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SwiftMann
Saturday, March 07, 2020 1:50:04 PM
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Fabian takes over and restarts the universe. Sort of. It’s an admirable attempt and (mostly) far better than history and critics lead me to believe. I had only read Q&W and the 1999 stuff when it came out. Pretty much everything else was new to me. The titles are listed in the order in which they were released.

X-O Manowar – I did not see the quick change in #1 & 2 coming. Nicely done. Early on, the rest just felt like Tony Stark’s Armorines though. Far better Armorines, but Armorines. The book found a bit more of a voice when McDuffie came on, but throughout the characters were a bit too one-note. Despite that, this was an enjoyable, light ride. The history of the suit, including Operation: Stormbringer, was a nice approach.

Ninjak – This was a big miss. Busiek can be like reading homework even when he’s at his best (Avengers, Astro City). This was not his best. It’s just kind of dumb and cliché. I like both Vokes and Oeming separately, so it’s weird that they don’t work together very well.

Shadowman – The Ennis/Wood issues just didn’t work for me. Four issues just to get a hazy explanation of the set-up was too long and just devolved into obscenity for the sake of obscenity. And while I like Wood’s art later in his career, this is too rough around the edges with unclear layouts and too little detail. The Delano/Adlard follow-up was no better. Seemingly ignoring or outright undoing what was set up and setting up a new status over four MORE issues. The premise shouldn’t have taken 8 issues to get to. And then it’s seven more issues of nonsense before Clermont and Crain actually start making a real story. But then it’s over.

Troublemakers – I struggled with this series at the beginning as Nicieza stumbled a bit by being too vague in his writing. But it really picked up after the first few months and became a favorite. Even the “after school special” style issues, which I vaguely remember being mocked back in the day, were surprisingly good. This series ended up being the emotional spine of the entire VH2 universe.

Turok – Empty Souls provided a good basis for the new iteration. It was a bit cliché but not bad. Likely a huge turnoff for fans of either previous version. The quarterly publishing schedule of this is a headscratcher considering they had a hit video game on their hands. Even power reading these, there needed to be more Turok and Turok legacy deep dives in the VH2 universe.

Magus Robot Fighter – The first issue was a bit confusing regarding timelines and it seems like they tried to correct that by retelling the whole first issue in the first few pages of the second. After that it was mostly just a big ol’ pile of fine. The individual issues were engaging enough, but there was limited growth in character until far too late in the run. The Albanian storyline definitely made the book more interesting, but, again, too little too late.

Solar – I loved MotA. Granted, it’s Warren Ellis during his creative peak, but the explanation of the VH2 universe and its connection to VH1 is absolutely awesome. It was diminishing returns after that. Revelations was good for sure, but the mini fell a notch or two. Overly convoluted with a need for tighter focus on what was attempting to be told.

Eternal Warriors – This just didn’t click for me at all. The characters were poorly designed and the entire hierarchy of the Forever Family just felt off. I never once cared what happened to these characters since they all came off as d-bags.

Quantum & Woody – I was nervous that maybe after 20+ years this book wouldn’t really hold up. So glad it does. This is a near perfect read from start to finish. Even the fill-in artists nail it. These are VERY human, VERY damaged, but very skilled and funny (in their own ways) individuals that you always want to dive deeper into. And of course, the awesomeness of Vincent.

Bloodshot – I read a couple issues of this a long time ago. Didn’t like it. Still don’t. It’s more of an approach problem* than an actual story problem. Although the story doesn’t seem terribly different than the original and (despite appearances by X-O and Shadowman) feels like it’s happening in its own universe.

*Babbling narrative boxes of random words attempting to sound literate – from #12: ”What’s left mewls flops jabbers in a swamp of tears agony excrement until the Triad’s offer. Let us help. Remake rebuild faster stronger better: the sins of Steve Austin.” WTF?!?

Trinity Angels – I was genuinely surprised that I liked this as much as I did. For most of the run, Maguire skillful handled an ever growing cast. While I know it was canceled early, I still wish the final issue had been a little more inventive in wrapping everything up. And in showing us all the wonderful baddies we had met over the run. Not a one of the known 99 actually makes an appearance.

Doctor Tomorrow – I really dug the entire approach to this series. The first couple issues of set-up did drag, but once we meet Mushroom Cloud and Tomorrow’s life completely spins out of control for decades, it becomes a fun, dark read. The issue by issue homage to artists didn’t always work out, but it was a great idea.

Master Darque & Darque Passages – I loved the one-shot. Thought it set a great new status quo for Darque. The mini-series lost me along the way with convoluted writing and too many “side missions” that distracted from the plot. Leonardo Manco’s art has always and will forever be a favorite though.

