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Alex Spencer

Alex's column, The Issue, looks at a stand-out standalone comics single every month. In his life as a non-comics journalist, he writes about videogames and all things mobile for publications including Kotaku, Rock Paper Shotgun and Killscreen. He also has a dog, who may or may not be named after a comics character. Find all this and more rambling on Twitter @AlexJaySpencer.

When Worlds Collide: What We Learned From 2015’s Secret Multiversal Convergence Events

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Back in March of 2015, a full-page advert appeared in the back of various DC comics, which asked; “Would you sacrifice another world so yours can live?” If you were following Jonathan Hickman's Avengers titles around the same time, you might have asked yourself, just for a moment: since when does Batgirl run ads for Marvel's next big event That question presents essentially the same set-up as Marvel's Secret Wars, which saw Reed Richards, Black Panther, and their Illuminati friends facing the threat of alternate Earths on a collision course with their own. Eventually, it all went wrong, and Dr Doom had to take the remnants of the multiverse and combine them into a single multi-dimensional world.

Turning the page, the ad was revealed to be promoting Convergence, DC's own big event for 2015, and an entirely different story. In Convergence, an omnipotent villain pitches characters from disparate realities against one another in a multiversal battle royale. Each reality co-exists on a planet apparently of the villain's creation, a kind of 'battle-world'. Oh, hang on...

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The Issue: A Very X-Men X-Mas in ‘Uncanny’ #143

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What makes something a piece of Christmas culture? Does a late December setting qualify? Is a smattering of snow and tinsel enough? When that one friend tells you their favourite Christmas film is Die Hard or Gremlins, or if they're being especially stubborn, Iron Man 3, are they wrong?

See, Chris Claremont and John Byrne's Uncanny X-Men #143 features plenty of festive imagery: the bulk of the issue takes place on December 24th, with a brief 'night before Christmas' riff, and there are Christmas trees and snow, the latter apparently summoned by Storm. But it's not really a Christmas story.

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The Issue: The Moebius Strip Madness of ‘Silver Surfer’ #11

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Welcome to The Issue, where we'll take a look at some of the strangest, most interesting and most distinctive single issue comic stories ever to grace the medium. You know the ones; silent issues, sideways issues, backwards issues; the comics that try to do something different with the form, and stand out from the series they belong to.

We're kicking off with a recent example, one that seems to have come from an alternate universe where the rules of the comics form are slightly different: Dan Slott and Mike Allred's Silver Surfer #11.

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ICYMI: Everything is Imperfectly Normal in ‘The Vision’ #1

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The last few ICYMIs on this site have featured Scooby-Doo meeting Harley Quinn, the Justice League teaming up with the Creature Commandos, and a dude taking a cinderblock to the spine. In that context, inviting the new neighbours round to show off what you've done with the place might not really seem worth celebrating.

It's for that exact reason, though, that the opening scene of Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta's The Vision #1 is interesting. This is the first issue of a new superhero comic trying to sell readers on a relatively minor character --- recent movie appearances notwithstanding. You might expect the first page to feature explosions, revelations, or at least a dead supporting character to spice things up a bit.

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The Issue: Imperfect Harmony in ‘Buffy Season Eight’ #21

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Welcome to The Issue, where we'll take a look at some of the strangest, most interesting and most distinctive single issue comic stories ever to grace the medium. You know the ones; silent issues, sideways issues, backwards issues; the comics that try to do something different with the form, and stand out from the series they belong to.

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In the last installment, we talked about issue #12 of The Invisibles, a comic that takes a sympathetic look at one of the series' throwaway baddies. This time round, it's 'Harmonic Divergence', issue #21 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, written by Jane Espenson and drawn by Georges Jeanty. It's a comic that takes a very different approach to a similar idea and, as Hallowe'en is nearly upon us, throws in some spooky Draculas too.

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Living In The Shadows: Should You Be Reading ‘Trees’?

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The last few years have been incredible for big, smart sci-fi comics. Saga, Copperhead, Kaptara, Nameless, Lazarus, Southern Cross... and those are just the ones coming out of Image. If you're a fan of anything alien, dystopic, robotic or just forward-looking, you have a lot of options. Equally, though, it can be difficult to make room for another space book, but Trees stands tall even in that crowded field. (Yes, that was a tree pun.)

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The Issue: Empathy for the Henchman in ‘The Invisibles’ #12 (1995)

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Welcome to The Issue, a new feature examining some of the strangest, most interesting and most distinctive single issue comic stories ever to grace the medium. You know the ones; silent issues, sideways issues, backwards issues; the comics that try to do something different with the form, and stand out from the series they belong to.

As October is Villains Month here on ComicsAlliance, we're taking a look at an issue focusing on a character who is nominally one of the bad guys, though the story tries to unpack what that really means. The issue is The Invisibles #12, 'Best Man Fall', written by Grant Morrison and Steve Parkhouse.

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Thumbnail: Design and the Distillation of Ideas in Mike Del Mundo’s Covers

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Comics covers are strange beasts. While comics themselves are sequential art --- pictures arranged in just the right order to tell a story or convey an emotion --- covers freeze that process into a single static image. But Mike Del Mundo's work at Marvel shows that they can be much more than pretty pictures.

You don't need me to tell you that Del Mundo's covers are gorgeous. He's an incredible draftsman with an even stronger sense of design. Covers let him push the latter talent to the fore, dancing through various styles, from stark two-color minimalism to detailed paintings, via pastiches of Escher and Art Deco posters, all depending on what suits this issue best.

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Mad Science & Crazy Humor: Should You Be Reading ‘Universe’?

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When you look at the sheer range and number of original stories being told in comics form today, it’s hard to imagine a better time to be a comics reader. Online and in print, from all around the world, artists and writers are telling stories with their own voices and styles, and there’s so much to choose from that it’s sometimes difficult to know what to read next. With Should I Be Reading… ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today.

Panel Syndicate, the pay-what-you-want, DRM-free digital comics publisher, is best known for The Private Eye, the excellent sci-fi thriller from Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente. With the team reuniting for another collaboration, it's easy to overlook the other comic currently being published on the site. Launched late last year, Universe is a sci-fi comic from Spanish cartoonist Albert Monteys, and it's just as worthy of your attention and chosen amount of dollars as its better-known stablemate.

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Adventures of a Reluctant Explorer: Should You Be Reading ‘Shutter’?

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With Fables having just wrapped up after 13 years of combining fantasy characters and creatures with a more-or-less real world setting, there's no better time to pick up Shutter. Joe Keatinge and Leila del Duca's comic charts Kate Kristopher's reluctant journey through a world of ghost ninjas, fire-breathing Victorian robots and crocodiles in adorable bell-boy jackets, as she tries to uncover the mystery of her family's past – and save her own behind from the aforementioned creatures.

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