UFF1-1I’m going to come clean with you nice people.

I keep going to our local comic books store every week, you know, the one where they know us by name and ask Rob to stop telling the other customers that he’s got an “ultimate ff and it ain’t a comic book, baby! Amiright?! Please talk to me. I’m so lonely.” I go. I get my stack of pulls and pick up whatever other books look interesting that week. Then I go home, fall asleep on the couch watching Arrow, and get up the next morning to go about the rest of my week. It’s a week that often finds me with fewer and fewer opportunities to really sit down and read through the books I’ve picked up that Wednesday. I’ve got stacks of pulls from previous weeks that may have already found themselves cataloged into a long box and brought over to the off site storage that Rob has finally broke down and gotten rented. I feel badly about this, not the rented storage, but that I never got a chance to read the books. I hope to at some point, but the Home Office was beginning to look like it belonged to a couple level 5 hoarders, so the books, read or not, needed to go.

As a consequence, there have been far fewer reviews on the site lately. So, today I made point of sitting down to read a brand new series, Ultimate FF #1, written by Joshua Hale Fialkov with art from Mario Guevara and Tom Grummett. The book takes place in Marvel Universe #1610. Therefore, if you’re like me and have a passing familiarity with Marvel characters from Fantastic Four in the 616, but haven’t had a chance to keep up with anything particularly current in Marvel since Marvel Now! kicked off, in theory, this should be just the book for me, right?

Will I find something that will reignite my interest in publications from the House Of Ideas in Ultimate FF #1? Maybe, but, be prepared for me to spoil the hell out of it, after the jump.

superior_spider-man_31_cover_2014Editor’s Note: Yeah. That sounds just spoilery enough to be right. Let’s go.

It’s been about 16 months since Doc Ock took over as Spider-Man, which has been just enough time to forget that Spider-Man is supposed to be fun, dammit.

Spider-Man’s supposed to be a wisecrack and an acrobatic move and a triumphant battle against insurmountable odds, while simultaneously Peter Parker’s a self-defeating complaint, an overdue bill he can’t afford to pay and a ruinous relationship that disintegrates against, well, predictable odds. Is it a formula? Sure. Is it soap operatic? Hell, yeah. But it’s a thing that works, and which has been working for 52 years. And it seems like a simple enough formula that we’ve seen so often over the years that we wouldn’t miss it if it was gone for a while… but I did, dammit.

Doc Ock as Spider-Man has been an interesting thought experiment to help reinforce that it’s the character of Peter Parker that makes the comic and not just a power set and a red and blue leotard, but nobody falls in love with a thought experiment unless it’s the Milgram Experiment, and even then it’s only if the enthralled already had a closet full of jackboots. So while it’s been a kinda cool distraction to watch a darker, more obsessed version of Spider-Man, I was ready for it to be over since I already have Batman.

So not only is it just plain good to see Peter back in the saddle in The Superior Spider-Man #31, writer Dan Slott clearly knows it. Because throughout this issue, characters react to Peter being back in costume (despite ostensibly not really knowing that he¬†ever wasn’t the guy in the costume) with a general sense of relief and a sense of return to normal.

And so did I.

walking_dead_125_cover_2014Editor’s Note: Some kind of instinct. Memory of stories they used to ruin. This was an important spoiler in their lives.

Let me start be reiterating the spoiler warning in the first line of this review. I recognize that I try to get cute with my spoiler warnings, and therefore they might be missed by some people who want to cut to the chase and get pissed off by reading spoilers on a free Web site written by a drunkard who’s spent almost two years complaining about the antagonist in The Walking Dead. I intend to spoil the living shit out of this issue. Starting now.

Thank fucking God that, after about 23 straight months of the rotten, one-note son of a bitch, someone has finally put the shiv to Negan. Granted, it happens at the very end of the issue, and since this is only part 11 of 12 of the All Out War storyline, he still has 22 pages to magically get someone to seal the gaping wound in his neck to still be a pain in someone else’s, but I have waited since July of 2012, when Negan killed Glenn (which gets namechecked in this issue) to see someone actually hurt that wretched bastard.

I have been vocal about how slowly-paced things have seemed since Negan came on the scene to curse and threaten his way through The Walking Dead, so seeing him take a blade to the throat would have given this issue a thumbs up even if the other 21 pages were wordless Charlie Adlard ink washes of Rick trying futilely to crank himself off with his wrist stump. But that’s not the case.

Instead, we have a rich issue filled with the aftermath of Negan’s earlier biological warfare, some scenes of some serious jockeying in conventional warfare, and a whole bunch of sweet, sweet psychological warfare. Meaning that not only does this story meet the definition of All Out War, but it is the first really, really good issue of The Walking Dead in quite a long time.

ultimate_spider_man_200_cover_2014I really enjoy the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, but I am always gonna have a soft spot for Peter Parker. Which, for a superhero comic fan, is about as controversial a statement as decrying Nazis, or perhaps coming down on the negative side of human trafficking, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Not only was the Ultimate version of Peter a pretty solid modernization of the character, while still keeping his core values and characterization, but it allowed we readers to see something we don’t normally get to see: the actual conclusion of the character’s story.

