Giant review post

1-12-17

The first of what I hope will be many comics I’ll read in 2017:

JONNY QUEST #18 (Comico, 1987) – “Bannon’s Last Case,” (W) William Messner-Loebs, (A) Marc Hempel. Similar to the Jezebel Jade miniseries, this issue has a frame story in which Jonny and Hadji listen to a tape-recorded narrative of Race Bannon’s adventures. This time around, Race tells the story of his brief stint as a private investigator. This issue is designed to look like a film noir, and in film-noir fashion, its plot is convoluted and difficult to follow. It’s fun, but not the best Jonny Quest comic.

X-MEN AND THE MICRONAUTS #2 (Marvel, 1984) – “Into the Abyss!”, (W) Bill Mantlo & Chris Claremont, (A) Butch Guice. Despite the excellent artwork, his comic suffers from too much Mantlo and not enough Claremont. I don’t care about the Micronauts, and the X-Men don’t show up until near the end of the issue. Even when they do show up, my favorite X-Man, Kitty Pryde, is mostly absent because she and Baron Karza have switched bodies. I have issue 3 of this miniseries, but have not yet felt like reading it.

JOURNEY #14 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Chapter Sixteen: Hunter’s Moon,” (W/A) William Messner-Loebs. An average issue of a very strong and consistent series. The best sequence this issue is when White Bear, an Iroquois, visits some people from another Native American tribe and discovers that they really hate the Iroquois. Bill Loebs’s portrayal of Native Americans in this series was unusually sensitive. He was aware of the richness and diversity of Indian culture and the fact that Native American tribes had rivalries with each other as much as with whites. Also, the moment when Tecumseh “causes” an eclipse is pretty cool.

DONALD DUCK #276 (Gladstone, 1989) – “Links Jinx,” (W/A) Carl Barks, plus other stories. In the Barks ten-pager that begins this issue, Huey, Dewey and Louie set up a round of golf between Donald and Gladstone, with the intention of fixing it so that Gladstone wins. However, Donald wins without the nephews’ help, while Gladstone has all sorts of awful luck. What? How could Gladstone have bad luck? Well, it turns out that Gladstone wins a $50 prize for being the unluckiest golfer of the day. This ending was very predictable, but still funny. This story includes an (I assume) unintentionally funny moment where Donald hides in the closet. As usual with these Gladstone comics, the backup stories in this issue are much worse.

MIGHTY THOR #14 (Marvel, 2016) – “Ljotsalfgard’s Burning,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Steve Epting. After a series of fight scenes, Malekith is finally driven out of Alfheim, but only after having done irreparable damage. This comic is somewhat depressing to read, given that we’ve just elected a government that intends to treat America the way Malekith treated Alfheim.

ROCKET RACCOON #1 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Matthew Rosenberg, (A) Jorge Coelho. I was kind of unexcited by yet another Rocket Raccoon comic, but this was a really fun issue. Matthew Rosenberg writes Rocket somewhat differently from his predecessors; his Rocket is much more animalistic, to the extent that he digs in a trash can for food. And I think that’s an exciting and perfectly appropriate take on this character.

1-27-17

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #1 (Marvel, 2017) – I forgot to review this comic earlier, and I’m writing this review (and the next four) on February 8, after having already read issue 2. Jeremy Whitley’s first issue of an ongoing Marvel title is a super-fun comic. Nadia is an infectiously charming character, with her exuberance and her imperfect English. Her line “I am a happy scientist!” is the most memorable thing about the issue, and sums up her character perfectly. It’s mostly because of the ending that Bleeding Cool described Unstoppable Wasp #1 as possibly Marvel’s “most feminist activist comic” ever. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but the GIRL project is a great idea not only in the Marvel Universe but in real life. As a former Georgia Tech faculty member, I know that there is a massive shortage of women in STEM professions and that women face significant barriers to entering such professions. It would be nice if this comic made even a tiny contribution to rectifying those problems.

BTW, I just read a negative review of this issue which included the line “Certainly, more female-focused comic books would be great, but they don’t all have to be about saving the world from a misogynistic society.” Based on the rest of the review, as well as the general tone of the website on which the review appears, I think the reviewer’s real problem is that she doesn’t think there should be any comic books about saving the world from misogyny.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #22 (IDW, 2016) – “Enter the Stingers, Part Four,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Meredith McClaren. Since I’m writing this review after having read #23, issue #22 has mostly faded from my memory. The main thing I remember about it is the scene where Fox quits the Holograms just before they go on stage.

HAWKEYE #2 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Leonardo Romero. Same problem as with the previous review. This is a fun comic and a good follow-up to the first issue, but I can’t recall much about it. The villains of this storyline are obviously based on real-life Internet trolls.

ACTION COMICS #486 (DC, 1978) – “Superman’s Time-Killing Trip!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) George Tuska. I don’t remember much about this issue – I’m not even sure why I read it when I did. The lead story is a confusing and poorly drawn time-travel adventure. It ends with an example of a predestination or bootstrap paradox, which was already something of a cliché by this time. The backup story is more interesting than the lead story. It’s one of just three Superman stories written by Elizabeth M. Smith, a notable letterhack and the wife of big-name Legion fan Mike Flynn, who also wrote romance novels under the name Ellis Flynn. In this story, Lex Luthor escapes from prison in order to deliver a birthday present to his nephew Val Colby.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #25 (Image, 2017) – “Riddles in the Dark,” (W) Kieron Gillen, (A) Jamie McKelvie. The good guys try to talk Woden about his blackmail plot, but fail, and then the Great Darkness shows up. I enjoyed this issue, as usual, but I can’t remember much about it anymore.

GIANT DAYS #22 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) John Allison, (A) Max Sarin. Esther starts a same-sex relationship with a German girl. I enjoyed this issue, but after two weeks, I don’t remember anything about it. As an off-topic comment on forgetting comics I’ve read, the other day Captain America #275 was in the news because of recent discussions of violence against Nazis. When I saw that issue referenced in a Bleeding Cool article, the cover looked familiar, and I checked my boxes and determined that I indeed own that issue and have read it, but I can’t recall anything about it at all.

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #54 (DC, 1973) – “Blood Brothers,” (W) Robert Kanigher, (A) Murphy Anderson; and “Into the Land of Noobol,” (W/A) Michael Kaluta. This issue includes stories by two great artists. In the lead story, Korak fights for the chieftainship of an African tribe and wins the love of the current chief’s sister, but leaves her because he’s still looking for Meriem. This story is notable for including a very early example of an on-panel interracial kiss. The Carson of Venus backup story has a stupid plot (about a prison with multiple doors behind each of which is a different deadly peril) but excellent artwork.

MOTHER PANIC #2 (DC, 2017) – “A Work in Progress, Part 2,” (W) Jody Houser, (A) Tommy Lee Edwards. Mother Panic #1 is the only Young Animal comic I haven’t read, and now I wish I had read it, because issue 2 does not make sense on its own. At least Tommy Lee Edwards’s art is surprisingly impressive.

SUPERMAN #12 (DC, 2017) – “Super-Monster, Part One,” (W) Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, (A) Doug Mahnke. I’m annoyed that I forgot to order issue 11, which was the second part of the Super Sons story. This issue instead focuses on Lois, who gets hired at a small-town newspaper and promptly has to defend one of her coworkers from Frankenstein (from Seven Soldiers). This is an okay issue, but Chris doesn’t appear in it, and without him, much of the appeal of this series is missing. I don’t understand why Lois needs a job at a local newspaper.

HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY #14 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Back on the Streets!”, (W) Kyle Puttkammer, (A) Marcus Williams & Tracy Yardley. A very average story in which the Hero Cats team up with Cosmic Girl to defeat a criminal. I’m not sure how this issue is related to the previous story arc.

FAITH #3 (Valiant, 2016) – “The Long Con, Part One,” (W) Jody Houser, (A) Pere Pérez & Marguerite Sauvage. Archer and Faith go to a comic convention where they have a superheroic adventure. This is not the first comic book = that takes place at a convention, but it’s probably the best, other than Eltingville Club #2. Jody shows a deep understanding of contemporary fandom and conventions, and the issue is full of “convention tips” for first-time attendees, all of which are also ironic comments on the plot. I just noticed that on the first page, Pere Pérez is sleeping at his convention table, and Jody Houser is standing behind him looking nonplussed.

NEW SUPER-MAN #3 (DC, 2016) – “Made in China,” (W) Gene Luen Yang, (A) Victor Bogdanovic. I’m glad this is the last issue of this series I bought. I just don’t think Gene is particularly good at writing superhero comics. His plots are boring and formulaic, and he fails to generate any kind of excitement. Also, my critique of issue 1 is still correct: there is nothing specifically Chinese about this story, and it could have been set in New York instead of Shanghai, with only cosmetic changes.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #8 (Marvel, 2016) – “Peace in Our Time,” (W) Greg Pak, (A) Alan Davis. I’ve been buying this title only intermittently, but this issue is quite good, perhaps the best of the series, and not just because of the Alan Davis art. Bruce and Amadeus help each other go through rehabilitation, with the aid of She-Hulk and Rick Jones. As the title indicates, it’s a very sweet story with a happy ending. Of course, since this is a Civil War II crossover, we know that the happy ending is only temporary, but let’s try to forget about that.

WEIRD WORLDS #1 (DC, 1972) – “The Area of Sudden Death,” (W) Len Wein, (A) Alan Weiss; and “Trial of Fear,” (W) Marv Wolfman, (A) Murphy Anderson. I was nearly asleep when I read this comic, and it took me forever to finish it. This issue includes chapters of DC’s adaptations of At the Earth’s Core and A Princess of Mars. Confusingly, each of these adaptations began as a backup story in a different title, and this is not stated anywhere, leaving the reader confused as to what happened to the earlier chapters. The writing and art in this issue are fairly effective, but neither story is nearly as good as Joe Kubert’s Tarzan.

TARZAN #4 (Marvel, 1977) – “A Beast Again!”, (W) Roy Thomas, (A) John Buscema. This issue is adapted from Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar. Thomas and Buscema’s Tarzan was very short-lived, but it was an interesting take on the character. Compared to Joe Kubert, Roy placed more of an emphasis on Tarzan’s animalistic savagery, which was concealed behind a thin layer of refinement. Big John’s artwork is excellent as always. Roy only wrote Tarzan for a little over a year, which perhaps explains why his Tarzan has been almost forgotten, but it’s a very underrated comic and I need to collect the rest of it.

FANTASTIC FOUR #98 (Marvel, 1970) – “Mystery on the Moon!”, (W) Stan Lee, (A) Jack Kirby. This issue begins with an unintentionally funny moment where Sue asks Reed what he wants for dinner, and he replies, “Quiet, honey! I’ve intercepted some sort of strange alien message!” What a great husband. And of course, as people reminded me when I posted this scene on Instagram, this was not even the worst example of Reed’s sexist behavior toward Sue. Anyway, other than that, this was an amazing comic. The plot is that the FF have to stop the Kree Sentry from interfering with the Apollo 11 mission. This issue came out right around the time that humans first landed on the moon, and it powerfully conveys the sense of wonder that people must have felt about this achievement. For Marvel readers, it must have felt like the FF’s amazing feats were becoming real.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #149 (Marvel, 1975) – “Even If I Live, I Die!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Ross Andru. I already have the Marvel Masterpieces replica edition of this issue, but I prefer to own the real thing. The original Clone Saga’s reputation has suffered because of its association with the later Clone Saga, but if not for that, it would be considered a classic Spider-Man epic. This issue is full of action, soap-opera drama, and emotion, just like all the best Spider-Man stories. It famously concludes with the death of the Jackal and the Spider-Man clone (both later revived), but the two epilogue pages are what really make it a classic. First, the Gwen Stacy clone puts flowers on the original Gwen’s grave and then walks out of Peter’s life. The Gwen clone appeared again many years later, but I prefer to ignore that, because this scene is such a perfect end to their story. Then, Peter goes back home feeling depressed, but finds Mary Jane there already, and he enters his apartment and closes the door – mirroring the last page of issue 122, where it’s MJ who closes the door. This was Gerry Conway’s last issue of ASM, and it’s a deeply satisfying conclusion to his entire run on the title.

SUPERMAN #201 (DC, 1967) – “Clark Kent Abandons Superman!”, (W) Cary Bates, (A) Curt Swan. Superman blames himself for causing the death of a certain Dr. Steele. He leaves Earth for a planet with a red sun, where he lives a normal lifestyle and falls in love with a girl named Lloru. But despite Clark’s best efforts to stop being a superhero, he ends up having to save the planet from a criminal, who proves to be Lloru’s father. This experience teaches him that he can’t give up on being Superman, and he returns to earth. In the last panel, Clark wonders if he’ll ever see Lloru again, but as far as I know, he never did. This story has a lot of stupid stuff in it, including a monster that consists of a giant hand and arm with an eye in the palm. But it also has a much more realistic and dark tone than most Superman stories of this time, and it almost feels like a preview of the Bronze Age Superman. This issue also includes a reprinted backup story which is just jaw-droppingly bad, especially considering that it was published as late as 1960.

UNWORTHY THOR #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Thief of Asgard,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Olivier Coipel. This is the lesser of the two current Thor titles, but it’s still good. This issue, the former Thor and Beta Ray Bill encounter the Collector, who is an awesome villain, though his heartless murder of an alien child is almost too comically evil.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #10 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Greg Pak, (A) Mahmud Asrar. This Civil War II crossover has some good art, but the story, in which Hulk encounters Black Panther, is not memorable or interesting.

SUPER POWERS #1 (DC, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Art Baltazar, (A) Franco. This looks like a standard Baltazar/Franco comic, but is in fact a sequel to Superman Family Adventures, which was Baltazar and Franco’s only comic that had a sustained narrative instead of being a series of gags. I wish they would tell continued stories more often, because they’re good at it. Their work reminds me of the old Marvel Adventures line, or Jeff Parker’s X-Men: First Class. The most interesting thing about this comic is Lara’s pregnancy; as far as I know, this is the only comic in which Superman has had a younger biological sibling, outside of some old imaginary stories.

CHAMPIONS #3 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Mark Waid, (A) Humberto Ramos (the same creative team from Impulse in the ‘90s, come to think of it). Let me quote my own Facebook post: “I expected this comic to be a train wreck, but it pleasantly surprised me. Mark Waid shows he understands that 1) superheroes beating people up doesn’t solve anything on its own, and 2) the greatest enemies of ISIS and the Taliban are liberal Muslims.” To expand on that a bit, this comic could easily have been awful if it had just been about the Champions going into Pakistan and fighting Taliban soldiers. Instead of solving the problem by violence, however, they “save the day” by helping the local people resist the local Taliban on their own. Also, Mark avoids the common trap of presenting Islam as the enemy, because the schoolgirls in this issue are just as devoted to Islam as the villains claim to be. So overall, this issue was a pleasant surprise. BTW, I wonder if the name Sharzad is derived from Shahrazad, the great Islamic heroine.

CHAMPIONS #4 (Marvel, 2017) – as above. This wasn’t nearly as good as the previous issue. On their way back from Sharzad, the Champions are ambushed by Atlanteans, resulting in a pointless fight that achieves nothing.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #57 (Marvel, 1975) – “Incident in Argos,” (W) Roy Thomas, (A) Mike Ploog. Conan and his companions Tara and Yussuf travel to the city of Argos, where Conan promptly commits a bunch of crimes and has to escape alone. This is a fun comic, though it portrays Conan as unusually savage and unrestrained. But its main purpose is to set up the Queen of the Black Coast epic that begins next issue. Mike Ploog’s guest artwork is very effective.

UNWORTHY THOR #3 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Sin Unpardonable,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Olivier Coipel. The Collector story arc continues, and Thanos is also involved somehow. This comic is just okay. The best thing about it is seeing all the bizarre creatures and items in the Collector’s collection.

SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL #4 (DC, 2017) – “All Apologies,” (W) Cecil Castelucci, (A) Marley Zarcone. I probably had this issue’s namesake song in my head for the entire time I was reading it. This issue is okay, but very similar to the previous three issues, and I’m not sure if this comic is going anywhere. The Element Girl backup story is very insubstantial, but at least has art by Paulina Ganucheau.

FAITH #4 (Valiant, 2016) – “The Long Con Part Two, Double Whammy,” (W) Jody Houser, (A) Pere Pérez & Marguerite Sauvage. The conclusion to the comic convention story is unexpectedly dark. Faith is cloned, and the clone has to sacrifice herself to save the city from being blown up. This issue has the same funny convention jokes as last issue, and Faith’s interactions with her clone are a lot of fun. Overall, I really enjoyed this two-parter.

X-MEN #138 (Marvel, 1980) – “Elegy,” (W) Chris Claremont, (A) John Byrne. At Jean Grey’s funeral, Cyclops flashes back to all his previous adventures with her and the other X-Men, In a Facebook post, I described this as the worst issue of Claremont and Byrne’s X-Men, and perhaps of Claremont’s entire first decade. Some people pushed back on that, saying that when it came out, they appreciated the recap of the X-Men’s entire previous history. It is true that back in 1980, when there was no Internet, a capsule summary of all the old X-Men stories would have been useful. But I still maintain that this issue is objectively terrible, and is also a disappointing follow-up to the Dark Phoenix Saga. When I first read this issue, as a Classic X-Men reprint, I was very disappointed, and I still don’t like it. Scott’s retelling of X-Men history is dry and boring, devoid of any emotion. Maybe this is because he’s traumatized, but I think that’s giving Chris too much credit. The other characters are almost absent from this story, and there is none of the powerful emotion and catharsis and character interaction that you would expect from Claremont. Clearly Chris and John needed a break after creating the greatest X-Men story of all time, especially since issue 137 had to be extensively revised, and they chose to do a recap issue rather than a Dreaded Deadline Doom reprint. I almost think the latter would have been a better choice, though.

GOLD KEY SPOTLIGHT #6 (Gold Key, 1977) – “Death Flies on Scarlet Wings,” (W) Don Glut, (A) Jesse Santos. This is the last original Dagar the Invincible story. At this point, Dagar’s girlfriend Graylin has left him, and Dagar, now single again, has gotten together with the three beautiful witches from issue 10. This appears to be a wish-fulfillment fantasy, since Don Glut was going through a divorce at the time, and Graylin was based on his ex-wife. So to compensate, Glut gives Dagar not one but three new girlfriends. The actual plot of the issue is that Dagar and the witches help each other defeat a demon, even though Dagar thinks the witches’ powers are useless. They don’t seem to be bothered by his blatant sexism, and he decides to stay with them for a bit before going off to seek new adventures. Despite the poorly concealed wish-fulfillment element, this is a fun comic and a good send-off for Dagar.

As a reminder to myself, I need to look for Kull the Destroyer #21 and #22, which are an unannounced crossover with Dagar.

IRON FIST #9 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Dragon Dies at Dawn!”, (W) Chris Claremont, (A) John Byrne. I think this is the worst Claremont/Byrne collaboration, but I decided to read it anyway because it can’t be worse than X-Men #138. This issue, the crimelord Chaka poisons Iron Fist, and Danny has only an hour to defeat Chaka and retrieve the antidote. There are some good action sequences in this issue, but the plot is not all that interesting.

My next comic book shipment was supposed to arrive on Saturday, January 14. It did not. USPS made a failed delivery attempt at 6 PM Saturday, and the tracking information was never updated again. I went a little crazy and spent the entire weekend worrying about where the package was and whether it would ever come. Numerous phone calls to the local post office resulted in no useful information. By Tuesday, I fully believed the package was lost, and I was shocked when I came home on Tuesday and found the package at my door. I guess what happened was that they didn’t finish making deliveries on Saturday, and then they didn’t try again until Tuesday, because Monday was a holiday. Which makes sense, but the lack of communication was very frustrating. It was an annoying weekend. Though to be fair, I was in an irritable mood after going to MLA and then working for five days straight.

Anyway, I was thrilled when the package did come because of this:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #16 (Marvel, 2017) – “25th Anniversary Celebration,” (W) Ryan North with Will Murray, (A) Erica Henderson. This issue is an affectionate tribute to Doreen Green, and it also reveals a lot of new information about her. The ten-year-old sequence is especially good, in particular the moment when Monkey Joe says “why are you already deciding there are things you can’t do.” The 15-year-old sequence is written by Will Murray, who is a far less proficient writer than Ryan North, but Murray’s affection for his creation is clear. And the last two epilogue sequences are brilliant. This is perhaps the best issue of Squirrel Girl, and that’s saying a lot.

SAGA #41 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Brian K. Vaughan, (A) Fiona Staples. I unfortunately have to write this review after having already read issue 42, but I’ll try to pretend I haven’t read that issue yet. Saga #41 is an excellent chapter of a somewhat underwhelming storyline. The ending of the issue delivers two powerful moments in three pages. The March is/are perhaps the most disgusting, loathsome villain in a series that’s full of villains, and their death is a deeply cathartic moment. And then two pages later, we see who killed them: Marko. Marko the pacifist, the man who utterly renounced violence, who hasn’t lifted a fist in anger in 40 issues. Because Marko’s nonviolence is such a deeply ingrained part of his character, his renunciation of nonviolence is a bigger shock than The March’s death. What will be the long-term impact of this act upon Marko’s character? Well, unfortunately, I now know that before Marko even has time to deal with that, he’s going to face an even worse trauma.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #16 (Image, 2017) – “Gut Check, Part Two,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Jason Latour. It turns out I somehow forgot to order issue 14, which was a spotlight on Roberta Tubb. All this time I’ve been waiting to see this character again, and now she’s come back and I’ve missed her. Anyway, this is still a powerful issue. Coach Boss sacrifices his last remaining shreds of principle; he visits Theron Goode, the star player for Craw County’s next opponent, and breaks his leg, as well as nearly killing Theron’s parents. It gets worse. Theron shows up at the game anyway, having escaped the incident with only a minor leg fracture, and Coach Boss orders all his defensive players to target that leg. And even then, Craw County only manages to tie the game. This issue feels like Coach Boss’s final descent into depravity; it’s bad enough that he’s a murderer, but he’s also sacrificed the integrity of the game of football, which was the one thing he cared about. I can’t remember if we’ve seen Colonel Quick McKlusky before, but his speech pattern is hilarious.

MOTOR CRUSH #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Babs Tarr, (W) Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart. After three such amazing comics, this one suffers a bit by comparison, but it’s still good. Babs draws some amazing combat and racing sequences, and the plot is very dramatic. Domino’s public and private lives are starting to collide, with awful consequences.

MS. MARVEL #14 (Marvel, 2017) – “Damage Per Second, Part 1,” (W) G. Willow Wilson, (A) Takeshi Miyazawa. When I get back the edits on my Ms. Marvel book chapter, I will need to add some discussion of this story arc. Kamala’s favorite video game, World of Battlecraft, has been mentioned repeatedly throughout the series, but this issue we get to see it on-panel for the first time. I have never played an MMORPG, but G. Willow Wilson’s description of such games and her use of MMO jargon have the ring of truth; I get the impression that she plays World of Warcraft herself. The subplot is that Kamala is feeling isolated after losing Bruno and Carol Danvers, and she turns to World of Battlecraft for consolation. But that doesn’t work, because one of the other players in the game knows who she really is. In general, this was a strong issue. Willow’s original plans for this series must have been badly derailed by Civil War II, but she’s doing a good job of compensating for that.

ROCKET RACCOON #2 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Matthew Rosenberg, (A) Jorge Coelho. Rosenberg’s take on Rocket Raccoon is both grim and funny at once. This issue Rocket looks for a ride off Earth, but the people he encounters keep dying mysteriously. Then he has a fight with Miles Morales, and at the end of the issue Kraven captures him. I guess Kraven has had enough of hunting sea monsters, and is no longer reformed.

Resuming on February 5.

WONDER WOMAN #14 (DC, 20170 – “Year One, Finale,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Nicola Scott. Diana defeats Ares, and it turns out she intentionally sacrificed her knowledge of how to get back to Themyscira. This is an effective conclusion to the Year One story, though not the best issue of the series.

JUGHEAD #12 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, (W) Ryan North, (A) Derek Charm. Jughead and friends play a video game obviously based on Mario Kart, which Reggie wins, earning the right to form a band with all his friends. This issue was a lot of fun. The depictions of the video game are hilarious, the coloring is excellent, and I like the hired hunks and the characters’ wildly different visions of what their band will look like.

