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Category Archives: Other Media

Comic book movies, games, and more!

Star Wars Card Trader

Longbox Graveyard #154

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled individual issue reviews of the All-New All-Different Marvel Now to bring you the latest installment of … Super-Blog Team-Up!

IMG_8727

As you can see from the logo above, this edition of Super-Blog Team-Up celebrates the return of Star Wars! Today, all across the Internet, a ragtag group of bloggers have joined together to blog and podcast about the greatest space opera of them all!

Star Wars The Force Awakens

It is impossible to overstate the impact Star Wars had on pop culture, kicking off a whole new era of cinematic spectaculars, and incidentally saving Marvel Comics and the whole comics industry along the way. The Original Trilogy came along at the turning of the tide for my adolescence — I saw Star Wars as kid, with my dad at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, and six years later saw Return of the Jedi as a date film with the woman who would become my wife. Star Wars bracketed my transition from child to adult (or at least as adult as a fifty-odd-year-old guy with a comics blog can be!)

I loved the original pictures, but the years that followed would not be kind. I didn’t care for the prequels, and I resent that I can’t easily share the first films with my kids in unaltered form (not that they’ve shown much interest, frankly). Aside from dabbling in the surprisingly-good Clone Wars via Netflix, Star Wars has been in a long dry spell for me, but of course with a new movie on the horizon, my nostalgia has been reawakened for the series, so it was perhaps inevitable that I looked favorably upon an odd little app that debuted several months ago …

Star Wars Card Trader

Star Wars Card Trader is a free digital trading card application for iPhone and Android. It offers several hundred different virtual Star Wars trading cards that are distributed through a bewildering array of collectable packs within the app. The app uses a virtual currency scheme, but Topps is generous with free currency — my card collection numbers in the thousands, and I don’t think I’ve spent more than ten bucks all year (and needn’t have spent at all — basic currency rewards and advertising incentives can keep you going indefinitely with this thing).

I was never a trading card guy. Cards never appealed to me the way comics do — in my view, you can’t do much more with cards than to own them and organize them. At least comics offer reading value. So, too, have I always resisted products with built-in rarities, and card sets, with their blind packaging and chase cards, fall squarely into that category. Finally, I hate waste and I hate sprawl, and hauling around legions of card boxes filled with duplicate cards seems to me the worst kind of pursuit.

Star Wars cards

very cool, but too much for me

But there are people who love card collecting, obviously, and I say these things not to cast shade on my card collecting friends, but to set the stage for why I’ve come to so enjoy this digital trading card app. For me, it addresses every issue I had with collecting cards — it’s free, it’s compact, it’s organized, it’s filled with endless content, and it’s Star Wars.

The only problem is that it isn’t real.

The app is real, but the cards are not. At least, they aren’t real in the physical sense. While the cards may look real on your phone, they exist only as digital images on your screen, backstopped on a Topps server someplace. Digital comics, at least, are usually available somewhere as something you can hold in your hand. These Topps cards, for the most part, don’t exist in the real world at all. There’s no gold standard tethering these things to reality. There aren’t even Midi-chlorians!

thanks for nothing!

And yet the hunt to collect full sets of these things still drives a healthy daily user base of (by my estimation) about 70K players, enough of whom spend real money on this app to keep Topps busy releasing an endless and confusing string of core sets, inserts, and variants, with new releases coming every day! It is becoming too much of a good thing, to be honest.

But more about that later. First, the app.

Star Wars Card Trader is a free download for your smartphone, and there’s no harm in checking it out for yourself, but in a nutshell … the app gives you daily free currency awards, which are spent in a store to purchase packs of cards. Card packs vary by contents, quantity, and price, and are sorted by rarity. Base rarities are white, blue, red, yellow, and gold; on top of this there are variant colors and a storm of special inserts. The base cards are all photographs of characters and creatures from the six (and soon seven) Star Wars films and animated series, while the inserts cover everything under the sun, from concept art to weapons to locations to comic book covers that will be familiar to the Bronze Age comics fans that read this blog.

