Reviews for 5-12-16

5-12-16

Didn’t manage to read a whole lot this week, at least not compared to last week.

RAT QUEENS #16 (Image, 2016) – Kurtis Wiebe [W], Tess Fowler [A]. I don’t understand why this comic is going on hiatus, because the quality certainly hasn’t declined and Kurtis doesn’t seem to be out of ideas yet. The Rat Queens’ return to Palisade results in a lot of cute and funny moments, and the story ends on a bizarre cliffhanger as Violet goes to bed with Dave, but then sees something horrible which causes her to castrate him and slice off half of his head. I’m excited and nervous to find out what was going on here.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #19 (Image, 2016) – Kieron Gillen [W], Jamie McKelvie [A]. I am deeply grateful to Kieron and Jamie for including a chart of characters on the inside front cover. This feature makes the comic much easier to read, because I don’t have to remember the gods’ names or which god is on which side. I wish more comics would do this. Otherwise, this is a solid installment of the second best current ongoing comic. I think Minerva may be my second favorite character in this series after Laura.

THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #5 (DC, 2016) – Renae de Liz [W/A]. This is the best current DC comic. (It’s better than Gotham Academy, and I don’t count Astro City as a DC comic.) It shows us what Wonder Woman can be when she’s taken seriously and when she’s not hamstrung by sexism and poor writing. I think I wrote before about the time when I was looking through the 50-cent boxes at a used bookstore, and I encountered a little girl who was looking for Wonder Woman comics. I would unreservedly recommend this comic to that little girl, but also to an adult reader. This particular issue has two moments that really stood out to me – first, Diana’s question about what American warrior women wear, and second, Diana chowing down on the popcorn. But there’s also some good stuff here that’s more subtle. When I read this comic, I was so focused on Diana that I didn’t pay any attention to the subplot about Ettta Candy’s parents, but that subplot turned out to be important. I’m also impressed by the contrast between Etta and Diana; Etta’s flamboyance and humor make her a very effective foil to Diana, with her reserved, serious nature.

SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME #1 (Oni, 2016) – Natalie Riess [W/A]. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t order the second issue of this. I’ll need to get it from mycomicshop.com or something. This series has a brilliant premise: a human who participates in a cooking show for aliens. Natalie Riess, who I have not heard of before, succeeds in exploiting the potential of this idea. Her artwork is charming and distinctive, and her aliens look genuinely alien, especially Zorp the Octahedral. I’m especially curious to find out what sort of bizarre ingredients Peony has to cook with, although again, I may not be able to read the next issue immediately.

HOWARD THE DUCK #7 (Marvel, 2016) – Chip Zdarsky [W], Kevin Maguire [A]. It’s weird that the cliffhanger from the end of #5 isn’t going to be resolved until #8. I understand that issue 6 was a crossover, and I guess it made sense to do this story next, since it’s out of continuity. Kevin Maguire turns out to be very good at drawing dinosaurs, but the best thing about this issue is the interplay between the various guest stars, including Cap, Daredevil, She-Hulk, and Spider-Man. I previously mentioned that Ryan North writes some excellent Spider-Man dialogue, and so does Chip Zdarsky. Maybe the two of them ought to be the regular Spider-Man writers.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: WHAT THE CAT DRAGGED IN #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Evan Dorkin [W], Jill Thompson [A]. This issue is a spotlight on the cats of Burden Hill, as the title indicates. My main complaint with this story is that Jill’s cat faces sometimes look too much like human faces. Otherwise, this is an excellent comic – I was going to say it was the best comic of the week, but it was a really good week, so I’m not sure. It has this series’s usual combination of humor and ghastly horror. It also introduces a wonderful new character, Hoke the raccoon. In just one issue, Hoke develops into a deep and complex character. He’s loud and lazy and cowardly and loves garbage, yet he also shows surprising nobility, and on the last page, we see that he’s been deeply shaken by his encounter with evil. Overall, this was a great piece of work and a possible candidate for the Eisner for Best Single Issue.

ROCKET RACCOON AND GROOT #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Skottie Young [W], Jay Fosgitt [A]. Bizarrely enough, this is only the second best raccoon comic of the week. We must be living in a golden age of raccoon comics. This issue has kind of a dumb plot, but Jay Fosgitt’s artwork is excellent – he’s perfect for a comic like this, and he’s starting to become a significant talent. I’m going to have to look for some back issues of Bodie Troll.

HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY #5 (Action Lab, 2015) – Kyle Puttkammer [W], Marcus Williams [A]. After reading Beasts of Burden, I started a Facebook thread asking which comic artist draws the best cats. At least one person mentioned Marcus Williams, so I decided it was time to get caught up on Hero Cats. In this issue, the Hero Cats discover that Cassiopeia’s human roommates are secretly Galaxy Man and Galaxy Girl, and then they fight a bunch of alien bugs. It’s a fun self-contained story that also has implications for future issues. It’s really implausible that Galaxy Man and Galaxy Girl are father and daughter and yet neither of them knows the other’s secret identity. On the other hand, nothing else about this comic is plausible either.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #28 (IDW, 2016) – Jeremy Whitley [W], Jay Fosgitt [A]. The featured characters this issue are Luna and the Cutie Mark Crusaders, “now with more cutie marks.” This issue, like most Luna stories, revolves around Luna’s guilt and shyness around other ponies. When Princess Celestia is unexpectedly absent, Luna has to supervise a sleepover at the castle, and the CMC have to help her do it. The new character in this issue, Thestra, is very cute, and I assume she was named after the thestrals from Harry Potter, but it seems as though her power and the monster she faces were each invented to fit the other. I Instagrammed the panel where Twilight asks Rarity “Do you ever worry you might be a character in a book?” and it got a lot of likes.

HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY #6 (Action Lab, 2015) – as above. This issue has a severely complicated plot that I’m not even going to try to summarize. Near the end of the issue, I even lost track of what was going on and I felt like I’d missed a page, although it turned out this was intentional – there’s a subsequent page that explains what happened. Maybe Kyle Puttkammer was trying to confuse the reader on purpose, I don’t know. The other thing I remember from this issue is Ace and Cassiopeia’s budding relationship. Which is another implausible thing about this comic, or to put it more kindly, another case in which this comic demands suspension of disbelief. I don’t think cats have romantic relationships, at least not the kind that can be shown in a children’s comic.

GIANT DAYS #14 (Boom!, 2016) – John Allison [W], Max Sarin [A]. When I started reading this comic, I wondered if I’d missed an issue. At the end of #13, Esther’s parents cut off her financial support, and there is no mention of this in #14. I am at a loss to explain why this cliffhanger was not resolved. Instead, this issue is all about Esther, Susan and Daisy’s attempts to find housing in Sheffield for next semester. This strikes close to home for me because I’m about to start looking for a new apartment myself. Otherwise, this is a normal issue of Giant Days.

REVIVAL #39 (Image, 2016) – Tim Seeley [W], Mike Norton [A]. I really wish I had time to read this whole comic from the start, because I’ve lost track of what’s going on. I understand that the yellow ghost things are the spirits of the Revivers, and that when one of them merges with its corresponding Reviver, that person dies for good. Otherwise, I’m just sort of confused by this storyline. I did enjoy the scene where Ramin attacks a soldier who’s about to say “sand n****r” – I hope that I would do the same thing if I were in Ramin’s position.

KLAUS #5 (Boom!, 2016) – Grant Morrison [W], Dan Mora [A]. This is an okay comic, but it doesn’t do much to advance the plot of the series. I feel like this miniseries could have been completed in five or six issues rather than seven.

HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY #7 (Action Lab, 2015) – as above. This issue introduces a new Hero Cat, Bandit and also leads into the Crow King story arc. After reading three issues of Hero Cats in a row, my overall feeling is that it’s no Princeless, but it is a very cute and fun comic that would be ideal for new readers.

BLACK WIDOW #3 (Marvel, 2016) – Mark Waid [W], Chris Samnee [A]. This was the least impressive issue yet, but it was still quite good. At times in this issue it became hard to distinguish between Natasha’s memories in reality, especially at the end, where Natasha is stabbed by a little girl who looks exactly like the little girl from her memories. As usual, Chris Samnee’s artwork is excellent, but his one weak point is his geography. The panel that shows Diana’s flight path to Russia is full of funny mistakes – Newfoundland and Great Britain are part of the mainland rather than islands, there are land bridges between Sweden and Denmark and between Morocco and Spain, and Corsica and Sardinia are a single island.

STEVEN UNIVERSE AND THE CRYSTAL GEMS #2 (Boom!, 2016) – Josceline Fenton [W], Chrystin Garland [A]. My least favorite comic of the week. The writer and artist fail to create any excitement or to make me care whether the Glass Ghost exists or not. I don’t know whether this comic is just badly executed, or whether the Steven Universe franchise isn’t for me.

A-FORCE #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Kelly Thompson [W], Ben Caldwell [A]. I guess Kelly is the sole writer now. I wonder what else G. Willow Wilson is working on besides Ms. Marvel. I think I liked this issue better than most of the issues that Willow cowrote, though. (Is Willow what people call her? I would assume so.) Ben Caldwell is a much better artist than Jorge Molina; the opening splash page with the gigantic dragon is particularly impressive. And the writing in this issue is just more fun, especially the bar scene, though it does seem kind of cruel that Singularity and Nico have to just sit there for hours and watch the adults drink. Introducing a new alternate-dimensional Dazzler is a strange narrative choice, but I’m curious to see what Kelly has in mind for this character.

X-MEN: WORST X-MAN EVER #3 (Marvel, 2016) – Max Bemis [W], Michael Walsh [A]. The new character this issue, Miranda, is interesting because she’s a black girl who’s not conventionally attractive, and she’s also ridiculously overpowered. I’d like to see more of her, although I feel obliged to note that this issue sometimes comes close to fat-shaming her. Otherwise, this issue is very similar to the last two. I like Michael Walsh’s art a lot; he’s not at all like a typical X-Men artist.

SPIDER-GWEN #7 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Latour [W], Bengal [A]. This and the next issue are part of the Spider-Women crossover. Osvaldo Oyola said some nice things about my blog the other day, and I will return the favor by quoting him. He said about Spider-Woman #6: “This was a pointless issue, part of a crossover that spreads across multiple Spider-themed female superheroes called “Spider-Women.” I am not against such a story, but am against the transparent attempts to artificially bump sales by spreading the story out this way among multiple books and creators. The story always suffers, as does the book itself.” Unlike Spider-Woman #6, Spider-Gwen #7 is at least marginally interesting because of the interactions between the three protagonists, and also because of what it tells us about Spider-Gwen’s world. For example, I guess this is a world where Howard the Duck’s Presidential campaign was successful. But this issue does suffer from being part of a crossover; it doesn’t make sense on its own, and the reader who chooses not to buy Spider-Woman and Silk is punished for that choice. (As a footnote to that, I had been buying Silk, but not reading it, and I’ve decided to give up on it.)

SPIDER-GWEN #8 (Marvel, 2016) – as above. If Osvaldo’s critique is only partly true of Spider-Gwen #7, it’s completely true of Spider-Gwen #8. This issue makes no sense at all if you haven’t been following the entire crossover. This kind of crossover, where you have to read every issue to understand any of them, is the worst kind, and Marvel should be ashamed for taking advantage of their fans in this way.

BLACK CANARY #10 (DC, 2016) – Brenden Fletcher [W], Moritat & Sandy Jarrell [A]. Like Batgirl #51, this issue feels pointless because the series is about to be rebooted. At least the scenes with Babs and Dinah in this issue are funny. And the story makes a reasonable amount of sense, which is more than I can say of some Brenden Fletcher comics.

2000 AD PRESENTS #7 (Quality, 1986) – Dan Dare: Gerry Finley-Day [W], Dave Gibbons [A]. Skizz: Alan Moore [W], Jim Baikie [A]. This comic has higher production values than some of Quality’s other reprints of 2000 AD material. Its first 30 pages are reprints of Dan Dare strips from the late ‘70s. Dave Gibbons’s artwork here is somewhat crudely drawn and some of his page layouts are hard to follow, but you can clearly tell that it’s Dave Gibbons; his storytelling is already fairly well developed and his compositions are often quite powerful and dramatic. However, all of these stories have tedious plots with generic one-note characters. The Skizz backup story has worse art but is far better written. I’ve never read Skizz before, but it appears to be about a 15-year-old girl who tries to help an alien return home. While this is obviously the same plot as ET, it has a much darker tone, with lots of grim foreshadowing, and the reader feels genuine sympathy for both the girl and the alien. I want to read more of this series.

JONAH HEX #61 (DC, 2011) – Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti [W], Jordi Bernet [A]. Having Jordi Bernet draw Jonah Hex was a great idea, the kind of idea that no one at DC seems to be capable of coming up with anymore. It’s sadly uncommon for European star artists to work on American comics or vice versa, even in this age of globalization. I don’t absolutely love Bernet’s artwork in this issue, but his graphic storytelling is excellent; he reminds me a lot of Alex Toth, who he replaced on Torpedo. I also like the plot of this comic. Jonah Hex and Mei-Ling’s somewhat antagonistic relationship was one of the most fun things about the original Jonah Hex comic. This issue takes place during Jonah and Mei-Ling’s honeymoon, and their relationship is essentially the same as in their previous incarnations.

This week’s reviews

5-5-16

Going to try to do this every week instead of every month. Each of these reviews will now mention the name of the primary writer and artist.

JONESY #3 (Boom!, 2016) – Sam Humphries [W], Caitlin Rose Boyle [A]. I still don’t get the point of this comic. Maybe there is no point and I shouldn’t be looking for it. At least this issue is a fairly cute exploration of Jonesy’s relationship with her dad.

A-FORCE #4 (Marvel, 2016) – Kelly Thompson & G. Willow Wilson [W], Jorge Molina [A]. This comic has been disappointing so far because it’s mostly been a series of boring action sequences, and the tremendous talent of the writers has gone to waste. Most of this issue is disappointing for the same reasons. However, the She-Hulk/Dazzler scene at the end is very good, and it reminds me that one reason I enjoy Kelly Thompson and G. Willow Wilson’s other comics is because of their ability to write convincing relationships between women. I’m going to keep reading this comic for now, but I really hope there will be more scenes like that one.

TRUE BELIEVERS: MILES MORALES #1 (Marvel, 2015, originally 2011) – Brian Michael Bendis [W], Sara Pichelli [A]. I bought this because it was less than a dollar. Miles Morales is an interesting character, but I can’t read Bendis’s writing anymore. I used to think his dialogue style was innovative and realistic, but that was over a decade ago, and now I just think his writing is annoying. If I want to listen to people repeat themselves and stumble over their words, I can listen to actual people talk.

FAITH #3 (Valiant, 2016) – Jody Houser [W], Francis Portela & Marguerite Sauvage [A]. This is not just a politically progressive example of body-positivity, it’s a really good comic. I don’t know where Jody Houser came from, but her characterization and dialogue are truly impressive. And I’ve praised Marguerite’s artwork before, but Francis also deserves praise, especially for his facial expressions. More on this series below.

DETECTIVE COMICS #834 (DC, 2007) – Paul Dini [W], Don Kramer [A]. This is a competent but average story, in which Batman teams up with Zatanna against the Joker. Paul Dini has written some memorable Zatanna stories but this is not one of them.

THE FOX AND THE CROW #106 (DC, 1967) – Arnold Drake [W], Win Mortimer [A], backup stories by Cecil Beard [W], Jim Davis [A]. This must have been the longest-running funny animal comic not published by Disney, but at this point the title characters had mostly been supplanted by Stanley and His Monster, who were sort of like very early prototypes for Calvin and Hobbes. The Stanley and His Monster story in this issue is similar to Sugar & Spike in terms of its type of humor, but not quite as funny, though it’s reasonably enjoyable. The Fox & Crow backup stories are typical bad funny animal material. Fox & Crow is notable, though, for having had one of the longest runs by a single creative team in the history of American comics, and it would be nice if DC would publish a collection of their best work.

KENNEL BLOCK BLUES #2 (IDW, 2016) – Ryan Ferrier [W], Daniel Bayliss [A]. The gimmick of a cartoon dog going to prison was only funny once, which is why I didn’t feel motivated to read this second issue. It turns out that once the novelty of the gimmick has worn off, this is a really grim and depressing comic. In this issue, the dog protagonist and his cat ally try to escape the prison but fail miserably.

KENNEL BLOCK BLUES #3 (IDW, 2016) – as above. This one is even more grim and depressing and bleak; not only is the protagonist still in prison, but now all the inmates are coming down with the plague. As the issue goes on, we discover that the prison is a metaphor for the dog pound. I’m ashamed that I didn’t guess this sooner because it’s obvious in retrospect. I’m glad this is the next to last issue because I can’t take much more of this sort of thing.

CEREBUS #46 (Aardvark/Vanaheim, 1983) – Dave Sim [W/A]. I was inspired to read this when I looked at my master list of comics reviewed and realized that I had only read one Cerebus comic since 2013. I’ve never understood Cerebus, and this is partly because I’ve never bothered to collect the phone book volumes. I buy single issues of Cerebus sometimes when I find them in cheap boxes, but Cerebus is probably the single worst comic book to read in single-issue format. It was an early example of “writing for the trade” because nearly every issue was part of an ongoing storyline. For example, this issue is something like the 22nd chapter of “High Society,” so it’s full of references that don’t make sense out of context. What does make this comic worth reading is, first, Dave Sim’s excellent artwork and lettering, and second, the dialogue. The subtitle of this issue is “A Night in Iest” and it includes two characters based on Harpo and Chico Marx, and Dave brilliantly imitates the Marx Brothers style of comedy. Also, I never have the energy to read Cerebus’s letter columns all the way through, but they seem like interesting windows into a bygone era of fandom.

SAGA #36 (Image, 2016) – Brian K. Vaughan [W], Fiona Staples [A]. I squeed so hard when I read this comic. My initial Facebook comment on it was “OMG this was the most adorable and heartwarming comic ever. Who says we never give Marko and Alana and Hazel a happy ending?” I think this was the happiest issue of the entire series. The happy ending is doubly shocking because BKV and Fiona have conditioned us to expect the worst – most of the previous story arcs have ended with something horrible, like D. Oswald Heist’s death or Hazel’s kidnapping. I’m sure more horrible things will happen after this series goes off hiatus, but for now, it’s nice that the best family in comics gets to enjoy a brief moment of peace.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #7 – Ryan North [W], Erica Henderson [A]. Choose Your Own Adventure stories are becoming one of Ryan North’s trademarks. This is his second CYOA comic, after Adventure Time #10, and he’s also done CYOA versions of Hamlet and of Romeo and Juliet. This comic has more or less the same format as Adventure Time #10, but it also includes some funny metatextual references to the fact that it’s a CYOA comic. For example, after the first two plot branches come back together, Doreen says “I can’t help but wonder what I would’ve done in that other situation, if I were there. Oh well! It’s truly impossible to say!” And at the end, Koi Boi asks if there were any points when things could have gone differently. This issue also has some notable intertextual references: there’s a secret ending only reachable by cheating (like Ultima in Inside UFO 54-40), the cover is designed to look like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, and Koi Boi has the same last name as Jason Shiga. Though it turns out Koi Boi’s last name was revealed quite a while ago, so either his name is a massive coincidence, or Ryan must have been planning this issue for a long time.

MS. MARVEL #6 (Marvel, 2016) – G. Willow Wilson [W], Nico Leon [A]. Last month, I made a list of the 12 Commandments of Academia. It was shared on Twitter by DrAcademicBatgirl and became probably my most circulated tweet yet. The first item on the list was “Thou shalt say no.” I thought of that when I read this issue, because the moral of this story is exactly the same. As Carol tells Kamala, “You’re only one person. Superhuman is still human. It’s still okay to say no to things.” I and almost everyone I know could use that advice. The other lesson from this issue is that asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. (With all these friendship lessons, G. Willow Wilson ought to write an issue of My Little Pony.) The most mature thing Kamala does in the entire story is to call for help. She admits that she can’t solve her problems all by herself, and so she gets other people to help her. Too often, asking for help feels like weakness – especially perhaps for a female superhero, who is under pressure not to fall into the damsel-in-distress stereotype. But not asking for help can be even worse. Again, this is lesson definitely applies to me and probably to lots of other people I know. I should also mention that the wedding at the end of the issue is extremely cute, and G. Willow Wilson does a good job of illustrating the cultural differences between Aamir and Tyesha’s families, but without making these differences seem like a huge problem.

