Final review post of 2018

New comics received on December 10:

LAGUARDIA #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Homecoming,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Tana Ford. This is Nnedi Okorafor’s best comic yet, and it shows that she, like Saladin Ahmed and G. Willow Wilson, has succeeded in making the transition from prose SFF to comics. The only caveat is that it takes place in the same universe as her novels Lagoon and Binti, and I would have had a harder time understanding this comic if I hadn’t read Lagoon. The basic premise is that Nigeria, and specifically Lagos, has become a gateway to Earth for all kinds of alien species. The protagonist, a pregnant woman named Future, is traveling from Lagos to New York, and is also smuggling in a (literal) illegal alien. This comic makes effective use of SF tropes to investigate the topic of immigration. It also has really nice art; Tana Ford has the rare talent of drawing aliens that really look alien. I especially like the scene where some green flower-like aliens get out of a plane, and in the next panel, we discover that they’re the size of human feet. In addition, this is perhaps the first comic book I’ve ever read that includes Nigerian English. On YouTube, some Comicgate troll made a video criticizing this comic as racist. He singled out the scene where Future is going through security and a little white girl pulls on her dreadlocks, saying that this would never happen in real life. The irony is that on Facebook, Nnedi Okorafor said that this scene was based on personal experience.

THE WRONG EARTH #4 (Ahoy, 2018) – “The Wrong Earth Chapter Four,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. This was a bit less impressive than the first three issues, but only by a small margin. The highlight of the issue is when the Harley Quinn character decides she’s had enough of the Joker character. This is still one of the best superhero parodies I’ve ever read, and I’m glad to see that it’s actually gaining readers.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #40 (Image, 2018) – “For a Certain Value of ‘Okay,’” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. In a horrifying twist, Baal decides to sacrifice the entire crowd at the O2 Arena to defeat the Great Darkness. I’m not sure if we even know yet what the Great Darkness is. There are now five issues of WicDiv remaining. I’m glad it’s ending soon, because it’s not getting any easier to understand.

CROWDED #5 (Image, 2018) – “Too Many People,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. Trotter leads Vita and Charlie into an ambush. This issue is more of the same hilarious mayhem as usual. The high point of the issue is probably “Swipe for 30 more minutes of vintage Los Angeles skies.”

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #38 (Marvel, 2018) – “Bad Dream, Part One: A Nightmare on Yancy Street,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella has a series of nightmares. It turns out that a little boy (possibly a reference to Little Nemo) and his “cloud chimera” are responsible. I expect that capital-N Nightmare and Sleepwalker are going to appear later in this story. This was a really fun issue, and this storyline is promising. Funny moments in this issue include Lunella’s bedroom and her awkward sleeping position, and the Moloid and the giant-eyed lobster in the school basement.

GIANT DAYS: WHERE WOMEN GLOW AND MEN PLUNDER #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] John Allison. Ed Gemmell goes to Australia to visit his girlfriend Nina. While there, he has to foil a plot to steal Australia’s longest snag, i.e. sausage. This is even more hilarious than an average issue of Giant Days. I have no idea if John Allison’s portrayal of Australia is accurate, but it feels accurate. And I think this is the first time John has drawn Giant Days since its webcomic days. He has a distinctive and weird style, and it’s fun to see his visual take on his own characters.

BLACKBIRD #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Jen Bartel. Nina gets better acquainted with Clint, the white-haired paragon dude, and then her mother shows up out of nowhere. It looks like Clint will be the primary love interest in this series.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #5 (DC, 018) – “Deus Ex Machina,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. Jon and Damian meet their older, fatter selves, as well as their future children. This issue has some poignant moments, but it’s weird to see Jon already thinking about fatherhood at his age.

DIE #1 (Image, 2018) – “The Party,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. Kieron’s next major work is about some kids who play a game of Dungeons & Dragons, during which they perform actual magic and transport themselves into the world of the game. And then two years later, all of them come back… except one. The series then picks up 25 years later, when the kids are all adults. Their lives have been ruined by their two years in the fantasy world, and they’re under a geas not to talk about anything that happened there. And then they’re summoned back to that world. As Kieron points out in his editorial, this comic is inspired by the ‘80s Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, but it also draws upon the moral panic over D&D from the same period. And then there’s the extra element of adults revisiting their childhood traumas. This promises to be a complicated and fascinating work, though I don’t like Stephanie Hans’s art as much as I like Jamie McKelvie’s.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #5 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The Avengers fight with a funny new villain named Gridlock who controls cars. Then they’re summoned to a spooky abandoned amusement park, but it turns out to be a plot by Madame Masque. Kate’s mother shows up at the end of the issue. This story is the latest chapter in Kelly’s ongoing epic about Madame Masque and Kate’s parents, which was left unfinished when Hawkeye was cancelled. Indeed, this West Coast Avengers series is really just Kelly’s Hawkeye series under another name, and that’s not a bad thing.

MOTH & WHISPER #4 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Hidden Assets,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Jen Hickman. Niki escapes from Wolfe’s factory and then encounters his parents’ old friend, The Mole. This is another strong issue, but it seems odd that Niki is so quick to trust The Mole.

SMOOTH CRIMINALS #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurt Lustgarden & Kristen “Kiwi” Smith, [A] Leisha Riddel. This new Boom! Box series is by the same writers as Misfit City, a fun and highly underrated series. Smooth Criminals is set in 1999, and stars a hacker and community college student who encounters a time-traveling criminal from the ‘60s. This issue is fun so far, but unlike Misfit City, it doesn’t have an obvious hook or theme, and I’m not sure where it’s going.

BORDER TOWN #4 (DC, 2018) – “The Extra-Hard Setting,” [W] Eric Esquivel, [A] Ramon Villalobos. Instead of reviewing this comic, I will say that I’m shocked and disappointed by the news about Eric Esquivel, and that I’m grateful to Cynthia Nagle for having the courage to publicly denounce him. Besides being horrified by Esquivel’s behavior, I’m also sorry that Border Town, which seemed like a genuinely progressive and important comic, is now permanently tainted. What DC should do is launch another similar comic that deals with border and immigration policy, written by another writer who has personal knowledge of these topics, but who is not a sexual predator. As for Esquivel, Border Town #4 should be his last comic book.

WELCOME TO WANDERLAND #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jackie Ball, [A] Maddi Gonzales. Riot and Lark encounter the Walt Disney character, and have some relationship problems. There’s a lot of fun stuff in this issue, but maybe that’s not entirely a good thing. This comic has too much going on, and it seems like resolving the entire plot in one issue may be difficult.

SNOTGIRL #12 (Image, 2018) – “Heat Wave,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Now here’s another series that has too much going on and that lacks a clear plot. But Snotgirl is an ongoing, so it’s not under any pressure to finish its story. And it has such a strong visual style that I don’t mind being confused about the plot and characters sometimes. The main event this issue is that Lottie’s sister Rosie shows up unannounced, and promptly establishes herself in Lottie’s house and acts like it’s her house. Rosie is just horrible, but in a totally realistic and plausible way. Thanks to reading r/relationships, I know what Lottie should do: she should throw Rosie the hell out, and call the police if Rosie refuses to leave. But Lottie doesn’t have the strength of will to do that, because she’s spent her life letting Rosie push her around.

THE GREEN LANTERN #2 (DC, 2018) – “Darkness Visible,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. A cabal of super-villains kidnaps Evil Star because they need his Starband as part of their plot. And at the end of the issue, Hal discovers that Earth has been stolen. What’s most notable about this issue is the alienness of the alien characters. Rot Lop Fan appears at the start of the issue, and then later, we’re introduced to a new Green Lantern whose head is a volcano. Even when we meet Trilla-Tru, a Xudarian, we’re reminded that she’s an avian whose diet consists of seeds and bugs. And these characters spend half the issue interrogating an alien spider. In general, this is an enjoyable series so far, and it’s mostly free of Grant’s worst tendencies.

GRUMBLE #1 (Albatross, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. I ordered this because Rafer Roberts was the writer of Modern Fantasy, which was really good. This series is also set in a fantasy world, but one which is less fantastic and closer to our world. In keeping wth Mike Norton’s less cartoony style compared to that of Kristen Gudsnuk, there are fewer inside jokes and sight gags. The plot is about a young woman who’s just been orphaned and is involved in some kind of mob plot. And then she meets an old friend of her mother’s, who promptly gets turned into a dog that walks on its hind legs. Also, the series is set in Baltimore, and although I’ve never been to Baltimore, I get the sense that the writer and artist know the city very well. So far I don’t love this series as much as Modern Fantasy, but it’s interesting.

BLACK AF: DEVIL’S DYE #1 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Vita Ayala & Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Liana Kangas. This new series in the Black franchise is about a new drug that’s devastating the community of superpowered black people. The art in this issue is… not my favorite, but the story is much more interesting than that of Black AF: Widows and Orphans. My favorite moment is the line “You’d think that we’d learn – it’s not that we ain’t trying. It’s that no matter what we do, it’s never enough.” I haven’t been super-impressed by any of the previus comics in this universe, but I’m willing to keep reading this latest series.

NAMELESS #2 (Image, 2015) – “The Double Headed Horror at the Door,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Chris Burnham. I accidentally read this after #3. This issue explains how the astronauts get to the Xibalba asteroid in the first place, and why their suits are covered with magical symbols. Also, it turns out that while they were exploring the asteroid, the astronauts back on their ship were all going nuts and killing each other. I think my favorite thing about this series is Chris Burnham’s spectacular, epic art. He really is at least comparable to Frank Quitely.

INFINITY WARS: INFINITY WARPS #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Kamala Kang,” [W] Chris Hastings, [A] Kev Walker. I bought this because of the Punisher/Power Pack mashup story by Cullen Bunn and Garry Brown. This story has a brilliant premise – it’s like Archie/Punisher, but even more incongruous – and it’s drawn in a dark, gritty style. But it’s not as funny as it could be, and it’s not worth the entire price of the issue. None of the other stories in the issue are of interest to me.

LODGER #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Empathy for the Devil,” [W/A] David Lapham, [W] Maria Lapham. Issue 1 of this series was the first Black Crown comic that I didn’t order, because I didn’t think I’d like David Lapham. Then for some reason I changed my mind and ordered #2, and in the meantime, I also discovered that I do like David Lapham. I’m not quite sure what the premise of Lodger is, but it resembles Stray Bullets #1 in that it’s brutally violent, and the violence erupts out of nowhere. There’s a scene in this issue where a woman holds an entire bar hostage, and then when a man asks her if she’s all right, she yells “Who said you could talk to me” and kicks his chair over. And he hits the back of his head on a table and apparently dies. That’s the kind of thing that happens in David Lapham’s comics. Lodger is also very simliar to Stray Bullets in terms of art style; most pages have 2×4 grids. I do think that if I had more experience with Lapham’s work, I might think that this comic was repetitive. But if I had read more of his other work, I’d also be able to tell how Lodger is different from his other comics, so it’s a wash.

ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #5 (Archie, 2018) – “The Batman of Riverdale, Part 5: To Fight Another Day,” [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. This is a fun comic, but it’s exactly the same thing as the last four issues. Perhaps six issues was too many.

NAMELESS #4 (Image, 2015) – “Dark House,” as above. The two surviving astronauts reach the center of Xibalba, where they start having weird visions. At this point Nameless loses its narrative coherence, although the art is still really good. This issue also makes me suspect that this comic was based on 2001: A Space Odyssey.

NAMELESS #5 – “Star of Fear,” as above. Like so many other Grant Morrison comics, this issue is impossible to understand. It’s not even clear which of the events in this issue are “really” happening, and which are just visions that the protagonists are having. Understanding this comic would require multiple readings, and even then it wouldn’t completely make sense. I didn’t order #6, and I’m not entirely sorry about that.

THE DREAMING #4 (DC, 2018) – “Eternity,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. Judge Gallows tyrannizes the other inhabitants of the Dreaming. To save the day, Dora and Lucian head off to Destruction’s vacant realm. I still feel lukewarm about this comic, but this issue was reasonably good.

NAMOR: THE BEST DEFENSE #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carlos Magno. This is part of a crossover in which the Defenders will reunite. This issue is an oversized Namor solo story, with some nice Kubert-esque artwork, but a pretty average story. I should stop automatically buying every Marvel comic written by Chip.

BULLY WARS #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Aaron Conley. Rufus fights a bunch of other bullies, while Spencer tries to save himself from the same bullies. And there’s a lot of gross-out humor. Bully Wars is fun and clever enough that I’m going to keep reading it, but it’s fairly low on my list of my favorite current comics, which is why it was one of the last comics I read this week.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: HOTEL OBLIVION #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Violence,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. Yet another issue that looks pretty, but makes no sense at all. This is the last issue of this series that I’ll be reading.

18 DAYS #2 (Graphic India, 2015) – “The White Flag,” [W] Grant Morrison, Gotham Chopra & Sharad Devarajan, [A] Jeevan Kang. An adaptation of the scene from the Mahabharata where the Pandavas ask Bhishma and Drona for their blessing on the eve of battle. This is an interesting story, but only because I’m not familiar with it already. I get the sense that the adaptation doesn’t add much to the original. Also, 18 Days reads like a webcomic or iPad comic converted to print form – every panel is rectangular in shape, and most panels are the width of the page – and I suspect that Grant Morrison had very little actual involvement with it.

THE FOX #5 (Archie, 2015) – “I, Superhero,” [W/A] Dean Haspiel, [W] Mark Waid. When this came out, it was hailed as a throwback to classic superhero comics, but I don’t think it’s all that great. It has a grim, serious style of writing that contrasts oddly with its cartoony art.

GIANT-SIZE LITTLE MARVEL #4 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. Another great issue. Zachary and Zoe decide they don’t want to join either team, and they end up getting recruited into the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Part of the fun of this comic is seeing Skottie Young’s kid versions of all the Marvel heroes and villains.

SPIDEY #2 (Marvel, 2016) – “Enter the Sandman,” [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Nick Bradshaw. This has pretty good art, but a stupid, infantile story. As early as page seven, the reader can already figure out how Spidey is going to defeat the Sandman. This series is a massive drop down in quality from the previous kid-focused Spider-Man series, Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man, which showed much more respect for the reader’s intelligence.

New comics received on December 15. I don’t know how I managed to read 10 comic books that day, because I also had to finish grading, and I attended a friend’s birthday party on top of that.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #39 (Marvel, 2018) – “Where’s Tony?”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. It turns out there’s only one Skrull, and she’s the cutest Skrull ever. And she claims that she kidnapped Tony because otherwise the entire planet will be doomed. Also, there’s a lot more (presumably) accurate computer science. This has been a really fun storyline.

CAPTAIN GINGER #3 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Captain Ginger, Chapter Three,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] June Brigman. Captain Ginger and Mittens search for the source of the signal, while also bickering a lot. Meanwhile, we get some clues as to how the cats became intelligent. On Facebook, I ranked Captain Ginger at #1 on my list of the best cat comics of the year, although Harley Quinn #55, to be reviewed below, gave it a run for its money.

THE QUANTUM AGE #5 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Wilfredo Torres. Sadly, Colonel Weird is not willing to send the Leaguers back in time, but he does convince Talky Walky to release Archive. And thus, Supergirl and Brainiac 5 are finally reunited. Other than that really cute moment, this issue is not so much a Legion homage as a chapter in the ongoing Black Hammer saga. I’m disappointed about that, but it’s not Jeff’s fault that his priorities for this series are different from mine. I just miss the Legion, dammit.

THE UNSTOPPABLE WASP #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] GuriHiru. The two Wasps and the agents of GIRL battle the AIM agents, including Finesse. As a former Avengers Academy reader, I’m kind of sorry to see Finesse as a villain, but I have to admit she’s suited to that role. This issue reminds me a lot of the issue of Princeless: Raven with the pirate ship battle. Here, as in that issue, Jeremy uses a fight scene as an opportunity to develop his characters and illustrate their personalities. This is something that most writers don’t do, and as a result, the fight scenes are usually the least interesting part of a superhero comic.

GIANT DAYS #45 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Ed and Nina almost break up because of Nina’s alcoholism. This issue is hilarious, as usual, but it’s also a poignant depiction of alcoholism and British drinking culture. It helps to have read Where Women Glow and Men Plunder before reading this issue, because then you realize that Nina’s account of what happened in Australia is edited to make Ed look more heroic than he really was.

WONDER WOMAN #60 (DC, 2018) – “The Just War Part III,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Cary Nord. I forgot to order issue 59. Most of this issue is devoted to a fight between Diana and Ares. I’m still not all that impressed with this series; it feels like any other Wonder Woman comic. I’m still waiting for Willow to impose her personal stamp on Wonder Woman.

MY LITTLE PONY: NIGHTMARE KNIGHTS #3 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. The Nightmare Knights infiltrate the casino. There were some funny moments in this issue, like the kitten version of Capper playing with a ball of yarn. But when I read this comic, I was too tired to fully enjoy it.

MR. & MRS. X #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “King & Queen,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] David Lopez. This is probably the best issue yet. Remy and Rogue’s housewarming party is full of hilarious moments, lke when Laura and Bobby casually observe Remy falling off the roof. Also, the three cats make numerous appearances. The issue ends with Rogue and Gambit being kidnapped by Mojo. An impressive thing about Mr. & Mrs. X is its unromanticized portrayal of marriage: Rogue and Gambit obviously love each other, but their marriage isn’t some perfect perpetual honeymoon.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Garrón. I barely remember anything about that issue, but that’s not because it wasn’t good. I must have been dead tired when I read it. Looking at this issue again, I think it’s an effective Spider-Man story. It combines superheroic action with relationship drama, and it shows Miles’s struggle to balance his superhero career and his real life. At the time I read this comic I wasn’t familiar with Miles Morales’s character, but now that I’ve seen into the Spider-Verse, I’m excited to read more stories about Miles.

BY NIGHT #6 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. The male protagonist, Barney, gets involved in some kind of mob plot. This series has gotten off to a slow start, and it only has six more issues to go. I fear that it may never be as good as Giant Days or Bad Machinery.

On December 16, I went to the latest Charlotte Comic Con. This was a disappointing convention, but that’s partly because I was really tired after spending the previous day grading. I didn’t have the mental energy to make intelligent purchasing decisions. I did get some good stuff, including:

THIRTEEN #18 (Gold Key, 1966) – “Battle of the Sisses” and other stories, [W/A] John Stanley. This is such a brilliant comic. As I’ve mentioned before, John Stanley was an absolute master of comic timing, and he had a knack for putting his characters in bizarre situations. In this issue’s first story, Val is frustrated with Evie for spending hours in the bathroom. So she sneaks into Billy’s house through the window, so that she can telephone her own house and make Evie leave the bathroom to answer the phone. And she gets stuck halfway through the window. (https://www.instagram.com/p/BrdkBKincYl/) It’s a ridiculous situation that also feels totally plausible. The other standout story in this issue is the one where Val is wrongly suspected of stealing a wig.

SCOOBY-DOO #1 (Marvel, 1977) – “Three Phantoms Too Many,” [W] Bill Ziegler, [A] Dan Spiegle. Evanier/Spiegle Scooby-Doos are tough to find, so I was willing to pay $3 for this one, even though it only has a six-pager by that creative team. The Evanier/Spiegle story, “The Horrible Hound Sound,” is about a rock musician who makes fake ghost noises to keep fans away from his studio. There’s also a Dynomutt three-pager written by Evanier. The other non-Evanier story in the issue is just average.

WONDER WOMAN #185 (DC, 1969) – “Them!”, [W/A] Mike Sekowsky. Diana Prince adopts a girl named Cathy who ran away from home and was enslaved by some crooks. This is a weird and clumsily written comic, and it has some moments of unintentional (?) homoeroticism – Diana gives Cathy a bath, and then later we see that they’ve been sharing a bed. (https://www.instagram.com/p/Brd5ja1HAFW/) Yet this comic has a lot of energy and vitality to it. The reader gets the sense that Mike Sekowsky cares about Wonder Woman, and that he was at least trying to depict contemporary young people accurately, even though he was over 40 at the time. (See also the Harvey #2 review below.) By contrast, for most of the period between Marston’s death and the Diana Prince era, Wonder Woman had been written by a writer who actively hated the character, and that writer’s stories were terrible and didn’t respect the reader’s intelligence – as we will see in another review below. For those reasons, even if the no-costume Wonder Woman stories seem embarrassing today, they were a massive improvement over the previous era of Wonder Woman stories.

BUCKY O’HARE #2 (Continuity, 1991) – untitled, [W] Larry Hama, [A] Michael Golden. Bucky and his crewmates find their way into Willy DuWitt’s human universe. This series doesn’t take itself very seriously, but Michael Golden’s art is brilliant. He’s equally good at depicting anthropomorphic animals and spaceship battles. Bucky O’Hare is probably the only good comic published by Continuity.

FLEX MENTALLO #4 (DC, 1996) – “After the ‘Fact,’ Part Four: We Are All UFOs,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Frank Quitely. I already have the trade paperback of this series, but I haven’t read it yet. I prefer not to read comics in trade format when they’re available in single issue format. (Indeed, even if I’ve already read a comic in trade paperback form, I still prefer to get th single issues. See the below review of Watchmen #3.) So Flex Mentallo #4 was new to me. This is a very difficult comic, and I suspect it would only be a bit less difficult if I’d read the first three issues. But it has some brilliant art and writing. The point of this series seems to be that Flex Mentallo is the true principle of heroism, which is not the same as the model of heroism presented in most superhero comics. I hope I can find the first three issues.

GREEN LANTERN #79 (DC, 1970) – “Ulysses Star is Still Alive!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. I paid $5 for this. I’ve already read it thanks to the ‘80s GL/GA reprint series, but again, I prefer to own the original issues. I now have four out of thirteen issues of Neal and Denny’s Green Lantern, although I’m missing the key issues #76, #85 and #87. “Ulysses Star is Still Alive!” has spectacular art; it still looks fresh and modern today, almost forty years later. However, its story is kind of embarrasing today because it’s a white savior narrative, in which Ollie convinces some Native Americans to recover their proud warrior spirit. And it’s stupid how a conflict over Native American rights is resolved by a fistfight between two white dudes. At least Denny tried to depict Native Americans sympathetically, at a time when cowboys-and-Indians stories were still common. And the closing sequence, where Hal and Ollie’s fight is juxtaposed with a Norman Mailer quotation, is genuinely powerful. As a nitpick, this issue’s cover depicts the Native Americans as using both totem poles and feather headdresses. There is no Native American nation that historically used both of those things.

DEATH RATTLE #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1973) – “Foreshadow,” [W/A] John Pound, plus other stories. To my surprise, there was one dealer at the convention who had some underground comics. But all of them were beyond my price range except this one, which was $5. This Death Rattle series is distinct from the ‘80s series with the same name and publisher. This issue’s first story is John Pound’s postapocalyptic SF story “Foreshadow,” which is effectively an EC story – there’s nothing in it that would have been inappropriate in an EC comic. Next is a partly wordless story by Tim Boxell that has some pretty art, but an incomprehensible plot. There’s also “A Normal Event on the New York Subway” by Mike Olshan and Mike Vosburg, in which a man has a bizarre vision while on the subway. Mike Olshan only has one other writing credit in the GCD. Overall, this is a pretty average underground comic.

STINZ #2 (Fantagraphics, 1989) – “Breaking to Harness,” [W/A] Donna Barr. Stinz begins his army training, and it doesn’t go well. He can’t eat meat, he has to be issued a pair of pants even though he can’t wear them, and so on. And his drill instructor hates him. This issue is both funny and touching; it illustrates what life would actually be like for a centaur in a human world. Even Stinz’s tyrannical drill sergeant is a somewhat sympathetic character.

HAUNT OF FEAR #7 (EC, 1951/1994) – “Room for One More!”, [W] Al Feldstein, [A] Graham Ingels, plus other stories. This issue’s lead story is amazing. A young man has an obsessive desire to be buried in his family’s mausoleum, alongside his late parents. But there’s only one vacant spot in the mausoleum, and he has three older cousins. Following typical EC logic, he kills his cousins and disposes of their bodies. And then the three dead cousins rise from their graves, kill him, and bury themselves in the vacant spot in the mausoleum. Graham Ingels depicts all of this with his usual ghastliness. The other three stories, drawn by Jack Davis, Jack Kamen, and Johnny Craig, are not quite as memorable. The Davis story is about a man who always carries a basket on his shoulder and who seems to have two distinct personalities. It was not hard to figure out that he was using the basket to conceal his extra head.

SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON #13 (Gold Key, 1965) – “The Pit of Doom,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. The family visit a planet where the local humans are terrorized by shapeshifting amoebas. This is an enjoyable SF story with some nice Dan Spiegle art, though it’s nothing all that great.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #93 (DC, 1969) – “The Superman-Wonder Woman Team!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Irv Novick. I bought this because it’s one of the few appearances of the no-costume Wonder Woman outside her own title. But ironically, this comic demonstrates why Kanigher’s Wonder Woman was so awful, and why Sekowsky’s Wonder Woman was so much better. The premise of this issue is that since Diana Prince now has no powers, Lois thinks Diana is no longer her rival for Superman’s affections, but instead Diana and Superman fall in love and decide to get married. The trouble with this issue is that it ignores all of Diana’s character development in her own series, except for her lack of powers. It’s just another silly love triangle story. Kanigher could write this kind of story in his sleep, and probably did. Also, Kanigher shows no interest in Diana’s own feelings for Superman. We never get a sense of whether she even likes him. It’s as if Superman’s relationship with Wonder Woman is totally one-sided. It turns out that this is because she’s actually not Diana, but a Phantom Zone prisoner masquerading as Diana. However, this plot twist seems like an excuse to allow Kanigher to ignore Diana’s feelings. Overall, this story is an insult to both Wonder Woman’s character and the reader’s intelligence.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #4 (DC, 2018) – “Dip Me in the Healing Stream,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson, [A] Domo Stanton. The Cotard delusion keeps spreading in New Orleans, while Erzulie scrambles to fix things. This is still my favorite current Sandman title, but this issue was mostly the same thing as the last few issues.

MARS #3 (First, 1984) – “Transformation,” [W] Mark Wheatley, [A] Marc Hempel. Morgana encounters her old crewmate Milos, then goes to bed and has a bizarre dream about a living city. According to the Slings & Arrows Guide, this series lacks “even the pretense of linear narrative,” and that seems fair, but it’s a fun comic anyway.

BLACK HAMMER: CTHU-LOUISE (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Cthu-Louise,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Emi Lenox. This one-shot focuses on a character we previously met in the Sherlock Frankenstein miniseries. Lemire and Lenox’s depiction of Cthu-Louise is brutal. Both her parents abuse her, and thanks to her bizarre appearance, she’s relentlessly bullied in school. When she finally snaps and sacrifices her bullies to her grandfather Cthulhu, the reader is actually happy for her.

THIRTEEN #20 (Gold Key, 1966) – “Right? Right!”, [W/A] John Stanley. Another excellent issue, though its impact on me was lessened because I had just read another issue of Thirteen. John Stanley’s stories are mostly free of topical references or explicit feminism, but this issue includes a story where Val looks at the moon and thinks “How exciting that soon there’ll be men on it! Guess it’ll be a while before they put a girl on it, though.” (And she was right.) There’s also a story where Billy saves Val from being crushed by a rock, and for a minute, they actually seem like a real couple, rather than two kids who like to torment each other.

GODDESS MODE #1 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Out of Sync,” [W] Zoe Quinn, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. I was apprehensive about this comic because Zoe Quinn is another writer with no previous comics experience. But Goddess Mode turns out to be excellent. It takes place in a dystopian world where everyday life is dominated by an MMORPG called Azoth. (So it’s a bit like Ready Player One, but without the toxic masculinity.) Then Azoth unaccountably goes offline, and the protagonist, Cass Price, has to figure out what’s going on. This comic benefits from Zoe Quinn’s personal knowledge of gaming and Internet culture. Like Crowded, it depicts a world where everything is monetized: there’s an adfor water with “50% less cholera* ,” and Cass needs “augments” to breathe the air in her apartment. And her apartment is full of ads that she has to pay a fee to turn off. This is a future that’s only slightly exaggerated relative to the real world. Zoe Quinn also shows a sharp understanding of Cass Price’s psychology, reminding us that she (Zoe) initially became famous for a game about mental health. The following lines are especially powerful: “The only person who has ever felt like home hasn’t opened his eyes since I was a kid… And yeah, maybe I never figured out how to be a person after that.” Also, Robbi Rodriguez is an ideal artist for this story. This is an exciting series, and as an added bonus, it’s going to be equally annoying to both Gamergaters and Comicsgaters.

SPIDER-GIRLS #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Andrés Genolet. Another issue full of adorably awful spiders and cute character interactions. Annie, with her burning desire to help, is the heart of this series. It’s too bad that this is the last issue. I would eagerly read an ongoing series about these characters, or even just Annie.

LONE RANGER #3 (Dynamite, 2018) – “Deal with the Devil,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Bob Q. The Lone Ranger and Tonto start a cattle stampede, then rebrand all the cattle so their owners can’t tell which cattle are whose. Also, we’re introduced to a new villain who is kind of like Bat Lash, except he’s a cannibal. Not a bad issue, though less memorable than #2.

BITTER ROOT #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. One of the Sangeryes prevents a lynching, and we learn that white people turn into jinoos when they kill black people. That’s a fascinating premise. Meanwhile, the giant dude, Berg, gets infected and turns into a goblin or something. Because of his combination of huge size and intellectual language, this character reminds me of the big blue dude from ClanDestine. The young female Sangerye from last issue doesn’t appear in this one.

X-23 #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “X-Assassin Part 1,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Diego Olortegui. Let me just point out something I’ve been noticing lately: Marvel has been hiring a lot of international artists, mostly from Spain or Latin America, but few of these artists ever get to do a really long run on a series. And they rarely get promoted as stars. Marvel seems to treat them like interchangeable parts. Juann Cabal is a really good artist, and I’d be curious to know why he’s no longer drawing X-23. I’d also like it if the comics press put more emphasis on Marvel and DC’s artists as well as their writers. Anyway, this issue Gabby waits in a long line for gelato, and then she and Laura fight an assassin who turns out to look just like them. This is an okay issue. I like the description of Hank McCoy as “regal.”

HARVEY #2 (Marvel, 1970) – “Playing Post Office!” and other stories, [W] Stan Lee, [A] uncredited (possibly Stan Goldberg). This would be just another average Archie knockoff if not for the fact that it’s written by Stan Lee. The dialogue is all in Stan’s recognizable style, and the second story, “It’s Only Money, Honey!”, is notable because of its contemporary relevance. The Archie character, Harvey, needs money for a ticket to a “Jefferson Zeppelin” concert. After he goes through all sorts of hijinks to get the money, he discovers it’s a free concert. The name “Jefferson Zeppelin” (Jefferson Airplane + Led Zeppelin) and the free concert show that Stan was paying attention to the counterculture of the time. This was part of his brilliance. Even though he was approaching forty years old when he co-created the Marvel Universe, he was able to connect with readers who were half his age or less, because he knew what sort of things they cared about. You also see this in his Spider-Man comics that were about drugs or campus protests. As someone suggested when I made these observations on Facebook, Stan may have had only a shallow knowledge of contemporary youth culture, acquired by watching TV. But even then, most other comics writers at the time had no knowledge of youth culture at all.

FELIX THE CAT #16 (Dell, 1950) – multiple stories, [W/A] Otto Messmer (?). I think this is the oldest comic book in my collection. It’s in such poor condition that I hesitate even to take it out of its bag. This comic is uncredited, but it’s in the exact same style as Otto Messmer’s classic Felix cartoons, and when I posted one page of it on Facebook, Mark Newgarden identified that page as Messmer’s work. Like the Felix cartoon series, this comic consists of various adventure stories with no continuity between them. There’s none of the self-reflexivity of the cartoon (Felix doesn’t remove his tail, or play with ? and ! marks), but the overall art style is very two-dimensional, and the gags are very similar to those in the cartoon. For example, there’s one story where Felix dives underwater for some pearls, and encounters an octopus that resembles the one in Comicalamities, which is discussed in my dissertation. In general, this is a fascinating comic, and I’m proud to have it. Maybe I should get the IDW hardcover collection of Messmer’s Felix comic books.

CRIME SUSPENSTORIES #7 (EC, 1951/1994) – multiple stories, [E] Al Feldstein. A collection of excellent stories. In Johnny Craig’s “Hatchet-Killer,” a woman murders her housekeeper, mistaking her for an axe murderer. This is a pretty impressive story of fear and paranoia, but the shock ending, where we learn that the axe murderer is already dead, is underwhelming. I thought the woman’s husband was going to be the murderer. Next is a Jack Kamen story which uses the typical EC trope of a woman conspiring with her lover to kill her rich husband. Jack Davis’s “Phonies” is a clever stry about one thief manipulating another into opening a safe. Maybe the best story in the issue is Graham Ingels’s “Horror Under the Big-Top!”, in which an acrobat and a human cannonball murder each other.

JOURNEY #12 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Hidden Spirits,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. Wolverine gets knocked off his canoe and has to run to the next bend in the river to get back on it. Meanwhile at the fort, an Indian domestic servant pretends to be servile and docile, but then we learn that she’s a spy for Tecumseh. As I have probably said before, one fascinating thing about this series is its depiction of the diversity and complexity of Native American culture. There’s also a backup story by someone named Jim Miller.

BLACKHAWK #269 (DC, 1984) – “Changes,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. I haven’t really gotten into this series, even though I love all the other Evanier-Spiegle collaborations. Probably the reason is that I don’t like war comics. But Blackhawk is not a typical example of that genre. It has the same witty dialogue and clever plots as Evanier’s other comics, without the gritty realism of most DC war comics This issue, Blackhawk is trapped in Nazi Germany, but escapes by hiding in a coffin that has to be shipped out of the country at once. This is a clever plot twist that’s set up very early in the issue. Meanwhile, the other Blackhawks have a new leader who is obviously some kind of spy.

SMOOTH CRIMINALS #2 (Boom!, 2018) – as above. It turns out Mia didn’t travel through time, she was cryogenically frozen. Also, her nemesis, Hatch Leonard, is still alive. This is a fun comic and a nice piece of ‘90s nostalgia, but I’m still not sure what its point is.

FANTASTIC FOUR WEDDING SPECIAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “(Invisible) Girls Gone Wild, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Laura Braga, and “Father Figure,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Buckingham. This issue’s first story depicts Alicia Masters’s bachelorette party. It’s very similar to Incredible Hulk #417, except for the cute ending, where Alicia and her friends help their chauffeur celebrate his wedding anniversary. The backup story is much more clever. Ben visits the Puppet Master in prison to ask for his blessing, and gets it, but there’s a twist at the end that’s so brilliant I don’t want to spoil it. The Braille text at the end just says “father figure.” It took me several minutes to figure that out, even with the Braille alphabet in front of me.

JINGLE BELLE: THE HOMEMADES’ TALE (IDW, 2018) – “The Homemades’ Tale,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Nicoletta Baldari. Jingle Belle encounters the Queen of Toys, who collects all the toys that children throw away because they prefer their shiny new Christmas presents. It turns out the Queen herself is an animate doll that was created to resemble Jingle Belle. This is a really cute story, and it’s drawn in a style that resembles a child’s crayon drawing.

SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST SPIDER #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Spider-Geddon Part Three: Better Sorry than Safe,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Rosi Kämpe. This is maybe a little better than last issue, but it still feels like just a generic superhero comic. I don’t think I’m going to keep reading this series.

RED SONJA/TARZAN #6 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Walter Geovani. Sonja and Tarzan finally defeat Eson Duul and kill him dead. Good riddance. This was a pretty good miniseries – certainly much better than Conan/Red Sonja.

OUTER DARKNESS #2 (Image, 2018) – “Each Other’s Throats Pt. 2: Red Alert,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. Captain Joshua Rigg subjects his crew to a dangerous, unnecessary ordeal, just to see how they’ll react under pressure. His officer, Baxter, gives him a good whack, which he totally deserves. Also, there’s a scene where all the surfaces on the ship’s bridge are covered with eyes. I previously said that Outer Darkness “feels like a gritty and unromantic version of Star Wars, with a very diverse cast,” but I actually meant Star Trek, specifically The Next Generation. It almost seems like a grotesque parody of that series.

TALES OF ORDINARY MADNESS #1 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Paranoid,” [W] Malcolm Bourne, [A] Mike Allred. This comic’s writer, Malcolm Bourne, is better known as a letterhack, but his day job is as a psychiatrist, and this comic is clearly based on his professional experience. This issue is a (presumably) very realistic depiction of a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. This comic is from so early in Mike Allred’s career that he was still signing his name M. Dalton Allred. But he draws this issue in much the same style as the early issues of Madman, and that style is perfectly suited to the task of illustrating the protagonist’s paranoid delusions.

RENEGADE ROMANCE #1 (Renegade, 1987) – multiple stories, [E] Deni Loubert. This series was an unsuccessful but well-intentioned effort to revive the romance comics genre. This issue is impressive because of the diverse range of work it includes. It begins with “Art Lovers,” one of very few comics stories written by Jackie Estrada. It’s about a gallery owner who has an affair with a married artist. I haven’t heard of the artist, Steven Sullivan, but there’s some nice inking by Al Williamson. Next is Mario Hernandez’s “Waiting for You,” about a wife who may be having an affair with a man named Julio – coincidentally or not, the same name as the protagonist of a different Mario Hernandez’s comic, Julio’s Day. Angela Bocage’s “How Did You Guys Meet” is just one page, but it’s cute. Cynthia Martin’s “Noë” is about a woman whose husband is obsessed with his dead first wife. A curious note about this story is that the lettering is credited to “Raoul Gato,” but is done in Tom Orzechowski’s style. On Facebook, Tom confirmed that “Raoul Gato” was him, either alone or with Lois Buhalis, and that he had a cat named Raoul, but he couldn’t remember why he used the pseudonym. The artistic highlight of the issue is Mary Wilshire’s “Artheart,” about a romance between an artist and a gallery patron. It’s drawn in delicate and evocative graytones. Mary Wilshire had a long career in commercial comics, but she also drew some stories in this painterly style, and I’d like to track down more of them. Next, Trina Robbins’s “Red Love” is an adaptation of a Russian Marxist novel by Alexandra Kollontai. Krystine Kryttre’s “My, What a Big Ass I Have” is a raucous and visually inventive creation myth, and Bob Rozakis and Stephen DiStefano’s “Love is a Balloon” is a cute depiction of how relationships evolve with age. Overall, this is a really strong anthology comic, and it’s a shame that there was only one other issue.

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #3 (Marvel, 1972) – “The Mystery of the Mad Monk!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Mike Ploog. This issue has a dumb plot in which Jack Russell battles Aelfric the Mad Monk. The relevance of this story to later continuity is that Aelfric wrote the Darkhold, although according to later retcons, he only reassembled it. However, though the story in this issue is not great, the artwork is. Mike Ploog is really good at drawing werewolves, and there’s one horrifying panel showing a policeman’s flesh melting off his skull. This panel wouldn’t be out of place in a Basil Wolverton comic.

HEAD LOPPER #10 (Image, 2018) – “Head Lopper and the Knights of Venora,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. The city of Venora is besieged by a huge army of goblins. The giant egg that towers over the city finally hatches, but it turns out the creature inside it is dead. Meanwhile, Norgal sits in a tavern drinking instead of fighting alongside the defenders, and I’m not sure why. This issue has an impressively epic scope.

HELLBOY WINTER SPECIAL 2018 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Happy New Year, Ava Galluci,” [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Ben Stenbeck, plus other stories. I haven’t heard of Ben Stenbeck before, but he’s not bad. His story is about a long-undead English gentleman who was cursed by a witch. Both the gentleman and the witch end up getting turned into frogs. Then there’s a story by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, which draws upon the Bulgarian tradition of costumed dancers called kukeri. Finally, there’s a gangster story by Tonci Zonjic. This is a pretty good issue, if not spectacular.

BLACK PANTHER #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Gathering of My Name Part One,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Kev Walker. This issue begins by introducing Killmonger’s adorable little daughter, Zenzi. Then there’s a sequence where Nakia infiltrates a casino planet in disguise and kidnaps an imperial Wakandan noble. Like “Avengers of the New World,” this story is developing very slowly, but I think it’ll reward the reader’s patience.

SILVER SURFER: THE BEST DEFENSE #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Best Defense,” [W/A] Jason Latour. Offhand I can’t think of another comic that’s both written and drawn by Jason Latour. In this issue, the Surfer visits a planet of truly horrible scumbags. The planet is about to be destroyed by the Driver, a creature similar to Galactus but worse, and everyone on the planet is trying to profit off the situation. The Surfer meets a girl who’s slightly less bad than all the other people, and tries to save her. This issue is an impressive display of Jason’s talent at boh art and writing, though I wish he was drawing more Southern Bastards instead.

New comics received on December 21:

LUMBERJANES #57 (Boom!, 2018) – “The Life of the Party” part one, [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] AnneMarie Rogers. The art in this issue looks extremely crude at first, but the artist’s storytelling is strong, and she draws good facial expressions. In this new story, it’s Jo’s birthday today, and April wants to throw the best birthday party ever. But she needs help. Specifically, in order to distract Jo while she plans, April needs Mal to distract Jo by helping going out on a boat with her – despite Mal’s well-known fear of water. Of course, things promptly go wrong. And of course, things promptly go wrong when Mal and Jo leave their emergency flare and liferaft behind. The best moment of this issue is when April pulls out a laserdisc, which none of the other girls recognize, and then a sasquatch accidentally breaks it in half. But more broadly, this story is effective because it draws on what we already know about the characters. This story only works because we already know that April and Jo are lifelong best friends, and that Mal is terrified of water.

