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The ’90s Revisited – Action Comics Annual #4

90s_revisited

action_comics_annual_004Living 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 Art by: Joe Quesada
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

[Note: Apparently I covered this issue once before, back in October 2013. This 2022 post is my current take on the issue.]

Professor Bennet’s daughter Mona is still under Eclipso’s control. Superman and the Justice League plead with him for help but he’s got nothing to offer. Superman decides that the only option left is that he turns himself over to Eclipso in exchange for the citizens of Crater Bay. He leaves without knowing the League’s plans, as that would just tip Eclipso off. While the League prepares for a battle with an eclipsed Superman, the man of steel goes through with his plan and gets himself eclipsed. With the help of Lex Luthor II and Professor Hamilton they get a new solar trap ready…but it’s got to be installed and is on a timer, so Booster/Fire/Ice attempt to keep Eclipso-Superman busy until the "cavalry" arrives. Said cavalry is Captain Marvel, with the power of SHAZAM…Earth’s Mightiest Mortal, The Big Red Cheese, yadda yadda yadda. A number of pages are eaten up with the fighting between Captain Marvel and Eclipsed Superman…amidst their battle, the League attempts to deal with the many eclipsed citizens…and the town winds up burning. Jerry–who we met in Superman Annual #4–meanwhile comes across the solar device and manages to change its timer to go off much sooner. Ultimately, the Crater Bay townsfolk are freed from Eclipso…but the town has been practically destroyed, and Eclipso gets away with Superman’s body.

As much as I wrote summarizing this issue, it’s a very loose summary…you’ll get a lot more out of reading the actual issue.

For me, this is very much a "key issue" that I remember from being a kid and first reading it in the summer of 1992. I’m pretty sure this was my first exposure to Captain Marvel in any "modern" sense…and was definitely one of my earliest exposures to the 1992 incarnation of the Justice League.

The cover is very memorable to me, with an enraged, eclipsed Superman in a chokehold from Captain Marvel and the tagline "The EVIL of ECLIPSO vs. the Power of SHAZAM!" It’s certainly one of my earlier exposures to Joe Quesada’s art.

I recall covering at least one issue of the Lightning Strikes Twice story that ran in Action Comics #826/Adventures of Superman #639/Superman #216 for comiXtreme/csPulp back in 2005 (ahead of the lead-up to Infinite Crisis) and feeling like it retread a bunch of stuff…and citing this particular issue as why it felt like such a retread. (Interesting to me to note that at the time, Lightning Strikes Twice was 13 years removed from Eclipso: The Darkness Within…but LST is now 17 years removed from the present!)

On this read-through I found the story to be fairly basic and simple…though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Superman gives himself up to Eclipso, the League calls in Captain Marvel, and fighting ensues. Despite expectations that the heroes would "win" and get Superman back, they don’t…and we’re left to get more of the story (and resolution) elsewhere.

The art didn’t impress me all that much, though it’s not bad. Superman seems too large at points, but overall characters I should recognize, I do…and no one looks so "off" as to be any great problem or disappointment to me. Passive acceptance of the art rather than any active response on my part.

While the issue isn’t terribly "deep," it’s definitely a "favorite" for me, if only as a bit of nostalgia. Summer 1992 and this Eclipso event were parts of my main "deep dive" into comics, that has more or less lasted for 30+ years now. I can concretely "place" this exact issue as something I definitely read that summer, I have memories of shared time with a friend, discovering comic shops, and other things that have stuck with me long-term.

I remember thinking that Eclipso: The Darkness Within had a much more linear, serialized story, largely based on this issue’s opening feeling like it came directly out of a previous issue released immediately prior. This does feel like a much more "crucial" chapter of the event than say, The Demon Annual #1 or The Flash Annual #5. With this issue, though, I am at about the halfway point of the event, though it’s breezed through 3 of 4 Superman titles of the time. I look forward to getting to the final Superman Annual and the bookend issue of the event that finished things out…but I’m definitely also curious as to how the rest of the Annuals will read. This feels like a late issue, but with half the event yet to go, we’ll see how I take ’em!

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The ’90s Revisited – Flash Annual #5

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flash_annual_005Run-In!

