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Here is the key for what you are seeing:
= Not worth the paper it's printed on
= It is an OK book, not the greatest
= It is a decent book- Worth picking up
Better than most books out there- Worth a second read
This is what all books should aspire to be
|Ok it's not so much of a review as a reflection
over the past year and a half, but since its number 500, I think it's
appropriate. I would have never guessed that in May 2004 when we started
this thing that I would ever have posted so many reviews in such a
short time. Many of them suffer from having to juggle a job that keeps
me working 50+ hours a week and all of life's other requirements.
We started out with two reviewers, me and Terry, who along the way
has moved his work to another site focusing more on the action figure
side of thing at Ring
of Collectors. At times it's been kind of a struggle to get things
posted, either computer problems, or re-designs, or just lack of time
have all contributed to the bumps in the road, but still, we've made
it, and to tell the truth, I'm surprised. Not because I didn't think
we could do it, but more so because I didn't think it would happen
this fast, especially with the various changes that we have been through
in that time. New homes and new jobs have been the biggest of the
changes that we've dealt with, taking our team of three down to just
two for a time (but actually it's more like one since Al is more of
the ominous overseer that kind of lets us do our thing, chiding us
when needed). Despite that we have managed to continue on and keep
bringing you the shipping lists weekly and the reviews darn close
to weekly (ok at least bi-weekly). Through all of that, it's finally
brought us to what will undoubtedly be more of a review of the past
year's worth of things than a specific book. There have been highs
and lows and hopefully I can cover most of them, without overstaying
Multiple covers coming back:
While I can understand that certain issues
are truly "special" and may warrant such a treatment, the proliferation
in the past 18 months has been kind of discouraging. Yes books sell
out and go to a second and third printing and the reader, I mean collector
(since the reader reads while the collector focuses on this stuff)
needs a way to tell the different printings apart, I can almost understand
it, Perhaps the old cover with a different color treatment or something
that you can tell it apart, but what has bothered me is books that
have had multiple covers for what really is nothing more than the
fact that they got published. Do the readers really need 4 covers
of the Army of Darkness mini-series, or do we need 4 to 6 covers on
Red Sonja (no including the scarce, rare, and ultra-rare covers based
on what the retailers buy) or even a simple 50/50 split on covers.
While it may seem innocent enough in some cases, remember X-Men #1
when it come out with 5 different covers and how well that sold, and
what the 2,000,000 of those books currently go for? It seems to do
nothing more than dilute the dollars available for a hobby that keeps
getting more and more expensive. Yes I know you can choose the cover
you want, but some people who have to have all the covers get burned
out by this and move away from the hobby, while old timers are reminded
of the 90's horror of the over-saturation of these types of things
and new readers just plain get confused. While I agree that it can
be an effective marketing ploy, the publishers may want to real it
in soon, we don't need cover variations announcing a new creative
team in a world when creative teams change about every six months
like clockwork. Save it for something truly special.
The dilution of properties:
This is pretty simple and straightforward, and unavoidable, but it
would be good if some of the "extra" title of particular characters
maybe went away. This has been an ongoing problem, a character becomes
a big seller for a publisher and they rush out to create new titles
with that character in order to sell more books. Well, I totally understand
this, you want to sell what has been consistently made you money,
but at what point are you sacrificing quality over quantity. How man
"X" series are consistently published each month? Think about it,
make sure you include all the mutant books; If we look at the latest
previews (Oct 2005) we get a count of 14 of them, if you don't include
all the mini-series and Ultimate Universe, if we include the books
where any of these guys makes an appearance that number, obviously
goes up. The same goes for Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, and any other
character that it doing at least double duty. While I'll agree that
some of the characters do warrant multiple titles, but at what point
does the consumer look at what is available and since there are so
many choices, they don't know where to start and maybe move elsewhere,
either that or because of everything that is going on, picking up
one of these issues is frustrating because with so may different things
to worry about continuity wise, it's impossible to figure out what
is going on. With new readership dwindling, it doesn't help the industry
to offer the consumer less than its best and at the same time making
it easier for newer younger readers to begin reading a title. The
Ultimate Line addressed this somewhat, but it's not enough. It's just
too complicated for a new reader to start on some of these books.
Spider-Man + Avengers = Loss of Everyman Quality:
Spider-Man is now part of the New Avengers and is he better off for
it, in my opinion not really. One of the things that made Spider-Man
great was that he was somewhat of an outcast, and not part of a regular
team, giving him the "fish out of water" quality whenever he would
team up with anybody. Always kind of "out of his league" but still
being able to do his part, it still made him kind of an average Joe,
that we could connect with. In the past few years with the characterizations
that have taken place, his world has completely changed. He's part
of the big boys now and for that he is less. Because of the writers,
the troubled yet humored hero is now gone. Now it's become a dark
soap opera that instead of escaping to his world, the changes make
me want to escape from it. It would be nice to see him having some
"fun" for a change. There were some steps taken in the Spider-Man
Human Torch book and hopefully the new book written by Peter David
will address this, but otherwise, Spider-Man, I don't even think I
know you any more.
