Where Will Wolverine Die?

Confirming the worst kept secret in comics, Marvel has released the teaser art for a new mini-series coming in September called The Death of Wolverine. The series will be written by Charles Soule with art by Steve McNiven.

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Comic Book Resources has a good interview with Charles Soule. Check it out.

Interestingly, Soule was asked how important Paul Cornell’s current run on Wolverine was to Wolverine’s September swan song. Soule replied:

Paul has been doing some killer work on the main series, particular in his development of the idea that Wolverine has lost his healing factor. That concept also plays a significant role in the “Death of Wolverine” story. That said, that is literally all you need to know in order to read this story. While I’m going to be weaving in a bunch of Wolverine’s history from the past 40 years of publishing (and 100+years or so that he’s been alive in fictional terms), I’m taking great pains to ensure that anything I bring up, whether it’s a character familiar from Logan’s history or a location that has some meaning to him, is explained within this story.

So… My take on this is that the guts of Cornell’s story, all the stupid Wolverine “finding” himself by teaming up with a team of forgettable C-List bad guys will not at all feature in Soule’s mini-series. The only common element is that, in both stories, Wolverine has no healing power.

But… what are we to make of the reports about Wolverine #12 used to hype Cornell’s series a few months ago.

Here’s a quote from a CBR story written back in December:

In an update released to retailers, Marvel announced an “exchangeability” program where unsold copies of the upcoming new “Wolverine” #1 could be exchanged for an exclusive “Mortal Variant” of “Wolverine” #12,” an issue scheduled to go on sale in September 2014. While that comic is still months down the road, Marvel described it as a “double-sized landmark issue” they expect to receive “national attention for its game-changing story.”

Cornell’s series wraps up right around the same time Soule’s mini-series does, in September. The end of Cornell’s series is a “double-sized landmark issue” that should receive “national [media?] attention,” but Soule’s series is called “The Death of Wolverine” and apparently has very little to do with Cornell’s series. So, where and when is Wolverine actually going to die?

Look, obviously, Marvel is going to try and milk Logan’s death for all it’s worth. Why tell a story in one issue when they can make you shell out money for five (one double-sized)? But the continuity disconnect is curious? I wonder if Cornell is actually going to be the one to kill Wolverine off, while Soule provides a kind of “narrative retrospective” on the career of Marvel’s most popular X-man.

As of right now, I’d guess that Wolverine #12 is going to be the equivalent of Superman #75 (which kind of kills me, because I hate this arc).

And before people go crazy, can we all just accept the fact that Wolverine is not really going to “die”? This is what happens in comic books people. Deal. Wolverine is one of Marvel’s most popular characters. Not only is he not going to stay dead. He’s not even going to stay off the shelves for a month, let alone two or three. Expect to see Logan’s adventures in the underworld in October.

Another thing to keep an eye on from a story perspective (and perhaps from a collector perspective) is that, come September, Wolverine, Professor X, and Jean Grey will all be dead. That’s three of the top five or six most popular X-Men right there. Is Marvel going to bring them back one at a time, or all at once? At the very least, I imagine the Phoenix will play a part in Wolverine’s resurrection. Maybe she and Chuck will hitch a ride.

Copper and Chrome

 

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Los Angeles Back Issue Porn

So I spent last week at a conference in L.A., and while I was there I did a little digging through the back issue bins.

I’ve never been to California before, so I had no frame of reference for California comic stores. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, I found Yelp.com to be really useful. Not only can you read lots of customer reviews, but you can also see pictures of the shops, which is super helpful for getting a sense of a store’s back issue stock. That is, you can get a sense of the size of their stock. You obviously can’t tell if they’ve got a Bronze Age stuff, or Superman comics or whatever.

Now, I had my wife and my one-year-old with me, plus I was in L.A. for work, so I didn’t have hours upon hours to dedicate to comic stores. However, the time I did have to spend on comics, I owe to my saintly wife,  who selflessly sat with my sleeping son in a parked car while I got my hands dirty flipping through the stacks.

Anyway, I was able to fit in two comic shops on my trip: Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, CA and Hi De Ho Comics in Santa Monica, CA. I had great experiences at both shops. If you’re in the L.A. area I can recommend both highly. Really good stock in both places, very friendly and helpful staff.

Comic Bug is a clean and well-organized shop with lots of new stock on the wall and a respectable number of back issues. As I said, I didn’t have time for an exhaustive look through the stacks, but I was able to snag some old Spider-Man and X-Men comics. I’ve got a decent run of ASM in my collection, almost every issue from 200-300 and a smattering of others here and there.

The three I picked up at Comic Bug, I picked up basically because I couldn’t resist the covers.

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I snagged a copy of ASM 52 for $5.00 – pretty low grade, there’s a significant tear on the bottom right of the cover. Still, I wanted that classic cover in my collection.

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That second cover is fantastic, isn’t it? The ghost of Hammerhead?! I mean, c’mon!

