass without expending much effort to personally confront Jared until he’s begun finding apparently-powerful allies, such as Liana! While I have some meta-textual knowledge of "The Shard," I’ll leave that to discuss more as it comes up in other Armada Magic issues, since I’m going issue-by-issue through one series at a time here.

The story continues to hold more potential than what it executes…it’s not bad, but feels too dense, too "compressed" for me after 20 years of "decompressed" storytelling in comics, and more years removed from the depths of Magic: the Gathering knowledge. Back in 1996, I was fresh into the game and fairly steeped in knowledge of the various cards and bits of lore. Taking stuff month by month, where the game had only even existed for a little under two years, it was a whole different thing back then than now, some 25 years later reading this from a muuuuch different vantage point!

The art is good, and I feel like I liked it better in this issue than the previous, though it’s the same art team! Perhaps because–while dense story-wise–this issue didn’t have to cover 7+ years, so there was more of a sense of consistency…and I’m beginning to get a better sense of characters, now that things have settled a bit, and been able to build a bit on what’s come before, which I suppose allows me to appreciate the art more, not being as overwhelmed with "everything."

This definitely looks like a fantasy comic, and continues to remind me a bit of Barry Windsor-Smith‘s art for some reason.

I was also interested to note ads in the issue…particularly for the Chronicles set. This was the set, after all, that released in August or so 1995, offering white-border "unlimited" editions of previously-limited black-border cards from the Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and The Dark expansion sets…and which led to Wizards of the Coast establishing their "Restricted List" that persists to this day.

We have the addition of Liana–apparently a planeswalker herself–to the story, and it seems obvious something bigger is afoot. There’s the general knowledge displayed by House Carthalion of the battle of Aster Fall; their possession of a Black Lotus; and Liana having history with Ravidel. At the second issue here, that suggests "the world" of Magic is about to get a whole lot bigger than Jared’s little corner of things.

As mentioned in covering the previous issue…this story is one built around the cards…rather than the cards being built around the story. The issue–as with the first (though I didn’t get into it)–has a bit of "backmatter" with words from the editor to the reader, as well as a mini-column "Seer Analysis" by Shawn F. Carnes where Carnes looks at the issue from the point of view of Magic: The Gathering the game, pointing out details such as a Hurloon Minotaur being a 2/3 creature, while a Giant Spider is 2/4, and so while the two creatures would indeed damage each other, neither would one-shot-kill the other.

Also like the first issue, this issue’s cover announces the inclusion of a genuine Magic: The Gathering card. UNlike the previous issue, though…this one has the card in a clear plastic insert/wrapper stapled into the issue itself, rather than being loose in a polybag. This certainly allows a better situation wherein one can READ the issue itself and choose whether or not to remove the card! It may be a crapshoot if you find this issue "in the wild" on whether it includes the card or not, but it’s more likely, perhaps, than if you find #1 in the wild. [Edit to add: the card this issue comes with is a 4th Edition Blue Elemental Blast]

I also have a certain amount of personal sentimentality to this issue, as I recall a visit to my grandmother and having this comic with me, as I associate this cover with that visit; it also puts me in mind of an aunt, who had tried to show interest in my comics for my sake. I know I had consciously recalled bits of the first issue, as well as this issue from its cover (and it’s great that the cover shows something from the issue itself–a Hurloon Minotaur vs. Giant Spider!). I don’t have the same conscious recollection of the covers, even, of the 3rd and 4th issue of this series, nor even the story or how things turn out…even consciously recalling having re-read this series a few years ago!

Two issues down, and we’re halfway through this entire mini-series…

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Comic Con "Haul" from 4/11

Over the weekend, I wound up going to the Canton Comic Book, Toy & Nostalgia Convention in Canton, OH putt on by Harper Comics.

It was a little over an hour’s drive for me, and a $4 admission price. I’d given up on a similar event in Cleveland a few weeks ago so this one was a sort of "consolation prize" or such. Further from Cleveland so presumably less crowded, AND I didn’t leave to get there til about 2pm rather than around 10:30 (show hours were 10-4) so had NO trouble getting IN this time around.

But it seemed a lot smaller than I expected, while not exactly being tiny or anything. And it was basically exactly what I expect from a Harper show: a "dealer room." And that’s a huge part of why I go: no frills. I go for comics.