SEX CRIMINALS #15 (Image, 2016) – Matt Fraction [W], Chip Zdarsky [A]. This issue was good but not great, though perhaps it suffered in comparison to the three comics I read before it. This comic has been coming out on a less than monthly basis and it’s becoming hard to keep track of all the characters and subplots; for example, I don’t understand what the black box is supposed to represent. I do remember Badal (though I forget his first name) and it’s nice that this character hasn’t been totally written off, since I expected him to be the primary villain. It’s also nice that Myrtle is feeling some remorse for sleeping with the psychiatrist dude; this makes her seem like more than a one-dimensional villain.

PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Another comic that’s good, but not as good as other stuff. This is a very effectively and intricately plotted comic, though again, some of the plot details are difficult to keep straight. I previously said that this comic’s style of humor was very similar to that of Squirrel Girl, but after four issues I’m starting to see the difference between Kate Leth’s humor and that of Ryan North.

ANOTHER CASTLE #2 (Oni, 2016) – Andrew Wheeler [W], Paulina Ganucheau [A]. Issue #1 of this series disappointed me because I was expecting this comic to be a video game parody. With this issue, that burden of expectation is removed and I’m able to enjoy this comic for its own merits. It turns out that this comic is a funny and well-drawn sword-and-sorcery/fairy-tale parody, with a distinctive and exciting main character. It has obvious similarities to Princeless but is less explictly political. I’m looking forward to more of this.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #6 (Marvel, 2016) – Brandon Reeder & Amy Montclare [W], Natacha Bustos [A]. I already knew the ending to this issue before I read it, though it’s a cute ending, with Devil Dinosaur wrapping itself around Lunella’s cocoon as if it were an egg. I’m curious to see what comes out of that cocoon. The major weak point in this issue is Lunella’s speech to her mother, beginning with “I’m going to take care of this once and for all.” I see why this moment is necessary in terms of the plot and Lunella’s character arc, but what kind of parent would be persuaded by that sort of argument? Like, if you’re a parent, are you going to allow your nine-year-old child to willingly risk her life, just because she thinks she can handle it? This is an example of how this comic would be a lot more plausible if Lunella were at least a few years older.

FAITH #4 (Valiant, 2016) – as above. This is a deeply satisfying conclusion to the miniseries. By the end of this issue, I was sorry that such a fun and well-executed comic was almost over, and I was thinking there ought to be an ongoing Faith series. And then I saw the ad at the end, which says that the ongoing Faith title will begin in July. Good news. This was one of the best debuts of 2016.

CEREBUS #64 (Aardvark/Vanaheim, 1984) – Dave Sim [W/A]. This is a chapter of “Church and State,” an even longer story than “High Society,” so it makes even less sense out of context. Other than that, all my comments on Cerebus #46 apply to this issue too. This issue includes a backup story by Sim and Jerry Siegel, which, like all Siegel’s late work, is poorly written.

UNCLE SCROOGE ADVENTURES #9 (Gladstone, 1988) – First story: Philippe Le Bars [W], Daniel Branca [A]. Second story: Don Rosa [W/A]. The lead story this issue is not bad at all, though it’s not why I bought this comic. The main attraction is the backup story, “Fortune on the Rocks.” This is an atypical Rosa story because it’s mostly a series of gags that never really go anywhere. As part of a real estate deal, Scrooge buys a mountain that turns out to be completely worthless. This story is most notable for its atypical panel structures. Many Rosa stories have a very rigid page layout with 4 tiers per page; I assume this is because they’re intended for reprinting in different countries with different page sizes. (This is just my guess; I could be wrong.) But “Fortune on the Rocks” uses far more radical page layouts, which is something Barks was also known for. Don Ault said that in some Barks comics, you can guess what’s happening in each panel just from the shape of the panels, and that’s also true of this Rosa story.

PLUTONA #4 (Image, 2016) – Jeff Lemire [W], Emi Lenox [A]. The plot of this comic continues to move very slowly, but it’s fine because the primary emphasis is on the characters. I read this when I was in the middle of the giant Essex County book, which is probably Jeff Lemire’s masterpiece. He ought to be doing more work like that, but a comic like Plutona is an acceptable substitute.

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE #1 (IDW, 2016) – Georgia Ball [W], Amy Mebberson [A]. I ordered this because I knew both of the creators’ names from My Little Pony comics, and I vaguely remembered having watched Strawberry Shortcake as a child. When I started to read this comic, I immediately realized that I liked Rainbow Brite much more than Strawberry Shortcake. (I had two little sisters, okay?) Also, this comic is really not for me. It has some funny lines of dialogue, but it lacks the characterization, the self-aware humor and the serious lessons about friendship that make My Little Pony appealing. The plot of this issue is completely predictable and the characters are impossible to tell apart. It’s too late to cancel my order of issue 2 of this series, but that’s the last one I’ll be getting.

A YEAR OF MARVELS: THE AMAZING #1 (Marvel, 2016) – First story: Ryan North [W], Danilo Beyruth [A]. Second story: Amy Chu [W], Ryan Browne [A]. This comic, like Marvel Fanfare, seems to have been created as a way of using up some old inventory material. The first story is still worth reading, even though the plot, in which Spider-Man fights the Vulture on Valentine’s Day, is of no interest at all. The reason it’s worth reading is Ryan North’s dialogue; the banter between Spidey and the Vulture is not only very funny, but is also full of what appear to be accurate scientific references. The annoying part is that Spidey’s insults sometimes cross the line from funny to unnecessarily mean. The backup story, starring Ant-Man, is a waste of space.

DOCTOR STRANGE #7 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], Chris Bachalo [A]. Probably the best comic I read today (for once I’m reading these comics the same day I’m writing the reviews). This issue reveals the Empirikul’s origin, which is really cool; the Empirikul’s leader has the same origin as Superman, except his parents were rogue scientists from a planet ruled by Shuma-Gorath-worshipping magicians. I don’t think I mentioned this before, but this storyline does something really cool with the coloring: the Empirikul are mostly in black and white, and the only time color appears is when magic is being used. The one thing that annoys me about this story is that it seems to be having no impact on other Marvel titles, and I feel like the events going on here are significant enough that we should be seeing evidence of them elsewhere.

SUPER ZERO #5 (AfterShock, 2016) – Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti [W], Rafael de Latorre [A]. I feel like I’m the only one reading this comic; at least I never hear anyone else talk about it. That’s a shame because this comic is genuinely good. This issue takes an unexpected turn into science fiction: not only does Dru succeed in getting into space, but she discovers that the astronauts on the International Space Station are disguised aliens! This sets up a massive cliffhanger for next issue, but it also makes me skeptical because so far this comic has been taking place in what appears to be the real world. In fact, that’s the whole point: Dru thinks she lives in a superhero universe but she really lives in a mundane one. So I strongly suspect that these aliens will somehow turn out to be fake. Either way, I’m curious to see what comes next.

BATGIRL #51 (DC, 2016) – Brenden Fletcher [W], various [A]. This issue is reasonably fun and well-written, though it suffers from having too many artists. However, this series is about to be rebooted with a new creative team, so it’s difficult to care very much about what happens in this issue. I’m surprised they didn’t just take a two-month hiatus between Babs Tarr’s departure and the launch of the new series. This issue includes a cute but gratuitous guest appearance by Olive and Maps.

BLACK CANARY #9 (DC, 2016) – Matthew Rosenberg [W], Moritat [A]. This is a really obvious fill-in issue. It’s reasonably well-executed, but it’s a done-in-one story that has no impact on continuity, so it’s hard to get emotionally invested in it. Based on Moritat’s name and the slight similarity of his style to that of Eduardo Risso, I guessed he was European or Argentine, but it turns out he’s American.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #11 (DC, 2016) – Marguerite Bennett [W], Mirka Andolfo & Laura Braga [A]. This issue feels like it has too much fanservice, though I feel somewhat ashamed to use that term. There are two different romantic scenes that are insufficiently set up, and the heroes beat the villains too easily. This isn’t a bad comic, though; I may have just come to it at the wrong moment, or maybe I waited too long to read it after issue 10. The last panel, which uses the words “Justice League” for the first time in the series (although shouldn’t it be Justice Society?), is a cool moment.

VANGUARD ILLUSTRATED #4 (Pacific, 1984) – various [W/A]. None of the four stories in this anthology comic are especially good. The issue begins with a Mike Baron/Rick Burchett story that introduces a new character, Quark. There’s nothing especially original here, and the story is full of Cold War clichés. The highlight of the issue is the early Mike Baron/Steve Rude story, which is the conclusion of a story arc involving an encyclopedia salesman in a postapocalyptic world. Still, the artwork in this story is unimpressive by Rude’s standards. The other two stories in this issue are even worse.

POWER MAN #36 (Marvel, 1976) – Steve Englehart [W], George Tuska [A]. This is a Dreaded Deadline Doom reprint of Hero for Hire #12, which introduced Chemistro. Compared to other stories from the same era of Hero for Hire, the Chemistro story is pretty bad. Chemistro is an ineffective villain; he has a gun that lets him change any substance into any other substance, making him even more powerful than Element Lad, and the only thing he can think of to do with this gun is get revenge on his old bosses. Also, the plot involves an auto company president whose office is in Manhattan. I guess some auto companies did have offices in Manhattan at the time, but it seems odd that the company wouldn’t be based out of Detroit.

SCORPIO ROSE #1 (Eclipse, 1983) – Steve Englehart [W], Marshall Rogers [A]. According to Englehart’s editorial on the inside front cover, he originally wrote this as a Madame Xanadu story, but refused to publish it with DC because of rights issues. After that, Jan and Dean Mullaney called Englehart and offered him “the first straight comics deal ever to include both professional rates and rights.” Therefore, Englehart calls Scorpio Rose as “the comic that changed the comic book industry,” which seems like a massive overstatement – I would say that Destroyer Duck #1, for example, was far more important in helping make independent comics viable. In terms of its merits, this comic has some excellent Marshall Rogers artwork, but the writing is an example of Englehart’s worst tendencies. The protagonist is basically Madame Xanadu, but her backstory is that 300 years ago, she was raped by a man who was cursed to transform into a demon, and now that man is back. Englehart uses Scorpio Rose’s rape merely as an excuse for the plot, and shows no interest in examining its psychological effects on her. So this story is basically a lesson in how not to write about rape, which is odd since Englehart usually wrote about female characters in a much more sensitive way.

A highly idiosyncratic ranking of all the winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature

 

 

  1. T.S. Eliot
  2. Rabindranath Tagore
  3. William Faulkner
  4. George Bernard Shaw
  5. Gabriel García Márquez
  6. W.B. Yeats
  7. Samuel Beckett
  8. Pablo Neruda
  9. Toni Morrison
  10. Naguib Mahfouz
  11. Yasunari Kawabata
  12. Eugene O’Neill
  13. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  14. Ernest Hemingway
  15. Albert Camus
  16. Wole Soyinka
  17. Derek Walcott
  18. Saul Bellow
  19. Thomas Mann
  20. Kenzaburo Oe
  21. Jean-Paul Sartre
  22. Isaac Bashevis Singer
  23. Rudyard Kipling
  24. Seamus Heaney
  25. Mario Vargas Llosa
  26. Nadine Gordimer
  27. Joseph Brodsky
  28. Czeslaw Milosz
  29. Octavio Paz
  30. Knut Hamsun
  31. Günter Grass
  32. Luigi Pirandello
  33. Boris Pasternak
  34. J.M. Coetzee
  35. Doris Lessing
  36. Heinrich Böll
  37. Hermann Hesse
  38. V.S. Naipaul
  39. Orhan Pamuk
  40. Sigrid Undset
  41. Bertrand Russell
  42. Henryk Sienkiewicz
  43. José Saramago
  44. Camilo José Cela
  45. Gabriela Mistral
  46. Halldor Laxness
  47. Tomas Tranströmer
  48. Ivo Andric
  49. Mo Yan
  50. Patrick White
  51. Alice Munro
  52. George Seferis
  53. Henri Bergson
  54. André Gide
  55. Nelly Sachs
  56. Odysseus Elytis
  57. Eugenio Montale
  58. John Steinbeck
  59. Selma Lagerlöf
  60. Shmuel Yosef Agnon
  61. John Galsworthy
  62. Mikhail Sholokhov
  63. Miguel Ángel Asturias
  64. Harold Pinter
  65. Giosuè Carducci
  66. Wislawa Szymborska
  67. Anatole France
  68. Elias Canetti
  69. Vicente Aleixandre
  70. Imre Kertesz
  71. François Mauriac
  72. Svetlana Alexievich
  73. Dario Fo
  74. Gao Xingjian
  75. Maurice Maeterlinck
  76. Ivan Bunin
  77. Patrick Modiano
  78. Frédéric Mistral
  79. Salvatore Quasimodo
  80. William Golding
  81. Grazia Deledda
  82. Pär Lagerkvist
  83. Juan Ramón Jiménez
  84. Gerhart Hauptmann
  85. Roger Martin du Gard
  86. Romain Rolland
  87. Sinclair Lewis
  88. J.M.G. Le Clezio
  89. Jaroslav Seifert
  90. Saint-John Perse
  91. Winston Churchill
  92. Theodor Mommsen
  93. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnsen
  94. Pearl S. Buck
  95. Wladyslaw Reymont
  96. Claude Simon
  97. Elfriede Jelinek
  98. Johannes V. Jensen
  99. Herta Müller
  100. Frans Eemil Sillanpää
  101. Sully Prudhomme
  102. Jacinto Benavente
  103. Karl Gjellerup
  104. Henrik Pontoppidan
  105. José Echegaray
  106. Verner von Heidenstam
  107. Paul von Heyse
  108. Carl Spitteler
  109. Rudolf C. Eucken
  110. Harry Martinson
  111. Eyvind Johnson
  112. Erik Axel Karlfendt

NOTES:

  • I didn’t put much thought into this. I just ranked each writer wherever they seemed to fit best. Also, I’m not personally familiar with most of these writers, so most of these rankings are based on reputation.
  • I originally had Rabindranath Tagore at #1, and I think that’s defensible.
  • I would say that only about the top 65 writers on this list actually deserved the Nobel Prize.
  • The writers at the bottom of the list are those who would be completely forgotten today if they hadn’t won the Nobel Prize. Erik Axel Karlfeldt is at the very bottom because he won the Nobel Prize posthumously. If they had to give the Nobel Prize to someone who was already dead, they could have made a much better choice.
  • If either James Joyce or Leo Tolstoy had won the Nobel Prize, they would have been ranked #1. Many other writers who never won the Nobel Prize (Borges, Twain, Chekhov, Ibsen, Proust, Woolf, etc.) would have been ranked in the top ten of this list if they had won it.

Reviews for March and most of April

4-24-16 (still)

New comics received on April 1st. This was two days after I got my job offer from UNC Charlotte, so this week I was hugely relieved and was no longer under a crippling burden of anxiety and stress. I still had all kinds of stuff to do, though, and it was getting to be the grueling part of the semester, so I didn’t have much time to read comic books.

SAGA #35 (Image, 2016) – Another comic I read when I was too tired to appreciate it. Possibly for this reason, I thought this was the least exciting issue of the current storyline. The coolest thing in this issue is the hive-mine that turns out to be full of water-bears. Also, Ghus shows up again on the last page.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #6 (Marvel, 2016) – Another good comic that I couldn’t enjoy properly because I was falling asleep when I read it. This is the first part of a two-part Squirrel Girl/Howard the Duck crossover, and when I read the second part, I found I couldn’t remember the first part. I ought to avoid reading good comics when I’m exhausted, except at this point in the year, when am I ever not exhausted? I ought to read this again because it’s a very funny collaboration between Marvel’s two best humor writers. I love the use of two different fonts in the alt text. (By the way, didn’t Howard the Duck #6 include a pun on the term alt text? I can’t remember, but if so, it might be relevant to my research. Oh, yes, there was such a pun – it was the reference to alt text versus mainstream text.)

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #5 (Marvel, 2016) – I had multiple conversations about this comic book at ICAF, and the consensus seems to be that it’s good, but not as good as it should be. I probably have to agree with that. I like this comic more than some other people seem to, but it could be a lot better. One problem is that the Killer-Folk are uninteresting villains, so the scenes without Lunella are boring. Another problem is that Lunella seems to be acting older than her age. I’m not qualified to judge this, but her internal monologue doesn’t seem quite realistic for a nine-year-old. Though this objection also applies to Calvin & Hobbes, so whatever. Those are kind of minor problems; I think the real problem is that this series doesn’t have the same amount of substance or originality as Unbeatable Squirrel Girl or Ms. Marvel or Lumberjanes, and it’s hard to define why not. Still, this is a good comic and I’m glad that the rumors of its cancellation are false.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #13 (IDW, 2016) – This issue has possibly my favorite cover of the year so far – it’s the cover where Pizzazz is staring at her cat. This issue feels very much like the middle chapter of a five-issue story arc, which of course it is. The best things in it are the two splash pages showing the effects of Dark Synergy’s mind control. Sophie Campbell is quite good at creating effective page layouts and splash pages, though her skill in this area is overshadowed by other aspects of her art.

JUGHEAD #5 (Archie, 2016) – In this issue Jughead and the gang go to a neighboring town, where they encounter gender-swapped versions of themselves. The parody segment in this issue is a superhero story which is a tribute to the old Pureheart the Powerful stories. I’m trying to get through this and the next few reviews quickly, because I hardly remember anything about the comics from this week.

REVIVAL #38 (Image, 2016) – I can barely remember this comic either, except that it begins with a Cooper Comics sequence. Unfortunately this one isn’t drawn by Art Baltazar and Franco, like some of the earlier ones were. Also, in this issue Nikki tells cooper that she doesn’t understand how to read comics. Inability to read comics is a phenomenon I’ve encountered frequently in real life, but I don’t remember it being mentioned in any other comic book.

PAST AWAYS #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) – I ordered this entire series except for the first issue, and then at the Dark Horse booth at Comic-Con, I bought what I believed to be the first issue, but it turned out to be a duplicate copy of the sixth issue – they both have mostly white covers. So I had to order Past Aways #1 again, and I’m only now able to read it. I’m generally less interested in Matt Kindt’s collaborations than his solo works (see review of Dept H #1 below) and I have mixed feelings about Scott Kolins’s art. But this issue is a pretty exciting debut. The narrative begins in media res and is  somewhat confusing at first, but  it seems to be about a team of time-traveling adventurers. I haven’t had time to read the rest of this series yet, but I hope to get to them soon.

CATWOMAN #24 (DC, 2003) – This is a powerful conclusion to the story from issue 23, although it would have been even more powerful if I’d read the whole thing and not just the last two parts. Catwoman and Holly visit St. Roch, the home of Hawkman and Hawkwoman, and Holly is finally reunited with her brother. Holly and her brother’s reunion is a deeply satisfying moment.

COYOTE #7 (Epic, 1984) – Another convoluted and bizarre story, which is also confusing because I missed the five previous issues. This issue also includes a backup story by Englehart and Ditko, introducing a new character called the Djinn. On the aforementioned Facebook thread, some people had good things to say about this feature, but I didn’t like it. It’s extremely Orientalist and its artwork looks exactly like the artwork of every other late Ditko comic.

HERO CATS: MIDNIGHT OVER STELLAR CITY #3 (Action Lab, 2016) – The artwork in this comic is so dark that it’s hard to tell what exactly is going on, but the plot is that Midnight gets turned into a giant monster cat, but is returned to normal when he’s discovered by the little girl who originally adopted him. This is a very cute ending. One funny line in this issue is “What makes you happy, Midnight? We have to find your inner purr again.”

