It's time for another trip down the comics wormhole with Punchy! There's a lot of X-Books, some more DC Zero Issues and also some Rocketeer.
Oh yeah, and this column has finally made the big time! If you pick up The Stand Omnibus from Marvel, you can find a quote from yours truly on the inside flap! How cool is that? Soon I'll be a millionaire and able to stop doing this crap.
Avenging Spider-Man #12 – Regular readers of my writing will know that I don’t like Deadpool. I don’t find the character funny whatsoever and the only place I can stand the character is in the pages of Uncanny X-Force, where Remender’s use of him is much more serious than it is at other times. So the prospect of a ‘wacky’ adventure with Deadpool inside Spider-Man’s mind is not exactly appealing to me. But what with writer Kevin Shinick’s background in comedy writing, I actually found this issue funny, because the humour was coming more from the weird situations going on inside Peter Parker’s head than Deadpool saying stupid one-liners and having interminable arguments with his inner monologue. The best thing about this issue was the art from Aaron Kuder, an artist I’m not familiar with, but he has a style very suited for comedy, and one reminiscent of Batman Inc’s Chris Burnham and Manhattan Project’s Nick Pitarra. I like the look of this Kuder guy. So basically, this was as good as a Deadpool team-up could be for me, in that it did actually make me laugh on occasion, rather than make me want to punch something. Plus, how awesome is it to see the Hypno-Hustler return? Very funny stuff. Let’s hope Part 2, set in the real world, is just as fun and doesn’t just start relying on Deadpool to provide the jokes, because he really isn’t funny.
Incredible Hulk #13– This issue takes us back to #7.1 and fills in the gaps, showing what Bruce Banner was up to in between the Hulk’s adventures during the ‘Stay Angry’ arc. This is a very clever conceit, and Aaron pulls it off with aplomb and explains just how Banner was able to do what he did. I especially liked how he brought back the character’s stint as ‘Mister Fixit’ and how he used those Vegas connections to get the money he needed to pay for this epic scheme. The scene with the blind doctor in Antarctica was a strange one though, it was very talky, and I wonder if there is more to this Doctor than there seems. We then get an awesome scene where Banner confronts Doom and kills a fuckload of DoomBots. I love the way Jason Aaron writes Doctor Doom, he’s just such a cocky evil dick. This brings us back to the present, where Bruce has seemingly turned over a new leaf and wants to team back up with the Hulk to defeat Doom. I’m glad that they are back on the same page, but I reckon there’s a least one more twist to come before things are all set up for Waid’s run. This issue also features the triumphant return of the Mad Squad. I wonder if we’ll get an origin for Amanda Von Doom before Aaron’s run is out? After a rocky start, this take on the Hulk is really coming together, and at the end, Aaron will have told one very interesting complete story, which is rare in superhero comics.
Winter Soldier #10– As brilliant as Michael Lark is, it’s damn good to have Butch Guice back on this title, he really nails the more out-there, Steranko-inspired moments, and his panel arrangements are something else. This issue picks up right where the last one left off, with Black Widow having gone off the reservation and killed a bunch of SHIELD Agents. As I suspected, Nick Fury is still alive (although for once they didn’t go the LMD route), but Jaspert Sitwell is well and truly dead. Which is a shame, just when I was starting to like him. I really like how far ahead Leo Novokov has been planning with this story, he’s a great enemy for Bucky to face, really formidable, and I almost hope he doesn’t die at the end of this arc, just so he can stick around as a permanent arch-foe. But knowing Brubaker, he’ll get two in the back of the head. This issue also feature some cool guest-appearances from other Marvel Heroes, Captain America of course shows up, and both Wolverine and Hawkeye find out that Bucky is still alive. I wonder if Hawkeye knowing is set up for Winter Soldier to join the Secret Avengers? That would be very cool, but he’s probably just there because he’s very close to Black Widow. But then where were Iron Man and Daredevil? The best scene in this issue was the one where Bucky was at the punching bag and remembering a happy moment with Natasha in Paris, it was drawn beautifully by Guice, and it was just very emotional. This is the kind of story Brubaker is best at, superhero stories with real emotional heft to them.
