There are few things that could be more dangerous to my bank account or credit card limit than Vintage Stock deciding that the month’s buy-one-get-one back issue theme/franchise is the X-Men. And yet, because for some reason the Vintage Stock staff (at both Joplin locations, in fact) aren’t checked out on how exactly the buy-one-get-one discount gets rung up I finished my run having spent just a smidge over fifty-three bucks between the two locations despite the utterly mad pile of comics I’m about to describe to you. Here’s hoping there isn’t any kind of audit that gets someone written-up or fired; I told the nice girl at the counter at the Rangeline location that the total she gave me seemed awfully low, but she didn’t seem too bothered. Oh well, I tried!
All-New X-Men (2012) 12, 18-19, 21, 29, Annual 1, 37 – I think I have a harder time dealing with the fact that the Brian Michael Bendis-written era of X-Men was a decade ago than I do the fact that Morrison’s New X-Men was two decades ago. Didn’t buy either of his series at the time (with, I think, the exception of Uncanny X-Men #600), but I did buy the nice slim hardcovers of Bendis and Bachalo (among other artists)’s Uncanny not terribly long after that run ended. Most of these issues of All-New X-Men have art either by the always-great Stuart Immonen OR by Brandon Peterson, who drew some of the earliest issues of Uncanny I bought way back in the ’90s — he drew the first chapter of X-Cutioner’s Song, the one where “Cable,” wielding one of his trademark ridiculous ’90s guns, is looming over a fallen Charles Xavier; these comics are just over twenty-one years later.
For those not familiar with this title, it’s the one that follows the original five X-Men, plucked from their Stan Lee & Jack Kirby suits-and-sweaters days into the then-present courtesy of Beast, who had decided that Scott Summers had gone too far and I guess wanted to somehow change history by shocking his younger self into a different course of action, or shock present-day Scott by confronting him with his younger self? It was a bad plan either way, and it’s also hilarious to think about when you consider who Dr. Hank McCoy is these days that at this point he’d thought Cyclops was the one tipping over the line into super-villainy. This plot would only be resolved about, oh, a year before Hickman would relaunch the books into the current Krakoa era, if I remember right? The original five would stick around through the end of this, a relaunch of this title under the same title written by Dennis Hopeless with art by Mark Bagley, and then another reboot of the tile under the new moniker of X-Men Blue. I think I now have most of this title in single-issues, but gaps remain.
Avengers (1998) 21, 25 – Two issues of Kurt Busiek & George Perez’s legendary “Heroes Return” run on Avengers that I didn’t have — even with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes all being household names in the 2020s, Avengers is still a book that I’ve never been able to get into. Everything before this era either feels too stodgy and old-fashioned for me or is just a bit of a mess, and everything after Busiek leaves the book is stuff I had every opportunity to buy at the time and I just didn’t care (I read my pal Levi’s copies of some of those early Bendis issues — they were uniformly awful, with miserable pacing and abysmal characterization, and the popularity of the book during that, what, decade or so? remains utterly perplexing to me). This run hits a sweet spot, with Busiek being a giant nerd for the team, executing what feels to me like what a premier superhero team comic should feel like but with a still-modern flavor, accompanied by one of the greatest to ever draw the Marvel & DC superheroes illustrating the ever-loving hell out of it; there’s now only seven issues prior to Perez’s exit I’m missing, and one of them he didn’t draw. Fingers crossed none of the prices of the ones I’m missing spike — at least until I’m done with the run!
Batman (1940) 580 – Always liked the cover layout for the turn-of-the-century Bat-books, with the little Batman mask icon and the stylish magazine-style block formatting with the title, issue number, DC bullet logo and all that. All the Bat-books I grabbed this week were two bucks a pop, and none of them less than twenty years old; all the rest below are from the ’90s, but ah! here’s one of the original issues where legendary G.I. Joe and Wolverine scribe Larry Hama, with the always energetically wonky-looking Scott McDaniel (whose mid-’90s Daredevil run I’m in the middle of reading right now) on art, pits Batman against the sensational character find of the Year 2000, Orca the Whale Woman; this is the character’s second appearance. Grabbed for the value of, “c’mon, how bad could this be?” as I’ve never heard Hama’s Batman spoken of in high regard.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight (1989) 8, 10, 33 – So, now I have all the odd-numbered chapters of Morrison & Janson’s “Gothic,” followed by the middle chapter of James Robinson & the late, great Tim Sale’s “Blades.” Dunno what the reputation is on the latter, but if nothing else it’ll be very pretty.
