Sunday, January 29, 2012

MtG Dark Ascension Pre-release Weekend

This weekend was the Pre-release of the latest set of Magic the Gathering from Wizards of the Coast called Dark Ascension.  We had so many players for the last Pre-release that we set ourselves up for the players and even got the empty store next to us for our Saturday events.  We had 4 events on Saturday starting at Midnight.  We always get a good crowd for the Midnight events and having an empty location to use made it feel open and spacious for the players.  Here is a list of our times on Saturday and Sunday with how many players we had for each.

As is our normal Midnight fun, we got pizzas and sodas for all the players to enjoy before the event began.  We ended up about 16 pizzas and not a single slice was left when it was game time! The drinks normally last a little longer, but even they were gone before the end of the event. 


1. Midnight: 88 players
2. 11:00am: 32 players
3. 3:00pm: 15 players
4. 5:00pm: 16 players
Saturday total: 151 Players

1. 11:00am: 8 players
2. 3:00pm: 15 players
Sunday Total: 26

Total players for the weekend: 177

This was a great weekend with lots of players having a great time and playing tons of Magic.  We did a few extra things this pre-release that we have not done in the past.  We had our resident Magic card painter, Marc, altering cards for players as they played.  He also did a few for us to use as random door prizes for each round of the Midnight.  He also did a full art of Sorin for a player... and it might have been the first to be altered.  We also rented several table and chairs so we would have extra and everyone would have more room to play.

Next pre-release I'm hoping to see if one of the local Magic artists would be willing to come in during one of the time slots and do some signings or custom alters for players.  I know that there is one guy very local and several closer to the city, so it would be great for the players to meet some these great artists.

Don't forget about the Launch Party for Dark Ascension this Friday night at 6:00pm.  It will be a Draft for $15 and the first players on the list will be guaranteed a promo card.  What to check out the rest of our calendar of events?  Check out our calendar! We run many Friday Night Magic events, Monday Night Magic, and now Star City IQs!

Sean "Striderlotr" Banks

Friday, January 27, 2012

Welcome Dark Ascension to the Dragon's Den

Today is the day before the Dark Ascension Prerelease for Magic, and people are already quite excited…none more so than certain coworkers of mine, who get to see and hold the new product ahead of everyone else!  For those of you not working in a hobby store, here’s a peek at the newest products from Wizards of the Coast.
Here you can see every Magic item we received today; Booster Packs, Intro Decks, and even our store’s new and improved Land Station. Fat Packs are only available for the Release, so that update will have to be next week.

Hopefully, since this new Land Station has an open top and can hold about 200 of each color Mana/Land, this will make it far easier for players to grab what they need. Previously, we used 500 ct. cardboard boxes.

The Booster Boxes are fairly standard, with there being 36 packs per box, and 15 cards per pack. The only difference seems to be that they have only chosen 3 illustrations for the boosters, whereas usually they have 4-5 separate cover illustrations.

There are, however, still 5 different Intro Decks. Each contains a 2-color 60 card deck, a foil card, a Dark Ascension booster, a learn-to-play guide, and a strategy insert that shows the deck-lists of all the Intro Decks. Below I have put the name of the Intro Deck, which 2 colors it has, and what the foil card is.

Dark Sacrifice has a foil "Fiend of the Shadows", and is a Black/White deck.

Monstrous Surprise is a Red/Green deck, and has a foil "Flayer of the Hatebound".

Grave Power contains a foil "Ghoultree" and is a Green/Blue deck.

The Relentless Dead deck is Blue/Black and it's foil is a "Havengul Runebinder".

Swift Justice is a White/Red deck, and has "Requiem Angel" as it's foil card.  

Now, I know what you're wondering; what about all the other great Dark Ascension themed products that I can actually buy this weekend? Don't worry, they're here too!

Once again, Ultrapro has created numerous items for those Magic players who love the illustrations from the new sets. Not only do we have an 80 pack of sleeves and vertical deck box for "Sorin, Lord of Innistrad"...

...but we also have the beauty from "Deadly Allure" gracing her own 80 ct. sleeves and horizontal deck box. Each of the deck boxes are $3.99 and the sleeves are $9.99.

As for playmats, we have 2 wonderfully illustrated ones available. Sorin graces one with his picture from the Prerelease cardboard standup...