This one was a bit disappointing to me; didn’t have nearly the experience I had at the Cleveland one back in October with "finds," and for the most part merely checked off several "missing issues" from my pre-Hickman X-books.

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Found $12.50 in issues at one booth, though I believe she ended up asking $10 for the 3 issues…either way, better price than modern comics. Snagged the Marvel Legends edition/reprint of Uncanny X-Men #141 just because it’s bugged me seeing that it exists but for MUCH higher pricing online. $2.50 asking price was a virtual "given" for me! But I’m still after the actual original edition, albeit aiming for the $50ish or under range. Uncanny X-Men #143 I’d SWEAR I already had, but I’m pretty sure that’d be why I didn’t already have it before: I thought I did so passed on it and then discovered I was still missing it. For $6, even in less than pristine condition, I’m happy with it: it’s the issue. I have the actual issue in my collection. Doesn’t have to be "Near Mint" or whatever; the important factor to me is merely having the issue. Where condition and what I’m willing to spend on it intersect. ANd then $5 for Wolverine #27 that I suspect may simply be such a "key"-ish issue or otherwise hard to find and typically "expensive" solely for being a Jim Lee cover. [insert eyeroll-emoji]

Then at another booth, found $12 in issues that I believe the guy also ended up only asking $10 from me for the three. Uncanny X-Men #s 455 and 481 are simply "two issues I was missing still." This leaves me with Uncanny X-Men #s 142-459 as a solid run. I’m (now) presently missing #s 460, 464, 467, and 489 from having #142-507. My aim is to go back to #141, but may slowly go backward from there. And with Wolverine #32 paired to the aforementioned #27, I’m left with only Wolverine #s 10, 30, and 37 missing from having the original 4-issue mini-series and complete 189-ish issue first ongoing series.

So I suppose when it comes down to it…it was as a convention should be. No real hassles getting there or getting in; a number of dealers with good prices and deals to be had; found some comics that I didn’t already have and haven’t found at local shops (or for prices I’m willing to pay when I’m there and notice the issue(s)).

But it wasn’t exciting. I didn’t get an issue that I went in specifically wanting in and of itself. No "keys," as the 141 is a reprint and not the original. No spectacular, memorable, singular purchase. No "completion" of a series.

As I type this, it occurs to me that I probably should’ve looked through some of the cheapo stuff for X-Man #39, or Quicksilver 4/7/8/9, some Maverick or Ka-Zar or Generation X issues or District X #2 or such. But my heart’s just not really "in" "The Hunt" lately for stuff. I just want to trade money I have for comics I want and then kick back and read and enjoy having the things. I know my price points that I’m willing to pay with certain conditions (conditions on price and/or conditions OF the issues).

I know darned well that 4 hours into a 6 hour show of people who know comics themselves I’m obviously NOT going to "luck into" finding DC Comics Presents #26 in a $1 bin, or Incredible Hulk #181 for $5, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 for under $100 or such. So I"m at a point where I feel like screw getting a deal and just give me a fair market price that leaves both me and the seller happy.

Y’know?

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Retro Movie Star TMNT Out of Their Packaging

Several weeks ago, I posted about getting my set of the Retro Movie Star TMNT figures from Target. That post merely showed off the figures and collector’s box packaging.

I’m following up now to show the figures out of said packaging, actually opened and loose!

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Starting off, here’s the new Donatello side-by-side with my actual vintage figure that I still have all these years later from the early 1990s! (The vintage one is on the left).

One of the first things to note is that the coloring is slightly off, as are the weird dots marking the character. While having them present fits, the exact (or nearly-exact) placement is off.

The biggest disappointment to me, though, is that Playmates did NOT use the softer/rubbery plastic this time around that they did with the originals. These new ones move easily at the joints…but lack that rubbery texture that was so unique and cool about the originals!

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The new figures are slightly taller than the originals. I first thought it was the camera angle but on closer inspection I found that these new versions are indeed slightly larger pieces. Not significantly so, and not really noticeable without having them literally, physically side-by-side, but…there ya go.

I continue to be quite a fan of the shells on the turtles…I’m not sure why, but I really dig ’em!