New Avengers #30– This final AvX tie-in for New Avengers is, in a character sense, a sequel to the first one. Heavily focused in on Luke Cage, and his choice between being an Avenger or his family. In the end, Luke chooses Jessica and Baby Danielle, but I’m not sure how long it can last Will he still be around for Bendis’ final arc? In many ways, his leaving makes sense, he’s been a presence and main character for all of Bendis’ Avengers, so their runs ending at the same time would be very appropriate. But maybe Hickman has something planned. The centrepiece of this issue was a fight between the New Avengers and a bunch of Purifiers who were out to get a now depowered and imprisoned Emma Frost. This fight was enjoyable, with some nice one-liners from the likes of the Thing, Daredevil and Mockingbird, but it’s real purpose was for Luke to have his revelation about what choice to make. Fights like these have to mean something more than just a punch-up, and this one did. I also really enjoyed the opening scene with Luke and Daredevil chatting in the back of the van, with Emma Frost chipping in, classic Bendis dialogue there. Oh man, his run is almost ending, it’s crazy, he’s been on Avengers so long, it’s gonna be a weird feeling not having a Bendis Avengers book to read each month. But luckily, he’s going out on a string of good issues.
Avengers Assemble #7– The Movie-Vengers fight against Thanos continues to be entertaining but a bit inconsequential. There were two things I really enjoyed about this issue. The first was the opening scene where Thanos confronted ‘The Elders Of The Universe’ or whatever they are, and kicks their ass with the Cosmic Cube. That was awesome on a ‘Red Hulk punches The Watcher’ level. The other thing I liked was the entirely silent outer-space sequences of this issue. Bendis didn’t fall into the trap of Star Wars here, there is no sound in space, so there was no sound in that scene. It was a very cool touch, and of course Mark Bagley has the chops to tell a story brilliantly with only art. The rest of this was just mindless action really, but there’s nothing wrong with that, and the ending was a real kicker. Is Thanos a Celestial now? What’s going on? I really hope this book has succeeded in bringing in non comics cans who saw the Avengers movie, because it is very much in that enjoyable, epic vein.
Fantastic Four #610– I’m really enjoying the looser, fun stories Hickman has been telling as his run comes to a close, and this issue was a great mix of silly action storytelling and darker stuff. The focus of the issue is that AIM have bought their own country, which is of course a problem that the FF have to deal with. We get a whole bunch of crazy rambling from The Wizard (is Hickman poking fun at himself with these portentous rants?), and the outcome is a surprising one. AIM let the FF capture The Wizard, and Reed Richards becomes the US Ambassador to AIM Island, which is a fantastic idea and one that’s ripe for future writers to play with. But the capture of the Wizard is where the darker side comes in, as he attempts to corrupt his clone, Bentley 23. I’m very interested to see what happens next in this story, and what choice Bentley will make. Was the scene where Thing notices that the AIM guys can’t eat in their suits a fight that was just for a joke, or is it a serious cliffhanger that will be picked up in FF #22? I couldn’t tell. Ryan Stegman’s art helped a lot with the lighter tone of this issue, I especially like his take on The Thing.
Uncanny X-Men #18– In this issue, Gillen basically picked two plotlines and focussed on them heavily, with a little one page intro from Kate Kildare, the X-Men’s PR Guru (who’s job is of course very difficult right now). The first plot was Colossus and Magik, who, despite losing their Phoenix Powers, still have a lot of problems. Most notably the fact that Magik is revealed to be a totally evil crazy person who deliberately manipulated her brother into becoming the Juggernaut in order for him to fall from grace and know what it’s like to be her. That is just messed-up. I’m sure this pissed off a lot of Magik fans, but I didn’t mind it, it was a great twist. With the news this week that Colossus will be joining X-Force, I wonder how much darker he can go and if he’ll still be all Jugged-out in that book. Either way, it’s crazy how much the X-Men writers have beaten on him, that’ll teach him to be a good-natured giant. The other plot focused on Cyclops, first, in a scene where he argues with Magneto, and confronts what a lot of people, both in comics and online have been saying, that he has become Magneto. Cyclops’ response is fucking fantastic, he’s nothing like Magneto, because he’s winning. Hah! Take that Internet! Let your keyboard rage build and build! The other aspect of Cyclops’ story was a very clever take on the events of AvX #11 from Gillen. We see just how powerful the Phoenix has made him and Emma, that their minds are so strong that even whilst fighting an epic battle, part of them can enjoy a psychic romantic meal. The juxtaposition of the peace of the meal and the chaos of battle was very well done, and the final sequence, where we see how Cyclops views his victory of Emma, with him drinking the Phoenix, was very cool.