SNOTGIRL #5 (Image, 2017) – “05. Same Ol’ Mistakes,” (W) Bryan Lee O’Malley, (A) Leslie Hung. I’m not even sure what’s going on here. I’ve lost track of what’s going on in this series, and I feel like it might be easier to read in collected form. Sometimes my obstinate attachment to the comic book format is an inconvenience.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #12 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) David F. Walker, (A) Sanford Greene. This is part two of the Alex Wilder story arc. It’s a pretty average issue. I can’t remember anything about it really.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #5 (DC, 2017) – “Second Semester, Part 4,” (W) Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, (A) Adam Archer. I did not read issue 5 of this series because DCBS sent me a misprinted copy, in which the middle of the comic was replaced with pages fom some other DC comic. To add insult to injury, I can’t even get a refund because I’ve misplaced the misprinted copy, and DCBS wants me to send them photo evidence of the misprint before they’ll replace it. Oh well, I expect I’ll find it at some convention sometime. (UPDATE: Wihle writing these reviews, I did find the misprinted comic and was able to submit photos of it.) Anyway, because of that, this issue was kind of confusing, but Gotham Academy is confusing at the best of times. The most interesting thing in this issue is that Eric, the creepy sickly-looking kid, has a crush on Maps.

GREEN LANTERN #140 (DC, 1981) – “As Ye Sow…,” (W) Marv Wolfman, (A) Joe Staton. Marv Wolfman was a terrible Green Lantern writer, but this issue was surprisingly not bad. Conrad Bloch, Carl Ferris’s former partner, kidnaps Carol and her parents and forces them to go along with his plot to sabotage Ferris Aircraft. Carl Ferris is usually a loathsome character, but this story almost makes me feel sympathetic for him. This issue also includes an Adam Strange story, which is of average quality.

New comics received on Friday, January 20 – the second new comic book day in a week (also a somewhat unfortunate day for other reasons, but let’s not talk about that).

SLAM! #3 (Boom, 2017) – untitled, (W) Pamela Ribon, (A) Veronica Fish. This is a really good issue. Slam! is quickly becoming the second best Boom Box title after Lumberjanes – I would even rank it above Goldie Vance. The collapse of Knockout and Ithinka Can’s friendship is depressing, but effectively set up. I also like how they’re both becoming veterans; in this issue, Knockout becomes a mentor to a new skater who’s at the same point in her career as Knockout was in the first issue. And I really like the workplace discrimination subplot. It’s very rare for Boom Box titles to explicitly acknowledge sexism or racism. They tend to deal with inequality by imagining a world in which it doesn’t exist, which is a point I want to explore in a future essay. But in this issue, Pamela Ribon shows a clear understanding of how everyday sexism works.

MANIFEST DESTINY #25 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Chris Dingess, (A) Matthew Roberts. An okay issue. Sacagawea’s insistence on hunting during pregnancy creates tension between her and Lewis and Clark; meanwhile, the men are seeing some kind of ghosts. This issue includes an editorial by Chris Dingess about the Standing Rock protests. I think this editorial is very politically astute, and shows sensitivity to the potential pitfalls of a white man writing a comic about Native American history. This issue also includes a backup story that provides some insight into Sacagawea’s back history. Clearly Sacagawea’s “sacrifice” has something to do with her pregnancy, and it means she expects to die very soon, perhaps in childbirth. But there’s also some bigger secret involved, which is probably what the entire comic is building up to.

MARVELS #0 (Marvel, 1994) – various features, (W) Kurt Busiek, (A) Alex Ross. Not really worth owning even for a completist like me. The only actual comics content in this issue is a twelve-page story about the original Human Torch. I distinctly remember having read this story before. I think it was published somewhere else before the original Marvels miniseries came out, but I can’t figure out where. Hero Illustrated or Comic Shop News maybe. The rest of this issue consists of uninteresting essays and sketchbook pages.

MONSTER HUNTERS #1 (Charlton, 1975) – three stories, (W) Nicola Cuti and Joe Molloy, (A) Wayne Howard, Pete Morisi and Paul Kirchner. This issue includes three stories which, as the title indicates, are all about monsters – a bug-eyed tentacled tusked thing, a mermaid, and the Loch Ness Monster. Its tone is more silly than scary, and none of the three stories is much good.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #142 (Marvel, 1984) – “Foiled!”, (W) David Michelinie, (A) Greg LaRocque. A rare example of a story starring Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) that was not written by her creator, Roger Stern. It’s also an early appearance of Spider-Man’s black costume; it includes a scene where some criminals see him in his new costume and don’t recognize him. Besides that, there’s not much here of any interest. The plot involves a villain (unsurprisingly, an old rich white man) who tries to solve the population crisis by transporting all the world’s capital cities into an alternate dimension.

CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #4 (DC, 2017) – “City of Ghosts,” (W) Jon Rivera & Gerard Way, (A) Michael Avon Oeming. Another good issue of either the best or the second best Young Animal title. Cave Carson, Chloe and Wild Dog finally get to Muldroog where they encounter the survivors, and we learn a bit more about Chloe’s background – it seems like she grew up with no knowledge of her mother’s origins. This issue also includes a Super Powers backup story by Tom Scioli. Tom’s artwork is amazing, but quite difficult to read, which explains why I haven’t read most of the issues of Transformers vs G.I. Joe in my collection. I like the gag in which Wonder Woman’s lasso behaves like Lassie.

MIGHTY THOR #15 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Asgard/Shi’ar War, Part One: A Day Which Will Live in Immortal Infamy,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Russell Dauterman. I’m pretty sure Russell Dauterman is the best Thor artist since Walt Simonson. This issue is just a series of fight scenes, but they’re really well-drawn and epic fight scenes. It’s also nice to see Kid Gladiator and Warbird again; these characters were introduced in another Jason Aaron comic, Wolverine and the X-Men. And this issue ends with what I believe is the first in-person appearance of the Sh’iar gods Sharra and K’ythri.

CAGE #5 (Marvel, 2002) – “Cage, Part 5,” (W) Brian Azzarello, (A) Richard Corben. This comic is referenced in Joshua Plencner’s article “Gentrifying Luke Cage: The Racial Failure of Nostalgia,” a negative review of Genndy Tartakovsky’s current Cage series. Plencner calls it “a frustrating turn … a five-issue ‘age of hip-hop’ restyling of Luke Cage that Adilifu Nama calls a ‘nearly unreadable mess” that morphed Cage into a ‘creepy…ghetto mercenary.’ ” This is an entirely fair assessment. The only reason to read this comic is for Corben’s grotesque, testosterone-filled art. The plot is a confusing muddle, the characters are all stereotypes, and the dialogue is a tone-deaf imitation of AAVE. This whole comic is an example of why it’s just not a good idea for white people to tell blaxploitation stories. Marvel seems to have learned this lesson only partially, since they’re publishing Genndy Tartakovsky’s Cage (which I haven’t read and don’t intend to read) as well as David F. Walker and Sanford Greene’s Power Man and Iron Fist.

DESCENDER #18 (Image, 2017) – “Orbital Mechanics 2 of 5,” (W) Jeff Lemire, (A) Dustin Nguyen. Another good issue. Two shocking moments: Tullis sacrifices himself to defend Andy and some other characters from a giant worm, and it turns out the UGC are building their own Harvester. And then an even more shocking moment at the end: we were misled about the result of Tim-21 and Tim-22’s fight last issue, and the character we thought was the good Tim is really the evil Tim.

SUPER POWERS #2 (DC, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Art Baltazar, (A) Franco. Another light-hearted and fun story by Art and Franco. The Unknown Superman from the Future battles the Composite Superman, and meanwhile Kal-El’s little brother Prym-El is born, but looks oddly similar to Brainiac.

SUPER POWERS #3 (DC, 2017) – as above. The newly formed JLA battles Brimstone. Meanwhile, Prym-El is subjected to Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome.

FAITH #5 (Valiant, 2016) – “Dark Star,” (W) Jody Houser, (A) Megan Hetrick w/ Marguerite Sauvage; and “Faith in Politics,” (W) Louise Simonson, (A) Pere Pérez. The first story this issue is about a teen actress, Zoe Hines, whose career is ruined by leaked photos. This is a reference to the 2014 celebrity phone hacking scandal, though I don’t know if Zoe Hines is supposed to represent any particular real person. As a result, Zoe is easy prey for a mind-controlling supervillain in the form of a black cat, which is an awesome idea. The backup story is about the Hillary Clinton campaign and is obviously quite depressing to read in retrospect, though not as much so as the election issue of Ms. Marvel, since by this point the pain of the election has healed a little. It’s a nice touch that they got a pioneering female superhero writer, Louise Simonson, to write it. I either forgot or didn’t even realize that there was also a second backup story, by Rafer Roberts and Colleen Doran. This is not Roberts’s first writing credit, but it certainly reads like the work of an inexperienced writer.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #126 (DC, 1976) – “What Lurks Below Buoy 13,” (W) Bob Haney, (A) Jim Aparo. This issue’s plot revolves around a satellite that can pinpoint locations of nuclear submarines. Batman and Aquaman battle each other, as well as American and Soviet forces, for possession of the satellite, until a villain called Baron Mannheim steals it. A weird plot point is that Baron Mannheim tells Aquaman he’s a representative of the UN, and Aquaman just gives him the satellite without demanding any more identification. The two most notable things about this story are, first, Jim Aparo’s underwater action sequences, and second, the anti-Cold-War tone of Haney’s story. Instead of presenting the Soviets as the bad guys, he suggests that both sides are equally guilty of creating a global climate of fear.

CURSE WORDS #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Charles Soule, (A) Ryan Browne. I had no idea what to expect from this comic, so I found it surprisingly enjoyable. It’s hard to summarize, but it appears to be about two rival wizards in contemporary New York. As one would expect from the artist of God Hates Astronauts, it’s full of ridiculous phenomena drawn in a deadpan style. I believe this is the first time I’ve read a funny comic by Charles Soule; he turns out to be rather good at humor.

JONESY #9 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Sam Humphries, (A) Caitlin Rose Boyle. I’m sorry that this series is ending with issue 12. I was unimpressed by the first few issues, but the last few issues have been much better, and this series deserves a longer run. In this issue, Jonesy moves in with her mother and needs to adjust to a new and unfamiliar city – a situation I have a lot of experience with. The new city is dreary and gross, no one knows what zines are, and as a final blow, the ferret rescue center where Jonesy wanted to volunteer is closed. But the issue ends on a note of redemption as Jonesy finds a store that sells zines, and the people there think Jonesy is the best zine creator ever. Awww.

FLASH GORDON: KING’S CROSS #3 (Dynamite, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Jesse Hamm. Another fun issue, though it’s part 3 of 5, so it doesn’t advance the plot much. It does introduce Prince Valiant and Jungle Jim into the story.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #192 (Marvel, 1975) – “Mad-Flight!”, (W) Marv Wolfman, (A) Frank Robbins. This issue is from the brief transitional period between Englehart and Kirby. It’s most notable as the first appearance of Moonstone, though she only appears in one panel, as Doctor Faustus’s flunky. The only reason we know that this character even is Karla Sofen and not some other blonde woman named Karla is because in her next full apearance, in Incredible Hulk #228, she was specifically identified as the same character from Captain America #192. Other than that, this is an average issue, despite some good Frank Robbins artwork. Cap boards a charter flight from London to America – in the process violating security in a way that would get him sent to prison nowadays – and discovers that the other passengers are Doctor Faustus and a bunch of mobsters.

MIDNIGHT TALES #14 (Charlton, 1975) – “The Time Machine,” (W/A) Wayne Howard; inset stories (W) Nicola Cuti, (A) Joe Staton and Don Newton. This is much better than the previous Charlton comic I read. In the framing sequence, the “Midnight Philosopher” and his niece Arachne test a new time machine, which sends them to a future where time travel is a capital offense. There are two inset stories that explain why time travel is illegal. The first one has pretty funny: a man murders a victim whose face he never sees, then travels back in time to stop himself from committing the murder, only to discover that he himself was the victim. The second inset story is forgettable, but does have one cool panel depicting a house that appears to be based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Overall, while this comic is not great, it does demonstrate that ‘70s Charlton horror comics were not always pure crap.

WARLOCK #5 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Day of the Death Birds!”, (W) Ron Goulart, (A) Gil Kane. Pre-Starlin Warlock was super-weird… I guess Starlin Warlock was super-weird too, but in a more consistent way. In this issue, Warlock stops a bunch of disasters and is worshipped as a god (a bit like Severian at the end of The Citadel of the Autarch), and then the president of Counter-Earth declares Warlock an enemy of the state. Ron Goulart had a long career as a SF writer but was probably best known as the ghost writer for William Shatner’s Tek War novels.

FAITH #6 (Valiant, 2016) – untitled, (W) Jody Houser, (A) Meghan Hetrick w/ Marguerite Sauvage. Kind of an average issue. A satisfying but predictable conclusion to the Zoe Hines/evil cat story.

MEGA PRINCESS #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Brianne Drouhard. I’m a fan of both Kelly Thompson and all-ages comics, but this series has been disappointing. It’s cute, but there’s too much going on at once, and the story has no clear direction. This issue, Max goes underwater and visits the city of Atlantis where she gets put in prison.

New comics received on January 27:

SAGA #42 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Brian K. Vaughan, (A) Fiona Staples. My reaction to this comic was affected by the fact that I knew something awful and tragic was going to happen in it. I read a tweet that said it was Saga’s version of the Red Wedding. But I didn’t know exactly what the tragic event was, so I automatically assumed the worst – I thought Marko and/or Alana was going to die. I mean, we know Hazel is going to live long enough to become the narrator of the series, but we don’t have any guarantees that her parents will survive. It turns out the characters who die this issue are Hazel’s unborn sibling and all the people on Phang. So the ending of this issue is a horrible moment, just not the exact type of horrible moment that I was expecting. I’m not sure how to feel about that. Also, it turns out that the tragedy is caused by the Last Revolution characters from quite a few issues ago. We only get to see these characters for a couple panels, but it’s clear that they’re complete fanatics who have no understanding of the human impact of their thoughtless actions, much like some Americans I could name.

LUMBERJANES #34 (Boom!, 2017) – “Might as Wheel,” (W) Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, (A) Carolyn Nowak. Another extremely fun issue. When I saw that the next storyline would be about roller derby, I was a little concerned because that sport seems incompatible with summer camp. It turns out it’s outdoor roller derby and the Lumberjanes are competing against a team of sasquatches. So that seems more appropriate to this series. Besides the main plot, the most interesting thing here is that Jo is trying to build an “anomalous temporal activity sensor array,” and we are not told why. I wonder if she’s trying to figure out why time never seems to pass in the camp.

LADYCASTLE #1 (Boom!, 2017) – “Welcome to Ladycastle,” (W) Delilah S. Dawson, (A) Ashley A. Woods. This is at least the fifth different comic I’ve read lately that was a parody or revisionist adaptation of princess culture. (The others are Princeless, Mega Princess, Princess Ugg, and Another Castle.) The surprising thing is that each of these comics has a very different sensibility. The twist in this series is that all the men of an extremely sexist fairy-tale kingdom are killed by a dragon, and the women take over. Overall, I thought this comic was both innovative and well-executed. It has a diverse and entertaining cast of characters, and it’s funny and tragic at the same time. I did have some issues with the premise; first, the women don’t seem particularly sad that all their male relatives have died; and second, it’s odd that there are no boys or old men in the kingdom. But besides that, this is a really fun and well-done comic, the latest in a long series of excellent Boom! titles.

HULK #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “Deconstructed, Part Two,” (W) Mariko Tamaki, (A) Nico Leon. My big problem with this issue is that the landlord’s behavior is implausible. He can’t just throw his tenant out on the street without notice, especially not if the tenant has a lawyer, and he ought to know that. Otherwise, this was a good follow-up to an excellent debut issue. The snowman scene was very powerful, as well as being a perfect demonstration of the value of trigger warnings.

SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME #8 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Natalie Riess. In the final round of Space Battle Lunchtime, Peony throws away her dish to save Chef Melonhead’s life. As a result, she loses the competition but comes out looking better than the winner, like Lightning McQueen in Cars. This scene would have been more effective if the reader had any reason to care whether Peony won Space Battle Lunchtime. I mean, she didn’t even know this competition existed until issue 1, so what is her stake in it? Also, the ending of the series is a bit of an anticlimax, as Peony goes back to Earth with her romance with Neptunia unresolved. This ending does leave the door open for a sequel, and I hope there will be one. I love the line about Neptunia having three hearts plus a fourth in storage.

WONDER WOMAN #15 (DC, 2017) – “The Truth, Part One,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Liam Sharp. This is an average issue. It’s a bit annoying that Diana still hasn’t recovered from being stuck inside her memories. The reappearance of Ferdinand the minotaur (or kythotaur) from Rucka’s previous run is a nice twist.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #23 (IDW, 2017) – “Enter the Stingers, Part Five,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Meredith McClaren. After Fox quits just before the concert, Raya from the Stingers fills in for her and becomes the Holograms’ permanent drummer – just as Shana returns from Italy. This issue was an effective conclusion to the Stingers storyline, and leads directly into the next story, which is also the last. I hope that there really will be a follow-up series after this one, and that IDW is not lying to us.

ETHER #3 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, (W) Matt Kindt, (A) David Rubín. This comic is extremely well-drawn, but the plot is a little underwhelming. It’s becoming clear that what this series is really about is Boone’s scientism, his chauvinistic insistence that the world of Ether can be described in scientific terms. That’s an interesting premise but it’s not where I thought the series was going.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #15 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Smartest There Is! Part Three: Code,” (W) Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder, (A) Ray-Anthony Height. The fun part of this issue is the interaction between Lunella and Ironheart – especially Riri’s line “…when you were a kid…” I love that we live in a world where a Marvel title with a black female protagonist includes a guest appearance by the black female protagonist of a different Marvel title – and neither of the characters in question is Storm. The hair-braiding scene is also really cute, although it suggests that Lunella’s mother knows Lunella is a superhero and is okay with it, and this demands explanation.

On January 28, I went to the Charlotte Mini Con at the Grady Cole Center. This was a pretty fun show, although as usual, I had some trouble finding old comics that I both wanted and could afford. The Grady Cole Center is an ugly old building that resembles a hockey rink, and the security guards were apparently not letting people leave and reenter, so I was unable to leave for lunch and come back, and accordingly spent most of the morning in a state of hunger and insufficient caffeination. (After the convention, though, I had an excellent lunch at Viva Chicken, though it was somewhat ruined by the breaking news of Trump’s Muslim ban.) I got to meet Rian Sygh and tell him how sorry I was that Backstagers was not renewed.

In terms of shopping, this convention was not as good as the Charlotte Comic Con in August, but I did buy a big stack of stuff, and it was nice buying back issues again for the first time since NYCC. Here are some of the comics I bought:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #130 (Marvel, 1974) – “Betrayed!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Ross Andru. A good issue of the somewhat underrated Conway run. This issue introduces the Spider-Mobile, which has gone down in history as a tacky, unsightly horror. According to Wikipedia, Gerry was ordered by Stan Lee to introduce the Spider-Mobile into the comic for merchandising reasons. Conway must not have been happy with this, because in this issue Spidey himself thinks the Spider-Mobile is an ugly “fiasco.” Also, it’s of limited usefulness to him because he doesn’t know how to drive. There’s other interesting stuff in this issue, including a scene where MJ visits Peter’s apartment and finds books by Sartre, Camus and Jung on his bookshelves. As far as I know, this was the first and last reference to Peter’s interest in philosophy.

MARVEL FEATURE #12 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Bite of the Blood Brothers!”, (W) Mike Friedrich, (A) Jim Starlin. This is a chapter of Jim Starlin’s first Thanos epic, which began with Thanos’s debut in Iron Man #55 and continued in Captain Marvel #25-33. Iron Man teams up with the Thing to battle the Blood Brothers from Iron Man #55, who turn out to be actual vampires. This issue is kind of incidental to the larger storyline it belongs to, but it’s essential for Starlin completists, and the art is not bad.

ACTION COMICS #392 (DC, 1970) – “The Shame of the Super-Son!”, (W) Robert Kanigher, (A) Ross Andru; and “The Legionnaires Who Never Were!”, (W) Cary Bates, (A) Win Mortimer. This issue begins with an imaginary story which is a notorious example of Superdickery. When 14-year-old Clark Kent Jr uses his powers to win an athletic competition, Superman uses gold kryptonite to take his son’s powers away. When Batman convinces Superman that this punishment is wildly unfair, Superman uses Kandorian technology to give his own powers to his son. Which is hardly an act of kindness on Superman’s part, given the amount of pressure that it puts on his son. Unusually, this story depicts Superman’s wife as having blonde hair.

In this issue’s backup story, Saturn Girl and Princess Projectra return home from a mission only to discover that the other Legionnaires don’t know who they are, and there are two mysterious new Legionnaires named Saturn Lad and Prince Projectur. It turns out that the whole thing is an exercise designed to test whether Projectra is likely to snap under pressure. To her credit, Projectra passes the test with flying colors, and isn’t even angry at her teammates for gaslighting her. This story also reveals that Projectra and Karate Kid are now a couple, as well as introducing Saturn Girl’s new costume, which was designed by fan Kim Metzger. Saturn Lad and Prince Projectur’s costumes are amusing because they look exactly like the costumes of their female equivalents.

INVINCIBLE #20 (Image, 2005) – untitled, (W) Robert Kirkman, (A) Ryan Ottley. This issue introduces that one black-haired scientist dude who created the Reanimen. Also, Amber becomes furious with Mark for running out on her in the middle of an emergency. Otherwise this is a pretty average issue, but it’s a lot of fun, unlike most recent issues of this series.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #144 (Marvel, 1971) – “Hydra Over All!”, (W) Gary Friedrich, (A) John Romita; and “The Falcon Fights Alone!”, (W) Gary Friedrich, (A) Gray Morrow. I’d be curious to learn why John Romita only did half this issue, and why the rest of it was by Gray Morrow, who almost never drew superhero comics. For whatever reason, this issue includes artwork by two great artists. In the first story, Nick Fury stages a demonstration of SHIELD’s new Female Furies program for President Nixon. In the second story, the Falcon shows off his new costume, solves a crime, and decides to break up with Cap, though that didn’t last long. “The Falcon Fights Alone!” is drawn in the realistic style that Morrow is best known for, and has few superhero tropes beyond the fact that the main character wears a costume. As a result, it feels more like an Archie Red Circle story than a Marvel story.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #14 (Image, 2016) – “Homecoming Conclusion: Boots on the Ground,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Jason Latour. This is, finally, the story told from Roberta Tubb’s perspective. As noted above, I somehow forgot to order it, but I found it at the convention. Roberta is a fascinating character, with her perspective informed by both the Army and her multiracial upbringing. I love her observation that her life in the South trained her to engage with women in Afghanistan. (Come to think of it, I really ought to teach this comic someday, especially since Jason Latour lives right here in Charlotte. He was at the Charlotte Mini Con, and I wish I’d spoken to him about a possible class visit. I need to talk to him at Heroes Con. Anyway.) The racism that Roberta faces is terrifying if not surprising. I already knew about the ending where the little boy calls her the N-word, but it’s not just that. There are also the constant microaggressions, like the question about how many kids she has, as well as the actual crimes such as the theft of the lawn mower. This is an infuriating story, and therefore an important one. I hope we see Roberta again soon; I feel like she, rather than Coach Boss, is supposed to be the protagonist of this series.

LOOSE ENDS #1 (Image, 2017, originally 2011) – untitled, (W) Jason Latour, (A) Chris Brunner. This is a reprint of the first comic Jason Latour wrote. It’s being marketed as a sort of prototype of Southern Bastards. Unfortunately, this comic clearly demonstrates Jason’s lack of writing experience at the time. Throughout my reading of this issue, I was constantly confused as to what was going on. I never understood who the characters were or how they were connected. I’m still planning to buy the rest of this miniseries, but I really hope it becomes clearer.

KULL THE DESTROYER #23 (Marvel, 1977) – “Demon Shade!”, (W) Don Glut, (A) Ernie Chan. As mentioned in my Gold Key Spotlight review above, this is part of an unannounced crossover with Dagar the Invincible. Kull’s female companion in this issue, Laralei, is the same character as Graylin. The plot, involving an evil hunchback and a shadow demon, is also a typical Dagar plot. Ernie Chan’s art is less exciting than Jesse Santos’s art, but this is a reasonably fun comic, and I want to collect the rest of Don Glut’s brief Kull run, if only for its novelty value. There’s one scene in this issue where the narrator explicitly mentions that Kull has little interest in romance, which is the reason for my pet theory that Kull and Brule are a couple. Now that I look at it again, this same scene also mentions that Laralei has lost her memory, but that she does remember swearing “never again to let myself love a man who exists by the sword.” The implication is that she swore that oath after she broke up with Dagar.

