Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Vampire Venn Diagrams

As a self-professed Buffy addict and reluctant reader of Twilight, it was only a matter of time before I gave in to the multiple recommendation of trusted friends to watch CW's hit series The Vampire Diaries. Thanks to Netflix watch instantly, I've quickly made my way through the first two seasons and I'm enjoying the guilty-pleasure indulgence. I am hooked by the story of feuding Salvatore brothers Damon and Stefan as they vie for the affections of human teenager Elena. There are also witches, wolves, and evil doppelgangers to keep things interesting. My initial assumption about the series was that it was for pre-teens too young to watch True Blood and needing something to follow-up their Twilight binge, but I now appreciate the show for what it is: a love letter to the teen horror romance genre. The writers of the series have seen what was done before and have upped the teen high school dramatics to the max. One may mistake the obvious influences as proof of lacking originality, but I suspect the similarities are not beyond the show's creators. It is more likely that they are fully aware of the borrowing and use it as a way to hold a mirror up to the genre's more ridiculous (and frequent) aspects. The original Vampire Diaries books were written by L. J. Smith in the early 90's, and though much has been changed for the television adaptation, the main concept is still pre-Buffy, pre-Bella, and pre-Sookie. That makes this teen protagonist vampire story ahead of its time. Since good artists borrow and great artists steal, here is a quick guide to all of the best overlaps from TV's hottest teen-vampire-romance-high-school-drama-horror-fantasy series.

Love Triangles

We'll start with the most obvious thing that Buffy, Bella, and Elena share: complicated relationships. Each story has a love triangle that features one human girl caught between two supernatural suitors, usually against her own common sense. Each possess a dangerous element, whether it's Buffy's Angel who could turn into evil Angelus, Twilight's Edward finding Bella both attractive and appetizing, or Stefan who has an unstable ex-girlfriend and equally unstable brother Damon. None of these relationships scream "healthy" but the alternatives usually aren't much better. Former companion to Angel's evil Angelus, the vampire Spike is literally soulless. Vampire Diaries' Damon is manipulative and quick to murder. Bella's Jacob may be the only sane alternative, and considering he is a werewolf he still doesn't fall in the realm of "normal". One thing is for sure, no ordinary human is much competition for the affections of the women in these vampire franchises.

Broody Beaus

The furrowed brow. The piercing eyes. The hair. These guys have a lot more in common than a weakness for underage girls. Each one carries around the same amount of guilt for being a vampire, and this quality seems to make them irresistible. Did I mention each has had 100 years to brood? They have been miserable for most of that time until meeting their mortal mates. They also pull the same "I am too dangerous, I must leave" routine at one point (or more). Dangerous and controlling? Winning combo! Though she later forgives him, at least Buffy sends Angel to hell for his lapse of morality.

Bad Boys and The Women Who Love Them

Damon and Spike. So many similarities. Both are ruthless killers, quick tempered, and each has an insatiable thirst for human blood. So why are they so damn attractive? These boys are damaged goods, but they are convincing at hiding what lies beneath the surface. The heartbreak they felt as humans  manifests in their sadistic behavior as vampires, their rage inspired by their loss of love. Rather than self loathe, they self medicate. This makes it all the more moving when they attempt to change their ways for the love of a human. But 100 years of murderous habits don't go away over night, ladies.

Mystical Small Towns & Their Unwitting Inhabitants

Where there are vamps, crazy stuff goes down. The local communities seem none the wiser in Mystic Falls (Vampire Diaries), Sunnydale (Buffy), and Forks (Twilight), though each town has a long history with the supernatural beings that frequent their villages. Animal attacks are popular explanations in all three series. Angel, the Buffy spin-off, is the only series that keeps it real in Los Angeles where crazy stuff goes down and no one notices because "Hollywood!"

Veggie Vampires

Every girl that dates a vampire has to tell themselves the same lie: He's different cause he only eats animals! And each one of these vamps falls off the wagon at some point. This adds to the appeal of the "bad boy" character. Spike and Stefan are inspired by their love to fight their murderous nature; Angel and Edward were already yearning to retain their humanity before falling for a human.

Yes, Sire!

Behind every brooding, reluctant vampire, there is usually a sexy, manipulative vampire that sired them. Darla (of Buffy) and Catherine (of Vampire Diaries) each created their vampire companions out of a twisted sense of love, but mostly because these guys were hot and could prove useful. Being a vampire also allowed these women to amass great power when the era of their births (the 15th / 16th centuries) would have denied them opportunities as humans. These vindictive creatures come to discover that their self-serving habits don't prove effective in protecting them from feelings of abandonment when their creations eventually spurn their love.

Witchy Best Friends

Bff's that can hold their own in a fight with vampires? Kind of handy to have around. Buffy's trusted friend Willow is loyal no matter what, even when Buffy makes questionable decisions. Bonnie on the other hand has a much harder time accepting Elena's choice of companions, and for good reason. Her family history keeps her from ever fully trusting the vampires and this makes her a valuable person in Elena's life. It would be nice to see her struggle with the responsibility of her Wiccan gifts as Willow does in season 6 of Buffy.

Vamps vs. Wolves

Image courtesy of Draw For Me
by Jeremy Kron
The vampire / werewolf rivalry is not a new concept to the horror genre, but it is one that is reinforced by these three series. Both Twilight and The Vampire Diaries make these creatures natural enemies that are deadly to one another while Buffy portrays werewolves as cursed humans rather than soulless demons. Since the Buffyverse is inhabited by many more demonic creatures, there is a a much greater spectrum of moral ambiguity amongst them (especially in the Angel series).

Strong Female Leads That Aren't Entirely Defined By Their Relationship

Whoops. Guess Buffy kind of has a monopoly on that one! I felt the need to point this out since this is one area where Twilight and The Vampire Diaries fall short. Buffy isn't even the only strong woman in the series either. Willow, Faith, Cordelia, and Anya each have distinct character arcs that do not begin and end with "meets boy, falls in love." Though Bella and Elena do exhibit admirable qualities, they play the damsel in distress a little too often, nor do they make great role models for how a teenage girl should organize her priorities (aka dangerous vampire boyfriend above all else). I'm hoping The Vampire Diaries will surprise me, but that will only happen when I ask more questions of Elena besides "Which vampire will she choose?" Buffy may have super slayer abilities, but she's the only female lead that makes being a human girl look bad-ass.