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Here’s the Super Shredder…the only real difference that I noticed myself is where the original is stamped with a copyright year and the 2021 edition lacks that on its back. This figure is definitely the star for me, being the closest, full recreation…enough so that it’s actually pretty redundant. But as a guy interested in having the figures for the characters, this is exactly the sort of thing I want from Playmates: new "printings" of classic figures, virtually indistinguishable from the originals. Since I just want to be able to own a copy, and be able to look at it and have it appear as the original, I’m good with having a recreation, and leaving genuine vintage originals to die-hard collectors overall!

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Here’s the entire 2021 edition of the Retro Movie Star TMNT out of their packaging (minus accessories…holding the accessories would make these stick out big-time from the rest of the figures they’ll be displayed with!

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Going a bit further beyond merely opening the figures and comparing them to the two "originals" I have…here are the two genuine Playmates-produced figures side-by-side with a knockoff edition Donatello.

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And here’s the full Turtles + Splinter genuine 2021 edition with their knockoff counterparts.

The difference is much more telling with the side-by-side comparison. The knockoffs aren’t great, but they weren’t…horrible, either. For what they are.

That being said…being able to get actual, genuine articles for a reasonable price was something I was morrrrrrre than willing to do!


While I have no idea what sort of legal/licensing issues there may be with creator-owned characters and such that were produced as part of the original iteration of the TMNT figures line…for whatever tooling still exists, it’d be great to see MORE THAN just a handful of figures recreated multiple times over (with mere repaints)…and to see them just simply available as individual pieces. As otherwise rare, out-of-print vintage things…I’d more or less be willing to (at least grudgingly so) pay $15-$20 apiece for re-issued figures, just for the sake of having them. From Mirage characters and such that transferred to Viacom when Laird sold the property to various creator-owned characters like Ray Fillet, Usagi Yojimbo (Miyamoto Usagi), or Panda Khan.

To say nothing of some army-builder pack of say, 5 classic-style Foot Soldiers. The 5" Krang in Android Body. Non-turtle Toon characters like Burns, Vernon, and Irma. The Neutrinos.

And of course, a new re-issue of the Party Wagon would be amazing.

But I suppose time will tell…

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The Weekly Haul: Week of April 7, 2021

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Another week, another haul. AND no DC stuff!

  • 4 Marvel
  • 3 Image
  • 1 Aftershock
  • 1 IDW

Marvel‘s got the X-stuff. Image has new stuff; as does Aftershock; and IDW with a hefty, thick reprint volume.

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Geiger I bought for names alone: Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. No idea what the comic’s supposed to be about, but with these creators involved…certainly something to take a look at! Especially for NOT being something published by DC, particularly given Johns‘ history with DC.

Project Patron caught my eye somehow and seemed like an interesting enough concept at the time for me to decide to give its #1 a chance. We’ll see if it goes further, as I REALLY do NOT like $5 comics. I’ll accept ’em a bit more from a small publisher like this (compared to, say, Marvel or DC), of course.

Fire Power is definitely truckin’ along. And unlike most other recent "new series," it’s one I’ve actually kept up on, at least in buying. It’s an enjoyable enough title, though I may opt out on the singles and switch to the paperbacks. The initial hype has worn off, for me. Then again…it’s not DC and so more of a worthwhile book of late.

Nocterra is another exception: I’d picked up #1 on creator name (Scott Snyder) and though I’ve yet to read #1, snagged #2. Similar boat: creator(s) I know from DC but on a book that’s…(you guessed it!) not from DC!

Both Marauders #19 and Excalibur #20 are here by virtue simply of being current X ongoings. I’m into the #8s of the "first wave" of Dawn of X stuff…apparently up to right about a year ago just ahead of The Hiatus. So a bit to go, yet, and then the first third of X of Swords and then "catching up" from there to current, and hopefully STAY current. I suppose I now need to aim to catch up in time for the Hellfire Gala stuff…

Amazing Spider-Man is a definite "morbid curiosity" thing at this point–I’ve been "starved" for Spider-Man stuff and it’s at least "the main/traditional title" over stunt minis and such. I need to find a point for a good, clean break I think. Or keep watching it FOR the aforementioned morbid curiosity…

I have NOT been all over the Marvel Tales books the way I’ve tried to be the facsimile editions. That said, I got it into my head to get this one…though I’m more looking forward to the upcoming Thanos Quest one. Squadron Supreme is primarily a blind spot for me in Marvel stuff; so things like this offer to fill in that gap a tiny bit. IF I ever get around to reading it!