ANGEL LOVE #1 (DC, 1986) – untitled, (W/A) Barbara Slate. I must have seen dozens of copies of this comic in cheap boxes. I finally bought it at Charlotte Mini Con, perhaps because I faintly remembered seeing a review of it somewhere. Either that, or I mistook it for an Angel and the Ape spinoff. Angel Love turns out to be a fascinating comic which was several decades ahead of its time. It’s a romance comic whose eponymous protagonist works as a roller-skating waitress, lives in a roach-infested apartment, and has a crush on her restaurant’s bartender. Barbara Slate draws in a cartoony style that resembles that of Cathy Guisewite, and the overall tone of the comic is humorous – there are even some talking cockroaches – but this issue ends on a darker note when Angel’s boyfriend invites her to try cocaine. In general, this comic is a lot of fun, and if not for the dated topical references and art style, one might think it was published in 2016 and not 1986. It reminds me of something like Fresh Romance or The Cute Girl Network. It’s so far ahead of its time that I have to wonder why DC published it at all, given that by 1986, romance comics were already a long-dead genre. It only lasted seven more issues and one special (and I want to collect them all). Like other comics I’ve previously examined on this blog – e.g. Fast Willie Jackson – Angel Love is an example of an alternate direction the comics industry could have taken, and a forgotten precursor of contemporary comics targeted at diverse audiences.

INCREDIBLE HULK #127 (Marvel, 1970) – “Mogol!”, (W) Roy Thomas, (A) Herb Trimpe. Feeling lonely, the Hulk befriends a bald giant called Mogol. But it turns out that Mogol is a robot created by Tyrannus. Discovering this, the Hulk is so furious that he destroys Mogol, despite Mogol’s pleas that he’s the Hulk’s only friend. This is really a rather depressing moment, and it makes the Hulk seem like a murderer. Overall, this is a pretty good issue, by perhaps the best Hulk artist.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #67 (Marvel, 1981) – “Power Men,” (W) Mary Jo Duffy w/ Bob Layton, (A) Kerry Gammill. While trying to stop a bank robbery, Luke Cage is kidnapped by Joshua Bushmaster, not to be confused with the similarly named Serpent Society member, who needs Dr. Burstein’s help to stop him from turning into metal. This issue didn’t impress me as much as the last couple Duffy Power Man and Iron Fist issues I read, but it was fun.

MOCKINGBIRD #2 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Chelsea Cain, (A) Kate Niemczyk. I regret that I didn’t buy this comic while it was coming out, but there were so many good Marvel titles coming out last year, and it was inevitable that I would overlook some of them. Given that it’s by a writer with no comics experience, this comic is really impressive. The dialogue is sparkling, especially the witty banter between Mockingbird and her buffoonish sidekick Lance Hunter, and there are all sorts of funny jokes and sight gags, like the underground “Slave Minion Tea Station.” I need to collect the other seven issues of this comic.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #36 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) Christina Rice, (A) Tony Fleecs. This issue is a sequel to “Rainbow Falls” from season four, in which Rainbow Dash was asked to replace an injured Soarin’ on the Cloudsdale Equestria Games team. It turns out that Soarin’ never forgave Spitfire for that, and as a result he throws himself into his work to a dangerous extent, forcing Rainbow Dash to rescue him. This is kind of an average issue, though it’s an interesting exploration of Dashie’s relationships with the two main Wonderbolts.

AQUAMAN #20 (DC, 1996) – “Thy Keeper’s Brother,” (W) Peter David, (A) Martin Egeland. I wonder whatever happened to Marty Egeland. He did some impressive work on his Aquaman series, but after that, his career went nowhere. I don’t remember much about this issue, though. Perhaps this is because it’s just one chapter in a complicated ongoing storyline. The most notable scene in the issue is the discovery that Ocean Master has horrible facial scars.

GREEN LANTERN #31 (DC, 1964) – “Power Rings for Sale!” and “Pay Up – or Blow Up!”, (W) John Broome, (A) Gil Kane. This issue has a classic cover, which was redrawn by Brian Bolland for DC Comics Presents: Green Lantern #1 in 2004. It shows Hal Jordan inexplicably selling power rings. The (inevitably disappointing) reason why is because he’s being mind-controlled by some really cool-looking aliens. In the backup story, Hal Jordan attends his brother Jim’s wedding and has to help Jim save their hometown from being blown up. Jim’s bride, Sue, is convinced her husband-to-be is Green Lantern, despite his pleas to the contrary. That seems like a really poor foundation for a marriage – Sue thinks Jim is lying to her, while from Jim’s perspective, Sue refuses to believe him even though he’s telling her the truth. Of course, this was the same era during which Barry Allen married Iris West without telling her he was the Flash.

IRON MAN #14 (Marvel, 1969) – “The Night Phantom Walks!”, (W) Archie Goodwin, (A) Johnny Craig. I wonder why this era of Iron Man is not better known. Perhaps it’s because the creators involved, like Goodwin, Craig and George Tuska, were not part of the core Marvel bullpen. In this issue, Tony visits a Caribbean island where a (based on Haiti) where a creature from local folklore appears to have sabotaged one of his plants. It turns out that the “creature” is really a local curmudgeon, Hoyt, who is angry at Tony for ruining the island’s beauty. Goodwin shows unusual sensitivity to the tricky political issues involved in this premise, although he ultimately comes down on Tony’s side. When Hoyt accuses Tony of “destroying [the island’s] beauty and natural charm,” a local policeman replies, “Your concern would be more touching, Mr. Hoyt, if it included the islanders who never had employment or a decent living until projects like Mr. Stark’s existed!”

SHUTTER #26 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Joe Keatinge, (A) Leila del Duca. I’m kind of losing patience with this series. The creators seem determined to get to the finish line as fast as possible, even if that means sacrificing plot and character development. I don’t even quite understand what Prospero is, and here Cassius has already gone and killed them. Also, the “Taft Sturgeon” backup feature is not very good.

REVIVAL #46 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Tim Seeley, (A) Mike Norton. Here’s another Image title that’s rapidly approaching its conclusion, but this series has lasted 20 more issues than Shutter, and as a result the conclusion seems much more well-earned. As usual I’m not 100% sure what’s going on, but it’s clear that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and Em is trying to heal the breach between life and death by immersing herself in a river of blood. I’m excited to see how this series is going to end.

SWAMP THING #73 (DC, 1988) – “The Fire Next Door,” (W/A) Rick Veitch. Trying to get back to Houma, Swamp Thing is attacked by an insane member of the Parliament of Trees. Also, all sorts of things keep catching on fire for some reason. This is a fun comic and it’s full of Alan Moore-esque moments where the words and images are related in an ironic way.

JSA #56 (DC, 2004) – “Black Reign,” (W) Geoff Johns, (A) Don Kramer. Black Adam’s rogue Justice League, including characters like Eclipso and Atom Smasher, invades a fictional Middle Eastern country to rescue some kidnapped women. This issue is full of blood and gore and gratuitous violence, which illustrates the problem with most of Geoff Johns’s work. His project is to create a modernized, adult version of Silver Age comics, which is fine, except that he understands “adult” to mean excessively violent and brutal. As a result of its excessive violence, this comic is not fun at all, and if a DC Universe comic isn’t fun, what’s the point? Also, this comic promulgates offensive stereotypes about Middle Eastern people.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #15 (Marvel, 2001) – “Micro-Management,” (W) Peter David, (A) ChrisCross. Psycho-Man kidnaps Drax the Destroyer in order to force him to open a cocoon, which turns out to contain Genis-Vell’s clone. Meanwhile, Moondragon and Marlo try to convince Genis to save Una-Rogg, Yon-Rogg’s daughter, from being subjected to “psychic mutilation.” This subplot is interesting because “psychic mutilation” is described in such a way that it sounds exactly like female genital mutilation. Moondragon says: “Kree women are being subjected to painful procedures that deprive them of their ability to give and receive pleasure because the men feel threatened by such abilities. They want to control them.” The allegory here is pretty obvious.

INVINCIBLE #127 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Robert Kirkman, (A) Cory Walker. I was not willing to pay full price for this comic, but I’m still curious about what’s going on in this series. So it was convenient that I found this and the next two issues for 50 cents each at the convention. This issue, Mark returns to his family after having been absent for five years – which, if you will check my review of issue 126, was the final straw that got me to stop reading Invincible. So this issue is rather grim and dark and full of histrionic emotion, although Terra’s cute antics create a bit of comic relief. It is really weird that Oliver and his giant bug girlfriend are now parents, considering that Oliver himself was born several years into the series.

DOOM PATROL #4 (DC, 2017) – “I’m Sorry I’m Late: Brick by Brick, Part 4,” (W) Gerard Way, (A) Nick Derington. Lots of weird stuff happens this issue, as usual. We’re introduced to a 15-year-old sorcerer named Lucius, whose significance is unclear. Cliff, Larry and Rebis are put on trial by a bunch of other negative spirits. Casey and Fugg escape from captivity, and Danny explains what happened to him and Crazy Jane after the end of the Morrison run. I didn’t like this issue as much as the previous two, but it wasn’t bad.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #336 (Marvel, 1990) – “The Wagers of Sin,” (W) David Michelinie, (A) Erik Larsen. Part three of “The Return of the Sinister Six” is notable as the final appearance of Nathan Lubensky, my least favorite Spider-Man supporting character of all time. During a battle between Spidey and the Vulture, the awful old curmudgeon suffers a fatal heart attack, and good riddance. Erik Larsen’s artwork in this issue is quite good, though heavily derivative of McFarlane.

INVINCIBLE #128 (Image, 2016) – as above. This is much better than either #127 or #129 because it includes a bunch of cute scenes with Terra. Terra is an adorable and realistically written child, and it’s nice how she instantly warms up to Mark, as if he hadn’t been absent for her entire life. I just wish this comic had more of this sort of thing, and less grotesque violence – of which this issue also includes quite a lot. In the subplot, Al the Alien is blown to pieces by a suicide bomber. The trouble with this comic is that Kirkman keeps trying to top himself by making each story more epic and shocking than the last – and as a result, he sacrifices the character development that made this comic exciting to begin with.

INVINCIBLE #129 (Image, 2016) – as above. This issue spends more time on plot than characterization, and contains a bit too much violence for my taste, though the most disgusting scene (where Robert Grayson crushes some guy’s head) happens off-panel. Eve finally confronts Mark’s rapist, Anissa, and then we discover that Anissa seems to have had a child from the rape. And by the way, this cliché – where a female villain rapes a male superhero in order to conceive a child – should really be retired. As far as I know, it only ever happens in comic books (Nexus, Starman, Tom Strong twice, and Invincible). It’s an offensive trivialization of rape, because its purpose is to emphasize what a stud the male protagonist is: he’s so sexually desirable that women are willing to rape him just to have his babies. I hope Invincible will be the last comic that uses this trope.

New comics received on Friday, February 3:

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #2 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jeremy Whitley, (A) Elsa Charretier. I was a bit too tired to fully appreciate this, but it’s an excellent comic. Nadia’s first two recruits for GIRL are Taina Miranda and Lunella Lafayette. My first thought on reading this comic was that my friend Rachel Dean-Ruzicka needs to read it, because I once read a paper she wrote in which she observed the lack of female engineers in children’s literature. Teenage female Puerto Rican engineers are probably even more rare, which makes Taina an important role model. And this issue shows Nadia and Taina solving actual engineering problems. There’s lots of other great stuff in this issue. Nadia continues to be an awesome character, and I’m impressed at the level of detail in Elsa Charretier’s art, especially her depictions of cluttered workspaces.

PAPER GIRLS #11 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Brian K. Vaughan, (A) Cliff Chiang. I still don’t understand what this comic is about. It’s very well-executed and exciting, but I have no idea where the plot is going. In fact, perhaps the main appeal of this comic is that anything might happen; characters and tropes from any genre might show up at any time. For example, in this issue the girls travel back in time and encounter a caveman warrior girl who turns out to also be a teenage mother. Also, this issue includes a giant ground sloth.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #50 (IDW, 2017) – “Accord Conclusion: And Chaos into the Order Came,” (W) Ted Anderson, (A) Andy Price. As with the two previous installments of Accord, the art in this story is better than the writing. The non-brainwashed ponies turn Accord back into Discord by convincing him that harmony and unanimity are not the same thing. I do like how this story includes flashbacks to a bunch of previous storylines from both the TV show and the comic. The story ends with a giant splash page showing all the characters, including the pony avatars of Andy, Katie, and their spouses. In the backup story, “For the Pony Who Has Everything” by Jeremy Whitley and Jay Fosgitt, Discord gives Princess Celestia a day off as her birthday present – although I feel like this idea has been done before, in the Micro-Series issue where Celestia and Luna switch jobs for a day.

GOLDIE VANCE #9 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Hope Larson & Jackie Ball, (A) Noah Hayes. The new creative team this issue was a shock. It doesn’t feel like Goldie Vance without Brittney Williams. I was wondering how she managed to draw two comic books a month, and I guess the answer is she can’t anymore. This issue, in which Hope joins the pit crew for a professional racing driver, is fun, but feels somehow less substantial than the previous eight issues.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS OUTRAGEOUS ANNUAL 2017 (IDW, 2017) – “An Exquisite Corpse,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Gisele Lagace et al. This is framed as an exquisite corpse story, but it’s really not. In a genuine exquisite corpse story, each chapter is written by a different person who has only read the last page of the previous chapter. But here, each chapter is written by Kelly Thompson (although according to the frame narrative, they all have different authors) and they all have a continuous narrative thread. That doesn’t mean this was a bad comic, just that it describes itself inaccurately. Well, okay, maybe the artists each only saw the last page of the previous chapter, but that’s not the same thing. Anyway, this issue consists of a frame narrative and an inset story – that’s the exquisite corpse part – in which the Misfits and Holograms participate in a space opera adventure. Just like other Jem annuals and specials, this issue is extremely fun, especially since it’s not bound by the continuity of the ongoing series.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE ANNUAL #1 (Vertigo, 1994) – “The Eyewitness” and eight other chapters, (W) Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle, (A) various. Unusually for this series, this annual is a self-contained story. It consists of nine chapters, each with a different narrator, but all focusing on a series of robberies in Central Park. The multiple narrators create an effect of Bakhtinian polyphony, as we see the same place and the same events from nine quite different perspectives. The solution to the mystery is disappointing; the mugger turns out to be a recent immigrant who’s stealing in order to feed his family. But lots of fascinating stuff happens along the way to the solution. I especially like the scene where Wesley thinks he’s interrupted a robbery, only to realize that he’s actually interrupted two men having sex. This is funny and poignant at once. The secret origin of Wesley’s butler is another high point.

HAWKEYE #3 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Hate for Kate Escalates,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Leonardo Romero. Another strong issue, though it definitely feels like the middle chapter of an ongoing story. It’s mostly focused on plot rather than characterization or politics. I particularly liked the pary scene for some reason.

SWAMP THING #87 (DC, 1989) – “Fall of the House of Pendragon,” (W) Rick Veitch, (A) Tom Yeates. This is Rick Veitch’s last issue, though there is no indication of this anywhere. I assume that when it was published, they didn’t know it would be his last issue. Though now I do notice that the next issue blurb says “Swamp Thing goes back to the beginnings of mankind,” which describes the published version of issue 88 and not the version that Rick originally intended. So who knows. More on this later. Anyway, in this chapter of the time travel storyline, Swampy travels back in time to Camelot – a very dark version of Camelot, where King Arthur has gone nuts and all the knights have been killed on the Grail quest. Swampy saves Camelot from Morgan Le Fay and Mordred’s troops by literally carrying the castle on his back. But when the Shining Knight shows up with the Holy Grail, it turns out to contain the piece of amber that’s been causing Swampy’s involuntary time travel. He goes back in time, causing Camelot to literally collapse. Unfortunately, Rick’s Swamp Thing run ends there, and we will never be able to read his intended ending. Most of this issue is in a sideways format which makes it quite annoying to read.

THE FLINTSTONES #8 (DC, 2017) – “The Leisure Class,” (W) Mark Russell, (A) Steve Pugh. Possibly the best issue yet. “The Leisure Class” includes three simultaneous plotlines that are related by the themes of family and economics. Betty goes back home to visit her mother, and we learn that she previously ran away from home to escape being sold into an unwanted marriage. At school, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm listen to an (apparently correct) explanation of Thorstein Veblen’s theory of the leisure class. And the new mayor, Clod, proposes to take funds away from a children’s hospital to buy new dinosaur armor. Fred gives an impassioned speech about how the only thing men are good for is impregnating women and protecting children, and why should they give up on doing the latter, but all the other men vote against him. I assume there’s an implicit critique of Trump here. Overall, while it’s not obvious how all the threads of this story fit together, it’s a powerful story that’s funny and sad at once, and that leaves the reader with a sense of profound discontent at how capitalism destroys families. I really liked this comic.

X-23 #9 (Marvel, 2011) – “Collision, Part 3,” (W) Marjorie Liu, (A) Ryan Stegman This issue’s story is hard to follow and I don’t care about it anyway. What makes this comic interesting is that it can be seen as a precursor to Monstress, because it’s all about X-23’s struggle with her animalistic and monstrous side. I almost feel like Marjorie Liu’s major theme is female monstrosity.

UNCANNY X-MEN #232 (Marvel, 1988) – “Earthfall,” (W) Chris Claremont, (A) Marc Silvestri. This is the first story featuring the Brood since #167. It’s a below-average story, focusing more on the Brood’s human victims than the X-Men themselves. The only notable piece of characterization is when Maddy Pryor discovers that Cyclops left her because Jean Grey came back to life.

JEM AND THE MISFITS #2 (IDW, 2017) – “The Misfits Get Real,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Jenn St-Onge. This is one of the best comics yet, and perhaps the best exploration of fat issues I’ve ever seen in a comic book. In an in-depth exploration of Stormer’s past, we learn that she’s been bullied all her life for being fat. And she’s still getting bullied for being fat, because in her first meeting with the reality show producers, they propose having her do a storyline about weight loss. At the end of the issue, Stormer gives a brilliant speech that explains why this sort of stigmatization is harmful. It includes the line “It’s a strange thing to walk around the world and know that it’s not meant for you. To be othered every waking moment of every day just by the vehicle that you’ve been given to travel in.” And honestly, out of context this could be read as a statement not just about what it’s like to be fat, but also about what it’s like to be anything other than an attractive, able-bodied white person. Of course, Stormer goes on to state that she refuses to accept being otherized in this way. Overall, this is an important comic, and it reinforces my belief that Kelly Thompson is a major writer. I think I prefer her to her namesake Kelly Sue DeConnick. She ought to be a superstar.

FAITH #7 (Valiant, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jody Houser, (A) Joe Eisma w/ Marguerite Sauvage. I enjoyed this issue, but I barely remember it now. It’s the beginning of a two-part story where Faith is tormented by the ghosts of dead friends and loved ones.

FAITH #8 (Valiant, 2017) – as above. This is the second part. I didn’t like this storyline that much. I think the comic convention story was the high point of the series so far, and the two subsequent storylines were a drop-off in quality. I do love that Faith has a Cactuar plushie. Also, “You’re a disgrace to voice actors!” is a great line.

SUPER POWERS #4 (DC, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Art Baltazar, (W) Franco. The JLA battle the Legion of Doom; meanwhile, newborn Prym-El grows into adult Superman-Prime. Which is predictable given his name. This story is kind of a repetition of old cliches. The one cool part is that the Green Lantern in this issue is Ch’p instead of Hal.

ACTION COMICS #510 (DC, 1980) – “Luthor’s Last Stand!”, (W) Cary Bates, (A) Curt Swan. I think the best part of this story is that Luthor has two robot servants named after Karel Capek and Isaac Asimov. Otherwise it’s lackluster. Luthor encounters a mysterious woman named Angela, who I initially assumed was either Lena Thorul or Ardora. But it turns out she’s really “the woman I was born to love,” and to find out what that means, we have to read the next issue.

SWAMP THING #88 (DC, 1988) – “Survival of the Fittest,” (W) Doug Wheeler, (A) Tom Yeates. As we all know, Rick Veitch left the series after the previous issue because DC refused to publish his story where Swamp Thing meets Jesus. In this issue’s letter column, Karen Berger suggests very obliquely that Rick left the series on bad terms (“neither he nor I expected the ending to be like this”), but she doesn’t explain why he left. It seems that in the original issue 88, Swampy would have used the Holy Grail from #87 to catch Jesus’s blood during the crucifixion. In the published #88, the Holy Grail and the shard of amber are instead created by the last Neanderthals, just before they’re killed by the first Cro-Magnons. This is a poor substitute for Rick’s original idea, and Doug is just not as skilled a writer as Rick was. As a result, this comic is more interesting for historical reasons than for its actual merits.

FLASH #180 (DC, 1968) – “The Flying Samurai,” (W) Frank Robbins, (A) Ross Andru. This issue takes place in Japan and is full of offensive Asian stereotypes. Most notably, the Japanese characters can’t distinguish between R and L. Frank Robbins at least seems to know a little bit about Japanese culture, but he falls short of showing genuine respect for it. Also, on page two of this issue, Barry refers to Iris as his “child bride.” At least this comic has some really good artwork and lettering.

SUPERBOY #75 (DC, 2000) – “My Greatest Adventure!”, (W) Karl Kesel, (A) Tom Grummett. In this issue, Kon has to decide what to do with his life after leaving Project Cadmus. He also has to come to terms with Tana Moon’s death – and that part was a shock to me, because I didn’t even know that Tana died in the previous issue. In general, this is an uncommonly sad issue of a series which usually had a bright and cheerful tone.

BLACK WIDOW #4 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Chris Samnee, (W) Mark Waid. I’ve been buying this series but not reading it. I’m not all that interested in this series’ espionage plot, but this comic is still worth paying full price for, because of Chris Samnee’s art. Chris Samnee is perhaps the best artist at Marvel right now. His art reminds me a lot of early Mazzucchelli, but also has its own unique quality. The high points of this issue include the scenes that take place in the snow, and the Steranko-esque maze page.

BLACK WIDOW #5 (Marvel, 2016) – as above. Another comic with a plot that’s not especially interesting to me, but brilliant artwork. I did enjoy the scene with the rude jerks who try to get Natasha to give up the files. The dialogue in this scene accomplishes its objective of making the reader hate these two characters.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #210 (DC, 1983) – “When a World Dies Screaming!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Rich Buckler. In this issue Buckler imitates the style of George Pérez. I remember being rather tired when I read this comic, and it’s not all that good, so I had trouble finishing it. The plot is that a certain “X-element” which “affects all other elements on earth” has started to run out, with apocalyptic consequences. The X-element is an implausible and poorly explained piece of fake science. I was unwilling to suspend disbelief enough to accept that such a thing could exist, and as a result, I couldn’t get into the story. At one point this issue, Red Tornado has a long internal monologue about how he doesn’t trust himself to behave competently. I think Red Tornado was Conway’s pet Justice Leaguer, just like Timber Wolf was his pet Legionnaire, because Reddy was a Marvelesque character. He had all kinds of character flaws and hang-ups, whereas most of the other Justice Leaguers did not have that kind of neurotic, introspective, Freudian selfhood. (I’m sure there’s a term for the kind of selfhood or interority I’m thinking of here, but I can’t remember it.)

INCREDIBLE HULK #129 (Marvel, 1970) – “Again, the Glob!”, (W) Roy Thomas, (A) Herb Trimpe. Another fun classic Hulk comic. On his own again, the Hulk encounters an amnesiac drifter who turns out to be the Leader in human form. Then he fights the Glob, who, like Mogol two issues ago, is a dark mirror of himself.

SAVAGE SHE-HULK #3 (Marvel, 1980) – “She-Hulk Murders Lady Lawyer!”, (W) David Anthony Kraft, (A) Mike Vosburg. This isn’t a great comic, but it’s not terrible either. The basic plot is that Jennifer Walters is terrified of turning into the Hulk, and she also thinks she’s unknowingly killed someone (as the title indicates), though it turns out the murders were committed by a robot. Jen’s psychology in this issue is fairly effective, though I’m glad that her character arc eventually progressed to the point where she was more comfortable as She-Hulk than as Jen. The most prominent supporting character this issue is Dan “Zapper” Ridge, who was intended as Jen’s equivalent to Rick Jones, though he did not have Rick Jones’s longevity.

SPELL ON WHEELS #4 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kate Leth, (A) Megan Levens. Looking for their stolen possessions, the witches encounter a goat man with horns, fur, etc., and Claire falls in love at first sight with him. I guess this story has some disturbing connotations of bestiality, but I think Claire and the goat man’s mutual attraction is cute. Also, it turns out the villain of the series is Claire’s abusive ex-boyfriend. After an unimpressive start, this miniseries has gotten pretty good.

