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The Weekly Haul: Weeks of October 28, November 4, and November 11, 2020

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Been a few weeks…again. But hey…this time around, while having the no-post-gap of several weeks, I have pics of the hauls OF the several weeks!

So, let’s start with a couple weeks ago–October 28.


Week of October 28, 2020

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The long-awaited and MUCH-OVERHYPED TMNT: The Last Ronin #1 finally came out. Within the issue itself, there are several gallery pages of covers in addition to the usual/standard "gallery" on the inside cover with the usual variants shown off. I count no less than 65 covers. And counting the story pages of the issue…40 pages. So there are 25 more COVERS…than there are STORY PAGES in existence for this issue. I intentionally got the STANDARD cover. Not about to play the variants game with SO MANY variants, let alone this is a $9 issue. For the oversized format (an apparent callback to the size of the ORIGINAL 1984 TMNT #1 dimensions) and 40 story pages, prestige format/no ads, that’s not a horrible price, and IDW could easily have just shoved the price on up to $9.99, but didn’t. However, 10 different covers would be $90 AT COVER PRICE, but with so many covers apparently running $40+…yeah. Even MY "TMNT Exception" doesn’t go that far. At $40+, three covers that are just gonna get filed in some "current year comics" or "overall TMNT" box, or I could get a quarter-scale NECA figure (though I’m not keen on NECA at the moment).

Batman: The Three Jokers #3 is out. Three issues to be a sequel to the single-issue The Killing Joke. But being what it is, and by Johns, and my not being keen on DC distancing itself so much from even Johns’ stuff in general, I had given in on the first issue, so had to get the 2nd and third. And something about this project made it one I was willing to grudgingly get, and actually read ,and while it was rather extended and didn’t really GO anywhere, it worked well enough for me. (Yet just a week after the final issue, I saw an ad for the hardcover single-volume edition…ugh!)

Spawn #311. Nothing much to say for this issue; I’m ridiculously far behind on READING the title…but continue to simply "support" the title DESPITE the spike in variants, for the $2.99 value pricing in an overwhelming sea of $3.99-$9.99 single issues.

Then because I’m a total sucker, and despite the inflated $5.99 cover prices…I snagged the 50th issues of Batgirl and Red Hood Outlaw. Largely on the characters’ involvement in Three Jokers and the combination of coming out of that as well as The Joker War in Batman #100.

Though I have the original edition of the issue introducing the new Black Widow from Marvel Knights, snagged the $1 reprint, cuz as usual, I’m supporting cheap reprints of stuff since generally the reprints are from a time I enjoyed Marvel’s output far more than current-year stuff.

And then speaking of back issues/older stuff…latest issue of Back Issue magazine from TwoMorrows. This is another publication that I’ve been pretty glad to "support." They do high quality, well-researched stuff and the $10 is still a FARRRR greater time-value for the reading than any 2.5 $3.99 comics. Read one article and you’ve probably gotten more reading time than for 2.5 current-year comics, so anything else is just bonus for the money. I’ve probably missed an issue here and there of BIM, but between the cover story and whatnot, unlike comics, the content issue to issue isn’t what I’d see as serialized; it’s more the cover/topic that’ll grab me initially; as well as depending on how large a week on regular issues it might be.


Week of November 4, 2020

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Batman #102 is one I’m looking at sort of like the early 50s of this iteration of the title: it’s like a new #2, but I’ve decided to keep on PRIMARILY to "support" the high issue-numbering. If this WAS merely a new #2, I’d have passed on it and the previous issue. I need to catch up on reading around #s 91/92-99, but I think that’d make this "Ghostmaker" character make a LITTLE more sense to me…though I get slight "Hush" vibes as yet ANOTHER "new" character from Bruce’s PAST from his training is causing issues. Given rumours I saw on BleedingCool about DC essentially saying the heck with ongoing "continuity" come March…I gotta wonder just how far past #100 this iteration of the title will even go…or MATTER. My OCD would hate for me to have ultimately "kept up with" it for 102+ issues just to see it end a mere 4 issues later or something.

Firepower #5 means we’re one issue shy of "completing" a 2nd paperback. And with the "Prologue" tpb and FCBD edition of #1…we still have NOT matched in subsequent content what was initially available at once for this series. Which is both good and bad. I’ll likely be double-dipping, though. I’m not overly keen issue to issue on this book, but expect I’ll enjoy re-reading the first 6 issues in one go as I read the Prologue. And with my increasing avoidance of Marvel and DC, I’m willing to "throw in" with this title along with Walking Dead Deluxe as "regular" titles to replace what I’m not buying from those.

And speaking of…#2 of Walking Dead Deluxe. Once again, I hate the variant covers, and am starting to see this putting the issues out in color as an EXCUSE to do numerous variant covers. I’m specifically looking for the "A" cover (standard) cover. I initially had thought I might go for the one with the classic cover, but 1. that’s technically a VARIANT and 2. new iteration of the book, new cover. At least for these first few issues, I’m glad to give it a shot in color. And as said with Firepower…I’ll "enjoy" and appreciate this more than most new content out of DC and Marvel.

I was surprised to see Avengers #57. It’s a facsimile edition, but I think probably just about THE best one I’ve seen! They kept the original 12cents price on the corner box and simply updated to current with placing a modern barcode on the bottom corner of the cover. I actually wish they’d do this for ALL such editions–reprint the original cover price and all, but make sure the barcode is accurate. (Sure, you’ll get some folks who don’t realize what these are grousing "But it says $1.25, why is it $3.99?!?" but I’d argue that facsimile editions are intended for that middle-ground: the buyer/reader/collector who knows it’s a reprint of something classic, but not someone willing to pay the high prices for the originals. It’s not for casual buyers unaware of such things…if they’re out there.