...and here we see the mysterious woman from the "Fires of Undeath" card. Both are wrapped in a nice plastic hanger, and are $21.99.

That's pretty much it for now. Be sure to check back for our other posts on Saturday, when we tell you about how our Midnight Dark Ascension Prerelease event went. We're offering free soda and pizza, have lots of prizes to give away, and expecting over 140 players, so check our Twitter and Facebook accounts for hourly updates!

Stasi "Dengirl" King

Monday, January 23, 2012

Redakai: Conquer the Kairu

Want to get in on a new, fast-paced and 3D card game that's easy to learn, but challenging to master? Then look no further than Redakai!
It's a new card game (created by the same guys who gave us Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer) that involves harnessing the energy of Kairu to make amazing attacks with tremendously powerful monster transformations. Much like Yugioh and Pokemon before it, Redakai can also be watched on your local Cartoon Network channel in an animated series. 
As we've gotten many questions about the cards and how to read them, I thought it would be helpful to give a run-down of how to decipher the various card types.

In Redakai, there are 3 main card types; Character, Monster and Attacks, shown below in order.

Character Cards: Has the name and version of the character in the bronze section at the top. The 3 gold bars are your character's Damage Zones. Think of these as your "Health" bars. There are also 3 different zones on the left side of the card, which will be red, green, blue or blank. These Defense Zones determines the type of damage your character can take. Along the bottom of each card is your character's Special Ability. The ability can only be used if not covered by another card's ability.
Each player starts the game as a Character, with the same amount of energy (Kairu).

Monster Cards: These have most of the same information as Character Cards, including Name, Version, Defense, Special Ability and Health bars. The one core difference is that the amount of Kairu required to summon the monster is shown in the upper left corner. Also, some Monsters, like the one on the right, have the power to give Health bars back. These will go over your Character Card when summoned, and give you a different Special Ability. Don't worry about the other 3 symbols in the Special Ability bar, they aren't needed for gameplay.

Attack Cards: While they do contain some of the same information found on Monsters and Characters, the Attack Cards have very important differences in gameplay. The upper left corner still has the amount of Kairu needed for play, but the name has the attack's Color rather than Version. The attack may have a Special Ability like Characters or Monsters, but it will also have the Attack Power. When using this, simply compare the Attack Power of the Attack Card with the corresponding Defense Zone of the Character Card. If the Damage Zone number is blank or lower, it automatically hits. Also, if the artwork of the Attack Card covers up the Defense Zone or Special Ability, like in the middle Attack Card shown, that section is now considered blank.

And there you have it; your comprehensive guide to the 3 cards of Redakai!

Stasi "Dengirl" King 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Grand Prix Trial Baltimore 1/21/12

Today we ran our Grand Prix Trial (GPT) for Baltimore.  We ended up with a pretty good turnout even with the snow falling all morning and keeping many players at home.  So we got 10 players, which ends up being 4 rounds with a cut to 4.  Here is the standings going into the Top 4:

1. Paul Lake
2. Casey Madrick
3. Doug Kimball
4. Jonah Acosta
5. David Haass
6. Carl Naumann
7. Alex Sherman
8. Nick Langella
9. Dave Oppenheimer
10. Evan Odden

In an effort to help more players with deck construction and play, I've decided to publish the top 4 deck lists here on our Blog.  I've listed them:

Doug Kimball
5x Swamp
7x Forest
1x Mountain
2x Kesig Wolf Run
4x Inkmoth Nexus
1x Dragonskull Summit
1x Rootbound Crag
1x Glissa the Traitor
1x Olivia Voldaren
4x Solemn Simulacrum
1x Acidic Slime
4x Primeval Titan
4x Grave Titan
2x Geth's Verdict
3x Doom Blade
2x Green Sun's Zenith
2x Black Sun's Zenith
2x Ancient Grudge
1x Ratchet Bomb
4x Sphere of the Suns
4x Rampant Growth
1x Go For The Throat
2x Ancient Grudge
1x Ratchet Bomb
2x Garruk, Primal Hunter
3x Curse of Death's Hold
2x Batterskull
3x Nihil Speelbomb
1x Black Sun's Zenith