Not every Buffy fan will love Vampire Diaries, nor will every Twi-hard be bowled over by the Whedonverse. But I do believe that these series share enough similarities to check them out if you are a devoted fan of one (or possibly two). Buffy fans will love the over the top relationship drama of The Vampire Diaries, and if you are team Spike, you'll love Stefan. Twilight fans will enjoy Buffy for the element of forbidden love, and they may be pleasantly surprised by how much a strong female lead can add to the story. And lastly, if you are a fan of The Vampire Diaries, consider this series a gateway to a whole world of horror / fantasy genre television shows, books, and comics. Vampires are just the start as you may find yourself watching Dr. Who and reading Sandman sooner than you think.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Under The Radar: 2011's Best Geek Gifts

So you know your girlfriend / best friend / co-worker reads comics and enjoys various nerd cultural phenomena, but you have no idea what to get them. Sound familiar? It's tough. These are the people that are most likely to buy themselves that highly sought after collectible. They know what they want, and that makes your job as gift giver a tough one. No fear! Here are some suggestions that will have your loved one feeling thankful and hopefully surprised. Enjoy more gift ideas after the jump!

The box says it all: "A Taste of TNG in High Definition." This is a perfect gift for several reasons. It will not be released until January, so you know they won't have it, and it's something that not every Trekkie will get for themselves, but they will enjoy nonetheless. This sampler collection contains three classic episodes of Next Gen, the first to be re-mastered for blu-ray. Paramount will surely release a complete series of TNG on blu-ray in the future, but it will probably be astronomically expensive at first. Until then, this is the perfect gift to make that wait a little easier. Since this gift won't arrive before Christmas, here are some suitable alternatives / additional items:

You may be familiar with Brandon Bird's work and not even know it. Several of his pieces are "internet famous", and all of them are wonderful works of art that will make unique gifts. Bird's work spans a wide range of subjects from his recent Jurassic Park piece to Law & Order: SVU portraits. These go beyond fan art as each print is memorable, humorous, and eye catching. Give your friend a print of "Nobody wants to play Sega with Harrison Ford" and it will sure to be a conversation starter. There is plenty more to buy on his site as well, with some of his pieces available as t-shirts, lunchboxes, sticker adventure sets, and coloring books, too.


Etsy users are kind of a geeky crowd. There's even a section called "geekery". Just searching for Doctor Who items resulted in 3,098 returns. There is a good chance your loved one doesn't have these item (they aren't mass produced) and with so many options, you're bound to find the perfect gift. Here are a few favorites:

And though this is not from Etsy, it is my all time favorite fan made Doctor Who t-shirt design from Threadless:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Marvel Cancellations: Smart Business or Proof of Insanity?

It has been widely speculated how Marvel would respond to DC's New 52, especially with DC dominating media attention and market share in the last three months. Would they do a "revamp" of their line as well? Would they try to use their new parent company to gain a wider audience? Would they keep calm and carry on? We may now have our answer with recent announcements that Marvel is canceling several of their lowest selling series, yet offering just as many issues as last year.  Instead of offering a wider variety of titles to appeal to more readers, Marvel's (continued) strategy will focus on "double shipping" their flagship character titles each month, forcing loyal customers to spend more and make up for Marvel's loss in short term sales.

As of late, I've found it hard to find the time to write about comics. I have been reading plenty, but few subjects seemed pressing enough to motivate me to make the time to voice my opinion. The month of October I failed to make Halloween costume suggestions or spooky reading recommendations, and come November, my lack of writing had become habit. It's unfortunate, but this recent change was the motivation I needed to get back on schedule and talk comics. I just wish it was something fantastically positive rather than a shitty marketing change that has me talking.

The (un)official announcements were made several weeks ago, but now with February's solicitations set, it is confirmed that X-23, Ghost Rider, Daken: Dark Wolverine and Black Panther: The Man Without Fear have all been canceled. PunisherMAX will also be "ending" as opposed to getting canceled. Marvel has no official press release regarding these cancellations and most fans found out following sad tweets from the book's creators. I'm assuming Marvel failed to bring attention to these cancellations  because the headline would read something like this:

"Marvel to Cancel Female / Black / Bisexual Superhero Titles"

That's one way to read the news, right? X-23 and Ghost Rider are the only current ongoing female headlined superhero titles. Daken is the only headlining character that could be described as "not entirely straight", and Black Panther certainly isn't the only black character, but he's only one of two with his own title (Miles Morales has very recently joined those ranks). So for those keeping score, of Marvel's solo superhero titles to be released after the cancellation of these titles:

18 = White Male Dudes
0 = Women
1 = Minority
(and even that title, Ultimate Spider-Man, won't see a release in the month of February)

Marvel does have three titles headlined by female characters, but none of them are in the capes crowd with Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Anita Blake: Circus of the Damned - The Scoundrel, and Northanger Abbey. I guess Marvel does have a place for female characters, and that's in the adaptations of other works. The majority of Marvel's titles are team books / minis (they add up to around 20 releases for February), and female and minority characters do show up in these, but with the almost always guaranteed white straight male majority.

Two observations here: one, this doesn't reflect the real world. Two, this doesn't even reflect the readership. Instead of doing something risky like, I don't know, investing advertising and making it a priority to increase readership for these lesser-read titles, Marvel has made it clear that they are abandoning the readers on their fringe. The ones that look at the shelves in the comic book store and don't see themselves reflected on the covers of these books. The sales don't lie, they should cater to the loyal throngs of readers picking up three different ongoing Captain America titles, right? If short term sales are their only goal then yes, Marvel is doing exactly what they should. Trimming the fat and making a leaner line of books that produce more of "what sells" would seem smart, only they don't have anything to gain. This is all about maintaining the status quo, not expanding readership. Much of what I am saying could also refer to the "New 52" as DC has not shied away from stating that males age 12-30 are their target audience (not sure who else would buy Catwoman these days), but hey at least they have something to offer me as a reader with Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and Batwoman. I happen to like male superheroes, too, but the comic book market is not in short order of readers like me. I already buy what they are making. If Marvel and DC have any hopes for the long term health of the market, they have to start making comics that appeal to the people that aren't buying their books already instead of trying to get their current readers to buy more, or bringing in "lapsed" readers.  Creating books featuring more females, minorities, and just plain different characters is a start. Until then, Marvel is just reinforcing the view that heroes may come in all shapes, sizes, colors, or creeds, but they are only interested in telling the stories of one kind of hero.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Odyssey X, Week 10: Uncanny X-Force #15 , X-Men Legacy #255