Story: Mark Waid & Craig Boldman
Pencils: Travis Charest
Inks: Dan Davis with Scott Hanna and John Lowe
Letters: Tim Harkins
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Edits: Brian Augustyn
Cover: Charest & Davis
Cover Date: 1992
Cover Price: $2.50
Published by: DC Comics

This issue opens with some context narration from Wally West–the Flash. As he’s out jogging he notices a building that wasn’t there before. On investigation, he finds the Trickster, and winds up ambushed by the Weather Wizard. The rogues escape…and Wally recuperates had his friend Chunk’s place. Chunk, apparently, has a black whole inside himself AND knows Wally is The Flash. Wally helps Chunk with a new device, which pretty much blows up in their faces–a warp effect arced with Chunk’s singularity, but they’re able to get it shut down. Elsewhere…Trickster, Weather Wizard, and Captain Boomerang find themselves summoned by Golden Glider…who ‘borrowed’ Captain Cold’s device to do so. She introduces them to Chillblaine…and ropes them into a plan for a heist…to steal a black diamond! Later, we see each party arrive "early," having designs on getting the treasure without the others’ involvement. Glider kisses the guys, poisoning them…and offers an antidote to whoever brings her the diamond. Flash gets involved–taking the diamond from the rogues, and having the offer extended to him as well. Flash finds himself in some sort of metal boot contraption attached to the globe-thing containing the black diamond. While Flash faces the rogues, it turns out that Glider already got the genuine diamond, and the one being fought for is a fake. Flash gets the boot device off, and he and the rogues soon learn that it’s some sort of explosive. Flash gets rid of it before anyone’s actually blown up. As Glider and Chillblaine rejoin the battle, she begins displaying Eclipso’s likeness and abilities. In the fight…Flash winds up possessed by Eclipso. The rogues slink away.

I’ll be all over the place on this one, I think. First thing, the issue ends with Flash possessed, AND a note of "End!". There’s no "To Be Continued in…" nor any blurb for where to go from here for this event. After the first few chapters directed the reader onward…this is the second annual to not do that, after The Demon. THAT one seemed tangential enough to be self-contained with no such direct continuation or follow-up…but it’s not quite the same for The Flash!

This came out in 1992…still RELATIVELY early in Wally’s career as The Flash. I’d forgotten about the whole "eating thing" for him keeping up his energy because of his speed-metabolism. And his lack of confidence and trying to measure up to Barry…stuff like that.

I liked that this felt mostly self-contained…being (re) introduced to Wally/The Flash; meeting some rogues, learning about them, seeing their interaction with Wally and each other…I actually mostly forgot that I was reading an "Eclipso issue"–other than "a black diamond" being referenced for a heist, there was nothing about Eclipso here. No Bruce Gordon showing up, no "eclipsed Starman" or other shapeshifter; no Eclipso himself monologuing his plans to obtain Flash, etc.

For the first 46 or so pages.

Glider’s got the black diamond, though, and winds up possessed by Eclipso briefly…but long enough to provoke Wally and eventually get HIM. Over 2/3 of an issue and it’s relatively routine-ish seeming stuff for Flash, in a Flash comic…and then some obligatory Eclipso action and an ending.

Except having the hero possessed at the end doesn’t seem like a proper ENDING…though it does seem an interesting "cliffhanger." So I’m a bit baffled at there not being any notes of where to pick up…even if it’d be to the very end with the 2nd bookend issue of the event.

Visually this felt like a strong issue.  I’m not sure if this is the "regular" art team for the Flash title at the time…but the work is quite good here and certainly fits the snippets I remember for early-Wally-Flash, and I’d be more than willing to read further work with this entire creative team.

Other than my repetitive noting of there not being any "To Be Continued" note, this is a solid, fun issue that gives a good taste of Flash stuff, includes some Eclipso for "theme," and actually has me thinking about–and curiosity up about–the main Flash series at the time. That’s a blind spot for me in DC, though…maybe I’ll get to it someday.

There doesn’t seem to REALLY be enough Eclipso here to fully justify it as a part of an event…though it DOES explain how the villain got Flash, assuming that fact comes into play later in the overall event. Instead of just being "told" later that Eclipso got him, this gives the details. Outside of that, this was a fun (of sorts) read, and definitely worth the time TO read, and I’d say quite worth a bargain-bin purchase.

Not the greatest Flash, certainly not the worst…but one of the better Annuals I can think of offhand for sampling the series while serving another event and inspiring interest in the ongoing series!

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A Year of DC 3.75"/4" from Spinmaster

Last year, I started seeing some new DC action figures from Spinmaster. (Also from McFarlane Toys). The Spinmaster figures are smaller–3.75" or 4" scale, I’m not actually certain which…but considerably smaller than 6"/7" figures like the DC Multiverse or Marvel Legends figures.

Due to increasingly limited shelf-space…and already having a shelf jam-packed with loose Superman figures–I didn’t immediately open the Superman that I got. And then I chased down a black suit, bearded variant. And then over the past year, I’ve occasionally snagged another figure as my eye’s been caught.

