The Girl in the Spider Suit

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Edge of Spider-Verse #2

Goodness knows there’ve been plenty of women who’ve taken on the mantle of Spider-Man over the years. There’ve been multiple Spider-Women and Spider-Girls and the occasional Araña — but this particular character has really seemed to grab a lot of attention, and though I haven’t been all that interested in the upcoming Spider-Verse crossover, this definitely looked like something worth checking out.

We’re visiting an alternate universe in this story, with an alternate spider-powered superhero. In this case, the person who got bitten by that radioactive spider was Gwen Stacy. She becomes the hoodie-wearing heroine Spider-Woman. Peter Parker, obsessed with getting back at bullies, turns himself into the Lizard, but dies when Gwen subdues him. As a result, she’s wanted by the police, including her father, Police Captain George Stacy. And Gwen tries to work out the frustrations of her life by drumming in Mary Jane Watson’s all-girl rock band, the Mary Janes.

Anyway, while Gwen is busy flaking out on her band, the Kingpin has hired the Rhino (through Matt Murdock — for shame, Daredevil!) to kill Captain Stacy. Can Gwen make it to her gig, save her father, and keep him from blowing her own head off?

Verdict: Thumbs up. There aren’t many characters who’ve gotten as bum a rap as Gwen Stacy — she’s still best known as the original Woman in a Refrigerator, killed primarily to motivate a male superhero. So this issue — giving her some real agency, giving her the real powers, giving her an awesome costume, even giving her an actual hobby, because her only previous hobby was being Peter Parker’s doomed pretty girlfriend — this is something that’s really kinda glorious.

I’d love to see her — and her entire supporting cast and universe — in an ongoing series. And frankly, if that’s not already in Marvel’s plans, they’re completely out of their minds. Buzz for this single issue has been incredible, and no smart publisher lets that much positive attention fade away.

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The Multiversity: Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors from the Counter World #1

Alright, that’s gotta be the grand prize winner in the over-long title contest, don’t it?

On Earth-20, a great world war has just ended, and the planet’s greatest heroes — two-fisted spellslinger Doc Fate, roving adventurer Immortal Man, the barnstorming pilots of the all-girl Blackhawk Squadron, the sweater-vest-wearing Mighty Atom, and demonic-in-appearance Abin Sur — join together as the Society of Super-Heroes. But terrible challenges are on the horizon — there’s an invasion coming from an alternate universe, with supervillains who are near-perfect opposites of the heroes. Soon, Vandal Savage, Felix Faust, Lady Shiva, Count Sinestro, Blockbuster, and their armies of zombies are on a rampage across the planet. Can anything save them all from the unstoppable threat?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s grand pulp adventure, the kind of thing no one publishes anymore. Loved the characters (well, other than Count Sinestro, who we meet for just a single panel when he’s already unconscious, but I bet he woulda been fun), loved the dialogue and story, and of course, Chris Sprouse’s art was wonderfully pulptastic.

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Shutter #6

Kate Kristopher and her surprise baby brother Chris are on the run. Ekland and Shaw are assigned to capture them alive — but that doesn’t turn out real well for them. Kate forces Ekland to tell her who hired her — and in answer, she hands over her phone and tells her if she calls the only number on the phone, the client will be able to track her. Kate decides to bargain with the client — and discovers that the client is very, very, very bad news.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wildly weird and violentastic. And the cliffhanger is a real jaw-dropper. It sucks that we’re going to have to wait ’til December to find out how this turns out.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Our friend SpaceBooger has had a hectic life lately — but it sounds like things are going great right now.
  • A great long-read on the history of Wonder Woman and her original creators.
  • Writers who get mad at tropes are as nutty as people who get mad about breathing air.
  • Twitter users help track down a bunch of gay-bashing preppies.
  • Zoe Quinn writes for Cracked about what it’s like to be the target of the #GamerGate douchebags.
  • And speaking of #GamerGate, those guys are so nice and wholesome, they went and called in bomb threats on an award presentation that wasn’t being douchebaggy enough for them. You can always trust terrorists, right?

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Pop and Lockjaw

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Ms. Marvel #8

Kamala Khan has just gotten herself a pet — Lockjaw, the gigantic, teleporting bulldog of the Inhumans. She gets him to teleport her to one of the Inventor’s hideouts, where she fights off a giant robot and rescues a fellow student who was being used as the robot’s brain. And the next day, she gets attacked by another giant robot — but this time, she finds that her powers aren’t really working anymore…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art and writing, a fun new co-star that’s likely to pull Kamala deeper into her Inhuman background, and fantastic characterization of Kamala, her family, and her classmates and teachers.