(For those joining late, please see the introductory post on Odyssey X, where I explain my attempt to read every X-Men title during X-Men: Schism)

Uncanny X-Force #15
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Jerome Opena
Cover Price: $3.99

Uncanny X-Force isn't just the best X-Men titles being released; it's probably one of the best Marvel books period. Remender continues to push the boundaries of the X-Men line by infusing more than a few genres into this super-hero title. At the end of the last issue, Psyloche chose to stay behind in an attempt to save Warren, while her teammates fled from their losing battle to regroup. The Life Seed is being used to alter time itself by creating a new evolutionary path for Earth, one where life's mutation never reached the plateau of mankind. The dreamlike sequences of Archangel and his followers witnessing time and evolution re-form makes one hell of a subject for Opena to draw, and he more than meets the challenge. X-Force feels the least like an x-book, and considering the rest of the crop, that is a very good thing. One minute the book is action, suspense, and quick quips, the next it is a fantasy tinged meander through time. All the while it is an immersion that is hard to escape. This is a read twice kind of book, just so you can take in all of the details and enjoy it once more.

Verdict: Remender and Opena are killing it on this book, and making everyone else look bad. Pick it up!

X-Men Legacy #255
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Steve Kurth
Cover Price: $3.99

X-Men Legacy isn't the worst x-book, but it may be the safest. Well established super hero titles like the X-Men always risk falling into patterns, and Carey certainly has a weakness for familiar storytelling. Rogue and company are still stuck on a doomed asteroid amidst warring alien races. If this book has a theme it must be "constant regrouping", as the conflict is always secondary to a drawn out game of "let's find so-and-so". The story culminates with a predictable battle between scorned daughter Lorna and absent father Magneto. This tedious turn of events has me asking, "Will we ever get off this rock?" Either way, whenever this story line ends, it will probably jump right into another non-stop thrillride. The problem is, it's not much of a thrill without a moment to breathe; constant motion in a story leads to an experience akin to literary motion sickness, but far less visceral. The visuals on this book don't help either as there are not one, or even two, but three inkers. That means the final product is the result of five different artists (penciler, three inkers, and one colorist) and one writer. Marvel continues to show their disregard for the "visual" half of the comic book medium, and this is one predictable misstep I am not comfortable seeing so often.

Week 10 Summary:
Potential Cost: $7.98
0 Books Purchased, 2 Books Shelved

A mercifully small week! Readers that actually pay to enjoy these books must have thanked their retailers for such a light X-Men week. The two titles that released were good examples of the best and worst of what the x-titles have to offer on the shelves. On one hand you have Uncanny X-Force pushing the boundaries of the line, incorporating different genres in the storytelling with engaging artwork as well. On the other hand, X-Men Legacy sticks to tired throw away storytelling. Remender shows you what these books and characters are capable of, then Carey pulls you right back down to the mediocre reality of the rest of the X-Men titles. It's a tough act to follow, but any current X-Men book compared to X-Force will certainly fall short.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Odyssey X, Week 9: X-23 #14, X-Men #17, X-Factor #224.1

(For those joining late, please see the introductory post on Odyssey X, where I explain my attempt to read every X-Men title during X-Men: Schism)

X-23 #14
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Phil Noto
Cover Price: $2.99

The Future Foundation are a greater focus than the usual cast of X-23, making Lara feel like a bit of a guest in her own series; still, it's a well written continuation of the "fish out of water" concept. Marjorie Liu effectively shows Lara's struggle to come to terms with her past by having her work with well adjusted super-heros and their precocious children. The recent earthquake in New York brought together X-23 and the FF and they quickly realized they had more in common than saving lives. While trying to pinpoint the source of the selective destruction, Valeria Richards solves the mystery but inadvertently causes Spidey, Sue, and Laura to be transported to another dimension. Their selection for this unexpected transportation has something to do with the three heroes being "hosts" for a galactic being. This story line doesn't particularly hold my interest; I enjoyed seeing Lara help people she doesn't understand or empathize with, and this space adventure feels like a detour from what has previously worked. It is a testament to Liu's writing and Noto's artwork that I still enjoyed this issue despite things taking a different direction than expected.

Verdict: X-23 continues to be an interesting character study, but I look forward to the book eventually returning to a more grounded setting. Also, (never thought I'd say this) more Gambit, please.

X-Men #17
Writer: Victor Gischler
Artist: Jorge Molina
Cover Price: $3.99

X-Men is the other title this week featuring the Future Foundation, and as previously stated, I can't understand why the editors found the need to release this at the same time as an X-23 storyline featuring the FF. They both prominently feature the guest stars on the covers with the regular characters as well (I would definitely put X-23 above X-Men as far as quality is concerned, both in cover and content). After experiencing equipment failure, the X-Men and FF still struggle to find a way home from this (not quite Savage Land) alternate dinosaur dimension. While Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men search for the the ex-girlfriend of Cyclops (who ends up looking a lot like a Sheena knockoff), Cyclops and Emma are captured by a local warlord that is in league with Dr. Doom. I don't consider this revelation a spoiler since Doom turning evil is about as predictable as Wolverine popping his claws at the slightest sign of danger. If anything, I'm sure this is a ruse on Doom's part to gain the enemies trust and save the day by the end of the story arc. Lucky for us readers, this issue also delivers more borderline-offensively-sexist versions of Emma Frost and Sue Richards. With additional gripes about ex-girlfriends, new complaints are made about the ravages of jungle atmosphere on a delicate lady's hairstyle. Gischler's characterization of Emma isn't the only thing lacking; Molina displays some truly baffling anatomy in this issue, including some impressive wonk-eye from Emma (note: facial expressions can change, but eye location should remain the same). I suspect Marvel is rushing their artists, and it shows.

Verdict: On top of being a very "by the numbers" story, this book is $3.99. Really? Pass.

