This is the cup of a carpenter

Matt’s talk of grails the other day made me take a look at my “to buy” list and see what mine were.  There are plenty of books there I can’t (or more likely, don’t want) to afford, but these are the ones I can never, ever seem to find.

  • Aztek – This book shouldn’t be near as hard to find as it is. There’s nothing spectacular about it, except Morrison and Millar writing it (together, back when they did that) exceptionally well in the mid-90’s wasteland.  It tied in at the end with Morrison’s stellar JLA run, which is a little noteworthy. I’ve managed to find most of them, but 7 and 8 remain elusive.
  • Flex Mentallo – Another Morrison book, this one a spin-off mini from Doom Patrol involving a Charles Atlas-esque character that got DC sued. The judgment was that the mini could never be reprinted, so that makes finding it impossible at any price. I stumbled across issue #4 in a $.50 bin, though, so I know it’s possible to finish it off if I just. keep. hunting.
  • Last Avengers Story 2 & Ruins 2 – There are two strange things about this, that Marvel kept tapping writers for apocalyptic stories about their characters, and that the first issues are so easy to find and the last issues are so not.
  • StormWatch (the Ellis run) – The fortunate thing about Stormwatch is that Wildstorm has been good about keeping the Ellis run in print, but if you want the individual issues? Well, good luck. I’m stuck with a pretty big range of issues left to fill in; you’d think that would make finding one or two here and there easier, but you’d be wrong. Every once in a while I can cross one more off the list, but it’s not often.

In the future I see myself writing about grails I’ve already found, but that would requre taking a longer, harder look at ComicBase than I feel comfortable with.  The one that immediately springs to mind, though, is when I found the third Miracleman TPB for cover price.  WIN!

Game Tape

Wednesday has come and gone. The heroes have fought their battles and villains have hinted at things to come. Now it’s time to review the game tape…

I got a ton of books this week. In addition to the usual stuff, I picked up the TPB of Roger Langridge’s Muppet Show. Besides being a handy sized collection, it includes the short pieces he did for Disney Adventures Magazine. It’s worth the price of admission to get these.

I can’t get myself psyched to talk about everything I read because only two books stick in my head. Everything else paled grossly in comparison.

Since McDuffie left Fantastic Four, I’ve been waiting out Mark Millar. Millar’s gone, and guess who’s still here. ME.

While there were some interesting ideas in Millar’s run (The cover layout, Doom’s Master, and Nu-World most notably), they always fell apart in the execution. That’s the past. This week’s FF #570 made me excited in ways that I’m not comfortable discussing in public. This book hit all of the beats that a new writer on FF needs to hit to show that he or she is competent: Reed’s smart, Sue is smarter in some ways, Johnny and Ben are the original buddy – pic team, and science can make a brain out of plutonium. Then there’s action with the Wizard and some wackiness ensues. I won’t give it away, but I need to consult a doctor. That last page gave me a nerd-erection that’s lasted more than 4 hours.

But the issue isn’t perfect. Given that Reed heads back to his nerdy scribble covered man-cave, it might have made more sense if the villain had been the Mad Thinker. Still that’s a little thing. The big thing is the new character designs…or rather design. When Reed’s not stretching, he looks like the love child of Hal Jordan and Nick Fury. There’s stubble. There’s superhuman muscle tone. There’s bulging biceps. It’s difficult to look at, especially with the new short-sleeved uniforms.

Next issue he kicks sand in the face of 98 lb. Weakling Richards.

The other book this week is Muppet Show: Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson #2. This continues to be a book for both groups of Muppet fans: those who’ve seen and remember the episodes and those who see the episodes everytime they close their eyes. For the first group, there’s Machu Pichu. For the second there’s a nice reference to the only rule of writing for the Muppets: when you can’t end a sketch, blow something up or throw some penguins. If the big-wigs aren’t talking to Roger Langridge about helping write the next Muppet movie,they’re making a mistake. This guy knows the Muppets.

I’ll be rereading those two books until next Wednesday.

Of minor note though is that this week’s issue of X-Men Forever featured some sweet art by Paul Smith. Claremont continues to tell a good X-yarn without the aid of Mr. Ubiquity himself: Wolverine.

But don’t take my word for it. Head down to your local library and check ’em out.

Separated at Birth

What, Me Worry?

Is it just me, or does Mary Jane look a little…familiar on the last issue of Amazing Spider-Man?