I decided last summer that I wanted to increase my X-Men holdings. I really like the X-Men, but I had virtually nothing. To start I’m targeting issues of Uncanny between about 143 and 300. Eventually I’d like to collect Claremont’s run, but that’ll be pricey. I’ll have to pick my moment. Right now those bronze age Uncanny X-Men issues are relatively affordable. I plugged a few holes at Comic Bug and also picked up quite a few issues at Hi De Ho.

Hi De Ho was really the store with the better stock, thousands of issues packed into wooden short boxes. Lots of Bronze and Copper Age stuff. The stock isn’t well organized though – issues out of order, all bagged, but not all boarded. Books are sorted alphabetically, but there are two separate collections, so that all Flash comics, for example, are in two separate locations.

Still, there’s lots of great stuff here. For example…

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#150, a milestone issue…

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#157, great Dark Phoenix cover,

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#171, in which Rogue joins the team. I also picked up this bad boy:

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Regular readers know why.

Update: Another Marvel Character to Watch

Last week I wrote about a few Marvel characters that might be worth watching from a collecting and speculating standpoint. Since then I’ve thought of one more I should have included.

Marvel has committed itself to another X-Men movie after Days of Future Past. It’s also announced another Wolverine movie is in the works. We’ve already seen many of our favourite second-tier and second-generation mutants on the big screen: Gambit, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde. We haven’t yet seen Jubilee.

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Jubilee is an appealing character for Marvel for a few reasons. As I mentioned in my discussion of Silver Sable. Marvel is obviously looking to add diversity to its films (Witness Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch). Jubilee is both a minority character and another female hero Marvel can add to the mix.

Jubilee’s connection to Wolverine is also promising. Logan has always had little sister characters in the comic books. Kitty Pryde and Jubilee are the two characters who’ve occupied that role. Rogue played that part in Bryan Singer’s first X-Men films. With more X-Men and more Wolverine movies on the way, there are multiple opportunities for Jubilee to show up on screen.

Jubilee first appeared in The Uncanny X-Men #244. That comic can be had for peanuts on eBay right now. Some people are selling it for $30 and $40, but others are putting it up for auction and it’s fetching $1-$5. I picked up a F/VF copy out of a back-issue bin for $4.00 about a month ago. See what you can find.

Copper and Chrome

What’s Happening to Wolverine? Does Anybody Care?

We’re three issues into Paul Cornell’s new Wolverine series. The reboot was accompanied by much fanfare and a rumour that something big was coming down the pipe for everyone’s favourite Canadian mutant.

So far, the gimmick is that in the wake of losing his mutant healing power Wolverine has put on a suit of body armour and teamed up with a group of super villains, financed by a mutant called the Offer who has the mutant ability to make anyone an offer they can’t refuse.

Cornell is employing multiple timelines, showing us Wolverine’s adventures in the present and gradually filling us in on how the hero got mixed up with this band of d-list bad guys in the first place.

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Supposedly, this is all leading up to something big. Marvel has already put retailers and media outlets on notice that Wolverine #12, due out next September is going to be a major event. There have been whispers around the Internet that Wolverine might be killed off.

From a speculation standpoint, collectors should be on notice for Wolverine #12. If this marks the death of Wolverine, Marvel will sell a jillion copies. The immediate resale market won’t be great, because everyone will have a copy. Longterm that’ll be a significant issue, though.

But if this is supposed to be Wolverine’s swan song, it leaves much to be desired.

As a reader I don’t really care about this Wolverine. Placing him in a  totally unfamiliar context amongst completely new characters (none of whom are particularly interesting) makes it hard to sympathize with him. Wolverine’s move to the dark side doesn’t feel authentic. Normal superhero Wolverine is darker than this criminal version. It was supposed to be some kind of shock when Wolverine killed a person in cold blood at the end of issue #1, but this is Wolverine! He kills two guys before breakfast every morning!

Wolverine has wrestled with darker demons than the Offer (and Sabretooth for that matter). The arrival of a young Jean Grey from the past seems like it should have a much greater effect on Wolverine than the loss of his healing factor or some tension with Storm, but there you go.

There’s a chance that Cornell is going to keep the surprises coming, and maybe Marvel isn’t planning on killing Wolverine at all, but this series needs to find its mojo fast. Otherwise it’s all marketing sound and fury.

Copper and Chrome

First Appearance of Quentin Quire Significantly Undervalued

A little while back, I wrote about the virtues of Grant Morrison’s X-Men run. Here I want to talk a bit more about one of the highlights of that run, the first appearance of Quentin Quire in New X-Men #134.

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The most sought after comics from a collecting standpoint are the first appearances of significant characters. The more significant the character, the more valuable his or her first appearance. Slowly but surely, Quentin Quire is making a reputation for himself. Most recently, Quentin Quire was one of the focal points of Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-MenHe’s also making cameos in other X-books.

