Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

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Tag Archives: comics

ANCC: C2E2 2017

It’s that time of year where we go to the Chicago area’s biggest pop-culture and comic convention, C2E2.  Come listen to the Gorehound, the Kiwi, and Nick as they discuss a weekend-long of complete and utter nonsense!  Also, Mike Colter is one sexy man.

Check out some of the local artists discussed in this podcast!

Of Mice and Madness
Rob Hogan

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below!

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ANCC: DuPage Mighty Con

Nick and the Gorehound go local this week!  Over the weekend of June 25th, they attended the DuPage Mighty Con in Wheaton, IL!  Now, they are going to talk about the pluses, minuses, and the overall experience!  What did they think of this local comic convention?  Give a listen and find out!  Also, BrickWorld!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below.

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Its June…Why Not Talk About April’s C2E2?

C2E2About a month and a half ago, I went to C2E2 – the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo. This was my 4th year going and marked the first year that I went all three days. As always, it was a very fun time and I don’t regret going at all. However, I did notice somethings that I am starting to become discontent with.

The convention hasn’t really changed from much in the past. You have your panels, giant retail floor, and artist alley. I was able to meet a lot of great writers and artists. Aaron Kuder (current artist on Action Comics) is an incredibly nice guy and really fun to talk to, artist Rod Reis seemed confused when I asked him to sign a Superman comic he contributed to, and former Justice League artist Kevin Mcguire is an incredibly difficult person to track down. The comic creator highlight was meeting Brian Buccallato, former co-writer/artist on The Flash (read my reviews here). I am pretty sure he thought I was a weirdo because I came up to him and didn’t know what to say. At all. We made some very awkward small talk. I am not one to get star-struck, and I don’t think this was what happened here.

Me with Brian Buccellato

Me with Brian Buccellato

I guess part of the problem on my end is that I never know what to say to the creators whose work I really enjoy. Tell them “I like your stuff”? Well, no duh. I wouldn’t be there otherwise. Tell him I review his comics? Somehow I doubt he would care about some nobody writing a blog that very few actually read. If I get a chance to meet Buccallato again in the future, I’ll have something better planned.

Another fun story is that while walking the floor, I ran into internet celebrity Doug Walker (the Nostalgia Critic) and his cohort/brother Rob. Unfortunately, at the time and due to the unexpected nature of running into them, I mistook Rob for another internet celeb, James “Angry Video Game Nerd” Rolfe. I didn’t realize my mistake until we parted ways. I’m sure they rightfully thought I was a tool. Still, they were really cool to talk to for a few minutes.

And, for what it is worth, Walker seems almost exactly like his internet alter-ego in real life.

Me with Doug

Me with Doug “Nostalgia Critic” Walker and Rob Walker

With the panels, I went to a select few. The more publisher panels I go to, the more I realize that they are just there to pimp their product. Not that that is bad, but I am learning that I don’t care much for commercials. I did go to a really neat panel on the comic creation process. I’ll never work in the industry (nor do I have grand ambitions to), but I do enjoy learning about it.

I did attend a few Game of Thrones­-related panels. I don’t watch the show or read the books, but my girlfriend does. The panels featured Jason Momoa (who I will always know from Stargate). He is awesome. What a great presence onstage. I know nothing of GoT, but he was entertaining to watch, that is for sure.

Jason Momoa likes his hats.

Jason Momoa likes his hats.

I also had to suffer though part of a Dr. Who panel in order to get really kick-ass seats for the Game of Thrones panel that followed. The things we do for those we love.

As I mentioned, I went all three days. Friday and Sunday were fine with the crowds, but Saturday was overwhelming. It felt nearly impossible to get through even the large walkways in the Artist Alley. It almost made it not fun. If I go back, I don’t know if I could do Saturday again. Yes, I am getting old.

I bought some stuff. Some neat things from the artist alley, but when it came to the retail floor, it was hard to really buy anything. I did pick up some comics, but it felt like I was forcing myself to get something. I am sure some of that had to do with the fact that I didn’t have time to really plan out what I wanted to get ahead of time, so I was “looking blind”.

Who are you going to call?

Who are you going to call?