Star Wars!

The reverse of each card has a slug of text about the character, and a notice of how many copies of that card have been “printed,” running from the millions for base white cards, to 100 or fewer for some of the very rare inserts.

The most common way to get cards is to open packs, and Topps has done a good job here, with a little sound effect and flourish when you open a pack, and a burst of laser fire and device vibration when you uncover a card that is new-to-you … a fine digital approximation of ripping open a real pack of cards, sorting through them, and going “Got it … got it … got it … AH HA!”

There are also torturous achievement-based means of collecting certain rare cards, by assembling parts of other sets, or following blueprints, or melding or shredding the cards you’ve already got, but to be honest I can’t be bothered. I mean, look at these instructions, and tell me they make the vaguest sense:

are you kidding me?

No, I’ve stuck to basic goals, gradually filling out a complete set of White, Blue, Red, and Yellow cards (the most commonly available), and a few Golds, along with some keen inserts. One of may favorite sets, as you can well imagine, was the 1977 retro set, a reproduction of original physical cards of the day, some of which are just so damn cool:

Retro 1977 Digital Trading Card

I also chased down some so-bad-it’s-good art from an old Empire Strikes Back set …

is that you, Mr. Fett?

… along with some artsy original pieces that Topps has created just for their card sets.

Storm Trooper

Even the covers of the sets are cool. I never did get a single variant from this Women of Star Wars pack, but I loved the cover …

Women of Star Wars

Alas, not every card is a work of art. This Skiff Guards card belongs in the Photoshop Crime Hall of Shame …

Skiff Guards

… but for the most part, I’ve been well-pleased with the app, especially for the price. It gives me a Star Wars fix a couple times a day, and has even engaged me a bit with trading.

Ah, yes, trading … you can’t have trading cards without the trading part, and here the app also delivers, albeit awkwardly. There are various text feeds within the app where players will post their needs and offers, and there is a painfully slow and awkward interface where you can propose and counter-propose trade offers to each other. It is a laborious process, with far too many clicks, and trades are limited to nine cards on a side at a time, but it is better than nothing. Just.

And it was trading that led me down the rabbit hole with this thing.

It doesn’t take more than a couple months of dedicated use to put together a basic set of cards with this app. Chasing down every insert and variant is basically impossible, so when my core colors were complete, I figured that I was done with the app. This made me sad, because I still wanted my Star Wars fix … but I was unwilling to flush the major bucks and time into the app that collecting inserts would require.

And so … I went to the Dark Side. I became a Hoarder!

trading interface

We are getting into weird territory here, but stay with me.

When I first downloaded the app, the community seemed about split between those who Hoarded, and those who didn’t. It was the marvelous kind of nerd skirmish that our tribe does so well. On one side, the group who thought it was cool to compile lots (and I mean LOTS) of the same card through trade, and on the other, the group who felt this was contrary to the intent of the app (by artificially reducing the number of cards in circulation, and maybe by letting players pile up positive trade ratings through frivolous transactions). Nowadays, hoarding has been more-or-less legitimized by Topps through promotions that invite you to “shred” vast numbers of duplicate cards to qualify for rare variants, but you will still find a trader here and there with NO HOARDERS! in their trade offers.

Of course, this only encourages me.

I had hit the wall with casual collection, but I didn’t want to give up the app, so as I said, I became a Hoarder. Of digital cards. That don’t exist. A behavior that made me a pariah to some. This is awesome!

It was simple enough. I love Admiral Ackbar. I had a bunch of Admiral Ackbar cards. I thought … what if I had ALL of the Admiral Ackbars?

Must Have All The Ackbars!

one of these things is WAY MORE than the others …

Yeah, that’s never going to happen. There are millions of White Ackbars out there. But I decided to make a dent by getting as many as I could.

