What’s new(ish) in utterly mainstream comics

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Batman and Robin # 20 – Despite a friend’s warnings that Peter J. Tomasi is one of the worst writers in comics, I gambled on this one anyway, mostly since it now seems that a radically transformed Middle East will precede the release of Batman Inc. #3. (Not only is DC “drawing the line at $2.99,” but their more conscientious scribes like Grant Morrison are further protecting your budget by delivering only six issues of each monthly title within a one-year period.) Though I read Tomasi’s B&R bow just yesterday, I’m damned if I can remember much of what went on in it – beyond some atrocious grammar and the curious proposition that Bruce Wayne would hold a bros-only movie night to commemorate his deepest childhood trauma. (“Hey, fellas: This is what I was watching 45 minutes before that bullet pierced Mom’s aorta. Some cinematography, huh?”) Still, Patrick Gleason’s art is pretty nice, so I’ll probably stick with the title until Judd Winick reports for duty, and I can’t walk into a comic shop without Hazmat gear.

Amazing Spider-Man #654 and 654.1 – In contrast to DC’s Bat-team, Marvel’s Spidey crew appear determined to make it impossible for you to enter a store without leaving with one of their full-price fantasias: Though Amazing is purportedly back down to “only” two i

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ssues per month, I swear there’s a new one available every time Michelle Bachmann says something stupid. (Maybe Marvel’s counter-slogan should be “Drawing the line at your 1099.”) My local retailer was complaining that the publisher had dropped the ball by not informing vendors 654 would mark the debut of the all-new Venom, thus preventing them from ordering the required number of copies. Writer Dan Slott must have precognitively anticipated the screw-up, since he made sure that most of the plot points from the totally expository 654 backup feature were properly rehashed in his script for 654.1. Further diluting my enjoyment of these otherwise decent issues: Ain’t It Cool News, which outed Flash Thompson as the new Venom before I could read either one. Damn bloggers.

Osborn # 3: Come to think of it, this allegedly monthly book is only on its third ish, and I swear that, when the first one came out, I was living in another state, wearing short pants and a school blazer, and looking forward to the conclusion of LOST. (Or was it The Fugitive?) Maybe I subconsciously avoid seeking out Osborn so I can always be pleasantly surprised when I notice that a “new” one is out “already.” (It’s like a personal version of Inception, where my mind is an unreliable pull service.) This installment didn’t quite have the irreverent kick of the previous two, and I really wish writer Kelly Sue DeConnick had continued the nifty backup stories that were fleshing out the book’s cast of genetically anomalous maximum-security inmates. (Hey, DeConnick: I expect some fershlugginer value added for that extra buck! I hear DC’s flirting with rub-on tattoos!) But it’s still got genetically anomalous maximum-security inmates, and until any other comic does, Osborn remains unique in the pantheon of must-reads. I’m looking forward to issue 4, especially since I may be able to pay for it with my Social Security check.

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