I do think another part of that is that I just don’t really care anymore. I still like this medium and I enjoy meeting creators and such. But, at the end of the day, I do wonder if I am growing out of it. At what point do I say to myself, “That guy wrote some issue of Superman that you own. You should get his autograph, but who cares, really?” (Probably not the greatest of examples as I typically view creator autographs as convention scavenger hunts).

Another part of my apathy, I feel, has to do with what I felt was a lack of actual comic retailers at the show. Maybe it was on par with previous years, but I couldn’t help but think that there were very few booths actually selling comics. Instead, there seemed to be an overabundance of booths selling toys and other pop-culture merchandise. And each booth seemed to have the same crap. And, on top of that, many booths that did sell comics didn’t really seem to run competitive deals. Not that every booth has to sell at a dollar, but things just seemed shrewder than I remembered in the past.

Maybe I need to take a new approach about what I am looking for or, not that I am old, what I want my collection to look like. My life has taken a lot of new directions over this past year. Perhaps I need to reexamine my comic collecting.  Or maybe the rough year I had preceding the convention was just that: rough. And now I should go back to focus on some hobbies.

Let's face it: The Nesquik Bunny had this coming.

Let’s face it: The Nesquik Bunny had this coming.

That aside, I still did have some good fun at C2E2. Perhaps if I better prepared and was able to take my own advice, I would be able to enjoy the convention more than I did. My girlfriend did say that if we go back, we are dressing up in costume, something neither of us has done at one of these things. She doesn’t want us to look like the strange ones. My, how times have changed.

~N

The C2E2 Podcast

This week, Zack and Nick attended the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, better known as C2E2.  Join them as they discuss their experience and weigh in on the pros and cons of the convention!

Click HERE or on the image to listen to the podcast.

C2E2

As always, click HERE to follow us on iTunes!

Also, be sure to check out the following:

Nick’s C2E2 Experience!

This past weekend, I attended C2E2.  Happening at McCormick place in Chicago, it is probably the leading comic book convention of the Chicagoland area.  This is the second year I have gone to this event, and I had high hopes given how much fun I had the previous year.  Were they met?  Eh…yes and no.  How ‘bout I recall the experience?

C2E2

Read more of this post

RIP Carmine Infantino

I first heard it on the Facebook fan page of comic book artist George Perez (which is actually run by George Perez).  It was then picked up by other sources such as IGN and Comic Book Resources, legendary comic artist Carmine Infantino passed away at age 87.

Here is Perez’s message:

So sad to learn of the passing of another comic book legend.  Carmine Infantino was one of the great influential artists in the history of the medium and I will always look upon his Adam Strange, Flash and Space Museum stories as wondrous examples of fantasy made even more magical at the hands of a master.  RIP, Carmine

flash coversInfantino definitely had an influential career.  Beyond co-creating the Barry Allen version of The Flash and his supporting cast (who all still remain to this day), he served as an art director for DC Comics and brought in such talent as Dick Giordano, Neal Adams, and Denny O’Neil into the company.  Also under his watch, Infantino was able to lure Jack Kirby away from Marvel Comics, a feat which still boggles my mind.

Of course, Infantino’s greatest impact to the comic book industry was having a direct role in revitalizing superhero comics in the late 1950s when he, along with Julius Schwartz and Robert Kanigher, introduced Barry Allen in Showcase #4.  That success led to other superhero re-introductions and kicked off the Silver Age of Comic Books.

According to legend, Infantino spearheaded the classic “The Flash of Two Worlds” story by drawing the cover to The Flash #123 featuring the Golden Age Jay Garrick-Flash racing Silver Age Barry Allen-Flash.  The cover was supposedly done as a fun challenged Infantino threw down.  That landmark story would forever change DC Comics by introducing the concept of a multiverse – a concept DC has become known for.

While his artwork may not be as sophisticated by today’s standards there is little doubt that Carmine Infantino left a everlasting mark in the world of comic books.  For me, personally, he co-created two of my favorite comic book characters of all time in the aforementioned Flash (Barry Allen) and Batgirl (Barbra Gordon).

RIP Carmine Infantino.