This is deeply stupid behavior. Like I said, the trading process is arduous, and is capped at exchanging nine cards at a time. Calculating the time I have invested in building my collection up to nearly three thousand Admiral Ackbars, nine cards at a time, is left as an exercise for the reader.

Here’s the crazy thing. I am not King of the Digital Ackbars. Not even close. I know this because the Hoarding market for Admiral Ackbar is very, very tight. In examining other players card collections for potential trades, I see stacks and stacks of Plo Koons and IG-88s and Padmes … but I see very few Ackbars. Other collectors — thousands of them, in my fevered imagination — have been getting to the Ackbars before me. I have nearly three thousand of these bastards, even if all they are is a little number on an image, but it is not enough.

It's A Trap!

Not.

Nearly.

Enough.

For awhile I hoped that I would be able to get an Ackbar Monument card when Topps inevitably announced shred time for the Mon Calamari, but I am seeing that weird dream recede in the distance. Based on past Hoarding challenges, it will take 5000 or more Ackbars just to get in the ballpark for that award, and I am never going to get there.

And so, with regret, I have been winding down my participation in Star Wars Card Trader, which is fine … it got me through the year and right up to the introduction of the movie. That’s great!

all things must end

one of my final Admiral Ackbar trades …

But there is possibly an epilogue to this saga.

I told you that I haven’t chased the rare cards, but one of the rare cards chased me.

Sitting on the can one day, I “bought” a package of non-existent rare “mint black press” embossed Star Wars trading cards, that were neither really pressed or embossed. And out of nowhere I Iucked into a black General Grievous.

General Grevious

I don’t give a bucket of warm Rancor piss about General Grievous, mint, pressed, black, or otherwise … but this is the rarest card in my collection. It is one of the rarest cards in the whole set, with only 100 in circulation. This particular card is one sixth of a complete mint set, and the crazy guy who gets one of each of the six will unlock another nonexistent virtual reward when the last of the cards has been released.

Grevious Back

For the effort and expense involved, you’d expect at least a handshake from C-3PO, but no … all that hunting for cards will just earn you another card!

(And did I mention that all the cards in this app, whether part of your collection or not, are always free to view via the trading interface?)

But I digress.

Here I am with this immensely sought-after card and no means or desire to collect the rest of the set. What am I do to with it? If I could trade it for 5000 Ackbars, I would … but the app doesn’t permit easy transactions on that scale. I could try to trade it for nine very rare inserts, but I’m really not that interested.

Or a clever fellow could truly turn to the Dark Side … at eBay.

The Dark Side

Now, I’m not saying I did it, because that would be a violation of the app’s terms and requirements, but I see that quite a few little Greedos have taken to listing their digital cards on eBay for sale outside of the app. I gather that payment is accepted via eBay, with a card trading transaction via the app to follow. And I see that mint black General Grievous cards are listing for around thirty bucks a pop, which is about what it will cost to buy a couple tickets to The Force Awakens.

Hmm. This is very tempting …

May The Force Be With You. Enjoy The Force Awakens … and before you go, be sure to check out these other great Star Wars Super Blog Team-Up articles!

NEXT MONTH: #155 Marvel Puzzle Quest

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Turning (iPad) Pro!

Lest my current paper comics-based review project make you think I’ve turned my back on digital funnybooks, I offer photographic proof of my Commitment To The Future:

iPad Pro Size Comparison

That is a photo of my new iPad Pro, displaying my favorite issue of Kamandi, along with a copy of the issue itself and my old iPad Air 2 for reference.

My “old” iPad was perfectly adequate for reading comics, but the new job has been good to me and I had a few extra bucks at the end of the year, and I became obsessed with the idea of reading in 1:1 scale on a digital device, so …

iPad comics page

The bugaboo of this photographic report is that it can’t really show the superior resolution of the iPad Pro, which is a significant step up from my previous device. It also loads pages and changes pages in a flash.

