Braving the gauntlet of Big Two events, prestige format risk-takers, off-the-radar indie releases and a non-stop avalanche of floppies is DoomRocket’s HOT PRESS. With so much media out there screaming for your eyeballs, HOT PRESS is here with short-burst news and reviews of the latest stuff you should be paying attention to. This week: MCU Thor thoughts, the great new Amazing Spider-Man run, and a dodgy new Batman debut.

by Jarrod Jones. I’m developing my annual summer brain fog, which typically follows a minor Marvel Studios binge-watch in preparation for the hot new installment of a Marvel Studios movie that I will almost certainly not enjoy as much as I’m meant to. Lots of Thor and Avengers watching in my house right now. MJ is ecstatic. Me? Sanguine.

So sitting down with The Avengers (2012) again was good. I still think it’s one of the stronger superhero movies ever made, and while the leviathan that is the House That Feige Built has swelled to unwieldy proportions there is something to be said about how well all the preceding Phase One films snapped into place and created this phenomenon that, culturally, we are all now paying for beyond what was originally agreed. Watching the Thor storyline through his appearances in both the Avengers films and his own is a chaotic and inconsistent experience, which is exactly how I’d describe the output of Marvel Studios since The Avengers.

Watching Thor: The Dark World again made me feel a lot better about watching Thor and especially Thor: Ragnarok, the latter of which I enjoy more now for its weirdo hangout vibes than I do its faint commentary on how power structures are built over the bloody remains of those who fought against them—after all its hand-wringing about the awfulness that was the reign of Odin and how Asgard is not a place but a people, Thor does end up sitting that throne by the end of the film. Because of the ongoing nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe we know Thor Odinson’s reign was remarkably short-lived, but within the confines of this entry the ending muddies its message. No big thematic swings here, just a bunt.

Ragnarok‘s unabashed funkiness and swagger, as welcome as it was when it came out, makes me worried for Thor: Love and Thunder. The Marvel Studios formula has a tendency to double down on what makes audiences roar; between the multiversal cameo parades of Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and its post-Guardians of the Galaxy jukebox soundtracks and doofy ad-libbing nonsense, Love and Thunder looks like it could be a Dark World-level mess. Topping all prior installments in terms of scale and spectacle, chasing what’s worked before at the consequence of what’s needed now, taking the piss out of the concept of superheroes for broad-audience appeal, etc. I could be wrong (I love being wrong when I’m sure a movie is gonna be bad), but right now I’m hours away from my screening and whoo—I’m nervous.

Anyway, let’s talk about other stuff.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #1-5. New ASM might be another status quo-establishing reset for Marvel, but I’m happy to report that what they’re doing here reads like frantic, street-level, no-good-deed-goes-unpunished Spidey stuff, my preferred Spidey stuff. Peter’s patented Parker Luck is back and it’s knocking Ol’ Web-Head around; all is right with the world.

This opening arc, it should be noted, is a Tombstone story—and while I’ve never really given two thwips about Tombstone, Zeb Wells reestablishes him as a man entering a new, more philosophical phase in his life, where his ceaseless Manhattan mob war has grown tedious and it’s time to work smarter, not harder. Of course Spider-Man is only too willing to throw himself at Tombstone’s complex power grab, which makes the comic quickly spin into a thrilling series of mind games, gut-punches, and rug-pulls that are only maximized by the frenzied and impactful pencil work of John Romita, Jr. These five issues are a riot to read in a way that makes me excited to set down an issue of The Amazing Spider-Man just so I can immediately read the next. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time that happened.

Batman #125. An all-new Batman era that feels like an extension of what we’ve been reading for a while now, but at least Jorge Jiménez and Tomeu Morey are back and they’re flexing big-time with a renewed sense of vigor. Chip Zdarsky’s been doing solid stuff with his Batman-begins-again-origin-story Batman: The Knight and I’m sure a lot of what’s playing out over there will inevitably bleed into his big plans for Batman, but as far as first impressions are concerned Batman #125 reads like a mad scramble.

Its ambitions: to re-establish the status quo (nothing much has changed on that particular Bat-front since “Joker War”); touch base with characters who will apparently factor into this opening arc (Catwoman, Penguin, and Tim Drake); and summarily remove most of them from the board in shocking fashion before tossing the latest main heavy/oppositional force in Batman’s life at us and suggesting we keep reading in order to better appreciate the bigger picture. My gripe with this issue was the same as my gripe with Joshua Williamson’s Batman debut a few months back: it takes the baton (Bat-on?) and runs with it, which means spinning its wheels until it’s time for another Big Reveal of another Big Bad without making us give a single rip about what this new creative team might bring to the series beyond what we’ve read before. It’s fine! Future issues need to be better.

– So I’ve decided to dedicate a chunk of my time to writing about DC’s 1993 annual-event saga Bloodlines, because: I spent too much money collecting the entire 25-issue run, I have never read a single issue of it (save for the Hitman first appearance in The Demon Annual #2), and I find DC’s dodgy, try-hard approach to finding acceptance in the Anti-Hero/Bad Girl era of the early 90s somewhat charming. This retrospective series will fly under the banner of RETROGRADING, naturally, and it should be fun! (At least, I hope it’ll be fun!) The first installment, where I unpack the first chapter of Bloodlines: Outbreak within the pages of the killer Lobo Annual #1, can be read here.

James Caan passed away today. I’m not particularly great at writing obituaries but I will suggest that if your only reference to the man’s career is The Godfather you should seek out these other films that were enriched by his muscular, no-bullshit presence: Thief, Rollerball, The Gambler, Elf, Misery, The Yards, Dogville.

– If you, like me, have been diving into the works of Tim Sale following the terrible news of his passing, I’d like to direct you to this interview Sale had back in 2008 with The Comics Journal‘s Joe McCabe. It was in this interview that I discovered that Sale was color-blind, and McCabe and Sale’s brief back-and-forth about color is but one of many great reasons you should read this piece, it’s really something.

That’s all I got for this week. Read any good comics lately? Drop them in the comments or write me: jarrod@doomrocket.com.

More HOT PRESS:

HOT PRESS 6/30/22: Getting back on track, Shelly Bond’s Filth & Grammar, and other fun stuff

HOT PRESS 4/1/22: DC’s second round of Round Robin, Moon Knight, and other things

HOT PRESS 2/25/22: Holy Bat-Chip-perverse (and other things)!