Friday, February 28, 2014

My Monthly Stash - January 2014

As I mentioned in an earlier post on comic collecting, I currently get my books through Discount Comic Book Service (  For anyone who might be interested in obtaining their fix in like manner, here’s a little rundown of the process; it’s really easy.  From DCBS’s site you download an excel spreadsheet of the complete monthly Previews order catalog.  You mark it up with what you want, save it, and then upload it back to the site.  You follow their checkout procedures: shipping address, billing info, shipping preferences (I go with once a month for a flat $6.95), bag & board options (if you want them), etc., and you’re done.  Comics shipped right to your front door.  Simple!  Most everything I order is 40-50% off cover price.  They also offer discounts on most merch and collectible items such as apparel, toys, busts & statues, games, etc.  You really can’t beat the prices and the customer service is great.

All right, enough with the infomercial. 

Depending on how busy my schedule is, I might not get through my entire pile of books each month. Also, sometimes I like to wait until I have several issues of a title, or, say, all parts of a mini-series, etc. before sitting down to read them.  Therefore, and because I’m getting some of my books nearly a month after release date, my comments might not be the most timely.  Oh well.  So without further ado, here’s what I got around to reading this last month:

Jan 2014
Hunger #1-4
Ultimate Comics Cataclysm #0.1 
 Avengers #24.Now 
 New Avengers #13 
 Avengers A.I. #7 
 Guardians of the Galaxy #9-10 
 Nova #11 
 Indestructible Hulk #15 
 Indestructible Hulk Annual #1 
 Indestructible Hulk #16-17 
  Iron Man #19
Thor: God of Thunder #16 
 Daredevil #33-34 
 The Superior Spider-Man #21-24 
 All-New X-Men #20 
 Uncanny X-Men #15 
 Wolverine & the X-Men #39 
 Cable and X-Force #17 
 Deadpool by Joe Kelley Omnibus*


          I haven’t bothered much with Marvel’s Ultimate Universe over the years.  I picked up the first couple story arcs of  Ultimate Spider-Man” and “Ultimate X-Men” when it launched, but quickly lost interest.  What really killed it for me were how awful and ill-conceived the “Ultimate Marvel Team-Up” title was, and the ridiculously long wait periods between issues of “Ultimates.”  I bailed, and eventually sold my issues off (for a tidy profit =) and haven’t purchased a single book from the imprint since.  Until now.  Earth-616’s Galactus being shunted into the universe of Earth-1610 was one of the more promising developments to spin out of the Bendis helmed “Age of Ultron” event, and at first, I thought that just maybe they were finally going to wrap the line.  It seemed plausible; I mean, they’ve revamped the imprint several times in recent years, breathing new life into it- but the sales and interest always inevitably drop off.  This event, with its “Last Stand” pitch, seemed like just the thing to close it down with honor and dignity.  But no.  Recent solicitations reveal yet another revamp that I’m betting few will care about in a year.  It’s too bad; the “Hunger” mini was actually pretty decent.

          I’m still really enjoying Hickman’s Avengers runs.  I thought “Infinity” was entertaining, epic in scope and very ambitious.  The “Cosmic” fanboy in me was greatly pleased to see so many worlds, species and characters from throughout the Marvel cosmos represented.  Goodness knows it was more satisfying than the dreck we’re being served over in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Nova,” but more on that in a minute.  I like the scale of “Avengers” and the dark, desperate tone of “New Avengers.”  As for the latter, I’m just happy to see Dr. Strange getting some screen time.  That and I think I have a bit of a thing for Black Swan.  #24.Now served as a nice little epilogue to “Infinity” and did a nice job setting the stage for what comes next.

          Oh, “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Nova,” why must you suck so bad right now?  Seriously, these are the two titles I MOST want to love each month, and yet, I am continually disappointed by their lackluster showing.  I should preface my criticism by acknowledging that I’ve been a hardcore fan of the cosmic titles for decades, and that I judge current offerings by how well I feel they stand up to and build upon past glories.  Part of the reason I delighted so much in Abnett & Lanning’s most recent stint was their ability to respect and include past continuity while crafting a modern cosmic landscape.  I was upset (putting it mildly) when their assorted titles abruptly ended, and was desperately holding out hope that somehow they’d be back.  A couple of years passed...nothing.  Then, it was announced that “GotG” and “Nova” were being relaunched written by Bendis and Loeb (respectively).  It’s a smart move by Marvel- coupling bigger name talent with lesser known properties- especially since these characters are virtually unknown to mainstream audiences and yet will soon feature in the upcoming Marvel Phase II film.  However, these titles have failed to deliver at nearly every turn.

