The Usual Suspects #48

Welcome back for another edition of The Usual Suspects. This once every two week schedule is an adjustment for me. I would’ve covered these books prior to the film’s release if I had an article last week, but we’ll just have to settle for a day of release instead. Though technically the movie premiered last night, and I won’t be seeing it until tomorrow. But I digress, with the release of the final X-men film from the Fox universe let’s take yet another look at the Dark Phoenix saga.

So, I do my best to be a straight shooter. I’m not here to promote something that I don’t really believe in. I’m always gonna do my best to tell you how I see it. And I am honestly not too excited for this movie. Trailers have not gotten me hyped for this. And stories of reshoots and an altered ending have me worried. I have real concerns going into this weekend.

I love the X-Men. I really do, and I would see this movie regardless of what critics or other folks say. Even despite my own gut instinct telling me this could be a train wreck, I will persevere.

When I think back on this film series as a whole from Fox, I can honestly say every one of them has left me a little disappointed. I didn’t realize that until now and I really didn’t want to admit that, even to myself. But when I sat and thought about it, every movie left me wanting more.

That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy most of these movie. I really did. But instead of coming out of the theater saying how awesome that adaptation of Days of Future Past was, I was instead just content.

Ok, I realize I am wandering off topic already, but real quick. Think back at the 1st X-Men movie from 2000. Awesome right? Well, it was before this current golden age of comic book films. Many will tell you it was good for its time. But even then, though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I still didn’t like a lot of the decisions they made. Why Rogue instead of Kitty Pryde? Why did it all have to be about Wolverine? Why did they make Marsden play Cyclops like such a tool? Why did they make Halle Berry fumble her way through that accent? And whose idea was this?

Image result for you know what happens to a toad when its struck by lightning? gif

What does that even mean? Is that even a joke? Just keep trying.

But without rehashing all my issues with each of the X-Men movies, I will just summarize again and say that they always left me wondering what could’ve been. They just seemed to focus the stories on the wrong characters because that’s who their stars were.

I didn’t care how big Jennifer Lawrence became thanks to Hunger Games. Yes, she’s great, but I wasn’t seeing the X-men movies for Jennifer Lawrence. I was seeing it for the characters, not the actors. I’m sorry Mystique just isn’t that interesting to me, stop making her such a focus. Well done, you got 2 hot actresses to walk around in minimal covering with full blue body make-up.

I mean seriously, it was quite a stretch to me that her DNA made the Sentinels work in Days of Future Past. Why was that the key? So they could look like anything and change their appearance? Is that what made them super effective? Or was it because they could mimic powers and adapt to whoever they were fighting? Rogue would’ve made much more sense. But whatever.

And again, why did Wolverine need to be the focus of that movie too? I loved Jackman’s Wolverine. Sure he wasn’t what I initially imagined, but he did a great job and defined the role. Those will be some difficult shoes to fill, but we will get another Wolverine. Make peace with that now. I don’t need yet another Batfleck or Robert Battinson situation. Believe me I get it. I love coming up with my own casting too, but just relax and give it a chance.

Anyway, Wolverine got to be the focus of the 1st trilogy, plus he got his own solo trilogy. Did he really need to take center stage for Days of Future Past too? I know he was important even to the source material, but all I’m saying is I would’ve liked a little less of the same.

I know, I’m coming off pretty negative here. It isn’t my intention to be a Mr. Bungle. Editor’s Note: (Couldn’t find a Mr. Bungle gif so you’ll have to make due with Debbie Downer.)

But this is only because I love the X-Men and I wanted more. My expectations never seemed to be met. Granted they may have started sky high, but honestly, I lowered them considerably over the years. I’m just saying, a dozen movies (if you count the Deadpool’s) and they couldn’t give me one softball game?

I just like seeing the X-Men actually get along. That’s all. I think the tone of most of the films was just too one note. Too much Bryan Singer. And don’t get me wrong, I liked Singer as a filmmaker. I mean look at the title of this article series. Him as a person is a whole other subject that I’m not getting into. But I just never felt he clicked with the X-Men I wanted to see. Too cerebral and not enough heart.

Matthew Vaughn on the other hand was closer. That scene in First Class where they were sitting around showing off their powers to one another and actually having fun, was actually fun. Huh? Who would’ve thought these movies could be fun. Just saying they all don’t have to be a reflection of the civil rights movement. And like I said with Batman V Superman, no one wants to see hearings or politics in a superhero movie.

