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Report Card | From 'Batwoman' to 'Superior Spider-Man' to 'Waluk'

Superior Spider-Man #17

Written by Dan SlottPencilled by Ryan StegmanInked by LivesayColored by Edgar DelgadoLettered by Chris EliopoulosPublished by Marvel Comics

I was a big fan of Peter David and Rick Leonardi's work on Spider-Man 2099, so I've been eager to see what Slott and Stegman do with Miguel O'Hara. The issue doesn't disappoint, beginning with a pretty faithful re-creation of the future, right down to Miguel's thought balloons. (Like a metatextual Hawkman, S-M 2099 fights the menaces of tomorrow with the storytelling techniques of the past.) The time-travel setup itself is both cynical and refreshing -- everyone treats it as just another screwup from the bygone Heroic Age -- and the stakes are personal, since if his worst enemy (i.e., his dad) is erased from history, he's up the temporal creek. Indeed, a certain Back to the Future vibe runs through the issue, what longtime Spidey supporting character Liz Allan playing a central role in the development of 2099's Alchemax, and the Stone family hooking its tentacles into both Miguel and Otto Octavius. I don't know how much of this is established Spider-lore and how much is Dan Slott's invention, but it all fits together very neatly. (The hand-waving around sending Miguel back in time would make a Star Trek: Voyager writer blush, but it too is handled efficiently.)

Honestly, while I enjoy Superior Spider-Man for what it is, part of me is glad to have an unconditional rooting interest in the book. Otto, Tiberius Stone, the Green Goblin, and Phil Urich each have their own agendas, and Liz is allied with Tiberius (at least for now), so Miguel's self-preservation motive is fairly reasonable under the circumstances. Stegman and Livesay do right by him too, evoking the original Leonardi aesthetic (as inked by Al Williamson) and mixing with it just a touch of stylization, along the lines of Art Adams, Humberto Ramos, or Todd Nauck.

Of course, with all the time- and dimension-hopping going on at Marvel these days, Slott and company could be trying out replacements for Otto when his time under the big-eyed mask comes to its inevitable end. Right now the list is pretty short, but I wouldn't mind having Miguel around for an extended stay. --Tom Bondurant

Waluk

Written by Emilio RuizIllustrated by Ana MirallesPublished by Lerner Graphic Universe

I initially passed this book by because it's about polar bears, and I'm too old for cuteness, but I'm glad I gave it a second look, although it's a bit of an odd duck: On the one hand, the polar bears are anthropomorphized and the ending in particular is like something out of a movie of the week. On the other hand, it really does present a gritty, polar bear's eye view of the world of the Arctic, a world that is contracting due to global warming and that they must share with humans who don't always have their best interests at heart.

Apparently polar bears abruptly abandon their young to fend for themselves, and that's what has just happened to Waluk, our hero, when the book opens. He's about a year and a half old and strikingly lacking in hunting and survival skills. An older bear, Manitok, finds him and mentors him, but Manitok is on the other slope of the life curve; he can't see or smell very well and he's losing weight.

The two bears wander the Arctic landscape, and Manitok explains to Waluk how to hunt seals, but the story really gets gritty when they encounter humans, benign and otherwise. Lured by the tasty treats in a garbage dump, Manitok walks into a bear trap and is taken away by some guys (it's not clear whether they are researchers or something else) who decide to put him down because he's too old to survive. And that's when the book turns into a Disney movie.

Artist Ana Miralles's not only brings the polar bears to life with a lively, animated style but also depicts the gritty parts--the dump, the bloody aftermath of a meal--to create a fuller picture of life in the Arctic. The cover of the book, which shows Waluk standing, stunned, in the middle of a man-made road, sums up the whole story. The horizontal format of the book allows her the space to depict the vast Arctic landscape, and she makes good use of it, but she also zooms in with smaller panels to focus on individual moments in the story. This is a children's book, although I wouldn't recommend it for young children, but honestly, it's a good read for anyone who appreciates good cartooning. --Brigid Alverson

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #3

Written by Nick SpencerArt by Steve LieberColored by Rachelle RosenbergLettered by Joe CaramagnaPublished by Marvel Comics

This was a tough week to choose a favorite, what with the debut of Battle of the Atom and the second issue of The Bunker coming out and several other great comics hitting the stands. So what made me choose Superior Foes of Spider-Man #3? Conventional wisdom would probably lead you to guess a plot point that revolved around the severed (but still alive) cyborg head of former Maggia boss Silvermaine, or perhaps the retelling of the lame origin of the formerly dead, lame villain Mirage, or even -- yes, this part is true -- a reference to "big sweaty hippo manboobs." There's a dry, subtle wit to this book that Lieber ably brings to life as Spencer's script continues to crank up the absurdity dial, but no, the thing that really got to me with this issue was the anti-bromance between Boomerang and Mach VII. The former thinks he can redeem Boomerang by being part probation officer/part "Villains Anonymous" sponsor and part buddy, while Boomerang clings to his old life and old ways. I'm enjoying this trip through Boomerang's life, and I kind of hope we don't ever see any kind of breakthrough ... he's an unloyal bastard, and it suits him just fine. --JK Parkin

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