Guardians” is a meandering mess.  We’re a dozen issues in and all the team has done is navel-gaze as they wander aimlessly through space, reacting to myriad events originating outside of their own title: Star-Lord picks a fight with his dad, Iron Man wriggles his way on to the team in an embarrassingly obvious marketing ploy to raise the title’s profile, they acquire the multiversally displaced Angela- because apparently one deadly, sword-wielding female teammate just isn’t enough, they show up for “Infinity” in what are undoubtedly the WORST and most pointless tie-in issues ever written, and now they are supposedly off to tangle with the All-New X-Men.  I swear something of import had better happen in this crossover…  Thankfully, there is a small sliver of hope in this otherwise depressing quagmire: Abnett & Lanning have a couple of backup stories in the upcoming “100th (really 101, I guess?) anniversary” issue #14.  Not only that, but they are also writing the 2 issue “Prelude” to the upcoming film.  I’m betting that these stories will be more interesting and entertaining than anything we’ve yet seen in the current volume.  Can’t wait! 

As for “Nova,” what a crock!  In the comic, Sam Alexander is a mopey, pubescent moron only slightly less contemptible than his obnoxious television incarnation.  His adventures thus far have been bombastic and juvenile and are tonally more in line with the all-ages “Marvel Adventures” line of books.   The brat acquires his helmet/powers through one of the sloppiest and most insulting retcons in all Marveldom, then stumbles around stupidly, barely avoiding calamity after catastrophe by sheer, dumb luck.  Making it worse, he’s being crammed down our throats through repeated unwarranted and undeserved appearances in crossover events (“Avengers Vs. X-Men,” “Infinity”) and other titles (upcoming “New Warriors” relaunch).  Please.  Stop.  You are killing us real Nova fans.  Return Rich Rider already.  If Star-Lord and Thanos could come back from the Cancervers, why not Rich? 

I’m a longtime fan and reader of Thor.  I despised Fraction’s recent run- thank goodness for Gillen’s brilliant “Journey into Mystery,” and while Aaron’s current volume has yet to knock my socks off, I liked the “God Butcher/God Bomb” arcs well enough.  The art is beautiful, if nothing else.  In any case, I find myself quite taken with the current storyline “The Accursed,” mainly because it is fun to see more of the nine realms and their assorted denizens depicted.  Also, there is something about the idea of a League of Realms that appeals to me.  Hopefully it lasts beyond this arc.

          I came to Waid’s “Daredevil” late. I haven’t always cared much for DD’s solo adventures, so when this volume launched I passed despite Waid’s involvement.  Still, I kept hearing good things and seeing all the positive press so I started picking it up about a year ago.  I’m glad I did!  What I like most about the book is its unconventional tone and direction; you never know from one issue to the next where you might end up.  Case in point, issue #33: DD is hot on the heels of the Sons of the Serpent (a racist extremist group) and next thing we know he’s run smack into the Legion of Monsters- whom I love!  Hopefully Waid can keep the momentum going as this volume wraps and relaunches in the next couple of months.

          *I didn’t actually read the ENTIRE “Deadpool by Joe Kelley Omnibus” this month; I just riffled through it and reminisced...  What a fun series that was!

BEST of the month
Avengers #24.Now
Thor: God of Thunder #16
Daredevil #33

WORST of the month
Guardians of the Galaxy #9-10
Nova #11

What I’m looking forward to next month
All-New X-Factor
Loki: Agent of Asgard
All-New Invaders

          Well, that’s all for January.  I meant to get this up sooner; I’ll try and do better for February’s stash.  The next few months should be pretty exciting with so many “All-New Marvel NOW” titles hitting shelves.  Hope they live up to the hype.

Friday, February 21, 2014

I’m a Comic Nerd, and I’m Okay

I have issues.  Lots and lots of issues. 

You don’t typically have to be around me for very long before you learn a few key things: 1) I’m vision impaired, which leads to many comical situations like slipping off curbs into traffic and stumbling over small children, 2) I have Musical Tourette Syndrome which causes me to spontaneously burst into song- often crass, inappropriate parodies replacing the word “you” with “pooh,” and 3) I am an incurable and unrepentant four-color funny-book fanboy!  Yes, comic books and the convoluted lives of mutated, radioactively-enhanced or otherwise empowered fictional people consume an inordinate amount of my time and energy.   And unless you have several hours to spare, I’d recommend AGAINST casually asking me about things like ‘The Clone Saga,” the Summers/Grey Family Tree, the pros/cons of DC’s New 52 relaunch, or whether or not I think CCI has become a whoring ground for the film/TV studios and a Mecca for wanna-be-seen posers who don’t READ or COLLECT comics and who likely don’t know the difference between cosplay and the Cosmic Cube.

