Saturday, March 23, 2013

Daredevil by Mark Waid collection

Daredevil by Mark Waid is, hands down, my favorite title being published right now. This is how much.

That's an edited collage of photos of all the copies of all the issues I own of the series. From left to right, top to bottom, this is what I have:

Issue #1 - Regular Cover by Paolo Rivera, Marcos Martin variant, John Romita Sr. variant, Neal Adams variant, blank variant, blank variant remarked with a drawing of Daredevil by Ken Haeser (from Dynamic Forces), blank variant remarked with a drawing of Elektra by Laura Guzzo (from Dynamic Forces), 2nd printing variant, CGC Signature Series 9.8 Grade copy of regular cover signed by Mark Waid, regular cover signed by Mark Waid (from Dynamic Forces), regular cover signed by Paolo Rivera (from Dynamic Forces), regular cover signed by John Romita Sr. (from Dynamic Forces).
Issue #2 - Regular cover and 2nd printing variant
Issue #3 - Regular cover and 2nd printing variant
Issue #4 - Regular cover, Bryan Hitch variant, 2nd printing variant
Issue #5
Issue #6
Issue #7 - Regular cover and Alex Maleev variant
Amazing Spider-Man #677 (part 1 of Devil and the Details crossover) - Regular cover, Lee Bermejo variant, regular cover signed by Mark Waid (from Dynamic Forces), regular cover signed by John Romita Sr. (from Dynamic Forces)
Issue #8 (part 2 of Devil and the Details crossover) - Regular cover, Lee Bermejo variant, regular cover signed by Mark Waid (from Dynamic Forces), regular cover signed by John Romita Sr. (from Dynamic Forces)
Issue #9
Issue #10
Issue #10.1
Avenging Spider-Man #6 (part 1 of Omega Effect crossover) - Regular cover, Marco Checchetto variant, Adi Granov tripytch variant
Punisher #10 (part 2 of Omega Effect crossover) - Regular cover, Adi Granov tripytch variant
Issue #11 (part 3 of Omega Effect crossover) - Regular cover, Adi Granov tripytch variant, Avengers Art Appreciation variant
Issue #12
Issue #13 - Regular cover and regular cover signed by Khoi Pham (from Dynamic Forces)
Issue #14 - Regular cover, Ed McGuinness ASM 50th Anniversary variant, Mike Deodato Jr. ASM in Motion variant
Issue #15
Issue #16
Issue #17
Issue #18 - Regular cover and regular cover signed by Mark Waid
Issue #19
Issue #20
Issue #21
Issue #22
Issue #23
Issue #24

And then at the bottom, the hardcovers - Deluxe hardcover volume 1, and Premiere hardcovers volumes 1 through 4.

I've never gone so hard at collecting a series before, but I just can't help myself with this one. I'm waiting to receive copies of the Omega Effect 3-part issues signed by John Romita Sr. still, and at some point I'll order Issue #19 signed by Mark Waid from Dynamic Forces. But what I would love to get the most is a copy of Issue #17, signed by Mark Waid and Michael Allred (or 2 copies, one signed by each). Unfortunately, I can't make it to many conventions to get one, and I've never seen it available online. Going to keep looking though.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Positive Feedback - Amazing Spider-Man 698

I haven't written a "Positive Feedback" review in a while, but everyone's talking about ASM 698, and dammit, I have an opinion too. The great thing about the internet is I can share it with the world. The sucky thing about the internet is so can everyone else.

Spoiler Alert: Although I don't go into detail about what happens, I do mention aspects of the story that are made better by a second read-through (in which you know the ending). I may inadvertently hint at things.

Amazing Spider-Man #698

First off, Richard Elson's art threw me off. Not that it's not good - it really is. The splash page after the recap page, and the action sequence page that follows are both gorgeous. But it's not the style we've gotten used to seeing in Slott's Spider-Man. Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Stefano Caselli have been the main artists for the Big Time run that is now coming to a close, and they all have distinct styles that are not reflected in Elson's at all. Again, it's good art. Tight pencils. Good storytelling. Dynamic action poses. It just really stood out to me how different it was from what I've gotten used to seeing.