Batman: Shadow of the Bat (1992) 16, 23, 30 – Three Alan Grant/Bret Blevins issues of the fourth-ever ongoing Bat-title during the whole Jean-Paul Valley-as-Batman thing. He’s not in the armored suit during the first one — it’s still being sold as a Knightfall tie-in — and the second is part of the “Bruce on the road to recovery” story, while the third and final issue I snagged is a chapter of KnightsEnd with a badass Brian Stelfreeze painted cover featuring the Bat-armor looming large in the foreground. All cool stuff!
Cable (1993) 41-42 – Todd Dezago writing a couple of 1997 issues of Cable, one with iffy guest art by Steve Crespo (literally his only Marvel credit) and the latter debuting Randy Green as the title’s regular artist, who sticks around for about six months thru Dezago’s handoff to James Robinson. A hole in the collection I probably wouldn’t have bothered filling but for the X-sale.
Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty (2022) 10 – New Cap issue! Newly movie-famous villain on the cover! I really have to get caught up reading the two Cap books.
Catwoman (2018) 52 – Speaking of things I need to get to reading, I think I literally just read the first issue of Tini Howard’s run a couple of weeks ago; she’s now been on the book for about a year. So much to read, so little time …
Detective Comics (1937) 668 – Another Jean-Paul-as-Batman issue, with Kelly Jones homaging his then-just-a-few-months-old “Bane threatening a beaten Batman while holding him by the cape” cover, except with armored Bats threatening poor Robin, who he has made explicitly clear is no longer welcome in the Batcave.
Justice League International (1987) Annual 3 – I think this is literally the only Giffen-DeMatteis Justice League comic I was missing, at least from the main book; there’s at least an issue of Europe from the “Bwah ha ha!” days I’m short. But an astonishing find, which was just sitting in the front of one of the Rangeline store’s longboxes, front-and-center as though engineered to catch my eye — “Hang on, I don’t recognize that cover!” Mike McKone draws the main strip here, and it’s not as polished as his later work, but it does the job; he sorta remained in the orbit of Justice League for a couple of years, doing a handful of issues of the main book as well as these annuals and the Justice League Quarterly spin-off. Tim Gula does wonky-looking work in the second feature, a Batman-Martian Manhunter team-up; Gula’s art here is sometimes cool and stylized and sometimes looks like it belongs in a black & white parody title from 1983 from a publisher you’ve never heard of that you’d find in a dollar bin.
Uncanny X-Force (2010) 12, 14-16, 27-28, 30-31, 33 – One of those titles I used to have a fair chunk of, then I got the entire run in those slim li’l hardcovers Marvel was first collecting everything in for a while and parted with all the single issues, and now I’m boomeranging back to re-collecting all the singles. Mark Brooks draws the first of these, Jerome Opeña draws a few, and Phil Noto draws another few; there’s a couple other artists in here I’m not familiar with. In any case, patchy collection at the moment, and I don’t think I’ve ever read the last year of this book — I think by the time I got my hands on the hardcovers of “The Final Execution,” which runs from issue 27 to the end, Rick Remender was writing Uncanny Avengers, which early on featured the clod-thumpingly tone-deaf Havok “the ‘m-word’ is divisive, just call me Alex” speech, criticisms of which led Remender to say some, let’s say, unkind things to the more vocal members of the readership, and so I didn’t feel like putting any more of that dude’s words into my brain, especially when I knew some loose ends from this title would be left dangling in the latter series that I now had absolutely had no intention of ever reading. That said, as it’s been something like a decade since that all went down, I figure at some point I’ll get around to finishing reading this title sooner or later, so into the pile these went.