Now for some comics that I can actually sort of remember:

BLACK WIDOW #1 (Marvel, 2016) – Quite often the action sequences are the worst part of superhero comics. It often seems as though the writer and artist are required by the editor to include at least three pages of combat sequences every issue, and so they do include them, even if they’d rather not. In order for the action sequences to be the highlight of a superhero comic rather than the lowlight, you need a really good artist, like Gil Kane or George Pérez or Paul Gulacy. Chris Samnee is that kind of artist. This entire issue of Black Widow is a single extended chase sequence, with no flashbacks or out-of-costume sequences or anything else. But because of Chris Samnee’s amazing storytelling skill, this issue is one of the most thrilling comics I’ve read lately.

MARVEL MILESTONE EDITION: IRON FIST #14 (Marvel, 1992, originally 1977) – This reprints Iron Fist #14, the first appearance of Sabretooth, and is probably as close as I’ll ever get to owning that issue. Besides being the first appearance of Sabretooth, Iron Fist #14 is a forgettable comic. Iron Fist is the worst Claremont/Byrne collaboration  because of its boring premise and characters. I just can’t get particularly invested in Danny Rand or Colleen Wing or any of their forgettable villains, and the series has very little connection to Claremont’s larger universe. At least this issue does have some brilliant combat sequences.

New comics received on April 8. This was a fairly light week.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #18 (Image, 2016) – This is probaby the second best current comic after Saga – I know I already gave that title to Sex Criminals, but I was wrong. Probably I forgot this comic was still being published because the last issue came out in December. This issue, Jamie McKelvie finally returns to the series after an extended absence, and there’s a lot of plot that I didn’t understand, except that we finally learn that Laura isn’t dead. I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise, but in the age of Game of Thrones, I no longer assume that characters are alive unless proven otherwise.  I’m glad to see Laura and McKelvie and WicDiv again, and I look forward to the rest of this story.

THE VISION #6 (Marvel, 2016) – One thing that makes this comic great is that it’s a horror comic disguised as a superhero comic. I forget if I made that point already, but I should have. In this issue, the Vision family’s problems continue to spiral out of control. A dog digs up the Grim Reaper’s corpse and electrocutes itself, then the dog’s owner, George, comes looking for it, and I don’t know if they ever specified what happened to George, but I get the distinct impression that the Visions killed him and put his brain in the dog’s body. Oh, and at the end of the issue, Vizh decides to deal with his family’s problems in the most direct way possible, by taking over the world. So next issue should be interesting. One cool thing about this issue is its extended discussion of the P versus NP problem; I don’t think I’ve ever seen this referenced in a comic book before.

GIANT DAYS #13 (Boom!, 2016) – This issue, Esther drops out of university and goes back home, and Daisy and Susan independently decide to visit her and persuade her to go back to school. They succeed, but then Esther’s parents decide to cut her off. In short, there’s a significant plot to this issue, but it’s less interesting for the plot than for the humor. I’m glad this is an ongoing series; I somehow thought it was going to end with issue 12, but there’s no reason it has to. I don’t think this series deserved an Eisner nomination for Best Continuing Series, given all the competition, but I love it anyway. There’s a different artist this issue, but I didn’t even notice because his style is so similar to that of the previous artist.

BLACK WIDOW #2 (Marvel, 2016) – This issue explains what the hell was going on last issue, and also includes some more amazing action sequences. I don’t particularly care about the plot of this comic, but Chris Samnee’s art is reason enough to keep reading it. He may be the top artist at Marvel right now, unless there’s someone else I’m forgetting – he’s kind of like a young David Mazzucchelli.

BATGIRL #50 (DC, 2016) – Congratulations to Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher and especially Babs Tarr on the completion of the most important DC comic of the decade. This series had some significant flaws and was involved in a couple unfortunate controversies, but it was the first DC comic in years that genuinely tried to reach out to new audiences, and it helped make DC Comics matter again. I look forward to following the creators to their next projects – their forthcoming Image comic Motor Crush looks awesome. This issue wraps up all of the series’ ongoing storylines in a satisfying way, as Batgirl and her friends team up to defeat all the villains from the entire run. Given the importance of maps in Batgirl and Gotham Academy, it’s appropriate that the highlight of this issue is the giant map of Burnside. I told Aaron King that he should include this map on his Comics Cartography blog. I also like the fighting-game-esque splash pages that appear before each of the fights.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #27 (IDW, 2016) – This issue stars Pinkie Pie and Granny Smith. It’s an unusual MLP story because it depicts a friendship problem where one party is clearly in the wrong. Usually the friendship problems in this franchise are the result of a mutual misunderstanding. But in this issue, the dispute between Granny Smith and Pinkie Pie is entirely Granny Smith’s fault, because she’s a cranky old battleaxe who refuses to accept that she needs help. It’s also refreshing that this issue shows the positive side of Pinkie Pie, who has been depicted rather unflatteringly in recent seasons.

DC COMICS ESSENTIALS: BATMAN: DEATH OF THE FAMILY #1 (DC, 2016, originally 2012) – This is a reprint of Batman #13. I should have been buying Scott Snyder’s Batman from the start, because it seems to have been one of the top DC comics of the decade, but I missed my chance, and now it’s too late. This issue is a very dark and grim Batman story, explicitly inspired by the Christopher Nolan movies (Commissioner Gordon even looks sort of like Gary Oldman), but it’s extremely well-executed. I need to collect the rest of this run, though I expect that the original issues will be very expensive.

DETECTIVE COMICS #620 (DC, 1990) – This is the issue where Tim Drake’s mother gets murdered (behind the scenes) by the Obeah Man. It’s really quite brutal and depressing. To distract himself from thinking about his mother’s kidnapping, Tim goes out and solves a crime all by himself, and even has fun doing it – it turns out that the criminal is Anarky, a very funny character. But then he comes home to discover that Bruce has some bad news for him. I don’t think I even want to read the next issue.😦 An annoying thing about this story is that it depicts of voodoo, or obeah I guess, as an evil and superstitious practice. This sort of derogatory depiction of African-American religion is unfortunately extremely common, and it’s why we need Afrofuturism.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #15 (DC, 2010) – Frazer Irving’s artwork in this issue is spectacular, but I barely remember anything about the plot. As with many Grant Morrison comics, the story doesn’t make sense unless you’ve read the entire thing in one sitting, and probably not even then.

ARCHIE #7 (Archie, 2016) – I’m still willing to buy this comic, but it’s not nearly as exciting as Jughead. I can’t think of anything interesting to say about this issue.

BATMAN #320 (DC, 1980) – In “The Curse of the Inquisitor,” Batman goes to Spain and investigates a series of killings that turn out to be based on the seven deadly sins. It’s a formulaic story that vanished from my memory almost as soon as I read it.

Okay, now maybe I can review some comics I actually remember reading. From April 13 to 17, I was in Columbia, South Carolina for the International Comic Arts Forum. It was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended – I heard some fantastic papers and lectures, and met lots of old friends and made some new ones. I had a great time. On Thursday evening after the conference, Andrew Kunka and I went to one of the local comic stores, Scratch N’ Spin, where I bought a small stack of comics. The next day I went by myself to another store, Heroes & Dragons that had a much bigger back issue selection, and bought a bigger stack, although I was a bit disappointed by the prices. Most of the interesting stuff was at least $10. I think I’ve hit a wall with my collecting; I’m having trouble finding stuff that I want and can afford and that I don’t already have. I already have most of the acknowledged classic comics from the ‘70s and later, and I also live in a place where I have limited access to comic book stores or local conventions. I expect that will change once I move to Charlotte, but I think I also need to look for new stuff to collect. Anyway, the most exciting thing I got at the second comic book store was this:

SUPERBOY’S LEGION #1 (DC, 2001) – I only managed to get the second issue of this when it came out. I never even saw a copy of the first issue. I’ve been able to read it in various reprinted or online formats since then, but an actual copy of Superboy’s Legion #1 has been one of my collecting Holy Grails for a while now, so I was thrilled to discover that Heroes & Dragons had it. This two-issue miniseries by Alan Davis was probably the best Legion comic of the last twenty years (and it may not be surpassed for quite a while, given DC’s abandonment of the franchise). It’s an Elseworlds in which Clark Kent arrives on Earth in the 30th century, and founds the Legion on his own without help from his foster father RJ Brande. Besides being a brilliant artist in general, Alan Davis is incredibly good at drawing teenagers, and his Superboy is a perfect depiction of a headstrong but well-intentioned 14-year-old boy. All the other Legionnaires are also characterized very well – though Chameleon Boy is a notable exception, with his near inability to talk coherently, and Davis’s Legion has no nonwhite members. And the plot is just as thrilling as JLA: The Nail. In short, nearly everything about this series works perfectly, and if DC had made this the primary version of the Legion, they might not have had to cancel the series. Unfortunately, this comic is forgotten today, though DC did reprint it a few years ago, and it now stands as a monument to the creative potential that DC foreclosed upon when they stopped publishing Legion comics.

UNCLE SCROOGE ADVENTURES #51 (Gladstone, 1997) – This was my second most exciting find at Heroes & Dragons, but it proved to be disappointing. I didn’t realize there was such a thing as a formulaic Don Rosa story, but “The Treasure of the Ten Avatars” is one. It’s yet another story where Scrooge and the nephews explore an ancient booby-trapped dungeon, like pacifist avian versions of Nathan Drake, and discover a fabuous treasure. (Side note, I just realized that with his last name and his career as a treasure hunter, Nathan Drake could be a relative of Scrooge.) The gimmick this time is that the dungeon is in India, and each of the booby traps is based on one of the ten avatars of Vishnu. The story seems well-researched – it’s inspired by Alexander the Great’s invasion of India – and it’s exciting and funny, but there’s little to distinguish it from other Rosa stories like “The Dutchman’s Secret” or “The Sharpie of the Culebra Cut” or whatever. The villain of the story is an evil maharaja who wants to keep his subjects ignorant and poor, and there’s no mention of colonialism or the partition of India, though this story must be taking place in the late 1940s.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #560 (1986) – I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this issue consists entirely of Little Archie stories by Bob Bolling. I think they’re all original stories – at least, the GCD doesn’t list any of them as reprints. None of these stories are all that great on their own, because they’re all just a few pages, but together they help depict the breadth of Little Archie’s world. A cool thing about Little Archie is that it takes place in its own little world, separate from the world of the “grown-up” Archie comics. Most of Bolling’s Little Archie stories take place in the forest surrounding Riverdale, not Riverdale itself. Bolling also creates a mild sense of continuity, in that he sometimes uses footnotes to reference his own earlier stories, which is odd since he couldn’t have assumed that his readers would have been familiar with those stories. Also, Bolling’s stories are exciting and adventurous but they also create a sense of nostalgia for childhood, and this sense of nostalgia is powerful precisely because Bolling doesn’t seem to be creating it on purpose (unlike with Herobear and the Kid).

New comics received on Monday, April 18, after I got back from ICAF. Going to have to write shorter reviews if I want to finish before I have to go to bed.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #41 (IDW, 2016) – Let’s see if I can write this entire review in rhyme; it may be annoying to read but at least I’ll have a fun time. Like a Little Golden Book, this issue is designed to look. It is narrated in rhyme by Zecora, and is about a day on which Rainbow Dash feels very poor-a. Zecora’s poetry in this issue is pure doggerel, though that is true of her poetry in the show as well. This issue’s plot is rather slight; however, I think this is all right. The rhyming gimmick makes the issue exciting enough, without the need for a lot of other stuff. I‘m very sorry that this is Katie Cook’s next to last issue; this makes me so sad that I need a tissue. I’m really going to miss Katie; writers like her are one in a million and eighty.

WEIRDWORLD #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Not as good as last issue, but still very funny and beautifully drawn, or painted rather. This issue brings the plot to a sort of climax, as Morgan le Fay and Jennifer Kale’s forces battle each other. I think my favorite thing this issue is the new character, Max the Dog Fighter, who is an actual dog.

GOLDIE VANCE #1 (Boom!, 2016) – Another exciting debut from Boom! Box. This miniseries is a detective story taking place in a Florida hotel in the 1960s, and it seems to be set in some kind of alternate universe where segregation didn’t exist, because the fact that the protagonist is black is not explicitly mentioned. I think this is a good thing; we need more stories with black protagonists where blackness is not presented as a marked category. In general this comic is quite well done – Goldie Vance is a cute and spunky protagonist, and the story is well-plotted. I think this series maybe deserves more than four issues. This issue also includes a preview of Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy, which I can’t wait for.

PRINCELESS: MAKE YOURSELF #1 (Action Lab, 2016) – I wish the letterer for Princeless: Raven: The Pirate Princess was also lettering this series. I’ve complained several times about the lettering on the Princeless comics, and it continues to be a problem because it makes the comic look amateurish. Otherwise, this is a pretty good start to the series. Most of the issue focuses not on Adrienne but on some dwarves from Bedelia’s tribe, who, like the pirates in the other Princeless title, are a diverse and interesting group of characters. I just think there ought to be a universal rule that female dwarves must have beards.

LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #4 (DC, 2016) – Diana spends most of this issue as a passive observer rather than an active protagonist; first she’s recovering from her escape from Themyscira, then she’s getting introduced to Man’s World, specifically Holliday College. But Diana’s lack of an active role is fine because the other characters in this issue, specifically Steve Trevor’s grandma (I mean, that’s obviously who she is) and Etta Candy, are also very entertaining. Overall, this issue is a lot of fun and it effectively gets Diana from Paradise Island to Man’s World. Also, it has a cute cat in it.

SHUTTER #20 (Image, 2016) – This is another flashback issue, depicting Chris Kristopher’s childhood, his first romance, and the birth of his (I assume) oldest child Maieli. At the end of the issue, Maieli and her son, Kate’s nephew, are seemingly written out of the story, though I expect we may still see them again. The artistic gimmick this issue is that the flashback segments are illustrated in the Clear Line style. Leila del Duca pulls this off quite well, and the fact that she’s able to do it is evidence of her stylistic versatility.

NO MERCY #9 (Image, 2016) – This issue deserves an Eisner nomination for its brutal and accurate depiction of the “troubled teen” industry. We already knew that Charlene had a horrible upbringing, but this issue shows just how horrible it was – her parents sent her off to a concentration camp disguised as a reformatory, where she was tortured and witnessed other teens being raped. What’s infuriating about this issue is that this sort of thing happens all the time in real life, and the government can’t stop it because these troubled-teen schools are located in places that have extremely lax regulation. The troubled-teen industry is a form of legally sanctioned child abuse and possibly legally sanctioned murder; the issue includes two whole pages listing the names of teens who have died at facilities like these. Alex and Carla deserve a lot of credit for shining a spotlight on this horrible blight on American society. What does puzzle me about this story is that I don’t get why Charlene’s parents were willing to let her go to Princeton; why would they let her out from under their thumb and allow her to associate with non-crazy people?

STARFIRE #11 (DC, 2016) – I’m sorry we’ve only got one more issue of this but I’m also sorry this issue, like last issue, focuses so much on Atlee. I want more Starfire. Basically every page of this comic on which Starfire doesn’t appear is a wasted page. Also, the dude who only lives two days is kind of disturbing. And the ending of the issue seems like a setup for a contrived ending to the series. Stella tells Kory to leave Key West because she’s a danger to her neighbors, and Kory agrees. The obvious problem with that argument is that it’s an example of NIMBY-ism. Where is Kory supposed to live where she won’t be a danger to everyone?

GOTHAM ACADEMY #17 (DC, 2016) – I think I actually was reasonably awake when I read this comic, and I still can’t remember it very well. I think it’s because none of the three stories in this issue were as good as those in the last couple issues. The first story is a crossover with Black Canary, where we learn that Pomeline and Heathcliff used to be a couple, and the next story guest-stars Klarion and Teekl.

ROCKET RACCOON AND GROOT #4 (Marvel, 2016) – One of the funnier Marvel comics in recent memory. Tony Stark gets tired of playing role-playing games against Rocket, and challenges Rocket to a game of football instead. It turns out that the football game takes place in outer space, on a field that covers an entire planet, and Rocket and Tony’s teams consist of giant monsters and giant robots respectively. Rocket wins in the end, and imposes a hilarious penalty on Tony. The story in this issue is extremely funny, but the art is also a highlight. I hope Aaron Conley got paid a hell of a lot for this issue, because the two-page splash introducing the two football teams must have taken at least a week to draw. I enjoyed Conley’s art on Sabertooth Swordsman, but his art works even better than color; without color, it’s very difficult to parse.

SNARKED! #9 (Boom!, 2012) – Scratch n’ Spin had all of the four issues of Snarked that I was missing, but I decided to just get this one. This issue finally starts to bring the story to a conclusion. Princess Scarlet finds her father, who tragically does not recognize her because they never see each other. And it turns out that he’s okay with being kidnapped and is not trying to escape Snark Island, because he hates being king. See, it turns out this comic actually has some serious and disturbing implications, even though it’s for children – that’s how fairy tales are supposed to work. Also, the end of the issue suggests that we’re about to meet an actual Snark.

SILVER SURFER #3 (Marvel, 2016) – The first time I tried to read this comic, I was unable to concentrate on it because I had just spilled a cup of coffee on my laptop, causing damage which proved to be not worth the cost of repairing it. I was able to recover all my data and I think I’ll be able to replace the laptop at no cost, but I was pretty worried and depressed for a couple days. I mention this because these reviews have sort of turned into my personal diary. Anyway, even ignoring the whole laptop business, this issue was kind of disappointing. It’s mostly a long fight between the Surfer and Shalla Bal and her minions. At the end of the issue, the Surfer sacrifices himself. I’m very pleased that Slott and Allred picked up an Eisner nomination for Silver Surfer #11, which really was the most inventive comic book of 2015, but this issue is much less exciting than that one was.

MONSTRESS #5 (Image, 2016) – A bunch of people on social media have been sharing the panel with the one-eyed five-tailed cat warrior. It really is an awesome panel. Besides that, this is another good issue, but my principal problem with this series (other than its extremely dark tone) is my inability to distinguish between the characters. There are too many identical-looking villains and I can’t remember which of them are part of which factions. I wish this comic would include a recap page. No, actually it does include a recap page. I wish it would include a page listing all the characters’ names and faces.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #34 (Marvel, 1975) – This Spider-Man/Valkyrie team-up is just average. As usual, Valkyrie is depicted as an aggressive feminazi; I think the only writer who gave Valkyrie any depth to her character is Steve Gerber (this issue is written by Gerry Conway). The villain this issue is Meteor Man, who is powerful enough to defeat Spider-Man singlehandedly, but whose motivations are not interesting. There’s also an unrelated subplot with a cult leader called Jeremiah.

Come on, just 21 more. We can do this.

GWENPOOL #1 (Marvel, 2016) – This comic is blatantly stupid and pointless, but in a funny way. I think I like it better than actual Deadpool. I expect I may get tired of it quickly, but I’ll keep reading it for now. I like the scene with Gwenpool drawing dollar signs on her mask.

VAMPIRELLA #2 (Dynamite, 2016) – I keep forgetting to order this comic – I usually ignore the Dynamite section of the DCBS order form. But I’m interested in it because number one, it’s written by Kate Leth. Number two, it seems like an attempt to return Vampirella to her feminist roots (and she sort of has feminist roots, insofar as her costume was designed by Trina Robbins). This issue has somewhat boring art and the plot is not well explained, but it’s a fun comic, and I want to keep ordering this comic if I can remember to do so.

THE AUTUMNLANDS #10 (Image, 2016) – Last issue we met the sheep; this issue we meet the goats. The goat character this issue is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a sentient goat. Besides that, this issue is kind of light on content. It seems a lot shorter than previous issues.

FAITH #1 (Valiant, 2016) – A good start to a really interesting series. Faith is an exciting character and a good example of fat-positivity, if that’s the correct term. I’ve written a lot before about my admiration for Marguerite Sauvage’s art, but Francis Portela’s art in this issue is also impressive; there’s one panel where Faith’s boss has an utterly horrifying facial expression.

New comics received on Friday, April 22.

HOWARD THE DUCK #6 (Marvel, 2016) – I already mentioned the alt text/mainstream text pun in this issue. I had trouble following this comic because I was barely conscious when I read Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6, as mentioned above, and I couldn’t remember what the story was about. Still, this was a really fun comic and was probably the best single issue of Chip Zdarsky’s Howard. Biggs the cyborg cat, an obvious reference to We3, is probably the highlight of the issue.