Wolverine & The X-Men #16– Jason Aaron returns to what are the main villains of this series, the Hellfire Club, and gives us some very cool insight into just what kind of a psycho Kade Kilgore is. This was a hugely entertaining issue, with lots of the kind of crazy over the top moments this book specialises in. I just love the character of Kilgore, he’s so crazy and so arrogant it’s unbelievably entertaining. He stood up to the Phoenix Five! He’s killed hundreds of people! He caused a prison riot after 10 minutes! What a great role model for our children. Chris Bachalo’s artwork was once again fantastic, such a great fit for the tone of this book, is this his last issue? If so, it’s a damn shame, but he went out on a good one. I’m sure there will be some people a bit annoyed that none of this book’s heroes showed up, but I personally didn’t mind, the villains showcased here so much fun and so hateable that it worked. Next issue is a Doop spotlight, words cannot convey how excited I am for that. Doop!
Uncanny X-Force #31– The Final Execution arc steps it up a gear with this issue, as every player is now back on the board. X-Force are back from the future, we know who the Brotherhood are, and Evan knows the truth. Things are getting just a little bit epic. What I most appreciated here is that Remender is not content to just have the bad guys be an unstoppable evil force, that there is a hatred remaining between Mystique and Shadow King, that Daken and Sabretooth have this weird father/son relationship. I really loved their conversation here, how they hate Wolverine for being the same as them and not admitting it, very interesting stuff. I still almost feel sorry for Daken, and was Sabretooth’s pep talk there because perhaps he is having doubts? Hmm. As for X-Force themselves, they have something of an edge on the Brotherhood because they think most of them are dead, but I was surprised by how little this issue featured them once again, does this book perhaps have too much going on? One thing I did like was the last page, with Deadpool planning on killing Evan, this is the kind of Deadpool I like, he’s unpredictable and he’s dangerous, he’s not a joke. Speaking of Evan, man, I really feel sorry for him, the Brotherhood are really fucking him up, that bit with Fantomex/Uncle Cluster’s corpse was just messed-up. But then, X-Force only have themselves to blame. Was the opening scene set ‘three hours from now’ a real scene, or just a possible future? The tension is too much!
Avengers Vs X-Men #11(of 12)– The penultimate chapter of AvX was to me yet another example of event comics done right. The whole issue was pretty much a massive fight between the combined forces of the Avengers and X-Men against Cyclops and Emma Frost. Bendis and Coipel really delivered on the epic scale of this battle, there were a lot of characters involved and it all looked great. Crucially, Bendis made sure that the fight had a lot of emotional grounding, and the real basis of this issue was the relationship between Cyclops and Professor Xavier. This of course culminated in Cyclops killing the man who founded the X-Men and the man who was his father-figure. I’m not going to talk about the likelihood of Chuck coming back or not, because that’s not what’s important here, what’s important here is Cyclops and his full-on switch to bad-guy mode. I’ve been a Cyclops defender for a while, and really it’s hard to say whether or not this was him or whether it was the Phoenix. Up until now he has been mostly in control, but when he killed Professor X he had the full force inside of him, which to me means that he cannot be blamed for this. But hey, I’m sure the comics internet will still blame him, they blame him for everything. Let’s just hope it’s not revealed that the real Cyclops is sleeping inside of a cocoon at the bottom of the Ocean. One thing that surprised me about this issue was that Hope didn’t really do anything, she needs to play a big role in #12 I think, the cover makes it look like Iron Man is the biggest deal, but I want to see Kung-Fu Hope win the final battle. This even has had it’s detractors, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, summer event comics should be BIG and SURPRISING and this one definitely has been. Let’s hope the final chapter ends things right.