I had such high hopes for this Dark Phoenix. They realized they messed up that first go around. Apart from some spot on casting with Frasier as Beast, I can’t forgive “I’m the Juggernaut B****.” That was just so bad. And this whole movie felt every bit as rushed and thrown together to make a deadline that it was. They pulled in Brett Ratner, as their 8th or 9th choice, to just slap something together while Singer left to give us Stalker Superman.

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I mean seriously Supes. That’s super creepy. And reall Marsden? You left your under-developed Cyclops role to play yet another version of “the Other guy.” Seriously, is there a better “other guy” than James Marsden? Jean Picked Logan. Lois picked Supes. Hell even Rachel McAdams picked Gosling.

But anyway, they tried to adapt the Dark Phoenix before in The Last Stand and it just didn’t work. It was just a jumbled mess. Why do they always try to cram so many storylines together thinking it will work? I mean does anyone care about Angel’s storyline? And was it really necessary to mix this mutant cure story with Dark Phoenix? And the Morlocks just looked like an underground rave that just went on too long. Was this before or after the underground Matrix 2 rave? And don’t get me started again on basically just killing Cyclops off-screen so he could go be cuckolded by Creeper Superman.

So they screwed that up. With 50+ years of storylines to pull from, if they are gonna go back and reuse one they’ve already attempted, than it has to be back to the source material right? Enough mopey “the world hates us” X-Men.

So first impression with those early announcements were exciting. Looks like we are going to space. Ok, and they cast Jessica Chastain. Sweet. I bet she’ll be Lilandra or maybe even Deathbird. Ooh, maybe we’ll get Gladiator or perhaps they will touch on the Summer’s boys pop, Corsair and his Starjammers. So many possibilities.

I mean even the X-Men cartoon from the 90’s got it right. With the success of the MCU and off the wall ideas like the Guardians of the Galaxy, the stage is set for something more from the X-Universe, right? We can absolutely go to space now, right? They can’t mess this up again, can they?

So, no Sh’iar. That’s disappointing. Doesn’t seem like we will get much, if anything, from the Hellfire Club either from what I can tell. I guess that’s ok too. But I hear they cut a big space finale for something that takes place on a train. A train, huh?

After the mess that was Apocalypse I can see them wanting to pull back a bit, but really, a train fight seems like quite a bit lower stakes for a big final X-Men movie. I mean they chose to do another world ending threat, for the finale of a 12 movie series; but it’s gonna play out with the same stakes as Back to the Future 3? I realize Fox wasn’t thinking this would belong to Disney by the time it actually hit screens, but I’m sure someone realized that this would be very anticlimactic.

But on a hopeful note, Disney could’ve just scrapped it. But they took the time to do the reshoots and they are releasing it on big screens during the summer. So it has to be good, right? Well, it at least has to be decent, right? Just ok? Please.

But I won’t hold my breath. Honestly I am not expecting much, so hopefully I am pleasantly surprised. It has happened before. I had very low expectations for Krypton and that turned out decent. I had given up on Gotham after Season 2 but it rebounded to become something quite entertaining.

Even Shazam was a pleasant surprise. With all of the struggles with the DC flicks to turn out a consistent product, I was shocked I enjoyed Shazam as much as I did. Same with Venom. I expected a complete mess, but it was ok+. That was a huge surprise to me, as I was really expecting it to be really bad. So to be even just OK is a huge win. I can only hope for at least a similar output of just above mediocrity. It’s possible.

That’s enough worrying about the Dark Phoenix movie and complaining about the X-Universe on film in general. Regardless of how the movie turns out, we will always have the comics. This was a classic run from Chris Claremont and John Byrne, and no one can take that away from us. So let’s take a look at the source material, which honestly sets the bar pretty high for any attempt at an adaptation as it is.

So with that said…let’s get into it.

X-Men #101

(Oct 1976)

Origin & 1st appearance of Phoenix

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Well, Enter the Phoenix. I’m gonna try and keep these short. You all know these books. They are classics. And I’m sure I’ve already exhausted most of your goodwill with my endless rambling about X-Movie disappointments.

But it at least appears that we are getting a similar origin in the new movie. Looks like the X-men are going into space. At least for a little jaunt and that is where Jean picks up the Phoenix.

