December Panels: I'm Craving for Kraven! and more

Amazing Spider-Man #791
by Dan Slott and Stuart Immonen
Peter and Bobbi encounter a robot factory, powered by a "silicon matrix," secretly fragmented parts of the supervillainness known as "Quicksand!" Quicksand was fragmented against her will, and tries to get Spider-Man and Mockingbird's help.

Batman #35
by Tom King and Joelle Jones

So true. Selina understands Batman so well, and still she loves him. I guess that's real love for ya.

Another quote from her:
This is a world of Supermen. And Misters Terrific.
Batman. For his...JUSTICE...he'll betray you. He'll betray ME.
If you think of yourself as the BEST. And you're looking for the BEST...whatever he is, Talia, I swear, he's NOT that.
What he is...all he is...
He's just the stupid man I stupidly love.
Captain America #696
by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Just a simple action panel told in a sound effect. Makes it a joy to read.

Doomsday Clock #1
by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank

The datestamp for the comic is explicitly November 22/23, 1922. But that one panel just made it a little too real.

Other moments in this comic included the Mime's invisible weapons -- probably my favorite moment there.

Hawkeye #13
by Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero

I's the original Hawkeye acknowledging that Kate Bishop is also Hawkeye. It's a sign of respect and admiration when he admits it to her, and all you need to see is her smile to know how she feels about it.

The Punisher #218
by Matthew Rosenberg and Guiu Vilanova

That last panel is hilarious -- it's when the goons realize they're in a Punisher comic, and they get their comeuppance, but we, as the reader, know what's going to happen to them right from panel one. Great "gag," if the Punisher would have them!

There's another great scene, told in a couple of pages. It's Nick Fury's explanation of the Air Force base, while Frank is infiltrating it to obtain the War Machine armor. It's a great use of dialogue to enrich an otherwise silent scene, and also an efficient use of space, to avoid pages of talking heads.

Lastly, here's Vilanova's take on the War Machine armor.

It's much less "clean" than your normal splash pages or cover art will depict. It even looks organic, more malleable. A very appropriate way to usher in the Punisher in the War Machine armor.

Silver Sable and the Wild Pack #36
by Christa Faust, Paulo Siquiera and Jose Luis

How wild is that? Unbelievable that the only thing that Silver gets from the shark bite, is a minor wound!

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #26
by Ryan North, Erica Henderson and more! Wouldja believe -- they even roped in Garfield creator Jim Davis!

I shared a couple of panels from this comic already -- but here's another couple that I wanted to incorporate, from Kraven's story, "The True Story of Spider-Man"

Love those signs -- "Make Mine Kraven!" "We crave Kraven!"

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Flashpoint Batman - Knight of Vengeance and Wonder Woman Volume 3: Iron

Flashpoint: Batman - Knight of Vengeance
by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
Collects the three-issue miniseries

It's always interesting to see how these new timelines/Elseworlds allow for different versions of your favorite heroes. For example, Red Son gave us Batmankoff, while Bloodstorm gave us Vampire Batman. In the Flashpoint rendition of Batman, Bruce Wayne was murdered in Crime Alley, and his father Thomas became Batman. And he's much more murder-y than the Batman we know. His assistant, interestingly enough, is Oswald Cobblepot, Selina Kyle is the paraplegic Oracle, and worst of all, Martha Wayne -- Bruce's mom -- became the Joker.

It's serendipitous how everyone has a role. Since it was only three issues, there isn't much time to dig too deep into their backstories. But issue 3 has all the meat, fleshing out the history between Thomas and Martha. Bruce's death drove a wedge in their marriage, and Thomas thought that he could drive it out by murdering Joe Chill. When he does though, it's the final nail in the coffin for Martha's sanity, setting them both on a course to become nemeses. Thomas couldn't believe what Martha had become, and likewise for Martha. It's only when Thomas tells her that there could be a life where they died instead of Bruce, that Martha sobers up. There's a glimmer of light in her eyes, but then. . .