Ultimate X-Men #16– Brian Wood’s run on Ultimate X-Men continues to be very interesting, especially in terms of the character growth of Kitty Pryde, who has become one bad-ass motherfucker. She and Nick Fury took down two sentinels! That was hardcore. I’m still not really buying that the contemporary Ultimate Universe would go so ‘Days Of Future Past’ so quickly, but Wood keeps the story interesting enough that I’m not really questioning it. Nick Fury’s role here is interesting, he seems to be letting Kitty lead, but knowing the manipulative bastard like we do, I bet there’s something more. But the main thing here is Kitty, her growth is yet another indication of the strength of the Ultimate Universe, the characters are allowed to change a lot more than their 616 counterparts. I mean, the modern Kitty is not a stupid kid anymore, but she’s not a guntoting militia leader either. It was also cool to see the debut of a character I assume is Quentin Quire, who is awesome in any reality, although Rogue was awfully quick to make out with him. But then this is a time of war after all, no time to be coy. My only real complaint apart from the aforementioned DOFPism, is the continued lack of stuff for Jimmy Hudson to do, come on, he’s Kid Wolverine! He should be awesome! Has he even worn the costume they had him wearing on the early covers? Let him snikt some folks!
Superboy #0– Perhaps due to the fact that I was reading it without also reading Teen Titans, and also probably due to other facts, Superboy has been a very uneven title. Characters and villains have appeared from and disappeared to nowhere, and the setting of the title has veered wildly. This Zero issue however attempts to make some sense of what’s been going on with the book, and it sort of works. The issue is mainly narrated by the villain ‘Harvest’ who as I said before, showed up out of nowhere, and reveals how he manipulated the events of the last 12 issues. This includes revisiting scenes from #1 and #2 and others. Do we know who the heck this Harvest guy is? How does he know so much about Kryptonian History? It doesn’t matter I suppose, because those scenes, with the original ‘Kon’ were the highlights of this comic. We are slowly being fed information about the Krypton of the New 52, and it’s very interesting to me. I like that clones are a controversial issue for Kryptonians, and you can tell that, unlike some other New 52 books, the writers have a plan, the stuff here lines up with what happened in Supergirl. One other thing, the lengths they are going to avoid saying that Superboy is half Lex Luthor is ridiculous, we all know it already!
Batman #0– I’m not sure how I feel about this issue. I mean, it was good, as is every other Snyder Batman story, but it did feel really unnecessary to me. What does this story tell us about Batman’s early years that we don’t already know? It seemed like Snyder was so desperate to avoid stepping on Year One’s toes that he found an area that was rightly left unexplored. Set after Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham but before he becomes Batman (aka the ‘Put on a Balaclava and get your ass kicked’ period), we see Bruce attempting to fight crime before his inspiration smashes through his window. It was all stuff we’ve seen before in 2 pages, but stretched out to 20. I will say there were some cool ideas here, like the idea of Bruce living in Crime Alley, and it’s always fun to see the Joker before he became the Joker, but this is not a story about Batman’s past that needs to be told. This is the equivalent of the Green Lantern Corps Cafeteria, we don’t need to see it. And plus, the issue ends on a cliffhanger! When are we going to see the conclusion to this story? In a year’s time for #0.5 or whatever? Or will this stuff be shown in the Joker story? Hmmmm. The back-up story was pretty cool though, showing how Batman’s first appearances inspired all of his main sidekicks (the first 3 Robins and Batgirl), but I’m sure this caused some continuity conniptions for some people, how did he get through so many sidekicks in only 6 years, and how come they all seem to be the same age?
Frankenstein: Agent Of SHADE #0– This was probably my favourite Zero Issue so far. Going back way more than the customary 5 years, this one went all the way back to 1823 to show us Frankenstein’s birth. What followed was a gloriously demented mix of elements from the original novel, and steam-punk action. Throughout of all of this, the running through-line is that Frank, who looks like a monster, is very human, and Victor, who looks human, is the true monster. It’s a simple dichotomy, but it works. Kindt teases at the end that Victor didn’t really die, so I’m now very excited to see what happens when he makes his return in the present day. It was also cool to see another incarnation of Father Time, this time as a beautiful woman. He’s such a weird take on the Nick Fury archetype. Also very cool were the little flashes of some of Frank’s other adventures, including Nazi Robot Spiders. This was just a great issue, and it told an origin that actually needed telling, unlike a lot of other heroes.