In regards to the writing: At first I thought I was going to have the same problem with the scripting in this issue as I did with issue 692. My problem there was that Slott was trying to pay homage to Amazing Fantasy #15, and so the script was cheesy and old-fashioned, and the teenage characters didn't talk like modern teens, but like you imagine '60s teens may have. I get that it was an homage, but it took me out of the comic because it just didn't sound right. This time around, I was having the same problem. The narration just didn't sound right. It felt like Slott was trying to make the issue too "new-reader friendly," and so he was unnecessarily having Peter explain things like inventing his web-shooters in high school, or how his Aunt May was a "dear old woman." It almost reads as though Peter's really Slott, narrating his own thoughts on the character. That's not it at all though, and on a second read-through, this wasn't a problem anymore. Once you know the ending, it makes more sense and is more enjoyable.

As for the story, I enjoyed the events of this issue, and look forward to seeing what's next. I'm curious about the gold Octo-bot that we see early in this issue, and that we've seen before, even more than I was before. I liked what Slott did with Destructor, and how he was a "bluffer" who dresses up as a super-villain to rob people. That's an idea I had never seen before. On a second read, there's an irony to Spider-Man hitting this powerless human without holding back, and you realize something is off, because in the past Spider-Man would have guilt-tripped himself about possibly hurting the guy. I was worried about the idea of Spidey and Mary Jane getting back together, and initially thought Slott was reuniting them only to kill Peter off in #700. Now that I know the ending to this issue, I'm even more worried about them getting back together. And then there's the ending...

I can't really say anything about the ending. Reacting now just seems too soon, because there's still two issues left in this story, and one of those is huge. Every time I think I've figured Slott out, he surprises me, so instead of jumping to conclusions, I'm going to let that happen. If this was "the end," than Superior Spider-Man would be launching next month, instead of in January. This story isn't over yet, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Supplemental to Amazing Fantasy 15

Spider-Man appears in a lot of comics. I'm sure this isn't news. Some of them are not very essential to the main story, or were published years later to revise the original material (a "retcon"). In my organization of Spider-Man comics and appearances into reading order, I have separated these as supplemental. I will still be reading them as I go, but they are not as important as the "core" books.

Spider-Man's Tangled Web #14 (2002)

Written by Brian Azzarello and Scott Levy, Illustrated by Giuseppe Camuncoli

This is a fantastic comic, and a perfect example of a story you can find in comic books that usually don't exist in any other media. In this case, it's the story of Crusher Hogan - the wrestler that Peter challenges and beats in his first public masked outing. The story explores Crusher's personal life, and what led to him challenging the audience to take him down. It makes him a very sympathetic character, and after this issue I would have enjoyed another story, exploring his life after being beaten. Whatever became of Crusher Hogan?

Camuncoli's art is fantastic. He's one of the regular rotating artists on Amazing Spider-Man as of this writing, and will be a regular on the upcoming Superior Spider-Man, and I love it. Looking at this issue, you can really see how his art has grown since, but it was still solid back in 2002.

Amazing Spider-Man Family #1 - 48 Hours story (2008)

Written by J.M. DeMatteis, Illustrated by Alex Cal

In Stan's original stories, Peter goes right from stopping the burglar in Amazing Fantasy #15 to actively trying to be a hero as Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #1. DeMatteis isn't the only writer who has wondered "what happened in between?"

This issue covers some of his take on that, showcasing what Peter goes through with Uncle Ben's funeral, being left alone with just Aunt May, and how he changes his attitude from seeking fame and fortune, to realizing it's more important to help people and do the right thing. It's a good story that works in conjunction nicely with the original comics. Alex Cal does a great job on art. I've never really heard of him before, but it looks like he does more work for IDW than Marvel or DC.

Spider-Man: With Great Power... Mini-Series (2008)

Written by David Lapham and Illustrated by Tony Harris and David Lapham

Whereas the above two comics work well in conjunction with the original material, this mini-series really doesn't. The story could have, detailing the days that Spider-Man was on his way to becoming a celebrity, before he learned the responsibility side of the equation, expanding on what was originally only one page in Amazing Fantasy #15, but instead of going traditional '60s style with their artistic approach, the creators chose to update it to a more modern take. It's not a bad mini-series, it just doesn't really work together with Amazing Fantasy #15 and Amazing Spider-Man #1. It's also disappointing that Harris, whose art is in top form in this series, didn't get to do all 5 issues, and that Lapham himself filled in on the final issue. Lapham is still an excellent writer and artist, but the inconsistency of that one issue with different artwork dampens the strength of the series.