X-Factor (1986) 140, 147 – Ew, late period X-Factor. Yeah, these aren’t books I buy unless I can get ’em dirt-cheap; the era with Mystique, Forge, and Shard is not one I’m terribly interested in, but these were just a couple of bucks each, and of course, that means one was free. Duncan Rouleau draws one of them, and his work’s always neat-looking, and the other seems to have Shard in the spotlight — a character I swear I’ve never read any book featuring — so I thought I’d give that a look. Goodness, I’d forgotten this series ends at issue 149 (meaning that second one’s a really late issue) after which it turns into the alt-universe nonsense title Mutant-X …
X-Factor Forever (2010) 3 – Dan Panosian draws Louise Simonson’s “what if Bob Harras hadn’t pulled the book out from under me” mini-series, which seems odd now when you consider her husband/original series artist Walt drew the X-Factor/New Mutants revisitation issues of X-Men Legends she wrote over the last couple of years. But Panosian’s work strikes a similar stylized note and is pretty as hell, so it works. I do need to hunt the rest of this mini down now, preferably before the memories of how Simonson’s run on X-Factor went completely fade.
X-Force (1991) Annual 2, 102-104 – That annual is the one Fabian Nicieza and (ugh) Tony Daniel issue I didn’t have and also explains why the hell it seemed like Adam-X The X-Treme, who debuts here complete with a trading card, seemed to come out of nowhere when I was originally reading the X-books in the early ’90. The three post-100 issues are part of the Warren Ellis “Counter X” relaunch that hit this title, X-Man, and Generation X, and I wouldn’t have snapped these up except for, again, the buy-one-get-one sale and the promise of some pretty, pretty Whilce Portacio art.
X-Men (1991) 7, 75, 94, 97, 103, 272 – I think my copy of issue 7, part of Jim Lee’s original Omega Red story, is in some kinda jacked up shape, so I made sure to snap up this new copy when I saw it. (I’m going to feel really silly if I find out it was another part of that story that was slightly thrashed, but I’m pretty sure it was this one.) Issue 75 is one I missed reading in my late 2022 read-thru of this period of X-Men; Joe Kelly is writing, German Garcia is providing solid art, and Wolverine thinks Maggott’s little friends that form his digestive system are killing folks. Issues 94 & 97 are written and drawn by my one true fave Alan Davis, so heaven only knows why I didn’t have these snapped up before now; the latter is the climax of The Twelve, the giant Apocalypse story built on the bones of hints and clues Claremont had been making in X-Men at least a decade earlier and marks the end of the Jim Lee-designed costume Scott had been rocking since 1991. And speaking of Claremont, 103 is part of his much ballyhooed yet totally DOA return to the X-books, the short-lived “Revolution” era (which the Counter-X books I mentioned above were also part of). Finally, by the time issue 272 arrives the book has been retitled X-Men Legacy and it’s a Rogue-starring vehicle that’s on its second writer, Christos Gage; I’ve been eagerly snapping up all the Mike Carey issues of the title under the Legacy moniker, but I hadn’t given Gage’s run much attention ’til recently. He’s one of those guys I always think of as “solid, reliable, unremarkable,” but I do remember really digging that WildC.A.T.s run he did in the late ’00s.
X-Men 2099 (1993) 1-3 – Where did my original copy of the first issue of John Francis Moore and Ron Lim’s future-set mutant title wander off to? Couldn’t tell ya, so into the pile it went; with a rejiggered version of its original cast running around in Marauders recently, I figured it was time to bone up on some old future history, overwritten-though-it-may-be, especially with this solid of a writer-artist combo crafting it.
X-Men: Black Sun (2000) 2, 4-5 – A Revolution-era Claremont-directed Limbo story ostensibly celebrating a quarter-century since Giant-Size X-Men #1. These were all the issues they had at Vintage Stock, so, eh, 3/5 of the way there — I’m sure I can find the other two before I get to where this goes in the reading order, though if not, I’m not sure how much I’ll be missing since this seems to be all about setting up Amanda Sefton as the new Soulsword-wielding hero operating under the codename Magik, which I don’t think really went anywhere.
