Marvel Team Up #127: Spider-Man Teaches The Watcher The True Meaning Of Christmas

Yes, you’ve read that right

Marvel Team Up #127 is a Christmas story. It’s the night before Christmas, and Peter Parker is bringing presents to a holiday party with Aunt May and her geriatric friends. To get brownie points, he keeps telling the ladies there that they look like Elizabeth Taylor, who was a fashion idol to old ladies in the early 1980s. Much to his chagrin, these silver foxes wind up forcing him under the mistletoe.

Mr. Chekov–not the Star Trek navigator but an old beatnik–is very sad that his granddaughter Bette is missing. She was supposed to be in attendance but has been out of communication, much to her grandfather’s dismay. For whatever reason, Uatu the Watcher–a large alien that basically watches the Earth to record its history. He’s feeling the magic of the season, and has appointed Spidey to find Bette and save Christmas.

As an aside, I love looking at advertisements in old comic books. The best is a goofy Marvel comics subscription ad with Magneto, Doctor Octopus and Doctor Doom out Christmas caroling. What is even more amazing is the deal they are offering. Six dollars for an annual subscription. It gets even cheaper; the third and any other subscriptions you buy are only $4. That’s amazing.

It’s off to Brooklyn to find her. Apparently she’s gotten involved with a drug dealer named Buck who has a bunch of cocaine that they stole off of the mob. They’re on the run, and both Spidey and the mob have found them. While being chased, Bette drops a brick of cocaine into the snow, which leads to the mob gunning her down. But the whole scene looked like it was out of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.

This is turning into the worst Christmas Eve ever, with Spider-Man standing over Bette’s dying body, scolding the Watcher for not doing anything to help save the woman’s life. Uatu decides to finally get involved in a way that didn’t interfere with his “observe only” life mission, helping stabilize her condition and directing Spidey to the nearest hospital. Better survives and is reunited in a touching scene with her grandfather.

The last page of the book is a monologue with Uatu describing what happend and how humbled he was that he could finally participate in the human condition, to the point that he was crying. It’s something when you can make a creature whose soul duty is to observe everything get emotionally involved. This issue was written by J.M. DeMatteis and it’s a great example on how good a storyteller he was.

This issue was a fun holiday tale and helps get you in the holiday spirit. After all, there are only 54 shopping days till Christmas!

Hawk and Dove #8

Here it is…the final issue of Hawk and Dove. Our avian avatars have teamed up with Xyra to make sure they survive the prophecy that leads to their deaths.

Issue #8 is pretty much a pay-off issue for the story, in a sense that this is where all of the action happens. They storm the cult’s headquarters–conveniently located in Washington, DC just like them. Hawk creates a diversion against the cult, which is a bunch of ninjas clad in white just like Storm Shadow, giving Dove and Xyra breaking in on the other side of the building, fighting even more ninjas.

D’Khan, the avatar of flying lizards (which seems like a natural predator of birds if they were to have existed) finally appears and battles the two women. Dove gets the best of him, but can’t bring herself to kill him which D’Khan takes advantage of and beats the snot out of her. Eventually Hawk catches up with them and he has no qualms killing D’Khan. At no point does Hawk ever wind up in a point where he would kill Dove, so either they forgot about that part of the prophecy or it turned out to just be false. Xyra thanks the duo for their help, saying that they will always have an ally between her and her cult.

The book ends with Hank and Dove sitting on a rooftop, going over the last eight issues and then getting back to work stopping criminals in DC. It’s kind of a flat ending, as the weird relationship tension between the two is never addressed (let alone resolved).

Liefeld had some help on the art by longtime collaborator Marat Mychaels, and it’s amazing how the two draw so similarly. This was the first issue of the series where I had strong feelings negatively about the art. There were a few pages that felt like they were scanned at too low of a resolution and they tried to overcompensate with over the top coloring. That, and there was one page where it’s revealed that Dove and Xyra have exactly the same haircut/face and it looked like they were twins.

As a whole, I enjoyed the Hawk and Dove series while it lasted. Was it groundbreaking and a classic? Definitely not. But by no means it wasn’t a fun read. It’s pure super hero mayhem and nothing more. I  picked up this book solely for the fact that I’ve always liked the characters, an appreciation of Liefeld’s art, and really liking his run on the title back in the early 1990s, before he blew up during his New Mutants/X-Force phase.