TMNT: Jennika II #1 is an issue that gets in by virtue of technically being TMNT, and my OCD for keeping up with the IDW stuff (thus far I believe I have one of every single actual issue they’ve published, but not necessarily variants, ashcans, or promo pieces that aren’t full issues). Considering the first Jennika was interrupted by the Spring Shutdowns and #3 didn’t come out til…May? June? [according to IDW’s own site, June.] we’re barely 5 months since that mini. And the character is virtually starring in the main book. Even the other turtles have only had solo one-issue "micro series" outings…so why does Jennika deserve two different mini-series so close together within basically a single year?

I don’t think I even knew about this second round of Tales from the Dark Multiverse…but in a rare case of "advertising" via early-reviews I found out, and decided while I’m NOT getting any of the Death Metal stuff, I got last year’s round of TFTDM books, so might as well get this second round as well. Plus, since I already have the first round and haven’t double-dipped for the collected edition, getting this round also as ‘singles’ will keep to the same format without me double-dipping for OCD’s sake. I’m led to believe this HUSH issue is a retelling/alternate in name only, but…whatever, I guess.

I’m not sure WHERE I left off with the current, about-to-end Sandman Universe Black Label-not-Vertigo Hellblazer title. But for getting a couple of the other oversized/magazine-sized Black Label books, giving this Hellblazer one a chance. PLUS, as I’m a broken record…getting it to "support" the NON-BATMAN, NON-JOKER, NON-HARLEY QUINN such books.

Finally…Cross Over #1. I was NOT going to get this. In fact, I’d specifically decided not to. I feel like Cates is vastly over-hyped lately, since bursting onto the scene (I guess?) with God Country several years ago. I wasn’t going to CHASE this book, wasn’t going to seek it out, etc. But saw a bunch of copies there, and changed my mind. I can give it a look-see. After all…it’s Cates…but it’s NOT Venom or Thanos or Cosmic Ghost Rider/Galactus-Punisher-Old-Man-Wolverine-in-a-Black-Widow-Costume Marvel book. Best I can tell I was able to get the standard/basic/A/non-variant cover so I can simply read it for myself and judge it for myself.


Week of November 11, 2020

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And now catching up to "current week," and it’s a small one! Actually probably could have done without, but I thought there were a couple other issues out this week that I wanted.

Punchline I only got because it’s the same writer from Batman, and as I’ve yet to catch up on reading that run-up to #100, I don’t honestly know if I’d care for this or not. But I’ll be darned if I’ll leave it to have to chase it down later! And I’ll likely–ultimately–file it as an annual with the title. Not sure WHY it does not have "Batman" in the title…seems EVERYTHING ELSE published from DC even SLIGHTLY related to the character does. So why not this direct (apparently) spin-off special?!?

And as always, I’m a sucker for these True Believer reprints. ALL THE MORE when EVEN dropping much of the trade dress, the cover is STILL iconic and recognizable for what one single issue it actually is. The original edition of Thor #337 is from 1983…37 years ago, and still recognizable in and of itself. So many variants these days that you need a freaking ENCYCLOPEDIA and searchable online databases just to know what any given cover is from the cover alone.

Given the relative lack of anything else worthwhile…I picked up another pack of "top loaders" that I’ve been using for my personal "wall book" or "display book" comics. They’re like trading-card holders but sized to hold comics, typically including bag-and-board.


No real idea what else is coming out soon, other than subsequent issues of TMNT, Spawn, Batman, and….GI Joe: A Real American Hero.

Funny…triple-digit numbering all around! Must be something TO that, I guess???

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The ’90s Revsited: Captain America #12

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captain_america_(1996)_0012Heroes Reunited part 4 of 4: Let It Be

Story: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Joe Bennett, Ed Benes
Inks: Homage Studios
Colors: Nathan Lumm & Wildstorm FX
Letters: RS & Comicraft/Albert Deschesne
Editors: Mike Heisler & Mike Rockwitz
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: October 1997
Cover Price: $2.99

Here we are with Captain America #12. An "anniversary" issue, double-sized (and extra-priced for its time), yet it is "only" $2.99…cheaper than something HALF its size even twenty years later. This is chapter 4 of the 4-part Heroes Reunited arc that spanned Fantastic Four (1996) #12, Avengers (1996) #12, Iron Man (1996) #12, and this issue.

We open on Rikki Barnes–a girl that’s apparently been Cap’s partner of late, a new "Bucky"–as she discovers a mess of a break-in at her grandparents’ house. This turns out to be Dr. Doom, who goes on about her being some chronal anomaly that shouldn’t exist. Captain America arrives and saves her, confronting Doom, as things start to come out. The Fantastic Four are currently battling Terrax in Central Park (presumably from where Fantastic Four (1996) #11 had left off…or one of the #11s); there are other heralds as well, and the FF WILL perish. Doom has already seen the Earth destroyed three times, and now his time-travel device is damaged and can’t be counted on for a fourth trip. Galactus prepares to consume the Earth after his heralds soften things up a bit…and only by trusting Doom and the information he brings to the table can the heroes hope to prevail. While the "Knights of the Atomic Round Table" work on a solution and build on Banner’s idea that they find a way to "overload" Galactus, Rikki ponders her place and the personal idea of how she’s not supposed to even exist. The Silver Surfer arrives and tries to get her to convince the others to evacuate what people they CAN from Earth before its destruction. When he flies off, she manages to grab his board; Cap gives chase and pleads with her to let go (mirroring what we know of his facing the original loss of Bucky in WWII). Galactus blasts her, apparently perturbed that a human would dare to touch the Surfer, and thus something that belongs to Galactus. Of course, this becomes some poignant bit that makes the whole thing PERSONAL for the heroes, prompting them to want all the more to take down Galactus (as if the entire WORLD being at stake wasn’t enough). So, too, does the Silver Surfer join in, seeing the injury of one human where he was ok with billions being not just injured–but killed. The Surfer becomes the key, bearing the heroes’ devices and artifacts, betraying Galactus, and though he dies, Galactus is destroyed as well. Doom refuses to stay with the heroes even in friendship; and a brief epilogue, Cap meets James Barnes and Peggy Carter Barnes, with Fury explaining that he knew them but can’t be told how/when…and as Cap prepares to take off, The Watcher talks about how all this has been only one of many tales of heroes reborn.