Thomas tries, in the nicest way, to convey to Martha that their Bruce would be OK in this timeline. But when Martha learns what he actually means, it horrifies her. For her, to become Batman is a loss in and of itself. To her, regardless of the timeline, their happiness is forfeit, and that drives her crazy. As long as the Batman is involved, it's an inescapable tragedy. That's the key understanding that Azzarello has of Batman here. He's a tragic character, no matter the timeline and we realize that in horror with Martha.

Read more about Flashpoint!

Wonder Woman Volume 3: Iron
by Brian Azzarello, Tony Akins,
collects issue #'s 0, 13-18

Wonder Woman has to save Zola's baby, but to do that, she has to find her first. Last time, Hermes kidnapped the baby, and now Wondy enlists the aid of her brethren -- not the Greek Gods, but the recent children like her, a girl who was born in Palestine in the 1900s' with the power of the wind, or a homeless man who can see the world through the eyes of flies, and more. Like the Greek Gods in the last 12 issues, it's fun getting to discover who these people are, but occasionally I lost my direction in the book. It's not clear why Hermes kidnapped the baby, and the whirlwind of characters, including Orion of the New Gods, gets to be a hindrance this time, when you're trying to make sense of the story.

There's a subplot with the "First born," the first child that was ever born to Zeus. It seems to be a riff off of Zeus's story: how Zeus would overthrow his father, Cronos, the same legend was told of Zeus's son, the "First Born." So Zeus sentenced him to death, but Hera loved the child and couldn't bear to kill him, so she hid him somewhere in the Arctic. They even date it for you: 7,000 years in the past. This subplot seems to have a resolution when Cronos and Poseidon have a battle in the ocean, but it's not really clear what their whole deal is. I presume they'll bring it up in a later volume, but it makes volume 3 seem scattered.

Issue 0 is also in this paperback, which shows a flashback to 13-year-old Diana and how she first started training with the God of War, Ares. It's a great character piece that speaks to the adventuring spirit in Diana, as well as her way of fighting with compassion. Guest starring the Minotaur!


What a great visual story in one page, of Wonder Woman defending her sister from a storm of weapons.

Catch up on New 52 Wonder Woman:
Volume 1: Blood
Volume 2: Guts
Volume 3: Iron
Volume 4: War
Volumes 5 and 6: Flesh and Bones

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Serials: Batman #37 and Venom, Inc. Pt 3

Batman #37
Super-Friends, part 2

Tom King concludes his two-part slice-of-life story on how Batman breaks the engagement news to Superman and Lois Lane. In this one, they go on a double date, but with a twist: it's superhero night at the carnival in Smallville, so the two pairs must cross-dress. . . that is, Bruce dresses up like Superman, and Lois dresses up like Catwoman and so forth.
What, you were thinking of Batman in a catsuit? If only we were so lucky!

He grounds the superheroes in an uncanny way. Where their caped identities are by far the dominant egos of their lives, Tom King humanizes them in a way that makes them relatable. It's like following the lives of your favorite royal celebrity. If they ate toast, you'd want to know where they got their toast from.

Venom #159
Venom, Inc. Part 3

Parts 1 and 2 didn't make for much of a story. Part 3 gives you at least a look at how Eddie Brock feels now that his symbiote is severed from him. In the weirdest way, Eddie Brock is the person to ground the story, where Spider-Man and the others are supporting characters. I don't collect Venom regularly, but that seems appropriate in a Venom comic, but not necessarily a Spider-Man story.

Again the plot moves forward, but with little story to make it mean much.

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Superior Spider-Man Finale: Goblin Nation

Unbelievable! Today we conclude the Superior Spider-saga! Catch up here!

Superior Spider-Man Volume 6: Goblin Nation
Collects Superior Spider-Man #27-31 and Annual #2
by Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage, Humberto Ramos and Javier Rodriguez

The Goblin King (aka, the Green Goblin, aka, gobby, aka Norman Osborn) discovers the Superior Spider-Man's true identity! And what he does next you WON'T see coming!

