Pre-vacation reviews

I should finish these reviews soon because I’m about to go out of town. Two more comics from the week of June 30:

BUG! THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #2 (DC, 2017) – “Snow Job: Domino Effect Part 2 of 5,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. Another weird and confusing story full of Kirby characters. This series is doing a good job of evoking the mood of Kirby’s ‘70s DC comics.

FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #10 (DC, 1976) – “We’re the Outsiders”, [W] Joe Simon, [A] Jerry Grandenetti. A truly bizarre story about a team of weird-looking with appropriately weird artwork. This comic’s writing and art are old-fashioned, and the characters have little interest other than shock value, so it’s no wonder that these characters never appeared again. But this issue is interesting as an oddball one-off story. This issue includes a major continuity error. The issue begins with a flash-forward in which the Outsiders head off to their latest mission, in which they recruit their newest member, a child with a giant head. But at the end of the issue, when we return to the same scene depicted in the flash-forward, the child with a huge head is already a member of the Outsiders.

New comics received on July 7. This was a long week because the next comics shipment didn’t arrive until the following Tuesday.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #29 (Image, 2017) – “The First Degree,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. I don’t remember this issue very well. There’s a lot of intra-group politics, and Persephone sleeps with Sakhmet.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #7 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jamie McKelvie, [A] Veronica Fish. This issue is narrated by Janet Van Dyne, who I guess is alive again. It has to be considered one of the best stories about this character, right up there with some of Roger Stern’s stories. Jeremy has a specific take on this character which is not necessarily mine, and he describes Hank’s abuse as an ongoing phenomenon rather than a one-time thing, which I don’t quite agree with. But he writes her as a woman who has a forceful personality and who really has her shit together. He correctly demonstrates that Jan’s flightiness and fashion obsession are deceptive. And Jan and Nadia’s stepmom-stepdaughter relationship is really cute. This was a really good issue, and I’m sorry this series appears to be ending.

RAT QUEENS II #4 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. Kind of an average issue. The painted art style on the last few pages is intriguing. The rock-cut temple is obviously inspired by the similar-looking building in Petra, Jordan.

KIM & KIM: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #1 (Black Mask, 2017) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. This is very good. It has witty dialogue, a complicated plot, and detailed and exciting artwork. I especially like how all the background characters look as if they have their own stories.

ZODIAC STARFORCE: CRIES OF THE FIRE PRINCE #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kevin Panetta, [A] Paulina Ganucheau. So far this miniseries is very similar to the first miniseries, but I’m glad that this comic is doing well enough to warrant a sequel. This issue has a cute page with a girl watching her turtle eat, and two monsters made of a blender and a washing machine.

GIANT DAYS #28 (Boom!, 2017) – “And So, They Didn’t”, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Some weird noises are coming from the garage that the girls aren’t allowed into, and they think it’s a ghost. It turns out their neighbor is using the garage to breed chinchillas. This issue has some excellent art.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #4 (IDW, 2017) – “Flash Magnus,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brenda Hickey. The story of how Flash Magnus saves some griffins from a storm, at the risk of causing an international border dispute. This issue was just okay. Legends of Magic is worse than the series it replaced, Friends Forever.

HAWKEYE #8 (Marvel, 2017) – “…They All Fall Down,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. We already knew Derek Bishop was a horrible person, but this issue we learn that he’s also a supervillain. Also, there’s another plot thread where Kate goes looking for a girl’s missing father and finds herself in a fight club.

I must have been pretty tired when I read these first eight comics, because I don’t remember much about them. Here’s one I do remember:

CHAMPIONS #10 (Marvel, 2017) – “The One Where Mark Waid Defends Internment Camps” (unofficial title), [W] Mark Waid, [A] Humberto Ramos. I’ve already said a lot about this comic book on Facebook, and I don’t want to repeat myself. I’ll just say that this is a terrible comic, and Marvel needs better editorial oversight so that they won’t continue to print comics like this. The main problem with this comic is the page where the mutant family decides to stay in an internment camp, and Amadeus Cho says that “as an Asian-American” he doesn’t like internment camps, but he supports their decision. This is horribly tone-deaf. There is perhaps an interesting story to be told about people who would rather stay in a concentration camp than be freed, but Mark Waid has neither the writing skill nor the sensitivity to tell that story. I also have issues with the way Mark reacted to the criticism of this story, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about that here. Suffice it to say, this will be my last issue of Champions, and I’ll have to think twice before buying any more Mark Waid comics, and I say that as someone who’s been a fan of his for almost 25 years.

SNOTGIRL #6 (Image, 2017) – “Since You’ve Been Gone,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Glad to see this series again, although it’s hard to remember the plot or the characters. This issue introduces Misty (Cutegirl)’s identical twin sister Bonnie.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: THE MISFITS: INFINITE #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite, Part Two,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. The Misfits follow the Holograms into Techrat’s alternate universe, which turns out to be a dystopia. Also, the Misfits finally learn Jem’s secret identity. I don’t know why this has to be a different series from Jem and the Holograms Infinite.

CLASSIC STAR WARS: THE VANDELHELM MISSION (Dark Horse, 1995) – “Supply and Demand,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Al Williamson. This is a reprint of Marvel’s Star Wars #98. In this story, Han Solo has to protect two bratty kids, who are visually based on Al Williamson’s own children. Goodwin and Williamson are an incredible creative team, and in this issue they turn in an excellent performance. Archie’s story is funny, cute and exciting, and Al Williamson’s art is as incredible as usual. As I read this issue, I got so absorbed in the story that I kept forgetting to admire the incredible craftsmanship of the art.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #81 (Marvel, 1982) – “The Road to Halwan,” [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Denys Cowan. Jeryn Hogarth sends Danny and Luke on a mission to Halwan, the native country of the princess from Marvel Premiere #24, which I reviewed last year. In Halwan, Luke and Danny encounter Boris and Ninotchka from issue 77. This is a good issue, but not as good as the last two Power Man & Iron Fist issues I read.

STRANGE SPORTS STORIES #4 (Vertigo, 2015) – various [W/A]. A mixed bag. The best story in this issue is probably the first, by Genevieve Valentine and Joseba Larratxe, which is an extended comparison between falconry and women’s oppression. The next story, by Brian Buccellato and Megan Levens, is an unimaginative rip-off of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” “The Time-Grappler!” by Aubrey Sitterson and Max Dunbar is a kind of funny story about a time-traveling professional wrestler. The issue ends with a solo story by Paul Pope, but it’s far from his best work, and I didn’t even realize it was him until I saw the credits.

DETECTIVE COMICS #501 (DC, 1981) – “The Man Who Killed Mlle. Marie!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Don Newton. This issue introduces Julia Pennyworth, the adult daughter of Alfred Pennyworth and Mlle. Marie. It’s also notable because it takes place in Paris and it’s about the legacy of the French Resistance. In 1981, World War II was recent enough that Alfred and Lucius Fox could plausibly be depicted as WWII veterans. The Batgirl backup story, by Cary Burkett and José Delbo, is less bad than I expected.

FANTASTIC FOUR #127 (Marvel, 1972) – “Where the Sun Does Not Shine!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. Suffering from one of his usual temper tantrums, the Thing heads off on his own to look for the Mole Man. He encounters the Mole Man’s fiancee Kala, Queen of the Netherworld, who makes her first appearance since Tales of Suspense #43. Meanwhile, the rest of the FF go looking for Ben, and in a typical piece of sexism, Reed tries to convince Sue to stay home with Franklin. This issue has some stunning John Buscema artwork.

ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN #1 (Image, 2017) – “One evening as the sun went down,” [W/A] Kyle Starks. This is a fantasy comic about Jackson, a veteran hobo with a mysterious past, and his sidekick Pomona Slim, a novice hobo. I’m not in love with the art in this comic, but the writing is funny, and the comic shows an impressive depth of historical research into hobo culture. This issue ends with an essay by Eric Newsom, a professor at the University of Central Missouri, about the song for which this comic is named.

ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN #2 (Image, 2017) – “The bulldogs all have rubber teeth,” as above. For some reason I don’t recall, Jackson visits a hobo fight club where he intentionally loses to another hobo named Hundred Cat.

ALL-STAR COMICS #65 (DC, 1977) – “The Master Plan of Vandal Savage,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Wally Wood. This series is worse than Paul’s other major works from the ‘70s (Legion and Huntress), mostly because Power Girl is the only truly interesting character. But this issue isn’t bad. There’s an exciting plot in which the JSA battles Vandal Savage, and Woody’s artwork is spectacular.

BATMAN #605 (DC, 2002) – “Courage,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Scott McDaniel. In the conclusion to the 18-part “Bruce Wayne, Fugitive” saga, Batman proves that David Cain, not Bruce Wayne, killed Vesper Fairchild. I suppose I’d have enjoyed this more if I’d read the previous 18 parts, but this story seems like a pretty average and forgettable crossover. Also, Scott McDaniel’s art is very unimpressive.

COLORFUL MONSTERS (Drawn & Quarterly, 2017) – various [W/A]. This FCBD comic includes stories by Tove Jansson, Elise Gravel, Anouk Ricard and Shigeru Mizuki. The best of the four are Tove Jansson’s Moomin story, which is really weird, and Mizuki’s Kitaro story. However, by the time I read this comic, I was feeling rather tired and I thought the length of the comic was excessive.

ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN #3 (Image, 2017) – “Beside the crystal fountain,” as above. The devil, who has been pursuing Jackson for the whole series, finally catches up to him. Jackson beats him in a fight, because he previously bargained with the devil for the power to defeat any single man in combat. And it turns out that the thing Jackson is carrying is the Spear of Destiny, which is an annoying cliché.

ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN #4 (Image, 2017) – “The Jails Are Made of Tin,” as above. Jackson and Pomona Slim are arrested and sent to prison. Jackson beats up everyone else in the prison, one at a time, then he and Slim escape, and Slim makes the surprisingly sensible decision to leave Jackson and go back home. Now that I’m caught up on this series, it’s not my favorite Image comic, but I’m going to keep reading it.

IMAGE FIRSTS: VELVET #1 (Image, 2014) – “Before the Living End,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Michael Lark. The protagonist of this series is the secretary for a spy agency, who turns out to be quite a badass herself. The overall aesthetic is pretty similar to that of any other Ed Brubaker comic, but Michael Lark’s artwork is spectacular.

SEEKERS INTO THE MYSTERY #1 (Vertigo, 1996) – “The Pilgrimage of Lucas Hart, Chapter One: The Little Man with the Knives,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Glenn Barr. This is part of JM DeMatteis’s large and underappreciated body of work in the fantasy genre. The protagonist of this story is a burned-out, washed-up Hollywood screenwriter who, at the end of the issue, encounters a homeless man with magic powers. This first issue is a bit of a slow start, but I’m curious to see where this story goes.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #34 DIRECTOR’S CUT (Marvel, 2008) – “The Burden of Dreams, Part Four,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Bucky and the Black Widow team up against the Red Skull. This is an exciting story with excellent art, but it also reminds me that I quit reading Ed Brubaker’s Captain America because all the stories resembled each other too much. This issue is a “director’s cut” edition, meaning it includes Brubaker’s original script, which is of limited interest because Brubaker provides very few directions to the artist.

BAREFOOTZ #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1976) – various stories, [W/A] Howard Cruse. Some interesting but uneven early work by the pioneer of gay comics. Most of this issue consists of one- or two-page strips about a character named Barefootz. These strips are not particularly funny and include no references to gay themes. They’re only interesting because of Cruse’s slick draftsmanship and lettering and his effective use of crosshatching and pontillism. A more interesting story is “Gravy on Gay,” in which Barefootz’s gay friend Headcrack encounters a homophobic jerk. This story is also kind of unfunny, but it shows that Cruse was at least starting to think about the gay themes that would be central to his major works.

JONNY QUEST #12 (Comico, 1987) – “Buried Treasure,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Dan Spiegle. I have raved about this series before, and this is one of its best issues. It’s a perfect depiction of a stepmother/stepchild relationship. Benton Quest is falling in love with Kathy Martin, but Jonny doesn’t want her to replace his mother. Meanwhile, Kathy is afraid that she can’t compete with Benton’s late wife, who (in this continuity) was a reckless adventurer, exactly the opposite of Kathy. When the Quest family go on a mission to rescue a missing girl from a Neanderthal tribe, Kathy nearly gets herself killed trying to be more adventurous, but then saves the day because of her trusting and empathetic nature. And this experience helps Jonny and Kathy to start to feel comfortable with each other. This is just a beautiful story, and it’s a shame that it’s out of print. Based on a conversation I had on Facebook, I understand that there are both technical and legal difficulties with reprinting this material, which is very unfortunate. Jonny Quest was not only the best licensed-property comic book of the ‘80s, but one of the best comic books, period.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #6 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Yeah! Yeah! The Clang Twang!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. This is similar to other Beanworld comics, but radically different from any other comic book. The Boom’r Band and Proffy invent a new style of music, and meanwhile, Beanish falls in love with a mysterious floating-head woman from an alternate dimension.

VALERIAN AND LAURELINE #1 (Cinebook, 2010, originally 1976) – “The City of Shifting Waters,” [W] Pierre Christin, [A] Jean-Claude Mézières. This is the first Valerian story to be published as an album. An earlier story, “Les Mauvais Rêves,” was published earlier in serial form but was not collected until much later. In this comic, Valerian and Laureline travel back in time to a New York which has been sunk by a massive flood (maybe this is prophetic). This album is exciting, but the artwork is much looser and cartoonier than in later albums, although there are some really nice splash panels. The most intriguing thing about the story is that it includes one character based on Sun Ra, and another based on Jerry Lewis’s character from The Nutty Professor.

YOUR BLACK FRIEND (Silver Sprocket, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ben Passmore. This is an important piece of work and should be an Eisner contender. I already sympathize with the argument of this comic, but even then, I found it disturbing. My complaint about this comic is that $5 for eleven pages is exorbitant.

SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL #4 (Marvel, 1973) – “Cry – Mandrill!”, [W] Carole Seuling & Steve Gerber, [A] Ross Andru. I didn’t know this comic existed until I bought it at Heroes Con. It’s one of the more obscure examples of Marvel’s early-‘70s line of feminist comics. This issue, Shanna and her leopards Ina and Biri encounter the Mandrill and his army of mind-controlled women. Shanna at this point was a somewhat different character than she would eventually become; her primary gimmick is her pet leopards.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #180 (Fawcett, 1978) – various uncredited stories. The stories in this issue includes one where Dennis gets Gina’s mother to feed him, one where Dennis and his dad raise some butterflies, and another where Dennis’s dad gets bursitis. One of the short pieces in this issue is reprinted from another issue that I already read. I guess Fawcett reused a lot of material.

SUPERMAN #266 (DC, 1973) – “The Nightmare Maker,” [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Curt Swan. Kind of a weird story in which Superman battles an abominable snowman that’s really a giant alien statue. The best moment in the story is where Steve Lombard sticks Clark Kent with a taxi fare, and in revenge, Clark ruins Steve’s date by making his corsage wilt. There’s also a World of Krypton backup story in which two young siblings encounter a space probe sent to Krypton by the ruler of Atlantis.

DETECTIVE COMICS #459 (DC, 1976) – “A Clue Before Dying!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] José Luis García-López. This issue’s lead story is a murder mystery in which the victim is a mystery writer named Elliott Quinn. This name is an obvious homage to Ellery Queen, and one of the suspects is named Inspector Dannay, a reference to Frederic Dannay, the assumed name of one of Ellery Queen’s creators. I assume this story includes other Ellery Queen references I didn’t notice. This issue also has a OMan-Bat backup story by Pasko and Pablo Marcos.

FOUR WOMEN #1 (DC, 2001) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth. A slice-of-life story about four women whose car breaks down while they’re on a road trip. Sam Kieth’s art is quite good, but his dialogue reads like a man’s idea of what women talk about to each other.

A1 #1 (Atomeka, 1989) – various stories, [E] Dave Elliott & Garry Leach. ([E] means edited by.) This anthology has an amazing lineup of talent. The most exciting story is “Ghostdance” starring the Warpsmiths, by Alan Moore and Garry Leach. This story, set in the Miracleman universe, was never published anywhere else until the Marvel edition of Miracleman #4. Other creators featured include Barry Windsor-Smith, Eddie Campbell, Brian Bolland, Bill Sienkiewicz, John Bolton, Dave Gibbons, Ted McKeever, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, and Glenn Fabry, doing very rare interior art. There’s even a convincing fake Golden Age strip by Paris Cullins and Dave Elliott. In short, this anthology represents the best in ‘80s British comics. The only bad story in the lot is “Wayfarer: A Taste of Gold” by Paul Behrer and Una Fricker. I bought two other issues of this series at Heroes Con, but haven’t gotten around to them yet.

DEATH RATTLE #6 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – various stories, [E] Denis Kitchen & Dave Schreiner. An excellent horror-themed anthology comic. This issue begins with Tom Veitch and Steve Bissette’s “Roadkills,” about some people who scavenge for roadkill and then become roadkill themselves. “Catcalls” by Jan Strnad and Rand Holmes is a more EC-esque horror story, about a negligent babysitter who kills her clients’ baby and tries to blame it on the cat. Finally, Jaxon’s “Bulto,” part four of a multi-part story, combines his usual Southwestern historical themes with cosmic horror. Jaxon’s depiction of a Lovecraftian god is amazing; I didn’t realize he was so good at that sort of thing.

VANGUARD ILLUSTRATED #3 (Pacific, 1984) – various stories, [E] David Scroggy. This anthology title was intended as a showcase for new talent. The best things in it are the gorgeous Al Williamson cover and the “Freakwave” story by Milligan and McCarthy. It has a weird metatextual ending in which the Drifter, one of the characters in the story, assassinates Milligan and McCarthy themselves. Next is the third installment of Baron and Rude’s encyclopedia salesman story, which was commissioned before Nexus began, but published after. This story isn’t that great but it does demonstrate Rude’s amazing talent. Rex Lindsay’s “Killer in Orbit!” is a bad Ditko pastiche. David Campiti and Tom Yeates’s story is well-drawn, but the story is a gushing homage to Ray Bradbury, a writer who I’ve never liked as much as some people do.

HUNDREDS OF FEET BELOW DAYLIGHT (Drawn & Quarterly, 1998) – “Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight,” [W/A] James Sturm. This is the second installment of the American historical trilogy that began with The Revival and ended with The Golem’s Mighty Swing. It’s a harrowing and exhaustively researched story about a 19th-century Idaho mining town. The characters are powerfully depicted and the story is compelling, although the conclusion leaves a bunch of mysteries unresolved. I didn’t like this story quite as much as The Golem’s Mighty Swing, but it’s at a comparable level of quality. James Sturm is doing great work as the director of the Center for Cartoon Studies, but I hope we see more comics from him soon.

THE ELSEWHERE PRINCE #2 (Epic, 1990) – “The Princess,” [W] Moebius & R.J.M. Lofficer, [A] Eric Shanower. This is a spinoff of Moebius’s Airtight Garage, a comic which is currently unavailable in English, and I hope Dark Horse gets around to reprinting it soon. It’s about an unnamed young man who gets involved in some kind of a war. The writing is fairly similar to Moebius’s usual style, though I assume the Lofficers wrote the script. The artwork is excellent, maybe a smidge below the quality of Age of Bronze, and the coloring is awesome. I should look for the rest of this miniseries, while I’m waiting for Dark Horse to publish more Moebius books.

THE BOOK OF NIGHT #3 (Dark Horse, 1987) – various stories, [W/A] Charles Vess. An obscure work by perhaps the world’s best fantasy artist. All the stories in this issue are reprinted from old issues of Epic Illustrated. These stories were originally in color, but when they’re reprinted in black and white, Charles Vess’s unequalled draftsmanship comes through even more strongly. As with Book of Ballads and Sagas, the stories are a little weak, but it hardly matters when the art is this good. This issue also includes some illustrations done by Vess as early as 1977, proving that he was a world-class artist from the very start of his career.

THE BARBARIANS #1 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “The Mountain of Mutants,” [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Larry Lieber. The only issue of this series, which was a spinoff from Ironjaw. I thought this was Ironjaw #1 at first, since the cover displays the name Ironjaw more prominently than the name The Barbarians, and I didn’t understand why the story began in media res. The Ironjaw story is notable only for a scene of near rape which made it past the Comics Code. What’s much more interesting is the backup story, “Andrax.” This is credited to “Rolf Kauka/Bardon” but is actually by Peter Wiechmann and, of all people, Jordi Bernet. It originally appeared in 1973 in a German-language Swiss comic called Primo, and I can’t imagine why Atlas chose to reprint it (I asked David Roach this, and he didn’t know). It’s a fun adventure story, although I wouldn’t have guessed the art was by Bernet if I hadn’t looked it up.

MEGATON MAN MEETS THE UNCATEGORIZABLE X+ THEMS #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1989) – untitled, [W/A] Don Simpson. This one-shot was published after the end of the Megaton Man ongoing series. As the title indicates, it’s an X-Men parody. The parody elements of this comic are kind of outdated and unfunny by now, but there’s more to this comic than that. Besides the scenes with the X-Men stand-ins, there’s also a parallel plot thread involving Trent Phloog, the depowered former Megaton Man, and his friends such as Preston Percy. Don Simpson seems to genuinely care about these characters; they feel like people and not just superhero parodies. Also, this comic is set in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has a strong sense of local specificity. These aspects make this comic more than a bad superhero parody. This issue has one really disturbing scene where the Golden Age Megaton Man commits statutory rape with a character based on Kitty Pryde, but Simpson does seem to understand how creepy this is.

SPOOF #2 (Marvel, 1972) – “Tales from the Creep,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Marie Severin, plus other stories. This looks like a bad Mad Magazine ripoff, and it kind of is. But it has some excellent art by Marie Severin, even if some of the jokes fall flat. The second story, a Tarzan parody by Roy Thomas and both Severins, is a somewhat witty parody of colonialist cliches; the joke is that Tarzan returns to Africa after decolonization. The third story, an All in the Family parody by Henry Scarpelli and Stu Schwarzenberg, includes parody versions of a number of comic strips and political cartoons.

GREEN LANTERN #143 (DC, 1981) – “Call Him Auron! God of Light! God of Death!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Joe Staton. I read this bad comic to decompress after reading a number of more emotionally taxing and artistically accomplished comics. This is a Green Lantern story in name only; it’s part of Marv’s Omega Men saga, which ran through Action Comics and New Teen Titans as well as GL, and Hal Jordan only appears on 10 of 17 pages. The Adam Strange backup by Laurie Sutton and Rodin Rodriguez is actually better than the lead story.

New comics received on July 17, several days late:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #22 (Marvel, 2017) – “Enter the Savage Land,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. As usual, this issue is hilarious. Doreen and Nancy win a vacation to the Savage Land, where they see some dinosaurs, encounter some Latverian college students, and get involved in a plan to save the Savage Land from dying. Doreen and Nancy’s excitement at seeing the dinosaurs is adorable, and this issue is full of funny jokes, like a book called “Eat, Pray, Doom.” My Facebook friend Bernadette Bosky has a letter published in this issue.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #11 (DC, 2017) – “The Ballad of Olive Silverlock, Part Three,” [W] Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, [A] Adam Archer. Maps gives Olive a piece of her mind, then Maps and some of the other kids go off to Wayne Manor to look for something in the Wayne family vault. This leads to some hilarious interactions between Maps and Damian. I would totally buy a comic that was just Maps and Damian teaming up. For that matter, I would buy a Maps Mizoguchi solo series. I’m sorry that this is the next to last issue.

KIM REAPER #4 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Kim and Becka fight a bunch of zombies, Becka kills the Grim Reaper CEO with a rolling pin, and then Kim gets her job back and Becka’s scheduled death is cancelled. This was a fun miniseries. I hope there will be a sequel.

ROCKET #3 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Blue River Score, Part 3: Breakout!”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Adam Gorham. Another in a long series of stories in which Rocket escapes from prison. This was funny, but less original than last issue, and I’m not excited about next issue’s Deadpool appearance.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #56 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. It turns out that the dragons declared war on the yaks because the yaks violated an ancient treaty by declaring Pinkie Pie an honorary yak. This issue is less interesting because of the plot than because of what it does with Spike’s character. On a number of occasions in the TV series, especially in “Dragon Quest,” Spike has chosen to identify as a pony instead of a dragon. This is really problematic because it suggests that Spike should be ashamed of what he is and should try to be something different. In this issue, however, when people say mean things about dragons or tell Spike that he’s more of a pony than a dragon, Spike gets visibly annoyed. And in the climax of the issue, Spike is able to resolve the conflict because he understands both ponies and dragons. I think this is a vast improvement over the way the TV show usually depicts Spike’s cultural identity, because it suggests that he identifies with both his original and his adopted culture. (An earlier MLP comic that makes this same point is Friends Forever #14.)

BLACK PANTHER #15 (Marvel, 2017) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 3,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Wilfredo Torres & Adam Gorham. (How does Adam Gorham manage to do one and a half comics a month?) The Dora Milaje and the other Wakandan heroes fight a bunch of yeti-esque monsters. Meanwhile, T’Challa has a frank conversation with Storm. This issue was only average, but at least it almost makes me believe in T’Challa and Storm as a couple.

ANIMOSITY #8 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Kingdom of God,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael De Latorre. A bunch of animals talk about religion, and Jesse reveals that she knows Sandor is dying. There are actually some really powerful moments in this issue. I’ve been thinking that I’m getting tired of this series and of Marguerite Bennett’s writing in general, but that may be unfair of me.

HULK #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Georges Duarte. Jen investigates the prank in which the gay baker dude was turned into a Hulk. This is a good issue but quite similar to issue 7.

KONA #18 (Dell, 1966) – “Undersea Peril,” [W] unknown, [A] Sam Glanzman. I felt motivated to read this because Sam Glanzman just passed away. This issue is much more straightforward and less insanely bizarre than earlier issues of the series, but it’s a well-drawn and exciting adventure story. I should collect more of this comic.

G.I. COMBAT #177 (DC, 1975) – “The Tank That Missed D-Day,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Sam Glanzman. Another Glanzman comic. I’ve stopped actively collecting DC war comics because it’s a genre I don’t enjoy, but I happened to have this one. The Haunted Tank story in this issue has some excellent Glanzman art, but an implausible, farfeched plot. That’s not unusual in a Bob Haney comic, and it would be fine if this were a superhero story, but it’s not appropriate to the more serious and grim tone of DC’s war comics. The backup story, by Robert Kanigher and Frank Redondo, has slightly worse art but much better writing. Kanigher actually cared about his war comics, whereas his superhero comics were often written just to pay the bills. “The Avenging Wind” tells two parallel stories about an American and a Japanese boy who grow up to kill each other in aerial combat in World War II. The story ends by depicting an American boy and a Vietnamese boy, suggesting that the cycle will continue.

ODDLY NORMAL #5 (Image, 2015) – “Sticks, Stones, Words & Bones,” [W/A] Otis Frampton. I didn’t like this series at all, and I should have quit ordering it after the first issue, but this issue isn’t so bad. The artwork is imaginative and creepy. Otis Frampton is no match for artists like Mike Maihack or Kazu Kibuishi, but this issue suggests that at least he’s getting better.

STARMAN #58 (DC, 1999) – “Familiar Faces, Some Forgotten,” [W] James Robinson, [A] Tony Harris. The sad thing about this series is that in 1994, Jack Knight was a new and distinctive character, but if he was created today, he would just be a typical hipster dudebro. This issue, Jack and his allies escape from a prison planet and invade Throneworld, where they finally discover Will Payton. Then Will vanishes and Prince Gavyn appears in his place. This was only an okay issue.

ADVENTURE COMICS #475 (DC, 1980) – Aquaman in “Scavenger Hunt!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Dick Giordano. Besides the Aquaman story, this issue includes a Starman (Prince Gavyn) story by Levitz and Ditko, and a Plastic Man story by Martin Pasko and Joe Staton. None of these are all that great, though the Plastic Man story is less bad than I would have expected.

ODDLY NORMAL #2 (Image, 2014) – “A Figment of Your Imagination,” [W/A] Otis Frampton. This issue is much worse than issue 5. This series has an interesting premise, but Frampton is not talented enough to exploit the potential of this premise.

GODSHAPER #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jonas Goonface. This is one of the best new series of the year. It has some awesome artwork and worldbuilding and an exciting story. This issue introduces (or reintroduces?) a character named Desdemona who appears to be central to Bud’s story. Maybe the highlight of the issue is the scene where Ennay publicly comes out as a Shaper, and an embarrassing silence falls.

WINGING IT #1 (Solo, 1987) – “Story One: Synnexus,” [W/A] Roberta Gregory. A rather obscure work, a fantasy story by a creator much better known for her feminist humor comics. It’s about a woman who tries to commit suicide, but instead encounters a fallen angel and a bunch of aliens who are trying to escape from slavery. It’s an intriguing piece of work, and I’d like to read the rest of this story, though the other parts will be tough to find. I believe that this was the only issue published as a comic book, and the story was completed in two graphic novels.

GRENDEL TALES: DEVILS AND DEATHS #1 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Part 1: Devil’s Lot,” [W] Dark Macan, [A] Edvin Biuković. I’ve never gotten into Grendel (and maybe I should), but this issue is one of the few works of Edvin Biuković, a very talented Croatian artist who died at just 30. This story takes place during a war between Grendel clans, whatever those are. Biuković’s art is excellent – it’s in the same artistic tradition as the work of Eduardo Risso or Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, and his composition, storytelling and lettering are awesome. And this comic has extra weight because it’s about war and it was created in the ‘90s by two Yugoslavian creators, so when you read it, you can’t avoid thinking about the Bosnian war.

TOWER OF SHADOWS #5 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Demon That Devoured Hollywood,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry [Windsor-]Smith, plus other stories. A surprisingly excellent issue. The three stories in this issue are each introduced by the artist, but are otherwise unrelated. Thomas and BWS’s lead story is about an actor who sells his soul in exchange for amazing makeup technique. The story is dumb, but BWS’s artwork is very good, and this story is one of his better early works. But the real gem of the issue is Wally Wood’s “Flight into Fear!” It has a flimsy plot about a crippled boy who gets transported into a fantasy world, but the artwork is Woody at his best. The story is full of bizarre creatures, stunning women and creepy castles. It’s very similar in style to The Wizard King, and feels like a prototype of or a lost chapter from that work. I need to look for Tower of Shadows #6 through #8, each of which includes another Wally Wood story. This issue ends with “Time Out!”, a trite haunted house story with good art by Syd Shores.

THE NIGHTLY NEWS #6 (Image, 2007) – “Revenge,” [W/A] Jonathan Hickman. This issue is mostly interesting because of the innovative collage technique Hickman uses in his art. The story, about government attempts to control the media, seems less interesting than the art, though I haven’t read the previous issues.

TALES TO ASTONISH #92 (Marvel, 1967) – Namor in “It Walks Like a Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Dan Adkins; and Hulk in “Turning Point!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Marie Severin. Both stories in this issue are formulaic and boring; it feels as if Stan was preoccupied with something else when he wrote them. However, in both cases the artwork is really good.

MEGATON MAN #3 (Kitchen Sink, 1985) – “I Am Called Bad Guy, Mortal!”, [W/A] Don Simpson. As with the other Megaton Man comic reviewed above, the superhero parody scenes in this issue are the least interesting thing about it. What’s much more interesting is the scene depicting Pamela Jointly and Stella Starlight’s life in Ann Arbor after they left Megatropolis. The contrast between these two women, one much older and less naïve than the other, is fascinating. There’s also a subplot starring Yarn Man, which turns out to be a parody of the Mechanics stories from Love & Rockets. After reading these last two Don Simpson comics, I begin to realize that Simpson was more than just a superhero parodist, and his work was not such an inappropriate fit for a publisher like Kitchen Sink.

RIP OFF COMIX #8 (Rip Off, 1981) – various stories, [E] Gilbert Shelton. The first half of this anthology title consists of two stories by Gilbert Shelton, including the hilarious “Phineas Gets an Abortion,” and a chapter of Frank Stack’s “New Adventures of Jesus.” The second half of the issue is a bunch of reprinted British comics. The first of these is a short story by Leo Baxendale about a zookeeper who keeps getting his bosses killed. Baxendale’s style is very difficult to get used to, but at least now I can say I’ve read something by him. His work is very famous but completely unavailable in America. There’s also some work by Savage Pencil, Terry Gilliam and Hunt Emerson. And there’s “Three Eyes McGurk,” a very early work of Alan Moore and Steve Moore (apparently collaborating on both the writing and the art) which is notable for introducing Axel Pressbutton. This is not Alan’s first published work, but it’s pretty close.

New comics received on July 21:

MS. MARVEL #20 (Marvel, 2017) – “Mecca, Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marco Failla. This is such an important comic. Ms. Marvel is by far the best Marvel comic of the ‘90s, and issues like this are the reason why. In prison, Aamir gives a powerful speech about how racism leads to radicalism: “[People] get radicalized when they think the only way they can have a starring role in their own lives is by playing the villain.” Meanwhile, Kamala encounters Chuck Worthy giving a speech about how things will get better when all the superheroes are gone. This speech is about superheroes but it’s a thinly disguised version of Republicans’ racist diatribes about Muslims and Latinx-Americans. It’s no coincidence that Chuck’s slogan “Chuck them out” has the same rhythm as “Build that wall.” The idea of using superheroes (or mutants or Inhumans) as a metaphor for real-life ethnic minorities has a long history, and is now something of a cliché. But that metaphor has rarely been deployed with more rhetorical force than in this comic, whose writer and protagonist are both members of one of America’s most scapegoated minorities. Also, Chuck Worthy’s takeover of the Jersey City government is eerily similar to Trump’s destruction of the rule of law. And this is why Kamala is so important – because if Kamala can defeat Chuck Worthy in this comic book, then maybe the American people can defeat Trump’s racist policies in real life.

