SDCC 2018: Top 5 Comic Book Exclusives

I’m foregoing the weekly new release column to focus on a different kind of release: the 2018 San Diego Comic Con variant. With the convention officially kicking off tomorrow (and knowing full well that I have no willpower when it comes to resisting limited editions and event exclusives), here’s a list of five special releases that are on my radar.

Cosmic Ghost Rider #1 – J. Scott Campbell Glow-in-the-Dark Variant (Marvel)
A surprisingly entertaining addition to Marvel’s recent “Fresh Start” initiative, Cosmic Ghost Rider by Donny Cates and Dylan Burnett is an offbeat far-flung future jaunt taking the new Ghost Rider, Frank Castle, on a version of the back-in-time-to-kill-Hitler plot. This time, however, the Punishing nutjob journeys back to ancient Titan to fuck with a certain purple Eternal in his crib. The book itself is entertaining, and funny in a way that Deadpool wishes it could be, and this limited variant has a cover that glows in the dark. So. I want it.

Black Hammer #1 – Fábio Moon Convention Exclusive (Dark Horse)
Jeff Lemire’s Eisner-winning love letter to Golden Age superheroes has been one of my favorite books over the last few years, and Dark Horse has three different variant covers to celebrate the reprinting of this first issue. Of the three, this cover by Moon, paying tribute to the first issue of Giffen & Maguire’s Justice League, is easily my favorite. Limited print run of 1,400 copies.

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SDCC 2018: Top 10 Toy Exclusives

The 49th San Diego Comic Con starts in a few days, so I felt that it was a good time for my first column. Here are my Top 10 picks for toy exclusives offered as part of this year’s con. I used a number of factors in determining my rankings: resale value and opportunity; scarcity; and, simply, just how cool the toy looks.

#10
Funko Pop Movie Bruce Lee Gold and White Pants (BAIT)
Both of these Funko Pops are from the movie Enter the Dragon and retail for $30. They are currently reselling on eBay between $60 and $75 each. These are not SDCC exclusives, however; in fact, the Gold Bruce Lee was sold two weeks ago at Anime Expo. These make the list because it’s Bruce Lee. The only Lee that would be more valuable, at Comic Con, would be Stan.

#9
1990 Movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Figure Set (NECA)

Once again NECA is delivering your favorite heroes in a half shell. The boxed set retails at $125, or $250 if you want the Movie Street Diorama. This seems unnecessary though — I mean an extra $125 for a piece of cardboard? Blah. This set is currently reselling on eBay for $220 – $240.

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Comic Book Trivia: The Cap, Cats, & Bats Edition

As part of the July 3rd celebration and midnight release for Captain America #1, Catwoman #1, and Batman #50, featuring the purported nuptials of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, we hosted a special trivia night at Mission: Comics and Art.

Congratulations to the Anagraminals for becoming the first repeat champions, taking home a full set of the nine variant covers to Captain America #1 along with $50 in store merchandise. And special recognition to Hsiangrila for finishing second as a solo player!

Now for a chance to test your knowledge. Partly for posterity, and partly to avoid doing a new comics post this week, here’s the quiz in its entirety. Lots of questions on Captain America and Batman, of course.

Question #1
Batman #50 isn’t the only super-wedding issue this summer. Which two characters got married in last month’s X-Men Gold #30?

Question #2
3 Dev Adam, also known as “the Turkish Captain America,” was a completely unauthorized 1973 Turkish movie. Who is Cap’s nemesis is this film? [Hint: think popular Marvel superhero, reimagined as a villainous gang leader.]

Question #3
Since 1997, the Ignatz Awards have been conferred at the Small Press Expo. The name is derived from a character from what seminal comic stip by George Herriman?

Question #4
What political movement is mocked in a protest scene from Captain America #602 (2010), causing a page to be edited before publication in the trade paperback collection?

Question #5
In which comic series did Judge Dredd make his first appearance?