Since switching to the iPad Pro, I rarely use pinch/zoom functionality to zero in on individual panels — it is all easy to see in a single image, now, and having a display this size allows me to view the work as originally composed, in the form of a single page.

Provided you can adjust to the color of digital comics, and assuming you aren’t addicted to the smell of old comic pages, about the only place the iPad Pro reading experience lags behind print is in viewing two-pages spreads, like Jack Kirby loved to do:

two-page spread

And of course digital comics are usually absent the collateral charms of original books, like letters pages and house ads …

house ad

… but for speed, convenience, clarity, and ease of image capture for articles here at Longbox Graveyard, nothing beats digital comics. I’m a convert.

So, yeah … I’m the guy who dropped eleven-hundred bucks on a device to read comics with a twenty-cent cover price. Hmm.

I’m blessed to be able to afford such foolishness. Life is good!

 

Fool’s Gold

In this week’s guest blog, Milo Miller of Hero Tomorrow Comics tells us of the secret origin of his comic book hero, The Apama … and his own secret origin, as well, which involves Steve Gerber, the Man-Thing, and a certain fool-killing vigilante. Take it way, Milo!

I’ve always considered myself a comic book reader. Collector? Not so much. I’ve got tons of comics — a lot of Bronze Age gold that by all rights should be getting ready to pay for college, finance my next feature film, or — at the very least — purchase a jet pack (or two.)

Hulk 181, Spidey 129, Giant Size X-Men. They’re all there & then some; bought ‘em right off the racks.

Amazing Spider-Man #129

 

Spidey 129!

Then my twin brother and I read them to shreds of course. It’s not like I cut out the value stamps, right Paul? But I might as well have — creased covers, broken bindings, an inevitable grape jelly stain. Ughh.

In the film I co-wrote, Hero Tomorrow, a comic shop customer asks the proprietor — “Is that a comic book or a napkin?” and I regretfully have to admit here, “Yes, my writing does include many autobiographical elements.”

Hero Tomorrow

Hero Tomorrow

But mostly those books took such an incredible beating because I just loved the stories, the storytelling. And to be honest those landmark books we always picked up — fabulous first appearances, amazing origins, big premiere issues — aren’t all that indicative of the comics I was most attracted to.

My favorite books lived in the shadows; low-selling, anything-goes straight-up weirdness where creator’s often seemed to challenge an audience to follow on a trip that would inevitably end badly (at least from a commercial perspective.) Given the choice I would always take Mister Miracle over Superman, the Creeper over Gotham’s Dark Knight, Luke Cage over Peter Parker’s alter-ego.

It’s those pre-Star Wars books that led me to co-write my own retro/throwback/homage comic Apama The Undiscovered Animal: the story of a Cleveland-born Hungarian ice cream truck driver who unlocks the spiritual force of the most savage beast man has never known.

Apama #1

But it wasn’t only inspiration those Bronze Age beauties provided; they also presented the opportunity for me to meet & ultimately join forces with someone who would become one of my best friends, partner-in-crime, and greatest creative collaborators.

Because the day I met Ted Sikora at the University of Akron I told him all about one of the favorite books in my own longbox graveyard. And things were never the same.

Ted and I were taking a Video Production course together. I was a slumming English Major; he had just left Accounting to take some Advertising & Media classes. We both started talking comics almost immediately —- that uncanny geek-sense pinging as soon as we were in close proximity. I had drifted away from comics to a large degree; I still frequently visited my own accumulation but had lost the thread in the early eighties and hadn’t been actively buying new books in a long time.

Ted on the other hand was —- and still is — a life-long collector, a bag & board guy who hasn’t missed an issue of Amazing Spider-Man since 1975.

So in my desire to make a keen impression on a new acquaintance I played my trump card early in the conversation. “You’ve probably never heard of him but my favorite character of all-time is a guy named The Foolkiller.”

Foolkiller #1

Now Ted surprised me. Because, of course, he knew who the Foolkiller was. Unknown to me he’d made an appearance in Amazing to begin with and -— more shocking to me -— Ted told me there was a new Foolkiller mini-series that had just started hitting the racks.

