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My Free Comic Book Day 2018 Results: The Best and the Least Best

Maxwell's Demons!

A boy and his toys go to war. From Maxwell’s Demons #1, art by Vittori Astone.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on May 5th I once again had the pleasure of once again observing Free Comic Book Day, the least fake holiday of them all, that annual celebration when comic shops nationwide offer no-strings-attached goodies as a form of community outreach in honor of that time-honored medium where words and pictures dance in unison on the printed page, whether in the form of super-heroes, monsters, cartoon all-stars, licensed merchandise, or entertaining ordinary folk. Each year, America’s remaining comic book shops (and a handful in the UK that can afford the extra shipping charges) lure fans and curious onlookers inside their brick-and-mortar hideaways with a great big batch of free new comics from all the major publishers and a bevy of smaller competitors deserving shelf space and consideration.

This year my Free Comic Book Day involvement took on a different form. My local shop offered a special deal that sounds crazy on the face of it: for a fair sum of money, we could pre-purchase a bundle of all 52 Free Comic Book Day comics that their stores planned to order. Normally these would all be free, but you’d look like a schmuck for casually walking in, picking up all 52, and walking right back out. Instead they set aside copies of all those comics, bagged ’em up, and let buyers pick them up late Saturday afternoon, once all the furor and hubbub had subsided. I went for it. I liked the idea of playing the role of patron, donating extra cash to help facilitate Free Comic Book Day for other folks in town, in a way that would help my shop offset the costs.

I spent the rest of Saturday night and nearly all of Sunday reading all 52 and then posting my impressions on Twitter after each comic, along with photo excerpts from every single comic. I took photos rather than scans because (a) our scanner sometimes ruins the hard work of comics colorists, (b) I wanted to capture the feel of comics on actual physical paper, (c) I wanted to test my new phone, and (d) snapping pics was faster than scanning. This reading/photography project took until 11:30 p.m Sunday night to complete, and would’ve taken until sometime Tuesday if I hadn’t cut corners somewhere. I had to put this entry off for a few days because I needed a break after spending so, so much time with them all.

This entry, then, is a condensed version of that epic-length tweetstorm: my ranking of the twenty best books of the bunch, followed by my six least favorites of the entire stack. I never trust a comics reviewer or website that shares nothing but relentlessly glowing opinions — nor, conversely do I trust a critic who hates all comics and can’t be pleased — so this is my way of not becoming that which I disparage.

Up first: that happy Top 20. On with the countdown!

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Yes, There’s a Scene After the “Avengers: Infinity War” End Credits

Thanos!

If you can see only one Josh Brolin film this year, skip Sicario 2: Soldado.

The short version of this entry: for anyone who’s sat through all three Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America films; the first two Avengers films; both Guardians of the Galaxy flicks; Edward Norton’s Incredible Hulk; Spider-Man Homecoming; Ant-Man; Dr. Strange; and the great and powerful Black Panther…as those fans hoped unanimously, Avengers: Infinity War is the ultimate, fitting culmination of all that. It ties lots of threads together, features unexpected team-ups, makes time for heroes punching heroes in the grand tradition of Marvel misunderstandings, hits hard with heavy emotional moments, allows a few quiet spaces to breathe in between the chaos, and has a few moments rigged to invite audience cheers and gasps, sometimes mere seconds apart.

However, it is not the season finale. It’s episode 19 of a 22-episode season eleven years in the making, with three more episodes to go: this summer’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, which takes place beforehand; the technical prequel Captain Marvel; and the true season finale, Avengers: Secret Subtitle. Anyone trying to approach Infinity War as a standalone work, clinging to the notion that any and every film should be a self-sufficient viewing experience in itself, will walk away disappointed. Infinity War has other objectives in mind. Comics fans are used to major crossover events and know how the game works, but some film critics are bristling at this new idea that threatens to make movies more like comics in the long term, and not necessarily like good comics.

Okay, that opening was supposed to be shorter. Even shorter version, then: upon a single viewing in IMAX, where the volume-17 sound system purged all intellectual notions out of my body, Avengers: Infinity War was extremely cool, somewhat depressing, and, as I suspected going into it, thoroughly futile on at least one ostensibly dramatic level.

That’s still too long. One more try: if you love Marvel movies to pieces, Avengers: Infinity War is more of that but quadrupled.

Caution ahead: spoilers are probably ahead if you’re the kind of deductive reader who can put two and two together too quickly. My movie entries are normally written as if I’m talking to a general audience who hasn’t seen the film, but we’re now on the nineteenth film, the biggest one yet (literally for me, since I saw none of the others in IMAX) and I don’t know if I’m about to make this entry quite so reader-friendly. I’m not indulging in stroke-for-stroke golf commentary, but a few aspects of my reactions — including my least favorite thing about it — can’t be covered coyly without rendering them into so much useless ambiguity. If you need to brake and reverse now, I’ll understand.

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C2E2 2018 Photos, Part 2: Marvel Cosplay!

Kate Bishop and Samurai Iron Man!