X-Factor #224.1
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Valentine De Landro
Cover Price: $2.99

Throughout Odyssey X, I've read one other "Point One" issue, a gimmick Marvel is using to entice readers to a series by releasing "new reader friendly" issues. X-Men #15.1 was a dismal attempt at introducing an already mediocre book to new readers and I had expected this issue to be equally distracting. But with Peter David and X-Factor regular artist Valentine De Landro on board, #224.1 proves that when done well, this promotional tool can effectively show off a title's goods while still holding the interest of old and future fans. I was not impressed with the last story arc of X-Factor, one that focused on the birth of Rahne's supposedly evil offspring. David has wisely chosen to move quickly beyond that arc to the next case, the next mystery. Jumping right into the story, Jamie Madrox and Layla Miller pay a visit to Jamie's childhood home where he explains the inner workings of X-Factor to the single mother and young boy now living there. This framing device is perfect for introducing the characters to new readers while still offering plenty of comedic moments to keep regular readers interested. If hearing about the beloved characters of X-Factor doesn't hook new readers, seeing them in action will as they fight a demonically possessed pensioner in the nearby town. After assuming the day is saved, X-Factor return to New York unknowingly leaving the real villain behind. Since this is a series heavy on payoffs, I'm guessing the final reveal will lead to the next story arc, or another one down the road. Either way, I will still be reading this series! Hopefully De Landro stays on for art duties; Emanuela  Lupacchino has done a fine job as of late, but De Landro is a frequent artist of the series and I'm always glad to see him back.

Verdict: I was expecting a pointless issue from Point 1, but this book does the series justice!

Week 9 Summary:
Potential Cost: $9.97
1 Book Purchased, 2 Books Shelved

I'm getting closer and closer to finishing Odyssey X, and I find myself looking forward to the end with each passing week. You could even say I'm exhausted by the x-books. Or exasperated. Surprisingly, Emma and Cyclops only appear in one book this week. Following the end of Odyssey X, I will talk about the new books on post-Schism. For better or worse, it doesn't look like there will be less books on the shelves for readers.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Odyssey X, Week 8: Uncanny X-Force #14 and a Mid-Point Reflection

(For those joining late, please see the introductory post on Odyssey X, where I explain my attempt to read every X-Men title during X-Men: Schism. Or stay here and read my mid-point reflections on the project after my review of Uncanny X-Force!)

Uncanny X-Force #14
Rick Remender
Artist: Jerome Opena
Cover Price: $3.99

So much for a monthly schedule! (For those not keeping track, Uncanny X-Force just came out last week.) After nearly two months of Odyssey X, this is the only week thus far where only one x-title has been released, and it happens to be the best series of the entire line. Remender continues to weave an entertaining action heavy book while still keeping the focus on characterization. After returning from the AoA timeline one member short, the X-Force team find they have been deceived into helping the enemy they were seeking to destroy. As we learn more about the nefarious plans of Archangel, it is obvious that this incarnation of Apocalypse is very different from the foe of X-Men past. The last issue saw Mark Brooks  sharing the art responsibilities with Scot Eaton, and as suspected, this led to a change of artists for Uncanny X-Force. There are some truly striking panels, including one that may be an homage to the classic John Byrne cover for Uncanny X-Men #142 (they each feature a gnarly depiction of Wolverine being incinerated). As much as I love Opena's artwork, I am becoming more aware of the frequency with which Marvel switches artists on titles, often mid-story. Here's hoping the new guy sticks around long enough to finish a story arc.

Verdict: The best X-Men title being released, and one that I'd recommend to anyone looking for a good X-Men title.

Week 8 Summary
Potential Cost: $3.99
0 Books Purchased, 1 Book shelved

Since this is such an unusually small week for the x-books, this may be my only chance to reflect on the project thus far until X-Men Schism ends. I don't like to be "down" on books, but there are quite a few recurring issues that make me realize why I probably won't be a faithful x-reader after Schism.

Erratic Release Schedules

This week saw one X-Men title released. The previous week saw five. Some books come out monthly. Some books come out every other week. Whether they want their customers to buy one title or every title, the key is in consistency. There is no rhyme or reason to these release schedules, and I can't imagine how this must effect the books when there is an in-line crossover. Here's a breakdown of the very loose schedules:

Generation Hope: Monthly!
Uncanny X-Men: Monthly!
Astonishing X-Men: Monthly!
X-23: Monthly!
X-Men: Monthly!

New Mutants: Twice in One Month
X-men Schism: Twice in One Month
X-Factor: Twice in One Month

X-Men Legacy: Every other week for three issues, then a two week break.
Uncanny X-Force: No discernible schedule. Monthly one month, then released 3 times in 4 weeks. Retailers must LOVE ordering this title!

Roughly 5 out of 10 titles are on a regular monthly schedule. 3 are twice-monthly, while 2 are testing the patience of readers and retailers alike. Believe it or not there are readers that stop by a store once a month. So when a book comes out more or less than expected, issues get missed. Next time you stop by your local comic shop, look at the shelf for Uncanny X-Force. This is a series that has sold out consistently for many issues, now all of a sudden there are stacks. Why? Casual readers don't know it has come out yet. And when they do come in for their monthly visit, they're going to look for one issue, not three. Having a regular consistent monthly schedule also helps regular weekly readers, too. When you budget for 12 ongoing titles, and one of them comes out twice or three times in a month, that's a big difference in price. Most readers would rather have quality over quantity. Which makes me wonder.....

Editors, and do they have any?

Where is the ringleader for this show? Is it anyone's job to look at the scheduled releases and think "Maybe we should hold off on that 5th release?" On top of that, you have weeks where the content is very similar, making it even harder for readers to decide what to buy. Last week, not one but two X-Men books had the Future Foundation as guest stars, and they were on the covers of both issues. Perhaps a little foresight would have allowed these stories to be told at different times, or at least released in different weeks. Sure think the writers would appreciate this, sounds like the job for an editor! This is far from the only duplicate; like having a character "dying" in one issue, and appearing in a separate series the same week. If the X-books function as one organism, then the left hand doesn't know what they right hand is doing. I know Marvel frequently hosts retreats for writers to meet and discuss the plans for the overall universe, so why don't they do it for the x-books? Otherwise they will keep repeating the same mistakes. And speaking of multiplicity....

Overexposed characters

Reading comics is funny sometimes. You get used to ignoring things like "If Superman is in Justice League, how can he be in Metropolis in Action, on New Krypton in Superman, and Smallville as a guest on Superboy?" When you have a well loved character, it is not unusual to see them show up in multiple books each week. Emma Frost is not one of those characters. Neither are Cyclops, Gambit, Dani Moonstar, Magneto, Kittypryde, or Hope Summers. Each of these characters show up on multiple teams, meanwhile the entire X-Factor gang remains solidly within the confines of their title. Storm consistently remains writer's favorite background character (she is hardly well written in Astonishing, though she does at least have a few lines). Wolverine and Deadpool are the running jokes for overexposed characters in the Marvel U, but in terms of the x-books they aren't the only ones. Having consistent, unique teams will make these books more recognizable. Which leads us to....