And finally, Tranformers ’84: Legends & Rumors. $7.99 for "100 pages" (not sure if ads and such are included in that page count or not). But still, for the price of two skinny comics with maybe 40-44 pages (let’s say even 60 between them with ads), this is like a third issue "free" and the Transformers are another relative blind spot for me, so the would-be nostalgia gets me.


All in all, not a bad week. Still pretty darned expensive…but a good third of that is the two $8 reprints issues. If I factored out reprints, "new stuff," and X-stuff, that’d leave me with Fire Power for the week. And that wouldn’t even really justify going to the comic shop!

Next week looks to be a decent-sized week as well. Until then…

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The Infinity Gauntlet Keepsake Collection

This is an interesting artifact I stumbled on at Kenmore Komics the other week. It’s apparently from wayyyy back in 1991 (when the original The Infinity Gauntlet was published), and I’m not sure offhand how one would have acquired it back then, but it’s "officially" numbered as 1909 of a 5000 print run. So for the ’90s…kinda "limited edition"?

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Anyway, the envelope containts 6×9" prints (black and white) of all 6 issues’ covers (AN ENTIRE EVENT SERIES and there were ONLY SIX COVERS. Total. Not per issue. But total.) There was also an "uncut sheet" of "6" trading cards featuring the covers’ images in color.

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Here’s the "trading cards" sheet.

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I realized that two 6×9" prints will fit perfectly side-by-side in 9×12" frames, so these can be 1. protected and 2. displayed, hanging simply on a wall as I display plenty of other comics, posters, etc.

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While in a way there’s nothing particularly special about these prints…they’re exactly the sort of comics-based "ephemera" that I really enjoy.

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And coming across this as I did, while perhaps a bit pricey, for the novelty of it, I was glad to buy it. I get more enjoyment out of this than several generic "modern" Marvel comics. And knowing how the original Infinity Gauntlet issues have taken off price-wise in a Marvel Cinematic Universe world, something like this was rather reasonably priced!

There was also a Gen13 thing like this, but I don’t have nearly the nostalgic attachment to Gen13 that I do to Thanos, Warlock, and the Infinity Gauntlet stuff in general.

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The ’90s Revisited – Magic: The Gathering – The Shadow Mage #1

[I’d ‘revisited’ this series as a whole back in August/September 2012 for a group blog that doesn’t exist anymore. And due to a personal issue with Boom Studios‘ comics I refuse to buy the new MAGIC #1. So, instead of buying new comics, and to have the content fully on my own blog to not disappear, I’m going to re-revisit–as single issues–the ORIGINAL Magic: The Gathering comics published by Acclaim through their Armada imprint back in 1995!]

magicthegathering_theshadowmage_001The Aster Fall

Writer: Jeff Gomez
Pencils: Val Mayerik
Ink: James Pascoe
Painted Color: Mark Csaszar
Letters: Bethanne Niedz
Editor-In-Chief: Bob Layton
Cover Painting: Val Mayerik
Cover Date: July 1995
Cover Price: $2.50

To the best of my understanding, this is THE first Magic: The Gathering comic. Though its story may not chronologically be the first, it was the first-published, kicking off the Armada imprint from Acclaim, and introducing the (comics) world to MTG in the spring of 1995. The game itself had premiered in October 1993, some 18 months earlier…and with its setting as a “multiverse,” it was certainly a ripe thing to bring to comics!

The issue opens on an active battlefield. We meet Lord Carthalion, Ezer, and a Lieutenant as they witness a falling star–a bad omen. A magic-powered ship bursts onto the scene, carrying Battlemage Ravidel…the enemy of this Lord Carthalion. The two engage into a “duel” and exchange spells to weaken and harm the other…culminating in Carthalion sacrificing himself to buy time for Ezer to flee with baby Jared…last heir to the Carthalion name. In the aftermath of the battle, Ezer has been artificially aged to a wasted old man, though the baby is relatively unaffected. As Ezer laments their situation–drinking himself into a stupor–we see the baby apparently work some protective magic to save his own life against the intrusion of a (dire?) wolf. Later, city guards at Arathoxia do not believe that this frail old man is in any way who he claims to be, nor the child with him…functionally banishing them from what should have been a life of relative luxury (despite their losses) to that of lowly street-rats, scrounging for food and living off the scraps of the city.