Casey Madrick
4x Delver of Secrets
4x Snapcaster Mage
3x Giest of Saint Traft
3x Invisible Stalker
2x Merfolk Looter
2x Runechanters Pike
1x Sword of War and Peace
1x Sword of Feast and Famine
4x Ponder
4x Mana Leak
3x Vapor Snag
3x Gitaxian Probe
2x Gut Shot
2x Midnight Haunting
1x Plains
9x Island
4x Glacial Fortress
4x Seachrome Coast
3x Moorland Haunt
3x Dissipate
2x Oblivion Ring
2x Flashfreeze
1x Vapor Snag
2x Mental Misstep
1x Phyrexian Metamorph
2x Celestial Purge
1x Negate
1x Dismember

Jonah Acosta
UW Delver
4x Glacial Fortress
9x Island
3x Moorland Haunt
1x Plains
4x Seachrome Coast
4x Delver of Secrets
4x Giest of Saint Traft
3x Invisible Stalker
4x Snapcaster Mage
4x Gitaxian Probe
3x Gut Shot
4x Mana Leak
1x Oblivion Ring
4x Ponder
2x Runechanters Pike
2x Sword of War and Peace
4x Vapor Snag
2x Dismember
3x Dissipate
2x Divine Offering
1x Mental Misstep
1x Oblivion Ring
2x Phantasmal Image
3x Timely Reinforcements

Paul Lake
U/W Delver
4x Delver of Secrets
4x Snapcaster Mage
3x Giest of Saint Traft
3x Invisible Stalker
2x Merfolk Looter
2x Runechanters Pike
2x Sword of War and Peace
4x Ponder
4x Mana Leak
3x Vapor Snag
3x Gitaxian Probe
3x Gut Shot
2x Midnight Haunting
9x Island
4x Glacial Fortress
4x Seachrome Coast
4x Moorland Haunt
2x Divine Offering
2x Dissipate
1x Negate
1x Phantasmal Image
2x Oblivion Ring
1x Vapor Snag
1x Mental Misstep
2x Timely Reinforcements
1x Ratchet Bomb
1x Celestial Purge
1x Marrow Shards

Heading into the first Round of Top 4, we saw Paul Lake vs Jonah Acosta and Casey Madrick vs Doug Kimball.  They all played well, and with no time limit still finished in about 50 minutes.  Paul Lake and Casey Madrick moved on to final 2 players after winning the first round.  Paul Lake and Casey Madrick then sat down to play the final round of the GPT Baltimore, the winning of this event would then recieve a 3 round bye at the Grand Prix in Baltimore.

In the last round, Paul Lake emerged victorious and won the 3 round bye for Baltimore!  We are excited to see Paul head down to Baltimore and we are hoping he does well! 

There is another GPT for Baltimore tomorrow at our sister store in Fair Lawn NJ, The Gamer's Gambit.

Sean "Striderlotr" Banks

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Making Sense of Marvel

I grew up as a "Marvel Zombie". I always thought their characters and stories were superior to The Boy Scout (Superman) and his friends. The Avengers were cool, I thought. The X-men by Claremont were the best-sellers for -decades-, and everything else was big and fun and flashy and all that. Marvel rocked. DC = zzzzz.

But the last couple years have not been kind to Stan Lee's wunderkinds. Event fatigue, the $4 price point, Marvel editorial's reluctance to care much about continuity (the hallmark of great Marvel comics) and the feeling that not every comic matter... all these factors led to people walking away from Marvel comics.

To be blunt, I question whether the last couple years worth of Marvel comics have held up, quality-wise. It feels to me that Marvel's last great story was Civil War. I think most of you will agree that CW was a great mini-series, but the follow-ups have not been nearly as strong. Secret Invasion was too long (and felt like a series of boring fights in The Savage Land), Dark Reign was, well, Dark and Siege was.. honestly, I don't even remember what happened in it. The Spider-Man One Last Day story is still loathed by many readers (not all good press is bad press, Marvel) and then there's Fear Itself which just wrapped up.

I promoted Fear Itself pretty heavily in the months leading up to it's launch. I did a 1-on-1 phone interview with Matt Fraction about the series, put up signs, mentioned it to customers, and when the book shipped I was... underwhelemed. It was good, mind you, but it wasn't GREAT.