Sure, we get nods toward final stories with Marvel’s The End periodic series of books (and some of those are damn good) and in a few DC Elseworlds stories, but they’re never really final in a satisfying way. Because yeah, they’re endings, but then they, you know, end. And part of why any comics fan loves these stories is that they are ongoing. So while we sometimes see a beloved character go down, we don’t see the aftermath in a serious, ongoing way. But we got that with the death of Peter Parker in Ultimate Spider-Man almost three years ago, with the Death of Peter Parker, which was a really spectacular story. I recently reread the issue with Peter’s public memorial, and when the little girl asked Aunt May if she was Spider-Man’s mommy, and if she needed a hug? Jesus, if I could get my hands on whatever motherfucker was cutting onions in a room that dusty…

But that story concluded, and we moved on to Miles Morales, as comics do… but in real life, when someone gets killed, people don’t just yank up stakes and start paying attention to a new person, unless your name is Michael Peterson and you don’t mind explaining your weird behavior to members of the law enforcement community. In real life, those losses stick around for a while… and that brings us to Ultimate Spider-Man #200, which is a long reminiscence of Peter’s life, and shows how some of the regulars from the original series are doing. And while there isn’t any action and no current storylines are really affected, it’s damn nice to check in with Aunt May, Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane and some of the other former regulars on this title.

Unless you hate Brian Michael Bendis’s “guys sitting around a table talking” issues. Because then you’ll hate this.

tmp_batwing_29_cover_2014-1086982275So I haven’t written about Batwing for a while. Even though it has remained on my pull list, I had kinda tuned out of Batwing for a while. It survived my first cut of books from the initial New 52, unlike real stinkers like Hawk & Dove and The Savage Hawkman, and it never really got bad, but the whole former child soldier of African warlords angle never clicked all that well with me. Not because it was badly executed, but because it always reminded me of Joshua Dysart’s The Unknown Soldier, and that was a comparison that, when it comes to harrowing drama, a book about a guy in a Bat suit was going to lose.

Since writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti took the book over, those issues have vanished. We’ve got a different guy in the Batwing suit, a Batwing suit that is basically the Batman Beyond suit, and we’re back in Gotham City, giving us a little distance from the whole Batman Incorporated conceit that almost forced the international feel. And what we wind up with is a version of Batman Beyond, with a young, brash guy being mentored by Batman in the most dangerous city in the world. And that works for me; I don’t have an original Bruce Timm Batman Beyond sketch and the Batman Beyond Black And White statue on my mantle because I don’t like that kind of story.

And in Batwing #29, Gray and Palmiotti put together a mix of tones that is a little weird, but generally pretty fun. There is urban horror and real terrible stakes to what’s happening to Luke Fox and his family, horror befitting a modern Batman family comic. And yet it is tempered with big, silly comic book-y ideas, like an unknown underground city beneath Gotham, populated with homeless geeks in Egyptian costumes and giant monsters. It’s a weird mix, but it generally worked for me, and I found it really pretty entertaining.

Provided I turned some parts of my brain off.

afterlife_with_archie_4_cover_2014This isn’t going to be a long review, because it really doesn’t have to be… but I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that I originally picked up the first issue of Afterlife With Archie as a goof. It looked like a zombie movie for slightly older kids, with art by one of my current favorite artists, and it turned out to be more fun than I anticipated from an Archie book.

I picked up the second issue because I liked the first, and I liked it a lot more than the first, because it seemed that writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was using the pretext of a zombie apocalypse to peel back the all-American veneer of Riverdale and examine a suburb with some dark secrets, kinda like the way David Lynch did in Twin Peaks.

We are now at the fourth issue. And this little book that I initially assumed would be a moderately dark and PG-13 violent horror-ish story for kids has gone completely and totally off the fucking rails. In a good way.

This Archie comic features, along with the ongoing zombie apocalypse, a family pet dying, incest and parricide. Let me repeat that: dead pet, brother / sister love, and parental murder. In Riverdale. From the Archie comics. In an Archie comic.

This makes Ed Brubaker’s Archie riff in Criminal: The Last of The Innocents, where the Archie analogue was a degenerate gambler and the Jughead analogue was a junkie, look damn near quaint.

daredevil_36_cover_2014Editor’s Note: No one on the white hat side has ever hidden his or her spoilers with less than noble intent.

About 20 years ago, I worked in a job that put me in close proximity with many lawyers. And not the kind of lawyers who champion the powerless and regularly make the short lists for major federal benches, but the kind that advertise during the times of day and kinds of shows likely to be shown in hospital waiting rooms. The kind would chase an ambulance, fake a slip-and-fall, and then sue the ambulance. Real lowlives with cut-rate law school diplomas and Rolodexes full of the kinds of doctors who will certify, from their second floor walk-up offices, that their patients have no legs.

One time I saw one of these guy’s clients get busted for insurance fraud after claiming he had permanent debilitating neck pain, and then being caught fronting a thrash headbanger band for a two-hour bar set. I remember another lawyer for whom our standard operating procedure was to immediately counter-sue for¬†frivolous litigation the instant he sent us a letter, not just because he represented the lowest form of Lawrence Brake-Stander, but because he’d lost frivolous litigation lawsuits repeatedly over the years.

