Superheroes Love Quests Like Dogs Love to Bark: Jog on all the 11/14 superhero comics he bought that weren't World War Hulk

The last page of The Punisher #52? That's how you go for broke with the cliffhangers. I mean, just the way it's staged suggests that it's most likely a fake out, let alone the content, but... just the fact that I'm not 100% sure is a victory for everyone involved.

All Star Superman #9: Well, this is clearly a GOOD superhero comic we've got here, but it left me feeling kinda relieved that writer Grant Morrison is going to have to start ramping up the endgame soon; there's a formula at work with this series, but this is the first issue that's seemed formulaic. Almost every installment of this series has taken a look at some noteworthy character or trope from the accumulated Superman story pile, often having the title character himself confront some variant of himself, so as to emphasize some appealing or vital trait of his character. A super-challenge is overcome, Our Hero learns a little something on the way down life's path - see you all in two to four months.

But most of those issues also managed to dig right into the concept, with Morrison's stories drawing out rich human concerns from the gaiety of colorful Superman stuff, while also reaffirming the surface appeal of the concept. This issue has all the usual ideas -- Superman discovers a pair of imperious Krypton survivors have replaced him on Earth, trouble erupts, compassion ensues -- but they don't so much gel as a story as execute themselves in the familiar manner. As a result, usually fine elements like Morrison's character 'voices' seem more distanced than usual.

Still, nobody can quite do velocity and landscape like Frank Quitely -- those wide panels of tiny objects zipping almost imperceptibly across placid scenes are as vital to the book's identity as any of Morrison's words -- and there's lots of nice moments, balanced between visuals (some poor robot's arm getting carelessly knocked off) and words (Bar-El's freakout over Superman using his bare hands to save a life - elitism as prophylactic!), which go a ways toward making the comic pleasing, if not quite stunning.

Wolverine #59: Hot diggity dog, looks like we've got us a metaphysical journey on our hands! And it sort of works!

Mind you, I'm actually okay with the idea of Wolverine having a slumberland throwdown with LAZAER, ANGEL OF DEATH every time he's mortally wounded; it's goofy as hell, but steeped enough in the character's subconscious broil that I don't think it chafes with the concept any. It also lets writer Marc Guggenheim toss in a few lines of chewy Dr. Strange dialogue before Logan goes searching the immaterial for his lost soul, a snippy thing that transforms itself and its surroundings into a Greatest Hits collection of Wolverine costumes and locales.

Howard Chaykin admirers will have some fun with this, since the reality-shifting nature of the story lets him bust out some of those repeating layouts and poses he does so well, while rapidly touring moods and environments (as always, Edgar Delgado colors). Smoky WWI battlefields! Adamantium-dripping combat on Avalon's checkerboard floor! A Claremontian ballgame! I especially liked his John Romita, Jr. style in an Enemy of the State panel, and the Frank Miller-like strokes of the Hand's cloaks. His Dr. Strange is appealingly grizzled.

But make no mistake - this little walking tour is geared toward veteran Wolverine readers, who'll possibly get more out of Guggenheim's broody narration and... er, soulful dialogue than I did. The concluding revelation in particular sailed right over my head, since it seems firmly nailed down to prior storylines and Guggenheim doesn't offer much context. While I know enough to 'get' the various references, I can't say they do much more than broadcast typical superhero angst and provide a nice excuse for Chaykin to strut around.

It's got energy, though, and a bit of the playful charm Guggenheim brings to his better scripts. Pretty OKAY.