So it looks like in the movie Jean is sacrificing herself on that shuttle as part of a rescue mission where she’s merged with the Phoenix force. Sure we don’t get her holding the shuttle together while crashing in Jamaica Bay, but what are you gonna do. I’m more disappointed that we still won’t get a film version of her Phoenix outfit.

Not enough hip sashes in costumes these days. Or would that be a sarong? Whatever, it would be a cool look on screen if done right. But another change we seem to be getting in the film is that they are giving form to the Phoenix Force in Jessica Chastain’s character. Doesn’t seem like they are trying to hide the fact that we are apparently working with a Tyler Durden situation here.

But with all of these changes that are bound to happen in this adaptation, I really think the most disappointing is that there’s no way we are going to get the Storm beehive. That thing is Elvira awesome. Oh what could’ve been?

 

Market Analysis:  Well over 150 listings up right now. This is a popular book and there are a lot of copies out there. The top listing right now is a double sig CGC SS 9.8 signed by Stan Lee and Chris Claremont that’s looking for $9,888.22. Top Blue Label CGC 9.8 is at $6k.

There’s a pretty highly priced raw looking for $3,550, but you better be certain that’s a 9.8 to pay that price. Otherwise you can get one close to $775 in high grade. Lowest raw is about $200. But now is not the time to buy. Just wait and see if the movie bombs and then you might get some gut reaction liquidations.

But this is a classic and will always hold value IMO. But if you want something different  or something cheaper, than you can try to score a foreign edition or a Marvel Legends reprint for under $50.

   

X-Men #129

(Jan 1980)

1st appearance of Kitty Pryde, the White Queen (Emma Frost) & Sebastian Shaw.

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So this issue is the start of the “Dark Phoenix” saga. An undervalued key in a lot of people’s eyes and it’s hard to argue. I mean we get a boatload of 1st appearances here, in addition to its status as the kickoff of one of the great runs in comic’s history. And it all comes with a touch of Victorian sophistication. Are we reading X-men or watching Dangerous Liaisons?

So this was a little peek into the Hellfire Club and our introduction to Sebastian Shaw in comics. Remember Kevin Bacon played him if X-Men First Class, which may be my favorite X-flick. That’s a single X, not XXX. Get your mind out of the gutter.

But apart from Shaw, we are also introduced into many kids touchstone into the X-men, Kitty Pryde. Through her, many young kids could see themselves as the new kid joining their favorite heroes. She was a gateway into this team that would eventually let this 13 year old girl join them on missions. This 1st alone makes this a key. But we aren’t done yet.

 

Apart from Sebastian Shaw, we are also introduced to the White Queen of The Hellfire Club, Ms. Emma Frost. Another feather in the Key issue cap for this book. How is this not priced up there with #101? That was basically a 1st costume change in the vein of 1st Nightwing or 1st Carol Danvers as captain Marvel. Key, certainly, but this book has 3 key 1st appearances.

And yes she’s worn the white dominatrix look from the beginning. And she was brought to life onscreen by January Jones in First Class. Sure she looked the part, and even delivered all of 3 wooden lines of dialogue from what I can remember. That worked as Betty Draper, but here it just seemed out of place in the swinging 60’s vibe of this universe.

Market Analysis:  Once again over 100 listings. What can I say, the X-men are popular. But the top listing is another CGC SS 9.8 signed by Stan the Man at $3,199.99. Just looking for a Blue Label, then it’ll run you $1,750.

Raw high grades will run you about $200-$250, Mid-grades $100-$150, while the lowest BINs are in VG grade at about $55-$65. And if you want a bargain copy, you could again grab yourself a Marvel Legends reprint in the $20 range.

X-Men #134

(Jun 1980)

Phoenix becomes Dark Phoenix.

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Ladies and gentlemen, now the story starts moving ahead in earnest as we not only get The Black Queen of The Hellfire Club, but we will soon be introduced to the Dark Phoenix. By now we’ve settled into this Louis the XIV vibe meets BDSM night at the old rotary club. Honestly, I don’t even know what that means but I’m rolling with it.

So this issue features her eventual turn into the Dark Phoenix. This was beautifully referenced in Stranger Things 1st Season, not only as the stakes in a bike race between Mike and Dustin, but it also mirrors the arc of Eleven in many ways too. Looking forward to Season 3, but that’s a whole other topic for another time.