Grifter #0– OK, now I’m fucking confused. Whilst this issue was a lot more like the Grifter character I knew from the Wildstorm of old, hanging out with Team 7 and all that, it bore very little resemblance to the take on the character that Edmondson introduced in #1, who seemed to be just a conman, not a Government operative. Is this the quickest retcon ever or was I just not paying attention the first issue? Maybe that was the point, that this Warick guy kept making him lose his memory and he keeps repeating himself? I guess this explains where he got the Grifter mask though. This whole thing is a wee bit of a continuity mess isn’t it? I heard that Team 7 #0 was actually good, was it? I may have to check that out to see if it explains what’s going on. It was cool to see Lynch again though, he’s a favourite of mine thanks to Sleeper. Does anyone have any guesses as to who the mysterious ‘Warick’ is? A Daemonite? I have no clue.
Green Lantern Corps #0– This issue was a welcome origin story for Guy Gardner. Over the last few years we’ve seen Hal’s origin like 6 times, and GL: New Guardians #1 showed Kyle’s again, so it’s high time Guy or John got the spotlight. I must admit I’m not really familiar with Guy’s old, pre-Flashpoint origin, so I don’t know if this was very similar or a terrible betrayal, but what I read made good sense. Guy as a member of a family of cops who lost his badge is a great motivation for joining the Green Lantern Corps, they are the Police Force he can use to impress his dad. It is pretty lame how his brothers and sisters both have names beginning with G though, although I suppose ‘Gerard’ is a reference to Gerard Jones, which is a nice tribute. I also liked how Tomasi used Guy’s Baltimore roots to pay a little tribute to The Wire, with a crime happening on the corner of ‘McNulty and Simon’. Tomasi continues to write Guy’s character perfectly, he’s a brash blowhard asshole who in the end is the most heroic of all, and it was a lot of fun seeing his origins and spending an issue of GLC without a bunch if Alpha Lanterns or Guardians messing things up. This was the best issue of this title in a while really.
Demon Knights #0– Paul Cornell uses his Zero Issue to focus on his titular character, The Demon, and to show us his origin in a new light. Whilst we saw in #1 how Jason Of Norwich got bonded to Etrigan, this issue shows how their two lives paralleled each other, and how being bonded to a Demon was not actually the worst thing that could have happened to Jason and that it may have saved him from his own dark nature. The most interesting aspect of this issue was what we learned about the character of Merlin, not only how manipulative he is, but also that he is a Demon, the son of Lucifer. It’s certainly a new take on the kindly old Wizard, and it’s also very interesting in light of last week’s Stormwatch #0, which revealed that Adam is Merlin, do we trust what he says and does in that book know that we know he’s a demon? And also, what’s he going to be like in this book when the Demon Knights resurrect him? I also liked how Cornell explained Etrigan’s rhyming, it was cool to have a reason for it, but it really is impossible for a writer to keep it up on an ongoing series. Bernard Chang’s artwork was fantastic, he’s a great unappreciated artist, and he’s a good fit for this title. Like most of the Zero issues, this provided important context for what is to come, and did so in style.
The Shade #12(of 12)– The final issue of The Shade maxi-series shows us the long-awaited truth of the character’s origins, and in true Robinson fashion, it actually left me wanting to know more. What is the nature of Scathach? And why did it effect Richard Swift in the way that it did? I suppose it’s good that Robinson has left some mysteries, I do feel that Shade would be less interesting if we knew the whole truth. And tellingly, the title of this story is ‘Family Ties Part 1’, when and where will we see Part 2? As it is, this story filled in some important gaps about who Richard Swift was, what his job was, his family, and also how he met the evil Dwarf that is Simon Culp, and then, how he became The Shade. It was great to have Gene Ha, the artist of the first Shade mini-series return to draw this issue, and he did his usual fantastic, detailed job. I especially liked how his Charles Dickens actually resembled the young author. This was a great conclusion to a great series, I hope Robinson has more to come, but if not, it was a very enjoyable return to his side of the DC Universe, even if Jack Knight didn’t show up.
Saucer Country #7– This was another very interesting issue, and one that, when read in tandem with #6 tells you just how much research and detail Cornell is going into with his mythology, and also that this is not going to be a series with any easy answers. Hell, much of this issue directly contradicts what was said in #6. So which side do we believe? Are the aliens mythological and magical like Dr Kidd said in 6? Or are they just aliens using technology? It’s a fascinating debate, and I’m very interested to see how it plays out. These two ‘lecture’ issues are a cool way to break away from the main story, as, while they contradict each other, they provide some very important context for just whatever it is Cornell is doing with UFOs here. Dave Lapham’s artwork was great, it was surprising to see him show up here, but it was a welcome one, he has a similar style to Kelly’s, so it would be cool if he did more fill-ins in the future. This title is a slow-burn, but issues like these last two show that Cornell is not just winging it, this is deep.