X-Men: Endangered Species (2007) – This one-shot served as the prologue to a backup strip featuring Beast trying to work out how to reverse the effects of the Scarlet Witch’s stupid “no more mutants” spell at the end of House of M that screwed up the X-Men family of titles for entirely too long; with Mike Carey scripting, I figured it’s basically just another issue of his X-Men, so again, onto the pile it goes.
X-Men: Hope (2010) – Meanwhile, this one-shot, scripted by Duane Swierczynski, looks for all the world like it’s probably “just” another issue of his run on Cable — except with, somehow, Steve Dillon on art, which is a hell of a thing. Not something to pass up, no.
X-Men Legacy (2012) 2-12 – Most of the first year of Si Spurrier’s incarnation of this title, focusing on Legion, which feels like it’s very relevant since the same writer is continuing to weave his story in Legion of X right now. Tan Eng Huat draws most of these, and I remember loving the hell out of his work on John Arcudi’s Doom Patrol when I fished those out of a back issue bin years & years ago.
X-Men: Schism (2011) 1-3 – I remember hearing that this is really stupid, but again, there’s a sale going on, Jason Aaron is a generally reliable writer, and the first issue is drawn by the much-missed Carlos Pacheco. Fine, I’ll finally sit down and read it for myself.
X-Men: The Search for Cyclops (2000) 1-2 – “Quick, we need to get Cyclops back from the dead in time for the next relaunch, grab a few solid creators who aren’t doing anything, give ’em a remit, and let’s get a four-issue mini out pronto!” What’s really sad is that this appears to mark the beginning of nobody remembering how to draw the Jim Lee Cyclops costume, something that I’d notice all over the place — mostly in art across licensed goods — thru the 2000s. How you screw that up while getting Nate Grey’s costume from “The Twelve” crossover, which he was no longer wearing by the time this issue came out, right is a mystery.
X-Men Unlimited (1993) 44 – I had a bad feeling I knew why I didn’t own this comic anymore, but it was two dollars and could easily count as the “get-one” in one of the buy-one-get-one transactions, so I took leap and fell flat on my face: yes, this is basically another issue of Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men, a run I only kept one arc of, and that was in a trade paperback I got cheap — the handful of issues drawn by manga artist Kia Asamiya, who you might remember from such works as Silent Möbius, Dark Angel, or the Nadesico manga adaptation, which were all still in print around this time. This issue is a heavy-handed polemic about the horrors of animal cruelty where everyone is written as a shrieking lunatic, which is fine if you’re Austen’s own character Sammy The Fish Kid, but less so when you’re Jean “I am fire incarnate” Grey; of course, folks have gone on at length about the horrors of Austen’s writing of women in his comics: half saints, half whores, all hysterical. And the only way anyone can get a goddamn shred of empathy here is for a telepath to shove it down their throat, so to speak — but then again, here in 2023, that may be the most realistic notion in the comic.
ALSO GOT THIS PAST WEEKEND: There’s still a lot of Transformers from the past year I haven’t seen in a store, but somehow Target had one of the latest Voyager-class Legacy figures in stock, the former Japan-exclusive, former Pretender Metalhawk, in all of his slightly gaudy red, blue, and gold glory. The mismatched colors of his plane mode make him look like a knock-off, but it’s fun to finally have a copy of the commander from the early part of Transformers: Masterforce in the ol’ collection. Also scored the Studio Series ’86 teeny-tiny tape dude Rumble, who looks great armed with his pile-drivers, though it stinks that they’re each all one-piece and hollow — I know they’re trying to keep costs down, but extendable pile drivers would have made this li’l guy sing. And finally, on the way out of town I picked up another McFarlane Super Powers figure, Wonder Woman, since the character was a part of the ol’ collection back in the day (ostensibly my sister’s, as I recall).
OH, and we also spotted that someone had put the new Dragon Ball feature film Super Hero out early at the Rangeline Walmart, so David and I each snapped up a copy of that — loved seeing that in theaters, and I’ll be thrilled to revisit it sometime soon. Funny, just a few short years ago the Walmart POS system would’ve had the street date programmed in and wouldn’t have allowed us to buy it, but I guess that’s a thing of the past. Not complaining about it, mind you.