Wednesday, July 26, 2017

TEX'S BACK-ISSUE QUEST EPISODE #59 (Ultimate Spider-Man)

Guess who's back?!

    It's your favorite comic-book-crazy blogger, TEX, here to slap your synapses with more comic book knowledge that you can't get in any college!! 

    Who's on the docket today? Why it's just your unstoppable, undefeatable, Ultimate Spider-Man!!


     Above, feast your eyes on my well-read copy of Ultimate Spider-Man vol 1, #1, featuring the first appearances of the Ultimate versions (Earth 1610) of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, May and Ben Parker, Harry and Norman Osborne, Mary Jane Watson, and more!! Ultimate-Spider-Man is a VERY important comic to have in your collection if you are a Spidey fan. Bill Jemas, the one-time publisher of Marvel Comics, a man credited with helping to bring Marvel back from bankruptcy (and replacing the hated Bob Harras with Joe Quesada), looked at Marvel's long history and decided that decades of Marvel canon was holding the writers back from creating new and interesting stories, and possibly holding Marvel back from turning more profits. Jemas decided it was time to make the Marvel Universe fresh and accessible to new readers, so he started with a rebooted, reimagined version of Spider-Man. He hired writer, Brian Michael Bendis - a master of dialogue, and long-time Marvel artist, Mark Bagley. And a star was born!!

    Bendis and Bagley shook up the world with a fresh take on Spidey. They took Stan Lee's and Steve Ditko's dated Spider-Man origin story from 1962's Amazing Fantasy vol 1 #15, an origin story that only lasted for eleven pages, and turned it into an intricate, breathtaking seven-issue story arc that is really just some of the best work that Marvel had done in a VERY long time. Bendis and Bagley thrust Peter back to his awkward teen years, ramped up the drama and humor, updated Spidey's world, from pop culture to technology to Spidey's supporting cast to current societal issues, and masterfully brought Spider-Man into the new millennium. The first issue of Ultimate Spider-Man was published in October of 2000. In May of 2002, Sam Raimi's blockbuster, "Spider-Man," the first in a trilogy of blockbuster films starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker / Spider-Man, was relased to wide acclaim, and Spider-Man was back on top in the hearts and minds of superhero fans all over the world. And The Ultimate Universe grew with titles like Ultimate X-Men, The Ultimates, and Ultimate Fantastic Four.  On to the FUN FACTS!!

Fun Fact 1 - One of the most stunning differences between Ultimate Spider-Man (Earth 1610) and the Earth 616 original was the fact that Norman Osborn plays a REALLY important part in Spider-Man's origin story, and he is the first villain (as Green Goblin) to deduce Spidey's identity and go after him. 

Fun Fact 2 - Another difference is that Ultimate Spidey used a formula originally his father's to create his webs. The 616 original did it all himself. 

Fun Fact 3 - The cool, fresh differences between the Ultimate Universe and the 616 would take a long time for me to lay out, from Norman Osbourne actually becoming a near-undefeatable, hulking Green Goblin, to the deaths of prominent characters whose permanent deaths would be unthinkable in the 616. 

Fun Fact 4 - Ultimate Spider-Man is one of my favorite Marvel series of all time. It made me a real fan of Spider-Man. I collected, read and reread the entire series, even hanging on when Volume 2 began:

My copy of Ultimate Spider-Man Vol 2, #1 (Special Foilgram Cover)


I even have Ultimate Spider-Man Vol 1 TPB in Spanish, bro. Yes, I do.


I am lucky enough to own signed, original commissioned artwork from Mark Bagley himself:

Cool, right?

Fun Fact 5 - Sadly, in the end, it all went up in smoke. The Ultimate Universe became dark and often more violent than the 616, with story arcs like "The Death of Spider-Man," and "Ultimatum," wherein Wasp was devoured alive by Blob. Eventually "The Ultimate End" brought destruction to The Ultimate Universe (although some characters did escape into the 616 after "Battleworlds"). 

Fun Fact 6 - The illustrious team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby once held the record for the longest continual run on a Marvel title with a dazzling 101-issue run on Fantastic Four vol 1. That's about eight and 1/2 years. Bendis and Bagley broke that record with their 111-issue run on Ultimate Spider-Man. That's about nine and a quarter years. After Bagley called it quits, Bendis continued to work on the title, racking up an unheard of fourteen-year run on a single Marvel title!!

