Michael D. Stewart's Comic Reviews

Reviewer For: PopMatters Reviews: 44
7.0Avg. Review Rating

7
Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #677

Jan 15, 2012

Amazing Spider-Man #677 is not the fallout from a game changing tragedy. It is not the kick-off to world shattering event. It is not controversial. It is not tame. It is a well executed comic with playful dialogue, convincing characterizations and a fun plot. It's damn good. So many other comics should be too.

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5
Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #681

Mar 11, 2012

The story beats of Amazing Spider-Man #681 are there like the ingredients of many superhero comics. The mixture however has an average finish, like getting a decent meal at a chain restaurant when we are really craving–and should be demanding–a higher caliber dining experience. Superhero comics are very much like chain restaurants. There's nothing particularly wrong with them, but sometimes our dining dollars, much like our comics dollars, are not getting their full value. For its value, comfort food satisfies a craving for being soothed or placated. But good healthy eating does so much more: satisfying our craving while also rewarding our palettes. If this were a feast or famine situation, maybe a diet is in order.

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6
Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #690

Jul 29, 2012

What's also fascinating about Amazing Spider-Man is that instead of leaning on the movie adaption, Slott works to revitalize and retool The Lizard character. It's a bold move. That's a larger point about the last several issues. Here in issue #690, the main point is Kurt Connors rediscovering his humanity through the experiences most of us see as rudimentary. Can a pop song or junk food or videogames save your soul? Given our culture and the stakes in Amazing Spider-Man, let's hope so.

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6
Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #692

Aug 26, 2012

With exceptions, Amazing Spider-Man has always tried to be a contemporary hero story, involving cultural and generational struggles common to its current readers. Slott has certainly tried to continue that idea, albeit with some hiccups and misunderstandings. That he can craft the quiet moments with authenticity speaks better to his current handling of the character and title rather than the big over-the-top super-heroics.

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5
Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #693

Sep 9, 2012

Taken individually, each questionable story choice should not lead to how underwhelming Amazing Spider-Man #693 is as an issue of the long march to #700. Each, however, taken together (and particularly in one issue) has the effect of undermining the parallel that Slott and Ramos are trying to achieve. It's meant to be a tribute to the legacy of Spider-Man. The existence of Alpha is surely a debate that will continue, as the decision to include this character or even this type of character is hardly forgettable. Whether the intent is enough to justify the results is the big picture question, and reaffirms the “with great power comes great responsibility” lesson. Even for creators.

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5
Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #695

Oct 8, 2012

We could spend a long time digging into the minutiae of problems facing Amazing Spider-Man #695, but that would ignore the larger picture. While there is much to admire about Slott's work at plotting so many storylines and keeping them fairly coherent, it must be said how much potential is being left in the margins. Visions of the future are fine, but don't let them handicap your efforts, especially on the march to a milestone issue.

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8
American Vampire #33

Dec 2, 2012

There is a point when you realize that despite Snyder's work to bring out the personal fear in horror narratives, that what frightens us is a way to get at character driven stories, his true deep seeded intent is to tell the American story he's always relished in, to move from his mind the historical personification of monsters as the drivers of progress. This is the point where Snyder the person and Snyder the storyteller merge. Much as the monsters of American Vampire merge with our history. As with all of history, we have to leave some behind.

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8
Batgirl (2009) #22

Jun 20, 2011

What will be her place in the new DC Universe? Who knows? What is known is that after August 2011 Bryan Miller, Lee Garbett, Pere Perez, Guy Major and a host of others will no longer be creating a Batgirl comic starring Stephanie Brown. Dork Knight no more. Good night sweet, snarky, pointy-eared princess. Good night.

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6
Batman (2011) #0

Sep 16, 2012

For the all the opportunity Batman #0 has, the issue is very much a mixed bag. It is wholly a product of the New 52 and in many ways is an example of what the New 52 means. The structure is part action and part drama, with the backup story leaning heavily on the drama. In some ways the entire issue is a tribute to the new Batman. While the creators definitely intended to pay tribute to what had come before and what is now, what we mostly have is a celebration of the now. If the New 52 is to succeed, that must be the case. Nostalgia be damned.

