Your eyes do not deceive you, dear reader. This is in fact the July unboxing article appearing almost a third of the way through August. Let this intro serve as a spoiler that this month's candidate is not for the impatient among you. Earlier in July I had to cancel my subscription to Your Toy Box as it seemed likely that mystery boxes were out of reach for that month. Some decent budgeting and a few less beers than usual allowed me to give one a shot so I went with Comic Bento which was running a theme of “The Little Guy” no doubt inspired by Ant-Man. Was it worth my time? Let's take a look.
Comic Bento is a mystery box of 4-5 collected volumes (both paperback and hardcover depending on the month.) The package originates in Montreal and costs $20 for the box itself and $5 for shipping to the U.S.A. If you're in Canada however, the shipping makes a step climb to $12! Yes it actually costs less for them to ship boxes across the border than within their own country. Silly bastards. The reason they can get it mailed down here so inexpensively is good old media mail which also means it takes a decent bit to show up on your porch if you live anywhere other than New England. For example; there were unboxing videos posted to youtube five days before I received my box on the 3rd. Combine that with reading the items, and helping my sister get settled back into Michigan turned this article into a slug. The wait seemed even longer since they mailed out the tracking numbers a week before the boxes.
Enough about package logistics, what about the real meat of this box? Upon opening you're greeted with a plastic sealed stack of comic goodness. This is a fine idea as it keeps the books from sliding around and getting damaged. There's also a downside as they use clear plastic wrap which means you can blow the whole surprise with one quick glance. Isn't there any cloudy plastic wrap up North? Whether or not you spoil it all in one look, what truly matters is what's in the box? And is any of it worth your time?
Given the theme for the month and the release of Ant-Man it seemed like a given that there would be some love for him in this box. I'd really been hoping for the first volume of Nick Spencer's current series as it's new, inexpensive, very well reviewed, and focused on Scott Lang. Instead we got a mismatched assortment of all-ages comics mostly focused on Hank Pym. None of it is in mainline continuity so kids will learn absolutely nothing of value from reading these stories.
Thankfully, the majority of stories in here are at least fun to read despite the weird alternate origin for Hank. In this he's a down on his luck inventor who creates an ant communication helmet for pest control, only to be recruited by his neighborhood ants to fight invaders from the microverse. The micro ship is where he ends up finding his shrinking technology. It's fun but there's just not enough of interest or importance here. Basically it's a book you'll read on the toilet and then toss.
Divinity vol 1
Now this was kind of a decent surprise as I'd heard very good things about this title though it doesn't fit the little guy theme at all. The story is about an orphan raised by the soviet government during the cold war who is chosen to travel to the edge of the galaxy, only to return decades later as a superpowerful messiah figure. Think of him as a Russian version of Dr. Manhattan. Couldn't help but find it odd that even though he's from the Soviet Union, he doesn't have an eastern European name or accent, and he's apparently black. I love seeing more diversity in my heroes but the character would have made more sense if he'd hailed from another region.
Since I've never read any Valiant comics before, the guest appearances by characters like X-O Manowar and Ninjak made for a more haphazard story than I would have liked. Still; it peaked my interest in that universe and makes for a pretty good, yet almost too short read. Probably hold on to this one since a second volume is coming in 2016.
The Life After vol 1
Had zero knowledge about this one going in but it ended up being the best item in the crate. It's about a guy named Jude who discovers he's living in Limbo, only to team up with Earnest Hemmingway and start causing panic across a really cruel version of the afterlife. This definitely isn't something for religious types as it has a downright nasty view of angels, demons, and god who comes across as an even grosser variation of Jubba the Hut.
One thing that did bother me is a classic problem I've had with indie comics. One I like to call the “for fucks sake effect.” That's when swearing is a constant element to the tale yet nobody remembers any curses other than fuck. It's just a little lame when coming across shit or damn feels refreshing.
Still: I really enjoyed the scope of the story along with the twisted universe in which it plays out. I'll be holding onto this one and keep an eye out for the second volume down the line.
Project Superpowers 2 vol 1
Now here's where the box took a turn for the worse. I'm not complaining about receiving a second series without the preceding storyline as Comic Bento was actually thoughtful enough to provide a code for a digital edition of the original Project Superpowers. My complaints lie solely with this book being lame.
The series is about WWII era heroes who were locked up inside Pandora's box only to be let loose in modern times to fight an Illuminati style group with control over the world. That may not sound too bad but the hordes of underdeveloped characters and nearly incoherent plot lines make for a such a boring read. To top it off the art, while still passable is just sorta meh.
The whole thing feels like an attempt at something like Watchmen or Squadron Supreme only not as good. Which is saying something from a guy who hates Watchmen.
Witch & Wizard
I'll admit to you right up front I'm still reading this one and I feel fairly certain that my low opinion isn't likely to change. It's about Whit and Wisty Allgood. If those names didn't send your eyes skyrocketing then take heart. You've got a higher threshold for nonsense than I do. These two suburbanites are on the run from a corrupt government run by The One who is the One. He's called that since there are other ones, like the one who makes weapons. All of them serve under the one who is the one though. Christ, this is painful just to write about.
Ok, so the kids used to be an A-plus student/football player, and a music loving wall flower. One day they became Curves. No; not weight loss centers for lonely women. Curves are magic users, and magic is strictly against the law except for anyone but the One One. Our sibling pair join up with other kids like Byron Swain (oh god, these names!) in order to outwit and overthrow the ruling class. As far as this story is concerned, they have to stop soldiers from invading the afterlife which makes no sense. Like their gonna show up and do what? Shoot the ghosts?
The Characters are all dull cliches, the dialogue is awful, and the story is plain uninteresting stuff. Art however is pretty good though it seems more cartoonish than what this series is aiming for. Avoid this.
So that was Comic Bento. I actually cancelled my subscription before the box even arrived as it looks like boxes are out of the budget this month. Which is a shame as there are a few on my raider. Loot Crate has really been stepping their game up lately, the Dinosaur Dracula fun pack has a nice looking mix of items, and the marvel collector corp might have two exclusive funko pops.
Comic Bento itself is a decent box, just not amazing. Service seems good enough though nowhere near as personable as Your Toy Box. Shipping is kind sluggish and the ration of good to bad items is a bit off. If you're trying to get into comics, it'd be a great way to get started since you get to sample so many different writers and publishers, For me; it's good but if I could afford one consistent subscription, I doubt it'd be this one.
Here's the current mystery box power rankings.
- Your Toy Box
- Comic Bento
- Box of Dread
Hope everybody's having a good weekend. I've gotta catch up on some sleep and figure out which job to apply for this week. Probably have another post up in a couple days with an assortment of items. Until then you all stay classy.