Fun Fact 7 - Ultimate Spider-Man vol 1, #1 was voted the ninth greatest comic ever published back in 2001. Groovy. 

Fun Fact 8 - Ultimate Spider-Man, or elements thereof, have been used in other media:

 "Spectacular Spider-Man" (2008-2009)

"Ultimate Spider-Man" (2012-2017) 

"Spider-Man: Homecoming" (2017)

Fun Fact 9 - Brian Michael Bendis served as both writer and producer on the TV series, "Ultimate Spider-Man."

Fun Fact 10 - Ultimate Spider-Man was Marvel's FLAGSHIP title for years, outselling all titles, including the original Amazing Spider-Man!!!

   If you love Spider-Man, and you HAVEN'T READ Ultimate Spider-Man vol 1, go read it NOW. You can read it by clicking HERE. You're welcome. ;-)

   Happy trails, pardners!!

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Blood Brothers #1 Review

Blood Brothers #1 from Dynamite -

     Who you gonna call when supernatural baddies come to ruin your day? You call the best, and Diego and Gabriel Soliz are the best. The Soliz brothers are always up to solve a supernatural mystery. Diego is an ex-soldier and an expert detective who gained the ability to see and communicate the dead through a near-death experience on the battlefield. Gabe is a super-powered luchador (Mexican pro-wrestler) with a heart of gold. They've been assigned to solve a robbery-homicide and recover an artifact that is rumored to be cursed. But there's more to this case than meets the eye - more danger, more mystery, and more personal pain. Why? Because this mystery might just involve the disappearance of their beloved, long-lost father. Can the Soliz brothers close the case, or will this case close them down...Permanently?

    Created by Fabian Rangel, Jr., and Javier Gaba, Blood Brothers #1 is a throwback to the halcyon days of Mexican comics and cinema when the masked luchador was king of the hill, and justice was always on the menu. A descendant in the illustrious lineage of luchador comics like Santo, El Enmascarado de Plata (The Saint, The Man In The Silver Mask), El Increíble Blue Demon (The Incredible Blue Demon), and Huracán Ramírez (Hurricane Ramírez), Blood Brothers gives us all the bad guy bashing, mystery and supernatural menace we've come to expect from this genre of comics and films. Diego and Gabe are fun protagonists - they have a wonderful energy between them, they depend on each other's strengths and guard against each other's weaknesses, and they are all about putting bad guys down for the count. It doesn't get any more straightforward and uncomplicated than that, and uncomplicated is one of the hallmarks of any good masked luchador adventure. Good is good, bad is bad, and the hero brings the pain. Cool. Rangel and Gaba have placed their protagonists in a world where the supernatural, and supernatural beings like werewolves, are just part of the normal scenery, a part that can get dangerous very quickly. And that's where Diego and Gabe come in. Toss in the mutual tender spot that their dad left when he vanished, and you've got a solid superhero mystery mash-up that really has legs. The co-creator, Javier Caba, provides pencils that are perfect for the story; Caba's pencils are quirky, a little cartoony, and very urban-inspired. Again, cool. Blood Brothers #1 is probably a sleeper hit waiting to happen, and a great trip down memory lane for a guy like me who is a NUT for Mexican luchador comics and films. I LOVE this book!

RATING: 10 out of 10 for masked luchador mayhem!

PS - If you love luchador comics, you've got to check out La Mano del Destino, from Castle & Key Publications. It's created, written and rendered by the extremely talented J. Gonzo, one of comics' best-kept secrets. Click here to read issue #1 for free!!

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Jazz Maynard #1 Review

"Jazz Maynard" #1 from Magnetic Press' Lion Forge imprint -

    Jazz Maynard is one hell of a man. Originally from Barcelona, Spain, like his name implies, he's slick, cool, smooth and unpredictable. Besides all of that, he's one of the best Jazz trumpeters in New York City. When he gets an urgent letter from his sister stating that she fell victim to some sex traffickers while looking for him in NYC, Jazz finds her and barrels through her mobbed-up captors like a hurricane. There's more to Jazz than meets the eye. Much more - but will it be enough to save his sister and himself and everyone he loves? The guys he killed had connections. Big, bad connections. And even though Jazz and his sister have fled home to Barcelona, they haven't run far enough to escape the hands of corruption, nor the hands of wicked men out for revenge. 

