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Amazing Spider-Man #51
writer: J. Michael Straczynski
artists: John Romita, Jr. and Scott Hanna

Don't let the cover fool you. Though Mary Jane and Peter seem happily reunited, there's still plenty in the way of a disgusting new supervillain to attract readers who could care less about the Parkers' love life.

In reality opening in Vegas in 1957 (wasn't that where the two were stuck last issue?), JMS offers us up "Digger," an amalgamation of murdered gangsters and that pesky gamma radiation. Too bad Peter David already created something like that in a Hulk villain named Half-Life. (Isn't it enough that they raise the price on Captain Marvel and likely fire him, too? Must the powers that be wipe out the very memory of his work?)

While this rough beast slouches toward Manhattan, our hero takes it slow in reconciling with his wife. Everything looks good, except for some reason, Romita has turned all of his characters into bobble-head dolls. It's still the same look, just with freakin' enormous craniums.

Oh, and Detective Lamont returns, Mona Lisa smile still in place. As a supporting castmember, he's welcome, and he grounds Peter in a way that nobody else has. Lamont recognizes the need for superheroes in a super-powered world, but still thinks it would be a nicer place without them.

Clearly, he hasn't been to Earth-Prime.


Batman #613
writer: Jeph Loeb
artists: Jim Lee and Scott Williams

You'd think by now that the Gotham City Opera Company would learn never to do Il Pagliacci. It's just an invitation to The Joker or, in this case, Harley Quinn, to come and wreak havoc.

Luckily, Bruce Wayne seems to have figured it out, and came in the appropriate evening clothes. By the sheerest of coincidences, his date for the evening turns out to be Selina Kyle, furthering the strange relationship set in motion by Loeb.

Also in attendance, actually having invited both of our heroes along, is Tommy Elliot. And so with all our leading players in attendance, you can just turn the pages until the clown reveals herself to be Harley.

While Loeb and Lee also provide further tantalizing glimpses of Tommy and Bruce's past, and a blissfully cancer-free Alfred, this issue takes a clichéd situation and breathes no new life into it.

Yes, the art remains stunning. And Loeb's grasp of characterization continues to be masterful. But it's the plot, stupid. We've seen it - heck, I think it's even in The Untouchables.

Come to think of it, in the real world I don't know that I've ever seen an opera company do Il Pagliacci at all. Hmm. Maybe it really is some sort of opera curse that performances are always interrupted by supervillains.


Derek McCaw


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