I felt like more than the previous three chapters of this story, this one had a lot of "splash pages" and "double-page splashes" and such…a bit of a "cheat" regarding the page count, propping that up to a higher count but not really increasing the "value" of the amount of story contained in the pages. The art itself is quite good, and I enjoyed it…once again, despite multiple pencilers I didn’t notice any overt, clear shift from one to another…I simply read the issue, followed the story, and nothing wonky or weird jumped out screaming "this is a different visual style here from that last panel/page" or such. One can do a heckuva lot worse than to have Ed Benes art in an issue…and for my not noticing any stand-out difference, I’d have to say that at least here, the same goes for Joe Bennett.

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The cover is part of a 4-part image…something I’ve pointed out in the previous chapters’ write-ups; and something I far, far, FAR prefer to contemporary practices that would see something like this done all on one single issue, forcing one to buy 4 copies of just one issue to get the full image. Here, the buyer is rewarded: buy all 4 chapters of Heroes Reunited, get this bigger 4-piece image.

Story-wise, this was a mixed issue for me. It felt a bit choppy and bigger on ideas while constrained by space: we have a bit of "subplot" of Rikki contemplating her existence just because a supervillain claims she shouldn’t exist…and there’s not much room for that to really be explored and all–for the character, for Cap, for anyone. For the story essentially picking back up with the Fantastic Four facing Terrax, it seems like we get to a resolution with Galactus being destroyed a little too easily and conveniently; though we have the "shorthand" of being able to just be SHOWN different heroes facing different heralds, and "assuming" that (if one’s read the previous three chapters of Heroes Reunited) we’ve already seen the action/details, we don’t have those details actually within this issue itself. It also hasn’t entirely felt like we’ve had any real focus on Doom gathering pieces of information through the previous chapters in a way to fit stuff…more like he gleaned a bit of extra info from SHIELD in the Iron Man issue and now put it to use (though we don’t really get clued in on the exact data).

As a whole, though…this caps off the four part story with Doom bringing what’s needed after several failed attempts, that allows the heroes to destroy Galactus withOUT destroying Earth. We get a rather arbitrary/sudden turn of the Silver Surfer for this being a new iteration of his seeing the heroes, rather than a continuation. But the issue ultimately stands somewhat alone; one gets context of what’s gone on, so you don’t NEED TO have read the previous chapters. You’ll just "get" more out of this issue if you have, and appreciate the overall story a bit more, I think.

I guess I feel like this is like far too many epic stories: the setup in the first chapter can be great and full of potential…but fails ultimately to live up to the potential in MY mind. That we get an epic story on this scale in only 4 issues (though they’re the size of 8 regular-sized issues) with no other tie-ins and such is something that would be completely "impossible" today, and so even a "choppy" issue is preferable to avoid umpteen tie-ins and expanded chapters and such.

I’d bought this originally when it was a brand-new issue; but the copy I read this time is one I got from a quarter-bin; and certainly is well worth the 25 cents if only for the amount of time it took to just READ the issue (even WITH double-page splashes!). And to get all 4 issues of this Heroes Reunited arc for $1, for the reading experience, I definitely enjoyed this stuff…maybe a little more for the art than story, but I hadn’t realized quite how much this story had stuck with me, of seeing the heroes lose–die–multiple times before achieving victory.

There were 13th issues for all four series, as another 4-part story, with the Marvel characters and this Heroes Reborn universe merged with the then-Wildstorm Universe; and then there was the 4-issue Heroes Return mini-series that bridged the characters from these series back to new series in the main/actual Marvel Universe.

But on the whole, this story served to "end" this iteration of the series, and works well enough on its own to be well worth reading for a bargain price (25 cents, 50 cents, $1-ish). I’d say if you find it for 25-50 cents it’s definitely worth reading Captain America #12 on its own; but it’s best read along with the other #12s, and a real treat for $1 or less an issue (making for a reading experience 8 times as long as a contemporary regular Marvel issue for the same price as the contemporary issue!)

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The ’90s Revisited: Iron Man #12

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iron_man_(1996)_0012Heroes Reunited part 3 of 4: Matters of the Heart

Plot: Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee
Script: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Ed Benes, Terry Shoemaker, Mike Miller
Inks: JD & Homage Studios
Colors: Wildstorm FX
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne
Editor: Ruben Diaz
Inspiration: Special Thanks to Scott Lobdell
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: October 1997
Cover Price: $2.99

[ Heroes Reunited part 1 of 4 was in Fantastic Four (1996) #12  |  Heroes Reunited part 2 of 4 was in Avengers (1996) #12 ]

This felt like the most "standalone" issue of this 4-parter so far, and felt a lot more tied to previous issues than the other chapters. This issue has several references to the previous issue, beyond simply THAT a conflict had begun or stuff come before.

We open on Tony Stark being brought into a meeting involving The Fantastic Four and the "Hulkbusters." As he gets up to speed on the overall situation, a fight breaks out between the Thing and Hulk, eventually interrupted by Invisible Woman separating them in invisible force-shield bubbles. Cosmic readings are picked up, and the group finds several entities headed to Earth. Tony cuts out–leading the others to think maybe he hasn’t changed as much as thought…but we find that he’s actually checking in on Happy and Pepper–actually caring about others beyond himself. The FF went into action against the heralds of Galactus while Tony’s (separately) kidnapped from Happy’s hospital room by Dr. Doom…while Pepper frets over this, Happy seems fine, figuring it’ll all be resolved within the day. Doom takes Stark to the Helicarrier; meanwhile, Liz gets past security and interacts with Hulk–who reverts to Banner. On the Helicarrier, Stark suits up as Iron Man and confronts Doom before they’re joined by Fury, who lays things out before assembling other heroes, and breaking the news that the Fantastic Four have been (by then) killed in action. The remaining heroes head out to make true their name as "Avengers" and engage the heralds in battle, before Hulk and Iron Man attempt to take on Galactus himself. As he sees them fail, Doom activates his device, and armed with the new knowledge of this latest go-round, disappears back in time for another attempt at stopping Earth’s destruction.

