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Booking Through Thursday: Pointed

btt buttonWhich is better (or preferred) … stories with multiple character points of view? Or stories that stick to just one or two at most? And, why?

For me, it really depends on the story itself, and a lotta context. I think especially of “team books” in comics–X-Men or the Justice League or Teen Titans–and with those, I would want numerous characters’ points of view…it’s how we’d really get to “know” the characters.

At the same time, if a character has a “solo book,” I’m more inclined to want things from that character’s point of view (the the occasional one-off issue switching things up isn’t bad, though).

As I type this, I realize it also depends on the point of view of the narration…a comic “checking in on” numerous characters (X-Men, Justice League, etc) giving us “omniscient” views of characters all over the place is a much different thing than getting an entire story from the limited point of view of only one character, who can’t tell us exactly what another character is thinking or remembering or whatever.

I’ve begun reading Allegiant, the latest book in the Divergent series, and I’m not liking the chapter by chapter changeup between two characters’ point of view. Just as I’m getting the “feel” for the progression of story from one character, it changes and the “I _____” or “my ______” references are totally changed, and it’s taking me out of the story.

I like the Song of Ice and Fire books (Game of Thrones and later books), and those do a chapter-by-chapter changeup as well, but it’s not as rough to transition as it’s not the characters talking to me as a reader.

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Halloween Haul 2013

Not much for today, so just sharing this week’s haul…which appropriately enough includes Halloween ComicFest comics!

new_comics_halloween_week_2013

New comics, of course…new Sandman, and two TMNT books that clustered again this month. a couple $1 comics. And I decided after seeing the COVER image so many times the last few months to ‘try” the Damian mini.

halloween_mini_comics_2013

A bunch of “mini-comics” or ‘ashcan-size’ comics for ComidFest…

halloween_comicfest_2013_a

Some full-size issues for ComicFest…

halloween_comicfest_2013_b

…and probably my favorite of the full-size ComicFest issues.

All of these PLUS some bargain-bin issues for just over $20…NOT a bad haul at all!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Marvel Universe Series IV Revisited, Part 18

I’m pretty sure that for the longest time, the X-Cutioner’s Song card was the primary information that I had on the story; same for the Infinity War. I have yet to actually read the Spirits of Venom story, nor the Hulk vs. Leader (though I’ve snagged a couple copies of the issue referenced from bargain bins, for the shiny cover!)

These ‘Famous Battles’ cards continue to be some of the more substantive cards of the set, as well as being interesting reference points looking back…to me, most notably the Wolverine vs. Cyber card, and realizing how relatively “young” that conflict was at the time and even leading up to what happened with Cyber in the run-up to Wolverine #100 shortly after the Age of Apocalypse stuff.

Not a whole lot of worthwhile thoughts to say about these beyond that…

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The Return of the Sandman

mysandmanlibrarySo, the new Sandman series, Overture, premieres tomorrow. First issue of five or so, I believe, shipping bi-monthly. Which means almost a year of new Sandman comics, albeit ~8 weeks between issues instead of 4 (or in the case of ridiculously over-shipped Marvel titles, 2ish).

DC‘s already gonna get my money twice on this, barring something REALLY ticking me off a la Action Comics #2 or such. I’ll certainly buy the issues as they come out–I’m not waiting a couple years to get to read this! And I’ll of course want the paperback collected volume to shelve with the rest of my Sandman paperbacks.

I have a bit of “history” with the Sandman comics, certainly plenty of sentimentality to the experience of acquiring the books as well as real-life stuff going on at the time.

The earliest I recall “hearing of” the series outside of “house ads” and other DC/Vertigo-produced promotional materials was late in high school–my senior year, I believe (though it could have been junior year). A classmate who I never would have pegged for having any interest in comics was talking about this phenomenal series she’d read–something called The Sandman.

sandmanvol3dreamcountryFlash-forward a couple years, to the summer of 2001. I was working as a camp counselor in Michigan, and found out one of the other guys working there was a comics fan…though he had a preference for the non-superhero stuff. One of his favorites was Hellblazer, and through that summer he loaned me all the Hellblazer he had with him (thoroughly getting me hooked on the series, but that’s another post entirely). He’d also told me about this other series, The Sandman, and highly recommended it. Amidst the various issues of Hellblazer I read that summer, I saw plenty of house ads for Sandman stuff, which kept it on my “radar.”