RUNAWAYS #16 (Marvel, 2018) – “That Was Yesterday Pt. 4,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. All the Marvel comics this week have covers with a “Stan Lee 1922-2018” banner instead of a logo, and the first four interior pages of each comic are blank except for a picture of Stan. I guess it’s a touching tribute, but it’s also kind of annoying and unsightly. It’s hard to distinguish any of these comics from each other. As for Runaways #16, Nico’s “Jolly holiday!” spell is one of the funniest and cutest moments in the series. I especially love the scene where everyone gets socks, including Old Lace, Gib, and the cat. Unfortunately, Alex spends the whole issue acting like the loathsome manipulative jerk he is.

EXILES #11 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodríguez. It sucks that this series is cancelled. It was easily the best new Marvel title of the year. At least I know that both creators will go on to other things. This issue, the Exiles battle another team of Exiles, including a Captain America Hulk and a skeleton Thor (similar to the one from Simonson’s Ragnarok). Wolvie saves the day by being cute, as usual, and then the Exiles decide to head to the moon to fight… I’m not sure who.

PRINCELESS VOL. 7: FIND YOURSELF #2 (Action Lab, 2018) – “Find Yourself Part 2,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. Adrienne’s brother and his companions try to escape from Valmar, while Adrienne meets her older sister… and her new brother-in-law. This issue is still a bit confusing, but I bought the Make Yourself Part 2 trade paperback and read it, so now at least I’m caught up. The high point of the issue is the page where Adrienne has a nightmare about being forced to wear a chainmail bikini.

HARLEY QUINN #56 (DC, 2018) – “Pettergate,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mirka Andolfo. This is the second best cat comic of the year, after Captain Ginger. There are cats on almost every page. Lots of them. And they do things like steal wallets and accept money for hot dogs. On top of that, this issue is also a Gamergate parody. (The plot is that Harley Quinn has to adopt out a large number of cats, but she becomes the target of a group of jerks who think that only men should sell pets.) Some people have complained that this issue’s message about Gamergate/Comicsgate is too obvious and unsubtle, and I sympathize with that – although there are some more subtle jokes, like the acronym of “Mike’s Rent-an-Animal.” However, I think that this comic is still an effective rebuttal Comicsgate, if only because, first, it has the official sanction of DC, and second, because it’s by a writer who is not himself a Comicsgate target. Mark Russell didn’t need to make a statement about Comicsgate, but he did, and that’s important. Also, the line “They’re worse than evil. They’re nostalgic” is a perfect summary of the whole mess. As a footnote, I don’t think Mr. Katz’s first name is mentioned in the issue, but the solicitation stated that his first name is Ferrell.

EXORSISTERS #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. Cate and Kate save a soul from hell, then they’re contacted by Kate’s ex-boyfriend Buzz, who’s been turned into a fly. (BTW, I’m not sure which of Kate and Cate is which.) In a flashback, we learn why Buzz is a fly, then he tells Cate and Kate that he needs their help to save hell from an even worse evil. And then angels start falling from the sky. This is a really entertaining series, and it makes me want to read Gisèle Lagacé’s other work, especially Ménage à 3.

HIGH HEAVEN #4 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Chapter Four,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. This issue reveals the origin of the mediocre heaven. Due to God’s overly high standards, not enough people were getting into heaven. So heaven’s rulers decided to admit a billion people who didn’t meet the standards, and to give them “a heaven no better than they deserve.” And the door to this heaven is L-Meat, a substance that represents inadequacy and disappointment. I’m still not sure how exactly the mediocre heaven and L-Meat are connected, but both these concepts are fascinating.

MIDDLEWEST #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Abel is chased by some villains, but is rescued by an old wizard dude. Also Abel discovers that he has a cursed birthmark on his chest that glows when he’s mad. So Abel sets off to look for Magdalena, the only person who can cure his curse. This issue is rather different from #1: Abel’s abusive father doesn’t appear, and instead the focus is on the fantasy world of the series. I do think that Jorge Corona is a worse artist than Skottie. The skeleton crow dude in this issue is terrifying, and there’s one striking depiction of livestock with ingrown faces. But otherwise, most of the characters and scenes in this issue would have looked better if Skottie had drawn them himself.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #73 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Toni Kuusisto. Fluttershy discovers a cursed amulet that causes her to take on the characteristics of any animal she meets. This leads to some hilarious moments. Pinkie Pie visits Fluttershy and finds her napping, and then Fluttershy acts rude and aloof toward Pinkie. Later we realize that Fluttershy has acquired the traits of a cat. On the next page, Fluttershy flies past an owl, and then she says “Who? Who is that?” and turns her head around 180 degrees. There’s also a cute/scary subplot where Fluttershy rehabilitates a baby timber wolf. Toni Kuusisto is a pretty good animal artist.

SPARROWHAWK #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Delilah Dawson, [A] Matías Basla. Artemisia meets a giant talking boar that’s being chased by the Wild Hunt. She almost gets killed by the Wild Hunt too, but defeats them by exploiting faeries’ weakness to salt and sugar. This is a really weird series, but in a good way. The faeries in this series are simultaneously adorable and deadly, and that’s exactly how faeries should be depicted.

CATWOMAN #6 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats Finale,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. Again there are no cats at all in this issue, but it’s a fairly exciting conclusion to the opening storyline. This has been an enjoyable series.

RAT QUEENS #13 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. The newly deified Dee meets Bilford Bogin, the same Bilford Bogin that all the characters in the series swear by. It turns out he’s the smidgen god of empathy and compassion. Meanwhile, the other Rat Queens are in truly dire straits, so Betty prays to Bilford Bogin, but Dee comes to help instead. This series is finally good again, but I’m still not enjoying it as much as when it was new.

AQUAMAN #43 (DC, 2018) – “Unspoken Water Part 1,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. In this new storyline, Aquaman has lost his memory and is stranded in a remote fishing village. I was looking forward to this series, but so far I’m not super impressed. I had trouble figuring out what was happening and which names referred to which characters. In its overall tone, this issue reminds me of Pretty Deadly, and I didn’t like Pretty Deadly. Perhaps Kelly Sue’s writing just rubs me the wrong way. I will keep reading this series for now, though.

SHURI #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Groot Boom,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Leonardo Romero. It’s really fun to see Nnedi writing Rocket Raccoon and Groot. It does feel a bit like a cheat when Groot gets to use intelligible language, although we have heard Groot’s thoughts before, on the alternate cover to All-New X-Men #23. This issue’s plot is that a giant space bug is trying to destroy Rocket and Groot’s ship. The bug is pretty cute, and it reminds me of the various weird creatures whose pictures Nnedi posts on social media.

AMERICAN CARNAGE #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Fire,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Richard begins his initiation into the white supremacist cult, but his plan hits a snag when he’s asked to participate in a lynching. Bryan Hill just announced his retirement from comics. I hope he finishes this series first, because it’s a very realistic and hard-hitting treatment of white male terrorism.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Benjamin Dewey. The Wise Dogs defeat the terrorists as well as a giant Lovecraftian monster, with the aid of the salamander from a previous issue. Based on a Twitter thread last month, it seems like Evan and Jill Thompson’s working relationship has deteriorated, so this could be the last Beasts of Burden comic for a while. That would be a shame.

SEASON’S BEATINGS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – multiple connected stories, [W] Jason Latour, [A] various. This is sort of a Deadpool Christmas special, but with inset stories starring other characters. It has some good art and some funny moments, but the humor feels too forced. For example, there’s an unfunny running joke about how no one likes X-Force anymore.

THOR #8 (Marvel, 2018) – “Prison of Angels,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike Del Mundo. Thor is held captive in heaven, but escapes with help from Angela. This is an okay issue, though not the best. Marvel’s version of heaven is quite terrifying. Mike Del Mundo’s art seems blurrier and less polished than it used to be.

ENCOUNTER #9 (Lion Forge, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco. We learn more of Encounter’s origin story, then he and his friends battle Plagnor Zok, a villain from his home planet. Also, it turns out that Champion is not Kayla’s uncle, but Kayla herself. Most of the issue takes place in the Aw Yeah Comics store, and there are comic books lying around wth titles like ZIP, STOP IT and BLAH.

GIDEON FALLS #9 (Image, 2018) – “The Transfiguration,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This issue has no unusual page layouts, but it advances the plot significantly. It looks like this series’ two plot threads are about to merge.

SUPERB #15 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Face Your Fear,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. Alitha’s artwork looks quite different this issue, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the coloring. This issue begins with a touching scene where Jonah’s parents are told that their as-yet-unborn baby has Down syndrome, and they refuse to even consider any options other than keeping him. Which makes it especially painful when one of Jonah’s new teammates insults and abuses him for his disabililty. This issue’s Cosmosis backup story is kind of a waste of space.

BLACK BADGE #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The competition between Badge groups continues. The highlight of this issue is the scene where Kenny explains how he became a Black Badge, and his narration doesn’t match what’s shown in the panels.

KLAUS AND THE CRYING SNOWMAN #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Dan Mora. Klaus confronts an invasion by comet-dwelling aliens, with the aid of a snowman. It turns out that the snowman is the reincarnation of a man who died in a car crash after cheating on his wife. Unable to defeat the aliens in battle, Klaus instead uses time travel to convince them not to invade Earth. This was a fun comic, and Dan Mora’s art is getting really impressive.

GRUMBLE #2 (Albatross, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. Tala (the girl) and Eddie (the pug) meet an old witch, but then they’re pursued by a creature that looks like a duck’s skeleton. This is a pretty good issue, though I’m still not enjoying this series as much as Modern Fantasy.

IMPOSSIBLE INCORPORATED #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Extermination!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Cavallaro. Number decides to release some imprisoned Celestial-like alien gods so they can help her find her father. Then she decides not to do it because she’s had another idea, but she ends up releasing the gods by accident anyway. This series is a pretty good Kirby homage, but as I suggested in my review of #2, it may be too cosmic for its own good. It may also have too many things going on at once.

SUKEBAN TURBO #2 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sylvain Runberg, [A] Victor Santos. This comic is very well-crafted, but it’s a fairly unsurprising continuation of the plots from last issue.

SWAMP THING #10 (DC, 1974) – “The Man Who Would Not Die!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Bernie Wrightson. Len and Bernie’s last issue is one of their best. This is the one where Anton Arcane comes back and tries to enslave Swampy, but then he says the words “slave” and “master” one too many times, and some dead slaves rise from their graves and drag him and his minions to hell. Bernie’s art in this issue is utterly spectacular. His Swamp Thing is a hulking monster, and Arcane and his Un-Men are misshapen mockeries of nature. Bernie’s use of shadows and highlights make his art look three-dimensional, despite the flat coloring. A weird discovery I made when reading this issue is that the old black woman is named Auntie De Luvian (antediluvian). In all the reprints of this issue, her name is changed to Auntie Bellum (antebellum). I guess this change was made because Auntie Bellum is a better joke, but then why was that name not used to begin with? Sadly, most of the people who could have answered this question are now dead.

LAFF-A-LYMPICS #2 (Marvel, 1978) – “Trouble at the Track Meet,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Owen Fitzgerald. This must be the same Owen Fitzgerald who drew Dennis the Menace, but his art on this issue is in a totally different style. This series is about an athletic competition between different Hanna-Barbera characters. It’s an excellent read because of Evanier’s funny dialogue and his complicated but clever plot. A new character in this issue, Roger Rankle, is a sportscaster with sleepy eyes and a giant nose, who has an overly critical view of everything. I’m guessing this character is based on Howard Cosell.

INFIDEL #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Aaron Campbell. This series has appeared on a lot of year-end best comics lists. Based on this issue, the acclaim seems justifiable. Infidel has some terrifying art and coloring, and a diverse and intriguing cast of characters. I should start ordering it.

GHOST RIDER #13 (Marvel, 1975) – “You’ve Got a Second Chance, Johnny Blaze!”, [W] Tony Isabella, [A] George Tuska. Johnny Blaze moves to Hollywood, fights the Trapster, and falls in love at first sight with Karen Page. This is a very mediocre comic. I don’t think Ghost Rider has ever been particularly good. There’s a funny moment where Johnny calculates that if it takes him two days to bike to LA, he’ll only have to eat at McDonald’s six times.

WATCHMEN #3 (DC, 1986) – “The Judge of All the Earth,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Dave Gibbons. I’ve already read this multiple times in trade paperback form, and I just bought it for completism’s sake and because it was cheap. When I returned to Watchmen #3 after not having read it for several years, the main thing that struck me about it was its extremely tight, deliberate construction. Every panel and every line of dialogue in this comic is significant. There are no purely random or accidental details. For example, throughout Watchmen Alan uses non-diegetic caption boxes, where the voice in the caption box is not located in the same place that’s depicted in the image. But in all these cases, there’s a subtle thematic connection between the caption box and the image. For example, on page 7 there’s a panel where the Gordian Knot man is coming to fix Dan Dreiberg’s lock, and in the caption box Janey Slater is saying “Some things, once they’re busted, they can’t ever be fixed.” Similarly, every time there’s a dialogue box from the Black Freighter comic, it’s some kind of ironic comment on the main story. Dave’s panels are full of incidental details that are somehow significant, and there are all these subtle but unimportant things happening in the background. For example, the man with the “end is nigh” sign turns out to be Rorschach, and the business with the Gordian Knot lock company ends up being an essential plot point. No other comic I’ve ever read exhibits this sort of tight control over its creation of meaning. You don’t even see it in Alan’s other major works.

WONDER WOMAN #223 (DC, 1976) – “Welcome Back to Life… Steve Trevor!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] José Delbo. Reading this comic immediately after reading Watchmen seems blasphemous somehow, but while Wonder Woman #223 is clearly no Watchmen, it’s interesting anyway. After the end of the no-costume era (which was blamed, perhaps unfairly, on Gloria Steinem), Robert Kanigher took over Wonder Woman and immediately reversed all the changes Mike Sekowsky and Denny O’Neil had made. Kanigher restored Diana’s powers, killed off I Ching, and even removed Diana’s memories of her Diana Prince period. In Wonder Woman #223, Martin Pasko reverses another of Sekowsky’s changes by bringing back Steve Trevor. But he also tries to undo some of the damage Kanigher did, by restoring Diana’s lost memories. In general, Pasko, unlike Kanigher, seems to have actually cared about Wonder Woman, and therefore his Wonder Woman was one of the better pre-Pérez takes on the character.

SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP #7 (Marvel, 1997) – “Old Scores,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Sal Buscema. Spider-Man teams up with the Thunderbolts against some old villains known as the Enclave. This issue demonstrates Kurt’s encyclopedic continuity knowledge and his mastery at writing both Spider-Man and the Thunderbolts. However, as I’ve said before, Thunderbolts is not my favorite Busiek comic. None of the Thunderbolts are fully sympathetic characters, and their constant intrigues and backstabbing are interesting but somewhat repetitive.

INCREDIBLE SCIENCE FICTION #10 (EC, 1955/1995 – various stories, [E] Al Feldstein. This issue is written by Joe Simon’s brother-in-law Jack Oleck, rather than by Feldstein himself. Therefore, the stories are mediocre, although there’s some amazing art. The first story, “Fallen Idol,” has pretty good art by Joe Orlando, who I’m not very familiar with. It’s about some postapocalyptic humans who worship a mechanism that turns out to be a washing machine. The impact of this story is lessened because the machine doesn’t look like any washing machine I’ve ever seen, and I had to use Google to find out what it was supposed to be. “Food for Thought” has perhaps the best Al Williamson art I’ve seen in an EC comic, but again the story, about an intelligent alien tree, is unimpressive. The other two stories are by Bernie Krigstein and Jack Davis, but the Krigstein story has none of his trademark innovative panel structures.

LUCIFER #3 (Vertigo, 2018) – “The Annulment of Heaven and Hell,” [W] Dan Watters, [A] Max Fiumara & Sebastien Fiumara. This issue guest-stars William Blake, and Dan Watters seems to have more than a casual knowledge of Blake’s life and work. For example, we see Blake having a copyright dispute with his fellow engraver Thomas Stothard. That really did happen. (I’ve absorbed some knowledge about Blake by osmosis because my graduate advisor, Don Ault, is a Blakean, and I hope to actually read some Blake soon, but I haven’t had the time yet.) Unfortunately, this Lucifer series still makes no sense to me at all. I still can’t understand what’s going on in any of the individual plot threads, let alone how they all fit together. I’m only still reading this series because I’m getting it as part of a package deal.

GREEN LANTERN #101 (DC, 1978) – “The Big Braintrust Boom!”, [W] Frank McGinty, [A] Alex Saviuk. As noted on the first page, this is an inventory story whch was used because Denny O’Neil missed his deadline. Frank McGinty has no other credits in the GCD, and I can’t find any information about him at all. That makes me suspect that he might be a pseudonym for some other writer. Another reason I suspect this is because Green Lantern #101 feels like the work of an experienced writer, rather than a total novice. It’s a well-plotted and well-dialogued story in which Hal and Ollie stop Hector Hammond’s plan to use a phony religion as a vehicle for world domination. Hector Hammond’s cult may have been based on the Church of Scientology.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #21 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark Disassembled Part 2: Digging in the Dirt,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. While Tony Stark lies in a coma, his friends, including Thor and two Captain Americas, execute his complicated plan to restore his brain. The plan requires Thor to channel power from Mjolnir through Captain America’s shield into Iron Man’s repulsor chestplate. That’s kind of a fun way to combine the weapons of three primary Avengers. This issue also includes a poignant scene where Pepper Potts observes that her feelings and needs always get neglected in favor of Tony’s.

SWEET TOOTH #13 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Animal Armies Part One,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. A pretty normal issue. Tommy Jepperd and some new allies of his infiltrate a city controlled by animal people. Meanwhile, Gus is still languishing in the research facility.

ASTRO CITY #1 (Image, 1995) – “In Dreams,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. I started reading Astro City with the first ongoing series, so I didn’t get the original miniseries when it came out. I did get the Life in the Big City trade paperback later, so I’ve read “In Dreams” before, but again, I decided to buy Astro City vol. 1 #1 for completism’s sake. “In Dreams” introduces Samaritan, Astro City’s version of Superman, and shows us his overburdened lifestyle and his inability to ever truly enjoy flying. It’s a powerful story, but somewhat bleak and depressing, like most of the first six Astro City stories. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot more about Samaritan’s character, beyond what was shown in his first appearance.

LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN VOL. 4: THE TEMPEST #2 (Top Shelf, 2018) – “To an Age of Giants, Adieu,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Kevin O’Neill. I’m glad that Alan and Kevin are going to wind this series down, because it’s starting to collapse under its own weight. LOEG has so much continuity and mythology behind it that it’s become impossible to follow. I didn’t understand issue 1, and I understand issue 2 even less. The Tempest #2 has some very clever individual scenes. However, it’s like a puzzle where the individual pieces are pretty to look at, but you can’t tell how to fit them together.

INCREDIBLES 2: CRISIS IN MID-LIFE AND OTHER STORIES #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Crisis in Mid-Life! Part 3,” [W] Christos Gage, [A] GuriHiru. I don’t like this comic at all. It just feels like a generic superhero comic, and it’s too wholesome and sweet for its own good. I’m not quite sure what it was that made The Incredibles such a great movie, but whatever it was, it’s absent from this comic.

THE WEATHER MAN #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nathan Fox. I should have stopped ordering this series. This issue has some effective artwork that reminds me of Robbi Rodriguez’s art, but there’s nothing very innovative or exciting about its story, and the protagonist is not sympathetic.

ANIMOSITY: EVOLUTION #7 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Lex Machina: Part 2,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Eric Gapstur. Another series I continued getting for much longer than I should have. As I’ve argued before, Animosity’s premise, while interesting, is logically unsustainable, and Marguerite Bennett fails to exploit that premise to its full potential. This issue, like most issues of Animosity: Evolution, contains a lot of political intrigue and not much else.

DETECTIVE COMICS #585 (DC, 1988) – “The Ratcatcher,” [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Norm Breyfogle. This is the Ratcatcher’s first appearance, and he is a seriously creepy new villain. He wears a breathing apparatus, hangs out in a sewer, and is always surrounded by rats. Grant, Wagner and Breyfogle’s Batman was the first run of Batman comics I ever read, so I tend to take them for granted, but they were really good.

INCREDIBLE HULK #609 (Marvel, 2010) – “Perfection,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Paul Pelletier. This issue could have been called “For the Hulk Who Has Everything,” because it includes a sequence where Bruce has a vision of his perfect life. In the vision, he’s no longer the Hulk, and he and Betty have two children. Other than that sequence, this issue is forgettable. It’s part of the World War Hulks crossover, so it’s too complicated and has too many characters and plot threads.

BLACK PANTHER #172 (Marvel, 2018) – “Avengers of the New World Part 13,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. The Wakandans have to fight the Adversary, who is explicitly identified as the same Adversary from Fall of the Mutants. They win by exploiting the fact that Storm is a literal goddess. Then T’Challa and Ororo have an intimate moment. “Avengers of the New World” went on far too long, and I think the inclusion of the Adversary was superfluous.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #212 (DC, 1983) – “We Are the War-Kohn – and Our Destiny is to Conquer!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Rich Buckler & Paris Cullins. This issue concludes a three-part story in which the Justice League fight a bunch of aliens. According to the GCD, it was originally intended for an issue of All-New Collectors’ Edition. This issue has an impressively epic scope and includes some weird-looking creatures, but other than that, it’s mediocre. Rich Buckler drew this issue in a style that imitates that of George Pérez.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #166 (Marvel, 1990) – “The Deadly Lads from Liverpool,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Sal Buscema. Gerry is a highly experienced and skillful Spider-Man writer, but this issue suffers because half of it takes place in England. Gerry doesn’t seem to know anything about England beyond the usual cliches, and he uses as many of those as he has room for. For example, we hear “mate,” “two bob,” “lorry,” “What’s all this then?”, and “rawther,” and we see Scotland Yard, a bobby, and a double-decker bus.

I got new comics on December 28, but it was a very small shipment of only five comics, all of which I read immediately:

FANTASTIC FOUR #5 (Marvel, 2019) – three stories, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Aaron Kuder, Mike Allred & Adam Hughes. A fairly satisfying wedding issue with lots of cute moments. It’s not all that different from any other superhero wedding story, but it’s good. Notable things in this issue include the Baxter Building being bigger on the inside, and Thundra joining the bachelor party.

MAN-EATERS #4 (Image, 2018) – “Cat Fight: A Boys’ Guide to Dangerous Cats,” [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Lia Miternique. This is not a comic book at all but rather a fake magazine, which represents itself as an actual magazine existing within Man Eaters’ universe. I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, this issue is a brilliant experiment in materiality and design. On the other hand, when I read a comic book, I want it to be a comic book, not a magazine or a prose novel or anything else. On top of that, Man-Eaters already suffers from a complete lack of plot – its storyline has made almost no progress at all in three issues – and as a result, it seems especially inappropriate to publish an issue that doesn’t advance the plot at all. As some people suggested on my Facebook, the magazine experiment might have been more successful if it had only lasted half the issue, or if it had been an FCBD comic rather than a full issue. Overall, I was excited about Man-Eaters at first, but it has two crippling problems – its white-feminist attitude and its lack of plot – and either of those problems would be an independent reason to give up on it. It’s too late to cancel my orders of Man-Eaters #5 and #6, but if #5 isn’t an improvement, then I’m done with this comic.

MARS ATTACKS #3 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. In the midst of all the destruction and carnage, the son and the father have a heart-to-heart talk about why their relationship went wrong. This is another fun issue.

GO-BOTS #2 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Tom Scioli. Basically the same sort of thing as last issue. See my review of Go-Bots #1 for more opinions. One thing I like about this series is that the Go-Bots have very ugly and clunky designs, but Scioli kind of embraces that, and his art seems to shows us how robots really would look if they were designed like the Go-Bots.

ENCOUNTER #8 (Lion Forge, 2018) – as above. This issue introduces Plagnor Zok and reveals that Champion is Kayla. I have no idea why I received #9 after #8.

Since there were so few new comics this week, I took advantage of the opportunity to read some comics I bought earlier but didn’t read. I mentioned above how in 2015 and 2016, I was ordering a lot of new comics and not reading them. But I continued doing that right up until this year, if not to the same extent. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I started making an active effort to read every new comic I got every week.

DOMINO #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Like a Sword Made of Flesh,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeón. Domino visits Shang Chi for help getting her good luck powers back. Meanwhile, we meet a new character who has bad luck in exact proportion to Domino’s good luck. This is a fun comic, but all of Gail’s Marvel comics feel like Deadpool comics to me, and indeed Deadpool appears in this issue.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Power Show,” [W] Evan Narcisse, [A] Javier Pina & Edgar Salazar. While searching for his evil half-brother Jakarra, T’Challa encounters Storm. This issue is okay, but not great. It’s annoying how much T’Challa and Storm’s relationship has been retconned. First they barely knew each other, then they had a short affair, and now it’s as if they were star-crossed lovers from birth.

ASTONISHER #7 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “It’s All in the Mind,” [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Al Barrionuevo. This series is about a hero with some kind of dream powers. I can’t follow the plot, but Alex de Campi’s dialogue and characterization are quite good. I quit ordering this series because I wasn’t reading it, but now I kind of wish I had been reading it.

JAMES BOND: VARGR FCBD 2018 #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – “VARGR,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Masters. I am not a James Bond fan, perhaps because I think Bond is an amoral sociopath. Therefore, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this FCBD comic. Warren Ellis’s action sequences are quite good, and his characterization of Bond is funny and believable. I especially like Bond’s annoyance that thanks to Parliamentary action, he’s no longer exempt from the ban on carrying guns within the UK, and he has to travel to his next mission unarmed.

BOMBSHELLS UNITED #4 (DC, 2017) – “American Soil Part 7” and “Part 8,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] David Hahn and Pasquale Qualano. I had been reading a lot of Marguerite Bennett comics, but I’ve given up on her. I just can’t get into her writing, and I think that may be because her work has fundamental flaws and is heavier on flash than substance. For example, DC Comics Bombshells is set during World War II, but it makes no attempt at historical accuracy and is instead based on 21st-century progressive values. In this issue, a character says “I don’t know how to make you believe that you should care about other people.” This is an important progressive maxim, but it’s also an anachronism in this context, and it seems to have been dropped into this story without a sufficient excuse. More broadly, DC Comics Bombshells’s characters are hard to tell apart, and its story seems rather aimless.

ANIMOSITY: THE RISE #3 (AfterShock, 2017) – “The Resistance,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Juan Doe. See my review of Animosity: Evolution #7 above. Nothing new here.

ANIMOSITY: EVOLUTION #2 (AfterShock, 2017) – “Four Sisters,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Eric Gapstur. I have been very negative about this series lately, so I was surprised when I actually liked this issue. It focuses on four mice who arrive in the City in the Sea and are almost tricked into being eaten by a snake. This issue is reasonably fun to read, and unlike most issues of Animosity, it’s sensitive to the differences between species. Also, one of the mice is named Septicemia.

GRASS KINGS #5 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. This issue is an extended fight scene, but I’m not sure who’s fighting or why. This series wasn’t nearly as interesting as Black Badge currently is.

GREAT LAKES AVENGERS #7 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Zac Gorman, [A] Will Robson. The GLA defeat Dr. Nod, but then Deadpool shows up and tells them they no longer have the rights to the Avengers name, and that’s the end of the series. This was a pretty fun miniseries. Its style of humor was much more sarcastic and mean-spirited, compared to other Marvel humor comics.

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #25 (Marvel, 2017) – “Ghosts Are Not Healthy for Dogs and Other Living Things,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Dario Brizuela. The Scooby Gang investigates some ghosts that are haunting a town founded by hippies. It turns out the Psycho-Pirate is the culprit. The guest stars are the ‘70s versions of Green Lantern and Green Arrow. This issue is entertaining enough on its own, and it’s full of funny in-jokes aimed at readers who are familiar with hippie culture and the O’Neil-Adams GL/GA. For example, Ollie keeps saying “hideous moral cancer,” and the title of the issue is a parody of a hippie slogan.

UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #14 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] Myisha Haynes. Not an impressive comic. This issue guest-stars Hawkeye (Kate) and Ghost Rider (Robbie), but Hastings does not have a good handle on Kate’s personality. This series was never very good, and I should have quit ordering it long before it was cancelled.

CAPTAIN KID #3 (AfterShock, 2016) – “Grow Up, Be Young,” [W] Mark Waid & Tom Peyer, [A] Wilfredo Torres. Reading this comic is disorienting because it looks exactly like Quantum Age. In hindsight, Captain Kid was a preview of Tom Peyer’s recent career revival with High Heaven and Wrong Earth, but it’s not as good as either of those titles. This issue has too much going on at once, and the interesting new idea, about a late-middle-age superhero who has the power to turn into a teenage boy, is lost in the shuffle.

BETTY BOOP #2 (Dynamite, 2016) – “Members Only,” [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. Betty, Ko-Ko and Bimbo have to evict some ghosts from Betty’s grampy’s house. This comic brilliantly captures the weirdness, melancholy and raucous humor of the Fleischer cartoons. However, now that I’ve read Nicholas Sammond’s Birth of an Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation, I’ll never be able to look at old cartoons the same way. Roger Langridge may not know, for example, that Bimbo’s white gloves are a classic minstrel trope – I certainly didn’t know that until I read Sammond’s book – but now that I do know it, I can’t forget it.

DETECTIVE COMICS #621 (DC, 1990) – “Rite of Passage Part Four: Trial by Fire,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. This is the story where the Obeah Man kills Tim Drake’s mother. It’s a very effective Batman story, but it suffers from very questionable politics. The entire story takes place in Haiti, which, as the writer is obviously aware, is one of the poorest countries in the world. At the time of this story, Haiti was just emerging from a brutal dictatorship. But Batman never bothered to intervene in Haiti until a Haitian supervillain kidnapped a rich white American couple. So when I see Batman beating up the Obeah Man’s minions, I can’t avoid thinking that these minions are desperately poor people who are doing whatever they can to survive, and that Batman could have done a lot to prevent them from becoming criminals in the first place. As Bruce Wayne, he could have paid off a big chunk of Haiti’s foreign debt all by himself. Of course when you read superhero comics, you have to ignore objections like this. But when a superhero comic takes place in a country like Haiti, it becomes hard to suspend disbelief and to avoid wondering why superheroes can’t do more to improve the world.

I read the following comics just after midnight on December 31st, but I’m still going to count them toward my total for 2018:

BATMAN ’66 #19 (DC, 2015) – “The Villain of Vapor Street,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Leonardo Romero. Batman and Robin battle a villain who masquerades as a Victorian schoolteacher. This comic is funny, but it has the same jokes as every other issue of Batman ’66. This series quickly became repetitive, and I should have stopped ordering it.

ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN #3 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen & Marguerite Bennett, [A] Phil Jimenez & Stephanie Hans. This was better than I expected, perhaps because Marguerite Bennett only wrote part of it. There’s one really cool plot point: Angela goes to hell to retrieve Heimdall’s bride’s wedding dress because, for reasons of modesty, is the only thing Heimdall can’t see through! However, Phil Jimenez’s artwork in this issue is too busy and complicated.

ANNIHILATOR #5 (Legendary, 2015) – untitled, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Frazer Irving. Yet another Morrison comic that has brilliant artwork – by the highly underrated Frazer Irving – but a plot that makes no sense at all. I couldn’t even say what this series is about, except that it has something to do with a Cthulhu-esque creature called Oorga. For some reason I only ordered the last three issues of this series.

COPPERHEAD #1 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Jay Faerber, [A] Scott Godlewski. A science-fictional Western, starring a single mother who arrives in a remote alien frontier town to become the new sherif, excuse me, sheriff (there’s a running joke about the spelling of that word). Copperhead was never among Image’s best titles, but it was entertaining and well-drawn, with impressively weird aliens. I do think that it’s not science-fictional enough: the aliens just act like weird-looking humans, and you could turn this comic into a regular non-SF Western by just making cosmetic changes.

MORNING GLORIES #40 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. Ian’s father Oliver visits the kids’ class and gives a guest lecture about the nature of reality. This is an okay comic, but as I’ve pointed out before, it’s hard to care about this series when you know about its eventual fate. Just ten issues after #40, Nick Spencer abandoned Morning Glories, leaving all its intriguing plot threads unresolved. And I don’t think he’s even admitted that the series is dead; he’s still holding out the false hope that it might come back someday.

SAUCER COUNTRY #2 (Vertigo, 2012) – “Run Part Two,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. The Presidential candidate wrestles with the trauma of her alien abduction, which, as we soon learn, included an anal probe. A recurring plot point in this issue is that in Saucer Country’s universe, all the old alien abduction cliches, like anal probing and flying saucers, are actually true. There was an explanation for this, but I forget what the explanation was.

INHUMAN #3 (Marvel, 2014) – “They Fall,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Joe Madureira. The Inhuman Professor X (i.e. Medusa) battles the Inhuman Magneto (i.e. Lash). This is an okay comic, but nothing great. I was surprised to see who drew it. Joe Mad was the ultimate flash-in-the-pan/flavor-of-the-month artist: he achieved superstardom based on a tiny handful of comics, then vanished from the industry.

HOWTOONS: REIGNITION #3 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Fred Van Lente, [A] Tom Fowler. This was one of the first comics I ordered from DCBS but didn’t read. I should have, because it’s a really entertaining all-ages comic that also includes recipes for building stuff. I no longer enjoy Fred Van Lente’s writing, but this was a fun series.

And that’s the end of 2018. I read 1801 comics this year, by far my largest total ever. The reason I was able to read so many comics was that first, I bought a lot of comics, both old and new. Charlotte has multiple comic conventions a year, as well as other random comics sales. Second, especially toward the end of the year, I actively tried to read every new comic I got every week.

About 90 reviews

12-18-18

New comics received on November 23:

LUMBERJANES #56 (Boom!, 2018) – “Follow Your Art” (conclusion), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. A satisfying conclusion to an excellent storyline. The girls defeat Tammy Tickles by acting all hyperactive and distracting her. This leads to several amazing moments, including “Hands up top!” “That means stop!” and Tromatikos being hit by a five-ton cat. Oh, and Tromatikos loses because non-archival glue can’t handle stress. At the climactic moment in this issue, Jen calls the girls “preteens” even though they seem to be 12 at the youngest; see Fantastic Four #4 for the opposite error.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #4 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Caselli. The Avengers defeat Brodok and save all the monster women, except one who sensibly chooses to remain a dragon. Kate spends most of the issue as a giant hawk. The reality-show element of this series was heavily hyped in the initial publicity, but it’s really not all that big a deal; it’s just an excuse for the characters to occasionally address the reader directly.

MIDDLEWEST #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Skottie’s first non-humorous creator-owned work is also probably his best-written comic yet. It has some fantasy trappings, including a talking fox and a giant storm monster, and I expect its fantasy elements will become more prominent soon. But the emotional core of this issue is its brutal depiction of child abuse. The protagonist’s single father is a horrible uncaring bastard who punishes his son harshly and provides no positive reinforcement. This issue should come with a warning label for younger readers: “If your parents treat you like the father in this book, tell someone at school.”

EXORSISTERS #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. This issue gives us Kate and Cate’s origin story. As I expected, they’re more or less the same person: Kate is Cate’s soul, which, thanks to their mother’s unfortunate deal with the devil, is now a separate entity. Exorsisters is a hilarious comic; it has the subject matter of a horror comic, but it’s written and drawn in the style of an Archie comic (whereas Afterlife with Archie is the other way around).

HIGH HEAVEN #3 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Chapter Three,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. There’s some good dialogue in this issue, including David’s comment to Ben: “So much in common. Both killed by you.” But this issue doesn’t advance the plot very much. We learn that L-Meat is bad news, but we already knew that.

MY LITTLE PONY: NIGHTMARE KNIGHTS #2 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. Luna recruits a team consisting of herself, Capper, Tempest Shadow, Stygian, and Trixie, and they head off to infiltrate Eris’s casino. I don’t remember this issue very well because I read #3 before writing this review, but this is a fun issue, and it continues this series’ theme of former villains seeking to redeem themselves.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #37 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ice Age,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Gustavo Duarte. A Christmas story in which Lunella has to fill in for Santa Claus. It’s cute, as usual, but has a cliched ending where Lunella has to give Eduardo the toy she really wants. Gustavo Duarte’s guest artwork is very good, reminding me of Jay Fosgitt.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #7 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Rich Tommaso. In the conclusion of the Limbo two-parter, Colonel Weird gets outside his fictional universe and encounters his creator, Jeff Lemire himself. It’s not much of an encounter because Jeff is only shown from the neck down, but this scene is another callback to Grant Morrison’s Animal Man. I can’t recognize any of the other faceless creators who are standing next to Jeff. This two-parter was not bad, but it felt like an interruption in the main storyline, and maybe it could have been a one-shot special instead of two issues of the main series.

SHURI #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Baobab Tree,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Leonardo Romero. This is perhaps the first Marvel comic ever that includes no male characters at all, besides Rocket Raccoon and Groot in the last panel. (On Facebook, I asked if there were any earlier Marvel comics with no male characters, and no one could come up with one.) Otherwise, this was a pretty good issue, though very similar to #1. Nnedi Okorafor is becoming an excellent comics writer –  see the review of LaGuardia #1 below – and Leonardo Romero’s art is beautiful.

THE LONG CON #5 (Oni, 2018) – “Now Entering Capetown,” [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] Ed Dench. The protagonists reach the part of the convention that’s been taken over by superhero cosplayers, and we meet Helvetica Caslon, the comics editor. Her first and last names are both fonts. As expected, this issue is full of self-referential jokes, even more so than the rest of the series.

MR. & MRS. X #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Love & Marriage, Part Five,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. The protagonists defeat the Imperial Guard, Gambit and Rogue have a heart-to-heart talk, and perhaps most importantly, we meet Gambit’s three cats, Oliver, Lucifer and Figaro. See the review of #6 below for more on this series.

SUKEBAN TURBO #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sylvain Runberg, [A] Victor Santos. This is a translation of a French comic, but one that was originally published in the American format. If I’m reading https://www.bedetheque.com/BD-Sukeban-Turbo-296462.html correctly, Sukeban Turbo was the first original comic created for the Glénat Comics imprint, which mostly consists of translations of American comics like Letter 44 and Sex Criminals. So unlike with most French comics published in comic book format, the artwork doesn’t suffer from being reduced to a smaller format and a different aspect ratio. However, Victor Santos’s artwork still employs the complex page layouts characteristic of BD. Sylvain Runberg is a very successful writer, and this comic seems well-written. It’s about two childhood friends who grow up to become a pop star and a gangster. I’m glad this series exists because French commercial comics tend to be higher-quality than comparable American comics, but I much prefer the comic book format to the album format.

MARS ATTACKS #2 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. The Carbutts encounter a group of fellow survivors, who try to resist the Martians and are all killed, except for a dog. This issue is full of fun mayhem and carnage, and this series continues to be very well executed.

AMERICAN CARNAGE #1 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Freedom,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Leandro Fernandez. I enjoyed this when I read it, but I had to look through it again to remember what it was about. Oh, right – this comic is about a convicted felon who gets hired to infiltrate a domestic terrorist group. This series is important because it addresses white male terrorism, a far bigger threat to America than Islamic terrorism. Leandro Fernandez’s art is as brilliant in this series as in The Old Guard. He deserves to be as big a star as his countryman Eduardo Risso.

ATOMIC ROBO: GREATEST HITS #1 (IDW, 2018) – “The Trial of Doctor Dinosaur” and “The Centralia Job,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. This $1 comic includes two stories that, according to the blurb at the end, have never been printed in comic book form before. That’s not strictly true because “The Centralia Job” previously appeared in the 2014 Atomic Robo & Friends FCBD issue, and I already read it there. But “The Trial of Doctor Dinosaur,” originally called “The Trial of Atomic Robo,” was only published digitally and in trades. Like every Dr. Dinosaur appearance, this story is a laugh riot. They ought to bring Dr. Dinosaur back and give him his own series.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #5 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 5,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. This is an exciting conclusion to the series, though there are no huge surprises. It would be fun to see these characters again, but it might be even better if Brian Clevinger wrote some other Real Science Adventures series set in other historical periods.

LUCIFER #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Of Red Death and Ginger Tomcats,” [W] Dan Watters, [A] Max Fiumara. This comic is still very hard to understand, with multiple plotlines that are all confusing on their own and that have no apparent connection to each other. Still, I enjoyed this issue more than the last one. It draws heavily on literary references, including “The Masque of the Red Death” and The Tempest. I wouldn’t buy this series on its own, but I’m willing to keep reading it as long as it’s included in DCBS’s package deal, where you get all the Vertigo comics at a discount if you buy all of them.

GO-BOTS #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Tom Scioli. An adaptation of the poor man’s alternative to the Transformers. I’ve met Tom Scioli at a lot of conventions, and I find his work fascinating, but difficult, which is why I still haven’t read most of GI Joe and Transformers. His work reminds me of the Japanese heta-uma aesthetic (or rather, the things I’ve read about that aesthetic) because it looks extremely raw and unpolished, like something a schoolkid drew. And at conventions I’ve seen him drawing on graph paper or other low-quality paper. On each page of Go-Bots you can actually see the grain of the paper Tom drew on, unless it’s a paper veneer. Yet his work is very fundamentally sound; it reveals an extreme level of detail and composition. This issue’s story is also very strange. It’s about a world where Go-Bots are basically slaves, except the villain, Cy-Kill, and his rebels, so it seems like we’re supposed to sympathize with the villain and not the hero. This is a fascinating comic, and it made me want to go back and read more of Tom’s work.