THE DEMON #14 (DC, 1973) – “Witchboy,” (W/A) Jack Kirby. This is one of my least favorite of Kirby’s ‘70s titles, though even unimpressive Kirby is still Kirby. This issue begins with a spectacular image of a monster called Gargora. In the rest of the issue, Klarion screws with Jason Blood and his friends, apparently just because Klarion is evil. Besides Gargora, the highlight of this issue is that it contains a number of panels depicting Klarion’s cat.

XENOGLYPHS #1 (self-published, 2012) – “The Great Pyramid of Giza, Part 1,” (W) Omar Spahi, (A) PJ Catacutan. I was given this comic for free at Comic-Con in about 2013, and I read it because I’m trying to get through some of the oldest comics in my to-be-read boxes. To put it bluntly, this comic should not have been published. It’s a sub-professional piece of work and it contains no original ideas. There are lots of good reasons why someone would self-publish a comic, but in this case, the creators shouldn’t have bothered.

INCREDIBLE HULK #236 (Marvel, 1979) – “Kill or Be Killed!”, (W) Roger Stern, (A) Sal Buscema. I’m not very familiar with this era of the Hulk, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that Roger Stern wrote this issue. It’s not his best work, though. I can’t remember much about it besides the fact that it guest-stars Machine Man. One of the supporting characters in this issue is Fred Sloan, who I’ve only encountered in one other Hulk comic, also from this same period. Oh, right, and Trish Starr is in this comic too. Seeing this character again gave me the idea of creating a Sporcle quiz about obscure Marvel supporting characters, which I am still working on.

XENOGLYPHS #2 (self-published, 2013) – See above.

STRANGE TALES #144 (Marvel, 1966) – “The Day of the Druid!”, (W) Stan Lee, (A) Jack Kirby & Howard Purcell; and “Where Man Hath Never Trod!”, (W) Roy Thomas, (A) Steve Ditko. I bought this at Dragon*Con in about 2012, but never read it because my copy is in terrible condition. I initially thought the Nick Fury story was the Doctor Strange story because it features a (perhaps phony) magical villain, the Druid. It’s also notable as the first appearance of Jasper Sitwell. The Dr. Strange story has spectacular, mind-expanding artwork, but kind of a boring plot, as was typical of Dr. Strange stories from this era.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #5 (Marvel, 2003) – “Au Pere,” (W) Peter David, (A) ChrisCross. This issue includes a seriously disturbing page where Genis-Vell screams, and little mouths appear all over his body. Eww. Besides that, it has a theme of sons who resent their fathers, but I had trouble understanding it out of context.

XENOGLYPHS #3 (self-published, 2013) – See above.

ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #5 (Valiant, 1992) – “Trouble in Paradise,” (W/A) Barry Windsor-Smith. This issue introduces Armstrong’s wife Andromeda. This comic is fun, but the art is not BWS’s best, and Armstrong is a bit too much of a wish fulfillment character. Sure, he’s ugly and uncouth, but he’s also immortal and fabulously rich and has a literal goddess for a wife.

And finally, I am caught up on all the comics I needed to review.

The last comics I read in 2016

Last comics of 2017:

FLASH #241 (DC, 1976) – “Steal, Flash, Steal!”, (W) Cary Bates, (A) Irv Novick. A fairly generic Mirror Master story, in which Dexter Myles saves the day by dressing up as Heat Wave. This issue also includes a Green Lantern backup by O’Neil and Grell, which is also fairly generic.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #223 (Marvel, 1978) – “Call Me Animus,” (W) Steve Gerber, (A) Sal Buscema. Gerber’s Captain America run was truly bizarre and confusing. This issue begins with Cap fighting a hairy red-skinned dude with a giant head, who’s dressed in a caveman’s animal-skin costume. I assume there’s some sort of bizarre psychonalytic explanation for this character, and he would be fine in a weirder title like Howard the Duck or Man-Thing, but a character like this seems poorly suited to Captain America. Gerber was not temperamentally suited to writing high-profile superhero titles, and it shows. Another thing that’s going on in this issue is that Cap is having trouble remembering his past. This plot thread leads into the revised origin story in issue 226, which was so weird that it was retconned away less than two years later.

LUMBERJANES #33 (Boom!, 2016) – “Might as Wheel,” (W) Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, (A) Carolyn Nowak. Another fantastic issue of my favorite current comic. This issue, Diane leads the Zodiacs on a fake treasure hunt, which turns into a surprise party for Barney. The ending of this issue was a pleasant surprise, and also a nice misdirection, because for a minute I really did think Diane had her powers back. It was also nice to spend some time with the Zodiac cabin and to get to know them better. A cute subtle moment is the panel where the Scouting Lads are sitting outside their cabin having a tea party.

HULK #1 (Marvel, 2016) – “Deconstructed, Part One,” (W) Mariko Tamaki, (A) Nico Leon. Mariko Tamaki’s first two superhero comics both came out this week. This is the better of the two (the other is reviewed below) and it’s a terrific debut. I am not sure what trauma Jennifer Walters is suffering from, but this issue is a realistic and powerful portrayal of a woman dealing with PTSD. Unlike her predecessor on this title, Charles Soule, Mariko Tamaki is not a lawyer. However, her portrayal of Jen’s interaction with a client has a ring of truth to it. I love the two-page spread with all of Jen’s bizarre clients, and I especially love how one of them is just a normal-looking woman. I assume that this woman must have the strangest problem of all.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #14 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder, (A) Ray-Anthony Height. A cute and funny story (as usual) in which Lunella meets Ben Grimm and breaks up a fight between him and the Hulk. I guess every issue of this storyline is going to have a different guest star; next issue guest-stars Ironheart.

MONSTRESS #9 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Marjorie Liu, (A) Sana Takeda. As usual, this issue is fascinating, but raises more questions than it answers. Kippa’s loyalty to Maika is very touching; at the end of the issue, she nearly drowns herself in order to get on Maika’s boat.

SHUTTER #25 (Image, 2016) – “In the Beginning, the End Was Born,” (W) Joe Keatinge, (A) Leila del Duca. This is a weird issue, but they all are. Kate has a meal with a bunch of other Image characters, then she and her friends go off to confront Prospero, who has control of a jellyfish monster called The End. Which is a surprise, because I don’t remember The End being mentioned before. This series is excellent overall, but has suffered from excessively fast pacing. I wish we’d gotten more time to get to know the characters and their world, rather than moving through the plot so quickly.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS #12 (Action Lab, 2016) – “Issue Twelve,” (W) Jeremy Whitley, (A) Rosy Higgins. After a long fight scene, Raven convinces Leilani to heal Ximena. There is a lot of great dialogue in this issue, and I ended up hating Leilani for her smugness, even though she redeemed herself in the end. I notice that there hasn’t been a new issue of Princeless: Make Yourself since April; I wonder what’s been going on with that series. It was supposed to last five issues, but the last two issues haven’t been solicited yet.

WONDER WOMAN #13 (DC, 2016) – “Angel Down,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Renato Guedes. This issue is an extended action sequence in which Steve tries to save himself and an amnesiac Diana from Veronica Cale’s soldiers. It was exciting, but not the best issue of the series.

SUPERGIRL: BEING SUPER #1 (DC, 2016) – “Chapter One: Where Do I Begin?”, (W) Mariko Tamaki, (A) Joëlle Jones. The second of Mariko Tamaki’s two debut superhero comics is an exciting and original take on Supergirl. It’s not Mariko’s greatest work, and it drags at times. But it does show a sensitive understanding of teenage girlhood, as one would expect from the author of This One Summer. It also reminds me a bit of Superman: Secret Identity.

While checking to see whether issue 3 of this series had been solicited yet, I found a review which complained that this series was not “relatable” to men, because “whenever stories start to be written for them, they’re no longer written for us.” My response to that is unprintable.

A.D. AFTER DEATH BOOK ONE (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Scott Snyder, (A) Jeff Lemire. Despite the superstar creative team and the beautiful art and coloring, this comic was kind of a chore to read. It’s full of long blocks of text, and its premise is not well explained. This comic appears to be set in a postapocalyptic world where no one dies anymore, but beyond that, I’m not sure what’s going on.

ISLAND #10 (Image, 2016) – various (W/A). The first half of this issue is another chapter of Farel Dalrymple’s Pop Gun War. At MLA last weekend, I moderated a panel during which Phoebe Salzman-Cohen spoke about The Wrenchies and It Will All Hurt. She pointed out that if Farel’s work doesn’t make logical sense, this is because, to him, life doesn’t make sense either. She also said that his stories follow dream logic rather than narrative logic. She was not talking specifically about Pop Gun War, but her comments apply to that series as well. This paper helps me understand why Farel’s work is fascinating and why its lack of logical structure is a feature, not a bug. The other long story this issue is a chapter of Gael Bertrand’s “A Land Called Tarot.” This story is beautifully drawn in a style that combines BD and manga influences, but is hard to understand because of the creator’s perhaps questionable decision not to include dialogue.

MIRROR #1 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Emma Rios, (A) Hwei Lim. This came out months ago, but I never read it, perhaps because I haven’t always been impressed with Emma Rios’s comics. I didn’t quite understand the story here, but Hwei Lim’s art is beautiful, and even the lettering appeals to me for some odd reason. I need to get around to reading the rest of this series.

FAITH #2 (Valiant, 2016) – “Her Greatest Enemy,” (W) Jody Houser, (A) Pere Pérez & Marguerite Sauvage. Another comic I’ve been buying but not reading. This issue is actually excellent. The villain is a Chris Pratt/Chris Evans type who grew up reading superhero comics, but identified more with the villains than the heroes. Given that a minority of the American population just elected a supervillain President, I think this mentality is very common. I also enjoyed the scene at the end where Faith’s costume designer friend discovers her secret identity.

THE DEMON #45 (DC, 1994) – “Hell’s Hitman, Finale: King of Hate,” (W) Garth Ennis, (A) John McCrea. This has the same creative team as Hitman, a series I am not a huge fan of, and it’s full of gratuitous violence and gross-out humor. But at least there’s a more serious subplot about Jason Blood’s pregnant lover, and Garth Ennis writes Etrigan’s rhymes very well.

ISLAND #11 (Image, 2016) – The first story this issue is a truly weird, cosmic conclusion to Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward’s “Ancestor.” The beginning of this story is a fascinating portrayal of godlike beings who have no respect for individual mortals, and then the end of the story brings things back down to earth. The second long story in the issue is Grim Wilkins’s “Mirenda,” a fantasy story with a topless cavewoman protagonist. As with the Gael Bertrand story in the previous issue of Island, this story is beautifully drawn but would have been much easier to follow if it hadn’t been wordless.

GREAT LAKES AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Zac Gorman, (A) Will Robson. The highlight of this issue is Big Bertha’s comment about the Bechdel test. Otherwise, this comic was well-written, but I don’t remember much about it.

FUTURE QUEST #8 (DC, 2016) – “Aliens & Alliances,” (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Ariel Olivetti. The painted artwork in this issue is a jarring departure from the usual style of this series. But the story is quite good. It’s especially fun seeing Johnny and Hadji interact with other kid heroes. A very cute moment is when Hadji refers to Benton Quest as “our dad.”

TARZAN #162 (Gold Key, 1966) – “The Pit,” (W) Gaylord Du Bois, (A) Doug Wildey. I was pleasantly surprised to see who drew this issue. I have very few other Doug Wildey comics in my collection, and most of them are either Rio or Jonny Quest. His draftsmanship this issue is not perfect, but his visual storytelling is great. The plot is that Tarzan has to free some native miners who are trapped in a pit. It’s an exciting story, though a bit formulaic. The miners look more like Amazonian Indians than Africans. (Also, they’re depicted as helpless cowards who can’t do anything without Tarzan’s help, so this issue is a classic white savior story, but that almost goes without saying since it’s a Tarzan comic.)

JONNY QUEST #24 (Comico, 1988) – “The Prisoner of Starfgrau, Part Two,” (W) William Messner-Loebs, (A) Marc Hempel. I do not have part one of this story, so I had some difficulty figuring out what was going on. Apparently the plot is that the Quest family is visiting a small, isolated European country, and Benton Quest is mistaken for the heir to the throne, who looks exactly like him. So this story is an obvious homage to The Prisoner of Zenda (which I have not read). It’s a lot of fun, but I need to read it again after I’ve read issue 23.

And the last of the 1,243 comics I read in 2016:

PLANETARY #5 (Wildstorm, 1999) – “The Good Doctor,” (W) Warren Ellis, (A) John Cassaday. This issue focuses on Doc Brass, an obvious homage to Doc Savage. It includes several text-heavy pages that are designed to look like pages from a pulp magazine. As usual with Planetary, this issue is well-drawn but hard to follow.

Final review post of 2016

12-25-16

I got lazy and didn’t write any reviews for two weeks. This will be the last review post of the year.

SHARKNIFE/HYSTERIA FCBD 2005 (Oni, 2005) – “Sharknife,” (W/A) Corey Lewis, and “An Uzi on the Island,” (W/A) Mike Hawthorne. This FCBD comic is a very early work of Corey Lewis. I think it may be included in the Sharknife book that I already have, but I haven’t read it yet. This early work is quite well-drawn, though it tells a simplistic story about a fight between two monsters in a sushi restaurant. This flip book also includes a story by Mike Hawthorne, which I did not enjoy.

INSEXTS #5 (Aftershock, 2016) – “Cynocephali,” (W) Marguerite Bennett, (A) Ariela Kristantina. An average issue. There’s not much difference between one issue of this series and another, which may be why I stopped reading it.

New comics received on December 9:

MOTOR CRUSH #1 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart, (A) Babs Tarr. This was one of my most eagerly anticipated debut issues of the year, and it did not disappoint. Domino Swift is an excellent protagonist. The motorcycle action sequences are excellent, but this comic also has an interesting plot, and the shock ending was truly unexpected. This comic is very similar to the Batgirl run by the same creative team, but different enough that it should hopefully be able to attract both existing Batgirl readers and new fans.

GOLDIE VANCE #8 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) Hope Larson, (A) Brittney Williams. This wasn’t my favorite issue, but it was an effective conclusion to the scuba diving story. Overall, Goldie Vance was the best new series of the year. My Eisner ballot for Best New Series would be Goldie Vance, Black Panther, Slam!, Motor Crush, Animosity, and Future Quest.

SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME #7 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Natalie Riess. Neptunia saves Peony from the cannibal cooking show, but then he stupidly gets himself disqualified from SBL, so next issue Peony will have to battle the watermelon-headed dude for the championship. Peony was a bit too much of a helpless hostage this issue, though at least she got to deliver the final blow to Princess Magicorn. I look forward to the last issue, and I’m excited to see what this cartoonist does next, whether it’s Space Battle Lunchtime II or something else.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #24 (Image, 2016) – “Once Again / We Return / Tempting Fate,” (W) Kieron Gillen, (A) Jamie McKelvie. Part one of the “Imperial Phase” story arc is full of sexual and political drama, as Woden tries to blackmail the other gods with a video of Ananke’s murder. The characterization in this issue, as in the series in general, is brilliant. I find it especially interesting how Persephone is gradually losing the reader’s sympathy.

GIANT DAYS #21 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) John Allison, (A) Max Sarin. Esther, Daisy and Susan’s house is burglarized, and they investigate who did it. I’ve heard that police departments hate it when laypeople try to solve crimes on their own, but it’s funny when the Giant Days characters do it.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE TEMPLE OF OD #5 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, (W) Brian Clevinger, (A) Scott Wegener. I disliked this miniseries at first, but each issue has been better than the last. As usual, the science in this comic makes no sense, which is kind of the entire point, and the action is thrilling. Unsurprisingly, at the end of the miniseries, Robo does not get the girl. The letters page of this issue has an interesting description of how Brian Clevinger writes this series.

ANIMOSITY #1 (Aftershock, 2016) – “The Wake,” (W) Marguerite Bennett, (A) Rafael De Latorre. My copy is a reprint, and I’m glad this comic was reprinted because I didn’t know about it until I saw scans from it on social media. I’ve already seen some of the best pages from this issue, but it’s fun seeing them in context. And of course the idea behind this series is fascinating. A possible weakness of this series is that all the animals have human-like personalities regardless of their species, though this was probably a deliberate choice.

REVIVAL #45 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Tim Seeley, (A) Mike Norton. This series has moved quite far away from the things that initially attracted me to it – the rural Wisconsin milieu has become an incidental part of the series, where it used to be the primary appeal. But this is still a fun comic. The best part of this issue is the line “our kids think we’re superheroes.”

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #271 (DC, 1981) – “What is the Dark Man?”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Jimmy Janes. I think this was the last issue of LSH v2 that I hadn’t read, and there is a reason for that: Gerry Conway was the worst Legion writer ever. This issue shows all of his characteristic faults. It has a stupid and forgettable plot. The answer to the question in the title is that the Dark Man is Tharok’s clone, which is neither surprising nor exciting. It focuses too much on Timber Wolf at the expense of all the other characters. This is an example of Gerry’s tendency to overemphasize the most Marvel-esque Legionnaires – that is to say, the Legionnaires with obvious flaws and histrionic personalities, like Timber Wolf and Wildfire – and to ignore the characters with more subtle and nuanced personalities. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning had the same problem, but at least their stories were much better.

FLASH GORDON: KING’S CROSS #2 (Dynamite, 2016) – untitled, (W) Jeff Parker, (W/A) Jesse Hamm. An exciting story by the most underrated writer in the industry. I’m not familiar with any of the continuity that led up to this series, but this comic is not confusing at all; rather, it makes me want to go back and read Dynamite’s other King Features comics. While Jesse Hamm is no substitute for Doc Shaner, his art is quite effective.

BOUNTY #5 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kurtis Wiebe, (A) Mindy Lee. I can’t summarize what happened in this issue, but it was a fun conclusion to the series. However, this comic didn’t excite me nearly as much as Rat Queens did. I’m not sorry if this is the last issue (no further issues have been solicited yet), because I’d rather have Kurtis spend his time writing more Rat Queens and Pisces. The best thing in this issue is the scene where the protagonists are robbing a museum exhibit of old video game systems.

BUCKY O’HARE #3 (Continuity, 1991) – untitled, (W) Larry Hama, (A) Michael Golden. Perhaps the only good comic from this publisher. Larry Hama’s writing is entertaining, though not especially deep, and Michael Golden’s artwork is brilliant. The number of panels on each page of this issue is very low – most pages have three panels at the most – and I wonder if this was either because of an experimental printing technique, or because Golden was trying to draw like a manga artist.

CEREBUS #122 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 9,” (W/A) Dave Sim. The individual chapters of “Jaka’s Story” are really not readable out of context. I have no idea what’s supposed to be going on here or why I should care. My general impression is that “Jaka’s Story” is a story in which nothing happens at all, and surely that can’t be true. I look forward to reading it in collected form, but I have to read three other Cerebus phone books first. I do like all the ancillary material in these issues, and Dave and Gerhard’s art is excellent, especially compared to Dave’s early work.

FANTASTIC FOUR #94 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Return of the Frightful Four!”, (W) Stan Lee, (A) Jack Kirby. This issue includes two significant milestones: the Richards baby is officially named Franklin Benjamin, and Agatha Harkness and her cat Ebony appear for the first time. Ben Grimm’s amazed reaction at hearing Franklin’s middle name is an adorable moment. Agatha’s introduction is also an exciting scene. She defeats the Frightful Four more or less singlehandedly, and Ben is terrified of her. Unfortunately, my copy of this issue is in barely readable condition and I wish I could replace it.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #557 (Disney, 1991) – “Avalanche Valley,” (W/A) Carl Barks, plus other stories. This issue begins with a Barks ten-pager from 1951. Having just made a lot of money by selling a song he wrote, Donald takes the nephews to a mountain resort. He insists on playing his own song constantly, even though it appears to be causing avalanches. It turns out the song is causing the avalanches, but not in the way the reader initially thinks, and the explanation of the avalanches is somewhat surprising. However, at the end of the story, Donald is stuck under a pile of snow for the entire winter, which makes me wonder how the nephews are supposed to provide for themselves until he escapes. The other stories in this issue are all quite bad.

DEFENDERS #94 (Marvel, 1981) – “Beware – the Six-Fingered Hand!”, (W) J.M. DeMatteis, (A) Don Perlin. I only have a few issues of Defenders from after Gerber left. My impression is that the last 110 issues of this series were pretty undistinguished, and this issue does not change my mind, although it does have some characters I like, including Son of Satan, Hellcat and Valkyrie. It’s also the first appearance of Gargoyle. But the best thing about this issue is the Michael Golden cover.

FLASH GORDON #5 (Dynamite, 2014) – “No One Shall Pass,” (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Sandy Jarrell, Richard Case and Evan Shaner. Flash, Dale and Zarko are eaten by a giant piece of space biomass, then after they escape, they visit Sky World where Flash and Zarko fall victim to flying sirens. Doc Shaner only drew the second half of this issue. His art is brilliant, especially the establishing shot of Sky World, but the other artist is much worse.

MICKEY MOUSE #253 (Gladstone, 1989) – “Bellhop Detective, Chapter III,” (W/A) Floyd Gottfredson, (W) Merrill de Maris. This story is reprinted from a 1953 newspaper sequence. I’ve never fallen in love with Gottfredson the way I’m in love with Barks, but this comic is an exciting and well-drawn piece of work, with a classic cozy-mystery plot that ends with a parlor scene. Mickey’s bellhop uniform in this story is very similar to Spirou’s costume. I guess both these costumes were based on actual bellhop uniforms of the time.

DOOM PATROL #2 (DC/Young Animal, 2016) – “Negative World: Brick by Brick 2,” (W) Gerard Way, (A) Nick Derington. This series’ first issue made no sense to me at all, hence why I didn’t read the second issue immediately, but the second issue is easier to understand. Casey encounters Robotman and the Men from NOWHERE, and then at the end of the issue she meets Flex Mentallo and Danny the Street. In case I forget this when I write my review of issue 3, I should mention how in this issue, as in Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, Robotman plays the role of the straight man. He tries to understand the illogical events around him from a human perspective. The fact that Robotman plays his role is ironic because his defining character trait is that he’s stuck in a nonhuman body, and yet he’s the only member of the team who thinks like a normal human being.

New comics received on December 16. That week I was in the middle of my end-of-semester crunch and I had a Giant Stack of Grading to get through. So I couldn’t read very many comics at first, though I made up for it later in the week.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #15 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Mighty Mewnir,” (W) Ryan North, (A) Erica Henderson w/ Zac Gorman. As a cat owner, I was obviously very excited that the star of this issue would be Mew, and I was also curious how Ryan and Erica would pull it off. The answer is that they executed it with their usual brilliance. The story of Squirrel Girl’s encounter with Mew is told entirely from Mew’s perspective, so we only get to witness the events for which Mew is present, and most of the panels show us only Mew herself or things Mew can see. I like this idea of showing the events from a cat’s literal point of view, which is very low to the ground. It reminds me of how Temple Grandin diagnoses problems with livestock behavior by physically positioning herself so she can see what the animals are seeing. There’s also a cool visual device where many of the word balloons are cut off by the edge of the panel, indicating things that Mew either can’t hear or doesn’t care about. The plot is also very clever. Mew indirectly defeats Taskmaster, in a way simple but logical way. And the dream sequences are cute. This issue is obviously reminiscent of the Pizza Dog issue of Hawkeye, and while it’s not as artistically ambitious as that issue was, it does offer an original, creative approach to the problem of telling a story with an animal protagonist.

WONDER WOMAN #12 (DC, 2016) – “Year One, Part Five,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Nicola Scott. I think I missed at least one page while I was reading this issue, because when I looked at it again just now, I didn’t remember the “it is very sugar” line. Perhaps I missed this page because I was somehow distracted by the giant eight-page foldout in the middle of the comic. I wish DC would stop including such things in their comic books. Anyway, this issue reveals that just like in other Wonder Woman origin retellings, Diana was summoned to Patriarch’s World to battle Ares. Besides that, there’s a cool training montage in which Diana talks to a falcon and sticks her tongue out at a lizard. And then she drops the bombshell that she had a female lover named Kasia. The idea that Themyscira is a lesbian society is no longer truly controversial. But I believe this is the first official confirmation that Wonder Woman has had a same-sex relationship. And I think this moment is something of a milestone, given Wonder Woman’s importance as a character. (I guess Rucka already revealed that Diana was gay back in September, but this is the first story that explicitly describes her as such.)

MEGA PRINCESS #2 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Brianne Drouhard. This is a cute and fun comic. One measure of how fun this comic is, is the sequence with the river crossing puzzle. This puzzle is a tired old cliché and I would normally be annoyed to see yet another instance of it. But Kelly’s version of this story is so cute and entertaining that I was interested in it anyway. (And also, this comic is intended for an audience that doesn’t know this puzzle already.) My problem with this comic is that it’s trying to do too much. There are too many different things happening in it at once, and it’s not clear what the central theme is.