And maybe my expectations are high (tell me if they are), but if you or I are spending $4 on a comic, it better be GREAT. Money doesn't go as far as it used to, and every dollar counts. It's a different world, and comics are not a necessity. Gas, food and rent are. So, if I'm going to recommend a comic to someone, and it's $4, it'd better be worth every cent. I'm not certain that Fear Itself was worth the money. I hate saying that 'cause I love a lot of Fraction's (Hello, Casanova!) other works, but FI just didn't do it for me.

Now don't get me wrong, there's been other good stories since Civil War. The Annihilation stories were top-notch, World War Hulk and Planet Hulk were superb, and the long-form Death of Captain America story that Brubaker wrote in the Captain America book was fantastic.

But most of Marvel's recent output comes off as "ehh-" worthy. The only exception would be Uncanny X-force. While the recent Hulk and X-men relaunches have done very well, The Dark Angel Saga is, in my mind, the best story Marvel's published in years. The Avengers titles feel like a re-tread. Norman Osborn, again? Really? Seriously, let's give that guy a break already.

Before the holidays, Marvel cancelled a number of new mini-series, and also announced that they'd be double-shipping a lot of their best books in the spring. This is clearly a cash grab, leading to increased revenue, but it also has the potential to push people away from their comics. I have a number of customers who only come in once or twice a month to grab books off the wall. Imagine coming in, having $8-10 to spend on your favorite 3 titles, only to find that there's been 2-3 issues of each published while you were gone. $10? Try $20, easily. That's not fair to the consumer, but Marvel doesn't seem to care. That may sound harsh, but it's true.

So, where does Marvel go from here? Well, you're going to see a lot of your favorite books being double- and triple-published over the next year. Another Avengers book is on the way, in addition to the next Marvel event, Avengers v. X-Men. I think you're going to less mini-series being published, and that's something that's way over-due. Not because the books are bad, but because Marvel has been flooding the market.

In a way, I think Marvel owes DC. If it wasn't for the influx of new customers that The New 52 has created, I think Marvel's numbers would be even lower.

As always, you the customer, will vote with your dollar. Right now, your dollars are going to DC, not Marvel and your feedback to me supports that. In the end, Marvel's going to have to make some changes or face the new reality that DC is the #1 publisher in the Direct Market. Maybe that will make Marvel change.

'Nuff said.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Dominance of DC

Four months after The New 52 crashed into comic stores, I'm still feeling the shock waves from DC's mega-successful re-launch. We did extraordinarily well in September and I don't foresee any time in the future when DC doesn't outsell Marvel in our store. I don't have access to 20+ years of sales data, but I feel pretty confident in saying that that has NEVER happened in the history of the Den. Not like this, not on this scale. The New 52 created new customers, and brought old customers back to the store. The New 52 was and is a success.

In addition to showing the power of targeted tv ads, The New 52 did a great job of re-invigorating their most popular characters. Neither Wonder Woman nor Superman & Action Comics were selling well, pre-launch. Post-launch, Wonder Woman and Action Comics are very strong sellers, Superman a little less so. I think that book will pick up when Dan "I Killed Superman" Jurgens returns to the book in a couple issues. In addition, the Bat books are selling strong. After Justice League, Batman by Scott Snyder is our best seller by a country mile. Snyder's pre-New 52 run on Detective was AWESOME (check out the hardcover of The Black Mirror that just came out) so this isn't a surprise. In terms of returning their main heroes to critical and commercial acclaim, DC succeeded.

The surprise break-out hits have been the Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Demon Knights and (to my surprise) Deathstroke. They're well-written, well-drawn and have a lot of buzz behind them. If they had been launched by themselves at any point within the last 5 years, I don't think they would've lasted long.

Not all of the New 52 are successes, though. Captain Atom, Mister Terrific, Men at War and a couple others are struggling. I don't know that having Blackhawks and Men at War was really necessary. Two war-themed books was overkill in a market that hasn't successfully sold war-based comics in decades (outside of GI Joe). I'm not entirely certain that all of The New 52 will make it past the 9 issue mark. I'm hoping they've got some new books being prepared. A lot of Stephanie Brown fans really want her back as Batgirl, so I've got my fingers crossed for that.