Sensationalism and Fan-Baiting: The “Jade Age” of Comic Books

Comic book eras are divided into “ages”.  Comics of the 1930s and ‘40s are from the “Golden Age”.  Comics from the ‘50s to mid-‘70s are part of the “Silver Age”.  The “Bronze Age” is generally considered to be from the mid-‘70s to the mid-’80s.  There really has not been a designation for comics from the late ’80s to now; it is given a general “Modern Age” moniker.  However, given the way comic fans on the internet react in terms of seemingly hating everything based solely on small plot blurbs and rumors, I have seen some refer to now as the “Jade Age” since people are completely jaded about the industry.

Thing is, the whole overreaction to stuff on the internet is completely ridiculous.  There is absolutely no need for it.  You can dislike directions or story lines, but the hyperbolic negativity is completely out of hand.  It seems like any decision DC or Marvel Comics make is met with overwhelming hostility.  “Superman no longer wears red trunks!  Screw you DC!”  Seriously, who cares that much?

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Why is this that important?

I suppose I can understand not taking change well.  The hyperbolic reaction is stupid, but I understand it on a fundamental level.  The bigger problem I have is when people bitch and moan about sketchy, unconfirmed rumors, and then, when the rumors turn out to be false, one of two things happen:  1) The internet feels they won by the company caving into their demands. I am just going to say this is horribly misguided.  People on the internet overstate their ability to change things in popular entertainment; or 2) complain that editorial are wussed out by caving into fan demands. In short, there is no winning.

And, I think that is the key thing to remember: there is no winning for these companies.  I am not going to stand here and say DC and Marvel are perfect.  They aren’t and both have their fair-share of issues they are dealing with.  However, people are so willing to bash them for as little a reason as possible that all rational thinking goes out the window.

For example, a few months ago, comic writer Gail Simone was reported to have been fired off Batgirl.  Her online legion of fans went ballistic and shortly thereafter she was allegedly rehired.  Simone’s fanbase ridiculed DC for back-peddling (seriously – what do fans want?).  But, here is the thing about all of that: it was never once officially announced anywhere that she was fired/rehired.  There was indeed a guest writer for two issues of Batgirl (which was later revealed by DC that it was a case of Simone being behind on her work).

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Gail Simone – Batgirl Writer: No More? Maybe…who knows?

All of that was merely a rumor (with some non-confirming tweets by Simone – she never actually said she was fired) and caught on like fire with the internet.  Fans refused to believe the official story (I sort of believe that Simone had a “talking to” and, considering her online fanbase, went to the ‘net to stir things up – a theory that fits the actual revealed facts) because the rumor is so much juicier to believe and it gives them something to villainize.

However, the real sinners to all of it are sensationalist bloggers who like to play on fan’s hopes and fears.  Specifically, people like Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool fame.  I have a love/hate relationship with this site.  On one hand, Johnston does get some good scoops now and then.  On the other, he clearly fans the flames of half-truths and outright rumors to drive up ad revenue through clicks.  Also, his blatant bias against DC is grating in its obviousness.

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This Johnston guy knows exactly what he is doing.

A perfect example of this just happened within the last few days.  Comic writer Joshua Hale Fialkov walked off his recently announced assignments of Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns.  Bleeding Cool reported that this was due to an editorial edict to kill off the character of John Stewart.  Nowhere in Fialkov’s announcement tweet or in any of DC’s announcements was this cited as the reason.  Bleeding Cool had a “high profile” source.  The internet exploded in rage because of this (never mind the fact that the character has allegedly added nothing to the comic for a number of years and death in comics is never permanent).

Today, other writers from the other Green Lantern books reported that the death of Stewart was never in the works and that the story was completely false.  Of course, Bleeding Cool refused to be proven wrong, so Johnston inferred an editorial change back and affirmed that the change was due to BC’s readers response to the news.  This is completely irresponsible reporting.

john stewart

Not. Dead.

Of course, the idea that this was never the actual plan did not cross anyone’s mind.  What is truly sickening is that in the discussion thread connected to Bleeding Cool’s article has people just eating it up feeling like they are the victorious keyboard warriors.  Additionally, they are already mocking DC for changing their decision (again, cannot win), and are looking forward to how DC is going to eventually spin it.

The “Jade Age” indeed.

~N

The Flash March Madness

Hi everyone.  Doing a little plug here.