SUN BAKERY #4 (Press Gang, 2016) – “Layered Jacket #2: On the Edge of Dream” and other stories, (W/A) Corey Lewis. More exciting, fun comics in a graffiti-esque style. I think the highlight of the issue is LJ pulling Carl Sagan out of his jacket. I still think Corey Lewis’s style is very similar to Brandon Graham’s. And Rey himself admits, somewhere in one of these issues, that he’s not the best writer. But he’s very talented and I want to see what he does next.

HAWKEYE #1 (Marvel, 2016) – “Prime Suspects,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Leonardo Romero. Yet another really impressive debut issue. The villain is an Internet troll, so that alone makes this the best comic ever. As an aside, I really think that Internet harassment is a crime, and that it needs to be policed much more aggressively. When the victim in this issue says that “even the nice [cops] didn’t know what to do,” that rings very true. At least in this issue, the troll is caught and punished, which almost never happens in real life. Besides that, this comic is truly well-written and well-drawn. Leonardo Romero’s art is both excellent, and very reminiscent of David Aja’s art, which creates the sense that this series is a follow-up to Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye.

NO MERCY #12 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Alex de Campi, (A) Carla Speed McNeil. Most of this issue focuses on Deshawn and Tiffani, who are being held captive by Central American guerrillas. The scene where Tiffani reveals that she can speak Korean is really cool; it suggests that the kids have some agency, despite the awful situation they’re in. But that agency only goes so far, because the rebels don’t keep their promise to free Tiffani and Deshawn if she gets them a better deal.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #35 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, (W) Rob Anderson, (A) Jay Fosgitt. The stars this issue are Twilight Sparkle and Starlight Glimmer, who I think is worst pony. Jay Fosgitt’s art is up to its usual quality, but the story is kind of boring.

BLACKEST NIGHT: WONDER WOMAN #3 (DC, 2010) – “Wonder Woman: Blackest Night,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Nicola Scott. This issue has the same creative team as the even-numbered issues of the current Wonder Woman series, but is nowhere near as good. It’s so heavily tied in to the Blackest Night crossover that it’s not worth reading on its own. Diana becomes a Star Sapphire, then fights a Red Lantern version of Mera, and there’s no reason why the reader should care.

CEREBUS #126 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 13,” (W/A) Dave Sim. One reason why I’m reading all these Cerebus issues is just to get them out of my unread boxes. It’s almost worth reading them just so I don’t have to read them anymore. The main story in this issue is as incomprehensible as usual. At least it includes a preview of “The One” by Rick Veitch, with an introductory essay by Alan Moore, though neither of those makes much sense either.

DESCENDER #17 (Image, 2016) – “Orbital Mechanics 1 of 5,” (W) Jeff Lemire, (A) Dustin Nguyen. Finally we’re done with the origin stories and we can move on with the main plot. This issue, Andy has make-up sex with Queen Between, Telsa and Quon try to escape, and Tim-22 pursues the good Tim and seemingly kills him. This is a fun issue, and a good start to the new storyline.

DOOM PATROL #3 (DC/Young Animal, 2016) – “It’s a Doomed World After All: Brick by Brick Part 3,” (W) Gerard Way, (A) Nick Derington. This comic has perhaps my favorite cover of the year – it’s the one where Casey is reading an issue of Danny Comics and Fugg is peering out of it. The inside of the comic is almost as good. We finally learn what’s been going on so far: Casey is a fictional character created by Danny the Street, who thinks she’s real. Kind of a cool idea. I already said once that I like Nick Derington’s art, and I repeat it now.

CEREBUS #123 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 10,” (W/A) Dave Sim w/ Gerhard. I read this comic out of order, but it’s hard to tell. I assume that once I read this story all the way through, I’ll understand why some lines of dialogue keep repeating – for example, Pud telling Jaka that his wife died, or the conversation that starts with Pud asking Jaka if she’s happy here. But when I read the comic out of order, these repetitions just create a sense of déjà vu.

THE FLINTSTONES #6 (DC, 2016) – “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” (W) Mark Russell, (A) Steve Pugh. This series has settled into a familiar pattern where each issue is a parody of some aspect of modern society. This issue is about apocalypse predictions. Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm work as interns for a scientist, who predicts that a comet is going to strike the planet. Everyone believes him, and as a result society completely collapses, until it turns out that he was wrong. Of course the issue is full of various other puns and sight gags.

SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL #3 (DC/Young Animal, 2016) – “As Bad as Mad,” (W) Cecil Castellucci, (A) Marley Zarcone. This was my favorite Young Animal title at first, but I had trouble understanding this issue. I don’t quite get who Shade is or what she’s doing. Also, I don’t understand where or what Meta is, although that may be deliberate.

12-28-16

Resuming these reviews after a couple days off.

DOOM PATROL #48 (DC, 1991) – “Entertaining Mr. Evans,” (W) Grant Morrison, (A) Richard Case. I enjoyed this, but I can’t remember much about it now. It involves a bizarre villain called Shadowy Mr. Evans who is causing the people of a place called Happy Harbor to engage in bizarre sexual behavior. I do remember thinking while I read this issue that, although Richard Case was not a brilliant artist, he was somehow perfectly suited to Grant’s Doom Patrol.

ROCCO VARGAS VOL. 2 (Catalan, 1990) – “The Whisperer Mystery,” (W/A) Daniel Torres. This is a translation of a Spanish album. It presupposes knowledge of the previous volume of the series, and does not include a plot summary. As far as I can tell, Rocco Vargas is an action hero/bar owner who lives in a world inspired by Golden Age science fiction and ‘50s futurist design. The artist, Daniel Torres, is part of the same Clear Line revivalist tradition as Yves Chaland and Joost Swarte. While the plot of this comic is somewhat hard to follow, the artwork is amazing and the writing is sophisticated, witty and exciting. After finishing this comic, I wanted to buy the 1998 Dark Horse hardcover volume that included this volume as well as three others – but that volume was over $100 on Amazon! Though now that I look again, the price has gone down quite a bit, so maybe I will be able to afford it.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #44 (DC, 1993) – “Projectra Returns, (W) Tom Bierbaum & Mary Bierbaum, (A) Stuart Immonen. I had a dream about the Legion of Super-Heroes the other night, and it made me want to read some Legion comics. As I have said before, I really miss the Legion of Super-Heroes. I lived with this comic for more than half my life, and it had a massive influence on me. I love My Little Pony for many of the same reasons I love the Legion, but it’s not quite the same.

Anyway, I used to hate the V4 Legion because of its dark and grim tone, but it’s a lot better than no Legion at all, and the creators were deeply committed to the franchise. The Bierbaums were fans first and creators second, and their work reflects their deep understanding of the franchise. This issue does have some rather dark moments. First, Mordru beats up his wife Mysa Nal, and then Projectra is traumatized by seeing her husband Karate Kid’s corpse rise from its grave. But this issue also has some warmer and friendlier moments. Notably, when Jeckie shows up at Legion headquarters, Ayla Ranzz gives her a hug. This moment stands out to me because Jeckie and Ayla were never depicted as close friends – I can’t remember any other time that they interacted at all. And yet it makes sense that Ayla would hug Jeckie, both because it matches Ayla’s personality, and because all Legionnaires are each other’s friends.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #46 (DC, 1993) – untitled, same creators as above. Like issue 44, this issue belongs to a story arc in which Mordru resurrects the corpses of dead Legionnaires. I neglected to mention that issue 44 introduced perhaps the four least significant Legionnaires ever, the Khunds Firefist, Veilmist, Blood Claw and Flederweb. In this issue, Blood Claw is killed by one of Mordru’s zombies, and no one particularly cares. The reader is far more affected by the multiple scenes in which Legionnaires are forced to confront their dead loved ones. Watching Rokk Krinn battle his dead brother’s corpse is just awful. In fact, it’s so awful that it feels emotionally manipulative.

FANTASTIC FOUR #167 (Marvel, 1976) – “Titans Two!”, (W) Roy Thomas, (A) George Pérez. George is listed as a “guest artist” in the credits box, but he became the permanent artist with #170. The best thing about this issue is Ben Grimm’s unintentionally funny statement that he and the Hulk are “an item.” One assumes that Roy Thomas did not know what “an item” meant. Otherwise, this issue is an unexciting Hulk/Thing story, though the art is very good.

FLASH #105 (DC, 1995) – “Through a Glass Darkly,” (W) Mark Waid & Michael Jan Friedman, (A) Ron Lim. This starts out funny, but takes an unexpectedly dark turn. Wally is trapped in the Mirror Master’s mirror dimension, and to free himself, he has to help the Mirror Master locate a certain woman. It turns out the woman, Emelia, is the Mirror Master’s former girlfriend, who left him because he abused her and threatened her life. To prevent him from finding her again, she had to hide in a house with no reflective surfaces at all. And even then he still finds her. Wally saves Emelia in the end, but this issue is a very dark and disturbing portrayal of a woman who can’t escape from her abuser. And I’m not sure if that was what Mark intended.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #50 (DC, 1993) – “A Transcendence,” (W) Tom Bierbaum & Mary Bierbaum, (A) Darryl Banks; and “A Battle with BION,” (W) Tom McCraw, (A) Stuart Immonen. The first half of this double-sized issue is the Bierbaums’ last story for this title. On his deathbed after he expended all his power to defeat Mordru, Jan Arrah has visions of what all his fellow Legionnaires are doing. This sequence is the Bierbaums’ affectionate farewell to the Legion; it serves as an excuse for them to check in on all their characters for one last time. It’s full of cute moments, like Imra realizing that her newborn twins are telepathic, and Tenzil marrying Saturn Queen. The second half of the issue is by the new creative team of McCraw and Immonen. As the title indicates, the entire story is taken up by a big fight between the Legion and BION, and it’s not as good as the first half of the issue. Tom McCraw was probably the worst Legion writer of the ‘90s.

STINZ: FAMILY VALUES #1 (Mu Press, 1994) – “Baby Games” and “Hit or Miss,” (W/A) Donna Barr. I’m friends with Donna Barr on Facebook, but this is the first of her comics I’ve read. It takes place in a country resembling Germany, where all the characters are centaurs. The protagonist, Stinz, is a former military commander who is now a family man. In the first story, Stinz’s son has to deal with the news that he’s unexpectedly becoming a big brother. In the second story, Stinz’s estranged older daughter returns home and discovers that her father is less abusive now than during her childhood. Overall, this is a warm and cheerful comic, but it also has a darker element; you get the sense that even if Stinz is older and more mature now, his past behavior has left an unremovable stain on his family.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #607 (Archie, 1990) – “Target for Tonight” and other stories, (W/A) Bob Bolling. The longest story in this issue is one in which Archie prevents Mad Dr. Doom and Chester from robbing a bank on Christmas Eve. This is a fun story that includes two of Bob Bolling’s trademarks: first, Mad Dr. Doom, Chester, and the Time Taxi; and second, stupid but clever puns. On the first page, Archie says “Mom told me the real Santa is stuck in a chimney somewhere in the Fiji Islands,” and Archie’s father replies, “Bet that doesn’t soot him at all!”

GWENPOOL HOLIDAY SPECIAL: MERRY MIX-UP #1 (Marvel, 2016) – “I Saw Mommy Kissing Galactus, Bringer of Gifts,” (W) Ryan North, (A) Nathan Stockman; and other stories. The premise of this issue is that Gwenpool’s world has different holiday traditions from ours; in particular, Galactus gives gifts instead of Santa. The Ryan North story in which Miles Morales meets Galactus is almost worth the price of the issue by itself. Unfortunately, the rest of the material in this issue is not as good. The Christmas Carol parody starring the Red Skull, written by Nick Kocher, is in very poor taste and probably shouldn’t have been published. In this day and age, we shouldn’t be treating Nazis as material for comedy.

WONDER WOMAN #36 (DC, 2009) – “Warkiller, Part 1 of 4: Heart of Fire,” (W) Gail Simone, (A) Aaron Lopresti. Diana has a funny encounter with Titania, which ends with them complaining about men rather than fighting. Hilariously, it turns out Titania was stood up for a date by the Atom. But during their conversation, Diana reveals that she wanted to marry Tom Tresser and have a child with him, and he refused because he’s afraid of commitment or whatever. That’s too bad, because Diana’s romance with Tom is just about the only interesting heterosexual relationship she’s ever had (I don’t think Diana and Superman are an exciting couple).

MADMAN ADVENTURES #2 (Tundra, 1993) – (W/A) Mike Allred. This is the earliest Madman comic I’ve read. In this story, Madman gets stuck in the Mesozoic Era, where a crazy old scientist, also a stranded time traveler, tries to seduce and/or kill him. This comic is reasonably fun, but it hardly looks like Mike Allred artwork at all – it looks more like the artwork of Mark Schultz, who did the inking.

FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #12 (DC, 1976) – “Starman,” (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Mike Vosburg. This was the only appearance of Mikaal Tomas until James Robinson brought him back in the ‘90s. If not for Robinson, this character would have been justifiably forgotten, because his origin story is boring and also suspiciously similar to Captain Mar-Vell’s origin. In the context of Mikaal Tomas’s later history, this comic becomes a bit more interesting. On the text page, Gerry Conway suggests that Mikaal Tomas might belong to the same species as Shadow Lass, and Robinson later established that this is indeed the case.

NEW MUTANTS #56 (Marvel, 1987) – “Scavenger Hunt!”, (W) Louise Simonson, (A) June Brigman. This issue has the same creative team as Power Pack. Weezie is very good at writing kids who act like kids, meaning that they’re often bratty, bad-tempered, and combative. This issue, the New Mutants and the Hellions compete with each other to find a new mutant, Bird-Boy, and the encounter brings out the worst tendencies of both groups. The focal character this issue is Magma, who is probably the worst New Mutant, and has been pretty much forgotten. But at least Weezie comes up with a good explanation for why Magma doesn’t fit in this series. As a lifelong aristocrat, she doesn’t feel at home with the New Mutants and would be better off as a Hellion, and indeed, at the end of this issue she does join the Hellions. Now that I think of it, June comes up with a nice visual shorthand for depicting the difference between the teams. At the beginning of the issue we see the New Mutants having breakfast, and they’re eating donuts and cereal and toast, and sitting with their feet up on the table. Then we see the Hellions having breakfast, and they’re sitting up straight and eating off fine china.

RAGMAN #2 (DC, 1976) – “75-25 or Die,” (W) Robert Kanigher, (A) “Redondo Studio” (with layouts by Joe Kubert). This must have been a personal project for Robert Kanigher. It draws heavily on his Jewish background, and it has a certain affectionate quality to it, whereas many of his other comics were just written for a paycheck. And Ragman is an awesome character. It’s too bad that the execution of this issue is somewhat lacking. Rory Regan saves a woman named Opal from criminals, then falls in love with her, to the point where he breaks up with the girlfriend he already has. However, Kanigher completely failed to convince me that Rory and Opal are attracted to each other, and that affected my enjoyment of the rest of the issue.

TARZAN #245 (DC, 1976) – “The Jungle Murders,” (W) Joe Kubert, (A) Redondo Studio. I read this because it has the same style of artwork as the previous comic I read. As with Ragman #2, the layouts are by Joe Kubert but the artwork is only credited to the “Redondo Studio.” I actually kind of like this collaboration because it combines Kubert’s brilliant storytelling with draftsmanship that’s more detailed and less sketchy than Kubert’s. The ultimate example of this sort of art was Rima the Jungle Girl, where Nestor Redondo drew over Kubert layouts. Anyway, this issue has nice art, but the story is a bunch of typical ERB cliches.

CRIME SUSPENSTORIES #13 (Russ Cochran, 1995, originally 1952) – four stories, (W) Al Feldstein, (A) various. The first story this issue, “Hear No Evil” by Jack Kamen, is about a woman who marries a rich deaf man, then plots to kill him and run off with another man. The twist ending is that the husband has regained his hearing, so he was able to eavesdrop on the plot, and the person whose death is shown at the beginning of the story is the lover, not the husband. I thought that the deaf man’s recovery of his hearing was unrealistic, and a better ending would be if the deaf man knew how to read lips, despite his previous statement that he couldn’t. The second story, drawn by Sid Check, is actually two stories about the same characters. In the first story, “First Impulse!”, a woman murders her fiancé because she thinks he’s cheating on her with her sister, but then discovers he’s faithful to her. In the other story, “Second Chance,” the woman instead decides not to murder him, but discovers that he really is cheating on her. Weird Fantasy #15, published the same year, also included two related stories with different endings, “The Quick Trip” and “The Long Trip.” The third story, “A Question of Time,” is drawn by Al Williamson, but it feels like he spent too much time on the beautiful opening panel and had to draw the rest of the story much more quickly. The last story, “Forty Whacks” by Kamen, is a retelling of the story of Lizzie Borden.

New comics received on Friday, December 23:

USAGI YOJIMBO #160 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “Death by Fugu,” (W/A) Stan Sakai. I’m a little surprised that this issue doesn’t resolve any of the dangling threads from last issue. Instead, it’s a mystery in which a chef is accused of killing someone with fugu. This issue inevitably reminds me of the “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish” episode of The Simpsons. But unlike the writers of that episode, Stan Sakai has clearly done his research on fugu, and he avoids reproducing the myth that eating fugu is a death sentence. Indeed, the whole point of the story is that fugu is only dangerous if prepared incorrectly (though I guess that was also part of the plot of the Simpsons episode). The end of this issue is very depressing and surprising, and I’m kind of surprised that the issue just ends there.

SLAM! #2 (Boom!, 2016) – “Pushy Riots vs. Meteorfights,” (W) Pamela Ribon, (A) Veronica Fish. Slam! #1 was an excellent debut issue, and this issue is perhaps even better. The two protagonists, Knocko ut and Ithinka Can, are now part of rival teams. But Knockout’s team, the Pushy Riots are serious and hypercompetitive, while Ithinka Can’s team, the Meteorfights, are fun and friendly. Therefore, Knockout is having a much harder time, especially since the star of her team hates her for no apparent reason. This issue is very enjoyable to read; I can’t help but love the characters, and I sympathize with their problems.

SILVER SURFER #8 (Marvel, 2016) – “Tall Tales,” (W) Dan Slott, (A) Mike Allred. This story is all about size and scale. Surfer and Dawn are swallowed by Jumbonox the Ginormous, and they escape by telling a story about the Surfer’s tiny herald (or Harold), Tindly Hardlesnop. The obvious moral of the story is that no matter how big or small you are, there’s always someone bigger or smaller. I like this idea, but I wish Jumbonox had been even bigger; even on the opening two-page splash, he doesn’t look big enough.

PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT #13 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kate Leth, (A) Brittney L. Williams. This issue is funny and cute as usual, but this Black Cat storyline has been the low point of the series so far. There are too many characters and I can’t tell them all apart.

ANIMOSITY #4 (Aftershock, 2016) – “Traps,” (W) Marguerite Bennett, (A) Rafael De Latorre. In a flashback, we learn that Jesse has an older half-brother we haven’t met. Then in the present timeframe, there’s a lot of violent death and murder. This was the least interesting issue yet; it felt like an issue of The Walking Dead where all the characters happened to be animals.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #49 (IDW, 2016) – “Accord, Part the Second: In All Chaos There is a Cosmos, in All Disorder a Secret Order,” (W) Rob Anderson, (A) Andy Price. Again, Andy Price’s brilliant artwork redeems what could have been a boring story. The best part is the sequence in Accord’s mind. Appropriately, Andy depicts Accord’s mind as a gray, rectilinear place full of bureaucrats in cubicles.

ETHER #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W) Matt Kindt, (A) David Rubin. This was fun, but not quite as good as last issue. I think the best part was the octopus taxi. This series runs the risk of becoming just a conventional murder mystery which happens to take place in a fantasy world (see my comments on Animosity #4 above), and I hope Matt and David can avoid that danger.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT #6 (Russ Cochran, 1993, originally 1950) – four stories, (W) Al Feldstein, (A) various. I wonder if EC’s twist endings were a bit overrated. In the EC comics I’ve read lately, there haven’t been any endings that really surprised me. This issue begins with “The Thing from the Grave,” drawn by Feldstein. This is a generic zombie story, although it does remind me a bit of the original Swamp Thing story, in that it features a character who comes back from the grave to avenge his murdered wife. “Blood Type V,” drawn by Ingels, is a fairly generic vampire story. “Death’s Turn,” with art by Jack Kamen, is probably the best story in the issue. The owners of a struggling amusement park hire a man to design them a new roller coaster, then murder him once it’s finished. But the first time they ride it, they break their necks, because it turns out that the roller coaster goes so fast that no one can ride it and live. I don’t know if that’s plausible, but it’s funny. Finally, in “The Curse of the Arnold Clan,” with art by Johnny Craig, a man’s family is cursed so that every fifty years, the oldest member of the family will be buried alive. The protagonist is the oldest member of the family, and he knows about the curse. Yet he goes digging in a graveyard on the night the curse is scheduled to take effect, with predictable results. Really, he deserved to get buried alive.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST: SWEET CHRISTMAS ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2016) – “Sweet Christmas,” (W) David Walker, (A) Scott Hepburn. Besides Slam! #1, this was the most entertaining comic of the week. Luke, Danny and Danielle visit a toy store at midnight to get the latest hot toy, and then Jessica Drew shows up and asks for parenting advice. And then it turns out that the hot toy of the season is a trick created by Krampus to steal children’s souls. Mayhem ensues, until Santa Claus shows up to save the day. This comic is exciting and also a deeply affectionate meditation on parenting. Luke and Jessica behave like real parents, and Danielle behaves like a real child. Even the story that Jessica tells Luke is an example of that. It’s probably the most disgusting thing in the entire history of Marvel comics, yet it’s the sort of thing that probably does happen to actual parents. You get the feeling that David is drawing on his own parenting experience. I do think that Danielle’s age in this issue is inconsistent with her previous appearances in this series, but oh well. I am glad that David got to use Danielle again; for a while Jessica Jones and Danielle were appearing in every issue of Power Man and Iron Fist, and then they mysteriously vanished with no explanation, because Bendis wanted to use them instead.

CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #3 (DC/Young Animal, 2016) – “Deep Issues,” (W) Gerard Way & Jon Rivera, (A) Michael Avon Oeming. Cave, Chloe and Wild Dog encounter a giant carnivorous plant and a giant worm. Then Chloe learns that her mother was a subterranean princess, and then it turns out that all the people from Muldroog are dead. The best thing in this issue is Chloe’s reaction to learning the truth about her mother. First she’s horrified and furious, then after she has time to think about it, she calms down and reconciles with her dad. Chloe’s behavior is unusually realistic. In most comic books, when a person learns a big secret, they react in a much more histrionic and angry way.

JEM: THE MISFITS #1 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Jenn St.-Onge. This is better than the current storyline in the primary Jem title. We begin with a scene where Eric tells Pizzazz that the only way she can save her career is by having the Misfits appear on a reality show. While we wait to see how the rest of the band reacts to this ridiculous idea, we flash back to Pizzazz/Phyllis’s childhood. The flashback effectively explains how she got to be the way she is: she grew up in an overprivileged environment, but with awful, neglectful parents. She decides to start a band, and she recruits all the other Misfits not through her money and privilege, but through force of personality. This scene emphasizes why Pizzazz is perhaps the best antagonist in comics at the moment. She’s mean and self-destructive and has a lot of other negative traits, yet she also has such spirit and willpower that the reader has to admire her. The brief origin stories of the other Misfits are also quite revealing. And I love the sequence where Pizzazz says “let me tell you what the new plan is” and then the next page is a splash page of all the other Misfits shouting NO!, and then the page after that is the Misfits appearing on TV to announce their new reality show.

BOOM BOX MIX TAPE 2016 (Boom!, 2016) – various (W/A). This anthology includes various stories featuring existing Boom! Box characters, most of them involving music – though oddly, my favorite may have been the Slam! story, which doesn’t mention music at all.

SPIDER-WOMAN #1 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, (W) Dennis Hopeless, (A) Javier Rodriguez. I didn’t buy this when it came out, because Dennis Hopeless wrote Avengers Arena and therefore I had a very negative impression of him. But I later acquired this issue for less than cover price, and it turns out to be excellent. It’s a realistic, well-written and well-drawn story about a superheroine trying to balance her career with pregnancy. The scene at the party, where Jessica electrocutes Tony Stark for asking who the father is, is excellent. And there’s some really fun visual gags at the end when Jessica visits the alien maternity hospital.

CASANOVA: ACEDIA #6 (Image, 2016) – “In This Garden,” (W) Matt Fraction, (A) Fábio Moon, plus backup story. I didn’t read this comic sooner because I’m hopelessly confused by this series. Fábio Moon’s art is brilliant, but the story makes no sense. There are lots of things going on at once and none of them make any sense. I don’t think I’ll be able to understand this comic unless I read it all at once after it’s finished, and maybe not even then.