Some of the books have gotten better, too. I wasn't enthralled with New Guardians #1, but the 2nd, 3rd and 4th issues were MUCH better. Stormwatch #2 & #3 were an improvement, as was Resurrection Man. That said, I still think an extra month preparing for The New 52 would've given some of the creators a bit more time to put everything together.

When I reviewed all of The New 52 in September, one of my conclusions was that the books were very, very dark. They still are, and I' still wish they'd gone with a bit more variety. I think letting some of the books find their own voice instead of being editorially driven, would've been a good idea. But  they didn't ask me, the fools. :)

The other black mark I'm giving to DC is regarding pre-New 52 continuity. It's becoming more and more obvious that they have NO idea which stories from the last 50 years still count. A Facebook update on Dan Didio's page in October made the oblique comment that none of the Crises ever happened. Um, really? Going down that road already? I mean, I'm assuming Bane broke Batman's back, I'm hoping No Man's Land actually happened, and I'm praying that Gotham Central still counts for something. And if I find out that Starman by James Robinson didn't take place, I'm going to lose my mind.

On a smaller scale, DC isn't quite sure what to do with some of their other characters. I read an interview with JH Williams on Comic Book Resources, and found that DC doesn't know what they're doing with Renee Montoya, aka The Question. Given her popularity and prominence as one of the few lesbian super-heroes, you'd think that DC would know if her back-story still holds in The New 52. Apparently, noone's figured it out yet. That's pretty disappointing, if only because I could sell boatloads of a new Question series - especially if they got Greg Rucka to come back and write it.

So, continuity issues are a problem. The tone is still a little much for me. But I'm very impressed that all the trains are running on time. All of the New 52 have come out on time, except for Justice League #5, which is due to Jim Lee's wife having a baby over the holidays.

I'm not surprised that there's already been some creative changes. Ron Marz is off Voodoo, Gail Simone left Fury of Firestorm, George Perez is moving off of Superman, Ann Nocenti is taking over Green Arrow. and now it's been announced that Jim Lee won't be on Justice League #7 and #8. That's really disappointing. I mean, I'm happy Gene Ha is drawing #7, he's no slouch. But I honestly figured we'd get 9-12 issues from Jim Lee om Justice League. He may end up doing #9, but how many more will he get done after that? That's adowner

And yes, Voodoo is still my guilty pleasure. I'm still seething a bit at seeing my precious Wildstorm characters have their histories wiped away, but Voodoo is entertaining, so I'll live.

All in all, I think the New 52 has done a good job. There's a number of things they could've gone differently, but September was a success and created new customers. I can't complain about that.

As for the cancellation of Static Shock, Hawk & Dove, Blackhawks, Men at War, Mister Terrific & O.M.A.C... I'm disappointed, but not surprised. I think putting two war-themed books with the initial launch was a mistake. Mister Terrific was a good idea, but the first issue failed to execute properly. Hawk & Dove proved that Rob Liefeld still has fans, but not enough for an ongoing series to succeed. Losing Static Shock is a tremendous disappointment.

The replacements look stronger. An ongoing Earth 2 book by James Robinson harkens to his epic JSA 50's tale, The Golden Age. That, plus the Batman Inc series and World's Finest will more than make up for the loss of sales of the 6 cancelled books. As for Dial H, The Ravagers and G.I. Combat, I'm not sure how they're going to do. Another war book? Ehh... We'll see.


So what about Marvel? How did the Hulk and X-men re-launches do? How did Fear Itself end up? What's going on with X-Sanction, Avengers v. X-men & the Return of the Phoenix? Is the House of Ideas still cranking out greatness?

One word answer: Uhmmm... uhhh..

Okay, that was two.

To be continued tomorrow.

Be good.


Friday, January 13, 2012

New Wizkids & Pathfinder Miniatures

It is official: the new miniatures for the Pathfinder RPG are out, and they are awesome.
The rumors of a new line of plastic miniatures were well-known before Gen Con 2011, and we were treated to a view of 6 preview minis when a coworker & myself stopped by the Wizkids booth. While they were fairly good looking, I was dubious that the entire line would be treated the same.

Needless to say, I had nothing to fear.  As I found when the cases of product showed up on Jan. 11th, ALL the miniatures are great, and the product is packaged quite nicely, both as a counter top display or for the serious collector.