Maybe with some stronger writing, this book would have lasted longer. Hell, if it was Geoff Johns and Liefeld’s book, it would have been a blockbuster seller. But for what it was, I enjoyed it and I can’t wait to see the characters surface again.

Hawk and Dove #7

The answer is yes: Hawk and Dove #7 does start out looking like a Dazzler comic book from the early eighties. The next-to-last issue in Rob Liefeld’s series starts out with Dawn and Hank (which I just noticed almost sound like their respective code names) at a very disco-like environment…they’re out at the club.

And as you can see, Liefeld has Dawn all decked out in the most skin-tight dress he could draw. Dawn is pretty bummed; her boyfriend Deadman dumped her so she’s out looking to pick up dudes. And this night she brings Hank along, who only starts a huge brawl once someone gets too close to her for his comfort.

Outside, they get into a huge argument, with Hank getting more and more misogynistic in a rant about why she can’t go dressed out like that and how he always has to protect her because all men are creeps (except for him). The whole scene is awkward, as Hank has never really expressed interest in her romantically. His over-protectiveness is just odd, and thankfully it’s ended when the two are attacked by some random villain that looks like Kraven the Hunter and Deathstroke the Terminator’s lovechild, simply named the Hunter. He kind of beats the crap out of them, cutting off the finger (or as he called it Talon) of Hawk and a bunch of Dawn’s hair. Hunter gets scared off by this woman named Xyra, who looks like a grown up version of Freefall from Gen 13.

While recovering back at their apartment, Xyra explains that she’s part of a long running secret society that has been worshiping the hawk avatar and that the Hunter works for some cleric named D’Yek, who coincidentally is part of an anti-hawk group that plans on destroying him (thus needing their hair/finger for totems in a magical spell). All the while, Dawn is standing around in her bra and panties, and a very open bathrobe showing off her goods. No wonder Hank is so overprotective of her; she’s always throwing herself at people!

The book ends with D’Yek and Hunter talking at their own secret lair discussing how they will destroy the Hawk avatar and that according to old prophecies Hawk will kill Dove, a nod to the prior continuity of how the same happened when Hawk was Monarch during Armageddon 2001. It also makes me feel really old remembering that was in all the comics advertisements of stuff I was reading twenty years ago.

So the stage is set for the final issue of the series. Will Hawk get killed by the Hunter and D’Yek? Will Hawk kill Dove? Probably not. But will I miss this series? That’s a yes.

Friday Fights #11: Galactus vs. Unicron

 It’s Friday and you know what that means! It’s time for Friday Fights! This week’s battle features the two best known world eating demigods in geek culture; I’m talking about Galactus and Unicron! So what would happen if these two behemoths battled?

SIZE MATTERS: These two are both roughly the size of the planet Earth. It’s kind of hard to put a finger on actually how large they are and can be thanks to both of them being able to increase and decrease their size at will. Neither are beings of flesh and blood. What does matter is what makes them up. Although both of them were created roughly at the beginning of time as cosmic entities, Unicron seems to have a disadvantage being more constructed mechanically. That said, it seems that physical attacks can take more of a toll on Unicron. ADVANTAGE: Galactus

FEEDING TIME: Both of these guys exist to consume planets in order to sustain their existence. Galactus uses his enormous spaceship the Taa II to assist him in devouring planets. Unicron shape shifts into a planet that, well, eats other planets. ADVANTAGE: UnicronHe would just attempt to devour Galactus headfirst, absorbing his energy.

HERALD SQUARE: Galactus has a bunch of various heralds usually on his good side, including Terrax, Nova and Firelord. Unicron has his own posse of Decepticons like Galactus and the various scourges. ADVANTAGE: Neither.

TINY THREATS: Even though these two are both godlike, they can both be defeated by something tiny. Respectively, Galactus and Unicron can be stopped by using (or even threatening use of) the Ultimate Nullifier and the Matrix. ADVANTAGE: Unicron. I don’t see Galactus getting his hands on the Matrix, but I can see Unicron using his mech powers to create a knock off Ultimate Nullifier that would cause some damage to Galactus.