Continue reading Comic Book Trivia: The Cap, Cats, & Bats Edition

Captain America #1 by Coates & Yu

As much as I enjoyed Mark Waid’s post-Secret Empire run on Captain America, the entire arc felt like it was doing its best to avoid dealing with the fallout from Nick Spencer’s subversive epic. Initially, Waid’s book, launched under the Legacy trade dress, took the form of a Steve Rogers road trip, an effort to reconnect with a country that had been torn apart after Red Skull successfully re-wired Captain America’s reality to create a bastion of fascism and a conquering leader of Hydra. Then, before that reflective journey could really get going, Cap was frozen (again) and awakened in a future U.S. similarly gripped by an oppressive authoritarian regime. It’s almost as if the editors asked Waid to reinvent Empire, but with Steve now as the savior, rather than the enslaver. And when that little escapade had concluded, we got a few more fill-in issues featuring yet another far-flung future America, this time under the control of the Kree, and with Rogers’s descendants cast as the heroic protagonists.

We expected Marvel to put some distance between “Captain Hydra” and the relaunch, but avoiding a storyline that was so clearly part of Marvel continuity began to feel somewhat cowardly.

Secret Empire #1 (2017)

Everything about Secret Empirefrom its fomenting lead-in story in the pages of Steve Rogers: Captain America, released during the summer of 2016, and the eventual event series, which premiered in 2017, feels like a dark fairy tale of the Trump Era. And, as such, maybe it would have been better received, and, indeed, more impactful, had it been a self-contained “Elseworlds” type story.

Don’t get me wrong — I applaud Spencer and Marvel for boldly following through with such a politically charged story. The problem arises when the comics introduce themes of external forces manipulating our democracy, denials of freedoms, and paralyzing social divisions directly into the mainstream Marvel universe, but then seemingly ignore the repercussions.

Enter Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Francis Yu. Uniting the acclaimed political writer and author of the inspired new Black Panther series with the artist responsible for Secret Invasion seems to be, on the surface, a pretty clear indication that the series was finally ready to address the ominous overtures of last summer’s crossover event. And this first chapter of “Winter in America” does not disappoint.

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Multiple Man #1

I’ve become a big fan of Matthew Rosenberg in recent years, and was thrilled when he started doing work for Marvel. In the process I have also become appreciative of the publisher’s technique for breaking in new writers; a number of entertaining and well-received mini series (including New Mutants: Dead Souls and Phoenix Resurrection) followed by a toes-in-the-water mixed bag of runs on some fringe monthlies (like Punisher and Secret Warriors) before he gets to cut loose on a high profile series. Later this month, Rosenberg joins veteran artist Greg Land as the creative team for a new era of Astonishing X-Men. And anyone who’s read the aforementioned mutant books can see that the guy is an adept student of X-history; I’m expecting to break out the Marvel Universe Guide To… with his very first issue.

But before that drops, we’re treated to an unexpected “Fresh Start” mini-series. Similar to the Quicksilver: No Surrender mini, which didn’t seem like it needed to exist (and hasn’t changed my mind over the course of two issues), Multiple Man #1, by Rosenberg and Andy MacDonald, has taken a character very few of us expected to hear from again so soon (or maybe even had forgotten had been killed off), and made him the focus of a thoroughly entertaining Madrox mystery. Continue reading Multiple Man #1

Amazing Spider-Man #801

It’s been a helluva run, Dan Slott. Amazing Spider-Man #801 marks the end of the Spider-scribe’s more than ten-year run on Marvel’s flagship title. This issue’s heartfelt farewell, beautifully illustrated by Marcos Martín, is at once a stirring self-contained story, rich with the character elements that have made Spider-Man so beloved for generations; as well as a sly bookend to an epic tenure that began with the first “Brand New Day” issue back in 2008.

Simply by virtue of his time on the title, Slott deserves to be counted among a handful of great writers who have taken ol’ Webhead on his share of some of the more memorable storylines in comic book history. Personally, I grew up during the DeFalco/Michelinie era. So between following conflicts with Hobgoblins, Gang Wars, and symbiotes, I caught up on the original Stan Lee, Ditko, and Romita issues, themselves some of the single most influential superhero comics ever created. And it is, of course, with a certain reverence that we look back on those formative experiences; to this day, I count David Michelinie among the top five Amazing Spider-Man writers of all time. So what of the generation that has grown up with Dan Slott’s ASM? A lot has happened to Peter over the last decade, from Doc Ock to Parker Industries, and this run will undoubtedly be special for a great number of young comic book fans. I think, however, that as we gain a little distance and perspective, we’ll all truly appreciate where Slott’s oeuvre fits in with some of these all-time great runs. Continue reading Amazing Spider-Man #801

Thor #1

If it feels like every new Thor launch is scripted by Jason Aaron, that’s because this is the sixth time the prolific writer has had his name attached to one thundering #1 or another. And while the Jane Foster/Thor arc (itself witness to two premiere issues) with Russell Dauterman will forever hold a special place in my heart, there’s reason to believe that for this week’s “Fresh Start” Thor #1, Aaron has saved the best for last.