For those of you who follow our site, you know that I have a monthly feature where I review latest issues of The Flash comic book.  In the past, I’ve dipped my toes in Flash online fandom and discovered that the it is a relatively small, (mostly) level-head group of people.  Specifically, I follow or participate in SpeedForce.org (of which I was recently a guest writer) and The Fastest Forum Alive.

Anyway, for those sites, I have put together a fun, little project for fans to participate in: Flash March Madness.  Similar to the NCAA’s national tournament, all of the Flash’s rogues are facing off against one another to see who will reign supreme.  Fans will be able to vote for their favorites in hopes that they will advance.

Hopefully, if you are a fan of The Flash, you’ll swing on over there to join in all the fun.  You can learn more here and here.

~N

flashmarchmadness

Taking the Comic Out of the Comic Con

This last weekend, I attended the Chicago Comic Con (also known as Wizard World).  I was not initially planning on going to this comic convention, but after learning that my good friend Kyle and his bride Lisa were going to go, I decided to tag along with them.  Though I enjoyed my time seeing some good friends and picking up a few items I have no business owning, I cannot help but say that Wizard World has really gone downhill.  This was the first time I went to it since 2009, and quality decline was noticeable.  To quote Zack, “what went wrong”?

Personally, I think it was a number of things.  After Wizard World 2008, the two big comic book companies (DC and Marvel) signed exclusive contracts with the other Chicago comic convention C2E2.  As such, the higher-ups from those publishers cannot contractually attend Wizard World.  Since they cannot be there, no big comic-based news is discussed nor released.  I do not mean to suggest that no comic writers or artists attend the convention; it is just that it is very limited in scope.

This was a heavy blow to Wizard (who was already losing ground since their magazine was dying).  Needing to make up for it, they refocused the convention on the celebrity guests and photo-ops with them.  As cool as it is to see minor celebrities such as Dean Cain or Kevin Sorbo, that really is not the reason I enjoy going to these shows.  Also, while I am not one who is really all into celebrity autographs, I could not help but notice that the prices charged are absolutely ridiculous.  Take Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk).  He charges $40 for an autograph.  That is a little steep for me, but I get it.  What I do not get is why it costs an extra $40 if you want to take a picture with him using your own camera.  I do not know if this is Wizard’s rule or the celebrity’s, but I just find that to be highway robbery.

Speaking of money, the convention prices went up this year from $25/day to $35/day.  The main reason for this seems to be that the convention has been extended a full extra day.  However, is this the type of convention that really needs four days?  Given the lack of prestige the convention once had, I cannot say it is.

Not helping matters is how cheap Wizard World has gotten over the past few years.  They went from issuing badges to plastic wristbands for entrance.  Not the classiest thing, but not a deal breaker either.  The real off-putting thing is that they have not done away with programs.  In its place are two sheets of paper listing the programing and an almost impossible to read map of the floor photocopied in black and white.  While I appreciate the simplicity of it, could they not step it up a notch?  Also worth noting is that these “programs” were not even ready for distribution when the convention started on Thursday.  It was not until about an hour in before they were handed out.  That is horribly unprofessional.

Wizard World has also taken a step backwards in their organization.  For starters, the entrances to and from the main floor while seeming practical, ultimately makes no logistical sense.  Visitors are only allowed to enter on the far east side of the lobby and exit from the opposite west side of the lobby.  The panel rooms are roughly next to the west side exit meaning that if one left the floor to see a panel, he would have to walk all the way around the lobby to re-enter the floor.  It is a nuisance and there is seemingly no purpose for it (beyond when the convention first opens).

Another point of contention I have with the organization of Wizard World is that the main floor has been horribly redesigned.  Specifically, the artist alley is incomprehensibly arranged.  Traditionally, in the back of the main floor, several long rows of tables had established and new artists attempting to show off their work.  This row organization was easy to find and to navigate.  Now, Wizard World completely changed that and the artist alley is placed wherever there was any extra room.  It is still in rows, but not nearly as easy to navigate (even the number system each artist was assigned to did not follow any logical pattern).