ROM Spaceknight #9
It started innocently enough; when I was just six years old my aunt handed me and my cousin each a diabetic nightmare pile of candy and a comic book for Halloween.  I got “ROM Spaceknight” #9 and my cousin got some issue featuring Casper the Friendly Ghost and Spooky.  I remember being peeved because I was ACTUALLY DRESSED UP AS CASPER that year while my cousin was a break-dancer, or terrorist, or something, and he wouldn’t trade me!  I remember liking the story even though it was a little scary and I wasn’t at all familiar with ROM at the time.  I did know about some other DC and Marvel superheroes- thanks mainly to Saturday morning cartoons and Underoos commercials, but it wasn’t until I read that issue and saw all the house ads that I discovered there were so many other titles and characters and that most of them inhabited a shared comic book universe.  Also, I learned that like me, the Incredible Hulk had a hankering for Hostess Fruit Pies and that he was liable to thrash any roller disco hooligans who might prevent him and any similarly oppressed children from obtaining their real fruit filling and great crust.

Over the next few years I would mostly read from the rack, occasionally purchasing an issue of “Iron Man” or “Amazing Spider-Man” as my paltry allowance would allow.  I remember finding a 3 issue multi-pack of the “Star Wars” ongoing (#25-27) at a local toy shop and obnoxiously begging my parents to buy it for me until they caved.  I read the issues I did own a lot; they did NOT remain NM, that’s for sure. 

Wolverine #12
It wasn’t until a few years later that the comic collecting (amassing?) bug really bit me.  I was older, had steady “junior-high-appropriate-job” income and could get around town by myself to the sordid locations where purveyors of mind corruption set up shop.  On one such occasion, some friends and I had biked downtown and we found ourselves parked in front of the recently relocated and re-opened (only) comic shop in Idaho Falls.  We ducked in and started looking around.  I was stunned to find even more tomes that I’d never heard of- far more than the couple dozen titles and handful of publishers’ offerings I was used to seeing on the spinner rack at Waldenbooks or the magazine section of Smith’s Food King.  Glancing ‘round the shelves I came across a number of newly launched Marvel books that were being printed on a glossier paper stock which appealed to me quite a bit at the time.  My eye was immediately drawn to the cover of “Wolverine” (Vol. 2) #12 which I thumbed through and bought, despite its being part 2 of an in-progress story arc and having no real idea who Wolverine even was.  I started picking up titles like “Marc Spector: Moon Knight,” “Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme,” “Excalibur” and “The Punisher War Journal” and before long I was scrambling for back issues to complete not only my fledgling runs, but diverse volumes spanning the Modern, Bronze and Silver Age.  I’ve been reading/collecting ever since.

So yeah, I’m mostly a Marvel guy, but I have read a LOT of DC over the years as well; some favorites being Robinson’s “Starman,” Gaiman’s “Sandman,” David’s “Young Justice,” Abnett & Lanning's "Resurrection Man," Marz’s “Green Lantern” and Goyer and Johns’ “JSA.”  However, I have an aversion to ultimately unsatisfying, redundant crises and DC’s tendency to conveniently shed its continuity, so I pick up very little from them these days.  I’ve read a fair amount of Image and Dark Horse, and a variety of smaller independent titles, but I’ve been burned by inconsistent publishing schedules in the past and would rather trade-wait for proven properties rather than be strung along issue by unpredictably forthcoming issue. 

Over the decades I’ve resorted to all the things you might expect in order to support my habit and ensure that the titles I crave make it into my hot little hands: mail-order subscriptions, pull lists, back-issue bin diving, eBay, etc.  For a time, I even used to help out at my LCS in exchange for store credit after getting off work from my “real” job at Disney.  I currently get my books through Discount Comic Book Service ( – check them out!) and it’s always a happy day when my monthly stash arrives.  Sure I miss gathering together each Wednesday with my fellow nerds down at the LCS for new book day, but since I don’t drive, front door delivery is my preferred solution.  Plus, you can’t beat the discounted prices!  The only drawback is that once my books show up everything else stops; household chores go unfinished, productivity levels diminish, I neglect my family…

“But, Brett,” you ask, “If you are legally blind, how do you read your comics?”
I use magnifiers, primarily, a photography loupe that I liberated from my dad’s darkroom years ago.  Sure, I have to lie on my stomach on the floor in a sunny spot, but most word balloons and captions fit snugly inside the field of view. 