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6
Batman (2011) #1

Sep 22, 2011

Make no mistake: Batman #1 is not a debut issue regardless of what number is on the cover. It's a continuation in all aspects. Will new readers jump on? Sure. Is it accessible to new readers? Somewhat, but it's like any beginning to a new story arc. If that was the point then this effort is average at best. But that's not the point. The point is to tell good stories with a modern tone, and as far as that goes Batman #1 is a good comic"but it should have been excellent.

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8
Batman (2011) #2

Oct 23, 2011

Batman #2 in many ways is an amalgamation of many types of comics. It is a superhero comic, a crime comic, and an action comic. This mixture has always been a part of the foundation of Batman, but here Snyder uses it to the fullest effect possible. The relatively new structural additions are what enhance the base, creating that pedestal on which his story arc will be supported. The architect has taken the plans from the drawing table and delivered them to the engineers. The tower that will be produced will stand as a beacon for the present and the future. Ladies and gentlemen, when shall we cut the ribbon?

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8
Batman (2011) #4

Jan 8, 2012

But really, what's truly on display is Snyder's work. The layers built into this plot are immense, but not overpowering. The plot is strong, but so too is the character development. This is what hooks readers. While a rip roaring and thrilling premise has its appeal, the examination of character traits and how they affect the narrative progression is what really separates a good comic from an excellent one. Batman #4 is neatly the latter, and that, in and of itself, tells readers what to expect going forward.

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10
Batman (2011) #5

Jan 22, 2012

Batman #5 feels like the halfway point of Snyder and Capullo's story; it may very well be its zenith. That's not to say this is the best they will ever accomplish, rather it is something of a baseline as to the type of presentation they can develop within the confines of the narrative structure. Early on, there was a foundation established by this series' second issue. That foundation has been shaken to its core, but still stands as the base on which this story is planted. Getting back to issue five, what we have is arguably the best example of contemporary comic storytelling from the perspective of complimentary story and design, particularly in this New 52 period. Refrain from saying the bar has been raised. The bar has been taken out of existence.

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7
Batman (2011) #6

Feb 19, 2012

The vast majority of Batman #6 is a physical battle. While Snyder certainly reveals more about the make-up of the Court of Owls, the story is essential a wrestling match between Batman, his will, Talon and the Court's sinister plot. Does this detract from the epic Snyder and Capullo are telling? Does it call into question the substance of this particular issue? Absolutely not. It actually shows the deeper connection this story has with the whole of popculture. It connects as pro-wrestling does with this hope we all have in our moments of seeming defeat: we can overcome. Just as one wrestling match can be the whole story or a small part of a larger story, Batman #6 reflects a short narrative being complete within the context of a longer storyline. All of the Bat-Maniacs better stay tuned because this Dark Knight is saying his prayers and eating his vitamins. But thankfully he's not ripping off his bat-suit.

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6
Batman (2011) #7

Mar 25, 2012

Does any of the last two points damage the quality of Batman #7? No, it is still a good comic issue. Dick Grayson's characterization is a rare miscue that is more than likely the results of a strict page count. The point about the “Yes Father, I will become a bat” scene is indicative of where we are in the history of the character and symbolically underscores that which we have come to realize. The weight of this story will have far reaching consequences going forward. The seeming care that Snyder and Capullo have used to build the Court of Owls within the mythology of Batman is welcome. But, we must understand that no matter the similarities to previous understandings of the character, this is a new Bat and a new period of his publication history. The first page of this issue tells us that.

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6
Batman (2011) #8

Apr 22, 2012

There have been horror elements scattered throughout the previous issues of Batman volume two, but not to the extent as they are in issue eight. Here we are given the beats of typical horror stories. And while the parallels to that narrative movement is a time-tested formula, the waking nightmare created for Batman has that feeling of someone needing to just wake up. The blind spot Bruce has developed in relation to the Court of Owls may be disappearing; the effect seems to stymie his growth as a character. We know he has a fatal flaw. We know the Court cuts at his ego. Now we must see his development beyond it. Batman has to stop the slasher(s), like a screaming teenager at a deserted sleep away camp, but most of all he needs to just wake up.

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6
Batman (2011) #9

May 16, 2012

Batman #9 presents a very dark and aggressive Bruce. The psychological and physical toll of the Court has pushed him to the brink, and his anger has finally been unleashed. Much as Snyder has done throughout this early run of Batman Volume Two, expansion of Bat-mythology combined with metaphoric storytelling strongly points toward robust characterization and a very personal narrative. It's also a story of legacy, taking a deep root in the history of Batman. Aside from a lackluster conclusion to the main feature of this issue, Batman #9 is a fine addition to this epic.

