We've weathered quite a few storms these last few months, faithful readers - a hurricane, an election, the first snowfall and both a Black Thursday and Black Friday.
So stay strong, there's a only a few more weeks of holiday nonsense left to get through before we start the whole crazy cycle over again in 2013. Sound good? At least there's comic books to turn our minds to when all the season's Christmas commercials get to be too much.
SPIDER-MAN NO MORE
The beginning of the end has begun!
After more than 50 years of continuous publishing, Marvel's "Amazing Spider-Man" will soon be coming to an end.
Sure, I mentioned the news in a small aside last month, but then Marvel went and published issue No. 698 of "Amazing Spider-Man." It's the beginning of the end for Peter Parker. Spider-Man's still around though, at least for two more issues (plus a bonus Morbius issue). However, without giving too much away, issue No. 698 of "Amazing Spider-Man" appeared to be the end for Peter Parker.
Confused? Do yourself a favor and go pick up issue 698 of "Amazing Spider-Man." It's a perfect jumping-on point for readers interested in the end of Spider-Man.
Sure, it's the end of the series, and you'd like to go back and read the last dozen issues or so, but, trust me, this issue does its best to start fresh.
A lot has been happening in the comic in recent storylines, but Slott does a masterful job of keeping the new plot pretty straightforward and not too reliant upon recent issues. There are references to past events, but issue 698 of "Amazing Spider-Man" sets up something new which appears to begin the conclusion of the comic coming in issues 699 and 700.
The final issue of "Amazing Spider-Man," issue No. 700, will be released the day after Christmas. I believe it's the only comic that Marvel's putting out that day.
In its place, Marvel plans to launch a new title, called "The Superior Spider-Man." Sure, Spider-Man has had his share of titles throughout the years, such as "Web Of Spider-Man," "The Sensational Spider-Man," "Spectacular Spider-Man" and more, but this marks an end to the always present "Amazing Spider-Man."
I'm not going to spoil what's already out in the comics or speculate on what's to come. We'll just have to wait and see what Christmas brings. Hopefully Marvel's got a surprise for us up its sleeve.
But seriously, approach me on the street after reading issue No. 698. It's painful to have to write so cryptically about it. I want to shout its secrets from the rooftop, but I also wouldn't want to have its plot twists spoiled for me ... so I'll have to end it there.
Surprise, surprise! Unlike previous years, my annual holiday gift recommendations aren't entirely "Bat-centric." Note, I said "not entirely." There's literally one "non-Bat" thing in the following few paragraphs, but it's still a DC recommendation. Heh. Sorry, Marvel fans.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES - In only a few more days we'll all be able to own the third piece in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. After years of waiting, "The Dark Knight Rises" finally played in theaters this past July. Now, on Tuesday, the film comes to Blu-ray, DVD and digital download. Love it or hate it, the film concludes not only Nolan's trilogy, but is in a sense "a final Batman story" - and those are always interesting for that reason alone. Sure, the ongoing continuity of DC's main DC universe is half the fun of what reading and collecting monthly comics is all about. However, I grew up loving Elseworlds stories and stuff that happens outside of continuity, or that creates its own continuity. I know people who have hated all the Nolan "Batman" movies since "Batman Begins," but I love them as much for what they are as for what they aren't, if that makes any sense. So whether you caught it in the theaters or have yet to view the film, Tuesday brings the chance to rewatch "The Dark Knight Rises" or to view it for the first time or to gift it to others this holiday season.
THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS - Looking for more Batman to watch on DVD? Well, Warner Home Video recently issued the first in a two-part cartoon film called "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns." The direct to DVD film is the first half of the comic of the same name which was written and drawn by Frank Miller back in 1986. The story is set in a future version of Gotham City where Bruce Wayne is in his 50s and has retried from being Batman. Criminals now run rampant in the city and its citizens are terrorized by a gang known as the Mutants. In the years since its release, Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" has come to be known as one of the greatest graphic novels of all time. It's one of those milestone comics that elevated the artform from something just for kids to something appealing to adults. There's a lot at play in the story, and the first part of this DVD set of films does a more than decent job in translating the story and art from the pages of the book to the screen. Pick it up in combination with "The Dark Knight Rises." I promise, it'll make for a great back-to-back viewing.