DEPT. H #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Matt Kindt’s follow-up to MIND MGMT is a really exciting debut. There’s nothing metatextual or self-reflexive about it yet; so far, it’s just a really exciting and well-executed SF mystery story, about a murder that takes place in an undersea habitat. Matt Kindt’s artwork and Sharlene Kindt’s coloring are as impressive as on MIND MGMT; I think Sharlene should have gotten an Eisner nomination for Best Coloring.

ASTRO CITY #34 (DC, 2016) – I was reluctant to read this issue because I’m tired of Steeljack, but it turns out this is the last issue of the current story. I guess I assumed this story was going to be as long as the previous Steeljack epic. This issue is also a very satisfying conclusion. Steeljack finally gets a chance to be a hero, and people are truly grateful to him. At the point where the villain says that Steeljack is just a lump of metal, I wanted him to say, “My body may be a lump of steel, but so is my heart!” The villain of this story is particularly appropriate in the present cultural moment; he’s a rich, overprivileged white dude who already has enough money, and commits crimes just because he’s bored. An interesting factoid is that I have now reviewed all 34 issues of this Astro City series since I started doing these reviews. The only series that I’ve been reviewing for more than 34 consecutive issues is My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and I started doing these reviews when that series was already on issue 6. Kurt and his artistic collaborators should be congratulated for having maintained a monthly schedule for such a long time.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS #7 (Action Lab, 2016) – So much stuff happens in this issue that I don’t know where to start with it. Actually that’s kind of a problem; like the last issue, this issue consists of a lot of moving parts that don’t all fit together harmoniously. But it does look like all the plot threads are coming together, because the issue ends with Raven finally meeting her brother. This is another series that would be easier to read if it included a list of all the characters.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #14 (IDW, 2016) – The scene where Kimber and Stormer say the L-word to each other (not lesbians, the other one) is one of the highlights of the series. It shows that their relationship is serious and not just an infatuation, and that they’re committed to each other despite their Capulet-and-Montague situation. It’s also just a really cute moment. Pizzazz’s conversation with her father is really depressing; with such a heartless man for a father, it’s no wonder she grew up to be a villain. In general, this is another satisfying chapter of Dark Jem.

SUN BAKERY #1 (Press Gang, 2016) – This first issue of Corey Lewis’s anthology series is very exciting. I have his Sharknife book but haven’t read it yet, and this issue is a good introduction to his distinctive style, which is sort of like a mix between manga and Brandon Graham. There are three stories, one which is an obvious takeoff of Metroid, another which is about swordfighting, and a third which is about skating. I hope that there are going to be more issues of this series. On the last page, it says that this issue is the result of a Kickstarter and that it took years to be completed. I hope future issues will come out in a more timely fashion, and I also hope this comic will lead to wider exposure for its artist.

HEAD LOPPER #3 (2016) – This came out a while ago and I just never got around to it. By now I’ve sort of forgotten the plot of this comic, but Andrew MacLean’s artwork and storytelling continue to be really impressive. This issue also introduces an exciting new character who appears to be based on Red Sonja. No, that’s not true, this character was already introduced earlier. I really have forgotten the plot of this comic. I think the highlight of the issue is Agatha Blue Witch’s one-sided conversation with a skull.

DIESEL, TYSON HESSE’S #2 (Boom!, 2015) – This is another comic that I forgot to order when it came out, and had to get from mycomicshop.com. Reading this issue, I quickly realized that Diesel is just not a sympathetic protagonist. She’s an immature brat who repeatedly puts herself and everyone around her into grave danger, and the main reason we sympathize with her is because she is the protagonist. I hope she’s going to start maturing over the next couple issues. Otherwise, the main thing I noticed about this issue is that Tyson Hesse’s artwork is really impressive.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #1 (Fantagraphics, 2015) – I already have all of the content in this issue, but it’s still worth owning. This material is much easier to read in the single-issue format than in the oversized graphic novel format, and I think the former format is also more appropriate for this comic, given that it was inspired by ‘70s comic books. Also, Ed Piskor’s annotations at the end are really valuable, especially his observations about coloring and lettering. There was one point that he made that I thought was really interesting, but now I’m not sure what it was.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #36 (Marvel, 1975) – This was a lot better than #34, reviewed above. The guest-star this issue is Frankenstein’s Monster, and this issue is a self-conscious parody of horror films; the villain is a stereotypical mad scientist named Ludwig von Shtupf. (“Shtupf” doesn’t seem to be a real German word; all the Google hits for it are references to this character.) And then the issue ends by introducing Werewolf by Night, so I guess the next issue is going to be a parody of Frankenstein Meeets the Wolf Man.

PLUTONA #3 (Image, 2016) – I somehow never ordered this, but I found a copy of it at Scratch ‘N Spin. The plot of this comic is moving at a glacial pace, but it’s exciting anyway because Jeff Lemire is so good at writing teenagers and preteens. The way the characters in this comic think and act is absolutely spot-on. For example, at the end of the issue, the two younger kids try to give themselves super-powers by doing the blood-brother ritual with Plutona’s corpse. This seems like exactly the sort of thing a junior high kid would think of.

BATMAN #467 (DC, 1991) – I have such a strong distaste for Chuck Dixon’s politics and public persona that I’m unable to form an impartial opinion on his comics. I thought that this Batman comic was pretty bad and that it relied too much on stereotypes about Chinese criminals. There’s one throwaway scene where Batman observes that a Chinese criminal is eating burritos and rice, and the reply is “What can I say? I hate Chinese food.” I thought this was kind of offensive – I mean, I see Chinese people eating non-Chinese food all the time, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to judge their diets – but again, I’m not sure if this was really offensive or if I’m just looking for ways to find fault with Chuck Dixon.

Come on, almost done.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #88 (DC, 1970) – This is a typically convoluted Bob Haney story. Batman and Wildcat go to the World Youth Games in Vienna as coaches of the U.S. fencing and boxing teams, and then they have to work together to foil a Communist plot. Cold War politics are obviously a major theme in this story. This issue is not as good as the issues on either side of it, since it’s not drawn by Neal Adams, but it’s still pretty fun. The letters page has some fascinating letters about issue 85. Even back in 1970, people realized that that issue was a major step forward for Green Arrow, turning him from a pointless character into an interesting one.

THE MIGHTY THOR #6 (Marvel, 2016) – Most of this issue is a flashback to Thor and Loki’s past encounter with a villain named Bodolf, who Loki turns into a Viking version of the Hulk. This sequence is illustrated by Rafa Garres in a style which is completely different from that of Russell Dauterman. I love Dauterman’s art, but this sequence is a nice break. It’s awesome that this issue ends with the line “Hrph. Puny god.”

ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #8 (Marvel, 2016) – This is a complete waste of an issue. It makes no sense to me since I haven’t been reading the Standoff crossover, and even if I had been reading that crossover, I don’t think my enjoyment of this comic would have been improved significantly. I was already feeling lukewarm about this series, and this issue is the last straw; I’ve already ordered issue 9, but that will be my last issue of ANADA.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #3 (Marvel, 2016) – This is easily the best issue yet, and it turns this series from an average comic into a great one. The main reason why is the business with the Supersoul Stone. The fact that Dr. Strange doesn’t know about this item is an obvious and funny analogy for white Americans’ ignorance about black people. The panel where Luke says “Same reason Black History Month is the shortest month of the year” deserves to go viral. The splash page depicting the history of the Supersoul Stone is also notable, because it’s the first case I know of where a mainstream comic book has deliberately referenced Afrofuturism or used Afrofuturist visual tropes. I hope there’s going to be more explicit Afrofuturism in this comic. Also, this issue introduces Senor Magico, an awesome new character, and it includes an adorable scene with Danielle. I was only sort of excited about this issue before, but now I can’t wait for issue 4.

INCREDIBLE HULK #223 (Marvel, 1978) – This is the last comic I have to review tonight. I really didn’t think it would take me until after 2 AM to finish these reviews, but I was wrong. This issue is written by Roger Stern and is surprisingly entertaining. Bruce Banner is finally cured of the Hulk, but when he goes back to Gamma Base, he discovers it’s been taken over by the Leader. All of this is sort of formulaic, but Stern’s dialogue is so good that this comic is fun despite its unoriginal plot.

And that is that. Phew.

Oh, one more:

BAKER STREET PECULIARS #2 (Boom!, 2016) – I know I read this comic, but somehow it didn’t make it into my pile of comics waiting to be reviewed. Anyway, it was good.

Reviews for most of March

4-7-16

For reasons I won’t go into here, this past month (i.e. March 2016) was one of the low points of my adult life, and reading and reviewing comic books was the least of my worries. As a result I didn’t read as many comics as I did last month, and it’s taken me forever to review any of them.

We begin with new comics received on March 12. Annoyingly, they came one day late, on Saturday rather than Friday.

SENSATION COMICS FEATURING WONDER WOMAN #7 (DC, 2015) – One particular scene from this issue has gone viral on social media, the scene in which Diana says “people were talking about my cellulite more than the relief effort.” After I saw that panel on Facebook, I realized I already had this issue and had never gotten around to reading it. The cellulite scene is indeed brilliant, and Robyn, the astronaut to whom Diana is speaking in that scene, is a fascinating new character – a black high school teacher and mother of two, who wants to show her students “that a Trenton kid can reach the stars.” This character overshadows the rest of the story, but there’s also a funny plot here, involving giant monsters in the atmosphere of Venus. Overall this is one of the two best SCFWW stories along with “Wonder World” in the following issue, and it makes me sad that the series was cancelled. The backup story is also quite good; it’s about a female soldier in Afghanistan who has a possibly hallucinatory vision of Wonder Woman.

MS. MARVEL #5 (Marvel, 2016) – The meeting between the Hillman and Khan families is one of the best things in the recent history of this series. Both families come off very well, and the panel with Tyesha’s mother putting her hand in her son’s face is adorable. The rest of the issue is pretty much the Ms. Marvel version of “Too Many Pinkie Pies,” as I mentioned before, with the twist that the clones all merge together into a giant monster at the end. Ms. Marvel has had some ups and downs lately, but I think it’s replaced Lumberjanes as my second favorite current comic.

STARFIRE #10 (DC, 2016) – This felt like a waste of an issue, especially since there are just two issues left. There was too much Atlee and Stella and not enough Kory. I know Atlee is one of Amnada and Jimmy’s pet characters, but she’s not why I’m reading this series. The best scene of the issue is probably the one with Syl-Khee.

THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #3 (DC, 2016) – Renae de Liz should have been given the post-Rebirth Wonder Woman assignment if Marguerite Bennett wasn’t available. Greg Rucka is an excellent writer, my third favorite Wonder Woman writer after George Pérez and Gail Simone, but it’s time to let someone else have a turn. And Renae de Liz would be a good choice because this series is one of the best Wonder Woman comics I’ve ever read. Some specific notes on this issue: Diana’s first meeting with Steve Trevor is very well-executed; Steve comes off as a sweet and gentle man, not the macho chauvinist he’s often been in the past, and Diana’s fear of him is obvious. I’m surprised at the fast pacing of this issue; I thought it would be at least one more issue before Diana won the tournament and left Themyscira. I can’t wait to see what Diana thinks about Man’s World.

SHUTTER #19 (DC, 2016) – This issue has an innovative format where each page has three tiers of panels, colored blue, yellow and pink and depicting the early lives of Chris, Leopard and Kalliyan respectively. Like Moore and Veitch’s “How Things Work Out,” which was probably an explicit influence, this story can be read either horizontally – all the blue panels, then all the yellow panels, then all the pink panels – or vertically, one page at a time. The vertical order is clearly better, I think, because it allows the reader to see the connections between each character’s life. This issue is also important on the level of form as well as content; it gives us some important insight into these three major characters, which is especially useful in Kalliyan’s case because she’s been portrayed very unsympathetically so far.

ROCKET RACCOON AND GROOT #3 (Marvel, 2016) – So when I read last issue, I didn’t actually get that Rakzoon was Rocket and that Groot’s entire quest was an elaborate joke Rocket was playing on him. Skottie could have made that more obvious. I think the best thing about this issue is the interplay between Rocket and Shrub, who bring out each other’s worst aspects because they’re effectively both the same character. Besides that, this comic was reasonably fun but was not one of the better recent Rocket and Groot comics.

THE VISION #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Tom King seems to have become a genuine superstar, as indicated by the fact that he was just announced as the new Batman writer. I didn’t order the first issue of his Batman series, because I find that it’s difficult for writers to do their best work on such high-profile comics, but I’m curious to see the reception it gets. This Vision series is a good example of why Tom King has achieved stardom. The whole issue is mostly fallout from Mrs. Vision’s actions last issue. But the scene where Vizh confronts the policeman, and lists all the times he’s saved the world before perjuring himself, is genuinely creepy. This scene demonstrates perhaps the overarching theme of this series: that Vizh is genuinely trying to be a regular human being, but cannot succeed because he doesn’t think like a human.

WEIRDWORLD #4 (Marvel, 2016) – There are so many great current Marvel comics that I’m not sure this one is even in the top five, but it’s still an excellent comic. The interplay between the three central characters (Becca, Goleta and Ogeode) is hilarious – they play off each other very well. But as the campfire flashback scene demonstrates, Becca is also a deep character, maybe unlike the other two. The opening scene with the candy village is amazing. I especially love how in the first couple pages of this scene, there are unsettling hints that something weird is going on, like at the top of page three where the pie is held by a tentacle.

BAKER STREET PECULIARS #1 (Kaboom!, 2016) – I initially had low expectations  for this, since Roger Langridge didn’t draw it himself, but it turns out to be an extremely fun comic, a Langridgian masterpiece in the same vein as Snarked and Abigail and the Snowman. So far I’m enjoying it more than the latter. The Baker Street Peculiars are a team of inter-war Londoners from radically different social classes, and the differences between them are one of this comic’s main sources of interest. There’s also an exciting Holmesian mystery plot, and a character who appears to be Holmes himself, though I have my doubts about this.

DOCTOR STRANGE #6 (Marvel, 2016) – I think I said this before, but I wish “The Last Days of Magic” had been the second storyline in this series, rather than the first. I think the series should have begun by showing us one of Doctor Strange’s regular magical adventures, so as to give us a better sense of the world that the Empirikul were trying to destroy. The main story in this issue is mostly a fight scene between Doc and the Empirikul. The backup story, about some of the people whose magic is disappearing, is significantly better.

AW YEAH COMICS: ACTION CAT & ADVENTURE BUG #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – I’m glad that this series is now being published by Dark Horse, because it was much harder to find before. Art and Franco’s work suffers from “you’ve read one issue, you’ve read them all” syndrome, but their comics are always incredibly fun, and this issue is no exception to either of those – that is to say, it’s very fun but also very similar to all their other comics. I do think this issue may be somewhat inaccessible for readers not already familiar with the characters.

GOTHAM ACADEMY #16 (DC, 2016) – The fact that this was the eleventh comic I read this week is a sign that either this was an extremely strong week, or I had very limited time to read comics, or both. This issue includes two Yearbook chapters, one by James Tynion and Christian Wildgoose and the other by Ken Niimura. The Niimura story has some cute artwork, but an anticlimactic plot; it turns out that the central mystery is something that Maps made up just to give the pizza club something to do. I liked the Tynion-Wildgoose story more. Maps goes to Gotham City so she can sit up by the Bat-signal all night and wait for Batman, but instead she falls asleep, like a little kid falling asleep while waiting for Santa. Except Batman does come and he leaves her his autograph. So cute.

HOWARD THE DUCK #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Most of this issue is spent wrapping up the Silver Surfer/Guardians of the Galaxy crossover epic. This part of the issue is entertainingly written and includes some very funny dialogue, but it’s mostly just a standard cosmic superhero story. The highlight of this issue is the last page, which reintroduces Beverly Switzler! Ever since the start of this series I’ve been wondering what happened to her, and I sort of suspected Chip had plans for her, and I was right. But it’s going to be three more issues before we see her again, because first there’s the Squirrel Girl crossover and then the issue after that will take place in the Savage Land.

MILLIE THE MODEL ANNUAL #12 (Marvel, 1975) – The title and indicia of this comic say that it’s QUEEN-SIZE MILLIE THE MODEL #12, but that’s not what the GCD calls it. I read this comic because I was doing some preliminary work on an article about female superhero comics fandom, and I started to wonder why the romance comic genre died out at the same time the direct market was getting started, and whether there was any casual connection between the two. When I asked about this on Facebook, people like Tim Schneider and Robert Beerbohm said that there was no direct connection (though there may have been an indirect connection), and that the romance comics genre died because it was outdated and stagnant. If this particular Millie comic is any indication, then it’s no wonder romance comics became obsolete. This issue is really not even a romance comic at all – it’s an Archie-esque teen humor comic, only the characters are nominal adults rather than teens. It’s even drawn by an Archie artist, Stan Goldberg. Also, it’s just really bad. The humor is unfunny, the characters are flat, and there’s no semblance of continuity – as in old Archie comics, each story ends by returning to the status quo. In the aforementioned Facebook thread, Rob Imes and Corey Creekmur pointed out that the younger creators emerging in the ‘70s were just not interested in romance comics, and it shows – this Millie comic reflects a definite lack of talent or inspiration. Again, it’s premature to make broader conclusions about the entire genre from this one issue, but this comic suggests that the romance genre was effectively moribund by the mid-’70s, and that’s a shame because it took about 40 more years before Marvel or DC started to make serious attempts to attract female readers.

ACTION LAB: DOG OF WONDER #1 (Action Lab, 2016) – I bought this comic mostly because of the punny title, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it’s a pretty good comic. The artwork is very appealing, reminding me of Marguerite Sauvage. I need to come up with a better term for this style of artwork. I guess when I describe artwork as similar to that of Marguerite Sauvage, I mean that it’s sort of like Clear Line, but softer and gentler and with warmer colors and linework that looks kind of like brushstrokes. In terms of the story, this comic follows the Hero Cats formula in that it’s a fairly conventional superhero comic whose protagonist happens to be a dog.

NO MERCY #8 (Image, 2016) – I don’t remember this one very well. The big reveal in this issue is that the villains appear to be running some sort of black market flower farm, rather than smuggling drugs. Besides that, this issue touches on all the current plotlines but doesn’t advance any of them in any major way.

New comics received on March 21. I was out of town when these comics arrived, and couldn’t read them until I got back home from ICFA. While in Orlando, I visited a comic book store for the first time since December; more on that later.

RAT QUEENS #15 (Image, 2016) – The end of this issue is heartbreaking. Hannah decides to engage in self-destructive behavior regardless of what her friends tell her, and they aren’t able to stop her. Betty saying “sometimes love isn’t enough” is perhaps the saddest moment in the entire series. And based on the last page, it looks like Hannah is no longer a Rat Queen, though I have my doubts as to whether this image can be taken at face value. The problem here is that I’m not sure exactly what Hannah did or why she did it, because I can’t remember what’s been happening in the story. This series suffers from overly long gaps between issues, which make it impossible to remember what happened in the previous issue. I wish they would include a recap paragraph on the inside front cover; there’s a lot of real estate there that’s not being used for anything.(MUCH LATER UPDATE: And it turns out this might be the last issue of the series ever. Sigh.)

LUMBERJANES #24 (Boom!, 2016) – This series still hasn’t recovered from the loss of Noelle Stevenson. I may have been overly optimistic when I predicted that her departure wouldn’t change anything. Still, this is one of Kat Leyh’s better issues yet, and it’s a satisfying conclusion to the Seafarin’ Karen story. The obvious highlight of the issue is Mal and Molly finally kissing. One of the most important things this series has done is to normalize Mal and Molly’s relationship.

AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER – SMOKE AND SHADOW #3 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Overall this was one of the better Avatar series. The conclusion to this volume is fairly predictable – the bad guys lose, and Zuko and Mai end up together again – but Gene and Gurihiru tell this story fairly well, and it’s just so nice seeing these characters again. The absence of Katara and Sokka is unfortunate, but we’ll be seeing them again in the next series, North and South.

SPIDER-GWEN #6 (Marvel, 2016) – My enthusiasm for this series is waning a bit. I still love Robbi Rodriguez’s artwork, but there are so many other great Marvel comics, and this one is getting lost in the shuffle. The only thing I distinctly remember from this issue is Gwen’s not exactly surprising decision to let Harry go.