“What about digital comics?  Couldn’t you use your giant screen ‘blind-man phone’ or a tablet?”
I have read some free digital comics by this method.   It’s nice to look at for the art, but I find that in order to actually read the text I have to continually fiddle with the size and position and it’s just easier to read a hard copy. 

“Can’t your wife just read them to you using different voices for each character and acting them out in dramatic fashion?”
We tried that once.  Never again.

“Do you ever close your eyes and pretend you are Daredevil or Dr. Mid-Nite?”
No. Moving on.

These are exciting times for comic nerds!  Never before has our hobby received so much mainstream attention.  Movies, TV shows, video games, toys and myriad licensed products are found just about everywhere you turn- and much of it is tolerably good!  Wow, even the PUBLISHING side of the equation seems to be benefiting from the exposure of the properties it originally spawned!  New titles, imprints and editorial initiatives, along with big story events and the celebration of character anniversaries all offer new and longtime readers some exciting choices.  Up on the rack, there is truly something for everyone.

Obviously, I love comics.  I relish reading, collecting, discussing, debating and even arguing about pretty much anything relating to the medium.  Since I don’t get down to the LCS very often to mingle with my peeps, I’m hoping this blog will provide a forum for interaction amongst like-minded (or not) souls.  Each month I will list what I got around to reading along with any pertinent praise or criticism.  I’ll also be posting about my opinions on current comic-related trends, news and rumors.  Don’t worry, there’ll be lots of complaining- ‘cause that’s what us REAL fanboys do! 

Man, I could totally go for a Hostess Fruit Pie right about now.  How about you, Hulk?

            Me too, big too.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Upchuck 101: Fine, I’ll start a blog

 First thing you should know, I hate the word “Blog.”  I dislike it for many reasons, but mainly because I don’t care for cutesy-hip geek speak, net lingo, and truncated words like “the nets, interwebs, app and zine. Also, it annoys me that my spell-check application accepted those examples and not my first attempt at typing “spellcheck.” No, I prefer whole words and proper English, thank you very much!  I don’t think I should have to do a Google search or consult Urban Dictionary in order to glean your position or decipher your communiqué. I realize that writing and speech as a whole have become more informal- and there is a time and place for its use, but I’m that pathetic guy who’s texting in complete sentences with proper punctuation despite the inconvenience of having to switch screens just to punch in a comma or an apostrophe.  I just don’t like it!  Unless, of course, I’m obvi being totes smartasstic then txtspk is def legit LOL!  =)  Oh well…I suppose that if any medium is deserving of an abbreviated name it’s the lowly weblog.   

Okay, the real reason I dislike the word is that it reminds me of the sound one makes when vomiting:

“Now that I’ve gorged myself on copious amounts of processed foodstuffs, I’m going to enjoy this wafer-thin mint.” <nom nom>  “Oh no…I think I’m going to…<BLOGGGGGGGG>!” 

So very appetizing!  Hmm.  It occurs to me that blogging may have more in common with puking up one’s guts than I previously realized: Face it, haven’t many blogs- especially those of the “detractor, political, social, evangelical and response” varieties, become just that?  Forums for would-be writers to regurgitate wafer-thin bits of rancid opinion based on copious amounts of partially-digested, overly-processed fact?  Or maybe that’s just my experience based on the sheer fluid volume of bilious muck that incessantly spatters my social media newsfeeds and seemingly every article’s “Comment” section the world over?  You’ve got everything from sickly-sweet emetics that gag with over-the-top feel-good stories- complete with pictures of cats, to the fetid odor of ignorance and intolerance that tinges political and social issue posts.  Even many hobby/journal sites have become nauseatingly pretentious (“Can I just get the damned cake recipe already or do I really have to scroll through your vapid commentary?”).   I suppose we shouldn’t be all that surprised at the correlation, after all:

It happens to everyone.   No matter who you are, or how iron-clad your stomach, whether due to illness, over-indulgence or manual stimulation, everybody tosses their cookies now and then.  And in life, we have all expressed ourselves and our opinions, revealing our thoughts, ignorance and, occasionally, our brilliance, often in a spectacularly messy fashion.  For some reason we are compelled to share our insights with anyone and everyone as if they are treasured bits of flotsam made expressly for the masses to “ooh” and “ahh” over.  And once it’s out, it’s out.  We stand proudly, point and declare, “This came from inside me!”  Turns out that just because you happen to barf, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the world necessarily cares or wants to know the agonizing details of your strenuous effort. 