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Astro City #15

Ellie Jimson has been arrested and charged with masterminding a recent spree of robot-based crimes. But Ellie is too scatterbrained to be a genuine villain. And after her robot friends show up to rescue her and she returns to her old home to meet her nephew Fred, her memories and her wits start to return to her. She remembers being a collegiate robotics genius, close friends with a fellow genius named Vivi Victor, who eventually turned on her and used a device to map her brainwave patterns to use to program robots, wrecking her mind in the process. Vivi went on to become a global supervillain, and now she wants to completely destroy Ellie’s life. Is there any way Ellie can fight back?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a neat twist on the rivalry between Reed Richards and Victor von Doom, just gender-switched, aged up a few decades, and focused more heavily on robots.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Eye of the Hawk

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Hawkeye #20

Kate Bishop is trying to figure out who killed her friend — with one of her own arrows, no less — bouncing in and out of jail, raiding Madame Masque’s hidout, brawling with Masque’s goons — and she finds out that what’s running Masque’s criminal empire isn’t just common crime, but cloning and immortality — and the results hit uncomfortably close to her. Can Kate stop Madame Masque, get out of jail, avoid another beating, and get out of Los Angeles?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Gorgeous art and an engaging story — lots of humor, great dialogue, outstanding action. I gotta admit, I really enjoy Kate Bishop’s storyarcs more than Clint Barton’s — she’s more pro-active, funnier, less mopey.

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Velvet #7

Our focus in this issue is on two men in the agency searching for Velvet — Colt and Roberts. Colt is a superspy, traveling around the world, blowing up bad guys, and finding his clues by blowing up more bad guys. Roberts is more of an investigator — less contact with the bad guys, more digging in records. Both of them feel Velvet is leading them on a wild goose chase, always feeling surprised that the woman they thought was a common secretary was so difficult to get hold of.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A breather issue from the main storyline, with great art and action and storytelling. My quibble this issue is that both Colt and Roberts are very generic handsome white guys, which doesn’t really make it easy to tell them apart. Of course, that’s a standard trope for the British superspy genre — but maybe it shouldn’t be.

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Captain Marvel #7

Carol and Tic are returning to pick up her spaceship and her cat, which have both been looked after by Rocket Raccoon. That’s a potential problem, because he believes Carol’s cat is actually a terrible egg-laying creature called a flerken, which can travel to other dimensions. Carol is less than pleased with how Chewie has been treated (Not really that badly — stuffed in a crate, true, but not abused), but before she can have it out with Rocket, aliens clamp onto the ship and start drilling their way in. What’s behind this new attack?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of fun and humor, great characterization, and a little drama, too. The plot twist is fairly predictable, but still fun.

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Friday Night Fights: Doom Squeezins!

Alright, kids, it’s the weekend! Whatcha gonna do to start things off? Darn your socks? NO! Mop the garage? NO! Go on Twitter and send threats to people because their race, gender, or sexual orientation differs from your own? NO! Hug adorable fluffy animals? Well, actually, that sounds like a great thing to do. But what we definitely will do to start the weekend is indulge in pointless comic-book violence! That means it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from October 1971’s The Incredible Hulk #144 by Gary Friedrich, Roy Thomas, Dick Ayers, and John Powers Severin, as the Hulk meets up with the colossal villainy of Dr. Doom! Turns out Hulk likes to give hugs, too!

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I have nothing more to say. I’m off to hug some adorable fluffy animals.

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Pick a Card, Any Card

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Ghosted #13

Jackson Winters meets up with the latest member of his team — an old lady with a bunch of voodoo dolls. A little investigating in an unnervingly ghost-filled mental ward leads them on a search for a magic-user’s black market called the Death Card, where they meet up with Danny Trick, the late Trick’s son — and it turns out that Danny is in a heap of trouble of his own.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good, creepy stuff mixed with black humor and crime hijinks. I do wish we had a list of our characters — they’re getting more and more numerous, and it’s harder to keep track of all of them.