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“Likely the last,” Jason? Tough to hear, and as much as we’d like for you to be to Thor what Dan Slott was to Spider-Man (or maybe you already are?), we know about all good things and such. But if your final act is going to kick off with art by the fantastic Mike del Mundo and feature back-up tales by the equally incomparable Christian Ward, you won’t hear anyone complaining. Continue reading Thor #1

The Immortal Hulk #1

The Hulk has always been a character that I’ve been iffy on. While I’ve enjoyed the acclaimed runs from Peter David and Greg Pak, they never fully got me onboard with the character. The truly horrifying nature of being turned into a rage-filled monster never hit home with me with in those runs.

Enter Al Ewing. I don’t know why I’ve never seen Hulk tackled from a horror perspective. It seems like the most obvious connection in the world, and that is exactly what Ewing manages to do with his debut issue on The Immortal Hulk. The sense of looming dread that hangs over this book feels more in line with an EC Comic than a traditional Marvel book. The Hulk truly feels like a scary otherworldly force that is here to judge humankind. He’s not just a dumb big brute but rather the best authority on the evils of the everyday person.

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“Finest Kind” — The Holy Bee’s Martini Recipe

Holy Bee of Ephesus

“The martini felt cool and clean…I had never tasted anything so cool and clean. They made me feel civilized.”  — Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

A couple of years back, I posted a recipe for my absolute favorite cocktail: the (double) old-fashioned. That is my drink for the end of the evening, my nightcap, the libation that sends the Holy Bee off to dreamland. But what about the opposite end of the evening? My just-getting-home, pre-dinner, five o’clock opener to cocktail hour is often the martini, which is soon celebrating its own day — National Martini Day on June 19th.

As long as there are bar snobs, there will be arguments over how to make a proper martini. Brand of gin, amount of vermouth, use of the shaker, garnishes, and just about any other finicky minutiae can be endlessly debated regarding this very simple beverage by the type of…

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Man of Steel #1

Yeah, I get it. Former Marvel Golden Boy jumps ship for the competition and his first major contribution is a limited series on the industry’s most iconic figure.

John Byrne rose to prominence at Marvel during the 80’s, first as part of the Uncanny X-Men revival alongside Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum (as well as a run on Avengers that made me a lifelong fan), and then writing and illustrating a seminal run on flagship title The Fantastic Four. His high-profile departure for DC began with a post-Crisis reboot of Superman in 1986’s Man of Steel limited series. Three decades later, and another major contributor to Marvel’s pantheon, Brian Michael Bendis, makes his celebrated DC debut (minus a few teaser short stories) in a Superman mini titled, of course, Man of Steel.

Byrne’s Man of Steel #1 (1986)

I’ll admit to not having paid attention to press leading up to this series and, as a result, this obvious correlation to Byrne’s DC tenure didn’t dawn on me until I had picked up this new book. And I think it’s a bad move.

Is the goal to strike a parallel to prior reboots? Or is DC trying to draw attention to the fact that Bendis, like Byrne, was essentially lured away from the competition to work on a high-profile series, a snarky gloat immortalized in publication history? If it’s the former, then it seems like this series title would have made more sense as part of their recent Rebirth initiative. But if it’s the latter, then it seems like a childish ploy, particularly given the fact that Byrne ended up returning to Marvel after just a few years. It would also undermine the sentiment of virtually every comic book fan, DC and Marvel alike, who applauds Bendis’s move, seeing it as an opportunity for the tapped-out creator to refresh his own psyche and get back to writing compelling comic book stories once again. Maybe that’s the real meaning behind the title! Brian Michael Bendis is getting the reboot — he’s the Man of Steel! But… probably not. It’s more than likely just a wink and a nod.

And maybe it doesn’t fucking matter in the slightest and I should move on to talking about whether or not I liked the book.

Continue reading Man of Steel #1