THE WINNER:  Unicron. Literally, he’s a destruction machine. Galactus is no match for his onslaught, and Unicron would absorb his power, keeping him not hungry and planets around the galaxy safe from being devoured for many years.

Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #16

It’s a bad day for Luke Cage in Luke Cage, Hero For Hire. Issue #16 starts Cage fighting Shades and Comanche, two thugs who know his checkered patch. And why are they named that? Because they respectively dress like a stereotypical Native American and wear sunglasses.

Cage has to begrudgingly help out these two criminals, as they can help him clear his girlfriend who has been charged with murder and is kidnapped by the real murderer. And he also has to stop this blade wielding, v-necked outfit wearing bounty hunter named Stilleto, who wants to put him back in jail. What plagues this story is that there is so much stuff going on.

The ending literally comes to a crash, with the real murderer getting hit by a car, Cage’s girlfriend getting charges dropped, and Shades and Comanche not only going back to jail but not blowing Cage’s cover, since he saved them from Stilleto. They wind up going back to jail but are perfectly cool with that. And the issue ends teasing a brawl with Iron Man in the next issue.

Simply put, there was just way too much stuff going on in this issue. What I did like was the art by the late Billy Graham. I’m not talking about the televangelist or the self-proclaimed “superstar” of WWF fame.

The Savage Dragon #1

Comparing Spawn #1 and The Savage Dragon #1 is like comparing night and day. This first issue of Erik Larsen’s reptilian super cop from Chicago is still an awesome comic twenty years later.

The first issue is just like a great pilot episode for a television show. It introduces you to the primary characters and sets the tone for the story. Dragon is an amnesiac who has volunteered to fight the ever increasing war on crime in Chicago, as the city is being plagued by super powered villains.

And it sets up that as the series progresses, the audience will find out more about the Dragon’s back story and why Chicago is such a hell hole.

Larsen did a great job of setting up the status quo for the series in a single issue. If there was a class on comics writing and introducing a new character and series, this would be required reading.

It’s also a textbook example of the pop culture trend in the early 1990s: the anti-hero cop. There’s a lot of Bruce Willis’s John McClane from Die Hard in this character, and he’s armed to the gills like every character Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jean Claude Van Damme ever played.

The Savage Dragon’s first issue does a great job of setting up the series. It makes me want to re-read the issues that I have and track down some more.

Spawn #1

Celebrating twenty years of Spawn!

I’m taking another trip in the way back machine to the early 1990s with Todd McFarlane’s Spawn #1 which kicks off the  age of Image Comics.

This story starts in 1987 of all years, with news reports of government operative Al Simmons’ death being all over the news. You wouldn’t think that being a secret black ops type would make you a media celebrity, but what the hell. After all this time I still don’t get it.

Speaking of hell, Simmons has made some sort of deal with the devil to return to the world of the living and doesn’t remember much, if anything, of his previous life. He does have a knack for violently taking out criminals in New York City.

By the end of the first issue, its pretty clear that there is a lot of the character that has changed since then. Namely his race; Simmons is shown as being white and later in the series he becomes and African American.

By 1992 standards, this was all of the rage. But by modern standards, its very bombastic and loud, but in a good way. And that was enough reason for over 1.7 million copies of these to be printed and sold.

Infinity Gauntlet #3

With all the talk of Thanos the last couple of months, let’s jump right into the middle of his previous most notable appearance: I’m talking about the Infinity Gauntlet mini-series. Thanos is still planning on destroying the universe in an effort to impress Death.

Back on Earth, Nick Fury, SHIELD and the rest of the Avengers are trying to save people from the looming apocalypse. There’s a one page long sequence of Black Widow failing to save an elderly lady from falling to her demise that is kind of awkward. It doesn’t necessarily do anything to advance the story.

Anyway, Adam Warlock is building a coalition of Earth’s mightiest heroes (and Doctor Doom) to combat Thanos, alongside some cosmic types like Drax the Destroyer, Firelord and Nova. But then there are some odd choices. Don’t get me wrong, Namor and Cloak of Cloak and Dagger fame are along for the ride. But at the same time, why them? And this is coming from someone who really likes the characters.

Getting back to the story, Adam Warlock makes an appeal to the most cosmic deities in the Marvel Universe to help him save everything. So after begrudgingly getting them on board, it’s off to save the day.