Lack of a clear vision for each title

When you have a line of very similar books, it's tough to attract readers to any one title. If the description "Cyclops and his team of X-Men fight to save the world that hates them" fits more than one book, then you have a marketing problem on your hands. X-Factor, Uncanny X-Force, and X-23 are the only books with unique premises. The others have the potential to be unique, but their dopplegangers will need to be eliminated. Generation Hope and New Mutants are essentially the same title, but with different characters. X-Men and Uncanny X-Men both have Cyclops and company fighting very similar battles, often with the same characters.  X-Men Legacy is consistently referred to as "Rogue's book" - and that's not good considering it's supposed to be an ensemble. Astonishing has such an identity crisis, it switches between two creative teams / stories every other issue!  Does anyone else see a trend here? The books with the best quality are also the ones that are the most easily distinguishable. Uncanny X-Force = Black Ops. X-Factor = Mutant Gumshoes. X-23 = Recovering Hitman. Uncanny X-Men = Ummm, well, the girls consistently look the same? OH, the story is Cyclops and the X-Men fight stuff. Marvel is basically betting on readers shelling out money for multiple versions of the same product. Speaking of moneys....

Overall Cost (It's a lot!)

$95.73 for 8 weeks of comics OR $11.96 per week on average OR $47.86 per month

That is about half my comic book reading budget. And this doesn't even include the Wolverine and Deadpool titles! This line, as it stands, isn't worth half what it costs. And last but not least, one of the reasons none of these books are getting my money:

Frequent creative changes

This. REALLY bothers me. Of the 10 titles I have read over an 8 week period, only 3 of those books have retained the same creative teams. I haven't been a big Marvel reader in several years, but from what many self described Marvel Zombies tell me, this is becoming commonplace at the House of Ideas. I really want to go all angry-fangirl here for a second. Comics are a VISUAL MEDIUM. To change artists mid-story is possibly one of the most insulting things editorial can do to its regular readers. To not even allow for a story arc to finish is to imply that we won't notice! Do you ever hear fans say, "Man I really loved that Old Man Logan book. EXCEPT that issue that McNiven didn't draw." No, that would never happen. The book was terribly late for several issues, but it was worth the wait. Ask any retailer and they won't complain either. The book sold like gangbusters, even if you had to wait 2 or 3 months between issues. You can't create memorable stories if the artists keep changing (unless it is intentional - see the Alias story arc "The Secret Origins of Jessica Jones"). I would much rather wait for the current artist to finish the story than have someone else take over just to get the book to come out in two weeks. Writers are not immune to quick replacements either, but for a publisher that continues to promote the rock star status of their "architects" It might be worth reminding them that their stories only come to life with the other half of the creative team. They desperately need to restore the respect for artists and readers alike by giving them the proper time to finish telling those stories; if they want to release a twice-monthly title, bring someone in that can keep up that ungodly schedule. But don't bring in an artist that fans will come to know and love, then replace them on a whim. This is coming from a seasoned reader as well; new readers are far more fickle, and one of the biggest complaints you hear from someone that has never read a comic book is that "the inside doesn't look like the cover." It's hard enough to get them to accept this fact, then to turn around and expect them to get used to artist changes between issues is a hoop new readers are less likely to jump through.

Stepping down from my soap box, I will continue on with Odyssey X in hopes that some of these bad habits will change after Schism. If not I'll speak with my money and give it to publishers that release consistent, high quality comic books.

Odyssey X, Week 7: X-Men #16, Astonishing X-men #41, New Mutants #30, Uncanny X-Force #13, X-Men Legacy #254

(For those joining late, please see the introductory post on Odyssey X, where I explain my attempt to read every X-Men title during X-Men: Schism. Still a bit behind, but catching up!)

X-Men #16
Writer: Victor Gischler
Artist: Jorge Molina
Cover Price: $3.99

Dinosaurs, Doom, and Dimensions, oh my! This book is turning into "X-Men and the Marvel U Adventures"; without the occasional killing, this might make a decent kids title. This new story arc features the Future Foundation as the two teams, well, "team up" to rescue Cyclops' ex girlfriend who is stranded in a dinosaur infested dimension. The distress beacon leads to a big reveal that felt more like a big WTF for me (I had no clue who the character was, so he's probably a beloved Starjammer or AoA regular). Though he is far from being the only one to miss the mark in portraying Emma Frost (see X-Men: First Class), Gischler continuously writes Frost as borderline offensively shallow. I don't mean this in that the character is shallow (which she is) but that he uses tired cliches to substitute characterization. This issue spotlights a tacky "girls hate when guys talk about their exes" moment. We even get a "you go girl" moment with Sue. Molina's artwork is new to the title, and though he is no worse than the last, it is far from an improvement. Many characters appear to be anatomically challenged; Ben Grimm, Emma, and Sue are all portrayed differently between panels (poor Ben's head fluctuates in scale quite a bit). Again, perhaps with a little tweaking this book could be an appealing all ages title; as of now it is just an unjustified and redundant x-title. With the exception of Doom (because Doom is clearly very fun to write), most of these characters are being written (and drawn) better in other books.

Verdict: I don't know how this book got to 16 issues.