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8
Batman (2011) #11

Jul 11, 2012

The vision for Batman has certainly changed, but the reflection in the mirror is still very easily identifiable. Aided by the light of a new publishing period, a much longer narrative style and a distinct artistic style, this Batman has become a showcase for the possibility of the literary and the explosive to be paired as equals.

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9
Batman (2011) #12

Aug 12, 2012

As a one-off, Batman #12 works differently, adding a further layer to the just concluded “Court of Owls” epic. It also delves deep into a character that we have not seen the last of. Harper is a modern amalgamation of a heroine – resilient and determined, just as she is feminine and emotional. She doesn't have to choose between worlds; she can inhabit both without losing any part of her core. Her realization is the intricate work of Snyder and Cloonan, aptly using the tools in their belts to actualize a narrative that expands the overall direction of Batman. That Cloonan did not have the opportunity to complete the entire issue is the only point that harms this issue. It is, no matter the misstep, one of the closets books to realize the potential of the New 52 relaunch.

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7
Batman (2011) #13

Oct 22, 2012

The concern going forward is how far will the creators go? Batman #13 is a shocking and violent place to begin a storyline. To go even further, to keep the narrative rhythm necessary to tell a compelling story means that the stakes, and the horror, must go even farther. How much horror can we take? Batman can endure; the character has proven that decade after decade. But can we? You cannot ask the horror writer not to write horror, but can you ask the comic writer to be weary of the excesses of the genre?

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6
Batman (2011) #14

Nov 18, 2012

Sometimes you just have to move forward, and that is what Batman #14 does, but not in the way we would hope…or in the ways Snyder is capable of writing. The allure and mystique of the Joker can have that effect. Saving the Joker for after the New 52 reached its first birthday was a wise move. Probably could have waited even longer, but there are only so many memorable Batman stories to invert to create something new.

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6
Batman (2011) #21

Jun 17, 2013

Batman #21 is a bold beginning for this new origin story. While “Zero Year” owes much to the origins in various media that have come before, it is its own comic to certain degrees. “Zero Year's” relationship to our current understanding of city life will be its ultimate trademark. This is easily the best understanding of the hallmarks of Snyder's Batman run: Gotham as character and as contemporary urban center.

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8
Batman (2011) #22

Jul 14, 2013

What this issue excels at is defining Bruce Wayne prior to becoming the Batman. This is of course his origin, but it's an origin taking place within a larger story, one that resonates with contemporary understandings of urban warfare and the results of adolescent psychological trauma. This is not a one or two dimensional Bruce Wayne. He is without a doubt still the tragic hero we have come to love, but the sides of his persona are far more complex and are not neatly split into a face and a mask. Besides, the mask is yet to come. He has to stop hiding first.

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9
Batman (2011) #23

Aug 19, 2013

This is not an expository issue, although you will see the necessary exposition that moves the entire Zero Year narrative along. It is an issue of dramatic revelation. The thread pattern intersects for one moment to inspire the next steps.

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5
Batman (2011) #28

Feb 24, 2014

And that is the real truth about Batman #28 and Batman: Eternal—initial impressions are mixed. To say this issue is good is a difficult judgment to make. There is not enough to go on. And by the same account I can't say that it is bad, despite the criticism I've leveled above. This is a teasing advertisement for another title, and while that title will supposedly have an effect on the main Batman comic, this story is more of an interruption to the story taking place at present. That is frustrating to an extent. While it gives us a peak at what Batman: Eternal could be about, and by coincidence give the authors time to adjust if there was a bad reaction to the material, it's hardly doing Zero Year any favors. But sales charts don't lie, and I'm sure everyone involved took that into account when putting this issue together. Spoiler: these Batmans will sell.

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5
Batman (2011) #29

Mar 18, 2014

The full wrath of Superstorm Rene hits Gotham just as Batman fails to stop the Riddler from bursting the retaining walls (something he didn't even know he was trying to prevent), but from the beginning of Batman #29 the entire issue is held underwater by the weight of too much exposition, too many character layers and too much grand scale action. You can definitely feel the desire for a cinematic quality to this issue, and it's an admirable attempt, but it's far too unevenly paced to rise above the coming tide.