Harbinger – This was a really weird one. I get that they were trying to set up something that they didn’t get to before publishing ceased, but this version of the team wasn’t any better than the original. And the redesign on Faith was a particularly poor choice.

Concrete Jungle – I didn’t remember this being connected to the Q&W but I’m glad it was just barely. A really interesting read and set-up to something I wish we had gotten more than one issue of before the line died.

Other than Bloodshot, EWs, and Ninjak, I found myself surprisingly enjoying the VH2 universe. The connective tissue between this and the original universe was well done and all of the new IPs introduced here were actually good. I found myself really looking forward to the terribly named “Final Solution” event with Harada that never happened.

Unfortunately, they stumbled with the books they chose to lead things off with. Of the first three titles (X-O, Ninjak, Shadowman), only X-O was remotely good. Even then it was probably too much of a stretch to go from barbarian to smartest man in the world and one of the coolest armors ever drawn to an Iron Man cartoon knockoff. Then Troublemakers, Turok, and Magnus weren’t the strongest of starts either. Troublemakers and Turok turned into something really fun, but it was probably already too late.

If they were to get a redo on it, I would think coming out the gate with MotA (or something similar) to show the connection to VH1 and that this was a connected, but divergent, timeline would have gone a long way. Teasing the catastrophe of summer 1998 would have also been good from the start. Assuming either of these ideas were there from the get-go. And publishing Turok as a monthly was definitely needed.

Random observations: Early on across titles, there’s at least four references to peeing ones pants and one pooping ones pants. Just a weird coincidence or early editorial mandate that there’s at least one per month? Speaking of editorial, they did a pretty terrible job after the first couple months. Across the entire lines there were issues with words dropped out of dialogue, names spelled differently. Multiple times. In the same issue. And an absurd number of errors in chapter titles of Bloodshot (which were just Two, Three, Four, etc). And these editorial oversights still exist in the relaunch a year and a half later. Speaking of which.

VH-2.5? 3?

N.I.O. #1-3 – I didn’t know this title existed until I printed out a valiantfans checklist/price guide at work sometime between 2001 and 2003. The second issue’s “Next Issue” box explains this series best, “hyper-kinetic robo-action.” It was fine, just didn’t have anything to do with anything other than originally being a potential Rai reboot.

Turok/Shadowman – So much time spent with the radio broadcast that Priest seems to have forgotten to explain the actual plot here until we are waist-deep. It’s nicely tied into everything from Turok, but now I know why it made me scratch my head 20 years ago when I hadn’t read any VH2 Turok and bought it because 1) it was a Priest penned issue and 2) Shadowman lead in.

Shadowman #1-6 – If this was the tone and style from the first Acclaim version instead of Ennis & Delano, it’s possible they would have had a hit on their hands. This isn’t perfect, Ryan Benjamin’s art pales in comparison to Mat Broome’s and they shouldn’t be sharing issues, but it’s really quite fun.

Quantum & Woody #18-21, 32 – I loved that they shipped #32 like the series hadn’t disappeared for 15 months. Ballsy move. Really though, nothing more to say here than it’s still great stuff. But, man, do I wish they had gotten to fill in the blanks of #22-31.

Armorines #1-3 – This was better than I remember it, but not having read the original Armorines run or any of the VH2 stuff there was a lot I missed that first time. Pretty much everyone in this book is some known character. A pretty decent story that does boarder on the generic at times.

Unity 2000 #1-2 – This is just not good. The new take on Alex and Sandria (both characters and design) is off putting from the start. While the gathering of heroes was fun, stuff like a computer virus as a spell was awful. The second issue was far worse than the first with even more babbling exposition and strange artistic choices.

Turok: Evolution – Even for a video game tie-in comic, this one was bad. Rough art. Light story. Children’s board book style font. Just a hot mess of no one caring.

I loved reading the publisher’s page in the back of these. Each month pumping up Acclaim. Going so far as to “assure [us] here and now that the rug will no longer be pulled from beneath you again” in the August issues and less than six months later, it absolutely was. Or after #6 ships 7 months late, we are told Shadowman is a 12 issue series and doing great in Europe and that the linewide publishing delays were “stumbles and hiccups” that were behind them. And then those titles disappear forever. Outstanding level of b.s.


Still Missing:

N.I.O. #4

Deadside #1 & 3 – Like N.I.O., I didn’t even know this existed until a few years after it came out.

Unity 2000 #3 – Was in my pull box, but knew it was cancelled, the first two issues stunk, and money was tight then so put it back on the shelf. Monetary regrets.

Armorines #4 – My shop never got this issue.