Batman: World Greatest
Hey I got a great idea, lets get so paranoid that we build a satellite
to spy on all my "friends" while inadvertently draggin my city into
a gang war and you know what to top it off lets add a dose of dead
Robin and a character turn, that makes me act uncharacteristically.
The past year has been somewhat of a mess in Batsville, and the only
real bright spots have been the ongoing Batman title and the goings
on with OMAC, and if that is all I can really say good, that's too
bad. Paranoid and brooding will only get you so far. I miss the detective.
The Good (And there is plenty):
Best titles since starting these reviews:
Conan: I think this book would be so much less if
the people working on it didn't let their passion for the character
and their desire to keep the tone close to the original works by Howard.
Concrete: Its good to see him back after such a long
absence. Always topical and worth reading.
B.R.P.D.: I would never have imagined that I would
enjoy this book more than the seldom released Hellboy books. Roger
is one of my favorites.
Goon: Powell Rocks. By the way, if Diamond ships
them on time, there is a Goon 25 cent issue coming out this week (10/12/05),
and if they show up, I'm going to give the first 50 people who come
into the store on Saturday October 15th 2005 and mention this review
a copy of it. I know it's only a quarter, but heck, it's free.
Countdown to Infinite Crisis: While I disagree with
some of the characterizations and outcome, I admired what they were
trying to start, lets see where it ends up.
Identity Crisis: Kudos just for the tension that
it brought to the DC universe and the ramifications
JSA: Always a title I save for last.
Geoff Johns on JLA: Bridging the gap between the
Identity and Infinite, giving the JLA a level of relevance they have
been missing for quite some time.
Breech: Sadly canceled, but that will make it easier
to read if it ever gets collected. Crisp story telling and art, one
of the better new titles released.and cancelled.
Fallen Angel: Always one of my favorites so much
so I gave away copies of the trade to get people to read it. Cancelled,
but resurrected at IDW, I wonder what changes will take place.
Wonder Woman: Rucka has established her as a powerhouse
in the DC universe. Not by the normal means of power, meaning physical
strength, but more so a moral power. Granted she has done some things
lately that may make her public think differently of her, but she
never acts without reason and the responsibility to stand up for her
Y: The Last Man: Alas poor Yorick, your trek is about
Ex Machina: Consistant quality with this team coupled with their ability
to keep you asking what next at the end of each issue.
Invincible: Stumbled on this by chance and am glad
for it. I don't think the tag line on the cover is too far off, it
may be the best superhero comic in the universe.
Sea of Red: This one is a combination of the moody
art, the story, and the wonderful printing process. This title is
well thought out from all angles.
Walking Dead: My battle cry used to be I hate zombies.
Spider-Man Human Torch: Reminding us of the fun that
these two used to have together, this title and the two issue FF run
by waid featuring these two brough fun back into the Spider world.
She Hulk: Bought on a whim in the beginning but Dan
Slott, you are my personal hero for making this book a treat of continuity
and humor and all sorts of good stuff. Glad to see it's return.
GLA: Slott again, this is what Avengers Disassembled
should have been. OK not really.
Daredevil: For as much as the inconsistency of Bendis
vexes me, this title has always been decent under his pen.
Runaways: Vaughn again mastering the cliff hanger
at the end of each issue, if you aren't reading this book, you are
really missing out.
Franklin Richards: Little kid- big head, great fun
stuff. Marvel should do more of this and price it low enough so that
kids can pick it up regularly.
Fantastic Four: I'll miss Waid and his team but the
cosmic is definitely back in this title.
Ultimate Spider-Man: I don't need to tell you how
consistently good this book is.
Powers: The book I try to drop the most often but
each issue brings me back for more.
Lions and Tiger and Bears: Great for kids, Vol. 2
Little Star: Andi Watson and his story of a man trying
to raise his daughter and make all the right choices for his family.
Why Are You Doing This?: Jason gives us another great
book. I don't know how I found his stuff but look forward to each
Blankets: I know kind of an older title, but I picked
it up as I first started doing this stuff and can't say enough about
it. It is the story of a man growing up and his first love. Tender
Be A Man: In order to really appreciate this little
book, you have to read some of Jeffrey Brown's other books. They offer
you an open and honest look at his relationships and how they eventually
end. This one is the correction of all of his actions that brought
about the relationships downfalls. If you haven't read the others
then you may not get it if you have, it's hysterical.
Over all I think what has been the best thing that I've seen this
past year has been the publishers taking more chances and trying to
diversify a bit more than in the past. Image has grown from what seemed
like a stable of "cloned" books and creators to a diverse and interesting
line of books. Marvel, keeps trying but I think they shoot themselves
in the foot by not sticking to it. DC has been consistent with their
Johnny DC titles, but it would be nice to see them come out with books
that feature their main heroes that are not so dark and easier to
follow. I still think there is too much product out there for too
little an audience, but the major publishers are trying to offer other
things for their readers (Director's cuts don't count). I think that
in the past year in trying to expand my horizons so that I'm not writing
about the same books over and over (although I tend to since I don't
get anything free to read so that leaves me in a pinch), has really
opened my eyes to the diversity of things that are out there that
if you stick with the top 4 publishers you may miss out on. If I had
to pick my favorite book from the past year, it would be one that
I discovered fairly recently:
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