I sure didn't. Every issue is a roller-coaster through New York City. When Otto refuses to become the Goblin's "second-in-command," the two of them wage a war with NYC as the battleground. It's such a great character moment from Otto, because I honestly didn't know how Otto would react. And the way he did explained so much about him. He's adopted his new identity as Spider-Man in the truest sense by challenging his greatest enemy, the Green Goblin. And he does it so arrogantly:
NEVER! You underestimate me, Osborn!
I WAS Doctor Octopus. Now I am something FAR GREATER!
I AM SPIDER-MAN! I WILL free my city from your grip! And this shall be MY FINEST HOUR!
It's Otto's affirmation of his self, now that he is Spider-Man. He truly believes in it, and he truly believes in himself. His assertion of "something far greater" is a call-back to that prelude story to Superior, "Dying Wish." When the dying Dr. Octopus promised to do something great. . . who knew that it would be as Spider-Man? Who knew that he would dramatically reduce crime, help his Aunt May walk without a cane and let Flash walk again after the amputation of his legs, start a new company, get a PhD, and find a new love? Otto's world was threatened with death, and now he's filled it with life. It took a heinous act against Peter Parker to do it, but he's lived up to the legacy of Peter; in a way, it's an all-new Spider-Man story for a different world. Otto was Peter, and Peter served as Uncle Ben, bestowing on him the lesson of great power and great responsibility.

Gobby puts that lesson at risk through numerous trials. He blows up the homes that Otto formerly occupied, unleashes the Spider-Slayers created by Alchemax and J. Jonah Jameson, and he creates death scenarios for each civilian that Spider-Man has rescued, including his Professor from ESU, and yes, his girlfriend.

It's after a close call for a little girl, where Otto hesitates to save her, that ghost-Peter takes over and gives up his advantage to save the girl. In a way, Peter redeems Otto for his hesitation, and in that moment Otto realizes that he's not the right Spider-Man for this crisis. For love, Otto gives up his identity, his very self, to return Peter back to his body.

The story concludes how you'd expect it to. But it's in the way you get there that's interesting. If you've been following my read-alongs up to here, I encourage you to pick up the trade and read it for yourself.

A special note: this is the conclusion, but not the end. As a comic book, there has to be a next issue (continued in Amazing!), and while there's a satisfying conclusion, there are numerous hints to a future storyline. Liz Allan and her son, Normie, part of a Goblin conspiracy? And what of Anna Maria, now that the Peter she loved. . . is dead?

As a medium, the comic book is unique in that it's serial. Some comics end, like Fables or The Sandman. But super-comics are different. We're reading about the same Peter Parker that's been slinging webs since 1963! Superior was a nice diversion, and while it stands alone as its own story, there's always another story to tell. It seems that Slott always has ideas to share, so while he's got 'em, I'll read 'em.


This being the Superior conclusion, there's huge, widescreen spreads with an emphasis on action. It's great! Here's a two-page spread where Peter's infiltrated Otto's mind, in an attempt to get out of the "Mindscape."

It's a trippy sequence where Peter must relive key moments in Otto's life and literally empathize with Otto.

Here's a wicked two-page spread, where the Goblin comes through on his promise to destroy the Superior Spider-Man's -- and Otto's -- legacy.
Some meta-commentary, when Peter-as-Spider-Man asks Spider-Man 2099 for help in fighting Gobby:

An Amazing reboot followed Superior, in 2014! Read about it in Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1: The Parker Luck.

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Wonder Woman Volume 2: Guts

Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Guts
by Brian Azzarello, Tony Akins and Cliff Chiang
Collects issues # 7-12

Azzarello and team continue their exploration of Wonder Woman in the second half of their first year. This run lasted for nearly 3 years, so they have this freedom to build the world that they want for the next few years. Similar to Wondy's controversial origin retcon in Volume 1, there's another retcon here of the Amazons -- particularly, to re-populate their island, they participate in a Siren-esque ritual, where they seduce young men for their seed (SEX) and then murder them. The newborn girls are celebrated as future Amazons, while the boys are given to the God of Masonry, Hephaestus.