In the end, I think this series fits in well with the recent Spider-Man: Season One by Cullen Bunn and Neil Edwards. It should be taken as more of an alternate take on the origin and early years, as opposed to an actual in-continuity story for the character.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Amazing Fantasy #15

To truly start from the beginning for Spider-Man, you have to go back before Amazing Spider-Man even started, to Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962).

Written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Steve Ditko, this is the origin story. It's been retold and adapted time and time again, but only because Lee and Ditko nailed it the first time around, in only 11 pages.

The idea was completely original at the time. Nobody had done a teenage superhero before. Sidekicks, but not heroes. On top of that, to make him unpopular, with home troubles, job troubles, money troubles, etc. was a stroke of genius. When we get to some of the best Spider-Man stories, they come out of Peter's personal problems, and the conflict between those problems and his responsibilities. Despite the larger-than-life situations he finds himself in, most everyone can identify with the fact he'd rather be on a date, or that he's worried about how much his next paycheck will be.

A few things of note - The hyphen only appears in "Spider-Man" on the opening splash page. As you can see, on the cover the name is printed on two lines - "Spider Man" - and every time it appears in the captions or dialogue, it's "Spiderman." The other thing is that, in the original telling, the burglar doesn't kill Uncle Ben until days after Peter lets him get away. Most re-tellings (movies, Ultimate, etc.) have it happen the same night.

Revisiting Spider-Man

Marvel Comics' Spider-Man is hands down my favourite comic book character of all time. Although other characters pluck at my heartstrings, I have never read as many issues featuring a character as I have Spider-Man, nor have I bought as many toys, novelties, and other products as I do Spider-Man products. I fell in love with the cartoons that were on when I was a child, the movies they made when I was a teenager, and with the baby toys and clothes I can give to my newborn child now.

Eight or nine years ago my then-girlfriend, now my wife, bought me the complete Amazing Spider-Man CD-ROM collection. The first 500 issues of Spider-Man's flagship series, on only 10 CDs, readable on a computer with Adobe Acrobat Reader. Over several months I devoured them, but I would get disappointed as I tried to get through stories from the '80s and '90s. A lot of the stories from those decades are "crossovers," meaning that the story is made up of multiple parts, usually 3 to 6, and each part takes place within a different series. Since the CDs only contained the issues of "Amazing Spider-Man," I would only get parts 1 and 4, or 3 and 6, but never the whole story.

It was at this point, through Internet searches for more digital format comic books, a virtually non-existent entity at the time, that I discovered torrents of old comic books, scanned and uploaded for "preservation." (A term used because it makes the intent sound altruistic, as opposed to outright saying "scanned and uploaded so people can read copyrighted material without having to pay for it.") Using these torrents, I compiled as complete a digital collection of old Spider-Man comics as I could, while also building a large physical collection of single issues, variants, hardcovers, trades, toys, and more. Nowadays a lot of these comics are available digitally for a small fee via Marvel and Comixology, so it should be easier and less legally ambiguous for someone else to pursue this collection.

I have read and organized every one of those Spider-Man comics into, as near as I can tell, an ideal reading order based on the events and timeline of the issues, as opposed to based on publication date. And now, I plan to read them again.

Without further ado and incrimination, I now commit this blog to revisiting Spider-Man... from the beginning, may it never end.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Positive Feedback - October 3rd

Favourite Comic of the Week - Uncanny X-Men #19 by Kieron Gillen and Dale Eaglesham

Uncanny X-Men #19 is the perfect epilogue to Avengers vs. X-Men #12, which also came out this week. Without this issue, Cyclops's character journey wouldn't truly feel complete, and for the first time in years, it feels like the Marvel Universe has been changed by the annual big event.

Kieron Gillen manages to express being an evil god really well in his writing of the issue. It scares me a little. His brief synopsis of Scott's life is also excellently executed ("I'm fighting a man with claws."). And the ending was the best part of it all. Scott Summers killed Professor X. And countless others. He's a war criminal. But he'd do it all over again. As far as he's concerned, he won.

Eaglesham nails it for art too. I love the way he depicts Beast best, but everything in the issue is spot on perfect, from the wide scale destruction to the memories of tender moments. All around, just a great issue, and probably the most essential AVX tie-in out there.

Other highlights from this week -

Action Comics #13 by Grant Morrison and Travel Foreman - I love Krypto. That's all that needs to be said. Favourite issue of the series so far.