STEVEN UNIVERSE AND THE CRYSTAL GEMS #1 (Kaboom!, 2016) – I love the idea behind the Steven Universe franchise, but I’ve only had the time to watch about three episodes of the actual show. So I was excited to have the opportunity to read about Steven Universe in comics form, since I generally prefer comics to TV. This issue, though, has a trite and predictable plot: Steven and the Gems go camping and sit around a fire and tell ghost stories, and then one of the ghost stories comes true. I hope that the other three issues of this miniseries will be more original.

ASTRO CITY #33 (DC, 2016) – This must not have been the most memorable issue, because I had trouble remembering anything about it. The main thing that happens here is Steeljack visits a warehouse run by a collector of old supervillain gear, who then gets murdered by the people who are killing old supervillains. By far the best thing in the issue is where the Fixit Man shows Steeljack some glasses that enable you to see death coming, and then on the next page, Steeljack puts on the glasses and sees death coming for Fixit and Ismiri. Also, the Fixit Man’s warehouse reminds me of the Ackermansion or something. Other than that, this story has so far been less exciting than the previous Steeljack epic.

MYSTERY GIRL #4 (Dark Horse, 2016) – This whole series has demonstrated that Tobin without Coover is worse than Coover without Tobin, but this issue is a fairly effective conclusion to the miniseries. As I predicted, Mystery Girl escapes from Siberia by riding on a mammoth (hence the brilliant line “I am riding a fucking mammoth! I am the fucking mammoth queen!”) and then comes back home and saves the day. The problem is, as we discover in this issue, the ability to solve mysteries is an unfair superpower, because Mystery Girl can do just about anything as long as she can frame it as a mystery. This issue ends by setting up for a sequel, as Mystery Girl encounters a woman who knows where she got her powers. I will plan on reading Mystery Girl volume 2 if there is one, but I’m not as excited about it as I am about Bandette.

USAGI YOJIMBO #153 (Dark Horse, 2016) – I just noticed that the indicia says “Number 219 in a series.” 38 Mirage issues plus 16 Fantagraphics issues plus 153 Dark Horse issues equals 207, so the other twelve must be six issues of Senso, four Color Specials, one Summer Special (which I didn’t previously know existed) and Yokai. Like several other recent Usagi stories, “Kyuri” is kind of average. There’s a shocking moment at the end where Usagi’s arm is badly broken and he thinks he can never hold a sword again, but this is a false alarm, as the friendly female kappa heals Usagi’s arm. I think my other problem with this story is that the kappas seem overly naturalized. What I mean is, when supernatural creatures appear in Usagi comics, they’re typically presented as uncanny and weird phenomena. A good example of this is the foxes in “Kitsune Gari.” Whereas in this issue, the kappas just seem like normal creatures that coexist alongside humans. Not only does this make them less special, but it also seems odd that Usagi’s Japan is inhabited by a race of sentient nonhuman creatures who have almost no interaction with humans (well, “human” is the wrong word, but who cares).

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER#26 (IDW, 2016) – This is another issue that suffers from not being synchronized with the TV show: it stars Shining Armor, yet it doesn’t mention his impending fatherhood. The other guest star this issue is Prince Blueblood, who has only appeared in one episode, where he was basically a joke character. And the plot of the issue involves a visit to Yakyakistan, which was a rather unfortunate addition to the pony universe. “Party Pooped” was one of the worst episodes of season 5, and had some unfortunate racist implications. So in general, when writing this issue, Jeremy Whitley did not have the best materials to work with, and he was unable to overcome this limitation. The moral of the story is that Prince Blueblood is a much better diplomat than Shining Armor, which proves that Shiny’s initial negative impression of him was wrong. I find this somewhat unconvincing; after watching “The Best Night Ever,” I already know that Prince Blueblood is an utterly awful pony, and this issue did not do enough to convince me otherwise.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS #6 (Action Lab, 2016) – This was kind of an average issue, whereas most of the previous issues have been way above average. Probably the highlight is the scene where Ximena visits the potion store and is subjected to a lot of sexism and mansplaining. However, this would have been more effective if it wasn’t so reminiscent of the seashell story from the 2014 Avatar FCBD comic. A weird moment in this issue is where Sunshine punches out the pale-skinned girl whose name I can’t remember. I have said before that I like how the protagonists in this comic don’t always see eye-to-eye and how they have significant personality conflicts, but it’s surprising that one of them is being portrayed as a racist villain. To try to sum this all up, I think this issue was kind of scattershot – it included a lot of interesting stuff but I’m not sure how it all fits together.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #40 (IDW, 2016) – This is quite possibly the worst pony comic yet. In this issue, Princess Celestia forces Twilight to become a single parent to Spike, even though Twilight is attending school full-time, while Twilight was only a grade-school-aged child herself. What on earth was Celestia thinking? What did she hope Twilight would learn from this experience? Why does Twilight not resent Celestia for subjecting her to this unfair responsibility? Given the utter lack of logic here, I prefer to invoke Krypto-revisionism and declare that the events in this issue never happened. Also, I believe that Spike never went through early infancy as depicted here; I think when he emerged from the egg, he was more or less at his current level of maturity. The one thing I did like about this issue is the framing device where Twilight tells a story to Rainbow Dash, and then all the other ponies start listening in. It reminds me of “Kitty’s Fairy Tale.”

MIGHTY THOR #5 (Marvel, 2016) – This is another well-written and well-drawn issue; Russell Dauterman might be the best pure superhero artist at Marvel right now. But I continue to have trouble following the plot of this series. At the end of the issue, I don’t understand where Odinson is or why he’s in captivity.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #2 (Marvel, 2016) – This is a pretty good issue, though it’s not one of my favorite current Marvel comics. The interplay between Danny and Luke is clearly the highlight of this comic. Unfortunately this issue had no cute Danielle moments.

HELLBOY AND THE BPRD: 1953 – BEYOND THE FENCES #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – I’ve been mostly unimpressed with recent Hellboy comics, but this one was fairly good. It takes place in a Rockwell/Leave it to Beaver-esque small town, a setting which contrasts disturbingly with the bizarre events that are going on. I’m only familiar with Paolo Rivera’s art from Daredevil, but his style is unexpectedly well suited to horror comics.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #3 (Marvel, 2016) – This is a fairly average issue and it makes me question my commitment to this series. The cute character moments and interesting background cast from the first issue are mostly absent here. I think I’m going to give this series one more issue.

ODY-C #10 (Image, 2016) – The momentum of this series has been hurt by this current Arabian Nights storyline. Part of the initial attraction of this comic for me was seeing how Fraction and Ward played with the familiar story of Odysseus. My familiarity with the Odyssey helped me appreciate the variations that Fraction introduced. It’s hard to get engaged with the Hyrar-Zahman story in the same way, because it’s essentially original material, with only a tenuous link to the A(rabian Nights. I do enjoy the anti-rape message of this story, and Christian Ward is still one of the top artists in the industry.

MONSTRESS #4 (Image, 2016) – This series is a masterpiece, but it’s difficult to read because it’s so raw and brutal; the characters are subjected to such awful violence. Though there are some moments of levity here, including all the multi-tailed cats. This issue both advances the plot by showing us how the protagonist struggles with the demon inside her, and contributes to worldbuilding by showing us a previously unseen society of animal people.

DESCENDER #11 (Image, 2016) – The plot of this comic is just average – it’s a fairly conventional SF comic. What makes it excellent is, first, Dustin Nguyen’s art, and second, the character of Tim (and to a lesser extent, Telsa and Andy). I don’t have much to say about this issue specifically, except that it ends with a shock ending in which the new Tim tries to kill our Tim.

UNCANNY X-MEN #262 (Marvel, 1990) – A ton of stuff happens in this issue, but most of it is forgettable. The issue consists of a series of two- or three-page sequences focusing on different characters, and as a result, the story is not highly organized. The main focus of the issue a flashback to Forge’s Vietnam days, but even that only occupies a few pages. The highlight of the issue is probably the playful flirting between Sean and Jean. These are two characters who rarely interact, but Claremont reminds us that they were both X-Men from the very beginning and that they have a long shared history.

DETECTIVE COMICS #519 (DC, 1982) – The villain of this issue’s Batman story is named Colonel Blimp and is literally a colonel who steals battleships from a blimp. I haven’t even seen the movie The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and I just now learned that that movie was named after a British editorial cartoon. Even then, I couldn’t help thinking of that movie as I read this comic, and this made it impossible to take the comic seriously, which was already quite difficult given the idiotic premise. The only saving grace of this story is the Don Newton artwork. The Batgirl story is lacking even that. Instead, it’s drawn by Trevor von Eeden and suffers from overly convoluted page layouts that add nothing to the story.

OMEGA MEN #1 (DC, 2015) – While I was at ICFA in Orlando, Spencer Chalifour and Najwa al-Tabaa and Katie Shaffer (I hope I’m not forgetting anyone) said they were driving to a comic book store and that I could come along. This was extremely exciting to me because I haven’t been inside a comic book store since I was in Minneapolis in December. I don’t think I’ve gone three whole months without visiting a comic book store since I was seven or eight years old, and I was missing it. Unfortunately the store, Living Dead Comics, didn’t have much that I needed, and I only managed to find six comics I wanted, of which this is the only one I’ve read so far. I’ve heard really good reviews of this Omega Men series, but I’ve also heard that it reads better in trade paperback form, and from just this one issue, it’s hard to tell what exactly is going on or what’s so special about this comic.

NEW ROMANCER #3 (DC, 2016) – My enthusiasm for this series has waned a bit, and I still haven’t read issue 4, though this is partly due to lack of time. I still think this is a fun comic, though as with many other Peter Milligan comics, it doesn’t quite fulfill its potential. The main plot in this issue is that New Romancer runs a contest where the prize is a date with Lord Byron, and Alexa wins. Meanwhile, Mata Hari is introduced as a new villain.

SENSATION COMICS FEATURING WONDER WOMAN #12 (DC, 2015) – This issue wasn’t nearly as good as the previous issue I reviewed, which illustrates the principal problem with this series: lack of consistency. The first story is cute, though; it’s a team-up between Wonder Woman and Poison Ivy, and it ends with Diana refusing to turn Poison Ivy in to Batman, because Ivy didn’t do anything wrong. I can’t remember anything about the backup story, but it ends with Diana kissing Batman on the cheek, which is cute.

4-24

New comics received on March 25. Yes, I am a whole month behind on these reviews.

PATSY WALKER A.K.A. HELLCAT #4 (Marvel, 2016) – I always receive new comics on Friday afternoons, but by this point in the semester, I’m usually so exhausted on Friday afternoons that I just want to go home and flop down on my bed. But I feel obligated to read a couple of my new comic books first, and typically I am not able to devote my full attention to those comic books because I’m too tired. That was definitely what happened with this issue of Patsy Walker. It was good, but I was so tired when I read it that I can’t remember anything about it.

THE SPIRE #7 (Boom!, 2016) – This series got a well-deserved Eisner nomination and I think I’m going to vote for it. As previously mentioned in my review of issue 6, I have trouble remembering the story of this series from one issue to another, but in this issue Spurrier and Stokely create a powerful sense of dramatic tension, and I expect the final issue will be epic.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #4 (Marvel, 2016) – As I mentioned before, I decided to give up on this series after issue 2, but then I changed my mind about that because this comic is just such fun. It’s not particularly thoughtful or ambitious – Arthur Chu argued in his article “The Passion of Asian Hulk” that this comic had the potential to be an interesting commentary on and/or rebuttal to Asian-American stereotypes, but I’m not sure that potential has been fulfilled. Basically this comic is just a giant green guy beating up monsters. But that’s still a lot of fun – it’s the same sort of guilty pleasure offered by Savage Dragon, which I’m no longer reading. Also, Frank Cho’s artwork is really effective.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #13 (Marvel, 1987) – In this story, Graviton tries to take over the world and make Tigra his sex slave. He comes much closer to achieving the latter than the former. Englehart’s West Coast Avengers is one of his lesser works, and I think the most interesting thing about it is Tigra herself. This character is fascinating and extremely problematic. She has not only the body but also the personality of a cat,  including a cat’s sex drive. This means she’s basically a sex object, but I guess you could also view her more positively, as Englehart’s attempt to seriously explore what it would be like for a person to turn into a cat. This issue contains one very annoying line where Tigra claims she’s not a feminist; I don’t understand what Englehart was thinking here. My overall reaction to this issue was “Steve Englehart’s comics were bizarre, politically questionable, convoluted, and sometimes perverted. I wish there were more of them.” When I posted this comment on Facebook, it led to a discussion about Coyote; see the review of Coyote #1 below.

FIRESTORM #5 (DC, 1978) – This is the first issue of Firestorm I’ve ever read, and I found it surprisingly good. It’s very similar to Spider-Man, except that Ronnie Raymond is emphatically not a bookworm like Peter Parker; he’s just a completely average kid who has no idea what he’s gotten into. Probably the heart of this comic is his antagonistic relationship with Martin Stein, who shares his body. I ought to read more of this comic.

WONDER WOMAN #116 (DC, 1996) – This issue of John Byrne’s run is boring and poorly executed. For most of the issue, there are two stories running in parallel. The top 2/3 of the page are devoted to Wonder Woman, and the bottom 1/3 to Cave Carson and his crew. These two stories come together at the end, but while they’re running in parallel, they don’t interact in any way (unlike, say, the three concurrent stories in Shutter #19), and the reader is distracted by having to constantly switch from one to the other. Also, neither story is actually interesting, and John’s artwork is awful. His depiction of the invisible plane does remind me a bit of the beautiful machinery he used to draw, but otherwise, the art in this comic is just lazy and unoriginal.

TARZAN #196 (Gold Key, 1970) – I must have been really tired the night I read these comics, because most of them have disappeared from my memory. Also, I suspect I may have been reading them because I felt compelled to do so, and not because I was actually enjoying it. By this point in the semester, I was so exhausted and anxious that I was having difficulty enjoying anything at all. Anyway, the main story in this issue is about the Tarzan Twins, two teenage boys – one English and one American – who consider themselves to be Tarzan’s sidekicks. They visit Tarzan in the jungle and get themselves into a bunch of dangerous perils from which Tarzan has to rescue them, but Tarzan doesn’t seem to mind at all. This is a reasonably fun story, but it would have been better if it had been drawn by Russ Manning instead of Mike Royer. Manning did draw the Brothers of the Spear backup story, but it’s only four pages.

SUPERMAN #330 (DC, 1978) – “The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis” is probably the worst Superman story of the Bronze Age. In this story, Martin Pasko attempts to explain the improbable premise that no one realizes Clark Kent is Superman, even though Clark looks exactly like Superman except for his glasses. However, Pasko’s proposed solution is worse than the problem. It turns out that Superman is constantly hypnotizing every single person in the entire world to make everyone think Clark Kent and Superman look different, and that Superman himself doesn’t know he’s doing this. This explanation is much worse than no explanation at all. I think that the reader can just accept that Lois and Lana don’t realize Clark Kent is Superman, because this is covered by suspension of disbelief. If I’m willing to accept that Superman can fly, change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel with his bare hands, etc., then I’m also willing to accept that a pair of glasses are an effective disguise.

BATMAN #235 (DC, 1971) – This is the second appearance of Ra’s al Ghul, but is not drawn by Neal Adams, or else I doubt I could have afforded it. Compared to “Daughter of the Demon” or “The Demon Lives Again,” “Swamp Sinster” is kind of forgettable. This issue also includes a reprint of an old Broome/Infantino story, and an original story in which Robin visits a commune. This latter story is not very good, but it’s interesting because it reminds me that in the ‘70s, people actually did live in the sort of hippie commune depicted in this story.

INCREDIBLE HULK #106 (Marvel, 2007) – The Planet Hulk/World War Hulk epic is probably the most important Hulk story since Peter David’s first run, and I need to complete my collection of it. This chapter focuses on Amadeus Cho and She-Hulk, and the Hulk himself doesn’t appear. There is some effective characterization of Amadeus, Jen, and Doc Samson, and some good artwork by Gary Frank, who is probably my favorite Hulk artist.

X-MEN: WORST X-MAN EVER #2 (Marvel, 2016) – This wasn’t as memorable as the first issue. The main plot development is that Bailey gets seduced by Mystique, who takes a blackmail picture of him and then uses it to order him to assassinate Professor X. This is not a classic X-Men comic by any means, but at least it’s fun.

CIRCUIT BREAKER #1 (Image, 2016) – Kyle Baker’s first new comic in several years is kind of disappointing. (I thought it was his first since Special Forces, but he also did some Deadpool comics since then.) I saw one review that complained that this comic didn’t quite seem to understand what it was trying to do, and I agree. I also think that this comic’s use of Japanese culture is slightly problematic. Like, is it fair for Kevin McCarthy to create a comic that’s so heavily based on anime and manga when he’s not Japanese himself? Maybe it is fair, but the question is worth asking. Anyway, I’m probably going to keep reading this comic just because it’s Kyle Baker.

BLACK MAGICK #5 (Image, 2016) – This comic is kind of getting lost in the shuffle because there are so many other great Image comics, but it’s really, really good. In this issue, Rowan saves her friend Anna from a mystical assault by using her own magic. The magical phenomena in this scene are in full color, while everything else in the comic is in grayscale. I can’t remember if this is the first time this comic has used color in this way, but it’s a really cool effect. I hate the prose pieces at the end of each issue – I don’t read comic books because I like reading badly written unillustrated text.

SUPERMAN #42 (DC, 2015) – Gene Luen Yang’s Superman was maybe the biggest disappointment of 2015. I bought the first few issues, but didn’t even bother to read them because they got such a lukewarm reception. This issue suggests that that reception was justified. It’s a very formulaic piece of work, and even the big scene depicted on the cover, in which Lois discovers Clark’s secret identity, has very little impact. There is very little in this issue to suggest that Gene Luen Yang wrote it. It’s not about Asian themes or characters – which is fine, Gene doesn’t have to write about the same thing all the time – but it also lacks his usual creativity and vigor. I hope his new Superman series will be more interesting. Also, I’ve never understood why people are so in love with John Romita Jr’s art.

KLAUS #4 (Image, 2016) – This issue explains Klaus’s origin and his past history with Dagmar, whose name I had forgotten. When you read as many comics as I do, it becomes difficult to remember even the major characters’ names. That’s why Stan Lee gave all his characters alliterative names. Anyway, this is a pretty good issue. There’s one cute scene in which Dagmar plays with her son Jonas (again I had to look his name up) and we see evidence that Jonas is not a completely unredeemable little Joffrey-esque brat.

SUPER ZERO #4 (Aftershock, 2016) – I still think this is probably Conner and Palmiotti’s best work. The scene where Dru forgives her friend’s abusive father is a ethically troublesome, and the writers didn’t succeed in convincing me that this was the right thing to do, but at least they tried. What happens next is that Dru tries to reproduce the origin of the Fantastic Four, and the way she succeeds in getting herself onto a rocket is surprisingly plausible. I think it was also effectively foreshadowed in earlier issues – I believe we already knew she had a friend whose father worked at NASA.

JONESY #2 (Boom!, 2016) – This series is halfway over and I’m still not sure what it’s about. The main premises are that Jonesy hates everything and that she has the power to hypnotize people, and these premises don’t seem to be connected at all. The only way I can describe or explain this comic is as an example of Adventure Time-esque absurdist humor. It’s reasonably funny and well-drawn, but I’m not sure I get the point of it.

INCREDIBLE HULK #242 (Marvel, 1979) – I was surprised to realize this was written by Roger Stern. I didn’t realize he had ever written the Hulk – my Hulk collection from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s is very incomplete. This issue is the climax of the “They Who Wield Power” storyline, a sort of stealth crossover that had been running through a large number of different Marvel titles since 1979. The ultimate payoff is not really worth the buildup; this issue is mostly just a long fight between the Hulk and Tyrannus.

WONDER WOMAN #204 (DC, 1973) – This issue ends the No Costume/Diana Prince era in an insulting and anticlimactic way. First, I Ching gets shot dead by an insane mass murderer. This scene was probably based on the 1966 University of Texas shootings, but it was clearly also just a cheap way of writing I Ching out of the series. In the same incident, Diana also gets shot and loses her memory. The only thing she can remember is that she needs to go back to Paradise Island, so she goes back there, puts her old costume back on, and the No Costume era is over as if it never happened. The rest of the issue is a typical example of Kanigher’s usual Wonder Woman nonsense, though it does briefly introduce Nubia, the black Wonder Woman, as well as giving Diana a new secret identity as a UN translator. After this issue, Wonder Woman’s brief period of originality was over, and the series wouldn’t be truly interesting again until 1987.

UNCANNY X-MEN #229 (Marvel, 1988) – This is the first issue of the period when the X-Men were living in the Reavers’ Australian desert base. The first half of the issue is devoted to a gruesome depiction of the Reavers’ crimes, so Claremont has to cram a whole lot of plot development into about 10 pages. For example, he introduces the Siege Perilous without really explaining what it is. At one point in this issue, Wolverine refers to Gateway by a very offensive three-letter word that starts with A; this should not have gotten past the Comics Code.

COYOTE #1 (Epic, 1983) – I read this because Michael Norwitz and Ben Herman mentioned it on Facebook. Michael has a theory that after the commercial failure of Coyote, Englehart stopped caring about comics and his career went into decline. But Michael also said that this first issue of the series was really good. After reading it, I’m not quite convinced. This ongoing series is a sequel to a graphic novel published by Eclipse, and is hard to understand on its own because it’s full of confusing backstory, although this is not unusual in Englehart’s work. What I do like about this series is the protagonist, who (see earlier comments on Tigra) is basically a dog in human form, and is completely carefree and ignorant of human society. Maybe I should look for the Image trade paperback that reprints the original Coyote graphic novel.

DETECTIVE COMICS #760 (DC, 2001) – This issue is drawn by Shawn Martinborough, who I have complained about in the past, especially in my review of Detective Comics #745. I didn’t have a problem with the artwork in this issue, though. Either Martinborough had gotten better by this point, or I’m more used to his style now. The main story has a somewhat interesting premise, in which the Mad Hatter hypnotizes people using coffeeshop reward cards (i.e. those cards that they punch every time you buy a cup of coffee). Of course the real highlight of the issue is the Slam Bradley backup by Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke. The splash page of this story, which depicts Slam exhuming Selina Kyle’s grave in the rain, is brilliantly Eisner-esque.

SUPERMAN #205 (DC, 1968) – This is one of the last comic books written by Otto Binder, and it’s a pretty stupid comic, though at least it’s a different kind of stupid from most ’60s Superman comics. This comic book fails not because it’s silly and trivial, but because it tries to accomplish too much; it’s too epic for its own good. The plot of this issue is that Superman teams up with Jax-Ur against a villain called Black Zero, who seems to be responsible for destroying Krypton. (The name Black Zero was later used for several other unrelated villains.) Black Zero tries to destroy Earth with a missile, but Superman foils his plan by boring a hole through the entire planet so that the missile passes through it. That’s the most ridiculous thing that happens in this issue, but not the only one. I feel like if this issue had been a multi-part epic, it could have been really good, but it was too ambitious for just 24 pages.

CATWOMAN #23 (DC, 2003) – This is part of a story where Catwoman and Holly are visiting a number of different fictional DC Universe cities to search for Holly’s brother. This issue takes place in Opal City and guest-stars Bobo Benetti from Starman. This comic is full of exciting action sequences and effective characterization, and Cameron Stewart’s art is so good that I didn’t even notice how boring his depictions of Opal City are, compared to those of Tony Harris. This Catwoman series was probably one of the top DC comics of its era.

ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #7 (Marvel, 2016) – This issue begins with two cute scenes, one between Falcon and Thor and another between Kamala and Vision. The rest of the issue is setup for the Pleasant Hill crossover, and is completely forgettable.

Eisner votes for 2016

Yay, Eisner nominations are out! Like every year, I’m going to list my votes with commentary.

Best Short Story
  • “Killing and Dying,” by Adrian Tomine, in Optic Nerve #14 (Drawn & Quarterly)

Didn’t read any of the other nominees.

Best Single Issue/One-Shot 
  • Silver Surfer #11: “Never After,” by Dan Slott and Michael Allred (Marvel)

Pope Hats #4 is also a strong contender.

Best Continuing Series 
  • Southern Bastards, by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour (Image)

I wouldn’t have nominated any of these (my nominees would have been Saga, Lumberjanes, Sex Criminals, Ms. Marvel, and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl). Of the five nominees, Southern Bastards is my favorite. I love Giant Days but I don’t think it was an Eisner-level comic, given the amount of competition. Invincible was terrible this year and should not have been nominated at all.

Best Limited Series 
  • The Spire, by Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely (BOOM! Studios)

Lady Killer is a distant second.

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

I was going to vote for Monstress until I saw that USG was on the ballot. Paper Girls and Bitch Planet could each have won this award in many other years.

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)
  • Little Robot, by Ben Hatke (First Second)

I haven’t read any of these, and I’m basing this entirely on Michelle Martin’s presentation at ICFA.

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)
  • Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson (Dial Books)

This was an amazing book and a possible contender for Best Graphic Album.

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)
  • March: Book Two, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf/IDW)

It was a tough choice between this and Supermutant Magic Academy. I’m surprised Lumberjanes wasn’t nominated.

Best Humor Publication
  • Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection, by Kate Beaton (Drawn & Quarterly)

Not familiar with any of the others except Cyanide & Happiness.

Best Digital/Webcomic
  • The Legend of Wonder Woman, by Renae De Liz (DC Digital)

Bandette and Fresh Romance are also candidates, but I just heart Legend of Wonder Woman so much.

Best Anthology
  • Drawn & Quarterly, Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary, Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels,edited by Tom Devlin (Drawn & Quarterly)

This seems like an obvious choice, though I didn’t read any of the nominees.

Best Reality-Based Work
  • March: Book Two, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf/IDW)

I’ve read four of the nominees. This was a really strong category, and I could easily change my mind and vote for The Story of My Tits instead.

Best Graphic Album—New
  • Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen, by Dylan Horrocks (Fantagraphics)

This was the only nominee that I read. I’ve never heard of some of the nominees, and I think the ballot looks rather weak. I wonder why the judges decided not to nominate March or Roller Girl or The Story of My Tits for this category.

Best Graphic Album—Reprint
  • Nimona, by Nicole Stevenson (Harper Teen)

I really want to read Soldier’s Heart, but it’s so expensive.

Best Adaptation from Another Medium
  • Two Brothers, by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse)

Didn’t read any of the others.

Best U.S. Edition of International Material
  • The Eternaut, by Héctor Germán Oesterheld and Francisco Solano Lòpez (Fantagraphics)

I haven’t read any of the nominees, but The Eternaut is the obvious standout. This category seems very weak. Was Corto Maltese not eligible?

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia
  • A Bride’s Story, by Kaoru Mori (Yen Press)

I have Sunny but have not read it.

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips 
  • The Eternaut, by Héctor Germán Oesterheld and Francisco Solano Lòpez, edited by Gary Groth and Kristy Valenti (Fantagraphics)

Again, I haven’t read any of the nominees and I’ve never heard of the Niso Ramponi book.

Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books 
  • Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: The Don Rosa Library, vols. 3–4, edited by David Gerstein (Fantagraphics)

Seems like an obvious choice.

Best Writer
  • G. Willow Wilson, Ms. Marvel (Marvel)

Jason Aaron had a bigger overall body of work, but I liked Ms. Marvel better than any of Jason Aaron’s individual titles. I might have voted for Matt Fraction or Brian K. Vaughan instead.

Best Writer/Artist
  • Ed Piskor, Hip-Hop Family Tree, vol. 3 (Fantagraphics)

This is a surprising slate of nominees. They could have nominated Tomine or Horrocks or Jamieson. Of the actual nominees, Noah Van Sciver is the only other one who seems like a serious contender, though I haven’t read Fante Bukowski.

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
  • Erica Henderson, Jughead (Archie), Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Marvel)

A good slate of nominees, though Fiona Staples and Christian Ward seem like unfortunate omissions.

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist 
  • Dustin Nguyen, Descender (Image)

Voting for Dustin Nguyen over Colleen Coover because of the impressive range  of his work.

Best Cover Artist 
  • Amanda Conner, Harley Quinn (DC)

It’s a tough choice between her and Ed Piskor.

Best Coloring
  • Jordie Bellaire, The Autumnlands, Injection, Plutona, Pretty Deadly, The Surface, They’re Not Like Us, Zero (Image); The X-Files (IDW); The Massive (Dark Horse); Magneto, Vision (Marvel)

This category is often the toughest one to decide on.

Best Lettering
  • Lucy Knisley, Displacement (Fantagraphics)

I don’t think I’ve read anything by any of the other nominees. I have Trashed but haven’t read it yet.

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism 
  • Back Issue, edited by Michael Eury (TwoMorrows)

Didn’t read any of these. I’m surprised that only one website was nominated. What about The Comics Beat or The Comics Reporter?

Best Comics-Related Book
  • King of the Comics: One Hundred Years of King Features Syndicate, edited by Dean Mullaney (IDW/LOAC)

I didn’t read any of these, so I’m voting for this one, because it covers a topic which has not already been extensively written about.

Best Academic/Scholarly Work 
  • Unflattening, by Nick Sousanis (Harvard University Press)

Would have been a good candidate for Best Graphic Album – New and Best Reality-Based Work as well.

Best Publication Design
  • Eventually Everything Connects, designed by Loris Lora, Sam Arthur, Alex Spiro, and Camille Pichon (Nobrow)

Haven’t seen this, but it looks cool.

Overall, I feel like an even more informed Eisner voter this year compared to previous years. In most categories I’ve read at least one of the nominees, and in several categories I had a hard time choosing what to vote for.

Entire month of reviews

It’s been three whole weeks (edit: now four) since I wrote any reviews. Let’s hope I can still remember anything about the comics I read three weeks ago.

New comics I received on February 12:

MS. MARVEL #4 (Marvel, 2016) – The theme this issue is that Kamala is spreading herself too thin by leading three lives at once (counting her home life and school as two lives), so she creates some Ms. Marvel robots. This has pretty much the same results as when Pinkie Pie duplicated herself. And Kamala must have seen that episode of MLP, so she should have known what to expect. After the somewhat disappointing end of the gentrification story arc, I was confused as to where this series was going, but this current storyline is a reasonable next step. Aamir and Tyesha are an adorable couple, and I love Kamala’s parents’ reaction to the engagement announcement.

STARFIRE #9 (DC, 2016) – I’m very sorry to hear this series is not going to survive DC Rebirth, because it’s my favorite current DC title by far, and the best thing anyone has done with this character since the ‘80s. Elsa Charretier makes her DC debut with this issue, and she’s a lot better than whoever was drawing this series before; also, this series is a better use of her talents than Infinite Loop was. Cute moments this issue include the nude sunbathing scene and the introduction of Syl’khee, who seems to be based on Kory’s pet from the cartoon.

JONESY #1 (Boom!, 2016) – I was excited about this comic but I couldn’t quite get into it. It has obvious stylistic similarities to Adventure Time and to other Boom! comics, but I’m not sure what sort of vibe Sam Humphries and Caitlin Rose Boyle are going for. But I certainly intend to keep reading this comic, and I think I’ll understand it better after another issue or two.

JUGHEAD #4 (Archie, 2016) – In general, I didn’t like this issue as much as some of the previous ones, but it’s still quite good. Chip Zdarsky bought himself a new fur coat with the proceeds from this comic, if the latest Sex Criminals is accurate. This issue got a lot of publicity because it reveals that Jughead is asexual, which is really not surprising at all, except that I continue to think Jughead is really burger-sexual. The dream sequence this issue is some weird thing about pirates.

WEIRDWORLD #3 (Marvel, 2016) – This is an extremely well-executed and funny comic, and probably the best-drawn current Marvel comic. The overarching plot with Morgan le Fay is boring, but the dynamic between Becca, Goleta and Ogeode the demon cat is amazing. The scene with Goleta on the dance floor is one of the highlights of the series so far. It’s clear that Sam Humphries and Mike Del Mundo are having a great time with this comic.

ZODIAC STARFORCE #4 (Dark Horse, 2016) – I’m sorry to see this miniseries end because four issues is not enough time to spend with these characters. I somehow got the idea that a sequel was on its way, but it looks like I was wrong; Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra is just the trade paperback collection. I love the exuberant energy and the colorful art style of this comic, but if it had lasted longer, we could have gotten to know the characters better. It’s like how when I started reading Lumberjanes, it was a while before I could tell the characters apart.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS VALENTINE SPECIAL #1 (IDW, 2016) – Three weeks after reading this comic, the thing I remember best about it is the panel with Stormer clinging to the barista’s leg. But this comic is full of other funny scenes. The premise of this issue – that the Misfits and Holograms all drink a love potion – has a ton of comic potential which Kelly Thompson and Jen Bartel are able to exploit effectively. I guess the serious message of this story is that love is complicated and a love potion is not a permanent solution to anything.

GOTHAM ACADEMY #15 (DC, 2016) – The second scrapbook issue is less impressive than the first one. Probably the most interesting segment is the one by Zac Gorman, the creator of the webcomic Magical Game Time. As far as I know, this is his first comic originally published in print. But at just four pages, it’s too short to build any momentum. The other stories in this issue are kind of forgettable.

GANGES #5 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – Kevin Huizenga is my favorite current cartoonist, at least on an intellectual level. I haven’t read everything he’s done, but I find his work utterly fascinating and compelling, and my first published essay was about him. This issue, which is about insomnia and geology and a whole lot of other stuff, is a classic piece of Kevin H work. It has some explicit connections to “Glenn Ganges in Pulverize,” which is discussed in another of my published essays. I hope that all the issues of Ganges will eventually be collected in a book; it would be nice to have all this work continuously in print.

SPIDER-GWEN #5 (Marvel, 2016) – This issue suffers badly from the lack of Robbi Rodriguez artwork. The replacement artist, Chris Visions, draws in a very different and much uglier style. Also, this issue heavily features my least favorite Marvel character, the Punisher, though he’s correctly portrayed here as a villain rather than a hero. I still enjoy this series but this was kind of an off issue.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #39 (IDW, 2016) – Another story that would have had a lot more impact if it had been published before “Crusaders of the Lost Mark” aired. This issue is reasonably funny, and I’m becoming increasingly impressed with Christina Rice and Agnes Garbowska’s work, but it suffers from not taking into account the recent changes to the characters involved.

ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #5 (Marvel, 2016) – This series is coming out too often. When a comic book comes out twice a month, each individual issue only feels half as special. The main reason I’m reading this comic is because of Kamala, and this issue includes one funny Kamala scene, in which she’s writing fanfic about Thor and Falcon. But then Kamala gets thrown out of the Avengers for no reason, which is implausible and is obviously not going to stick, and the rest of the issue is a boring fight scene. I feel kind of proud that I was able to identify Equinox the Thermodynamic Man before he was named.

THE AUTUMNLANDS #9 (Image, 2016) – I’ve been continuing to read this comic mostly out of loyalty to Kurt, but this issue was surprisingly enjoyable. The visit to the sheep village offers an interesting glimpse of the lives of people who are very different than either the wizards or the buffalo. This scene is also important to Dusty’s character arc, as it lets him see how the ground people live. There’s one very cute panel where all the sheep people (literal sheeple, I guess) are lining up to be shorn.

BLACK CANARY #8 (DC, 2016) – The premise of this issue is that Dinah and Vixen are trapped on an alien world and the rest of the band has to rescue them. I don’t understand how that happened; did I miss an unannounced crossover with some other series? I think the most memorable thing about this issue is the way Sandy Jarrell depicts Vixen’s powers – for example, when she channels an elephant, the iage of a giant elephant appears around her.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #22 (Marvel, 1976) – I don’t hate Bill Mantlo as much as I used to, but this issue is not one of his better works, if he has any better works. “Touch Not the Hand of Seth” is hampered by a generic cookie-cutter plot and boring artwork. The story is further hindered by its focus on Marvel’s Egyptian gods, who were never as exciting as Marvel’s Norse or Greek gods.

UNCANNY X-MEN #258 (Marvel, 1990) – This is the third of three consecutive fill-in issues by Jim Lee, whose style was already well-developed at this early stage in his career. “Broken Chains” has a typically convoluted Claremontian plot in which Matsuo Tsurabaya and the Mandarin are fighting over Wolverine, who is suffering from psychosis after being stabbed by Psylocke’s knife. The plot and characterization are not Claremont’s best – I think that the #230s to #250s were the low point of his X-Men run – but Jim Lee’s artwork is enough to make this an enjoyable issue.

New comics received on February 19:

LUMBERJANES #23 (Boom!, 2016) – I’m sorry to say that this series has gone down in quality since Noelle Stevenson left, and it’s no longer the second best comic on the stands. It’s still good, it just doesn’t have the same level of energy, and the plot doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Which I guess that sort of makes sense, because the whole premise of this series is that it’s about a group of girls at summer camp. If the plot of the series progresses any further, then the summer will end, and the series will lose its raison d’etre. I think there are ways of working around that – like, maybe we could get some stories about what the rest of the world is like outside the Lumberjanes’ camp. But for now, it seems like the creators are happy with telling stories that don’t result in any lasting change and that just result in the status quo being maintained. That’s okay, I guess, but it may not be sustainable. Anyway, if we ignore all that, this is a pretty fun story – certainly better than the previous story arc – but it’s not at the same level as the first two story arcs.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #1 (Marvel, 2016) – I think this issue assumes too much familiarity with older Power Man and Iron Fist comics. I never read that series, so I have no idea who Black Mariah is, or why I should care. And I expect that most other readers of this comic will be in the same position. Other than that, this is a really fun comic; David Walker’s depiction of the two main characters is extremely entertaining. I wasn’t impressed by the one issue of Cyborg that I read, but I am impressed by the writing here. Sanford Greene’s artwork is also entertaining, and overall this comic seems like a reasonable first step toward rectifying Marvel’s lack of prominent titles with minority protagonists.

SEX CRIMINALS #14 (Image, 2016) – If Lumberjanes is no longer the second best comic on the stands, then this probably is. I know some people who hated the self-insertion scene in this issue, and I can see why, but I personally thought it was hilarious – especially the panel where Chip’s royalties from Jughead come in, and suddenly he’s wearing a new fur coat. Though other than that, there wasn’t a lot of substance to this issue. I find it hard to remember who all the characters are or what’s going on with them. I wish I had time to reread this entire story arc.

ASTRO CITY #32 (Vertigo, 2016) – This issue reintroduces Steeljack, the protagonist of the second longest-running Astro City story. It’s easy to forget this now that the entire story is available in trade paperback, but because of Kurt’s health problems, it took two whole years for Astro City #14 through #20 to come out. So I lived with Steeljack for almost as long as I lived with Charles and Royal from The Dark Age. Given that, I don’t know if I need to see him again. This new Steeljack story does arouse some feelings of nostalgia both for the original “Tarnished Angel” story, and for the bygone white ethnic blue-collar urban society that he represents. But I’m not sure where this story is actually going, or why we’re visiting Steeljack again, rather than meeting some character we haven’t seen before.

USAGI YOJIMBO #152 (Dark Horse, 2016) – I haven’t been overwhelmingly impressed by any of the recent Usagi issues, and this issue is another competent but unspectacular Usagi story. A village is in danger of flooding, so Usagi gets some local bandits to help build a dyke, and as a result the bandits become upstanding citizens of the village. There’s a cute ending that shows that one of the bandits has married a local woman and had a child, and the story is as exciting as any Usagi comic, but still, I think this series is in a bit of a slump. The letter column does suggest that Stan is building up to a longer story involving Europeans.

HARLEY QUINN #25 (DC, 2016) – This is mostly just another guilty-pleasure comic, but it’s also a significant moment in Harley’s character arc, as she beats the crap out of the Joker and announces that their relationship is over. This is a pretty powerful moment, but who knows if it’s going to have any lasting effect.

SILVER SURFER #2 (Marvel, 2016) – I just read Ramzi Fawaz’s discussion of the Silver Surfer as an example of “messianic melodrama,” and this series is the polar opposite of that. As many people have noted, it’s really a Doctor Who comic disguised as a Silver Surfer comic, and it lacks the melodramatic philosophizing that the Surfer is known for. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because this series is much more fun than more conventional Surfer comics. In this particular issue, the highlight is Dawn’s jealousy over the Surfer and Alicia’s past history. The issue ends by reintroducing Shalla Bal, who is kind of the Surfer’s version of Dulcinea, in that her role as an unattainable love interest is more important than who she really is.

GRAYSON #9 (DC, 2015) – I ordered this because it was on clearance at DCBS and this series has gotten lots of positive reviews. This is a well-drawn and well-written issue that portrays Dick Grayson in a suitably gender-bending and sexually alluring way – there’s one splash page which is just Dick saying “Am I straight?”, which I assume is some kind of innuendo. I need to read more of this series to form an opinion about it.

AQUAMAN #39 (DC, 1997) – December 1997 was the month when every DC cover was a giant close-up of the protagonist’s face. As was common with PAD’s Aquaman, this issue has a very convoluted and bizarre plot, but it mostly revolves around Neptune Perkins and Tsunami and their daughter Deep Blue, and the villain, Rhombus, is under the impression that he’s Deep Blue’s real father. As was also common with PAD’s Aquaman, this issue has very funny dialogue and attractive artwork by Jim Calafiore. I need to complete my collection of this Aquaman run.

MIGHTY THOR #4 (Marvel, 2016) – This issue continues all the plotlines from last issue, including Odin’s madness, Malekith’s planned conquest of Alfheim, and Jane’s inability to deal with her cancer. At the end of the issue, the plot is in more or less the same place it was before. But this issue is still worth reading because Russell Dauterman’s art continues to be brilliant, and Jason Aaron writes Thor and Loki and Frigga very well.

SUPER ZERO #3 (Aftershock, 2016) – This issue seems a bit on the short side; it’s full price for only about 20 pages. The issue includes some very funny scenes, including one where Dru tries to summon a demon by sacrificing an animal, and can’t decide which of her pets to sacrifice. But at this point the joke is wearing a little thin, and I’d like to see Dru’s character evolve a bit.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #9 (DC, 2016) – The focal characters this issue are Mera, Stargirl and Supergirl, though there’s also a brief scene with Wonder Woman. The key moment in the issue is Stargirl escaping her captivity by her overly possessive father. The Wonder Woman sequences in this series are not my favorite, but I was still excited to hear that Marguerite Bennett was announced as the new Wonder Woman writer. At least she’s a lot better than Meredith Finch, though that is damning with faint praise.

ARCHIE #6 (Archie, 2016) – The plot this issue is that Archie is injured when Veronica’s home run hits him on the head, and this leads to some relationship drama. There’s funny stuff in this issue, but like many Mark Waid comics, it takes itself too seriously, and it’s not nearly as fun as Jughead.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #3 (Marvel, 2016) – I skipped ordering #5 of this series because there’s just too much competition for my dollar – Marvel is releasing too many interesting series, and this seemed like a series I could do without. But this issue was so fun that I changed my mind about the series and decided to order #6. The whole issue is just Amadeus and Fin Fang Foom beating each other up. But Frank Cho, despite all his personal and artistic failings, is really good at drawing monsters and sexy women, and Greg Pak’s writing is quite energetic, and as a result I enjoyed this comic despite myself.

DAREDEVIL #144 (Marvel, 1977) – The plot of this issue is that the Owl hires the Man-Bull to kidnap a scientist who can heal his crippled legs. It’s not a very interesting plot, and I had to look through this comic to remember what it was even about. I’m a big fan of Jim Shooter’s writing but his talents were wasted here.

FANTASTIC FOUR #136 (Marvel, 1973) – As with #169, reviewed above, I found this issue to be surprisingly good despite my general disdain for the ’70s FF. The main draw of the issue is John Buscema’s art, but it also has a weird and funny plot, where the Shaper of Worlds reshapes the world based on a criminal henchman’s memories of the ‘50s. The result is a world where adults and youth are at war, and black people are invisible (the writer, Gerry Conway, directly references Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man). The weirdness and energy of this comic make it almost comparable to Kamandi.

At this point, it had been two whole months since I had bought any old comics, and I didn’t feel motivated to read the old comics I already had. So I ordered $50 worth of comics from mycomicshop.com. The comics arrived on February 25, and my weekly DCBS shipment arrived the following day.

THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #2 (DC, 2016) – I should have ordered this from DCBS, but I didn’t because I had the mistaken impression that it was getting bad reviews – I think I was confusing it with Wonder Woman ’77. So I ordered it from mycomicshop.com, and it was the first thing I read when the shipment arrived. I think Legend of Wonder Woman is the best version of Wonder Woman’s origin ever. The main innovation is that only twelve of the Amazons are immortal and the rest are immortal. This is a simple but brilliant way of addressing a nagging problem with earlier versions of DC’s Amazons: if they were all immortal, then what were they doing during the thousands of years they spent in isolation? It’s easier to believe in twelve immortals than in an entire society of them. Also, if the Amazons aren’t all the same age, then that explains how Diana can have a younger sidekick, which solves all the continuity problems with Wonder Girl. Besides all that, this series is just extremely well done. Ray Dillon’s art is beautiful, especially his facial expressions. And the plot is exciting. The notion of Diana as a rebel against her constricting, conservative society was sort of hinted at by Pérez, but here it’s the heart of the story. I can’t wait for the next issue of this, and I hope this version of Wonder Woman becomes the canonical one.

BEASTS OF BURDEN #4 (Dark Horse, 2009) – This was the only Beasts of Burden story I hadn’t read; I somehow missed it when it came out. This series is probably my favorite recent horror comic, besides Afterlife with Archie. These two titles are similar because they both combine a group of silly protagonists with genuinely horrifying plots. But Beasts of Burden has a somewhat different vibe from Afterlife with Archie, in that it’s not nearly as funny. The fact that the protagonists are animals only intensifies the horror, because they can see things that people can’t; they can perceive threats that the ordinary people of Burden Hill are blind to. Also, Jill Thompson depicts both the animals and their supernatural opponents in a completely convincing way. The villain this issue is a goth dude who can turn dead bodies into giant hulking dirt monsters, and the story ends with a brutal scene in which the villain’s body is engulfed in flames. I hope Evan and Jill will return to these characters sometime soon.

HERO CATS: MIDNIGHT OVER STELLAR CITY #1 (Action Lab, 2015) – My cat must not appreciate that I’m reading about other cats, because he walked over my keyboard as I was about to start writing this review. This is perhaps my favorite Hero Cats comic yet because it takes full advantage of the series’ comic potential. Midnight is literally a cat version of Rorschach or the DKR Batman, and the artwork of this series is heavily based on that of DKR. The creators, Kyle Puttkammer and Alex Ogle, treat this ridiculous premise with the correct balance of seriousness and levity; they allow the reader to realize on his or her own that a cat Batman is a ridiculous notion, rather than hitting the reader over the head with this fact.

TALES OF THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS ANNUAL #1 (DC, 1985) – This is the first of three TGLC annuals. The second and third TGLC Annuals are both classics because they each include a story written by Alan Moore. This annual does not, and is much less interesting. It’s a boring story in which a bunch of poorly characterized heroes fight a generic villain. Len Wein never managed to do as much with the nonhuman Green Lanterns as Steve Englehart did, and in this annual, Len is handicapped even further by having to split the writing duties with Paul Kupperberg. The one thing this comic does have going for it is 40 pages of Gil Kane artwork.

AMAZING ADVENTURES #7 (Marvel, 1971) – Neal Adams’s Inhumans run is unjustly forgotten because it’s as well-drawn as anything else he did in the early ‘70s. His artwork in this issue is dynamic and exciting. The plot here is not quite as exciting as the artwork, though it’s sort of interesting from a historical standpoint because it’s about black militants. The Black Widow backup story is less exciting, though the art, by Don Heck and Bill Everett, is surprisingly good.

MARVEL PREMIERE #46 (Marvel, 1979) – This is part two of a two-part Man-Wolf story arc that was continued from the cancelled Creatures on the Loose. It’s an excellent example of early George Pérez artwork. George’s style was more or less fully developed by 1979, and this story is full of his visual trademarks (like lines emanating from around a character’s head) and his perhaps overcomplicated costume designs. The writing, by David Kraft, is somewhat cliched and also a bit hard to follow, but at least it doesn’t significantly detract from the effectiveness of the artwork.

RICHARD DRAGON, KUNG-FU FIGHTER #2 (DC, 1975) – This is kind of bad, but in a fun way; its enthusiasm and its gritty urban setting make up for its lack of quality. Jim Starlin is really not suited to drawing martial arts action, and it’s a good thing that he stopped drawing martial arts titles not long after 1975. I don’t know why he got assigned to those titles to begin with. Still, this is a fun example of this genre, even if it’s nowhere near as good as Master of Kung Fu.

SAGA #34 (Image, 2016) – I was afraid that this issue, like the previous three issues, would introduce yet another new plot thread. Instead, it continues all three of the plotlines from the last three issues. The most compelling of the three plots is the one with Hazel, because she’s an utterly adorable and engaging character. For most of the series Hazel has been more of a prop than a character, with little ability to influence the story, but now she’s old enough to start becoming a protagonist in her own right. I wonder if the cute mistakes in her speech (e.g. “no thank you to killing my teacher”) are because of her age or her multilingualism. As usual, this issue ends on a cliffhanger that leaves me very worried about what’s going to happen next; I think Hazel’s teacher’s attempt to help her escape is going to do more harm than good.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #5 (Marvel, 2016) – I just noticed that the cover says Unbeatable Squirrel Girls, plural. When I read this comic, I had just gotten home after another long week of work and I was having trouble even staying awake, but I’m pretty sure that this comic was an effective conclusion to the Dr. Doom story arc. The explanation for why the CS students have been traveling through time is surprisingly plausible. I think that all the time travel stuff that happens in this issue actually makes logical sense, though I’m not going to drive myself nuts by trying to verify that. And the sight of twenty or more Squirrel Girls in one panel is quite striking. This scene reminds me of the Calvin & Hobbes story where Calvin meets two future versions of himself. Also, the old Squirrel Girl is a really cute character. On the last page, I don’t understand why Mew isn’t trying to eat Tippy Toe.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #4 (Marvel, 2016) – As I was reading Ramzi Fawaz’s “urban folktale” chapter in The New Mutants (more on this book later), I started to wonder if Lunella Lafayette is Marvel’s first black protagonist who doesn’t come from a background of urban poverty. The answer is no – when I asked this question on Facebook, people mentioned earlier examples like Night Thrasher, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) and Brother Voodoo. Still, it’s nice that Lunella comes from a fairly well-off background, because I think there’s often a stereotypical association between black superheroes and environments like Harlem – and I think Ramzi points this out when he discusses the X-Men story where Storm visits her childhood home in Harlem. So anyway. My enthusiasm for this series has waned a little bit, but I’m still enjoying it. The personality conflict between Amadeus Cho and Lunella is exciting and also depressing. One thing that makes Lunella a fascinating character is that she’s not a traditionally lovable child – she’s actually kind of a brat, and she’s quite disaster-prone. But her intense willpower makes the reader cheer for her anyway.

PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT #3 (Marvel, 2016) – It’s kind of unfortunate that this came out on the same week as Squirrel Girl and Moon Girl, because that means the other weeks of the month are less special. And when I read all three of them consecutively, each suffers by comparison with the others. This was the least impressive issue yet, and I couldn’t instantly recall what it was about, but it was still fun. I think the best part of the issue is the panel with Patsy in bed, where we learn that she sleeps with a giant plush cat and that she has a ball of yarn on her bedside table.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #12 (IDW, 2016) – This issue is most important for the scene where Blaze comes out as transgender. Blaze is one of a growing number of trans comic characters, and the increase in trans representation can only be a good thing. Given the kind of comic this is, it’s inevitable that the Misfits, despite being the villains of the series, are completely willing to accept that Blaze is transgender. But the scene before that, where Clash helps Blaze confront her fears, is really important – it lets the reader know that it’s okay to be worried about what other people might think of you, and if they’re not willing to accept you, then it’s their problem. Besides all that, this is another exciting chapter of the Dark Synergy story, and Sophie Campbell’s art is as brilliant as ever.

HEAVY LIQUID #2 (DC, 1999) – I read the first issue of this series in 2013, and I already had the second issue at that time, but I never got around to reading it because of its extreme length and density. I still think this series is much less accessible than Battling Boy. The artwork is less striking and the plot is confusing – the eponymous heavy liquid is a McGuffin whose exact purpose is not clear to me. Paul Pope’s artwork here is notable for its atmospheric moodiness, especially in the scene in the sushi bar, and he draws some good action sequences. But I’m not in a big hurry to get the other issues of this miniseries.

YOUNG JUSTICE #32 (DC, 2001) – As usual, this issue is really, really cute and funny. Anita goes on a date with Lobo, who has been hypnotized so that he switches from nice to mean whenever anyone snaps their fingers. (I was going to say whenever someone hits him on the head, but I was thinking of Groo #74.) During the date, Anita reveals her origin, and other hilarity ensues. I am running out of YJ comics I haven’t already read, which is a shame.

FAITH #2 (Valiant, 2016) – I’m sorry I missed the first issue of this. I haven’t been reading any other Valiant comics, but this comic has been getting a lot of positive press, and it seems pretty important because of its inclusion of a female protagonist with a non-standard body type. The only thing about this issue that really stands out in my memory is the panel with the line “something something adulting real world connections paying rent,” but as I look through it again, I remember that Marguerite Sauvage’s artwork on the dream sequences is quite good. I plan on continuing to read this title.

HERO CATS: MIDNIGHT OVER STELLAR CITY #2 (Action Lab, 2015) – This is basically the same joke as the previous issue. One thing I do specifically remember about this issue is Midnight saying that most cats sleep 70% of the time, while he never sleeps. This just proves that he is literally a cat Batman. I wonder if there will be similar miniseries for any of the other Hero Cats. I kind of hope so.

BITCH PLANET #7 (Image, 2016) – This series is always difficult to read because it’s so brutal and depressing, and in a way which forces the reader to reflect on the brutal and depressing nature of contemporary America. Like, this issue begins with a scene where some black kids get shot for trespassing on corporate property, and no one cares. It’s very very important that Kelly and Valentine are writing about these issues, though, and this comic is not supposed to be fun. I think Bitch Planet is the most openly political comic currently published by a mainstream company, and that makes it important. Though it occurs to me that Lazarus is also an extremely political comic and I’ve stopped reading it, and I think the reason why is because Lazarus offers essentially no hope for progressive change. In contrast, Bitch Planet offers the hope, not only that things can get better for the protagonists, but also that reading the comic can be a way of promoting progressive change in the real world. In that sense, Bitch Planet’s backup features are at least as important as the comic itself, because they create a space where feminist readers can come together. (Incidentally, one of the backup features in this issue is by my friend Kate Tanski.)

MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #11 (Marvel, 1992) – I bought this issue because of the third story in it, but the first story, starring the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, was a pleasant surprise. As I was reading it, I was thinking that the artwork kind of looked like early Mike Mignola, and then I checked the credits and realized that it was Mike Mignola. It’s not his best artwork, but still, you can tell it’s him. The second story in this issue, starring Namor, is just filler material, though it has a mildly funny ending. The main attraction of this issue is the last story, which is the unpublished 24th issue of the original Ms. Marvel series. This is not Claremont’s best Carol Danvers story. It includes a gratuitous shower scene (though that’s true of many other Claremont comics, come to think of it) and Claremont makes Iron Man behave in an annoyingly sexist way; he literally tells Carol to her face that “this is the wrong business for a woman.” Still, this is a reasonably good Carol Danvers story, and Carol was easily Marvel’s best female protagonist of the ‘70s.

MARVEL PREMIERE #28 (Marvel, 1976) – This is the first and last appearance of the original Legion of Monsters, consisting of Ghost Rider, Morbius, Man-Thing, and Werewolf by Night. Unfortunately this story is by Bill Mantlo and Frank Robbins, who were not exactly known for their horror comics – just imagine if this issue had been written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Mike Ploog, for example. And the plot has more to do with science fiction than horror. You would expect that the protagonists would get together to fight some sort of tentacled Lovecraftian menace, but instead they fight a golden-skinned alien. Still, this issue is enjoyable because it’s a team-up between four unique characters who differ radically with each other, and Mantlo and Robbins have a reasonable amount of fun with this setup. It’s too bad this was the only Legion of Monsters story.

NEW MUTANTS #48 (Marvel, 1987) – I wish I’d read this after reading Ramzi’s chapter on the New Mutants, rather than before. This issue is a New Mutants version of “Days of Future Past,” in which the kids are stranded in an alternate future where all the superheroes except Cannonball and Moonstar have been killed. It’s okay, but not my favorite New Mutants story. Probably the best scene in it is the page where Magneto is cleaning Dani’s room.

DETECTIVE COMICS #602 (DC, 1989) – This is part two of “Tulpa,” in which Batman enlists Etrigan’s help against a Tibetan demon called Mahakala. It’s a fairly well-executed piece of work, but I wouldn’t call it a classic Batman story.

X-MEN: WORST X-MAN EVER #1 (Marvel, 2016) – I think this is the first new X-Men comic I’ve read since Wolverine and the X-Men ended. I’ve had zero interest in the franchise lately, and I think it’s probably true that Marvel is deliberately de-emphasizing the X-Men because of their corporate feud with Fox. I bought this issue because the premise sounded interesting, even though I remember hearing some bad things about the writer, Max Bemis. This turns out to be a rather sarcastic and mean-spirited comic. The protagonist, Bailey, is delighted to find out that he’s a mutant, until he discovers that his mutant power is the ability to blow himself up, and he can only do it once. Leaving the X-Mansion in despair, he tells his parents, “At least I have you guys,” and in the next panel, his parents are stepped on by a Sentinel. It seems like the whole point of the comic is to make fun of this poor kid. The artwork is really nice, though – Michael Walsh’s style is similar to that of Marguerite Sauvage – and the issue ends on a somewhat more hopeful note, so I might as well read the rest of this miniseries.

ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #6 (Marvel, 2016) – See previous comments about twice-a-month shipping. In this issue we finally learn the reason for the Vision’s strange behavior, and to my surprise, it has nothing to do with anything that’s been happening in Vizh’s own series. And then the Avengers fight Kang and win, obviously. There’s some good character development in this issue, including some progress in Kamala and Sam’s relationship. I really really don’t want them to be a couple – Sam is not nearly mature enough for Kamala – but it would be nice if they could be friends.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #216 (DC, 1969) – This was the last Deadman story in Strange Adventures. In this story, Deadman, having just witnessed the Hook’s death, now has to find a new purpose in life – or afterlife, I guess – and Rama Kushna gives it to him. Neal Adams’s artwork here is some of his absolute best; there’s one amazing page where the five individual panels combine to form a giant portrait of Deadman’s face. I’m pretty sure I’ve read this story before in the ‘80s reprint miniseries, but I didn’t remember it very well and it was fun to revisit it. This issue also includes a reprinted backup story which is just boneheadedly stupid.

AQUAMAN #51 (DC, 1970) – Jim Aparo’s early issues of Aquaman were among the best work of his career, and this issue is no exception. It takes place in the same otherworldly dimension that appears in issue #52, which I reviewed in 2013. As depicted by Aparo, this dimension looks truly bizarre; it’s full of random Kirby crackle and amorphous abstract shapes. Another bizarre thing about this story is that it includes a scene where two laborers named Jimm and Steev see Aquaman passing by, but then they have to get back to work or else “Dikk will have our heads.” This is an obvious self-insertion by Jim Aparo and Steve Skeates, and the funny thing about it is that it has nothing to do with the main story and is not referenced again. Besides the Aquaman story, this issue includes a Deadman backup drawn by Neal Adams. It’s too bad that this story is also written by Neal Adams. The artwork in this story is excellent, but Neal’s writing was just as incompetent and incoherent in 1970 as it is in 2016.

THE GODDAMNED #3 (Image, 2016) – I’m still kind of unimpressed by Jason Aaron’s writing in this comic. It’s just a lot of black humor and bleak despair, and I’m not sure if the plot is going anywhere. What redeems this comic is R.M. Guera’s artwork, which is just beautiful. He ought to be nominated for an Eisner.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #5 (Image, 2016) – This issue has such a perfect and ironic ending (Gert kills the queen of Fairyland, but discovers that she now has to become the new queen) that I actually thought it was the last issue of the series. I guess not, though. Overall, this first story arc was a lot of fun, in a sick way, and I think I enjoyed it more than most of Skottie’s less ironic work.

TOIL AND TROUBLE #2 (Archaia, 2015) – I ordered all the other issues of this series, but not this one, and so I had to order this issue from mycomicshop.com before I could read the next four. I had trouble remembering what was going on in this series, and the recap didn’t help much. It’s a fairly interesting rewritten version of Macbeth, but I think the art is better than the writing.

CHEW #55 (Image, 2016) – This overly long series is finally approaching its conclusion. The issue begins with a massive false alarm: the first page shows us “the death of Amelia Mintz,” which, as we learn two pages later, “does not happen this issue.” (So will it happen in another issue?) What does happen is that Mason Savoy hangs himself and leaves a note instructing Tony to eat him. I’m not sure where exactly this is going, but for the first time in a while, I’m excited for the next issue of Chew because I want to find out what happens next, and not just because of the gross-out humor.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #36 (Marvel, 1978) – Like many issues of Marvel team-up titles, this issue is the conclusion to a previously cancelled series, which in this case is Skull the Slayer. As I noted in an earlier review, Skull the Slayer was a pretty boring series that wasted its potential, and as a result, this issue is also kind of unimpressive. At the end of the issue, Skull and his friends go off into limbo, and the reader is not overly sorry to see them go. At least the artwork by Ernie Chan is fairly good.

AQUAMAN #3 (DC, 1994) – This is the first issue after Aquaman gets his harpoon-hand, and there’s a rather disturbing panel where he uses it to catch some shrimp for lunch. The plot of the issue is that Aquaman invades Pearl Harbor to see Admiral Strom, resulting in a fight with Superboy. Since Aquaman is in his native environment, he wins, but he’s so rude about it that the reader ends up rooting against him. This issue demonstrates that PAD’s Aquaman was a grim and gritty ‘90s comic, but also that it was more fun than most such comics.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’93 #54 (DC, 1993) – This series was consistently good but never absolutely spectacular, which is why I haven’t made more of an effort to collect the entire run. This issue is notable for some very effective artwork by Barry Kitson; some fascinating insights into the society Talok, one of my favorite Legion planets; and some miniature repair bots that say “splice, sew, stitch” repeatedly.

FEARLESS DEFENDERS #2 (Marvel, 2013) – I don’t know whether this series sold poorly because it was a couple years ahead of its time, or just because it didn’t live up to its potential. There are some interesting character moments in this issue involving Misty Knight and Valkyrie, but overall the writing is just kind of bland, which is a common problem I have with Cullen Bunn’s comics.

NEW MUTANTS #48 (Marvel, 2012) – This revival series was an affectionate tribute to the original New Mutants, but it never managed to generate as much passion as the original series did. In this issue, Doug is extremely depressed and also believes he’s been possessed by a demon, and he tries to commit suicide, but it doesn’t work, and that’s about it. Characterization is not Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s strongest suit, and that means they have some difficulty writing series like Legion and New Mutants that are historically known for having strong characterization.

ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN #1 (Marvel, 1986) – This is an important work of both Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz, and Bill S’s artwork here is amazing. The story, however, is so confusing and convoluted that I had to use Google to figure out what was going on. It looks like this series is mostly based on events that occurred in the last few issues of Frank’s original Daredevil run, but this is not immediately clear. I do have the other seven issues of this miniseries, and I will get to them eventually, but they’re not a high priority.

ADVENTURE COMICS #331 (DC, 1965) – Compared to the previous comic, this one has much more modest intentions, but is also much more fun. “The Triumph of the Legion of Super-Villains” is part two of a story in which Dynamo Boy becomes the leader of the Legion. In the last issue, he expelled all of the other members for nitpicky breaches of the constitution, and in this issue, he recruits the Legion of Super-Villains instead, intending to turn the Legion into a team of super-criminals. Dynamo Boy’s ultimate goal is not quite clear, and of course he’s defeated in the end anyway. This is a very entertaining story, whose only major flaw is that the Legionnaires barely appear in it at all. As usual for DC comics in this era, this issue also includes a reprinted backup story which is really dumb, although it ends with a mildly cute moment in which Clark realizes that Lana is a good friend to him.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #75 (DC, 1967) – This issue has a beautiful Neal Adams cover, but the interior art is by Andru and Esposito. The guest star this issue is the Spectre, and the villain is Shahn-Zi, an ancient Chinese wizard who is trying to possess the son of the mayor of Gotham’s Chinatown. As expected, this story is full of Orientalist stereotypes, but its portrayal of Chinese Americans is surprisingly sensitive for a comic from 1967. The writer, Bob Haney, portrays the two central Chinese Americans (Bill Loo and his son Danny) as human beings rather than walking stereotypes. Also, generational conflict is a major theme of Haney’s work, especially Teen Titans, and in this issue Haney demonstrates awareness that Asian Americans have the same generational conflicts as other Americans. All of this redeems what could easily have been a really embarrassing comic.

SUPERBOY #188 (DC, 1972) – The Superboy story in this issue is an imaginary story in which Superboy’s rocket lands in the African jungle, and he grows up to become a super-Tarzan. This was the second Karkan story and also the last; at the end there’s a suggestion that we might see Karkan again, but we never did. More importantly, this issue includes the first Legion story by Dave Cockrum. In “Curse of the Blood Crystals,” Mordru possesses Chameleon Boy and tries to get Cham to kill Superboy, but Superboy prevents this by burying Cham underground, since Mordru’s magic has the same weakness that Mordru himself does. Because this story is written by Cary Bates, it has little characterization to speak of, but Dave’s artwork is fairly effective. It’s very strange to read a Cockrum Legion story where the characters are all wearing their Silver Age costumes.

TALES OF SUSPENSE #88 (Marvel, 1966) – The last three comics I read were mostly interesting from a historical perspective or because of the artwork, but this comic is genuinely good, and still holds up today. Reading this issue reminds me that ‘60s Marvel was just better, on average, than ’60s DC. The Iron Man story in this issue is a fairly standard one, in which Tony and Pepper Potts try to escape the Mole Man’s realm, but Stan Lee’s writing and Gene Colan’s artwork create a powerful sense of excitement. In the Captain America backup story, an unidentified villain lures Cap into an ambush by making him think that Bucky is still alive. This isn’t quite as good as the Iron Man story, but it does have some nice action sequences by Gil Kane.

New comics for March 4. This was a pretty light week.

ANOTHER CASTLE #1 (Oni, 2016) – This was reasonably fun but did not quite live up to expectations. From the title, I was expecting it to be an explicit homage to Mario, but it turns out to be a rather straightforward fantasy story, and so far it seems similar to Princeless but worse. The only obvious Nintendo reference is that the decoration on the crosspiece of Misty’s sword looks like a Super Nintendo controller. Probably the highlight of the issue is the panel with Gorga’s hair-snake eating a scone.

GIANT DAYS #12 (Image, 2016) – So I guess I was wrong about this being a twelve-issue limited series, because this is clearly not the last issue, and issue 14 has already been solicited. I seem to have missed the announcement in September that it was an ongoing series now. This issue is just slightly reminiscent of Lumberjanes, as the girls go on a camping trip and make a horrible mess of everything. And then when they get home, Esther decides to quit school. I think maybe the reason why I have difficulty reviewing this series is that it’s really more of a gag strip than an ongoing series; it does have a plot, but the plot is less memorable than the jokes.

REVIVAL #37 (Image, 2016) – This may have been the best comic of the week. It has an interesting structure where we see a fantasy sequence depicting what a particular character wanted, and then another sequence depicting what they actually got. And then the issue ends with General Louise Cale, who always gets what she wants. This series has been going on for a while but it hasn’t lost any of its narrative momentum.

BATGIRL #49 (DC, 2016) – This issue has gotten a fair amount of publicity because of a scene that suggests that The Killing Joke never actually happened. There is now a widespread consensus, at least among more enlightened fans, that The Killing Joke was a terrible mistake and a black mark on Alan Moore’s career, and it’s good that DC is moving away from it. Otherwise, this issue is pretty average. For some reason it has five different artists.

NO MERCY #7 (Image, 2016) – I’m a little surprised by the way this series has played out; I kind of expected that the characters would all reunite eventually, but instead they’re all having their own separate adventures. The thing I remember most about this issue is Gina’s dad, who is a classic example of a Trump voter. He barely conceals his racist attitude toward Kira, and when he sees Gina with her eye missing, he literally blows his stack. I didn’t know Carla Speed McNeil was so good at drawing angry people, but she is. In another plot thread, two of the other kids end up in a rebel camp commanded by a certain Arturo Bolon Ts’akab. According to Google, Bolon Ts’akab is an authentic Maya deity, so it looks like Alex de Campi has been doing her research.

DESCENDER #10 (Image, 2016) – Reading this issue, I realized that the main draw of this series for me, besides Dustin Nguyen’s exquisite art, is Tim. He resembles Astro Boy (and Urasawa’s version of Astro Boy in particular) not just visually but also in terms of personality – he has Astro Boy’s wide-eyed optimism and innocence. The key example of this in the current issue is when he says that finding Andy is all that matters to him. Given my research interests, I obviously love the moment where the other Tim says that reading books on paper feels fake to him.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #10 (DC, 2016) – This was just an average issue. The one thing about it that does stand out to me is the repetition of the line “oh, receive my soul.” It’s clear that music is really important to this series, considering how much of it there is, and I’m not sure why – Marguerite Bennett is clearly including all this music for a reason, but I don’t know what it is. The giant dove wearing a suit is a really cool visual effect.

A-FORCE #3 (Marvel, 2016) – This series is becoming somewhat repetitive; at this point, the protagonists have been fighting Antimatter for three issues straight. I hope that next issue the plot will start to go in a different direction. As with many Marvel comics, the characterization in this comic is far more interesting than the fighting. I like how the characters, especially Medusa and Nico, are starting to have serious personality conflicts, and Jen’s “EVERYONE SHUT UP!” was probably the best moment of the issue.

THE SPECTRE #7 (DC, 1993) – This volume of The Spectre is a major work of John Ostrander, one of my favorite underrated writers, and I’m not sure why I haven’t collected it more aggressively. The main way in which The Spectre differs from other Ostrander comics like Grimjack and Suicide Squad is that it’s a lot more brutal and unsubtle. Like its primary influence, Fleischer and Aparo’s Spectre, this series is extremely harsh and histrionic and it always operates at a very high emotional pitch, and that makes it a bit hard for me to get into. In this particular issue, Madame Xanadu – who is depicted here as a much more villainous character than she usually is – steals the Spectre’s powers, but realizes that they’re too great a burden for her to bear. In the space of a few pages, Madame Xanadu castrates one guy with a giant pair of scissors and throws another guy into a vat of toxic waste, causing all his flesh to burn off. It’s no surprise that this issue does not have the Comics Code seal on the cover; what is surprising is that The Spectre was never a Vertigo title. Again, this high level of violence was also a trademark of the Fleischer-Aparo Spectre.

UNCANNY X-MEN #235 (Marvel, 1988) – As I was about to read this issue, I posted a Facebook status asking if the period between X-Men #227 and #268 was the low point of Claremont’s original run. Some people agreed that it was, while others disagreed strongly, and one person pointed out the original Genosha story, which begins in this issue, as one of the highlights of that period. I think my problem with the late ‘80s X-Men is that it was lacking focus. It hardly seemed like a team comic, because all the team members were separated, and there were too many simultaneous subplots and no major storylines. Anyway, this issue is fairly good, and it’s one of Claremont’s more openly political stories. He draws a barely concealed analogy between Genosha and South Africa, observing, for example, that Genosha refuses to acknowledge the citizenship of any other country. This issue also has some very effective art by Rick Leonardi, who was far better than Marc Silvestri, and should have become a superstar.

SUPERBOY #69 (DC, 1999) – I have so many unread issues of this Superboy run that I didn’t know which to read first, and as a result I wasn’t reading any of them, so I just decided to read this one at random. In this story, Superboy revisits Hawaii after a long absence and discovers that he’s been replaced by a new hero named Kana, and there are new people living in his former house. This issue creates a powerful sense of nostalgia for the early issues of this series, even though at the time, those issues were only about five years in the past. There’s a poignant moment where as Superboy is flying away from his old house, he observes that it’s as if he never lived there at all. I know that’s how I feel whenever I have to move. On a lighter note, the bank robber who dresses up as Darkseid is very funny.

GREEN LANTERN #170 (DC, 1983) – This issue is from the very end of the bad period of this series, which lasted from Denny O’Neil’s departure to Len Wein’s arrival. But it’s much less bad than some of the other issues from that period. This issue consists of a short framing sequence and a longer inset story by Gary Cohn and Mike Sekowsky, which I assume started out as an inventory story; it was also one of Sekowsky’s final works. In this story, a Green Lantern and his wife get killed, then his son inherits his ring and tries to avenge him but also gets killed, and the ring passes down to a political activist who’s been in prison for many years. Given the time frame and the fact that the story ends with the word “power” (i.e. “amandla”), it’s hard not to see this character as a stand-in for Nelson Mandela.

NEW X-MEN #131 (Marvel, 2002) – I think this was the only Morrison X-Men that I had not read. Morrison was probably the second best X-Men writer after Claremont. Now that I’ve read Ramzi Fawaz’s book, I can see how Grant was continuing to explore some of the questions that Chris initially opened up – he was exploring what mutation meant as an identity, and how it intersected with other marginalized identities. Most of this issue, though, is devoted to exploring the love triangle between Scott, Jean and Emma. It’s kind of unfortunate that like most other writes since Claremont, Morrison writes Jean as a boring, unapproachable and lifeless character. Until her original death, she was one of the best characters in the entire Marvel universe, and since her resurrection she’s been so boring that she might as well have stayed dead. And I hate Scott with a violent passion, but his twisted and adulterous relationship with Emma is interesting in a perverse way. This issue’s subplot focuses on Beak and Angel, two characters who had a lot of potential that was mostly wasted, although in Angel’s case Grant was responsible for that.

UNCLE SCROOGE #276 (Disney, 1993) – This is one of the last reasonably priced Don Rosa comics that I didn’t have already; if I want to collect more Disney and Gladstone issues with Don Rosa stories, I’m going to have to start paying more. The Rosa story in this issue is “The Island at the Edge of Time.” The title refers to a newly formed volcanic island that’s located right on the International Date Line. Because the island is made of gold, Uncle Scrooge and Flintheart Glomgold compete to be the first to claim it. (Incidentally, “Flintheart Glomgold” might be my favorite character name in any comic ever.) The ending of this story is easy to predict as soon as one of the nephews mentions that the west side of the International Date Line is always one day earlier than the east side. The ending is also unusual in that Scrooge doesn’t get the treasure.

NEW MUTANTS #9 (Marvel, 1983) – This may be the last Claremont New Mutants that I hadn’t read. Now that I’ve finished Ramzi’s chapter about this series, I kind of want to go back and reread this series. I think I used to consider it a lesser work of Claremont, but as Ramzi shows, it’s fascinating in its own right. Maybe my favorite thing about this comic is Rahne and Dani’s relationship, and the highlight of this issue is an adorable moment where Rahne and Dani are in the bathhouse together and they talk about their hair, and then Rahne splashes Dani with water. This sort of cute moment happened all the time with the X-Men, but not nearly as often with the New Mutants because their lives were so full of constant tragedy, and it’s nice to see them relax for a bit.

SILVER SURFER #7 (Marvel, 1988) – This issue reunites the classic Batman team of Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers, but by this time Rogers was not nearly the artist he had been, and his talents were not suited to this kind of comic. Also, this is not one of Englehart’s better stories, and it’s mostly interesting because it explains what happened to the Infinity Gems between Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 and Thanos Quest. (Which I’ve never read, by the way.) This issue also guest-stars Englehart’s pet character, Mantis, who is not nearly as interesting as Englehart thought she was.

MARVEL PREMIERE #20 (Marvel, 1975) – Oddly, this issue has a completely different creative team from the previous issue, even though it continues the story from that issue. I have no idea why. In this issue, Iron Fist fights Batroc, and then we learn that the ninja who’s been helping him is not Colleen Wing but her dad. Probably the most notable thing about this comic is that it includes the first reference to Misty Knight, though she doesn’t appear until next issue.

MARVEL MILESTONE EDITION: FANTASTIC FOUR #5 (1992, originally 1962) – The nice thing about these Marvel Milestone Editions was that they were complete facsimiles of the issues they reprinted, with the original letters pages and ads and even the original back covers. Owning these reprints is the next best thing to owning the originals. This one is a reprint of FF #5, the first appearance of Dr. Doom. Besides the fact that it’s the first appearance of Dr. Doom, this issue is best remembered for the ridiculous scene where we learn that Blackbeard the Pirate was really the Thing. This story is ridiculous, but in a funny and exciting way, unlike most DC comics of the time, which were ridiculous in a stupid and insulting way. I especially love the scene where Reed and Ben have been transported into the past and they need some period-appropriate clothing. Then they encounter some pirates who conveniently happen to be fighting over some clothes they’ve just stolen, and Ben interrupts the pirates and raises his fists and says “I say they’re mine! Wanna make somethin’ out of it?” From an objective standpoint, a scene like this is pretty dumb, but it’s delivered with such energy and narrative economy that the reader is convinced by it nonetheless.

SUB-MARINER #48 (Marvel, 1972) – This issue suffers by comparison with the classic run of issues by Bill Everett that immediately followed it. But this issue is fairly good anyway, mostly because of the Gene Colan artwork. It begins with a kind of funny scene where Namor brings a runaway girl back home, but then gets attacked by her drug dealer friend, who looks kind of like Angar the Screamer. The main plot of the issue is that Dr. Doom uses Namor as a proxy in his fight with Modok.

INHUMANS #4 (Marvel, 1976) – I also have the next two issues of this series, but to my surprise, those issues were not drawn by George Perez – it looks like this issue was the last one that he did. It’s a good example of his early style, though the plot and some of the costume designs are pretty bad. The story this issue centers on a character named Shatterstar, not to be confused with the much later X-Force member by that name.

X-MEN AND THE MICRONAUTS #1 (Marvel, 1984) – I resisted reading this for some years because half the issue is written by Bill Mantlo. My distaste for his writing is such that I’ve never much liked the original Micronauts series, despite the beautiful Michael Golden artwork. But even the Micronauts half of X-Men/Micronauts #1 is still interesting because of Butch Guice’s art, which is only a little less impressive than Golden’s, and the X-Men half is mostly just a normal X-Men story by Claremont. It includes several cute moments, such as a scene where Kitty and Illyana complain about having too much homework. At this point, there are so few classic Claremont X-Men comics I haven’t read, that it’s exciting just to discover one that’s new to me.

UNCANNY X-MEN #234 (Marvel, 1988) – This is another issue from Claremont’s worst period, but it’s still not bad. The issue begins with a fight between the X-Men and the Brood that takes place in a bar. There’s an awesome running joke where two of the bar patrons are making out, and they’re so wrapped up in each other that they don’t even realize the fight is going on. And then when they realize the bar has been completely destroyed, they look surprised for a second and then they go back to kissing. Anyway, the main plot of this issue is not Claremont’s best; it’s kind of a retread of the Brood storyline from issues 162 to 167. A very surprising thing about this story is that the X-Men end up killing most of their Brood opponents, and the only X-Man who has any moral qualms about this is Havok; even Storm is fine with it.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #78 (DC, 1968) – The guest star this issue is Wonder Woman (and also Batgirl, who’s apparently not special enough to be mentioned on the cover). This may be one of the last times Wonder Woman appeared in another title with her old costume; the new costume era began a couple months later. This issue has some surprisingly effective art by Bob Brown, but the story is incredibly dumb even for Bob Haney. In order to catch the villain Copperhead, Wonder Woman and Batgirl pretend to have fallen in love with Batman, but then they fall in love with him for real. In terms of blatant sexism, this story is at least as bad as Batman #214.

And that is the end of an entire month’s worth of reviews.