Turok, Turok 2, Turok 3
Thundercron
Saturday, March 07, 2020 4:32:46 PM
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Always enjoy reading your universe reviews, despite never reading any of these books myself.
SwiftMann
Saturday, March 07, 2020 9:06:21 PM
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Thanks Corey!

Trying to figure out what to do next.

I wish I had done a full review when I read the Comics Greatest World/Dark Horse Heroes a while back. It's only a couple hundred issues, so I may revisit at some point but. Ot yet.

Stalled out on Liefeld. Got through the first 2-3 years of titles but missing a chunk of issues.

I have a couple hundred issues of GI Joe A Real American Hero trades to read. But that's just one title, not a dead universe, which is what I like to spend time with.

Still have a couple holes in each of my Broadway, Defiant, and Continuity collections before a read. Started picking up the old Hero Comics/Heroic Publishing and Triumphant books

Yoda help me, I've started falling down the wormhole of buying up Harris Vampirella (had a bunch already), Marvel 2099, and maybe even Marvel UK. There's just some dumb appeal to these contained, finite universes.

I should probably finish reading the last few CrossGen titles. I was making good headway, but Mystic and Ruse wore me out with their slow burn, super redundant nature. But, yeah, maybe finish CrossGen.
Thundercron
Sunday, March 08, 2020 9:31:07 AM
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Marvel UK from the nineties was always an odd venture to me. So Marvel UK gets started so Marvel can break into the British comics market via US reprints, followed by producing some original material. Then in the nineties the whole focus became producing comics designed to....break into the US market? Wut?

Probably the epitome of the industry cannibalizing itself.
SwiftMann
Sunday, March 08, 2020 3:39:51 PM
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Ha!

Yeah, it's a fascinating thing. I get the reprints and collections and having an actual UK publishing division. But I still don't quite get the logic of turning it into an imprint of regular Marvel as a way of bringing in British sci-fi writers? Maybe. But then having almost all of them have guest appearances by X-Men, Spider-Man, and Ghost Rider to draw on the popular characters of the time.
MoonKnight1
Friday, March 13, 2020 3:20:35 PM
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Thundercron wrote:
Always enjoy reading your universe reviews, despite never reading any of these books myself.

Same here, Dan.

Actually, I have read some of the titles but just an issue or two here and there. Certainly nothing to the extent of what you have been doing!

What is your process when doing these? I'm guessing you take notes as you go, do you read a whole series before moving on to another or do you jump around? How do you slog through some of those titles that aren't very good?

SwiftMann wrote:
Ninjak – This was a big miss. Busiek can be like reading homework even when he’s at his best (Avengers, Astro City).

I sort of agree but also have to quibble just a bit with this.

Yes, Avengers Forever was an encyclopedia of a mini-series. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I know a lot about Avengers history, but sometimes it could be laborious.

Astro City on the other hand is to me a more accessible read. Sure, there is a lot of history and back story involved but it is all brand new history. It has the feel of a long standing Universe without having decades of previously published content to dictate (or contradict) continuity. Reading KBAC reminds me of how I felt when I first started reading Marvel Comics. I didn't know anything about what had happened before but they referenced past stories all of the time. The more I learned about the continuity the more I wanted to read the previous tales to see exactly what happened.

One thing I admire about Kubiek is that he uses obscure characters from the dust bin and turns them into something interesting. It's like he was a student of Mark Gruenwald.

SwiftMann wrote:
Quantum & Woody – I was nervous that maybe after 20+ years this book wouldn’t really hold up. So glad it does. This is a near perfect read from start to finish. Even the fill-in artists nail it. These are VERY human, VERY damaged, but very skilled and funny (in their own ways) individuals that you always want to dive deeper into. And of course, the awesomeness of Vincent.

I've read several of these. Good stuff.

SwiftMann wrote:
I loved reading the publisher’s page in the back of these. Each month pumping up Acclaim. Going so far as to “assure [us] here and now that the rug will no longer be pulled from beneath you again” in the August issues and less than six months later, it absolutely was. Or after #6 ships 7 months late, we are told Shadowman is a 12 issue series and doing great in Europe and that the linewide publishing delays were “stumbles and hiccups” that were behind them. And then those titles disappear forever. Outstanding level of b.s.

Oh yeah, I have seen a lot of that in various Indy titles from the 80's and 90's.

"We're sorry that it has been three months since the last issue but we promise that the next one will be out this month!" Then it's another five months before it comes out. If at all.

SwiftMann wrote:
I have a couple hundred issues of GI Joe A Real American Hero trades to read. But that's just one title, not a dead universe, which is what I like to spend time with.

I have read every single issue of the Marvel series plus the Annuals, Secret Missions, Order of Battle, vs. Transformers and a good chunk of the IDW stuff. Ignore the Dark Horse crap. Certainly one of my favorite series.