Not long into the new school year, dealing with some frustration and heartache, I came across a quote that a friend had posted on his webpage that perfectly fit how I was feeling with stuff that was going on. I wound up tracking down the quote’s source, which turned out to be a volume of The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman.

Have you ever been in love?  Horrible, isn’t it?  It makes you so vulnerable.  It opens your chest and it opens your heart and it means someone can get inside you and mess you up.  You build up all these defenses.  You build up this whole armor, for years, so nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life.  You give them a piece of you.  They don’t ask for it.  They do something dumb one day like kiss you, or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. […] It’s a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain.  Nothing should be able to do that.  Especially not love.  I hate love. [Rose Walker, The Sandman: The Kindly Ones, Neil Gaiman]

So I was interested in the source material if only for context of the quote…but “the hunt” for the volume and my interest in the series as a whole actually caught my parents’ attention.

sandmanvol6fablesandreflectionsTheir notice in my interest led to them giving me a couple volumes for my birthday (Dream Country and Fables & Reflections). Meanwhile, my friend (who’d inadvertently introduced me to the quote) picked up Season of Mists…and as I’d let him read my books, he let me read his.

Dad specifically had me confirm on the other volumes at the comic shop shortly before Christmas–I “suspected” from that that I was getting a couple more; that they were completing the series was a memorable, meaningful shock. (My parents have virtually never gifted comics/graphic novels for any occasion as they don’t keep up with all I get on my own; THAT the series was a gift from them given that makes it that much more a sentimental thing to me beyond the stories themselves).

It took me a few weeks to read everything; I read a couple volumes at my grandmother’s in early/mid January 2002 while sandmanvol11endlessnightsDad and I were there; and once back at school got to share the rest of the series with my friend, which gave us loads to talk about (also a great experience: SHARING the reading experience and having someone IMMEDIATELY to talk to who also was only reading any of the books for the first time).

I don’t recall exactly when, but I’m pretty sure I acquired the two Death volumes (The High Cost of Living and The Time of Your Life) via ebay that winter/spring.

Then in 2003 when Endless Nights was announced…it was quite the thing to look forward to. But, I recall being rather disappointed at it being an oversized hardcover…making it really stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of my volumes. But it was Sandman, it was Gaiman, and I quite enjoyed the volume.

So now, we jump an entire decade. Late 2003 to late 2013. And there’s new Sandman. By Neil Gaiman.

Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes…when you fall, you fly!

Can you tell that I’m excited?

The ’90s Revisited: Action Comics Annual #4

actioncomicsannual004Eclipso: The Darkness Within / Living Daylights

Written by: Dan Vado
Pencilled by: Chris Wozniak
Inked by: Karl Altstaetter, Trevor Scott, Karl Kesel, Steve Mitchell
Lettered by: Albert De Guzman
Colored by: Matt Hollingsworth
Assistant Edited by: Dan Thorslan
Edited by: Mike Carlin
Cover by: Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.50

Offhand, this issue is my earliest memory of the Captain Marvel character. If I was “aware of” him prior, it’s not a conscious memory. I wanted to re-read this issue given my recent foray (October 2013) into the Shazam/Captain Marvel character, as well as for the nostalgia. That, and while not from the 1970s or 1980s, I would have pegged this as a perfect issue for the Superman vs. Shazam collection…and this is certainly the issue that I think of when I think of the two characters fighting.

The issue’s cover is fairly iconic for me, showing an Eclipsed Superman struggling with Captain Marvel, captioned The Evil of Eclipso vs. the Power of Shazam! It’s rather interesting to realize the cover is by Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti, given Quesada‘s eventual and current involvement with Marvel. The 11-year-old Me certainly had found it engaging, igniting curiosity as to the Eclipsed Superman and who this other guy was that he was fighting.

The interior art, while not nearly as thrilling, gets the job done. Particularly on this re-read, I was more interested in the characters and interactions than the actual art, though nothing about it particularly screamed “go find more that matches this art!” Given this is an extra-sized issue produced simultaneous with the weekly ongoing saga in the main Superman books, and is from 21 years ago, it’s not a great concern and largely gets a pass as such.

The story itself is a bit mixed. On one hand, I’ve read this before, I know the overall bit of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within ‘event’ and where things go; I have a fuller context all these years later of the characters, situations, and so on, so it’s hardly as engaging as it was originally.