Those weasels never got disbarred. In my (admittedly limited) experience, the only way a lawyer gets disbarred is if he wears a mask, but rather than going out to defend the innocent, he uses it to expose himself to the elderly. And even then, they might get a pass for psychological reasons. You know, if they just can find some doctor who will swear before God that, despite all evidence to the contrary, they have a medical condition.

So, while reading Daredevil #36, I had a little difficulty completely believing that Matt Murdock would be disbarred, even considering the extreme circumstances under which he became embroiled in ethics charges. But that’s my problem and not writer Mark Waid’s, who put together a hell of an issue to close out the third volume of Daredevil. This comic doesn’t just shake up the status quo, it puts two into the back of its head… while still remaining somewhat believable and, if you think about it, not being so outlandish that it will completely blow up the character as he has stood for the past half decade or so.

Except yeah: the real New York Bar would just put a strongly-worded letter in his file if he showed up for his hearing sober, speaking English and without the blood of innocents dripping from his Cthuhlu fangs.

robocop_to_live_and_die_in_detroit_1_cover_2014I’m gonna start my review of Robocop: To Live And Die In Detroit by copping to the fact that I haven’t seen the rebooted Robocop movie that this comic book is based on. I probably will at some point, in the same way I saw the rebooted version of Total Recall: on cable while too shitfaced to operate my universal remote.

Look, I have established that I am a big fan of the original Robocop, and that I am not exactly thrilled to see a remake of that classic flick. With that said, I have heard a few decent reviews of the movie from sources I trust, so I don’t want to dismiss it completely out of hand, or allow my instinctive disdain for the idea of a new version of the Robocop character to overly color my opinion about this comic. Sure, the original Robocop was a genius mix of action, violence, satire and humor that I can’t imagine anyone improving on, but I imagine there were fans of Batman & Robin that hated the idea of the stylistic mindfucker who directed Memento sucking all the joy out of Batman. If you are one of those people, I hate you and everything you stand for and, oh yes, I will find you, but that’s not the point right now.

So I will try to approach this comic in the spirit that it really is about a character about which I know nothing. It’s certainly not my Robocop (and make no mistake, it really isn’t my Robocop), it’s just a character about a cyborg superhero working in a major American metropolis. So I tried to treat it like a completely new character, and judge it on those merits.

And on those merits? Yeah, it’s not all that great. Even considering it was impossible for me to really put aside the original Robocop.

tmp_adventures_of_apocalypse_al_1_cover_2014740171087Hey, didja know that one of J. Michael Straczynski’s first professional writing gigs was on the cartoon The Real Ghostbusters? Sure, it might seem odd that the guy who came up with Babylon 5, Crusade and the first draft of the World War Z movie cut his teeth on irony-based horror comedy, but it’s true: one of JMS’s earliest gigs was putting words in the mouth of Peter Venkman. That puts him in the rarefied company of Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis, and every slashfic author who ever wanted to see Bill Murray take a PKE Meter in the Ghost Trap from Patrick Swayze, if you get my drift.

Without that knowledge, it would seem really counterintuitive for the guy who wrote Changeling to write a horror comedy with an oracle who can foretell the futures price of cucumbers, a lawyer with a sense for the dramatic who happens to represent the Prince of Darkness, and a private detective protagonist who specializes in stopping the end of the world despite her crippling fear of sensible shoes. It might sound silly for the guy who wrote The Shadow War to write a book where someone warns the hero that the end of the world is preferable to undercooked bacon, but again: Straczynski made his bones writing for the animated avatar of Bill Fucking Murray.

Which means that Straczynski is actually a pretty damn good person to write a book like this. Which is why it’s actually a lot of fun.

tmp_punisher_1_cover_2014-383018811So it’s only been about a year or so since the conclusion of Greg Rucka’s run on The Punisher – a run that we very much liked here at Crisis On Infinite Midlives. And in the meantime, we have had Punisher running around with The Thunderbolts, which has been fun but not exactly the natural habitat for a lone killer based on those pulp mercenary novels of the 60s and 70s where a lone man with a gun killed as many scumbags as it took for the writer to make his contract’s word count.

And sure, we’ve had a few tastes of the old loner, killing-criminals-alone-is-my-business-and-business-is-good Punisher in the meantime, but for every one of those, we’ve also had something like Space Punisher – fun, but not exactly The Punisher that long-time purists probably want to see. Sure, I like a fun guy wth a gun blowing shit up now and again, but in general, I like my Punisher like I like my steak: bloody, homicidal, and likely to kill not only you but your whole family. Which is why I am not welcome in finer dining establishments. Well, that and the obvious public drunkenness. But I digress.

So now, more than a year after Marvel Now started, we finally have a new solo Punisher title, written by Nathan Edmondson and drawn by Mitch Gerads. And it’s a Punisher that doesn’t include Venom or Elektra, that doesn’t have him out fighting weird supervillains, and instead has him back on the streets, fighting street-level crime with deadly force again. So a guy like me, who likes old-school Punisher, should be happy as a pig in shit, right?

Well, kinda.