SMODCAST - Kevin Smith has a stable of podcasts online at Smodcast.com. Regardless of what you think of the man as a director, the guy can talk. And at Smodcast.com there are several shows that don't have anything to do with him. Still, the guy's a riot, and I think I've grown to like his podcast output more than his actual film work. So why am I recommending giving the gift of Smod this holiday season? Well, there are a few podcasts where Smith talks about comics (and in specifically, Batman). So, if you happen to want to pair something with "The Dark Knight Rises" or with "The Dark Knight Returns," Smith has whole podcast episodes dedicated to commentary, criticism and just general blathering about the works. Check out his "Fat Man On Batman" series as well as his recent Batman podcasts with Scott Mosier on the titular Smodcast podcast. Plus, all the podcasts are free. Sure, there's a way to subscribe and support the site, but check it out for free first to see if you like it. Or just give a listen to the Batman stuff I've mentioned, but I'm sure doing that will get most first-time listeners hooked on the site as a whole.
THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN - It's been 20 years since "The Death of Superman." The comic book event got its start back in October and November of 1992, with the big issue arriving in January of 1993. The idea was a huge one at the time, that DC could kill off one of its biggest characters. And for all the pros and cons of how the "Death" and return of Superman played out in the comics, it was a huge event. So, while there are a number of new DVDs, video games and comic books to give as gifts this holiday season, there are also nostalgic options such as this. Revisit "The Death of Superman" and share the story now as it's the milestone's anniversary.
Out now from Dynamite Entertainment is the first issue of "Masks," a new series bringing together a number of classic pulp heroes.
Written by Chris Roberson, the series is painted by Alex Ross. That's right, painted ... by Alex Ross.
Last October my wife and I took a road trip to see the "Heroes & Villains" exhibit at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. It was a birthday surprise for me, and it was my wife's first exposure to Ross's artwork.
Ask any comic fan about Alex Ross, and chances are they can tell you about the artist. Or, if not by name, chances are they'll recognize his work on sight. Ross is a painter, and all his pieces are so stylized that he's a favorite of writers, publishers, readers and most everyone else in the industry. His work is almost photorealistic and was pretty awe-inspiring to see in person.
Less than a week on the comic book stands, this first issue of "Masks" by Dynamite Entertainment marks Ross's first time doing interior art in a while. His painting process is so involved that he usually only does covers.
Dynamite Entertainment isn't one of the big two (DC and Marvel), but since being founded in 2004 it's become home to a number of notable and popular titles - such as "Green Hornet," Vampirella," "Bionic Man," Warlord of Mars" and "Game of Thrones."
In "Masks," the publisher brings together the Shadow, the Green Hornet, Kato, the Spider and more to take on corruption in the 1930s. Set in New York state in 1930, something called "The Justice Party" has just taken office in the state, but the newly elected officials are in the control of powerful criminals. With a corrupt government in place, the criminals are free to bend the laws to their own advantage. A fascist police state is instituted and the only ones who stand in defense of the innocent are the era's masked vigilantes.
Roberson is an author with several books and stories to his name, including the Vertigo series iZombie. The first issue of "Masks" is out now, having hit the stands on Nov. 28.
"For years now, Dynamite Entertainment and I have desired to unite all of the varied pulp characters they've been publishing into one big crossover event," Alex Ross said recently of the series. "When the Green Hornet and Kato paved the way for a successful relaunch of the original masked duo characters, we knew that the grand prize of revivals should then be the ultimate original, the Shadow. Now, to be able for the first time in history to have these legends meet, along with fellow mysterymen The Spider, Zorro, Black Bat and others, makes this project a unique accomplishment. I always thought that illustrating the first hero archetypes like The Shadow would be a milestone in my career. I'm thrilled to touch upon the legends that began the very concept of the superhero in 'Masks' with a crossover that is literally the longest overdue."
Tonight's the night!
I think this really deserves its own subsection, but I'll wrap up this month's column with it here in "Assorted Etceteras."
Tonight's the night! The mid-season finale of "The Walking Dead." That's right, the show's going on break - and I can't even imagine how they're going to wrap things up tonight (or what they're going to leaving hanging for the start of the next half of the season).
After eight episodes, "The Walking Dead" is going on hiatus until 2013. That's right, we've got to suffer through the holidays to come without any new zombie shows whatsoever. So frustrating. But, undoubtedly, the delay will build up anticipation. Having read the bulk of the comic book series, I can't wait to see how the show continues the Woodbury storyline or whether something new's going to start up. Maybe everything involving the people of Woodbury will resolve tonight? Or maybe there'll be a second climax with them at the end of the second half of the season. And that's only part of the appeal. Then there's the brothers Dixon being reunited, Andrea maybe returning to the group and oh so many possibilities for Rick and Michonne.
There's too much to say and not enough that can be said without giving away spoilers, so I think I'll end this month's column here. More from me in a month's time.
"Nerding Out With Nick Dean" is a monthly column about comic books, movies and more. For more, visit NerdingOutWithNick Dean.blogspot.com.