It's a noticeably brutal truth that must have been hard to swallow for long-reading fans of Wonder Woman and Themyscira. As a new reader, it fits well with the tone of the world that they've built, so I have no issues with that.

As we learn about Wondy's world, we also learn about herself too. In a bid for Zeus's now-empty throne, Hades schemes to wed Diana, in exchange for Zola's safety and her unborn baby. Ever compassionate, Diana agrees but, in his insecurity, Hades gives Wonder Woman her "ring" early: a noose made out of her lasso! Either she will confess her true love to him, or die. In a splendid twist, Wonder Woman, compelled by the truth of her lasso, does confess her love. It's utterly confusing as the reader. How could that be the truth? How could she love him, even when he's willing to murder her and condemn her to eternal suffering in Hades? Wondy explains:
She loves everyone. There is just that much goodness in her heart, and it shames us, as the reader, to feel incredulous when she said it earlier. It's a great character moment that fleshes her out for us. Like Batman and Superman, she has her cool gadgets and abilities. But her greatest weapon is the truth, and when others resort to their weapons, she resorts to hers.

God-Count: In these issues, we meet for the first time Hephaestus, Eros, Aphrodite, Demeter, Artemis. . . hmm I think that's it.

One comment about Azzarello: He's really into wordplay, which . . . plays really well with these Greek characters. A dialogue between Hades and Strife:
Hades: You're happy? THAT gives me pause.
Strife: Well then, that gives you something in common with your bride, though HERS...
...are CLAWED.
It's these kinds of tics that add value to the comic. It makes you pause and re-read it, to unlock the puzzle that he's presented to you, and it's a whole lot of fun.


Diana undergoes many wardrobe changes here, and it's fun to see. Here's warrior woman Wondy:

Bride of Hades Wondy:

Trenchcoat Wondy:

And lastly, flying-because-she-got-a-feather-from-Hermes Wondy:

Matthew Wilson just kills it on the colors. There's this dark, relentless feeling with the truths that Diana is learning about herself and the world. But at the same time there are bold, dynamic lines that helps her serve as this light, with this relentless positivity. It's inspiring, and a completely unique feeling from the other two heroes of the trinity, Batman and Superman. Last one, of Wonder Woman protecting Zola from Artemis's Moon-arangs:

Last-last one, of the teaser for issue 0. It's a moody, exciting look at what's next.

Catch up on New 52 Wonder Woman:
Volume 1: Blood
Volume 2: Guts
Volume 3: Iron
Volume 4: War
Volumes 5 and 6: Flesh and Bones

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Serials: The Forbidden Pla-Nut pt 1, and more

Amazing Spider-Man #792
by Dan Slott and Ryan Stegman

Dan Slott takes Spider-Man to new places, and sometimes it's a little . . . weird. Flash, as the new "Anti-Venom," strips Eddie Brock of the symbiote, and contains it for safekeeping. Apparently, with Flash, it's like a pet now, so you see Flash cuddling with it in weird ways.

Yeah. The other weird part is Spider-Man's spoken dialogue. There's a lot of parts that just sound strange coming out of Spider-Man's mouth. He comes off as a hyperactive teenager, which Bendis did in a much better way, in Ultimate Spider-Man. It's hard to tell whether these oddities are meant to be humorous, or whether they're a serious evolution for the characters. The cognitive dissonance just makes for a confusing issue

A weaker issue that leads to a confrontation between Spider-Man and Anti-Venom, and Venom-Black Cat.

Daredevil #596
by Charles Soule and Stefano Landini

This issue is an extended chase scene, with the full force of the NYPD chasing Daredevil across the rooftops and the streets of New York. There's a nice surprise at the end with how Daredevil gets out, and a killer cliffhanger. It's a job offer for Matt Murdock that comes out of nowhere, and his response comes out of nowhere as well: he goes all in on the job offer from Kingpin. See, that's why we call him the Man Without Fear -- he doesn't hesitate to know the unknown, and to jump without looking. That's all I need to know, to know that Charles Soule understands Matt Murdock.