After class that day Ted and I booked over to a local shop and attacked the longboxes with a vengeance. I picked up some of the other Fookliller appearances -— the afore-mentioned Spider-Man, two-issues of the wonderfully idiosyncratic Omega, a Defenders story. And I also purchased the first two issues of the current mini-series. Just like that, I was back in the game.

And I got Ted to purchase two of the greatest comic books of all-time: Man-Thing #3 & 4.

Man-Thing #4

Ted and I have been friends ever since. After graduation we co-wrote the script for our award-winning indie film Hero Tomorrow which Ted would direct to much acclaim. The film is a comic-shop romance with a super-hero twist about a struggling comic book creator who is desperately trying to break into the industry by promoting his original creation Apama. Apama is the “undiscovered animal,” a creature shrouded in mystery, a crypto-zoological puzzle that puts Bigfoot to shame.

The humor in the film comes from the creator’s inability to see that while characters based on bats, spiders and wolverines have an instant connection with an audience, one based on an animal that doesn’t exist fails to resonate.

In the film his girlfriend makes him a costume based on his creation for a Halloween party and in no time he’s out on the streets of Cleveland “fighting crime.” (I use the quotations since there is very little fighting and even less crime in the actual film).

For a micro-budget indie the film was very successful. We played a lot of festivals across the globe and it was at the post-screening Q&A’s that we kept hearing the same thing, “What’s with this Apama character?”

We didn’t need further incentive -— we’d each been dreaming of taking a crack at doing a comic since we were kids. And so began the ongoing series Apama The Undiscovered Animal.

The book has been getting some great reviews and the Volume 1 Collection of Issues 1-5 just got picked up by Diamond Distribution. It’s something I’m really proud of and captures many of the fun Bronze Age elements I grew up loving.

Apama #1-5

But enough about Apama; I’m running out of time and I’ve still got to tell you about two of the greatest comic books of all-time: Man-Thing #3 and 4!

I originally traded for beat-up copies from my old neighborhood pal Tim Engleman. He’d colored in the eyes of most of the characters with ballpoint pen for some reason. Paging through it today it strikes me as slightly unsettling; as if the detective investigating a rash of local serial killings will extract this from my accumulation to a thrilling declaration of “we’ve found our man!” Thank God Tim also was kind enough to scrawl his name across the cover as well, giving me at least a shot to slip the hangman’s noose.

I suspect the trade involved sports cards of some kind or maybe an early Blue Oyster Cult album that I was still too young to get into.

Regardless I felt I had won big.

Steve Gerber is (for me) the quintessential Bronze Age talent and -— backed up with some fantastic art by Val Mayerik — nowhere does his quirky poetry and off-the-wall storytelling come into more thrilling focus than this frantic tale of the Foolkiller.

The cover is wonderfully apocalyptic -— attacking alligators, flaming wreckage, a swamp filled with screaming survivors that look like they just woke up in Hell. And it only gets better from there.

Man-Thing #3

My favorite aspect of The Man-Thing in general is simply the jaw-dropping audacity that the character could carry a book. He -— it —- is everything a protagonist shouldn’t be: reactive, mostly passive, barely possessing a consciousness. In the best stories -— like these issues -— the ‘most startling swamp creature of all!’ sort of just shambles on stage as an after-thought, appearing to fulfill some sort of Comics Code mandate for minimum page appearance for a title character.

After the man-muck-monster ties up loose ends from last ish in some action-packed first pages the tale really starts cooking. A couple of bikers from the Skullcrushers —- also hold-overs from Man-Thing #2 -— hit the road after making peace with Richard Rory, the lifelong loser of the supporting cast. There at the bottom of page 11, in the distance we can just make out a figure standing boldly in the middle of the road.

Then, on the page turn after a couple of ads, we’re introduced to what is, frankly, an incredible example of visual storytelling and what can happen in the synergy between writer and artist.