BACKSTAGERS #5 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) James Tynion IV, (A) Rian Sygh. This issue includes one utterly brilliant moment. Let me quote my explanation of it on Facebook: “ My thought process as I read Backstagers #5: Huh, these characters look like alternate reality versions of the Backstagers. Oh, they’re from Beckett’s old school. But some of them are boys, so Beckett must have transferred from a co-ed school. No, wait, they all have female names. But that means Beckett… oh my god.” And then Beckett and his former classmates have a conversation which is ostensibly about transferring schools, but is actually about transitioning. I guess James Tynion already said in interviews that Beckett was transgender, but I must have missed that, because this moment came as a pleasant shock to me. I think comics like Backstagers and Lumberjanes and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl are playing an important role in normalizing transgender identity. These comics have even made me subtly shift my own views on this topic.

Sadly, Ray Goldfield tells me that Backstagers has not been selling as well as the Boom! Box titles with female protagonists, and that it’s going to end with issue 8, rather than being renewed like Goldie Vance was. That’s a shame.

SPELL ON WHEELS #3 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kate Leth, (A) Megan Levens. The best issue of a miniseries which has been unimpressive so far. On the trail of their stolen items, the protagonists encounter a woman who’s being tormented by her husband’s ghost, because she started a relationship with another woman after he died. The touching part about the story is how the widow convinces her husband – who would obviously have voted for Trump if alive – to overcome his religiously motivated bigotry. This issue was the first time I really cared about this comic.

HAUNT OF FEAR #3 (Russ Cochran, 1993; originally Haunt of Fear #17, 1950) – various (W/A). In “Nightmare,” (W/A) Johnny Craig, a man repeatedly dreams he’s been buried alive, then wakes up to find that he’s still dreaming. Finally, he really does get buried alive without trying to save himself, because he thinks he’s asleep. The really weird part about this story is that the protagonist is named John Severin. I wonder what the real John Severin thought of having his name used in this way. “Television Terror,” (W/A) Harvey Kurtzman, is very clever. The entire story is shown from the point of view of a television camera, so we never actually get to see the supernatural phenomena because they happen off-camera. “Monster Maker,” (W) Gardner Fox and (A) Graham Ingels, is a step down in quality; it’s a blatant Frankenstein rip-off. Finally, “Horror Beneath the Streets,” (W/A) Al Feldstein, is a funny piece of metafiction. It stars Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein themselves. It explains how they encountered the Crypt Keeper and Vault Keeper one night on the way home from work, and were forced to sign a contract to publish stories about them. Overall, this is the best EC comic I’ve read lately.

DOCTOR STRANGE #15 (Marvel, 2016) – “Blood in the Aether, Chapter Four: The Face of Sin,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Chris Bachalo and Jorge Fornes. The villain this issue is the Orb. He claims that he’s become the new Watcher and that he’s sworn to just watch people and not interfere, but his behavior is the reverse of that. The Orb is never quite as scary or as funny as he ought to be. Overall this is a lackluster issue, especially because half of it is drawn by Jorge Fornes, who is much worse than Chris Bachalo.

BATMAN/SPIRIT #1 (DC, 2007) – “Crime Consequences,” (W) Jeph Loeb, (A) Darwyn Cooke. Like almost everything Darwyn drew, this issue is a masterpiece. I hate Jeph Loeb’s writing and I think there are few writers who are more overrated. But Jeph’s script for this issue is competent, if unexciting. And Darwyn’s artwork plays such a major role in conveying the story, that it more than makes up for the deficiencies in the plot and script. Darwyn’s storytelling and draftsmanship in this issue are just incredible. One thing that amazes me about this issue is his visual characterization. There’s one panel this issue where seven villains appear at once (or eight counting Scarface separately), and you can deduce each villain’s personality from his/her/its posture and facial expressions. I do think this story exaggerates the differences between Batman and the Spirit, portraying Batman as a cold, humorless Batdick and the Spirit as a carefree figure of fun. But unfortunately, that is consistent with the way that DC has chosen to depict these characters.

DETECTIVE COMICS #447 (DC, 1975) – “Enter: The Creeper,” (W) Len Wein, (A) Ernie Chua. After Batman/Spirit #1, I felt like reading a comic that portrayed Batman in a more moderate way. The Batman story this issue, which guest-stars the Creeper, is reasonably good but not great. What really interested me about this issue was the Robin backup story, which is credited to Bob Rozakis, Martinez and Mazzaroli. I had never heard of either of the latter two artists, and the GCD entry for this issue did not give their first names. All I was able to determine by Googling was that Martinez’s first initial was A. So I went on Facebook and asked Bob Rozakis who they were, and he replied that they were South American artists who Neal Adams recommended to Julie Schwartz. Based on that, I was able to determine that they were both from Argentina. A. Martinez was a pseudonym for the late Chiche Medrano, and “Mazzaroli” is José Massaroli, who is still drawing Disney comics. It makes sense that Martinez is Argentinian because his Robin story is drawn in a characteristically Argentinian or Italian style, and looks rather different from normal DC comics artwork. I felt proud of myself for having figured all of that out. It’s odd that one of DC’s flagship titles would have included a story by two artists who never did any other work for DC; then again, it was only a backup story.

JONAH HEX #9 (DC, 1978) – “The Carlota Conspiracy,” (W) Michael Fleisher, (A) Ernie Chan. Unusually for a Western comic, this issue has a Bernie Wrightson cover. Otherwise it’s a pretty typical Jonah Hex story, in which Jonah visits Mexico and gets embroiled in a plot to steal a shipment of gold. As usual, this comic is a lot of fun, but the Mexican stereotypes are unfortunate. There’s one character who’s clearly a prostitute, even though the Comics Code didn’t allow the writer to say so.

BRAT PACK #1 (King Hell, 1990) – “A Novel in Five Parts,” (W/A) Rick Veitch. This series is something of a classic, and is probably Rick Veitch’s best-known work. Somehow I’ve never gotten around to reading it. This first issue is heavily indebted to Watchmen and DKR in its approach to the superhero genre, but is much more parodistic and blackly humorous. It begins with a radio talk show host asking his listeners to call in and vote on whether the local superhero sidekicks should be killed, and if so, how. This is an obvious and hilarious reference to the fan vote on whether to kill Jason Todd. After that, the plot is a little hard to follow, but it involves four teenage sidekicks of adult superheroes. Three of them are horrible, rude brats who engage in criminal and destructive behavior, while the one who’s based on Robin is a victim of rape, at the hands of both his mentor and his teammates. At the end of the issue, a villain named Doctor Blasphemy murders all four of them with a car bomb, and the reader is happy to see them go, or at least the first three. But now their superhero mentors need new sidekicks, and that’s where the next issue picks up. In general, this is a brutal piece of satire, with none of the human warmth of Watchmen, but it’s very funny and clever.

(Note: When I went to put this comic away in my boxes, I found that there was already a copy of Brat Pack #1 there! This is a surprise to me because I have no recollection of having read this comic before. Nothing in it rang a bell to me at all.)

TARZAN #253 (DC, 1976) – “Tarzan the Untamed, Part 4: A Death for a Death!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) José Luis García-López. The first story in this issue is so much worse than earlier DC Tarzan comics, that it makes me realize how briliant Kubert’s Tarzan was. (I’ve read most of that run, but I feel I may not have fully appreciated it while I was reading it.) Gerry Conway’s writing is verbose and histrionic; he wastes the reader’s time saying things that are already clear from the panels. In contrast, Kubert’s writing was succinct and free of purple prose, and he never let his words interfere with his visual storytelling. A further problem is that this story lasts only 11 pages. The rest of the issue is a reprint of one-third of issue #213. It’s no wonder this series only lasted five more issues.

DYNAMO #1 (Tower, 1966) – various (W/A). I bought this comic about three years ago and never read it, which is weird because it’s an amazing comic. I guess I was daunted by its length. In the first story, drawn by Wally Wood, Dynamo and NoMan battle some aliens on the moon. Woody’s artwork here is incredible. I think he’s one of the top five artists of American comic books, and this story demonstrates why. The science in this story is kind of ridiculous, but it’s surprising to remember that when it was published, people hadn’t been to the moon yet. At one point, NoMan says that he’s going to be the first man on the moon. Elsewhere in this story, Dynamo tells Alice he loves her, but then Alice never appears again in the story, which is kind of odd. The funniest story in the issue is “A Day in the Life of Dynamo,” (W) Ralph Reese, (A) Mike Sekowsky. Dynamo wakes up and decides to ask the boss for a raise – which was one of the unique things about this comic: the superheroes in it were employees. But as soon as he gets to the office, Dynamo has to go fight the Red Dragon and the Iron Maiden, while also trying to get Alice to go out with him, and he never even gets the chance to ask for a raise. “Back to the Stone Age,” (A) Reed Crandall, is mostly notable for Crandall’s ugly drawings of dinosaurs. “Dynamo Meets the Amazing Andor,” (A) Steve Ditko, is the origin story of the latter character, who shows up later in the main THUNDER Agents title. Finally, “Wonder Weed, Super Hero,” (A) John Giunta, is very similar to a Silver Age Jimmy Olsen story. Weed is hypnotized into thinking he’s a superhero, and for some reason I can’t remember, the superpowered THUNDER Agents encourage this delusion by making him think he’s doing super-feats.

THE FILTH #1 (Vertigo, 2002) – “01. Us vs Them,” (W) Grant Morrison, (A) Chris Weston. This issue has some excellent art, but like most Grant Morrison comics other than Klaus, it makes no sense. I feel like the only way to understand this comic would be to read the whole thing all the way through, twice.

A COSPLAYERS CHRISTMAS (Fantagraphics, 2016) – “The Quest for the Holy Grail” and “Last Minute Holiday Shopping,” (W/A) Dash Shaw. I probably shouldn’t have ordered this because I disliked the previous Cosplayers comic. It felt like a patronizing treatment of cosplay. But this one is better. In the first story, one of the protagonists, Annie, decides to get her friend Verti a replica Holy Grail for her Indiana Jones costume. After a frustrating (and very plausible) encounter with a thrift store owner, Annie ends up having to make the Holy Grail herself. The clever part of this story is that the Holy Grail is also a Holy Grail in the figurative sense, in that Annie has to go on a long and arduous quest in order to obtain it. In the backup story, Verti needs to get Annie a gift in exchange, so she makes Annie a wizard’s staff out of a stick. Compared to the original Cosplayers, this issue gives me more of a sense that Dash Shaw respects the people he’s writing about.

CASANOVA: ACEDIA #7 (Image, 2016) – “Head on Fire,” (W) Matt Fraction, (A) Fábio Moon. This issue is even more impenetrable than the last one.

CEREBUS #136 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “Jaka’s Story 23,” (W/A) Dave Sim. In this issue, something happens! A hideous old woman named Mrs. Thatcher tells Rick that Jaka aborted their baby. Rick punches Jaka and runs off. This is a powerful moment, though it would have been more powerful if I’d understood what led up to it.

BRAT PACK #2 (King Hell, 1990) – untitled, (W/A) Rick Veitch. This issue gives us a bit more context by telling us that True-Man, the analog to Superman, vanished nine years ago, and since then the city has been governed by vigilantes who have a zero-tolerance approach to crime. Then the adult superheroes start recruiting sidekicks. One of the four new sidekicks appears to be a Nazi, but the other three seem like much more sympathetic characters than their predecessors. On the other hand, in this issue we also meet the adult superheroes for the first time – besides the Mink, who appeared last issue – and they’re all just as bad as their late sidekicks. Moon Mistress, for example, is a blatant sex symbol. These first two issues of Brat Pack have piqued my interest, and I want to look for the other three.

Last week’s reviews

12-8

I’m trying to keep my resolution to write reviews every week. Here’s one comic book I read, but forgot to review:

SPIDER-GWEN #13 (Marvel, 2016) – This was okay, I guess.

Only eight new comics this week, including two that I can’t read yet because I’m not caught up on those series (Black Widow and Totally Awesome Hulk).

SAGA #40 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Brian K. Vaughan, (A) Adrian Alphona. This was an okay issue; I like the talking mushroom and the giant planet-sized baby. Butit seems like not a whole lot happened. Compared to the previous storyline, the current “Battle for Phang” storyline has had less stuff going on in each issue.

MS. MARVEL #13 (Marvel, 2016) – “Election Day,” (W) G. Willow Wilson, (A) Mirka Andolfo. I don’t want to review this comic; it hurts too much. I wish it had come out before the election and not after. In the context of the election, it creates a false and naïve sense of hope that we can actually change anything by… never mind. You see why I didn’t want to review this comic.

SHUTTER #24 (Image, 2016) – “The Ballad of Huckleberry,” (W) Joe Keatinge, (A) Leila del Duca. This is the origin story of Huckleberry, who turns out to be the child of a lizard sharpshooter and an Impressionist painter. There’s also one scene where Huckleberry and the other protagonists try to process the horrible tragedy at the end of #22. This is a fun issue, but I do wonder how Joe and Leila can complete the entire storyline within the next few issues, and why they’re bothering to try. I feel like this series could go on indefinitely; the ongoing Prospero storyline is not as interesting as the characters and the worldbuilding.

JUGHEAD #11 (Archie, 2016) – untitled, (W) Ryan North, (A) Derek Charm. Probably the best comic of this very light week. Sabrina’s hysterical attempts to conceal her magical nature are hilarious. Jughead’s explanation of why he went on a date with Sabrina is very touching, and also answers the question of why Jughead is going on dates if he’s asexual.

MONSTRESS #8 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Marjorie Liu, (A) Sana Takeda. This comic deserves to be nominated for an Eisner for Best Ongoing Series, even if it’s not my personal favorite. If I could choose the ballot, the nominees would be Saga, Wicked + Divine, Lumberjanes, Monstress, and some combination of Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, Southern Bastards, and Goldie Vance. This issue, the sea voyage begins, Maika almost drowns, and there’s lots of intrigue that I can’t quite remember.

GREAT LAKES AVENGERS #2 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Zac Gorman, (A) Will Robson. I liked this better than last issue. I can’t remember the plot very well, but Zac Gorman’s writing is very witty and even kind of cruel sometimes.

ARCHIE #14 (Archie, 2016) – untitled, (W) Mark Waid, (A) Joe Eisma. I think I missed an issue. At this point, Archie is trying to plan an anniversary party for his parents, but is depressed over I don’t know what. Meanwhile, Veronica is at a private school in Switzerland where her rival is Cherry Blossom, who is like Veronica but with none of her good qualities. This issue was good, though not great.

BOUNTY #4 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kurtis Wiebe, (A) Mindy Lee. At this point I’ve mostly forgotten the story of the first three issues, but the plot and dialogue this issue are reasonably fun. I still hope to get Rat Queens back soon.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #33 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, (W) Christina Rice, (A) Tony Fleecs. The stars this issue are Applejack and Cherry Jubilee. This story also introduces two new characters, Wild West performers, Buffalo Bull and Calamity Mane, who Cherry Jubilee hates for some reason. It turns out that Cherry herself was the original Calamity Mane and Buffalo Bull’s lover, and that she’s jealous of Buffalo Bull for replacing her. This revelation surprised me a bit because it seems like a fairly significant piece of continuity, but I guess it’s okay because Cherry Jubilee is a minor character.

NIGHT’S DOMINION #3 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Ted Naifeh. I forgot to order issue 2 of this series, so I’m missing a big chunk of the story. This comic is okay, but it feels overly similar to “The Tower of the Elephant,” and I’m not enjoying it as much as Courtney Crumrin or Princess Ugg. Of course, I was feeling exhausted and overworked when I read this and most of the previous comics on this list, so maybe I came to this comic at the wrong time.

DEPT. H #8 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Matt Kindt. This is Bob’s origin story. It turns out that he has a seriously checkered past. This issue, like the series in general, creates a powerful feeling of claustrophobia; this comic is almost closer to horror than mystery. But I still feel like each issue is too similar to all the others. Matt isn’t doing anything creative with the comic book format, the way he did with MIND MGMT.

THE GODDAMNED #5 (Image, 2016) – “Before the Flood, Part 5: God’s Monsters,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) R.M. Guera. This issue was a nice surprise; I honestly thought this comic might have been stealth-cancelled. In an exciting but bleak and depressing conclusion to the first story arc, Cain rescues Lodo and his mother from Noah, but Lodo then murders his own mother because he thinks she’s making him weak. It’s a moment of horrific bleakness which makes you feel like God was right to kill everyone. It’s hard to see where this comic will go from here, though the inside back cover states that another story arc is coming next year. As usual, R.M. Guera’s artwork is incredible, and he may deserve an Eisner nomination for best artist.

THE MIGHTY THOR #13 (Marvel, 2016) – “The League of Realms Rides Again,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Steve Epting. Another Jason Aaron comic, but with a completely different tone. Like Marguerite Bennett, Jason is impressive for his range and versatility. This issue introduces (or, based on the title, maybe reintroduces) the League of Realms, a team of characters from each of the Norse realms. This group is a mix of old and new characters; the highlight is the female frost giant who speaks one word at a time. Steve Epting’s art is effective, but I still prefer Russell Dauterman.

ACTION COMICS #763 (DC, 1999) – “Sacrifice for Tomorrow,” (W) Joe Kelly, (A) Germán García & Kano. This is a good average Superman comic – I mean, compared to other average Superman comics, it’s good. Joe Kelly’s writing is exciting. The plot is that Superman, Luthor and Brainiac are all fighting a super-advanced Brainiac 13, and at the end of the story, Luthor trades his infant daughter to Brainiac (not sure which one) for some sort of power or something. Kelly effectively conveys the sense that Luthor acted in accordance with his nature, but that he’s not happy with it.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #10 (Tower, 1966) – “Operation Armageddon,” (W) Ralph Reese, (A) Wally Wood, plus four other stories. The highlight of this issue is a Wally Wood-drawn story in which Dynamo and NoMan battle some villains who have stolen a gun with atomic bullets. Next is a mediocre Lightning story, and then a NoMan story in which he battles Dynamo’s recurring enemy Andor. Reading this, I was again reminded that NoMan’s powers have really poor synergy. NoMan has a cloak that makes him invisible, and he can also shift his brain between multiple bodies. That means that whenever he moves to a new body while wearing the cloak, he has to go back to wherever he left the previous body and retrieve the cloak. And this happens twice in the present issue. The second best story in the issue is “Kitten or Killer,” in which Kitten is brainwashed into trying to kill her fellow T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad members. This story is an unfortunate relic of its time; one of the villains is a knockoff of Fidel Castro, and the other is an offensive Asian stereotype. But at least this story has one scene where Kitten beats up two men who are trying to kidnap her. The issue concludes with a Raven story by Manny Stallman. This artist is notorious for his weird and incoherent art, but at least his art was distinctive, if not necessarily in a good way.

YOUNG JUSTICE #37 (DC, 2001) – “War of the Words,” (W) Peter David, (A) Todd Nauck. This is the first Peter David comic I’ve read since NYCC, where he made some offensive comments about Roma people. After I read about his comments, I went and spoke to him at his table and said something like, dude, I’ve been reading your work for twenty years, and you’ve made such efforts toward diversity in superhero comics, and these comments are unworthy of you. In response, he basically reiterated the stuff he had said at the panel. To his credit, a couple days later he apologized and recanted his comments, but it was frustrating that he said that stuff in the first place, and I think it may have done lasting damage to his reputation with some fans. Anyway, maybe that’s why it took me so long to read this comic. This issue, the kids are on Apokolips, where Granny Goodness is subjecting them to a series of horrible nightmares – all of them except Secret, who Darkseid is trying to groom as his apprentice. Then Slobo saves the day with his rarely-mentioned power of creating clones of himself. It’s an exciting issue, though not the best issue of YJ.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #535 (Gladstone, 1988) – “The Olympian Torch Bearer,” (W/A) Carl Barks, plus other material. The ten-pager that begins this issue is originally from the Olympic year of 1964. Donald carries the “Olympian Torch” from Goosetown to Duckburg, and mayhem ensues. This story includes some funny gags, but Don Rosa’s “From Duckburg to Lillehammer” is a better version of the same idea. This issue also includes a bad Mickey story and a worse Brer Rabbit story, which shouldn’t have been reprinted at all because of its racist baggage.

USAGI YOJIMBO #9 (Fantagraphics, 1988) – “Return of the Blind Swordspig,” (W/A) Stan Sakai. A good early issue. Usagi again encounters Ino, one of the three characters in the series who can beat him in a fair fight, the others being Master Katsuichi and Nakamura Koji. At this point Usagi is traveling with Spot the lizard, but in a touching scene, Usagi surrenders Spot to Ino, who has a greater need for companionship.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #87 (Marvel, 1970) – “Unmasked at Last!”, (W) Stan Lee, (A) John Romita. My copy of this issue is in awful condition and I am in the market for a replacement. This issue has a notoriously misleading cover; it shows Peter revealing his secret identity to his friends, and in the issue he does do that, but then later he convinces them that he was lying. Besides the anticlimax, this issue is a classic. This issue has some excellent Romita artwork and good characterization, although Mary Jane, in particular, seems very callous and unsympathetic. You have to feel sorry for Peter, who convinces himself that his sickness is due to the loss of his powers, only to realize that it’s just a nasty case of the flu.

YOUNG JUSTICE #54 (DC, 2003) – “Break on Through to the Other Seid,” (W) Peter David, (A) Todd Nauck. This issue has a funny narrative conceit where you think Robin is talking to the reader, though it turns out he’s really talking to Secret’s mother. The final Young Justice storyline focuses on Secret, the most important character who only appears in this series. Secret appears to have gone completely evil, and the rest of the team has to save her. It’s quite a strong issue.

ICON #26 (DC/Milestone, 1995) – “One Size Fits All,” (W) Dwayne McDuffie, (A) Francisco Velasco, Robert Walker & Jeffrey Moore. I think my problem with this series is that at this point, Rocket was literally the only black female protagonist in all of superhero comics, so it’s frustrating that she was turned into an example of the stereotype of the black teenage mother. That explains why I never bothered to read this comic even though I bought it years ago. But I ought to complete my Milestone collection. Like some other comics I’ve reviewed recently, Milestone was an important precursor to the current wave of “diverse” superhero comics, and it failed only because the market wasn’t ready for it. In this issue, the original Rocket and the replacement Rocket battle a monster from Icon’s home planet.

CAPTAIN ACTION #1 (DC, 1968) – “Origin of Captain Action!”, (W) Jim Shooter, (A) Wally Wood. This is a classic but very strange comic book. If I recall correctly, its continuity and creative team changed quite a lot in just five issues, and it had a surprisingly dark and grim tone for a licensed-property comic book. Captain Action is also historically important because the original toy was one of the earliest examples of the “action figure” concept, and the comic must have been one of the first comics adaptation of a toy line. In this issue, we are introduced to Clive Arno, who gains superpowers from coins that were blessed by the mythological gods. The list of gods in this comic is quite multicultural, although Shooter commits the error of describing Siva as a god of evil (see also Thor #301). Shooter’s writing and Wally’s artwork are both very impressive, and overall this is a classic series which ought to be reprinted, although I suspect that might be impossible because of intellectual property issues.

YOUNG JUSTICE #55 (DC, 2003) – “I’ve Got a Secret,” (W) Peter David, (A) Todd Nauck. Tim convinces Secret to stop being evil, and a disgusted Darkseid turns her back into a normal person, which is what she wanted all along. The conclusion to Empress’s story is less satisfying – she still has to take care of her infant parents, she’s just reconciled to it. Slobo apparently dies of genetic dilution, but really ends up in the world of DC One Million; I didn’t quite get what was happening here. Meanwhile, Kon and Cassie become an official couple. This issue ends on a rather inconclusive note, without really explaining how Young Justice becomes the Geoff Johns version of the Teen Titans, but in general it’s a solid conclusion to the best DC Universe comic of its time.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #619 (Archie, 1991) – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Maybe” and other stories, all (W/A) Bob Bolling. This is an extremely late Bob Bolling issue. I’m not sure when he stopped actively working for Archie, but he’s still living, and he did a new Little Archie story as recently as this year. I wish Fantagraphics or IDW or Papercutz would do a comprehensive reprinting of all of Bolling’s Little Archie material. He was Archie’s equivalent to Carl Barks, but his comics are very difficult to find, especially the ones from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and it’s hard to even find a comprehensive list of all the stories Bolling drew. Anyway, this issue, like Barks’s ‘60s duck stories, is a weird and uneven piece of work. The stories are wildly implausible, involving Martians and elves, and are lacking the realism of Bolling’s best work. But you can still tell these stories are by Bolling, and they’re full of his characteristic humor and excitement.