The story picks up with a town having been captured by Eclipso, and the heroes are unable to reclaim it. The only condition by which he’ll relinquish his hold is in trade for Superman’s body–which he has, thus far, been unable to possess. Given this is Superman, of course he agrees–willing to sacrifice himself for the good of others (regardless of all the potential harm that could be done by Eclipso controlling his body and powers). While he makes the deal with Eclipso, the other heroes begin a plan to combat an Eclipsed Superman, which involves bringing in Captain Marvel–the only one to truly have a chance of going toe to toe with the Man of Steel.

The story itself isn’t terribly deep…though it does provide reasonable motivation for what occurs…stuff doesn’t come outta nowhere (such as Captain Marvel just happening to “fly by” at the exact moment he’s needed…he actually has to be called in). We have broad, ongoing plot points of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within story in general, and this feels much more like a key point in the event rather than “just” the “encounter of the week” with a Black Diamond.

I actually paid $4 for this copy of the issue, for the immediate gratification of getting to re-read the thing without having to dig through umpteen longboxes or quintuple the issue’s cost paying for shipping, etc. Despite paying that kind of money for a 21-year-old comic that typically oughtta be 25 or 50 cent-bin fodder, it was worth it for the reading experience…especially given the cost matched virtually any current Marvel, many current DC, and anything presently on my pull list–yet this issue has more than twice the content of a current series (in some cases, nearly 3 times the content!).

If you can find this in a bargain bin or just have an interest in Superman and Captain Marvel/Shazam fighting, this is definitely a worthwhile issue. Ditto if you’re looking for just a handful of the Eclipso Annuals from 1992.

Marvel Universe Series IV Revisited, Part 17

There’s not really a whole lot to say about these cards, except that they were among some of the most informative cards of the set, for me, detailing the various conflicts, which included background on some of the characters and their relations to one another.

I think of these nine, my favorite cards are the Spider-Man vs. Carnage, Cable vs. Stryve, Wolverine vs. Sabretooth, and Spider-Man vs. Venom.

Additionally, the War Machine card reminds me that I have yet to read the issue and “experience” Iron Man of this period rather than being aware of Iron Man of this period.

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Superman: Dark Knight Over Metropolis (TPB) [Review]

supermandarkknightovermetropolistpbWriters: John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Roger Stern, Jerry Ordway
Artists: Art Adams, Dick Giordano, Dan Jurgens, “Sludd” Giordano, Brett Breeding, Bob McLeod, Jerry Ordway, Dennis Janke, Kerry Gammill, John Kalisz
Reprints: Action Comics Annual #1, Adventures of Superman #466-467, Action Comics #653-654, Superman #44
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $14.99

The Action Comics annual, while not bad, isn’t at all my favorite Superman/Batman story. It’s certainly an apt inclusion, being one of the earliest team-ups of the characters…I just don’t care for the vampires thing, and given the volume’s title and the “main” story of the volume, I was eager to get to that rather so quickly waded through the Annual.

Adventures of Superman #466 was the first appearance of Hank Henshaw, and a definite “nod” to Marvel‘s Fantastic Four, albeit with a much more tragic outcome. Three men and a woman are exposed to “cosmic radiation” and crash back to Earth, finding themselves changed–one into energy, one into a monstrous construct of shrapnel, rocks, and branches; one fading out of our plane of existence, one being eaten away by radiation that baffles even his intellect. This is a nice “one-shot” sort of issue, introducing the characters and seeing their apparent end all in one go…though Hank Henshaw would eventually return in Reign of the Supermen/The Return of Superman and go on to be a fairly recurring character throughout the 1990s’ Superman books. Though I can’t be certain of its accuracy, I seem to have a fond memory of having read this issue while it was still new, long before ever being referred back to it during Reign of the Supermen.

I can’t really put my finger on why this issue was included here except that it came out about the same time as the others and so perhaps “adds context,” but as a Superman/Batman-themed volume focusing on the characters’ early interactions, I really would have preferred to see Man of Steel #3 (One Night in Gotham City) included here (the issue/story is even referenced by the Action Comics annual!).

Action Comics #653 serves as a nice prologue to the “main event” of the volume, giving us the key point of the Kryptonite ring having been removed from Luthor’s possession, and how it winds up able to make its way to Gotham City.