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5
Batman (2011) #30

Apr 21, 2014

The pieces that make up Year Zero would seem valuable, and in the New 52 they are, but because so much of what we see and read has been done before, the depreciation is more than we anticipated. For all the Jim Gordon's camel-colored shame coats, we have special-ops teams dropping in to a cut-off city. For all the beautiful visuals created by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia"especially the double-page overgrown cityscape spread on pages six and seven"we have buildings toping over like trees or dominoes. One is repetitive. The other is laughable. And we've gotten to the point in this patchwork origin where it's hard to tell the difference.

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7
Batman (2011) Annual #2

Aug 4, 2013

The last beat of Batman Annual #2 tries to reinforce this idea of hope. Arkham, no matter how you describe it, is a terrifying a place – a place that can be a symbol of hope or despair. Eric describing Arkham, calls it, “A beacon in the dark. A friend.” He might as well be describing Batman, for the two are intimately tied together – both thematically and in the case of the last panel, visually. Unlike Batman, Eric hasn't put on a mask to overcome tragedy, though he wears a white coat uniform like a costume. He cannot be a frontline defense against the madness, but he can be that sign of faith that we can overcome our self-imposed cages. But it's his first day, and you have to wonder if this bit of story is ever revisited, would he still be as confident about this “beacon in the dark?”

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9
Blue Estate #10

Mar 19, 2012

Those two elements, the essentials of comic storytelling, are being weaved into quite the garment. It is well tailored with rich textures upon a solid pattern. While other comics typically stick to the mannequin, this piece invites that you try it on and wear it for a night on the town. The seamstresses of Blue Estate have crafted something that will never be mistaken for off the rack.

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9
Blue Estate #11

May 6, 2012

This is also the place where our fairytale shifts back to what exactly Blue Estate is: an E! True Hollywood Story inspired noir. The reasoning from a narrative perspective is fairly obvious; the decision to present that shift in the final page is rather clever. Allow the genre adjustment to happen prior to the final chapter so that it flows as naturally as the story has since issue one. Blue Estate has been one of the best comic series in recent memory, and issue eleven confirms that assessment. Next: the gritty ending.

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7
Bounce #3

Jul 30, 2013

But The Bounce wouldn't be half the book it is without its deconstruction attributes. Much the same as Hedwig and the Angry Inch would ring hollow if it didn't address both gender identity and romantic identity in glam rock themes like “Wig in a Box” and “The Origins of Love.” The narrative necessities of each story are what make them resonate. I just have to hold off tearing them down before they've confessed their purpose.

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8
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #1

Apr 1, 2014

It's an engaging issue in both aspects of the comic form, with a scope that is both large and scaled to the immediate. Its progression from direct contact point to larger issues and ramifications makes this particular comic issue an excellent opening to a new volume to any comic. Its tone that connects to larger aspects of adult life, like dealing with touchy romantic fallout, makes it an excellent Buffy The Vampire Slayer comic. Why can't we quit Buffy comics? It's because they are still just too cool.

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8
Burn The Orphanage: Born to Lose #1

Aug 13, 2013

Grace and co-writer Freedman say they wanted this comic to include “music, video games, inside jokes, fashion, and fun”. That spirit is evident from the opening fight sequence to the closing happy ending when the three characters walk off into the sunrise – complete with cameos by Grace and his frequent muse Sarah Jessica Parker. It's a story moved from pixels and tubes to dazzling and colorful glossy paper. Burn the Orphanage perfectly captures the video game culture of the ‘80s and ‘90s. It captures the flights of youth. It captures the positive spirit of nostalgia, reminding us how fun things used to be when we were innocent and the future held so much promise…of unlocking game achievements.

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5
Detective Comics (2011) #27

Jan 22, 2014

All in all, Detective Comics volume 2, #27, is unremarkable. Given how much advance notice the publishers and editors at DC Comics had, readers should expect more and better. Certain stories are rather enjoyable, but taken as a whole the issue does not feel as if it will be remembered a year from now. That is a wasted opportunity.

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6
Dial H #0

Sep 10, 2012

There is seemingly no formula for DC's Zero Month, as each zero issue takes on its own place in the grand scheme of its title. The introduction of new characters, the explanation of certain concepts, the revelations of backstory; all of which can aid a given title as it moves forward. The theme we really must look it is that each Zero issue is in a way a celebration of that title. Dial H #0 celebrates the titular gimmick, while also revealing an intriguing aspect that will undoubtedly have a great impact on the main storyarc to come. In that, it accomplished its task.