Quentin (also known as Kid Omega) has telepathic abilities akin to Jean Grey’s. There are indications within X-mythology that he will eventually host the Phoenix force. His schtick is basically that he’s a prick. He gets off on being contrarian and getting underneath Wolverine’s skin. He’s one of the of the most interesting characters added to the X-canon in recent years, and since his first appearance occurred a decade ago, he clearly has staying power.

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The X-Men are a bluechip property, significant additions to the mythology are sure to gain value over time. The Lyria Exchange tracks trends on eBay. Recently on Twitter @LyriaExchange has noted the following trends re: the first appearances of Gambit and Psylocke, respectively:

Another point of comparison: Fantomex also appeared in Morrison’s New X-Men run (#128), and that comic is currently going for about $30.00 on eBay.

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You can snag Quentin Quire’s first appearance for $5.00, and in some cases less if you get it as part of a run. It’s probably a good time to stock up, because it doesn’t look like Quire is going anywhere.

Copper and Chrome

Kitty Pryde, Jean Grey, and All-New Heartbreak

I’ve been enjoying Brian Michael Bendis’ All New X-Men for a while now. I like the premise; I think the characters and dialogue are excellent. I’ve especially enjoyed the relationship between Jean Grey and Kitty Pryde, who has taken the old/new X-Men under her wing. It works so well because Kitty used to be the “little sister” of the team and Jean was the mega-powerful mutant authority figure. Now Kitty is the experienced one and she’s doing all she can to help a teenaged Jean come to grips with her Phoenix future/past.

That’s all been great, but lately the series has taken a turn for the worse. Mostly, I’m a little cheesed off about the “Trial of Jean Grey” story that’s part of the All New Marvel Now Reboot. The arc is a cross-over with Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s a six-issue arc, which means if I want to read it I’ve gotta buy THREE ISSUES of Guardians of the Galaxy. What!? Sorry, no.

I get that Marvel is trying to push GotG in advance of the movie. But three issues? C’mon. To make matters worse, this cross-over is coming on the heels of this fall’s 10-part “Battle of the Atom” cross-over. I didn’t mind “Battle of the Atom” so much because I was already buying three X-books, which is probably normal practice for your average X-Fan. So “Battle of the Atom” meant I was buying about four extra books over the course of two months. The story was decent, so no big deal.

But now, after three mediocre stand alone issues with sub-par art you’re going to try to get me on the hook for another cross-over event? One which requires some pretty silly storytelling in the setup.

Also, you’ve absolutely ruined the team’s costumes. Painfully generic multi-coloured costumes? Are you kidding me? These might be the worst costumes in comics? How does more than one person think this is a good idea?

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Hey, maybe you can fix them by giving all the team members spiffy helmets. Kind of like…

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Yes! Exactly. Heroic. Not at all juvenile.

Long story short this may be enough to drive me away from a series I’ve loved over the past year. It’s a shame and a real miscalculation on the part of the X-Editors and Bendis.

Speculation: Onslaught

The thing with markets is that you want to buy low and sell high.

One thing I’ve noted about speculators is that they tend to jump on the same books. Some are more prescient than others, of course, but there’s a lot of follow-the-leader in the comic book speculation game. We see a lot of buying high in an attempt to sell for higher.

It mostly works like this: Ultron is announced as a villain in an upcoming Avengers movie, everybody goes looking for the first appearance of Ultron. Netflix and Marvel strike a deal, everyone goes crazy for Luke Cage. Speculators start making money off of other speculators. Somebody buys Preacher #1 for $20, then sells it a few weeks later for $150 to someone else who hopes to flip it for $500 once the AMC series hits the air.

I’m a total amateur at this; so take what I say with a grain of salt. But I’ve been trying to identify books that aren’t trendy yet, but might one day be trendy. I’m talking dirt cheap books with no buzz. This is not a good way to make a quick buck. It’s a long-game – decades long. But a good collector, and investor buys low and waits while their assets mature.

So here’s one avenue I’m pursuing: Onslaught, the mega-villain who rocked the X-universe in the summer of 1996.

Onslaught is one of those gimmick characters like Doomsday, whose origins are tied to a massive crossover event. Because people are often resentful of crossovers – they cost too much and the substance of the story never seems to match the marketing hype – these characters are rarely well received… at first.

As we’ve seen with Bane, and as we’re now seeing with Doomsday, gimmick characters can become fleshed out over time. Nostalgia for 20-year old stories also tends to increase the value of books. Maybe we won’t see the same results with Onslaught, but the X-Men are a blue-chip franchise, like Batman and Superman.

One problem is that Onslaught’s first appearance is a little hard to pin down. He technically first appears in X-man #15, but it’s one of those silhouette jobs, but he does have a “speaking part”; it’s more than just a one-panel cameo. Onslaught appears again, more clearly in X-Men #54. Both books can be had for a few dollars today. I’m betting, a decade from now, that won’t be the case.