Astonishing X-Men #41
Writer: Daniel Way
Artist: Nick Bradshaw
Cover Price: $3.99

Holy cow was this a good issue! No joke, I actually teared up a little bit at the end. Astonishing X-Men is a series that unlike the rest of the x-books, appears to be on a monthly schedule. On top of that, the series has been switching between two different story lines and creative teams. For the love of God, I have no idea why, because this one was incomparably better than the other. While the last issue saw a team of X-Men fighting Brood aliens in space (with some unattractive artwork to boot), Daniel Way's "Monsters" story was simple, emotionally engaging, and had all of the charm of a classic Kirby and Lee silver age Fantastic Four comic. Keep in mind as well, this is an assessment made by someone that enjoyed the conclusion even as a latecomer. The prologue brought me where I needed to be to understand the story, but Way and Bradshaw ensured that I became immediately engaged. Most of the book features Wolverine and Emma in the clutches of a third rate villain that is threatening to blow up an island inhabited by monsters (with the X-Men on it). This scheme is all in an attempt to blackmail his former employers, oil company Roxxon, who want to exploit the resources of Monster Island. Again, I cannot stress the charm of this issue's set up. The villain, Mentallo, actually "monologues", revealing his weaknesses and hubris to his hostages. The rest of the X-Men eventually show up (and by the rest I mean simply Cyclops and Armor), but their timely arrival allows for some added tension, comedy, and finally a touching reunion between Armor and her recently widowed father. There is no unnecessary dialogue, no unnecessary characters, and each and every character, even the monsters, are fully realized. This is a creative team that knows how to make books like it's every reader's first comic. Perhaps that quality needs more time, hence the alternating stories in Astonishing. No matter what the reason, Marvel editor's are missing out on the perfect opportunity to put out a well-rounded X-Men book with mass appeal.

Verdict: Marvel needs to cut the dead weight and give this book to Way and Bradshaw for good!

New Mutants #30 (Fear Itself tie in)
Writer(s): Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Artist: David Lafuente
Cover Price: $2.99

Any appeal this book once held for me is now gone. Continuing with the convoluted Fear Itself tie in, we find members of the team in "Hell" where Mephisto is written like a bad stand up comedian. There are countless bad jokes from other characters as well, and only one involuntary chuckle from the whole issue. Mephisto's portrayal is at least an improvement from his recent use in Spider-Man. It's hard to imagine this character being any more ridiculous after One More Day. At least the "deal with the devil" he offers to the New Mutants stems from a clear motive (Mephisto just wants a date with one of the team members). Regardless of the quality, three issues seems quite long for a tie in; perhaps Marvel found sales for tie-ins to be better than separate minis. I guess making them indistinguishable solves that problem. For a reader that was almost convinced to start buying this book on a regular basis, they've done a fine job of discouraging me to continue reading after Schism ends.

Verdict: One more issue with Mephisto, Hel, and Hell is two too many.

Uncanny X-Force #13
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Mark Brooks and Scot Eaton
Cover Price: $3.99

Since Uncanny X-Force is one of the few true monthly titles in the X-Men line, it took me a few pages to realize that the art has changed since the last issue. The easy-to-follow flow of Brooks work was missing, and certain characters were not as recognizable. Perhaps Brooks fell behind and needed another artist to come in to help finish the work on time as Scot Eaton is added to the art credits; frankly, I would have rather waited an extra week or two. The degraded artwork is distracting and takes away from some of the more dramatic moments, but it is still enjoyable. Remender's writing is as witty as ever as the X-Men take their final stand against enemies of the Age of Apocalypse. We are treated to the inner monologue of Fantomex, which is more humorous than the dire thoughts of Wolverine form the previous issues; at one point, Fantomex accuses Gambit of being so trashy as to have an hidden 8-ball tattoo.  It isn't all fights and banter for X-Force though. The X-Men engage their enemies on two fronts, and both suffer casualties. Having been made weaker than before they came to the AoA, the end of the issue implies that X-Force's troubles have just begun.

Verdict: The shared artwork takes away from this titles' quality, but here's hoping it is just a temporary stopgap and not a transition to a different artist.

X-Men Legacy #254
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Steve Kurth
Cover Price: $3.99

With literally no pause between one confrontation to the next, the team of X-Men Legacy find themselves transported to a space station inhabited by waring alien races. Even Michael Bay writes in some downtime for his thinly portrayed characters. Alas, after battling Legion, there is little rest for the righteous as they seek to rescue Rachel Summers and the Starjammers. Little advancement is made from start to finish of this issue; the X-Men don't find themselves any closer to rescuing Rachel, but we learn about a new threat as the space station is heading towards a collision course with a nearby star. Despite the numerous threats facing Rogue and company, there is little tension and even less interest. It is hard to care about characters that face one imminent threat after another with little to no reaction. Without showing a little humanity, these mutants don't make for very engaging subjects.

Verdict: What would make me care more about these characters? If they were in a different book.

Week 7 Summary
Potential Cost: $14.96
0 Books Purchased, 5 Books Shelved

I've once again fallen behind in my reviews, and unsurprisingly it is during a week with the release of five X-Men titles. It was also a potentially costly week for dedicated fans that pick up every book with only one comic priced at $2.99. Next week's Odyssey X promises a much smaller schedule and perhaps enough time to reflect on the project as a whole thus far. There are more than a few trends amongst the x-books that will be given thought, so stick around!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Challengers Comics, Rogues Gallery Opening: Eduardo Risso

Over at my photography site I've posted pictures from the Rogues Gallery's most recent opening for artist Eduardo Risso. The exhibit will remain on display through this week into next, then it will come down shortly before September 9th when Challengers welcomes Wizard of Oz artist Skottie Young. Stop in and see Risso's work for yourself while you can! Among others, there are pages from 100 Bullets as well as Flashpoint mini Batman: Knight of Vengeance, Risso's most recent collaboration with Brian Azzarello. Did I mention these pages are always on sale for prospective art collectors? If you have yet to visit the Rogues Gallery for an opening, these images may entice you to stop by in the near future; fun, free events where you get to view comic book art and meet top creators in the industry. What more could you want?
Above, cover artist Dave Johnson curiously looks at the camera.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Vertigo to End House of Mystery, Scalped

Talk of DC's relaunch and the "New 52" have continuously dominated mainstream comic news cycles, whether it be about the various changes made to characters origins and designs, to rumblings about the lack of female creators. Lost amongst the shuffle were the recent announcements concerning the end of two of Vertigo's best titles, House of Mystery and Scalped.

During San Diego Comic Con last month, it was announced that Jason Aaron and R. M. Guera plan to end their long running series with the 60th issue. For those that read it in trade, that's only 7 issues left. Aaron was not available at the show to comment, but has since confirmed on his blog that this was not an editorial decision but has always been the plan. The book has never been a big seller in individual issue form, though I count myself among its enthusiastic fan base. It is a series that I recommend on a near weekly basis for fans of crime / noir comics. 

Fan enthusiasm for House of Mystery never quite got this series the attention it deserved, though the trade paperbacks have frequently debuted among the top ten sellers in the months upon their release.  No formal announcements were made concerning its cancellation; a "Final Issue" note was added to the solicitations for issue 42 in October (see the cover for the final issue above). Sadly, it does not look like we will get to see a final Halloween annual, a comic which has been a standout anthology each year it has been released.