Those big cheekbones, that askew eyebrow…

That peculiar coloring on her lower lip that appears to be a gap tooth.

If only I could put my finger on it…

Face it Tiger, You just hit the jackpot!

The last crusade

This week my collection hit a nerdy landmark. I filed my Holy Grail into its proper place in the long box holding miscellaneous DC titles. No, it wasn’t Action Comics #1 or Detective Comics #27. Nor was it Amazing Fantasy #15. Those out-of-my-price-range dream books don’t qualify. What does qualify a book as a Holy Grail then? It’s more subtle than something like price. More often than not, my grail books have little or no intrinsic value to most collectors. A grail book fills a final hole in a series or appeal to me for arcane reasons of personal taste. To truly qualify though, they all have one thing in common: grail books are incredibly hard to find.

When you get to the part of Arthurian legend dealing with the Grail, it’s always a journey. It’s a search of years (in some stories decades). Similarly my grail books are all about the quest: the rarity of the book on the market. Grail books are books that I have to search long and hard to acquire. They are books that I need and cannot find at my local shops. They keep me searching when I walk into a new shop while on vacation or when I discover a new shop online, even the occasional look at e-Bay. They’re the books that drive my mind-numbing hours of searching through unorganized quarter bins at cons. Grail books feed into my needs to hunt and gather.

After years of searching and heartbreak, I’m the (unnecessarily) proud owner of DC Comics Presents #47. I’ll admit; this book is one of those I lusted after because of the cover. When I first discovered its existence several years ago, I felt a need to know under what circumstances Skeletor could gain control of Superman and thus force him to fight He-man. I’ve gone through tons of long boxes trying to find this answer. I’d get excited as I saw what appeared to be a complete run. Issue 42, flip, 43, flip, 45, flip (heart begins to beat faster), 46, grit teeth, flip, 51….okay maybe it’s miss filed, flip, 52, flip, 64, Damn. So it went until at last the clouds parted, and a single ray of divine light shone upon my goal.

I’ve got this grail, can I stop looking? Get only my pull books? No. I must keep going. I’ve already got a new book to seek. Now go away before I taunt you a second time.

This Week’s Comics

Diamond Releases for 8/26/09

  • BATMAN AND ROBIN #3 – I sure am enjoying this book; it’s just pure, pop superhero fun. Morrison doesn’t seem to be worrying about metatext or overarching plots or storylines, and is just telling good Batman stories. Meanwhile, Frank Quitely (whose work I don’t tend to care for) is turning in some excellent artwork. I don’t know how long it will last, but like with all quality pop, I’m just enjoying it while it’s here.
  • FLASH REBIRTH #4 (OF 6) – Still solid work from Johns and van Sciver. Strangely, I don’t have much to say about this one. I didn’t miss Barry Allen in the same way I missed Hal Jordan.  I just don’t find his character that interesting, honestly. I’m hoping this mini will change things, but I also have some concerns about there being way too many Flashes in the DCU these days.
  • GREEN LANTERN #45 – This may be where I get most of my Blackest Night reading done. I’ve really been enjoying GL over the past year or two. The multiple Corps seems like an inspired idea, I just hope DC keeps using writers of Johns’ caliber when they inevitably keep stories of the Seven Corps going after Blackest Night wraps up.
  • BONEYARD #28 (OF 28) – Boneyard #27 came out in April 2008, so I’ve been looking forward to this book for quite some time. I wasn’t expecting it to be the last issue, though. This is a shame, since Boneyard (when it came out) was a consistently well-told and funny story and I hope we see it again sometime. I highly recommend the trades for anyone interested in reading about a guy who inherits an inhabited graveyard.
  • MUPPET SHOW TREASURE OF PEG LEG WILSON #2 (OF 4) – There’s something strange going on in the Muppet Theater. Everyone notices that Animal is wearing a suit and can’t play the drums any more, but nobody has commented on Kermit’s change in appearance and attitude yet. Things are just…askew.  And I can’t wait to find out why. Add in an overarching plot of hidden treasure bookending the sketches and acts that made the first miniseries so great, and this book is one I’m REALLY looking forward to. Oh, and check out Roger Langridge’s site.  He’s cool.

Game Tape

Wednesday has come and gone. The heroes have fought their battles and villains have hinted at things to come. Now it’s time to review the game tape.