An entire display has 19 boosters in it; 16 small boosters and 3 large boosters.  The MSRP for the large are $5.99 and the smalls are $3.99.  Each booster, regardless of size has one figure in it, unless you count the goblins. As they are easily the smallest minis in the set, there are 2 goblins per booster.

We opened up 3 displays for the store, and got 31 of the 40 miniatures in the set, with only a few being duplicates. (Not that we minded, as they all went in our 8 ft. long glass minis case for sale!) If you're curious, here's the ones we pulled along with their names underneath each picture.

Half-Elf Cleric, Orc Brute, Orc Warrior, Skeleton

Elf Wizard, Medusa, Lizardfolk Champion, Dwarf Fighter 
Half-Orc Barbarian, Seelah-Human Paladin, Human Ranger, Zombie

Lich, Vampire, Human Druid, Venomous Snake

Mummy, Werewolf, Giant Spider, Human Rogue

Gargoyle, Troll, Wolf

Giant Caveweaver Spider, Minotaur

Ettin, Chimera
Goblin Warrior 1, Goblin Hero 2, Goblin Hero 1, Goblin Warrior 2

And, of course, what would any set be without the limited edition collector's piece? 
In this case, that means the ultra-desirable Huge Black Dragon, (only available to retailers who bought 4 displays!) which is conveniently labelled as "Promo 1" on the bottom of the base.  Hopefully this will mean they'll continue to put out more sets, and more promos!

Personally, I think these miniatures are one of the best ideas that Wizkids/Pathfinder could've had.  With the loss of D&D miniatures (both as a product AND game), it is quite refreshing to see a company recognize that;
A) players want minis to represent their characters/enemies and
B) that all RPGers are, in essence, like addicted magpies with ADHD when it comes to collecting needless bits of colorful plastic.

Ok, reason B might be just me...

But seriously, I truly like this set, and the fact that it has only 40 minis as opposed to the 60 that Wizards formerly put out means it is that much easier to complete your collection.  In a way, this is a plus for DMs too: If you desperately need wolves, goblins and zombies, you have a great chance of pulling what you need.  Also, the bottom of each base has not only the name but also the number of the mini you're currently holding, printed in bright white paint. D&D minis essentially had the same, but theirs wasn't as easy to read as it was simply stamped on.

Would I have picked some other minis to make for the first set? Yes.
Do I want to see more of the unique characters from the books made next time? Certainly.
Will I still buy the last dribble of D&D minis boosters from my job? Of course!
But am I now also hopelessly addicted to these new minis, and will I tell all my role-playing customers to buy them? 

Do you even have to ask?

Stasi "Dengirl" King

Dark Ascension Promo Cards

In case you missed it, here are all the promo cards coming out for Dark Ascension!  We still have some space for the Buy a Box promo, but I would hurry in to make sure you get one! 

Dark Ascension Prerelease

The Dark Ascension Prerelease is January 28-29, which seems so far away now. But it's only three weeks! Less than that, in fact. And here's what's available for playing in one. While supplies last.

Dark Ascension Launch Party

A week after the prerelease, Dark Ascension goes on sale for real on February 3. And that kicks off the Launch Party, where this foil card lives:

Just like the prerelease card, you'll get it just for participating (while supplies last).

Dark Ascension Game Day

Dark Ascension Game Day is February 25-26, and while supplies last, you'll get this for participating:

And if you make the Top 8, you'll get this!

Dark Ascension Buy-a-Box Card

Finally, here's the "Buy-a-Box" card! It goes to the first twenty people to buy a Booster Box of Dark Ascension at participating locations. We'll post the locations later, but here's the card now!

Here is the link to the Wizards article with this information.

Sean "Striderlotr" Banks

Monday, January 9, 2012

Looking Ahead - Feb/March 2012

Happy New Year!

I am as excited about comics in 2012 as I have been in awhile. The success of The New 52 is the gift that keeps on giving: We're starting to see sell-outs across the board, as we get more and more new customers. I'm fairly certain we're going to see some new announcements from DC within the next month or two, so keep your eyes peeled to teh interwebs for more info. In addition,  new works by Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer, Ed Brubaker, and other fan-favorite creators have been announced, and it's only January.