    If this sounds familiar to you, don't fret. It's translated from Dargaud's 2007 publication, translated from the original Spanish and French. If you are a fan or foreign comics (and I am), you'll be really happy to see this great work get a little American love. Writer, Raule, brings us this hard-boiled crime-fiction actioner that seems like a cross between Cowboy Bebop and Robert Rodriguez's film, "Desperado." Like the protagonists in both works, Jazz Maynard is a silent wall of cool, but behind it is the weight of a dark past, evidenced by the deadly skill set, and a sensitive soul, as evidenced by the haunting music he makes with his trumpet. Jazz Maynard's the perfect protagonist - he's got just enough out there for you to have an idea of who he is, but not enough for you to be exactly sure. A good, mysterious protagonist is one sure way to lock me into a story. Raule has thrown Jazz in a dangerous situation involving family; it's interesting to see how the danger doesn't shake him up at all, but his family sure does. What's that about? It will be so groovy to watch how he handles all the baddies coming his way with his family involved (or as they say in Spanish, "de por medio"). Roger Ibañez Ugena's pencils rock hard with slightly elongated, lined faces that demonstrate a wealth of emotion, and PLENTY of panels on every page that just keep the eye moving scene to scene. It's like a movie in comic book form. SWEET. It doesn't seem like I read this ten years ago already, but it's just as good now as it was then. Dargaud published a lot of great books, from Jazz Maynard: Home Sweet Home, to one of my faves, Blacksad. If you like Cowboy Bebop, "Desperado," and hard-boiled crime fiction, you will love Jazz Maynard. I do.

RATING: 9 out of 10.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Crosswind #1 Review

Crosswind #1 from Image Comics -

    Cason Bennett is a handsome, dapper, confident hitman. He grew up dirt poor and he isn't going back - he's ruthless, as evidenced by the fact that he just murked his best friend. Juniper Blue is a gorgeous housewife and mother. Her beauty is buried in the mental abuse and hostility she suffers at the hands of her cheating husband, her son and just about everyone else in her world - from her nosy neighbor to the boys in her neighborhood. Their worlds collide when, for unknown reasons, they find themselves in each other's bodies, each in the middle of a huge mess in the other's life. Cason will have to take on an abusive world in the body of a woman. And Juniper? She's got to hide a body and babysit the psychotic grandson of a mafia don. The crap's about to hit the fan.

   From the mind of Gail Simone, comes a gender-bending actioner, Crosswind. Crosswind begins well because it begins with the protagonists. Through the captions, we get a glimpse into their minds, their feelings, and little of their backstories, all of which make the reader empathize with each character. As the action unfolded, I found myself unsettled by the fact that I liked Cason despite his moral failings, and I was also unsettled that felt sorry for Juniper, but I began to wonder if she had done something in the past to merit her maltreatment. I mean, she was just terribly abused by nearly everyone in her world, especially males. It seemed so over the top. I struggled to grasp what Simone was communicating. Are beautiful women victims? Are housewives? Is marriage a cage for women? I wasn't really sure - I like comics that make me think, question, struggle and get a little in my feelings. Either way, on the one hand, we have a hitman that's the stereotypical manly man, and on the other, a perfect example of the docile housewife stereotype. What does Simone do? One of her favorite things. She plays with sex and gender roles. Each protagonist is thrust into an alien world, with different rules, and different dangers and expectations. Each is totally out of their depth, and it will be quite interesting to watch them try to adapt and navigate these strange, new worlds. Cat Staggs' artwork is slick and expressive, but it's got a weird digital blurriness to it that my eyes don't really like. But, all in all, do I like Crosswinds? Yes. It is a very interesting story with fully fleshed out protagonists - I would like to journey with them. Do I like all of Simone's viewpoints? No in the slightest - but that doesn't make the story any less interesting, nor does it make Simone any less gifted. 

RATING: 9 out of 10.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Howdy, fellow Questers!

    I hope your week is going well and that your feeling life's groove. All's fine in my neck of the woods, but since I have some things I have to accomplish today, I thought I'd hit you up with a midweek dose of comic book knowledge that you can't get in any college. And, conveniently, it gives me an excuse to celebrate the return of one of my favorite shows:

     It's my copy of The Strain volume 1, number 1. This is the more pricey 1 in 5 variant. The Strain #1 features the first appearances of Dr. Ephraim Goodweather,  Professor Abraham Setrakian, vampire hunter, and The Master, menacingly powerful source of the vampire outbreak. 