I got BLACKEST NIGHT: SUPERMAN #1 this week because a. I’m a sucker for James Robinson, b. I enjoy the Old Testament feel of E2 Superman. The guy kicks your ass and doesn’t whine about it or feel guilt because, goddammit, he KNOWS he’s right…I’m looking at you Kal – El. Unfortunately, as Johns promised at Comic Con, this is about the living. And every dead person has to be a total douche bag. So there are some nice action bits and some nice appearances both on Earth and New Krypton, but there are some notable missing dead that one might expect to see at some point. You want to screw with sissy-Superman’s head? You bring back his parents who sacrificed their LIVES. C’mon Robinson, even for a zombie story this seems like a no-brainer.

I used to really like INVINCIBLE. It was what the best early Spider-Man stories were about: a guy struggling to grow up and balance all aspects of life. Lately though…not so much. There’s a ton of blood, many holes in torsos and faces getting smashed. You might think Kirkman has stock in a red ink factory. Half of some full page spreads are blood splatter. This is the first issue in a loooong while where Invincible wasn’t getting the crap stomped out of him. Instead he’s laid-up from last month’s ass kicking. I’m feeling the call to drop this one.

GI JOE: ORIGINS #6 gives us a bit of background on IDW’s take that Scarlett isn’t so rocksteady and reliable as previous incarnations. Not bad. Not earthshattering.

TRANSFORMERS: ALL HAIL MEGATRON #14 Anybody miss Scourge, Cyclonus, or Galvatron? Dig this book. IDW’s doing good TF stories that make sense as a whole. Unfortunately for those who might be joining it late, it’s bogged down in its own continuity worse than any Marvel book.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #36 continues to be an adequate place holder until we get the team we deserve (whether that’s in the book or on the book is a matter of perspective). It’s really nice finally to get a raison d’etre for the Royal Flush Gang. Could hardly care less about the League right now, but damn if Wein’s Amos Fortune isn’t interesting.

Speaking of lower tier villains being interesting, kudos to Van Lente for making ASM #603’s Chameleon a more dynamic character. This one’s told from his P.o.V. It’s a look into his work and thought processes.

I also got ZORRO #15, but I’m a couple of issues behind on that one. Still, Wagner’s tale has been good…if slow.

This Week’s Comics

Diamond Releases for 8/19/09

Well, I’m apparently not going to be picking up Blackest Night…I’ve really been looking forward to it and the first issue was a solid read, but with a $4 price point and no extra pages (previews still don’t count, DC!), it looks like if I want to read it I’m stuck rummaging through back issue bins in a couple months.  And trying to avoid spoilers on teh intarwebs.  Here’s what I AM getting this week:

  • BLACKEST NIGHT SUPERMAN #1 (OF 3) – This is more of a “might get,” depending on how good or bad it (and the rest of this week’s books) are. I feel like I need some sort of Blackest Night storyline, especially since Superman is still alive and I’m not picking up Blackest Night.  Still haven’t made it through BN Batman #1, yet…
  • EX MACHINA #44 – At this point, you’re either picking up and digging Ex Machina or have long since given it up. With 5 issues left (at least if Brian K. Vaughn is still planning on wrapping up with #48, it’s been some time since I’ve heard anything) you know what you’re getting: The West Wing with enough sci-fi to keep things interesting. Still, while the arcs have been good and the ideas have been interesting, I’ve been wondering what the point has been with the whole series. Especially with a set ending, what’s the raison d’etre for Ex Machina? I have to admit I’m not sure. Perhaps after re-reading them all at once I’ll have a better idea.
  • AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #603 – We’re still getting solid Spider-Man stories for $3 a week and that’s always a plus. I confess I’ve been reading it only sporadically since Brand New Day began, picking up a bunch of issues at the beginning in dollar boxes and finding that they were pretty dull. I never found the new cast, red herrings, and new villains as interesting as I was supposed to. I also picked up New Ways to Die, but with only one creative team I was getting a known quantity. At this point we’ve gotten “re-establishing the new status quo” out of the way and with the re-introduction of MJ and The Gauntlet looming around the corner, things are picking back up.
  • DAREDEVIL #500 – Again, I’m a sucker for anniversary issues, and ever since DD relaunched with Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada it’s been worth checking in on from time to time. I find the timing of all these anniversary issues curious, though. I think the numbering is being rigged, especially with Incredible Hulk #600. Archie #600 is an anniversary best left to better men than I, though…

What are YOU getting this week?