WALLY THE WIZARD #1 (Marvel/Star, 1985) – “A Plague of Locust,” (W/A) Bob Bolling. This obscure issue of a short-lived kids’ comic is fascinating because it’s Bob Bolling’s only major non-Archie work. It’s a fantasy story with an Arthurian setting, about a young red-haired apprentice wizard. Wally the Wizard is a very similar character to Little Archie, but because this series is not bound to the Riverdale setting, Bolling is free to indulge his creativity and to ignore real-world logic. As a result, this issue is full of weird magic spells and creatures, bad puns, and anachronisms. It doesn’t always work, but when it does work, it’s exciting. It’s a pity that Bolling only did two issues of this series.

SUN BAKERY #3 (Press Gang/Floating World, 2016) – “Layered Jacket” and other stories, (W/A) Corey Lewis. This is some really exciting and energetic work. Corey Lewis is a fascinating artist, although as I was reading this issue, I had the nagging feeling that his art is too similar to that of Brandon Graham. I think the difference is that Corey Lewis’s art is even more angular and two-dimensional; it looks like actual graffiti, rather than comic book artwork that’s inspired by graffiti. I think my favorite story this issue is the very crudely drawn “Layered Jacket,” about a hipster who tries to solve various problems by pulling stuff out of his jacket, but actually makes everything worse.

CEREBUS #124 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 11,” (W/A) Dave Sim. I’m currently in the middle of reading the first Cerebus phone book, so I thought I would read some of the Cerebus back issues I’ve had for years. This issue makes no sense at all out of context, and was clearly not meant to stand alone. But the improvement in Dave’s artwork since the early issues is tremendous. He started out as a clone of Barry Windsor-Smith, but by this point he had a well-developed style of his own, and was also working with Gerhard. Besides Cerebus, this issue includes a preview of From Hell and a letter column, which contains some bizarre material; you get the feeling that Dave printed every letter he received.

SUN BAKERY #2 (Press Gang/Floating World, 2016) – “Arem” and other stories, (W/A) Corey Lewis. The main story this issue is a parody of Metroid. I’m excited that this series has been picked up by Image. Corey deserves a bigger audience for his talent.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #11 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Ed Piskor. Major events this issue include the first meeting of Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, and the “origin” of LL Cool J.

BLACK HAMMER #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “Welcome to Black Hammer,” (W) Jeff Lemire, (A) Dean Ormston. I ordered the first issue of this series, but never read it, and then I stopped ordering it due to lack of interest. That was a mistake. Maybe I was confusing this comic with some other comic with Black in the title. This series is about a bunch of superheroes who are believed to have died saving the world, but who have somehow been stuck on a farm for seven years. I have no idea what’s going on here, but I want to find out, because it’s fascinating. This is one of the best recent Dark Horse debuts, and I want to get the issues I missed.

DOOM PATROL #119 (DC, 1968) – “In the Shadow of the Great Guru,” (W) Arnold Drake, (A) Bruno Premiani. I have read only a couple issues of the original Doom Patrol, and I need to remedy that, because it was a fascinating series. The villain this issue is a guru called Yaramishi Rama Yogi – obviously a take-off of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was famous at the time. He convinces each of the Doom Patrol members to turn evil by playing on their particular obsessions, and although each of them manages to break his control, he does succeed in convincing Madame Rouge to return to the Brotherhood of Evil. It’s too bad that this series ended two issues later, because Arnold Drake’s writing is very witty and fun, and Premiani’s art is exciting. Bruno Premiani himself was a fascinating character; he was really named Giordano Bruno Premiani, like the philosopher, and he had to flee both Italy and Argentina after falling afoul of Mussolini and Perón respectively.

JONESY #6 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) Sam Humphries, (A) Caitlin Rose Boyle. I forgot to read this when it came out. This issue is the conclusion of the Stuff two-parter. Stuff tries to guilt Jonesy into wearing the Tomato Girl costume on stage, but to her credit, Jonesy realizes that Stuff is being emotionally manipulative, and she abandons her crush on him. It’s a touching piece of work, and this issue is probably where the series got really good.

INVINCIBLE #37 (Image, 2006) – untitled, (W) Robert Kirkman, (A) Ryan Ottley. Mark defeats the mad scientist D.A. Sinclair and saves his victims, but unknown to Mark, Cecil Stedman recruits Sinclair instead of punishing him for his crimes. Of course I knew this was coming because I already read the issue where Mark discovers Cecil’s treachery. Also in this issue, Mark gets jealous of Amber for having another guy in her room, and is reprimanded by his dean for missing 80% of his classes. One cool thing about Invincible is that Mark was unable to balance his superhero career with college and a girlfriend; at one point in this issue, he realizes that he has “way too much crap going on.”

CEREBUS #120 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story, Book Two: The Poet,” (W/A) Dave Sim. Another comic that doesn’t make sense out of context. This issue focuses on a presumably new character who’s based on Oscar Wilde.

Early December reviews

12-1-16

Well, I didn’t keep my resolution, but my excuse was that I was out of town last Thursday night. Unusually, I only bought two comic books while I was in Minneapolis. I already have more comic books than I can read, and there’s another local mini-convention later this month, and I’m worried about running out of stuff to collect.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #14 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Ryan North, (A) Erica Henderson. An okay conclusion to perhaps my least favorite Squirrel Girl storyline yet. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. But there were lots of good things here – the square-cube law explanation, the line about diversity at the end, the professor (who I assume is a caricature of Ryan himself), and especially Enigmo’s plan to read books about rhetoric and debate before reintegrating himself. As a teacher of rhetoric, I especially appreciate that one.

SLAM! #1 (Boom, 2016) – untitled, (W) Pamela Ribon, (A) Veronica Fish. Yet another excellent debut issue edited by Shannon Waters. This roller derby story is obviously reminiscent of Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl, but is drawn in a very different style and is intended for a somewhat older audience. Veronica Fish is quietly becoming a star; her art this issue is full of both emotional subtlety and funny gags. I especially love how the two cats are fighting on the last page. This is Pamela Ribon’s first comic book, other than one issue of Rick and Morty. She’s best known for a viral essay about a book in which Barbie becomes a computer engineer. But she’s clearly quite talented. Both of her protagonists are compelling and likable characters.

PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT #12 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kate Leth, (A) Brittney L. Williams. This is confusing because of the sheer number of characters, but I still liked it a lot better than last issue. I think the best part is the flashback depicting Ian’s abusive relationship with Zoe.

BLACK PANTHER #8 (Marvel, 2016) – “A Nation Under Our Feet, Part 8,” (W) Ta-Nehisi Coates, (A) Chris Sprouse. The big event this issue is that T’Challa travels into some kind of dreamworld to find Shuri. Until now, I didn’t quite understand where Shuri was; I assumed she was just somewhere in Wakanda. The historical story this issue is interesting because it’s based on the epic of Sundiata, although not identical. Mari Djata is another name of Sundiata, the founder of the Mali Empire, and his parents Sologon and Maghan Kanate are named after Sundiata’s parents, Sogolon and Naré Maghann Konaté. Sogolon’s story is not identical to the epic of Sundiata, since it emphasizes her more than on her son, but is clearly based on that work. I think Coates’s goal, here and elsewhere in the series, is to turn Wakanda’s history into a sort of pan-African myth. Wakanda’s exact location within Africa is not clear to me, but its history seems to be based on the history of many African countries at once. And this is not because Coates can’t distinguish between one African country and another, but because Wakanda is supposed to stand for Africa in general.

SPELL ON WHEELS #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kate Leth, (A) Megan Levens. I didn’t like this very much, though maybe I was tired when I read it. Nothing in this issue excited me, and I can’t tell the characters apart.

THE BACKSTAGERS #4 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) James Tynion IV, (A) Rian Sygh. I just had dinner with my old friend Michael Abramson, who designs theatrical lighting for a living, and I should have mentioned this comic to him, but I forgot. This issue is a sweet and funny conclusion to the story about Sasha getting lost backstage. Sasha is the Backstagers version of Ripley from Lumberjanes; he shares Ripley’s improbably small size and lack of emotional restraint. In the scene with the bridge, all the lines of dialogue in white text are quotations from plays or musicals, though I had to look most of them up.

DOCTOR STRANGE #14 (Marvel, 2016) – “Blood in the Aether, Chapter Three: A Gut Full of Hell,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Chris Bachalo. This is one of the grosser comics I’ve read lately – it almost reminds me of Gilbert Hernandez’s Blubber or some of Michael DeForge’s work. It’s all about Satana trying to corrupt Dr. Strange’s soul by making him eat hell bacon, which eventually comes to life. I can’t say I enjoyed this issue, but Jason and Chris must have had a fun time creating it.

BETTY & VERONICA #2 (Archie, 2016) – “War,” (W/A) Adam Hughes. It’s been three months since the last issue. Adam Hughes must not be able to maintain a monthly schedule. Still, this comic was worth the wait; it’s not only well-drawn, but also well-written, which surprises me because I didn’t know Adam could write. He has a reputation as a cheesecake artist, but he’s also a very effective storyteller. The coloring in this issue is strangely muted and washed-out.

CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #1 (DC, 2016) – “Part One: Going Underground,” (W) Gerard Way & Jon Rivera, (A) Michael Avon Oeming. An impressive debut issue starring a recently widowed Cave Carson and his college-age daughter. The best thing about this comic is Michael Avon Oeming’s dynamic and moody storytelling. I haven’t read any of his comics since Powers, and I wasn’t all that impressed with that comic, but his art here is excellent. The appearance of Wild Dog in the end is a surprise.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE TEMPLE OF OD #3 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, (W) Brian Clevinger, (A) Scott Wegener. I did not enjoy the first two issues of this miniseries, but I liked this one a lot more, though not necessarily because there was anything different about it. I think the story is just making more sense to me. One thing I love about this series is the vaguely plausible yet ridiculous scientific theories, like Dr. Lu’s explanation of hyperfields in this issue.

CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #2 (DC, 2016) – “Headaches,” same creators as above. Another well-drawn and well-written issue. All these Young Animal comics (with the possible exception of Mother Panic, which I have not read) are very odd, but this one has probably the clearest storytelling. Doom Patrol, by contrast, is almost impenetrable. I also like how all these titles – again, except maybe Mother Panic – are postmodern takes on classic Silver Age characters. That was also how Vertigo got started, with titles like Sandman, Animal Man and Black Orchid.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE TEMPLE OF OD #4 (IDW, 2016) – as above. The bandit dudes were just annoying at first, but now they’re starting to grow on me, with their almost Scrooge-esque desire for money. “Yeah yeah howdy okay” is a funny line. At one point someone asks if Robo speaks Manchu, but I believe that that language was already almost extinct by World War II.

HERO FOR HIRE #15 (Marvel, 1973) – “Retribution, Part II,” (W/A) Billy Graham, (W) Tony Isabella. This comic is almost as chock-full of text as if Don McGregor had written it, but at least the prose is less bad, and the plot is clear and exciting. However, the main story only takes up half the issue because Billy Graham was unable to meet his deadline. The rest of the issue is a reprint of a Golden Age Sub-Mariner story by Bill Everett. This is an odd choice, but at least it’s a well-drawn and exciting story. The plot is that Namor’s evil cousin Byrrah tricks the emperor of Atlantis into starting a war with the surface world.

INCREDIBLE HULK #166 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Destroyer from the Dynamo!”, (W) Steve Englehart, (A) Herb Trimpe. A good issue from the greatest era of this series prior to Peter David’s arrival. Looking for Dr. Strange, the Hulk instead teams up with Hawkeye against Zzzax, who makes his first appearance this issue. A subplot involves an army officer who insists on smoking his pipe, even though the enemy might see the smoke, because his pipe is his trademark.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #2 (Marvel, 1972) – “And Spidey Makes Four!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Ross Andru. A very basic but exciting team-up story. After Johnny Storm tries and fails to make friends with Spider-Man, the Wizard kidnaps Spidey and brainwashes him into becoming the fourth member of the Frightful Four. Then they try to drain power from the Negative Zone for some reason, but they end up attracting the attention of Annihilus, and Johnny has to snap Spidey out of his mind control so he can save the day. Ross Andru’s art is excellent.

WORLD OF KRYPTON #3 (DC, 1979) – “The Last Days of Krypton,” (W) Paul Kupperberg, (A) Howard Chaykin. This is the last issue of a miniseries. The storytelling in this comic is extremely compressed, to the point where it reads like a plot summary. This may have been inevitable; Paul Kupperberg’s task in this comic was to take a vast number of often contradictory facts about Krypton from lots of old Superman comics, and integrate them into a coherent story. It’s almost the same thing that Don Rosa did in the Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, except that Kupperberg is a worse writer. It’s odd that Superbaby is nowhere to be seen in this issue until the very end. Howard Chaykin’s art in this issue is barely recognizable, perhaps because of Frank Chiaramonte’s mediocre inking.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #579 (DC, 2000) – “Pranked!”, (W) J.M. DeMatteis, (A) Mike McKone. This is just a bad Superman comic, and not just because it’s drawn by Mike McKone, whose art has always rubbed me the wrong way. At bottom, this is a formulaic Superman-versus-Prankster story, but it has way too many themes and subplots, and as a result it lacks any clear focus.

LADY KILLER II #3 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Joëlle Jones. In my review of the previous issue, I wrote that if you’ve read one issue of this comic, you’ve read them all. In fact that is no longer true, because this issue has a genuinely exciting and surprising plot. It turns out that Josie’s new assistant Irving is in fact a Nazi war criminal, and during the war, Mother Schüler tried to capture him and failed. Also, on the last page, we learn that Irving has kidnapped Josie’s husband’s boorish boss. I’m truly excited to see where this goes. I also like how with this issue, Mother Schüler ceases to be just a generic shrewish mother-in-law and becomes an actual character.

ETHER #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W) Matt Kindt, (A) David Rubín. This comic, by an all-star team, is perhaps the most exciting of Dark Horse’s recent debut series. It’s a somewhat formulaic mystery story, but it takes place in a magical otherworld. David Rubín’s depiction of that world is amazing. Highlights include the snail taxi and the giant gorilla dude. His visual storytelling is just as brilliant. He has an impressive ability to lay out a page in an interesting way. I’m glad that he’s achieving success in America after already becoming an acclaimed artist in Spain; I think such connections between American and European comics are a very positive development. I look forward to seeing where this series goes.

SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS #1 (DC, 1976) – “Attend – or Die!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Pablo Marcos. This is fun, though not great. Gerry spends most of the issue introducing the various villains, including Captain Cold, Copperhead, Gorilla Grodd, Star Sapphire, etc. Their unique and often conflicting personalities help make this comic interesting, though it’s no Suicide Squad.

GHOST RIDER #27 (Marvel, 1977) – “At the Mercy of the Manticore!”, (W) Jim Shooter, (A) Don Perlin. I’ve never collected this series heavily because it strikes me as rather boring. After reading this issue, I have not changed my mind on that. It does guest-star Hawkeye and Two-Gun Kid, but their team-up with Ghost Rider is devoid of any real excitement.

THE FICTION #2 (Boom!, 2015) – “Chapter II: Memoria,” (W) Curt Pires, (A) David Rubín. I ordered this entire series from DCBS, but the first issue was so underwhelming that I never bothered to read the other three. I was motivated to go back and read it because after reading Ether #1, I wanted to read some more David Rubín. His artwork this issue is up to his usual high standard. It’s a pity that such excellent artwork was wasted on such a mediocre story. Other than one insightful conversation about police racism, the story contains nothing of any interest. The characters are flat stereotypes, and the plot is predictable and trite.

PAST AWAYS #7 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, (W) Matt Kindt, (A) Scott Kolins. Another fun issue of a series I really ought to finish reading. This issue develops the plot significantly by revealing that Herb is responsible for everything, though I don’t quite understand why or how.

THE THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR PRESENTS BEYOND BELIEF #2 (Image, 2015) – “Some Things Under the Bed Are Dueling,” (W) Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, (A) Phil Hester. I forgot I even had this issue. It’s a bit confusing, but it’s a fun and cute story about a little girl and her imaginary friend, which turns out to have its own imaginary friend.

THE FICTION #3 (Boom!, 2015) – “Chapter III: Where the Sky Hangs or Four Years Gone,” (W) Curt Pires, (A) David Rubín. Another example of good artwork wasted on an awful story. At one point this issue, one of the protagonists (I can’t even remember their names) realizes that if they can get into the fictional world by reading, they can also change it by writing. Curt Pires seems to think this is an original idea; I wonder if he’s read Promethea. Also, he has a high-school-level knowledge of literature and he thinks it makes him an expert. He namechecks Lewis Carroll and Calvino and Borges, but it’s clear that he knows little about these writers besides their names.

THE FICTION #4 (Boom!, 2015) – “Neverending or Until We Can’t (Let’s Go),” creators as above. A predictable, formulaic conclusion, with art that is far better than the story deserves.

THE SPIRIT: THE NEW ADVENTURES #3 (Kitchen Sink, 1998) – “Last Night I Dreamed of Dr. Cobra,” (W) Alan Moore, (A) Daniel Torres; and “Ellen’s Stalker,” (W) Mark Kneece, (A) Bo Hampton. This series lasted less than a year, perhaps because Kitchen Sink was going out of business at the time, but it was an affectionate tribute to The Spirit, with high production values and a phenomenal lineup of talent. The first story this issue was a rarity, an Alan Moore story I hadn’t read. It takes place in the far future, when the Spirit has become a poorly understood myth, and is structured around a tour guide’s description of the ruins of Central City. A fascinating concept in this story is “logotechture” – the idea that Eisner’s famous title pages, where the Spirit’s name was spelled out by the shapes of buildings, were literal depictions of Central City’s architecture. In other words, the idea is that Central City was actually full of buildings that looked like the word SPIRIT. The art is by the celebrated Spanish cartoonist Daniel Torres, who, as far as I can tell, only did two stories for American comics besides this one. The backup story is also good, though not nearly at the same level. Bo Hampton’s art reminds me of that of Dave Stevens. Mark Kneece wrote a textbook on writing for comics, but he wrote very few actual comics, and most of them were collaborations with Bo or Scott Hampton.

ARCHIE #579 (Archie, 2007) – “Phone-y Problems,” (W) Angelo DeCesare, (A) Stan Goldberg, and other stories. After reading the new Archie comics, it’s a shock to go back to an old Archie comic with a much less sophisticated style of writing. In the cover story this issue, Mr. Weatherbee bans cell phones from Riverdale High. This plan backfires because the parents are worried about not being able to contact their children in an emergency, and the story ends there after just six pages. All the other stories in the issue are similarly lacking in substance.

I received my next shipment of comics on Monday, November 28. I was out of town on Friday when they arrived.

LUMBERJANES #32 (Boom!, 2016) – “Cut Loose,” (W) Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, (A) Carey Pietsch. Same title as last issue, oddly enough. I read this on the way to work Monday morning. The games at the start of the issue are fun, but the emotional highlight of the issue, and the entire storyline, is Molly’s confrontation of Zeus. She tells him: “Can’t you see that the way you’re treating your daughter is hurting her? … You can’t force her to live your life according to everything YOU want! That’s not what parents are supposed to do!” In saying this, Molly is talking not only to Zeus but also to her own parents. It’s an amazing moment – it’s Molly’s finest hour – and it’s also an impressive feat of storytelling, because it simultaneously resolves both the main plot and the subplot. After that, the final defeat of the cockatrices is almost an anticlimax. I didn’t like this story quite as much as the previous one, but it was still an excellent story, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

CHEW #60 (Image, 2016) – “Sour Grapes, Part 5,” (W) John Layman, (A) Rob Guillory. At last, the conclusion. This story is set “many, many years later” when the aliens are finally coming to earth. It begins with a cluttered and barely readable montage where an elderly Tony bites off his fingernail and remembers everything that’s happened in the series. Then we watch Olive and Peter Pilaf have some adventures, and then the aliens finally arrive, and just as I predicted, they turn out to be chickens. That part of the conclusion was obvious, because why else would they be so pissed at people who ate chicken? What I did not expect was the final page, where Tony avenges Amelia and Colby by stabbing the head alien to death with a chocolate knife – and that’s the end of the series. It ends on a cliffhanger, with Tony having doomed the human race to certain destruction. Somehow that seems like a perfect ending for this series. Overall, while I sometimes got bored with Chew, it was a fun, well-crafted and original comic, and it broke new ground for the industry by helping to create a market for fun comic books that aren’t about superheroes. I congratulate Layman and Guillory, and I wonder what they’ll do next.

SNOTGIRL #4 (Image, 2016) – “04. Now Everything’s Embarrassing,” (W) Bryan Lee O’Malley, (A) Leslie Hung. This is still a confusing comic and I’m not sure what it’s trying to do. It doesn’t fit clearly into any genre. But it’s fun, and it’s finally starting to feel like a Bryan Lee O’Malley comic. I love the panel where Snotgirl is self-conscious about whether she’s taking enough medication.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #21 (IDW, 2016) – “Enter the Stingers, Part Three,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Meredith McClaren. I still dislike Meredith McClaren’s artwork, and it’s negatively affecting my enjoyment of this comic. But this story is getting fun. Riot is the worst villain in the series yet, and Fox is also despicable. I like how Kimber and Stormer are now being referred to as Stimber. The scene with Raya and her father is cute, and the dialogue even sounds like Spanish translated literally into English.

WONDER WOMAN #11 (DC, 2016) – “The Lies, Conclusion,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Liam Sharp. This is confusing and it doesn’t feel like the conclusion to a story. Diana has a vision of a bizarre fake version of Themyscira, then she snaps out of it, and meanwhile Etta encounters Rucka’s fake villain Veronica Cale. Despite being confused as to what’s going on, I enjoyed this issue a lot. I think Rucka’s second Wonder Woman run is just as thrilling as his first, and I think that based on his entire body of work on the character, he’s probably the second greatest Wonder Woman writer after George Pérez.

USAGI YOJIMBO #159 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “The Hatamoto’s Daughter,” (W/A) Stan Sakai. This says “Part 1 of 1” on the cover, but it ends on a cliffhanger. It gets off to a promising start. Usagi encounters a terrified little girl, Yuki, whose father has just been killed. With Inspector Ishida’s help, he has to solve the murder while also keeping her safe. One of Usagi’s most endearing character traits is that he’s really good with kids, and in this issue, he needs to use all his patience and compassion to help a severely traumatized child. Perhaps the best moment in the issue is when a villain claims to be Usagi’s uncle and asks her to go with him. Usagi asks Yuki if she knows the man, and when it becomes clear that he doesn’t, Usagi prepares to defend her by force. I hope that if I were in Usagi’s place, I would do exactly the same. Unfortunately, the rest of the issue peters out a bit as the focus shifts from Yuki to the investigation of her dad’s murder, and the ending is inconclusive. This issue should have been labeled as part 1 of 2, at least.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #13 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Smartest There Is! Part One: Marvel Now or Never!”, (W) Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder, (A) Natacha Bustos, with a sequence by Leonard Kirk. My biggest problem with this series, and I don’t know why I haven’t noticed it before, is that the writing is sometimes incoherent. Luna’s train of thought and her motivations are very hard to follow. Again, maybe this is because she’s nine years old and she doesn’t understand herself very well. But it sometimes feels like Brandon and Amy have lost control of the plot. What I did like about this issue is Lunella’s realization that smashing stuff is not always the best solution. Lunella’s parents show up in this issue for the first time in a while. It’s odd that they’ve had such a limited role in this series. Considering Lunella’s age, her parents should be a much bigger presence in her life, unless they’re neglectful, and I don’t think we’re supposed to infer that.

DETECTIVE COMICS #391 (DC, 1969) – “The Gal Most Likely to Be – Batman’s Widow!”, (W) Frank Robbins, (A) Bob Brown. An exciting story by perhaps the most underrated Batman writer. Reading this, I wondered if Frank had ever written romance comics, because this story is a hybrid of a romance comic and a crime comic. Tim Clark loves Ginny Jenkins, but she’s dating a mobster who’s extorting money from restaurants, and he dresses up as Batman in order to save her. The villain’s plot seems silly at first glance – he intimidates restaurant owners into buying expensive ads in his food magazine – but it also seems like a plausible thing that might happen in the restaurant industry. The Robin backup story is much less well-written but has some excellent artwork by Gil Kane, and includes some great action sequences.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #157 (DC, 1966) – “The Abominable Brats!”, (W) Edmond Hamilton, (A) Curt Swan. This is an imaginary story starring the Super-Sons. It’s a bizarre piece of work, very different from Bob Haney’s later stories about these characters. Superman Jr and Batman Jr commit all sorts of bizarre, inexplicable pranks, but it turns out they’re actually Mr. Mxyzptlk Jr and Bat-Mite Jr. I accidentally spoiled this ending for myself by looking up this comic on the Internet, and without the element of surprise, the story has little else to recommend it. There’s also a backup story, reprinted from Tales of the Unexpected #1, which takes place in the France of Louis XIV. The twist ending is obvious, and the artist, Howard Purcell, apparently did no research whatsoever and had no idea what Louis XIV looked like.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #34 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, (W) Thom Zahler, (A) Agnes Garbowska. Pinkie Pie and Cheese Sandwich are kidnapped by an animated house. Refusing to acknowledge the departure (and implied death) of the ponies who lived in it, the house wants people to party in it forever. Pinkie Pie and Cheese Sandwich solve the problem by allowing the house to maintain a perpetual party – like Morrolan’s party in Castle Black, in Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos books – as long as the house lets people leave when they want. This is a fairly fun story, and the flashbacks remind me of the opening scene from Up. But this story has an unfortunate moral. It suggests that instead of acknowledging and grieving your losses, you should try to regain what you lost and keep it forever.