7 years pass, and the young Jared Carthalion is an able thief, stealing food for himself and father-figure Ezer to survive (barely) on. He is bullied by others his age and in no way “included,” existing all but alone. Even after the years that have passed, Ezer tries to keep alive the flame of who Jared really is, where he’s come from, though the boy can’t even envision anything ever getting better…which enrages the old man, who strikes the boy. Meanwhile, using a scrying device, Ravidel spies on the boy and his guardian, and opts to arbitrarily send a summoned minion to kill the boy. When the berzerker bursts in on the pair, Ezer works some magic…as does Jared! The boy has “tapped!” This excites Ezer–the boy WILL be able to avenge his house! However, Ravidel revels in this as well, declaring that their FINAL duel begins.

The last time I read this series, I blew through all four issues pretty quickly, glossing over details and simply taking it in as a totally generic fantasy story with too-fast pacing, lack of characterization, and largely being Magic in little more than name-only. This time through, sticking to this single issue and looking back over stuff and taking it in as a singular thing, I enjoyed it a bit more.

Story-wise, this IS a fairly generic thing. There’s hardly room in ~21 pages to worldbuild when the entire issue encompasses a massive battle, travel, and spans more than seven years.

We’re introduced to Lord Carthalion–the patriarch/leader of the Carthalions. He seems to have some magical ability…but is a mere mortal, compared to the power of a PLANESWALKER in Ravidel. We never get a rason for this battle, for Ravidel’s assault. He’s a two-dimensional villain for the sake of being a villain, apparently. An opponent because their MUST BE “an opponent.” We also get no real sense of what a “planeswalker” is, or WHY a “planeswalker” is and so on. Meta-textually, the reader probbbbbbably knows what one is–the allure of a Magic: The Gathering comic is almost certainly to expand on the cards and game one already knows.

Now in 2021, I’m looking back on this comic from 25 years later, as a person 25 years older, and with 25 years and a number of additional comics as well as dozens of novels and quite a few short stories, and “newer resources” such as Wikipedia and a Magic: The Gathering -specific fan-wiki, and podcast resources/interviews with creators, and generally a heckuva larger understanding than 14/15-year-old Walt had. And I can “appreciate” this issue as the first bit of a much larger thing, rather than something to be taken in total isolation.

The art doesn’t overly impress me–though it’s not bad, really. It’s absolutely better than anything I could produce, but none of these characters are REALLY all that singularly-recognizable and are far from “iconic” visages. The overall visuals certainly evoke a certain mid-90s feel…perhaps due to thinking of the artist recently as I read this issue, I see hints of Barry Windsor-Smith, and overall early Valiant here…though it’s obviously other creators.

While the visuals try to evoke very specific cards and their in-game use; and a column in the back of the issue elaborates on very specific Magic: The Gathering cards represented in the action–I’m far enough removed from early MTG and these cards and any such knowledge I was steeped in as a kid reading this, so it reduces the cards’ representations to generic fantasy-ish magic effects and some random-ish action that meant little to me in the reading.

The cover gives us Lord Carthalion in full strength wielding a sword in one hand, casting a fireball (presumably) from the other; while we also get a representation of the baby facing a looming wolf in a wooded space. This is relevant to the issue–Carthalion’s duel, and Jared’s fate…so it’s not just some arbitrary, random, unfocused magic-user. This is a singular cover; to this day, I am only aware of–get this: ONE SINGLE COVER for this issue. My copy has “Direct Sales” in the barcode…hence this came from the “direct market” or “comic shops.” There may be “newsstand sales” for the issue–copies that sold through newsstands or non-comic shop locations (Bookstores like Waldenbooks or B. Dalton, or found at a grocery store or such). But the difference would be the barcode itself…NOT a different cover image!

The issue originally came polybagged with a 4th edition Fireball card–an actual, playable card from Magic: The Gathering . This was from right as Revised Edition was fading away and 4th Edition was ramping up…I don’t recall for certain but I believe this FIreball may have been the first 4th edition (or 4th edition-STYLE) card I owned for the game. Unlike many such comics at the time, despite the polybag, there’s a banner across the top of the cover itself proclaiming the inclusion of the “free” card. So minus the bag and card itself…the banner remains.