By the way, I’m calling it now: I think Lockdown is Kamran.

MOONSTRUCK #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. This is one of my most hotly anticipated debut issues of the year, and it mostly lives up to my expectations. It’s set in a city full of monsters (hence the comparisons to Brave Chef Brianna) and stars a barista who is also a werewolf. Shae Beagle’s artwork is charming and full of Easter eggs and weird background stuff, and Grace Ellis’s writing reminds me of the writing in Lumberjanes, which is a good thing. I do find some of the dialogue annoying – if I had to work with the gay centaur dude, I would probably strangle him – but this is a minor problem. Also, I love the advice column where all the questions are answered by a mermaid, and her solution to every problem involves drowning people.

BATMAN ’66 MEETS THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1 (DC, 2017) – “Atomic Batteries to Power, Flight Rings to Speed,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. This is the best Legion comic of the current decade, although that is really, really not saying much. Mike and Lee Allred show a solid understanding of the Legion franchise, and this issue feels like a classic Legion story, although (as was typical for the pre-Shooter Legion) the characters don’t have clearly defined personalities. It’s very frustrating that this is just a one-shot. The Legion is still my favorite comic book ever, and I feel that it has tremendous potential and that DC doesn’t understand how to exploit that potential.

SUPER SONS #6 (DC, 2017) – “Planet of the Capes, Part 1: Teen Beat,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Jorge Jimenez. This is an incredibly fun comic, and if there were more DC comics like it, maybe the company wouldn’t be in such trouble. The second page of this issue — where Clark says “Damian’s dad dresses like a bat and gets hit in the head 28 times each night” – has deservedly gone viral. But the rest of the issue is almost as good. Jon goes on patrol with Damian, but then Damian leaves him behind to hang out with the Titans, and Jon’s feelings are badly hurt. Tomasi’s writing and Jimenez’s art are adorable, and Tomasi does a great job of making the reader feel Jon’s emotions.

ROYAL CITY #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. A significant improvement over the previous issue. The father (does this character have a first name?) has a near-death experience, allowing him to follow Richie’s ghost around as they observe what’s happening to the other Pikes. It turns out the Pike mother is having an affair, and the girl who Patrick encountered earlier is the child of one of his siblings, but we’re not told which one. There’s a lot of good stuff in this issue, and I like this series a lot.

DESCENDER #22 (Image, 2017) – “Rise of the Robots 1 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. This isn’t really a new story arc but a continuation of the previous one. Quon rips Tim-22’s head off, while a battle erupts between the robots and the UGC army, and the issue ends with Andy’s ship blowing up.

FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS #4 (Rip Off, 1975) – “The 7th Voyage of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers: A Mexican Odyssey,” [W/A] Gilbert Shelton with Dave Sheridan. The Freak Brothers travel to Mexico where they have a series of harrowing drug-filled adventures. This is an extremely funny comic, and it’s a prime example of both the underground comics aesthetic and the hippie subculture. It’s full of Mexican stereotypes, but Shelton seems to have at least some knowledge of Mexican culture. My complaint about this comic is that it’s very, very long. It’s something like 50 pages, and the artwork is very dense. Each page includes a topper strip starring Fat Freddy’s Cat.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #98 (DC, 1966) – “The Four Clocks of Doom!”, [W] Otto Binder, [A] Pete Costanza; and “The Bride of Jungle Jimmy!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Pete Costanza. This issue is famous because of the cover, where Superman dresses up as a witch doctor and conducts a wedding between Jimmy and a giant female ape. After that cover, the rest of that comic is almost an afterthought. “The Bride of Jungle Jimmy,” the story that corresponds to the cover, is almost as funny as the cover. Unfortunately, it also includes some highly racist stereotypes of African people. The other story in the issue is a typical piece of Weisingerian tripe.

THE PHANTOM #47 (Charlton, 1971) – “The False Skull Cave” and other stories, [W] unknown, [A] Pat Boyette. None of the stories in this issue is especially good, but they all have a slightly darker mood than most superhero comics of the time, and Pat Boyette uses some quite radical panel structures. This issue includes a one-page feature on the Swahili language which is credited to “Mwalimu Bahati Njema”, meaning something like “Teacher Good Luck.”

SUPERB #1 (Lion Forge, 2017) – “Do You Know What Your Kids Are?”, [W] David Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Ray-Anthony Height. This issue is notable because it’s co-written by Eisner-winning comics scholar Sheena Howard, and because it stars a superhero with Down syndrome. Besides that, this issue is interesting for its depiction of bullying and surveillance. It’s not the best debut issue I’ve read lately, but it shows a lot of potential, and I look forward to reading more of this series.

EERIE #88 (Warren, 1977) – various stories, [E] Louise Jones & Bill DuBay. A very bad Warren comic. It begins with a boring Rook story by DuBay and Luis Bermejo. Next is “The Key” by Budd Lewis and José Ortiz, which is allegedly set in Japan but shows an appalling ignorance about Japanese culture. Also, it includes a scene where a woman runs around naked for no reason. “Deathball 2100 AD,” by Bill Mohalley, Nicola Cuti, and Dick Giordano, is a stupid and pointlessly violent story about a basketball game between humans and aliens. The only good thing in the issue is Bruce Jones and Leopold Sanchez’s “Boiling Point,” in which a detective investigates a series of murders taking place in abandoned subway tunnels. Jones’s script is exciting and moody, and Sanchez does some excellent spotting of blacks.

CREEPY #75 (Warren, 1975) – various stories, [E] Louise Jones & Bill DuBay. This issue is famous for Jim Stenstrum and Neal Adams’s “Thrillkill,” one of the most highly acclaimed Warren stories. I’ve read this before, but it’s interesting to revisit it after the recent wave of mass shootings. Many people have observed that when a white man commits a terrorist act, the media characterizes him as mentally ill, but when a person of color commits a terrorist act, the media describes him as a terrorist or a thug. In other words, white terrorists are treated as individuals, POC terrorists as members of a group. This story is an example of that because it’s all about explaining how the killer’s abusive childhood drove him to do what he did. But in 1975, this was not as offensive as it would be today. Another difference between 1975 and today is that mass shootings are unfortunately less shocking now than they were then. “Thrillkill” is pretty closely based on the 1966 University of Texas shooting, an event that would have been shocking and unprecedented at the time. Nowadays, things like that happen practically every week, because our country has given up on sensible gun policy.

Anyway, that’s not the only story in this issue. Of the remaining stories, the best is Alex Toth’s ‘30s detective story “Phantom of Pleasure Island,” a demonstration of Toth’s mastery of visual storytelling. The other stories in the issue aren’t as good, but at least there’s some nice art by José Ortiz and John Severin.

Over 100 post-Heroes-Con reviews

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I have bought and read a massive number of comic books since the last time I wrote reviews. First, I went to Minneapolis in early June, where I visited the Comic Book College, probably for the last time before they move out of Uptown, and also Dreamhaven Books, which I haven’t visited since they moved out of Uptown. These are some of the comic books I bought on those trips:

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #56 (Marvel, 1979) – “The Scarab’s Sting!”, [W] Mary Jo Duffy, (A) Trevor von Eeden. I bought about twelve issues of PMAIF from the Comic Book College’s 50-cent box, and there were even more I didn’t bother with. This is Jo Duffy’s first issue, and it shows a certain lack of polish. There’s an exhibit of Egyptian artifacts, and the Egyptian government liaison, Dr. Abdol, hires Luke and Danny to provide security. (By the way, a pet peeve of mine is that “Abdul” is not a name. It’s a prefix meaning “servant of.” It must be followed by one of the Arabic names of God, such as Karim or Jabbar.) But it turns out that Dr. Abdol is secretly the Living Monolith. Compared to the next two issues of this series that I read, this one wasn’t nearly as good.

SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME #2 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Natalie Riess. This was the issue I missed when it came out. It fills in some holes in the plot, such as by introducing Cannibal Coliseum. Also, in this issue we learn that Neptunia is female. I honestly didn’t realize that – I just assumed Neptunia was male, and if her gender was ever mentioned anywhere, I missed it. If I’d known Neptunia was female, it would have significantly changed my reading of the rest of the series.

CRITTERS #10 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – Usagi Yojimbo in “Homecoming!”, [W/A] Stan Sakai, plus backups. In this short story, Usagi returns home for the first time since he moved away, and discovers that Mariko has a child. The basic outlines of Usagi’s love triangle with Kenichi and Mariko become clear, though we don’t yet know Jotaro’s parentage. Also, we see how Usagi’s father died. As I read this story, I realized that at this early point, the series was really focused on the ongoing plots – Lord Hikiji’s conspiracy and Usagi’s relationship with Mariko and Jotaro. As the series has gone on, these plots have receded in the background as the story has become more episodic. As I suggested on Facebook, I think this is because Stan is no longer interested in ending the series. If Usagi ever confronts Lord Hikiji, the series will end, and Stan wants it to go on indefinitely. And Usagi is never going to publicly acknowledge Jotaro as his son, except on his deathbed. The Senso miniseries essentially shows us how the series would end if it ever did, which it won’t. (In response to my Facebook post, Jim MacQuarrie also suggested that Stan chose to do episodic stories because those stories were easier for him to do while he was dealing with other projects and with severe personal tragedies.)

(I need to write shorter reviews because otherwise this will take forever)

THOR #293 (Marvel, 1980) – “Twilight of Some Gods!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Keith Pollard. The issue after this one was one of the first old Marvel comics I ever read. This issue, Thor talks with Odin’s disembodied eye, who gives him an account of an earlier Asgard that was destroyed in an earlier Ragnarok, around the time of the birth of Jesus. This story is kind of fascinating and weird, but was retconned into nonexistence during Walt Simonson’s run.

VIOLATOR VS. BADROCK #2 (Image, 1995) – untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Brian Denham. This is one of the worst-drawn comics of Alan’s career, and it’s not one of his better-written comics either. There’s some good dialogue, but the plot is typical Image crap. Alan must have taken this job because he was desperate for work.

IRON MAN #77 (Marvel, 1975) – “I Cry: Revenge!”, [W] Mike Friedrich, [A] Arvell Jones. Part of a long-running story arc in which the Black Lama stages a war between a bunch of super-villains. This issue, Firebrand wins the war and accepts the prize, a golden globe. I might as well look for the other issues of this storyline, since I’m running out of better ‘70s Marvel comics to collect.

DC COMICS PRESENTS #5 (DC, 1979) – “The War of Undersea Cities!”, [W] Len Wein & Paul Levitz, [A] Murphy Anderson. The Ocean Master manipulates Aquaman’s Atlantis (Poseidonis) into fighting a war with Lori Lemaris’s Atlantis (Tritonis). According to Kurt Michell, this issue was the first time these two cities were given individual names, though they had been established as separate cities much earlier. Highlights of this story include Superman’s battles with a giant squid and a giant telepathic jellyfish, and Superman and Lori’s affection for each other even though Lori married someone else.

KA-ZAR #7 (Marvel, 1974) – “Revenge of the River Gods!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Buscema. This has a somewhat complicated plot, but it’s basically a mediocre Conan story, with Ka-Zar in the role of Conan. The character names and plot devices could have been borrowed from an REH story, although they weren’t. At this point, Ka-Zar’s speech and personality were barely distinguishable from those of Tarzan. It was only later that other writers started to make him a more distinctive character, by emphasizing how he was torn between civilization and savagery.

<a name="pmaif77"POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #77 (Marvel, 1982) – “What’s Black and White and Red All Over?”, [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. This is much much better than #56, and is a truly impressive superhero comic. The premise is that Luke, Danny and Daredevil are trying to protect two Russian ballet dancers from two Russian spies (named Boris and Ninotchka, an obvious reference to Boris and Natasha). What stands out about this issue is the complexity of the plot. There are tons of characters, and there are some scenes where six or seven characters are talking at once. Yet it all makes sense somehow, and the complicated chaos makes the plot more interesting, like in an Altman film. Also, Jo Duffy’s characterization is very good and her dialogue is hilarious. Overall this was an amazing issue. It is rather creepy that the female ballet dancer is only 15, and a major plot point is that she’s about to marry the male dancer.

USAGI YOJIMBO #124 (Dark Horse, 2009) – “A Town Called Hell! Part 1,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This was one of two issues of Usagi Yojimbo v2 that I was missing, and I got the other one at Heroes Con, so I now have a complete run of this series. This issue, Usagi visits a town that’s being torn apart by a gang war, which the local sheriff is completely powerless to stop, and then the sheriff gets himself killed anyway. This story was concluded in the next issue, and there was a sequel a year or two later.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #242 (Marvel, 1980) – “Facades!”, [W] Steven Grant, [A] Don Perlin. A bizarre and eerie story. The Manipulator subjects Cap to a series of disturbing fantasy scenarios, seeking to drive Cap crazy. For example, one of the scenes has the other Avengers giving Cap the Hitler salute, and in another scene, he witnesses Sharon Carter’s death again. Cap escapes and discovers that the Manipulator is a robot and doesn’t know it. This is a potentially fascinating story, though Steven Grant doesn’t quite do justice to it.

I read the following comics the day I got home from Minneapolis:

SUPERBOY #168 (DC, 1970) – “Leave Us… or We Perish!”, (W) Frank Robbins, (A) Bob Brown. This was pretty dumb. During WWII, some Nazi agents issue an ultimatum to Superboy: leave Smallville or the town will be destroyed. Showing true courage and loyalty, the people of Smallville turn against Superboy and force him to comply with the Nazis’ demands. Of course Superboy saves the day anyway, and Smallville welcomes him back. Also, Pa Kent apparently dies, but it turns out it was a Pa Kent robot. The really disturbing thing about this story is that the people of Smallville are very quick to betray Superboy, and they never apologize or show any remorse for their actions. You have to wonder how the Kents were able to live in Smallville afterward. Also, it seems very hard to believe that Superboy was a teenager during World War II; that would mean that in 1970 he was at least in his late thirties. Continuing the theme of rejection and betrayal, this issue also has a backup story where Ma and Pa Kent reject Superboy in favor of a new “negative” Superboy.

SPIDER-GWEN #20 (Marvel, 2017) – “Predators,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. Gwen encounters Wolverine and Shadowcat, who, in this reality, is an assassin with claws. This was an okay issue, but I don’t recall much about it. Probably the best part was the revelation that the character who looked like X-23 was in fact Kitty Pryde. Wolverine’s samurai origin story was also kind of cool.

BLACK PANTHER: WORLD OF WAKANDA #4 (Marvel, 2017) – “Dawn of the Midnight Angels, Part 4,” [W] Roxane Gay, [A] Alitha E. Martinez. I forgot to order issue 3 (and, for reasons that will soon be clear, I’m not sorry about that). This issue, Aneka and Ayo go on a solo mission to a village whose chieftain is kidnapping girls and exercising his droit du seigneur. The plot here is potentially interesting, but the problem is that Roxane Gay’s dialogue sucks all the life out of her story and characters. To quote my own Facebook post: “The plot and characterization are delivered entirely through the dialogue rather than the art. We know how the characters feel because they tell us explicitly, not because we can read their emotions on their faces. Thus, it feels more like a series of dramatic monologues than a comic.” This problem is compounded by the fact that so much of the story is driven by Aneka and Ayo’s emotions, but Alitha E. Martinez is not particularly good at drawing facial expressions. So in short, this story falls completely flat.

BLACK PANTHER: WORLD OF WAKANDA #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “Dawn of the Midnight Angels, Part 5,” [W] Roxane Gay, [A] Alitha E. Martinez. This issue has the same problems as the previous issue. This series was cancelled just before I read these two issues, and I think this was an unfortunate decision, but only because of the bad publicity it generated. This series was the worst Marvel comic I’ve read lately, and it deserved to be cancelled. The lesson is that when you hire writers with no previous fiction writing experience, let alone comics writing experience, it doesn’t always work out. And let me again point out that there are WOC writers out there who have comics experience – the first one who comes to mind is Ngozi Ukazu, since I’m writing this on the same day that the First Second edition of Check, Please was announced. Maybe Marvel should hire writers like her, rather than trying to import talent from other media.

BLACK PANTHER: WORLD OF WAKANDA #6 (Marvel, 2017) – “Death of the White Tiger,” [W] Rembert Browne, [A] Joe Bennett. This is a solo story about the current incarnation of the White Tiger. It’s an average comic, which means it’s better than the previous two issues of this series. Rembert Browne is another writer who seems to have no prior fiction writing experience.

BITCH PLANET #10 (Image, 2017) – “You Can’t Jail the Revolution,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Valentine DeLandro. This issue, the revolution begins for real. I’ve kind of lost track of what’s happening in this comic, but it’s a gripping and powerful piece of work. This comic has quietly become very important. At Heroes Con, I saw lots of people with NC shirts or tattoos. Heidi MacDonald revealed that according to Bookscan, Bitch Planet volume 2 was the best-selling graphic novel for the week of June 21, and she attributes its success to “its huge social media following and the wide reach of its ‘non-complant’ theme.” (http://www.comicsbeat.com/this-weeks-bookscan-chart-is-a-wake-up-call-for-the-comics-industry/) I don’t think that the comics press, in general, has realized just how big of an impact Bitch Planet is having.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #4 (Eclipse, 1986) – “Beanish Breaks Out!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. I was going to write about this series for Sid Dobrin’s Ecocomix anthology, but I changed my mind. Someone should write about it because it’s such a perfect depiction of ecology. This issue, an anonymous Chow Sol’jer does some experiments with twinks, the only one of the Four Realities that Professor Garbanzo hasn’t found a use for. He has a conceptual breakthrough, becoming Beanish and inventing the Look-See Show, i.e. art. I don’t know if I realized this before, but Beanworld seems to have only two dimensions, so for example, Slats and Hoops are literally just flat lines and circles.

The following new comics were waiting for me when I came back from Minneapolis:

PAPER GIRLS #15 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. To save the future girl, Kaje kills one of the three caveman dudes. This will clearly be a key moment in Kaje’s character arc. Also, we learn that the time travel device used to belong to “Frankie Tomatah,” but I haven’t had time to look through all the previous issues to see where we’ve heard that name before. Googling reveals nothing except that there’s a letter from Frankie Tomatah on the Peter Roy page, and that letter only makes a vague reference to “the funnies.” Speaking of which, Jared Fletcher was on one of the panels I moderated at Heroes Con, and he pointed out that he intentionally changes the fake letters page so it reflects the time frame in which each issue is taking place. I hadn’t noticed that. Anyway, after the girls enter the time portal, Tiffany finds herself in a future where the Y2K bug caused civilization to collapse. She appears in front of a burning Applebee’s, which may or may not be intentional reference to the meme about milllennials killing Applebee’s.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #6 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Elsa Charretier. This series was not on the list of the 53 Marvel Legacy titles. If it’s cancelled, that sucks because it’s currently my third or fourth favorite Marvel title, but I’m sure Jeremy will go on to something else exciting. This issue, the GIRL members save Ying by duplicating the Vision’s powers, and Nadia defeats Mother, but then Ying has a stroke or something. Just like in Princeless: Raven, half the fun of this series is the interactions between the girl protagonists.

BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #4 (Boom!, 2017) – “Calamari Sushi,” [W] Sam Sykes, [A] Selina Espiritu. Brianna invokes an ancient law which entitles her to challenge Madame Cron in a cooking contest. She wins, despite being forced to use monster ingredients, and gets to stay in Monster City. The series ends there, but it’s a very satisfying ending. However, this is one of several recent Boom! series that were only given four issues, even though they could have gone on much longer. I wonder what’s up with that.

ROCKET #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Blue River Score, Part 2: Nobody Runs Forever”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Adam Gorham. Another wild and wacky comic which is very much in the spirit of Alan Davis’s Excalibur. The clear highlight of the issue is the Seeing Being, an alien lizard lawyer who’s the opposite of Daredevil, in that he’s the only member of his race who can see.

JEM AND THE MISFITS #5 (IDW, 2017) – “The Misfits Get Real, Part 5,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. Jetta’s “dark secret” is that she’s not actually British, because she moved to Britain at age sixteen. Roxy tells the other band members about her illiteracy, and the Misfits make a successful comeback. This was a really good miniseries.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #3 (IDW, 2017) – “Mistmane and the Mystery of the Unbuilding Castle,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brenda Hickey. Mistmane is a beautiful unicorn who gave up her beauty to save a friend – we’re not told how this happened. The construction of Canterlot Castle is delayed because the building materials keep vanishing, and Mistmane discovers that this is because the animals from the Everfree Forest, worried about losing their habitat, are tearing the castle down every night. With Mistmane’s help, Luna solves the problem by designing the Canterlot Gardens. This issue is a bit more satisfying than the last one, because it explains the origin of something we already knew about, whereas Rockhoof’s story had no connection to anything else in the series.

HAWKEYE #7 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Madame Masque sends Kate a necklace which belonged to Kate’s mother, but when Kate fights her way into Madame Masque’s office, she finds her dad there instead. It’ll be nice if Kate’s troubled family issues are finally resolved, because I believe that her relationship with her dad was a dangling plot point in Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series. Leonardo Romero does some amazing action scenes in this issue, and I like the coloring in the flashback scenes.

THE FLINTSTONES #12 (DC, 2017) – “Farewell to Bedrock,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. This issue is narrated by Gazoo, and it ties up most of the plot threads in the series. It’s not the best issue of Flintstones, but overall, Flintstones was one of the best comic books of the year. Like The Vision, it was a 12-issue miniseries that was much better than I could have predicted.

GIANT DAYS #27 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. A pretty standard issue of this series. Esther participates in a protest against the building of a new “Bestfresh” supermarket, which succeeds, but accomplishes nothing; instead of a Bestfresh, another supermarket is built which is owned by the same corporation. Also, Esther tries to seduce a boy she meets at the pursuit, but he flees in terror when he sees her bedroom.

FAITH #12 (Valiant, 2017) – “The Faithless, Part Three,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Joe Eisma. This may be the first issue with no Marguerite Sauvage artwork. Faith uses her wits to defeat the Faithless, thanks in part to the cat getting drunk on champagne. And that’s the end of the series, but it will be relaunched as Faith and the Future Force.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #8 (Marvel, 1975) – “Silent Night… Deadly Night!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Sal Buscema. As usual for Gerber, this story – a Thing/Ghost Rider team-up – is really weird. On Christmas Eve, three wise men follow the Star of Bethlehem to Wyatt Wingfoot’s Indian reservation, where the baby Jesus appears to have just been born. It turns out the whole thing is a set-up created by the Miracle Man, an old Fantastic Four villain. The baby was real, and Gerber suggests that he’s significant somehow, but I doubt if this dangling thread was ever resolved.

USAGI YOJIMBO #36 (Dark Horse, 2000) – “The Mystery of the Demon Mask, Part 3,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. The conclusion of a three-part mystery. I would have enjoyed this story more if I’d had the time to reread the first two parts. The depiction of Japanese fire-fighting in this issue is interesting.

ANIMAL MAN #68 (Vertigo, 1994) – “Mysterious Ways, Part 2,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] Steve Pugh. I didn’t understand what was going on in this story. Most of the characters are new to me, and there are important premises which are not explained; for example, Maxine seems to have gone crazy, but it’s not clear why.

And now here are the comics I bought at Heroes Con. This was one of the best conventions of my life. I moderated two panels, hung out with lots of old friends, and bought a ton of stuff. It was nice that I actually live in Charlotte now, so I was able to go home every night and drop off my own purchases and sleep in my own bed.

MS. MARVEL #9 (Marvel, 1977) – “Call Me Death-Bird!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Keith Pollard. This was one of the five issues of Ms. Marvel I was missing. It was also the easiest to find; I bought it on the first day of the con, and I saw several other copies of it later. This issue is the first appearance of Deathbird. We don’t learn that she’s Shi’ar until many years later, but Claremont must have known or suspected this, since he had already introduced Lilandra and D’Ken the previous year. Besides that, this issue is full of cute moments. There’s a scene where Carol rescues a little boy from a fire and then comforts him. This could be seen as sexist, but also as progressive, since it demonstrates that Carol can both beat people up and be good with children. Later, JJJ forces Carol to take on a completely unqualified personal assistant who also happens to be JJJ’s friend’s daughter.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #107 (Marvel, 1972) – “Spidey Smashes Thru!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. I bought this and three other old Spider-Man comics at the same booth. All four have severe water damage and rusted staples, but are complete and readable, and were very cheap. This issue, Peter defeats Alistair Smythe’s Spider-Slayer, and foils Smythe’s plot to rob a bunch of banks by using surveillance cameras to track the police. There’s not a lot of soap opera or romance, but Romita’s action scenes are amazing; I’ll have more to say about Romita later.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR: WINDFALL #2 (Dark Horse, 1995) – “Candor,” [W] Harvey Pekar, [A] Joe Sacco, plus other stories. In the lead story this issue, Harvey locks himself out of his house in the middle of the night. This story is classic American Splendor. Harvey brilliantly portrays how mortified he is at the situation, not just because he’s locked out in the rain, but also because he knows that Joyce is going to be justifiably furious. The next story is written by Joyce without Harvey, and is about Joyce’s relationship with Harvey’s oncologist. In “Windfall Lost,” by Harvey and Frank Stack, Harvey gets into yet another car accident. In general, this is a great American Splendor comic.

UNCLE SCROOGE #279 (Disney, 1993) – “Back to Long Ago!”, [W/A] Carl Barks. Another Barks classic. After being hypnotized, Scrooge remembers a past life in which he buried a treasure on a remote Caribbean island. However, Donald visits the same hypnotist and retrieves the same memory, and Scrooge and Donald compete with each other to be the first to recover the treasure. After a long series of hijinks and gags, Scrooge and Donald discover that the “treasure” is nothing but potatoes, which were unknown in England at the time. One of the best gags in the issue is when Scrooge tries to rent a boat in the middle of a hurricane, and in the next panel, a tree falls on the boat.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #317 (Marvel, 1989) – “The Sand and the Fury!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Todd McFarlane. Despite the title, this issue’s villain is Venom, not Sandman. It’s the conclusion of the second Venom storyline, and Venom’s second cover appearance, which is why I couldn’t find it until now. This issue, Peter and Venom battle after Venom directly threatens Peter’s family. Spidey realizes he can’t beat Venom physically, so he decides not to try; instead, he wins by tricking the symbiote into possessing both him and Eddie Brock at once. This story was included in the Very Best of Spider-Man collection in 1994. I don’t know if I agree with that, but it’s certainly an excellent story, and it reminds me that there was a short time when Venom was Marvel’s best villain.

DOOM PATROL #120 (DC, 1968) – “The Rage of the Wrecker,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Bruno Premiani. The main plot is about a villain who destroys machines. This is sort of interesting because it’s an early example of anxiety about the role of computers in society. But what’s far more interesting is the subplot, where Gar Logan gets Jillian Jackson to go on a date with him, and ends up at the same nightclub as his adoptive parents Rita and Steve. Both these romances are very cute and funny. A highlight of the issue is Rita’s line “We’ve found the formula for feeling old before your time, Steve! Just adopt a teen-ager a few months after you marry!” This run of Doom Patrol was a seriously well-written and well-drawn comic, and I need to collect more of it.

SUPERMAN #271 (DC, 1974) – “The Man Who Murdered Metropolis!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Curt Swan. Brainiac plots to destroy Metropolis, but Morgan Edge helps Superman save the day. This story is most notable because Brainiac keeps calling Superman weird names – “old Ohio college town,” “old county in southeast England” etc. – that are synonyms for Kent. This implies that Brainiac knows Superman’s secret identity. However, the reader is never explicitly told what these names mean, and Superman never figures it out either. On Facebook, I asked Elliot what was going on with these names, and he said that he and Julie Schwartz included them as a joke, to see if readers would figure it out. Elliot said that he only got one letter from a person who figured out the names. Of course, this puzzle was a lot harder to solve back in 1974; nowadays, you can just go on Google and see that, for example, the “father of modern gardening” was William Kent. This issue’s Fabulous World of Krypton backup story, by Elliot and Dick Giordano, is kind of embarrassing; it’s about a Kryptonian version of Red Sonja (who was introduced a year earlier), except she loses a fight and gives up being a warrior.

FANTASTIC FOUR #176 (Marvel, 1976) – “Improbable as It May Seem – the Impossible Man is Back in Town!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] George Pérez. The Impossible Man accompanies the FF back to Earth, having just helped them save Earth from Galactus. On Earth, Impy decides to relieve his boredom by invading the Marvel offices, where Roy and George are trying to come up with a plot for the latest issue of FF. (As established in Fantastic Four #10, within the Marvel Universe, every issue of FF is based on actual events.) After a series of hijinks, Stan gets Impy to leave by promising to do a story about the Impossible Man, but then retracts his promise, saying that “Marvel Comics hasn’t got time to waste on silly-looking characters” – while standing in front of a poster of Howard the Duck. The metatextual humor in this story is amazing, although Roy sometimes lays it on a bit too thick. Also, this issue includes cameo appearances by a large number of Marvel staffers.

TALES OF SUSPENSE #95 (Marvel, 1967) – Iron Man in “If a Man Be Stone!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan; and Captain America in “A Time to Die – a Time to Live!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. The Iron Man story is notable as the first appearance of Jasper Sitwell, a hilarious character. The main plot, involving the Grey Gargoyle, is less interesting, though Gene’s action sequences are great. The Cap story has some brilliant art, but is notable for its sexism. Cap proposes to Sharon Carter, but she refuses because SHIELD needs her. Regardless, Steve decides to quit being Cap, and meanwhile, Nick Fury promises that as soon as he can, he’ll fire Sharon so that she can marry Cap. Sharon herself is given very little agency here. The emphasis of the story is on Cap’s conflict between his duty and his love, but the writer seems to forget that Sharon is facing exactly the same conflict. Oh, and at this point we don’t even know that her name is Sharon – she’s still just Agent 13 – and this is further proof that she’s not a fully developed character.

KIM & KIM #2 (Black Mask, 2016) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. A science fiction comic about two bounty hunters, both named Kim. I didn’t quite understand the plot of this issue, but it was exciting and well-drawn and well-written, with a lot of sarcastic humor. It also seems to be a good example of POC and trans representation. I look forward to reading the first issue of the second miniseries, which is coming out this week as I write this; hopefully that issue will be a better jumping-on point.

ACTION COMICS #335 (DC, 1966) – “Luthor’s First Victory Over Superman!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Al Plastino; and Supergirl in “The Prize of Peril,” [W] Otto Binder, [A] Jim Mooney. Part of the Lexor/Ardora story arc. Luthor and Brainiac execute a plot to destroy Superman’s confidence. It turns out Luthor is doing it for revenge on Superman, because Superman told Luthor’s alien wife, Ardora, that Luthor was a criminal and not a hero. Superman redeems himself by using amnesium to make Ardora forget that Luthor is a criminal. I guess this story is meant to be touching, but still, Luthor is lying to his wife, and Superman is not only enabling him, but also compounding the problem by interfering with Ardora’s mind. As with Tales of Suspense #95 above, Ardora’s own agency is not a consideration; the writer does not consider that maybe it’s better for Ardora to know the truth. The Supergirl backup story has a stupid plot where Supergirl uses trickery to win an intergalactic beauty contest, because she’s learned that the winner is destined never to return to her home planet, and she wants to save some other girl from that fate. It turns out that the beauty contest is being run by an alien Bluebeard type who delights in making pretty girls ugly, and he succeeds in doing so to Supergirl. This story is continued next issue.

MS. MARVEL #17 (Marvel, 1976) – “Shadow of the Gun!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Jim Mooney. Issues #16-18 of Ms. Marvel are the hardest to get, besides #1, because they’re the first three appearances of Mystique. I got #17 on the last day of Heroes Con, for $6, and it was a bargain. Mystique appears in this issue in a variety of shapeshifted forms, and I was kind of delighted when I finally realized it was her. The other main plot of the issue is that Carol is suffering from overwork, and her somewhat creepy friend Frank Giannelli tries to cheer her up with a snowball fight, and then they make out. I don’t think Carol’s romance with Frank was ever followed up on. He reappeared in Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel, but I didn’t even realize it was the same character as the one in Claremont’s run.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #40 (DC, 1993) – untitled, [W] Tom Bierbaum & Mary Bierbaum, [A] Stuart Immonen. This issue’s cover mistakenly implies that Wildfire is coming back, but it’s really his brother Squire. However, the main event this issue is the first business meeting of both the adult and the SW6 Legions. The encounter between the adult Legionnaires and their younger clones leads to some amazing moments. Big Ayla and little Ayla love each other at first sight. Little Vi is shocked at how different her adult self is, but big Vi convinces little Vi to stand up for herself – which she promptly does, by refusing her boyfriend Devlin’s request that he join her in the adult Legion. Most powerfully, big Jo stays away from the meeting because he doesn’t want to see little Tinya. His “own” Tinya is dead (not really, but he doesn’t know that) and he doesn’t want to be reminded of her. But little Jo, showing his usual tactlessness, forces big Jo into a face-to-face encounter with little Tinya, and all three parties are traumatized. In general, this issue has some of the best scenes in the entire 5YL Legion. The v4 Legion was often a very depressing, confusing and mean-spirited series, but it was also capable of producing stories like this one.

BABYTEETH #1 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Mother of God,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This comic has been heavily hyped. I bought the first issue from the Aftershock booth at Heroes Con, and got Donny Cates to sign it. This story is about a teenage mother whose baby is the future Antichrist. It’s an intriguing setup and I’m curious to see where it’s going.