It's an exciting place for Matt that makes me excited to see where it goes next!

Another thing I noticed about this, but when you have the comic in your actual hands, it gets real easy to admire the penmanship. Just look at this zipline. The panel cuts it off near the top, but it's crazy to think that it's just a single line that can make you imagine depth and length. It's great.

There's a full page in the first half with Daredevil slinging around NYC, and it's great fun just to follow the lines from his cables. Occasionally there are phone-it-in panels that re-use other panels, but overall good fun.

The Punisher #219
by Matthew Rosenberg and Guiu Vilanova

I was surprised to find out just how funny this book is. There's a wry sense of humor that comes from Frank's interaction with the War Machine's AI. They're both the straight men, with Frank's no-nonsense approach to, eh, murdering bad people, yet still it works. Check out this scene where Frank tries to understand why his machine gun failed to operate:

Frank's operated a plethora of weapons during his time in Vietnam, and surely in his war on crime. You'd think he could operate one that can take voice commands, so it's pretty funny to see that his weapon can talk back now, and tell them when he's using it wrong.

The frame of the story is an old man's farm that's about to be stolen by General Petrov, the bad guy that means to instate military rule over Chernaya, using ill-gotten weapons from S.H.I.E.L.D. His soldiers approach the old man to forcefully take his farm, when Frank butts in to save him. There's at least 3 redonk murders here that are certainly not for the faint of heart.

It's a great microscopic view of the macroscopic story. The old man is an allergy of Frank. He served in multiple wars, and outlived both his wife and children, but the farm allowed him to pretend, to get away from all the fighting. The tragedy of course is that Frank could never pretend. When his armor tells him that there are no remaining threats, and that the conflict is over, Frank gives a chilling "Don't tell me when the conflict is over," and sends a missile to blow up the guys that are retreating. This is a comic that can balance the light and the dark, the funniness from Frank's situation along with the grimness.

Easily the best issue for me this week, a great reflection of Frank's character through allegory (the old man) and foil (the War Machine AI).

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #27
by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

A hilarious issue despite all of the infodump provided. Squirrels from the planet Chitt-crrt have accidentally kidnapped Nancy Whitehead, Squirrel Girl's college roommate and Tippy Toe, Squirrel Girl's pet squirrel, in order to discover how SG stopped Galactus from devouring Planet Earth. It's a joke that gets slightly hammered over the head, and then they're distraught when they find out that SG simply -- befriended Galactus! There's this aura of positivity around Doreen Green that lets her do that, and some might even call that a superpower!

There's a bro-ey depiction of the Silver Surfer here, which is, well, different to see, and then SG finds the Sorcerer Supreme (Loki Laufeyson?!) to try to find her friends. It's old-school Marvel team-up in a brand new world.

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Barry Allen died (in Crisis on Infinite Earths)!

Then he came back (in Rebirth)!

Then he realized he could change the events of the past!

Read what happens next!

collects the six-issue miniseries
by Geoff Johns and Adam Kubert

Barry Allen wakes up to find a completely different world, without a Justice League! There is no Superman, and Aquaman and Wonder Woman wage a war with the fate of the very planet at stake!

Barry is in the middle of all of this, finding that he doesn't have any of his speed-force powers and, most importantly -- his mom is alive. If you'll remember, Nora Allen, Barry's mom, was murdered by Professor Zoom, sending Barry's dad to a life of jail and spurring Barry to become a forensic scientist.

It's a hoot to explore this similar, but completely different world. There is no space wasted finding out about this world, with each issue providing a new facet and the next step in Barry's discovery.

At the time, this was billed as a DC-wide comic event -- that this isn't a different Earth, or an alternate universe, but it's the actual Earth with the same heroes that we've already been reading about. We learn that Barry changed the timeline of the universe, when he went back in time to save his mom from being murdered. There's some goofy time-travel shenanigans.