American Vampire: Lord Of Nightmares #4(of 5)– This issue was great in that it revealed the origin of Agent Hobbes. He was a young British Police Officer in 1917 who came into contact with Dracula, and, under his influence, killed his wife and son. That’s very dark stuff, and not only does it add even more evil to what is already a brilliant take on Dracula (and we haven’t even seen him yet! I wonder if we will at all), but it imbues Hobbes with a very strong motivation to join the VMS and to hate Vampires. He’s become one of my favourite characters in the American Vampire Universe, which probably means he’ll die in #5 like Cashel did. The artwork from Dustin Nguyen was excellent, I loved the aerial shot of the train-tracks and the corpse with blood trailing off, very cool.
Punk Rock Jesus #3(of 6)– PRJ continues to be a really enjoyable and unpredictable read. There really is no other comic out there like this, it’s just strange, and with this issue, it got even stranger. We jump forward a lot in time with this issue, and by the end of it, Chris, aka Jesus 2 is 9 years old. Chris seems like a very interesting character, he’s a good kid, but I can see how the events of this issue and his mother will cause him to become a Punk. The little bits about the media manipulating things, like not allowing Chris to date a Black Girl are very disturbing and probably all too real. But it’s the scene at the very end that effected me, Gwen dreams trying to commit suicide, but is saved by an Angel, and then… wakes up with hand marks on her where the Angel grabbed her. Are Angels real? What is going on? I really have no clue. Murphy’s art is as brilliant as usual, the dude is amazing.
Haunt #26– Joe Casey and Nathan Fox have really shaken this book up and made it into something special, I’d be hard-pressed to even call Haunt a superhero comic anymore. This issue featured several continuing plotlines, and also introduced some exciting new wrinkles. I particularly liked the scenes where Daniel ‘dreamed’ a Lady Haunt attacking him. I’m guessing this is Autumn, his girlfriend who he accidentally killed. It was pretty bleak stuff when she died, so I think this is Casey trying to rectify that that. I also really liked the scene where Daniel and Kurt were wrestling for control of their body, and how it was represented by the two of them fighting as children, very cool stuff. Fox’s artwork continues to really make this title, it’s just so good to look at and so unique. There’s a lot going on here, and not all of it makes sense, but it’s a wild ride.
Conan The Barbarian #8– Conan and Belit continue their quest across Cimmeria for the imposter Conan. This issue was notable for two things, the first was the artwork from Vasilis Lolos, which I really liked, especially his backgrounds, which looked suitably epic. His wolves also looked great, really quite scary. His Conan did look a little feminine though. The actual story didn’t develop much here, but what did was the relationship between Conan and Belit. This is a very interesting romance, and it’s fascinating to see Belit, who is so powerful and confident when she’s at sea, be so different when out of her element. Wood has turned what could be a standard ‘hot chick in a chainmail bikini’ type character into something a lot better, which is cool to see.
Rocketeer: Cargo Of Doom #2(of 4)– More brilliantly old-school fun from Waid and Samnee, and it’s awesome to see just how pulpy they are getting, and how they are bringing in stuff from other media. This issue heavily references King Kong, and in the end, it’s revealed that the titular ‘Cargo of Doom’ is…. Dinosaurs from Skull Island! Dinosaurs! The Rocketeer is going to fight some Dinosaurs, how can you not be extremely pumped for that? The artwork from Samnee was once again excellent, he really is a fantastic artist and he has a great relationship with Waid, and it’s so cool that we’re getting a double-dose of it every month with both this title and Daredevil. I was a bit confused by the new character Earl Garland, who at first seemed like he was going to be a villain but then immediately became a friend to Cliff Secord, Odd. The relationship drama is a bit hokey, but it’s a long-held tradition of Rocketeer stories that Betty is a total dick to Cliff, so I don’t mind it too much.
Boom! That was a long-ass week, but a good-ass week. My favourite this time? I dunno, probably Uncanny X-Force, that book really is back to it's best.
Join me next time for a slew of Ultimate stuff, the return of Stumptown and the final instalment of Spider-Men, good times.