As said, this issue feels the least connected to the overall story/pattern. Doom is there, and we have reference to stuff, but that’s almost incidental. This feels like it probably could read pretty well without the first two chapters, and only earlier issues of this very series (Iron Man) for context. I both like that and yet don’t at the same time. The story title of the issue and the title/credits page don’t even have any reference to Heroes Reunited, unlike the first two chapters; almost like this story was written with a few story-beats required but otherwise completely independent of the overall 4-parter.

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With the art, there are multiple pencilers…but that again didn’t bother me as nothing really seemed to jump out at me or have any jarring differences in appearances. Simply reading the issue, I’d only know there were multiple pencilers because of looking at the credits. I’m a reader-first, so when the art is at least "similar" enough that I don’t really notice it change–that is a good thing. I suspect at least part of that is also due to the consistent inks, colors, and lettering; perhaps heavier handed inking and no huge variation of colors can well hide the different pencils. All that said, I enjoyed the art on this issue! I don’t know how I’ve gone all these years without noticing it, and I didn’t notice it on the interiors, but the EAR on Iron Man on the cover just looks extremely odd and "off" to me and is really the only thing that totally "threw" me off with the visuals. Also as said with the previous two chapters, I’m quite glad the cover can work as it does on its own, yet is part of a 4-part image; as opposed to any one of the chapters having 3 extra variant covers to make up the singular image. Get all four chapters of this four-chapter story and have 1 full image; get any single issues and you have a cover that has the characters in the issue and can be its own thing.

As with the Fantastic Four and Avengers issues of this story, this works well enough as a one-off issue…it’d be worth getting even by itself if you found it for 25-50 cents or so; even up to $1ish. Any more than $1-$2 and I’d recommend definitely getting it as part of a set of the four issues of Heroes Reunited. Despite working alone, I’d recommend this more as part of a set for the "experience." I’m glad to have read it, and somewhat surprised at the details I remembered from whenever the last time I read this was–possibly only back in 1997!

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The ’90s Revisited: Avengers #12

90s_revisited

avengers_(1996)_0012Heroes Reunited part 2 of 4: Shadow’s End!

Writer: Walter Simonson
Pencilers: Michael Ryan & Anthony Winn
Inkers: Saleem Crawford, Sal Regla, Armando Durruthy, John Tighe
Colorist: Nathan Lumm
Computer Color: Wildstorm FX
Letters: RS & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne
Editor: Rachelle Brissenden
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: October 1997
Cover Price: $2.99

[ Heroes Reunited part 1 of 4 was in Fantastic Four (1996) #12! ]

After reading Fantastic Four #12, I was thinking I remembered this story/event being a bit more formulaic, but apparently I misremembered.

This issue opens with Thor performing funeral rites over "Thor 2," who has died in battle. Back on the Helicarrier, a blast is delivered that obliterates the body…a Viking Funeral! Before things can go back to normal, a pilot Fury had sent out returns with a dire warning of Galactus…just before Dr. Doom shows up with his own tale of Earth’s destruction and how the heralds of Galactus must be destroyed at once and their devices disabled. The heroes spring into action, targeting Galactus’ devices. The Fantastic Four battles the Silver Surfer in Moscow even as Doom sets his own machinations into motion. Though the FF ultimately destroy the device, Doom’s unleashed a huge nuclear attack that obliterates all but the Silver Surfer. SHIELD takes heavy losses against Plasma, but with the sacrifice of the Helicarrier and Fury, that capacitor is destroyed. Meanwhile, Hank Pym has revealed a duplicate of the Vision that he’d had, leading to Pym, Scarlet Witch, and the Vision joining the Hulk in the Antarctic. They face the fury of Firest… FireLORD. Victory again comes with a high price. In Hong Kong, more heroes take on Terrax…again with losses, ultimately destroying another capacitor. Doom intends to nuke New York City to take out Galactus himself…but a failure to launch seals the planet’s doom (with the immediate destruction of most of the former Soviet Union in one blast). Through all these deaths, the Silver Surfer has observed the selfless sacrifices and acts of love, coming to realize he can’t stand by. He joins with the remaining heroes as they unleash a final, desperate gambit to destroy Galactus, even as they know their own lives and the entre Earth are forfeit. Doom makes his escape once more as the Earth dies, taking Galactus and the solar system with it (leaving only Mjolnir floating in empty space).

I had a few problems with plot points through this issue… For once thing, I’d thought Terrax had already been on Earth and fought the Fantastic Four in New York, rather than his going to Hong Kong. I suppose Doom’s time-shenanigans changed that, if he arrived prior to Terrax’s original descent. And at the end, it seemed like the heroes "conveniently" just "gave up" and were quick to unleash the gamma energy that destroyed the solar system, to take out Galactus. While I "get" the notion of them making this ultimate sacrifice to stop Galactus, so that untold millions of OTHER worlds might be spared…it just seemed so quick and no one even arguing at the fact that they were basically THEMSELVES triggering the destruction of the Earth on the premise that Galactus was just going to destroy it anyway. By this logic, why bother fighting Thanos, if everyone’s gonna just die (eventually) ANYway, might as well kill the entire universe so that Thanos doesn’t go about doing it piecemeal.