This issue, and the whole series in general, works thanks to the creative team. Jim Starlin’s writing works so well with this, as he either created or revamped most of these characters at some point. On the art side, George Perez does a heck of a job. He really does an amazing job at handling all these characters.

Infinity Gauntlet is a really fun super crossover that I kind of forgot about. It makes me feel really old remembering it came out twenty-one years ago. Time flies when you’re having fun.

The Hood #1

The Hood was one of those characters that kind of snuck up on me. I really didn’t pay much attention to the character until he rose to prominence in the Bendis-era Avengers. The first issue of this mini-series sets out to explain just who Parker Robbins really is.

The Hood #1 stars out with Parker visiting his comatose mother in the hospital, where every time he tells her a different story about his personal successes. It turns out that he’s actually a street level criminal who lives a pretty sad life. He has a pregnant girlfriend, but still enjoys picking up the occasional hooker. This issue explains how he winds up becoming the supernatural crime lord.

Long story short, Parker mugs a demon and takes his cloak (er hood) and magic boots. That’s it. It’s a simple story and I really don’t have a need to check out the rest of the story. But its in good fun, and Brian K. Vaughn’s writing is tops here.

Arrow – “The Pilot”

I finally got around to seeing the first episode of the new Arrow series on the CW. This is the Green Arrow’s first solo television series, starting with a late 20s/early 30s Oliver Queen returning to his home of Starling City after being shipwrecked for the last five years.

Oliver was on the family yacht which sunk in a typhoon, possibly with some foul play hinted at.

The Oliver that everyone remembers has now been replaced by a darker brooding one, who has returned home to save a city that has become increasingly more corrupt. He has sworn to his father–who killed himself to allow his son to survive–that he will do everything in his power to fix the city. The older Queen told his son about all of the corrupt business men and government officials that he had the displeasure of dealing with.

But just as Ollie is found to be different, he finds his circle of family and friends to have changed as well. His mother Moira (played by Susanna Thompson, an actress who looks and sounds eerily like Jan from the Officehas remarried one of his father’s business partners, as well as plotting to abduct her son to find out what his father told him. His younger sister is a coke head party girl.

The pilot has Oliver going out on his first mission as a vigilante, targeting a Bernie Madoff-type white-collar criminal who has bilked millions of dollars out of the common folk of Starling City. To complicate things, Oliver is being chased by a police detective who happens to not only be the father of his ex-girlfriend Laurel (who seems to be a stand-in for Dinah Lance, better known as Black Canary) but of his other daughter who died during the yacht accident. To make that clear, Oliver was cheating on his longtime girlfriend with her sister (who died on his yacht) and is now being chased by their father when he goes out as a bow-and-arrow toting vigilante.

The resulting show is a lot of fun, with all the characters intertwined on multiple levels. The only problem is that they haven’t made Oliver all that likable yet and why he has undertaken such a public crusade still isn’t clear. It’s also not really explained how he has become such a bad ass archer and street fighter as well.

On the whole, it’s a pretty interesting concept and I can only assume my questions will be answered as the series progresses. Stephen Amell is believable in this role, which is more inline with the New 52 version of the character or even Connor Hawke than the traditional Green Arrow. The show works on the whole and is worth checking out future episodes. I’m already much more interested in it than I was with Smallville.

 

New York Comic Con 2012: Big Fun In The Big Apple

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So let’s talk about the New York Comic Con! It was last week and was there on Friday and Saturday. With not having any major interest in the Wizard World Philadelphia show and having prior commitments for the Baltimore Comic Con, this would be my big comics event for the year.

Friday was a beautiful, if not slightly chilly day in Manhattan. The Javits Center was packed with all kinds of geeky goodness. This is the third NYCC I’ve attended and I think this might have been the biggest yet. There weren’t as many of the huge displays (Hasbro wasn’t there), but there was a seemingly larger, unending number of publisher booths.

When it came to the larger publishers, it was pretty hard to navigate their sections as every comic book fan in the northeast was there. The whole weekend, the DC area was completely packed. They could have been giving away bars of gold for all I know.

The Marvel booths were similarly busy, but it was a bit easier to talk to some of the creators. Especially if they were signing at the same time as someone super popular. So to this, I can really thank Dan Slott. With the majority of the line waiting to speak to him, I was able to sneak around the crowd to speak to some of the other creators.