Foolkiller!

Our first good look of the Foolkiller -— a perfect low-angle shot of a confident and dashing character -— part pirate, part cavalier, all WTF — is accompanied by a brilliant statement of purpose: “They come. All the days of their lives have led to this moment. It was ordained long ago in Heaven that this day they would meet -— the Foolkiller!”

In these next couple of pages every panel is a home run. This “Holy Warrior” stops the two cyclists with a purifying blast -— the “energy of the just and righteous” -— that is so over-the-top and devastating in effect that it can only be the weapon of a madman.

Gerber makes it clear —- even through the satire and absurdity -— that every great villain is a hero in his own mind; but Mayerik’s close-ups leave no doubt —- this guy is friggin’ nuts!

“Sometimes I fear,” FK muses, “that when my killing of fools is done -— only I shall be left alive.” Gerber is firing on all cylinders; the entire issue if full of these incredible, dead-pan hilarious observations. The voice of the character is so strong right from the rip I couldn’t help but be drawn to him. And then when he hands out his calling card demanding his future victims repent, ah brilliance!

Foolkiller!

Issue #4 has the Foolkiller’s origin which just ups the wacky ante even higher. Born ‘a cripple’ Ross Everbest’s father was killed on the day of his birth during the final days of WW2 while his mother perished as a military nurse in Korea on another of his birthdays -— ‘cut down by a commie bomb!’

Confined to a wheelchair Ross studies the art of war and worships all things military. Which one might think would result in a great tactical mind, an ability that would translate to a strategic advantage in combat but nothing could be farther from the truth. The Foolkiller’s escapades are marked by missteps, mistakes, and operative failure—- he is nothing if not an incredibly violent screw-up.

Everbest discovers his true calling when he’s miraculously healed at a revival meeting. Becoming a soldier in the service of the Almighty he realizes he must be an active agent against the fools -— ‘criminals … protesters, dope pushers … mocking the Lord and the military.”

origin of the Foolkiller

Add in a betrayal, a corpse encased in a glass shrine, and a strong sense of environmental consciousness to the murderous mayhem and you’ve got classic Gerber. There are so many great little elements along the way -— Foolkiller’s mobile HQ in a the back of an ACME moving truck, a ‘red herring’ sports car, Rory being on the killer’s hit list for playing “blasphemous” music while a disc jockey in Ohio.

And then, within pages of his introduction, the Foolkiller is dead. (By his own hand, of course.) “What a lousy way to die … even for a killer …! But maybe it’s poetic justice … sort of … even if we never know what the rhyme was.”

You can take the Punisher, Wolverine, Deadpool —- any of those characters who have followed that twisted trajectory from hyper-violent take-no-prisoner psychopath to the side of your kid’s lunchbox; I knew I’d found the unstable, rage-fueled killer for me. To this day I think Foolkiller missed his shot at the big time by not more than a degree or two, missed the refrigerator magnet, beach towel, and action-figures and wound up in semi-obscurity instead, buried -— not too deeply —- in many a longbox graveyard.

Punisher lunch box

Punish a PBJ today!

Thanks to Paul for letting me pinch-hit this month; it was a lot of fun. Originally I had contacted him in hopes of getting some promotional attention for the Apama Vol 1 release. But given the opportunity I found myself unable to resist the urge to waltz through some of my own tombstones if you will.

Maybe that says more about our book than any amount of shilling I could do otherwise.

Thanks, Milo, for bearing your swampy soul! Truly, you are a child of the Bronze Age! I urge my readers to check out The Apama … and visit them on Facebook, too. Tell them Longbox Graveyard sent you!

Marvel Unlimited Updated Review!

It’s been three-and-a-half years since I reviewed Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. I’ve been meaning to post an update for some time, and as I’ve been on vacation these past few weeks — and using the service a lot in my downtime — now seems the ideal time!