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Having the "actual" Superman (Rebirth-era without the trunks) I’m not bothered by other variants. I’m actually hoping for a version WITH the trunks! I’m not overly-keen on Lex Luthor, but liked the appearance with the packaging and actually having the "logo" for his name. The "tech" Superman or whatever reminded me of the Cyborg Superman, so while obviously not that, I snagged it. Captain Marvel, Flash, and Aquaman were cool. After the Mattel 3.75 Infinite Heroes Wonder Woman standing out in my mind as one of those figures that would not stand on its own, I only got her figure to go with Superman and (separately) Batman.


But it’s been more than clear to me that Spinmaster‘s (and DC‘s!) HEART lies with BATMAN. Soooo many more figures, where the general DC ones seem–by comparison–to be token action figure presence to claim presence, perhaps to maintain a license or some such? Stuff over MY pay grade.

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Robin (Tim Drake) is one of my favorite comic characters, and over the last few years I’ve wound up with quite a collection of Robin figures and such.I like to think that these variant Robins are intended to be the various characters–Tim, Damian, and Jason, at least.

I finally caved recently-ish and snagged the most NORMAL-LOOKING/most-comics-accurate-looking-to-me Batman. Nightwing and Catwoman for obvious ties to Bat-stuff.

And an apparently armored Batman putting me in mind of Dark Knight Returns, but perhaps intended more as Batman v. Superman. Whatever. It’s bulky and cool.

Then there were some of the big, bulky villains! Killer Croc, Bronze Tiger, King Shark, and Man-Bat.

Somewhere along the way, spotted Talon and figured for this line, and being (relatively-speaking) pretty cheap (1/3 to 1/2 the price of the larger Multiverse scale figures), I’d rather have more characters, so grabbed it. Same for Killer Moth. I even grudgingly bought Batwoman figuring she’d go well with a grouping of Detective Comics: Rebirth characters at least.

And that golden Joker…happened across that and initially figured I’d get it as "trade bait," but have since more or less settled on keeping it for the heckuvit, at least for now. There’s another Joker variant that I may keep an eye out for as well. Despite this, I still think it’s rather stupid to have limited chase variants in action figures; but all the more when they’re functionally UNPAINTED figures merely done in some alternate color plastic!

But as said…with this scale and the possibility quantity-wise, I’m more ok with stuff than I’d be if these were DC Multiverse or such.

And these are just "basic figures," without getting into any of the multi-packs and such that have even more recently caught my eye.

I see plenty of activity in a toy group I’m in on Facebook about the Multiverse figures…but I feel like I don’t/haven’t seen much of anything for this line.

Fine by me–if the only figure(s) being "chased" for this line ARE the solid-color-unpainted variants, that leaves more of the actual figures for me to be able to get without dealing with…shall we say…"resellers."

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The Weekly Haul: Week of April 03, 2019

April 3rd was a decent-sized week of new comics. Not too huge, not tiny. Several #1s, a couple second (for me, at least) issues, and so on.

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I decided to give Major X a try, after some well-timed "hype" on it and such. Liefeld prompts a certain sort of nostalgia for me, and I was truly curious about the time-travel/meeting with 1991 characters aspect. Can’t say I’m overly impressed with the first issue, though, so it’s a crapshoot on whether I’ll "bother" with #2…probably depends on it being a slow week or not.

Sorta hard to believe we’re "already" at Young Justice #4. Ditto at already being to #9 for Adventures of the Super Sons. This is a series I’ll probably kick myself for…I wasn’t going to want to hunt it down later, but I am ridiculously/embarassingly far behind on reading anything with the title…AND with the Bendis stuff in "present" continuity…this seems something better left for the collected edition for me. …Except I think there’s either already or about to be a "vol. 1" for this series. But it’s a FINITE 12-issue series, so to me, there’s NO REASON only HALF the finite-series should be collected. It should be collected into a single full-story volume at its end. It’s that "collect everything regardless of length of run or PLANNED length of run" that (to me) can really turn folks off to getting single issues, even for something like this.

I’m giving Immortal Hulk another issue due to my curiosity…and wondering about a certain character. Figured I’d try Section Zero #1…I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something with it seems rather familiar to me, and I might be crossing it over mentally with something else from years ago, but I opted to pick it up "in case" so I can check it for myself.

Seems that IDW is again a "major factor" of my week with 3 of the week’s comics coming from them! I’m trying to give these Marvel Action: ______ titles a chance, and support them…especially as it seems like they do NOT have a TON of VARIANTS. And they’re likely far more self-contained than most of Marvel‘s own books, so strike me as being more "fun" and accessible without being involved in this week/month/quarter’s latest umpteen crossover event invasion secret whatevers.

GI Joe: A Real American Hero is–at #260 (or #105/106 from IDW itself) THE core GI Joe book to me at this point. Written by Larry Hama and having continued from the original Marvel series, it is at this point THE absolute longest-running Joe book I’m aware of, period, 2nd longest run for any publisher, where I think IDW itself may be on its 3rd-boot of stuff.