I really didn’t buy too much stuff at the show, mostly some of the New 52 issues that I hadn’t picked up initially or stuff that was recommended. And some 1980s X-Men stuff. The artist’s alley was huge and that’s where I spent most of my time, chatting it up with artists that I knew and discovered.

Dolph Ziggler

Saturday was ridiculously crowded, almost to the point of a stand still. It was packed; it felt like leaving Madison Square Garden after an event. I think every single inch of space of the Javits was filled. The picture above is of WWE superstar Dolph Ziggler, who was doing a signing at the Mattel booth. It reminded me of a zombie horror movie, as he was backed into a corner with people EVERYWHERE. I spent maybe five hours at the show on Saturday, only to leave with the new Sorceress from Masters of the Universe figure, signed up for Marvel’s DCU Online service (something I was meaning to do since my birthday and was worth it to not only get an exclusive Doctor Doom figure as well as a heft discount), some fine pens for drawing and some more comics.

I had a lot of fun, as always. Sometimes I would have liked to have gotten into some of the panels, but I had more fun wandering around looking at comics and toys. I give it a thumbs up; if you live in the greater NYC area, you should definitely check it out.

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But what’s the best part of New York Comic Con and any trip to New York City? Dollar pizza. And in particular, 2 Bros Pizza. For about four bucks each day I gorged myself on their slices and loved life. I think this just might be my favorite pizza place in the city.

Check back later; I have some pics of the toys I picked up and the sketches I got.

Be Back Soon!

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The combination of being extremely busy at work and taking a few days last week to check out the New York Comic Con have left me behind the proverbial eight ball on a bunch of stuff. Sadly, talking about comics has taken a back seat. So let’s shoot for tomorrow for everything to go back on schedule.

Until then, enjoy this Adventure Time clip! And also check out this cool text (/❍ᴥ❍/) of Jake! That’s awesome!

Spider-Man: Masques

Let’s remember 1991! I just finished reading Spider-Man: Masques, which collects a bunch of issues from the adjective-less Spider-Man book from the Todd McFarlane era. And by judging the art and story in this collection, he’s already got his mind set in the direction he would take with Spawn.

That said, Masques features two stories set in darker, supernatural world. The first one has Spider-Man facing off against Hobgoblin, who is now a demon on a mission from God to rid the world of sinners. The plot gets a little wonky at this point, as Hobgoblin has abducted the son of a woman he murdered. Little Adam believes Hobgoblin is an angel of some sort. Taking a child is enough to get Spider-Man’s attention.

Ghost Rider takes interest in this for two reasons:

  1. Hobgoblin is killing innocent people, which always get his dander.
  2. It’s 1991. Ghost Rider’s popularity is at its peak and he has to make as many cameo appearances as inhumanly possible.

Our heroes wind up chasing Hobgoblin all over New York, with the biggest problem being that Ghost Rider is more concerned with killing Hobgoblin than ensuring the boy’s safety. The story ends kind of abruptly with Spider-Man stopping Ghost Rider, who intends on beating the villain to death. The story ends with Spidey giving a lecture on justice not necessarily meaning vengeance, Ghost Rider blowing him off and McFarlane getting to draw two issues worth of chains all over the place.

The second act is Spider-Man donning the old’ black Venom style suit, as he literally goes underground to investigate people disappearing all over Manhattan. It turns out the homeless people living in the subway have been feeding “sinners” to on-again, off-again hero/villain vampire Morbius to quench his bloodthirsty.

Unfortunately, Spidey has to inform him that he’s been fed people who aren’t criminals. Morbius is pretty upset about this revelation; he goes nuts attacking the homeless people and then runs of on his own, presumably to start his new solo series. Again, this is from the early 1990s, so it’s the second height of Marvel’s super natural hero popularity.

These stories really look like they could have been out of Spawn. The backgrounds, the panel layout, even the homeless people who resembled the Vindicator all show up. The ties between Spider-Man and Spawn aesthetically speaking are really strong.

The final story is a crossover with X-Force. You can’t get much more 1990s comic art then this, with both McFarlane and Rob Liefeld teaming up. This comic just might be the birth of “widescreen” comic books, as the art is laid out on the page lengthwise. This is pretty much what you would expect; its sheer visual mayhem.