SwiftMann wrote:
Marvel 2099, and maybe even Marvel UK. There's just some dumb appeal to these contained, finite universes.

I would say that I have read probably 90% of the Marvel 2099 books. I enjoyed a lot of it, really liked the universe, but not all of the comics were quality productions, IMO.

Spider-Man 2099 and Doom 2099 were both excellent. Solid stories, slick art, engaging characters - both very good.

The rest of it to me was really hit or miss. I thought that X-Men 2099 was better than average, Punisher 2099 not that great and Ravage 2099 forgettable. Pretty sure I did not finish reading that one. Was not impressed with Hulk 2099, Fantastic Four 2099 was farcically bad, Ghost Rider 2099 seemed pretty cool but didn't have enough time to develop.

Overall I enjoyed the Universe that they built, some characters and stories were better than others but that can be said about pretty much every comic line.

If you are looking for a contained universe have you read the Shadowline Epic/Marvel Comics books? There's only 31 of them so easy to find (St. George - 8 issues; Power Line - 8 issues; Doctor Zero - 8 issues; Critical Mass - 7 issues). I read these as a teenager when they first came out and didn't really understand it. Re-read several years later and had a new appreciation for them.

Another personal favorite contained universe is Matt Wagner's Grendel. There's a lot of them to collect but most are easy to find. The original series is broken up into several segments bringing the story from the near future to the far future. There are numerous Grendel Tales which are stand alone stories that are loosely tied together, Black, White and Red which contains short stories in the Grendel-verse, crossovers with Batman and the Shadow and Devil by the Deed and Behold the Devil focusing on the original Grendel (that we know of) Hunter Rose.

There is a lot of cerebral themes and plots here. Can be complex but definitely one of my all time favorites.

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SwiftMann
Saturday, March 14, 2020 11:19:05 PM
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MoonKnight1 wrote:
What is your process when doing these? I'm guessing you take notes as you go, do you read a whole series before moving on to another or do you jump around? How do you slog through some of those titles that aren't very good?

I don't actually take too many notes. I do use another site to rate every single issue as I go and make mental notes along the way. For Valiant I read it based on a version of story chronology (which turned out to be meh, so I tracked my own). For Acclaim I read it in publishing order. This helps break up the rough series. I'm also reading all these in between my weekly new comics which also break it up.

Quote:
Astro City on the other hand is to me a more accessible read. Sure, there is a lot of history and back story involved but it is all brand new history. It has the feel of a long standing Universe without having decades of previously published content to dictate (or contradict) continuity.

All true. About the early series for me. Dark Ages for me was an absolute sludge. And things have been really hit or miss for me sense.

Quote:
I have read every single issue of the Marvel series plus the Annuals, Secret Missions, Order of Battle, vs. Transformers and a good chunk of the IDW stuff. Ignore the Dark Horse crap. Certainly one of my favorite series.

This is just the A Real American Hero Marvel and IDW continuation. None of the new continuities, which I had touched a little bit when Devil's Due tried. Meh.

Quote:
Overall I enjoyed the Universe that they built, some characters and stories were better than others but that can be said about pretty much every comic line.

I've read bits of all of them over the years. Never fully to get the true universe building feel though. We'll see what I can get together.

Quote:
If you are looking for a contained universe have you read the Shadowline Epic/Marvel Comics books? There's only 31 of them so easy to find (St. George - 8 issues; Power Line - 8 issues; Doctor Zero - 8 issues; Critical Mass - 7 issues). I read these as a teenager when they first came out and didn't really understand it. Re-read several years later and had a new appreciation for them.

This is all new to me. Not sure how. I'll have to take a look and see if creators and ideas grab me.

Edit: Hmmmm... The artists are interesting for sure. But Chichester has almost (or maybe just) never impressed me. Although it does look like the whole run would cost less than $25 and the wikipedia makes it seem a bit intriguing, so I'll keep it in mind.

Quote:
Another personal favorite contained universe is Matt Wagner's Grendel. There's a lot of them to collect but most are easy to find. The original series is broken up into several segments bringing the story from the near future to the far future. There are numerous Grendel Tales which are stand alone stories that are loosely tied together, Black, White and Red which contains short stories in the Grendel-verse, crossovers with Batman and the Shadow and Devil by the Deed and Behold the Devil focusing on the original Grendel (that we know of) Hunter Rose.

There is a lot of cerebral themes and plots here. Can be complex but definitely one of my all time favorites.

I've red a bit of Grendel over the years, including all the ones you mention. It was interesting enough for a bit to keep me going, but never fully. There's something about Wagner's writing that doesn't quite click for me.
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