Some new comics received the Tuesday after Heroes Con, i.e. June 20:

MS. MARVEL #19 (Marvel, 2017) – “Mecca, Part 1,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Adrian Alphona. A brutal issue. Willow said on Twitter that “This arc has been painful to write. First arc I’ve written in an entirely post-Trump landscape,” and it shows. We begin with the pleasant surprise that Kamala is about to be an aunt. Then there’s a heartwarming scene showing the Khan family’s celebration of Eid. This struck a chord with me because the day before Heroes Con, I went to an iftar dinner at a local mosque, and I got the same feeling of warmth and community as I get from this issue. More generally, this scene reminded me of how I used to feel on Jewish holidays. I mostly hated going to synagogue as a kid, but at their best, Jewish communal events gave me a feeling of warmth and togetherness. So that’s what’s going on when we learn that Chuck Worthy, from the gentrification story arc, has taken control of Jersey City in a coup, and he promptly has Aamir kidnapped for being an unregistered Inhuman. And Kamala realizes that the (white) people of Jersey City are fully on board with all of this. The relevance of this story to current American politics is really, really obvious. “Mecca” is going to be a painful story to read, but it’s going to be important. G. Willow Wilson is exactly the sort of progressive voice that America needs right now.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #21 (Marvel, 2017) – “Boys’ Night Out!!!”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. With Doreen and Nancy vacationing in the Negative Zone (I hope we get to see this story), Koi Boi, Chipmunk Hunk and Brain Drain go on patrol by themselves. They unmask a plot in which people dress up as superheroes to commit crimes. This issue suffers from comparison with Ms. Marvel #19, but it’s still a fun self-contained story.

LADYCASTLE #4 (Boom!, 2017) – “The Black Knight Rises,” [W] Delilah S. Dawson, [A] Becca Farrow. Aeve defeats the Black Knight, who turns out to be the wizard who cursed King Mancastle, and the castle’s curse ends. This was an incredibly fun miniseries, but my complaint is that it deserved more than four issues. And I have the same complaint about several other recent Boom! comics. It seems kind of ominous that so many Boom! comics are getting just four issues.

JONNY QUEST #23 (Comico, 1988) – “The Prisoner of Starfgrau,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Mark Wheatley. This is the first part of a two-part story that’s a pastiche of The Prisoner of Zenda. The Quests visit a tropical island which turns out to be inhabited by a European kingdom that never progressed past the 19th century. Dr. Benton Quest is forced to impersonate the prince of the kingdom, who is identical to him but exactly opposite in personality. Benton is logical, responsible, and predictable, while the prince is a n adventurous and athletic but irresponsible ne’er-do-well. It’s a funny story but I wish I hadn’t read it out of order.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #26 (IDW, 2017) – “Truly Outrageous, Part Three,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Gisele Lagace. The Misfits and Holograms save Kimber from the volcano. Jerrica and Rio break up. My main impression from this story is that Rio’s behavior is frustrating, and he and Jerrica/Jem are better off without each other.

MISFIT CITY #2 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith & Kurt Lustgarten, [A] Naomi Franquiz. Naomi Franquiz was at Heroes Con, but I missed my chance to speak to her. I forgot she was the artist of this series. This issue was good, but very similar to the last issue. I feel like it should be possible to break the code without a key, but I couldn’t do it. Googling reveals that this code is called the pigpen cipher.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #10 (DC, 2017) – “The Ballad of Olive Silverlock, Part Two,” [W] Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, [A] Adam Archer. Maps joins the Secret Society, or tries at least, until they make an attempt on her life. Kyle restores Olive to sanity by using the L-word. This was a fun issue.

KIM REAPER #3 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Kim is promoted from animal souls to human souls, but the first person whose soul she has to collect is Becca. Kim refuses to take Becca’s soul and is suspended from her job. This was another fun comic, and I wish more people were reading this series. Here’s a piece of free advice: if you’re fated to die in five minutes, don’t eat anything at all, because you’ll inevitably choke.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #63 (Marvel, 1968) – “Wings in the Night!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. The Vulture gets out of prison and seeks revenge on his former sidekick Blackie Gaxton. The reader is treated to the spectacle of two flying men fighting on a roof. There are also some subplots involving Gwen and Harry. I’ve read this story before, but it was fun to revisit it.

AVENGERS #50 (Marvel, 1968) – “To Tame a Titan!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. Not the best Silver Age Avengers story. The principal problem is that there are only three Avengers, which is too few for an interesting story, though there are some interesting interactions between Hank and Jan. Also, the story focuses on Hercules and Typhon, and Marvel’s Greek gods tend to be very boring.

HULK #7 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Georges Duarte. Jen tries to deal with her trauma by attending a support group, talking with Hellcat, smashing stuff. Meanwhile, she decompresses by watching a gay baking show. But her hobby and her real life intersect when one of the gay bakers turns into a Hulk because of a malicious prank. Mariko Tamaki’s depiction of trauma in this series is groundbreaking.

HATE #16 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – “Meet the Folks!”, [W/A] Peter Bagge. One of the themes of my Heroes Con 2017 was that I bought a bunch of underground and alternative and other non-mainstream comics. As I have probably observed several times, I’m running out of good superhero comics to collect, so maybe one way I can reinvigorate my collecting is by looking for other kinds of comic books. Underground and alternative comics are sometimes difficult to find at comic conventions or at stores, but at Heroes Con that was not the case – there were lots of dealers who had such comics, often for very cheap. Hate is one example of an alternative comic that I’ve been passively collecting for a long time, but it’s time I started actively looking for it. This issue, Buddy and Lisa visit New Jersey and decide to move back, and we get to see what’s going on with Buddy’s awful family – including his sister, who is now a parent and is repeating the mistakes her own parents made with her.

AVENGERS #219 (Marvel, 1982) – “…By Divine Right!”, [W] Jim Shooter, [A] Bob Hall. I am getting really close to a complete run of Avengers #100 to #300. This is one of the only good issues from that range that I haven’t read. It’s the first half of the two-parter where Moondragon enslaves the people of Ba-Bani, and Drax sacrifices his life (temporarily) to defeat her. This issue begins with some cute scenes showing what the Avengers are doing when Drax summons them, and then there are some rather eerie scenes in which the Avengers gradually figure out that something is wrong with Ba-Bani.

WET SATIN #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1976) – various stories. Subtitled “Women’s Erotic Fantasies,” this comic consists of many stories about sex, mostly by contributors to Wimmen’s Comix. The stories in this issue are of widely varying quality, but there’s some interesting work by Lee Marrs, Joyce Farmer, and Melinda Gebbie.

CHAMBER OF CHILLS #2 (Marvel, 1972) – “The Monster from the Mound!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Frank Brunner; and other stories. The cover story this issue has some nice Frank Brunner art but is otherwise forgettable. The most interesting thing in the issue is “Thirst!” by Steve Gerber and P. Craig Russell, about a vampire on a spaceship. By the time the ship’s crew realize that they need to defeat the vampire using the only wooden object on the ship (a cane), it’s too late. The logical problem with this story is, once the vampire drinks the blood of the whole crew, how’s he going to survive until the ship reaches its destination? There’s also a generic barbarian story by John Jakes and Val Mayerik.

LITTLE ARCHIE #144 (Archie, 1979) – “The Old Shell Game”, [W/A] Bob Bolling, plus other stories. Archie and the gang visit the Lodge family’s beach cottage, where they find an unexploded World War II shell while playing at the beach. They accidentally use the shell to blow up the wall of the Lodges’ garden, which is convenient since Veronica’s parents were arguing about whether to have that wall removed. This was not Bolling’s best story.

WONDER WOMAN #24 (DC, 2017) – “Godwatch, Epilogue,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Bilquis Evely. Another issue that focuses too much on Veronica and Barbara Minerva, to the exclusion of Diana. I am not going to miss this comic, and the excessive focus on Veronica and Cheetah is the reason why not. Unfortunately, the next major run on Wonder Woman is probably going to be even worse. DC is doing a terrible job of catering to people who are interested in Wonder Woman because of the movie. (By the way, at Heroes Con I saw a lot of Wonder Woman comics displayed prominently, but I dind’t buy any.)

SATELLITE SAM #12 (Image, 2015) – “Four Keys, Two Bills,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Howard Chaykin. Heroes Con happened right after the Divided States of Hysteria #1 controversy, so I had several conversations about Chaykin, and several people suggested that Satellite Sam was better than most of his recent work. (Of course this was before the Divided States of Hysteria #4 controversy, which would have changed those conversations quite a bit.) So that gave me a reason to read this Satellite Sam story I’ve had for a while. The plot is incomprehensible, but the art is okay. And it does seem like Howard is better when he draws a story written in his characteristic style by another writer, versus when he does his own writing.

SLASHER #2 (Floating World, 2017) – “2: She is Coming,” [W/A] Charles Forsman. I don’t know why I didn’t get the first issue of this; I must have missed it in Previews. I don’t quite get what’s going on here, but it seems to be about a young woman in a rural American town who goes around slashing people to death. The writing is powerful, especially the scene where the protagonist murders an abusive husband. And I also like the art, which uses Jaime Hernandez’s trademark 2×4 panel grid. I should check out Chuck Forsman’s graphic novels.

POPE HATS #2 (AdHouse, 2011) – “White Noise Machine,” [W/A] Ethan Rilly. I bought this directly from Chris Pitzer, who was also on one of the panels I moderated. He also had issue 5, but I’m waiting for that to come out from Diamond. I have raved about Ethan Rilly before, and this issue is another great example of it. In the main story, the protagonist, a clerk at an insanely competitive law firm, starts her new job while trying to deal with her irresponsible mess of a roommate. Based on that description, this story may not sound all that exciting, but Ethan Rilly makes brilliant use of the medium of comics to invest this story with emotion. This story is full of moments that make the reader feel the power of comics. One in particular is when the protagonist meets a new coworker and is told “You don’t need to know me … It’s my last day. You’re replacing me,” and the next panel is just the protagonist saying “Oh.” Ethan Rilly is the best cartoonist in North America who hasn’t published a graphic novel, and as soon as this story comes out in collected form, he will be a superstar.

CLASSIC STAR WARS: THE EARLY ADVENTURES #4 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Tatooine Sojourn,” [W/A] Russ Manning. This is a reprint of daily strips from 1979, in which Luke makes a return visit to Tatooine. I love Manning, but neither this daily strip format nor the Star Wars franchise was particularly well suited to his style. Manning’s aliens don’t look like Star Wars aliens, and it’s weird to see him drawing a grimy and depressing future, instead of the slick, clean future of Magnus.

BLACK #5 (BlackMask, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Jamal Igle. In this issue, some of the superheroes have infiltrated a prison run by a really smug racist dude. This is a well-written comic, and it benefits from Jamal Igle’s artwork, which makes it look deceptively similar to a Marvel or DC comic.

New comics received on June 23, the Friday after Heroes Con. I had nothing to do this week, so I read a lot of comic books.

LUMBERJANES: FAIRE AND SQUARE 2017 SPECIAL #1 (Boom!, 2017) – [W] Holly Black, [A] Marima Julia. This is the best Lumberjanes spin-off yet. It benefits from being written by a master of YA comics. The Lumberjanes go to a Renaissance Faire where they encounter a new character named Rowena. It turns out Rowena has a pet pterodactyl that she’s trying to save from being killed by well-meaning dragon-slayers. The Lumberjanes help Rowena return the pterodactyl to prehistoric times – or actually, as it turns out, North Yorkshire in 1561. This is an exciting story, full of cute moments, and Holly Black shows a solid understanding of all the characters. One of the oaths in this issue is “Oh my Octavia E. Butler!” The backup story is written by Gabby Rivera and focuses on Ripley’s Hispanic heritage, specifically her love of telenovelas. It’s better than a certain other comic by this writer that I could name.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER #1 (Image, 2017) – “Man vs. Nature,” [W] Jody Leheup & Sebastian Girner, [A] Nil Vendrell. Along with Royal City and Unstoppable Wasp, this is one of the best debut issues of the year. It’s exactly what the title indicates – it’s a comic about a shirtless bearded man who fights bears and loves flapjacks. What makes this comic hilarious is that it takes itself completely seriously; it presents the most ridiculous over-the-top nonsense, like Shirtless’s Bear-Plane, in the most deadpan way. This comic has a similar style of humor to Chew, and it’s a great replacement for that comic.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. This is a really good Spider-Man comic, although it feels more like Chip Zdarsky’s other comics than like classic Spider-Man. Highlights include the opening scene with Spidey and Johnny Storm, and the revelation that the Tinkerer has a brother named the Mason who makes all the superheroes’ technology. I’m glad that I can read a monthly Spider-Man title again.

COADY AND THE CREEPIES #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Liz Prince, [A] Amanda Kirk. The Creepies escape from hell, Coady tells her bandmates that she’s a ghost, and the dead roadie, Marnie, gets reincarnated as the cat. And then the series ends. I was shocked to learn that this was the last issue, because I honestly thought this was going to be an ongoing series, although I guess it was solicited as a miniseries. This is the third of three really promising series from Boom! that have ended after just four issues. I’m worried that the Boom! Box and Kaboom imprints might be in trouble. Maybe it’s a mistake for Boom! to focus on the direct market instead of the bookstore market, given the demographics of their target audiences.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #55 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. This issue is a direct sequel to “Not Asking for Trouble,” the seventh-season episode where Pinkie Pie becomes an honorary yak, and it also guest-stars Rainbow Dash’s parents, who were introduced in a different seventh-season episode. This sort of close coordination between the TV show and the comics was previously rare – when the Cutie Mark Crusaders got their cutie marks, it took months for this development to be reflected in the comics. On Facebook, one of the pony writers confirmed to me that IDW and Hasbro is trying for closer synergy between the show and the comics, which is good because that’s the whole point of transmedia storytelling. As for MLP #55 itself, it’s only an average issue, but that still means I enjoyed it more than “Not Asking for Trouble,” which was easily the worst episode of season 7 so far.

MIGHTY THOR #20 (Marvel, 2017) – “Baptism by Fire,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman & Valerio Schiti. This one really hurt to read. It was the most painful and depressing Marvel comic I’ve read in a long time. When the dark elves invade Nidavellir, Volstagg gets stuck with a bunch of orphaned dwarf children. He uses all his parenting skills to keep the children from panicking as he tries to escape with them to Asgard. And then despite Volstagg’s best efforts, the children get killed anyway. It’s the greatest trauma of Volstagg’s life, because for all his oafishness and gluttony, the one thing he’s best at is defending children, and now he’s failed to do that. And that’s why he picks up the Ultimate Thor’s hammer and becomes the War Thor. On Facebook, Dave van Domelen claimed that this was an assassination of Volstagg’s character, but I disagree. Ordinarily the idea of Volstagg becoming a revenge-seeking vigilante would be absurd, but that’s exactly why it works. Jason Aaron’s achievement in this issue is that he convinces me that the death of the children is traumatic enough to turn a gentle and silly god into a vengeful warrior.

SUPER SONS #5 (DC, 2017) – “Battle in the Batcave,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Alisson Borges. This is currently the best ongoing DC comic that’s not about to end, but that says more about the current state of DC than about Super Sons. This issue, Jon is depressed about having to move to Metropolis, so he sneaks into the Batcave and gets into a fight with Damian. Then, Clark and Bruce agree to let Clark use his powers in public as long as he stays together with Damian. In general, this issue is a touching and funny exploration of both Damian and Clark’s relationship and that of their fathers.

ROYAL CITY #4 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This is the worst issue yet. It has some good moments, but it barely advances the plot at all.

SILVER SURFER #12 (Marvel, 2017) – “Return to Euphoria,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mike Allred. In shock at her father’s death, Dawn gets the Surfer to take her to Euphoria, the perfect planet from an earlier story arc, so she can recover. The trauma Dawn suffers in this issue is kind of awful; it’s bad enough that her father is dead, but on top of that, she misses the funeral, and she blames herself for being more interested in her space travels than her family. In that context, Dawn’s decision to go to Euphoria actually seems like a very reasonable way to deal with her grief.

THE BLACK DRAGON #2 (Marvel/Epic, 1985) – untitled, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Bolton. I read the first issue of this a long time ago, but I just got the second issue at Heroes Con. This comic has some gorgeous John Bolton artwork. However, the story is very dense, and even though I skimmed issue 1 beforehand, I still didn’t quite get what was going on in issue 2. Also, this issue’s version of medieval England is based more on historical fiction (e.g. Ivanhoe) than actual history.

GODSHAPER #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jonas Goonface. This was another good issue of what may be Simon Spurrier’s best work yet. But I don’t have anything new to say about it.

MANIFEST DESTINY #29 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. The soldiers start recovering from hallucinations, and Sacagawea goes into labor. This issue could have been combined with last issue without sacrificing much.

SWEET SIXTEEN #1 (Marvel, 1991) – “The Invitation,” [W/A] Barbara Slate. I had never heard of this comic before, so when I saw it in a cheap box, I snapped it up. It’s by Barbara Slate, who also created Angel Love for DC. Unfortunately this comic is much worse than Angel Love. It’s a silly and historically inaccurate story of an ancient Roman princess who has to decide who to invite to her sixteenth birthday party. Still, the fact that Marvel published this comic at all is surprising, given that in 1991, there were very few comic books for girls. Marvel was publishing Barbie at the same time, to which Barbara Slate was a contributor, and maybe Sweet Sixteen was part of a short-lived attempt to expand Marvel’s offerings for girls. Barbara Slate is an interesting figure because her work was so different from most of Marvel and DC’s offerings at that time. It’s too bad that no one seems to remember her.

COMICS FESTIVAL! (Beguiling, 2015) – various stories. This FCBD comic was published by The Beguiling “under the auspices of” the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. It came out in 2015, the year after the only TCAF I’ve attended. It includes short stories by a really impressive list of creators, including Kate Beaton, Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang, Mariko Tamaki, Faith Erin Hicks, Svetlana Chmakova, etc. Some of these stories are insubstantial, but others are excellent, especially the Doctorow/Wang story, which is a sequel to In Real Life. And it’s a credit to the Beguiling and TCAF that they were able to assemble such a lineup of talent.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #13 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Dean Rankine. Most of this issue consists of a dream sequence depicting Larry’s early years and what his life would have been like if he hadn’t met Gert. As is traditional for this series, Larry’s origin story is horribly cruel and grim. Larry is the only survivor among a litter of 758 siblings. And if his first client hadn’t been Gert, he would have been the best quest guide ever, but then he would have gotten sick of his job, descended into drug addiction, and committed suicide. So yeah, this was a typical issue of I Hate Fairyland.

GUMBY’S WINTER FUN SPECIAL #1 (Comico, 1988) – “Gumby’s Winter Fun Adventure,” [W] Steve Purcell, [A] Art Adams. Man, what a weird comic. Gumby and Pokey travel underground to rescue some trapped “toy miners” (who both are toys and mine for toys). First they meet some mole people, then they travel further down and wind up in hell, where Santa Claus is imprisoned. Then they travel all the way through the earth to Japan, where they save Tokyo from kaiju. All of this is drawn in the characteristic Art Adams style. I have no idea why Comico decided to publish this comic, but I’m glad they did.

DEPT. H #15 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. A flashback issue focusing on Mia’s unsuccessful romantic and professional life. All these flashbacks have been interesting, but I wouldn’t mind if we could get on with the plot.

HERO CATS #17 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Part II: Rebels and Misfits,” [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Omaka Shultz. Bandit organizes a team of Hero Cats of Skyworld. This is a good issue, but nothing particularly new.

AMAZING ADVENTURES #1 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Inhumans!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby; and “Then Came… the Black Widow,” [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] John Buscema. In the Inhumans story, which is a rare example of an early-‘70s Marvel comic written by Kirby, Maximus manipulates Black Bolt into declaring war on the human world. In the Black Bolt story, Natasha is bored, so she visits Spanish Harlem and rescues a Puerto Rican boy from mobsters. This is an okay issue, but this series got better as it went on.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #40 (Marvel, 1975) – “Rocky Mountain ‘Bye!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Al Milgrom. I kind of assumed that this series jumped the shark after Jim Starlin left, but this issue is quite interesting. Mar-Vell and Rick return to Earth from space and separate into their own bodies. Rick gives a concert and gets laughed off the stage, while Mar-Vell encounters an alien possessing Una’s corpse. My favorite moment in the issue is the panel where Rick is shocked to see all the bizarre new fashions. Al Milgrom’s name is a byword for boring art, but in this issue he uses some interesting panel structures, probably in imitation of Starlin’s style.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #79 (Marvel, 1982) – “Day of the Dredlox,” [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. This is an amazing comic book. An actor named Robert Diamond is starring in a play in which his character, Professor J.A. Gamble, battles some robot monsters called Dredlox. But it turns out the props used for the play are actual real Dredlox, and they start attacking people and shouting “INCINERATE!” While trying to solve this mystery, Luke and Danny encounter the real Professor J.A. Gamble – an eccentric who travels through time fighting Dredlox, and who lives in a bookstore that’s bigger than it looks from outside. Also, the last time he met the Dredlox, he looked completely different. Get it? Yes, this issue is an unannounced Doctor Who crossover! Of course, Professor Gamble succeeds in defeating the Dal – um, I mean the Dredlox, and then vanishes, never to be seen again (though he did make one more minor appearance). But his single appearance is an unforgettable story.

SLOW DEATH #8 (Last Gasp, 1977) – “Special Greenpeace Issue,” [W/A] various. This underground coimc had an ecological theme, and this issue contains stories on topics such as whaling and seal hunting. Artists represented in this issue include Greg Irons, Michael T. Gilbert, Roger Brand and William Stout. As with many underground comics, the work in this issue varies widely in quality, but Greg Irons’s whaling story is pretty good, and Michael J. Becker’s story about clubbing baby seals has some brutal imagery, although the storytelling is bad. And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a comic book with Bill Stout artwork before. This issue predates the international whaling ban, so some of the environmental abuses this comic describes have gotten better.

SPACE USAGI vol. 3 #3 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “Warrior, Part Three,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This issue wraps up a bunch of ongoing plots, and represents the last appearance of Space Usagi, at least until the epilogue of Usagi Yojimbo: Senso #6. This issue is up to Stan’s usual level of quality, but I’ve never liked Space Usagi as much as Usagi Yojimbo. Space Usagi is pretty much the same thing as regular Usagi, just with less narrative complexity.

SUPERBOY #196 (DC, 1973) – “Superboy’s First Mission” and two other stories, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Bob Brown. It must have sucked to be a Superboy reader back in the early ‘70s, because some issues of the series had amazing Legion stories drawn by Dave Cockrum, while other issues were like this one. In this issue’s first story, a mad scientist kidnaps some nuclear physicists (one of whom has the significant name “Alex Crowley”) and Superboy has to put on his costume for the first time to save the day. The second story is about a Smallville man who’s cursed with immortality; it’s actually a little bit poignant. Then there’s an insultingly stupid Superbaby story in which Pa Kent’s friend participates in an auto race, and Superbaby helps him win.

AMERICA #4 (Marvel, 2017) – “An Army of Me,” [W] Gabby Rivera, [A] Joe Quinones. Like every previous issue of America, this comic is well-intentioned and has good artwork, but its plot is completely incoherent. It concludes the first storyline, but the conclusion is just as impossible to understand as anything else in the story. This is the last issue of America I’ll be reading.

WEIRD WAR TALES #3 (Vertigo, 1997) – “New Toys,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Frank Quitely, plus two other stories. “New Toys” is an impressive piece of work by the All-Star Superman creative team. Possibly inspired by Toy Story, it’s about some living toy soldiers who are nervous at having been replaced by new toys. The artwork is up to Quitely’s usual high level, and the story creates a powerful feeling of creepiness. However, the ending, where the new toys turn out to be some kind of alien insects, makes no sense. I assumed that this story was going to be a metaphor for something, and I was wrong. “Sniper’s Alley” by Joel Rose and Eric Cherry, neither of whom I’ve heard of, is the weak link in the issue. It’s supposed to be set during the Bosnian War, but the protagonist is a Croat sniper named “Bejo Villadanna,” which is not a plausible name in any language. And when he gets killed by his ex-girlfriend who’s also a sniper, the reader doesn’t care, because neither the sniper nor the girlfriend are fully developed characters. Finally, “Run” by Paul Jenkins and George Pratt is about an aristocratic British WWI commander who gets his men killed by forcing them to use archaic and suicidal tatics. George Pratt’s artwork is brilliant, but I’m not sure how plausible the story is, though I’m sure there were lots of idiotic British commanders in WWI.

KING-CAT COMIX AND STORIES #76 (Spit and a Half, 2016) – various stories, [W/A] John Porcellino. This miniature comic is about half stories, in John Porcellino’s typical minimalist style, and half letters and responses. Because of the sense of a close relationship between Porcellino and his readers, it almost feels like a fanzine. And Porcellino’s art is beautiful and evocative as usual.

SAVAGE DRAGON #167 (Image, 2010) – “The Way It Ends,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. I’ve lost interest in this series now that it’s become a softcore porn comic. This is an installment of “Emperor Dragon,” and like many issues of this series, it’s one big fight scene after another. The backup story by Kat Roberts, who I’ve never heard of, is kind of interesting.

ROSE #1 (Cartoon Books, 2000) – “Briar & Rose,” [W] Jeff Smith, [A] Charles Vess. This is a prequel to Bone, starring Rose and Briar, later to become Gran’ma Ben and the Hooded One. It’s been a long time since I read the second half of Bone, so some of the plot of this comic went over my head. But in general, this is a pretty effective story. It effectively shows the difference between Briar and Rose’s personalities, and it’s a creepy moment when one of Rose’s word balloons comes directly from her mouth, which is a trademark of the Hooded One. Charles Vess’s art is, of course, amazing. I don’t think it’s his best work, but it’s close. And there’s a nice trick where all the word balloons are transparent, so that they don’t interfere with the art.

MARVEL FEATURE #5 (Marvel, 1972) – “Fear’s the Way He Dies!”, [W] Mike Friedrich, [A] Herb Trimpe. This is the second in a series of Ant-Man stories. This issue introduces Trish Starr, Egghead’s niece and frequent victim. Trish Starr hasn’t appeared since 1983, and I kind of wish some historically minded writer would bring her back. For most of this story Hank is stuck at tiny size, and has to escape from normal-sized birds and other perils in order to get back to his lab. So this issue is full of entertaining action sequences.

I DIE AT MIDNIGHT (DC, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Kyle Baker. This is the funniest comic book I’ve read in a long time. On December 31, 1999, a man named Larry decides to kill himself because his girlfriend Muriel left him. Just as he swallows a bottle of pills, Muriel walks in the door. Larry has to find an antidote to save his life before midnight, when the pills will kill him (hence the title), but he can’t let Muriel find out about his suicide attempt. A series of ridiculous complications ensue, as Larry’s attempts to regain the antidote keep failing in the most absurd ways. Kyle Baker’s perfect comic timing and hilarious artwork make this comic a constant series of laughs. It’s a little bit dated because the Y2K bug plays a major role in the plot, but the humor is as funny now as it ever was.

DAREDEVIL #118 (Marvel, 1975) – “Circus Spelled Sideways is Death!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Don Heck. Daredevil battles the Circus of Crime and their new member, Blackwing. A very mediocre comic.

BATMAN #456 (DC, 1990) – “Identity Crisis, Part Two: Without Fear of Consequence…”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Not a bad issue. Batman investigates a series of senseless murders, while ordering Tim Drake to stay behind in the Batcave. Tim figures out on his own that the Scarecrow is responsible, then has to decide whether to disobey orders and put on the Robin costume to go rescue Batman. These very early Tim Drake stories were actually better than Chuck Dixon’s later work with this character.

SUPERMAN #281 (DC, 1974) – “Mystery Mission to Metropolis!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. The first appearance of Vartox, the most ridiculous-looking character of the ‘70s. When I posted an image from this issue’s title page on Instagram, it sparked a lot of discussion. This issue, Vartox’s wife mysteriously dies, and Vartox travels to Earth to take revenge on her killer – it’s complicated. And Superman surprisingly helps Vartox get his revenge. Compared to a typical Cary Bates story, this issue is not bad, and as noted, Vartox is hilarious.

RICK GEARY’S WONDERS & ODDITIES #1 (Dark Horse, 1988) – various stories, [W/A] Rick Geary. This is perhaps the only comic book that consists entirely of work by Rick Geary. It’s a collection of short stories and strips from reprinted National Lampoon and other venues. All this material is funny and well-drawn and disturbing, but reading so much of it at once feels repetitive.

CRY HAVOC #3 (Image, 2016) – “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Ryan Kelly. I missed issue 2 of this miniseries. I remember it had something to do with vampires, but otherwise I can’t recall what it was about, and this issue doesn’t help; the storyline of this issue is incomprehensible on its own. I get the sense that this is not one of Si Spurrier’s better works.

FANTASTIC FOUR #178 (Marvel, 1977) – “Call My Killer… the Brute!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] George Pérez. The Fantastic Four battle the Frightful Four, whose new member is the Brute, the Counter-Earth version of Reed Richards. The Impossible Man saves the day, but only after the Brute has switched places with Reed and thrown the real Reed into the Negative Zone. This was not the best run of Fantastic Four, but not the worst either. At one point in this story, the Wizard holds the city for ransom, and the then mayor of New York, Abe Beame, asks Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan to pay the ransom, but they all refuse.

ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #9 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Mahmud Asrar. This is the first appearance of Nadia Pym, the second Wasp. It’s not nearly as good as Nadia’s current solo series. The other Avengers’ reaction to Nadia are histrionic and exaggerated, and Nadia herself is not as cute as when Jeremy Whitley writes her. I will have much more to say about Mark Waid when I review Champions #10 later; as I write this review, that issue is the subject of massive controversy.

Finally that’s the end of that week. On the week of June 30, I read another large number of comics:

SAGA #44 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. Not much happens this issue. The family head off to Abortion Town, and Alana has a vision where she sees her never-born son. I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’ll be shocked if that really is Marko and Alana’s son.

LUMBERJANES #39 (Marvel, 2017) – “Let’s Be Prank” (part 3), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. It turns out the villain of this storyline is a giant talking fox, and he wants to recover his heart, which was stolen by the Bear Woman. (Her name is Nellie, and the names “Nellie” and “Fox” are a bad pun. One of the creators must be a White Sox fan.) The fox is an amazing villain; he reminds me of Loki, or Coyote from Gunnerkrigg Court. Besides that, as usual, this issue is full of amazing moments. For example, Ripley shouts “BUBBLES IS MOLLY’S HAT! A TALKING FOX KIDNAPPED MY ABUELA!” And Ripley’s grandma becomes friends with the Bear Woman by slapping her while she’s in bear form. I still think Bubbles’s parents are going to play a role in this story somehow, but we’ll see.

ASTRO CITY #45 (DC, 2017) – “When You Find Out What Happens to Glamorax, You’ll Totally Freak!” or “Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. Another chapter in the saga of Mister Cakewalk a.k.a. Jazzbaby a.k.a. the Bouncing Beatnik a.k.a. the Halcyon Hippie. In this issue it becomes clear that this character is an embodiment of the counterculture; s/he changes into a new form every time a new countercultural phenomenon becomes popular. This issue takes place in the ‘70s, so the character starts out as Glamorax, a superpowered version of David Bowie. Over the course of the issue s/he evolves into an unnamed embodiment of punk culture, with the help of Tom o’ Bedlam, a thinly disguised version of Tom Wolfe. And then something goes horribly wrong. This is a great Astro City story – it’s funny and original and it shows a keen understanding of ‘70s culture.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #20 (Marvel, 2017) – “Girl-Moon, Part 2 of 5: Gravity of a Situation,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Moon Girl and Girl Moon get to know each other, but Lunella’s plans go wrong somehow and she ends up in an alternate universe, where she encounters alternate versions of herself and Devil. I assume these characters are Devil Girl and Moon Dinosaur. Meanwhile, the Lunellabot causes a lot of havoc. This has been a fun storyline so far.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #112 (Marvel, 1972) – “Spidey Cops Out!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Romita. When Aunt May vanishes mysteriously, Peter deides to quit being Spider-Man and focus on Ant May’s welfare. That doesn’t last long because it turns out Aunt May was kidnapped, apparently by Doc Ock. What stands out about this issue is Jazzy Johnny’s artwork. I think he’s the greatest Spider-Man artist – greater even than Ditko. For me, his Spider-Man is the definitive version. My admiration for his work is partly because there’s so little of it. Romita stopped doing artwork full-time when he became Marvel’s art director in the early ‘70s, while Ditko continued drawing, sometimes very badly, well into the ‘90s.

ELEANOR AND THE EGRET #3 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Iced,” [W] John Layman, [A] Sam Keith. This issue begins with an enigmatic scene depicting a house with several occupants, each of whom has an animal familiar. Then, Eleanor infiltrates the museum and the egret eats all the Anastasia Rue paintings, but a creature comes out of one of the paintings and kills the egret. I still don’t understand what’s going on in this comic, but it’s a lot of fun, and Sam Keith’s art is terrific.

SUPERGIRL: BEING SUPER #4 (DC, 2017) – “Chapter Four: Who I Am,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Joëlle Jones. The conclusion to one of the best DC comics of the year. Kara finally decides to confide in her best friend Dolly about Tan-On, but Dolly has been kidnapped by Lexcorp, and when Kara and Tan-On rescue Dolly, Tan-On decides to kill her himself. Kara finally comes to her senses, defeats Tan-On, comes to terms with Jennifer’s death, and heads off to Metropolis. This was an incredible coming-of-age story, a brilliant exploitation of Mariko Tamaki’s skill at writing teenage girls. I just wish there would be a sequel.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS INFINITE #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite, Part One,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stacey Lee & Jen Hickman. Just as Jem’s secret identity is becoming increasingly unsustainable, an alternate-reality version of Techrat appears and asks the Holograms to accompany him to another universe, which is being destroyed by Emmett Benton’s hologram technology. This is as good as any regular issue of Jem, but the science fiction element is a bit jarring.

