Stopped in at a Target for the first time in about a year, and discovered that they've joined the retail crowd offering discounted comics grab bags. So I grabbed a couple. I think the results were pretty good:
Deathmate: Yellow (Valiant/Image)
from September 1993
Deathmate was one of the projects that helped spoil the Image mystique, galvanizing the complaints of the company's inability to keep a publishing schedule. But it also gave Valiant a spotlight. Twenty years later Valiant was rebooted, brilliantly, but in this incarnation, it was just trying to get its concepts out there. It's strange, because there are repeated WildCATs crossovers in here, and sometimes they're obvious and other times they're not. I know most of the Valiant characters who appear, other than HARD Corps. Shadowman comes off...incredibly '90s. Ninjak should really be better exposed than he is. Toyo Harada continues to be the best name in comics that doesn't really have the spotlight worthy of it. Archer & Armstrong...I guess this is a buddy concept that's really just about the buddy concept, because other than the basic setup I never really get why I should care about them. The best any Image character comes off is Zealot, mostly because she gets the best spotlight, even though as far as I can tell there's absolutely no effort to explain her WildCATs context. Grifter's here, but his mask looks terrible. Makes me wonder why anyone ever thought it was a good idea. If it can be made to look like a face curtain, it's a bad idea. So I don't think this comic would've made me interested in either company, if it'd been my first exposure. After a while, the idea of the companies locked in a death match (hence the title) gets old, especially since no effort is made to explain why it's happening.
Fantastic Four: 40th Wedding Anniversary Special (Marvel)
from January 2006
After a rocky start, this ends up being an incredibly charming look at the relationship between Reed Richards and Sue Storm. It features a premise where they end up meeting versions of themselves from throughout their lives, including points in the future. Any Marvel editors really struggling to understand the concept could do worse than read this again. It also features a reprint of the 1965 wedding, with an embarrassment of guest-stars (read: just about everyone).
House of M: Fantastic Four #3 (Marvel)
from November 2005
This proves that the recent Secret Wars drew a lot of inspiration from House of M, the famous "no more mutants" event that saw the Scarlet Witch decimate both the Avengers and X-Men. This spin-off features Magneto (the "M" of House of M) at war with Doctor Doom, because they're the two most iconic villains of Marvel comics. It's kind of strange, a comic where you're forced to root for a bad guy because they're your only options. But it's kind of neat, too. Subtly, even though it doesn't feature the actual Fantastic Four, Ben Grimm ends up the central character, who turns out to be the real winner in the mayhem.
Starman #20 (DC)
from March 1990
The later James Robinson Starman basically reduced any Starman who didn't have the Knight surname to a supporting player in the saga, making this incarnation all but meaningless, which readers of the run, as represented in the letters column, would surely have found shocking, because even if they were small in number, they ate this stuff up.
DC Comics Presents: Superman and OMAC #61 (DC)
from September 1983
OMAC was one of Jack Kirby's many later DC creations, from the same period as the New Gods. The original version was later adapted into the Infinite Crisis era OMAC army (kind of ironic, as Kirby envisioned OMAC as a "One Man Army Corps") controlled by Brother Eye (where Kirby's was kind of like Booster Gold's Skeets). Watching the original in action, even if it's not Kirby running the show, is fascinating. Later, the New 52 revived the original (pretty much). But let's talk about Dick Giordano's Meanwhile...column. In it he lists DC's projects for the coming year, as well as stuff that was happening at the time. I love reading old comics almost because of stuff like this. Frank Miller's Ronin was being published. This used to be one of DC's perennial classics, until Miller's legacy collapsed into his Batman work. Omega Men had just launched, and I recently talked about its final issue (heh). Star Raiders is listed as DC's first graphic novel. Apparently this was an Elliot S! Maggin comic, based on an Atari game. The real historic draw would be the art of Jose Garcia Lopez. Superman III was being released in theaters (the prizes listed for a contest advertised in the issue are pretty neat; they include for some reason Superman peanut butter). Someone honestly thought it was worth mentioning the JLA/Avengers crossover project, which wouldn't actually happen for something like...thirty years. Anyway, later Giordano projects into 1984 and attempts to guess what projects will become a reality. He references DC's recent acquisition of the Charlton superheroes, which nearly became Watchmen, but later became the successful integration of characters like Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, and the Question. He seems to reference what became a renaming of Firestorm's comic. He mentions Greg Potter joining the company (misspelling his first name with one too many "g"s). Potter launches Jemm: Son of Saturn in 1984, which ends up being...his only significant contribution to the company. He references a Robert Loren Fleming mini-series in development, probably Ambush Bug. The biggest scoop? Mentioning Marv Wolfman's upcoming mini-series ("Some of the creative people have promised me bodily damage if I divulge too much..."), which is probably the continuity-restructuring Crisis On Infinite Earths. Also interesting to note that readers in the letters column responded passionately to a different continuity-restructuring, that of the Atomic Knights, who'd later get a revival post-Infinite Crisis (that's called irony).
WildStar #2 (Image)
from May 1993
This was part of Image's second wave of titles. Most notable, as far as I'm concerned, for its Jerry Ordway art. I'm familiar with Ordway from his Superman and Power of Shazam! work, so it's neat seeing it in a different, very Image context (as far as the storytelling goes). The character lasted two mini-series and then...drifted into obscurity. Ordway didn't work on the second one. Fascinating to see him associated with Image at all, though. His work is pretty much the opposite of what you'd associate with Image's early days.
X-Factor #76 (Marvel)
from March 1992
Seems about par for the course with Marvel comics at the time.
New X-Men #145 (Marvel)
from October 2003
Slowly catching up with Grant Morrison's X-Men. By the time it was wrapping up I was getting back into comics, but I made no effort to read it. I had been a huge fan of Morrison's JLA, but it wouldn't be until the Seven Soldiers of Victory project that I got back into him (just a few years later), so I didn't really appreciate how much I would actually be interested in it, later. I don't know if I've read this one already, but the material with Wolverine reading his Weapon X profile, and learning for the first time who he used to be (before Origin spelled it out) looked familiar, however I'd seen it previously. Obviously Morrison had a much different idea than what Marvel ended up doing (as with the rest of his New X-Men), as reflected in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But Marvel's loss was once again DC's gain, and he's never looked back.