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9
Saga #10

Mar 3, 2013

This is where Saga captures our raw emotions. Vaughan's words and Staples' pencil work taking the fantastic and translating it into something clearly understandable. The relation to our own understanding is derived directly from the core concepts and emotions that anchor the book in our consciousness. It's a book about a horn-headed boy and a winged girl and the child they created, surviving in an ugly time. Let the metaphors speak for themselves, and let this single issue meditation overwhelm you in every way that can be allowed.

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7
Sex Criminals #1

Oct 2, 2013

The details, both in the script and dialogue and in the visual, are suggestively modest but thorough. Sex Criminals has the trappings of a romantic comedy and the frankness of a sex comedy. It's also a book about two people with powers. That set-up, which is pretty much the entire first issue, will have to give way to something deeper, something that continues to be frank about our sexual knowledge and creates a connection between protagonist and reader. It's partially there already, but like the transition of movie genres and the transformation of comics, Sex Criminals will need to take the best of its influences and make them its own.

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6
Superior Spider-Man #11

Jun 10, 2013

It's the big questions that drive Superior Spider-Man. Issue to issue it's entertaining, but as a whole it's far more interesting than its parts. Issue #11 is a good example, as the themes and the questions about those themes are the most interesting part about it. If it can maintain massaging the big questions, the rest will fall into place.

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6
Superior Spider-Man #12

Jul 8, 2013

While Superior Spider-Man #12 has its problems – the absurd villain monologues could be seen as taunting but are just shortcuts to tell us what's happening as to showing us – there is laudable work by writers Slott and Christos Gage and artists Giuseppe Camuncoli, John Dell, Terry Pallot and Antonio Fabela to take the requisite action installment and do more with it. Jameson and Spider-Ock are, for lack of a better term, two peas in a pod (or two arrogant semi-heroic men on a raft). We've definitely seen the evolution of Otto, despite the reliance on the clichés of super villain dialogue, but really Jameson has been the breakout character of recent Spider-Man comics. His grief, compounded with his confusion over the limits of power, show the hopelessness many of us confront in the face of death. That relatable quality is vital for reader engagement, and if for nothing else, Superior Spider-Man is engaging.

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5
Superior Spider-Man #13

Jul 22, 2013

More seems to be going into setting up the super villain anachronisms, like a longer form “Despicable Me” gag, that ruminates in the media-obsessed reader's desire for pop-culture self-revelation. Spider-Ock has an island now, and soon mail-ordered minions. The clichés are groan worthy.

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7
Talon #0

Sep 30, 2012

Getting back to the emotional core, Talon is connecting the old with the new: the escape artist tradition married to a creation that has its roots in the New 52. It is both a reflection of the new era and of the promise that is the New 52. New creations and fresh takes on old concepts; new creators with their hands in the past, but their feet planted in the present. Whether the rest of the New 52 has lived up to that idea is debatable. Talon is, however, certainly showing the potential that Tynion felt when he pitched the idea.

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8
The Li'l Depressed Boy #8

Jan 11, 2012

Issue eight of The Li'l Depressed Boy is just another excellent chapter in this book's run. Limitedly using Fisher's narrative paradigm as a guide, we can see that much of this rag doll's legacy is built upon the competition of other stories. Perhaps competition is the wrong word, as these previous artifacts of our culture infatuation with lovable underachievers are incorporated as tribute. Whatever the case, The Li'l Depressed Boy's heritage and its own use of subtlety to authentically connect with its audience is what makes the comic a welcome addition to spinner racks each month.

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10
The Li'l Depressed Boy #13

Sep 23, 2012

We must too. That is what makes The Li'l Depressed Boy #13 such a complete comic. It works in terms of structure, it works in terms of probability to reality, it works in terms of character development, and it works in terms of visual aesthetic. It's a ragdoll protagonist pursuing the relationship of his dreams, facing the harsh reality of a situation he never considered. And there's a popcorn popper firing hot buttered shrapnel. You could simply not ask for more.

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9
X-Men (2013) #1

Jun 2, 2013

The bottom-line is this: X-Men #1 is a beautiful and thoughtful work of modern mainstream comics.

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