GØDLAND #35 (Image, 2011) – “The Maximum Secret,” [W] Joe Casey, [A] Tom Scioli. This earlier Scioli comic is drawn in a far more polished style, with computer coloring and white paper, but paradoxically that makes his work less appealing. The rawness of his style vanishes, and instead what you notice about his work is how much it resembles Kirby. Which I guess was the point, because this comic is a deliberate Kirbyesque pastiche. In particular, it resembles his late work like Eternals or Captain Victory, and like those comics, it has a convoluted and nonsensical plot. Gødland shows that Tom Scioli is a brilliant Kirby imitator, but Go-Bots shows that he’s also more than that.

At this point I realized that I have a ton of interesting comics that I ordered from DCBS several years ago and never read. Back in 2015 and 2016, I was ordering a lot of new comics, and I didn’t make an effort to read all the comics I was getting, so I ended up with a substantial backlog. (This may be because I was only getting new comics every other week, and after I’d read all the best comics from my new stack, I lost interest in reading the less exciting ones. In contrast, this past year I’ve been trying to read every new comic I get every week.) So I decided to start reading some of the comics from that backlog, starting with:

THE HUMANS #9 (Image, 2015) – “The Human Code Part 1,” [W] Keenan Marshall Keller, [A] Tom Neely. The Humans plan their final assault on the police, which will end with most of them getting killed. This series is an effective evocation of ‘70s radicalism and biker culture, and as I’ve pointed out before, it reminds me a lot of Spain’s comics. But it’s pretty much the same thing every issue, so maybe it’s just as well that this series only lasted ten issues.

HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #4 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Traders,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornes. The protagonists head to Milwaukee for a meatpacking convention, and more violence and intrigue ensues. I’m losing interest in this series because it’s becoming just a generic crime comic. It doesn’t evoke the local color of the upper Midwest as powerfully as Revival did.

TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #7 (IDW, 2015) – untitled, [W] John Barber, [A] Tom Scioli. This series is drawn in the same style as Go-Bots, and the artwork and writing are similarly bizarre. Most of this issue focuses on Scarlett, who, thanks to Dr. Mindbinder, is experiencing a delusion where she’s married with two children and GI Joe doesn’t exist. The other plotline involves a battle between GI Joe and the Transformers and a giant Scorponok. The visual highlight of the issue is a two-page splash in which Scorponok is the size of an entire city. The only thing I don’t like about this comic is the digital lettering. In Go-Bots, Tom does his own lettering, and it suits his style much better.

GIANT-SIZE LITTLE MARVEL: AVX #3 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. In this Secret Wars spinoff, the Avengers and X-Men are children, and they’re each trying to recruit two new kids in town, Zachary and Zoe. This comic has the same basic idea as Tiny Titans, except it’s just better. Whereas Tiny Titans is sometimes too cute and wholesome for its own good, Skottie’s humor is just a little bit raucous and irrelevant (less so here than in Bully Wars or I Hate Fairyland), and his art is incredible; there are visual gags everywhere. Among the comics I bought in 2015 and didn’t read, this was one of the best.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #10 (Image, 2018) – “Cosmic Apocalypse,” [W/A] Ryan Browne. I gave up on this series because I didn’t much like its absurdist style of humor. Browne was just trying to be weird for weirdness’s sake, and his stories had no real point and didn’t go anywhere. This issue does little to change my opinion of the series. It’s the conclusion of a story where the two protagonists’ baby is kidnapped by aliens who are based on video game consoles. This issue has some funny jokes that are directed at gamers of my generation, but otherwise there’s not much substance to it.

SAVAGE DRAGON #80 (Image, 2000) – “The Lurkers Beneath Lake Fear!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Fleeing from Cyberface’s minions, Dragon dives underwater only to encounter a giant sea monster. Dragon spends most of the issue underwater, and Erik creates a powerful sense of danger and claustrophobia, because Dragon can’t breathe underwater and he rapidly becomes desperate for air. The issue ends with him passing out. Otherwise, this is a pretty standard issue from the “This Savage World” era.

SUGAR & SPIKE #88 (DC, 1970) – “Little Arthur Strikes Again!” and “Eggs Sunny-Side Down!”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. In this issue’s first story, Spike learns a grown-up word – “bigdumdum” – and causes mayhem by saying it at the wrong moments. In the second story, Sugar and Spike visit a museum where they cause further mayhem. I still don’t like this series as much as Little Lulu or Little Archie, but Shelly Mayer’s comic timing was very good.

DOOM PATROL #30 (DC, 1989) – “Going Underground,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case. Cliff Steele tries to save a comatose Jane by entering her unconscious mind. This issue is the origin of the idea that Jane’s unconscious takes the form of a subway system, as we saw in the current Doom Patrol series. At the end, Jane finally confronts the memory of her father’s abuse, but Cliff gets stuck inside her mind. This is a good issue, and it may be Grant’s most powerful depiction of Jane’s abuse and trauma.

MORNING GLORIES #45 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. Much of this issue is a flashback to Jade’s past. Jade’s mother died in a car accident, and Jade revived her, but her mother became delusional and thought Jade was the devil. Jade’s rejection by her mother is kind of heartwrenching. However, this issue feels kind of pointless because the series went on permanent hiatus after just five more issues, leaving many plot threads unresolved.

FEATHERS #4 (Archaia, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Jorge Corona. I can finally finish this series now that I’ve acquired issue 3, which I missed when it came out. This issue, Feathers finally makes it into the walled city, but discovers that the White Guide is just a statue. This seems like a really important revelation, but it’s been so long since I read issues 1 and 2 that I don’t remember what the White Guide is.

TINY TITANS: RETURN TO THE TREEHOUSE #2 (DC, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco. The same as every other issue of this miniseries. This issue took longer to read than usual because I had to decode Blue Beetle’s scarab’s dialogue.

DOCTOR SPEKTOR: MASTER OF THE OCCULT #1 (Dynamite, 2014) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Neil Edwards. Reviving Dr. Spektor was an odd idea because unlike Magnus, Turok or Dr. Solar, Dr. Spektor had never been revived before, and had not appeared in a new story since 1977. That means the only people who know about this character are readers of the original ‘70s series. And even though I have read the original Dr. Spektor comic, I couldn’t really get into Mark Waid’s version. The main attractions of the old Dr. Spektor comic are, first, Jesse Santos’s artwork, and second, the relationship between Adam Spektor and Lakota Rainwater. This issue doesn’t have either of those – I guess either Mark was saving Lakota for later, or else she’s too much of an ethnic stereotype to be reused. Dr. Spektor himself isn’t much of a character, so Mark has to invent a personality for him out of whole cloth. He chooses to turn Spektor into Dr. Strange with Tony Stark’s personality, and that’s not as interesting as it sounds.

TITANS/LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: UNIVERSE ABLAZE #1 (DC, 2000) – untitled, [W] Dan Jurgens, [A] Phil Jimenez. This could have been a classic, like X-Men/Teen Titans. Unfortunately it’s written by Dan Jurgens, whose only qualification is that he wrote a short-lived and unsuccessful Titans comic, and he fails to create any excitement or to provide any interesting characterization. This issue is most memorable for the series of creepy and disturbing scenes in which Roy Harper tries to seduce Luornu Durgo. Oh, also, Jurgens missed an opportunity for a hilarious scene: he could have had Starfire kiss any of the Legionnaires so she could learn Interlac, but he seemingly forgot she has that power.

BONANZA #33 (Gold Key, 1969) – “The Mesteñera” and other stories, [W] unknown (Paul S. Newman?), [A] Tom Gill. See https://ogresfeathers.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/reviews-for-most-of-march/#omen1 for an explanation of where I got this comic. What I don’t say in that review is that that ICFA trip was a low point in my life, because I thought I was going to have no job for the following school year. Anyway, this comic is surprisingly good. In the first story, protagonists Ben and Joe encounter a little mesteñera, or wild mustang herder, named Sarita, and they help save her father from being wrongfully executed. See https://www.instagram.com/p/BqwEyoxHxIy/ for a poignant moment from this story. The other stories in this issue aren’t quite as good.

EUTHANAUTS #4 (Black Crown, 2018) – “Spacewalk,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Nick Robles. I’m finally starting to understand this comic’s plot, but I still don’t like it as much as Assassinistas. But Nick Robles’s art is very trippy and bizarre.

RUINWORLD #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. The heroes defeat the villain and manage to escape with some gold. This series was entertaining, but not great. Derek Laufman still doesn’t seem to have found his own distinctive style.

DICK TRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Tracy Unwarranted,” [W] Lee Allred & Mike Allred, [A] Rich Tommaso. Tracy discovers that police corruption is just as much of a threat as his rogues gallery is. This issue was quite similar to the last one. The highlight was Tracy’s Captain Haddock disguise.

BLACK BADGE #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. After the end of their previous mission, the Black Badge campers are sent to participate in a competition against three other teams of secret agent campers. This series is already getting a little stale, so I’m glad the campers are doing something other than going on another secret agent mission. This issue implies that Black Badge and Grass Kings take place in the same universe, and that makes me want to go back and finish reading Grass Kings.

BLACK AF: WIDOWS AND ORPHANS #4 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kwanza Osajyefo 3, [A] Tim Smith. The interesting idea here is that the black superheroes, or some of them, are all children of a single superpowered couple. Other than that, this is just a rather generic superhero comic.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #7 (Image, 2015) – “Cosmic Apocalypse” part ??, [W/A] Ryan Browne. The gimmick this issue is that it’s narrated by Ryan Browne’s collaborator, Charles Soule. Besides that, I have nothing new to say about this issue; see the review of #10 above.

CAPTAIN MARVEL AND THE CAROL CORPS #2 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick & Kelly Thompson, [A] David Lopez. Despite this issue’s impressive lineup of talent, it’s not all that interesting. TBH, neither were most of the Secret Wars spinoff miniseries. It’s hard to care very much about this version of Captain Marvel when you know she’s only going to exist for a few more issues.

GIANT-SIZE LITTLE MARVEL: AVX #2 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. I read this issue out of order. It follows the same formula as issue 3, but it’s an excellent formula.

New comics received on December 1:

FANTASTIC FOUR #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Irreplaceable,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Stefano Caselli & Nico Leon. After no new FF for a month, we get two in three weeks. This issue the FF make it back to regular Earth, but the Future Foundation kids decide to continue exploring the multiverse. I really like the Future Foundation characters, but I guess writing them out of the series is a reasonable way to maintain a manageable cast size. Back on Earth, the FF fight the Wrecking Crew and a new replacement FF team, and then they move into a new headquarters, 4 Yancy Street. An annoying moment in this issue is when Val describes herself as a teenager. There is no way that can be true. The last time Val’s age was mentioned, she was only 3, and that was only about 5 in-universe years ago. I prefer to just assume Val was speaking imprecisely, just like Jen, in Lumberjanes #56, did not literally mean that all the girls were preteens. Of course the underlying problem is that the ages of Franklin, Val and the Power kids are impossible to reconcile with each other.

PRINCELESS VOL. 7: FIND YOURSELF #1 (Action Lab, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. This is the first new non-Raven Princeless comic in over a year. Incidentally, Jeremy confirmed on Twitter that the second half of Princeless: Make Yourself was only published digitally and in the “Make Yourself Part 2” trade paperback. I’ll have to order that. It looks like Raven: The Pirate Princess was cancelled, and that’s a shame, but I prefer the regular Princeless series. This issue Adrienne acts like a brat and gets in a pointless fight with Sparky, then fights a giant sand monster and loses. Also there’s a subplot involving all the other characters who are searching for Adrienne.

FENCE #12 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Nicholas and Eugene both get to be alternates – which is a slight anticlimax – and they’re initiated into the fencing fraternity. And that’s the last issue. It’s just as well that this series is becoming trade paperback only, because it will read much better in that format.

OH S#!T IT’S KIM & KIM #4 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. The Kims start a prison riot and escape, but on the way out they run into Saar and Columbus, who are basically male versions of themselves (like how Ray and Doyle are the male versions of Maggie and Hopey). This is a hilarious and thrilling issue. The highlight is the gang of “Disco Kids,” whose leader introduces himself with “You can tell by the way I hold this mace, I’m a violent man.”

HEROES IN CRISIS #3 (DC, 2018) – “Master of the Lagoon,” [W] Tom King, [A] Lee Weeks & Clay Mann. This was already the worst comic of the year, and it gets worse with each issue. This issue Wally is tormented by memories of Linda, Iris and Jae. I guess they’re not actually dead, they just don’t exist in this universe, but that’s almost worse. And it seems that the method of therapy in Sanctuary is to force patients to confront their worst fears continuously. Actual psychiatrists have pointed out what a terrible idea this is. I didn’t order issue 4, so I’m glad that #3 is the last issue I have to read. I do have to give credit to Tom King for vetoing the Poison Ivy variant cover for #7. See my forthcoming article in the Journal of Fandom Studies for a discussion of other similar cover-related controversies.

MAN-EATERS #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, except that we get to meet some of Chelsea Cain’s signature corgis. This series still hasn’t made any effort to address its obvious problems with gender essentialism and transphobia.

IRONHEART #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Kevin Libranda & Luciano Vecchio. When Eve Ewing was announced as the writer of this series, Comicgaters griped that she was a “diversity hire” who was unqualified for her job. They said she was hired only because she’s a black woman, even though she had no previous comics writing experience. Of course, what the Comicsgaters were really angry about was that they didn’t get hired to write for Marvel, and a black woman did. The argument about her lack of experience was disingenuous; as Neil Gaiman pointed out, he didn’t have any comics experience either when he was hired to write Black Orchid. The further irony is that Ironheart #1 is an extremely well-written comic. It’s a thrilling superhero story which also has a serious message: Riri’s observation that she wasn’t supposed to be alive, let alone at MIT, is very powerful. I also like how Marvel currently has three different black girl scientist characters (Riri, Lunella and a supporting character in Unstoppable Wasp), and they all have very different personalities.

HOUSE AMOK #3 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Shawn McManus. Dylan tries to get Ollie to realize that their parents aren’t normal, but it backfires severely. This is a creepy series and a powerful depiction of child abuse and mental illness. The really scary part is that for all the reader knows, the parents’ delusions might actually be real – maybe there is a “global conspiracy to overwrite our reality” or whatever.

THE TERRIFICS #10 (DC, 2018) – “Tom Strong & The Terrifics Part Four,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Viktor Bogdanovic. The Strongs and Terrifics defeat Doc Dread, but in doing so they sever their connection to the dark multiverse. So they have no further reason to stay together, and they break up, leaving Linnya alone. This has been a fun series.

FAITH DREAMSIDE #3 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] MJ Kim. In search of Monica’s soul, Faith and Dr. Mirage travel to the afterlife, where they encounter bizarre things like living flowers and a dragon car. Also, Faith meets her clone who died in a previous story. This is another fun series, and Jody Houser is a very underrated writer; see the reviews of Spider-Girls below.

KIM REAPER: VAMPIRE ISLAND #4 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Becca and Tyler travel to the afterlife, which is quite different from the afterlife in Faith Dreamside, to rescue Kim. But it turns out Kim has already reconciled with the Grim Reaper, and Kim and Becca repair their relationship. This was a really cute series, and I hope we’ll see more of these characters soon. It’s nice that Scholastic has recognized Sarah Graley’s talent by hiring her to do a graphic novel.

CODA #7 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Mr. Nameless and Serka execute a plan to kill the pilot of the Gog, but it turns out there is no pilot and the Gog is piloting itself. But Mr. Nameless manages to steal enough akker to make the potion to heal Serka, even though it’s not at all clear whether he should use it. I don’t think we know yet what the potion does. This is a dense and difficult series, but it may have the best art of any of Si Spurrier’s comics, and that’s saying a lot.

HEX WIVES #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Blacker, [A] Mirka Andolfo. More of the same thing as last issue. The one particularly notable moment in this issue is when Isadora’s husband tells her that he’s a terrible husband. Thanks to r/relationships, I’ve learned that this is a common thing that bad romantic partners do. It’s a backhanded way of fishing for affirmation; the point is to get the wife to reply, no, of course you’re not a terrible husband.

ARCHIE 1941 #3 (Archie, 2018) – “Home & Away,” [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. The title is appropriate because this issue depicts how the Riverdale citizens’ lives are torn apart by the war, both in training camp and on the home front. An especially poignant moment is when Chuck Clayton almost gets lynched, and Moose saves him. Also, we learn that Archie’s unit is going to be deployed to North Africa.

SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST SPIDER #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Spider-Geddon Part 2: The Ballad of Gwen Stacy,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Rosi Kämpe. I can’t pinpoint just why, but this issue fell flat for me. It had a lot of plot and characterization, but it felt like just a by-the-numbers superhero comic, and it wasn’t nearly as exciting or original as the Seanan McGuire novel I read. Perhaps the problem is that all the current Spider-Man titles are too heavily tied into the Spider-Geddon crossover. After reading this issue, I decided to give up on this series.

SPIDER-GIRLS #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Spider-Geddon,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Andrés Genolet. I had the exact opposite reaction to this issue. Jody Houser does a great job of writing this series’ three protagonists. The emotional heart of Spider-Girls is Annie May, who’s been raised as a future Spider-Woman and is desperate to prove herself. This character, like Monica Jim in Faith Dreamside, shows that Jody Houser is really good at writing teen girls. Also this issue has some adorably awful spider-monsters. It’s too bad that Spider-Girls is just three issues and Spider-Gwen is an ongoing, and not the other way around.

BOOKS OF MAGIC #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Unreliable Narrators,” [W] Kat Howard, [A] Tom Fowler. I liked this better than #1. It feels like Kat Howard fundamentally understands Tim’s character: he’s a young boy who’s well-intentioned and serious, but also super awkward. This issue, Tim tries to revive his mother, but it doesn’t go well.

BLACK PANTHER #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Many Thousands Gone” part 5, [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. Some time has passed since last issue, and T’Challa and his allies are hiding on some rock somewhere. Nakia convinces T’Challa to man up and resume the mantle of the Black Panther. As mentioned in my review of #4, I was ready to drop this series, but with this issue I feel that this series has a purpose and is going somewhere, so I’m going to stick with it.

BLACK PANTHER #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Many Thousands Gone” part 6, [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Jen Bartel. This isn’t Jen Bartel’s first work for Marvel, but it’s a sign of her growing reputation. This issue we move away from T’Challa and his allies to focus on N’Jadaka, the Big Bad of this storyline, and we learn how N’Jadaka and Bast corrupted each other. This was another good issue, and it confirms my decision to keep reading Black Panther.

LUCIFER #3 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Cold Heaven Part Three: Mothers of All,” [W] Holly Black, [A] Lee Garbett. I started reading this when it came out, but gave up after one issue. This issue’s main story is not all that great. But it has a very effective subplot about an adopted Haitian girl who’s abused by her racist, fundamentalist adoptive parents and siblings. This issue could be a case study on the perils of transracial adoption. At the end of the issue, one of the siblings gets killed, and the reader is not sorry at all.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #10 (Marvel, 2018) – “Being Fantastic,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramon Perez. I’m not sure what Ramon Perez’s art actually looks like, because they seem to keep hiring him to imitate other artists or to draw in a house style. This issue is the conclusion to the Mad Thinker storyline, and it includes a scene where Ben and Johnny say the L-word to each other. Besides that, it’s not very notable.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #11 (Marvel, 2018) – “Past Tense,” as above. This issue takes place after the current Fantastic Four series begins, so the core premise of this MTIO series – that Ben and Johnny are searching for Reed, Sue and the kids – is now moot. Instead, this issue is a team-up between Ben and Reed. It offers some mildly interesting insights into Ben and Reed’s relationship, but that relationship has ben explored very heavily in many other comics.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #12 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family,” as above. The other half of the FF, Sue and Johnny, team up to fight the Mole Man, and the Rachna Koul subplot is resolved. There are also appearances by the rest of the FF, including Val, who is drawn to look much too old. And so ends a disappointing series.

REVIVAL #4 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. May Tao gets involved in some kind of intrigue, Dana and Ibrahim have a heart-to-heart talk, and various other subplots happen. The high point of this issue is the panel where Ibrahim says he’s “spent the last eleven years putting up with assumptions that people like my nice, sweet parents are secretly plotting the downfall of this country.”

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #44 (Vertigo, 1998) – “The End: Slave of Heavens Prologue,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross. Angels and demons are at war. Tim gives up his magic so the rest of the world can have it. Also, Tim tells off a Hindu goddess. I’m really not sure what’s going on in this issue.

ROY ROGERS’ TRIGGER #10 (Dell, 1953) – “Killer Cat” and “Trigger Turns Detective,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Till Goodan. This comic is incomplete, though I knew that when I bought it – it was in the quarter box at the Nostalgia Zone in Minneapolis. Even if it was complete, it would be a pretty forgettable comic; it’s just a generic Western story.

IMAGE FIRSTS: WYTCHES #1 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Jock. A teenage girl has some sort of traumatic event in her past, which left her mother crippled. She moves to a new school where a bully tries to rape her, but gets eaten by a tree instead. Also, there’s some business about children being pledged to witches. There are some powerful moments in this issue, but I’ve decided I don’t like Scott Snyder’s writing. His dialogue just sounds wrong, and his stories seem heavier on flash than substance.

TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #9 (IDW, 2015) – “Stick to Your Guns – Spotlight: Destro,” [W/A] Tom Scioli. This issue is credited to Tom alone, without John Barber. It consists of the origin story of the Destro family. According to this story, the Destro mask was made from the face of a hibernating Transformer. Also, the Destros are Scottish, so this issue is full of rather inaccurate Scottish English. Otherwise, this is a standard example of Tom’s style. See the above reviews of Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #7 and Go-Bots #1 for further comments.

FEATHERS #5 (Archaia, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Jorge Corona. Poe learns the truth about his origin, but I don’t understand what that truth is. Bianca runs away from home and gets captured by the red dude, and Poe goes looking for her. Which sets the stage for:

FEATHERS #6 (Archaia, 2015) – as above. The Captain dude steals Poe’s feathers, leaving him looking disturbingly naked. Poe and Bianca defeat the Captain and save the day, setting the stage for the breaking of the barriers between the city and the slums. There’s a hook for a sequel miniseries at the end. Overall, Feathers was a pretty good series, but not spectacular. I think my favorite thing about Feathers is Poe’s visual appearance.

CONAN/RED SONJA #4 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “The Age of Death,” [W] Gail Simone & Jim Zub, [A] Randy Green. Conan and Sonja fight Thoth-Amon and win. This was not that great of an issue, especially not compared to Red Sonja/Tarzan.

THE UNWRITTEN #6 (Vertigo, 2009) – “Inside Man Part One,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. This may be the earliest issue I hadn’t read yet. This issue, Tommy is sent to prison, coincidentally in Roncesvalles where Roland was killed, and Lizzie goes looking for him. This issue has some interesting design elements: there’s a scene where Lizzie communicates with someone else through the text of a book, and there’s a page made up entirely of fake Internet news stories.

HELLBOY AND THE BPRD 1952 #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] Alex Maleev. I don’t think I’ve read an Alex Maleev comic since he was drawing Daredevil, so this issue was a bit nostalgic. Otherwise it’s a pretty standard Hellboy story, in which Hellboy and the BPRD visit Brazil and encounter a murderous monkey-like demon.

CONAN/RED SONJA #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “The Age of Adventure,” [W] Gail Simone & Jim Zub, [A] Dan Panosian. Red Sonja encounters Conan and Bêlit during their Black Corsairs period. I was going to say that this is the only story I know of in which Red Sonja meets Bêlit, but it turns out that this already happened in Conan the Barbarian #67, and that issue was much better than this one. The other Black Corsairs rarely appear in this issue, and when we do see them, they look racially ambiguous rather than being obviously black. Maybe the idea of two white people commanding a black crew was considered too embarrassing.

BACCHUS #3 (Eddie Campbell, 1995) – “King Bacchus Part 2: It’s D.T. and the Screaming Habdabs,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. Bacchus vanishes into William Hogarth’s Beer Street painting. Nothing much else happens, but this story is fun anyway. There’s also a chapter of “Immortality Isn’t Forever,” but I’ve already read the trade paperback of that story.

BACCHUS #4 – as above except the title is “King Bacchus Part 3: Beer Street Ain’t What It Used to Be.” Bacchus is chased through a bunch of paintings by his old nemesis, the puritanical Mr. Dry. The story ends with Bacchus finding himself inside American Gothic. Meanwhile, the other people in the bar create a new grim-and-gritty version of Bacchus.

STRAY BULLETS #1 (El Capitán, 1995) – “The Look of Love,” [W/A] David Lapham. I’ve acquired a few David Lapham comics, but I think this is the first one I’ve actually read, and I’m seriously impressed. This opening story is about an older man, Frank, and a younger man, Joey, who seems to be intellectually disabled. They’re trying to get rid of a body for some reason, but they keep making dumb mistakes which result in other people seeing the body, and they then have to kill those people too. The issue ends with Joey killing Frank. One reason this series is impressive is because it’s a crime comic with an indie comics sensibility. David Lapham’s art is black-and-white and hand-lettered, and reminds me a lot of Jaime Hernandez’s art, both because of his spotting of blacks and because every page uses a 2×4 grid. The other impressive thing about this comic is its brutal depiction of violence, but more on that later.

MURDER ME DEAD #4 (El Capitán, 2001) – “Murder Me Dead Chapter Four,” [W/A] David Lapham. This issue is difficult to understand out of context, but it seems to be about a woman who’s two-timing two men, and she murders one of them, then gets the other one to take the blame. Like Stray Bullets #1 – and Lodger #2, to reviewed later – this issue includes a scene of brutal violence that erupts out of nowhere. In Stray Bullets #1, Joey is able to kill so many people because he has easy access to guns; by contrast, in Murder Me Dead #4, the murder is committed with a knife. But the common theme seems to be that wherever you are in America, you’re never far away from murder. BTW, I should point out that each page of this issue has four panel tiers, but some tiers have more or less than two panels.

CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS #1 (Icon, 2009) – “The Sinners Part One,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue’s protagonist, the hitman Tracy Lawless, previously appeared in several other Criminal story arcs. The premise of this storyline is that Tracy has to track down some people who are killing his fellow criminals, in exchange for being able to abandon his murderous lifestyle. Criminal is a very different crime comic from Stray Bullets. It’s much slicker and more polished, which is both good and bad.

WILD’S END: THE ENEMY WITHIN #2 (Boom!, 2015) – “Friend or Foe,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. This series is perhaps the prime example of the poor buying decisions I made in 2015. I ordered this entire miniseries, but didn’t read any of it. I’m not sure what was the logic behind this; I guess maybe I thought that if I had the entire series, I would feel obligated to read it, but it didn’t work that way. My current thinking is that if I’ve gotten seriously behind on a comic, I might as well quit reading it. Anyway, this miniseries is a cross between The War of the Worlds and The Wind in the Willows (perhaps this idea was inspired by the similarity of those two titles), in which Martians invade a version of Britain where all the people have animal heads. As this issue begins, the British army is holding a bunch of people captive because they witnessed the start of a Martian invasion. The detainees try to escape, but are betrayed by the detainee Susan’s despicable ex-husband, and another of them is shot.

WILD’S END: THE ENEMY WITHIN #3 – as above except the title is “Into the Unknown.” This issue only advances the plot a little bit. It ends with the army discovering that there are far more Martian ships than they realized. When I implied in the previous review that I shouldn’t have been ordering this series, that doesn’t imply that it’s a bad comic. It’s actually quite good. Abnett’s story is exciting and historically plausible, except for the Martians, and Culbard is a skilled animal artist. I especially like the squirrel character with the giant eyes.

WILD’S END: THE ENEMY WITHIN #4 – as above except the title is “Curiosity.” The army awakens one of the Martian tripods, with deadly results. Meanwhile, the detainees Susan and Peter manage to get to a town.

CASANOVA: AVARITIA #3 (Icon, 2012) – “The Width of a Circle,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Gabriel Bá. I bought this years ago, but didn’t read it, because I thought I had read it already in a different format. It seems I was wrong about that; there have been four volumes of Casanova so far, and Avaritia is the one I haven’t read. The art in this issue is beautiful, but as with the latest Casanova miniseries, the story makes very little sense.

GOLD KEY SPOTLIGHT #9 (Gold Key, 1977) – “Where Prowls the Devil Shark,” [W] Don Glut, [A] Dan Spiegle. This is the last appearance of Tragg and the Sky Gods, one of Glut and Santos’s three original series from the ‘70s, along with Dagar and Dr. Spektor. Tragg and the Sky Gods is about an encounter between cavemen and aliens. This issue doesn’t exactly resolve the stories of Tragg and his alien counterpart Ferenk, but it does give them a satisfying ending. It also has an unusual narrative structure by Gold Key standards: for eleven consecutive pages, the top 2/3 of each page are devoted to the main story, but the bottom tier of panels follows the story of the eponymous devil shark. Finally the two narrative threads merge when the shark attacks the alien woman Keera.

NAMELESS #3 (Image, 2015) – “Into the Burrows,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Chris Burnham. I ordered the first five issues of this series, but only read the first issue, and I couldn’t make head or tail of it. I expected that this issue would be a similar exercise in frustration, and I was surprised when it actually made sense and was also quite exciting. Nameless is about a team of astronauts who are trying to use magic to deflect an asteroid, Xibalba, that’s going to hit Earth. Except it turns out Xibalba is some kind of alien megastructure. Besides being surprisingly well-written, Nameless #3 has excellent art. Chris Burnham’s style reminds me a lot of Frank Quitely’s.

GOD IS DEAD #2 (Avatar, 2013) – “God is Dead Chapter Two,” [W] Jonathan Hickman & Mike DiCosta, [A] Di Amorim. The premise of this series is that a bunch of gods from different pantheons all return to Earth at once, and promptly go to war. The problem with this premise is that gods are supposed to gain power from their believers, and right now the Hindu gods have billions of worshippers, while the Greek and Norse gods have almost none. So if a war of pantheons really did happen in real life, it would be no contest. Oh, also, this series only seems to include a few token African gods, even though the Yoruba deities, for example, have lots of worshippers today. In terms of craftsmanship, God is Dead has some acceptable writing, but the artwork is at the level of a ‘90s Image comic.

DISNEY PRINCESSES FCBD 2018 (Joe Books, 2018) – various single-page strips, [W/A] various. This is the dumbest comic I’ve read all year. It’s just a bunch of gag strips about the Little Mermaid characters, and none of the strips are even remotely funny. This comic is intended for very young children, but even for that audience, there are better comics available.

WILD’S END: THE ENEMY WITHIN #5 (Boom!, 2016) – as above except the title is “Shoot to Kill.” Fawkes the poacher, perhaps the most sympathetic character in the series, gets killed saving his friends. I read this and the next two comics by flashlight in a freezing, pitch-dark apartment, because the power was out thanks to a snowstorm. This was the third blackout this semester, and also the worst. The power company was giving me no updates on when power would be restored. And unlike during the previous blackout, I couldn’t go to the nearby Panera or Starbucks, because they were closed. At least the blackout was a good opportunity to get some reading done.

WILD’S END: THE ENEMY WITHIN #6 – as above except the title is “National Security.” A disappointing and anticlimactic conclusion to what had been a pretty good series. The army gets wiped out by the Martians, and when Susan and Peter try to spread the news of the invasion, they find that the Martians have already destroyed the town they were staying in. And that’s the end. I guess there’s a third volume, but it was only published as a trade paperback, and I’m in no hurry to get that book, though I would buy it if I happened to find it for a low price.

THE LAST AMERICAN #4 (Epic, 1991) – “Oh, Say, Does That Star-Spangled Banner Yet Wave?”, [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. Ulysses finds evidence that some people may have survived the nuclear war, but he loses track of them. And he decides that he shouldn’t look for them, because the violent America that he represents should die with him. This is a fairly satisfying ending – which itself is a surprise, because I had trouble imagining any way that this series could end.

November reviews

11-30

As usual I’m well over a month behind. I got all these comics on November 2, and I don’t remember them very well:

OH S#!T IT’S KIM & KIM #3 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. The Kims get thrown into a women’s prison, where they make their own separate escape plans. Lots of hilarious stuff happens. For example, the announcer for all the fights between prisoners is a giant corgi. Also, there’s a scene that reveals that Furious Quattro, Kim Q’s dad, is not only a transphobic jerk but also a literal James Bond villain – we see him suspending a heroine over a lava pit. Kim & Kim is one of the most fun series on the market right now.

DOOM PATROL #12 (DC, 2018) – “To Tame a Land: Into the Daemonscape,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. This comic is so late that it references Milk Wars, which ended months ago, as occurring in the future. It also makes little sense on its own. This issue depicts Lucius and his parents are having a Dungeons & Dragons adventure, and the issue’s cover is an homage to the design of classic D&D modules. I don’t know what any of this has to do with anything. It would be nice if the next issue of this series comes out before another six months have passed.

FENCE #11 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Nicholas can only make the team if Aiden loses, but Aiden wins, and Nicholas’s dreams are shattered. Except it turns out he and Eugene are tied for the reserve spot. This comic is unusual because the protagonist loses more often than he wins – he doesn’t have an easy path to the top, like heroes in sports stories usually do.

NANCY DREW #5 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. After a very tense and exciting confrontation, Nancy saves the day and unmasks the villains, but the issue ends with Nancy getting arrested. And I don’t know when this cliffhanger will be resolved, because issue 6 hasn’t been solicited yet. I need to remember to show this series to a colleage who read Nancy Drew books as a child.

MAN-EATERS #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. Maude puts in a tampon for the first time, then her dad investigates a cat attack. And that’s the entire issue. The tampon scene is fairly powerful, but after finishing the issue, I was like “That’s all?” Besides lacking a plot, Man-Eaters #2 also fails to do anything to address the charges of gender essentialism and transphobia that have been leveled against this series. I still really like Chelsea Cain’s sense of humor and her skillful use of typography and design (e.g. the ad on the inside front cover), but Man-Eaters is shaping up to be the second most disappointing series of the year.

HEROES IN CRISIS #2 (DC, 2018) – “Then I Became Superman,” [W] Tom King, [A] Clay Mann & Travis Moore. And here’s the first most disappointing series of the year. There are good things in this issue: I like Tom King’s depiction of the Penguin, and it’s kind of cool how Harley Quinn defeats Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. But this whole series is just an inappropriate use of the superhero genre. Tom King attempts to do a dark, gritty, realistic examination of superhero psychology and trauma, but this is doomed to fail because the characters in this series are superpowered people who wear long underwear. This series ultimately feels like a trivialization of the issues it addresses, just like Alpha Flight #106 was a trivialization of the topics of AIDS and homosexuality. I’ve heard some speculation that Tom King originally had very different plans for this series which were derailed by editorial interference, and I really hope that’s true.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Caselli. This was a fun issue, but it’s hard to remember much about it since I already read issue 4. The West Coast Avengers fight a bunch of giant mutated women, and it becomes clear that BRODOK created them because he’s a crazy incel. (He also reminds me of Gideon Gordon Graves, who put his ex-girlfriends in suspended animation.) And then BRODOK turns Kate into a giant hawk.

HEX WIVES #1 (DC, 2018) – “Bewildered and Bothered, “ [W] Ben Blacker, ]A] Mirka Andolfo. This new Vertigo title is about a group of lesbian witches who keep getting killed by sexist men and then reincarnated. Their latest reincarnation is as a group of housewives in ‘50s America, hence the punny title. Like Lady Killer, this series satirizes the myth of American domesticity, by depicting seemingly perfect housewives who turn out to be horribly violent killers. In its deliberate use of nostalgia, it also resembles Blacker’s previous work, Thrilling Adventure Hour. It looks like this will be a fun series.

THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Masquerade,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Joe Bennett, plus other stories. In this annual’s first story, the Terrifics fight a bunch of monsters that look like real Stagg employees. This is Gene Luen Yang’s best DC comics story that I’ve read, although that’s not saying much, and it has some good characterization of Linnya and Michael in particular. The high point of the annual is “Origin of the Specious,” which I think is the only collaboration between Mark Russell and Doc Shaner. It’s not very political, unlike almost every other Mark Russell story; it’s just a poignant examination of Java’s origin and psychology. The last story in the annual is just setup for the current Tom Strong storyline in the main Terrifics series.

VAGRANT QUEEN #5 (Vault, 2018) – “The Bezoar of Kings,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. Isaac captures Ellida, and then Lazaro beats them both up and leaves them to die. This was an okay issue, but this comic’s artwork hasn’t gotten any better.

ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #4 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. A fun issue, but pretty much exactly the same as the first three. Notable moments in this issue include The Siren’s “Doo doo doo what we say” song, and the suggestion that Betty is related to Aunt Harriet Cooper.

FAITH DREAMSIDE #2 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] MJ Kim. Last issue, Faith met a young girl, Monica, who was being tormented by ghosts. This issue, Faith introduces Monica to Dr. Mirage. This issue has a lot of effective character interactions and funny jokes, like when Monica wonders if she’s sitting on Dr. Mirage’s husband’s ghost (the ghost is visible to the reader, but not to most of the characters). Monica is a very realistic portrayal of a terrified young girl.

CHAMPIONS #7 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Man Who Created the Black Widow,” [W] Tony Isabella, [A] George Tuska. The Champions battle the Griffin and a new villain who turns out to be the son of Ivan, the Black Widow’s sidekick. (Ivan basically disappeared from the Marvel Universe after the ‘70s, I don’t know why.) This comic is a fun piece of ‘70s nostalgia, but it could have been much better with a more exciting writer. For example, Gerry Conway could have done some great stuff with characters like Black Widow, Hercules and the Beast.

GREEN LANTERN/HUCKLEBERRY HOUND #1 (DC, 2018) – “The Test,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Rick Leonardi. It’s 1972, and John Stewart is training with Katma Tui to be an intergalactic superhero. But back home in Detroit, he’s just another black man, and is facing constant racism and police brutality. After an encounter with Huckleberry Hound, another victim of discrimination, John is provoked into using his ring to save other black people from being killed by police. John fully expects that this will cost him his ring, but Katma lets him keep it, telling him that “knowing when to disobey is the most important skill of a Green Lantern.” This issue is a very powerful statement about race, and much like the Snagglepuss series, it’s just as much about contemporary America as it’s about the historical period it depicts. It’s also nice to see John and Katma interacting again – I like when Katma asks how to stop the chair from spinning. Prez Rickard makes a cameo appearance at the end of the issue.

WONDER WOMAN #52 (DC, 2018) – “The Enemy of Both Sides, Part One,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Aco. Diana teams up with Artemis and Aztek to fight Tezcatlipoca. I’m not familiar with Aztek’s continuity, and I don’t know how this issue relates to the Bana Mighdall plotline from issue 54. But this is an exciting and well-drawn comic. Whoever Aco is, he draws some nice panel compositions, and he makes productive use of Aztec art as an influence.

DOOM PATROL/JLA SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Milk Wars: The End,” [W] Steve Orlando & Gerard Way, [A] Dale Eaglesham & Nick Derington. In the conclusion to Milk Wars, it turns out that Milkman Man is Casey and Terry’s son, and lots of other weird stuff happened. This comic is okay, but I never quite understood what was going on in Milk Wars.

BLACK PANTHER #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Many Thousands Gone,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. Most of this issue is a Star Wars-esque spaceship battle. At the end, we learn that the McGuffin of this story is a shard of the M’Krann Crystal. This was a competently written comic with some exciting action sequences, but it didn’t really excite me.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #8 (Marvel, 2018) – “Slow Burn,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. Another fairly boring comic. This issue starts with a setup that reminds me of Black Hammer: Ben and Johnny are stuck in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Johnny finally figures out that Ben’s been lying to him about Reed and Sue being alive. He burns down his and Ben’s house in a fit of rage, then at the end of the issue, an evil Fantastic Four from another dimension show up.

PUNKS NOT DEAD #6 (IDW, 2018) – “About a Boy: Teenage Kicks, Part 6,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. Fergie and Sid escape the bird-monsters and head to London in search of Fergie’s dad. This conclusion doesn’t really resolve very much, but the next miniseries, appropriately called London Calling, has been solicited for February.

BRITANNIA: LOST EAGLES OF ROME #1 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Robert Gill. I ordered this because it was a new Peter Milligan miniseries, but then I kind of forgot to read it. This miniseries appears to be a sequel to an earlier series. It stars a Roman government official who’s ordered by Nero to recover the legionary eagles that were lost in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. This comic seems quite historically accurate, and it has some political relevance because it’s about a crazy all-powerful dictator, but overall it’s just average.

ENCOUNTER #5 (Lion Forge, 2018) – untitled, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso. I continue to read this series in backwards order. This issue, Encounter meets some aliens who turn out to be from his own home planet.

AVENGERS #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Secret Origin of the Marvel Universe,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Paco Medina. This issue illustrates why I quit reading this series: it’s too cosmic and epic for its own good, and it has no characterization. This issue, we learn that Marvel Earth’s superheroes all evolved because of the radioactive blood of a dead Celestial. This revelation would have had more impact if there hadn’t already been a ton of other “secret origins of the Marvel Universe.” I thought Marvel superheroes came about because of the Eternals, or the Kree, or any of several other causes. Oh, also, this issue ends with all the Avengers growing to giant size to fight the Celestials, but who cares. This isn’t an Avengers comic, it’s a poor imitation of Grant Morrison’s JLA.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Winter in America: Part II,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. Cap fights a bunch of Nukes, but no one much cares, and Thunderbolt Ross orders him to stop. TNC’s Captain America, like his Black Panther, is more interesting on an intellectual than an emotional level, which is why I’ve gotten behind on my reading of both series.

INCREDIBLES 2: CRISIS IN MID-LIFE! AND OTHER STORIES #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Crisis in Mid-Life! Part Two,” [W] Christos Gage, [A] GuriHiru, plus other stories. This comic is too wholesome for its own good. Its jokes are unfunny (except the businessman who’s angry about being late to work, because he’s merging and acquiring), and its gender politics are straight from the ‘50s. The Parrs feel like a sitcom family, not a real one.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #9 (Marvel, 2018) – “Being Fantastic,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. It turns out that the fake FF are the Mad Thinker – who is perhaps my favorite FF villain, although he’s not used much – and his minions. Sue Storm appears at the end of the issue. I have the next three issues of this series, but I haven’t yet felt like reading them.