I am especially sad to see these books end as they've each been on my "Best Of" year end recommendations; to have them both end so soon will be hard to reconcile. Expect to see a series recommendation from me for each upon their completion.

(On a side note, this is my 100th post to the blog. Here's to two years of sharing my love for everything comic book related!)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Odyssey X, Week 6: X-Men Schism #3, X-Factor #224, Generation Hope #10, Uncanny X-Men #542

(For those joining late, please see the introductory post on Odyssey X, where I explain my attempt to read every X-Men title during X-Men: Schism. This week's post is still on its way as I am perpetually one week behind.)

X-Men Schism #3
Jason Aaron
Artist: Daniel Acuna
Cover Price: $3.99

While issue #2 felt like a detour from an otherwise superbly presented mini, Schism #3 gets us back to the tight storytelling and well-placed humor Aaron delivered in the first issue. The bulk of the issue takes the X-Men off of Utopia (wow, just typed that out as "Genosha"; no wonder Utopia feels dull and overly familiar) to the opening of the Mutant History Museum in San Francisco. It's interesting to see well known and new characters alike reflect on their shared heritage, and it also reveals how Aaron is constructing this story to define a new chapter in that short history. Once all hell breaks loose (courtesy of the new Hellfire Club), the X-Men find themselves face to face with a young enemy they will surely underestimate. Often fight scenes in event titles play out like a round of Street Fighter; each issue has plenty of brawling, with it all coming down to two fighters with an inevitable K.O. Both Jason Aaron and Daniel Acuna prove the exception by presenting clever challenges unique to the characters. Comedic moments are not in short order either, as the kids of the Hellfire Club make as many wisecracks as you'd expect from 12-year-old villains. I don't think one boring old punch is thrown in this book. Then again, Acuna has some experience in portraying memorable fight scenes (see Black Widow with Marjorie Liu). I look forward to seeing what will happen when Aaron actually brings the big guns and pits Logan and Scott against one another. Perhaps Schism's greatest weakness is that the audiences know what will be the climax and end result.

Verdict: It'll be tough for the next two issues to be as good as this one, but I'm willing to buy them and find out!

X-Factor #224
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Emanuela  Lupacchino
Cover Price: $2.99

X-Factor is a book that I always count on to deliver the goods, and this issue did not live up to its predecessors. For starters, events transpire between #223 and #224 that make it necessary for even a longtime fan to read the prologue. It felt like Peter David didn't know how to get around a plot hole, so he had certain events happen off panel. Specifically, Rahne is left at the end of the last issue being helped into a cabin by a stranger so she can give birth to her unborn cub; now we find her prisoner of said stranger. Of course, she is never in any real danger as the (very gruesome) birth of her cub results in the would-be baby snatcher getting his comeuppance. Rahne's immediate abandonment of her child also seems poorly justified. Sure, the wolf murders the first person it sees, but fighting a primal urge to kill is nothing Rahne isn't familiar with. David also ignores very recent events by presenting Hela in her original form despite having her character defeated / combined with X-Factor's own Darwin just last story arc. Am I being nit-picky? Am I that crazy fan that thinks the writer is ignorant of their own work? I may be straying into whiny fangirl territory, but I have high expectations for this title and this arc did not meet my standards.

Verdict: Not the finest moment in this series, but I'll still be coming back for more. Here's hoping I'm not disappointed.

Generation Hope #10 (Schism tie-in)
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Tim Seeley
Cover Price: $2.99

Despite having a repetitive concept (we get to see the same events of Schism #3 but from Idie's viewpoint), this issue was an insightful read for fans of X-Men: Schism and Generation Hope alike. Idie, a young new mutant on Hope's team, finds that she has become the last line of defense between the Hellfire Club and the incapacitated X-Men, as well as a vulnerable group of human bystanders. Despite objections from an absent Wolverine, Scott tells Idie to do what she feel she has to. We know from the beginning of the issue what that will end up being. The events that lead up to this final harrowing moment show us just how different the younger generation of mutants are from their mentors. While the older ranks experienced far more personal tragedies, partly because they did not know what they were, the newest generation weren't just gifted anomalies. They were born into a hatred that went beyond a fear of the unknown. Their loved ones knew what they were, and Xavier's school was never a well hidden sanctuary for these children. They grew up with the X-Men. Sadly, this issue does not reveal anything about Idie's past, and as a new reader I don't know if it has yet to be revealed or just hasn't been discussed since I began reading. Either way, the next issue (another Schism tie-in) would be a perfect opportunity to show readers why this character considered herself a monster long before she got blood on her hands. Tim Seeley takes over the art for this issue, and though he is very capable, it is difficult to cultivate regular readers with such frequent artist changes.

Verdict: An improvement over the last issue, but these young mutants still struggle to find their own place in the line of x-books.

Uncanny X-Men #542 (Fear Itself tie-in)
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Greg Land
Cover Price: $3.99

Another surprising issue this week, Uncanny X-Men #542 was an engaging read with an ending that makes this event tie-in relevant to the X-Men. Rather than the comical introduction seen in issue #541, here we see exactly how unstoppable this supernaturally enhanced villain can be. In an effort to stop Juggernaut from attacking San Francisco, Cyclops sends in mutant after mutant, resulting in failure each and every time. A solution is sought through Magik, a team member that has recently been deemed untrustworthy due to her attraction to the dark arts (and we quickly see why). I think this story functions well on two levels; one, it presented the Fear Itself villain as an enemy with a lasting impact rather than a distraction to be dealt with in three issues, which is the m.o. for most event tie in issues. Secondly, the tie in does not overshadow the regular narrative of the book. We still get to see some of the internal conflict the X-Men books are famous for as Emma Frost fights a murderous desire for one of her teammates. Though I'm still not keen on Greg Land's artwork, he does well with the action sequences and creates easy to follow imagery in some challenging settings like the Crimson Cosmos. His work here only really distracts from the story whenever female characters are presented (they all. look. the same). Clearly the males get different photo references, so why not the ladies?

Verdict: A decent tie in that doesn't feel like a detour from your normal Uncanny X-Men story.