(For the TL:DR-types in the audience — I still enthusiastically endorse this service! For those wanting a bit more detail, I offer brief and updated impressions below!)

Marvel Unlimited

First off, the service has a new name — it is now simply Marvel Unlimited, which is snappier, but no less deceptive, as the service is still limited, though considerably improved over my original review.

Technology & Interface

The single greatest improvement in the service was a rebuild that dispensed with Flash and went cross-platform. That’s right, now I can use Marvel Unlimited on my tablet, which dispenses with about a third of my original criticism. Marvel Unlimited’s “smart panel” system isn’t quite so sharp as Comixology’s, but I find single-page mode on an iPad serves me just fine, given that I can pinch/zoom in on anything I want to see in greater detail. The service has been of great value in capturing images for use here at Longbox Graveyard (and the absence of a similar service accounts for much of the relatively paucity of DC Comics features here at my blog … it takes a lot more effort and expense to read DC product in electronic form).

The updated app came with some under-the-hood improvements, too, resulting in faster search and (generally) better stability. The physical search process also seems improved, though some of this might be down to my familiarity with the system, or just lowered expectations. My sense is that Marvel has been cleaning up their search metadata behind-the-scenes, but I haven’t run any benchmark tests, so you are on your own if a routine search turns up twelve separate entries for Don Heck (horrors!).

wow

Heck, no!

A very welcome addition is the option to search by date, which lets me set the Wayback Machine for (say) 1978 and see all the comics on offer for that year. I LOVE this feature, as it lets me dive directly into eras of interest, and even kinda-sorta read books in the order they came out, should I wish to experience a past year on a month-to-month basis. This is an indispensable feature — the kind that makes me wonder how I ever went without it. Well done!

The “Must Reads” search workaround I mentioned in my previous review is no longer available (at least on tablet, which is the only place I use this service now) — in its place is a “Library” option, which is supposed to let you download up to twelve comics at a time to read offline, a theoretically useful feature for plane or car trips.

I say, “theoretically,” because I can’t get the bloody thing to work.

Sad Trombone

Kind of damning to read instructions about how I can read comics offline on the same screen that chastises me for not having an internet connection, no? This may well be down to user error. Or maybe it just flat out doesn’t work.

Otherwise, the experience has improved in every way. Upon completing an issue, the option is available to jump directly to the next issue in line, a very welcome feature for long series re-reads. The ability to rate books or try to share them with friends is gone, and un-missed.

Spotlight

The front-end has nice new features like spotlight sections, with the most recently-released content displayed front-and-center (and alerts about new content rolling onto the system can also be pushed to you via email updates).

Which brings me to …

Content

Content is still king on this app — everything I lauded in my original review of the service is still here, plus seemingly every new book Marvel has published since, with the significant caveat that the system lags approximately six months behind print. You can think of Marvel Unlimited as the home video release of theatrical movies … and just as with the movies, if you can wean yourself of seeing everything when it comes out day-and-date, you can enjoy a lot of content for a fraction of the price.

For your humble narrator — stuck as I am in the year of 1978 — being “only” six month behind the times is so far into the future that it gives me a nosebleed! In other words, I’m fine with it, even for new books. Like many readers, I am looking forward to Marvel’s Even-Newer-And-This-Time-We-Mean-It relaunch … but I will be enjoying it in the Spring, instead of the Fall!

WE REALLY MEAN IT THIS TIME!

very much looking forward to this … eventually

Archival gaps have been slower to close. Marvel’s Star Wars books recently appeared on the service, but frustrating omissions from decades past remain (I am still flummoxed that Marvel’s monster books from the 70s are so few and far between). Very occasionally I will get notice that new issues of an old book have been filled in, but mostly I’ve adjusted my expectations and use the service for reading newer issues.