Story-wise on the whole, this is not a horrible issue. It moves at a quick pace, jumping all over to cover a lot of ground. As with the FF issue, this issue by itself could easily be stretched out into an entire mini-series, or at least multiple issues. (Heck, for Heroes Reunited, these days each issue would be split into 3-4 issues/minis/arcs and drag out 12-16 months!) Reading this just as the next chapter, it’s ok, though I’m interested to get to the other issues of this arc. This picking up on stuff from #11, with nothing else even alluding (to the reader) about the events of FF #12, this seems like a poor (or just very, very dark!) ending to Avengers.

heroes_reunited_02

Art-wise, despite the multiple creatives involved, I didn’t really notice differences specifically as I read through the issue…which is a good thing, to me! If I can "know" there are different artists and yet nothing jumps out at me as "Hey! This looks different…oh, here’s where the art was split!" then I tend to be happy with it. I enjoyed the art throughout this issue–particularly the look(s?) for Dr. Doom himself. I definitely like that the cover is part of a singular larger image, yet works well enough by itself. Certainly beats modern comics where the 4-part image would have been variants for the same issue, and maybe "gated" or "chase" variants at that!

Other than context for Doom’s commenting about having already witnessed the world ending and knowing a bit about him (having) a time travel device, this issue pretty much stands alone–it’s better to be read in order after the FF #12 issue, but being read solely in following the Avengers title, it seems like it must’ve held up pretty well to that overall story.

Found in a bargain bin ($1 or under) this would be worthwhile, or if you’re getting all of the Heroes Reborn Avengers issues. I wouldn’t recommend this for more than $1 by itself; but it’s definitely worth getting if you can get it as part of a set of all 4 issues of Heroes Reunited!

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The ’90s Revisited: Fantastic Four (1996) #12

90s_revisited

fantastic_four_(1996)_0012Heroes Reunited part 1 of 4: Doomsday!

Plot: Jim Lee
Script: Brandon Choi
Pencils: Ron Lim & Brett Booth
Inks: Mike Miller, Tom Mcweeney & Homage Studios
Letters: Richard Starkings/Comicraft’s Dave Lanphear
Colors: Wildstorm FX w/Jessica Ruffner
Editor: Ruben Diaz
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: October 1997
Cover Price: $2.99

It’s probably been a good 20 years since I last read this story, but as I’ve yet to actually do a solid read-through of the entirety of the HEROES Heroes Reborn thing, so the sense of familiarity I had in the reading was a very welcome thing.

The cover itself hit me with all sorts of deja vu…and seems like something that in some ways could qualify as a favorite or “iconic” cover…at least because hey–you have the Fantastic Four in full-on attack mode against a distressed Galactus, who is quite recognizable as the giant purple Kirby-entity that he is. I’d actually forgotten until looking at the other issues in this 4-part epic that the cover joins with the other 4 chapters to forma larger 4-part image. Which, of course, would virtually never happen today, 20-some years later, when any potential for such things absolutely MUST be used all on the same exact issue as variant covers, instead of a fun “bonus” or “reward” of getting one copy of an entire story!

After the front cover itself, the next thing to immediately grab my attention was the fold-out nature of the cover. This is from a brief period when Marvel utilized the cover to provide both a page giving the premise of the title and a list of core characters and another page to recap what’s come before as one heads into the issue. Though Marvel has since gone through other things and seems to primarily at present do a “page” with this sort of info as just a text piece, I can definitely say I’d prefer this overall…at least by comparison.

In a way, this issue is rather simple, despite its extra length that allows quite a bit of detail to unfold. Dr. Doom returns to New York, and the final piece of a device he’s been working on is finally in reach. Meanwhile, the Fantastic Four continue a standoff with the heralds of Galactus, before their master summons them away, and the FF are picked up by SHIELD. Nick Fury has also gathered Iron Man and Captain America–Avengers–as things are bigger than they appeared. Probes that had been launched earlier penetrate Galactus’ space and reveal his ship, and the release of devices to several points on Earth. This leads to the various heroes splitting off, each to attend to the building situation in different places. Johnny Storm–the Human Torch–goes to the Himalayans with the Inhumans to face Firelord and one squad of Avengers goes to Monster Island to face Plasma (and by extension of being on Monster Island, the Mole Man). The fight with Firelord winds up falling to Black Bolt, who is able to destroy the device, but its energy emission on destruction kills the Inhumans and Human Torch. Meanwhile, Namor sacrifices himself to neutralize the device guarded by Plasma. As the fight moves to Galactus himself, now on Earth, the SHIELD Helicarrier is compromised…and after it’s evacuated, Nick Fury and the Countess steer it into Galactus’ ship, giving their lives. Unfortunately, Galactus survives. In the ongoing battle, we get surprising twists and turns…and deaths. The Thing and Black Panther are killed, and as the situation deteriorates further, Doom enters the fray, determined to gain the Power Cosmic for himself…and his interference screws things up further for the heroes. As Reed appeals to Doom’s better side, it becomes apparent that the situation is hopeless. As the world dies, Doom alone escapes via his device.

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This issue alone would in present-day terms be an entire event in itself, at least for the most part. I know where things go, and why this is “only” part 1 despite the deaths and then destruction of Earth itself. The extra size to the issue, with plenty of dialogue and captions and such certainly gives us more in a single issue than we’d likely feel we got in an entire event in the present.

The story seems to mostly be its own thing…there are “moments” and plenty of references that would probably mean more to me if I’d read the previous few issues, or the entire series so far; but I felt comfortable jumping in here and just seeing characters behaving largely to form, regardless of their depth.

The art is excellent–for the most part, I felt like Lim and Booth gave some of my favorite appearances to characters throughout the issue. Overall I didn’t notice much of a change between the two…the only point I really felt like I noticed an actual/major difference is in one panel having a large, majestic Captain America, and then another panel with him looking maybe half the size and pretty much TOO “lean.” The entire visual team seemed to work quite well together here, at least in my reading: I enjoyed that this did not feel like it had multiple teams on it.

As series go, this is “functionally” the last issue of this version of the Fantastic Four. There is a 13th issue, but due to its crossover with the then-part-of-Image Wildstorm universe prior to Wildstorm‘s being bought by DC Comics, that issue has not (to my knowledge) been reprinted or the story “acknowledged” in-continuity/etc…making it a sort of one-shot and curiosity.