At the heart of this story is family. For the love of his mom, Barry did the unthinkable and changed the events of the past. And for the love of his son, the Flashpoint Batman helped to restore our timeline, so that his son could live in his place. There's a powerful two-page sequence where Barry returns the timeline to normal, but with a note from his dad for Bruce Wayne. It's a touching moment, that almost justifies what Barry had to go through in these five issues.

A resonant miniseries that ushered in 3+ years of DC Comics, which, apparently, was retconned in Rebirth. One of DC's better event-comics.

Read more about Flashpoint!

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Before Planet Hulk, the Planet -- of Sport!

A savage alien planet. A corrupt emperor, pitting gladiators slaves against one another to the death. . . today we're talking about the comic book story that was a part of the hit movie Thor: Ragnarok this year. . . The Flash, in "The Planet of Sport"!

What, you thought it was Planet Hulk?

"The Planet of Sport" has a publication year of 1947, a whopping 59 years before Planet Hulk. Don't get me wrong, I consider Planet Hulk a brilliant take on the Hulk, for the way it infuses pathos into the life of the Hulk and adds a compelling supporting cast. But if Marvel made it better, you can bet your bottom dollar that DC made it first. So here he is, in All-Flash #31, "The Planet of Sport."
Jay Garrick and Joan Williams are entertaining a couple of Olympic champions at the Keystone City Zoo, when something sweeps them away to Strobos -- The Planet of Sport! The emperor there, Jaxos, kidnapped them for some friendly competition. . . to the death!

There's a Sasquatch-esque wrestler with sticky fur, and an alien fencer with four arms. As you might expect, the Flash dispatches them with ease, using the friction of his speed to shave the wrestler, and his super-speed to outfence the fencer. Emperor Jaxos uses a neat "stroboscopic viewer" to see the Flash in action:

It's solid Golden-Age comics, with a girth of imagination that visual fiction hadn't seen yet. In a later trial, Emperor Jaxos kidnaps Joan and forces Jay to race for her life -- of course, the race is rigged, and right before he can cross the finish line, the Flash gets trapped in a glass bottle. It's a hoot how he gets out.

In the final trial, Jay has to fight Emperor Jaxos himself, and -- holy $^!*, he blows up the Emperor's head.

Nah, just kidding. He knocks him out, frees the slaves of Strobos, and they send him back to Earth. One and done!

When you read enough comics, they all start to blend together. Planet Hulk follows a similar storyline, although the ending is much more tragic. I guess in the Golden Age, it was different then. You could just end on a happy note, then.

You can read "The Planet of Sport" -- and more -- in the DC publication, The Flash: A Celebration of 75 Years.

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Serials: Venom Inc Alpha, Captain America v. Swordsman, and More

Amazing Spider-Man #789
by Dan Slott and Stuart Immonen

Peter had to give up his company, Parker Industries, to keep it from getting in the hands of the sinister Doctor Octopus! For those keeping track, I read the fhhollow-up issues already, 790 and 791 last week. It's an interesting experience to read out of sequence For one, you already know what's going to happen, but for two, you see all the hints that were dropped for the future issues. Slott is great at dropping little seeds of a story that bloom in later issues, like how Peter acquires the science editor position in 791 because of how he randomly helped the then-science editor in 789.

The relationship with Mockingbird adds an interesting layer too. I'd heard good things about Mockingbird, so it helps me get to see her as a character.

It took me a while, but now I'm used to Peter Parker as a more immature person. He took on a CEO position that he was completely unqualified for (a position that Otto-as-Peter handled adequately), couldn't handle the responsibility of a global tech company and let his millions of employees down. Slott's background is as a humor writer, with some great runs on the GLA and She-Hulk, and Amazing Spider-Man is a humor book first, above all, including character progression. It's OK that Peter isn't as mature, because I've still gotten great stories out of it like Spider-Island and Superior Spider-Man.