Amazing Spider-Man #695 by Dan Slott and Giuseppe Camuncoli - Oh man. If Uncanny hadn't been so good, this might have been the best comic this week. Norman Osborn's secret files. Peter being revealed as Spider-Man's scientific assistant, making it even easier for people to figure out his secret ID. Madam Web's vision of the future. And a great cliffhanger ending. Only 5 issues left to the end of the series.

Avengers vs. X-Men #12 by Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert - This was the best possible ending I could have imagined. Can't wait to see what comes next. Hopefully it lasts longer than when Dark Reign came out of Secret Invasion.

AVX: Vs. #6 by lots of people - Hope vs. Scarlet Witch was great, mostly for the way it ended. The rest of the shorts were pretty enjoyable too. My favourites were the scientist war by the Immonens, Toad vs Jarvis, Spider-Woman vs X-Women, and Squirrel Girl vs Pixie.

Daredevil: End of Days #1 by Bendis, Mack, Sienkiewicz, and Janson - The first issue was good, and I'm really curious to see what they do with seven more, but I think this might be a series that will be better if read all at once. But I love Daredevil enough that I might not be able to wait.

Defenders #11 by Fraction and Pierfederici - I was disappointed not to see McKelvie's name in the credits, but Pierfederici really blew me away. The story's coming to a close nicely. The origin of John Aman was cool. Namor was badass. And Silver Surfer kissed Red She-Hulk.

Green Lantern #13 by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke - I'm more interested in Simon Baz's personal story than the Rise of the Third Army main arc. Baz vs the Justice League next issue should be pretty cool.

Minimum Carnage: Alpha by Bunn, Yost, and Medina - I'm not much of a Carnage fan, but I like what Bunn's doing with Venom and the new Scarlet Spider. This story looks interesting so far, more to see the tension between Venom and Scarlet Spider than to see Carnage on another rampage, although the addition of the Microverse could make that interesting too.

Stormwatch #13 by Peter Milligan and Will Conrad - Midnighter takes Apollo out for the night. His idea of a date? Figuring out why one neighborhood breeds more serial killers and horrific crimes than any other in the area. The answer? The rise of the Demon. Awesome. Looking forward to this story.

World's Finest #5 by Levitz, Perez, Ordway, and Craig - I love that Power Girl's new costume is more conservative, and yet it keeps getting destroyed and leaving her half naked. I love even more that they acknowledged that in the book. This is just a great series.

News and stuff -

More teasers from Marvel. "Savage" by Frank Cho could be a lot of things. I'm betting on Wolverine, but also hoping I'm wrong. "Amateurs" by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie is going to be amazing no matter what it is, but it looks like it'll be a Young Avengers relaunch with Kid Loki and Miss America, and probably more. The last one, "Superior" by Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman, Humberto Ramos, and Giuseppe Camuncoli is obviously the new Spider-Man series. But why "Superior?"

New Previews catalogs came out this week too. Thoughts:
- The Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre statue from DC Direct is one of the most gorgeous things in there. 
- The individual New 52 Superman action figure will have a unique head sculpt to separate it from the one in the full team set.
- More baby variants! Can't wait to see the Thunderbolts and Avengers Arena ones!
- And lastly, and the only negative thing this week, one of the Amazing Spider-Man #700 variant covers (the Quesada one) is a rarity of 1 in 700. That is ridiculous, and I don't think it will actually help orders at all. Stores would have to order $5600 worth of the regular cover just to get one of these. I'm an avid collector - single issues, variant covers, signed copies, CGC graded copies, hardcover collections, toys, statues, etc. But I won't even consider buying a single variant that rare. The 1:200 is already pre-ordering for $325 on eBay. I don't expect to see this one available for less than $1000 a copy. As I said before, ridiculous.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Positive Feedback - September 12th

Favourite Comic of the Week - The Shade #12 (of 12) by James Robinson and Gene Ha

I have a confession to make. I haven't been reading The Shade. Until this week, I hadn't read a single issue of this 12 part limited series. Instead I saved them all, so that I could read them as one. That is how I discovered Starman, after all - when it was all said and done - so I could read it beginning to end with no waiting.

So this week, after all the other comics were read, I read the entire 12-issue run of The Shade. And I loved it. The change in artists didn't bother me, because they all did a bang-up job. The story worked wonderfully for me. It makes me sad that this series was the last gasp for the old DCU. Does Opal City even exist in the New 52? Does The Shade? The O'Dares? Starman? Time will tell, I guess. We've already seen there'll be a Stargirl showing up soon.