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But as Jean was under the sway of Sebastian Shaw, he would eventually succumb to the sway of the Phoenix Force and go Dark. Now I guess it may be interesting to see that internal dialogue with the entity in the form of an albino Jessica Chastain. I mean seriously, she looks like in Danarys Targaryen had survived and grown up all grim and sad.

Maybe, it’s just that they seem to have given us the entire movie in the trailer. Or maybe, I am just not that into this internal temptation angle. I mean I just saw this with Lucifer and Jack in the last few episodes of this season of Supernatural. But I’m at least hopeful we get a reveal as impactful as the below, when it’s time for Sansa to flip the switch.

Market Analysis:  Yet another 140+ copies of this on the market. Top dog is again double sig by Stan and Claremont on a CGC SS 9.8 up for $3k. You can grab a bit of a deal on a pair of Blue Label 9.8’s of both #134 and #135 for $1500. But if you just want this one in CGC 9.8 then you can get one between $749 and $1300.

High Grade raws on this will run you between $200 and $250, Mid-grades about $80-$160, while a LG BIN can be had for $48. How about a Mexican copy for only $25? That’s different.

Marvel Mexico X-Men Uncanny #134 1st app Dark Phoenix Variant Cover - RARE

X-Men #135

(Jul 1980)

1st appearance of Senator Robert Kelly.

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Moving on to the companion issue that gives an origin to the Phoenix Force. Sure it is also the 1st appearance of Senator Robert Kelly, who played a role in the X books for a while. He was also played by the always excellent Bruce Davidson as shown in those gripping Senate Hearing pics I already shared. But to me, he will always be the guy who grabbed the Pepsi in Spies Like Us.

But this issue gives us some decent action as well as that Origin from the Sh’iar. Jean is full on Dark Phoenix and destroying stars and anything that gets in her way. I’m sure battling a few soldiers on a moving train will be just as cool. Really, it’ll be fine.

Market Analysis:  About a hundred of these on the market right now. Top listing is yet again a Stan Lee CGC SS 9.8 that’s only $1530. I say only based on the asks of the previous issues. That pair of 9.8’s for #134 & #135 is still $1500, but if you just want 135 in 9.8 you have a couple options. You can get a CBCS 9.8 $705 or a CGC 9.8 for only $389-$520.

A raw could run you $250 in high grade, while a more worn in copy could be had for $70-$150. Cheapest BIN is $25. Not too bad if condition isn’t your biggest concern. I’ve always been a proponent of buy what you can afford. You can always upgrade later. At least that’s how I manage my PC.

X-Men #137

(Sep 1980)

“Death” of Phoenix.

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So this is it, the final book is what could be viewed as one of the most epic storylines in comic history. This has gotta be up there with FF#48-#50. I mean you say Dark Phoenix saga in any comic shop and a conversation will start. You know something is going down in this issue when it opens with a Watcher.

You know it’s going down when Uatu shows up. Quick sidebar, you know how Fringe borrowed the watcher idea with their version? Great show by the way. Highly underrated. But anyway, did you know the show’s main watcher dude was not only Professor Pyg on Gotham, but he was one of the extra goons at the end of Back to the Future III. Yes he followed in the long tradition of Billy Zane and Casey Siemaszko as Back to the Future extra henchmen.

Yeah I just noticed this the other day when I was inexplicably watching Back to the Future III. Check out that luscious mane of hair. He looks like Cousin Larry. Oh and if you were wondering, yes that is Flea driving the car. Pointless information for sure, but let’s get back on topic.

So I will just take one more brief complaint over what could’ve been. Why couldn’t they just have gone to space? How cool would Sh’iar warships and the Imperial Guard have been? I know Colossus has moved to the Deadpool corner of the universe, but a tussle with Gladiator could’ve been epic. Just saying.

But alas, I can only hope I live long enough for marvel to bring us the X-men in the MCU. And for them to get through enough “new” stories where a 3rd trip back the Dark Phoenix saga makes sense. Hollywood is all about remakes. There have to be at least half a dozen version of His Girl Friday. Great movie BTW. Cary Grant is awesome. As is ralph Bellamy, whom you probably know better as Randolph Duke from Trading Places.

Anyway it’s getting late and I should be wrapping this up. So I think it’s safe to assume that the finale will prob be pretty close to the below. Mostly because while heart wrench and potentially full of emotion, it looks cheap to film. She talks to Cyclops and fades away. What I worry about is the emotional aspect. Not sure they built their relationship up enough, so we’ll see if I am totally sold by Parzival’s reaction to losing Sansa.