Finally, despite it being rather late, or perhaps because of it, I opted to snag Chandra #2. I’m not overly keen on this depiction of the character and such. But I’m VERY MUCH a fan of Magic: The Gathering in terms of its "lore" and with just a handful of books left to acquire to have the entirety of the in-print editions of the lore, I might as well get this as well.

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It’s cool to see Usagi Yojimbo get the cover of Comic Shop News for this week. AT LEAST with a "new publisher" in the title going to IDW, a "renumbering" is actually WARRANTED. It’s also likely a good jumping-on point for the character. I was highly put-off last year when I tried to jump onto the title and within a couple issues it switched to a new #1 with "legacy-style numbering" included to be a "mini-series" or such. I do NOT look forward to the umpteen variants on every single issue that IDW is surely going to pump out…but I’ll likely be giving it a chance anyway, being at the same publisher now as TMNT, and maybe I’ll "fold it in" with TMNT given the titles’ association through the years.

And there’s an Avengers Endgame previews to presumably push various collected volumes and such related or expected to be related to the film. I for one certainly appreciate these comic-sized ones for being comic-sized…as well as being a stand-alone thing instead of choking or bloating individual Marvel issues. And since I snagged the Captain Marvel one recently, figued I’d snag this as well.


mortal_kombat_x_figures_packaged

I also finally "pulled the trigger" on getting these Mortal Kombat figures from Funko. I’d seen them awhile back, and been "curious" about them more recently. I had NOT actually consciously realized they were Mortal Kombat X rather than "just" Mortal Kombat, but there you go. That three of my (if not my three, period) favorite characters are here made ’em a no-brainer.

I’d gotten Raiden, which OF COURSE then triggered my OCD and led to me hunting down the other two. I was able to get Scorpion and Sub-Zero at a Gamestop far off my usual area…but NOT far from where I was meeting a friend for Shazam which made things work out quite well!


shazam_ticket_stubAnd speaking OF Shazam, saw it on Friday the 5th.

I rather enjoyed it, though I’ve pretty much decided that I personally hold Wonder Woman (as #1) and Aquaman (as #2) above it in terms of my favorites of the "modern" crop of DC films (definitely over Suicide Squad, Batman v Superman, and Justice League…though I’ve yet to decide exactly where I hold Man of Steel in there, as I’d originally thought that and taken that one as a standalone property…as well as someone I’d seen it with sparking certain feelings).

I did not care for how New 52-heavy Shazam felt, but overall it was a fun film with plenty of light, humor, and so on; and even though toys had more than spoiled one thing (to say nothing of assumption and expectation from the comics doing so), I actually had had no idea what to expect of the film’s villain, and really dug the portrayal here. While I hope we’ll get Black Adam in a sequel, I’d prefer that before the "return" of this film’s villain. There was even a cameo I rather enjoyed that paid off through the film.

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DC Gallery: Shazam!

A couple weeks back–January 16–I noticed a new statue on a display shelf at Comic Heaven. Captain Marvel! (Well…legally/officially "Shazam" but that’s a whole other post/series of posts).

Anyway…a new DC Gallery statue from Diamond Select!

dc_gallery_shazam_box_front

I’d known this was "coming soon," but was thinking it was due at the end of the month, January 30 or so. But seeing it in front of me…and having suspected I’d be quite interested in it when I saw an image of it some weeks earlier–I bought it on the spot!

dc_gallery_shazam_box_back

While the face is somehow a bit off, and short of actual light-up effects, the lightning isn’t going to be spot-on…I still like the design of this overall; it captures the character for me–more of the new, perhaps, than the classic…but I didn’t really come to be much of a fan of this character until a couple years into the New 52 era. So I’m naturally going to be more accepting of changes if I notice them at all. And of course, there’s the simple matter of taking what I can get!

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I continue to really like this line of statues. They’re solid without being too heavy; light without feeling stupid-cheap.

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This piece joins several of my Marvel Gallery statues from the last few months, as well as an unpictured-here Batman: The Animated Series Robin that resides with a bunch of other Robin stuff in my collection.

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The Weekly Haul: Weeks of January 16 & 23, 2019

Looks like these Weekly Haul posts are becoming more of a biweekly thing than weekly, despite best of intentions otherwise. And broken record as I feel on saying that.

Here are the previous couple of weeks’ worth of new comics…with another new week now just a couple days away!


Week of January 16, 2019

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Detective Comics is really ramping up toward the 1,000th issue! I was amazed at how quickly the first two chapters of this story read, and this one itself seemed a pretty fast read. Loving the art, but the story makes it seem like it’s going to be so much better as a singular "graphic novel" in collected form.