THE LAST AMERICAN #1 (Marvel/Epic, 1990) – “Goodnight, Poughkeepsie,” [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. This miniseries is by three classic Judge Dredd creators. I’ve read few if any Mike McMahon comics, and his style took some getting used to. I bought this issue a while ago, but decided to read it now because I got the last three issues of the miniseries at Heroes Con. As for the plot, this comic takes place in America after a nuclear holocaust. The title character is the literal last American, a soldier who was put into suspended animation just before the nuclear war. He emerges from his bunker and heads out into the corpse-filled wasteland of upstate New York, trying to find anyone else who’s still alive. As that description suggests, this comic is very bleak and brutal, even compared to other dystopias (like Station Eleven, which I just read). Only the fact that there are three more issues gives me any reason to hope. A major theme in this comic is nostalgia for the American past; Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” is an important intertext.

MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE PREQUEL #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Storm King,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. This comic introduces the Storm King, the villain of the upcoming movie. We watch him as he conquers a kingdom ruled by cats, and declares his disdain for friendship. The Storm King seems like an impressive villain, though much sillier than Queen Chrysalis or Tirek or King Sombra. Clearly the highlight of the issue is the cat kingdom, Abyssinia; it has buildings shaped like cat trees, and its exports and imports include catnip, milk, yarn and kibble.

WONDER WOMAN #25 (DC, 2017) – “Perfect,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Liam Sharp & Bilquis Evely. In the double-sized anniversary issue, Diana confronts Veronica Cale, gets in touch with the gods again, and sleeps with Steve. I think Diana and Steve are a terrible couple, but Greg Rucka almost succeeds in making me believe in them as a couple. Overall, this was an above-average Wonder Woman run, but as I have stated many times, there wasn’t enough Wonder Woman in it.

BLACK MAGICK #6 (Image, 2017) – “Awakening II,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. This is a much better Greg Rucka comic. I don’t know how accurately this comic depicts Wiccan ritual, but it at least has the air of authenticity. Rowan’s mother’s death is an awful moment. But what makes this comic incredible is Nicola Scott’s art. She draws with such great detail and makes such effective use of photo reference, and even her coloring is brilliant. I forgot how magic is the only thing in this comic that’s in color, so when Rowan uses magic for the first time, the sudden appearance of color is a pleasant surprise. I’m glad this series is finally back.

BITCH PLANET TRIPLE FEATURE #1 (Image, 2017) – “Windows,” [W] Cheryl Lynn Eaton, [A] Maria Fröhlich, plus other stories. Somehow I had low expectations for this, so I was surprised at how good it was. Each of these stories is a powerful exploration of the double standards and impossible expectations that are placed on women in Bitch Planet’s world (and in the real world). One character is a prison guard who gets unfairly blamed for the death of an inmate, ending her career. Another character works for a talentless dudebro of a boss, and gets sexually harassed by one of his colleagues. A third character loses a job she’s eminently qualified for because she’s a brunette with small breasts. All these stories are infuriating, especially since they’re only minimal exaggerations of how women really do get treated. Because of its ability to provide a wider-ranging picture of the world of Bitch Planet, this spinoff has the potential to be at least as good as its parent series.

BLACK BOLT #2 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. An intelligent and witty script is combined with Christian Ward’s usual spectacular art. Saladin Ahmed is exactly the kind of writer Marvel is trying to hire – besides being a person of color, he’s also an accomplished writer of genre fiction. One thing I like about this issue is that even after Black Bolt gains the ability to talk, he doesn’t say much, which makes sense because he’s not used to talking.

SNARF #8 (Kitchen Sink, 1977) – various stories. This humor-oriented underground comic includes a lot of impressive material. Just to describe some of the stories: “The Nightmares of Little L*l*” by Howard Cruse is an erotic Little Lulu parody. It makes me wish I’d read more Little Lulu so I could get more of the jokes. As usual Howard Cruse’s art is beautiful, with all that pointillism. In Kim Deitch’s “Keep ‘Em Flying,” Kim is hypnotized and has a vision in which he’s transported to a planet of Waldo lookalikes. In Sharon Rudahl’s “The Dying Swan,” an aging ballerina in occupied Paris sacrifices her life to save her ballet company from the Nazis. Justin Green’s “Zen Time” appears to be based on an actual Zen story, about a monk who meditates on the color of Amitabha. Steve Stiles’s “It’s the Pits” is about the then-new activity of comic book investing. It’s funny because number one, it tells us that Action Comics #1 was worth $850 in 1977, and that that figure was considered shockingly high. Number two, the story begins by pointing out that Snarf #8 itself might be worth a fortune someday. That day has not come yet, because I paid about a dollar for it.

BATMAN #314 (DC, 1979) – “Once Beaten, Twice Sly!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Irv Novick. During Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Batman and King Faraday team up to defeat Two-Face’s plot to steal some binary code. The binary code is just a McGuffin which was introduced as an obvious thing for Two-Face to steal, but it’s interesting that in 1979, binary code was considered new and advanced. Otherwise the only really interesting thing about this story is its New Orleans setting.

ISLAND #13 (Image, 2016) – “Mirenda, Part 2,” [W/A] Grim Wilkins, plus other material. The most notable story in this issue is another installment of Grim Wilkins’s wordless story “Mirenda,” about a topless female adventurer in some kind of fantasy world. This story has some brillaint and imaginative art, but its wordlessness is a severe drawback. The lack of words means that the reader has no hope of understanding what’s going on, and I’m not sure that’s intentional. I think Wilkins may have wanted the reader to be able to follow the story, and if so, he did not succeed. This issue also includes chapters of Fil Barlow’s Zooniverse and Lando’s “Island 3.” I already complained about both these comics in my review of Island #12. Cynthia Alfonso’s “Panic Attack” is readable in about one minute. At least Jack Cole’s opening illustrations are good (not the Jack Cole from Plastic Man, obviously).

GRASS KINGS #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. This comic is okay, but I still think Matt Kindt’s art and publication design are better than his writing.

THE OLD GUARD #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Leandro Fernandez. I finally decided to get caught up on this comic. This issue, Andy, the oldest of the immortal soldiers, meets up with Nile, the youngest, but when they get back to Andy’s safehouse, they find that one of the other soldiers is dead and the last two are missing. What amazes me about this comic is Leandro Fernandez’s art, which, as already noted, has improved radically since he collaborated with Rucka on Queen & Country. His linework is similar to that of Eduardo Risso, but his storytelling is much more radical. This comic is full of full-page layouts with unusual perspectives. It’s worth reading for the artwork alone.

THE OLD GUARD #3 (Image, 2017) – as above. This issue, Booker comes back to life, and he, Andy and Nile go off to rescue Nicky and Joe. Also, Joe gives a beautiful speech about his love for Nicky.

ISLAND #14 (Image, 2017) – various stories. I was sure this issue’s cover was by Brandon Graham, but it’s actually by M.L. MacDonald. This issue’s centerpiece is “Pop Gun War: Chain Letter – Part 4: Television & Holes,” by Farel Dalrymple. Like most of Farel’s work, this story doesn’t make much logical sense but is brilliantly drawn. It’s a science fiction story about Hollis the superhero, Frank Jean the cyborg boxer, and Gwen the wizard, all of whom are being observed by a girl named Emily. The setting of this story reminds me of that of The Incal, especially the splash page with John Difool falling off a balcony. The other stories in this issue aren’t nearly as impressive. For example, Troy Nixey’s “The Crime of Iron” has some gorgeous art but no story at all. Jess Pollard’s story is kind of cool, though, and Ana Galvan’s “Hotline to Death” has some interesting Michael DeForge-esque art. The important thing about this anthology was that it was a forum where new artists could get some exposure, and even if their work wasn’t the best, they would be judged less harshly than if they were doing a solo series. That’s why it’s a shame that this series was cancelled, even if I sometimes found it tedious to read.

THE OLD GUARD #4 (Image, 2017) – as above. Nile learns about the unique difficulties of being an Old Guard. Booker reveals that he betrayed his teammates to Merrick, a tycoon who wants to be immortal, because he (Booker) is sick of immortality and wants to die.

BORDER WORLDS #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – “I Live in a Space Suit,” [W/A] Don Simpson. I heard some people say good things about this comic when Dover announced they were reprinting it. This debut issue is a continuation of a story serialized in Megaton Man #6 through #10, so it’s a bit hard to follow. But the art is beautiful and evocative, and very different from the art in Don Simpson’s superhero parody comics. There are very few panels per page, which creates a manga-esque feel. I should read more of this series.

WORLD’S GREATEST CARTOONISTS (Fantagraphics, 2017) – various stories. This FCBD comic is a collection of stories by 16 current Fantagraphics creators. Each story is somehow related to that artist’s current book. These stories are a mixed bag, and some of them are much better than others – Eric Haven, in particular, seems to have phoned it in. But at their best, these stories are amazing. The highlight is Emil Ferris’s story, about the protagonist of My Favorite Thing is Monsters. I have that book but haven’t read it yet, and this story makes me want to read it soon. Emil Ferris’s writing is powerful, and her art is stunning. It’s amazing the things she can do by cross-hatching with a ballpoint pen. Ed Piskor’s autobiographical story is interesting, though very short. Ron Regé’s story is hard to read, but seems to be an adaptation of part of the Qur’an. Overall, this issue is a good demonstration of thediversity and quality of Fantagraphics’s line of comics.

THE OLD GUARD #5 (Image, 2017) – as above. The violence in this issue is brutal. The Old Guard track down Merrick and kill him and all his minions, and Leandro Fernandez illustrates all of it in gory detail. And in the end, this violence all seems pointless; the Old Guard don’t accomplish anything by it, other than getting rid of a pest. I usually don’t like this level of blood and gore in my comics, but I’m willing to put up with it for the sake of Leandro’s art.

MARVEL PREMIERE #42 (Marvel, 1978) – “Nightmare’s Evolution,” [W] John Warner & Ed Hannigan, [A] Mike Vosburg. This is not a great comic book, but it’s an important chapter in Tigra’s history. In particular, this is the story where Tigra’s mentor Dr. Tumolo dies, though Greer is not as sad about this as you’d expect. Also, this issue reveals that Tigra has the power to “project a living image to a loved one” at the cost of her life. I doubt this has ever been mentioned anywhere else. Finally, this issue includes a scene where Tigra calms a sabertooth tiger by petting it.

MOONSHINE #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Eduardo Risso. I ordered this entire miniseries, but didn’t read it. I should be more selective about what I order. I’m not a huge fan of Brian Azzarello’s writing, and this series’ storyline doesn’t interest me that much. It’s about a mobster who visits an Appalachian town in Virginia, looking for a man who makes incredible whiskey, but it turns out the town is also full of werewolves. On one hand, the Appalachian setting seems historically accurate, but on the other hand, this comic also perpetuates common hillbilly stereotypes. What makes it worth reading is Eduardo Risso’s art, which is at least as good as in 100 Bullets. His linework and his storytelling are amazing, and he brings life to a somewhat dull story.

MOONSHINE #2 (Image, 2017) – See above.

NAT TURNER #1 (Kyle Baker, 2005) – untitled, [W/A] Kyle Baker. I just got into a debate with Kyle Baker on Facebook, which I won’t discuss in detail, but it motivated me to read this comic that I’ve had for a while. This first issue begins before Nat Turner’s birth. We witness as her mother is captured by slavers and transported to America, where she watches another slave woman throw her newborn baby to a shark. The imagery in this comic is just brutal. Kyle’s greatest strength as a humorist is his bluntness and lack of subtlety, and here he uses that same quality to show the horror of slavery.

LITTLE ARCHIE #155 (Archie, 1980) – “Batter Up,” [W/A] Bob Bolling. The Bolling story in this issue is much better than the one in #144, reviewed above. Mr. Lodge goes off to his lodge, somewhere up north, to ruminate on his problem: he’s invested a lot of money in a terrible minor league baseball team (the Midwest Mudhens, probably named for the real Toledo Mudhens). Archie and Veronica come with him, and they encounter an abominable snowman, who turns out to be an amazing natural baseball talent. But Archie and Veronica realize that it’s not fair for the snowman to be enslaved by Mr. Lodge, so they set him free. This story has some beautiful depictions of Mr. Lodge’s private plane and the snowy northern landscape. Bob Bolling is a brilliant artist of the outdoors. And the story is quite poignant. This issue reminds me that Bob Bolling is not just a top-quality Archie artist, but a world-class cartoonist.

MOONSHINE #3 – as above. Among other developments in this issue, the protagonist, Pirlo, meets a strangely alluring black woman. This scene did not ring true to me; Pirlo seems improbably free of racism for a white man in the ‘30s. Besides that, I had difficulty following this issue’s story, even though I had just read the previous two issues. But the main appeal of this issue is the artwork, which is still terrific.

SPIDER-GWEN #21 (Marvel, 2017) – “Predators, Part 3,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. I’m losing enthusiasm for this series. But Latour’s depiction of the Kingpin’s tyrannical power over New York City is effective, and I love his version of Kraven. The Spider-Gwen part of the story is much less interesting. I honestly don’t understand what she and Harry are even doing in Japan.

THE ROCKETEER: CARGO OF DOOM #4 (IDW, 2012) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. This issue has some amazing scenes where the Rocketeer fights giant monsters that are rampaging through Los Angeles. However, the art was less impressive than in some of Chris Samnee’s other comics, and the story was not the best.

ISLAND #15 (Image, 2017) – various [W/A]. The series goes out on a high note. This issue was the subject of some controversy because of the alleged use of blackface on its cover. I honestly didn’t see this; I perceived the character on the cover as black. However, the Dilraj Mann story, which corresponds to the cover, s clearly the weak link of the issue. The art is good but overly slick, the lettering is ugly, and the story is an overly obvious critique of racism. The rest of the stories in the issue are much better. First there’s the latest chapter of Grim Wilkins’s “Mirenda.” As with the chapter in #14, this story is impossible to follow, but has great art. Then there’s the final chapter of Farel Dalrymple’s Pop Gun War serial. This chapter focuses on Emily. It’s evocative and beautifully drawn, though intentionally difficult to understand. Finally, there’s a chapter of Multiple Warheads by Brandon Graham himself. Brandon’s art, storytelling and puns are as amazing as ever. I look forward to reading more Multiple Warheads, wherever it appears.

INCREDIBLE HULK #103 (Marvel, 1968) – “And Now… the Space Parasite!”, [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Marie Severin. This issue’s villain is a one-eyed orange-skinned alien who sustains himself by draining energy from other beings. He resembles DC’s Parasite, introduced two years before, but was much less important; he dies in this issue and his next appearance was in 1999. What stands out about this issue is Marie Severin’s art. I haven’t paid much attention to this artist before, and I forgot how good she is.

MOTRO #1 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Ulises Fariñas, [W] Erick Freitas. I love Ulises Fariñas’s art, but I’m much less impressed with his writing. However, this story, about a superpowered kid in a world full of living vehicles, is better-written than I expected, and the art is as beautiful as usual.

ANGEL LOVE #5 (DC, 1986) – “The Search for Mary Beth, Part 1,” [W/A] Barbara Slate. Angel’s mother is dying of leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant, and Angel goes looking for her long-lost sister, who is the only possible donor. Bone marrow transplantation seems to have been a new and rare surgery at the time. I do think it’s kind of crummy to look for a relative you haven’t seen in 15 years, just to beg her for an organ donation. I’ve heard stories like that before, and they don’t end well. While all this is going on, Angel’s roommate Wendy is taking care of an injured bird, and Angel’s friend Everett tries to convince Wendy to stop babying the bird and let it fly on its own. The main plot and the subplot are united by the theme of mother-daughter relationships. On this issue’s letters page, “a concerned mother, S. Moreland” complains that Angel Love #1 was inappropriate for her 10- and 6-year-old children because it depicts cocaine use. Barbara Slate’s response is fascinating: she agrees that Angel Love is inappropriate for kids of that age, and states that the series’ target audience is girls aged 11 to 18. In the ‘80s, the idea of a comic book for 11- to 18-year-old girls was radically ahead of its time. It would be at least another 25 years before the industry would start taking this audience seriously. Angel Love was a short-lived series, but it fascinates me because it’s a forgotten precursor to today’s young adult comics.

Just six more to go!

TRUTH: RED, WHITE AND BLACK #4 (Marvel, 2003) – “The Cut,” [W] Robert Morales, [A] Kyle Baker. Faith Bradley tries to find out why there was a white man in her husband’s coffin. Meanwhile, several of the black super-soldiers kill each other in a fight, leaving Isaiah Bradley to undertake a suicide mission on his own, while also dealing with institutional racism. I love the panel where a scientist says that the soldiers’ “ferocious behavior can be explained only by unforeseen inherent native flaws” – it’s a perfect example of how white people use racism to excuse their own mistakes. Kyle Baker’s art in this comic is terrific.

SLEEPER #1 (WildStorm, 2003) – “Out of the Cold,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. A terrible debut issue and an inauspicious start to Brubaker and Phillips’s long collaboration. This is supposed to be a first issue, but it’s so immersed in WildStorm continuity that it barely stands on its own. I get that the protagonist is an assassin who kills superheroes, but other than that, it’s hard to figure out what’s going on. I assume that this series got better as it continued.

THE JUNGLE TWINS #11 (Gold Key, 1974) – “The Island of Dr. Strangekind,” [W] Gaylord DuBois, [A] Paul Norris. In this boring Tarzan spinoff, two jungle boys encounter a mad scientist who has been teaching gorillas to talk. At least Gaylord DuBois’s writing is competent.

LITTLE LULU #234 (Gold Key, 1976) – “Doll-Boy” and other stories, [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Irving Tripp. As suggested in my Snarf #8 review above, I need to read more of this series. I was surprised to realize that this issue contains original material, though it’s not written by John Stanley, who left the series around 1959. The first story is humorously bizarre: Lulu’s doll is in the doll hospital, so she forces Tubby to dress up as a doll instead. This story clearly shows the force of Lulu’s personality. The other stories in this issue aren’t as good, and some of them are awful.

CURSE WORDS #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. For some reason I stopped reading this series after the first issue. This issue, Wizord shrinks all the people who witnessed his display of wizardry, then makes a deal with an elderly Sri Lankan dictator, who gives him a powerful magical item in exchange for being twenty again. Wizord interprets his wish over-literally by turning him into twenty copies of himself, who all promptly kill each other.

MOONSHINE #4 (Image, 2017) – as above. More of the same. At this point I’m only interested in this series because of the art.

Reviews for May and early June

6-6-17

TINTIN VOL. 9 (Little, Brown, 1974, originally 1947) – “The Crab with the Golden Claws,” (W/A) Hergé. To my great embarrassment, I have read less than half of the Tintin albums, and I have some of them that I still haven’t read. I decided to start with this one, which is the first appearance of Captain Haddock. My sense is that this is far from the best Tintin, and some of the things Tintin does in this album, such as swimming underwater until he’s behind the two gunmen, are difficult to believe. Without Captain Haddock as a comic foil, Tintin’s invincibility and his lack of a clear personality are more obvious. Still, Hergé’s mastery of the comics medium is clear in every panel. What especially impresses me is his comic timing; his jokes and pratfalls are just perfect. Like the Blake & Mortimer album I read recently, this album includes a number of splash pages, which are otherwise very rare in French comics published in this format. I assume that in both cases, the splash pages were inserted to fill space that was left over when the originally serialized stories were collected in album format.

BATMAN #285 (DC, 1977) – “The Mystery of Christmas Lost!”, (W) David V. Reed, (A) Romeo Tanghal. A very lackluster story which suffers from the inclusion of Dr. Tzin-Tzin, an offensive Yellow Peril villain.

THE KILLER #9 (Archaia, 2003) – “A Deadly Soul, Part One,” (W) Matz, (A) Luc Jacamon. Each issue of this comic book, about the adventures of a nameless assassin, was originally half of a French-language album. This comic was somewhat critically acclaimed when it came out in America, and was nominated for an Eisner, but I think that by the standards of French comics it’s below average. The coloring is spectacular, but for BD, that’s par for the course. And the story just seems like standard thriller material.

New comics received on June 20:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #20 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Deadliest Animal in the World,” (W) Ryan North, (A) Erica Henderson. In the conclusion to the Melissa Morbeck storyline, Nancy figures out how to defeat Melissa: she shaves Tippy Toe’s fur off, so that Melissa will think Tippy Toe is a rat, allowing her to get close enough to shut down Melissa’s animal-control device. In how many other superhero comics has the villain been defeated by the simple yet horrible act of shaving a squirrel? Also, squirrels without hair are terrifying. Overall, this was a really fun issue.

ASTRO CITY #44 (DC, 2017) – “The Cat Who Walked Through Walls,” (W) Kurt Busiek, (A) Rick Leonardi. The protagonist of this issue is Sunshrike and Nightingale’s cat Kittyhawk, who can fly and walk through walls. There have been several notable recent comics with cat protagonists (e.g. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #15 and Hero Cats), but it’s still really fun to see a cat story in the Astro City style. This story is inspired by Kurt’s son’s observation that if a cat was a superhero, it would probably be a loner, not a team member, because that’s how cats are. And indeed, Kittyhawk is a very realistic cat. In between demanding pets and being chased by a superpowered dog, Kittyhawk defeats a supervillain so nonchalantly that it seems like an accident.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE 455 (Image, 2017) – “Imperial Phase,” (W) Kieron Gillen, (A) André Araújo. A very brutal and disturbing story in which Lucifer tries to restore the decaying Western Roman Empire, then dies. Unlike the previous TWTD one-shot, this one only shows us one god, since the others are already dead. I didn’t like it as much as the 1831 issue.

KIM REAPER #2 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Sarah Graley. A good follow-up to a good first issue. Becka and Kim fail to collect the cat’s soul, they go hang out at an amusement park and a ghost pirate ship, then they go back for the cat’s soul and it turns out the cat’s owner has also died, so Kim collects his soul, which gets her in big trouble because she’s only licensed to collect animal souls. So yeah, lots of fun stuff. The curious thing about this series is that it seems to be more about Becka than about Kim, the nominal title character.

COADY AND THE CREEPIES #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Liz Prince, (A) Amanda Kirk. The two bands finally get to the House of 1000 Couches for the concert, and lots of weird stuff happens that I’m not going to summarize. I don’t know why exactly, but this was my favorite issue yet. It seems like the creators are finding their groove, and this comic is both very funny and has a strong social conscience. The highlight of the issue is the scene where it turns out that the House of 1000 Couches is inaccessible, so they move the concert outside. And that leads to the following exchange between one of the protagonists and one of the villains: “Why does your idea of fun hinge on the exclusion of others?” “Because it just does!” My other favorite moment of the issue is the scene where everyone leaves the basement except for a guy who seems to be some kind of vampire.

ELEANOR AND THE EGRET #2 (AfterShock, 2017) – “Burglaries and Birdfeed,” (W) John Layman, (A) Sam Kieth. Like the first issue, this issue combines beautiful and bizarre artwork with an equally bizarre story. John Layman and Sam Kieth are a surprisingly good fit for each other. In this issue it becomes clear that for some reason, Eleanor is stealing paintings by one particular artist so that her egret can eat them. I’m curious to find out why she’s doing this.

THE MIGHTY THOR #19 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Asgard/Shi’ar War, Part Five,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Russell Dauterman & Valerio Schiti. A strong conclusion to one of this title’s better storylines. The good guys win, of course, and Quentin Quire and the Phoenix become the Shi’ar’s new god. And then there’s a feast, which Volstagg sadly does not get to attend. Also, it turns out I was right: the Ultimate Judgment really is the Mangog.

ANIMOSITY #7 (AfterShock, 2017) – “Feeding Time,” (W) Marguerite Bennett, (A) Rafael De Latorre. This is an okay conclusion to the lammergeier story, but I think I’m getting a bit bored with Marguerite Bennett’s writing. I also think this series hasn’t done enough with its premise. The animals feel too much like humans in animal bodies.

FRESH OFF THE BOAT PRESENTS: LEGION OF DOPE-ITUDE FEATURING LAZY BOY FCBD EDITION (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Gene Luen Yang, (A) Jorge Corona. That’s really the title listed in the indicia. This story is framed as a comic book created by one of the kids from the Fresh Off the Boat TV show, which I have not seen. As a superhero parody it’s not terrible, but it’s not anything more than that. I was kind of hoping that this comic would explore issues of Asian-American identity, in the same way that the TV show does, and it really doesn’t do so in any significant way that I could detect. Maybe that was an unfair expectation.

BUG! THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #1 (DC, 2017) – “Bughouse Crazy: Domino Effect, Part 1,” (W) Lee Allred, (A) Mike Allred. This comic begins in media res and does not clearly explain what is going on, and it’s also confusing and bizarre in lots of other ways. Despite that, I really enjoyed it. This comic is extremely Kirbyesque, not just because it stars Forager and guest-stars the ‘70s Sandman, but also because it confronts the reader with one weird concept after another without pausing for breath. It made me nostalgic for ‘70s Kirby, in a good way.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #3 (Marvel, 1972) – “The Power to Purge!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Ross Andru. This is the third appearance of Morbius, following Amazing Spider-Man #101 and #102. Morbius became a hero in later years, but in this issue he’s the villain; the listed co-star is the Human Torch. This comic is nothing spectacular, but it is a well-plotted and exciting and well-drawn superhero story.

MACHINE MAN #3 (Marvel, 1978) – “Ten-For, the Mean Machine,” (W/A) Jack Kirby. I read this because I was feeling nostalgic for Kirby, as explained above. This is a minor work from Kirby’s declining years, but it’s still Kirby, and it has some very nice action sequences and splash pages. The spaceship at the upper right of page three looks a lot like Quislet.

KILL OR BE KILLED #3 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Ed Brubaker, (A) Sean Phillips. I haven’t read very much of this creative team’s work. I read the first volume of Fatale and did not like it, and my sense is that Brubaker and Phillips’s comics are all noir fiction, which is one of my least favorite genres. But I liked this issue more than I expected to. The premise of this series is not explained in this issue, but I guess the idea is that the protagonist is condemned to an early death, but earns an extra year of life for each person he kills. What impressed me about this comic was the protagonist’s psychological torment. It’s clear that whatever is happening to him, it’s driving him nuts, and he feels ashamed of what he’s doing, but not ashamed enough to stop.

CRIMINAL: THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT #1 (Marvel/Icon, 2011) – untitled, (W) Ed Brubaker, (A) Sean Phillips. This was even better. This self-contained story is an obvious parody of Archie. The protagonist, based on Archie, is living in the big city and is unhappily married to the character based on Veronica. On a trip back to his hometown, he gets the idea of fixing his awful life by murdering his wife. A cute touch is that all the flashback pages are drawn in an Archie-esque style. A second cute touch is that the town next to the Archie character’s hometown is run by Gordie Gold, i.e. Richie Rich. I’d like to read the rest of this series.

INVINCIBLE #19 (Image, 2004) – untitled, (W) Robert Kirkman, (A) Ryan Ottley. An allegedly reformed supervillain, Titan, gets Invincible to help him take down a crime boss, Machine Head. At the end of the issue, it turns out that Titan was just using Invincible to get rid of a rival. Invincible’s behavior this issue is kind of stupid; he blindly accepts the story Titan tells him, without once questioning whether Titan might have ulterior motives. Overall, this is an average issue which is notable mostly for introducing Battle Beast.

SUPER SONS #4 (DC, 2017) – “Son Day, Bloody Son Day!”, (W) Peter J. Tomasi, (A) Jorge Jimenez. Jon and Damian defeat Kid Amazo, or at least they hold him off until the cavalry, i.e. Luthor, arrives. Then they go home where they have to confront their “mothers,” i.e. Lois and Alfred. This comic is not especially deep, but it’s extremely fun.

DETECTIVE COMICS #412 (DC, 1971) – “Legacy of Hate!”, (W) Frank Robbins, (A) Bob Brown. The lead story in this issue is a rather clichéd haunted-house mystery. Bruce’s previously unmentioned uncle Lord Elwood Wayne is dying, and to claim a share of his inheritance, Bruce has to spend the night at Lord Elwood’s haunted castle, along with the other potential heirs. Of course someone starts trying to kill the heirs, and Batman has to protect them and solve the mystery. It’s a well-plotted and scary mystery, if somewhat unoriginal. An obvious question that just occurred to me is that if Bruce had a surviving uncle, why didn’t he go to live with his uncle after his parents were killed? The Batgirl backup story is more fun than the lead story, because the villain is a wigmaker who makes wigs that give his celebrity clients lethal migraines.

GIVE ME LIBERTY #1 (Dark Horse, 1990) – “Homes & Gardens,” (W) Frank Miller, (A) Dave Gibbons. I have become very hesitant to read anything by Frank Miller. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this comic is not only free of offensive politics, it’s even somewhat progressive, and it’s extremely well-written and well-drawn. It may even be a classic. In a dystopian future, young Martha Washington grows up in Cabrini-Green, a housing project that’s a literal prison for black people. A kindly Mr. Bergstrom-esque teacher (who, thankfully, is a black man rather than a white savior) teaches her that she’s not worthless, but he is promptly murdered. This drives Martha insane, which in turn allows her to escape Cabrini-Green for a mental asylum, and when she gets out of there, she joins the Pax, a paramilitary commando squad. As this summary indicates, the politics of this comic are much more subtle than the politics of Miller’s later work, and Martha is a truly compelling character. This comic reminds me, in a good way, of American Flagg! or Judge Dredd: America. Also, it’s one of the great artistic achievements of Dave Gibbons’s career. Like Russ Manning or José Luis García López, Gibbons has the ability to draw anything at all and make it look plausible. He also does his own lettering, and he even challenges himself a bit by including things like fake magazine covers. In summary, I liked this comic a lot, and I’m excited to read the rest of the Martha Washington series.

DETECTIVE COMICS #631 (DC, 1991) – “The Golem of Gotham, Part One,” (W) Peter Milligan, (A) Jim Aparo. As the title indicates, this is a Golem story. Even in 1991, before Kavalier & Clay or The Golem’s Mighty Swing, the Golem must already have been a cliché, and this story has a lot in common with every other story about this creature. Its main innovative feature is that the Golem is created to protect recent immigrants from India, not Jews. On the last page we discover that the Golem has “emeth” written on his forehead in English, not Hebrew, which is a blatant mistake, although a necessary one since most readers of this comic can’t read Hebrew.

ACTION COMICS #721 (DC, 1996) – “The Fortune Plague,” (W) David Michelinie, (A) Kieron Dwyer. Everyone in Metropolis suddenly starts to have good luck – sometimes too good (one couple wishes that they had a view of the river, and their apartment building gets up and walks over to the river). Of course it turns out that a certain fifth-dimensional imp is responsible. This issue is insubstantial but funny.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR: WINDFALL #1 (Dark Horse, 1995) – “Flight to Chicago” and other stories, (W) Harvey Pekar, (A) various. In the lead story, Harvey and Joyce get invited to Chicago to give a lecture, but their flight gets cancelled and then delayed. This story has not aged well, since Harvey and Joyce’s travel difficulties are the sort of thing that happens to me seemingly every time I fly. Multi-hour flight delays have become the norm, not the exception. Also, it’s a bit disappointing that the story ends before Harvey and Joyce get to Chicago. The next story, “Windfall Gained,” is a lot better. Harvey goes on a long drive, even though Joyce warns him against it because the weather is terrible, and also Harvey can barely drive because he has severe hip pain and has been putting off surgery. Predictably, Harvey gets in an accident, and you can just feel his embarrassment and his nervousness about having to tell Joyce what happens. This is a classic American Splendor story – a painful, disturbing exploration of everyday life.

MOCKINGBIRD #3 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Chelsea Cain, (A) Kate Niemczyk. A mutant sixth-grader holds her classmates hostage with her newly acquired powers, and Mockingbird has to diffuse the situation. This comic somehow didn’t make much of an impression on me, since I had to remind myself what it was about. But now that I look at it again, I’m reminded that it’s quite funny and also has strong feminist themes. For example, on the first page, young Bobbi and her mother are at an ERA march. Bobbi asks her mother “Can we get a backhoe so I can find a magical amulet?” and Bobbi’s mother replies “As soon as I get paid as much as your father.” I also like how this comic explores the obvious but frequently ignored connection between mutant powers and puberty.

FATALE #17 (Image, 2013) – untitled, (W) Ed Brubaker, (A) Sean Phillips. I think I bought this when it came out and never read it. I didn’t like it as much as the previous two Brubaker/Phillips comics I read. As previously noted, I read the first collection of Fatale and I can’t remember anything about it, except that it’s about a woman who drives men crazy. And that’s pretty much all that happens in this issue.

FANTASTIC FOUR #162 (Marvel, 1975) – “The Shape of Things to Come!”, (W) Roy Thomas, (A) Rich Buckler. Rich Buckler unfortunately just passed away. In this issue he seems to be imitating the style of George Pérez, which is odd since George hadn’t started drawing the FF yet. This issue’s plot is so complicated that it requires two panels worth of diagrams to explain. In short, there are three versions of Earth, and each Earth is invading one of the other Earths using weapons borrowed from a third Earth. There are some interesting differences between the three Earths – for example, on one of them, Sue is married to Ben – but in general, this story is too confusing for its own good.

THOR #279 (Marvel, 1979) – “A Hammer in Hades!”, (W) Don Glut, (A) Alan Kupperberg. A boring, formulaic fill-in issue, with a framing sequence in which Thor sees Jane Foster with her new boyfriend, Dr. Kincaid. Reading this issue reminded me that Jane married Dr. Kincaid and had a child with him, and neither her ex-husband or her child have even been mentioned in the current Thor series.