Here Comes Daredevil!

new-old Daredevil, recently added to Marvel Unlimited

Marvel Unlimited helped me come to terms with my conflicted feelings about Brian Michael Bendis by reading his work in long digital binges (where he shines) — I even bit the bullet and detoured into Battle of the Atom when it interrupted my long 40-issue read of Uncanny X-Men. It would have been nice if those Battle of the Atom issues were threaded one to the next, so I didn’t have to search up each title in order and by hand … but you can’t have everything!

your checklist mocks me

my kingdom for an interactive checklist!

The Future

In a lot of ways, my Marvel Unlimited service has been like a gym membership. There have been times when I’ve used it religiously, and then long gaps when I forgotten I’ve paid for the damn thing. If my credit card had aged out and the service had failed to renew, I might not have missed it … until the time came that I wanted to look as some specific issue of such-and-so, when Marvel Unlimited proves itself very much indispensable. I suppose I could cancel out my sub and pop in-and-out with trail memberships from disposable email addresses, but that is a churlish way to treat this service. There is good content here, and I’m happy to pay for it (and I will keep a candle burring in the window in hopes of DC offering a similar platform someday). I might even double-down and get a retina-display iPad specifically for Marvel Unlimited … or better yet, wait on the super-sized tablets Apple supposedly has in the pipeline, which strike me as possibly the best way yet to read digital comics.

But even with my “old” iPad, I am still a fan of Marvel Unlimited; I think it is worth a subscription, and it is certainly worth a tryout for whatever app is native to your device.

And now, if you will excuse me, I need to return to my Bendis-era Uncanny X-Men re-read. It might be 2013 in that particular series, but it’s all new to me!

Star Trek: The Old Generation

(Not comics, but close enough).

Sick at home and feeling nostalgic, I watched the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix.

USS Enterprise-D

I didn’t like this series when it was first aired. In fact it was a profound disappointment. I was an Original Series guy — and always will be — and this “new” Star Trek did not meet my space opera expectations. I watched an episode or two and checked out.

Re-watching this first episode again, almost thirty years (!) later, brought a few surprises.

It was remarkable how much like silly old Original Series Trek this really was. We had John de Lancie swanning around in an Elizabethan captain’s outfit, and a catastrophically bad stunt double standing in for Denise Crosby when she did a little Kirk-Fu on a courtroom full of fur-clad extras that might have walked off the set of The Omega Glory.

gotta love the fur!

The Enterprise was captured by something that looked very much like a shower curtain.

shower curtain

Add to this the usual planet-of-the-week shenanigans and you had a story that might have been as comfortable in 1967 as 1987, albeit one with a substantially larger budget.

But there was more, of course — the skillful introduction of a whole new cast of characters, and the re-introduction of the Enterprise (with more than a bit of ship porn, what with all the undocking and docking of saucer sections). The show also took pains to show us how it would differ from what came before, with its ask-questions-first-and-shoot-later captain, families on the ship, a more diverse crew, and not a Vulcan in sight.

It had been long enough that I’d even forgotten about DeForest Kelley’s delightful cameo.

McCoy the elder

In all it was quite a bit better than I’d remembered, probably because I’ve mellowed these last three decades, and am more willing to take my Star Trek where I find it.

There were things that rankled, of course, like a captain too eager to surrender, and a tiresome doe-eyed empath staring into the middle distance and telling us how much pain she was sensing.

I sense boredom

The ship’s bridge looked like the interior of a 1987 Chrysler 5th Avenue, and there were hints of elements that would hurt the Trek franchise in years to come (technobabble and the Holodeck, rocks upon which writers would later wreck themselves). But there were some real advantages, too, like the marvelous Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard, clearly the best actor to ever command a starship, and whom I realize was 47 when this series debuted … he seemed so ancient and distinguished to me then, and now I’ve got 47 five years in my rear-view mirror.

Ouch!

It was very entertaining, and a pleasant surprise. I’ll watch a few more. If there are now suddenly several seasons of mostly-unfamiliar Star Trek ahead of me, then that is a good thing.

Engage!

(and back to comics in my next post)

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