The card was not a unique card “exclusive” to the comic or anything; it wasn’t some limited edition or variant or whatnot. It was just…a card. For the game. Playable. A little piece of the game included with a comic based on the game. What a far cry from more recent Magic comics with alternate-art cards shrink-wrapped with an issue and prompting an extra-sized cover price for the inclusion of a sheet of cardboard, the card itself, and shrink-wrapping in addition to the other regular costs of producing a comic (referencing the IDW-published Magic comics from 2012 or so).

This first issue of The Shadow Mage kicks off a story set in the “world” of Magic…but it’s a case of the story referencing the cards, rather than the cards referencing a story. I’d put it as well that this is from when the entirety of Magic: The Gathering was a more vague “idea” than concrete story, and what would eventually develop was still BEING developed.

There’s not really much of anything to this issue to make it a destination-read or something to seek out…unless one specifically wants to go back to the beginning of Magic’s appearance in comics. Or snag the first appearance of Jared Carthalion, Battlemage Ravidel, the first Elder Dragon represented in a comic (Chromium Rhuell’s corpse being part of the planar barge), and so on.

That said…it’s actually not a bad read–and I certainly enjoyed it much more than I did Gerrard’s Quest #1 that I read last year!

After an apparently-failed launch of “modern” Magic comics a couple years ago by IDW, Boom Studios got the license and has just launched a new series, titled simply Magic (dropping the “: The Gathering” part) and I haven’t a clue where they’re gonna take the story. After a brief 2-book return to the world of printed novels, Wizards of the Coast went right back to digital-only to tell the story of card sets, so this new Boom series is a different return to print…and some “hype” I’ve seen suggests they’re hoping for a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers level resurgence of the property in comics. However…it’s that comparison that seems to have sparked hype on THIS original series with some crazy activity on The Shadow Mage #1 in graded condition and such with speculators apparently flocking to it in hopes that something from that issue pops up and becomes The Next Big Thing in modern Magic comics.

Me?

I’m gonna sit back and enjoy re-reading original 1990s’ Magic: The Gathering comics, and appreciate the lack of overhype, lack of variants, and (relative) lack of pure, greedy speculation.

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A Speculator’s Guide to Marvel’s Alien (2021) #1

Marvel recently released an Alien #1, after Dark Horse had the license for 30-some years. In fact, outside of a single graphic novel/album adaptation of the first film, I’m pretty sure that every Alien/Aliens/Aliens vs. Predator/AvP, etc comic published until March 24, 2021 had been published by Dark Horse.

To go along with this Bold New Enterprise and such, I’ve put together a Speculator’s Guide to highlight some of the "key" firsts and why you should absolutely stock up on and hoard this issue and alllllll its variants.

After all…that’s what comics are all about*, right?

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Consider the following my bonus "Speculator Guide" to Marvel’s Alien #1:

  • First Alien comic published by Marvel
  • First appearance of Gabriel Cruz
  • First appearance of Danny Cruz
  • First appearance of the Movement
  • First appearance of Epsilon Station.
  • First ("cameo") appearance of some sort of Xenomorph variant in dream sequences
    • First Marvel appearance of any Xenomorph variant
  • First cover appearance of some sort of Xenomorph variant (variant covers)
  • First Marvel Alien #1
  • First Alien cover by InHyuk Lee
  • First Alien cover by Steve McNiven & Laura Martin
  • First Alien cover by Peach Momoko
  • First Alien cover by Ron Lim & Israel Silva
  • First Alien cover by Todd Nauck & Rachelle Rosenberg
  • First Alien cover by Patrick Gleason
  • First Alien cover by Skottie Young
  • First Alien cover by David Finch & Frank D’Armata
  • First Alien cover by Salvador Larroca & Guru-eFX
  • First Alien comic written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson
  • First Alien comic edited by Jake Thomas and Shannon Andrews Ballesteros
  • First $4.99 Alien comic not part of an event series
  • First ongoing Alien #1 at $4.99 price
  • First appearance of Facehuggers in Marvel
  • First facehugging in Marvel
  • First Alien comic with Captain Marvel (ad)
  • First Alien comic with Spider-Man (ad)
  • First Alien comic with Spider-Woman (ad)
  • First Alien comic with Venom (ad)
  • First Alien comic with Nightcrawler (ad)
  • First Alien comic with The Mighty Valkyries (ad)
  • First Alien comic with the Champions (ad)

I may have missed a few things, but there you have it! Feel free to chime in on what I’ve missed. I imagine we’ll see plenty of other "key" things about #2 in a few weeks, but that’ll be a Whole New Cycle of Key-ness after this issue’s been milked for all it’s worth…right?