Superman finally–about nine months in–gives us the story of the "missing" time and we now have a mid to late teens Superboy in Jon…which really is not my cup of tea. Perhaps it’ll be undone by the end of this current arc, but I doubt it…we’ll see where it goes, though!

Then we have Supergirl and the TMNT issue of IDW‘s series of 20/20 special issues celebrating the publisher’s 20th anniversary. This TMNT 20/20 jumps forward 20 years, and proved a too-quick read with too little space to really do any justice to the story…and there’s loads of potential here!

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The DC Walmart-exclusive 100-page giants seem to have thrown the 2-every-2-weeks schedule out the window, and are landing all-4-at-once again…right about the 4 week mark since the #6s! And it turns out that #7 is the final issue for both the Justice League of America and Teen Titans iterations…they’re being replaced with Wonder Woman and Titans respectively, starting with new #1s while adding Swamp Thing and Flash to the lineup (apparently Batman and Superman get to continue with their existing numbering.


Week of January 23, 2019

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The most recent week of new comics brings us a non-Black-Label issue with Batman and Constantine; I need to catch up on reading this title, and really look forward to reading this issue! I snagged the second issue of Geoff JohnsShazam! title, even though it’s several weeks late. I have yet to read the first issue, and as my usual trap seems to be…I get a subsequent issue so when/if I finally get to reading one issue, I’m not "stuck" having to "hunt down" another issue.

I lucked out and the local Target had the DC Primal Age exclusive issue. I had a rude surprise in thinking it was going to be like the Walmart issues at $5, but this one was $10! Still, that’s in line with DC‘s own non-Walmart such issues, so…c’est la vie. At least it’s DC and not Marvel

TMNT hits its 90th issue; and we get the third issue of GI Joe: A Real American Hero – Silent Option. And for the heckuvit, I opted to try the IDW 20/20 issue of Jem and the Holograms. It’s a one-shot, and given my own age, I figure it might be interesting to read about the characters 20 years older than "usual," as it puts them into my own real, current age range.

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Despite swearing off of the latest Uncanny X-Men iteration due to pricing, frequency, and event-orientation (with Age of X-Man and such) I couldn’t quite bring myself to pass up this Annual given the focus on–and return of–Cyclops. And I was firmly set on NO MORE DARK HORSE Aliens minis due to variants and the like…but when I recognized Tristan Jones‘ art on this variant…I gave in and got it, since it IS #1, so at least it’s not just another variant-on-any-old-issue-nothing-special. Maybe I’ll suck it up and buy the rest of the mini…especially or at least if he’s got variants on the whole thing.

I snagged this free Isola Prologue issue cuz hey…"free." And we have the weekly Comic Shop News, this one focusing on Age of X-Man: Alpha…something playing on nostalgia (1995’s X-Men: Alpha). If Marvel does some sort of omnibus for the event, has a single-volume of Uncanny X-Men 1-10 and such and I can get then for a decent price…I might snag ’em. Otherwise I’ll wait for conventions later in the year and see if the singles can be had for half price for standard covers…if reviews and word of mouth bear ’em out as worthwhile.

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I’m not actually sure anymore what IDW‘s schedule is for print and digital releases as it almost seems like they’re releasing stuff early digitally with print coming the following week. And I’m not sure how I feel about Spawn Kills Everyone 2 being $3.99 an issue for a 4-issue mini-series…but I threw in with Spawn several years ago, and have decided to at least "stick it out" through the 300th issue. And that includes this mini, given the original special a year or two ago, whenever it was.


All in all, not a huge haul for new comics for the couple weeks…though some other stuff I bought more than made up for the comics spending. Buuuut I’ll get into those as the week progresses!

And as usual…here’s to hoping the new week of new comics is small-ish…

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The Weekly Haul: Weeks of November 28 & December 5, 2018

Despite the sincerest of intentions to get this blog back into a more regular schedule…time just keeps getting away from me. AND I’ve been keeping vague due to some stuff in my personal life that I haven’t opted to put out in "public" just yet–despite time flying on it all!

So here we are, doubling up again on two weeks’ worth of weekly hauls…the day before a new one!


Week of November 28, 2018

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This bunch of issues includes the newest Action Comics and Heroes in Crisis. I "gave in" and bought the Nuclear Winter Special as a giant-size issue. It’s "only" 80 pages (compared to the Walmart 100-page issues) but still, it’s like a small paperback…and I’m often a sucker for these issues with a title on a spine.

I’ve yet to read the thing, but decided to try the IDW-published Marvel Action: Spider-Man issue. I don’t pretend to totally "get" Marvel "farming out" stuff like this, but I’ll take it as an IDW comic…and it’s a #1 but at "only" $3.99 instead of Marvel‘s "preferred" $4.99+ for #1 issues. And I need to sort through and figure out what I do and don’t have now for Die!Die!Die!…I may have missed an issue, and at this point probably should have "just" waited for the paperback.