What you might not expect is the story; longtime mutant terrorists Juggernaut and Black Tom team up some mercenaries in an attack leading to the destruction of the upper half of one of the World Trade Center’s towers. It’s very uncomfortable reading this story in a post 9/11 world, as the background imagery is eerily similar to the actual. I hadn’t read this since college, and completely forgot about this.

Spider-Man: Masques is a nostalgia book, for anyone who grew up reading comics during the 1990s. It sums up everything in comics at that point on the Marvel end: superstar artists, X-Men characters, supernatural plot lines, everything.  It might not hold up that well, but it’s a great look back at that era.

Friday Fights #10: Red Tornado vs. the Vision

 

This week it’s time for a battle of two super powered, super awkward emotional androids; I’m talking about the Red Tornado and the Vision. What happens when these two crimson skinned cybernetic beings do battle?

From a power and ability perspective, these two are evenly matched. Red Tornado is super strong and able to create vortexes worse than anything a naturally occurring tornado could produce. That is negated by the Vision’s ability to adjust his body mass index on the fly; either making himself immovably dense or light enough to not sustain any damage.

Both are also pretty unstoppable; Red Tornado can rebuild himself with nanotech on the fly and Vision continually gets re-powered from his Solar Jewel, drawing energy from the sun. They both even have the brainwaves/memories of someone else at the core of their personality.

So who would win this fight?

I think I’m going to go with Red Tornado on this one. His elemental powers give him the slight edge over Vision.

Grant Morrison’s Action Comics

Who is the best writer currently at DC? I’ll give you a hint; tt’s not Geoff Johns. It’s Grant Morrison, and his re imagining of Superman in the new Action Comics is just another example. 

This isn’t the first time we’ve read a Morrison-ized version of Superman; we first saw that starting in 2005′s All Star Superman. In his latest project, he does something completely different.

The Clark Kent in Action Comics is more of an every-man than a superman. He goes around stopping criminals, ranging from low street level types to corrupt business and government officials. This mysterious alien vigilante–clad only in a t-shirt, jeans and cape–has caught the attention of a military, especially General Lane (Lois’ dad) who has allied himself with a kindred spirit in Lex Luthor. Both of them have their own reasons why a super powered alien is a menace to society.

All of that changes when a secret deal that Luthor made with Brainiac backfires, and the city of Metropolis is taken by the evil sentient alien. They have no choice to trust Superman. All the while, Clark is having a hard time making ends meet just starting out as a reporter in Metropolis.

What makes this all work is how everything makes sense. Luthor doesn’t want Superman around, as it exposes the deal he made with Brainiac. General Lane has is own reservations, especially since his daughter is following Superman around. Even the origin of the Superman outfit makes sense; Clark finds it (turns out, the suit is Kryptonian battle armor) on board the ship that sent him to earth once he recovers it from the government.

There’s some other shorter stories included in this volume. One of them is Clark Kent meeting the Legion of Super Heroes for the first time with art by Andy Kubert. I really didn’t get into this that much, but mostly because I’ve never been able to get into those characters. But its important to the whole Superboy and future of DC mythos.

Action Comics is just a lot of fun. It’s a different, more modern take on a classic concept. It reminds me a lot of the original Ultimate Spider-Man series. You should definitely check this out.

Nightwing #0

Nightwing #0 was a damn good comic book. It gives a look back to how Dick Grayson wound up joining Batman’s crusade. What I like about this is how it doesn’t attempt to create a new and radically revamped origin; it just enhances the story we already know.

Dick was an orphaned circus performer after his parents were gunned down by the mob. But how exactly did Bruce Wayne wind up getting custody of him? Quite simple; he was to hide out at Wayne Manor until his parents’ murderer was apprehended. There was a bit of a bond with Bruce and Dick, for both having gone through such an ordeal.

But what writer Tom DeFalco added to the mythology was how Dick much smarter than Bruce ever imagined, not only figuring out that he was Batman but helping bring in the murderers. Dick proved to be someone competent enough to become Batman’s partner in crime-fighting.

I like it because this felt like an old silver age story. A lot of fun and a quick read, but superb for the Batman purist.