Finally, we get to the three issues that are the actual Dark Knight over Metropolis story. Here, Batman comes across a radioactive ring that he traces back to Metropolis. Of course, Metropolis “belonging” to Superman, the two cross paths, and have to work together to uncover the source of the ring and deal with a threat from Intergang. At the story’s end, we see that although their methods differ, Superman realizes that he and Batman are truly on the same side with the same ultimate goals, and we get the key scene that would have ramifications for a decade or more in the DC Universe as Superman gives Batman the means to stop him should the need ever arise.

Overall–on all the issues–the story and art work well together. I can definitely tell these are from the late 1980s/early-1990s, though, visually…both stylistically (square, neat panels, virtually no full-splash-pages, no double-page spreads, etc) as well as the coloring…while the paper itself for this volume are not newsprint, some pages I could practically feel the newsprint, and some of the coloration “dots” are visible in panels from the original printing process.

The look and feel of this volume brings back fond memories for me, as–while different artists had different ways of depicting the characters–the whole seems consistent with nothing outlandish or particularly “off,” and I really had no complaints.

The stories as well are a nice blast from the past…and as I read this, I realized I may not actually have read all of these before this iteration, so it’s nice to know absolutely for certain that I’ve now read this story for myself as opposed to simply knowing it by references TO the story.

This is probably one of the most “bare-bones” volumes I’ve noticed as such in awhile…I was surprised to get to the end, and there aren’t even any ad pages or lists of OTHER Superman or Batman volumes that I usually ‘expect’ to see. Additionally, there’s no table of contents, introduction or anything…not terribly surprising since the “specialness” of collected volumes has gone away, though for such a specific story I’d almost expect some “extra” stuff to be included (since this isn’t “just” “the next” volume to contain several issues in a series).

All told, though…it’s quite gratifying that this volume now exists, and it’s well worthwhile for anyone interested in a quality glimpse into “early” Superman/Batman interaction from the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Universe. This is a standard-size TPB, with the “standard” $14.99 cover price that one would expect for a 6-7 issue volume. In an age of collected volumes increasingly reflecting a greater-than-$3.99-per-issue price, this is a more than fair price point. I already own all of the single issues, and would really consider them to be quarter-bin/50-cent-bin issues, yet I still bought this, and consider it a very worthwhile purchase!

TMNT New Animated Adventures #4 [Review]

tmntnewanimatedadventures004Story: Erik Burnham
Art: Dario Brizuela
Colors: Heather Breckel
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow
Cover: Dario Brizuela
Published by: IDW
Cover Price: $3.99

After April brings cell-phone video of a lone Foot ninja sneaking around, the turtles investigate. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a trap, as the Foot test a newly-rendered poison on them (delivered via blow-darts). Raphael is hit, which leads the turtles to race to find ingredients for the antidote. Of course, archnemesis the Shredder is behind things, and sends Dogpound to prevent the turtles from obtaining the final ingredient.

Story-wise, this isn’t all that deep…but then, being based on the animated series I wouldn’t expect much depth. As this continues the trend of the done-in-one format, there’s also not much room for a lot of depth…and I’m ok with that. This issue particularly (over the previous issues) feels like it would fit in equally well with the original ’80s animated series or the current, and I even found myself “hearing” the ’80s voicecast as I read the turtles’ dialogue (Dogpound was a mix of Bebop and Rocksteady).

Visually, this continues to be one of the best-looking “adaptations” I’ve seen as Brizuela‘s art continues to carry the spirit and design of the animated series while keeping its own look that just “is.” I find myself increasingly preferring Brizuela‘s visuals to the animated series itself.

All in all, yet another solid issue, likely enjoyable by any fan of the current tv show, and even a bit to those who prefer the original animated series.

Injustice: Gods Among Us #10 [Review]

injusticegodsamongus010Betrayals

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Tom Derenick, Mike S. Miller, Bruno Redondo
Colorists: David Lopez, Santi Casas of Ikari Studio
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Cover: Mico Suayan
Cover Colors: David Lopez, Santi Casas
Assistant Editor: Aniz Ansari
Senior Editor: Jim Chadwick
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Given the way I was drawn into this series, I almost hate to admit that it seems that even as things with the characters heat up, the series itself is cooling down for me. I have yet to get to play the game this is based on, so only have the story as this comic series to go on, and the premise is wearing a bit thin.