ROYAL CITY #3 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Jeff Lemire. It turns out that even the two successful Pike children have serious problems. Tara’s development deal is endangered because her husband is trying to organize a union, and Tara vows to break the union and divorce him. So her very achievements are turning her into a villain. Meanwhile, Patrick’s chronic writer’s block threatens to ruin his career. None of the characters in this comic are very sympathetic, except for Richie’s ghost. They’ve all caused their own problems and they use Richie’s early death as an excuse. And yet somehow I feel sorry for them anyway, maybe because I feel like something similar might happen to me.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES #2 (IDW, 2017) – “Raid on Marauder Island, Part 2” and “Projekt Millipede, Part 2,” (W) Brian Clevinger, (A) Lo Baker and Wook-Jin Clark. Both stories in this issue are pretty standard Atomic Robo material, but they’re fun anyway. The scenes where the She-Devils interact with the Tongan hostages are the highlight of the issue.

WONDER WOMAN #22 (DC, 2017) – “Godwatch, Part 4,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Mirka Andolfo. Veronica Cale wins an auction where the prize is a date with Wonder Woman. They go on the date, but it turns out Veronica was setting up Diana for something or other. This is a well-written issue, and I like the art a lot, but it suffers from the same flaw as most of this current Wonder Woman run: it’s more about Veronica than Diana. It feels as though Greg is much more interested in the former character than the latter. Also, this story shows us Wonder Woman’s character not directly, but through Veronica’s perspective. And I think Greg does that a lot; he spends more time on Diana’s supporting cast than on Diana herself. It’s as if Wonder Woman is a black box, a character who can’t be known directly but only through her effects on others. George Pérez also used this sort of characterization sometimes, like in the classic “Time Passages” story, but not nearly as often as Greg does. Ultimately, the trouble with Wonder Woman throughout her history is that her writers have usually failed to give us sufficient insight into her character, and Greg Rucka has not solved that problem.

ACTION COMICS #427 (DC, 1973) – “The Man Who Never Lived!”, (W) Cary Bates, (A) Curt Swan. The main story in this issue is just insultingly stupid. In the 21st century, a telepathic man known only as 5607 is mind-controlled by criminals and is forced to assassinate a government official. Just before doing so, he uses his powers to project his mind into the body of his 20th-century ancestor. In the past, 5607 manipulates Superman into preventing his own (i.e. 5607’s) ancestors from meeting, ensuring that he will never be born and his victim will be saved. Do you see the problem here? Instead of erasing himself from history, why couldn’t 5607 have gotten Superman to come back into the future with him and defeat the criminals who have enslaved him? Wouldn’t that have been a much more fair solution? We’re supposed to believe that 5607 heroically sacrificed himself, but he actually died because either he was an idiot or he had a death wish. The backup, an Atom story by Elliot S! Maggin and Dick Dillin, is okay but not great. It does make the intriguing suggestion that Ray Palmer is more interested in being a scientist than a superhero.

SKY DOLL #2 (Marvel, 2008) – “Aqua,” (W/A) Alessandro Barbucci, (W) Barbara Canepa. This was part of a short-lived partnership between Marvel and the European publisher Soleil, which publishes commercial SF and fantasy comics. Each issue of this series represents an entire French-language album. This comic has a bizarre and convoluted plot that I’m not going to even try to explain, and it’s certainly not one of the better recent European comics, or even one of the better recent European SF comics. Still, it’s a competent and fun and well-drawn piece of work. I especially like all the signage that appears everywhere, which must have been tough to translate. Also, the coloring, which was done by Canepa, is brilliant. For an average comic, this is a really good average comic (see Kim Thompson’s 1999 essay “A Modest Proposal: More Crap is What We Need” for an exploration of this idea). It’s too bad that this comic and Marvel’s other Soleil comics were not more popular. Marvel probably didn’t want to promote this line of comics too heavily because then they would be competing with themselves.

DETECTIVE COMICS #612 (DC, 1990) – “Cats,” (W) Alan Grant, (A) Norm Breyfogle. This is a comic about cats, so obviously it’s good. The plot is that Catwoman is blamed for some deaths which were caused by big cats. In order to clear her name, she proves that an escaped tiger owned by Cat-Man was responsible. Half the fun of this issue is all the cat puns. Batman fights the tiger on the roof of a building labeled “Hottin Roofing,” so it’s a cat on a Hottin roof. A subplot involves two men who are using a delivery van to kidnap stray cats in order to sell them to research labs. The van is marked “Schrodinger Delivery,” and one of the men mentions that the van belongs to his uncle Ernie, i.e. Erwin Schrödinger.

New comics received on May 26:

LUMBERJANES #38 (Boom!, 2017) – “Let’s Be Prank” (part 2), (W) Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, (A) Ayme Sotuyo. Another excellent issue. It was so good that I was sorry when it ended. The scavenger hunt begins, but someone has edited the list to add a bunch of bizarre items, like a mermaid’s scale, a lock of yeti hair, bear tracks, bear fur, and a bear. Also, the campers are being attacked by animals. I still think that the two mystery raccoons are Bubbles’s parents and that they’re somehow responsible for the mischief. Oh, and at the end of the issue, Ripley’s abuela turns into a fox. Just like last issue, this issue derives a lot of its excitement from the interaction between the Lumberjanes and their parents.

RAT QUEENS VOL. 2 #3 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kurtis Wiebe, (A) Owen Gieni. A good but somewhat average issue. I think the best moments were the dwarf song and the centaur that turned out to be two people. The backup story was better than last issue’s backup story, but not spectacular.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #19 (Marvel, 2017) – “Girl-Moon, Part 1 of 5: Synchronous,” (W) Brandon Montclare, (A) Natacha Bustos. Moon Girl meets Girl Moon, i.e. the moon of Ego the Living Planet. The big reveal – that Girl Moon is a literal moon – is spoiled by the cover, and anyway it’s the same reveal as in “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize.” But that’s a minor point. Moon Girl and Girl Moon’s interactions are fun, and I love the Doombot in Lunella’s lab.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #54 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) Rob Anderson, (A) Jay Fosgitt. This episode takes place during the season 7 episode “Fluttershy Leans In.” I think it’s the first MLP comic that’s been synchronized so closely with the current season. Rob Anderson must have seen the script or at least a summary of the episode long before it aired. The issue is also a quasi-sequel to MLP: FIM #23, and like that issue, it uses visual word balloons to depict the pets’ dialogue. The plot is that while Fluttershy is building the animal sanctuary, Angel Bunny and the Cutie Mark Crusaders have to keep the animals under control. It’s a pretty hilarious story, and it’s a great use of Jay’s talents.

DEPT. H #14 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Matt Kindt. Jerome sacrifices himself so the rest of the crew can reach the surface, and also tells us his story. It turns out Jerome is a brilliant scientist, but also has either autism or social anxiety disorder, making him nearly unable to communicate. And he doesn’t care about anything but science, so he’s been committing war crimes. In particular, he’s been developing pathogens and vaccines for use in biological warfare, which has been going on behind the scenes for the entire series. At the end of the issue, Jerome gets eaten by some kind of undersea Sarlacc Pit. This issue is valuable because it gives us some understanding of what’s been happening on the surface while we’ve been underwater.

I AM GROOT #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Forgotten Door, Part 1,” (W) Christopher Hastings, (A) Flaviano. I’m not a huge fan of Christopher Hastings’s writing, and I much prefer big Groot to baby Groot. Still, it’s hard to write a bad Groot comic, and this comic is pretty good. The robot dog thing is pretty cool.

GIVE ME LIBERTY #2 (Dark Horse, 1990) – “Travel & Entertainment,” (W) Frank Miller, (A) Dave Gibbons. Martha Washington continues her mercenary career and acquires a sidekick, the deformed psychic Raggyann. Meanwhile, her archenemy Moretti slowly takes control of the U.S. government. This is another brilliantly written and drawn issue. The gay racist mafia is a rather disturbing idea, but at least it’s handled more tastefully than I’d have expected from Frank, and the Native Americans who play a major role in the plot are depicted in a reasonably non-stereotypical way.

OMAC #7 (DC, 1975) – “The Ocean Stealers!”, (W/A) Jack Kirby. Much better than the previous Kirby comic I read. The villain this issue, Dr. Skuba, has a plot to steal all the world’s water by compressing it into tiny blocks. This results in a funny scene in which Omac finds a mysterious block in the middle of a dry lakebed, and the block turns out to be so heavy he can’t lift it. Dr. Skuba’s plot is kind of similar to that one Calvin & Hobbes strip where the aliens steal all the earth’s air, though I assume that’s just a coincidence. As usual for Kirby, this issue has some amazing splash pages and action sequences, and the water-obsessed Dr. Skuba is a funny villain.

THOR #223 (Marvel, 1974) – “Hellfire Across the World!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) John Buscema. Like most Thor comics from the ‘70s, this issue has good art but a boring and formulaic story, in which Thor and Hercules rescue a girl from Pluto. The two notable moments are when Hercules complains about Asgard’s architecture, and when a bystander compares the experience of seeing Thor and Hercules to the experience of seeing Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

GRAYSON #2 (DC, 2014) – “Gut Feelings,” (W) Tim Seeley, (A) Mikel Janin. I liked the art in this comic, but the story made no sense, even though it hasn’t been that long since I read #1. I do like how this comic depicts Dick in an explicitly sexualized way; it’s good that DC is acknowledging the sexual instincts of their female and gay readers.

IMAGE FIRSTS: THE FADE OUT #1 (Image, 2014) – “The Wild Party,” (W) Ed Brubaker, (A) Sean Phillips. Yet another Brubaker/Phillips comic. This one is a Hollywood murder mystery. One day in 1948, a screenwriter wakes up next to the corpse of an “up-and-coming starlet.” The studio tries to pass off her death as a suicide, but clearly something more disturbing is going on. This comic shows evidence of effective research into ‘40s Hollywood. I especially like the director who appears to be a refugee from Europe. I’m interested in reading the rest of this story.

GROO: FRAY OF THE GODS #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Sergio Aragonés, (W) Mark Evanier. Groo visits a kingdom where the local tyrant has declared himself a god and outlawed all other religions. He goes about fixing this situation. The gods in this issue look very familiar, and I think they appeared in a previous story from the later issues of the Epic series, but I can’t remember much about that story. A cute piece of continuity is that the Minstrel appears in this issue and is accompanied by Kayli.

BATMAN #669 (DC, 2007) – “The Dark Knight Must Die!”, (W) Grant Morrison, (A) J.H. Williams III. This is part of a longer story about the group formerly known as the Batmen of All Nations. I had great difficulty figuring out who all the characters in this story were, or even how many of them there were. This issue could really have used a recap page, although even that wouldn’t have helped much. However, this issue does have spectacular J.H. Williams art.

PLANETARY #3 (WildStorm, 1999) – “Dead Gunfighters,” (W) Warren Ellis, (A) John Cassaday. This issue is a pastiche of Hong Kong action films, specifically the work of John Woo. It’s an exciting and well-executed genre parody, meaning it’s a typical issue of this series.

WONDER WOMAN #37 (DC, 2009) – “Warkiller, Part 2: Of Two Minds,” (W) Gail Simone, (A) Bernard Chang. This is a pretty average issue of a good Wonder Woman run. The one thing about it that really stuck out to me was that I groaned when Donna Troy showed up. I used to love this character, and I more or less still do. But she’s been so thoroughly ruined by bad writing and bad continuity, it’s hard to see how she fits into either the DC universe or Wonder Woman’s life. I can’t quite believe that Diana and Donna are friends when most of post-Crisis continuity has depicted them as having no relationship whatever. Also, there’s one panel where Diana tells Donna that “I loved Terry and the kids.” Donna and Terry only had one kid. Was Gail thinking of Terry’s daughter from his first marriage? If so, when did Diana ever meet her?

HEART THROBS #1 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, (W) Chris Sebela, (A) Robert Wilson IV. I had dinner with Chris Sebela once, but this is the first of his comics I’ve read. I didn’t know what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised at how good this issue was. It’s about a woman who gets a heart transplant and starts seeing visions of the man who donated her heart. He was a bank robber, and since she has access to his skills and memories, she becomes a criminal too. I love this comic’s premise – it’s farfetched and yet plausible. And the execution is quite good. I ordered the most recent issue of this series from DCBS.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #4 (Dark Horse, 1987) – Concrete: “The Gray Embrace,” (W/A) Paul Chadwick, plus other stories. The Concrete story this issue is weird, cute and funny. Concrete is all by himself on the beach, and for some reason he goes underwater and starts stealing people’s surfboards, as well as fighting a shark. He also feels sad that no one thinks he’s handsome, and embarrassed that he cares. The other interesting story in this issue is the first chapter of Ron Randall’s Trekker. This comic is not particularly well-written or original, but Randall’s art is interesting. It’s somewhere between Joe Kubert and Tim Truman, which is appropriate since Randall and Truman are both Kubert School alumni.

OUR FIGHTING FORCES #156 (DC, 1975) – “Good-Bye Broadway… Hello Death!”, (W/A) Jack Kirby. This is perhaps my least favorite ‘70s Kirby title; it seems like such a poor fit for his talents. This issue doesn’t change my mind about this series, although it does have some nice art, and it has some scenes taking place on Broadway, which I assume were drawn from memory.

BLACK PANTHER: WORLD OF WAKANDA #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “Dawn of the Midnight Angels, Part 2,” (W) Roxane Gay, (A) Alitha Martinez. I was motivated to read some Black Panther comics because I was simultaneously reading André Carrington’s book on black science fiction. I’m sorry to say this comic is not much good. I guess the plot is potentially interesting, and the representation of queer black women is progressive, but the dialogue is extremely trite and unoriginal. It’s clear that Roxane Gay has no previous experience writing fiction.

BLACK PANTHER #9 (Marvel, 2016) – “A Nation Under Our Feet, Part 9,” (W) Ta-Nehisi Coates, (A) Brian Stelfreeze. This, however, was much better. I stopped reading this series for a while, but reading this issue reminded me that this series is really very good, despite the flaws that Osvaldo Oyola pointed out in his LARB review. Looking at that review again, I see that Osvaldo’s major complaint was the series’ poor pacing and lack of structure, which is a real problem. Its greatest strength is the clarity and subtlety with which Coates thinks about serious questions – principally, what a nation is and what it means to be a king. This issue is mostly about the internal divides between the various anti-royalist factions, and Coates clearly lays out what’s at stake for each party and why the issues are so difficult.

UNCANNY X-MEN #198 (Marvel, 1985) – “Lifedeath: From the Heart of Darkness,” (W) Chris Claremont, (A) Barry Windsor-Smith. I know this story very well, but this is the first time I’ve read it in its original form, not that there’s much difference between that and the X-Men Classic version. André Carrington discusses this story at great length in his book. I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable with this story. It’s a story about Africa by two white dudes, and on previous readings, I felt like it was about multiple topics that didn’t quite come together. On rereading, I do think this story is more well-structured than I realized. The story is about the copresence of the old and the new, which we see in 1) Storm’s transformation, 2) Africa’s emergence from colonialism, and 3) the baby’s birth just as Mjnari dies. Claremont’s captions actually do make it clear that that’s the point of the story, but Claremont is such a notorious overwriter that I usually don’t pay much attention to his captions.

GIANT-SIZE MAN-THING #5 (Marvel, 1975) – “Fear Times Three,” (W) Steve Gerber, (A) Ed Hannigan, with multiple inset sequences and a backup story. In this final issue of the most obscenely titled comic ever, the main feature is a series of three sequences framed as visions that are shown to Ted Sallis and his wife by a fortuneteller. These three sequences are of widely varying quality. The first one, a bizarre horror story by Gerber and Tom Sutton, is by far the best. The second is a Romeo-and-Juliet story by Len Wein and John Buscema, which is not bad but has an unnecessarily tragic ending. The third story, by Marv Wolfman and Ed Hannigan, is very bad. This issue also includes one of the first Howard the Duck stories, in which Howard battles the Hellcow.

THOR #412 (Marvel, 1989) – “Introducing… the New Warriors!”, (W) Tom DeFalco, (A) Ron Frenz. Since I started writing these reviews, this is the only Thor comic I’ve read that was published between 1983 and 2010. There’s a reason for that: I’ve read all the Walt Simonson issues, and between Simonson and Jason Aaron, Thor was usually quite bad. In particular, Tom DeFalco spent seven years writing lifeless, formulaic Thor stories like this one. As the title indicates, this issue introduces the New Warriors, but DeFalco writes them as generic superheroes, barely distinguishable from each other and having little in common with Fabian Nicieza’s versions of the same characters.

CRIMINAL #3 (Marvel/Icon, 2006) – untitled, (W) Ed Brubaker, (A) Sean Phillips. This issue has no connection to the previous Criminal comic I read. It’s about two lovers who are on the run for some reason. It’s okay but not spectacular.

New comics received on June 2:

SAGA #43 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Brian K. Vaughan, (A) Fiona Staples. I expected there would be something shocking on the first page of this issue, but I didn’t expect it would be a giant sign saying WELCOME TO ABORTION TOWN. This story arc is about Alana’s quest to have her dead baby aborted, so it’s one of the darker Saga stories so far. The highlight of the issue is Hazel and Petrichor’s conversation about Hazel’s fears about her body.

SEX CRIMINALS #19 (Image, 2017) – “Down with the Thickness,” (W) Matt Fraction, (A) Chip Zdarsky. Another rather dark story. Jon and Suzie are having their worst relationship problems yet, in the middle of having to deal with Kegelface and the other characters with sex powers. The most interesting moment of the issue is the panel where Jon’s therapist* is giving a long speech, and some really weird things are going on in the background – it appears that the restaurant is being attacked by terrorists or something. But we can’t see what’s happening because the artwork in the panel is obscured by the therapist’s word balloons. I think maybe Matt and Chip did this intentionally as a satire on writers who are too wordy.

* I can’t remember this character’s name, and Google is not helping.

WONDER WOMAN ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2017) – “And Then There Were Three…”, (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Nicola Scott. Very disappointing. The first story this issue, about Batman and Superman’s first meeting with Wonder Woman, is entertaining. However, it’s much more of a Batman and Superman story than a Wonder Woman story. See my complaint, above, about how Greg’s Wonder Woman is less about WW herself than about the people around her. The second and third stories in this issue are awful fill-in material, though at least the third one has some good art. The fourth one, in which Wonder Woman encounters a friendly kaiju, is probably the best thing in the issue, but it’s still not that good.

HEROINES #1 (Space Goat, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Ted Naifeh. I didn’t know what to expect from Ted’s first attempt at a superhero comic, but I really like it. The highlight of the issue is the black female superhero, who has an unusual but very realistic and progressive approach: she doesn’t bother to persecute criminals, just to help their victims. The other characters are also fairly intteresting, though the male superheroes are a bit strawmannish. I think that most Marvel and DC superhero comics have gotten beyond that sort of blatant sexism; the sexism that continues to exist in the genre is more subtle. But overall, this is a fun comic, I like it much better than Night’s Dominion, and I look forward to future issues.

MONSTRESS #12 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Marjorie Liu, (A) Sana Takeda. Maika escapes the Blood Fox, and her new quest is to find her father, who appears in shadow in the final panel. This is a pretty good issue. After #11, the reader was left with a very negative impression of Maika’s mother Moriko. But this issue presents Moriko in a very different light, suggestiong that she did what she did for her daughter’s benefit.

HULK #6 (Marvel, 2017) – “Deconstructed, Part Six,” (W) Mariko Tamaki, (A) Nico Leon. This is a strong conclusion to the story arc, though this story should have ended two issues sooner. In her battle with Maise Brewn’s pet monster, Jen realizes that the monster is made of Maise’s fear, which is the same sort of fear that Jen has been suffering since Bruce’s death. So the point of this story is that trauma is about fear – when you’ve been traumatized, you’re afraid to start living normally again. Despite being overly decompressed, this story is another example of the subtlety and power of Mariko Tamaki’s writing.

BLACK PANTHER #10 (Marvel, 2017) – “A Nation Under Our Feet, Part 10,” as above. Another good issue, though I have little to say about it that I didn’t already say about issue 10. A cool moment in this issue is when T’Challa and Changamire discuss Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom, which is a real book, though I haven’t read it.

BLACK PANTHER #11 (Marvel, 2017) – “A Nation Under Our Feet, Part 11,” as above. T’Challa defeats Tetu’s army with the aid of ghosts of dead Wakandans. I don’t quite understand what happened here, but I want to go back and read some more old Black Panther comics so I can understand this series better. The last page, in which a room full of black women gather to discuss Wakanda’s future, is a powerful moment.

THE FLINTSTONES #11 (DC, 2017) – “The Neighborhood Association,” (W) Mark Russell, (A) Steve Pugh. Some hipsters move into Bedrock and immediately start gentrifying. Meanwhile, Gazoo has to stop his fellow aliens from destroying Earth, which he does by nominating Dino as a representative of Earth’s people. This issue is a hilarious satire of hipster gentrification, and the Gazoo subplot is also funny.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #12 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Skottie Young. In a parody of the samurai genre, Gert rescues a baby from some samurai mushrooms and returns it to its mother. Gert’s attempt to do a good deed does not end well, as the baby’s mother promptly eats it. Oh well.

INVINCIBLE #134 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Robert Kirkman, (A) Ryan Ottley. Another bad issue of a series that’s completely jumped the shark.

BLACK PANTHER #12 (Marvel, 2017) – “A Nation Under Our Feet, Part 12,” as above. This issue consists entirely of conversations, but they’re interesting and well-written conversations that effectively wrap up the story and prepare for the next one. I wonder if Ta-Nehisi has ever tried writing drama, because this issue feels kind of like a play.

THE BACKSTAGERS #8 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) James Tynion IV, (A) Rian Sygh. The conclusion to the series is heartwarming, and effectively ties together all the threads from the first eight issues. This wasn’t my favorite Boom! Box title, but it was groundbreaking in that it specifically targeted an audience of gay boys. I can’t think of a single other comic that aimed at that audience, but hopefully there will be others in the future.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR: UNSUNG HERO #2 (Dark Horse, 2002) – “Robert McNeill, Part 2,” (W) Harvey Pekar, (A) David Collier. This American Splendor miniseries is unusual in that it’s not about Harvey. It’s a narrative told by Robert McNeill, Harvey’s coworker, about his Vietnam War experiences, and Harvey only appears in it as the interviewer to whom Robert tells his story. Robert’s narrative is a fascinating depiction of the Vietnam War from a black veteran’s perspective. It explores issues of race and warfare and masculinity. The centerpiece of the issue is a scene where Robert correctly predicts that the Viet Cong are about to attack, but no one believes him. David Collier’s lettering is sometimes hard to read, but his art is very compelling and is a good fit for Harvey’s style of writing.

BLACK PANTHER #13 (Marvel, 2017) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 1,” (W) Ta-Nehisi Coates, (A) Wilfredo Torres. I don’t like Wilfredo Torres’s art nearly as much as I like Brian Stelfreeze’s art. (Speaking of art, there’s one panel that depicts Storm’s stint as a tribal goddess, and I think this panel was reprinted from Giant-Size X-Men #1.) The theme of this new story is that the Wakandan people are losing faith in their gods, and meanwhile Wakanda is being invaded by lizard people. So if the previous story was about the complicated issue of nationality, this new story is about the equally complicated issue of religion.

FUTURIANS #3 (Lodestone, 1985) – “Web of Horror!”, (W/A) Dave Cockrum. I read this because the reprinted panel in Black Panther #13 made me nostalgic for Cockrum’s art. The art in this issue is Cockrum at his best; it reminds me a lot of his X-Men story with the Acanti starships. Dave was an underrated writer, as the Nightcrawler miniseries demonstrated, and the writing in this issue is not bad, though there are a ton of characters and most of their names are not mentioned. A weird moment in this issue is that there’s a footnote referencing “Hammerhand #43,” a comic that doesn’t exist.

BLACK PANTHER #14 (Marvel, 2017) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 2,” (W) Ta-Nehisi Coates, (A) Wilfredo Torres & Jacen Burrows. I don’t have much to say about this issue that I haven’t already said. Doctor Faustus’s portrayal in this issue seems slightly out of character.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR: UNSUNG HERO #3 (Dark Horse, 2002) – “Robert McNeill, Part 3,” as above. See the review of #2 above. This concludes the story, depicting how McNeill leaves Vietnam and gets home safely.

Reviews for April and May

Resuming on May 16. I’m about a month behind. This is because 1) I was swamped with work since it was the end of the semester, and 2) I’m running out of room in my boxes and have not yet been able to order more, so I’m reluctant to put any comics away.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #19 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Ryan North, (A) Erica Henderson. An excellent sort-of conclusion to the Melissa Morbeck three-parter. In monologuing, Melissa reveals that she was responsible for a lot of things, including the US Airways Flight 1549 crash and Squirrel Girl being in the same dorm as Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi. Then Doreen saves the day, but Melissa escapes. Meanwhile the bear and the chicken get married. Lots of other stuff happens that I can’t remember. It’s been about a month.

RAT QUEENS II #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kurtis Wiebe, (A) Owen Gieni. This is a classic Rat Queens story, if a series that’s only about five years old can be said to have a classic style. The girls defeat the giant bird monster that ate Betty, then they go back to the bar and drink. It’s a fun, exuberant story, free of the excessive angst that characterized the last few issues of the previous series. There’s also a backup story by Patrick Rothfuss. While it’s kind of cool that they got a famous fantasy writer to do a guest story, he clearly has no comics experience and the story is pointless; it’s just a series of stories within stories, none of which ever ends.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #4 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jeremy Whitley, (A) Elsa Charretier. Another good one. Nadia beats up Titania and Poundcakes, who have come for Priya’s mother’s protection money. Then Nadia meets her old friend Ying, but Ying has been implanted with a bomb that will go off in 36 hours unless Nadia rejoins the Red Room. One of the highlights of this comic is Jarvis. I love his long-suffering but affectionate attitude toward Nadia. I think this may be my third favorite Marvel title now that we’ve lost Patsy Walker.

MOTOR CRUSH #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Babs Tarr, (W) Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart. The conclusion to the first storyline. It turns out there’s some kind of giant pyramid thing that’s looking for Domino, and the Dark Rider is its representative. The pyramid thing returns and Dom takes a whole bunch of Crush to try to catch it, but instead catapults herself two years into the future, which reminds me of Max Mercury. Next issue is in August.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #28 (Image, 2017) – “They Fuck You Up,” (W) Kieron Gillen, (A) Jamie McKelvie. Lots of stuff happens this issue, most of which I don’t remember. Most notably, Sakhmet kills a lot of people, perhaps including Amaterasu, after learning the truth about Ananke.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #8 (DC, 2017) – “Second Semester Finale,” (W) Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, (A) Adam Archer & Michelle Sassyk. With so many creators involved, you would think this would be a case of too many cooks, but this series has always had a strong, unified vision. I assume Fletcher is the primary auteur behind it, but I could be wrong. This issue, I forget if we learn any new information about Olive’s family history, but Olive goes nuts and heads off to seek revenge on the descendants of Amity Arkham’s killers. Meanwhile, Pomeline and Colton are freed by Maps’s Clayface roommate. Oh, and I forgot to mention this series is ending after issue 12. I’m going to miss it, but it seems like this was a planned conclusion.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #1 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jeremy Whitley, (A) Brenda Hickey. This new series includes stories of Equestria’s distant past history. This issue is about Celestia’s youth and how Starswirl convinced her to stop bullying Luna. It’s a fun one-shot story, but it does raise the uncomfortable question of who was ruling Equestria while Celestia and Luna were underage.

CHAMPIONS #6 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Mark Waid, (A) Humberto Ramos. In the first half of the issue, the Champions play paintball. This is a cute scene which is obviously inspired by the classic trope of the X-Men playing baseball. In the second half of the issue, we’re reintroduced to a group of villains called the Freelancers. This half of the issue is less successful because the Freelancers are just cartoonishly evil for the sake of being evil.

SILVER SURFER #10 (Marvel, 2017) – “Bound for Eternity,” (W) Dan Slott, (A) Mike Allred. Dawn and Norrin encounter Galactus, who has somehow turned into a bizarro-Galactus who creates planets instead of eating them. He sends Surfer and Dawn on a mission to obtain two objects from opposite ends of the universe, which they do, but then they have no power left to get back to each other. Desperate, Surfer prays to Eternity, who brings them back together. The splash page where Eternity reunites Surfer and Dawn together – by touching its fingers together – is one of the most powerful and creative moments in this series.

CHAMPIONS #7 (Marvel, 2017) – The Freelancers frame the Champions for a bunch of crimes. The Champions defeat the Freelancers and clear their names. But it turns out the Freelancers have gotten revenge by taking out a trademark on the Champions’ name and logo. I’m not an intellectual property lawyer, but I find this impossible to believe (even though I’m willing to believe in Terrigen mist and androids and radioactive spiders, yeah, I know). Can you really trademark something that’s been released into the public domain by its creator? I should point out that when I asked that question on Facebook, a couple people suggested that this story is a metatextual commentary on Marvel’s legal battles with Hero Games, who published a pen-and-paper RPG called Champions.

TWO GUN KID #84 (Marvel, 1966) – “Gunslammer!”, (W) Larry Lieber, (A) Dick Ayers. An obnoxious punk kid tries to establish a reputation by beating the Two-Gun Kid in a gunfight. This story is a competent but unexciting example of the Western genre. Marvel’s Western comics are far less interesting to me than their superhero comics.

DRIFTER #1 (Image, 2014) – “Personal Disaster is Imminent,” (W) Ivan Brandon, (A) Nic Klein. I bought this when it came out, but didn’t bother to read it until Black Cloud #1 came out, which motivated me to look into Ivan Brandon’s other work. This comic has brilliant art and coloring, but the story fails to grab me; it seems like an unoriginal blend of the SF and Western genres.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #15 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) David F. Walker, (A) Sanford Greene. The Alex Wilder story concludes with Luke, Danny and Señor Mágico joining forces to defeat some kind of demon. Then the series ends with Luke hugging Danny. Overall, this was a really good comic and it deserved more than 15 issues, although it will be replaced by a solo Luke Cage series (not to mention a solo Iron Fist series which I don’t plan to read).

STRANGE DAYS #2 (Eclipse, 1985) – three stories, (W) Peter Milligan, (A) Brendan McCarthy & Brett Ewins. Two stories drawn by McCarthy and one by Ewins. All this material is fascinating, if not always easy to follow, but I think my favorite is “Paradax!”, partly because of the protagonist’s costume – McCarthy could have been a great superhero costume designer.

SCORPIO ROSE #2 (Eclipse, 1983) – untitled, (W) Steve Englehart, (A) Marshall Rogers. As is typical of ‘80s Englehart, this comic has a convoluted plot with some rather disturbing sexual implications, and also features a guest appearance by Mantis. Here she’s called Lorelei, but she points out that she’s known by many names. Besides the unexpected surprise of the Mantis guest appearance, the best thing about this issue is the Marshall Rogers artwork. This issue includes a backup story, “Doctor Orient,” which has more excellent Marshall Rogers artwork, but a forgettable story by a writer I’ve never heard of, Frank Lauria.

HELLBOY IN HELL #5 (Dark Horse, 2013) – untitled, (W/A) Mike Mignola. Unlike some other recent Hellboy stories, this one makes sense on its own without knowledge of the ongoing storyline, and it feels like a classic Mignola work. In hell, Hellboy encounters a deserter from the Napoleonic wars who sold his soul to a demon. But the deserter can save himself by answering an impossible question: what meal will the demon serve him in hell? Hellboy gets the demon’s mother to trick the demon into answering the question, and the deserter’s soul is saved. This story has the atmosphere of deadpan weirdness that’s characteristic of Hellboy at its best.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #12 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Ed Piskor. This final issue includes the origins of such “characters” as KRS-One, the Beastie Boys, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. There’s going to be a fourth volume of the graphic novel series, but this is the last issue of the monthly comic book, which is unfortunate because I prefer the comic books to the graphic novels.

STRANGE TALES #164 (Marvel, 1968) – Dr. Strange in “Nightmare!”, (W) Jim Lawrence, (A) Dan Adkins; and Nick Fury in “Black Noon!”, (W/A) Jim Steranko. Obviously the highlight of this issue is the Fury story, which is part of the ongoing Yellow Claw epic. But the Dr. Strange story is not bad either. Dan Adkins is quite good at drawing bizarre otherworldly creatures, including a giant slug and a leather-winged bat demon.

JONESY #12 (BOOM!, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Caitlin Rose Boyle, (W) Sam Humphries. The conclusion of a series that failed to reach its potential. The evil city commissioner tries to force Jonesy to pledge never to use her powers again, but Jonesy refuses. Then Jonesy concludes the series by telling readers to fall in love with themselves, which is cute. I wonder what Caitlin Rose Boyle will do next.

WONDER WOMAN #20 (DC, 2017) – “Godwatch, Part 3,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Bilquis Evely. My interest in this series is fading. There’s too much Veronica Cale and not enough Wonder Woman. This issue is the worst example of that yet. It has 20 pages, and Diana only appears on 7 of them. Ridiculous.

BLAKE & MORTIMER VOL. 1 (Cinebook, 2012, originally 1950) – “The Secret of the Swordfish, Part 1,” (W/A) Edgar Pierre Jacobs. The first album of probably the best Franco-Belgian adventure comic besides Tintin. I’ve read two other Blake et Mortimer albums, The Time Trap or The Yellow M, and this album is just as exciting and energetically drawn as those were. However, the tone is quite different. Instead of a globe-trotting adventure thriller, it’s a war story. With the aid of supervillain Olrik, the Tibetan empire conquers the entire world, and Blake and Mortimer have to reach the mysterious “Swordfish” in order to mount a counterattack. (What the Swordfish is will be explained in a later volume, I guess.) You can tell that this comic was written in the shadow of World War II; at the time, the idea of a dictatorial empire conquering the world would have seemed like a very credible threat. Overall, I really enjoyed this comic. Cinebook has done Anglophone readers a great service by translating so many classic BD albums, and I want to get as many of their publications as I can.