     The Strain is an adaptation of a novel of the same name written by Mexican/American director, Guillermo Del Toro, and novelist, Chuck Hogan. Adapted wonderfully by veteran comic scribe, David Lapham, and penciled by Mike Huddleston, The Strain follows humanity's battle against total conquest by an ancient evil. Heading the human charge are Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, Head of the CDC's rapid-response team, and Professor Abraham Setrakian, a Romanian Jew who has spent the greater part of his life hunting The Master down after originally encountering him during WWII while confined to an extermination camp. Dr. Goodweather and Professor Setrakian, along with their ragtag band of vampire fighters, like the double-tough exterminator, Vasily Fet, and ex-gang member, Augustin Elizalde, battle with swords, guns, and science to push back The Master and his monstrous minions before they reduce the human race to mere cattle to suit their voracious appetites. On to the FUN FACTS!!

FUN FACT 1 - The writer, David Lapham has written superhero stories and other things, but his horror stories are the stuff of legend. He has the eerie ability to give a voice to wickedness that is quite unsettling (As a reference, see his work on Crossed: Family Values, and Crossed: Psychopath). Warning: Crossed is not for children or those with tender sensibilities. 

FUN FACT 2 - The co-creator, Guillermo Del Toro is an award-winning writer, producer, and director best known for directing the "Hellboy" films, "Blade II," and the critically acclaimed masterpiece, "Pan's Labyrinth." 

FUN FACT 3 - In 2014, The Strain was adapted into a successful TV series by FX. And it is GREAT!! It stars Corey Stoll as Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, David Bradley as Professor Setrakian, Kevin Durand as Vasily Fet, and Miguel Gomez as Augustin Elizalde. Del Toro wrote and directed the pilot episode. It is now in its 4th and final season. Can you feel my sadness?

FUN FACT 5 - I used to have a habit of selling, or giving away, my modern comics after reading them. I owned the whole of volume one of The Strain but sold it after reading it. I came across the above comic later, liked the cover and bought it. Lucky for me. I had no idea it would rocket up in value due to the upcoming TV series.

Well, that's it for now. Happy Trails, fellow QUESTERS!! Be safe, be good, be AWESOME!

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Paklis #1 Review

Paklis" #1 from Image Comics -

     Paklis is a sci-fi anthology from the uber-creative mind of Dustin Weaver. The anthology is broken down into three stories: 

   1. "Mushroom Bodies" - Greg is at his wits' end, and in his situation, that's very understandable. What else can you do but go insane when your body is morphing into that of a bug? 

    "Mushroom Bodies" is a surreal tale of paranoia. Reminiscent of Franz Kafka's masterpiece, The Metamorphosis, "Mushroom Bodies" follows the story of a protagonist trapped by paranoia, fear, and powerlessness, so much so that his body inexplicably morphs into the ultimate example of insignificance: a bug. I find this story to be the most interesting of the bunch. On the one hand, it has a nihilistic bent, seemingly suggesting that there is little difference between a human or a bug because life, all life, is a state of a chaos, leading to a lack of any real control and any real meaning. On the other hand, it is inundated with existentialism, suggesting that even though a person's fate be beyond their control, it is their own will that defines how they perceive/create and interact with their world. Both of these philosophies culminate in acceptance - either acceptance of meaninglessness, or acceptance of ultimate responsibility for your perceptions and actions. Packed with so many interesting themes, and so much content to ponder, "Mushroom Bodies" is a bit of a modern-day comics masterpiece, even if it is a tad derivative of Kafka's novella. 

2.  "Sagittarius A*" - In the distant future, humanity has spread further into the universe. Linus, a war hero has come back from the front lines to find his missing, or deceased, father.  Destination: the galactic core, Sagittarius A. 

      Only 2 pages long, "Sagittarius A*" is a gorgeously rendered sci-fi tale done all in black and white. In a masterful stroke of storytelling, Weaver gives us the backstory and everything else we need to get hooked into this tale in such a small space. We are introduced to the protagonist, his trauma is exposed, we find out he is a hero, and that he is looking for his estranged, possibly dead, father who also happens to be a war hero. This story did so much in two pages, I was quite literally astounded.