On top of all that comic goodness, we've got movies for The Avengers, Batman, The Hobbit and more. The dwarves singing in The Hobbit trailer gives me goosebumps. I know it's easy to get down with all the economic news, gas prices and such, not to mention the fact that we're in an election year - I've barely recovered from the last one - but it's going to be a great year for comic fans.

Speaking of fan-favorite creators doing their own thing, let's start the year off with a bang. 

SAGA #1 
by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Comixology Link for Reservists

* Y The Last Man's BRIAN K. VAUGHAN returns to comics! We all know Y The Last Man, right? One of the best books of the 00's, it propelled it's creators into household names. While Vaughan went off to Hollywood to make the Big Green TV Dollars, he's kept his foot in the comic door, doing small projects here and there, and now he's back with his newest series, SAGA. Billed as Star Wars meets Game of Thrones, and the first issue is double-sized for only $2.99.

by Duane Swierczynski and David Messina
Comixology Link for Reservists
* Zombies vs. the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Okay, I'm sold. The TMNT re-launch from IDW has done gangbusters and last year's Infestation cross-over was very popular. Now the zombies are back, and infiltrating the GI Joe, TMNT, D&D and Transformers universes. TURTLE POWER meets AUTOBOTS, TRANSFORM meets I CAST A FIREBALL meets YO JOE meets UGGGHHRHRH BRAINS.

Links to other parts of Infestation 2:

Infestation 2 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Infestation 2 Transformers
Infestation 2 GI Joe
Infestation 2 Dungeons & Dragons
Infestation 2 Team Up

by Grace Randolph and Russell Dauterman
Comixology Link for Reservists
* I hate the Housewives franchises, but this just makes me laugh. Supurbia is the "behind-the-scenes... TMZ-fueled" story of what happens when the superheroes come home, take off the costumers, and sit down to eat a meal with the Mrs. and the kids. I expect this to be slightly raunchy, possibly inappropriate, and the Guilty Pleasure of All Guilty Pleasures. I will never admit to reading this in public, but you know it's going to happen.

by Adam Beechen, Derek Fridolfs, Dustin Nguyen and Norm Breyfogle
Comixology Link for Reservists
* Terry McGuinnes returns! Batman Beyond was one of the casualties of The New 52 DC relaunch, and I'm psyched to see it return in a new format. In a thicker-than-normal 48 pages, you also get a back-up story featuring the Justice League Unlimited team.

by Bill Willingham, Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning
Comixology Link for Reservists
*Who's the Fairest of them All? Featuring all-new tales of the female characters from Fables, Bill Willingham dives even deeper into the Fables universe. The Fables comic, much like Y The Last Man, has been one of the most consistent comics out there, with no ending in sight. This is a great jumping-on point for anyone looking to learn more about these classic characters, and adds depth for any current Fables readers.

by Various Creators
Comixology Link for Reservists
* Noone drew Betty Page quite like Dave Stevens. Returning for another round of creator tributes, IDW has put together a second mini-series featuring the much-beloved character. (My goal with this mini-series is to make sure I have enough copies for everyone this time.)

by "The Architects"
Comixology Link for Reservists
* I wish Marvel would publish more "big event comics", don't you? .... yeah, I got nothing here. Here's hoping it's less disappointing that Fear Itself. Is that a good sales pitch? Oh, who am I kidding, we're going to sell a ton of this of just on the name.

by Kirman, Spencer & Shawn Martinboough
Comixology Link for Reservists
* Ooh yes.. yesyesyes. Robert "Walking Dead" Kirman and Nick "Morning Glories" Spencer team. Given how fast Morning Glories #1 flew out of here last year, and given that Walking Dead #1 sells for hundreds of dollars, I guess I don't have to tell you how hot Kirkman and Spencer are. These creators working together means that this book will not only be hot and highly sought-after, but it's going to be a great comic, too. Oh yeah, what's it about? Something about thieves, I'm sure. :) Seriously, these two writers working together is all you need.

by Selwyn Sefu Hinds, Denys Cowan and John Floyd
Comixology Link for Reservists
* What comics need is an ongoing voodoo/mystery series set in New Orlea- Oh. There you are. I swear, the editors at Vertigo are mind readers. I was thinking the other day, "I can't wait for Treme season 3 to start on HBO, I love a good story in New Orleans." And BOOM!, now there's a new comic for me to salivate over. "Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child" is too long for a title, but I can forgive them for that small transgression. The series takes place in post-Katrina New Orleans, and explores the hidden mystery of the Voodoo Queens and their role in shaping the events in The Big Easy. This looks very intriguing. Check out the first issue when it ships.