(*This post is tongue-in-cheek but with a point to be had.)

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As random art or "prints" go…I like a number of these covers. But even for comic cover-sized prints $5 is a bit much. And since they’re basically all generic images…this really could be a year and a half’s worth of covers!

Put ’em in an art book…do an Alien Gallery by Marvel issue or something. (With so many covers just for #1, they’ve already got a full Gallery issue’s contents!)

Here’s hoping that the series develops something worthwhile and works out to more than JUST a TON of VARIANTS and being "not-Dark Horse." Let’s get some substance and such! Beyond hype, beyond mere "speculation."

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Alien (2021) #1 [Review]

alien(2021)_001Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Color Art: Guru-eFX
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: InHyuk Lee
Variants: [Too Many]
Design: Jay Bowden
Assistant Editor: Shannon Andrews Ballesteros
Editor: Jake Thomas
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: May 2021
Story Pages: 30
Info Pages/Credits Pages: 2 (double-page spread)
Cover Price: $4.99

There’s a lot to unpack here, mostly cosmetic and comparison.

They very first thing for me is that–as always–there are TOO MANY DARNED VARIAN COVERS. Do a pin-up gallery or something! Give us bonus art pages–the back cover, the inside covers, I don’t know. Knock it off with all the ****ed variants, though!

Secondly but still surfacey…what a freaking BORING logo. Basically just a spaced-out generic FONT. In my (surely vast) ignorance on the matter, I do not "get" the shift in branding to ALIEN (singular, with boring/generic font as "logo") away from the more dynamic, attention-grabbing ALIENS with the glowy effect and such. Same sorta problem I have with the novels from Titan. Maybe it differentiates a bit from Dark Horse-published stuff, but….I’m rather irked at all the crap regarding the licensing and such anyway, so this does nothing to endear this to my heart! While I know that the logo for the original 1978 film was basically just this "boring/generic font as ‘logo,’" the logo for the 1986 film was much more interesting, so in terms of using a logo from the series, it’s not like that one isn’t available (as far as I am aware, as just some dumb customer).

Thirdly and (also still surface stuff): yet another $4.99 #1. I pay $5/issue for a LOT of stuff lately, and generally without complaint (I’m looking at current-day X-BOOKS stuff in admitting that). But then, those are things I’ve been buying en masse and not sitting down to "analyze" and specifically, singularly discuss as a single-issue item in a relative vacuum. $5 gets you 5 things from Dollar Tree. You can go more upscale and get something at Five Below. But a mere 2 $5s is $10; 4 is $20, and that $20 might net you a "fine" condition back-issue (even a "key"!) decades-old that will be more memorable and appreciated than SEVERAL generic modern issues flocked by oodles of generic variant covers.

So, getting back to the cover: While on a technical level, this cover’s not bad….it’s very, very generic. It’s nothing but a pin-up image of a lone Xenomorph on a black background, with generic white text denoting several creators and the title. Nothing about ANY specific characters, or the world of the franchise, not even any sort of creepy background or something to be atmospheric beyond a lone creature coming out of the darkness with enough light glinting off of it that–the more I think on it–the more it seems there should be SOMEthing visible besides the creature.

We open on flashback/dream stuff of someone in some sort of capsule with "Alien Inside" painted on it from the outside (with spray-paint? With blood?) and come to find one Gabriel Cruz talking with his therapist–a Bishop-model synthetic. He’s retiring from his position as Security Chief on Weyland-Yutani’s Epsilon Station to go back to Earth and try to rebuild a relationship with his son. We then briefly meet a couple, conspiring on something…and find that the male is Cruz’s son, Danny. He’s feigning his part of patching things over to get ahold of his dad’s old W-Y badge. After they split, we get more insight into Cruz and his background and this dream sequence thing in a Xenomorph hive, seems to be about another son since lost. Back to Epsilon Station and the son, girlfriend, and others bust in, murdering indiscriminately, and find that they’ve breached a laboratory rather than a server farm. They find scientists still present, and before they can all be killed, a lockdown is initiated, destruction ensues, and facehugging commences. To Be Continued…

