500th Review

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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 my welcome.

Low points:
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 Detective Schmuck:
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:
Dark Horse:
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 actions.
Y: The Last Man: Alas poor Yorick, your trek is about halfway over.
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 is coming.
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 publication.
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 and touching.
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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