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Lazarus #11

While Eve Carlyle is about to get some of her more advanced abilities surgically installed, she also begins to question whether she’s actually a Carlyle at all. Meanwhile, Sonja Bittner, the sword-slinging Lazarus for the Family Bittner, comes calling on Carlyle territory — Jakob Hock has Jonah Carlyle and wants to call a Conclave of all the Families to determine whether he’ll be returned.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a wonderfully political issue, with lots of behind-the-scenes negotiation and analysis and scheming. Sonja Bittner is an interesting character — so buttoned-down and controlled that she seems to be more of a robot than a human, at least mentally — an interesting change from Eve, who is also controlled and careful, but also completely human in her thinking.

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Coffin Hill #11

This one’s been going on a while, and it’s maybe getting a liiiiittle bit confusing. But basically, in the four-years-ago timeline, Eve Coffin is starting to suspect that the serial killer in Boston may be a police officer, and in the current timeline, Nate’s brother Patrick seems to be a murderous witch-hater — despite using some magic himself.

Verdict: There are some interesting bits here and there — enjoyed the analysis on why the killer might be a cop, liked Patrick’s scary eyeless mentor — but it’s getting to be more and more of a muddle as things go along. This extended timeline split should maybe have been limited to only a few issues instead of a long storyarc.

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Leapin’ Lettuce!

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DC Showcase Presents Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew

I had no idea this was coming out. I didn’t think it was ever, ever, ever coming out. I went into the local comic shop yesterday and almost shouted in surprise and delight when I saw it. Finding this was the biggest pick-me-up I could’ve asked for.

So, here are the basics: Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew was a DC Comics series that ran 20 issues between 1982 and 1983. It was created by Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw!, though there were plenty of guest creators. The stars included Captain Carrot, Pig-Iron, Alley-Kat-Abra, Fastback, Rubberduck, Yankee Poodle, and Little Cheese, all against villains like Dr. Hoot, Frogzilla, Armordillo, the Bunny from Beyond, the Timekeeper, the Wuz-Wolf, the Salamandroid, Cold Turkey, and many more — and they even teamed up with the JLA — the Justa Lotta Animals, from an alternate universe.

There’ve been plans for years to release the entire series in a giant Showcase volume, but there were some sort of copyright issues gumming up the entire thing, and I figured we’d never see the series in print again.

I’m unbelievably happy to have this book in my house.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was just absolutely nuts for this series when I was a kid. I had almost every issue, barring the introductory insert in the old Teen Titans comic and the first issue of the “Oz-Wonderland War” miniseries. And I’d barely been able to read any of those comics in years — they were old and falling apart, so I could barely take them out of the longboxes without having more of the covers flake away.

But I’ve got them again! HUZZAH! I’ve been reading the heck out of these. I’d forgotten how much fun some of these stories were — and how weirdly sophisticated they were sometimes, especially for a funny-animal superhero comic.

The worst thing about this volume is the lack of color — but that’s a common element of all of these phone-book collections. And frankly, it’s a minor quibble, because GOOD GRAVY TRAIN, I am so glad to have these stories again!

If you love funny animals, superheroes, animal puns, crazy superheroes and villains, fun cartooning, and the occasional guest appearance by mainstream DC heroes and villains — all for just $20 — you should go pick this one up.

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Taking Aim at Awesomeness

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Lumberjanes #5

Rosie, the badass camp leader of the Lumberjanes, has left to investigate the strange goings-on in the forest, leaving Jen, the woefully-unprepared-for-monsters camp counselor, in charge. Everyone is disappointed they won’t get to go to the Raccoon Rodeo, but Jen gets everyone started making friendship bracelets (the comic actually includes instructions so you can make your own). But things get chaotic fast when velociraptors attack! This leads Jen to yell the best thing ever: “HOLY bELL hOOKS!” Yes, with partial lower-case letters, which is just perfect. Anyway, our heroic Lumberjane scouts capture or subdue most of the dinosaurs, but the last one is stopped by a huge bear who quickly reveals herself as an old woman — the legendary Bearwoman! And she’s not happy with how things have been run at the camp…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Fun art, hilarious dialogue, lots of weird stuff, and absolutely fantastic action. This series gets to be more and more fun the longer it goes on.

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Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse #4

The Tiny Titans may be able to get themselves a new treehouse in Atlantis, so Robin and Wonder Girl take a ride in Batgirl’s new submarine (and admire her awesome new costume) to follow Aqualad and Lagoon Boy to meet Aquaman (and Black Manta) (and Aqua-Cow) in Atlantis. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, Beast Boy, Miss Martian, and Offspring tag along.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s awesome and very funny. It’s great to see Offspring again, and the dessert-loving Aquaman is the best version of the character since the “Brave and the Bold” cartoon went off the air.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • I really, really want these Cornetto Trilogy figures.
  • Y’all remember the “Homicide: Life on the Street” TV show? Man, that was a really outstanding show.
  • Speaking of Baltimore, the Ravens coaching staff and management should all be fired. And Roger Goodell should be fired, too — and he should have his teeth punched down his throat. Two-game suspension, wheee!
  • There sure are a lot of treasonous douchemooks out there lately. How come the cops never gun them down in the streets? Oh, wait, it’s because they’re white, isn’t it?