Week 6 Summary
Potential Cost: $13.96
2 Books Purchased, 2 Books Shelved

Most weeks during Odyssey X where I've had this many books to read, it has not been a task worth looking forward, but I was pleasantly surprised by the reading this week. Not one title felt like a waste, and that's even with two books that dealt with the same event (Schism). But even a good read can be unwanted when it is too frequent, and thus too costly. Three out of four of this weeks titles have seen their last issue less than three weeks ago. Another way to see it, half of these issues have been bi-weekly this month. Quality and interest are mighty hard to maintain on that kind of schedule, and I hope that a "less is more" mentality will be adopted for the x-books post-Schism. I'm not holding my breathe though.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Odyssey X, Week 5: X-Men #15.1, X-Men Legacy #253, New Mutants #23, Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force #2 (Bonus Book)

(Catch up on earlier posts and read the introduction to Odyssey X where I explain my attempt to read every X-Men title during X-Men: Schism) 

X-Men #15.1
Writer: Victor Gischler
Artist: Will Conrad
Cover Price: $2.99

Marvel's recent attempt to make books "new reader friendly" has revolved around a series of "Point 1" issues. Usually self contained, they are meant to convey the feel of a title and introduce the characters and their unique struggles. With that in mind, X-Men 15.1 was a great Ghost Rider / New Mutants point 1 book! I kid, it wasn't actually great, but it really didn't have much to do with what I know of X-Men. Not only are the writer and artist different from the last issue, but the main characters featured here are an amalgam of Uncanny and New Mutant regulars - oh and Ghost Rider. The story itself centers around a demon-posessed Native American. The perfect job for Ghost Rider! Wait, who called the X-Men? Their presence is rendered completely pointless when, after disaster is averted, Cyclops pretty much tells Dani Moonstar that their job is to just show up and do their best sometimes. Awkward humor was abound in this issue as well, like when Cyclops mentions Ghost Rider looking "a little shorter" than he remembers. Just shy of pointing out her tits, this was the dumbest way of reminding readers that the new Ghost of Vengeance is a woman. As if this issue wasn't problematic enough, the artwork is inconsistent throughout. Conrad awkwardly portrays the female Ghost Rider, though that is a tough job for even a seasoned artist since facial expressions of the character range from "flaming skull" to "flaming menacing skull". Though I admire Conrad for trying some challenging angles, without a telling hairstyle, some of the characters were indistinguishable from one page to the next.

Verdict: A misleading introduction for new readers and a distraction for fans of the regular X-Men title. I am neither, and pretty well expect this kind of inconsistency from a book like X-Men.

X-Men Legacy #253
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Khoi Pham
Cover Price: $2.99

Didn't I just force myself to read this book two weeks ago? No wonder the art looked rushed. Awkward humor seems to be one of the themes this week for the X-Men titles, and in Legacy's case, some of the jokes are definitely unintentional (see Legion's ridiculously named "personalities"). The confusing conclusion to this team's battle with the mutant equivalent of Sybil results in the revelation that Legion was actually Rogue! After latching onto Legion and absorbing the countless number of powers he has amassed, Rogue gains a  "mutant compass" that leads them to space and Shiar aliens. I don't start and end too many books with a heavy sigh and eye roll, but there you go.

Verdict: Maybe I'm just being cynical. Perhaps a new, overused location could be just what this book needs!

New Mutants #29 (Fear Itself Tie-In)
Writer: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Artist: Dave Lafuente
Cover Price: $2.99

Well there goes my desire to add this book to my pull list. Much in the way the X-Men book was hijacked by the Point 1 initiative, New Mutants has been overtaken by Fear Itself. Cyclops has asked Dani Moonstar to fly to Vegas and make an ally of Hela, queen of the Asgardian underworld. This fits in with the events of Uncanny X-Men #541, another Fear Itself tie in, where the X-Men of San Fran are fighting a hammer-weilding Juggernaut. Repeated references to Dani's "Asgardian connection" and "relationship with Hela" all hint at events that I am unaware of as a new reader. With the number of times Abnett and Lanning refer to said relationship, they could have easily explained it in the same amount of space (then again, I haven no idea how convoluted the connection is). In addition to the story taking a sharp left turn into "universe altering event tie-in", the artwork has changed once again. If you aren't keeping count that's three different artists within three issues. This is one bizarre approach at keeping regular readers. Another inconsistency from this story is that Hela recently had a confrontation with X-Factor's Darwin which resulted in a big change for the character. Guess the editors forgot to tell the writers of New Mutants?

Verdict: This book is really starting to make me feel like I'm being jerked around! I just want the same creative team for one story arc, is that possible?

(Bonus Book)
Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force #2 (Fear Itself Mini)

Writer: Rob Willliams
Artist: Simone Bianchi
Cover Price: $2.99

I was curious to see if the quality from Remender's X-Force had carried over to this mini; alas, I found the only real similarity was in the team's reputation for hyper violence. I also missed the first issue, and jumping in mid story point I had little interest in X-Force's showdown with a sociopath surgeon / genetic purist. The connection to Fear Itself feels like a bit of a stretch as well, so fans of the big Marvel event may find this mini lacking. Some of the philosophical musings of Rob Williams are interesting (do the world's super-heroes really help mankind or only make the world a more hectic place, the idea of a mad man moving beyond the use of martyrs to indiscriminate massacre) but in the end my interest could not be held, partly because of Bianchi's artwork. A talented artist no doubt, his ultra detailed style feels overworked at times, especially when it comes to the characters (what he does with Psylocke's costume would make Jim Lee blush.)

Verdict: This book embodies the superfluous nature of tie-ins / minis; not necessary reading to understand the big event title, and it probably won't add much to your enjoyment unless you choose books based solely on the characters.

Week 5 Summary
Total Potential Cost: $11.96
0 Book Purchased, 4 Books Shelved

This week really tested my patience. I started to consider changing my parameters, like maybe I could stop reading some books as I go along and only continue picking up the less-than-awful ones. But then I wouldn't get a real sense of this line of titles, which is the whole point of Odyssey X. The most difficult part beyond the poor quality is the frequency with which some of these books are being released. By my count, at least 3 of the ongoing titles were released in a 5 week period, and that's not even counting the first two issues of Schism coming out within two weeks. This must frustrate retailers (and some readers) to no end. Rather than the mantra "we'll stop putting books out late when you stop buying them" used by DC in the past, perhaps someone should remind Marvel that overproduction can have an equally negative effect on readership when a lack of quality is being exhibited.