While I’d initially checked out the first issues (as of this writing, I honestly don’t recall if I’d followed the next few issues of FF or not but recall #7 or so for sure) I was quite a bit “behind” by the time of this crossover. I imagine that I was aware of things coming up, thanks presumably to Wizard Magazine, which was probably part of my getting this story as the issues came out…gearing up for the end of Heroes Reborn and the return of the characters to the main Marvel universe.

This issue more or less works on its own, though it ends on quite the bad note if read in isolation. If you can find all four of the #12s for Heroes Reunited, though, they make quite a set, and just from this first chapter, I’m eager to get into the rest.

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Halloween ComicFest 2017

Over the weekend, we had Halloween ComicFest. Basically like a Halloween-themed Free Comic Book Day with participating retailers. Same sorta thing–publishers put out specific comics that retailers can order, that are intended to be given away. Retailers, of course, can opt to do other stuff as well.

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Since I was not in costume, I was part of the crowd that qualified for picking 5 of the "free" issues. I’m definitely in a Thor mood lately, and Ghostbusters and The Tick caught my eye. I rounded it out with Darth Maul and Hellboy and the BPRD. I also snagged three "back issues" of Action Comics from the New 52-era (#s 37-39), which MIGHT leave me "only" missing #s 36 and 40 or so from that run, and thus effectively means I’m a mere 2 or so issues shy of having every issue of Action  Comics from #583 to #990!

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Along with the Halloween issues, Carol & John’s also had several bonus things to choose from with a purchase. I opted for the Thor by Walter Simonson vol. 1.

Later in the day after some non-comics personal stuff, I was able to stop by Comic Heaven, where I picked up Atomahawk #0 to try, and the fourth volume of Criminal (I think there are 7 volumes). I was also able to get the Walking Dead reprint of #1, Wizard World edition from 2013. Pretty nifty.


Thanks to a couple friends, I learned that Dollar General had some sort of pack of skeleton miniatures. Took some hunting (and finding multiple DG locations) but combined with figures I already had, I was able to take the following photo (done up meme-style at another friend’s suggestion).

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After all…this week (I believe) we get the first issue of a new (and this time weekly) TMNT/Ghostbusters comic series. And this would be a scenario (sorta) the Ghostbusters might just be able to help with, no?

The Weekly Haul: Week of October 25, 2017

Another simple but expensive sorta week for me! A couple of big issues, a couple of "enhanced covers" a la ’90s goodness, but at today’s prices!

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THE big issue for me this week was TMNT #75. 75th issue, final chapter of the Trial of Krang, squarebound/prestige format, and with this current story, every successive issue is the highest-numbered issue a TMNT comic has ever reached. Here’s hoping we see a #100 and beyond! Due to pull list and geography, I’ll be getting the issue twice…so as the turtles are and always have been a firm exception to my other personal "rules" of comics, I picked up the B cover for now, as the A cover’s on hold for me to pick up probably next week, due to some personal hassles to deal with this weekend.

Then there’s the new Detective Comics, the penultimate chapter of A Lonely Place of Living; ditto (penultimate, I believe) in the Action Comics chapter of The Oz Effect.

Next is the shiny cover that’s become signature for this Metal event. Being in a nostalgic mood and seeing "my" Thor logo and "my" Thor on the cover, I decided I oughtta support the thing.

I’m not much for all anthologies, but decided to throw in with getting the DC House of Horror squarebound special. I believe it’s essentially this year’s New Talent Showcase or such.

Wednesday was dubbed "TMNT Day" for hitting #75, and there was this sampler issue given out that recaps the IDW run so far. Basically a "primer" to allow someone to (I suppose) jump right in with #75.

I’ve been getting Kamandi Challenge all year, but can’t remember where I left off. I’m kicking myself a bit, as at this point I pretty much could wait for the collected edition. I keep getting each new issue in case "this" is the month I binge-read/catch up…but at #10, we’re nearly to the end and to a collected volume!

Finally, I snagged Royal City vol. 1, as it’s a $9.99 vol 1, and a friend had highly recommended the series, even giving me a copy of #1; now I’ll get to read the entire first arc and go from there.

The Mighty Thor #700 [Review]

mighty_thor_0700_lenticularThe Blood of the Norns

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Walter Simonson, Matthew WIlson, Russell Dauterman, Daniel Acuna, James Harren, Dave Stewart, Becky Cloonan, Das Pastoras, Chris Burnham, Ive Svorcina, Andrew MacLean, Jill Thompson, Mike Del Mundo, Olivier Coipel
Letterer & Production: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Artists: Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson
Lenticular Cover: Stephanie Hans (based on the original cover of The Death of Captain Marvel by Jim Starlin)
Associate Editor: Sarah Brunstad
Editor: Wil Moss
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: December 2017
Cover Price: $5.99

Along with Cable #150, I think this was the issue I was truly most curious about, content-wise…and sadly, number-wise. It’s a #700…I think Marvel‘s first. Much like Thor #500 was their first #500 issue back in the ’90s. Then there’s the lenticular cover, playing off of the classic The Death of Captain Marvel…one of my definite Starlin favorites with the whole Captain Marvel/Adam Warlock/Thanos/Infinity Gauntlet/cosmic stuff…a certain classic within my own life and time as a comics reader.

I certainly did not care for the higher price of this issue…but at least it’s a singular issue/narrative (albeit with a number of art teams on its many segments) and not a regular-sized main story with a ton of pointless-ish "extras" and add-ins and such just to inflate the thing artificially. And getting the lenticular cover edition makes it feel a bit more like a special issue and certainly physically/tangibly feel like it’s more worth its price. The quality of the lenticular effect is not good, though, with neither image particularly clear, though it seems the "classic" image is easier to see for backgrounds and title, while "Lady Thor" is fairly easy to see in the center.