3.  "Amnia Cycle" - Once again, in the distant future, humanity has established an intergalactic empire and it is at war with an alien race called the Nuriel. Air-Man Tara Donnia is a hotshot pilot on a routine recon mission on a lonely planet when she spies what seems to be an asteroid falling to the ground. What seems to be an asteroid is actually a humanoid alien named Amnia who announces that it loves Tara, and is looking for a place called Apuli, and its lost ship, the Plinius. When Tara decides to help Amnia, she soon finds herself running from her own fleet, and trapped in a vessel in a secluded sector of space.

    "Amnia Cycle" differs from Weaver's other offerings because, in lieu of character development, we jump right into the action, which for me, made the story a lot of sound and fury, but having little meaning. While "Amnia Cycle" is definitely the most pedestrian of the three stories, nonetheless, it was by no means uninteresting.

   Overall, Paklis, is an exceptional sci-fi anthology that is sure to please those who are fans of science-fiction and tales that wrestle with philosophy and the human condition. It's a throwback to illustrious predecessors, books like Métal hurlant, and its American spawn, Heavy Metal, just a lot less racy (so far). The most obvious way that it differs from its predecessors is in the fact that it is all coming from the fertile mind and adept hand of one creative genius. Weaver is putting on a clinic in creativity here with three meaty tales of his own devising, and three distinct art styles. It's beyond unique - it's rather brilliant...And it has to be with a HEFTY price tag of $5.99 per issue. I definitely want to follow this book. I have a feeling we'll soon see something on the big or small screen that emerges from Weaver's gifted imagination. 

RATING: 9 out of 10. 

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

TEX'S Variants, Autographs and Oddities Episode 5 (Caliban)

Hello, Hello, Hello!!!

    It's TEX checking in again, my fellow QUESTERS!! I hope that you had a great weekend. I sure did. My son came to visit from college, my wife didn't have to travel for work, and my daughter and  I are here on summer vacation, so I was able to gather up my entire nuclear family up to go out for a night of fun and festivities. We went to see "Baby Driver" which was a lot better than expected, and then we piled into a restaurant had a great dinner, and ended the night in a wonderful family debate.


   So today, before I put my feet up and chill, I thought I'd hit you guys with one of the oddities/variants that I found in my collection. I hope you like it - LET'S RIDE!!

It's Caliban #1, from Avatar Press!!

     But this isn't just any old first issue, it's a doozy of a variant! This is the exclusive Platinum Edition of the Dark Matter Variant, printed, selected and sent to the CGC to be graded by Avatar Press. These are graded and then numbered by the CGC - this means that EVERY one of these Platinum Editions are encapsulated, and, in this case, numbered from one to one-hundred and fifty, which is the total number of these that exist on the planet. That's right, only one-hundred and fifty of these were printed, graded and numbered, and I have #118 in my collection. 

     I don't usually go for variants like this (I can count on one hand the times I have splurged for a variant), but Caliban was a pretty great read, and I really wanted to have one of these exclusive comics. So, what makes Caliban so great? Glad you asked. Caliban comes to us from the brilliant mind of Garth Ennis. It's a sci-fi horror story in the same vein as the "Alien" franchise (one of my favorite bodies of sci-fi films). It tells the story of the crew of the mining ship, Caliban, on a routine mission in deep space. When they collide with an alien vessel while in FTL (faster-than-light travel / "warp"), their ship fuses with the vessel, killing several members of the crew. When the survivors begin to be stalked and killed by something beyond their understanding, paranoia sets in, and the crew realizes that not only are they not alone in the universe, but they just may not be ready to encounter what awaits them in the vast cold reaches of the universe. Ennis teams up with Argentine artist, Facundo Percio, who illustrates this book beautifully with shades of the late, great legend of sci-fi, Moebius. Here's another of the more disturbing covers:

(Courtesy of Bloody Disgusting)

     I would really love to see this translated to film someday. It would be a refreshing throwback to those horrifying sci-fi chillers of the past; however, Ennis' work doesn't always translate well. "Preacher" is the obvious exception, but Ennis has been trying to get Crossed adapted for years, which is so violent, bloody, and perverted that the NC-17 rating would have to come out of mothballs for it to be in mainstream theaters. 

   Well, that's it for today. I hope you enjoyed today's trip into the oddities of my collection. There's lots more to come, so stick around! Same TEX time, same TEX station!!

  Happy Trails!!

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