Amazing Spider-Man: Venom Inc. Alpha #1
by Mike Costa, Dan Slott, and Ryan Stegman

In Dan Slott's Spider-Man, villains sometimes get their own event storyarcs. The Jackal had Spider-Island (and Clone Conspiracy also? Haven't read that one.) Doc Ock had Ends of the Earth. Morlun (and his wacky family) had Spider-Verse. Now, Venom gets, Venom Inc.

Poor symbiote. It's been hustled out to so many hosts, that it's just a punishing comic for the thing. It gets sonic weapon'ed at, anti-venom'd at, and torn between the two people that have bonded with it the most (Flash and Eddie). Add the symbiote to someone you didn't see coming, take it away from someone else, make Flash the Anti-Venom, and you've pretty much got this issue. Very plot-heavy, really setup for next ish.

I'm not a huge fan of Stegman's take on the symbiote. It's weird how, when it separates from the host, just looks like another humanoid. That's always confused me, even when it was able to speak by itself like in Paul Jenkins/Humberto Ramos's The Hunger. If it could speak by itself, why take a host? I don't know. Here's some weirdness for me:

Here's Eddie Brock, crying (?) tears of symbiote while telling off Flash that he's the One True Host for it. Oh, to be a young blushing symbiote, to have two capable, hunky men fighting for you.

Batman #36
by Tom King and Clay Mann

I told myself I wasn't going to collect this in singles, and, well, I failed. Clay Mann draws some really nice figures, akin to Olivier Coipel, and I couldn't say no to him!

Tom King has gotten good word of mouth, and I can see why. He has an understanding of the super heroes that allows us to be a part of their world and realize what it would look like. The Cat & the Bat, and Superman and Lois, have parallel conversations with their spouses about certain engagement etiquette -- that is, who should call whom. The men of the relationships keep avoiding it, while the women urge them to talk to each other.

It results in a 20-page gag which, when you read it, is pretty good. The decompression is strong, but it reads as a solid single issue that ties in to the next one.

Captain America #696
by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Well, they can't all be riveting page-turners. There's nothing really novel about this story here -- Steve Rogers travels around America, a la Superman: Grounded, to understand the America that he left, and hijinks ensue. Hijinks being super-criminals who are ready to destroy a small town just to get at Captain America.

So it's in the little moments that make this serial worth picking up. There's so many little details in this comic that make it delightful. How the shopkeepers refuse to let Steve Rogers pay for a meal. The Swordsman's Vibranium-sword, and how Captain America gets around it. There's some very strong iconography here, how Cap and S-man have a hurtling fight in the guts of a dam that has the American flag here. The way Cap uses a katana to manually close the dam, in a feat of superhuman yet layman strength evoking that of the common worker.
I looked this up to see what it's evoking. But really, it's calling the last page of All-Star Superman #12, which itself wasn't directly referencing a piece of art. Here's the closest I found for it on the internet:

It's such a great comic book idea. In that 12th issue, Superman, by "dying," became a very part of the planet that adopted him and saved him, and in his death he returns that favor in the ultimate way. Now, he is a part of the clockwork that helps Planet Earth run. It's such a beautiful image and a great end to that miniseries. It tells us that through grit and perseverance, we can do something great. We tell ourselves that it's such a striking image that, surely, it must be based on some image or piece of art from real life. Socialism sounds right, due to its emphasis on the common worker, but like the above tells you, no, that image came from comic books.

Hawkeye #13
by Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero

I had the unfortunate circumstance of knowing enough about this comic to know that it's good, but not having read very much of it to know what's going on. Really, I just loved how the holographic variant cover turned from an homage to the original Hawkeye #1 cover, to a new cover that featured both Hawkeyes shooting arrows from the same rooftop. Pretty neat!

The pencils make me feel like I'm already back on track with Matt Fraction and David Aja's Hawkeye but sadly, I am still lost. There's a pretty solid cliffhanger, but I think I'd prefer to understand the full backstory in trade before I can drop another $4 on a single.

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