You usually feel better afterwards.  Relief often comes on the heels of a good hurl.  You may still be sick, but at least for the time being you’ve gotten something nasty out of your system.  It seems the same case could be made for some bloggers.  Watery, half-formed ideas tend to swirl in a thin mass, inducing nausea until they spew forth in a barely-coherent mass of ejecta.  Reactionary posts and even some live blogging often feel like this to me.  Given, sometimes you just can’t help it; the gag reflex is too strong.  However, there are times when we summon our strength, suppress our queasiness, and wrest enough control over ourselves to calmly relocate to a more ideal venue for our expulsion.  I recall an experience in grade-school where a friend was struck with the sudden urge to purge.  Instead of calmly heading to the nearest classroom sink or trash bin, he thought he’d make a mad dash for the boys restroom some distance away down an adjoining hallway.  He ended up barfing all down himself as he ran, leaving a 20-foot-long trail of froth behind him.  Bloggers might be wise to take some time, digest, and then calmly put forth their contribution instead of being in such a rush to chronicle that they make a bigger mess than is necessary.  Those who then wade through it or have to clean it up will appreciate the restraint.  Especially since throwing up

Typically causes others to respond in kind.  Barfing is contagious.  To illustrate this point I need only recount the woeful tale of my Boy Scout Troop and the Winding Road of Retch-edness.  Imagine, a dozen 11-year-old scouts tightly packed into a suspension-impaired Dodge van.  We were working towards earning the Hiking Skill Award and were traveling up a twisty mountain back road to the trailhead.  After several bouncy switchbacks one of our number, who’d been turning a bit green, called out for an urgent pit stop.  The vehicle braked, the side door swung out and he dashed for the opening.  He mostly made it.  Alas, a small sample plastered the inside door panel thereby tainting the remaining air inside the van.  Paper towels and air freshener were deployed, and once the poor lad had composed himself our journey resumed.   Less than one fateful hairpin later, several more boys had succumbed.  That van should have had scuppers.  When something controversially rank gets blogged it is only a matter of seconds before someone else spews forth their acrid two cents. Whether in the comments section, through re-posting, linking to, “liking” or blogging in response, once that mephitic genie is out of the bottle it permeates.

So what’cha gonna do?  Sadly, despite our best efforts to stay healthy, sober or to keep foreign objects from making us choke, we all know that it’s only a matter of time before we do it again.    We live in a world where we are routinely met with crass, inane, virulent, rude, oblivious, bigoted, and just plain undesirable people and ideas.  At times WE ourselves are the contagion.  It’s inevitable.  Should we never interact with others or express ourselves for fear of what we might be exposed to or induce?   I say thee, NAY!  I think a body is at its healthiest when it’s occasionally sick.  If we never come in contact with anything that gives our immune system a workout, then soon it won’t take much to lay us low.  If our beliefs and ideas are never challenged how can we be sure of our convictions?  Exposure to what’s pestiferous ultimately makes us our strongest selves.  

 So why should you read MY blog?  Well, I’m not saying you SHOULD!  In fact, unless you too are a disabled stuck-at-home dad with an affinity for Awesomely-bad Movies, a penchant for music snobbery, enjoy organic heirloom gardening, curse-word infused home cooking, or are a helplessly devoted comic book nerd, you likely won’t find much here of interest.  Even if those topics appeal to you, I can’t promise that my musings won’t be any more original or less repellent than what’s already being offered up elsewhere- I’ll attempt to be entertaining, at least.

Truth be told, I’m really only starting this blog because my ever-patient wife has been encouraging me to do so.   For years she’s had a front-row seat to my personal flood of foul-foam and she’s (mostly) lovingly held my hair back as I’ve disgorged.  She seems to think that I’d benefit from having an outlet (other than her ears) for the constant deluge of opinionated muck I spew.   She’s probably right.  Once upon a time, I fancied myself a writer of sorts- before my disability, assorted health issues and “life in general” took precedence.  If nothing else, this venue might provide an opportunity to dust off my keyboard and hone my narrative skills.  Lucky you.  

“Code V!  Cleanup on aisle 6!”

Sorry about the mess.  I feel better.