This issue gives us the next three chapters that were originally presented digitally…two dealing with the “main” story and one that’s really just a “side” story for “perspective.” In the main stuff, Superman’s group has learned that the Hawkgirl they were working with was actually the Martian Manhunter in disguise, while Batman’s group had taken out the original. In retaliation, Superman reveals Batman’s identity to the world. This doesn’t go over well with anyone–least of all Bruce–and prompts additional harsh action. Martian Manhunter confronts Superman and Wonder Woman, and uses his shape-shifting ability to threaten Wonder Woman’s life, prompting quick/deadly action from Superman. In the third part, we get a story of a kinder, gentler Superman of the past and how he went to extraordinary lengths to help a kid who fell off a bike.

Art-wise, no particular complaints. The art fits the stories the issue gives, and I never found myself trying to figure out what was going on due to confusing visuals. The “classic” Superman seemed slightly off, but I’m a lot more “forgiving” of that given this series is entirely its own thing…and I’ve gotten used to seeing a lot of visual interpretations of the character that don’t quite fit “my” preferences.

Though the series is cooling off for me, the story isn’t bad. It’s a bit jarring to see these characters–especially Superman–take things as far as they do; and to see where there can be more drastic, shocking consequences since this isn’t the “main” continuity (characters can be killed, maimed, etc.). I’m finding Flash to be a bit more of a “voice of reason” and the most true-to-form of the various characters; certainly “vocally.”

By and large, this far in, the story is steeped in its own continuity so there’s not much of a jumping-on point, and it seems rather unlikely that anyone would be randomly jumping in at a 10th issue without context of the earlier issues; there’s no real recap–externally or within the story itself–which works for me, having read all the earlier issues…but it wouldn’t seem likely to truly “clue in” a new reader looking for context.

Superman allowing–even instigating–the revelation of Bruce’s identity, particularly as retaliation seems uncharacteristic of Superman, given likely ramifications. I’ll buy it for the sake of the story, but with a healthy dose of skepticism. My favorite part of the issue was the flashback which is a rather strong Superman story, period–Injustice and otherwise.

All in all, not a bad issue…certainly nothing to disgust me into dropping the book, but nothing that particularly drives me to recommend someone jump in on this issue, or even the series, without already being interested in the concept to begin with.

As the issue re-presents 3 chapters that were originally 99-cents each, I’m paying a $1 “premium” to get/read this in print. Yet given the page count, it’s in line with (or has more than) other $3.99 books, so no huge issue there.

Harbinger #17 [Review]

harbinger017Writer: Joshua Dysart
Art: Clayton Henry
Color Art: Moose Baumann
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Assistant Editor: Josh Johns
Executive Editor: Warren Simons
Cover Artists: Barry Kitson, Sean Chen, Matthew Waite
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

After the last couple issues, I really thought things were going one way…but this issue turns that on its head in a way that I didn’t see coming, even from the ending of the last issue. It was actually the “previously…” text on the inside front cover that clued me in…but seeing that, I think, caused me to ‘dive in’ on this issue all the more eagerly.

We flash back to the end of the stuff in Las Vegas–the Harbinger Wars–and see that what we THOUGHT happened…didn’t ACTUALLY happen. Harada was far more prepared than we thought, and what our heroes have experienced since then has been to keep them quiet and calm…prisoners of Harada. Yet, while savoring his victory, we find out that Harada’s resources–including Harada himself–are spread quite thin, and as he approaches a deep exhaustion, the danger to all around him grows exponentially.

The art on this is good…truthfully, I hardly even noticed it as I read…I was simply engrossed in the story and all the potential it holds. It does what the art should, conveying what’s going on, getting the story across where words don’t or can’t, and keeps the reader moving through the issue.

Story-wise…I’m really enjoying this. It’s hard to believe we’re already 17 issues in…sure, that’s not a HUGE quantity, but looking back we’ve had quite a bit of ground covered. And in this day and age where it hardly seems anything lasts much longer than 12-15 issues, this is a real treat with (thankfully) no end really in sight.

This issue’s story drew me in, revealed answers to questions on my mind, and left me honestly curious about where things go from here.

As the third issue of the current arc, this issue isn’t in and of itself the greatest jumping-on point…but it’s definitely not an issue to pass on if you’ve enjoyed things thus far, and especially if you found yourself thinking the last couple issues indicate a repetition of the classic, original series.

Recommended, and I’m looking forward to #18!

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