Art-wise there’s a bunch of folks on this issue, names both familiar and not to me, perhaps most familiar being Walter Simonson, or Walt Simonson…a classic, notable, significant creator in the history of Marvel‘s Thor title. Given that there’s a lot of stuff happening all over the place–different settings, different times, different characters and types of characters–this issue actually benefits from a number of different art styles. While I don’t much care for some stuff, I can’t deny that overall, characters that I’d recognize look good in this issue, and even ones I don’t. Where the art takes a less-classic or less-realistic turn, it still works with the context of the story segment.

The story itself is lengthy enough and all over the place enough that I’m not gonna try to summarize it in detail here. Plus, not being "up" on the last few years of the characters’ stories outside of internet hearsay, I don’t know that I’d get specifics correct as is. Essentially, there’s a big attack happening that causes the knowledge of everyone’s fate to be removed…now that no one knows what WILL happen, the possibilities are endless. In the course of this, we check in on a bunch of different Thors and Thor artifacts. I still can’t get over this sense I get in reading this that "Thor" has become a "title" more than an actual NAME, and that’s probably where I most balk at the last few years of what I’ve heard of things. THOR might somehow become unworthy to carry Mjolnir, but that shouldn’t change that his NAME still IS Thor. Someone else might get the wield the hammer, but I don’t get how THEY suddenly become THOR. Especially while the genuine god is still around. I don’t know if it’s the same name historically, but at least for this issue, I loved the name given to Throg: Simon Walterson, a play on Walter Simonson.

As said, I’m not "up" on the last few years of stuff, so I’m sure there’s plenty throughout this issue to be appreciated that I don’t, and that I didn’t even notice, for that matter. That said, and all other complaints aside…I didn’t really WANT to like this issue.

But I did like it.

I tend to hate when something feels just like an opening chapter of a bigger story, arbitrarily chopped up into issue-sized chunks. This issue probably gets away with that, then, because it’s lengthier. And being a few days after I bought it, the price wasn’t so fresh in my mind and I was just reading the story FOR the story. The extra pages, the story touching on a number of different characters…this just felt like that much bigger a chunk of story overall. It’s by no means complete, but I didn’t feel lost the way I thought I would, and didn’t feel shortchanged when I got to the end of the issue. While this issue kicks off a presumably six-part The Death of The Mighty Thor, that and the lenticular cover are the only real references I picked up to a pending death, outside of the notion of Jane Foster’s cancer, period, being a built-in timer o sorts.

I also definitely enjoyed the fact that "Odinson" was in the book…he may be "unworthy" but is still present and part of the story, so it’s seeming (from this issue at least) like he’s not been absolutely shunted out of his own book.

I really don’t know if this is something ongoing readers would enjoy or not. I believe Aaron is the same writer that’s been on the various titles the last few years, chronicling the ongoing Jane Foster Thor stories, and much of the art team(s) I suspect are from those titles…so this is probably pretty consistent with the overall story that’s been unfolding. And I can’t speak for other fans who have felt put-off by the changes and such.

But me? I enjoyed this issue far more than I expected or intended to. I don’t know if this really falls into the Legacy headline or not, or if the inclusion of Odinson and other versions is simply TO fit into Legacy. But I’ll actually consider picking up the next issue if it’s not out on a huge week and there’s no confusion over which cover is the standard cover (this issue’s lenticular cover is marked as a variant, but due to marketing and hype, I consider the lenticular covers the main covers regardless of markings from the publisher).

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The Weekly Haul – Week of October 18, 2017

A game I’ve been looking forward to for awhile now finally arrived! Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. This is basically an adaptation of the Betrayal at House on the Hill, with Dungeons & Dragons elements. Given I quite enjoy both, this was a definite one for me to pick up!

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Of course, the next challenge is getting to actually play the game.

On to this week’s comics

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Hard to believe it’s been over a year and a half now of the "weekly" Superman stuff again, and not liking the "skip weeks" because those are weeks without a new issue of Superman or Action Comics.

Also hard to believe that just between #s 225 and 227, I’ve acquired Savage Dragon 1-101 and assorted mini-series, specials, one-shots, etc.

Quite enjoying the Metal books, story and foil covers! Since the things would be $3.99 anyway, why not have some fun with the foil and such? If ever there was a series that "deserved" the metallic/foil covers, it’s this!

Sadly, the Marvel Legacy stuff is virtually dead on arrival for me. Yet, much as I did this past spring, I’m doing a small sampling to at least (grudgingly) give things a chance. I’m down enough on contemporary Marvel stuff, but if I flat-out never buy anything from them, well, I hardly have room to complain then, right? And at least with these, along with the jacked-up pricing, we get "fancy covers." Unfortunately, these are utterly craptastic quality covers compared to DC‘s. Looking basically head-on, they’re blurry with glare, and neither image truly comes through clearly! More on that matter in another post (or posts) later sometime.

Rounding out the week, trying a randomish Image #1 in Maestros. No clue what it’s supposed to be about, but figured I’d check it out. Wonder Woman/Conan‘s here because I got the 1st issue, and don’t want to have to "hunt" this later. Ditto on Dead of Winter. And I very definitely want to support Alterna and their "newsprint comics," even to being happy to buy an issue multiple times, as even 2 copies of an issue are still cheaper than any one single issue of a Marvel series.

All in all an interesting week with a mix of stuff. Though it definitely pales next to an order I’m expecting by the weekend (that I’ll almost certainly document here once it arrives).

The ’90s Revisited: Thor #500

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thor_500Sunlight and Shadows

Writer: Wm. Messner-Loebs
Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.
Lettering: Jonathan Babcock
Color Art: Marie Javins
Computer Separations: Malibu
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Date: July 1996
Cover Price: $2.50

I’ve long been "aware of" this issue. I vaguely recall seeing advertising for it–either in house ads, or Wizard Magazine, or both. And I’ve seen the cover image a number of times over the years. But somehow, I never before now actually got to READ the issue. I don’t THINK I’ve even owned a copy before now, as it’s not one that I "commonly" find in quarter bins and such. So when I recently came across it in a dollar bin, it felt like a no-brainer to pick up, to finally satisfy my curiosity at its content.