The flashback/dream stuff here is obviously present to have the Xenomorphs make an appearance in the issue for an issue that is part of a Serialized Graphic Novel that does not feature the titular creature(s) in its first quarter (sixth?). The comic IS titled ALIEN, after all, and I’m sure Marvel would hope loads of "new readers" would flock to their iteration of the title just for that word "MARVEL" on the cover and buy into the thing. This is Marvel, but this isn’t 2001 Hide-The-Hero Marvelright? And other than these bits, this is basically just a comic about normal humans with typical-ish (albeit 200 years in the future) human technology. No superpowers, no gaudy costumes, no hopeful musical montages.

The art itself is good quality; I like the appearance; and there’s nothing "bad art" about this thing in and of itself. Between the glimpse at the Xenomorphs/nest and present-day stuff, just flipping through this it looks like an Aliens comic. (Oops. Sorry. ALIEN. Singular. Darn that "s"…)

Story-wise…I’m neither impressed nor disgusted. This in no way reads as anything new or spectacular; there’s nothing revelatory or really…anything different whatsoever from pretty much any other Alien/Aliens comic published by Dark Horse. The story is a couple hundred years in the future from us as readers; it’s set after Alien and Aliens (preserving the film canon/timeline) but otherwise is a bit nebulous and indistinct. We have some arbitrarily-chosen human protagonist, haunted by something horrible that happened in the past either to him directly or to someone close to him that involved creatures in darkness that he may or may not know what they are–while we (the reader) know (by the title on the cover, at least) exactly what they are. Yadda yadda yadda, Weyland-Yutani is evil, misguided people accidentally wind up loosing facehuggers to begin an outbreak, etc…blah blah blah.

We do have 30 story-pages (as opposed to a standard 20) so the extra 10 pages for $1 are a better value than a standard $2 per 10 pages. We also get a double-paged spread of 2 pages "infopage"/"credits pages" with dramatic placement, going for a cinematic presentation. Cold open, slight development, bam! Credits, scene cut…comics. Nothing special or original. Despite my annoyance with Almost Every First Issue Must Be An Oversized Five Dollar Thing Heaven Forbid First Issues Just Be First Issues, the TECHNICAL "value" is there, so…yeah.

While by no means a "bad issue," this lacks anything significant–to me, at least–for being a NEW #1, fro a "NEW" publisher, etc. 30 years of Dark Horse publishing Aliens comics, and then Marvel gets the license due to the Disney buyout. And a bit of a gap from DH trailing off and nothing at all for a few months. And now "the big debut" from Marvel (my phrasing, not Marketing) and the property is not even given the Star Wars RUSH/deluge of publishing (as I’m recalling from 2015, Marvel had an omnibus AND first issue of new Star Wars ongoing published the very first week of 2015 when their license went officially active, followed either that same month or immediate months after with multiple other series.) These were directly, overtly placed in a singular, known timeline, building a new/additional canon.

Alien, however, does/did not get this. No, this is a new series launched practically FOUR MONTHS into  Marvel having had the license. That Omnibus? It’s not even due til sometime later in April. And…but for the title on the cover (ALIEN singular) and the publisher logo (MARVEL)–there is really no difference…no new or exciting feel, no particular tone (whether internal or external/meta) to indicate this is any sort of a new era, nothing about new/rebuilding canon, just nothing at all that there’s anything that Marvel brings to the table that Dark Horse did not.

Except that Dark Horse never did umpteen variants on a single issue.

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By and large, this issue could certainly just be the first issue of the next Dark Horse-published mini-series. The art is good, but nothing new for the property. The story is good, but nothing new for the property. The (main, ignoring variants) cover isn’t bad, but nothing new for the property.

If you’re already a fan of the property and were regularly buying the content from Dark Horse, this should be right in line with any of that and thus no reason not to buy Marvel‘s #1. If you’re newly interested in Alien/Aliens/etc. in comics, this is just as decent a jumping-on point as any other #1 with the title on the cover. I suppose the only real difference is that where so many "firsts" were already exhausted by Dark Horse, this provides a Marvel Modern Reset to stuff, dragging a 30-year-old comics property into a New Age for New Speculation.

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