All that being said, there is some silver lining coming out of this revamped Wizard World: the programming.  I really felt that many of the panels were much more interesting to attend.  They had some writer workshops, discussions on symbolism in comic books, and a book talk from the author of Superman: The High-Flying Story of the Man of Steel among others.  On Sunday, nearly all the programming was geared towards children (including a panel about bubbles – yeah, I did not understand that one either).  I love that the programming was not dominated by celebrity talks nor were 45 minute commercials for upcoming DC and Marvel projects.

As a comic book fan, I found these programs more interesting.  The only problem was that the programming was a bit limited.  There were times where only one thing was going on during a particular time.  For a convention in the Chicago area, too many things should be going on at once.  Options should be overwhelming.  That said, if you wanted to put on a panel, you would probably have a decent shot at getting approved at Wizard World than at C2E2.

I know I am ragging on Wizard World a lot here.  I guess I should mention that if this is what you want out of a convention, then my criticisms are meaningless.  I just feel they really have taken the comic out of the comic convention.  While I was there, I was talking to a few other convention goers.  They lamented the same issues I had.  One even predicted that Wizard World had only two years left before folding.  I really do not want that to happen.

Wizard World use to be such a great convention, and it can be again.  True, it does not have the support with the major comic companies it once did.  However, the problems I find with the show can be remedied.  Wizard can still focus on the celebrity aspect.  They just need to step up the effort, streamline the convention organization, examine their pricing vs. value, and find ways to expanding their programming options.  I still have some faith that Wizard World Chicago will be a different kind of great again!

~N

Friday Five – Comic Storylines!

Inspired by a comment Zack left on my Facebook wall, I decided to look back at some of my favorite comic book storylines for this week’s Friday Five!

Kick-Ass
Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.

Like most things, the book is better than the movie.  Kick-Ass the comic is a hilariously crafted story that wonderfully is satirical towards comics and comic fans.  Much of this was cut from the film.  It is also incredibly dark and surprisingly subversive at times as well.  All of this was cut from the movie.  That’s why it works for me.  I get what Millar is trying to do, and, as a comic fan, I can appreciate it on a deeper level than someone who picks up the book cold (wow, that sounded much snootier than I intended it to).

The story deals with Dave Lizewski, a comic-obsessed teen, who starts to moonlight as the superhero Kick-Ass with some very mixed results.  He ultimately develops the ire of the mob due to other superhero vigilantes.  Hijinks ensue.  I love how grounded this story is.  Granted, it is completely ridiculous, but it never breaks its own rules and things say relatively realistic.  The dialogue is tongue-in-cheek, while staying completely believable (with the arguable exception of anything Hit-Girl says).

I was disappointed that the movie took out or removed more of the subversive elements (particularly the Big Daddy reveal).  However, as a movie, that needed to reach a wider audience, so the changes make sense.  There is always the book, and that will never change.  Personally, since I haven’t been collecting the individual issues, I cannot wait until the Kick-Ass 2 collection is released this summer.

Batman: The Long Halloween
Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

This is a classic Batman story.  Jeph Loeb crafts an interesting mystery that ties together Batman’s early days, all of his famous rogues, and the creation of one of Batman’s popular enemies Two-Face.  Gotham City’s mob bosses are being picked off one at a time on every holiday by a serial killer appropriately known as “Holiday”.  Batman teams with Lt. Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent to not only bring down the mob, but to discover the identity of this new mysterious killer.  I felt this was a great mystery.  When I first read it, I couldn’t put it down as I found it so engaging.  I’ll admit the reveal of who Holiday is hurts the ending (it’s an amazing twist when you first read it, but when you think about it later, you realize it makes little sense).  However, I don’t feel that destroys everything else that comes before it. For my money, this is the definitive Batman story.

Tim Sale’s artwork is completely stunning.  I don’t think there has been anything this guy has done that isn’t gorgeous.  It also completely fits the story as Sale’s work have a very noir feel to it with muted colors and minimalistic backgrounds at times.

Superman For All Seasons
Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

Before they teamed for Batman: The Long Halloween, Leob and Sale crafted this Superman tale.  Focusing largely on Superman’s first year as a superhero, the story delves into what makes Superman great and delves into Superman’s own misgivings and doubts.  Split into four parts (one for each season…get it?), each part is narrated by a different member of Superman’s supporting cast: Pa Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and Lana Lang.  Telling the story from their perspectives juxtaposed with Superman’s own misgivings was a smart move.  It was able to make the story seem much more grounded and added an extra level of humanity to it.