For issue 12 in particular, the story and the artwork were both perfect for the final unveiling of The Shade's origin, but what really won it for me is how the unveiling of who Richard Swift was before that fateful night really finalized the journey his character has made. Richard Swift was naive and gullible and easily led. And in Starman, The Shade talks about his early villainy as something he did because it seemed fashionable at the time, and his supervillain team-ups as being initiated by the other party. In that sense, he was still being led by others. Later in Starman, we saw him help others perform heroic deeds, having grown from naive human, to super villain follower, to helper of heroes. But finally, in this series, he becomes a hero in his own right. Without seeing who he was as a human, that full journey is not as apparent, which, to me, was the real meat of this issue.

The only thing that I would have liked more is for this issue to have also closed the story on who The Shade is now. The narration on the last page did a decent job, but it feels like a lot of content was cut. I would have liked to see The Shade return to Opal, reunite with Hope, tell her his adventure was a consequence of abandoning his wife and family in the past, instead of revealing the truth to them, and he doesn't want to repeat the mistakes of his past. So then he would tell her this story, his origin, and afterwards they would share their love for each other. It was still a great issue, but something like that would have really helped it to feel concluded.

No matter what, I can't wait to get a hardcover to go with my Starman Omnibuses.

Other highlights from this week -

Avengers vs. X-Men #11 by Marvel's writers and Olivier Coipel - Coipel's art is amazing, and they really amped up the action in this penultimate chapter. But killing Xavier like that? Dislike. If I hadn't read the online articles about it, I wouldn't have even known he was supposed to be dead. Although X-Men Legacy starring Legion, Xavier's son, makes a lot of sense now. Can his son be his legacy?

Batgirl #0 by Gail Simone and Ed Benes - I love when Ed Benes and Gail Simone work together. Benes's art looks great, and the story was fantastic. Unlike some of the other zero issues, the Batman ones this week really helped to firm up some of the timeline aspects of the New52, and the characters too. Babs wasn't above a little manipulation and flirtation, and probably still isn't, and her brother James was creepy and probably killing people even back then.

Batman #0 by James Tynion IV and Andy Clarke - I credit Tynion and Clarke because it was their backup story in this issue that I really enjoyed. Where were you the first time they turned on the Bat-Signal? Barbara Gordon, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake all remember. I loved it.

Captain America and Black Widow #636 by Cullen Bunn and Francesco Francavilla - The story is really interesting, and I like how Bunn has crafted a continuing story in a team-up book while changing characters. But the art got it on my list of this week's best. Francavilla is amazing. It's not flashy art like Coipel or McGuinness or Jim Lee. It's clean lines and the use of light and shadow, and they way he tells a story. Those 3 pages of Cap's shield bouncing around until he catches it are just perfect. I'd hang them on my wall if I could.

Green Lantern Corps #0 by Peter J. Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin - Any time I've been a Green Lantern fan, I've never been a Guy Gardner fan. Geoff Johns taught me to love Hal Jordan. I grew up with Kyle Rayner and he's still my favourite. But I've never thought much of Guy. This issue changed my mind. I probably still won't love him, but I understand him more, and I think that's the point of these zero issues.

Journey Into Mystery #643 by Kieron Gillen, Matt Fraction, and Carmine di Giandomenico - King Volstagg wasn't as funny as I was hoping it would be. But the issue was still amazing. You know Loki's being written properly when you, as the reader, don't know what he's really up to and whose side he's really on. Personally, I like Giandomenico's art more than Alan Davis's on the Mighty Thor chapters. That splash page of Loki looking evil just looked so damn good.

Graphic Novels and Trade Paperbacks

Dr. Strange Season One Premiere HC by Greg Pak and Emma Rios - This was the last thing I read before The Shade, so all I could think while reading The Shade was, "Wow, Emma Rios would have been perfect for this." I love her artwork. Spider-Island Cloak & Dagger is my favourite project of hers so far, but this hardcover is a close second, and is a really good Dr. Strange story from before he became the Sorcerer Supreme (and before Wong lost all his hair!) Highly recommended.

Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters and Green Arrow: The Archer's Quest trades - DC reprinted these good Green Arrow stories for re-release this week. If I didn't own them already, I'd get them. I love old Green Arrow stories, whether it's Mike Grell's mature audiences stuff, or the Kevin Smith/Brad Meltzer/Judd Winick stuff, with the beard and the supporting cast. The New 52 Green Arrow just isn't my Green Arrow.