Week of April 21:

MS. MARVEL #17 (Marvel, 2017) – “Damage Per Second, Part 4,” (W) G. Willow Wilson, (A) Takeshi Miyazawa. The scene at the start of the issue, where everyone comforts Zoe after she’s been smeared on social media, is one of the emotional high points of this series. Well, I hesitate to say that because there are emotional high points in nearly every issue, but it’s a beautiful scene. After that scene, Kamala goes on to defeat Doc.X by getting all the players in World of Battlecraft to behave in a kind and altruistic way. The implicit message here is that Internet culture can be a force for good as well as evil – that the Internet can be a tool for encouraging kindness and community. And I think this is an encouraging message, in these dark days of the online alt-right.

SEX CRIMINALS #18 (Image, 2017) – “Totems,” (W) Matt Fraction, (A) Chip Zdarsky. This issue is part of a growing subgenre of comic books that include scenes that take place at fan conventions. In this issue, obviously, the scene in question takes place at a porn convention, where Jazmine St. Cocaine has a table. Meanwhile, Jon and Suzie’s relationship becomes strained when Jon buys lots of sex toys and asks Suzie to act out various fantasies. This is a good issue, but it feels like just a minor chapter in a longer storyline.

ASTRO CITY #43 (Image, 2017) – “My Dad,” (W) Kurt Busiek, (A) Brent Anderson. The Gentleman’s origin story is one of the most creative, unexpected Astro City stories ever. It took me a while to figure out what was going on, but once I got it, I was deilghted. The story is narrated by a little girl named Tillie who is raised by her single father, until he gets killed in a robbery. Except he’s not really dead, because whenever Tillie needs him, he comes back as the Gentleman. Gradually it becomes clear that Tillie’s dad really is dead, and that the Gentleman is Tillie herself – or more precisely, Tillie has the power to turn her image of the perfect father into a physical being. And as a side effect of doing so, she prevents herself from aging. It’s not clear what exactly is going on here, and yet it all makes perfect emotional sense.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #38 (IDW, 2017) – “Battle Royal!,” (W/A) Andy Price. The final issue of the series is also, I believe, the first pony comic both written and drawn by Andy Price. Appropriately, it’s about Andy’s two favorite characters, Celestia and Luna. Celestia and Luna decide to compete at the Sisterhooves Social, which requires them to take a potion to remove their powers so they don’t have an unfair advantage. Their competitive spirits flare, and hijinks ensue. Like every other pony comic drawn by Andy, this issue is hilarious and full of funny in-jokes. Andy turns out to be a good writer as well as a good artist.

GANGES #6 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – “The End” and other interrelated stories, (W/A) Kevin Huizenga. Kevin H. is one of my favorite current cartoonists, and I’ve even published two papers about him. However, I’ve only been following Ganges intermittently because it’s not always easy to find. I had some trouble understanding what went on in this issue; however, that was not because I’ve missed a few of the previous issues, but rather because this comic is just hard to follow. Kevin H.’s style is at its most experimental here, and he uses most if not all of the bizarre drawing techniques he developed in earlier issues. Overall, I get the sense that Ganges is one of Kevin’s major works, but I hope he publishes it in collected form, so that it will be easier to read and study the whole thing at once.

COADY AND THE CREEPIES #2 (BOOM!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Liz Prince, (A) Amanda Kirk. This is a significant improvement over the first issue, which was okay but not great. The band’s van breaks down in the desert, leading to all sorts of shenanigans and misadventures as well as relationship drama.

MONSTRESS #11 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Marjorie Liu, (A) Sana Takeda. I still feel reluctant to read this comic when it comes out, which is very unfair, because it’s more fun and easier to follow than I’ve given it credit for. This issue, Maika talks with the old Blood Fox dude, and he tells her that her mother gave birth to her as part of her (the mother’s) plot to control the Monstrum. This is not directly stated, but I guess Maika’s father must have been the last descendant of the Shaman-Empress, so I wonder where her father is, unless this was stated somewhere and I missed it. Anyway, after that, the Blood Fox demands that Maika free him, leading to a big fight that will be continued next issue.

TRUE STORY, SWEAR TO GOD #13 (Image, 2010) – “Jagged Lil’ Pill,” (W/A) Tom Beland. It’s been a long time since I read this comic, and returning to it now, I have mixed feelings about it. To put this rather bluntly, judged by the standards of autobiographical comics, Tom’s work has some severe limitations. He has a limited ability to think critically about himself, or to draw connections between his personal life and anything else. His prose style isn’t the best either. What makes this comic valuable, besides Tom’s compelling style of drawing, is the exuberance and passion with which he approaches his work. Even if his words aren’t the best words, you get the sense that he deeply cares about every word he writes and every line he draws.

THE MAXX #12 (Image, 1994) – untitled, (W) William Messner-Loebs, (A) Sam Kieth. I forget if I said this before, but this series was historically important because it was the first Image comic that had any kind of serious artistic aims. However, I didn’t understand what was going on in this issue, though I liked the art. I probably have to make an attempt to read this series in order.

DESCENDER #21 (Image, 2017) – “Orbital Mechanics 5 of 5,” (W) Jeff Lemire, (A) Dustin Nguyen. Lots of stuff happens this issue, but I’ve forgotten most of it. In particular, Telsa apparently gets killed, and Tim (the good one) and Andy each finally discover that the other is alive.

SUPER SONS #3 (DC, 2017) – “When I Grow Up…”, (W) Peter Tomasi, (A) Jorge Jimenez. Damian and Jon battle Kid Amazo and his robot doubles. This was another fun issue, but I barely remember anything about it now. In a couple months this may be the best ongoing DC title, which is kind of sad.

WEIRD WESTERN TALES #29 (DC, 1975) – “Breakout at Fort Charlotte,” (W) Michael Fleisher, (A) Noly Panaligan. Jonah is challenged by a teenage boy who believes his father was killed at Fort Charlotte during the war, thanks to Jonah’s betrayal. Most of the issue consists of a flashback explaining what happened at Fort Charlotte. It turns out Jonah really did surrender to a Union officer because he was opposed to slavery. However, although Jonah refused to reveal any information about his former comrades, the Union commander figured out that information anyway and blamed Jonah, and was also even more racist than Jonah’s former Confederate friends. In general this is a very good Civil War story, with nice art by a nearly forgotten Filipino artist. However, this story does engage in false equivalence by suggesting that Northerners and Southerners were equally racist. That may be true in some sense, but at least the Union wasn’t fighting to preserve slavery.

SPIDER-GWEN #18 (Marvel, 2017) – “Sitting in a Tree, Part 6,” (W) Jason Latour, (A) Robbi Rodriguez. Yet again, this issue is part of a crossover and is difficult to understand without also reading the Miles Morales title, which I don’t want to read because it’s written by Bendis. If this series was even a little bit worse than it is, I would have dropped it quite a while ago, because these constant crossovers have been a huge annoyance. The cool thing about this issue is that part of it takes place in an alternate reality where Gwen and Miles have gotten married and had kids. And meanwhile, Spider-Ham has gotten married, possibly to an actual pig, and has sired a litter of piglets. This kind of thing is why I’m still reading this comic.

DEPT. H #13 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Matt Kindt. I’ve forgotten most of what happens in this issue. There’s some sort of revelation about how all the undersea creatures are part of a group mind, and then it turns out that one of the characters will have to stay underwater. I wonder if this series is going to end after 24 issues, because that’s the number of increments on the depth gauge in the margin of each page.

DOCTOR STRANGE #18 (Marvel, 2017) – “The World’s Finest Super-Surgeons,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Chris Bachalo. Doctor Strange and Thor team up to save a bunch of people who Strange previously treated for brain tumors, and who are now possessed by Mister Misery. This issue is a fun team-up between two characters who Jason Aaron is currently writing.

DOCTOR STRANGE #19 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Power of Strange Compels You,” as above. Mister Misery has now possessed Wong, and Doc has to free him. This issue suggests some disturbing things about Strange and Wong’s relationship; it almost implies that Wong is Strange’s slave (I’m writing this review just after reading Alex Tizon’s article “My Family’s Slave”). However, the idea that Wong has no life outside Strange is a bit of a retcon, since Wong has had a couple notable romantic involvements. On the other hand, Wong’s romance with Sarah Wolfe was nipped in the bud because of his obligations to Strange, so I guess that proves that Wong really does have no life outside of working for Strange.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #11 (DC, 1994) – “The Brute, Act Three,” (W) Matt Wagner, (A) R.G. Taylor. A rather horrifying story. The villain in this story arc is a rich man who runs an illegal bare-knuckle boxing operation. The co-protagonist is a homeless down-on-his luck boxer who gets roped into this scheme as a way of buying medicine for his sick little daughter. And at the end of the issue, we learn that the daughter was raped by another homeless man. This issue demonstrates the stark contrast between the idyllic lives of New York’s rich and the squalid, violent lives of its underclass.

ENIGMA #2 (DC, 1993) – “The Truth,” (W) Peter Milligan, (A) Duncan Fegredo. I believe I have this entire series, but I’ve only gotten to issue 2 so far. The problem with this comic is that it doesn’t make sense at all. It has something to do with a comic book superhero and a serial killer, but otherwise, I have no idea what’s even going on here. I think I need to read the entire series, then read it again.

FAT FREDDY’S COMICS AND STORIES #1 (Rip Off, 1983) – various stories, (W/A) Gilbert Shelton et al. This issue includes a bunch of stories, each drawn by a different artist and parodying a different style of comics. The artists include Shelton, Jack Jackson, Spain and S. Clay Wilson among others. The stories are parodies of EC horror, EC science fiction, Conan, war comics, romance comics, Superman, Howard the Duck, and the work of Robt. Williams (I think). Perhaps the most interesting thing in this issue is the SF story by Hal Robins. I’ve never heard of this artist before, but his draftsmanship is beautiful and distinctive. It appears that he’s better known as a voice actor than as a cartoonist. Fantagraphics or someone else should do a collection of his work.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #5 (DC, 1990) – “Hollywood Babble On,” (W) Peter Milligan, (A) Chris Bachalo. Some Hollywood types are making a movie, but every time they watch the film, it reveals the actors’ and the director’s darkest secrets. Shade and Kathy arrive in Hollywood to try and figure out what’s going on. This story is an interesting examination of American national hypocrisy, but it’s perhaps not as interesting as later issues that focus more on Shade and Kathy themselves.

ROYAL CITY #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Jeff Lemire. This issue is just a continuation of the plot from last issue. I’m starting to get really annoyed at most of the characters in the comic, in particular the mother, who is never satisfied with anything her children do. Patrick is perhaps the most sympathetic character, but only because he’s inflicting pain on himself rather than anyone else. But I guess the whole point of this series is that Richie’s early death tore his family apart, and each of the family members perceives Richie as personifying all the good qualities that the rest of the family lacks.

CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #7 (DC, 2017) – “Have I Ever Told You the Story About When I Saved Superman?”, (W) Jon Rivera & Gerard Way, (A) Michael Avon Oeming. Superman appears and saves the day, but then it turned out that Superman’s appearance only happened in Cave’s head, and he’s back on the surface and the monster from underground is invading. This issue includes some extremely trippy and abstract pages that depict Cave’s visions.

GODSHAPER #1 (BOOM!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Simon Spurrier, (A) Jonas Goonface. Si Spurrier’s latest original series takes place in a world where everyone has a personal god, the power of each god being proportional to that of its person. The protagonist is a “godshaper” who has no god himself, or at least claims not to, but who has the power to enhance other people’s gods. Like Six-Gun Gorilla and The Spire, this comic has a fascinating premise, and the art is pretty good too, despite the artist’s ridiculous pen name. I want to read the second issue after I finish writing these reviews.

MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN #3 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, (W) Roger Langridge, (A) Felipe Cunha. At this point in the overarching King universe, Ming has invaded Earth and has somehow caused advanced technology to stop working. And Mandrake and another character named Karma have to escape from prison and defeat Ming’s ally Princess Karma. I think. I don’t remember most of what happened here, but it was an exciting adventure story.

BACCHUS #2 (Eddie Campbell, 1995) – “King Bacchus” and other stories, (W/A) Eddie Campbell et al. In the first story in this issue, Bacchus and his friends take over a pub on an island and declare it an independent nation, and also a character obviously based on John Constantine shows up. There’s also a chapter of “Immortality Isn’t Forever,” in which the Eyeball Kid hijacks an airplane, while Bacchus explains Joe Theseus’s origin. I think I’ve read that story before somewhere.

SPACE USAGI #3 (Mirage, 1992) – “Death and Honor, Chapter 3,” (W/A) Stan Sakai. I usually don’t like Space Usagi as much as regular Usagi, but this issue was quite good. In the final chapter, Usagi kills the primary villain in combat, then (in a reversal of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) discovers that the woman he thought was Princess Masayo is actually her handmaid, meaning he’s free to romance her. And her name turns out to be Tomoe. Sadly, it turns out this woman gets killed in one of the later miniseries, and Usagi’s eventual wife, depicted in Usagi Yojimbo: Senso #6, is another woman named Mariko.

ADVENTURE COMICS #452 (DC, 1977) – “Dark Destiny, Deadly Dreams,” (W) David Michelinie, (A) Jim Aparo. This is the issue where Aquababy dies, after Aquaman tries to save him and barely fails. You have to wonder what David Michelinie was thinking when he decided to kill off Aquababy. Not only was this a waste of a potentially good character, it also ruined Mera’s character permanently, since most subsequent writers have been unable to see her as anything but the mother of a dead son, and it made the Aquaman franchise significantly darker. This issue may be the point where Aquaman jumped the shark, at least until Peter David arrived in the ‘90s. This issue also has other problems. At the end, Aqualad refuses to sympathize with Aquaman because he’s butthurt that Aquaman tried to kill him in order to save Aquababy’s life. Also, the revelation that Black Manta is black is delivered in a slightly offensive way. I have to think that with even a couple more years of writing experience, David Michelinie would not have written this story, or at least he would have written it more tastefully.

HELLBLAZER #50 (DC, 1992) – “Remarkable Lives,” (W) Garth Ennis, (A) William Simpson. After reading a story about a fake John Constantine (see Bacchus #2 review above), I wanted to read about the real one. Besides the rather poor art, this issue is really good. Constantine spends the night in a graveyard, talking to the King of the Vampires. Their conversation is interspersed with splash pages depicting scenes from the King’s long life. The King demands that Constantine work for him, which Constantine of course refuses. Then the King challenges Constantine to name one way in which being a human is better than being a vampire, or else the King will cut his throat. Constantine replies “Why don’t we sit here together and watch the sun come up in an hour or so?”, which must be one of his best lines ever.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #136 (DC, 1974) – “Wonder Woman: Mrs. Superman,” (W) Cary Bates, (A) John Rosenberger. Superman announces his engagement to Wonder Woman, then Lois stalks them both until she proves that they’re trying to trick her. This issue’s story is stupid and sexist, as is typical of this series, but at least the art is not bad, and Lois’s black colleague Melba is a somewhat interesting supporting character.

DAREDEVIL #59 (Marvel, 1969) – “The Torpedo Will Get You If You Don’t Watch Out!”, (W) Roy Thomas, (A) Gene Colan. As with most Daredevil comics from this period, the highlight of this issue is Gene the Dean’s incredible art, and the story is rather forgettable. In terms of the story, the most interesting thing about this issue is that it reintroduces Willie Lincoln, the blind veteran from issue 47 (“Brother, Take My Hand”). Willie Lincoln’s only appearance after this issue was in Daredevil #258, many years later.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #122 (DC, 1999) – “Legion of the Damned, Part One,” (W) Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, (A) Olivier Coipel. This Legion run was very popular, but my problem with it at the time was that DnA didn’t really “get” the Legion; for them, it was just another superhero comic. This issue is well-drawn and conveys a powerful sense of desperation, but it doesn’t feel like a Legion comic. Also, I’m annoyed with the scene where Chameleon breaks down and cries after his teammates are assimilated by the Blight. Maybe this is just my headcanon, but I prefer to believe that Legionnaires never give up, and that when faced with impossible odds, they just get angrier.

USAGI YOJIMBO #11 (Mirage, 1994) – “Daisho,” (W/A) Stan Sakai. This issue begins with a flashback depicting the origin story of Usagi’s swords. In this sequence, Stan gives us a seemingly accurate depiction of how Japanese swords are made. Then we’re reminded that Usagi’s swords have been stolen by some brigands. Usagi fails to recover them, and in his determination to hunt the brigands down, Usagi becomes so furious that he starts acting like a villain himself. The high point of the story is the moment when Usagi realizes that his anger has caused him to fall below his own moral standards.

Week of 4/28:

LUMBERJANES #37 (BOOM!, 2017) – “Let’s Be Prank,” (W) Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, (A) Ayme Sotuyo. I’ve been waiting for this one for a while, and it did not disappoint. The parents arrive for Parents’ Day, and both the campers and the counselors have to work overtime to prevent the parents from realizing that the camp is full of supernatural phenomena. The highlight of the issue for me is Mal’s mom, who is just as exuberant and energetic as her daughter is quiet and shy. I’m instantly in love with this character. And it’s also cute how she basically adopts Molly, whose own mother is nowhere to be seen. Ripley’s Teen Vogue-reading grandma is also pretty cool, though we knew about this character already. Molly’s mother is nowhere to be seen, And I’m curious about the other two raccoons who are suddenly hanging out with Bubbles; I suspect that Bubbles is participating in Parents’ Day and the other raccoons are its parents.

PATSY WALKER A.K.A. HELLCAT #17 (Marvel, 2017) – “The End of All Things,” (W) Kate Leth, (A) Brittney Williams. A sadly premature conclusion to an awesome series. This issue is a lot of fun, as usual, and it wraps up the series in a satisfying way, but I get the feeling that Kate and Brittney didn’t really want it to end when it did. I look forward to seeing what they both do next, but I’d have liked to see more of this series.

LADYCASTLE #3 (BOOM!, 2017) – “When Harpies Attack,” (W) Delilah S. Dawson, (A) Becca Farrow. This series is so fun and so well-executed that it really deserves to be more than a four-issue miniseries. As usual there are all kinds of fascinating things in this issue, starting with the parody of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air song. This issue, the castle hosts a tea party for a flock of harpies, who demand to be treated with impeccable politeness or else. Also, their prophecies always come true. The harpies are not only the highlight of the issue, but also easily my favorite harpies in any work of fiction. Besides that, while this series has a large ensemble cast, Gwyneff is the central character, at least this issue, and her character arc is fascinating. She’s a princess, but she’d much rather be a knight. I guess the lesson she learns this issue is that she can be both at once, or something like that.

HULK #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “Deconstructed Part Five,” (W) Mariko Tamaki, (A) Nico Leon. I complained that Hulk #4 was too decompressed and that it didn’t advance the plot at all, and Hulk #5 has the same problem, but to a greater degree. Nothing really happens this issue. This story could have been completed in four issues instead of six. I still love Mariko Tamaki’s writing, but it’s clear that she’s more comfortable writing graphic novels than monthly comic books.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #18 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Smartest There Is! Part Six: Full Moon,” (W) Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder, (A) Natacha Bustos. Amy’s last issue represents a significant leap forward for Lunella’s character, as she realizes that “life is better when you need other people.” Also, all the characters from the previous issues of this storyline make guest appearances. Because of the sheer number of guest stars, this issue reminds me a bit of the Thanksgiving issue of Power Pack.

JEM: THE MISFITS #4 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Jenn St-Onge. This is the first comic I’ve ever read that deals seriously with the topic of adult illiteracy. I think we already knew that Roxy was illiterate, but this issue gives a plausible and tragic explanation of why: she had some sort of undiagnosed learning disability, then dropped out of school because of family problems and bullying. After the flashback, Jetta gives Roxy a pep talk and encourages Roxy to make another attempt to learn to read. In this issue Kelly Thompson does a great job of getting the reader to understand and sympathize with Roxy, despite the extreme stigma that attaches to adult literacy. This issue is comparable in quality to issue 2 (the one about Stormer and fat-shaming).

SUPERGIRL: BEING SUPER #3 (DC, 2017) – untitled, (W) Mariko Tamaki, (A) Joëlle Jones. This is another fantastic issue, though I’ve come to expect this series to be fantastic. The first memorable moment in this issue is the flashback where Kara’s maternal grandparents reject her because of her powers. Then Kara discovers that her gym teacher is performing experimens on a teenage male Kryptonian. However, this Kryptonian is named Tan-On, not Kal-El, and the reason why becomes clear when we learn that he wants to conquer Earth rather than become a superhero. And Kara decides to join him because she’s sick of being mistreated by humans. I look forward to seeing how this ends.

ALIENS: DEAD ORBIT #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) James Stokoe. I’m not especially interested in this franchise, but as usual, James Stokoe’s artwork is spectacular and it easily justifies the price of this issue.

MIGHTY THOR #18 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Asgard/Shi’ar War, Part Four: The Omega Kiss,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Russell Dauterman. I was wrong; the Ultimate Judgment is not the Mangog but the Phoenix, which makes a lot of sense. Thor recruits Quentin Quire, a character previously used by Jason Aaron, to deal with the threat. Overall this has been a really good story arc.

GROO: FRIENDS AND FOES #8 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “Pal and Drumm,” (W/A) Sergio Aragonés, (W) Mark Evanier. I stopped reading this comic because it was getting stale and unoriginal (I mean, even more stale and unoriginal than usual). I guess I just needed a break from it, because on returning to this series, I really liked it; this issue was a lot of fun. Pal and Drumm pretend to be the lost girl Kayli’s father so that they can claim her (nonexistent) fortune, while Kayli gets kidnapped and taken to an orphanage. However, Kayli takes advantage of her reputation in order to get al the children from the orphanage adopted. In particular, she baits Pal and Drumm into adopting a horrible little brat, Dorcas, as their daughter.

ROCKET RACCOON #5 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Matthew Rosenberg, (A) Jorge Coelho. Rocket frees the other aliens, defeats Kraven, and leaves Earth. This was a fun series. It really deserved more than five issues.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Raid on Marauder Island Part 1,” (W) Brian Clevinger, (A) Lo Baker, plus a backup story with art by Wook-Jin Clark. This spinoff title features the Flying She-Devils and the Sparrow, the guest stars from two of the best Atomic Robo miniseries. The artwork, especially in the first story, is worse than the art in the regular Atomic Robo series, but the writing is up to usual Atomic Robo standards.

GROO: FRIENDS AND FOES #10 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “Taranto,” (W/A) Sergio Aragonés, (W) Mark Evanier. Another good one. Taranto tries to kidnap Kayli for her fortune, but Kayli is saved by the parents of her pet baby dragon. Meanwhile, we start to see hints that Kayli’s father is the Minstrel.

HERO CATS #16 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Hero Cats of Skyworld, Part 1,” (W) Kyle Puttkammer, (A) Omaka Schultz. I guess the title of this series is just Hero Cats, not Hero Cats of Stellar City, because this issue’s cover says Hero Cats of Skyworld. We temporarily leave the usual cast behind, as Bandit and his robot friend (whose name I forget) find themselves on the Crow King’s world, which has its own superpowered cats. These new characters are all pretty intriguing, especially the cat who’s pursued by shadow cats that seem to represent his crippling depression.

GROO: FRIENDS AND FOES #11 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “The Minstrel,” as above. Kayli finally finds her father, the Minstrel, but he can’t prove he’s her father because they happen to be in a kingdom where the king has forbidden any kind of music. The local musicians try to circumvent the ban by teaching Groo to play music, since the king won’t dare to stop him, but the plan backfires and the Minstrel is thrown in prison while Groo apparently dies from poison. And that leads into:

GROO: FRIENDS AND FOES #12 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “Kayli,” as above. We finally learn the Minstrel’s origin story: he had a wife and daughter, i.e. Kayli, but he was drafted into a war and came back to find them gone, and now he wanders the world in search of them. While The Sage, Chakaal, Granny Groo and other characters save the day and reunite Kayli with her father, and they go off in search of Kayli’s mother, while Groo is restored to life. The cool thing about this story is how it turns the Minstrel from a one-dimensional comic relief character into a real character, with a personality and a past.

WONDER WOMAN #21 (DC, 2017) – “The Truth, Part Four,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Liam Sharp. This issue has much less Veronica Cale than #20, and it finally advances the plot, with Diana and Veronica getting to Themyscira or at least someplace close to it. However, since I know Greg is leaving this title, , I haven’t felt motivated to read the next two issues.

DENNIS THE MENACE #135 (Fawcett, 1974) – several uncredited stories. In this issue’s lead story, Dennis and his parents visit the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and there’s a beautiful silent page where Dennis dances in a room filled with strobe lights. This page reminds me a bit of that Calvin & Hobbes strip where Calvin and Hobbes dance to classical music. Of the other stories, the most memorable one is the one where Margaret comes over for dinner with Dennis, and proceeds to act as if she thinks Dennis and his family are beneath her.

Week of May 5. This week I was so busy with grading that I had almost no time to read comic books. I went to Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find for FCBD, and it was a lot of fun and I bought a bunch of stuff, but I have yet to read most of it.

PAPER GIRLS #14 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Brian K. Vaughan, (A) Cliff Chiang. As usual, lots and lots of stuff happens this issue, and it’s not completely clear how it all fits into the overall plot. The thing that most sticks out in my memory abut this issue is the disturbing revelation that Wari’s baby was “fathered” by all three of the caveman dudes. And then at the end of the issue, they steal the baby back from her. The two-page splash where Erin jumps across the chasm is spectacular, but I wish I could remember where she got those boots.

BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #3 (BOOM!, 2017) – “Buffalo Chicken Tater Tot Casserole,” (W) Sam Sykes, (A) Selina Espiritu. Like Ladycastle, this series deserves more than a four-issue run. In this issue, Brianna’s awful older brother Hans arrives in town and opens a food truck right across the street from Brianna’s restaurant. Brianna challenges him to a cook-off in order to get him to leave town, and she wins, but only because he unknowingly admits to using flour and sugar. And then Hans reveals that Brianna was using flour and sugar too, so Madame Cron shuts Brianna’s restaurant down, and Brianna’s depression demons take hold of her again. I assume this is all going to be resolved next issue, but there are so many fascinating ideas here – especially Brianna’s family issues and the cultural conflict between monsters and humans – that I wish Sam Sykes had more space to explore them.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “This Science Project is Life or Death!”, (W) Jeremy Whitley, (A) Elsa Charretier. This has become my most eagerly anticipated Marvel title besides Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl. This issue, Nadia and the members of GIRL work to solve Ying’s implanted bomb problem, with incidental help from Jarvis and Matt Murdock. Like Princeless: Raven, this issue has a large ensemble cast of young women, and their interactions are the best part of the issue. As stated in my review of issue 4, I also love Jarvis’s exasperated yet affectionate attitude toward the girls.

GOLDIE VANCE #12 (BOOM!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Hope Larson & Jackie Ball, (A) Noah Hayes. This is a satisfying conclusion to the Sugar Maple story, but I’m still annoyed that this series was cancelled. Oddly, there’s no indication in the issue itself that this is the last monthly issue, or that the series will be continuing in graphic novel form. I guess this series probably sells better in collected form anyway, and for people who only buy it in that format, the change won’t even be noticeable.

HAWKEYE #6 (Marvel, 2017) – “A Case, a Chase, a Shooting Ace,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Michael Walsh. The conclusion to the Rebecca Brown/Dhalia Dorian story guest-starring Jessica Jones. Not bad at all, but not spectacular either.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #53 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) James Asmus, (A) Tony Fleecs. The conclusion to the Shadow Lock story is kind of unimpressive. Too much stuff happens too quickly, and none of it has much impact. Andy Price could have made this an exciting story, but Tony Fleecs is not talented enough. I feel like either this story should have been four parts or more, or James Asmus should have tried something less ambitious for his debut story arc. On the bright side, it looks like next issue will be drawn by Jay Fosgitt.

NIGHTHAWK #1 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) David F. Walker, (A) Ramon Villalobos. This was one of my purchases at FCBD. This series is brutally violent, but not purely for the sake of violence; it seems like David has a serious purpose in mind, though I’m not 100% sure what it is. The insane Dr. Nightshade is a fascinating sidekick.

PHONOGRAM #3 (Image, 2006) – “Faster,” (W) Kieron Gillen, (A) Jamie McKelvie. I missed this when it came out. Back in 2006, Tof Eklund recommended this series to me after this series had already come out. And I kind of can’t believe it’s been ten years since then. At that time, Kieron and Jamie were already very good, and Tof was prescient in spotting their talent. However, when I look at this comic now, what strikes me is how much better Jamie’s art is now than it was then. He drew some really good faces, but he hardly used any backgrounds, and his page layouts were much less creative than they are now.

FAITH #11 (Valiant, 2017) – “The Faithless, Part Two,” (W) Jody Houser, (A) Joe Eisma & Marguerite Sauvage. The members of the Faithless frame Faith for a whole bunch of crimes. As usual, the highlight of this issue is the villainous cat.

Week of May 12. I was again busy with grading this week, though I had a bit more time to read comics.

MS. MARVEL #18 (Marvel, 2017) – “Meanwhile in Wakanda,” (W) G. Willow Wilson, (A) Francesco Gaston. This is the first issue of the series in which Kamala doesn’t appear, except in a (surprisingly nonsexual) daydream of Bruno’s. Instead, this issue focuses on Bruno, who’s at school in Wakanda. Bruno has lost the use of his left side – I wish I could remember how this happened – and he’s also feeling homesick. And then his friend Kwezi coerces him into stealing vibranium from a government facility. And they get caught and have to be saved by T’Challa. But in an incredibly touching moment, it turns out Kwezi wanted the vibranium to make a prosthetic device for Bruno. Overall, this was a really good story, a powerful depiction of both disability and culture shock. I just hope Kamala and Bruno get back together soon.

FUTURE QUEST #12 (DC, 2017) – “Last Stand” (same title as last issue), (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Doc Shaner. The original creative team is reuinted as the heroes all team up to defeat Omnikron. The series ends very happily, but I’m sorry that it’s over. I hope that Jeff Parker or someone else will do more stories in this universe.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #9 (DC, 2017) – “The Ballad of Olive Silverlock, Part One,” (W) Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, (A) Adam Archer & Michelle Sassyk. Olive rampages around town hunting the descendants of Amity Arkham’s killers, including Two-Face and the Penguin, while the other kids try to solve the mystery of the Terrible Trio – a fox, a shark, and a raven. I don’t recall reading any stories with the Terrible Trio, but I believe they were a group of Golden Age villains, so these characters are a cute nod to old continuity.

TEX: PATAGONIA FCBD COLOR EDITION (Epicenter, 2017) – “Patagonia,” (W) Mauro Boselli, (A) Pasquale Frisenda. Tex is perhaps the most famous Italian comic besides Corto Maltese, but is almost unknown in America. I only know of one other English-language Tex comic, and even that one may have been created for the American market. So this FCBD issue is an exciting discovery. In this story, the cowboy Tex and his son Kit visit Argentina, where they join forces with a bunch of gauchos on a mission to negotiate with some Indians. Overall this is a really intriguing comic. The artwork in this story is fascinating; it reminds me of Hugo Pratt or Jordi Bernet, but is not nearly as stylized. The story is notable for its appearance of historical accuracy; it looks like the artist made a sincere effort to determine how gauchos looked, dressed and acted. The plot raises some deep questions about white-Indian relations, and Tex himself, from what we see of him, seems like much more than a generic cowboy; he’s more like Lieutenant Blueberry or Jonah Hex than the Lone Ranger. I don’t know when the full version of this book is coming out, but assuming it does come out, I plan on buying it. I hope this FCBD issue will make more people aware of the rich tradition of comics that Tex represents.

MANIFEST DESTINY #28 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Chris Dingess, (A) Matthew Roberts. This issue doesn’t really advance the plot at all, except that Lewis and Miss Boniface finally get the demon that’s brainwashing everyone to reveal itself.

SILVER SURFER #11 (Marvel, 2017) – “Zero-Sum Game,” (W) Dan Slott, (A) Mike Allred. One of the emotional high points of this run so far. Surfer and Dawn rush back to Earth to witness the birth of Dawn’s niece, but they get delayed because Warrior Zero keeps ambushing them, until Surfer finally gives up and defeats Warrior Zero by unleashing his full power. When Surfer and Dawn finally arrive, the baby has been born, but we shockingly discover that Dawn’s father seems to have died. The last page of this issue is a single panel with a giant black border, showing Dawn asking “Where’s Dad?” This may be an intentional homage to the last page of Fantastic Four #267, where Reed learns that Sue lost the baby. (Update: On Twitter, in response to my question, Dan Slott confirmed that it was an intentional reference.)

HILDA’S BACK FCBD (Nobrow, 2017) – “Hilda’s Back,” (W/A) Luke Pearson, plus “Garbage Night,” (W/A) Jen Lee. This comic has no indicia, so I’m just guessing as to what its official title is. I’ve resisted buying Luke Pearson’s Hilda books because they cost so much relative to the number of pages in them. I do have the one that was released in paperback, but I haven’t read it yet. So this FCBD issue was a useful introduction to Pearson’s work, which is amazing. His artwork is incredibly creative and colorful, and his storytelling is creative. The plot in this installment is that Hilda has been kidnapped by trolls and replaced by a changeling. I want to get the volume that this excerpt was taken from, so I can see what happens next. I just hope it comes out in paperback. I was much less impressed with the other story in this issue, an excerpt from Jen Lee’s forthcoming animal comic “Garbage Night.”

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #2 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jeremy Whitley, (A) Brenda Hickey. This issue is a bit odd because it’s the sequel to a story we’ve never been told. Its protagonist is Rockhoof, a character who seems to have been mentioned only once in the TV show (in “The Crystaling, Part 2” “Rockhoof’s Rapport” is one of the spells that Sunburst rejects using to reignite his friendship with Starlight Glimmer.) According to the intro to this issue, Rockhoof is most famous for digging a moat to save his village from a volcano, but this issue’s story starts after that, when Rockhoof has joined the local team of guardsmen. Now that he’s a hero, he stops training and spends his time partying instead, with disastrous results. The most interesting thing in this issue is the panel where Rockhoof participates in what is obviously supposed to be a drinking contest, except he’s eating oats instead of chugging beer.