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Southern Inhospitality

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Southern Bastards #4

Earl Tubb has returned to Craw County, Alabama only to see one of his few allies, a little kid who was really more interested in watching Earl’s TV, brutally beaten and maimed by the thuggish minions of Coach Boss. He heads out for a final confrontation with the stooges, expecting most of the law-abiding citizens of Craw County to be on his side — but he quickly learns it just ain’t so. And things get a great deal worse for Earl when he finally meets up with Coach Boss.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s still a fantastic Southern noir — sweltering in summer heat that never seems to cool down and basted in grime and sweat and barbecue sauce — but it’s also something a great deal older. This is a Southern tragedy, and Earl Tubb’s fatal flaw, from the beginning, has been his stubbornness. Earl doesn’t get a happy ending, but he gets the right ending, the only one this story could really offer. The series is going to continue — perhaps the new protagonist will fare better.

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Clive Barker’s Nightbreed #4

We follow Chocolat, demonic in appearance, though far more maternal in nature, as she is forced to leave her children behind centuries ago in Europe. In time, she comes to America, always hiding, always on the run from humans who hate her because of her monstrous looks, until she finally finds a place to belong. We also follow Rev. Ashberry, dedicated to eradicating sin, preferably by blade and garrotte. We get to follow him all the way up to where he makes his first appearance in the classic 1990 horror fantasy film. All that, plus we get an appearance by Vasty Moses!

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was actually kinda expecting that my enjoyment of this series was about to start dying down, but the good news is that the stories here are still appealing, still resonant, still fun to read. I’m hopeful it’ll stay that way for a while.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Friday Night Fights: Widow Maker!

Awright, kiddos, it’s Friday evening, we’re all ready to start recovering from the usual workweek stress, and we’re gonna kick the weekend off the right way — with FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from July 1975’s Marvel Two-in-One #10 by Chris Claremont, Bob Brown, and Klaus Janson. While Ben Grimm is busy pulling a planet-destroying bomb off the sea floor, the Black Widow has to keep all the bad guys off his back. Can one woman beat the snot out of a hundred goons?

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That’s gonna do it for me. Hope y’all have a great weekend — everyone have some fun and get some relaxation in while you can. And do me a favor — try to do at least one thing you’ll be able to look back on and be proud of. Life’s too short not to periodically do something awesome.

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The Secret Names

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The Names #1

Here’s a new Vertigo series written by Peter Milligan and illustrated by Leandro Fernandez. Our star is Katya Walker, the African-American trophy wife of a Wall Street exec who’s just committed suicide by throwing himself out his office window. But Katya doesn’t believe he killed himself and soon she receives a message from him, recorded months before he died, telling her that he was murdered by a conspiracy — and warning her about one specific family friend, Marco, who he didn’t trust. And when Marco comes calling, will Katya discover what the conspiracy is about, or will she just end up taking a dive out a skyscraper window herself?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nicely over-the-top conspiracy story, and Katya makes an interesting protagonist. The art style is a bit odd, but I think I can definitely live with that.

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She-Hulk #8

Jennifer Walters has a new client — a 90-year-old man named Steve Rogers. The Super-Soldier serum has quit working, and Captain America has reverted to his true age — and he’s been accused of a very old murder. Jen isn’t licensed to practice law in California, where the trial is going to be held, so she needs to get a California practice to serve as the firm of record so she can argue with them as an outside attorney. Her first thought is to use Matt “Daredevil” Murdock, but he turns her down. So instead she uses one of Jamie Madrox’s few independent duplicates, who is a very smarmy Hollywood lawyer. So what twists and turns is the case going to throw at her?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Well, the big twist in this one is telegraphed very early, but the rest of it is a very pleasant ride. The Madrox duplicate — who calls himself Matt Rocks — is a funny character, and the story is pleasantly lawyer-y in ways you only get when a lawyer is the actual writer of the series. And as I’ve said before, Javier Pulido’s artwork is a big, big draw.

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