BLACK PANTHER #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Many Thousands Gone” part 3, as above. T’Challa and his pals try to recover the M’Krann Shard, and there are more fight scenes. Manifold appears at the end. A flaw in TNC’s writing is excessive decompression; he writes a lot of issues where nothing happens.

CAPTAIN CONFEDERACY #3 (SteelDragon, 1986) – “Choices,” [W] Will Shetterly, [A] Vince Stone. I hate Will Shetterly’s politics and his online behavior, and I’ve blocked him on Facebook. However, his work is relevant to me because he was part of the ‘80s Minneapolis SF and comics scene. Indeed, the most interesting thing about this comic might be the ad on the last page for Comic City, which later became the Comic Book College, the first comic book store I ever visited. Maybe that local connection is why I bought this comic. It’s a superhero story taking place in an alternate universe where the Confederacy won the Civil War. That’s an interesting premise, but this comic’s art and writing are pretty average. This issue includes an Ant Boy backup story by Matt Feazell.

MARS ATTACKS #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. I know Chris Schweizer from when I lived in Atlanta, but I’ve read very little of his work, and I didn’t realize what a talented artist he is. This issue is drawn in a sort of Clear Line style, and it’s beautiful, very colorful and detailed. Kyle Starks’s writing is also impressive. This series’ protagonists are a young ne’er-do-well, Spencer Carbutt, and his father, an elderly veteran. The father is extremely disappointed in his son, but when Martians invade and start killing people indiscriminately, the Carbutts have to overcome their mutual hatred enough to save each other. No familiarity with the Mars Attacks franchise is assumed.

GRIMM’S GHOST STORIES #21 (Gold Key, 1974) – “Cowards Yield,” [W] uncredited, [A] Win Mortimer, plus other stories. This issue consists of four horror stories that are all equally formulaic and boring. The most interesting thing about this issue is the third story, drawn by Oscar Novello. I hadn’t heard of this artist before, but he started his career in Argentina in the 1940s. His story in this issue is surprisingly detailed considering the low page rates he must have been getting, and he draws some good facial expressions.

SEX DEATH REVOLUTION #1 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Becca Farrow. This was the last comic I read this week because it’s really long. Sex Death Revolution has a transgender protagonist who’s dealing with mental illness, so it’s reminiscent of both Kim & Kim and Eternity Girl. I can’t remember what exactly happens in this issue, but its plot has something to do with black magic that can selectively edit the past. This is a rather difficult comic, but it could be Mags’s best serious work yet (I wouldn’t call Kim & Kim a serious work).

New comics received on November 10, at which point I was able to enjoy them a bit more because I was no longer terrified about the midterm elections:

RUNAWAYS #15 (Marvel, 2018) – “That Was Yesterday Part III,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Nico encounters the spirit contained in her staff, which turns out to be a crazy world-conquering demon, and it forces Nico to make a bargain where it gets stronger whenever she uses a spell. Also, it really likes pancakes. Besides the pancakes, the highlight of the issue is the last panel, where the demon’s shadow is visible behind Nico’s shadow. Not much happens in terms of any of the other plotlines.

GIANT DAYS #44 (IDW, 2018) – “Esther Falls in Love with Elon Musk,” [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. That’s not the real title. In a Valentine’s Day-themed story, Esther falls in love with a billionaire tech bro, but then dumps him because he’s invovled with hyperloops. The tech bro then falls in love with the girl who’s been making all the noise in Esther’s dorm. This was a fun issue, as usual, and I like how this series’s plot actually progresses over time. I wonder what’s going to happen to Giant Days when the protagonists graduate from university.

BLACKBIRD #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Jen Bartel. Nina and her talking cat investigate Marisa’s disappearance, and they encounter lots of weird people. This was an entertaining issue, but very similar to issue 1, although it’s nice to see Nina actually caring about something.

CROWDED #4 (Image, 2018) – “The American in Me,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. Vita’s house burns down, thanks in large part to the apathy of the for-profit fire department. This is another example of how Crowded is just barely science-fictional. Privatized fire departments that charge extra for foam aren’t real, but they easily could be. Besides that, this issue also focuses heavily on Trotter, and it starts to show us why everyone hates Charlotte.

SPARROWHAWK #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Delilah S. Dawson, [A] Matias Basla. I can’t remember the protagonist’s name, but she fights a bunch of monsters and travels through some bizarre environments. At the end of the issue she moults and grows bigger wings. This is an impressive series, and Matias Basla’s art is gorgeous. I particularly like the scene with the garden full of mazes and topiary monsters.

MOTH & WHISPER #3 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Suspended Bodies,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Jen Hickman. Nikki tries to infiltrate a factory run by Wolfe, the Big Bad (as TVTropes calls it), but Wolfe captures them and claims that their parents were working for him before they disappeared. Also, Nikki confirms that they’re genderqueer and their pronouns are they/them. This is a really fun series, but also rather grim: for example, Wolfe’s factory is used to harvest organs from live people.

THE GREEN LANTERN #1 (DC, 2018) – “Intergalactic Lawman,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Grant Morrison is washed up, having become too cosmic and trippy that he can no longer tell a good story. So I expected this comic to be underwhelming, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. This issue begins with a battle between some alien Green Lanterns and the Luck Lords of Ventura – a nice Legion reference. Then, in an echo of Hal Jordan’s origin, a dying Green Lantern lands on Earth and gives Hal his ring. And it turns out there’s something wrong with the Book of Oa. Unlike most recent Grant Morrison comics, this issue makes complete sense – although it’s not obvious how all the plot threads are connected – and it’s also fun to read. And Liam Sharp is a better artist than I gave him credit for.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #4 (DC, 2018) – “Lost Boys,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. This issue’s cover is an homage to the cover of Brave and the Bold #93, the Batman-House of Mystery team-up. That’s appropriate because in this issue, after Space Cabby’s cab crashlands, Damian has to take a severly ill Jon to the “House of Secret Mysteries” for help. This is a really fun series, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I forgot to say this before, but the girl Captain Cold is really cute.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #72 (IDW, 2018) – “The Extra Ingredient is Pear,” [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Agnes Garbowska. Not the actual title. This issue is a quasi-sequel to “The Perfect Pear,” perhaps the best episode of the entire series. The Apples find Pear Butter’s apple pie recipe, and they try to recreate it for Granny, but they can’t quite get it right. After numerous failed attempts, each of which involves a flashback, Applejack figures out that the missing ingredient is a pear – because Pear Butter loved both sides of her family. Heartwarming.

X-23 #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Operation Kindergarten Clone,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Georges Duarte. Gabby poses as a high school student (although she looks too young to be in high school) in order to track down a creator of illegal clones. Hijinks and battles ensue. This was a really fun issue, though it was a quick read. Gabby and Laura’s interactions are the primary draw of this series.

BORDER TOWN #3 (DC, 2018) – “Child Sacrifices,” [W] Eric Esquivel, [A] Ramon Villalobos. There are two standout scenes in this issue. The first is Aimi’s confrontation with a racist, sexist, lecherous school principal. The second is the scene right after that, with the crazy Nazi survivalist and his equally bad son. Both these scenes depict the depth of racism and misogyny in today’s America, in a creepily plausible way. By comparison, the scene with the curandera is pretty cute. Border Town continues to be a challenging but important comic.

FARMHAND #5 (Image, 2018) – “The Antique Lady,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. It turns out that Ms. Thorne is seriously bad news, and unfortunately she just got elected mayor. Also, the mysterious green blight is spreading out of Freetown. This issue includes a reference to a drugstore called Guidry’s, which is cute because I have a friend who’s from Louisiana and is named Guidry. And in general, this series demonstrates a lot of local knowledge; it’s clear that Rob Guillory grew up in a town much like Freetown.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE FUNNIES #1 (Image, 2018) – various stories, [W] Kieron Gillen et al, [A] Jamie McKelvie et al. A collection of humorous stories starring the WicDiv cast, by a large number of writers and artists. The best stories in the issue are 1) the first story, where the protagonists are dogs instead of gods – I just noticed the anagrammatic pun there. And 2) “5 Things Everyone Who’s Lived with Sakhmet Will Understand,” where Sakhmet brings her human dead people, instead of dead mice and birds. This issue is a lot of good clean fun.

OUTER DARKNESS #1 (Image, 2018) – “Each Other’s Throats Pt. 1: Captain on the Bridge,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. In this space opera comic, a starship captain is fired for refusing an illegal order from his shipowner. He gets hired instead to command a new ship, whose engine is a demon fueled by human sacrifices. This comic feels like a gritty and unromantic version of Star Wars, with a very diverse cast, and I like Afu Chan’s art.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: HOTEL OBLIVION #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Miniature War in a Miniature Home,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. Like #1, this comic is completely impenetrable and makes no effort at all to cater to new readers. I’m done with this comic. Even Gabriel Bá’s art isn’t a sufficient reason to put up with a story that makes utterly no sense.

BULLY WARS #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Aaron Conley. This issue consists of a long dream sequence followed by some setup for the actual Bully War. This series is aimed at young kids, but it appeals to me because it demonstrates the cruelty and cynicism of actual children.

LEVIATHAN #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Layman, [A] Nick Pitarra. I was underwhelmed by the first issue of this series, and I didn’t quite get what Leviathan was supposed to be about. Issue 2 is somewhat clearer, and it was fun enough that I immediately went on to read #3. This issue, we learn that the inside of the earth is full of dinosaurs, and the government has created a robot army to destroy the dinosaurs, thinking they were responsible for the kaiju attack in issue 1. But the kaiju from last issue was a demon, not a dinosaur, and in mistakenly attempting to exact revenge on the dinosaurs, the army arouses the ire of a giant three-headed radioactive dinosaur. Also, the protagonist’s girlfriend isn’t dead. I was kind of unimpressed by Nick Pitarra’s art in #1, but this time around I like it; it’s rather Darrow-esque.

LEVIATHAN #3 (Image, 2018) – as above. The protagonist, Ryan, meets an exorcist who knows where the demon came from. We’re also introduced to a mad scientist who created a mutant scorpion to deal with the radioactive dinosaur. So basically all hell is breaking loose, and it’s pretty fun.

THE DREAMING #2 (DC, 2018) – “The Foundation,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. Again, I didn’t read this issue immediately because I was unimpressed with issue 1. It was boring and overly convoluted. This issue is still pretty confusing, but it’s more entertaining than #1 was. The Dreaming is descending into chaos, as Daniel seems to be gone for good, and Lucien won’t give Mervyn any attention. Mervyn decides to fix things by summoning a new dream character named Judge Gallows. Also, the characters from House of Whispers make a cameo appearance.

BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Many Thousands Gone” part 4, [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. Yet another issue that consists entirely of a giant fight scene. I’m mostly reading this series out of a sense of obligation, and I think I’m going to drop it.

THE DREAMING #3 (DC, 2018) – “The Glory,” as above. Judge Gallows holds a show trial and resurrects Brute and Glob. This was an okay but unspectacular issue. I like this series enough to continue ordering it for now.

THE PHANTOM #73 (Charlton, 1976) – “The Torch,” [W] Bill Pearson, [A] Don Newton. The writer is credited as “Ben S. Parillo,” an anagram of his real name. This issue has a complicated but competently written story in which the Phantom confronts an assassin, the Torch, and a mad scientist, Raven. What makes it a near-classic is Don Newton’s brilliant visual storytelling and draftsmanship. Don Newton’s issues of this series were probably the best Phantom comic books published in America.

FRED THE CLOWN #2 (Hotel Fred, 2002) –“Dummies” and other stories, [W/A] Roger Langridge. This comic consists of a series of short stories about a sad clown. Some of the stories are wordless, while others are narrated by captions, but the clown never talks. All these stories are brilliant and poignant, and they demonstrate Langridge’s mastery of visual storytelling. Some of them are even a bit experimental – there’s one where in each panel, Fred is described with an adjective beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, from A to Z.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS & STORIES #238 (Dell, 1960) – “The Dog-Sitter,” [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. This comic is unfortunately missing some pages, but only the Scamp and Chip & Dale stories are affected, so I don’t care that much. The Barks story is a screwball comedy in which Donald agrees to do a babysitting job for the nephews, but it turns out the “baby” is a dog. And then the dog gets loose and Donald tries to recapture it, but instead  catches a different dog. Much of the humor in this story comes from the dog itself, a shaggy, silent, staring monster. This issue also includes a Paul Murry Mickey Mouse story, but unfortunately the new character in this story, Thursday, is a horrible racist stereotype.

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #13 (Gold Key, 1966) – “The Night Riders of Ras Kaffa” and “The Hidden World,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Warren Tufts. I initially thought this comic was drawn by Russ Manning, but it’s actually by an even more rarely seen artist, Warren Tufts. This artist is best known for the comic strips Casey Ruggles and Lance, but also drew some comic books for Gold Key. His art in this issue is amazing, with dynamic compositions and Caniff-esque spotting of blacks. However, Tufts’s art for comic books must have suffered from the small size and poor reproduction of that format, compared to the comic strip format. The story in this issue is also interesting. Korak teams up with a cute Ethiopian princess to investigate an abandoned castle. Ethiopia was still a monarchy at the time. In the backup story, Korak meets a girl named Nanette who has the same origin as Tarzan.

BATMAN #288 (DC, 1977) – “The Little Men’s Hall of Fame!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] Mike Grell. The villain in this story is the Penguin, one of my favorite Batman villains, but otherwise it’s pretty forgettable. The high point of the issue is probably the scene where Batman uses a pair of robotic wings to escape from a pit. Mike Grell’s artwork in this issue is quite good.

LETTER 44 #20 (Oni, 2015) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque. Earth is about to be destroyed by an asteroid, and the previous President tries to use the disaster to build a power base, but the astronauts save the day. This was a fun comic, but it was hard to understand without having read the previous issues.

WONDER WOMAN #301 (DC, 1983) – “Dark Challenger,” [W] Dan Mishkin, [A] Gene Colan. I read this while I was reading Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman, or perhaps shortly after finishing that book. I expected to dislike Lepore’s book, since she’s made some public statements that I violently disagreed with, but I ended up loving it. Lepore correctly points out that most post-Marston (and pre-Pérez) Wonder Woman stories tried to domesticate the character and run away from her revolutionary potential, but Wonder Woman #301 is at least not terrible. Dan Mishkin is a more feminist writer than most of his predecessors on the series. This issue, Diana trains a Greek visitor to Themyscira named Sofia, and then battles a skeleton in a Wonder Woman costume. This issue also includes a Huntress backup story which, unfortunately, is written by Joey Cavalieri instead of Paul Levitz. Cavalieri makes a mockery of Levitz’s Huntress series by depicting Harry Sims as a misogynistic, overprotective jerk.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #291 (Marvel, 1987) – “Dark Journey!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] John Romita Jr. This issue begins with MJ refusing Peter’s marriage proposal, though obviously she later changed her mind about that. MJ goes off to visit her sister, who turns out to be in prison, while Peter battles a Spider-Slayer created by Alistair Smythe. Peter faces a dilemma when MJ asks him to visit her in Pittsburgh, even though Smythe is still at large, and he decides to go to Pittsburgh. But Smythe follows him there. This is a good issue, which ends on an impressive cliffhanger. I forget if I have #292.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #103 (DC, 1970) – “The Devil’s Bride!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Curt Swan. In a story continued from last issue, Lois falls in love with a man who appears to be Satan, but is actually an alien who looks like the devil. Yes, really. He takes her to her home planet, and she’s about to marrry him until she realizes Superman still loves her. Like much of Kanigher’s work, this story is nonsensical and insulting to the reader’s intelligence. The one cute touch is that before getting married to the alien, Lois has to take a ritual bath called a “kvimha,” which is an anagram of “mikvah” and thus a reference to Kanigher’s Jewish heritage. This issue also includes a ‘60s reprint which, while not good, is at least less bad than the main story.

THE LAST AMERICAN #3 (Epic, 1991) – “An American Dream,” [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. It turns out that the radio broadcast from a fellow survivor was a fake, created by the robots in order to keep Ulysses from going nuts. So there really isn’t anyone else still alive, and I don’t know what can possibly happen in issue 4, other than Ulysses committing suicide. The protagonist’s full name is Ulysses S. Pilgrim; I wonder if the S stands for Scott.

Y: THE LAST MAN #55 (Vertigo, 2007) – “Whys and Wherefores Chapter One,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. This issue has the same title as Incredible Hulk #346. This issue, Yorick and Agent 355 are in Russia, and lots of other subplots are going on. This issue is so late in the series that I have no idea how it fits into the story.

JONNY QUEST #27 (Comico, 1988) – “Wilderness,” PW[ William Messner-Loebs, [A] Marc Hempel. This comic has a completely blank cover, which is justified because its story is set during a blizzard, but it also must have saved Comico a lot of money. Other than that, this issue is yet another sheer masterpiece. Jonny, Race and Bandit’s plane crashlands in northern Ontario in the midst of a snowstorm, and with Race badly hurt, Jonny has to survive on his own until help arrives. Meanwhile, Dr. Quest is frantically searching for the plane with no success. Jonny and Race do get rescued, of course, but the creators viscerally convey the terrible danger Jonny is in. The reader is actually more scared than Jonny, who reacts to his predicament with his usual resourcefulness and courage.

GROO THE WANDERER #28 (Epic, 1987) – “Gourmet Kings,” [W] Sergio Aragones, [A] Mark Evanier. Groo visits a town where the royal chef makes the best food in the world, although the common people are starving. After leaving, Groo visits another town where the king needs a chef to prepare a feast for a visiting foreign dignitary. And then things happen the way you’d expect. Groo goes back to the first town, kidnaps the chef, and brings him back to the second town, but it turns out that the visiting dignitary is the same king whose chef Groo just kidnapped. Several of the names in this story are Spanish words for food, like King Sopa (soup) and the village of Almuerzo (lunch).

MIRACLEMAN: APOCRYPHA #2 (Eclipse, 1992) – “Prodigal,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Christopher Schenck, plus other stories. This issue includes three short stories, with a framing sequence by Gaiman and Buckingham in which the three stories are described as fictional works written by characters in Miracleman’s world. The best of the stories is “Prodigal,” about a young man who leaves his village of insane paranoid survivalists to visit the larger world, but later comes back to his village and is promptly murdered. “The Janitor” has some nice art by Alan Smith, an artist who has only one other GCD credit. This issue also includes an order form for Miracleman #23 through #28, at $3 each. I hope nobody ordered issues #25-28.

WONDER WOMAN #23 (DC, 2017) – “The Truth Conclusion,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Liam Sharp. I forgot to read this when it came out, so I never knew how “The Truth” ended. This issue Diana learns that Themyscira is a prison for Ares, and when she left Themyscira, she couldn’t come back because she could have led Ares back to the wider world. Also, Veronica Cale’s daughter decides to stay with Ares. Liam Sharp’s art in this issue is quite good.

TALES TO ASTONISH #97 (Marvel, 1967) – “The Sovereign and the Savages,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Werner Roth, and “The Legion of the Living Lightning,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Marie Severin. I read this just after Stan Lee died. The Namor story in this issue is very average. The Hulk story is somewhat better. The Hulk meets a man who offers him friendship and acceptance, but it turns out the man just wants to recruit him on behalf of a cult of lightning-controlling terrorists. One of the members of the Living Lightning cult in this issue was the father of the West Coast Avenger also named Living Lightning.

New comics received on November 17:

FANTASTIC FOUR #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family Reunion,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sara Pichelli & Nico Leon. This is such a sweet, heartwarming comic. Reed, Sue and the kids are overjoyed to see Ben and Johnny again. Of course they also have to battle a horrible cosmic menace, but as usual, Reed comes up with a brilliant idea that saves the day. Dan Slott’s characterization in this issue is brilliant. He focuses on the six main characters, of course, and the highlight of the issue is Franklin reluctantly agreeing to use his powers. But lots of the other characters get their own cute moments. For example, on just the next-to-last page we see T’Challa suggesting that Val should meet Shuri, while one of the Atlantean kids asks Bobby Drake to explain “not canon.” I don’t know why we had to wait two months for this issue, but it was worth the wait.

MS. MARVEL #36 (Marvel, 2018) – “Silk Road,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Most of this issue consists of a flashback to the 13th century, starring characters who bear a strange resemblance to Kamala and her friends. It’s very rare for a Marvel comic to depict non-Western history, but other than that, this issue was pretty boring. Because of Willow’s health problems, this might be the last issue for a couple months.

MISTER MIRACLE #12 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. I was apprehensive about this issue because I heard someone say something bad about it, and also I hate Tom King’s other current series. But this issue ended up being a beautiful conclusion to a classic miniseries. The Apokolips war is still going on, and Scott is still having visions of Darkseid, but he’s managed to come to terms with his trauma and mental illness. Also, Scott and Barda have a second child on the way. The issue ends by raising and then dismissing the suggestion that the reality in this comic is less “real” than the mainstream DCU. Overall, Mister Miracle is a brilliant story about living with trauma – not “overcoming” it – and it’s easily the best DC comic of 2018.

THE QUANTUM AGE #4 (Image, 2018) – “Life and Death and the End of Time,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Wilfredo Torres. Not the real title. We get Hammer Lass’s origin story, which creates another connection to the main Black Hammer series: Hammer Lass got her powers from Lucy, the 21st-century Black Hammer. Then it’s back to the Quantum Leaguers’ confrontation with Talky Walky, who refuses to release Archive to them. But Hammer Lass comes up with the idea of going back in time to prevent the Martian invasion and save the League. And I hope that works, because my major problem with this series is that almost the entire League is dead, and it’s not a Legion comic unless there are at least 24 members (which is, of course, the most members a group can have before its taxes go way up). The issue ends with the League traveling to the end of time and encountering the Time Trapper, excuse me, I mean Chronokus, who turns out to be Colonel Weird.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #38 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. After establishing that none of them are Skrulls, Doreen and her friends confide in Tony Stark, but then when they go back and see him again, they discover that he’s an impostor. One fun thing about this issue is its use of computer science. Doreen and her pals come up with an algorithm for proving that they can trust each other, and a major plot point in this issue is the security, or lack thereof, of Tony’s computer system. Throughout this series, Ryan has done a great job of teaching the reader about computer science without being either pedantic or overly technical.

EXILES #10 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodríguez. In the conclusion to the Arabian Nights story, the Exiles defeat Shahriyar/Doom, who makes Nocturne his successor as caliph. My only problem with this storyline is that it was too short; I wanted to see even more of the Arabian Nights universe. The issue ends with the team being attacked by a bunch of dead former Exiles, including Khan.

WONDER WOMAN #58 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Just War Part I,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Cary Nord. I was obviously thrilled at the prospect of Willow writing Wonder Woman, but this issue is a bit underwhelming. It’s a well-written and well-drawn Wonder Woman comic, but it’s similar to Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman; it even guest-stars Rucka’s pet character, Veronica Cale. The plot is based on that of “The Truth,” with Ares returning from his captivity under Themyscira. I don’t see much about this comic that’s characteristic of Wilson, but I look forward to seeing how she puts her own stamp on this series.

RAINBOW BRITE #2 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brittney Williams. This is an excellent kids’ comic and also a fun piece of nostalgia, since I grew up watching this show. Murky Dismal and his bumbling sidekick Lurky are just as I remember them, although I had actually forgotten Lurky until I reencountered him here. My main concern about this comic is the unfortunate color symbolism. I was thinking Wisp and Willow would somehow both become Rainbow Brite, but instead this issue ends with the white girl, Wisp, becoming Rainbow Brite, and her black friend, Willow, is nowhere to be seen. It’s also rather dubious that shadow is evil, while white light is the ultimate power. I’m making this comic sound worse than it is, though, and I’m sure that Jeremy knows what he’s doing, and that we’ll see Willow again soon.

CAPTAIN GINGER #2 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Chapter Two,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] June Brigman. Things go from bad to worse on the ship, with litterboxes overflowing and feral cats breeding out of control. Captain Ginger decides to go on a mission with Mittens to find the other ship. There have been lots of recent comics with cat protagonists – Hero Cats, Action Cat, even Beasts of Burden – but Captain Ginger is the best such comic, at least in terms of its depiction of cats. The cats in this comic are as realistic as Terry Pratchett’s Greebo. The high point of this issue is when the first officer places a call to engineering, and on the screen we see an adorable kitten saying “Mew?”

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] GuriHiru. Nadia teams up with Viv Vision and Ironheart, then goes out to a fancy dinner and a wrestling match with Jan. This is a nice day-in-the-life issue. It’s full of great character moments, and it feels substantial even though not many major events happen. This issue repeatedly demonstrates Nadia’s awkwardness and lack of self-consciousness, as illustrated by her habit of falling asleep in unusual positions, though Jeremy has explained that there’s a psychological reason why she does that. The issue ends with AIM troops attacking the GIRL headquarters.

INFINITY WARS: INFINITY WARPS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Moon Squirrel and Tippysaur,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Natacha Bustos, plus other stories. I bought this comic because of the first story, which is a clever mashup of Squirrel Girl and Moon Girl, and also the main character’s sidekick is a dinosaur-sized orange squirrel. The rest of the issue isn’t as good. Mariko Tamaki and Francisco Herrera’s “Green Widow” is the worst-drawn Marvel story of the year; the artist’s female anatomy resembles that of a ‘90s Image comic. Jim Zub’s Fantastic Four story is competent but boring.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #3 (DC, 2018) – “Walk on Gilded Splinters,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson, [A] Domo Stanton. Erzulie saves King Monday from being eaten by crocodiles, then transforms into one of her alternate forms or aspects, Erzulie Dantor. Meanwhile, the two human lovers are suffering from the Cotard delusion, where you think you’re dead, and lots of other people in New Orleans are falling victim to the same thing. This continues to be a really good series, though I wish it wasn’t tied to the Vertigo universe.

BY NIGHT #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. Barney steals the girls’ footage, while back in the other dimension, the goblin dude is tried and sentenced. I like this series, but I still don’t understand what it’s about, and it’s not grabbing me as much as Giant Days does. But I didn’t get Giant Days at first either.

THOR #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “Young Thor’s Lament,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Tony Moore. In a flashback, a much younger Thor travels to Midgard and falls in love with a mortal woman named Erika. But when he leaves Midgard and comes back, he finds that forty years have passed and Erika has died of old age. It turns out this was all a plot by Loki to make Thor give up on Midgard, but it backfires; instead, Thor honors Erika’s memory by becoming more attached to Midgard than ever. This issue reminds me a bit of the filk song “Thong of Thor.”

BITTER ROOT #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. A really interesting new series. It takes place in the ‘20s but isn’t explicitly about the Harlem Renaissance. Instead, it focuses on a lineage of black adventurers and demon-fighters. One of the protagonists is a woman who wants to join her brothers in fighting demons and stuff, but her elderly mother or grandmother won’t let her. I’m excited to read more of this.

PLASTIC MAN #6 (DC, 2018) – “Moon and Back,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. One of the primary villains turns out to be a Durlan, but Plas defeats the villains and is reunited with Pado Swakatoon. However, Plas’s ex-girlfriend still wants to kill him. This was a really good miniseries, and I hope that there’s going to be a sequel, as implied on the last page.

CATWOMAN #5 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats, Part 5,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. This issue includes no cats at all, but it’s still good. In two parallel plotlines, the villain, Raina Creel, murders her husband, while Selina tries to break out of the mental hospital but fails.

LONE RANGER #2 (Dynamite, 2018) – “Finders Keepers,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Bob Q. Much of this issue focuses on Tonto. Mark Russell distorts the historical record by having Tonto play football for Carlisle Indian School – even though Carlisle didn’t start sponsoring football until 1893, whereas this series is clearly set in the 1880s at the latest. As evidence of the latter, this series’s plot revolves around Texas’s barbed wire conflicts, which happened in the early 1880s, and it shows the Texas Capitol building, which was finished in 1888, as still under construction. This anachronism is an acceptable piece of artistic license, but it’s worth mentioning. Anyway, Mark Russell’s depiction of Tonto’s character is very effective. Instead of a stereotype, his Tonto is a complex man who knows how to manipulate white people’s misperceptions about Native Americans for his own benefit.

GIDEON FALLS #8 (Image, 2018) – “Killer Smile,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. We get a flashback to Daniel/Norton’s abusive upbringing in an orphanage. Then the priest has a vision where he learns the name Norton Sinclair, and discovers a cache of hidden photos of Daniel. During the vision sequence, there’s yet another of Sorrentino’s trademark bizarre page layouts: it’s a two-page spread with hundreds of tiny panels, some of them identical. Meanwhile, Dr. Xu still can’t get Daniel out of the mental hospital. It’s still not clear how the two plotlines or worlds of this series are related, but they’re starting to bleed into each other.

SUPERGIRL #24 (DC, 2018) – “A (Super)girl Walks Into a Bar,” [W] Marc Andreyko, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. Supergirl visits an outer-space bar where she and Krypto team up to fight some aliens, and then she meets a Coluan who looks a lot like Brainiac 5. I bought this comic because of Doc Shaner’s art, which is amazing. His page layouts remind me a bit of Darwyn Cooke’s even. He’s easily DC’s best current artist. The Ambush Bug cameo in this issue was also cute. But the plot didn’t grab me enough to make me want to continue reading this series.

JOOK JOINT #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tee Franklin, [A] Alitha Martinez. This issue is pretty much the same as last issue. It continues the story of Heloise, the abused wife, as she tries to use the Jook Joint’s power to get rid of her husband. This series is a powerful depiction of spousal abuse, though I have mixed feelings about its writer.

CEMETERY BEACH #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. Most of this issue is a long fight scene. There’s almost no dialogue until the last four pages, which supply all the conversation and characterization that’s missing from the rest of the issue. There’s nothing here that makes me want to continue reading this series.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #159 (DC, 1980) – “The Crystal Armageddon!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Jim Aparo. I’m surprised this wasn’t included in the Batman: Tales of the Demon trade paperback, because it’s a chapter of the Batman/Ra’s al Ghul saga, and it came out after some of the stories that were reprinted in that book. This issue includes all the classic Ra’s al Ghul tropes: the Lazarus Pit, Talia and her passion for Batman, and the League of Assassins. The plot is that Batman and Ra’s team up to save the world from the “Hatter formula,” which is obviously inspired by ice-nine from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, because it has the exact same effect. Denny’s Ra’s al Ghul stories were some of his best writing, and it’s exciting to discover a Ra’s al Ghul story by Denny that I hadn’t known about.

AQUAMAN #32 (DC, 1997) – “Sea of Green,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jim Calafiore. As far as I know, this issue was the first Aquaman/Swamp Thing team-up, though there was another one in 2014. These characters are a natural pairing because they’re both guardians of nature, and because plants depend on water. I don’t remember much about this issue’s plot, but PAD writes Swamp Thing very well.

FANTASTIC FOUR #160 (Marvel, 1975) – “In One World – and Out the Other!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. The Thing battles Arkon. Then with Lockjaw’s help, Ben follows Arkon’s trail to an alternative reality where there are only two members of the Fantastic Four. The Jim Zub story from Infinity Warps #1 is also about a two-member Fantastic Four, each with two sets of powers, but that may just be a coincidence. There’s also a plot where Reed sells a 51% interest in Fantastic Four, Inc. to a man named Albert DeVoor. That looks like an anagram for something, but it’s not.

REVIVAL #10 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. Ibrahim steps in a bear trap, while Cooper and Derek are kidnapped by two crazy redheaded men. This was a pretty good issue, though my enthusiasm for this series has lessened now that I know how it ends. A depressing moment in this issue is when Dana and Em’s dad says, referring to Ibrahim, that “he seems like a nice guy, but all I need is one of them for a son-in-law.” This is an unpleasant reminder that despite this character’s positive aspects, he probably would have voted for Trump.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #549 (Archie, 1985) – “The Flying Barracuda,” [W/A] Bob Bolling. Mad Doctor Doom creates a flying robot barracuda that seeks out gold. Chester creeps into Little Archie’s bedroom and steals a lock of his hair, so the barracuda can hunt down Little Archie too. Archie cunningly (or accidentally) destroys the barracuda, by using a kite with a gold fishing lure to cause the barracuda to be struck by lightning. The highlight of the story is the last panel, where Archie goes to bed wearing a helmet so Chester can’t steal his hair again, and also sets up a picture of Chester for his dog to look at. Unfortunately, Bob Bolling’s artwork is impaired by Chic Stone’s lifeless inking.

RAW #1 (Raw, 1980) – various stories, [E] Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly. I got Raw #1 and #3 at the Shatter Daze sale for just $2 each, and I think they actually charged me less than that. As I told the person running the sale, these two comics alone justified my entire trip to the sale. Raw #1 is a massively important comic; it could be seen as the starting point of alternative or “art” comics, and thus also of the rise of comics to literary status. The high point of the issue is “Manhattan,” Jacques Tardi’s first story published in America. It doesn’t have much of a plot – it ends with the narrator committing suicide for unexplained reasons – but it’s a bleak, gritty, realistic depiction of Times Square in the ‘70s. The huge size of Raw #1 allows the reader to see Tardi’s beautiful art in all its glory (while also making the comic very difficult to store). The other great story in this issue is Spiegelman’s “Two-Fisted Painters,” which is contained in a much smaller booklet that’s bound into the comic at its centerfold. This sort of formal experimentation was a trademark of Raw, and this issue also has a removable sticker on the front cover, although I haven’t dared to remove the sticker. Anyway, “Two-Fisted Painters” is an absurdist murder story that’s also a brilliant metatextual reflection on the use of color in comics. When I read old Spiegelman stories, I’m reminded that his career is bigger than just Maus. It’s a shame that he’s produced so little new work since 1991. Other artists featured in this issue include Joost Swarte, Mark Beyer, Mariscal, and Drew Friedman, and there’s even a rare example of an actual comic by Françoise Mouly, although it’s a formalist experiment that includes no original artwork.

MIRACLEMAN #8 (Eclipse, 1986) – “Miracleman Confronts the Electric Terror,” [W/A] Mick Anglo, plus other stories. Because the Eclipse offices were flooded, the story originally intended for #8 was postponed to #9, and #8 instead consists of reprints of classic Miracleman stories. The only new material in #8 is a new framing sequence and a preview of a new Eclipse series, New Wave. The reprinted material is not bad, but not great either, and Miracleman #8 is only worth owning for the sake of completism.

PROXIMA CENTAURI #6 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. More stuff happens in this issue that doesn’t make sense. I wish I had time to go back and read Farel’s entire oeuvre from scratch, but even if I did that, I think I still wouldn’t understand his plots.

REVIVAL #13 (Image, 2013) – as above. Dana goes on a date with Ibrahim, while Em babysits Jordan and Cooper. I don’t remember whether Dana and Ibrahim’s romance ever amounted to anything.

NINE PRINCES IN AMBER #1 (DC, 1996) – “Book One,” [W] Terry Bisson, [A] Lou Harrison. An adaptation of Roger Zelazny’s most famous novel. This adaptation is not particularly well-written or well-drawn, and that’s not surprising since neither of the creators was a specialist in comics. But it’s been a long long time since I read Nine Princes in Amber, so this comic was a nice reminder of how much I enjoyed the novel.

Reviews that almost vanished

The following reviews were nearly lost, until I found them in an old AutoRecovery file:

THE LONG CON #4 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] E.A. Denich. The protagonists meet the celebrity guests, who have star##ted cannibalizing each other in reverse order of A-list-ness. Also, we get the best exchange of dialogue this week: “THAT THING YOU ALL LIKE IS PROBLEMATIC!” “WAIT WHO SAID THAT IT IS NOT”. Like Space Battle Lunchtime or Kim Reaper, The Long Con is a hidden gem that’s probably getting less attention than it deserves because it’s published by Oni.

SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST SPIDER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Spider-Geddon Part 1: Uncharted,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Rosi Kämpe. I read one of Seanan McGuire’s novels, under her pen name of Mira Grant. I’ve been wanting to read her Wayward Children series, but it’s not out in paperback. Rosi Kämpe is from Finland, a country which has produced many great cartoonists, but few who have worked in America. Ghost Spider #1 is pretty fun, and much more lighthearted than the previous Spider-Gwen series, which became terminally grim toward the end. However, this issue is too heavily mired in continuity. I don’t care about all these alternate-dimensional spider people, I just want to read about Gwen Stacy.

THE BACKSTAGERS HALLOWEEN INTERMISSION #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Rian Sygh. Some of the boys stay at the theater on Thanksgiving and encounter a terrifying bug that feeds on stage fright. Sasha saves the day by being cute. There are also several backup stories. The Backstagers isn’t my favorite Boom! Box comic, but it’s nice to see it again.

On Friday, October 27th, I went to my second Heroes Pop Swap. Afterward, I went to the Shatter Daze pop-up comic sale. I bought a bunch of good stuff at each event, most notably including two issues of Raw vol. 1, though I haven’t read those yet. I could have bought even more stuff at Shatter Daze, but I was approaching the limit of my weight-carrying capacity. Here are some of the comics I bought:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #58 (Marvel, 1968) – “To Kill a Spider-Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. This was a bargain at $4. The issue begins by wrapping up Ka-Zar’s encounter with Spider-Man, and then JJJ teams up with Professor Smythe to build a new Spider-Slayer. Besides John Romita’s stunning art, a highlight of the issue is JJJ’s horrified realization that he only wants to humiliate Spider-Man, but Smythe wants to kill him. Also, there’s a funny scene where Spidey finds Smythe’s hideout by looking him up in the phone book. The trouble is, he doesn’t know Smythe’s first name, and there are lots of Smythes – but luckily, only one of them has the word “scientist” after his name.

THE MUPPET SHOW #11 (Boom!, 2010) – “The Curse of Beaker,” [W/A] Roger Langridge. In this horror-themed story, the Muppets are trying to put on a show, but Dr. Bunsen keeps shorting out the power with his experiments. Also, he’s trying to put Beaker’s brain in a robot body, even though Beaker is not fully on board with this idea. This issue is exciting and beautifully drawn, and has perfect comic timing. Roger Langridge is such a brilliant humorous storyteller that I would describe him as the heir to Don Rosa.

EXILES #7 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Rod Reis. I missed this when it came out, so I bought it at Heroes. This issue is the conclusion to the Wild West two-parter, and it takes an unusually dark turn at the end, as Morph and Valkyrie’s horse both get killed. Exiles #6-7 are the low point of this series so far, thanks to the lack of Javier Rodriguez art, but they’re still very good.

HELLBLAZER #27 (DC, 1990) – “Hold Me,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Dave McKean. I paid $7 for this, which is at the upper limit of what I’m willing to pay for a comic, but it was worth it. “Hold Me” is the best issue of Hellblazer, and one of Neil’s masterpieces. The story begins with a homeless man freezing to death. Later, Constantine goes to a party where a woman tries to seduce him, but it turns out she’s a lesbian and she’s trying to trick him into impregnate her. (This is not the “Ursula Imada trope” that I described in my review of Green Arrow #37; Neil’s treatment of this theme is more nuanced.) But she happens to live in the same building where the homeless man died, and it turns out his ghost has just killed a woman. Confronting the ghost, Constantine realizes that all it wants is for someone to hug it and warm it up. “Hold Me” is a beautiful story about the need for human connection. Not only the ghost, but all the characters in the story are just looking for someone to hold them. A further highlight of this classic issue is Dave McKean’s art. Here he shows that he’s not just a brilliant painter and collage artist, he can also draw with great emotional power. I’ve had a copy of Cages for years, and I ought to get around to reading it soon.

CRYSTAL NIGHT #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1980) – “Crystal Night,” [W/A] Sharon Rudahl. I saw a copy of this at Wiscon, but it was slightly beyond my price range. I was thrilled to find it at Shatter Daze for just $2, and they actually gave it to me for less than that. Crystal Night #1 is Sharon Rudahl’s only solo comic. I’m indebted to Margaret Galvan for turning me on to this artist, who, like her Wimmen’s Comix colleague Lee Marrs, is brilliant and highly underrated. Crystal Night is set in an extremely dystopian future where “aristos” live in stagnant luxury, while “walkers” can barely afford to breathe. The protagonist, Crystal Night, is a child of a walker, but grows up as an aristo, only to later discover the evil nature of the system she’s part of. Rudahl’s story is powerful as well as feminist and intersectional, and it draws upon her Jewish heritage; the name Crystal Night is a translation of Kristallnacht. Thanks to its epic scope and 32-page length, this comic feels like a small graphic novel. Its ending feels like a deus ex machina, but at least it’s set up earlier in the story. Crystal Night is now back in print as part of Dan Nadel’s Art in Time anthology, and that’s a good thing, because this comic is essential reading.

JIM #1 (Fantagraphics, 1993) – “Manhog Beyond the Face” and other stories, [W/A] Jim Woodring. In this issue’s Frank story, Manhog tries to catch a bird, but hits his head and starts hallucinating, and then things get even weirder. This story is a classic example of Woodring’s style because it’s horrifying and weird, but it has beautiful artwork and bright colors. Oddly, this story has no dialogue, but at the bottom of each page are explanatory captions, which are somewhat redundant. Woodring explains in #2’s letter column that the reason is because “Manhog Beyond the Face” was originally published in a magazine with a different page format. When Woodring reprinted the story in comic book form, he added the captions so there wouldn’t be a ton of white space. This issue also includes a dream story in which the protagonist is a stonemason working on some kind of bizarre and unexplained project. I actually almost prefer Woodring’s Jim stories to his Frank stories. His dream sequences are so strange and yet coherent, I wonder whether he really did dream them, or whether he made them up while awake. BTW, I bought this issue from the same person who sold me a bunch of other alternative comics at last year’s Heroes Pop Swap.