by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice
Comixology Link for Reservists
* I'm alright with Ed Brubaker writing more Bucky-as-badass comics. Ed Brubaker has done a terrific job with the Captain America franchise for years. Giving Bucky his own title as the Winter Soldier is one of the few new Marvel #1's that I can truly get behind, because I trust the creator implicitly. This is going to be Bucky working behind-the-scenes in the Marvel Universe, and if it's anything like the recently-released Fatale, it's going to be dark and very cool.

by Brian Churilla
Comixology Link for Reservists
* So, he jumped out of an airplace with a bag of stolen money, and noone ever found him? I didn't know who DB Cooper was until a year or two back, when I caught a cable special, talking about "the only unsolved air piracy in American aviation history." More here.  It's a fascinating story, so getting a comic book that plays off of that should be something different and unique.

by J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston
Comixology Link for Reservists
* The Twelve Return: Ladies and gentlemen, Hell hath frozen over. The Twelve is a confounding beast. This 12 issue mini-series started when I was still a music teacher upstate, but stalled after 8 issues. What made the late-shipping so irritating is that The Twelve was really, really good; Perhaps writer J. Michael Straczynski's best work in comics, to be honest. A lot of retailers got behind the book, many were calling it Marvel's Watchmen, but that joy led to frustration for readers when the issues started getting farther and farther behind. The book is all done, and will be shipping the last several issues over the next couple months. In addition, Marvel has put out a softcover of issues 1-6 and a reprint of issues 7 & 8, so anyone who wants to jump in, can. I'll say it again, just because it may be hard to believe: The book is completely done. So, have no fears that it won't be finished.

by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra
Comixology Link for Reservists
* Jonathan Hickman loves science-fiction and it shows. The Manhattan Project is another Image mini-series by Jonathan Hickman, writer of Marvel's FF, Fantastic Four and Ultimates. This story is an alternate timeline, where "black" projects were taking place behind the scenes of The Manhattan Project. Last year's The Red Wing was superb, as were Hickman's other Image mini-series (Pax Romana, Red Mass for Mars, Transhuman, and The Nightly News). I love seeing new creators keep their feet in superhero work, while staying true to other genre work at other publishers. This is why, incidentally, Image is going to be my publisher to watch this year: They're knocking it out of the park.

by Mark Millar and Leinil Francis Yu
Comixology Link for Reservists
* Another Mark Millar mini-series? Works for me. Millar has his own style and has been moving away from superhero comics for awhile, his last work being on the Ultimates line last year. He seems more interested in telling his own stories, his own way. I'm okay with that, as long as he can get them out on time, which is a perception shared by both readers and retailers. Supercrooks is an Ocean's Eleven-type story, featuring all supervillains pulling off "one last heist", in Spain. OLE!

by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart
Comixology Link for Reservists
* Being a spy sounds fun, until everyone wants what you want, and you're on your own. When you grow up reading the adventures of Jack Ryan, and one of your favorite movies is The Hunt for Red October, it's going to be hard to turn down a good Cold War yarn. Antony Johnston, who I've mentioned here before for his incredible work on Wasteland, has written a graphic novel about spies in Berlin before the war went down. Look, that should be enough for anyone who's ever loved a Tom Clancy book; The Cold War is and has been rife with fiction opportunities, and I'm glad to see another writer telling a tale of suspense and espionage.

by Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso and various
Comixology Link for Reservists
* The best Batman story in YEARS.. is collected in Flashpoint The World of Flashpoint featuring Batman. This collection contains the Batman: Knight of Vengeance mini-series from last year's Flashpoint event, plus several other great stories. But this book is worth it, just for the Batman story alone. In the Flashpoint reality, Bruce Wayne was killed while his father, Thomas Wayne watched. Now, Thomas Wayne wears the cowl, but he's old and weary... and that's all I'm going to say about this story, because any more detail would spoil it. This book comes with our highest recommendations!

Publisher links for product shipping in March 2012:

Dark Horse:
DC Comics: