Serials: Amazing Spider-Man #'s 790-791, Batman #35, Doomsday Clock #1 and more!

Greeting readers! We continue my weekly comics pull.

Amazing Spider-Man #790 & 791
"Fall of Parker" pts. 2 and 3
by Dan Slott and Stuart Immonen

Both issues are self-contained stories that happen to take place within the "Fall of Parker" arc, the arc where Peter had to dissolve his company in order to keep it from the hands of Dr. Octavius (WHA he's back??).

In 790, Peter makes his rounds around the globe, apologizing personally to the regional managers at each of his headquarters. The process is so difficult for him, that he uses his disguise as Spider-Man to escape, looking for even a cat to save from a tree, to distract from his financial woes. So, lots of Spidey to look at, which is great, because Immonen draws a kinetic Spider-Man that's just fun to read.

791 is a direct follow-up, with Peter starting his new job at the Bugle, now as Science Editor. It takes him to the robot-making factory for a local startup in robotics and artificial intelligence. . . only it isn't exactly what it seems like! It's good super-comics and good serial super-comics.

Batman #35
by Tom King and Joelle Jones

In case you haven't heard, Batman proposed to Catwoman (she said yes!), and so the two are engaged. Hence the title, "The Rules of Engagement." This is apparently part 3, and Batman and the gang are stranded somewhere in the desert, while Catwoman dukes it out with Talia al Ghul, daughter of the supervillain Ra's al Ghul. What I love about comics is the dilation of time in fight scenes. You're looking at a static page, so there's an infinite amount of dialogue that can occur when you're clashing swords!

I forgot that DC is "holding the line at 2.99." I think that's awesome, but that doesn't mean they can skimp out on the content. A recap page would have been really helpful for me to understand the larger story, and without that I'd much rather just keep track of the story via trade. I really like Jones' figure work but I didn't get much out of the layouts and overall backgrounds (maybe because they're in a desert!). I don't think this comic book issue was bad, but I don't think it's enough for me to follow month-to-month.

Doomsday Clock #1 
"That Annihilated Place", by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank

My comic shop had the lenticular cover for this issue, at the same price! Thanks First Aid Comics!

Like the original Watchmen, Gary Frank follows the visual vocabulary of a 3-by-3 grid: it makes for a dense, decompressed story that walks the reader through seemingly-unrelated steps by steps. No complaints here, it just means I get to read more Gary Frank art. He is the

The world seems again, to be on the brink of World War III, with North Korea conducting missile tests and the collapse of the EU, leading Russia to invade Poland. The state of America isn't much better, with some kind of hostage situation forcing the Vice President to shoot and murder members of the cabinet. As a direct sequel to Watchmen, we find out that reporters got ahold of Rorschach's journal, revealing the ugly truths of the original maxiseries and putting the entire country of the U.S. to blame for the murders of hundreds of New Yorkers.

Independent broadcasting companies close to make way for the "National News Network," a somewhat un-trustworthy news source fed from the federal government. According to them, there are certain red zones in America that citizens need to evacuate, including the city of New York. Which explains the "Doomsday clock," the time that citizens have until their particular red zone is bombed.

It's within this frame that we see a new Rorschach break a couple of super-criminals out of jail. One of them is Erika Manson, the Marionette and her husband Marcos Maez, the Mime. We don't yet get to see what Erika can do, but the Mime has the ability to "will" invisible weapons into existence, simply by miming them. As the reader, it just shows up as invisible things, which makes it pretty funny when the Mime finds his weapons in an "empty" locker.

You'll have to re-read a summary of the original Watchmen, but Doomsday Clock #1 will reward close readers with an intricate, tight plot that once again imagines superheroes within the perhaps-all-too-real world of current and potential future events.

The Punisher #218
by Matthew Rosenberg and Guiu Vilanova

The Punisher is different things at different times. There's part satire in the way he goes about murdering people, and at other times he's an angel of vengeance, grimly executing those people who deserve it. In this issue, he's both. In this issue, we see something that we so rarely see in Punisher comics: the Punisher, smiling. He smiles when he finds a new weapon, and he even makes dour jokes in the same manner as in the Netflix series.

Similarly, Frank has "de-aged" to match the face of Jon Bernthal. And to be honest with you, I find this all refreshing. The entire execution of this "rebirth" for Frank was excellent: from the way it introduces Frank, to the way it moves the character forward. Great comic, highly recommended.

There's a letter at the end of the issue from the writer, that I appreciated. Rosenberg talks about how he enjoyed the Punisher as a kid, then stopped, then started again, and learned an important thing about writing: the character pretty much stays the same, but his world changes. So that's what we can expect from Rosenberg's run.

Silver Sable and the Wild Pack #36
"Silver and Bold," by Christa Faust and Paulo Siquiera

Previews billed this as "Die-Hard but with a lady," and I totally get where that's coming from. Silver Sable first came on my radar with the excellent "Spider-Island" event in Amazing Spider-Man, where she (faked) her death!

Sharks! Nazi women! Underwater knife fighting! You name it, Silver Sable and the Wild Pack's got it. If only life were so simple, that a single woman and her team could solve the world's problems, by punching. If only we could all have the courage to say, "Heil NO!"

A fun popcorn comic for those looking to escape to a world that's different, but still similar to ours.

Did you pick up any of these? What did you think?

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Superior Spider-Man Volume 2: A Troubled Mind

We're continuing the Superior Spider-saga! Catch up on it here!

Superior Spider-Man Vol. 2: A Troubled MInd
by Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos and Ryan Stegman
Collects Superior Spider-Man #'s 6-10

Dan Slott returns to his character, Screwball, and revitalizes an old one, Jester, in a dynamic duo that creates "viewtube" prank videos. This clashes with the take-no-prisoners approach of the Superior Spider-Man. The whole thing would be hilarious... if it weren't so disturbing! Slott does a great job at maintaining this dichotomy, bringing out the smallest details like the way Otto-as-Spidey laughs.

What I love about Spider-Man is the parallel lives that Spider-Man and Peter Parker live. Bullying is the theme for an issue, when students at ESU insult his crush, Anna Maria Marconi, a fellow student with dwarfism. It frustrates Otto-as-Spidey so much that his only release is to use his alter-ego and web-swing across town -- and use his Spider-powers to maybe mess up the bully's car. It's a story that could just as easily be told with the real Peter Parker as the victim of bullying, but with Otto-as-Peter, they take it to the next level. This Peter-life is comparable to a further scene where Screwball and Jester prank Spider-Man with silly string and a kick to the groin! Otto's frustration takes over, and he resorts to a disturbing amount of violence, which leads to the Avengers calling for an identity-check on Spider-Man.

It leads to Otto noticing an irregular brain pattern in his brain waves, and he correctly posits that there's a rogue mind in his brain -- that of Peter's! It results in a The Matrix-esque fight in the mind of Spider-Man!

Just dig this cover. It tells you everything you need about the issue, which is a home run brawl between Otto and Peter. 

The plot flows so smoothly from scene to scene. You could follow it like a winding river. Dan Slott has a superb handle on the character of Otto Octavius, and at times he makes the perfect situation where we want to root with him, even when we feel like we shouldn't! Otto is as human as any of us, and Dan just gets it. It's hard to maintain this level of quality so consistently, but Slott makes it seem so easy. Catch us next time for volume 3!

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Spider-Man's groin gets kicked tomorrow! You do NOT want to miss it!

From Superior Spider-Man Volume 2, by Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos and Ryan Stegman
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Don't Mess with Brainiac!

from Crisis on Infinite Earths, by Marv Wolfman and George Perz 
Or else he'll burn you up. Yikes.

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Daredevil: Born Again

"DAREDEVIL. Okay? I said it. I said the name.
And he's got ANOTHER name. And it's written down right here. You want it or not?"
What's a name worth? Apparently, a bag of heroin. That's what Daredevil's ex-girlfriend, Karen Page, traded it for, and it was there that Matt Murdock's life went to hell. Today we review one of the greatest Daredevil stories ever written and drawn. Today we review

Daredevil: Born Again
collects Daredevil #'s 227-231
by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli

A string of unfortunate events take place to ruin Matt's life -- it starts slowly, at first, and then escalates. The bank loses all evidence of his payments. The IRS freezes his money. He loses power in his apartment, and he loses his law license. The Kingpin has a noose around Matt's neck, and he's slowly tightening the knot. At the end of the first chapter, he even destroys Matt's apartment, which leads to a revelation:
"It was a nice piece of work, Kingpin. You shouldn't have signed it."

Matt's condition deteriorates, and he truly goes mad -- beating a couple of thieves and then a cop, believing that they're all sent by the Kingpin to get him. Then, he has a conversation on the phone, with Foggy:

If there was ever any doubt, now you know, as the reader. Matt's gone off the deep end, and we have no idea how he's going to get out. Matt's in no shape to take on the Kingpin, having just been run over and stabbed by Santa -- yes, Santa CLAUS. But still he does it anyways. The Kingpin's secretary even personally escorts him to the office!

Predictably, the Kingpin destroys Matt. It's a brutal few pages and one of the few times where there's nearly no narration. Each blow speaks for itself, and the Kingpin stages a suicide for Matt in a taxi cab off the pier. But weeks later, they don't find a corpse.
There is no corpse. What is it ABOUT Murdock? He was a MINOR concern -- a promising talent to be observed and cataloged and even occasionally FLATTERED--and perhaps, one day, to be turned to the Kingpin's way --
--but he is MORE than this. Now he is much more than this. He always was. And I--I have SHOWN him...
...that a man without a man without FEAR.
Amazing monologue. Matt's missing corpse consumes the Kingpin. This story is really made in two halves -- the deconstruction of Matt Murdock, followed by, what else, the reconstruction of Matt Murdock. Only when you destroy a person, strip away all the unnecessary parts of a character, can you see who that person really is. That's what Frank Miller does here with Matt Murdock, and he conveys that so well. Like Matt tells us himself, he has to let go of everything, except for what his dad told him: "Never give up. NEVER."

Matt winds up in a care facility run by nurses, in a church. The woman -- Maggie's her name -- refuses to give up on him, and when he wakes up, her gold necklace is familiar to him. It's memorable to him, one of the first things he touched after the accident that blinded him. It's heavily implied that Maggie is Matt's mom. That maybe she wasn't ready for a child and became a nun after having him, but still she loves him all the same.

In the truest sense, Matt is "born again" in this church, brought back to life in the hands of his mother. It's a figurative Baptism. Under the roof of God, and the care of his mother, Matt regains his strength and gathers his mind again. The "Born Again" issue is the crux of the story, since it's around there that their roles reverse -- while Matt gets stronger, the Kingpin stews in disbelief. He goes so far as to hire the insane soldier, "Nuke," to take a stab at Daredevil.

I won't spoil the rest for you. It's an all-out brawl that turns Hell's Kitchen into a war zone, drawing out the Daredevil and a couple of his super-powered pals. The tense, meticulous plotting of the Kingpin gives way to superhero action! It's catharsis for everything that we've been through in the past issues, and the payoff to what we've been reading.

Born Again is a seminal Daredevil story, and it's easy to see why. Frank Miller put the 'devil through Hell, and we got to read Matt come back from it. Any Daredevil fan would get a kick out of this gritty, thoughtfully written, meticulous story. Highly recommended.

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Crisis on Infinite Earths -- Absolutely!

"Worlds will live. Worlds will die. And the universe will never be the same!"

Such was the slogan for DC Comics' super-event, Crisis on Infinite Earths. It came out in the same year that Marvel Comics was having their super-event, Secret Wars in 1984. The event comic was fairly new at the time. Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths were the first of their kind, and you could say it was for a reason -- the big two publishers had a glut of super-heroes and -villains, and, it was getting a little difficult to keep track of them. As stated in the introduction for the Absolute edition, Crisis writer Marv Wolfman had long wanted to take all his favorite DC heroes and mash them together in a super-story.

So mash them they did. Join me today as we take on the Absolute edition of. . .
Crisis on Infinite Earths
by Marv Wolfman and George Perez

I didn't have a positive review of Secret Wars, and unfortunately I have the same opinion of Crisis. . .well for the first half at least. Three issues are spent introducing characters, and multiple times you're told that the world is dying. Yes, we get it. The Antimatter Universe is encroaching on the positive matter universe, and we need to stop the Anti-Monitor from taking his machines to crash the planets together. Gee thanks, I only needed to hear that 7 times in every issue of this collection.
Exposition can be so good. Claremont and Cockrum's run on Uncanny X-Men demonstrate this so well, and the exposition easily highlights individual characters in a sea of colorful cast members. You get to know them with exposition. The same is done here, although oftentimes there's one page of exposition for a single character that we never see again in the full twelve issues. It's just not needed for this kind of story. It's all over the place, yet it's really just telling the same story with different characters -- take a look at this Earth, well, now it's gone. And how about this one, yep, also gone.

Much like a Transformers movie, the intensity gets tiring, but it does hit a stride around issue 7, The Death of Supergirl. Determined to save her cousin from the Anti-Monitor in the Antimatter Universe, Supergirl makes a valiant effort and helps to stave off the enemy by breaking his containment suit, forcing him to retreat. You really believe the threat here: in the Antimatter Universe, Kryptonians can bleed, and yes, they can even die. It's a wonderful 1-page eulogy that Superman gives his cousin and a worthy death for Supergirl.

This is all a build-up to what I consider the main purpose of Crisis on Infinite Earths. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- the Flash is the primary reason that the DC Universe exists. Barry was the first (I think) to call back to the Golden Age DC Comics, and he was the first to "discover" the alternate Earths, one of the things that makes DC Comics ubiquitous and unique. In Crisis Barry returns from his self-imposed exile in the future, to prevent the Anti-Monitor's world-devouring machines and, in so doing, "dies" (really now we know he just lost himself to the Speed Force, per The Flash: Rebirth). It's a hero's send-off for the person who is arguably the best Flash of them all.

There's such a brilliant sequence in Issue 8 of Crisis, "A Flash of the Lightning!" Barry's running and he's trying to create a vortex to combat the Antimatter energy of A-M's machine. He's succeeding but, his massive speed takes him through time, and the reader "flashbacks" to three other moments in previous issues. It's a great call-back that evokes a sense of deja vu, and finally explains to the reader why they saw Barry earlier.
Notice how the Anti-Monitor's "face" has a look of horror in that first row, as he notices that Barry is winning. And then look at Barry's "face" has a similar look of horror, as he sees what his feat is doing to him. What a great page.

The fallout of Barry's actions result in a halt to the impending merge that the 5 remaining Earths are undergoing. But it's a band-aid at best, because where the Earths overlap with one another, time fluxes create chaos on the overlapping planets. The supervillains of the five Earths, led by our Earth's Lex Luthor and Brainiac, make a run for global -- no, universal -- domination, only stopping when they realize that the Anti-Monitor is still alive. There's a brilliant plot twist that forces heroes and villains alike, to band together and travel to the time before time itself!
Issues 9-11 hold the fallout of a story that I couldn't predict, resulting in a fight for reality itself. It's the stuff of great comic books. Considering that it's about the multiverse, has a wonky time travel plot that still makes sense, it's the stuff of a great DC comic book. Over the course of 12 issues, I've derided Crisis and subsequently praised it. Take the clunky, dense first half of the story with a grain of salt. The second half is worth the wait. If you can stick it for issue 7 and on, the story will reward your patience and call back to what you just read and deepen it.

Issue 12 is an epilogue of sorts, with a "final crisis." I'm not too fond of it, as the needless exposition returns with attention paid to a lot of unnecessary characters. Only maybe 5 pages of this comic book are important, and I found myself wanting to skim through it. Basically, Earth has been merged into a single Earth now, where there was never any other Earth. It's an amalgam of all the Earths, taking most of the shared history together, but with a thorough inspiration from Earth-1, the Earth with most of the heroes that we're familiar with. This means that some heroes, even though they remember their whole lives, their entire world never existed! Their loved ones -- never existed! Their homes -- never existed!

Issue 12 is where the Editorial staff rears its head, and there's even three pages of a "truth dump." With mere words, Wonder Woman was retconned into death and a clay birth. With mere words, Batman never had a son (Helena Wayne) with Catwoman. At the same time, new stories were set up as well, with Wally West taking up the mantle of the Flash, and a new Wildcat. Sometimes ham-handed editorial is necessary, and if I had to call it, they did it pretty cleverly in Crisis, leaving open several windows for other stories. The closing letter is from Dick Giordano, who even comments on all the story opportunities that it opened, and how well the writers took advantage of it.

All said and done, Crisis was a significant bookmark in the history of DC Comics and the industry in general. Most comic events follow the format that it (and Secret Wars) set, shaking things up, killing off some characters or three, while "passing the torch" of one costume from one person to another. Frustratingly, some comic events have even written these events merely to set up some other event or story.

One would be remiss to miss Crisis, but at the same time there's a lot of it that you can skim. If you ever get a chance, read this from your local library, but don't spend too much time on it. Tell them Kevin sent you.

The obligatory, and infamous "Flash dies" scene. If you haven't seen it before, now you can say you saw it first, here. There's always hope!

Amidst all the chaos of the crisis, Dr. Sivana sees an opportunity to -- rule the world! It's quite hilarious:

Take a look at this page from George Perez. Wally West, as Kid Flash, and Jay Garrick get on the Cosmic Treadmill to go back to the time before time began, and he uses a clever layout to show points of view at the same point of time:
Good stuff. Lastly, part of the Epilogue is a scene with the Psycho-Pirate, incarcerated in Arkham Asylum. Since he was a part of the battle before time began, he remembered everything that happened, much like we will.

The panels continue and zoom out of his penitentiary, to the entire planet, while he talks about the past:
You see, I like to REMEMBER the past because those were BETTER times than now. I mean, I'd rather live in the PAST than today, wouldn't you?
I mean, NOTHING'S ever certain anymore. Nothing's ever PREDICTABLE like it USED to be. These just NEVER know who's going to die...
...and who's going to LIVE.
It's half meta-commentary and half-foreshadowing. . . dare I say it -- perhaps there's a Rebirth in the works?

The genius is in the backdoor that Marv Wolfman wrote into the story. He wrote all of these opportunities for new stories, and ways to call back the hold. And when he gives Psycho-Pirate those words, he's commenting on the readers themselves -- whether they can accept change or not. Whether they can move on from the stories of the past and tolerate the new ones that don't acknowledge their favorites.

Have we?

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Superior Spider-Man Volume 1: My Own Worst Enemy

Comic book readers are a strange bunch. We seek novelty every month, yet we also expect familiarity. There's a comfort in knowing that your favorite comic will always come in another 4 weeks. It's nostalgic to think about the days in college when I could easily walk to my comic shop every Wednesday and pick up my pull list. But at the same time, we need novelty. We need new things to happen every time we pick up an issue, or else it becomes repetitive and we pick it up out of habit. I've been in this trap time and time again. I've had to donate hundreds of old comic books just because I picked them up out of habit, out of seeking novelty but not finding comfort or joy in them.

This dual tension means comic book writers have to walk a fine line between novelty and familiarity. I'm on the very last paperback for Superior Spider-Man, and let me tell you, nobody does it like Dan Slott. He does it so well. If you were unaware, there were a few years where Peter Parker and Otto Octavius -- the evil Dr. Octopus -- swapped minds. Otto swapped Peter's mind into Otto's dying body, and got to reap the rewards of a young, healthy, Peter Parker body. But, he also gained Peter's memories and the lesson of great power and great responsibility. So, Otto vowed to become Spider-Man, but not just any Spider-Man, a Spider-Man superior to his predecessor. It kicked off a brilliant storyline of a new Spider-Man with a different perspective.

Read my take on the first issue here: Today we go through the next four issues.

Superior Spider-Man Volume 1: My Own Worst Enemy
collects Superior Spider-Man #'s 1-5
by Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman et al.

That first page gets me each time. Four panels, simple, succinct and gets you up to speed. Issue 1 has everything you need to know about Superior Spider-Man. I could read that page every time I pick up Superior Spider-Man, it's almost like an opening credits scene in a TV show.

Each issue is both familiar and novel. They show you every aspect of Spider-Man and Peter Parker's life: stopping crime, seeing his family, doting on Aunt May, stopping a villain, seeing Mary Jane. And then they twist the dial because it's not actually Peter Parker under that mask. It's Otto Octavius's brain inside that face behind the mask! It's both comical and terrifying to watch him court Mary Jane, as we would expect Peter Parker to:
But then here's the twist. Otto does something that Peter would never do. After saving Mary from (yet another) supervillain attack, he tells her:
...the two of us--together--it's INSANE. I can do the math. You love me as Peter AND Spider-Man. But you can't BE with me because I'm Peter AND Spider-Man. It's a recursive loop. An equation that can NEVER be solved.
I promised to keep you safe. But our relationship is the greatest trap of all. And the only way to FREE you--is to move on.
In a way, it's a metaphor for Peter Parker. He never could learn to move on, so devoted was he to Mary Jane. As a reader, it tugged at our heartstrings to see the two of them together. After Gwen died, Mary was the one who didn't give up on Peter. She was there for him, and they were there for each other. But Otto is different. Since he has Peter's memories, I suspect that he loves her all the same, but he expresses it in a different way. He does the hard thing, and, for her sake, he lets go of their romantic relationship. Superior offers this platform for us, as readers, to see things that we never thought we'd see -- it's utterly brilliant.

Another thing that Otto-as-Peter offers us: mad scientist Peter Parker.

Since he has access to a groundbreaking lab at Horizon, Otto-as-Peter creates a revised version of Otto's Octo-bots, first introduced in Amazing #600. And again, it's both comical and terrifying! Can you believe this is all in the second issue? There are so many new ideas per issue here, it's astonishing.

Issue 3 is -- I'll say it again -- brilliant. There's a two-page sequence where, now that Jonah is Mayor, he thinks he can call Spider-Man at his whim, so he sets up a "Spider-signal," a beacon in the light, to summon Spider-Man whenever he wants. Otto coolly sees it, and destroys it, implying that it was a test by Jonah on whether or not he could let his enemies know where he is -- and he passed it. Check it out on comiXology.

Otto-as-Spidey tells the mayor:
A giant BEACON in the sky, announcing to ALL my enemies where they can find me. Only an idiot would put that into effect. And Mayor J. Jonah Jameson is NO IDIOT.
So clearly it was a test. And I passed.
The scene is both parody and character statement at the same time -- we all know the "idiot" that Spider-Man is referring to, and only Otto would be arrogant enough to think he knows what's best for everyone. He gives Jonah an encrypted phone that the two of them can communicate on, and they go about their business.

The main villain in this issue is the original Vulture, Adrian Toomes. In a way, everything old is new again, since it isn't your typical hero-meets-villain, hero-beats-villain story. Otto-as-Spidey feels a kinship with Adrian, as founding members of the Sinister Six, and he tries to convince Adrian to turn away from his life of crime. Unfortunately, Adrian doesn't believe it, and it results in a violent fight that destroys the Spider-signal and burns Adrian to unconsciousness. We also get a glimpse into Otto's past: when the Vulture sics his children minions on Spider-Man, he unknowingly beats one away, to learn that he beat a child, much like his dad beat Otto as a child. It's a moment of sympathy we feel for Otto -- but just a moment.
Spider-Man's characterization continues in issue 4 -- with his Spider-bots, he's now quantifiably superior to Peter-as-Spider-Man, apprehending four times as many criminals and preventing the theft of an additional twelve million dollars in property. Wow! To boot, he routes a building fire to the fire department, much to ghost Peter's dismay -- only to find out that he ditched it to attend Aunt May's physical therapy session.

Not only does he prevent more crime, but he spends his personal life better. When he realizes that Peter never completed his doctorate, he then re-enrolls himself so he's even helping Peter's life! Geez!

Anyways, the villain of Issue 4 is Massacre -- the man who had a piece of shrapnel lodged in his brain, causing him to feel no emotion. Massacre is kind of like Abbatoir of the Batman series, he's really there to kill people, another hurdle for the super-hero to jump over. This flows into Issue 5, where we do see Otto-as-Spidey jump the hurdle -- by murdering him.

Another important plot point: Otto incorporated face-recognition into his Spider-Bots. That was how he located Massacre so easily in the thick of New York City, and now, he can use his Spider-Bots to locate anyone he needs to! We'll see for ourselves whether that's a good thing or not.

In a way, it's a perversion of the Spider-Man that we know. How can we like this Spider-Man here, when his means are so ruthless? It's kind of like the feeling we would have for the Punisher -- Otto-as-Spidey doesn't take it out on anyone who doesn't "deserve" it, and in a twisted way, we like to see people get their comeuppance. At the same time, it's refreshing to read about this Spider-Man. He does things that Peter Parker would never do, and so it's novel to us. Same old people, kind of, but all-new stories.

Volume 1 sets up everything you need to know about Spider-Man. We meet the new love interest. We meet the Spider-Bots. We see the new Spider-Man's methods. We even meet the Green Goblin, for one page. Now that there's a "Superior" Spider-Man, he wants to take up the challenge and, again, destroy his old foe. Amidst all the setup is this great characterization of a different Spider-Man. It's all familiar, but with a twist that keeps you guessing, the stuff of great super-comics.

Otto-as-Peter patrols the city, with his web app!

Otto-as-Peter takes a shower, beside Ghost-Peter!

Read the Superior Spider-Saga:
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Red Skies

Huh? Red skies?

And what's all this got to do with my computer monitor?

Wha --? The world is dying?

Find out more in DC Comics' Crisis on Infinite Earths. We review it next week. Be there!

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Serials: Mayor Fisk Pt 1, Squirrel Girl 'Zine Issue

It's the second week in a row for weekly comics for me! Marvel Legacy has done a superb job of getting me back to comics. Before, the idea was that All-New #1's would bring in new readers. As if a new story was a jumping-on point for new readers. Now, they've gone the polar opposite direction! Now, after the four-ish reboots of Daredevil, they've added on all of the previous issues to the original numbering. Now, you feel as if you're reading part of a continuous story, as if you're a part of this history that's been going on.

Daredevil #595
by Charles Soule and Stefano Landini

In a strange twist of fate, Wilson "The Kingpin of Crime" Fisk has become Mayor of New York. I'm sure there was some kind of transition between him, and Mayor J. Jonah Jameson (as seen in Amazing Spider-Man!), but that's not the priority of the story. Immediately we're with wide-eyes Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson, confused amidst a celebration in Times Square. The idea is that Fisk was a last-minute write-in candidate, who campaigned on "law and order," normalcy, and accountability. Hm, wonder what that reminds you of.

Of course he's referring to super-heroes, but Fisk makes sure to align himself with the "real" heroes, the Avengers and not the street vigilantes like the Punisher and, yes, Daredevil, who leave behind messes for the city to clean up. We're even fed a story from one of Matt's paralegals who lost her car to one of Spider-Man's fights with the Rhino.

This issue serves as setup mostly, with not much to advance the plot. I've been told that Soule has done Daredevil good, so I'll stick around for the storyarc. Landini's pencils are unremarkable, but service the story just fine. I would have liked to see more weight given to the election -- it was a missed opportunity for a story that I'm afraid the writer glossed over.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #26
by Erica Henderson, Ryan North, and more!

The front cover says it's the 'zine issue, and boy is it! Squirrel Girl gets all her friends together to write different stories, so the idea is that each different story is written by a Marvel Comics character. For example, Kraven writes a story titled, "The True Story of Spider-Man," which is immediately followed by a one-page story from Spider-Man, titled "Hey Kraven, Squirrel Girl Showed Me Your Comic, So What the Heck." Hilarious!

There's an incredible amount of content packed into the pages, and I love the idea. The issue has this energetic youth about it, unrestrained by years of comics continuity. The last time I read something like this was probably in Strange Tales, also published by Marvel. It shows you that it's a publishing company not above poking fun at themselves, a tradition established as early as Not Brand Ecch, and just like before they do it with panache.

I love Howard the Duck's story, a 1-pager of him finding a noir-style dame who needs his help. It quickly (d)evolves into a makeout session of increasingly unlikely kissing positions! I just love the idea that this is how Howard thinks of himself -- or at least, how he would like to have his stories turn out -- a quick-witted man's man fowl's fowl, doing whatever he can to save the dames that come his way, resist him as he might.

Every story is a hit here. My other favorites include Kraven's story, and the Jugger-Nut and the Bat-Squirrel (written by Tippy-Toe the squirrel!). So charming!

There are some dastardly clever stories in here too. Loki's two-page splash is set up kind of like a game board, with panels leading yourself towards the center of the page, but there's a brilliant catch at the end of it. Wolverine's story is unique in that it was written by Laura (All-New Wolverine) Kinney, but it's about Logan's (Wolverine's) encounter, with a sentient Sentinel (Sentienel?).

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Serials for October 2017: Captain America #695

I couldn't help myself. I was having dinner with my fiancée, and we were in the part of town where we first met. Fortuitous then, that I would also meet up again with another one of my loves: comic books. We had 20 minutes till the comic book store closed, so we walked off some of our meal on the way there.

They had the racks that I've set my eyes on for years. I perused the section and knew that Captain America returned in this week's issue: so I bit the bullet and purchased issue #695. Yikes, $3.99. I forgot they cost this much now. For that same price, I could get probably 300 pages of comic book story, for whatever comiXology has on sale. But instead, I paid 3.99 for 20 pages of story.

These days, the ads in print comic books are really just ads for other comic books. I don't mind this at all: I don't need my comic books to tell me that I can wear Spider-Man underwear, available TODAY at my nearest department store, or to tell me that there are Thor Ring Pops, now with MEAD FLAVOR!

Anyways, that's a long introduction just to tell you that I got serials last week. I won't be getting them regularly, but it's fresh off the press, so let's talk about. . .

Captain America #695
"Home of the Brave," Part 1
by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

This story is broken up into two parts: one right after Cap was unfrozen, and then 10 years later, after he defeated the impostor in Secret Empire. It's told through the lens of a small town in Nebraska, and you get a sense of who Captain America is.

It's a good character piece, framed through this one town's interaction with Cap. There's a letter at the end that explains Mark Waid's vision of Captain America as well. To Waid, he's different from other Marvel heroes, because he's not this person who's driven by tragedy to do good. For him, he doesn't need a tragedy to do the right thing; you do the right thing simply because it's the right thing, and when you work together it does make the world a better place. This is a man with such a strong moral compass that you understand why he leads others. That, and his super-sweet acrobatic abilities!

My standout moment from the issue is Captain America's lesson about who protects whom. The strong protect the weak, simply because they can do it. That's how the world ought to work, and you see him directly practice it. He protects Donna, a schoolgirl, from a bullet, which ricochets and shoots down the pole of the American Flag. Right before the flag falls, he picks it up, and then covers Donna in it, urging her to protect the weak. It never touches the ground, simply because you never let the American flag touch the ground.

So much panache. So much style! If only the real world were so simple.

BONUS PANEL: Steve shows up at a Capt. America celebration, as Steve, and another attendee mistakes him for a cosplayer!

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Thor: The Accursed and The Last Days of Midgard

In his senses-shattering take on the God of Thunder Jason Aaron introduced the time-hopping team of past Thor (the adventurer), present Thor (the Avenger), and future Thor (the King of Asgard), each with their own unique personalities and problem-solving skills. With the lush art of Esad Ribic, the two were unstoppable. My only criticism of the original storyline was that it took 2 paperbacks in order to complete the story -- which they have since rectified by publishing a paperback that collects issues 1-11.

So let's take a look at the latter half of the series. It ended at issue 25, which led to the "Original Sin" mega-event, and a whole new Thor title with another #1. Today we cover "The Accursed" and "The Last Days of Midgard."

Thor: God of Thunder Vol. 3 -- The Accursed
by Jason Aaron, Ron Garney, et al.
Collects issues 12-18

The main story is issues 13-17 "The Accursed," named after one of Thor's greatest enemies: a sadistic Dark Elf titled Malekith, the Accursed. The more I thought about it, the conflict between these two aren't that important at all. We already know how these guys are going to act together. Malekith comes off as your standard comic-book sadist, desiring to rule the Dark Elves of Svartálfheim, by eh, murdering them one by one, even if they're dead. It's how their conflict plays out in the larger world of Asgard that Aaron wants to touch on here. To convey this importance, Aaron even includes a map of "Yggdrasil,"the world tree that contains all nine realms, in nearly every issue!

We get to see the various races that compose the colorful world of Asgard: from the artistic Light Elves and pixies of Alfheim, to the towering Frost Giants of Jotunheim, each race has its own history and skills. They go so far as to form a "League of Realms," a UN of Asgard, if you will, so that one kingdom isn't seen to be dominant. My favorite are the Dwarves of Nedavellir, as the Dwarf of the League of Realms provides comic relief:

And finally, Dark Elves: a selfish, violent, and hostile lot. In fact, their congressional debates are composed of an "introductory stabbing" phase, and the two debates are insulted when Thor interrupts their due process!

So the only logical conclusion for the Council of the Dark Elves, is to make Malekith King of the Dark Elves. That way, he's obtained what he wanted all along, and no more blood will be shed. It's a resolution that comes out of nowhere, yet it makes perfect sense -- for Dark Elves. The background is set for a new world order with Malekith as a realm leader, setting off an uneasy peace.

"The Accursed" is bookended with two slice-of-life-ish stories at both ends. I enjoyed both of them, since they give you special insight to who Thor is, was, and will be in all areas of time. Aaron does such a good job of building a charming, fantasy world with a sense of dry humor. For example, check out this intro caption:
Midgard: World of fossil fuels and high-fructose corn syrup.
And check out young Thor's opinion of his responsibilities when responding to prayers:

Just charming.

Thor: God of Thunder Vol. 4 -- The Last Days of Midgard
by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic, et al.
Collects issues 19-25

It's an end-of-the-world story paired, with another end-of-the-world story as Thor the Avenger fights the mega-corporation Roxxon Energy, and King Thor battles Old Man Galactus, in the future!

There's some heavy environmental undertones in here, with points where it does get too ham-fisted. Particularly interesting is the guardianship that Thor has over the planet Earth, reflected in both battles fought by Thor the Avenger and Thor the King. King Thor even reflects, when asked why he wants to save the Earth at the end of its life cycle:
Because it's saved me more times than I can count. And I haven't saved it nearly enough.
As an old man, he sees the value of this place that took care of him when he was in his "teenage" years, so to speak. Earlier, in Volume 3, King Thor states his love, as if it's a matter of fact:
Foolish sentry. Doth the boy not know his history? Thor ALWAYS returns to Midgard.
No matter how much it PAINS him.
He's this grumpy old bastard with this unstoppable love, for a planet. A whole planet. It's this love that redeems him, for any of his flaws. This love shines through even in the Thor the Avenger plotline, when asked if he has a girlfriend.

This focus on Thor's love for a planet makes Volume 4 unique. It's conveyed beautifully in the words and the art, now that Esad Ribic is back. Esad Ribic. Just look at this underwater scene:

I love hand-drawn sound effects! The color is even muted, to signify the depth of the water.

The evil corporation storyline isn't very novel, but the Roxxon CEO, Darius Agger, does have a neat twist that allows him to fight hand-to-hand with Thor.

The fight scene between Galactus and King Thor is an instant classic: Asgardian trash talk, using black holes as an assist, bringing forth Mjolnir held by a Destroyer arm. It's great super-comics.

It's a great close to the God of Thunder series, and I only wish it went for longer. Highly recommended for comic book fans.

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