HATE #12 (Fantagraphics, 1993) – “Collector Scum!”, [W/A] Peter Bagge. Buddy and Lisa set up as dealers at a comic convention, and they get into a violent feud with a fellow dealer, Yahtzi. As usual with Hate, this issue is laugh-out-loud funny. It also feels totally plausible, with only slight exaggeration. I think that actual comics dealers probably get up to the same sort of antics depicted in this issue. An aspect of this comic that hasn’t aged well is that Buddy’s fight with Yahtzi happens because Buddy steals some of Yahtzi’s VHS tapes. Nowadays, VHS tapes are no longer a major collector’s item (though see https://medium.com/@waiteski/the-horrifying-world-of-vhs-collectors-35853f093e8).

SWEET TOOTH #2 (Vertigo, 2009) – “Out of the Deep Woods, Part 2,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. I don’t know what happened in #1, but #2 is a great introduction to the series. Tommy Jepperd rescues Gus from some poachers, and we learn that Gus was raised by his dad and has never left his home (reminds me of Room). And the title of the series is explained: Jepperd gives Gus a candy bar, Gus really likes it, and Jepperd calls him “sweet tooth.” The issue seems to end happily as Jepperd promises to take Gus to the Preserve, but thanks to reading later issues, I knw that Jepperd is going to betray Gus and deliver him to vivisectionists.

MR. AND MRS. X #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. I bought #2 and #3 of this series at Heroes. This issue, Rogue and Gambit bicker with Deadpool over the egg, then they all team up to fight the Technet. I’m delighted to see the Technet again, but Kelly doesn’t write these characters as well as Claremont or Davis did. Deadpool’s dialogue is pretty good, but one issue worth of it is enough for me. The issue ends with the egg hatching into a duplicate of Rogue.

BLACK PANTHER #5 (Marvel, 1977) – “Quest for the Sacred Water-Skin!!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. I had better get as many of these as I can now, before they go way up in price. This issue, the dictatorial Princess Zanda forces T’Challa and Mister Little to go look for a hidden samurai city. While looking for it, they fight a yeti. Kirby’s Black Panther has some impressive art, but it’s not Kirby’s best ‘70s comic, and it has essentially nothing to do with any other Black Panther title.

LITTLE ARCHIE #142 (Archie, 1979) – “Silver Flash,” [W/A] Bob Bolling, plus other stories. Bob Bolling’s new story in this issue focuses on the poor waif Sue Stringly, a character who only appeared in his stories (like Abercrombie and Stitch or Mad Dr. Doom and Chester). Archie is saving up money for new roller skates, but when he realizes that Sue barely has enough to eat, he instead uses the money to buy her some food. Archie’s parents are so impressed that they buy him the skates. This plot is not very original – there’s a very similar story in Archie #232, which I reviewed here in 2013 – but Bolling tells this story in his usual heartwarming and funny style. There’s one funny moment when Archie runs out of the house without kissing his parents goodbye, and his mother asks if Archie is forgetting to kiss someone, and Archie is like, “Oh yeah, I forgot” and he kisses the dog. As always, the non-Bolling stories in this issue are pointless.

HAUNTED LOVE #10 (Charlton, 1975) – “A New Life,” [W] Joe Gill?, [A] Enrique Nieto, plus two other stories. The writing in this issue is terrible, and I won’t even bother summarizing the stories, but this issue has two stories by the super-underrated Enrique Nieto Nadal. His art here is not as radical as some of his other work, but his linework is great, and he puts great effort into drawing the patterns of characters’ clothes. As a result, these stories sometimes look like collages. The other story in this issue is by Tom Sutton, and includes some more great art. I usually skip the prose stories in old comics – which were not even really meant to be read, but were included so the comics would qualify for cheaper mailing rates. However, the one in this issue is kind of interesting. It’s about a lonely bachelor who marries his cat. https://www.instagram.com/p/BpfPizHlxrz/

MR. & MRS. X #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Love & Marriage, Part Three,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. The fake Rogue turns into Xandra, Xavier and Lilandra’s daughter. Xandra is an adorable character, very similar to Singularity. This was an okay issue, but by this point Deadpool had long since worn out his welcome.

MAN-BAT #1 (DC, 1976) – “Beware the Eyes of Baron Tyme,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Steve Ditko. Francine Langstrom is possessed by an evil sorcerer named Baron Tyme. Man-Bat and Batman team up to save her, after an initial misunderstanding. This issue is okay, but it’s not the best Man-Bat story. I wonder why this series only lasted two issues.

JIM #2 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – four untitled stories, [W/A] Jim Woodring. In this issue’s first story, Frank visits the “Palace of Horrors,” only to realize that his entire world is a Palace of Horrors. This story kind of sums up Woodring’s philosophy. Then there’s another dream story where Jim writes a letter to the “Supreme Altruist” and builds a weird-looking desk. The third story is about some kids who encounter Pulque, the spirit of drunkenness, and the fourth one is about an encounter between two very realistically written cats. This is a good issue, but because there are four stories, the impact of each individual story is diluted.

INCREDIBLE HULK #195 (Marvel, 1975) – “Warfare in Wonderland!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Sal Buscema. This is one of many stories where the Hulk befriends a little kid. The logic behind such stories is that the Hulk is an overgrown toddler himself, so he gets along better with other kids than with adults. In this issue, the Hulk meets a boy named Ricky who’s running away from an orphanage, and they go to an amusement park based on Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately, they are followed there by the Abomination, who’s been falsely informed that he’ll be killed if he doesn’t pursue the Hulk on behalf of the government. The really depressing part is that at the end of the issue, the Hulk abandons Ricky, thinking the boy has betrayed him, and we never see Ricky again. I wonder what happened to him.

THE MUPPET SHOW #1 (Boom!, 2009) – “On the Road,” [W/A] Roger Langridge. The Muppets go on tour and perform a show in a small town. It does not go well. Again, this issue is a masterpiece of visual storytelling. I think the running gag with the tiger in the caravan is the best part, but there are a ton of great gags and vignettes in this issue, and they all come together into a satisfying narrative.

THE SENTRY #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sentry World Part 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Joshua Cassara. The new hybrid Sentry/Void kills Billy and also possibly Cranio, then leaves Earth. This is sort of an anticlimactic ending; instead of resolving Sentry’s character arc, this series just turns him into yet another villain.

CODA #6 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This issue reveals the horrible lengths that the bandits go to in order to “feed the Gog.” Otherwise it doesn’t advance the plot very much.

THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] M.J. Erickson. Frank and Sadie are visited by a vampire and his minions. After a lot of rules lawyering about what constitutes an invitation, the vampire steps into their hotel room uninvited, and promptly explodes. Meanwhile, the subplot with the ghost journalist continues. This series is insubstantial, but also cute and funny.

SWEET XVI #3 (Marvel, 1991) – “All Roads Lead to Rome High,” [W/A] Barbara Slate. This series is basically Archie set in the Roman Empire. The ancient Roman setting is just a gimmick with little impact on the plot, and the comic makes no attempt at historical accuracy (it takes place in a co-ed high school, which was obviously not a thing in ancient times.) The main theme this issue is that Rome High is electing a student president, and a girl campaigns on behalf of a boy who can’t speak in public, but ends up getting elected herself. This issue is funny, but not as good as Angel Love. BTW, I just submitted a conference proposal on Angel Love, Misty and Amethyst, and I really hope it gets accepted.

SPIDER-WOMAN #43 (Marvel, 1982) – “Last Stands,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. This issue, Jessica battles the Silver Samurai, while her friends are pursued by the Viper. This series is essential for a Claremont completist like me, but it’s not as good as Claremont’s X-Men or Ms. Marvel or even Marvel Team-Up. Steve Leialoha’s art here is very similar to Frank Miller’s. The highlight of the issue is the panel where Lindsey McCabe’s cat says “Prowl now?”

LOCKE & KEY: HEAD GAMES #4 (IDW, 2009) – “Head Games, Chapter Three,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Tyler shows the head key to his love interest, but she’s understandably horrified and runs away. Meanwhile, Duncan gets beaten up by some gay-bashers. I finally get that Duncan is Tyler, Kinsey and Bode’s uncle.

MIRACLEMAN #12 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Olympus Chapter Two: Aphrodite,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Totleben. I already have the Marvel reprint of this story, but I still want to complete my run of the original Miracleman comic, so I bought this issue when I saw it at Heroes Pop Swap. (I also saw Miracleman #16 for three dollars at a recent convention, but I didn’t buy it because I wasn’t 100% sure I didn’t have it already. I should have bought it.) As noted in my previous review of the Marvel edition of this issue, “Aphrodite” is the origin story of Miraclewoman, and it also explains what happened to Terry Rebbeck, a.k.a. Young Nastyman. The original Eclipse issue also includes a Laser Eraser & Pressbutton backup story, which has a complicated time-travel plot. One thing that strikes me as I read this issue is that Miracleman did a piss-poor job of taking care of Johnny Bates. He mistakenly assumed that Bates’s powers were gone, and allowed Bates to be placed in a brutal reform school where he was bullied and ultimately raped by his classmates. As a result, the blood of everyone who died in London is on Miracleman’s hands. It would have been better if he’d just killed Bates in issue 2.

DINOSAUR REX #2 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – untitled, [W] Jan Strnad & Henry Mayo. Dinosaur Rex #1 was in color, but thanks to budget cuts, #2 is in black and white. As a result, the artwork looks worse and is harder to read. This issue, Hempsted, Flavia and Dubadah travel to Africa to look for Hempsted’s uncle as well as the legendary Tyrannicorn. This issue is funny, but it doesn’t advance the plot a whole lot.

KONA, MONARCH OF MONSTER ISLE #7 (Dell, 1963) – untitled, [W] uncredited (Don Segall or Lionel Ziprin), [A] Sam Glanzman. I was motivated to read this after reading Fielder #1; see above. I haven’t read Kona in a while, and I forgot just how bizarre it is. Sam Glanzman’s art in this issue is pretty standard, and the plot is not that weird – the entire issue is devoted to a fight between Kona’s crew and some giant ants. However, the dialogue in this comic is like nothing else in comics history. A random sample: “Indeed! From the water rising spire of Kona’s sub sea kingdom… from that Pacific risen chimney crater emerges an army! An ant army! It moves in scarlet single file!!” “O! The discipline of insects! For what can match those precisions in an ant? We’re done for, dear ones! They’ll grind our bones to powder!” Or later: “Led by the bug subjected to the most beastly burn of all, the ruthless rubies now determined to undo the Konanites in one quick crush!” The whole issue is like that. The writer’s prose style is far weirder and more histrionic than even Kirby’s. No wonder Kona has been an inspiration to alternative cartoonists like Kevin Huizenga. A difficult question is who wrote Kona’s bizarre prose. Kona is usually credited to Don Segall, but Kevin Huizenga claims it was written by Lionel Ziprin, a beatnik poet and Kabbalist. This claim seems to originate with Ziprin himself (https://www.newsfromme.com/2009/04/11/from-the-e-mailbag-7-3/) and I’m not sure whether to believe him.

HEARTTHROB SEASON TWO #4 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Robert Wilson IV. I don’t quite understand the plot of this issue, but what strikes me about it is that Callie and Mercer’s relationship seems kind of abusive. Like, they seem to delight in annoying each other, and Mercer seems to be separating Callie from her other friends.

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA #1 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Last Survivor,” [W] Dick Wood, [A] Mike Sekowsky. This issue is an adaptation of the TV show of the same name, which was the sixties’ longest-running American science fiction show with continuing characters – it ran four seasons, compared to Star Trek’s three. It’s about a privately operated nuclear submarine. In this issue the submarine’s crew battles a mad scientist who’s using tidal generators to create giant tsunamis. Despite the undistinguished creative team, VTTBOTS #1 is quite an exciting comic. The technology and oceanography in this issue are realistic, and the plot is gripping and serious.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #79 (Marvel, 1991) – “Weapon X, Chapter Seven,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith, plus other stories. Again the only reason to own this issue is the Weapon X installment, which has some beautiful BWS art. However, in this story Logan fights a bear, and it looks more like a giant rat than a bear. Of the other stories in this issue, the least bad one is the one where Sgt. Fury teams up with Dracula. The Sunspot solo story has John Byrne art, but appallingly bad writing. Example: “Your tender tragedies elude me. I’ll be hated and hounded with humanity’s savagery always exposing to harm those I’m near.” This story’s writer, Daryl Edelman, only has two other writing credits in the GCD, and one of them is “Paper, Not Paper” from Classic X-Men #35, which is at least as bad. The last story, starring Dr. Strange, is just mediocre. But I must have read this issue as a little kid, because when I read the line “Encase this fiend in the scarlet sack / The crimson bands of Cyttorak,” I instantly recognized it.

SPIDER-GIRLS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Andrés Genolet. Mayday Parker and Anya Corazon team up with a new character named Annie, a.k.a. Spiderling, the daughter of a Peter Parker and a Mary Jane who are both superheroes. Annie is a really cute new character, but like Ghost Spider #1, Spider-Girls #1 suffers from being overly mired in continuity. I just want to read about the interactions between these three different Spider-Girls, without having to care about this Inheritors nonsense.

BABYTEETH #13 (Aftershock, 2018) – “The Goddamn Devil,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. In hell, Sadie and her companions are reunited with Heather and Clark, but then Satan shows up. And Clark says “Dada” and Satan takes off his mask and says “I have a kid?” I’ve been lukewarm on Babyteeth lately, but this issue’s last page was a complete shock, and makes me excited to see what comes next.

One week of reviews

11-1-18

A few more comics that I read after I finished writing the last round of reviews:

SUPERB #14 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. Kayla frees Jonah and they escape the prison-slash-school, but the villains plan on using Jonah and Kayla as bogeymen to demonstrate the danger of enhanced people. I guess this is the last issue… okay, I checked and it’s actually not, it just felt like it was.

PROXIMA CENTAURI #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. This issue we get a look at Orson, Sherwood’s brother. Somehow each of them thinks the other is dead, and Orson is at some kind of combat school, which makes me wonder if his name is a reference to Orson Scott Card. As usual, I love the art in this issue, but I’m mystified by the story.

DETECTIVE COMICS #866 (DC, 2010) – “The Medallion,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Denny O’Neil was a problematic writer even in the ‘70s, and in the 2010s his shortcomings are even more obvious. This issue suffers from a boring plot and very poor dialogue and captions, and Dustin Nguyen’s art is wasted on Denny’s script. I didn’t realize until near the end of the story that the Batman in this issue is Dick instead of Bruce.

ENCOUNTER #6 (Lion Forge, 2018) – untitled, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso. I guess I’m reading this series in reverse order. This is the one where Encounter and the dog meet Champion, who teams up with them to fight the Deconstructinator. There’s a running gag where the heroes keep getting the villain’s name wrong. Overall this is a really fun kid-oriented superhero comic, and I enjoy it more than other Baltazar/Franco titles.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Stalemate,” [W] Evan Narcisse, [A] Javier Pina. I stopped reading this series with #3, and never started again until now. This issue concludes the story of T’Challa’s visit to Latveria. It clearly illustrates the difference between T’Challa and Doom, but it’s just an average comic.

MORNING GLORIES #44 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. This issue takes place across multiple moments in time, and focuses on Ellen’s struggle with Ms. Clarkson to regain access to her (Ellen’s) daughter. Ms. Clarkson, the teacher with the dark hair, ponytail and glasses, is kind of a loathsome character. She’s presented as the embodiment of the cruel, sadistic teacher. This is not a bad comic, but my enjoyment of it is limited by my knowledge that the series was six issues away from going on permanent hiatus.

HUNT FOR WOLVERINE: CLAWS OF A KILLER #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Butch Guice. Daken, Lady Deathstrike and Sabretooth fight a bunch of zombies. in This series is not a good fit for Mariko Tamaki’s talents because it gives her little opportunity to display her skill with characterization. I shouldn’t have ordered it.

MAE #6 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Gene Ha, [A] Paulina Ganucheau. I might have ordered this when it came out if I had realized who the artist was. Paulina Ganucheau’s artwork is just as bright and appealing as in Another Castle or Zodiac Starforce. However, the story is much darker; there’s a scene where a little girl gets eaten by a monster off-panel. The plot is that a human woman with super-strength finds herself in a fantasy world based on the Czech Republic. I will plan on reading more issues of this series if I can find them.

BAD COMPANY #1 (Fleetway/Quality, 1988) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jim McCarthy. These stories reprinted from 2000 AD are about a company of weird-looking soldiers, kind of like the Creature Commandos. Unfortunately this is a Fleetway/Quality comic, so it’s printed on terrible paper, and the printing quality is so low that the letters are barely readable. I bought a few of these Fleetway/Quality comics because I didn’t know any better, but I’m never buying any of them again.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #172 (Fawcett, 1978) – “All Year Long,” uncredited. This issue consists of a series of vignettes, each taking place in a different month. (Which illustrates a fundamental problem with this series: Dennis is the same age at the start of the year as at the end, and he never has a birthday.) Most of the vignettes are just silly gags, but they’re reasonably fun. However, there’s one scene where Dennis’s dad wears blackface, and the December story includes some blatant proselytizing.

ARCHIE #198 (Archie, 1970) – “Constant Replay” and other stories, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey. A pretty good issue. There’s one story where Archie is supposed to send Veronica’s picture to a magazine, but instead he sends a picture of a dog. The way this happens is quite plausible. This issue’s last story includes a brief reference to student protests. The GCD observes that “Unlike the few other Archie stories where this was mentioned, Archie here expresses approval of the protests:  ‘Demonstrations turn me on!’ ”

BATMAN FAMILY #12 (DC, 1977) – “I Am Batgirl’s Brother!”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] José Delbo, plus other stories. A rather lackluster issue. The cover shows Batgirl, Robin and Man-Bat together, but in the actual comic they all appear in separate stories. The Batgirl story reintroduces Batgirl’s brother Tony Gordon. This character had made a few appearances in the ‘50s, and only appeared in one other story, in which he was killed. I’ve read the story where he dies, but I have no memory of it, so Tony must have been a pretty forgettable character. See http://thebatmanuniverse.net/james-gordon/ for more on him. The Man-Bat story is the highlight of the issue because it’s drawn by Marshall Rogers, but it has a ludicrous plot where Kirk Langstrom turns into a werejaguar. The Robin story is as bad as other Robin stories from this period.

CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #9 (DC, 2017) – “I’m Glad I Spent It with You,” [W] Jon Rivera, [A] Michael Avon Oeming. This was my favorite Young Animal title besides Doom Patrol, but I fell behind on it, and never caught up. This issue is really bizarre and apocalyptic, and I don’t really understand it. It includes a scene where a man gets hit in the face with a human brain.

FIELDER #1 (Drawn & Quarterly, 2018) – “Bona, Monarch of Monster Isle,” [W/A] Kevin Huizenga. Kevin H. is one of my favorite current cartoonists – as well as the subject of my first academic paper that was accepted for publication, and the source of this blog’s name – and he just keeps getting better. He could easily have continued to work in the same vein as “Jeepers Jacobs,” but instead he challenges himself to try new stuff. This issue begins with a redrawn version of an old issue of Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle. It took me a while to understand what was going on in this story, and I’m not sure it’s a successful experiment, but it’s certainly a daring one. Next is “Get Up, Glenn,” part one of “Fielder, Michiana.” This story seems to be a continuation of the insomnia story arc from the Ganges series, except instead of having insomnia, Glenn can’t tell if he’s asleep or awake. My favorite thing in the issue is “Fight or Run.” It begins with a pair of half-page strips, “Fight” and “Run,” which depict stylized scenes from a fighting game. These strips look a lot like the fighting game story in Ganges #2. But on the next page, the “Fight” and “Run” comic strips grow arms and legs and fight each other by throwing characters and panel borders at each other. It’s hard to describe this precisely, because I haven’t seen anything like it before, but it’s fascinating. After another installment of the redrawn Kona story, the issue ends with “My Career in Comics,” a highly tongue-in-cheek account of Kevin’s career. In general, Fielder #1 is a fascinating and varied assortment of material, and it demonstrates why the virtual disappearance of the alternative comic book is unfortunate.

MARS #10 (First, 1984) – “No Rust (Just Reality)”, [W] Mark Wheatley, [A] Marc Hempel. This issue, Morgana and a furry woman named Fawn get captured by a giant spider. This issue has very little connection to the last two issues of Mars I reviewed, and I’m not sure how we got here from issues 5. There’s also a backup story starring Dynamo Joe. This story is heavily manga-influenced, but not that good.

Comics received on October 26:

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #36 (Marvel, 2018) – “Save Our School Part 5: You’re Not Asking the Right Questions,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Thanks to a series of mix-ups, Lunella passes the test and saves the school, despite the Kingpin’s best efforts. Also she defeats the Wrecking Crew. I don’t understand how the school got saved because Princess switched ithe tests. I feel that this point was not explained well. In general, this story was mildly better than Fantastic Three, but still not as good as the Ego storyline.

RAT QUEENS #12 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. The Rat Queens and Maddie continue their quest to save Sadie. (Note that Rat Queens is one of three current comics with a character named Sadie. The others are Thrilling Adventure Hour and Babyteeth.) Meanwhile, Dee finds that she’s become a goddess. The other gods and goddesses she meets are probably the best thing about this issue. This current storyline is an improvement over the first ten issues of this volume, but it’s still not as good as Rat Queens volume 1.

BOOKS OF MAGIC #1 (DC, 2018) – “What’s Past is Prologue,” [W] Kat Howard, [A] Tom Fowler. This comic more or less captures the spirit of Rieber and Gross’s Books of Magic, but it’s not spectacular. I’m not sure how this series fits into continuity. It seems like this series starts right after the original Books of Magic miniseries, and replaces the previous Books of Magic ongoing.

HIGH HEAVEN #2 (Ahoy, 2018) – “High Heaven: Chapter Two,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. This may be the best comic of a rather mediocre week. David Weathers tries to escape heaven, but runs into a truly hideous-looking angel. The angel shows him the better version of heaven, and also hell, which looks a lot better than either heaven. Also we learn more about David’s history, and it turns out that his new roommate is his worst enemy from his mortal life.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Benjamin Dewey. A new dog character, Tommy, leads the Wise Dogs to the location of the evil men. Tommy has some cute interactions with the other dogs, but then we learn Tommy is an “eldritch man” posing as a dog. This is another really exciting issue.

THE TERRIFICS #9 (DC, 2018) – “Tom Strong & the Terrifics, Part 3,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] José Luis. The Terrifics and the Strongs battle Doc Dread, the Dr. Doom to the Terrifics’ Fantastic Four, across several realities. Jeff Lemire draws a poignant contrast between Tom, the family man, and Mr. Terrific, whose family was killed. At the end of the issue we learn that Doc Dread is apparently Java. This was a fun issue.

USAGI YOJIMBO #172 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden, Part 7,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Ishida fight an epic battle with the shogunate agents. In the course of their fight, the Japanese Bible is seemingly destroyed, and the agents let Usagi go. At the end of the issue, we learn that Inspector Ishida actually saved the Bible, and that he himself is a crypto-Christian. I get the impression that this story has personal relevance for Stan  because he’s a Japanese Christian himself, though I can’t find proof of that. An interesting comparison could be drawn between Stan Sakai and Gene Luen Yang, as East Asian cartoonists whose work is inflected by Christianity.

Reviews for September and October combined

9-22-18

On September 1, Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find held a “warehouse sale.” They had thousands of comics which were priced at $1 on Saturday, 50 cents on Sunday, and 25 cents on Monday. I went to the sale on Saturday and bought about 40 comics for a dollar each, including:

MUKTUK WOLFSBREATH, HARD-BOILED SHAMAN #2 (DC, 1998) – “Mommy’s Girl, Part 2: Kiss and Hell,” [W] Terry LaBan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Muktuk visits the underworld and meets Nusqua, the villain/femme fatale, who has sex with him and then transforms herself into the Great Mother. Also, he has a rather delicate negotiation with a Siberian tiger. This is a really fun series and, as I’ve written before, it explores a culture that’s hardly ever referenced in any kind of English-language fiction.

KARATE KID #1 (DC, 1976) – “My World Begins in Yesterday,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Ric Estrada. This was one of the only Paul Levitz Legion comics I hadn’t read, but it’s hardly his best effort. Val pursues his archenemy Nemesis Kid into the 20th century, then decides to stay there for no real reason. Princess Projectra neither appears nor is mentioned in this issue, which surprised me, because I thought the whole point of Val’s 20th-century trip was to prove his worthiness to marry her. This series was an obvious attempt to cash in on the kung fu fad by using a character DC already owned.

When I got back from Heroes, there were some new comics waiting for me:

RUNAWAYS #12 (DC, 2018) – “Time After Time,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Nico and Karolina go on a date. Victor tells Gert about his trauma from Tom King’s Vision series, and then Gert kisses him. The issue ends with Alex Wilder unexpectedly showing up. In my mind this issue is overshadowed by #13, which came out just two weeks later.

MS. MARVEL #33 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Ratio, Part Two,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Not much happens in this issue. Kamala fights the Shocker with little success, and Bruno keeps trying to figure out how Kamala’s powers work. The only really notable thing in this issue is the Shocker’s Rube Goldberg device for “catching do-gooders.”

MODERN FANTASY #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Kristen Gudsnuk. As promised, this is the training montage issue. It’s full of funny dialogue, sight gags and hidden messages. Also, Sage kisses Darquin Silvermane. I love this series and I wish it was an ongoing.

X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN – SECOND GENESIS #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue covers approximately Uncanny X-Men #141 to #187. As with the previous issue, Ed doesn’t try to replicate the emotional power and characterization of Claremont’s X-Men. Instead, he seeks to tie together Claremont’s X-Men stories into a coherent narrative, and to make it look like if Claremont planned his whole X-Men run as a single long story. This is a difficult feat, comparable to Don Rosa’s achievement of reconciling all of Barks’s references to Scrooge McDuck’s history. Of course, Ed also makes a lot of changes to established continuity. His version of Days of Future Past is especially surprising because the future Kate Pryde isn’t mentioned at all.

ANGEL LOVE #7 (DC, 1987) – “The Search for Mary Beth,” [W/A] Barbara Slate with John Wm. Lopez. Angel discovers that her long-lost sister Mary Beth has changed her name and is now the front-runner for a seat in Congress. Thus, Angel tries to see Mary Beth and convince her to donate bone marrow to their mother. See my review of Angel Love Special #1 for more on this. In a comic relief subplot, Wendy has an audition which goes terribly. On the leters page, Barbara Slate claims that Angel Love is an eight-issue maxiseries. I’m guessing it was designated as such retroactively, so they wouldn’t have to admit it had been cancelled after eight issues.

SPOTLIGHT #3 (Marvel, 1979) – The Jetsons in “All’s Fair in Love and Warranty,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Tony Strobl. This series is officially called “Spotlight” even though the cover says Hanna-Barbera Spotlight. This issue includes two Jetsons stories written by Mark Evanier, as well as a Yakky Doodle story. The artists, Tony Strobl and Pete Alvarado, are Disney comics veterans. Evanier’s stories in this issue are funny, but not as clever or complicated as his best work.

LITTLE ARCHIE #152 (Archie, 1980) – “Unhappy Birthday,” [W/A] Bob Bolling, plus other stories. Heading to Veronica’s party, Little Archie takes a shortcut, against his parents’ orders, and runs into an alien teenage girl (well, actually her age is 712) who’s also taken an unauthorized shortcut. As a result of this encounter, Archie learns a lesson about love. This story is both wacky and touching. There are no other Bolling stories in this issue.

ISOLA #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. Olwyn turns back into a cat again. Other stuff also happens that I can’t remember very well. As usual, this comic is beautifully drawn but its plot moves rather slowly.

THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #1 (DC, 1986) – “Legends Live Forever,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Trina Robbins. This comic was published because George Pérez’s Wonder Woman revival wasn’t ready by the time the previous Wonder Woman series ended, and at the time, DC’s contract with the Marston estate required them to publish Wonder Woman comics regularly or lose the rights to the character. This Legend of Wonder Woman is not as good as Renae de Liz’s series by the same name, but it’s an affectionate tribute to the Golden Age Wonder Woman. H.G. Peter is one of Trina’s strongest influences, and in this comic she closely imitates his style.

HOT WHEELS #3 (DC, 1970) – “Stakeout,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Alex Toth. This was a very exciting find, because each issue of this series included a story by perhaps the greatest visual storyteller in the history of American comic books. Unfortunately, his story in this issue is inked by the worst inker in the history of American comic books, whose name will go unmentioned. Despite this, Toth’s artwork in “Stakeout” is brilliant, though the story has a typically boring Joe Gill plot about modifying cars to catch crooks. This issue also includes artwork by Jack Keller, a noted artist of car comics, and Ric Estrada.

BLACKWOOD #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish. It turns out that the evil old lady, Grace Drayton (named after a cartoonist), was the lover of Dean Ogden, a.k.a. Nathan Blackwood. Then they both die, and the issue ends by suggesting that there’s also some worse secret behind Blackwood. This was a really effective horror series, and I hope it comes back soon.

X-23 #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals Part 3,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. After a bunch of action sequences, the Cuckoos transfer their dead sister’s mind into Gabby’s body. This issue has some very effective art, but thanks to the emphasis on action over characterization, it’s not as good as the first two. Actually that’s a standard problem in Mariko Tamaki’s superhero comics: her action sequences are much worse than her quieter character-building scenes. Though really, very few superhero writers are, and action sequences are usually the worst part of any superhero comic. Laura’s contact list includes Mariko herself, Moon Kngiht, Nightcrawler, Wasp and Deadpool as well as some names I didn’t recognize.

TRILLIUM #3 (Vertigo, 2013) – “Telemetry,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. As of the Heroes sale, I now have all but one issue of this series. In this issue the future sequences are right-side-up, and the past sequences are upside-down. There’s also a two-page spread that combines right-side-up and upside-down panels. Some of the dialogue in this issue is written in an alien language, which is easy to decode, but time-consuming; however, someone on the Internet has posted a transcript of all this dialogue. Trillium’s plot is very confusing, involving multiple different timelines, and it would be hard to understand this series even if I was reading it in order. It’s fascinating though.

THE SANDMAN #21 (DC, 1990) – “Season of Mists: A Prologue,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. At the Heroes sale I was able to fill a lot of the gaps in my Sandman run, though I’m still missing the two most expensive issues, #1 and #8. This issue, six of the Endless have a family reunion, and Delirium makes her first appearance. She’s one of the best characters in the series, and her appearances are always a highlight. Also, at the urging of Desire and Death, Morpheus decides to go to hell to free Nada, which sets the events of “Season of Mists” into motion. This issue includes a preview for a series called World Without End by Jamie Delano and John Higgins. I hadn’t heard of that series before, but I was able to find a couple issues of it on my return trip to Heroes (see below).

STAR TREK #13 (DC, 1990) – “The Return of the Worthy, Part One: A Rude Awakening!”, [W] Peter David & Bill Mumy, [A] Gordon Purcell. In PAD’s final story arc on this series, the Enterprise crew discover the cryogenically preserved bodies of the Worthy, a family of legendary space explorers called the Worthy. I read this issue once before as a kid, and didn’t understand it at all. When I reread it this month, I was equally mystified; I was like, why are we supposed to believe that the Worthy are great legends throughout the galaxy, when we’ve never heard of them before? Then I read the line where one of the Worthy, a young boy, says “The robot’s as much a member of our team as anyone else.” That’s when I realized that this Worthy are actually the crew of Lost in Space – as hinted by the fact that Bill Mumy, who played Will Robinson on that show, is the co-writer. With that context, the references to the Worthy’s legendary status make perfect sense, and this comic is actually kind of a brilliant crossover between two classic SF franchises.

HARLEY QUINN & GOSSAMER #1 (DC, 2018) – “A Hairy Predicament!”, [W] Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Pier Brito. I stopped reading Harley Quinn a while ago, but I couldn’t resist this issue, which guest-stars my favorite minor Looney Tunes character. This issue has a pretty funny plot, in which Harley discovers Gossamer and mistakenly thinks he was sent by the Joker. But the issue is worth the cover price just for Harley’s interactions with Gossamer. The highlight is probably the panel where Harley imitates the scene with Bugs doing Gossamer’s hair. I do think Pier Brito’s version of Gossamer is a bit off-model; the creature’s mouth should be invisible most of the time, as it is in Sholly Fisch and Dave Alvarez’s backup story.

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #2 (DC, 1994) – “Bindings, Book 2: A Book of Leaves,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Gary Amaro. Tim discovers that the man he thought was his father actually isn’t, and goes looking for his real father. Instead he falls into the hands of a fanged dude who claims to be a schoolmaster and uses a lot of Latin phrases. Meanwhile, Tim’s actual father, Tamlin, goes looking for his son. Not a bad issue.

BATGIRL #26 (DC, 2018) – “Art of the Crime, Part One: Knockdown,” [W] Maighread Scott, [A] Paul Pelletier. A major step down in quality from the previous two runs. This comic isn’t terrible, but it’s uninspired and boring, and lacks any interest. I’m dropping this series immediately.

On Monday, September 3, I went back to Heroes and bought about 140 comics for a quarter each, including:

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #62 (Marvel, 1980) – “One Must Die!”, [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. Luke, Danny, and another superhero named Thunderbolt battle Man-Mountain Marko. Thunderbolt has superspeed powers which are causing him to age rapidly, and at the end of the issue, he uses his last remaining power, and sacrifices his life, to avenge his brother’s murder. This was grimmer than a typical issue of this run.

STRANGE EMBRACE #1 (Image, 2007) – untitled, [W/A] David Hine. I’ve seen several positive reviews of this comic, but I knew nothing about it. But when I found this comic in the quarter box at Heroes and paged through it, I was instantly excited by Dave Hine’s art. Hine draws in the same quasi-Clear-Line style as Paul Grist or Phil Elliott, a style which I’ve previously described as characteristic of British alternative comics. In this comic Hine uses that style to illustrate a creepy Lovecraftian mystery about a house filled with ghosts and stories, or something like that. I can’t clearly remember the details of the plot, but it’s scary. I also got the second issue of this series at Heroes, and I’ll read it the first chance I get.

WEIRD MYSTERY TALES #21 (DC, 1975) – “Deadly Stalkers of the North!”, [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Ricardo Villamonte, etc. Besides Villamonte, this issue includes stories by E.R. Cruz and Alex Niño. The three stories are about werewolves, giant alien slugs, and pirates. All of them are well-drawn, but none are especially well-written.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #1 (Dark Horse, 1986) – “Black Cross,” [W/A] Chris Warner, plus three other stories. This issue is mostly worth owning for completism’s sake, but it also includes one fascinating story that’s not widely available. The highlight of this issue is Paul Chadwick’s first Concrete story. It’s the one where a woman tricks Concrete into attending her child’s birthday party, and in revenge, he puts her car on the roof of her garage. I’ve read this before, although I forgot about the twist ending. The aforementioned fascinating story is “Brighter!”, which stars a woman with light and sound powers. She had previously used these powers for musical performances, but she decides to move on to bigger and better things. This character is obviously a stand-in for Dazzler, the protagonist of Chadwick’s previous series, and maybe her decision to change her career is a reference to Chadwick’s newfound artistic maturity.

GREEN LANTERN #109 (DC, 1978) – “Assault on Replikon,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Mike Grell. Carol Ferris has a new boyfriend, André. It turns out André is really the alien villain Replikon (who wears Batman’s cowl for some reason). Hal, Ollie and Dinah defeat Replikon, but Carol is not grateful to Hal. This story illustrates that Carol and Hal are incompatible and that their relationship is a disaster. Mike Grell’s art is quite good. There’s also an Alan Scott backup story.

SILVER AGE: DIAL H FOR HERO #1 (DC, 2000) – “The One-Man Justice League,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Barry Kitson. This is part of a fifth-week crossover event. It’s designed to look like a Silver Age DC comic, with half-page ads and Gaspar Saladino-esque lettering on the cover. The plot involves a battle between Robby Reed and the Martian Manhunter, who’s swapped bodies with Dr. Light. This comic is underwhelming given the creators involved, and the best part about it, as with all Dial H for Hero stories, is seeing all the different superheroes that Robby turns into.

ACTION COMICS #579 (DC, 1986) – “Prisoners of Time! (1986 AD to CCLIII AD)”, [W] Randy Lofficier & Jean-Marc Lofficier, [A] Keith Giffen. Like Star Trek #13, reviewed above, this comic is an unannounced crossover. In this issue, Superman travels back in time to the ancient Roman era, where he battles a giant fat barbarian and a druid who brews magic potion. These characters are obviously Obelix and Getafix/Panoramix from Asterix. Oddly, Asterix himself does not appear. The cover shows Superman battling a character based on Asterix, but in the comic, that character is stated to have already died. In fact, the comic takes place long after the time period of the Asterix comics, and the Obelix and Getafix characters are only still alive because of the magic potion. The entire issue is full of Asterix references and is written in a Goscinny-esque style. Overall it demonstrates the Lofficiers’ love for French comics, which they helped to promote in America through their translations of Moebius. I’d have enjoyed this issue even more if I’d read more Asterix. I need to get around to doing that.

JUPITER’S LEGACY #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Millar, [A] Frank Quitely. I didn’t realize this was five years old already. During the Depression, some explorers discover a source of superpowers. Many decades later, their descendants are famous but bored young super-celebrities. This comic is less bad than a typical Mark Millar comic, but that’s the best I can say for it. Frank Quitely’s art isn’t the best he’s capable of.

LETTER 44 #3 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jiménez Albuquerque. A bunch of politics, espionage, interpersonal drama, and space sex. Nothing especially memorable happens in this issue, but it’s a good example of Charles Soule’s writing style. I want to collect the entire run of this series.

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #4 (Vertigo, 1994) – “Bindings, Epilogue: Lost Causes,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross & Gary Amaro. Last issue, Tim was killed by the Manticore – the fanged teacher dude from issue 2. This issue, Tim has a long conversation with Death, who is her usual charming self, but then Tamlin, Tim’s real dad, sacrifices his life to resurrect his son. This was one of the better issues of the series, mostly because of the Death appearance, and it was an effective conclusion to the first story arc.

SWEET TOOTH #19 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Endangered Species Prelude: Lost Trials,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire with Nate Powell, Emi Lenox and Matt Kindt. I got a bunch of issues of Sweet Tooth at Heroes, though I’m still missing the first few. This should be a fairly easy run to complete. This issue provides the origin stories of three female characters, including Wendy, the little pig-nosed girl who was imprisoned with the antlered boy. The three origin sequences are illustrated by three guest artists, as listed above.

X-MEN GOLD #28 (Marvel, 2018) – “ ‘Til Death Do Us Part, Part 3,” [W] Marc Guggenheim, [A] Michele Bandini. This issue suffers from uninspired, trite dialogue, competent but unexciting art, and a boring plot. It focuses on my favorite X-Man, Kitty Pryde, but even then it failed to hold my interest. If Marvel thinks Marc Guggenheim is the best choice to write X-Men, then no wonder the series has been bleeding readers for years. Marvel needs to revitalize the franchise by hiring some top-tier writing talent.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #23 (First, 1985) – “The Crucified Man,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Jon Sable goes on a mission in Israel. This comic has some excellent action sequences, but Grell seems to be trying too hard to imitate Lawrence of Arabia, and the sex scene between Jon and his female handler is unnecessary. I think my interest in this series has waned over time. This issue also includes a long essay by Grell about a hunting trip he took in Africa. I already knew Mike was a sport hunter, but this essay is really TMI.

CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST #207 (Harvey, 1979) – “A Boy Named X,” uncredited. Unlike most Harvey comics I’ve read, this issue has a full-length story – about an amnesiac young boy – rather than just consisting of short stories. However, “A Boy Named X” is pretty boring and unfunny, and I fell asleep at least once while reading it. I still haven’t read a Harvey comic that was actually well written, and I wonder if there are any.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #562 (Archie, 1986) – Josie and the Pussycats in “Vacation Blahs,” [W] George Gladir, [A] Dan DeCarlo. Josie and the band go on vacation, but each of the places they visit turns out to be even more stressful than their day job. This story reminds me of MLP Micro-Series #3, where Rarity goes to Flax Seed and Wheat Grass’s resort. The other stories in this issue are forgettable, but even then this comic is much better than Casper #207.

THE DEMON #16 (DC, 1974) – “Immortal Enemy!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Etrigan battles Morgaine Le Fay, and his girlfriend Glenda learns that he’s really Jason Blood. And there the series ends. The Demon is not bad, but it’s not as good as Kamandi or the Fourth World titles.

SWEET TOOTH #5 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Out of the Deep Woods, Conclusion,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Tommy Jepperd takes Gus (the antlered kid) to the Preserve, where he exchanges Gus for his wife’s body. Finally this series is starting to make sense to me. This issue includes a two-page spread with one of Lemire’s trademark experimental page layouts. It’s the scene where Gus gets hit on the head, and then there’s a 4×6 panel grid on the left-hand page, which “crumbles” into individual disconnected panels on the right-hand page.

SAUCER COUNTRY #6 (Vertigo, 2012) – “A Field Guide to Flying Saucers,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Jimmy Broxton. Most of this issue is a lecture about UFO encounters. I’m not sure how well this sequence works as a comic, but it’s interesting. It investigates the psychology and culture behind people’s accounts of UFO experiences. I still haven’t really gotten into this series.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #8 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Dark Kingdom, Part 3: Black & White,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Matteo Buffagni. Spider-Man, Cloak and Dagger battle Mr. Negative. This isn’t a classic Spider-Man comic, but it’s fun and well-drawn. One nice thing about 25-cent boxes is that they allow me to read comics, like this one. I enjoyed reading this comic, but I wouldn’t have paid full price or even a dollar for it.

SWAMP THING #12 (DC, 2012) – “Rotworld Prologue: Part 2,” [W] Scott Snyder & Jeff Lemire, [A] Marco Rudy. This issue’s story is continued from Animal Man #12, which I read when it came out. This is a pretty solid horror comic, with, again, some bizarre page layouts, and it’s fun to see Abigail Arcane interacting with Ellen and Maxine Baker. I went canvassing for the Democratic party yesterday, and my canvassing partner had a volume of this Swamp Thing run in his car. When I noticed that, it was a nice icebreaker.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #20 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark Disassembled Part 1: Counting Up from Zero,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. Here’s another series that I wouldn’t pay more than 50 cents for, but I’m happy to buy it when I see it in a quarter box. This issue is part of the story arc where Tony Stark removes his own memory. Tony spends most of the issue lying in a hospital bed having weird dreams. Matt Fraction is probably the best Iron Man writer since David Michelinie, although that’s not saying much. He seems to have been responsible for making the comic book version of Tony match Robert Downey Jr’s filmic portrayal of the character.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #24 (DC, 2008) – “Ringquest Part 3,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Patrick Gleason. Yet another series that I like, but that I only buy when I see it in the cheap boxes. This issue, a bunch of Green Lanterns battle Mongul, or possibly one of his children, and an army of Black Mercies. The Black Mercy, a parasitic plant that paralyzes its victims by granting them visions of their greatest desire, is one of Alan Moore’s many brilliant throwaway ideas. It was smart of Peter Tomasi to reuse it here. Otherwise, the best thing about this issue is the diversity of the different Green Lanterns.

TRILLIUM #4 (Vertigo, 2014) – “Chapter 4: Entropy,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Nika and William encounter some Amazonian tribespeople who speak the alien language. Meanwhile, Nika’s boss from the future decides to destroy the planet with the trillium on it. This issue has no unusual design elements. One of the many weird things about this series is the lack of connection between issues; it almost feels like every issue is about a different version of Nika and William.

COYOTE #3 (Epic, 1983) – “How Coyote Chased His Tail,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Butch Guice. This is Steve Englehart’s most important creator-owned series, but that’s damning with faint praise. This comic has a convoluted plot which isn’t worth the effort required to understand it. What makes this series interesting is the hero, who is basically a coyote in a human body, and doesn’t understand human stuff like technology and monogamy. Like, one of the subplots is that he’s two-timing two women, and doesn’t see anything wrong with it.

STRANGE TALES #13 (Marvel, 1988) – Cloak and Dagger in “Disorderly Conduct,” [W] Terry Austin, [A] June Brigman, and Dr. Strange in “Ascent into Hell,” [W] Peter B. Gillis, [A] Richard Case. This issue’s Cloak & Dagger story is a prequel to Power Pack #13, reviewed above. It guest-stars the Punisher as well as Power Pack. Despite starring the Punisher, this is a really light-hearted and fun comic, whose highlight is Katie Power’s version of the Punisher’s war journal. In contrast, the Dr. Strange backup story is too serious for its own good. The villain in this story looks a lot like Gillis’s creator-owned character the Black Flame.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #618 (Marvel, 2010) – “Mysterioso Part 2: Un-Murder Incorporated,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Marcos Martín. The art in this issue is really good. Marcos Martín and Javier Pulido are fairly similar artists, which makes sense because they’re both from Spain and they both broke into the industry via Planeta de Agostini. This issue, Silvermane attempts to reassert his control over the Maggia, and there are also some plot threads involving Mr. Negative, Mysterio, and Carlie Cooper’s dad. Dan Slott’s Spider-Man is really quite good, and I should read more of it.

THE WORLD BELOW #1 (Dark Horse, 1999) – “The Flock,” [W/A] Paul Chadwick. This series is Paul Chadwick’s version of Cave Carson – I even wonder if it started out as a rejected proposal for a new Cave Carson series. This issue introduces the rather flimsy premise of the series: there’s a newly discovered underground realm full of bizarre creatures and machines, and a team of six adventurers, equipped with a giant red truck, are dispatched to investigate. This gives Chadwick an excuse to draw the weirdest stuff he can think of. The World Below is an excellent series, and it’s a shame that it’s been totally overshadowed by Concrete.

I received these new comics on September 7. I barely remember most of the comics I read that day, so I must have been very tired.

PAPER GIRLS #24 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. We begin with a flashback explaining how Wari and Jahpo got to the future. Then we learn that Mac has untreatable time travel cancer. And Kaje saves Mac’s life with her rocket boots, which is a really nice moment. Also, Erin discovers a map leading I don’t know where.

BORDER TOWN #1 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Bienvenidos a Hell,” [W] Eric Esquivel, [A] Ramon Villalobos. This debut issue is very important, but also problematic. It takes place in Arizona on the U.S.-Mexico border, which, in this reality, is inhabited by giant monsters. Also the Aztec god of the dead, Mictlántécutli, is involved somehow. This series has the potential to be a fascinating and highly politically relevant exploration of border politics and Latinx identity. The problem is that it suffers from overwriting. Practically every word balloon has one sentence too many, and as a result, the story doesn’t flow well. Also, there’s a ton of stuff happening in the story at once, and it’s not clear what’s important and what’s not. Border Town has explosive potential, which hopefully will not go unrealized.

GIANT DAYS #42 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Esther has a crush on Ed again, but Ed “has been spending a lot of time with some vast and loud Australian entity.” Meanwhile, McGraw is burning a bunch of wood for some reason. So this is a pretty typical issue.

THE LONG CON #2 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] EA Denich. More of the same stuff. Dez fights her way through some feral children to acquire hot dogs, then there’s another flashback to the beginning of the con. I still love the idea behind this series, and the creators are executing it fairly well.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #2 (DC, 2018) – “Action Detectives, Part 2,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. We learn that the kid supervillains come from an alien planet, where the kid Luthor grew up with Lex Luthor as a role model. Also, the kid Joker is actually a good guy, and he helps Jon and Damian escape from captivity, but Jon somehow gets split into Superboy-Red and Superboy-Blue. This is a really fun and exciting superhero comic.

SNOTGIRL #11 (Image, 2018) – “My Second Date,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. I can’t remember much about this issue. Snotgirl has such a convoluted plot and comes out so infrequently that it’s very hard to follow, though it’s worth reading anyway.

KIM REAPER: VAMPIRE ISLAND #1 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Becca and Kim are fans of a show called Vampire Teen Drama, so Kim decides to take them to meet some actual vampires. But while they’re partying with the vampires, Kim gets called away on a Grim Reaper assignment, and Becca and Tyler are left alone, with disastrous consequences. It’s nice to see this comic again.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #70 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Toni Kuusisto. This is a sequel to “Grannies Gone Wild,” the episode where Rainbow Dash accompanies Granny Smith and her friends to Las Pegasus. This issue, the grannies are sick of playing bingo, so Rainbow Dash arranges an extreme bingo game for them, even though Applejack thinks it’s unsafe. This results in a classic conflict between Rainbow Dash’s carelessness and Applejack’s overprotectiveness. There are some excellent gags in this issue, like Pinkie Pie trying to eat all the cakes in the shop because she thinks there’s a bingo ball in one of them.

QUICKSILVER: NO SURRENDER #5 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Eric Nguyen. It turns out the monsters are creatures that live between moments – not sure how that works – and that have been animated by Pietro’s emotions. Pietro defeats the monsters by sympathizing with them, and then hangs out with Wanda. In this series, Saladin has accomplished the feat of taking the most unpleasant superhero in the Marvel Universe and making him kind of sympathetic.

THE DREAMING #1 (DC, 2018) – “The Kingdom,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. I’ve seen some negative reactions to this comic, and I think those reactions are justified. This issue is confusing and convoluted even to a veteran Sandman reader, let alone a new reader, and it’s not that interesting either. I do plan to keep reading this series, since I’m a fan of both Si Spurrier and Sandman.

HOUSE AMOK #1 (IDW, 2018) – “We’re a Happy Family,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Shawn McManus. This is the fourth different Chris Sebela comic I’ve read in the past month or two. Besides having good dialogue, his comics have fascinating and clever premises, which he exploits to their full potential. (For example, the idea of a woman being haunted by the ghost of her heart donor is absurd, but Chris turns this idea into a compelling story.) His latest series is about two preteen twin girls whose parents believe in all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories. Because they don’t know any better, the girls accept their parents’ nonsensical ideas and act as accomplices to their parents’ crimes. But one of them slowly starts to realize her parents are insane. This comic is an intriguing exploration of conspiracy theorists, and also a plausible depiction of a child whose normal meter is broken, as they say on r/relationships.

DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #2 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. I didn’t buy this when it came out, but it turns out to be quite good. In this miniseries, a bunch of Sorcerers Supreme from various time periods team up against a villain named the Forgotten. The Sorcerers Supreme include an older Wiccan, who is married to Hulkling with a child, and Mindful, a sentient Mindless One. Mindful is an adorable character. Other than him, the highlight of this issue is Javier Rodriguez’s brilliant artwork. I think I’ve failed to appreciate him enough because he gets overshadowed by the writers he works with, but he’s an amazing visual storyteller.

LITTLE ARCHIE #166 (Archie, 1981) – “The Team Mate,” [W/A] Bob Bolling. Another story where Little Archie meets an alien. Bob Bolling really liked this premise – in addition to this story and the one in #152, Bolling wrote several stories where Little Archie encounters two aliens named Abercrombie and Stitch. In “The Team Mate,” Archie encounters an alien his own age, Odiko, who has superspeed powers. Archie tries to draft Odiko for his baseball team, but the other kids discover that Odiko is an alien and reject him. As a result, the kids learn a lesson about prejudice. The last panel shows Archie’s black friend saying “I think we lost a good friend.” I’m not sure whether that’s subtle or heavy-handed.

TRILLIUM #5 (Vertigo, 2014) – “Starcrossed,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Another very experimental issue. Each issue has a top half which reads right-side-up and a bottom half that reads upside-down. After getting to the end of the comic, you flip it upside-down and keep reading from the bottom. Each half tells a different story: the top half takes place in some kind of steampunk world, and the bottom half takes place in Nika’s usual future world. The top and bottom halves of each page have the same panel structure and are parallel in other ways, so this issue is reminiscent of Watchmen #5. The plot of Trillium still doesn’t make sense to me – I don’t remember having seen the steampunk universe before – but this issue is fascinating to read anyway.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #139 (DC, 1978) – “Requiem for a Top Cop,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Jim Aparo. In this Batman/Hawkman teamup, we learn that Commissioner Gordon killed an alien as a young man, and now an alien bounty hunter named Vorgan wants to avenge the murder by killing Gordon. Batman and Hawkman join forces to save Gordon. This comic attempts to blend the crime and science fiction genres, but does not succeed; the Batman and Hawkman parts of the plot are at odds with each other. However, this comic is notable for a couple reasons Bob Haney couldn’t have been aware of. First, in a sad way, it’s kind of touching how Gordon feels so guilty over the alien’s death. It would be nice if, for example, Amber Guyger felt equally guilty for killing Botham Jean. Second, the idea of an alien bounty hunter who assassinates murderers seems very familiar. This comic was published just two years before Nexus #1, and it’s very plausible that Mike Baron read it.

VELVET #2 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. A story about a female secret agent who’s running from her employers, or something. It’s essentially a Black Widow comic in all but name. It’s pretty similar to any Brubaker/Phillips comic except that the art is by Steve Epting. This was jarring at first, but Epting’s art is just as terrific as in his and Brubaker’s Captain America.

LANCER #2 (Gold Key, 1969) – “The Diamond-Studded Steer,” [W] Dick Wood, [A] Luis Dominguez. An adaptation of a long-forgotten TV show about two cowboy brothers who dislike each other. Unusually, this story shows cowboys engaged in their actual occupation of herding cows, rather than fighting outlaws. The plot is that the Lancer brothers have to lead a cattle drive to Mexico and prevent it from being sabotaged. Dick Wood’s script is serviceable, and Luis Dominguez’s art is pretty good. He’s from Argentina, and I assume he was influenced by Arturo del Castillo and José Luis Salinas.

HAWKEYE #5 (Marvel, 2013) – “The Tape Part 2: Operation Eucritta,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Javier Pulido. An excellent issue of a series that’s already a classic. The issue is mostly a long action sequence, in which Clint and Kate fight Madame Masque’s henchmen to recover an incriminating tape. Javier Pulido’s art and design are fantastic. The highlight of the issue is when Clint and Kate kick a door open, and the sound effect is FOOTOOMP!

STRANGE TALES #14 (Marvel, 1988) – “Disorderly Conduct,” [W] Terry Austin, [A] June Brigman, and “Apogee,” [W] Peter B. Gillis, [A] Richard Case. Again, the Punisher-Power Pack-Cloak and Dagger story in this issue is heartwarming (I’m trying to limit my use of the word adorable). Katie Power and the Punisher get along surprisingly well, since Katie is the same age the Punisher’s daughter was. But the highlight of the story is the ending, where the Powers have a birthday party for their hamster, and Julie teaches Cloak to read. The Dr. Strange story is just average.

ANGEL LOVE SPECIAL #1 (DC, 1987) – “Dark Revelations!”, [W/A] Barbara Slate. A strong conclusion to a series that never found an audience. Angel convinces her sister Mary Beth to donate bone marrow to their mother. But as a result, Mary Beth is discovered to have been using a false name, and she loses her election for Congress. It’s kind of unethical for Angel to browbeat her sister into doing the donation. As a reader of r/relationships, I’ve heard lots of stories about people being contacted by estranged relatives who want them to donate organs. In those cases, the usual advice is that you’re not obligated to serve as a donor, and if you don’t want to, you shouldn’t be guilted into doing it. But Barbara Slate avoids fully endorsing either Angel or Mary Beth’s behavior, and allows the reader to see the ambivalence of their relationship. Other than that, this issue is full of lots of other drama and funny stuff. Too bad this was Angel Love’s last appearance.

CLASSIC STAR WARS #4 (Dark Horse, 1992) – untitled, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Al Williamson. A reprint of some comic strips that take place between two of the movies of the original trilogy (not sure which two). Luke teams up with a thief named Tanith – named after Tanith Lee? – while Han and Leia have some relationship drama. Al Williamson’s art is really good, but it suffers from being reprinted too large. And the panels are rearranged to fit on the comic book page, so there’s lots of wasted space, and some panels are partly obscured by others.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #11 (Pacific, 1983) – “Meet Big Ugly,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. A minor late Kirby work that suffers from bad lettering, and nonsensical storytelling. It’s superficially similar to New Gods, but not as inspired. There’s also a backup story by Tim Conrad.

STARSLAYER #12 (First, 1984) – “Stranded!”, [W] John Ostrander, [A] Leni Delsol. The Starslayer story in this issue is pretty mediocre. The Grimjack backup story is significantly better, though Ostrander and Truman hadn’t quite figured out the Grimjack formula yet.

WONDER WOMAN #107 (DC, 1996) – “Lifelines Part Three,” [W/A] John Byrne. The best thing about this issue is Cassie Sandsmark, a really cute character. Otherwise, this issue offers further evidence that John Byrne had long since jumped the shark by 1996, and that he was never a very good writer in the first place.

CATWOMAN #18 (DC, 2003) – “No Easy Way Down Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Javier Pulido. An early work by an excellent artist. In this issue Javier Pulido tries to draw like Darwyn Cooke or Cameron Stewart, but you can still recognize his unique style of visual storytelling. Brubaker’s dialogue is pretty good, but the plot is forgettable; it’s some kind of hard-boiled murder mystery.

SAUCER COUNTRY #8 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The Reticulan Candidate Part One,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. A blend of political campaign drama with conspiracy theorizing about aliens. I guess you could call this comic Men in Black meets The West Wing. I’d be willing to read more of this comic if I saw it in a cheap box, but I wouldn’t pay very much for it.

THE WAKE #1 (Vertigo, 2013) – “The Wake Part One,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. The art in this comic is spectacular. Because of his style of linework and the amount of detail he puts into his drawings, Sean (Gordon) Murphy is more like a European than an American artist. His machinery, architecture and animals demand very close attention – which is why I haven’t had the energy to read any of the other issues of The Wake that I have. The Wake’s story is less interesting than its art. The protagonist is a divorced female cetologist who’s hired to decode some mysterious whale songs. I have yet to be truly impressed by Scott Snyder’s writing.

NEIL THE HORSE COMICS AND STORIES #9 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “The Hour of the Hand of the Shadow Fiend from the Forgotten Blood-Cursed Crypt!”, [W] Katherine Collins (under her previous name), [A] Barb Rausch. This issue’s first story is a Conan parody. It’s well-drawn but more silly than funny. The second story is about breakdancing and is narrated in rhyme. I guess it’s an early example of a comic influenced by hip-hop culture.

FIGHTIN’ MARINES #61 (Charlton, 1964) – “The Non-Combatants!”, [W] Joe Gill probably, [A] Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia, plus other stories. A boring piece of mediocrity. This comic promotes a jingoistic and uncritical view of war, which is especially annoying since it came out during the Vietnam war.

BULLY WARS #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Aaron Conley. This is less immediately appealing than I Hate Fairyland was. It’s about bullying and high school drama, but it treats these subjects in Skottie Young’s usual funny and tasteless way. It’s not bad, but it’s not my favorite either. Aaron Conley’s art is less hyper-detailed than in Sabertooth Swordsman, but much less difficult to read, since it’s in color.

CATWOMAN/TWEETY & SYLVESTER #1 (DC, 2018) – “A Fine Fit of Feather and Fur,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Inaki Miranda. A very funny story, especially since it’s full of cats. Catwoman and Black Canary team up with Sylvester and Tweety, respectively, in a battle between cats and birds. Most of DC’s other cat- and bird-based characters are also enlisted, and the issue is full of Looney Tunes references. This is one of Gail’s best-written comics in years, and Inaki Miranda draws some very cute animals.

EUTHANAUTS #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Check Ignition,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Nick Robles. I had to read the previous issue to remind myself what this series was about, and even then I had trouble following it. But this comic at least seems like a sensitive and thoughtful examination of death. Maybe it’s a good thing this comic is coming out now, because it looks like I’ll have to attend a funeral soon. 

MY LITTLE PONY: PONYVILLE MYSTERIES #4 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. Someone has dammed the water supply leading to the spa. It initially looks like the Apples used the water to irrigate their farm, but then it turns out Flim and Flam are responsible. Early in the issue there’s a funny mistake where the word “damn” is used instead of “dam.” I remember this comic more clearly than other comics I read the same day, so that’s probably a point in its favor.

DENNIS THE MENACE FUN FEST SERIES #14 (Fawcett, 1980) – “Having a Ball” and other stories, uncredited. In this issue’s first story, Gina teaches the other kids to play soccer. In the second story, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson move into a retirement community where everything fun is prohibited, and they discover that life without Dennis is less interesting. In the third story, the Mitchells try to get the cat to stop climbing on the table. This was a pretty funny comic, certanly better than the previous Dennis comic I read.

WONDER WOMAN ’77 SPECIAL #2 (DC, 2015) – “The Cat Came Back,” [W] Marc Andreyko, [A] Drew Johnson. The Lynda Carter version of Wonder Woman battles the Cheetah. This comic isn’t terrible, but it’s not great either, and it’s tediously long. I suppose this comic would have some nostalgia value for fans of the ‘70s Wonder Woman TV show, but I have never seen that show.

!GAG! #1 (Harrier, 1987) – various stories, editor uncredited. An anthology of British small-press humor comics. Creators featured in this issue include Eddie Campbell, Ed Pinsent, Steve Way and Glenn Dakin, and Trevs (Woodrow) Phoenix. The Way and Dakin story stars Paris, the Man of Plaster. This comic is perhaps less notable for the individual stories in it, than for its demonstration of the stylistic diversity of British underground comics.

THE BATMAN ADVENTURES #4 (DC, 1993) – “Riot Act,” [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Brad Rader. The Scarecrow engineers a plot to make the people of Gotham City illiterate. I was excited to discover that I had an unread issue of this series, but this issue is not by the usual creators, and it’s kind of mediocre.

Comics received on September 12:

RUNAWAYS #13 (Marvel, 2018) – “That Was Yesterday, Part 1,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] David Lafuente. Alex Wilder reappears, and instantly acts like he’s still the leader of the team, as well as getting them into a fight with a three-headed dog thing. Also, the Gibborim show up again, or rather their children. The issue ends with a panel depicting all six of the original Runaways, plus Victor. This story is paradoxical because it returns us to the premise of the original series – the Runaways versus the Pride and the Gibborim – but it also reminds us how much things have changed since the series began.

MECH CADET YU #12 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. The kids pool their powers to activate the Suprarobo and defeat the Sharg. The issue and the series end with Stanford and Olivia visiting their late parents’ graves. This ending was satisfying, but a bit predictable. I was hoping it would turn out that the Sharg weren’t as evil as they looked. It’s too bad this series is over.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #36 (Marvel, 2018) – “🔇”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. The title of this story is the mute icon. This issue is a piece of Oulipian constrained writing, where the constraint is incorporated into and justified by the story. A librarian’s ghost gets angry at all the noise in New York, so she forces the entire city to be quiet, and thus the entire issue is silent. This enables Ryan North and Derek Charm to display their skill with visual storytelling and humor. The visual storytelling in this series tends to go unnoticed because the reader pays attention to the dialogue instead. But this issue reminds us that the creators are really good with sight gags and body language. I especially like all the scenes set in front of the ESU library, showing how New York changes as the silence continues. Overall this is one of the best issues of Squirrel Girl.

MS. MARVEL #34 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Ratio, Part Three,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. I’m sorry to hear about Willow’s health problems, and I wish her a quick recovery. This issue, Bruno learns that Kamala shapeshifts by absorbing mass from her past or future selves. Also, Kamala encounters Singularity. “The Ratio” has not been among this series’ best story arcs.

WELCOME TO WANDERLAND #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jackie Ball, [A] Maddi Gonzalez. Yet another excellent Boom! Box miniseries. This one is about a girl working at an amusement park, obviously based on Disneyland/world, who discovers a secret portal into the fantasy world that the park’s attractions are based on. Maddi Gonzalez’s artwork is appealing. Jackie Ball’s script is witty, and is inspired by actual experience working at theme parks.

EXILES #8 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Trial of the Exiles!”, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Joe Quinones. I somehow failed to order issue 7, which concludes the Exiles’ encounter with the cowboy Black Panther. This issue, the Exiles are put on trial by a bunch of rogue Watchers, and they all have to recount their back stories. This issue provides a lot of useful insight into the team members. It ends with Blink waking up in an Arabian Nights-based world. Next issue should be good, since it draws upon the same mythology that Saladin Ahmed grew up with and used in his novel.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #39 (Image, 2018) – “Low,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. A bunch more drama, which ends with Persephone discovering that she still has powers. Not a very exciting issue.

SHE COULD FLY #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Just the Place for a Snark,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martin Morazzo. This issue includes one of the wordiest word balloons I’ve ever seen, containing well over 100 words, but there’s a reason for it. Verna asks Luna about her mental illness, and Luna’s response takes up almost half a page, ending “I’ve never told anyone this before.” This is a really powerful moment. Other than that, this issue Luna’s guidance counselor starts looking for her and gets involved in the conspiracy, and the enemy finds Bill. She Could Fly is one of the best miniseries of the year. Too bad there’s just one more issue.

CATWOMAN #3 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats Part 3,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones with Fernando Blanco. This issue is somewhat lacking in the cat department. Selina’s cats only appear in one panel. Also, there’s a four-page sequence devoted to the origin of a new character whose significance is not clear. Other than that, this is an okay issue.

CROWDED #2 (Image, 2018) – “Future Starts Slow,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. Jo saves Vita from some assassins, then they go looking for the person who took out a contract on Vita. Also there’s a funny scene that takes place at a comic book store. This is a good second issue, though less humorous than #1, now that the novelty of the premise has worn off.

FANTASTIC FOUR #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Where We Make Our Stand,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sara Pichelli. This issue we finally get to see Franklin, Valeria and the Future Foundation kids, and our first sight of Valeria is shocking: she has breasts and is receiving a marriage proposal from some alien dude. The last time her age was stated, she was about three years old, so lots of time must have passed while the FF were away. Increasing Franklin and Val’s age is probably a good decision, since Franklin’s improbably young age is the biggest continuity problem in the Marvel universe. However, this solution creates other problems; in particular, if Val is in her early teens, then Alex Power, who is aging at the same rate, must be about 30. It’s best not to think about this too much. Anyway, this issue we learn that Reed, Sue and the kids have been creating new worlds and exploring them, but then Franklin’s power runs out, just as a creature called the Griever starts devouring these realities. So the FF return to Earth to make their last stand, alongside everyone who’s been a FF member. Besides the continuity issues I just mentioned, this is a really good issue. It’s both fun and original, and it effectively builds upon the heritage of this series.

NANCY DREW #4 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. This issue includes a scene where the detectives go to a rave, and they all split up to investigate different things. From there, the sequence is divided into three different narrative threads, each of which has a different color scheme and occupies a different tier of panels. On Twitter, Kelly indicated that she was proud of this sequence, and she should be. This issue also ends on an exciting cliffhanger where Bess is captured by the crooks.

FARMHAND #3 (Image, 2018) – “Pet Sins,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. A dog gets into the Jenkins farm and turns into an awful monster. Other plot stuff happens. This is another good issue, full of witty dialogue and funny gags. The best joke in the issue is the line of guys waiting to get into the “melon patch,” where certain private body parts are grown.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 (DC, 2018) – “Broken Telephone,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson, [A] Domo Stanton. This is, I believe, the first comic by one of my favorite current SF writers. Like many of Nalo Hopkinson’s novels, House of Whispers is heavily based on voodoo and West African mythologies. It begins with a scene set in the Dreaming, where Erzulie Fréda is meeting Uncle Monday – either a version of Baron Samedi, or a very similar character. Meanwhile, in the human world, some girls unwittingly summon a loa called Shakpana by playing telephone. This comic feels like a very passionate and authentic depiction of Caribbean culture and mythology. It’s a bit difficult to follow at times, but it’s fascinating, and it draws upon a cultural tradition that rarely appears in comics except in a very stereotyped form. This comic may be difficult for readers who aren’t familiar with Nalo Hopkinson or West African religion, and its connection to The Sandman is very tenuous.

RAT QUEENS #11 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, Owen Gieni. This was the best issue of Rat Queens volume 2, simply because it was the first one that made sense. After a lot of confusing and unintelligible stories, the Rat Queens are finally back together, and now they’re looking for the evil version of Hannah. I didn’t realize there were two Hannahs, but I guess that was established last issue. Then the Rat Queens go on a quest to help their former teammate Sadie, who’s been turned into an owl. I hope this issue is indicative of the future direction of this series.

MARVEL RISING OMEGA #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Marvel Rising Part 4,” [W] Devin Grayson, [A] Georges Duarte. A predictable but fun conclusion, in which the good guys beat Arcade and save Ember. Lunella Lafayette makes a cameo appearance on the last page. This was a fun series which teamed up some of Marvel’s best characters for the first time. It should be an ongoing series, though.

X-23 #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals, Part 4,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. The dead Stepford Cuckoo gets reanimated in Gabby’s body. This issue was mostly plot with little character development.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #12 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. In the final issue, Dorma finds a way out of the cave, and leaves home to pursue her fortune again. It’s too bad this is the last issue, but this issue was a fairly satisfying conclusion. Scales & Scoundrels was never a great comic, but it was quite a good one.

TINY TITANS: RETURN TO THE TREEHOUSE #6 (DC, 2015) – untitled, [W] Art Baltazar, [A] Franco. A standard example of the Tiny Titans formula.

SUPERMAN #43 (DC, 2015) – “Before Truth Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] John Romita Jr. This issue is slightly less bad than Gene Luen Yang’s other issues of Superman, since it includes some effective character interaction between Clark and Lois. However, Clark and Lois’s relationship has been done to death already, and this issue doesn’t depict it in a particularly original way. This run of Superman was such a disappointment.

MOTH & WHISPER #1 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Once Upon a Time,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Jen Hickman. I’ve read a lot of Ted Anderson’s pony comics and have corresponded with him on Facebook, so I was intrigued to read his new creator-owned series. This comic takes place in a dystopian society ruled by an oppressive government. The hero, Niki, is the child of two legendary thieves, Moth and Whisper. In general this is a pretty good debut issue, but the striking thing about it is that Niki, like the artist, is nonbinary. This is not directly stated or depicted as problematic in any way – there just aren’t any references to Niki’s gender. Niki is a really cute kid and an effective example of nonbinary representation, and I look forward to reading more about them.

HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #2 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Death in the Family,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornés. This issue is about the fallout from Benjamin Khoury’s murder. It’s not bad, but the only really notable thing about it is the scene set in First Avenue in Minneapolis. I only remember having been to First Avenue once – I’m not really the concert-attending type – and I’m not sure if the artist’s depiction of it is accurate.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #3 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 3,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. The thieves infiltrate the library, only to discover that they need to get into the room for heretical books. The most interesting thing about this issue is the author’s note, where Brian Clevinger explains how the Advocatus is a made-up position, but based on officials that actually existed in medieval Europe. On Twitter, I observed that the Advocatus in this series is kind of like Judge Dee from Chinese detective fiction, and Brian Clevinger confirmed that officials like Judge Dee were part of the inspiration for Nicolas.

THE WRONG EARTH #1 (Ahoy, 2018) – “The Wrong Earth, Chapter One,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. I was skeptical about this comic because, although Tom Peyer wrote the comics that made me a Legion of Super-Heroes fan, his other work has been very uneven. But the premise behind this series is amazing. This premise is that the Silver Age Batman and the Dark Knight Returns Batman (or rather, Dragonflyman) swap universes with each other. The results of this are both funny and tragic. The two universes are depicted with wildly contrasting styles of art, lettering and dialogue, and Peyer and Igle brilliantly depict the two Dragonflies’ bewilderment at their new realities. I’m surprised that the idea behind this series hasn’t been used before, but Peyer and Igle execute it extremely well.

ARCHIE 1941 #1 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. After graduating from high school, Archie is bored and listless, not knowing what to do with his life. But it’s late 1941, and December 7 is coming. This is a weird and intriguing comic, and I’m curious to see where it goes. It almost reads like a crossover between Archie and Captain America. Maybe next issue, Archie will get turned down by the Army, but will be asked to volunteer for Dr. Reinstein’s experiment.

HEAD LOPPER #9 (Image, 2018) – “Head Lopper and the Knights of Venora, Part 1,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Head Lopper encounters a talkative female warrior, and they visit a city that contains a mysterious giant egg. Also, some kind of villain is plotting against Norgal. This is a good issue, but it’s more complicated and less immediately gripping than the debut issues of the last two storylines.

PROXIMA CENTAURI #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. The kids fight and defeat Carousel, a man in a top hat who summons demons out of a bag. As usual, this isue is beautifully drawn and evocative, but its plot makes little sense.

RUINWORLD #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. The pig dude finds himself in the Dengus Isles, where some frog people are about to cook and eat him. The other protagonists have to rescue him. This comic is an insubstantial but entertaining romp.

CEMETERY BEACH #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. A special agent from Earth investigates an offworld colony that was created in the 1930s and has had no contact with Earth since. This comic reminds me of Bioshock because of its premise, but otherwise there’s nothing particularly new or original about it, and I don’t know why I should keep reading it.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #15 (Vertigo, 1998) – “Year of the Bastard Part 3: Smile,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. A much better Warren Ellis comic. This storyline is about an American Presidential campaign. The main event this issue is that Spider Jerusalem attends a rally by Senator Bob Heller, which is effectively a Trump rally, except the racism is even less disguised. Spider’s shocked reaction after hearing Heller’s speech is very similar to how actual reasonable people react to Trump’s rhetoric.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #63 (Marvel, 1980) – “Luck and Death,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. The two namesake villains, Suerte and Muerte, blow up the Gem Theater and almost kill D.W. Griffith (named after the filmmaker). This is a pretty good issue, though not especially memorable. Now that I’ve read Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, I have a much better understanding of the area where the Gem Theater is located.

MARS #5 (First, 1984) – “The Whole Shebang,” [W] Mark Wheatley, [A] Marc Hempel. A bunch of science fictional relationship drama, illustrated in a simple and appealing style. The main event of the issue is that one of the two female characters is discovered to be pregnant. I didn’t quite understand what was going on in this issue, but it was much better paced than issue 1, reviewed below.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #21 (Vertigo, 1999) – “The New Scum 3: New President,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. Spider Jerusalem interviews the president, who turns out to be an alcoholic, cynical jerk with no principles. Spider points out that the President is “not interested in anything other than having the Presidency, but […] also not interested in actually being a President.” Besides the alcoholism, this character reminds me of Trump, though he’s not so aggressively stupid. Like #15, this issue is a sensitive and prescient exploration of American politics.

LITTLE MISTER MAN #1 (Slave Labor, 1995) – “Little Mister Man,” [W/A] James Kochalka. A silly Superboy parody, drawn in Kochalka’s trademark minimalist style. The main character looks kind of like Dilbert. This was one of Kochalka’s first comics, but it’s barely distinguishable from his mature work.

PLASTIC MAN #4 (DC, 2018) – “Revenge of the Curse of the Horror Creature,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. Plas buys some clothes for Pado Swakatoon, and discovers that Agent Obscura has ulterior motives. This is a fun and well-drawn series, and Plas’s relationship with Pado is very touching. But the plot of this series is hard to follow.

DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #4 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. It turns out that the Forgotten is a composite of various magicians who were imprisoned by Merlin. Also, sadly, Mindful does not in fact have a soul, but was merely animated by Isaac Newton. As usual with Javier Rodriguez, this issue is beautifully drawn.

THE KILLER: MODUS VIVENDI #4 (Archaia, 2010) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The Killer succeeds in faking Angel Carrasco’s death and getting rid of his unwanted clients. And there the album ends. I still don’t think this series is all that great, but it’s well-executed, and it shows more awareness of global politics than most American comics do.

WONDER WOMAN #54 (DC, 2018) – “The Enemy of Both Sides, Part Three,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Raúl Allen. I wasn’t impressed by the last Steve Orlando comic I read (namely Crude), so I had low expectations for this issue, but I was pleasantly surprised. This comic has excellent art and coloring and an engaging story, and that’s more than I can say for most Wonder Woman comics. The story is about a war between Qurac and the Bana Mighdall.

MARS #1 (First, 1984) – “Rebirth,” [W] Mark Wheatley, [A] Marc Hempel. This debut issue suffers from some of the worst narrative compression I’ve ever seen. As a child, the protagonist, Morgana Trace, loses her father in an attack that also leaves her paralyzed. She invents a system that lets her connect a computer to her legs, allowing her to walk again. Then she travels to the moon and becomes part of a mission to Mars. Then she and her crewmates lose contact with Earth, so they all go into cryogenic stasis for 10000 years. Finally, Morgana wakes up and heads to Mars to look for her missing crewmates. All these events happen in just one issue, and each of them flashes by so quickly that the reader doesn’t have time to process it before the next thing happens. The further irony is that most of this setup is unnecessary; all the reader really needs to know is that Morgana is stranded on far-future Mars with four other people. As noted above, later issues of this series had better pacing.

STAR TREK #40 (Gold Key, 1976) – “Furlough to Fury,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Al McWilliams. This issue ought to have been terrible. First, it screws with continuity by giving McCoy a daughter named Barbara – not to be confused with his other much better-known daughter, Joanna. Barbara only ever appeared in this series, and her existence is hard to reconcile with McCoy’s history. And Kirk has a crush on her, which is rather creepy. (This issue also mentions Scotty’s otherwise unknown brother Robby.) On top of that, this issue’s plot is poorly suited to Star Trek. The plot is that while on furlough on Earth, Kirk and McCoy foil an attempted jewel theft with the aid of a telepathic alien bear. Besides the alien bear part, this plot is more suited to Batman than Star Trek. The shocking part, then, is that this comic is actually good. Arnold Drake was a gifted storyteller who wrote excellent dialogue, and Al McWilliams was a terrific science fiction artist, possibly the best artist who ever worked on Star Trek comics. I especially like his rendition of the Enterprise. So this is a pretty good comic, though not necessarily a good Star Trek comic.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #491 (DC, 1992) – “A Good Head on Your Shoulders,” [W] Tom Grummett, [A] Doug Hazlewood. Superman battles Metallo, with help from Terrible Dan Turpin. This comic is nothing special, but it’s a well-written and entertaining Superman comic.

THE SPECTRE #12 (DC, 1993) – “Final Fate,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. Amy is murdered by a serial killer. This was a rather depressing and grim series, and it was rarely grimmer or more depressing than in this issue.

New comics received on September 22:

LUMBERJANES #54 (Boom!, 2018) – “Follow Your Art,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. Another incredibly cute issue. The villain turns out to be Tromatikos, or Tammy Tickles as Ripley calls her, a creature that drains energy. Tromatikos summons all the magic kittens, resulting in one of the cutest panels in the entire series. Jo and the girls go looking for Ripley. Oh, and we also learn that Rosie knows the phone number for Mount Olympus. Because of course she does.

FLAVOR #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Wook-Jin Clark. Xoo chews out Geof for his inconsiderateness, but enters the competition anyway. Meanwhile, Anant wants to enter too, but his parents refuse. This was a pretty good issue. The highlight was the panel with Geof getting “drunk” on ice cream. The food Anant and his parents are eating looks really good – it may be Korean BBQ.

MISTER MIRACLE #11 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Scott and Barda engineer a brilliant plan to defeat Darkseid and avoid having to give Jacob up. But afterward, it turns out Desaad is actually Metron, and Metron tells Scott that he’s in the wrong universe. This ending is unexpected and confusing. Obviously the high point of this issue is Darkseid eating the vegetables.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #5 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. Finally the truth is revealed: Madame Dragonfly and Colonel Weird kidnapped the superheroes because if they return to Earth, Anti-God will come back. But then it turns out Colonel Weird already sent the ship on a course to who knows where. I’m glad to have finally learned what’s going on, but with the revelations in this issue, some of the suspense in this comic has been lost. This issue includes Doctor Star’s first appearance outside his own title.

OH S#!T IT’S KIM & KIM #2 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. Another great issue. Kim Q tries to call her dad to ask to borrow the Belinda Carlisle tape, but he insists on using her deadname, and the conversation is over before it starts. This is perhaps the best scene in the entire series. It illustrates the pain of transphobia and the insensitivity of people who refuse to acknowledge a trans person’s identity. The rest of the issue is also pretty good. The Kims and Xue Peng execute their plan to steal the tape, but things don’t go as intended. The heist sequence includes some really good dialogue.

BY NIGHT #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. Gardt the goblin leads the protagonists on a tour of his world, but they go off the intended path and run into some sleeping vampires. This issue is quite funny; I especially liked the Mr. T running joke and the reference to Twizzlers as “crimson banquet rods.” But I’m still not sure what this series is supposed to be about.

USAGI YOJIMBO #171 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden, Part 6,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Inspector Ishida track down the Japanese translation of the Bible, but the villains are right behind them. The main virtue of this issue is that it demonstrates the incredibly explosive nature of the Japanese Bible translation. William Tyndale’s English Bible was dangerous enough that it got him executed, and the Japanese Bible is even more dangerous than that. “The Hidden” has been a pretty good story – I would rank it below “Grasscutter” but above “The Treasure of the Mother of Mountains” – and I look forward to seeing how it ends.

BLACK BADGE #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Another good issue, though not as funny as #1, since we already know the premise now. This issue the kids encounter another group of spy campers. Also, the girl camper tells her origin story, but it’s actually the origin story of Pippi Longstocking.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Caselli. BRODOK drives off the giant Tigra, then the two Hawkeyes investigate an Advanced Image Mechanics plant. This was a good issue, with some effective character interactions, but nothing spectacular. I really hope Tigra comes to her senses quickly and doesn’t get killed.

VAGRANT QUEEN #4 (Vault, 2018) – “The Bezoar of Kings,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. This issue mostly consists of a flashback explaining how Elida’s kingdom was overthrown. We learn that Ellida was well-intentioned but was never in charge of her own government, and was led astray by her rather heartless mother. But the people who overthrew her government were even worse. One thing I don’t get is why Elida is the queen if her mother is still alive. I guess her father was the previous king, and her mother was just the king’s consort. This series continues to suffer from very poor artwork.

OLIVIA TWIST #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Darin Strauss & Adam Dalva, [A] Emma Vieceli. I decided to give up on this series before I even finished reading this issue. Olivia Twist is a dystopian SF retelling of Oliver Twist. I’ve never read Oliver Twist, but this premise is interesting enough. The problem is that the writers have no understanding of pacing. As with Mars #1, reviewed above, so much stuff happens in this comic that the reader can’t process any of it. We move from “Please, sir, can I have some more” to the Artful Dodger to Fagin, all in one issue, and at the same time we’re being introduced to Olivia Twist’s world. Because of the excessive pace of the story, none of the events in it have any impact. Neither of this comic’s writers has any previous comics experience, and it shows. I’m glad that I didn’t order issue 2.

IMPOSSIBLE, INC. #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Beyond the Spiral!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Cavallaro. I had kind of low expectations for this comic, but it pleasantly surprised me. The protagonist is the daughter of a character who’s basically Reed Richards. But their father has gone missing in some alternate dimension, and she and her brother have to look for him. For someone who’s never written the Fantastic Four (as far as I know), J.M. DeMatteis captures its spirit of scientific exploration and discovery very well.

SAVAGE DRAGON #238 (Image, 2018) – “Out for Blood!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Malcolm saves Angel’s life by giving her a blood donation, but is immediately besieged by sick people who also want his blood. Also, Maxine finally gets some therapy for her sex addiction. I bought this issue before I decided to drop this series again. If every issue of this series was like this one, I wouldn’t be dropping it.

DICK TRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Tracy Unleashed,” [W] Lee Allred & Mike Allred, [A] Rich Tommaso. Dick Tracy arrives in Chicago and instantly starts cleaning up corruption and shooting people. This comic is well-written and well-drawn, and Tommaso and the Allreds do a good job of capturing the spirit of Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy. However, their version of Tracy is so bloodthirsty that he reminds me of the Punisher.

EDGE OF SPIDER-GEDDON #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Latour, [A] Tonci Zonjić. This alternate-universe story stars thirteen-year-old Petey Parker and his Uncle Ben, both of whom have spider powers. I couldn’t understand the plot of this comic at all; it’s poorly explained and fragmented, and it’s also part of a crossover of some kind. However, this comic is worth reading anyway because little Peter is heartachingly cute, and his relationship with Ben is very sweet.

THOR #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Old Gods,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Christian Ward. The far-future Thor battles the far-future Wolverine, who has the power of the Phoenix. Christian Ward’s art is, as usual, beautiful, but this issue is just a long fight scene, and it’s not all that interesting.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ties That Bind,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Garry Brown. A retelling of the alien costume saga from the perspective of the alien symbiote. I’ve never actually read the original version of this story, but the retold version is easy enough to understand anyway. This issue is a successful piece of science fiction because it shows the reader “a creature that thinks as well as a man, but not like a man,” and it’s also rather touching.

Starting again on October 13:

CAPTAIN AMERICA ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ziegenfarm,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Chris Sprouse & Ron Lim. An excellent Captain America story. It reminds me of Waid and Garney’s “Sanctuary,” in Captain America vol. 1 #454, because it’s a very simple story and yet it perfectly captures the essence of Cap. The plot is that Cap has to rescue some concentration camp escapees, including a man who’s been sentenced to death for being gay. He escorts them to safety, with their assistance, and just when things look hopeless, he comes up with one last trick to save them.

THE UNWRITTEN #18 (DC, 2010) – “Mix,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. I have a lot of unread issues of this series. This issue focuses on a meeting of the people who secretly control the world through writing, including the terrifying bald bearded dude. It was a difficult comic to understand, but it made a lot more sense when I read the Rudyard Kipling issue, reviewed below.

CATWOMAN #36 (DC, 2004) – “War Games: Act 3 Part 7 – Multiple Fronts,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Paul Gulacy. This is barely even a Catwoman comic. It’s part of a giant crossover, and Catwoman appears on less than half the pages. This issue makes no sense out of context of the larger crossover, and it’s a good argument against crossover stories like War Games.

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #30 (DC, 1996) – “Shells: Rites of Passage Part 4,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross & Peter Snejbjerg. Leah, disguised as Molly, tries to seduce Tim and fails, while the actual Molly has a tense encounter with Titania. This was an okay issue. The scene where Tim almost loses his virginity, until he realizes it’s not Molly, is an interesting insight into his character.

SLEEPER #3 (Wildstorm, 2003) – “Secrets and Lies,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Sleeper may be the worst Brubaker-Phillips collaboration. It’s confusing, it’s too heavily tied to Wildstorm Universe continuity, and Sean Phillips hadn’t yet developed his current style. In this issue he uses some weird panel structures in which multiple inset panels are arranged on top of a single background panel. As for this issue’s plot, I don’t understand it at all.

LUCIFER #3 (DC, 2000) – “A Six-Card Spread,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Chris Weston. Lucifer and Mazikeen visit a cabaret in Berlin, where the star attraction is possessed by some magical tarot cards, or something. Chris Weston’s art in this issue is very good, but I’ve never really gotten into Lucifer. This is only the second issue of this Lucifer series that I’ve read since 2013.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #514 (Gladstone, 1987) – untitled, [W/A] Daan Jippes & Freddy Milton, plus other stories. I usually don’t like European Disney comics, but the ten-pager in this issue is surprisingly good. Donald tries to get the nephews to clean up their room, and through a series of mishaps, he gets stuck with a giant pile of garbage. Jippes and Milton do a good job of imitating Barks’s style. This issue also includes a Mickey Mouse story by Fallberg and Murry, and a Gyro Gearloose four-pager by Barks. This latter story is rather puzzling. Gyro tries to build a hydroelectric plant in a poor, unelectrified Southeast Asian country, but the plant ends up consuming more energy than it produces. “And so, Farbakishan stays un-uplifted – its people toiling like beasts of burden, and its beasts of burden still untoiling!” This story seems like it’s making fun of the people of Farbakishan. But another possible reading is that Gyro’s modernization project fails because he’s an outside interloper with no knowledge of actual life in Farbakishan.

HIT-GIRL #8 (Image, 2018) – “Canada, Part 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Eduardo Risso. I bought this comic because of the creative team. In this story Hit-Girl visits northern Ontario and kills a bunch of people, I forget why. Risso’s art in this issue is pretty good, though also a bit lazy, without the level of detail I expect from him. The highlight of this issue is the ending, where Hit-Girl lies down in the snow and makes a snow angel, reminding the reader that she’s still a little girl. And then the last page shows the corpse of a man who Hit-Girl hit in the head with an axe.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #64 (DC, 1966) – “Batman Versus Eclipso,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Win Mortimer. Bruce Wayne falls in love with Marcia Monroe, actually the Queen Bee, who tricks him into helping her steal a diamond. Bruce has to team up with Bruce Gordon to defeat Marcia and her mob. Inconveniently, Bruce Gordon is also Eclipso. This was a reasonably fun issue. On page four there’s a very disturbing panel where Bruce spanks Marcia. It’s hard to imagine why anyone thought this panel was a good idea. There are a couple weird coincidences in this issue. First, a better-known villain also named the Queen Bee had already been introduced three years earlier. Perhaps this is why Marcia Monroe never appeared again. Second, the symbol of Marcia’s gang is a giant green eyeball that looks exactly like the Emerald Eye, which made its first appearance in 1967.

INVINCIBLE #115 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley. Thragg and Battle Beast beat the crap out of each other, but we don’t see who wins. Also, we learn that Thragg has been fathering an army of children with the insect people. Like most late issues of Invincible, this issue was disgusting and excessively violent.

HEART THROB SEASON TWO #3 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Robert Wilson IV. The main focus of this issue is Callie’s psychology. She’s increasingly depressed over her terminal illness, and it’s making her do weird things, like steal a safe from a bank and then drop it off a pier without looking at it. This was a well-written issue, but I couldn’t remember anything about it until I looked through it just now.

SOUTHERN KNIGHTS #3 (The Guild, 1983) “Paradise: Lost!”, [W] Henry Vogel, Audrey Vogel & David Willis, [A] Michael Morrison. My colleague Brannon Costello is writing a book chapter about this series, but I found very little of any interest in this issue. It feels like just a ripoff of John Byrne’s X-Men. Also, this comic takes place in the South but doesn’t depict any black people. I think I recall Brandon mentioning this point on social media. Perhaps the most notable thing about this comic is that it includes ads for Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find and for the 1984 Heroes Con.

GRAYSON #11 (DC, 2015) – “Nemesis, Part 3,” [W] Tom King & Tim Seeley, [A] Mikel Janin. Dick fights some villain who looks just like him. At its best, this series is a fun, sexy romp with excellent artwork, but this issue was a bit too serious, and I didn’t understand the plot.

HIT-GIRL #6 (Image, 2018) – “Canada, Part 2 of 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Eduardo Risso. Similar to issue 8, but not as good. The highlight is the scene where Hit-Girl dreams about making a snowman.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #26 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark Resilient Part 2: Visionary Men,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. A typical issue of Matt Fraction’s Iron Man, in which lots of corporate intrigue happens, and Tony acts weird. I can’t remember much about this issue specifically. Salvador Larroca is a very underrated artist, one of a number of Spanish artists who have had successful but obscure careers in American comics – Mikel Janin is another such artist.

CODA #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. The protagonist engages in more low-down dirty tricks to get the potion to cure Serka, but he only succeeds in getting the recipe for the potion. At the end of the issue, a creepy-looking drooling dude with a sword shows up instead when he expects Serka. This series is getting a little tiresome and confusing, kind of like Godshaper did. Maybe Simon Spurrier’s problem is that his characters are hard to sympathize with, and maybe that’s why Angelic was his best work so far. But Coda is still very well-executed, especially the art. Matías Bergara is the only Uruguayan cartoonist I know of, unless Alberto Breccia counts.

INCOGNITO #5 (Icon, 2011) – “Bad Influences,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This comic is much better drawn than Sleeper, but like that series, it’s a grim film-noir-influenced superhero deconstruction, and I think this genre is a bit overdone. Also, this issue is hard to understand because it’s the conclusion to a storyline. Brubaker redeems this series somewhat in the author’s note, which explains that his intent was to mash up the superhero and crime comic genres, since they both evolved from pulp fiction.

ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #1 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Bishop’s Man Part One,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Ramón Pérez. Jeff Lemire’s Hawkeye was one of his few unsuccessful series. This comic is essentially an imitation of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye, without the originality or the heart. It feels like just an attempt to cash in. Ramón Pérez does his best to imitate David Aja’s style of storytelling, but he draws faces very differently from Aja, so his art has an uncanny, incongruous feel.

New comics received on September 29:

FENCE #10 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. We meet some of the boys’ relatives, and then Seiji and Nicholas finally fight. Seiji wins easily, but Nicholas scores one touch, which feels like just as much of a victory as if he had won the match. Just a couple issues left.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE 1373 AD (Image, 2018) – “We All Fall Down,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Ryan Kelly. At the height of the Black Plague, the only surviving god is Lucifer. This issue demonstrates the cognitive dissonance caused when a faith-based society is ravaged by a horrible catastrophe. Other than that, it seems mostly intended to offer further hints about Ananke and Minerva’s relationship.

MAN-EATERS #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. I was looking forward to this series, and this is a fun issue, with lots of excellent gags. Also this series is about cats, which is a further plus. However, this comic has several fundamental problems. First, the premise is that women turn into man-eating cats when they menstruate. The trouble, as many people have pointed out, is that this premise implicitly defines women as people who menstruate, and that’s transphobic. As far as I know, Chelsea Cain has not publicly responded to this critique, though I haven’t been on Twitter much lately. Second, this comic is vulnerable to accusations of “white feminism” in the pejorative sense, in that it depicts women as a single, homogeneous group, ignoring differences between them. If the premise of this comic actually came true, black and Latina women would probably be oppressed much worse than white women. Overall, while I still plan to continue reading this comic, I’m a lot less excited by it than I was at first.

HEROES IN CRISIS #1 (DC, 2018) – “I’m Just Warming Up,” [W] Tom King, [A] Clay Mann. The worst comic of 2018. This issue is just a litany of bloody scenes of violence between superheroes and villains, together with monologues where the characters talk about their mental problems. Tom King writes this comic in the same style of dialogue as The Vision or Mister Miracle, but unlike in those series, he shows no affection for his characters. The Vision and Mister Miracle had some very grim content, but the darkness never became dominant or oppressive, the way it does in this issue. The dark moments were always relieved by cuter, happier moments. This comic just feels grim for grimness’s sake. Also, while I obviously think mental illness is an important issue, Tom King’s treatment of this issue feels trivializing. It’s not appropriate to tackle the topics of trauma and PTSD in a comic that‘s primarily about costumed people beating each other up. Just like Alpha Flight #106, Heroes in Crisis addresses a very serious real-world topic while staying within the conventions of the superhero genre, and that proves to be impossible, because that topic is incompatible with those generic conventions. It is possible to write superhero comics about mental illness, but only if they’re quite different from standard Marvel and DC comics. Finally, in this issue Tom King kills off a lot of beloved characters, including Wally West, for no good reason. I don’t care that much, because the New 52 version of Wally West is not the character I grew up with, but still, it feels wrong to kill him off in such a casual way. Anyway, I certainly won’t be ordering any further issues of Heroes in Crisis.

MODERN FANTASY #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Kristen Gudsnuk. A satisfying conclusion to the series. The heroes defeat the demon, obviously, and Sage gets a new job, only to discover that it pays less. I wish this series had been longer than four issues.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #35 (Marvel, 2018) – “Save Our School Part 5: What’s the Big Idea?”, [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella and Devil fight the Wrecking Crew, and Devil turns back into a dinosaur, but Lunella can’t figure out how to stop them from switching bodies. This was an okay issue.

LONG CON #3 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] E.A. Denich. I don’t know if this series has lived up to its initial promise, but this issue isn’t bad. It turns out that since the apocalypse, Skylarks fans have turned into an oppressive gatekeeping army. This plot development has some parallels to stuff that’s happening in contemporary fandom. There’s a page in this issue that’s narrated with emojis, and later there’s a “WILHELM SCREAM” sound effect.

MY LITTLE PONY: PONYVILLE MYSTERIES #5 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. Songbird Serenade’s prized statue, the Abyssinia Albatross, is stolen. The statue’s name is an obvious reference of the Maltese Falcon, but the comic only has casual similarities to that movie. This was a pretty good issue, but I’m glad that this series is ending, because I expect Nightmare Knights will be better.

THE TERRIFICS #8 (DC, 2018) – “Tom Strong and the Terrifics, Part Two,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dale Eaglesham. In a classic Justice League plot twist, the Terrifics get separated and thrust into different alternative realities. These include Warren Strong’s world, as well as the Aztech empire from an early issue of Tom Strong. This issue is a nice throwback to the original Tom Strong series, although I don’t remember the Aztechs being as evil as they’re depicted here.

FAITH DREAMSIDE #1 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] M.J. Kim. After the events of the previous Faith series, Faith is considered a public enemy. This issue, she has to fight a villain without getting arrested herself. This is a pretty good issue, and it’s nice to see Faith again.

HIGH HEAVEN #1 (Ahoy, 2018) – “High Heaven Chapter One,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. There are all kinds of fictional stories about hell, but very few about heaven – perhaps because it’s hard to write stories about a realm of eternal bliss where nothing bad ever happens. High Heaven addresses this general neglect of heaven, by telling a story in which a newly dead person discovers that heaven is boring and sterile (literally so; he has nothing between his legs). So the story is about how he escapes heaven. High Heaven #1 may be the best comic of the week. I had modest expectations for Ahoy Comics, but both their debut issues so far have been very good. However, the Grant Morrison text story at the end of this issue is a waste of space.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Benjamin Dewey. The dogs meet an old dude who can talk to them, and who has a diploma from Blackwood College. That’s a nice piece of cross-title continuity. Then the dogs fight some horrifying raccoons with human faces. This is a pretty good series, but I like Jill Thompson’s art better than Benjamin Dewey’s, and I wish this series had more cats.

WONDER WOMAN #55 (DC, 2018) – “The Enemy of Both Sides, Finale,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Raúl Allen. This issue has a strong story and excellent artwork. Raúl Allen is yet another in a long line of underrated but talented Spanish artists. Steve Orlando’s version of Wonder Woman is clearly based on Marston’s original version. At one point Orlando has Diana say “Loving submission can be intimidating… so can the truth. They both make us stronger.”

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #308 (Marvel, 2018) – “Cracked Hourglass – Part One,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Chris Bachalo. The Sandman is dying of an inability to maintain his cohesion. Peter escorts him to the beach where his origin happened, so he can die in peace. But the Sandman is also being pursued by his future self. This was a pretty sad issue.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #309 (Marvel, 2018) – “Cracked Hourglass, Part Two,” as above. Sandman’s future self takes over his body. Peter and Johnny Storm team up to defeat him. I believe that’s the end of Chip Zdarsky’s PPSSM run. It was generally a pretty good run, though sometimes a bit underwhelming.

DOOM PATROL #23 (DC, 1989) – “The Butterfly Collector,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case. This issue is mostly setup for future storylines. Joshua Clay meets Dorothy Spinner. Rebis comforts Eleanor Poole’s fiancé Dan (Eleanor Poole is Rebis’s female component). And Cliff and Jane discover that the new villain, Red Jack, is Jack the Ripper. Doom Patrol was Grant Morrison’s greatest work, besides Animal Man, because it combined bizarre high-concept ideas with the type of deep characterization that this issue demonstrates.

TRILLIUM #6 (Vertigo, 2014) – “Escape Velocity,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Another issue that has both right-side-up and upside-down sections. It ends with some pages in which right-side-up and upside-down panels alternate. At this point I think I’ve read all but one issue of Trillium, but although I love its artwork and its bizarre formalist gimmicks, I can’t make head or tail of its plot. I need to read the entire series at one sitting.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #10 (Marvel, 2016) – “Scorpio Rising, Part 2: Power Play,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Giuseppe Camuncoli is from Italy, a country which has produced fewer Marvel and DC artists than Spain, perhaps because Italy’s domestic comics industry is more vibrant than Spain’s. This issue, Spidey battles a member of Zodiac on top of a train. He’s assisted by Anna Maria and the Living Brain, which is a pretty funny character.

THE UNWRITTEN #5 (DC, 2009) – “How the Whale Became,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. This is probably the best Unwritten comic I’ve read, and it was deservedly nominated for an Eisner. This issue tells the life story of Rudyard Kipling, with the added twist that his rise to fame was engineered by a cabal of shadowy figures who control the world through stories. Kipling willingly works for them – unlike Mark Twain, who turns them down – and watches as they ruin Oscar Wilde’s life. When Kipling tries to defy his masters, they murder his child, and when he asks them to save his son from being killed in World War I, they refuse to help. Mike Carey must have done a lot of research on Kipling’s life and work, and his story ties together Kipling’s biography, his influence on the British empire, and the fictional conceits of The Unwritten. This issue is a rare moment where The Unwritten approaches the same level of quality as The Sandman.

ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #3 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. The villains succeed in mind-controlling all the adults in town, but have no success with the kids, until the Joker tempts Jughead with burgers in exchange for telling him how to control the kids too. This issue was fun, but no different from the previous two.

SUPERB #13 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “No Time for Tears,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. This issue begins with a public service ad showing how dangerous enhanced people are. Then the researchers force the kids to beat each other up for no reason. Meanwhile, the rescue effort continues. This series is becoming very reminiscent of X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills. I almost wish it was an actual X-Men comic, because it depicts the psychological toll of anti-mutant (or anti-enhanced) prejudice better than most X-Men comics do.

ITTY BITTY HELLBOY #4 (Dark Horse, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco. See previous reviews of this series.

THE UNEXPECTED #4 (DC, 2018) – “Call of the Unknown, Part 4: Answers in the Sky,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Yvel Guichet & Cary Nord. I didn’t understand a single panel of this comic. It consists of a bunch of fight scenes between characters whose names I can’t remember, for reasons I don’t understand. I ordered this comic because it was written by Steve Orlando, but I should have saved my money.

OWLY AND FRIENDS FCBD 2008 (Top Shelf, 2008) – Owly “Picnic Today,” [W/A] Andy Runton, plus other stories. Four stories aimed at little kids. The other three are by Christian Slade, James Kochalka, and Corey Barba. The Owly story is by far the best; it reveals Andy’s mastery of wordless storytelling. Corey Barba’s “Yam” is a pleasant surprise. It’s drawn in a cartoony yet detailed style that’s hard to compare to anything, and it’s very cute. Barba published one graphic novel, which this story is a preview of, but he unfortunately seems to have abandoned comics after that.

THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] M.J. Erickson. This issue, the vampire paralyzes the Doyles and their clients, but they succeed in defeating him. Also, it turns out the reporter who was following the Doyles is a ghost. This series is funny, but I have trouble remembering its plot.

WORLD WITHOUT END #2 (DC, 1990) – untitled, [W] Jamie Delano, [A] John Higgins. I bought this comic because I saw it advertised in Sandman #21, as noted in my review of that comic. World Without End was created by two former 2000 AD creators, and is very stylistically similar to a 2000 AD series. It takes place in a bizarre alien world with multiple races, and focuses on a character called Brother Bones who preaches masculiniy and seeks to destroy women. The challenge of reading this comic is that Brother Bones’s dialogue is full of weird typographical symbols, so you have to pronounce his word balloons in order to understand what he’s saying. (See http://sequart.org/magazine/66424/on-the-origin-of-the-sexes-war-jamie-delano-and-john-higgins’-world-without-end/world-without-end-brother-bones/ for an example.) Although this comic is somewhat difficult to read, it’s fascinating, and I want to read the other five issues.

TALES OF EVIL #3 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “Man-Monster!”, [W] Gary Friedrich & Tony Isabella, [W/A] Rich Buckler. This issue’s first story introduces a new character who’s a second-rate Hulk ripoff. It ends with the words “To be continued in the first exciting issue of Man-Monster,” but that issue was never published. The second story stars the Bog Beast, who was introduced last issue, and is much more interesting. The artist is only credited as “Romero” but is presumably Enrique Badía Romero, best known for Modesty Blaise. On this story he uses the scratchboard style that was common among Spanish artists at the time. His art is visually fascinating, although the story, by Gabriel Levy, is pointless.

I read the next ten comics on the night of October 4, when I had to get up in the morning to fly to Detroit for a funeral. I was too exhausted, saddened and worried to do anything serious, so I thought I might as well read some comics.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #70 (Marvel, 1981) – “Coconut Snow,” [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. Danny and Luke team up with El Supremo, a Latin American strongman, to investigate illegal drug smuggling. In a development that comes as no surprise to the reader, it turns out El Supremo wants to take over the drug trade himself. Meanwhile, Colleen Wing has to take care of her father, who’s lost his memory of her. The issue ends with a touching moment when Colleen’s dad finally remembers who his daughter is.

STARSLAYER #6 (First, 1983) – “The Log of the Jolly Roger” part six, [W/A] Mike Grell. Mike’s last issue of Starslayer includes some good action sequences, but some very sloppily drawn spaceships and alien cities, and the plot is kind of trite. After this issue, Mike left Starslayer and moved on to Jon Sable, which was much better suited to his talents. Starslayer was much less important for the actual Starslayer stories than for its backup stories, which introduced Rocketeer, Groo and Grimjack. However, the backup story in this issue, about a cannibalistic butcher, is terrible.

CHEYENNE KID #97 (Charlton, 1973) – “The Killer’s Lair,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Sanho Kim. The stories in this issue are all awful, and they feature multiple different Indian tribes that all somehow look exactly alike. At least this issue includes two stories drawn by Sanho Kim, the first East Asian cartoonist to make an impact on American comics. His art in this issue is rather crude, but very different from anything else in American comics at the time.

TOM STRONG AND THE PLANET OF PERIL #1 (DC, 2013) – “The Girl in the Bubble,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Chris Sprouse. In an echo of Fantastic Four Annual #1, Tesla is in danger of dying from her pregnancy by Val Var Garm. To save Tesla and the baby, Tom and Val have to return to Terra Obscura. There’s a metatextual joke about how Tom was able to read about Terra Obscura in comic books, but those comics aren’t being published anymore. I bought this comic back in 2013 even though I was boycotting DC at the time, but I never got around to reading it. It’s a competent Tom Strong story, but it lacks the creativity and cleverness of the Alan Moore issues.

AVENGERS #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Planet of Pathogens,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ed McGuinness. Another issue that’s all flash and no substance. It’s full of epic cosmic drama, but lacks any characterization, which is the heart of every good Avengers comic. Also, while the events in this comic are supposed to be epic and earth-shattering, Jason fails to create the sense that they actually matter. The reader knows the Celestials aren’t really going to destroy the world. This is the last issue of this series that I’ll be getting.

THE SENTRY #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sentry World Part 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Kim Jacinto. This is probably Jeff Lemire’s worst current comic, but it’s still good. Most of this issue is a fight scene involving Bob, Billy, and Iron Man. Billy is quite similar to Kid Miracleman in that he’s a former kid sidekick who’s grown more powerful than his old boss. At the end of the issue, Bob finally accepts his evil side and turns into a new character who’s both the Sentry and the Void.

WORLDS’ FINEST #4 (DC, 2012) – “Rebirth Conclusion,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] George Pérez & Kevin Maguire. When Paul Levitz returned to writing comics, I was excited at first, but it soon became clear that his writing style had been stagnant since the ‘80s. Paul’s Huntress and Power Girl stories were groundbreaking in the ‘70s, but back then, the standards for female representation in superhero comics were very low. When Paul wrote superhero comics with capable, confident female protagonists, that in itself was groundbreaking. But the aforementioned standards have evolved since then, while Paul’s writing has not. As a result, Worlds’ Finest #4 is a boring comic. Its redeeming quality is George Pérez’s artwork, but George only drew half the issue.

TOM STRONG AND THE ROBOTS OF DOOM #1 (America’s Best Comics, 2010) – “Black Sun Rising,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Chris Sprouse. Just before Tesla’s wedding to Val Var Garm, Ingrid Weiss changes the past so that the world is ruled by Nazis. Like Planet of Peril #1, this comic is competent but unexciting.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #5 (DC, 2009) – “The Stars We Are,” [W] Tony Bedard, [A] Claude St. Aubin. This was the only Tony Bedard comic I liked. It was a successful sequel to the old L.E.G.I.O.N. title. This issue, Vril Dox fights a bunch of enemies at once, including a warrior woman possessed by Starro, a Durlan disguised as a little girl, and the Dominators.

MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA #6 (Marvel, 2010) – “Closing the Book,” [W] Kurt Busiek & Roger Stern, [A] Jay Anacleto. Maggie explains what happened to her after Marvels #2: she went to live with uncontacted people in Papua New Guinea, who thought that all Americans looked like her. That’s kind of clever. We also learn that Maggie is grateful for Phil’s influence and sees him as a role model. Just as Phil’s wife and daughters are celebrating their reunion with Maggie, Phil passes away, and the series ends with his funeral. This issue is a powerful conclusion to the Marvels series. It gives the reader the sense that though Phil is gone, his legacy outlives him. It was a good comic to read when I was about to attend a funeral myself.

JOURNEY #3 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Woodschildren,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. Wolverine MacAlistaire is trapped in a storm with some other travelers. To pass the time, he tells a story about when some Huron people hired him to rescue a girl from some sasquatches. The story ends as MacAlistaire and a Huron warrior are out of bullets and surrounded by sasquatches. When MacAlistaire’s listeners ask him what happened next, he says “They kilt us,” and we realize the whole issue is a tall tale. Jim Bridger, the real-life mountain man, supposedly told a similar story with the same punchline. An unexpected moment in this issue is when one of the listeners asks MacAlistaire why the Huron hired him to find the girl, rather than doing it themselves. MacAlistaire replies that “the Huron are farmers and fishers mostly. They’re civilized… I ain’t.” This reverses the usual presumption that white people are civilized and natives are savages.

BATGIRL #27 (DC, 2018) – “Art of the Crime, Part Two: Found Objects,” [W] Maighread Scott, [A] Paul Pelletier. This is better than issue 26, because it shows some interesting insights into Batgirl’s disability. But it’s not good enough to make me change my mind about dropping this series.

VAMPIRELLA #9 (Dynamite, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Creees Lee, Paulo Barrios & Andy Belanger. (Not sure which of these were pencilers and which were inkers.) This issue takes place in a postapocalyptic world where no one can die. Vampi fights some punks, sleeps with a woman named Vicki, and then encounters her old acquaintance Pantha. Jeremy is mostly associated with kids’ comics, but he also turns out to be quite good at writing a sexy, violent vampire comic.

My next comics shipment was significantly delayed because DCBS was moving their warehouse. It finally arrived on October 10:

PAPER GIRLS #25 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. Tiffany and Mac kiss. The older Tiffany blows herself up to save the girls. Then Erin’s evil clone shows up and activates a device that sends all the girls to different timelines. This was my favorite Paper Girls in months. I finally feel like I get what’s going on in this series, and this issue engages with a difficult question: does the existence of time travel mean that fate is predetermined?

RAINBOW BRITE #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brittney Williams. This issue stars two little girls, Wisp and Willow. Wisp is chased by some monsters that are stealing the color blue. A creature called Twinkle saves Wisp by teleporting her into Rainbow Land, which has been drained of all its color. I’m guessing that Willow will follow Wisp there, and that they’ll somehow combine to become Rainbow Brite. Having two little sisters, I watched Rainbow Brite a lot as a kid. So I was excited about this revival, and it lived up to my expectations. This issue is cute but also entertaining. Brittney’s art is, if anything, even better than in Goldie Vance and Hellcat. And Willow is a good example of a black kid protagonist.

BLACKBIRD #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Jen Bartel. At age thirteen, this series’ protagonist, Nina, had a vision where she learned that magic is real. Now, as a nominal adult, Nina is an underemployed drug addict who sponges off her sister Marisa. But it turns out that magic still is real, because a magical chimera shows up and abducts Nina’s sister. I had no idea what to expect from this series, but I like it. Nina is a fascinating protagonist because she’s totally unsympathetic. Thanks to r/relationships I’ve read about lots of people like her: people who have no plans in life, and who expect their siblings or parents or significant others to support them forever. Besides Jen Bartel’s creative depictions of magic, the highlight of this issue is the scene where Marisa fills out a college application for Nina, and all Nina has to do is go buy a stamp, and she can’t even do that. I’m curious to see what happens to this character next.

SPARROWHAWK #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Delilah S. Dawson, [A] Matias Basla. I loved Ladycastle, which sadly ended after four issues, so I’m glad to see another comic by Delilah Dawson. Sparrowhawk starts out as a Cinderella story, with the added twist that the Cinderella character is a multiracial love child, so her stepmother’s hatred of her has racist implications. The comic takes an even grimmer turn when the protagonist is sucked into the faerie world, and learns that she has to kill other creatures to gain enough power to escape. This is clearly going to be a much darker series than Ladycastle, aimed at an older audience. Matias Basla is very good at drawing faeries and bizarre otherworldly landscapes. I think he’s from Argentina, but I can’t find much information about him. Sparrowhawk seems to be his first major work.

GIANT DAYS #43 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Daisy gets a job at a Christmas-themed amusement park, and recruits other people to work there too. But it turns out the park is a cult, and none of the workers are getting paid. Also, one of the people Daisy recruited is an undercover journalist. This issue is funny, but also disturbingly plausible, especially the scene where Ed earns negative wages because he has to pay for “costume hire, outsourced training and payment in arrears.” This is an example of debt peonage, which is a real and very bad thing.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #3 (DC, 2018) – “Action Detectives, Part Three,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. This artist is from Mexico, like Humberto Ramos and Bachan This issue, Superboy-Red and Superboy-Blue manage to overcome their mutual hatred long enough to stop the villains’ spaceship from crashing. Meanwhile, Kid Joker is lost in space but is rescued by Space Cabbie, a character I definitely did not expect to ever see again. This was a really fun comic. The two Superboys’ bickering is hilarious.

BORDER TOWN #2 (DC, 2018) – “Máscaras,” [W] Eric Esquivel, [A] Ramon Villalobos. I enjoyed issue 1 of this series, but I was concerned about the convoluted plot and the overwritten dialogue. This issue, the plot is maybe still too complicated, but the overwriting is less noticeable, though some word balloons still have at least a sentence too many. What makes this comic really valuable is the kid protagonists, who embody the class and racial divisions in American society. A nice moment is when Frank asks if people are going to care about Julietta’s immigration status when she says she’s contacted an alien species, and she replies “To them, we already are an alien species.”

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #71 (IDW, 2018) – “Do You Believe in Magic,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. On Nightmare Night, the Mane Six arrange a scary friendship exercise for the Young Six, but it goes badly wrong. The Young Six end up in a castle filled with fake traps and wild animals “as well as hundreds of lit candles and flammable silk draperies.” Besides having an exciting and hilarious plot, this issue is one of Andy Price’s best-drawn comics ever. In addition to the usual sight gags, it includes marginal gags that resemble Sergio Aragonés’s Mad Marginals. In reading this comic, I had the thought that Andy Price is to ponies as Don Rosa is to ducks, and I’m not sure that’s not an accurate comparison.

LONE RANGER #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – “The Devil’s Rope,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Bob Q. This starts out as a pretty standard Western story, but it soon turns out to have a political subtext, like all of Mark Russell’s work. Near the end of this issue, the villain outlines his plan for America. He wants to organize the country like a cotton plantation, where women stick to their housework, black and brown people do all the work, “poor whites have their guns, and a few old rich men rule it all from the porch.” This is a pretty accurate description of the Republican party’s vision for America.

KIM REAPER: VAMPIRE ISLAND #2 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Another fun issue. Kim’s vampire friend Charlie defeats the other vampires by ordering a hundred garlic pizzas. But as a result, Charlie suffers garlic poisoning themself, and needs blood to survive. Also, we learn that Kim became a grim reaper at the same time Charlie became a vampire.

JOOK JOINT #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tee Franklin, [A] Alitha Martinez. Jook Joint is the first comic I’ve read that starts with a trigger warning, and with good reason. It’s about a witch named Mahalia who runs a magic shop, but also has an underwater dungeon where she tortures abusive men. This comic is very grim and bloody, especially compared to Bingo Love. But it makes a powerful statement about domestic violence, and it shows that spousal abuse is a problem that cuts across racial lines. However, I felt kind of bad about reading this comic because in July, it became publicly known that Tee Franklin has a record of rude and unprofessional behavior toward her collaborators. I’m still willing to support her work, but I’m disappointed in her.

THESE SAVAGE SHORES #1 (Vault, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Sumit Kumar. This comic’s premise is completely unique: it’s a sexy vampire story that takes place in eighteenth-century south India. The apparent protagonist is a French vampire who flees to India to escape vampire hunters in Europe. He gets involved in colonial intrigues between France and India, but at the end of the issue he gets killed, so I guess the real protagonists are the native temple dancer and her lover. This comic’s creators do a great job of evoking a place and a historical period that are unfamiliar to Western readers, and they also effectively juxtapose European and native perspectives on South India. This comic also appears to be historically accurate. The Zamorin of Calicut, who appears in the comic, was a real person, and his father really did kill himself to avoid surrendering to Haider Ali of Mysore. (N.B. Calicut, or Kozhikode, is a completely different city from Calcutta, or Kolkata.) Overall, this is a fascinating comic. I forgot to order issue 2, but I look forward to issues 3 and up.

HOUSE AMOK #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Dream of the Machines,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Shawn McManus. This issue is mostly a flashback, detailing how Dylan and Ollie’s parents gradually went nuts, and how their mother accidentally killed a man and covered it up. At the end of the issue, Dylan’s parents demand that she kill a man too. This comic is getting really disturbing and fascinating. It’s an effective depiction of parents who are paranoid conspiracy theorists, and children who grow up not realizing their parents aren’t normal.

EUTHANAUTS #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Liftoff,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Nick Robles. As previously noted, this comic is confusing and difficult. It’s hard to keep track of who the characters even are. But I really like the artwork and dialogue. This issue, we learn that the old dying lady from #1 had a husband who killed himself for purposes of researching the afterlife. Then the issue ends with the protagonist about to die.

TRUE BELIEVERS: MARVEL KNIGHTS 20TH ANNIVERSARY – DAREDEVIL BY LEE & EVERETT #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Origin of Daredevil,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Bill Everett. A reprint of Daredevil #1, which I had not read before. Most of the details of Daredevil’s origin are familiar from many later retellings, but Matt Murdock’s first appearance is still a powerful story, allowing for its outdated nature. It reminds me of Kirby’s “Street Code” in its emphasis on the brutality of Matt’s Manhattan childhood. Bill Everett’s artwork is only average, not nearly at the level of his ‘70s Sub-Mariner comics.

ARCHIE #699 (Archie, 2018) – “So It’s Come to This: An Archie Clip Show,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] various. That’s not the actual title, but it should have been. This issue is a comics equivalent of a clip show: it consists entirely of reused art from earlier Archie comics, and the story is just a recap of all the events of the current Archie series. There’s also a three-page preview of Nick Spencer’s Archie #700, which I don’t intend to read. Archie #699 only costs a dollar, but even then it’s overpriced, since it has no value for people who have already read the comics it summarizes. It should have been given away for free.

MORNING GLORIES #25 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. I was motivated to read this after reading the Nick Spencer backup story in Archie #699. I quit reading Morning Glories because the story was confusing and never went anywhere. It turns out I was right to give up on Morning Glories, because its story never did get finished; the series went on hiatus after isue 50, and Spencer is so busy he’ll probably never have time for it again. Issue 25 is an example of the problems that led me to give up on the series. Without having read the immediately preceding issues, I was unable to understand this issue, and it felt totally incoherent at times. The narrative would shift between characters or even between time periods with no warning.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #75 (Marvel, 1991) – “Weapon X, Chapter 3,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith, plus three other stories. I probably read this comic as a little kid, because a lot of it was vaguely familiar to me. Obviously the reason this comic is worth owning is because of the Weapon X chapter. BWS’s draftsmanship on Weapon X is spectacular, and his visual storytelling is almost equually good. However, BWS’s story is kind of flimsy and not as good as his art. This issue also includes a Shanna story by Gerard Jones (whose work I will never be able to read again without shuddering) and Paul Gulacy, a Dr. Doom story by Dave Cockrum, and a Meggan/Shadowcat teamup by two people I’ve never heard of. The Meggan/Shadowcat story is notable for its sheer awfulness. Kitty meets a new character, a Russian spy, and instantly falls in love with him, but he gets killed. All this happens in eight pages, and Kitty’s dead love is never mentioned again.

THE NAZZ #1 (DC, 1990) – “Michael’s Book,” [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Bryan Talbot. The protagonist of this comic is a very familiar character type: a privileged young man who’s absolutely convinced he’s the smartest person ever. There is a Twitter thread (https://twitter.com/mc_heckin_duff/status/894810972019359744?lang=en) about how men like this are a dime a dozen, even though they all think they’re special and unique. However, the man in this series actually is sort of unique, because he goes to India, acquires superhuman powers, and comes back to New York, where he becomes a brutal vigilante. (Also his name is Michael Nazareth, which may be a reference to Mike Nasser/Netzer.) Despite The Nazz’s boring personality, what makes this comic exciting is the synergy between the writing and the art. I haven’t read any of Tom Veitch’s major work, but I’ve heard that his underground comics are notable for their brutal violence. The Nazz is an extremely violent story, and Bryan Talbot powerfully depicts the brutality of Tom Veitch’s script.

SUPERBOY #167 (DC, 1970) – “The Day Superbaby Blew Up the World!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Bob Brown. Superbaby stories tend to be awful, and this one is not really an exception to that. Frank Robbins makes Superbaby act somewhat more realistically than he usually does, but his plot is ridiculous. This issue also includes a backup story by the same creators, about circus workers who commit crimes using a robot elephant.

MORNING GLORIES #18 (Image, 2012) – as above. This issue is notable for a scene in which Guillaume and Hisao/Jun have sex. I say Hisao/Jun because I can never keep track of which of these characters is which. Otherwise, this comic’s plot is impossible to follow. What did surprise me is that as I read this issue, I felt nostalgic for the characters in this series. Nick Spencer has crippling flaws as a writer (e.g. confusing plotting and hostility towards fans), but he did create some interesting characters.

MORNING GLORIES #24 (Image, 2013) – as above. Perhaps Spencer’s most fascinating character is Hunter, the most loathsome, sociopathic teenage boy ever. This issue mostly focuses on Hunter’s toxic relationship with his father, Abraham. Some other dude tries to force Hunter to kill Abraham, but instead Hunter threatens to kill Jade unless Abraham reveals some kind of secret, I’m not sure what. This issue is still confusing, but at least it helps me understand issue 25.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: HOTEL OBLIVION #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Evil,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. This comic is worth reading because of Gabriel Bá’s brilliant art, but its story makes no sense at all. The writer assumes the reader has read all the previous Umbrella Academy comics, and provides no explanations for new readers. Not only do I not understand the plot, I don’t even understand what this comic’s premise is.

SCARY GODMOTHER #4 (Sirius, 2001) – “Ghouls Out for Summer, Part 4,” [W] Jill Thompson. At summer camp, Orson kidnaps Hannah so a vampire lord can drink her blood. Meanwhile, the Scary Godmother has been replaced by a faerie impostor. Scary Godmother’s hyperdetailed art makes it a very slow read, but it’s an amazing comic. It has just the right amount of creepiness to keep it from becoming annoyingly cute. (I wrote a paper once about this cute/scary affect, but it was never published.) Scary Godmother may have been the best all-ages comic of its time, and it should be more widely known.

THE WAKE #2 (Vertigo, 2013) – “The Descent,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. In this issue, as in #1, Sean Murphy’s depictions of monsters, technology and landscapes are amazing. His artwork would not be out of place in a European comic. The major weakness in his art is that his faces are generic-looking and inexpressive. The Wake’s plot is not nearly as interesting as its art; I feel like Scott Snyder’s writing lacks substance.

THE WALKING DEAD #181 (Image, 2018) – “Together Strong,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. This seems like a reasonably good comic book, but I’m so far behind on this series that I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in this issue. The cover is a close-up shot of Glenn, with no logo, but Glenn doesn’t appear in the issue.

GREEN ARROW #37 (DC, 1990) – “The Black Arrow Saga, Part 3: Quarry,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Rick Hoberg. Dinah has a heart-to-heart talk with Shado, while Ollie looks for Eddie Fyers, who seems to have been visually based on Archie Goodwin. Dinah and Shado’s conversation reminds us that Shado literally raped Ollie, and got away with it. Shado is an example of the “Ursula X.X. Imada” trope, where a female villain rapes a male hero in order to impregnate herself with his baby. This comes up not only here and in Nexus, but also in Tom Strong, twice, and James Robinson’s Starman. It is a sexist trope on multiple levels. On one hand, it implies that the hero is so sexy that even his enemy wants to sleep with him and bear his children. On the other hand, writers who use this trope rarely pay any attention to the psychological damage it inflicts on the male hero. A footnote about this issue is that it depicts a newspaper with the headline PSYCHIC SAYS QUEEN SON OF TRUMP.

ACTION COMICS #651 (DC, 1990) – “Not of This Earth,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] George Pérez & Kerry Gammill. Coincidentally, this comic also has a female villain, Maxima, who wants to sleep with a male hero and bear his child. However, Superman realizes Maxima is a villain and wants nothing to do with her, and a fight ensues. This was a pretty fun issue. At first I was wondering why Superman was acting weird and speaking in a stilted style, without using contractions, but later in the issue we learn that he’s actually the Eradicator. As another footnote, Maxima comes from the planet Almerac. That name is an acronym for Carmela, the name of Roger Stern’s wife.

WORLD WAR HULK #1 (Marvel, 2007) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] John Romita Jr. The Hulk and his Warbound invade Earth. Iron Man kills the pregnant Caiera, who spends most of the issue off-panel. This is a pretty generic event comic; it’s just a lot of fight scenes without much actual substance. I am not a big fan of JR Jr’s art, because his comics tend to be full of epic action sequences and not much else.

DINOSAUR REX #1 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “The Dragons of Summer,” [W] Jan Strnad, [A] Henry Mayo. This largely forgotten series is a mashup of PG Wodehouse and dinosaurs. The Bertie Wooster character, Hempstead, is summoned by his aunt Celia, who tells him that his uncle Grenville has vanished while hunting dinosaurs in Africa. This is relevant to Hempstead because it’s caused his allowance to be stopped. So Hempstead has to team up with his much more competent cousin, Flavia, and Grenville’s dinosaur butler (the Jeeves character) in order to find his uncle. SF and fantasy adaptations of Wodehouse are not that uncommon, but this one is funny and well-executed. There’s also a backup story by William Messner-Loebs and Dennis Fujitake.

CAPTAIN ACTION CAT: THE TIMESTREAM CATASTROPHE #1 (Dynamite, 2014) – “The Timestream Catastrophe!”, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco & Chris Smits. This is a crossover between 1) the original Captain Action, who in this comic is a cat, and 2) Baltazar and Franco’s Action Cat and Adventure Bug. It’s a pretty typical Baltazar/Franco comic, but it may be confusing for younger readers because of its multiple realities and its references to the Golden and Silver Age.

WONDER WOMAN #51 (DC, 2018) – “The Fifty-Second Visit,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Laura Braga. This is one of the best single-issue Wonder Woman stories I’ve ever read. In issue 28, Diana battled a villain named Moon Robinson, a.k.a. Mayfly, and sent her to prison. This issue, Diana visits Moon in prison just to talk to her. Moon emphatically refuses Diana’s help, but Diana keeps coming back, over and over again, until she finally succeeds in rehabilitating Moon. It’s a pretty simple story, but a perfect introduction to who Wonder Woman is: it illustrates both her compassion and her iron will.

LETTER 44 #25 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jiménez Albuquerque. This issue advances a bunch of different plotlines at once, but it had little impact on me, because I’m not caught up on this series. The most memorable moment is when a villain murders an old woman in cold blood.

UNCLE SCROOGE #232 (Gladstone, 1988) – “The Tenderfoot Test,” [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. This issue begins with a ten-pager in which Scrooge, Donald and Gladstone compete in a “desert rat” contest. This story includes some great slapstick comedy, but since Gladstone is involved, the ending is predictable. Although Barks does throw in a surprise: Gladstone loses the contest, but it doesn’t matter because the prize was a uranium mine, and during the contest Gladstone found ten other uranium mines. The other stories in the issue are just credited to Gutenberghus. In one of them, Scrooge thinks Magica de Spell has stolen his dime, but she turns out to be innocent. The other story consists mostly of flashbacks in which Scrooge is repeatedly fooled by the same crook. That seems inconsistent with his character.

The next shipment arrived on October 16. This was a Tuesday, so I had been teaching all day, and I was pretty tired when I read these comics.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #37 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Death of the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl?!”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. This issue begins at Squirrel Girl’s funeral. We quickly learn that she’s not actually dead, and is attending the funeral disguised as Bass Lass (along with Nancy, disguised as Fish Miss). Watching the video of “her” final moments, Doreen realizes that the person who “died” was actually a Skrull disguised as her (Skrull Girl or Squirrel Skrull, I guess). This is a very funny premise, and this issue was quite good.

MS. MARVEL #35 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Ratio,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Kamala beats the Shocker, and Bruno confesses that he loves her. Which makes me wonder what happened to Mike – did she break up with Bruno when he left for Wakanda? This was a reasonably fun issue, but “The Ratio” was the worst Ms. Marvel storyline in quite a while. It just seemed to lack inspiration, and the Shocker is a boring villain.

THE QUANTUM AGE #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Wilfredo Torres. This issue retells the origin of the Legion, focusing on the Brainiac 5 character, Archive, who replaces Lightning Lad as one of the three founders. Like Brainiac 5, Archive’s character arc is driven by the conflict between his computer brain and his human emotions. I squeed really hard at the origin retelling and the two-page splash depicting all the Leaguers. For an old Legion fan like me, this series is an extremely powerful piece of nostalgia, especially considering that there’s no regular Legion series anymore. Of course, that also means it’s especially painful that in this series’ present-day timeframe, most of the Leaguers are dead. I would love it if Kid Martian teamed up with the surviving adult Leaguers to create a new League that surpasses the old, but I fear that this series may end before it gets to that point. If only DC would hire Jeff Lemire, or anyone else for that matter, to write an actual Legion comic. In terms of the overall Black Hammer continuity, this issue is significant because it reveals that Archive was created by Talky Walky.

EXILES #9 (Marvel, 2018) – “One Thousand and One Marvel Nights!”, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodríguez. On Twitter, Saladin said that he’d wanted to do this story for years, and no wonder: it enables him to combine Marvel superheroes with his ancestral culture. In this story the Exiles are trapped in three stories from the Arabian Nights. Blink becomes Aladdin, Valkyrie becomes Ali Baba, and Sheriff T’Challa becomes Sindbad the Sailor. Saladin knows these stories very well, and Javier Rodriguez turns in an amazing artistic performance. The depiction of medieval Baghdad on the splash page is especially striking. The only problem with this issue is that it was too short! Only the three most popular Arabian Nights stories were included, and only small pieces of those. But that’s the trouble with having only 22 pages a month to work with. Luckily this story continues for one more issue. We discover at the end that Nocturne has become Shahrazad, with Dr. Doom as the murderous husband she has to pacify with stories.

SHE COULD FLY #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martín Morazzo. One of the best miniseries of the year concludes in shocking fashion. The two opposing criminal factions both end up at Luna’s house, and a firefight ensues in which lots of people are killed. Afterward, Luna and her guidance counselor both end up in a mental hospital, which is honestly not that bad of an ending, since it means they’re getting the care they need. The violence in this issue is shocking and disturbing, especially considering that the last three issues weren’t violent at all. But unlike in most violent comics, the violence in She Could Fly #4 is depicted realistically and not sensationalistically; the reader experiences it as a horrific, traumatic event. In the author’s note, Chris Cantwell admits that the ending of this issue is kind of inconclusive, but he suggests that this is because real life doesn’t have neat ending. He also mentions that he himself is suffering the same struggles as Luna. I hope that he gets better, and that he continues to produce work of this level of quality. This was a hard comic to read, but an important one – perhaps the best portrayal of mental illness in comic books since I Kill Giants.

THE WRONG EARTH #2 (Ahoy, 2018) – “The Wrong Earth, Chapter 2,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. After a scary comic, a funny one. Each version of Dragonflyman adjusts to his new Earth, and we learn that the Christian Bale Dragonflyman has hidden reserves of tenderness – that his soul has not been totally crushed by his harsh environment. Meanwhile, the Adam West Dragonflyman is not just a joke – he’s a man of great integrity, who simply cannot stand for bribery, corruption, or even foul language. But even if he’s not totally a joke, the Adam West Dragonfly is responsible for the funniest moment in any comic this week: when he realizes he’s in danger of being shot, he takes an “anti-bullet antidote capsule,” and it works. As indicated by the names I gave to the two Dragonflymen, the basic conceit of this series is that Christopher Nolan’s Batman changes places with the ‘60s TV Batman. This premise results in a story that’s hilarious, but also surprisingly poignant.

CATWOMAN #4 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats, Part 4,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones, [A] Fernando Blanco. This issue is mostly about Selina’s troubled history with her sister Maggie. It powerfully depicts Selina’s traumatic childhood, but I don’t quite get how Maggie fits into the overall scheme of this series. I also wish Joëlle Jones had drawn the entire issue, though I’m not surprised that she needed a guest artist. Only two panels in this issue include cats.

FARMHAND #4 (Image, 2018) – “Between Worlds,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. This issue includes some great jokes, like the “arm tree pruning accident.” But it only advances the story a little bit. We learn in this issue that the protagonist’s sister, Andrea, is a government agent, but besides that, I can’t remember much about this issue’s plot.

MOTH & WHISPER #2 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Going to the Ball,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Jen Hickman. Niki goes to a party where they successfully negotiate an alliance with the scion of a leading crime family. Niki’s non-binary nature turns out to be an asset, as they’re able to pose as both a man and a woman. I really like this series; it’s both an outstanding example of non-binary representation, and a critique of the surveillance society.

MY LITTLE PONY: NIGHTMARE KNIGHTS #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. When Celestia dreams about a Pony of Shadows from another dimension, Luna and Stygian use Starswirl’s mirror to visit that dimension. It turns out the other dimension is ruled by Eris, Discord’s sister, and she’s creating an army of villains. So Stygina and Luna return to their home dimension in order to recruit a team to defeat Eris. Nightmare Knights is perhaps the darkest pony comic yet, and seems to be intended for an older audience. Its major theme is Stygian and Luna’s struggle to overcome their evil pasts. There’s a poignant moment where they both have to prove they’re villains in order to enter Eris’s casino, and they both succeed in doing so.

PLASTIC MAN #5 (DC, 2018) – “The Wrong Man to Save Them,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. Plas takes Pado to the boardwalk, where they share some touching moments – until some people from CPS come and take Pado away, and it turns out Plas called them himself. This was absolutely the right thing to do, and yet Plas justifiably feels like an asshole for doing it: “Doing the right thing? It damn well sucks.” Also, lots of other stuff happens. I don’t understand why this is just a six-issue miniseries, because it deserves to be an ongoing. As noted in my review of #1, Gail is the only good Plastic Man writer other than Kyle Baker and Jack Cole himself, and I hope she gets more opportunities to work on this character.

X-23 #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals Part 5,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. Laura and Gabby succeed in defeating the Stepford Cuckoos, then they complete their interrupted birthday party. This was better than the last two issues, but it still wasted too much space on action sequences. There’s one double-page splash near the end of the issue that looks nice enough, but is not worth two pages.

CROWDED #3 (Image, 2018) – “Kill v. Maim,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. This issue introduces two of the assassins who are trying to kill Charlotte: Trotter, a blond celebrity dudebro, and… I don’t know if the other one has a name, but she’s the complete opposite, an enigma who operates in the shadows. This issue is creepy because it shows us how determined the assassins are, and how much the American public has bought into the idea of crowdsourced murder. Sebela even gives a perfunctory explanation of why Reapr is legal. Part of Crowded #3 takes place in a library, which has become a free hotel for homeless people. This idea, just like the idea of Reapr itself, is disturbingly plausible.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #2 (DC, 2018) – “The Power Divided,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson, [A] Domo Stanton. Erzulie and Uncle Monday try to escape the Dreaming, while their human worshippers try to contact them. This issue draws heavily upon what I assume is firsthand knowledge of voodoo culture. There’s one scene where Erzulie’s worshippers summon Agwe, Damballa and Ogun. This comic would actually be better if it wasn’t a Sandman spinoff. Cain and Abel add very little to the narrative, and they draw the reader’s attention away from the voodoo lwa and the human characters, all of whom are more interesting. Maybe after this series, Nalo Hopkinson will get the opportunity to do a creator-owned title that’s not tied to an existing universe. For a writer who hasn’t done comics before, Hopkinson shows almost no signs of inexperience, but she does include some unnecessary caption boxes.

IMPOSSIBLE, INC. #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Lost and Found,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Cavallaro. At times this issue is too cosmic and Kirbyesque for its own good. It includes so much wild, bizarre nonsense that the reader’s credibility is strained. Also, the worldbuilding in this series is a distraction from the main interest of the series, which is Number/Goose’s relationship with her father and her adopted brother. But eventually we do get to the point. Number and Buddy find their father, but it turns out he’s only one of many clones of their father, and their mission is to find the real one from whom the clones were made.

HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #3 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Blood for Blood,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornés. This felt too much like a generic crime comic, without enough emphasis on the two things that make this series unique: the Minnesota setting and the protagonists’ Lebanese ancestry. At least Hot Lunch Special is a well-executed crime comic. I like Jorge Fornés’s art.

RUINWORLD #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. Lots of stuff happens in this issue, but I think that when I read it, I was too tired to pay much attention. Reading this comic sometimes feels like a chore because of its heavy dialogue and its convoluted plot. Derek Laufman has potential, but his jokes could be funnier, and his adventures could be more exciting.

BULLY WARS #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Aaron Conley. After initially being rejected, Rufus succeeds in getting invited to the Bully Wars competition. This series is potentially problematic because it glorifies bullying, which is a major social problem. But Bully Wars appears to be targeted toward an audience of young kids, and if there’s one thing kids love, it’s stories that glorify “bad” stuff – that’s why children’s literature is so full of gross-out humor. Seen in that light, Bully Wars is a pretty successful comic for kids.

TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #6 (DC, 2007) – “Hear No Evil,” [W] David Lapham, [A] Tom Mandrake. The Spectre story in this series is one of DC’s worst comics in recent memory. Its artwork arouses memories of Ostrander and Mandrake’s classic Spectre series, but Lapham’s writing lacks any of the subtlety or humor of Ostrander’s writing. His story is a litany of horrific violence. In this issue, a serial killer murders a little girl, and the Spectre can’t do anything about it. The reason I even have this comic is because of the Dr. Thirteen backup series, which, besides the excellent Cliff Chiang art, is perhaps the best thing Brian Azzarello ever wrote. It’s funny, metatextual and weird, and it introduces Traci Thirteen, an excellent character who was too quickly forgotten.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #3 (IDW, 2013) – “The Judgment Tower, Part Three: Underground,” [W] Phil Hester, [A] Andrea Di Vito. There have been a couple good T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents revivals, but they were both published in the ‘80s, and subsequent attempts to resurrect these characters have all failed. Perhaps this is because the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents just aren’t that interesting except to readers of the original series. Hester and Di Vito’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is just a generic superhero comic with no distinctive features.

WORLDS’ FINEST #5 (DC, 2012) – “Three Midnights, Far from Home,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] George Pérez, Jerry Ordway & Wes Craig. This issue consists of what appear to be two inventory stories, linked by a new framing sequence. It has no redeeming qualities except for a few pages of Pérez artwork.

GORILLA-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2010) – “The Serpent and the Hawk,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Giancarlo Caracuzzo. I’ve had this comic longer than almost any unread comic in my collection. I think I may have bought it in Gainesville, at the now-closed Florida Bookstore vol. II. This comic stars Ken Hale, the gorilla agent of Atlas. It’s funny, but not as funny as you would expect from a comic with a gorilla protagonist. This issue ends with a reprint of Arthur Nagan’s origin story, from a pre-superhero Marvel mystery title.

New comics received on Friday, October 19. I got these in the evening after spending the morning and afternoon at a conference.

LUMBERJANES #55 (Boom!, 2018) – “Follow Your Art” part 3, [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. This is a really fun storyline. The highlight, obviously, is all the scenes with Ripley playing with the superpowered cats. Well, no, maybe the real highlight is the scene where Marigold grows to giant size. I also like the idea that Ripley’s greatest fear is the monsters from the movies she wasn’t allowed to watch. I do wonder about the overall story arc of this series. Several storylines ago, Jo was trying to figure out why time moved so slowly in camp, but I don’t think she ever did find out. The characters seem to have accepted that the summer is never going to end. That’s fine with me, since I want this series to keep going on indefinitely. But it would also be fun if there was a spinoff series showing the Lumberjanes at home, or a series that took place in the future and showed them as adults.

RUNAWAYS #14 (Marvel, 2018) – “That Was Yesterday, Part II” and “Interlude with Dinosaur,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] David Lafuente & Takeshi Miyazawa. The main story in this issue is disappointingly short and doesn’t advance the plot much, except by introducing a new minor villain. This issue is redeemed by the backup story, which is told from Old Lace’s episode. This story is like Momo’s segment in the Avatar episode “Tales of Ba Sing Se”: the POV character is an animal who can’t understand human speech, so it’s a purely visual narrative. Rainbow Rowell executes this type of storytelling quite well, and her version of Old Lace is extremely cute.

FLAVOR #6 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Wook-Jin Clark. This issue begins with the unwelcome announcement that it’s the last issue of Flavor in comic book format. I understand why comics keep abandoning the single-issue format and going to trades-only. I realize that for a series like Flavor, which mostly caters to audiences that don’t visit comic book stores, such a decision is probably correct. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. I like comic books better than trades, and I would collect everything in comic book form if I could. Oh well. The worse problem with Flavor #6 is that it ends on a cliffhanger, with no indication of when, or if, the cliffhanger will be resolved. Xoo starts the first stage of the contest, but we don’t find out if she wins or loses. I really like Flavor, but after reading this issue I feel cheated. If a series is going to end, it should at least wrap up its loose ends.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Gurihiru. I’m thrilled that this series was revived after being cancelled, something that hardly ever happens. The original Unstoppable Wasp was one of Marvel’s best comics for girls, and this revival is equally impressive. This debut issue is a direct continuation of the previous series, with Nadia and her fellow G.I.R.L. agents battling AIM and preparing for a public expo. (I like the inside joke that the date they wanted for the expo was unavailable because of “some sort of comic convention.”) As usual, Jeremy’s female characters are amazing, and he does a great job of distinguishing them from each other.

CAPTAIN GINGER #1 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Captain Ginger, Chapter One,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] June Brigman. This comic is tailor-made for me because it’s about a spaceship crewed by anthropomorphic talking cats. What distinguishes Captain Ginger from Hero Cats or Action Cat is that the characters act like real cats. They breed uncontrollably, they vomit on the floor, they chase the red dot, and they have tiny attention spans. Captain Ginger and his shipmates are fluffy and adorable, but also unpredictable and frustrating – again, just like real cats. So Captain Ginger captures the essential strangeness of cats, better than almost any other cat comic. I’m excited to read more of it.

WELCOME TO WANDERLAND #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jackie Ball, [A] Maddi Gonzalez. Lark and Bellamy explore each other’s worlds, and lots of weird stuff happens. This comic is as cute and entertaining as any Boom! Box comic, but its plot is kind of incoherent and aimless. But maybe that’s intentional: the theme of the comic is “If you can’t find your path… make your path.”

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #6 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Rich Tommaso. The heroes leave the Para-Zone for Earth. But Colonel Weird is separated from his teammates and sent to a limbo-planet, populated by forgotten superheroes like Inspector Insector (ha!) and Barbali-Bunny. This exact same thing happened to Buddy Baker in Animal Man #25, and that’s probably no accident, since everything in this series is borrowed from other comics. But Jeff must have some reason for reusing this plot. At the end of the issue, Anti-God shows up. Rich Tommaso’s artwork in this issue is a major departure from this series’ usual art style.

SHURI #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Gone,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Leonardo Romero. T’Challa fails to return from a space mission – I assume this is related to the current Black Panther series, which I’m behind on – and Shuri has to take up the mantle of the Black Panther again. Shuri #1 is probably Nnedi’s most accomplished work in comics. It’s full of humor and passion, and it shows few signs of inexperience. Also, Leonardo Romero’s art is excellent. His style resembles that of David Aja or Chris Samnee, and his flashback sequence in this issue is very striking; it uses no colors but white, yellow and red. Shuri #1 depicts a Shuri and a Wakanda that greatly resemble their counterparts from the movie, and it explores one of the most interesting aspects of the movie Wakanda: its matriarchal nature. In this issue Shuri revives an ancient tradition where women meet secretly to discuss the nation’s problems. A lot of Nnedi’s work seems intended to critique the sexist stereotypes associated with African culture, and this comic fits into that projec.

BLACK BADGE #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The kids go to Peshawar, Pakistan to rescue a captured spy, and they run into a former teammate. This series is still pretty exciting, but by now I’ve gotten used to the idea of secret agents disguised as summer camp kids, and the novelty has worn off a bit.

EXORSISTERS #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. The two title characters, Cate and Kate, are occult investigators. This issue they’re hired by a bride whose bridegroom was kidnapped by a demon during their wedding. I had modest expectations for this comic after reading the preview, but I really liked it. It reminds me of Supernatural Law, with its casual, deadpan take on the supernatural, but its art and writing remind me more of an Archie comic. Ian Boothby is a very funny writer, possibly thanks to his experience as a Simpsons Comics writer (I had thought he was an Archie writer, but I was confusing him with Ian Flynn), and Gisèle Lagacé’s art is sexy but very tasteful.

MR. & MRS. X #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Love & Marriage, Part 4,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. I missed the last two issues of this series because I wasn’t willing to order a mystery X-Men title without knowing what it was or who its creators were. As of this issue, Rogue and Gambit are charged with the care of Xandra, Professor X and Lilandra’s daughter. Xandra is an utterly adorable character, and the interplay between Rogue and Gambit is really entertaining. I like Oscar Bazaldua’s art, but his Imperial Guard doesn’t look anything like the Legion of Super-Heroes.

THOR #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Midgard’s Final Doom,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Christian Ward. This issue was better than last issue, and Christian Ward’s art is amazing, as usual. But the current Thor storyline has the same all-flash-no-substance problem as Jason Aaron’s Avengers. I wish we’d get back to the present-day Thor already.

LUCIFER #1 (DC, 2018) – “The Fall from Grace and Down the Stairs,” [W] Dan Watters, [A] Max Fiumara. There are interesting ideas in this comic – it begins with a discussion of Bach’s endlessly rising canon – but its story makes no sense at all. There are at least two different plotlines that have no apparent connection to each other. The only reason I’m not giving up on this comic immediately, is because DCBS gives you a discount if you order all the Vertigo titles.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #4 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 4,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. The thieves use some clever social engineering to get the Aryabhata map. I don’t know how historically accurate this comic is, but it feels like a very plausible recreation of medieval city life.

GIDEON FALLS #7 (Image, 2018) – “The Sum of Its Parts,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Another good issue. Maybe the highlight of this issue is the flashback sequence to Daniel and Clara’s childhood, which is drawn in a different graphic style from the rest of the comic. At this point it’s pretty clear that Norton is Daniel, but we’re still waiting for an explanation of how the farm and city storylines are connected.

FLASH GORDON ANNUAL 2014 (Dynamite, 2014) – multiple stories, [E] Nate Cosby. I have no idea why this was solicited in DCBS as if it were a new comic. This issue includes five stories depicting the earlier years of various Flash Gordon characters. The best story in the issue is the one about the princess of Coralia, but none of them are all that great, and only the last one is written by Jeff Parker.

ENCOUNTER #7 (Lion Forge, 2018) – untitled, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso. I’m not caught up on this series, but I decided to read this issue anyway. In this issue Encounter teams up with a new superhero, Champion, who is obviously Kayla’s uncle, except when he takes off his mask at the end of the issue, he has Kayla’s face. Like Superman Family Adventures, Encounter is better than a typical Baltazar/Franco comic because it has an ongoing plot, rather than just being a series of gags.

ARCHIE 1941 #2 (Archie, 2018) – “It’s War!”, [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. After a lot of waffling, Archie decides to enlist in World War II. This series is effective because it depicts the uncertainty and anxiety of America in 1941. At that time, no one knew that the war would be over in four years, or that we would win.

No further comics waiting to be reviewed.

Reviews for the week of August 24

9-13

As I write this, Hurricane Florence is on its way to the Carolinas. I hope my comics don’t all get destroyed before I finish reviewing them.

I am still severely behind. These comics arrived on August 24:

LUMBERJANES #53 (Boom!, 2018) – “Follow Your Art,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. Following a treasure map, the Zodiacs discover a broken stone statue that, when reassembled, comes to life and turns out to be some kind of ancient Greek goddess. So I guess this is another Diana storyline. I really liked this issue, but I can’t remember much about it now.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Caselli. Some Comiscgate troll posted a tweet in which he compared this comic to the original West Coast Avengers #1, and used this comparison as an example of what Comicsgaters are so pissed about. The 1984 West Coast Avengers miniseries was actually good, but this new series is probably better, and certainly more important because it expands the audience for Marvel comics – and that, of course, is why it makes Comicsgaters angry. In terms of its content, the new West Coast Avengers #1 is a sequel to Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye run, with the addition of Quentin Quire, America, Gwenpool, etc. None of these characters are favorites of mine, but their personalities contrast with each other in interesting ways. The reality show angle is rather trite, but that’s not a serious problem. I expect this series will be at least as good as Kelly’s Hawkeye was.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. The heroes confront Madame Dragonfly, and she explains that she was indeed responsible for sending them to Black Hammer farm, but she did it to save them all. Then on the last page, they all wake up in cryogenic chambers inside a space station. It looks like next issue the plot of this series will finally be explained, at long last.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #34 (Marvel, 2018) – “Save Our School,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Devil Dinosaur’s first day at school is a predictable disaster. It’s a bit disappointing that he can barely talk, because I’d like to see more of his personality. But I love how he keeps his arms inside his sleeves, because he’s used to having tiny useless arms. At first I didn’t realize why he was doing this, and I was delighted when I figured it out. I also love the short scene with all four of Lunella’s grandparents. This scene is more important than it looks, because Marvel comics don’t often depict black people just doing normal family stuff.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Benjamin Dewey. Based on his previous work on Autumnlands, another series narrated by a dog, Benjamin Dewey is a good choice as the first artist other than Jill Thompson to draw Beasts of Burden. As a cat person, I’m disappointed that this series is all about the dogs, but it’s a good Beasts of Burden comic. I understand that Beasts of Burden and Blackwood are set in the same universe, and as I read this issue, I kept looking for references to Blackwood.

ROYAL CITY #14 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. All the loose ends are resolved, and the five versions of Tommy walk into the lake together. This conclusion is perhaps overly neat and predictable, but it’s also deeply touching, because Jeff is a brilliant cartoonist and he does a great job of making the reader share the characters’ emotions.

THE TERRIFICS #7 (DC, 2018) – “Tom Strong & the Terrifics, Part One,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dale Eaglesham. This issue starts with some flashbacks to Tom Strong’s past, and then the Terrifics go looking for him, but get stuck in the Forest of Eternity. It really, really sucks that Tom Strong has become a character in the DC Universe even though Alan Moore did everything in his power to avoid working for DC. Leaving that aside, this is a pretty fun comic.

ITTY BITTY HELLBOY #3 (Dark Horse, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco. See my earlier reviews of Itty Bitty Hellboy #2 and #5. I regret having bought this comic. It serves its intended audience well, but it has nothing to offer an older reader.

RED SONJA/TARZAN #4 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Walter Geovani. The blue-skinned woman from Swords of Sorrow makes a return appearance in this issue. Otherwise, it’s very similar to the previous issues.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #2 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 2,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. The heroes plan their infiltration of the imperial library. There’s also a flashback scene where Nicolas catches Iskander making fake passports, and lets him get away with it. This scene is an obvious reference to the contemporary immigration crisis.

LITTLE LULU #63 (Dell, 1953) – “The Tea Party” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. Another collection of brilliant and funny stories. One notable story in this issue is “The Substitute,” where Lulu is chasing an escaped monkey while trying to avoid Mr. McNabbem the truant officer. Mr. McNabbem doesn’t appear in every issue, but when he does, he’s usually trying to catch Lulu even though she has a legitimate reason for not being in school. I know I recently read a non-comics book that referenced this character, but I can’t figure out what book it was.

DENNIS THE MENACE #7 (Marvel, 1982) – “Party Time” and other stories, [W] Fred Toole, [A] Bill Williams or Karen Matchette? These credits are courtesy of Mark Evanier on Facebook. The actual comic is uncredited. This issue’s first story is sort of a crossover, because Dennis puts on a Spider-Man costume to go to Margaret’s party. Otherwise, this issue lacks the humor and tenderness of the Fawcett Dennis comics.

GIDEON FALLS #6 (Image, 2018) – “The Faller of Trees,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This may be the best-drawn comic book of the year. Andrea Sorrentino’s page layouts are radically experimental, and his pages seem to have four dimensions rather than two. The highlight may be the two-page spread containing 45 panels, which all depicting the same scene but are not arranged in chronological order. Similarly radical page layouts have appeared in other Jeff Lemire comics such as Animal Man, and I wonder if Jeff himself is designing these pages, rather than his artists. The story of Gideon Falls still doesn’t make sense, but its artwork is amazing.

BABYTEETH #12 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Birthday,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Sadie and her dad go looking for the baby, even though Sadie’s dad thinks this mission is too dangerous for a girl. This series is getting a bit boring, and I’m disappointed that Sadie is still so weak and unassertive. I thought she’d have become a more effective protagonist by now.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #282 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Bubbleweight Champ,” [W/A] Carl Barks. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Donald has to fight a boxing match against a muscular strongman, even though he’s so addicted to Gurgleurp soda that he can barely walk. This story is very funny, but also unusual because it references a real-life social problem: Donald’s Gurgleurp addiction is an obvious alusion to alcoholism. Also, to quote my own Facebook post, it’s a weird coincidence that this story is about “a man named Donald who’s addicted to carbonated soda, which ruins his physical and mental health and makes him unable to fulfill his duties.” The backup stories in this issue are of no interest.

ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #2 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon enroll at Riverdale high school as new students, resulting in instant romantic drama. Meanwhile, the villains all arrive in Riverdale. This issue is pretty funny, but not significantly different from issue 1.

ROWANS RUIN #4 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Mike Carey, [A] Mike Perkins. This is a pretty scary horror or psychological thriller story, but I had trouble remembering who the characters were. I wish I’d read this series in order.

THE SENTRY #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sentry World Part 3 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Kim Jacinto. It turns out that Billy Turner, a.k.a. Scout, worked together with Sentry’s old enemy Cranio to steal the Confluctor. At the end of this issue there are a couple pages with bizarre layouts, which reinforces my theory that Lemire is partially responsible for the page layouts in Gideon Falls. The Sentry #3 is perhaps the worst of this week’s four Jeff Lemire comics, but it’s amazing that Jeff Lemire is able to write so many different comics at once, covering so many different genres. He deserves an Eisner for that alone.

THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] M.J. Erickson. Frank and Sadie continue to investigate ghosts and drink excessively. Nothing new here.

AVENGERS: WAKANDA FOREVER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Chapter Three: Reflections,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Oleg Okunev. I didn’t enjoy this issue as much as the last two, since it didn’t have any explicit references to Nigerian-American identity. The main event this issue is that Nakia dies, which is probably a good thing, since the character was broken beyond repair. I expect that now Marvel will introduce a new Nakia who will be more similar to the film version of the character. I’m not sure whether to file this issue under A or under W.

HEARTTHROB #2 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, [W] Chris Sebela, [A] Robert Wilson IV. Callie and Mercer rob a bank, then start planning an even bigger heist. This is a really fun comic, both because of its ridiculous premise (a woman is haunted by the ghost of her heart donor), and because Callie commits a bunch of crimes and gets away with them. This comic is a bit like Grand Theft Auto, which also depicts crime as a fun and exciting pursuit. I enjoyed this comic enough that I immediately went on to:

HEARTTHROB #3 (Oni, 2016) – as above. Callie and her accomplices successfully rob the insurance company where she worked before her injury. Then she starts planning another heist. But as suggested by the flash-forwards at the end of this and the previous issue, her streak of luck is about to reverse itself. This was another fun issue.

SWEET TOOTH #7 (Vertigo, 2010) – “In Captivity, Part 2,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Tommy Jepperd buries his wife, and in a flashback, we see the moment where she learned she was pregnant. Meanwhile, the antler-headed kid is taken to surgery. I still have trouble following what’s going on in this comic, but at least I’m becoming more familiar with the characters.

BATMAN #271 (DC, 1976) – “The Corpse Came C.O.D.!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] Irv Novick. Alfred discovers a corpse rolled up in a rug. It turns out the rug belonged to a cult of worshippers of Agni, the Vedic fire god. While reading this comic, I did a little Google research and learned that Vedic deities like Agni and Indra are not commonly worshipped today, at least not compared to Shiva, Vishnu, etc. This issue Batman teams up with an inquisitive reporter named Carol Ames, who is hard to distinguish from Vicki Vale – their names even have the same number of letters and the same meter. Carol Ames never appeared anywhere else.

GIDEON FALLS #3 (Image, 2018) – “The Faller of Trees” (part 3), [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. I missed this when it came out. It’s not quite as beautiful as issue 6, but it fills in some gaps in the storyline.

TARZAN #142 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Dreadful Swamp” and “The Guilt of Belazi,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Jesse Marsh. I don’t understand the appeal of Jesse Marsh’s art. However, all of his stories that I’ve read are from the last few years of his career, and I assume his earlier work was better. This issue’s second story is hideously colonialist, even more so than a typical Tarzan story. The title character, Belazi, is a diamond miner who steals diamonds to pay for his fiancee’s bride price. Tarzan convinces Belazi to return the diamonds to his white employer, and to continue working at the mine until he earns the bride price. No mention is made of the fact that the diamond mine is on Belazi’s people’s ancestral land, and Belazi has a better right to the diamonds than any white dude has. The story essentially suggests that Africans ought to be grateful and deferential to the white people who are stealing their resources. This story is especially tone-deaf because at the time it was published, most of the countries in Africa had either just become independent, or were only a few years from independence. The saving grace of Tarzan #142 is that it ends with a five-page Brothers of the Spear story by Russ Manning.

LOCKE & KEY: CROWN OF SHADOWS #4 (IDW, 2010) – “Crown of Shadows, Part Four,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. I was delighted to discover this comic and Keys to the Kingdom #4 in one of my boxes of old unread comics. This issue, the (gorgeously drawn) shadows continue to threaten the kids. Kinsey realizes she can make them vanish by turning the lights on – as noted in an earlier review, they’re pretty similar to grues. The shadows pursue Kinsey and Bode in search of the wellhouse key, but Ty uses the giant key from the previous issue to turn himself into a giant, which is really awesome. Part of the fun of this series is learning about all the different keys and the unexpected things they can do.

LOCKE & KEY: KEYS TO THE KINGDOM #4 (IDW, 2011) – “Casualties,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Bode makes friends with Rufus, the autistic boy from Head Games #6. A ghost shows Rufus some weird stuff in the basement. This issue includes some pages drawn in a war comic style, depicting the game Bode and Rufus play with their toy soldiers. Besides being funny, these pages demonstrate Gabriel Rodriguez’s ability to imitate any style of comics .

LITTLE IODINE #53 (Dell, 1961) – “The Sultan of Swat” and other stories, [W/A] Jimmy Hatlo (but almost certainly ghosted by someone else). This comic is an adaptation of Jimmy Hatlo’s newspaper strip about a bratty little girl. It’s drawn in a screwball style that was already old-fashioned in 1961, and it lacks the craftsmanship or passion of Little Lulu or even Nancy. One story in this issue includes a magician who keeps calling people “gates,” and their reactions indicate that this term is offensive. After extensive Googling, I’ve figured out that “Greetings, gates” was a catchphrase used by Bob Hope’s sidekick Jerry Colonna, and it didn’t mean anything.

COMICS ON PARADE #104 (United Feature, 1956) – various untitled stories, [W/A] Ernie Bushmiller. Comics on Parade was one of the oldest comic books, dating back to 1938. It seems that this series only ever reprinted United Feature newspaper strips, and never published any original material. By the time of #104, the final issue, it was exclusively a vehicle for reprinting Nancy strips. Most of the strips reprinted in this issue are Sunday. As Karasik and Newgarden explain in How to Read Nancy, which I just finished reading, Sunday strips were never Bushmiller’s strong suit. It’s especially annoying how all the strips in this comic begin with a tier of throwaway panels – that is, panels which some newspapers would remove in order to save space, and which therefore could not contain any essential information.

MOCKINGBIRD #8 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Daily Blowhole,” [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. This issue’s “Ask Me About My Feminist Agenda” cover was one of the catalysts for Comicsgate. It’s also the last issue of the series, and that sucks because it’s a really fun comic; it has all sorts of witty dialogue and even a full-page “Ghost Cowboy Stalker Ex Plan Flowchart.” And there’s also a scene where Bobbi is saved by mercorgis, which are exactly what they sound like. As an overarching comment, Marvel’s treatment of Chelsea Cain has been consistently shameful. They cancelled this series after eight issues, they didn’t explain to her how to attend the Eisners, and now they’ve inexplicably cancelled her Vision miniseries before it was released. I can’t imagine she’ll ever be willing to work for Marvel again. The silver lining is that because she doesn’t depend on comics writing for her income, she’s been able to publicly criticize Marvel for their shortsighted actions. Another writer would have to just grin and bear it, for fear of being blacklisted. Also, Marvel’s loss is Image’s gain. I’m eagerly looking forward to Man-Eaters.

LITTLE LULU #95 (Dell, 1956) – “Big Bite” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. My copy of this issue has some giant holes in the pages, causing multiple interruptions in the stories. I hope I can find a replacement copy someday. The most interesting story in this issue is the Witch Hazel story where the Poor Little Girl and Freddy go to a costume party.

MISTY #3 (Marvel, 1986) – “With a Friend Like Darlene… Who Needs Enemies?” and other stories, [W/A] Trina Robbins. In this issue’s first story, Misty and her friend Darlene both appear on the same TV show, and they both fall in love with the same costar. In the second story, Misty and her friends visit an old house that they think is haunted, and it turns out that a lonely old woman lives there. I don’t like Misty nearly as much as other comparable comics like Amethyst or Angel Love, but it’s an important piece of a story I want to tell in my research, the story of how comics publishers abandoned female readers before recently deciding to reach out to them again. This issue’s letters page provides a rather sad demonstration of why Misty failed. There are two letters from female fans who want to subscribe to Misty, because they’re having trouble finding it. The editor replies, “I’m sorry to say that you can’t subscribe to Misty just yet, but you should be able to find it at any comic book store. If they don’t have Misty at your local comic book store, you should ask the manager to order it for you!” (https://www.instagram.com/p/BnKflujF_9U/?taken-by=aaronkashtan) No wonder this series was cancelled.

DETECTIVE COMICS #454 (DC, 1975) – “The Set-Up Caper,” [W] David V. Reed, [A] José Luis García López. JLGL is usually described as a Spanish artist, but he grew up in Argentina and started his career there. His artwork in this issue doesn’t look very much like him, and I initially wondered if the issue was drawn by Ernie Chan, who is also credited with the art. I  guess either this wasn’t one of his better stories, or else I’m just not seeing the resemblance to his usual style. This issue’s main story is about a villain who imitates Batman’s fighting style. It’s pretty forgettable. There’s also a Hawkman backup story which is also drawn by JLGL and is equally unmemorable.

SUICIDE SQUAD #58 (DC, 1991) – “Suicide Attack!”, [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. A War of the Gods crossover in which Amanda Waller assembles a huge team of former villains to attack the sorceress Circe. The first highlight of this issue is when a character named Maser asks why he should take Waller’s orders, and she grabs him by his cape and replies that, first, she’s a sick old woman, and second, if he backtalks her, she’ll skin him alive. (https://www.instagram.com/p/BnKothOl2j7/?taken-by=aaronkashtan) This is a classic Waller moment. Perhaps even better, this issue is the first and only appearance of The Writer, a character who can make things happen by writing them on his computer – except when “the writer who is now writing me intervenes and then I see what’s about to happen.” Unfortunately, he suffers writer’s block at an inopportune moment and gets killed by a werewolf. This is an amazing piece of metatext, and it gets even more amazing when you realize that this character previously appeared in Animal Man #26 under the name of Grant Morrison.

POWER PACK #46 (Marvel, 1989) – “The Great Goo-Gam Rip-Off!”, [W] Terry Austin, [A] Whilce Portacio. I assumed that since this issue wasn’t written by Louise Simonson, it would be bad, but it’s actually not. It’s a direct sequel to #21, which Terry also guest-wrote. It guest-stars the Punisher and Dakota North, who team up with Katie and Jack respectively. The Punisher and Katie Power are a hilarious pairing, even more so than Katie and Wolverine, and Jack’s puppy-love crush on Dakota is cute. So this was a very funny issue. Also, from reading this issue I learned that Strange Tales vol. II #13-14 are a Power Pack guest appearance. See below.

THE KILLER: MODUS VIVENDI #3 (Archaia, 2010) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. This issue begins with a tedious eleven-page diatribe about how humans are cruel and inhumane, America is destroying the world, and Cuba sucks less than all the other countries suck. Such a monologue is a terrible way to begin a comic book, especially one whose primary purpose is entertainment rather than high art. I already know how awful the world is, I just want to get on with the story already. After the monologue ends, this comic does include an actual plot, but I can’t remember what it is. At least the art and coloring are good.

STELLAR #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Bret Blevins. I ordered the first couple issues of this series, but I never felt motivated to read them, and I didn’t order issue 3. That was a wise decision, because there’s nothing particularly memorable about this debut issue – I’m not even sure what this comic is about, except that it’s science fiction. Also, this issue ends with an essay about how much Keatinge loved Blevins’s earlier work, Sleepwalker. I have trouble believing this, because I’ve never heard anyone else say anything positive about Sleepwalker.

SHANGHAI RED #3 (Image, 2018) – “In This Wilderness,” [W] Chris Sebela, [A] Joshua Hixson. More brutal violence and intrigue set in 19th-century Portland. Because of its setting, this comic reminds me of Elizabeth Bear’s novel Karen Memory, except without the steampunk. This is my least favorite of the Chris Sebela comics I’ve read lately, but it’s very well done.