Week of December 5, 2018

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Starting off December, we get Batman #60 and Nightwing #54. Also a new Shazam! series. The second issue of which apparently is already running somewhat late, and I believe this issue is itself "late," which does not bode well to me. But I’m curious about the character and where things are going, and I am a Captain (DC) Marvel fan to a certain degree, so…yeah.

I was willing to get The Merry X-Men Holiday Special as it’s a one-shot, and I’m curious about the series of single-page stories/vignettes. And much more willing to pay a bit more for a one-shot than a bunch of mini-series or simply #1 issues of supposed ongoings.

Adventures of the Super Sons is a habit-buy. I probably shouldn’t be buying it…I don’t think I’ve actually read an issue since the first couple of the previous series…but I keep telling myself I’m going to read the things (and having had some issues, was not going to double-dip switching to paperbacks, nor be "missing" a volume).

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Then there’s Die and Self Made….

Here’s Sarah, who spotted me getting photos real quick for this blog post.

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I’m not sure what it was for the week, but I decided to also grab a couple of new Image #1s in Die and Self Made (or is that Self/Made?). I should probably "know better" than to do that, but c’est la vie and all that.

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As a birthday present to myself last week, I got this Rogue pvc statue from the Marvel Gallery line from Diamond Select. I really like this one…and while I wish there were more X-Men characters available (Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Gambit, a ’90s costume Rogue, etc) I’m happy at least to have this one.

For more about it, check out FigureFan Zero‘s review of it at his blog. I actually knew about this from something he had posted on Twitter several weeks ago, and credit that with me knowing to look for this!


As we’re nearing the end of 2018, I probably ought to start figuring out firstly the "state of the blog" given the last couple of years, as well as stuff going on in my personal life, and the seemingly completely-inversed matchup of intent vs. actuality and time and all that.

Perhaps I’ll get to some sort of year in review, maybe something at the start of the new year…time will tell. For now–for this week–only time will tell if I’ll be back with anything else.

Though my own output has waned of late, please feel free to check out the Facebook Page for links to all of my posts, as well as links to a number of fellow bloggers and other content creators! I also occasionally post random photos there, and mini-rants and such on links that could almost be blog posts themselves if I was so inclined.

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Justice League: War

justiceleaguewarboxcover_0206I (finally) read the entire Justice League: Origin 6-parter a few months ago, having taken advantage of one of Comixology‘s 99-cent sales. I don’t recall right now if I’d originally stuck with the book for 3 issues, or 4..but I know that I “let it go” before the arc was done, as I was bored with it and it seemed more flash than substance. Sure, it was pretty to look at for the most part, but the story was just lacking, and not up my alley of preference.

I’d like to think that I approached this film with little expectation and an open mind, but so recently off the JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time thing, biased against anything seeming truly long-term in the New 52 comics, and not particularly ENJOYING the comics this is based on I think I was predisposed to dislike Justice League: War.

Visually, with the animation, I liked this a good deal better than Trapped in Time. In particular, something about this Superman worked better for me than a lot of previous animated versions, though I could certainly do without the “collar.” Granted, I’ll take the collar over nearly-bare-shoulders and a sagging cape, gladly!

Nothing with the animation–in and of itself–ever grabbed my attention positive or negative. Which, technically, is a positive in my eyes. It just is what it is…neither calling attention to itself for revolutionarily spectacular style or effects nor being “off” in such a way that I noticed it or had a problem with it.

I’m far more used to Batman’s costume changing through the years, and am less familiar in general with the other characters’ costume specifics to have any particular opinion there. Superman’s costume worked well for me (or as well as it can)…I don’t mind the loss of the “trunks” and the darker blue to the suit is fairly subtle and doesn’t bother me, either.

My problems with this film come with the story…or as I felt, its lack thereof. This seemed to be little but one fight scene after another, alternating between hero-versus-hero, heroes-versus-generic-bad-guys and heroes-versus-boss-bad-guy. Basically, this might as well have been a video game, punctuated here or there with a few moments of mandated pre-provided plot.

While I “get” that these aren’t “my” versions of the characters–this IS based on the New 52, after all–there’s a certain “heart” missing from all of the characters in this. None of the heroes have any qualms about wading in to the slaughter of the parademons–there’s no hesitation, no questioning if they’re alive or should be rounded up rather than killed–by ANY of the characters. There’s also the admittedly nitpicky aspect of Shazam cursing (an obvious huge step away from the “holey moley!” exclamations often attributed to the character)…this was (for me) the most bothersome of the subtle things in this film.