ROCKET #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Blue River Score, Part 1: The Damsel,” (W) Al Ewing, (A) Adam Gorham. This new Rocket Raccoon series is very different in tone from the last one; it feels like a film noir story with science fiction trappings. Hanging out at a bar on an alien world, Rocket encounters an old girlfriend, Otta of Tarka’s World (named after Henry Williamson’s children’s book Tarka the Otter). She asks him to do her a favor, and he enlists the aid of some of the members of the Technet from Excalibur. I haven’t always been super-impressed with Al Ewing’s writing, but this issue is a lot of fun and I look forward to the next one.

DRAWN & QUARTERLY PRESENTS HOSTAGE FCBD (Drawn & Quarterly, 2017) – “Hostage,” (W/A) Guy Delisle, and “Poppies of Iraq,” (W) Brigitte Findakly, (A) Lewis Trondheim. Again, no title listed in the indicia. “Hostage” is about the kidnapping of Médecins Sans Frontières administrator Christopher André. It’s a brutal depiction of captivity, reminiscent of Joe Sacco’s “Moderate Pressure, Part 2.” “Poppies of Iraq” is a memoir of Brigitte Findakly’s childhood in Iraq. Her grim story contrasts uncomfortably with Trondheim’s cartoony art. After reading this comic, I finally read Trondheim’s Approximate Continuum Comics and was kind of delighted to realize that Brigitte Findakly is Trondheim’s wife, who is a major character in that book. Anyway, both the books excerpted in this FCBD issue look fantastic, and I look forward to reading them eventually.

BATMAN #20 (DC, 2013) – “Nowhere Man, Part 2 of 2,” (W) Scott Snyder, (A) Greg Capullo. I have read very little if any of Scott Snyder’s Batman. I need to read more of it, because it seems that he’s the most critically acclaimed Batman writer since Frank Miller. This issue is the second part of a story where Clayface tries to steal Batman’s identity. Bruce finds a clever way to defeat him, which would take too long to explain. This was a good story, but I get the sense that it’s not Snyder’s best.

BARNABY AND MR. O’MALLEY FCBD #1 (Fantagraphics, 2012, originally 1942-1943) – untitled, (W/A) Crockett Johnson. This is a valuable introduction to one of the great American comic strips, which was nearly unavailable until Phil Nel and Fantagraphics started publishing the entire run. Crockett Johnson’s lettering was very bizarre, but everything else about this comic strip is perfect. Johnson was a beautiful draftsman, he had perfect comic timing, and he came up with some amazing plots. This FCBD issue presents the first couple Barnaby strips as well as an extended storyline where Barnaby and his fairy godfather Mr. O’Malley explore a haunted house. The house turns out to be “haunted” by actual gangsters who are using it to store stolen coffee (which would have been a hot commodity in 1943, because of rationing). The issue ends just as the story is getting interesting, so now I really want to buy the Fantagraphics volume that contains the rest of this continuity.

BLACK CLOUD #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jason Latour & Ivan Brandon, (A) Greg Hinkle. I didn’t understand this issue at all, and it hasn’t been that long since I read the previous issue. A recap at the start of the issue would really have helped. At this point I haven’t been impressed with either of the first two issues of this series and I’m on the verge of dropping it. Speaking of titles that I’m considering dropping…

AMERICA #3 (Marvel, 2017) – “Highway to the Danger Room,” (W) Gabby Rivera, (A) Joe Quinones & Stacey Lee. My comments about issue 2 apply to issue 3 as well. This comic is very important because of its representation of queer Latinos, but it also has some crippling problems. Besides the overly verbose dialogue, which I’ve already complained about at length, this issue has a scattershot plot that goes nowhere and changes directions repeatedly. It feels like Rivera has no coherent vision for the future of this comic. I really want to support this comic, but I also really want it to be better than it is.

MISFIT CITY #1 (BOOM!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith & Kurt Lustgarten, (A) Naomi Franquiz. I was hesitant to read this because it’s based on The Goonies, which I have not seen. But it’s understandable on its own, although I expect it contains a lot of references that went over my head. More importantly, this is another really good BOOM! Box debut. It’s about a bunch of girls living in a small Oregon town, who discover a map to a hidden treasure, only to learn that some nasty people are looking for the same treasure. It’s a trite plot, but as usual with BOOM! Box, the art and writing are really good, and it has a diverse cast of interesting female characters. So this is another high-quality BOOM! Box debut.

I HATE IMAGE FCBD #1 (Image, 2017) – “I Hate Image,” (W/A) Skottie Young. In this FCBD issue, Gert kills the casts of all the other Image titles, then kills the Image founders. So this is basically the same as a regular issue of I Hate Fairyland, except with more metatext. At the FCBD event at Heroes, the staff had to warn people that this comic is not suitable for kids, despite its appearance.

BLACK BOLT #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Saladin Ahmed, (A) Christian Ward. I ordered this because it’s written by Saladin Ahmed, and I loved his novel Throne of the Crescent Moon. But the real appeal of this issue is Christian Ward’s art. It’s a bit unfortunate that he probably can’t do this series and ODY-C at the same time, but this comic is almost as well-drawn as ODY-C. It’s full of creepy-looking machinery and ominous coloring. The story is not bad, but it doesn’t have much of anything in common with Throne of the Crescent Moon, and it’s a bit too dependent on events in other Inhumans titles. (Incidentally, I wish Marvel would get the X-Men license back so they could stop forcing us to read about Inhumans.) Still, I liked this comic.

CHAMPIONS #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Mark Waid, (A) Humberto Ramos. Kind of an unsatisfying conclusion to the Freelancers story. After some awkward sexual tension between Amadeus and Viv, the Champions respond to the Freelancers’ co-optation of their trademark by publicly calling for a boycott of all the Freelancers’ merchandise. That’s a bit of an anticlimax. I just noticed that on the letters page of this issue, Ryan W. complains that in issue #5, “our beloved heroes fall into the trap of writing off the people on the other side of a debate not as misguided but as downright evil.” This is a version of the “sympathy for Trump voters” argument, and it makes me want to tell Ryan W. that if anyone is downright evil, it’s him.

BIG BLACK KISS #1 (Vortex, 1989) – “Book One,” (W/A) Howard Chaykin. I bought this entire miniseries at the most recent DragonCon I attended, which must have been in 2014, but I never bothered to start reading it because each issue was very long – each of them is a compilation of three or four shorter-than-normal comic books. Black Kiss has a notorious reputation as a pornographic work, but it’s really not all that dirty by modern standards; it’s a lot tamer than Sex Criminals, for example. Beyond all the sex and T&A, this comic has an intricate and exciting plot, although that plot is tough to follow – it took me a while to figure out that there were two protagonists who looked nearly alike. The only issue with this plot is that the characters are all completely unsympathetic; none of them has even the deeply compromised moral integrity or patriotism of Reuben Flagg. Still, I would classify this as one of Chaykin’s major works, and I will get around to reading the rest of it soon.

TIME SHIFTERS FCBD #1 (Scholastic, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Chris Grine. This is a preview of a new Scholastic graphic novel. I was not impressed by it. Chris Grine’s art is pretty good, but this comic appears to be just a generic wacky middle-grade adventure story, without the visual or narrative depth of Amulet or Cleopatra in Space.

BLACK PANTHER AND THE CREW #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “We Are the Streets, Part 1: Double Consciousness,” (W) Ta-Nehisi Coates, (A) Butch Guice. This is an interesting story about police brutality and Black Lives Matter, though it suffers from slow pacing and uninspired artwork. Of course the real story behind this comic is that it was cancelled after two issues. Predictably, websites like Breitbart are framing this comic’s cancellation as a rejection of diversity, and they’re also misreporting the story by making it seem like it was the main Black Panther title that was cancelled. Personally I think this comic was cancelled, not because there was no market for it, but because that market was already saturated. People who would be willing to buy one Black Panther title are not necessarily going to be willing to buy two of them, let alone three. Also, some readers probably fail to even realize that Black Panther and the Crew is a separate title from Black Panther. So while the cancellation of this title is unfortunate, it’s also not any kind of proof that Marvel’s diversity initiatives are doomed.

GODSHAPER #2 (BOOM!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Simon Spurrier, (A) Jonas Goonface. This was better than the first issue, and it was a ton of fun. Our protagonist, Ennay, encounters a fellow Godshaper named Clench. Clench is toting around a little orphan girl who he foists off onto Ennay, after having sex with him. Then Clench steals all of Ennay’s stuff, only to be captured by thugs who mistake him for Ennay. So basically, lots of stuff happens here and it’s all hilarious and fun. I love how Jonas Goonface draws the gods; he does a great job of visually distinguishing gods from people, and his gods all look strange and unique.

ELEANOR AND THE EGRET #1 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Feathers and Felonies,” (W) John Layman, (A) Sam Kieth. I had low expectations for this, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The protagonist, Eleanor, is an art thief who somehow has a magical egret companion. Her nemesis is a bumbling detective who has a non-magical cat companion. This premise is already quite funny, but Sam Kieth elevates it to another level with his exquisite Art Deco-inspired artwork. I’m excited to read more of this.

BAD MACHINERY FCBD #1 (Oni, 2017) – “The Case of the Forked Road,” (W/A) John Allison. This has a very similar style of humor to that of Giant Days; indeed, it basically is Giant Days, except it takes place in a high school instead of a university. But it was a bit tedious to read because of my lack of familiarity with the characters and the premise. However, after reading this comic I am curious to learn the solution to the mystery. I have the pocket edition of the first Bad Machinery volume, but have not read it yet.

GIANT DAYS #26 (BOOM!, 2017) – untitled, (W) John Allison, (A) Max Sarin. This, on the other hand, is amazing. Dean gets engaged to a clearly unsuitable woman who he met in an online RPG, so the other characters conspire to stop the wedding. Reading this issue, I realized that just like Bad Machinery, Giant Days has two parallel groups of protagonists, three girls and three boys (Dean, Ed and McGraw). I just haven’t noticed the parallelism because the girls are so much more prominent.

SPIDER-GWEN #19 (Marvel, 2017) – “Predators, Part 1,” (W) Jason Latour, (A) Robbi Rodriguez. The plot of this series has gotten too convoluted to follow; at this point, it involves George Stacy, the Kingpin (Matt Murdock), the Lizard (Harry Osborn), and the Venom symbiote. What is clear is that Gwen, as usual, is under extreme pressure from all sides, especially because of her debt to the Kingpin. By the end of the issue, she’s in Madripoor looking for the Lizard, and Wolverine shows up on the last page.

BACCHUS COLOR SPECIAL #1 (Dark Horse, 1995) – untitled, (W) Eddie Campbell, (A) Teddy Kristiansen. The idea of Bacchus in color and drawn by someone other than Eddie is kind of strange, but in this case it works, because Teddy’s painted artwork is gorgeous. This issue, Bacchus visits Cadiz where he’s invited to a tasting of a wine he himself made 400 years ago, which supposedly has the power to grant wishes. It turns out the wine contains the spirit of Bacchus’s old girlfriend. It’s a touching story with an interesting moral: “Wishes are identical triplets; regrets are the legions of the damned.” An obscure reference in this issue is “Hugh Johnson’s remembering the other time he tasted a 400-year-old wine.” There really is a famous wine writer named Hugh Johnson, and he really did once taste a wine made in 1540.

Reviews for first half of April

I wrote these last month, but forgot to post them.

LUMBERJANES #36 (IDW, 2017) – “Might as Wheel” (part 3), (W) Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, (A) Carolyn Nowak. Allowing for the fact that I was sleepy when I read this, it was my least favorite issue in a while. The conclusion of the roller derby story arc was overly predictable, and the issue had a shortage of funny gags or emotional moments. But I’m eagerly anticipating the Parents’ Day story arc.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #17 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Smartest There Is! Part Five: X Equals,” (W) Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder, (A) Natacha Bustos. I read this before March 31, when Marvel executive David Gabriel ignited a massive scandal by claiming that diversity was hurting Marvel’s sales. As I hope to demonstrate at greater length somewhere, one problem with Gabriel’s claim is that it ignores sales in venues other than the direct market. Marvel’s “diverse” titles may not be doing great in the direct market, but there is evidence that these titles are doing much better in bookstores and in digital formats – although it’s unfortunately hard to find information about sales in these forums. But Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur is the best example of how the direct market is not everything, not even for Marvel. Moon Girl regularly sells 10,000 copies or less in comic book stores, which are sub-cancellation numbers, but it sells extremely well in bookstores and at Scholastic book fairs. I would even suggest that despite its terrible direct market sales, Moon Girl is the second most important Marvel title after Ms. Marvel, because of its ability to attract new readers to the Marvel Universe.

I have already voiced some criticisms of this series, but it’s tremendously fun and cute, and Lunella is a fun and refreshingly flawed protagonist. And #17 is one of the better issues of the current story arc. It’s fun to see Lunella interact with multiple other superheroes, and to see her playing the Kitty Pryde role with Wolverine and Storm.

HULK #4 (Marvel, 2017) – “Deconstructed, Part Four,” (W) Mariko Tamaki, (A) Nico Leon. This issue suffers from poor pacing. Jen’s conversation with Maizie Brewn is a touching moment, but besides that, this issue doesn’t significantly advance the plot, nor does it tell us anything we didn’t already know. This could have been a four-issue storyline. Probably the high point of the issue is the giant woman who keeps breaking chairs.

JEM AND THE MISFITS #3 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kelly Thompson & Sophie Campbell, (A) Jenn St.-Onge. This issue, we learn Blaze’s origin story (starting from when she was already living as a woman), and also Blaze announces she’s starting a side project, and Pizzazz is surprisingly fine with it. The emotional peak of the issue is when Blaze runs into her idol, Luna Dark. This issue was not nearly as powerful as the previous one, but that’s fine; I think two such devastating stories in a row might have been overkill.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #52 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) James Asmus, (A) Tony Fleecs. Part two of the Shadow Lock story. Highlights of this issue include the “Ponybert” parody comic strip, and Pinkie Pie battling a Lovecraftian creature and winning. But overall this was a fairly average pony comic.

FUTURE QUEST #11 (DC, 2017) – “Last Stand,” (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Evan “Doc” Shaner. What it says on the tin. The entire team engages in an epic battle against Omnikron, with varying success. This was a really well-written example of an epic fight scene, and it reminds me a lot of the last issue of DC: The New Frontier. I’m sorry there’s just one issue left.

DESCENDER #20 (Image, 2017) – “Orbital Mechanics 4 of 5,” (W) Jeff Lemire, (A) Dustin Nguyen. Probably my favorite thing about this issue is the pink alien frog on page one, but that’s not to say that this was a bad issue. It advances the plot in a mostly unsurprising way, and introduces a new character, Mizerd, who reminds me of Yoda.

WONDER WOMAN #19 (DC, 2017) – “The Truth, Part Three,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Liam Sharp. The day I wrote this review, I learned that Greg was leaving Wonder Woman because its twice-monthly schedule was keeping him from working on other projects. It’s a shame, but I’m fine with his decision if it means we’ll get more Black Magick. I’m just sorry that Renae de Liz probably can’t be his replacement.

This issue, Diana recovers consciousness with Ferdinand’s help, and we get significantly less of Veronica Cale than usual, which is a good thing.

GREAT LAKES AVENGERS #6 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Zac Gorman, (A) Will Robson. I think this issue’s cover is based on the cover of Excalibur #4, which was itself a metatextual joke. This issue, most of the team fights Dr. Nod, while Doorman gets a new sidekick, an old dead man named Greg Garlick. The stories in this title are sometimes forgettable, but I enjoy its sarcastic tone.

WOLFF & BYRD, COUNSELORS OF THE MACABRE #19 (Exhibit A, 1998) – “Sonofawitch! Chapter Two,” (W/A) Batton Lash. This story is very hard to follow, especially given that I don’t remember what happened in part one, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s full of convoluted plot twists and relationship drama. It also raises some interesting questions about feminism. (One scene takes place at an event held by the Associates of Portia, based on the Friends of Lulu.) The funniest moment is when the opposing lawyer, Laura, says “I think it’s appaling that women’s rights have a lower priority than … than … ghosts and goblins at this firm!” and a goblin sitting on a nearby couch says “Hey!”

DOOM PATROL #5 (DC, 2017) – “Let’s Go Fast: Brick by Brick, Part 5,” (W) Gerard Way, (A) Nick Derington. Unfortunately this is likely to be the next to last issue because Gerard Way can’t keep a regular schedule. At least this is an exciting and fun and well-drawn comic, and an affectionate follow-up to Grant Morrison’s classic series. This issue, Casey’s parents get killed, and Crazy Jane finally shows up.

DEPT. H #9 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Matt Kindt. I got behind on this series because it was suffering from a lack of momentum. This current storyline seems to be focusing on one character each issue, kind of like the “Singularities” story arc in Descender. This issue focuses on Q, the quiet bald guy with all the tattoos.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #14 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) David F. Walker, (A) Sanford Greene. Another fun but unexciting issue of the Alex Wilder story arc. I hope the conclusion is more entertaining than the first three parts. The funniest thing in the issue is the chant “mamase mamasa mamakusa” (a reference to Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”).

DEPT. H #10 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Matt Kindt. This issue is a spotlight on Roger, the old guy with no legs. It’s mostly about Hari and Mia and Raj and their tortured family life. Roger’s version of this story is that Hari was completely committed to his mission (I don’t think we know what that was yet) at the expense of his family life, to such an extent that he shouldn’t have started a family to begin with. But there are hints that Roger is not a reliable narrator and that Mia’s version of this story is different. Also, Roger seems to have been in love with Mia’s mother.

DEPT. H #11 – as above. The characters are almost ready to return to the surface, but Mia goes back for something, and has a flashback to another period in Hari’s life. In this period Hari and Roger had a third friend, Blake, who drowned trying to rescue another person. It’s not clear how this relates to anything else.

NO MERCY #14 (Image, 2017) – “17927 and Descending,” (W) Alex de Campi, (A) Carla Speed McNeil. This issue focuses on Anthony, perhaps the most sympathetic character in the series, although that may be because he can’t make himself sound stupid by talking. It’s an interesting example of the representation of deafness in comics, though it’s not as innovative as the Pizza Dog issue of Hawkeye. It’s also an interesting story about the urban/rural divide. Anthony is from a dying rural Pennsylvania town and is the only kid in his school who’s likely to amount to anything. For Anthony’s friends, Princeton is as far away as Mars.

LADY KILLER II #4 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Joëlle Jones. Josie unwisely lets Irving live, then goes out and kills someone else, and then some as yet unidentified person breaks into Josie’s house. Compared to last issue, which was genuinely innovative, this issue is much more of a formulaic Lady Killer story.

THE FLINTSTONES #9 (DC, 2017) – “A Basket of Disposables,” (W) Mark Russell, (A) Steve Pugh. This issue is a really disturbing exploration of the bizarre implications of owning appliances that are alive. This topic has been covered before in this series, but never in this much detail. Fred throws away his old bowling ball, and the other appliances have to rescue it from a meat recycling facility. Ewwww. Meanwhile, Fred gets laid off because his boss finds other people who can do the job cheaper, but after the boss himself is subjected to a similar injustice, he has a change of heart and hires Fred back. This series is a fascinating and thoughtful piece of political satire, and unlike Prez, it’s not harmed by its lack of an ongoing plot.

SUPER POWERS #5 (DC, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Art Baltazar, (W) Franco. Lots of stuff happens in this issue, but the most surprising thing is that the Unknown Superman reveals himself to be Prym-El’s future self, then takes Prym-El with him into the future. And Jor-El and Lara seem totally unconcerned that they’ve just lost their newborn son. This gives me the sense that Art and Franco aren’t paying much attention.

SUPERMAN #18 (DC, 2017) – “Superman Reborn, Part 1,” (W/A) Patrick Gleason, (W) Peter J. Tomasi. I couldn’t care less about the bigger continuity implications of this story, but the scene where Jon Kent disappears is quite well-done. Unlike most comics that are lead-ins to a giant crossover, this one is quite readable and has an emotional charge to it.

ZOT! #27 (Eclipse, 1989) – “Ring in the New, Part Two,” (W/A) Scott McCloud. This was one of only two issues of this series that I was missing. The good guys defeat the Blotch and Dr. Bellows, in a scene that ends with some experimental, abstract panels that remind me of the “non sequitur” page from Understanding Comics. Then Zot and Jenny decide to visit Jenny’s universe, but get stuck there. The nine subsequent issues, which took place on Earth, were the high point of this series. Overall, Scott was really good back in 1989, and I wish he’d go back to Zot! His recent work has been far less interesting; I didn’t even bother reading The Sculptor because it got such poor reviews.

DEPT. H #12 (Dark Horse, 2017) – as above. The characters head for the surface in two submarines, only to be prevented from surfacing because of fears that they may be carrying a plague. And now I’m finally caught up.

New comics received on March 31. At this point in the school year, I was (and still am) super exhausted and slammed with work, and I don’t have much time to read comics.

LADYCASTLE #2 (Boom!, 2017) – “That Pesky Werewolf Problem,” (W) Delilah S. Dawson, (A) Becca Farrow. This is not a Boom! Box title, but it easily could be. It reminds me most of Slam!, in that the content is mostly suitable for kids, but the style of writing is mature and adult. This issue might be even better than the first one. The plolt is that werewolves are attacking the castle, but the issue is full of allk kinds of gags and emotional moments. Just as one example, it begins with a parody (or maybe just a direct quotation) of “I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight” from Camelot. I am really enjoying this series. I wish it was longer than four issues, and I look forward to seeing more from this writer.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #24 (IDW, 2017) – “Truly Outrageous, Part One,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Gisele Lagace. This issue is much better drawn compared to the previous storyline, and its plot is truly exciting. Shana rejoins the band as the bassist, and then all the major characters go to Hawaii on vacation. At the end of the issue, Jerrica reveals her secret identity to Rio, something which has apparently never happened before in this franchise’s history.

ANIMOSITY #6 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Wake Up,” (W) Marguerite Bennett, (A) Rafael De Latorre. This issue, it turns out that the villain is a giant bearded vulture, and it’s been harvesting other animals for food. I feel like this series’s premise is logically unsustainable and is likely to collapse under its own weight, but that hasn’t happened quite yet, and this issue was quite exciting and scary.

KAMANDI CHALLENGE #3 (DC, 2017) – “Bug in Your Ear,” (W) Jimmy Palmiotti, (A) Amanda Conner. Like DC Challenge from the ‘80s, this is a collaborative miniseries in which each issue has a different creative team. I didn’t read the first two issues, and I only bought this issue because of who drew it. The story is pointless and silly, but Amanda’s art is up to its usual level of quality. I just wish she could draw more than one comic book a year.

ROCKET RACCOON #4 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Matthew Rosenberg, (A) Jorge Coelho. Rocket escapes Kraven by crashing Kraven’s ship into the Statue of Liberty, but is caught and imprisoned in a refugee camp for aliens. He immediately builds a flamethrower and leads an escape attempt. This series has been really fun, and I’m sorry it’s being cancelled after just five issues. Some people have argued that Marvel’s poor sales are the result of their habit of constantly cancelling and restarting their titles. Rocket Raccoon is the best example of that. The upcoming Rocket series will be the fourth new ongoing series starring this character in as many years, and that doesn’t count the two Groot series.

UNWORTHY THOR #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Whisper,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Olivier Coipel. Odinson obviously chooses not to try to lift the other-dimensional hammer – I say obviously because it’s clear that his character arc was not going to end this way. Hela teams up with Thanos, forming a partnership that makes a lot of sense, and we learn that Nick Fury’s fateful words to Thor were “Gorr was right.” This revelation would have had a bigger impact if I’d known who Gorr was. I guess the point is that gods are just bad news in general. I think the highlight of this issue is Thori drinking some spilled beer and saying “This tastes better than murder!”

Resuming on May 1:

ETHER #4 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, (W) Matt Kindt, (A) David Rubin. This issue introduces Boone’s wife Hazel, unless she already appeared before and I forgot. As with earlier issues, David Rubín’s art is more exciting than Matt Kindt’s story.

ETHER #5 (Dark Horse, 2017) – as above. An okay conclusion to a series that didn’t quite live up to its potential. Boone proves that Ubel murdered the Golden Blaze, and the series ends with a flashback to one of Boone’s earlier trips to the Aether. According to the last page, this is the end of volume one. If there is a volume two, I might as well get it, but more because of the art than the writing.

THOR #175 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Fall of Asgard!”, (W) Stan Lee, (A) Jack Kirby. Loki invades Asgard with the help of some giants and steals Odin’s Ring Imperial, thus making Loki the king of Asgard. The Ring Imperial was mentioned for the first time in this issue, and has only showed up a couple of times since. This issue is beautifully drawn, but it suffers from a flaw common to many issues of Lee and Kirby’s Thor, which is that it seems very similar to all the other issues of Lee and Kirby’s Thor. Like, how many different stories were there in which Loki conquered Asgard?

GROO THE WANDERER #1 (Marvel, 1985) – “The Song of Groo,” (W/A) Sergio Aragonés, (W) Mark Evanier. The first issue of the Epic run is only notable because begins with a page in which Sergio inroduces the series, and it’s the first appearance of the Minstrel. It also introduces the running joke in which the Minstrel tells an unflattering story about Groo, only to discover that Groo is in his audience. At this point Sergio’s artwork still looks kind of off-model.

DAREDEVIL #119 (Marvel, 1975) – “They’re Tearing Down Fogwell’s Gym!”, (W) Tony Isabella, (A) Bob Brown. This issue, like its writer and its artist, is competent but not spectacular. On a visit to the gym where his father trained, Matt fights a promising young boxer who’s been turned into the Crusher, a villain from Iron Man #6. Tony Isabella writes Matt as a flamboyant man with an obnoxious sense of humor, which, to be fair, was consistent with Matt’s characterization at the time. There’s a funny line where the owner of Fogwell’s gym says that his neighborhood is a home for people with “strange names… like Flanagan and Morgenstein and Rocco and Murdock. Only the names have changed – to Raverez and Ortez and the like.” Raverez and Ortez are pretty strange names, come to think of it.

BLACK #1 (BlackMask, 2017) – “Chapter One,” (W) Kwanza Osajyefo, (A) Tim Smith 3 & Jamal Igle. This is the series about a world where only black people have super powers. It’s a well-written and well-drawn comic, and I love the premise, but there’s not enough narrative content in this issue for me to evaluate this series fully. I definitely want to read more of it though.

BLACK HAMMER #4 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W) Jeff Lemire, (A) Dean Ormston. Abraham Slam invites Tammy Trueheart home for dinner, but Golden Gail deliberately tries to embarrass him and ruin the date. Like the previous issue of Black Hammer I read, this is very well done, but I’m not 100% sure what this comic’s ongoing plot is about or how this issue fits into it.

GREEN ARROW #57 (DC, 1992) – “…And Not a Drop to Drink,” (W) Mike Grell, (A) Rick Hoberg. I like this series a lot, and it’s strange that I haven’t read more issues of it lately. The highlight of this issue is the opening scene, where Ollie and Dinah see Singin’ in the Rain, then Ollie starts singing the title song out loud in public. The main plot involves a terrorist who’s trying to poison Seattle’s water supply with radioactive iodine.

WEIRD WESTERN TALES #64 (DC, 1980) – “With Friends Like These…”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Dick Ayers. Some former Confederate soldiers put Scalphunter on “trial” for killing a Confederate general. Bat Lash deliberately ensures Scalphunter’s conviction as part of his plot to set Scalphunter free, which he does with the aid of a bunch of prostitutes (obviously not identified as such). Bat Lash and Scalphunter are a good comic pairing because the latter has no sense of humor and the former is incapable of being serious.

DEADFACE: DOING THE ISLANDS WITH BACCHUS #2 (Dark Horse, 1991) – “The Book-Keeper from Atlantis” and other stories, (W/A) Eddie Campbell. This is a collection of interlinked short stories previously published in a number of venues, including Dark Horse Presents. I remembered reading at least one of these stories before, but others were new to me. The basic plot thread is that Bacchus and Simpson find themselves on a Greek island with a bunch of yuppies, and Bacchus entertains them with stories while also driving them into a bacchanalian frenzy. In general, this is some fantastic work. The highlight is probably the sequence with the refrain “red is the cup and deep is the wine,” but I also like the black-humorous story where Bacchus accidentally burns down the library of Atlantis.

SWEET TOOTH #22 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Endangered Species, Part Three,” (W/A) Jeff Lemire. Jeff’s artwork is great, but I don’t understand this comic’s story at all. I probably should read it in trade paperback format instead.

DIRTY PLOTTE #6 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1993) – “If I Was A Man” and other stories, (W/A) Julie Doucet. This issue contains a number of stories, most of which are about women becoming men. I suppose this is an interesting example of transgender representation in comics. What is perhaps most interesting about it is that the stories are all very polymorphously perverse and very joyful and exuberant – like, Julie seems really excited about the possibilities opened up by suddenly having a penis. Her artwork is brilliant as always, but extremely busy and complicated, which makes this comic difficult to read when I’m tired (as I always am in the month of April).

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #169 (DC, 1979) – “The Doomsday Decision,” (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Dick Dillin. A very forgettable and mediocre story. Ultraa sues the Justice League in the World Court of the United Nations for… something, I’m not sure what. And it turns out Ultraa’s lawyer is some kind of alien neutrino creature. Besides the fact that this story is very boring, the biggest problem with it is that the World Court does not hear lawsuits filed by individuals, only governments. (Of course it’s odd that I’m not willing to accept that an private individual could sue someone in the World Court, but I am willing to accept that alien neutrino creatures could exist.)

New comics received on March 7:

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #25 (IDW, 2017) – “Truly Outrageous, Part Two,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Gisele Lagace. In the penultimate issue, Jem reveals her secret identity to Rio, and Rio really does not take it well. While Rio’s reaction is understandable, it also suggests that he and Jem are better off without each other, as Rio could certainly have been a more understanding boyfriend. There’s also a lot of other drama, including Kimber falling into a volcano. This issue’s depiction of Hawaiian food appears to be accurate.

BLACK CLOUD #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jason Latour & Ivan Brandon, (A) Greg Hinkle. I was really tired when I read this comic (as I still am when writing these reviews), but I thought this comic was a bit disappointing. It appears to be about a homeless woman who lives either in some dystopian future world, or in contemporary America – it’s hard to tell the difference. And she has the power to project people into a fantasy world. I’m willing to stick with this comic to see where it’s going, but so far I’m not seeing much that’s exciting here.

PAPER GIRLS #13 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Brian K. Vaughan, (A) Cliff Chiang. I think the best thing about this story arc is the prehistoric Virgin Mary character. “Is having a baby the most awesome thing in the world?” “It is painful and terrifying.” This issue also explains the origin of the hockey stick that said DON’T TRUST OTHER ERIN. Though you would think Erin could have clarified *which* other Erin. As usual, this comic’s plot is extremely confusing, and judging by the visions of the future that appear at the end of the issue, it will get murkier before it gets clearer.

GOLDIE VANCE #11 (BOOM! Box, 2017) – untitled, (W) Hope Larson & Jackie Ball, (A) Noah Hayes. I’m saddened to hear that the next issue of this series will be the last. I’m glad that it will be continuing in trade paperback format, which seems a more natural format for a comic like this, anyway. And I certainly plan to buy the trade paperbacks, assuming they actually do come out. But I was hoping that this comic could beat the odds by remaining viable in comic book format, despite all the factors working against its success. (A kid-oriented detective comic with a queer black female protagonist is not the sort of thing that sells well in comic book stores.) I wonder if the cancellation of Goldie Vance is a sign that the split between the direct market and the digital/bookstore market is only going to get wider.

As for Goldie Vance #11 itself, it’s another really fun issue. I love the scene at the end where Goldie compares her family to the Maple family. Goldie’s parents may be divorced, but they love her, and Goldie knows it and is grateful.

BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #2 (Boom!, 2017) – “Today’s Special: Bánh Xèo – Savory Vietnamese Crepes,” (W) Sam Sykes, (A) Selina Espiritu. Even better than last issue. Things in the restaurant are predictably chaotic, and Suzan thinks she’s a failure, but when a customer is mean to Susan, Brianna heroically defends her. Meanwhile, a certain Madame Cron visits the restaurant and is not happy that a human is invading Monster City. This comic is cute and funny but also explores serious issues like dysfunctional family relationships and cultural appropriation. I think Bleeding Cool is silly to suggest that Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle’s upcoming Moonstruck is some kind of clone or ripoff of Brave Chef Brianna. It seems clear to me that any similarities between these two comics are incidental – just like the similarities between Goldie Vance and Motor Crush, which are both about queer black girls who are interested in motorsports, but which are otherwise completely different comics.

KIM REAPER #1 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Sarah Graley. I’m glad I ordered this because it’s the sort of thing that could easily have fallen below my radar. The title character is a young woman who’s working as a “part-time Grim Reaper” to pay her way through college. And her first job gets botched thanks to another student who has a crush on her. Also, Kim’s first job is to harvest the soul of a cat. Which is one of about thirty cats owned by a long-haired shirtless fitness enthusiast. Basically this is a hilarious and cute comic, and I hope it gets a wide audience.

DONALD DUCK #252 (Gladstone, 1987) – “Trail of the Unicorn,” (W/A) Carl Barks. In this classic Barks story, Donald and Gladstone compete to bring back a unicorn from “Shangri-Lala” in the Himalayas for Scrooge’s private zoo. This is an amazing story. It reminds me of “Lost in the Andes” because of its stark mountain landscapes. It has some awesome moments, especially the panel where Donald says “I imagine unicorns are very timid animals!” while right behind him, we can see a unicorn that looks anything but timid. It’s curious that at the end of this story, Scrooge pays Donald two million dollars for saving the unicorn’s life, but in every other Barks story, Donald is completely broke. And we never again see the giant limousine in which Donald is riding in the last panel. Clearly Barks wasn’t worried about continuity.

HAWKEYE #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “Persons of Interest,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Michael Walsh. Hawkeye teams up with Jessica Jones to track down a kidnapped girl. The issue begins and ends with an homage to Sunset Blvd. This is a pretty good issue, but I don’t remember much about it.

AMERICA #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Girls Wanna Be Her,” (W) Gabby Rivera, (A) Joe Quinones & Ming Doyle. I have such mixed feelings about this comic. It’s important because of its radically progressive politics and its queer Latina representation. But it also suffers from severe overwriting and an aimless, illogical plot. Gabby Rivera’s lack of comics experience is evident from the way she crams 15 to 20 words into each word balloon, thereby slowing the story down and detracting from the art. On the positive side, I did like the Lunella Lafayette sequence, and one could argue that Gabby writes Lunella better than Brandon and Amy do. But I feel like there must be writers out there who are politically progressive and queer and Latina, and who have experience writing for comics. I think if Marvel is interested in promoting diversity (which is unfortunately not 100% clear at the moment), they need to do it by hiring diverse writers who are already in the industry, rather than writers from other media who have no comics experience.

FAITH #10 (Valiant, 2017) – “The Faithless, Part One,” (W) Jody Houser, (A) Joe Eisma w/ Marguerite Sauvage. Four of Faith’s old enemies team up to get revenge on her. The clear highlight of the issue is Dark Star the telepathic cat. In the first panel, one security guard asks another why they need so much security for a cat. Obviously he’s not a cat person, or he would understand. Also, in general, Joe Eisma is really good at drawing cats – Dark Star looks and moves just like a real cat.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #18 (DC, 1994) – “The Scorpion, Act Two,” (W) Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle, (A) Guy Davis. I don’t think I’ve read part one, although it may be somewhere in my unread boxes. The villain in this story is a Texan who murders people with a whip. As usual, in this issue Dian is at least as entertaining and as essential to the plot as Wesley.

GIANT DAYS #25 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) John Allison, (A) Max Sarin. Over Christmas vacation, Susan goes home for a reunion with her separated parents and her six older sisters. Susan tries and fails to get her parents back together, but they get back together anyway when Susan’s other sister moves in with her new baby. Also, I guess Susan is Greek. I forget if we were supposed to know that. I just finished a draft of a review essay on the BOOM! Box line, and I had trouble explaining why Giant Days appeals to me or how it fits into the overall BOOM! Box aesthetic – though that doesn’t mean I don’t love Giant Days.

CHAMPIONS #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “Gwenpions,” (W) Mark Waid, (A) Humberto Ramos. I think I already mentioned how this series has the same creative team as Impulse in the ‘90s. I didn’t bother reading this comic because I’m getting sick of Gwenpool, but like most of the other issues of Champions, this is better than I expected. The Champions investigate a rural town where the Muslim community keep getting terrorized, with the connivance of the Joe Arpaio-esque sheriff. And then Gwenpool shows up and refuses to believe that the sheriff isn’t a supervillain in disguise. I really like Kamala’s speech about how authority structures can get corrupted all by themselves, without any supervillain’s help.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #19 (DC, 1994) – “The Scorpion, Act Three,” as above. By the end of this issue, I had a pretty good idea of who the Scorpion was, and it turned out I was right. There is a funny scene where the other suspect, Buster Calhoun, turns out to be engaging in kinky sex with a prostitute, rather than killing someone with a whip. As usual, Dian plays a significant role in solving the mystery, while pretending to be just a brainless socialite. I like Dian a lot; indeed, half the fun of this comic is the interplay between the vivacious, aggressive Dian and the quiet milquetoast Wesley.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #20 (DC, 1994) – as above. A slightly predictable but satisfying conclusion to the mystery. It’s too bad that the other female character in the story – the Scorpion’s female coworker – ends up getting killed.

HOUSE OF SECRETS #80 (DC, 1966) – Prince Ra-Man in “The Death of the Six-Sided Sun,” (W) Bob Haney, (A) Bernard Baily; and Eclipso in “The Giant Eclipso,” (W) Bob Haney, (A) Jack Sparling. This is the last issue of the original version of HoS; it was relaunched three years later as a horror series. Given this series’ title, I kind of assumed it was always a horror comic, but its original incarnation was as a science fiction/fantasy comic. Of the two features in this issue, Prince Ra-Man is a bad Doctor Strange ripoff – I didn’t realize this strip was based on Doctor Strange until I looked it up, but it’s obvious in retrospect. The Eclipso story is a bit better, and since Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1 was one of the first comic books I ever read, it’s exciting to see the original version of this character.

RICHIE RICH RICHES #29 (Harvey, 1977) – various uncredited stories. I believe this is the first Richie Rich comic in my collection, and boy, does it suck. It consists of a series of gag stories which are implausible, illogical and unfunny. It’s not even as good as other Harvey comics I’ve read, let alone Uncle Scrooge or Little Archie.

JUGHEAD #14 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, (W) Ryan North, (A) Derek Charm. This issue concludes the story arc about Reggie being king for a month. It’s good, but it’s mostly a series of gags, and it’s not my favorite Jughead comic. I think Chip Zdarsky’s Jughead was better than Ryan North’s Jughead.

THE FLINTSTONES #10 (DC, 2017) – “Buyer’s Remorse,” (W) Mark Russell, (A) Steve Pugh. This comic is getting a lot of positive critical response; it might be the 2017 version of Tom King’s Vision. This issue, Betty becomes an actress in a film by Werner Herzrock, a hilarious parody of Werner Herzog. Meanwhile, Clod finally starts to face some consequences from his defunding of the children’s hospital and his crusade against the lizard people. I don’t know if this comic was initially intended as a satire of Trump, but it certainly has become that.

My tentative Eisner votes

In general, while the Eisner judges did not nominate exactly the works I would have nominated (I would have nominated Ms. Marvel and Lumberjanes for at least something), this is a strong ballot as usual.

Best Short Story 

  • “Mostly Saturn,” by Michael DeForge, in Island Magazine #8 (Image)

I don’t think I read any of the others.

Best Single Issue/One-Shot

  • Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In, by Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, and Jill Thompson (Dark Horse)

This was the only one I read.

Best Continuing Series

  • Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image)

Best Limited Series 

  • The Vision, by Tom King and Gabriel Walta (Marvel)

I’m a bit surprised this was considered a limited series.

Best New Series 

  • Faith, by Jody Houser, Pere Pérez, and Marguerite Sauvage (Valiant)

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8) – no vote

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)

  • Ghosts, by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic)
  • Hilda and the Stone Forest, by Luke Pearson (Flying Eye Books)
  • Rikki, adapted by Norm Harper and Matthew Foltz-Gray (Karate Petshop)
  • Science Comics: Dinosaurs, by MK Reed and Joe Flood (First Second)

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)

  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, by Ryan North and Erica Henderson (Marvel)

Best Humor Publication

  • Jughead, by Chip Zdarsky, Ryan North, Erica Henderson, and Derek Charm (Archie)

Best Anthology

  • Island Magazine, edited by Brandon Graham and Emma Rios (Image)

Best Reality-Based Work

  • Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir, by Tom Hart (St. Martin’s)

This is the first category so far that I’ve had to seriously think about; March volume 3 is the other strong candidate.

Best Graphic Album—New

  • The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, by Sonny Liew (Pantheon)

I haven’t read this yet but it looks like the best.

Best Graphic Album—Reprint

  • Demon, by Jason Shiga (First Second)

Tough choice between this and Incomplete Works. I have both but have not finished reading either.

Best U.S. Edition of International Material

  • Moebius Library: The World of Edena, by Jean “Moebius” Giraud et al. (Dark Horse)

I’d almost rather not vote for this because it’s material that was already published in English, but the only other one I read was Wrinkles, and it wasn’t as good as The World of Edena.

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia

  • Goodnight Punpun, vols. 1–4, by Inio Asano, translated by JN PRoductions (VIZ Media)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips (at least 20 years old)

  • Barnaby, vol. 3, by Crockett Johnson, edited by Philip Nel and Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books (at least 20 Years Old)

  • The Complete Wimmen’s Comix, edited by Trina Robbins (Fantagraphics)

I can’t afford this, but it looks like the best of the five.

Best Writer

  • Brian K. Vaughan, Paper Girls, Saga, We Stand On Guard (Image)

Best Writer/Artist

  • Tom Hart, Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir (St. Martin’s)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team

  • Fiona Staples, Saga (Image)

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art)

  • Sana Takeda, Monstress (Image)

Admittedly I am erring on the side of voting for someone who might show up to accept her Eisner.

Best Cover Artist (for multiple covers)

  • Mike Del Mundo, Avengers, Carnage, Mosaic, The Vision (Marvel)

Best Coloring

  • Matt Wilson, Cry Havoc, Paper Girls, The Wicked + The Divine (Image); Black Widow, The Mighty Thor, Star-Lord (Marvel)

Best Lettering

  • Tom Gauld, Mooncop (Drawn & Quarterly)

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism 

Best Comics-Related Book

  • Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White, by Michael Tisserand (Harper)

Looking forward to reading this.

Best Academic/Scholarly Work 

  • Forging the Past: Set and the Art of Memory, by Daniel Marrone (University Press of Mississippi)

I’m just guessing because I haven’t read any of these.

Best Publication Design

  • The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, designed by Sonny Liew (Pantheon)

Best Webcomic

Best Digital Comic

What’s the difference between these categories?

Reviews for second half of March

3-25-17

New comics received on March 10:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #18 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Ryan North, (A) Erica Henderson. Part two of the Melissa Morbeck story. Doreen realizes Melissa is evil (thanks to Nancy’s detective work), but it’s too late, because Melissa has the ability to control every non-squirrel animal in New York. Also, there’s an epilogue that continues the story of Alfredo and Chef Bear. This is a fun storyline, and Melissa is a much better villain than the dude who could split into smaller copies of himself.

MOTOR CRUSH #4 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Babs Tarr, (W) Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart. We don’t really learn anything new this issue, but it becomes clear that things are coming to a head, and that there is some deep dark secret in Domino’s past. One thing that strikes me about this issue is that Domino’s dad is acting really dumb, probably because he’s afraid of something. Instead of being open with his daughter, he tries to scare her away from finding out the truth about herself, thereby ensuring that she’ll try even harder. Also, I like how Domino herself is a deeply flawed and imperfect protagonist.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #27 (Image, 2017) – “Phased,” (W) Kieron Gillen, (A) Jamie McKelvie. Lots of different things happen this issue, but it feels like this issue is just marking time until the next big event happens. Probably the highlight of the issue is the scene where Baphomet shows Persephone the ghosts of her family.

MY LITTLE PONY DEVIATIONS #1 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) Katie Cook, (A) Agnes Garbowska. Katie’s first pony story in about a year is part of a series of “what if” one-shots. This particular issue asks the question: What if Prince Blueblood became Princess Celestia’s apprentice instead of Twilight Sparkle? The whole issue is basically a series of jokes revolving around Prince Blueblood’s snobbish and entitled attitude. Unlike Jeremy Whitley in MLP: Friends Forever #26, Katie makes no effort to redeem Prince Blueblood, but depicts him as having no positive qualities, and it’s funnier that way. One highlight of the issue is the parody version of the theme song.

ASTRO CITY #42 (DC, 2017) – “The Deep Blue Sea,” (W) Kurt Busiek, (A) Scott Clark. This is by far the worst-drawn issue of Astro City ever. Brent Anderson’s artwork on Astro City is usually unobtrusive and subservient to the art, but when I look at Scott Clark’s ugly poor-excuse-for-Jim-Lee art, I’m reminded of what a competent and professional artist Brent is. However, the story in this issue mostly redeems the art. “The Deep Blue Sea” resembles “Show ‘Em All” from v2 #10 because its protagonist is an old villain, but the focus of the story is very different. Mister Manta, an old enemy of Mermaid (a female version of Aquaman), has been living on a literal desert island for thirty years, planning his triumphant return to the world. But when he’s forced to interact with the outside world again, he realizes he’s totally out of touch with it, and he decides to return to his island for good. It’s a poignant story about old age and about how life happens while you’re making other plans, as John Lennon said.

GRASS KINGS #1 (Boom!, 2017) – “Welcome to the Grass Kingdom,” (W) Matt Kindt, (A) Tyler Jenkins. This issue begins with a flashback scene that perhaps reinforces some unfortunate Native American stereotypes, but this scene is incidental to the main story. This comic is really about a separatist community somewhere in the American Midwest. I was not super-impressed by this debut issue, but it’s an interesting premise, and I plan on continuing to read this series.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #7 (DC, 2017) – “Second Semester, Part 6,” (W) Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, (A) Adam Archer & Michelle Sassyk. The most important issue of this series since #1. The first shocking reveal is that Olive’s roommate Amy is invisible to everyone except her. I should maybe have expected this – it’s like the shock ending of The Sixth Sense in reverse – but it caught me totally by surprise. I’m sure if I look back at the last six issues, I’ll see that Amy never interacted with anyone but Olive. But that’s not all. Pomeline finds the Book of Gotham and discovers that Olive is really an Arkham, and Amy is the spirit of her ancestor, Amity Arkham. And the issue ends with Olive deciding to let her powers loose and burn the school down. This issue was an amazing coup de theatre; it feels like the whole series has been leading up to these revelations.

ROGAN GOSH (DC, 1994) – “Rogan Gosh: Star of the East,” (W) Peter Milligan, (A) Brendan McCarthy. This is probably Brendan McCarthy’s masterpiece. Like most Milligan-McCarthy collaborations, it’s a difficult work that makes little logical sense. It has multiple interlocking narratives each of which has different characters, though all the narratives revolve around an encounter between a young English man and a young Indian man. The story is deeply evocative and dense, but never goes anywhere in particular. But the artwork is stunning. McCarthy’s coloring, the most immediately appealing aspect of his work, is brilliant, but it’s combined with equally amazing draftsmanship and lettering, and he experiments with all sorts of different illustrative techniques. It feels like he really let himself loose on this comic, and delivered the absolute best work he was capable of. As the above summary indicates, the main theme of this comic is the encounter between England and India, and it’s guilty of a lot of Orientalism, though I do feel like the creators are not unaware of this. I do notice that the comic mentions the names of lots of Indian dishes, including the one the comic is named after, but they’re all the type of clichéd Indian dishes that you find in every generic Indian restaurant. And this is a symbol of how Peter Milligan’s depiction of India seems to be based on clichés rather than deep knowledge. But still, the art in this comic is so spectacular that it more than makes up for any possible flaws in the story.

WONDER WOMAN #18 (DC, 2017) – “Godwatch, Part 2,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Bilquis Evely. This comic isn’t bad, but it feels more like “Veronica Cale Comics #18” than Wonder Woman #18. More than half of its pages feature Veronica and not Diana, and of the pages where Diana does appear, two of them are a two-page splash. And I’m not nearly as fascinated by Veronica Cale as Greg Rucka is.

DOCTOR FATE #18 (DC, 2017) – untitled, (W) Paul Levitz, (A) Brendan McCarthy. Compared to Rogan Gosh, this is a minor Brendan McCarthy work. McCarthy’s coloring is the flashiest aspect of his work, but here his coloring is too obviously dependent on Photoshop, and the vividness of the coloring serves to disguise the boring, formulaic nature of the draftsmanship and storytelling. Also, the plot of this comic was of no interest to me.

SAVAGE DRAGON #142 (Image, 2017) – “Hunted,” (W/A) Erik Larsen. An okay issue. Previously, Savage Dragon killed a superhero named Solar Man in a clear case of justifiable homicide. This issue, Solar Man’s equally insane sidekick Mega Man tries to avenge his mentor’s death, but ends up electrocuting himself, much like Frank J. Grimes.

On March 12, I went to another local convention. The back issue selection wasn’t as good at this convention as at the one last August; also, I was exhausted because I had barely slept the night before, and I was worried about spending too much. I did buy a fair amount of stuff, though:

USAGI YOJIMBO COLOR SPECIAL #3 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Fox Fire,” (W/A) Stan Sakai. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a copy of this before. In this story, Usagi saves a fox from some hunters, then encounters a different fox who brainwashes him. Tomoe is the guest star. The theme of shapeshifting foxes was used again in the much later story “Kitsune Gari.” This issue also includes Nilson & Hermy and Space Usagi backup stories.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #1 (DC, 1993) – “The Tarantula, Act One,” (W) Matt Wagner, (A) Guy Davis. A very strong introduction to one of the better DC comics of the ‘90s. It’s nice to finally get to witness Wesley and Dian’s first meeting.

FEAR #18 (Marvel, 1973) – “A Question of Survival!”, (W) Steve Gerber, (A) Val Mayerik. A powerful if somewhat heavy-handed story. Five people – a woman, a child and three men – survive a bus accident just outside the swamp. The three men include a hippie draft-dodger, a Vietnam vet, and a drunk business executive. The executive kills the other two, but is himself killed by the Man-Thing. This story is an excessively obvious allegory of the divisions in American society at the time. But at least Gerber writes the characters well enough that they seem like people as well as symbols.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #26 (Marvel, 1973) – “Betrayal!”, (W/A) Jim Starlin, (W) Mike Friedrich. My copy of this issue is in unimpressive condition, but at least it was cheap. This is the only issue I was missing from Starlin’s first Thanos story, and it’s also Thanos’s second full appearance. Thanos spends most of the issue behind the scenes as he manipulates Captain Marvel and the Thing into fighting each other for convoluted reasons, but at the end of the issue he makes a dramatic on-panel debut, and we get to see his classic costume for the first time (rather than the uglier costume he wore in Iron Man #55). Back in 1973, Starlin’s artwork was still new and original rather than cliched.

BEWARE THE CREEPER #3 (DC, 1968) – “The Isle of Fear,” (W) Denny O’Neil, (A) Steve Ditko. Oddly, Denny O’Neil is credited as “special consultant” while his pseudonym, Sergius O’Shaughnessy, is credited as “writer.” I wonder why. This issue has a forgettable plot involving a criminal called the Supreme One who runs a hideout for other criminals, but the artwork is spectacular. Ditko’s artwork was rarely as energetic or action-filled as in the late ‘60s.

THOR #168 (Marvel, 1969) – “Galactus Found!”, (W) Stan Lee, (A) Jack Kirby. Thor seeks Galactus for some reason I don’t quite understand, while on Earth, the Warriors Three encounter a villain called the Thermal Man. The Galactus half of the issue is a bit underwhelming , although it appears to be intended as a setup for Galactus’s origin story in the next issue. The Warriors Three scenes are the highlight of the issue, especially the scene where Volstagg keeps breaking Donald Blake’s furniture.

SILVER SURFER #9 (Marvel, 2017) – “Shadows in the City of Light,” (W) Dan Slott, (A) Mike Allred. This series has had some severe delays, though it’s worth the wait. This is the first issue since December. In this story, the Surfer and Dawn visit a planet where, as it turns out, almost all the people have exchanged their flesh for solid holograms. And a hologram version of Dawn is created and is forced to stay on the planet forever, which is kind of heartbreaking. I hope it’s not another three months before #10.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #76 (DC, 1964) – “Elastic Lad Jimmy and His Legion Romances,” (W) Jerry Siegel, (A) John Forte. Saturn Girl, Light Lass and Triplicate Girl all go on dates with Jimmy in order to make Lucy Lane jealous. This is a very silly and inconsequential Legion story, but it’s funny. Of the two other stories in the issue, “The Death March!” is awful but “The Goose with the Golden Eggs!” is also funny. Jimmy discovers a goose that lays golden eggs, but he can’t figure out how to make her do it on command, and when he does figure it out, he realizes that he’s unknowingly eaten her for dinner.

JONESY #11 (Boom!, 2017) – “Hey, Babies!”, (W/A) Caitlin Rose Boyle, (W) Sam Humphries. This is the next-to-last issue, which is a shame. This series was getting pretty good. This issue, we learn that Jonesy left Plymouth because she told everyone about her secret love powers, and now everyone there hates her.

GIANT DAYS #23 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) John Allison, (A) Max Sarin. The girls have a housewarming party, which leads to a series of awkward moments because most of their former love interests show up. Also, Susan gets sick and coughs on the old guy next door, which explains why she thought she killed him (see review of #24 above).

UNCLE $CROOGE ADVENTURES #18 (Gladstone, 1989) – “That’s No Fable!”, (W/A) Carl Barks. This is a late Barks story, from 1960, but it’s not bad. Scrooge and the nephews discover Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth, but discover that it’s useless. (In order to lay claim to it, Scrooge would have to swim across a lagoon full of its water, at the risk of de-aging himself to death.) So this is an example of the genre of stories where Scrooge finds a fabulous treasure but can’t keep it. This story also has some funny gags, including one where a baby alligator bites Donald on the foot. I’m surprised it took Barks this long to get around to doing a Fountain of Youth story.

ANGEL AND THE APE #2 (DC, 1969) – “Most Fantastic Robbery in History!”, (W/A) Bob Oksner, (W) Sergio Aragonés. Like Anthro and Bat Lash, Angel and the Ape was a late ’60s DC comic that was innovative, well-written and well-drawn, but lasted less than eight issues. This issue is well-drawn and full of funny sight gags, though the plot is kind of dumb. Like Mister Miracle #6 a few years later, this issue includes a villain who’s obviously based on Stan Lee – although the intent is very different in each case, since Kirby was personally associated with Stan Lee while Oksner and Sergio were not. One notable feature of this series is Angel, who was perhaps DC’s most attractive female character at the time, besides Nick Cardy’s Wonder Girl and Mera.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #4 (DC, 2016) – “The Carnival Midnight,” (W) Brenden Fletcher, (A) Jon Lam. This is the issue I didn’t get to read because DCBS sent me a misprinted copy. I finally did get a refund for that comic, and then at the convention, I found a correctly printed copy of it for less than the DCBS price. Conveniently, “The Carnival Midnight” is a fill-in story that is not necessary to follow the “Second Semester” storyline. It’s about a carnival that’s run by an old friend of the school’s headmaster. At the end, it turns out the old friend has kept himself alive by magic, and he ages rapidly and dies.

THE BACKSTAGERS #7 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) James Tynion IV, (A) Rian Sygh. One of the missing boys from the ‘80s comes back and abducts one of the two prima donna actors, and the Backstagers have to team up to save the day. It’s a bit hard to care about this series when there’s just one issue left. I feel like it had a lot of potential, but never quite achieved its ambition of being the boy version of Lumberjanes.

IRON MAN #15 (Marvel, 1969) – “Said the Unicorn to the Ghost…!”, (W) Archie Goodwin, (A) George Tuska. The title is probably a reference to the spider and the fly, not the joker and the thief. I have never collected this series heavily, and I probably should, because Archie Goodwin’s Iron Man was quite good. It’s full of exciting action and relationship drama. This issue is mostly a series of fights between Iron Man, the Unicorn and the Red Ghost, though it has a surprising shock ending in which we learn that the Red Ghost cruelly tricked the Unicorn into helping him. According to Wikipedia, the run of issues right after this one (#17-23) is considered the best Iron Man story of the Silver Age, at least by IGN and CBR, and Archie must have been the best Iron Man writer between Stan Lee and David Michelinie. In his artwork for this issue, George Tuska was clearly trying to imitate Gene Colan’s style of storytelling, but he couldn’t imitate Gene’s draftsmanship.

NO MERCY #13 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Alex de Campi, (A) Carla Speed McNeil. Travis finds himself at a beach party with a bunch of vacationing college students from Britain. These kids all seemed like awful people, and when they turned up dead, I was shocked, but not particularly saddened. Then at the end of the issue, Gina runs into Travis on a plane back to America and gives him a good whack, which is no less than he deserves.

ROYAL CITY #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Jeff Lemire. It took me a while to get to this because it’s so long. This is Jeff Lemire’s latest major work. It takes place in a town – presumably in Canada though this is not stated – that’s trying to adjust to a changing economy, at the same time that its most prominent family works through a lot of drama. The shock ending to this comic was not a shock at all; I could see it coming from a mile off, once I realized that all the other family members perceived Richie as being a different age. Other than that, this was a well-done comic and it seems like a worthy successor to The Underwater Welder and Essex County.

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #9 (Marvel, 1973) – “Terror Beneath the Earth!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Tom Sutton. This issue’s story is silly and unmemorable, but the art is excellent. Tom Sutton was one of the best horror cartoonists of his time. Len and Glynis Wein make a cameo appearance on page two of this issue.

DENNIS THE MENACE #39 (Fawcett, 1959) – multiple stories, (W) Fred Toole, (A) Al Wiseman. This may be the oldest comic book I’ve reviewed since I started doing these reviews. I very rarely buy comics from earlier than the ‘60s. As usual with this series, this issue is funny, cute and beautifully drawn. The most notable story is the last one, which is the comic book debut of Dennis’s Italian-American friend Gina Gilotti. Gina is depicted as exotic and unusual by virtue of her Italian ancestry, which makes her a foil to the much more generic-seeming Margaret.

From March 17 to 19 I went to Portland for the Conference on College Composition and Communication. After the conference was over, I did a bit of comic book store tourism. First I went to Excalibur Comics, which had a really deep and well-organized back issue selection. It also seemed like an extremely well-run and welcoming store. Then I went to Cosmic Monkey Comics. That store also had a lot of back issues, but what really impressed me about it was its selection of trade paperbacks and graphic novels. I’m basically a professional comics fan, and I’ve rarely if ever seen a store with such an impressive selection of books, other than The Beguiling. I was worried about money at that point after having spent the whole weekend eating out, so I spent about $70 at the two stores combined, mostly on back issues and recent comics that I had missed when they came out. By the time I got home I had only managed to read one of the comics I bought:

SUPERMAN #11 (DC, 2016) – “In the Name of the Father: World’s Smallest, Part 2,” (W/A) Patrick Gleason, (W) Peter J. Tomasi. I didn’t get this when it came out, probably because I didn’t notice that this comic was coming out twice a month. In the conclusion to the Super Sons storyline, Jon and Damien fight like cats and dogs and fail to solve any of the problems their fathers set for them. They redeem themselves by saving their fathers from a (fake) threat, but at the end of the issue they’re fighting again. Overall, this was a hilarious and adorable comic, and “In the Name of the Father” is the best new Superman story I’ve read in years.

New comics received on Monday, March 20, after I returned from Portland:

MS. MARVEL #16 (Marvel, 2017) – “Damage Per Second, Part 3,” (W) G. Willow Wilson, (A) Takeshi Miyazawa. The Zoe/Nakia scenes are the emotional high point of the issue. “An evil sentient computer virus knows you’re gay and is going to send your secret love letters to Nakia to the entire school listserv!” is one of the best lines in the entire series. Zoe has become an unexpectedly complex character. People who only read the first trade paperback are going to get very inaccurate ideas about her. Also, I like the idea that Doc.X has learned evil behavior by observing how people act on the Internet.

SEX CRIMINALS #17 (Image, 2017) – “Part 2: Myrtle Spurge: Sexual Cop,” (W) Matt Fraction, (A) Chip Zdarsky. This issue is a spotlight on Myrtle a.k.a. Kegelface. One interesting thing we learn about her is that she constantly keeps herself at the brink of orgasm, but never goes all the way. As I have said before, this series is all about how reactionary forces in society seek to contain the subversive potential of sexuality. Sexual pleasure is dangerous and must therefore be contained or harnessed for productive purposes. Myrtle’s perpetual state of unfulfilled desire is an example of that. She reminds me of a quotation from Adorno and Horkheimer’s culture industry essay: “The culture industry perpetually cheats its consumers of what it perpetually promises. The promissory note which, with its plots and staging, it draws on pleasure is endlessly prolonged; the promise, which is actually all the spectacle consists of, is illusory: all it actually confirms is that the real point will never be reached, that the diner must be satisfied with the menu.” I kind of want to go further with this insight, but I don’t know enough psychoanalysis or queer theory. The other interesting thing about this issue is the new sex criminal. It was fun trying to figure out what his fetish was. Oh, and also this character’s origin story includes a classic example of a Freudian primal scene, and I think this is probably deliberate.

COADY AND THE CREEPIES #1 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Liz Prince, (A) Amanda Kirk. This series was described as being about the Lumberjanes’ favorite band. It’s not quite at Lumberjanes’s level of quality yet, but it’s not bad. At first I had no idea where this comic was going, but the spoiler – that one of the protagonists is a ghost – was a nice surprise, and it makes me excited to see what happens next.

PATSY WALKER A.K.A. HELLCAT #16 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kate Leth, (A) Brittney Williams. Kate Leth said that she’s ending this series on her own terms, which I assume means that the series was cancelled for low sales, but her contract prevents her from saying so. At least Marvel let her finish her story. In this issue, Patsy finally makes up with Hedy and confronts her mental health problems. It seems like Patsy’s real issue is stress, which is not an unfamiliar complaint to me.

MANIFEST DESTINY #27 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Chris Dingess, (A) Matthew Roberts. All the protagonists, except Lewis and Miss Grenier, are driven insane by poisonous mist, causing them to perceive their allies as evil ghosts. This is an exciting issue, but it barely advances the plot.

THE MIGHTY THOR #17 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Asgard/Shi’ar War, Part Three: When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Russell Dauterman. Note the Blake quotation in the title. While the Asgardians fight the Imperial Guard, Thor competes in a series of challenges against Sharra and K’ythri, who have an unfair advantage because they’re complete sociopaths who place no value on mortal lives. And then Sharra and K’ythri invoke the “ultimate judgment,” which, now that I look at the last panel again, is probably the Mangog.

SUPER SONS #2 (DC, 2017) – “When I Grow Up… Part Two: Lex and Friends,” (W) Peter J. Tomasi, (A) Jorge Jimenez. I can think of at least five professional cartoonists named Jimenez or Gimenez. This issue, Damian and Jon invade Lexcorp Tower for unclear reasons, and this leads to a lot of cute moments, but Damian’s behavior seems very erratic and inexplicable. Later in the issue, Jon is traumatized by seeing some corpses. So this comic is a lot of fun, but also has a darker side. Also, it turns out the mysterious Reggie kid is Kid Amazo, a character I’m not familiar with.

CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #6 (DC, 2017) – “Plan B,” (W) Jon Rivera & Gerard Way, (A) Michael Avon Oeming. This is the best Young Animal title now that Doom Patrol’s cancellation has just been announced. (It’s supposed to be a temporary cancellation but I expect it will be permanent.) This issue, the bad guys succeed in awakening some kind of Lovecraftian underground monster, and Cave is apparently killed.

ISLAND #12 (Image, 2016) – (W/A) various. I’m sorry this series was cancelled, but to be honest, it usually took me a few months to get around to reading each issue. And that’s partly because of long and tedious stories like Fil Barlow’s “Zooniverse, Chapter 2.” At this point, I can see why Fil Barlow was an influence on Brandon Graham – Zooniverse is full of weird aliens and incomprehensible plots, just like Brandon’s Prophet. But that doesn’t mean I’m a fan of Zooniverse; I think it’s worse-written and worse-drawn than Prophet. The next two stories in this issue are even worse. Lando’s “Island” suffers from unclear storytelling and poor production values, including bad lettering and one blatant typo (“Your just making trouble for us”). Alex Smith and Annie Mok’s “Avia” looks even less professional. The other two short pieces in the issue are only marginally better.

FUTURE QUEST #9 (DC, 2017) – “The Cavalry!”, (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Ron Randall. I missed this issue when it came out, but bought it in Portland. The main event this issue is that the kids get the Frankenstein Jr robot to work, and there are lots of funny interactions between Jonny, Hadji and the other kids. Also, the Herculoids finally appear.

ODY-C #12 (Image, 2017) – “The Fall of the House of Atreus 2. Gamem, Part Two, or, Comedy Tonight,” (W) Matt Fraction, (A) Christian Ward. This just came out, but I somehow failed to order it. This issue continues the retelling of the House of Atreus story, covering the events of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon. Like issue 11, it suffers from a lack of innovation relative to the source text, but Christian Ward’s art is amazing as usual. Every page this issue is a splash page.

TITS & CLITS #5 (Last Gasp, 1979) – (W/A) Joyce Farmer and others. This is now the second most obscene-sounding comic in my collection, behind only Giant-Size Man-Thing. I got my copy at Excalibur Comics; it’s badly water-damaged, but only cost a dollar. I want to collect more of this series, and more underground comics in general. This particular issue includes a bunch of stories of widely varying quality, though most of them are at least interesting if not well-executed. The highlight of the issue is Joyce Farmer’s “Slice of Life,” a three-pager about a childhood encounter with homophobia.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #11 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Skottie Young. This story reminds me a lot of All About Eve. At the annual Dungeon Festexpocon, Gertrude meets her idol, Gwag the Barbarian, and then encounters another younger fan, Maddie, who idolizes Gertrude as much as Gertrude idolizes Gwag. Not surprisingly, Gertrude kills Maddie in the end.

HEAD LOPPER #5 (Image, 2017) – “Head Lopper and the Crimson Tower, Part 1,” (W/A) Andrew MacLean. We continue with the theme of Image comics that have been on hiatus for a while. In the new storyline, Head Lopper and Agatha, along with a bunch of other heroes, enter the perilous Crimson Tower to compete for the right to replace the tower’s current master. The POV characters are Bik, a young boy from the plantlike People of the Fonga Leaf, and Zhannia Kota, a woman warrior. (In this series, POV characters are necessary because Head Lopper is so stoic and emotionless.) Like the previous Head Lopper epic, this is an excellent adventure story and I look forward to the next installment.