Plus, there’s the fact that it was "A Marvel 1st! Fantastic 500th Issue!" (as the cover proclaims). Back when Marvel titles had their LEGITIMATE numbering scheme, and many titles had high numbers, at that. This was Thor‘s 500th issue. Captain America was in the mid-400s; Fantastic Four had hit 400 about a year earlier, and Avengers had just crossed the 400 mark…and Uncanny X-Men wasn’t terribly far behind closing on 350ish, and I think even Incredible Hulk was somewhere in the latter 400s.

One of the more striking (for me) aspects of the cover is that THIS Thor has a rather savage look to him, and lacks really anything familiar-looking except the hammer. Wild, extremely-long hair, some sort of skintight costume that I would have sworn from "memory" was actually a shirtless-Thor getup (a trick of coloring, perhaps, given he IS shirtless within the issue, and the image for the next issue also shows him shirtless), and could almost be ’90s-Sabretooth’s brother quite easily by appearance.

As the issue opens, Thor is in the ruined city of Asgard, wondering what happened and where everyone has gone. He gets in a fight with some Trolls that have claimed the area, and eventually comes across several imprisoned/enslaved individuals…including Dr. Stephen Strange, aka Dr. Strange! Strange catches him up on a bit of recent stuff (presumably recounting the previous issue or few issues, if the reader–like myself–has not read them), and we head into the Enchantress teaming with a Frost Giant. When the Frost Giants attack Asgard’s ruins, they find Strange and Thor battle-ready; as well as a surprise "ally" in Ulik the Troll. Amidst the unfolding situation we learn that Odin had a plan to save the gods, involving their being sent to Earth as mortals with no memory of who/what they truly are. Thor regains his hammer, repels the invaders, and stands amidst his small band of allies as they realize their fight is not over, but must be continued on Earth!

Rounding out the issue, we have some pages of frivolous back-matter…a double-page quiz, a double-page primer of several of Thor’s looks over the years, a double-page ‘family tree’ of Odin; a double-page fact-sheet of Thor’s hammer, and two pages of letters (remember "letters pages"???).

The cover proclaims this as a "Double-Sized Issue!" but I only count 26 pages of story-content. I’m pretty sure–even in the 1990s–regular Marvel comics were NOT short 13-page stories! So that’s a bit misleading…at least if one (like me) counts an issue’s size on its STORY content, not so-called or frivolous "bonus content"/back matter (that if ever TRULY "bonus" would not be included in paid page count anyway). Including the backmatter and letters pages, I only count 36 non-ad pages, which still would suggest a non-double-sized issue would be only 18 pages. So while this might feel like a "bigger" issue (it does have "extra" pages/content), I don’t see that it qualifies as double-sized.

Then there’s the price of the issue: a big, round number 500, a Marvel first at the time, and the cover price was "only" $2.50 (at least the edition I have–if there were variant/other editions, I’m not aware off the top of my head) which is not MUCH more than the $1.50-$1.95ish I think most issues were at the time…while extra-sized issues tend to pose a better value as the extra pages don’t require an extra cover and separate physical production, I would expect a truly double-sized issue to have been in the $3-4 range in 1996.

Art-wise, the issue is not bad. I recognize Deodato‘s name at LEAST from being aware of his Wonder Woman work. Overall, though, I can’t say this issue’s art really stands out in and of itself…what stands out is the "Savage Thor" look as a character design, not necessarily (offhand) the art as art. Presumably Marvel was really going for the changed-up look to Thor, getting away from the ‘classic’ look(s), infusing the character with the wilder ’90s sensibility, and Deodato brought that to this issue quite successfully! Whether its Malibu‘s coloring, the art itself, or other factors, this vaguely puts me in mind of some Ultraverse stuff, with Thor on the cover looking like a wild-haired Hardcase with a hammer. I think the main complaint I’d have with the art is the stupid ’90s trend of double-page splashes where you have to physically turn the entire issue 90 degrees to follow. I’m pretty sure that the same dimensions could fit proportionately on a single page without having to be blown up double-sized, especially when there’s little to no dialogue to be read!

Story-wise, I didn’t really "get" much out of this issue. Something to it felt rather repetitive, as if Thor is always finding Asgard in ruins, the gods missing, and having to seek them out. Or always coming across an unexpected ally in odd circumstances. Or always fending off/facing attacking trolls and/or frost giants or dealing with the Enchantress. I definitely got the sense that this was a latter chapter of a story, and suspect I’d appreciate it a lot more if I’d read the previous several issues. I also have the 21-years-later knowledge of the title running only to #502 or so before reverting to Journey Into Mystery again for about a year, while Thor was in the Heroes Reborn world, prior to the launch of the Heroes Return iteration of the title. That there are 2 more issues of this title AS Thor make this feel like a not-quite-penultimate chapter. Of course, having had only the initial "hype" around the time this issue was originally published combined with its continuing "mystery" to me for just over two decades, I cannot be too surprised that this failed to meet a thus-built set of expectations of grandeur and awesomeness.

Given the 20+ years since this was published, the 1998 reboot, the JMS reboot, the last few years’ Unworthy Thor stuff, and the new Legacy renumbering to #700 (200 issues SINCE this one!)…this doesn’t feel all that relevant nor particularly memorable or of any real significance…at least as a random, arbitrary single issue.

If you’re seeking it out already because of a personal interest, this is well worth the $1 or so if it’s in a bargain bin. I don’t recommend it just for the sake of reading a #500, or just to read an arbitrary anniversary issue or such. If you’re reading stuff from this period it’s probably more worthwhile, or as a focal issue to build a short reading-run around. Had I gotten this from a quarter-bin instead of $1-bin, I probably would have snagged from #490 or so through #502 and perhaps tried to read the run as a larger single story.

This issue leaves me curious as to the full "end" of the volume, and I realized I have the Journey Into Mystery run that followed as a collected edition, so if I get particularly ambitious, I can probably fill in context before and see where things go quite easily if I so choose.

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