Aside from a few touches of humanity–Batman and Superman acknowledging Clark and Bruce; Vic/Cyborg and Shazam/Billy’s secret; Batman sharing his identity with Green Lantern come to mind–these came off as two-dimensional archetypes rather than characters to actually care about. We’re just outside witnesses to the events that unfold, albeit with front-row seating. We don’t get into any of the characters’ heads, we get only–at best–hints to their pasts, we don’t actually see anything “personal” with them or any supporting cast/characters.

I didn’t note any of the voice actors going in, so rather than hearing so-and-so AS _______, I simply heard the characters speaking. By the end credits I realized Alan Tudyk voiced Superman, and having recently been on a Firefly/Serenity kick, that was a welcome surprise. (Of course, as said earlier: there’s not enough to the characters to really care, or for me to really get to where I’d recognize a single voice I’ve not previously associated with the animated character). All the voices seemed to work, none of them gave me any pause to hear THAT voice coming from the given character.

The extras aren’t particularly impressive. I always watch the featurettes as I’m interested in the content and refuse to watch video interviews online, and tend to find these of a higher production value than “just” some quick interview video posted online.

The Jim Lee featurettes seem just a “love fest” to Jim Lee. I would have preferred more of a documentary feature on the history of the Justice League and its varied incarnations through the years–from the original mash-up of “let’s throw all our characters into one book!” to the late-’80s “Bwa-ha-ha” and the ’97 Morrison “Big Seven” through Meltzer‘s Identity Crisis and post-Infinite Crisis reboot on to the current New 52 stuff.

I bought my copy from Best Buy specifically for the Superman figurine. I already had several figurines from previous releases and had missed a Superman one several years ago, so paying the $2 above Target and Walmart‘s $18ish opening-week price didn’t bother me on that end. That the film failed to truly entertain or really hold my interest is a sincere disappointment. Having now experienced this one for myself, I’m quite hesitant at the thought of any future Justice League New 52 films (such as one hinted at by a scene in the end credits).

All in all, if you already know these characters, if you like the New 52 incarnations of ’em and don’t mind the film’s “assumption” THAT you already know the characters (and want almost all-action and virtually no character development), you’ll probably dig this film. Alternatively, if you prefer deeper stories and well-rounded characters/character-interactions and the like, you’re about as well off here as you’d be watching friends play a videogame.

If anything, I’d recommend (if possible) a Redbox rental, and then if you happen to enjoy this, consider a purchase at that point.

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The Trials of Shazam vol. 2 TPB [Review]

trialsofshazamtpb002Writer: Judd Winick
Artists: Howard Porter, Mauro Cascioli
Letterers: Rob Leigh, Travis Lanham
Original Series Covers: Howard Porter, Mauro Cascioli
Reprints: The Trials of Shazam #s 7-12
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price: $14.99

This volume took me a bit longer to “get into” than the first…partially less excitement to get into the volume (now having a good idea of the story and such after reading the first). Of course, plenty of distraction, too with a “new comics day” and a local comic convention since reading the last volume.

We pick up here with Freddy’s journey…he’s got part of the powers of Shazam, and Sabina has the others so far…with a couple of the gods’ powers as yet unspoken for. He winds up recruiting “help” from the Shadowpact, on the idea that his attaining the powers is less important than Sabina NOT getting them. As she steals more power and the balance of magic is close to being toppled, the “war” actually breaks out with Sabina launching a spell that needs one million souls and will push Dark Magic far beyond Light magic. Freddy meanwhile recruits the Justice League and leads the counter-assault. Things finally come to a head, and the legend of Shazam moves forward.

Story-wise, this volume is consistent with the first; this felt like the back half of the same story, with obvious progression and development from what came before. I definitely liked seeing the other characters involved…while I expected this to be Shazam-centric, seeing that this takes place in the shared, main DC Universe of the time makes it so much better than just being off in its own little corner. It’s also cool to see Freddy being responsible and involving others as the situation needs it rather than egotistically insisting on going it alone (suggesting there’s plenty of strength simply in recognizing when one needs to turn to others, perhaps).

Visually, the first couple chapters match the entire previous volume while the final four are a shift as we move to Cascioli on art rather than Porter. While this is in itself a bit jarring and quite noticeable, it works pretty well…and I definitely prefer a complete such shift than stuff being interspersed. It may not be entirely consistent with the first 8 chapters, but the parts are consistent with themselves, and everyone is still quite recognizable. I actually think I’d’ve preferred this latter visual take for the entire thing if that’d been possible.

As a whole, a good volume, though I maintain that I’d’ve by far preferred this be one large volume to its existing two skinnier volumes. This is a singular overall story that seems near-arbitrarily split in half just for the sake of being halved, or of keeping its collected volumes as the “standard” 6-issue things.

