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Don’t Ask! Just Buy It! – May 26: Six Spider-Comics, Batman the Puritan and Big Books of Wednesdays and Wonders

Savage Critic and “Reading Comics” author Douglas Wolk runs down the hottest comics and graphic novels coming out this week.

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* * * * AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #37
Back in the ’90s, Kurt Busiek and Patrick Olliffe collaborated on “Untold Tales of Spider-Man,” a terrific little series set in the cracks of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko run. They’ve reunited here for another flashback story, which appears to involve Lee as a character! Also this week: the Olliffe-drawn, Bob Gale-written “Peter Parker” #3, collecting a serial originally published on Marvel’s digital-comics service, Paul Tobin and Matteo Lolli’s “Spider-Man Marvel Adventures” #2, which involves Shang-Chi, and “Amazing Spider-Man” #632, continuing Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo’s terrifying Lizard storyline.
^ ^ BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #2
The first issue of this miniseries was Grant Morrison in his high awesomeness mode; I expect the same of this one, in which we see Batman as a Puritan-era witch hunter. It’s drawn by the remarkable Frazer Irving, whose previous Morrison collaboration was “Seven Soldiers: Klarion,” which also involved witches and Puritans; I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see some kind of connection here. (Irving’s also drawing the “Batman and Robin” storyline that launches next month.) Also this week: “DC’s Greatest Imaginary Stories Vol. 2: Batman and Robin,” a collection of pre-Morrison “what if Dick Grayson and Batman’s son were the new Batman and Robin?” stories.

* BEST AMERICAN COMICS CRITICISM OF THE 21ST CENTURY
Disclaimer: I’ve got an essay in this Ben Schwartz-edited anthology, which features criticism as well as interviews and historical pieces.

* BIG QUESTIONS #14
Anders Nilsen’s long-running serial about little birds, humans, life and death approaches its climax–apparently #15 will be the final issue. Preview.

* THE ESSENTIAL WONDER WOMAN ENCYCLOPEDIA
A 488-page brick put together by Phil Jimenez and John Wells–basically a way-upgraded version of the Wonder Woman volume of Michael Fleisher’s “Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes,” and very nicely done. It’s probably a good idea that it clarifies which subset of DC’s continuity every entry belongs to; it’s a less good idea that almost every entry begins “In the pre-Crisis universe of Earth-1…” or something similar.

* FORTUNE AND GLORY
One of the oddest books in Brian Michael Bendis’s extensive bibliography: both written and drawn by him, it’s the story of his initial brush with Hollywood, played for laughs. Originally published in 2000, it’s now in color, between hard covers, and published by Marvel.

* GREEN LANTERN #54
Your Doug Mahnke comic for the month is this “Brightest Day” tie-in (one of three this week).

^ MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN VOL. 4
A paperback edition of the long-in-print hardcover reprinting “Amazing” #31-40 would not ordinarily be newsworthy (although it’s great, great stuff–#33 is a lot of people’s single favorite early Marvel comic). What’s special about this one is that it apparently includes a new archival find: Steve Ditko’s complete original pencils to #31.

^ SPIDER-WOMAN: AGENT OF S.W.O.R.D.
I get the sense that Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s long-awaited series-turned-miniseries was compromised and ultimately undermined by the hassle of designing it as a motion comic (a DVD of which is included with this thirty-dollar hardcover). It was still an intermittently interesting experiment, although I suspect their forthcoming “Scarlet” will have more life to it.

^ * THE THANOS IMPERATIVE: IGNITION #1
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have been writing what’s effectively a weekly comic for the last couple of years: Marvel’s “cosmic” sub-line, encompassing “Nova,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and a whole lot of miniseries. That’s apparently been suspended for at least the duration of “The Thanos Imperative,” a six-issue monthly miniseries that starts next week; this one-shot, drawn by Brad Walker, is supposedly a sort of on-ramp for it. Thanos also makes an appearance in this week’s hardcover reprint of Jim Starlin’s 1982 “The Death of Captain Marvel,” expanded with a couple of relevant issues by Starlin and others.

* WEDNESDAY COMICS
A $50 hardcover collection of last summer’s tabloid-size newspaper miniseries, with 15 different 12-page newspaper-strip serials (augmented by two one-page bonus stories that were prepared to run as fillers in case somebody missed a deadline, and slightly expanded versions of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s “Batman” pages)–not quite as large as the original comics, but still very big. Some of these stories are particularly well-served by the new presentation, especially Ben Caldwell’s super-densely packed “Wonder Woman” serial, which a lot of people seem to have given the TL;DR treatment at the time. On the other hand, Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl’s “Flash” story, which might’ve been my favorite of all the “Wednesday” strips, is formally built around the Sunday-funnies format; seen as part of a book, it loses something.

% X-MEN: SECOND COMING: REVELATIONS: BLIND SCIENCE #1
The “Human Centipede” of comic book titles.

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