Kate Bishop a.k.a. Hawkeye, and Samurai Iron Man!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The ninth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″) just wrapped another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking. Each year C2E2 keeps inching ever closer to its goal of becoming the Midwest’s answer to the legendary San Diego Comic Con and other famous cons in larger, more popular states. My wife Anne and I missed the first year, but have attended every year since 2011 as a team.

In this special miniseries I’ll be sharing memories and photos from our own C2E2 experience and its plethora of pizzazz…

If it’s a convention, that means it’s time for more cosplay photos! Anne and I are fans of costumes and try to keep an eye out for heroes, villains, antiheroes, supporting casts, and various oddities that look impressive and/or we haven’t seen at other cons. First up: a great big batch of characters from assorted iterations of the Marvel Universe, movies as well as comics. These aren’t even all the Marvel characters we saw, but I had to draw my arbitrary dividing lines through our nearly five dozen costume photos where I could. Caveats for first-time visitors to Midlife Crisis Crossover:

1. My wife and I are not professional photographers, nor do we believe ourselves worthy of press passes. These were taken as best as possible with the intent to share with fellow fans out of a sincere appreciation for the works inspired by the heroes, hobbies, artistic expressions, and/or intellectual properties that brought us geeks together under one vaulted roof for the weekend. We did what we could with the tools and circumstances at hand. We don’t use selfie sticks, tripods, or cameras that cost more than a month’s worth of groceries.

2. It’s impossible for any human or organization to capture every costume on hand. What’s presented in this series will be a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the sum total costume experience. Other corners of the internet will represent those other fractions that we missed, which is the cool part of having so many people doing this sort of thing.

3. We didn’t attend Sunday. As previously explained at excessive length, we also nearly never do costume contests anymore. Sincere apologies to anyone we missed as a result.

4. Corrections and comments are always welcome, especially when we get to Part 4, which will include at least two characters we young geezers didn’t recognize. I do like learning new names and universes even if you’re more immersed in them than I am.

5. Enjoy!

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Indiana Comic Con 2018 Photos, Part 3 of 3: Who We Met and What We Did

David Harbour!

David Harbour, a.k.a. Chief Hopper from Netflix’s Stranger Things, getting more than he bargained for in his big weekend.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! This weekend my wife Anne and I attended the fifth annual Indiana Comic Con at the Indiana Convention Center in scenic downtown Indianapolis. It was another opportunity to dive into comic boxes, meet people who make comics, boggle at toy displays, make way for the youngsters who can’t get enough of anime merchandise, and find space to breathe in those cheerfully ever-growing crowds. To be honest, we were surprised how many of the actors on hand were folks we’d met at previous cons, but Anne and I found a few new intriguing names on the guest list and decided to drop by once more.

The biggest name we hadn’t met was, of course, our man Chief Hopper, the hero of Hawkins, the guardian of Eleven, and one of the great cast members from Stranger Things. He was a later addition to the con’s guest list, but his recruitment sealed the deal for our participation. We were far from alone on this, accompanied as we were by thousands of other fans excited for the opportunity.

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Indiana Comic Con 2018 Photos, Part 1 of 3: Cosplay!

Jedi v. Sith!

Kylo Ren and friends were the last cosplayers we met at the end of the day, but they’re first in line for our two cosplay galleries.

It’s that time again! This weekend my wife Anne and I attended the fifth annual Indiana Comic Con at the Indiana Convention Center in scenic downtown Indianapolis. It was another opportunity to dive into comic boxes, meet people who make comics, boggle at toy displays, make way for the youngsters who can’t get enough of anime merchandise, and find space to breathe in those cheerfully ever-growing crowds. To be honest, we were surprised how many of the actors on hand were folks we’d met at previous cons, but Anne and I found a few new intriguing names on the guest list and decided to drop by once more.

While we recuperate and wait for our feet to forgive us for their punishment, please enjoy this collection of cosplayers who brightened the day around the show floor. The actors and comics creators will be shared at the end of this special miniseries because everyone loves costumes. In all we took over three dozen pics of varying degrees of tailoring talent and photo quality. We’re dividing the stack into arbitrary halves and letting Part 1 focus on the superstars of the Marvel, DC, and Star Wars universes. We regret we can only represent a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the total cosplay wonderment that was on display this weekend. We’re just an aging couple doing what we can for happy sharing fun. Enjoy!

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Black Panther” End Credits

Black Panther!

Local theater, doing it right.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: Ryan Coogler’s emotionally charged directorial debut Fruitvale Station was my favorite film of 2013. His follow-up, Creed, struck a bone-deep nerve inside me and was one of my two favorite films of 2015. It didn’t hurt in the least bit that the star of both films was Michael B. Jordan, who’s been raising his game with every project from his early start in The Wire to Chronicle (my favorite film of 2012) and beyond.

As a longtime comics fan who counts Christopher Priest’s ’90s runs on Marvel’s Black Panther as one of the all-time greats, and who wouldn’t have dreamed of this past weekend ever happening as a kid, I was beyond excited when the reins for the big Panther motion picture were handed over to Coogler, and that Jordan would be a part of it.

In a rare move for me, I kept my expectations unreasonably high. In a rare move for Hollywood, my expectations were blown away.

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