I’d think it obvious, but as the second of two volumes, if you’ve not read the first, I don’t see any real reason to seek this out unless you’re specifically looking for the ending of the story rather than the beginning or ‘full’ story. But if you’ve read the first half, this is definitely well worth getting to finish, to have the complete story. Overall, I’d recommend trying to get both volumes at once if possible to read as close together as possible.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of this series and already knew the “core” ending going in. But I definitely  enjoyed reading this, and find myself very disappointed to realize for the moment that other than the New 52 Shazam volume I read weeks ago, I don’t know if there are any collections with NEW Shazam stuff after this story out there or what issues to get for any appearances of Shazam.

The fact that that bothers me and that I’m interested in more of this take on the characters is a definite positive to me and credit to the story.

If you want to see the Shazam/Captain Marvel stuff actually progressed and status quo changed/updated (or at least don’t mind it happening), this is definitely well worth reading!

The Trials of Shazam vol. 1 TPB [Review]

trialsofshazamtpb001Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Howard Porter
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Reprints: The Trials of Shazam #s 1-6 and a selection from Brave New World #1
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Price:
$14.99

I vaguely recall the events preceding this…the huge goings-on around the run-up to Infinite Crisis as well as the events of Infinite Crisis itself…this is an aftermath that I was tangentially “aware of” but never got around to (being able to) read until now.

Given my recent/ongoing surveying of multiple eras of the Shazam stuff, other than some sentimental value on the Action Comics Annual during the Eclipso: The Darkness Within event I don’t feel any particular attachment to any version the way I am sure I have with Superman, Batman, and many other characters I’m much more familiar with at length. So that puts this story into a unique position in my reading knowledge.

The idea of this journey, the “trials” strikes me as a classic Hero’s Journey; giving us what I believe might be the first “starring role” for Freddy (outside a possible co-starring role in Ordway‘s Power of Shazam ongoing way back that I have yet to read) and setting him up to fill the shoes of the “original” Captain Marvel.

With the demise of the Wizard, everyone’s roles in the world of DC magic shifts. Billy Batson–Captain Marvel–steps into the role of the Wizard, and Freddy is prepping to fill Billy’s old role. But with the change in magic, the rules have also changed. The gods’ powers cannot now be merely “bestowed”…they must be EARNED. Thus, Freddy must go about these “trials” in order to earn each power, from each god represented in the name SHAZAM. He’s given a guide who leads him on this journey; even while opposing forces rally to prevent his completing the trials. 

This volume gives us the first half of the Trials of Shazam series. While it does contain six issues plus some material from the Brave New World one-shot, it still feels rather skinny. Thankfully, I obtained this volume through an eBay purchase along with the second…both plus shipping for less than the cost of either individual volume. This is another case of where I truly believe–for “only” a 12-part limited series–the story should be in a single volume, even at double the cover price of these half-size volumes. That this is only HALF the story is the core drawback of the volume.

Visually I’m not terribly impressed. The art’s definitely not bad…it’s good, in fact. But there’s something that I can’t quite put my finger on that’s missing or lacking, most likely simply my expectation given I had to put some conscious “work” into obtaining these volumes while prior Shazam stuff I’ve sought out were easily found on a shelf, in a back-issue bin or via Amazon. The art conveys the story and gives a look and feel to things and maintains consistency…I’m really never left with any confusion in a panel as to what’s going on. In and of itself the art is of a higher “technical” level than “emotional” for me.

Story-wise, this seems fairly run-of-the-mill and formulaic. As said above, it fits what I know/recall of the classic Hero’s Journey; plugging Freddy (and the Marvels) right in. Taken strictly on its own, as such, there’s nothing really all that new or “special” to this story. Being a super-hero comic (and something I’m reading the better part of a decade after it came out–knowing what ultimately came about and that the continuity this is part of doesn’t even exist anymore except in memory and “the back issue bin” and bookshelves) it definitely lacks an excitement and simply feels like it’s running through the motions more than anything else. That this is an extended “transition period” moreso than it is any true challenge or question of what’s to come.

Despite that, what makes this really worth reading is that it is a significant story in the overall Shazam/Captain Marvel saga, particularly in the late DC Universe of the 1990s/early 2000s…presenting actual, large changes to the status quo and moving characters forward in a way that they’re rarely allowed to; putting real growth into the Shazam mythos.

If you have an interest in the “legacy” aspect of characters; of passing-of-the-torch stories, of the Hero’s Journey, and the like, this fits in well with that. Ditto if you’re–like I am–surveying major available stories of the Shazam characters regardless of era/continuity. I’m not sure if this volume is technically out of print or not, but as it is only the first half of a singular overall story, I would definitely recommend getting the whole story at once if you’re going to at all…be it both volumes of the TPB edition or all the single-issue comics.

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