I won’t lie, this isn’t a complex story, but why it works and is so memorable is because it gets down to the core of who Superman is and how he is seen by others.  I haven’t seen any other story within the last 20 years that captures this as succinctly as For All Seasons does.  Adding to this feeling is Sale’s artwork which is very reminiscent of Norman Rockwell, particularly the continued use of bright yellows and browns.  It gives the book that feeling of small town America which fits perfectly with the Man of Steel.

The Death & Return of Superman
Dan Jurgens, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern, Jerry Ordway, Karl Kesel, William Messner-Loebs, Gerard Jones
Jon Bogdanove, Tom Grummett, Jackson Guice, Dennis Janke, Denis Rodier, Walt Simonson, Curt Swan, M. D. Bright

Covering nearly 40 issues and a year’s worth of time, this was the comic event in the ‘90s.  I don’t care what John Landis’s hipser son says.  It was popular, critically acclaimed, and people completely bought into it.  Additionally, the story still holds up and is remembered popularly today.  The funny thing about it is that the creators didn’t intend on the story to be as big as it became.  They felt it would have been an interesting story to tell as they had to jettison their original plans due to the then-new Lois & Clark TV show.  They came up with the idea that Superman is being taken for granted.  What happens if he is just gone one day?

The story is really three parts.  The first is a seven issue throw down which ultimately ends with Superman’s death.  The second part is a nine issue tale that centers on how the DC Universe reacts to Superman’s death and what happens due to it.  The final part is a twenty issue arc that deals with 4 new characters claiming to be Superman and concludes with the original Man of Steel back to life.  Length alone, this story is epic.  And, surprisingly, it never got dull.  The writers plotted this out very, very well, especially after the death became national news and there would be a more critical eye on the two subsequent parts.

Something like this had never quite been done before on this scale.  The downside of Superman’s death and return is that it lead to a host of other “events” in comics to radically change characters to boost sales.  It happens a lot today, but I feel that, unlike during the Death and Return, it is now looked at as more “how can we build sales” and less “lets tell an awesome story”.

I’ll admit my views on this tale might be a bit nostalgic fueled.  This is when I first got into comics and I was enthralled by it all.  However, the story is still great today, and I like looking at these old issues.  Honestly, as a kid, it was a great time to be into comics.

Earth X
Jim Kruger and Alex Ross

After the success of Kingdom Come, Wizard Magazine (anyone remember them?) asked Alex Ross how he envisioned the Marvel Universe’s future.  What came from it was a sketch book with various notes.  Apparently, it impressed Marvel so much that they commissioned it as a 14 issue series.

The story centers on the idea that, in the “near-future”, everyone in the Marvel Universe has gained superpowers, and how the world reacts to it.  Most of the A-List Marvel characters come together in a story that cleverly connects most of the origins and major events in the Marvel Universe to one singular fate which suggests that these superpowers may have been given to humanity at a specific time for a specific purpose.

At first glance, that sounds either a bit ambitious or completely fan-wanky.  However, writers Ross and Jim Kruger avoid this by making their tale wildly interesting and only revealing little bits at a time (making the reader wanting to know more).  Further making this an excellent series is that it is completely accessible to non-Marvel readers.  Each issue/chapter follows a specific format that allows the writers to fill in the blanks on who some of these people are through dialogue between two characters observing these events.

Ross doesn’t do the interior artwork.  Those duties went to John Paul Leon.  This was a smart move as I don’t think Ross’s art would have worked for this series the way it might have for Kingdom Come.

Earth X had two follow-ups which, while entertaining in their own right, were fairly disappointing.  However, it doesn’t take away anything from the original series.  Earth X is probably my favorite comic storyline.  I recently re-read it about a year ago (the first time in over 10 years), and it completely recaptured my imagination.  I am not kidding when I say that I became so engrossed with it that I lost all track of time (I started reading at 8pm and the next thing I knew, it was midnight!).  If a book can do that, I can’t deny it’s anything short of fantastic.

~N

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