Market Analysis:  A whopping 230 copies of this on the market, so t’s definitely not scarce. That said, the top copy is again a CGC SS signed by Stan and Claremont, but this time only in a 9.0 for $500. There are a handful of blue label CGC 9.8’s in the $400 range. So this is the most affordable copy I have featured.

Raw could run you upwards of $175 for high grade, while a FN cope can be had for only $28. Definitely not an unreasonable buy in. If you don’t have it, the end is as good a place as any to start your Dark Phoenix Saga. But again, give it a few weeks because I am not optimistic about the reception to this movie. Wait for the blowout sales that are coming. Still seeing a decent amount of Green in these charts so it doesn’t look like the sell-off has begun.

But these are keys so maybe prices don’t come down much. Regardless, best bet is to try your hand at some low priced auctions and maybe you steal a copy for a deal. Otherwise just get what your budget allows. Because regardless of the quality of this movie, this is a classic storyline and you should have it in the PC. (I already openly admitted my X-men bias, so that should’ve been expected)

Ok that’s it for this week. I realize I went back to movie related spec, but in all honesty, I feel this was a despite the movie spec really. But however you take it, next time out I think I may get back to something just comic related. So hopefully see you back here in 2 weeks.

X-Men #130

1st Dazzler

Rumors put Alison Blair in a cameo in the movie Not sure if that is true or if it really matters as it isn’t going anywhere. This universe is dead. The MCU will revamp it eventually.

I think it would be cool if Jean just totally destroys the universe at the end. How fitting would that be? Man, now that I thought of that, this is all I want to see.

Typical Sales Data:

CGC Census 9.8 – 227
CGC 9.8 – $900.00 on 5/31/19
Raw – $55.00 on 6/3/19

All-Points Bulletin

Fantastic Four #286

The Return of Jean Grey

I just picked up a copy of this at the LCS this week for a decent price. Didn’t have it, so it’s nice to add this little Jean Grey “key” to the collection.Not sure if this is really a “key”, but Jean Grey returning to the Marvel Universe is kind of a big deal and this is the 1st time she did it. Plus we need more interesting Fantastic Four back issues to look out for. And also keep an eye out for Avengers #263 which is a lead in to the story in this issue.

Typical Sales Data:

CGC Census 9.8 – 129
CGC 9.8 – $105.00 on 4/10/19
Raw – $27.99 on 6/2/19

All-Points Bulletin

X-Men: Phoenix Endsong #1

I just always liked this cover. That’s the only reason it’s here. Honestly I don’t recall what happens inside this book. I read it, but it didn’t make an impression apparently.

That said, Greg Pak is usually pretty good. And sometimes I like Greg Land’s art. This being one of them. I especially like it when I can’t immediately place his reference for the art.

Typical Sales Data:

CGC Census 9.8 – 162
CGC 9.8 – $50.00 on 5/3/19
Raw – $1.00 on 6/2/19

All-Points Bulletin

Phoenix Resurrection #1

1:25 Incentive Variant

This series had a lot of gorgeous covers. Especially in the Incentive variants. But I like Jenny Frison, and this one caught my eye so it was one I went out hunting for when it came out.

Not all Incentive variants hold their price. Well under ratio, but this is just a reminder that when it comes to variants, 95% of the time they will not make you any money so just be sure to pick ones you like and you won’t be disappointed. Think this cost me $10 he day of release so I’m still happy with that purchase despite the current price.

Typical Sales Data:

CGC Census 9.8 – 32
CGC 9.8 – $60.00 on 2/17/19
Raw – $7.99 on 5/31/19

All-Points Bulletin

Phoenix Resurrection #4

1:25 Incentive Variant

I told you this series had gorgeous covers. This is another 1:25 that I just had to have. Did not find it day of release so I paid up a little. Think I paid the current market, but this still has a market.

It’s a different take from an artist that I am not too familiar with. Gonna have to look into Singh and see if there are any other books I should be looking at. The detail here is just stunning.

Typical Sales Data:

CGC Census 9.8 – 41
CGC 9.8 – $72.00 on 5/16/19
Raw – $34.99 on 3/13/19

All-Points Bulletin

…So until next time….

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