FUTURE QUEST #7 (DC, 2016) – “The Calm,” (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Doc Shaner & Ron Randall. I wish Doc Shaner could draw all of this series; he only did four pages in this issue. This story is a much-needed breather after five issues of nonstop action. It has some fun character moments. I’m still not quite sure what’s going on, though, or who exactly the villain is.

SPIDER-GWEN #14 (Marvel, 2016) – “Cold Turkey,” (W) Jason Latour, (A) Robbi Rodriguez & Chris Visions. I was exhausted when I read this. Gwen’s reconciliation with Aunt May is a really well-written scene. However, the scene with Spider-Woman and her new romantic partner is annoying because of the complete change in art style. I don’t like Chris Visions’s art to begin with, and it’s too much of a stylistic clash with Robbi Rodriguez’s art. Looking back, I see I already complained about this artist in my review of issue 5. I had forgotten that Howard the Duck was President in Spider-Gwen’s America, and I was amused to be reminded. I would much rather have Howard for president, compared to certain other people I could name.

Post-election reviews

11-12-16

This past Tuesday was one of the worst days in my life and one of the low points in American history, and it’s hard not to feel like everything we do is pointless. Strangely, though, that makes me more motivated to teach and write about comics. I may not be able to accomplish larger political or structural change all on my own. But I can at least try to advocate for greater inclusion and diversity in the comics industry, and these reviews are one way I do that. I see my fan writing about comics and my academic work on comics as interrelated components of a larger project. One of the goals of this project is to advocate for a more inclusive and progressive comics community, which can serve as a model for other types of communities.

New comics received on October 28:

SAGA #39 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Brian K. Vaughan, (A) Fiona Staples. Not a whole lot happened in this issue. The best part is probably Hazel’s little-kid crush on the little ferret dude, but other than that, this issue seemed mostly about moving the plot along. I like how when one of the robots dies, its head displays a blue screen of death.

LUMBERJANES #31 (Boom!, 2016) – “Cut Loose,” (W) Shannon Waters & Kat Leyh, (A) Carey Pietsch. This may be the most important comic book in America right now, because of its appeal to a younger audience and its progressive stance on race, gender and sexuality. This issue is a fairly exciting continuation of the gorgon-cockatrice story arc, with some fun action sequences. For me, though, the most interesting thing in the issue was Molly’s worries about how her parents don’t approve of her friends. This confirms what we learned about Molly’s family last issue. I’m sad for Molly, of course. I’m also very curious as to how this comic is going to address issues of homophobia and sexism, because so far Lumberjanes has “addressed” these isues by depicting a utopian world in which bigotry doesn’t seem to exist.

MS. MARVEL #12 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Road to War,” (W) G. Willow Wilson, (A) Mirka Andolfo. A nice pick-me-up after the grim, depressing story that just ended. Willow’s depiction of Pakistan seems very authentic; I’ve never been there, but I get the impression that Willow has, and that she has more than a casual familiarity with Pakistani culture. Kareem is an adorable new character, and it’s obvious that he’s the Red Dagger. I also like the demonstration that Karachi’s problems are not as simple as Kamala thinks – and that Kamala, as an outsider, is not fully at home either in Karachi or in Jersey City. When Kamala says that she sticks out in Jersey because she’s too Pakistani, and in Karachi because she’s too American, she says the same thing I’ve heard from real-life children of immigrants. My only complaint about this story is it should have been at least one issue. I especially want to see Kareem again. As a piece of trivia, “Gabbar Singh is my copilot” is another reference to Sholay.

THE VISION #12 (Marvel, 2016) – “Spring,” (W) Tom King, (A) Gabriel Hernandez Walta. An eloquent conclusion to the best-written Marvel comic of the past twenty years. It’s not necessarily the most enjoyable Marvel comic, but it is the one Marvel comic whose writing has reached the highest aesthetic peaks. This issue, Virginia reveals that she mind-controlled Vision into attacking the Avengers, then commits suicide. It’s a final heartbreaking moment in a series that’s been full of them. And yet the series ends on a surprisingly positive note, with Vision raising Viv as a single parent, while trying to recreate Virginia. I hope we will see more comics like this from Tom King; he could be the next Neil Gaiman.

ANOTHER CASTLE #5 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, (W) Andrew Wheeler, (A) Paulina Ganucheau. In the epic conclusion, Misty defeats Badlug and becomes the new king of Grimoire. Overall, this was a fun series and I’m sorry that it was just five issues. I hope Andrew and Paulina will do either a sequel, or another series in the same vein.

FUTURE QUEST #6 (DC, 2016) – “Impossible Choice!”, (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Doc Shaner & Ron Randall; and “Code Name: Cobalt, Part Two,” (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Craig Rousseau. This is another fun issue, but the trouble is that this whole series has been a non-stop sequence of action scenes. As a result, it can be hard to remember what’s going on, or to distinguish between all the characters. I think we need an issue where the characters sit and talk and explain what’s going on. The art in the backup story is a bit too stylistically dissimilar from the art in the main story.

CHEW #59 (Image, 2016) – “Sour Grapes, Part 4,” (W) John Layman, (A) Rob Guillory. Just one issue left. So Amelia is really dead, but she finished writing the story that will kill everyone who’s eaten chicken. And Tony reads the story, killing off a large chunk of the population of the world, including Colby. So basically, this issue is almost as bleak and depressing as America on November 10, only a bit funnier. The one loose end is why the aliens hate chicken-eaters so much. The obvious reason is because they themselves look like chickens, but that’s so predictable that I wonder if Layman has something else in mind.

SILVER SURFER #7 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Infinite All-In,” (W) Dan Slott, (A) Mike Allred. This is the funniest issue in a while; it’s a ig pick-me-up after the depressing story a out Dawn’s mom. Like the est Slott-Allred Surfer stories, it’s full of funny SF concepts like a puppy- unny-kitten planet, a six-armed violinist, and a gam ling game in which the Surfer loses the a ility to say the second letter of the alpha et.

JUGHEAD #10 (Archie, 2016) – “Jughead Jones Is on a Date??!”, (W) Ryan North, (A) Derek Charm. Ryan North’s second issue of Jughead is another good one. Jughead’s date with Sabrina is a predictable disaster, and Sabrina retaliates by giving Jughead a bunch of curses, each of which backfires. It’s a simple story compared to some of Ryan’s other recent work, but it’s extremely well-executed. One funny moment is the scene where Sabrina cuts off some of Jughead’s hair, then casts a spell one of whose ingredients is “hair of jerk.”

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #12 (Marvel, 2016) – “Cosmic Cooties, Part Six of Six: Unrequited,” (W) Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder, (A) Natacha Bustos. A pretty fun conclusion to this story arc. Lunella lets Kid Kree down gently, which perhaps shows that she’s getting more mature, and also builds a giant Lego dinosaur for situations when Devil Dinosaur’s mind is in her body. Though I’m not sure how that’s going to help anything. One thing I’ve noticed about Lunella is that she has trouble listening to anyone; she talks at people, not with them. Which is probably normal at her age.

WONDER WOMAN #9 (DC, 2016) – “The Lies, Part Five,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Liam Sharp. This issue is just all right. The shopping scene is fun, but I was not impressed by the romantic interlude between Diana and Steve. I have never liked these characters as a couple. I think Steve works much better as Diana’s best male friend than as her unrequited lover.

GIANT DAYS 2016 HOLIDAY SPECIAL #1 (Boom!, 2016) – “If Esther, Daisy and Susan Hadn’t Become Friends?”, (W) John Allison, (A) Lissa Tremain. This is obviously inspired by What If?, and it’s pretty much what it says on the tin. Without Daisy and Susan, Esther becomes friends with some horrible rich girls, but the other two protagonists conspire to give the girls their comeuppance. It’s basically just a longer issue of Giant Days, but that’s not a bad thing.

STRANGE TALES #163 (Marvel, 1967) – “And the Dragon Cried… Death!”, (W/A) Jim Steranko; and “Three Faces of Doom!”, (W) Jim Lawrence, (A) Dan Adkins. I read this comic before Steranko publicly expressed support for Trump. Steranko’s comments were annoying, but I don’t think they tarnish his reputation, simply because his comics career ended over 40 years ago. The Steranko who drew Nick Fury has little to do with the Steranko who shows up at conventions today. I’m certainly not going to give him any of my money, but I wasn’t doing that to begin with. Anyway, the Nick Fury story in this issue is typically brilliant, with some amazing action sequences, and it’s also the first appearance of Clay Quartermain. The Dr. Strange story has good artwork, but a boring story, in which the Living Tribunal is portrayed very differently from how he was depicted later.

DESCENDER #16 (Image, 2016) – “Singularities 5 of 5,” (W) Jeff Lemire, (A) Dustin Nguyen. The current story arc ends with Driller’s origin story, which, as usual in this series, is very sad. Despite his very limited brainpower, Driller is a sentient being who takes pride in his work and is capable of friendship, and he deeply resents being a slave. This whole story arc was a bit of an odd pacing decision, because it was a series of flashbacks that delayed the resolution of the cliffhanger in #11. But it really did enable me to get to know the major characters better.

DAREDEVIL #96 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Widow Will Make You Pay!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Gene Colan. Another story from DD and Black Widow’s San Francisco period. Hornhead is beaten half to death by the Man-Bull, but Natasha chases him off and saves Matt. Then Natasha fights Man-Bull again and loses, but Matt gets out of his hospital bed to save her. It’s an exciting story. The art in this issue is a bit weird because Ernie Chan’s inking was poorly suited to Gene’s pencils, but Gene’s artwork is beautiful as always.

NIGHTHAWK #3 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) David Walker, (A) Martin Morazzo. I feel guilty for not buying series, because it only lasted six issues. I try to support Marvel comics with diverse protagonists, but sometimes I miss some. This issue is quite violent, but in an intelligent way, and David Walker writes some excellent dialogue.

CYBORG #5 (DC, 2016) – “Rubble & Revelations,” (W) David Walker, (A) Ivan Reis, Felipe Watanabe & Daniel HDR. I like this much better than the previous issue of Cyborg I read, though I still don’t understand the story very well. Notable things about this comic are Walker’s witty dialogue and Ivan Reis’s impressive depictions of robots.

DAREDEVIL #89 (Marvel, 1972) – “Crisis!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Gene Colan. Matt and Natasha battle the Purple Man and Electro. This is another fun issue, but it’s tarnished because Matt behaves like a severe male chauvinist, while Natasha behaves like a helpless waif. Matt grabs Natasha’s shoulder to make her talk to him, and Natasha replies “Help me, Matt. It’s so hard to know what to do!” Readers at the time were aware that Matt and Natasha’s relationship was somewhat sexist. On the letters page, a reader named Jeff Weintraub complains that Matt and Ivan are male chauvinists and that they treat Natasha like a child. The editors’ response does not effectively address this concern, except by saying that Matt’s behavior doesn’t reflect the writer’s views.

New comics received on November 4, when I was 100% convinced that Hillary Clinton was our next President:

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #15 (Image, 2016) – “Gut Check, Part One,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Jason Latour. Roberta Tubb has finally arrived in Craw County, but even now she’s not the protagonist of the series; she spends the issue sitting in Boss’s BBQ and glaring at people. I’ve been waiting to learn more about this character since about issue 4, and I’m still waiting. The real protagonist of this comic is Coach Boss, and in this issue his position is in severe jeopardy after a bunch of embarrassing losses. The one principle he’s not willing to sacrifice is his belief in the integrity of the game of football. And by the end of the issue, he’s abandoned even that. This was a fun comic, but again, I want more of Roberta.

GOLDIE VANCE #7 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) Hope Larson, (A) Brittney Williams. Another fun issue, with some clever detective work and good characterization. I think the best scene in the issue is Goldie’s talk with her mother. Goldie’s mom’s expression when Goldie says “I want my tail to be orange” is kind of creepy.

SUPERMAN #10 (DC, 2016) – “In the Name of the Father, Part 1: World’s Smallest,” (W) Peter Tomasi, (W/A) Patrick Gleason. This was just an incredibly cute and fun comic. Clark and Jon’s team-up with Bruce and Damian is just what it ought to be. The fathers have an affectionate rivalry, but the sons hate each other on sight. Besides the interactions between the main characters, there are lots of other cute moments in this issue, including the Bat-Cow and Albert the cat, and Jon’s encounter with Maya at school. This issue reminded me of, not any official Batman comic, but the Black Cat’s webcomic Batman and Sons. This issue has the exuberance and love that are so common in fan works based on DC comics, but so rare in actual DC comics.

ANIMOSITY #3 (Aftershock, 2016) – “Animilitary,” (W) Marguerite Bennett, (A) Rafael De Latorre. Another good issue, though there’s nothing to really distinguish it from issue 1. So far my favorite thing about this series is all the funny talking issues. Highlights of this issue include the transgender cat and the humpback whale that says the name of its species.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #23 (Image, 2016) – “Pantheon Monthly,” (W) Kieron Gillen et al, (A) Kevin Wada. In a series that was already formally innovative, this is the most experimental issue yet. It’s the first comic book with interior art by Kevin Wada, who specializes in cover art. To accommodate his skillset, Kieron decided to format this issue like a fashion magazine. Wada’s artwork is used to illustrate a series of fake “articles” about interviews with the gods, written by real writers like Laurie Penny and Leigh Alexander. The quality of these articles is variable; some of them were difficult to get through. And as I have said before in other contexts, I’m annoyed when comic books include long blocks of text. If I wanted to read a magazine, I would read a magazine. However, while this experiment was not 100% successful, it was interesting, and this issue was a good example of Kieron’s drive to continuously challenge himself.

GIANT DAYS #20 (Boom!, 2016) – “The One Where the Girls Go to IKEA,” (W) John Allison, (A) Max Sarin. That’s not the real title, but it might as well be. All the furniture in Esther, Daisy and Susan’s new apartment falls apart, and they have to go to IKEA to replace it. There are other stories that make fun of IKEA, including Power Girl #6 and Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstor, but this issue is effective anyway, mostly because all the jokes are very accurate. I think the funniest joke is that the articles of furniture have names like “disease” and “sinkhole.”

FLASH GORDON: KING’S CROSS #1 (Dynamite, 2016) – “The Mysterious Continent,” (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Jesse Hamm. This is a sequel to some of Dynamite’s previous King Features comics, but I don’t know which ones exactly. Like most of Jeff Parker’s comics, it’s an exciting story with good characterization. I especially like the scene where Zarkov calmly finishes his drink while Flash beats up the people who were trying to kidnap him. I think I used to know Jesse Hamm from CBR or some other forum.

THE FLINTSTONES #5 (DC, 2016) – “Election Day,” (W) Mark Russell, (A) Steve Pugh. This issue has an election theme. I don’t want to talk about that. I was feeling okay for most of the day, but this evening I started to suffer from election-related despair again. So let’s ignore that aspect of this comic. The other interesting part was Barney and Wilma’s struggles with infertility. This leads to an obvious question as to where Bamm-Bamm came from, and Mark Russell answers that question in a surprising and touching way.

OCCUPY AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2016) – “Occupy Avengers,” (W) David Walker, (A) Carlos Pacheco. Despite the promising title and creative team, this issue is disappointing. It reads like an inventory story. The plot is a clear reference to both Standing Rock and Flint, Michigan, but it’s framed like an ordinary superhero story, instead of a superhero story about politics. The villains responsible for the water crisis are common criminals, not elected Republican politicians, as in real life. Because of its inability to take a partisan political stance, Marvel is probably not capable of publishing a comic that treats the Flint water crisis or the Standing Rock pipeline crisis with the seriousness they deserve.

REVIVAL #44 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Tim Seeley, (A) Mike Norton. The overall plot of this series is finally starting to make sense. Lester Majak tried to sacrifice Dana in order to cast a magic spell that would end death permanently. But because Dana was pregnant, his spell was too strong, and it turned all the dead people into zombies whose souls were separated from their bodies – hence the yellow ghost things. Besides explaining that, issue also reveals the origin of the Amish assassin. Easily the best line in the issue is “Are you guys ninjas?” “No, honey, we’re Amish.”

CHAMPIONS #2 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Mark Waid, (A) Humberto Ramos. My expectations for this issue were quite low, so I was pleasantly surprised by it. The team spends the entire issue talking around a campfire, like in Tales of the New Teen Titans, and this leads to a lot of interesting character interactions. I thought that Mark had lost much of his ability to write teenagers effectively, but maybe I was wrong.

INSEXTS #3 (Aftershock, 2016) – “The Nature of Women,” (W) Marguerite Bennett, (A) Ariela Kristantina. I think I’ve bought every issue of this series, but I stopped reading it because of lack of motivation. I think I felt like this comic was just a wish-fulfillment fantasy or something. That was never true, though, and after reading this comic, I feel like this series is not just about hot sex and disgusting bugs. It feels like a serious investigation of gender, sexuality, and transhumanism. I need to finish the rest of the issues I have.

MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #18 (Marvel, 1974) – “Madhouse!”, (W) Steve Gerber, (A) Gene Colan. This Son of Satan story is heavily reminiscent of The Exorcist, which came out the previous year. Daimon goes to a faculty party with his girlfriend (?) and then has to cure a teenage girl of possession. The slightly unusual wrinkle is that she became possessed after her father slapped her because he disapproved of her boyfriend. There is maybe a faint implication that this was due to racism; the boyfriend only appears in two panels, but looks sort of Hispanic. Overall, this issue is not a major work of Gerber, but I still want to collect the rest of this run because I’m a Gerber completist.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #42 (Marvel, 1976) – “Shoot-Out at the O.K. Space Station!”, (W) Steve Englehart, (A) Al Milgrom. My collection of Captain Marvel volume 1 mostly stops at the end of Jim Starlin’s run, but it looks like Jim Starlin was succeeded by some good creators. I wonder how many other issues of Captain Marvel were written by Englehart. Both the writing and the art in this issue are very Starlinesque. The story is really weird, in a way that reminds me of “1000 Clowns” in Strange Tales #181. Mar-Vell and Rick visit an alien planet that, thanks to the Stranger’s intervention, has become a collection of Wild West cliches. It’s funny, in a stupid way.

INSEXTS #4 (Aftershock, 2016) – “Hunters,” (W) Marguerite Bennett, (A) Ariela Kristantina. This issue includes more hot sex and disgusting insects, as well as a fight scene with a werewolf. Ariela Kristantina’s art this issue is quite good; she is well suited for both the sex and the horror aspects of this comic. This series also feels like an interesting exploration of Victorian politics and culture, though I’m not sure it’s as well-researched as DC Comics Bombshells. I like how part of the issue takes place in a panopticon prison, though I don’t believe there was such a prison in London in real life.

SUPERMAN #358 (DC, 1981) – “Father Nature’s Folly!”, (W) Cary Bates, (A) Curt Swan. This is a weird one. The villain, Father Nature, looks like the mythological Green Man and claims to have been responsible for the creation of life on earth. Which is a huge cliché; I don’t even know how many comic books I’ve read that proposed an alien origin for life on earth. An odd thing about this story is that Superman keeps having visions of a particular shape (a tower with two upwardly curving arms). This reminds me of how the protagonist of Close Encounters of the Third Kind keeps having visions of a particular mountain. That film came out in 1977, so it may have directly inspired this comic. This issue also includes a Bruce (Superman) Wayne backup story, which is better than the main story, but still just average.

UNWORTHY THOR #1 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Hammer from Heaven,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Olivier Coipel. Jason Aaron’s Thor run has been mostly excellent, but a bit uneven. This issue is about the same level of quality as a bad issue of the main Thor series. It’s too full of fight scenes, and the only exciting part is the arrival of Beta Ray Bill at the end. Olivier Coipel is maybe a slightly bigger star than Russell Dauterman, but I think Dauterman is a much better artist.

BITCH PLANET #9 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kelly Sue DeConnick, (A) Valentine De Landro. This comic is even more important now than on the day it came out. It’s a very straightforward and blunt story that wears its politics on its sleeve, and that’s a good thing. It’s the kind of story we need right now. The bonus material in this issue includes an essay by my friend and colleague Rebecca Wanzo. One cool thing she does here is to translate Sara Ahmed’s difficult concept of feminist killjoys into terms that nonacademics can understand.

DETECTIVE COMICS #588 (DC, 1988) – “Night People, Part Two: The Corrosive Man,” (W) John Wagner & Alan Grant, (A) Norm Breyfogle. I read the first part of this story arc in February. This story is just boring. It doesn’t tell us anything new about Batman, and the Corrosive Man is an unexciting new villain.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #558 (DC, 1998) – “Another Typical Day,” (W) Karl Kesel & Jerry Ordway, (A) Steve Yeowell. This is a weird one. It’s written exactly like a Silver Age Superman story, only with modern artwork, slightly more intelligent writing, and less sexism. Steel and Kon-El exist, but all the characters wear ‘50s clothing, Lois doesn’t know Superman’s secret identity, and one of the central plot points is that Jimmy Olsen appears to have been turned into an alien. While this is a fun story, it’s also confusing, in that there’s no explanation of why the past 40 years of Superman continuity have suddenly been reversed. I guess this issue was part of a crossover event called “The Dominus Effect,” where every issue was based on a past era of Superman history.

ACTION COMICS #661 (DC, 1991) – “Stretching a Point,” (W) Roger Stern, (A) Brett Breeding. Both this and the previous comic have been in my collection for years, but I only just got around to reading them. This issue guest-stars Plastic Man, and Sterno correctly writes him as a stone-faced, humorless straightman, who just happens to have weird things happen to him all the time. Most other writers, besides Jack Cole and Kyle Baker, have written Plastic Man as a clown, and this is the wrong approach. I haven’t read a lot of Roger Stern comics lately, since I’ve already read most of his major works. I miss him.

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS #2 (Archie, 2016) – untitled, (W) Marguerite Bennett & Cameron DeOrdio, (A) Audrey Mok. I’m reading four current comics written by Marguerite Bennett (though I’m backed up on DC Comics Bombshells), and none of them is anything like the others. Her versatility is impressive. In this issue, the Pussycats foolishly sign a contract that forces them to play at a punk bar every night. What impresses me about this issue is the use of metatext; the characters know they’re in a story and act accordingly. My favorite example of this, which I shared on Instagram, is Valerie’s line that begins “We can always chicken out…”

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #40 (Marvel, 1978) – “Conjure Night!”, (W) Roger Slifer & Tom DeFalco, (A) Ron Wilson. Despite the undistinguished creative team, this Thing-Black Panther team-up is enjoyable. It begins with a fun scene where Ben makes pizza for several other people. Then there’s another funny scene where Ben visits the class that T’Challa, in his Luke Charles identity, is teaching at a mostly black public school. Ron Wilson’s artwork is a good imitation of that of George Perez, and the story shows at least some sensitivity about race. Unfortunately the plot is kind of dumb.

ACTION LAB: DOG OF WONDER #4 (Action Lab, 2016) – “The Comet’s Tale, Part One,” (W) Vito Delsante & Scott Fogg, (A) Reilly Leeds. This comic is okay, but I don’t like the artwork at all. It reminds me of a coloring book. I want Rosy Higgins back.

That was the last comic book I read before my country was plunged into an unimaginable crisis, with harshly negative results for my mental health. By Friday, I was not feeling 100% okay, and I’m still not, but at least I was able to read some comic books.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #10 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) David Walker, (A) Sanford Greene. One of my sources of comfort in this current crisis has been the realization that black people have been dealing with this shit for hundreds of years, and they’ve survived. If they can, then so can I, and it’s my responsibility as a white person to show support for less privileged populations. This particular comic book is comforting right now because it acknowledges the continuing trauma of racism, but it’s joyful anyway. David Walker’s writing is exuberant and fun, and Sanford Greene’s art is really impressive this issue, especially in the two-page splash with all the superheroes. The heartwarming moment this issue is Luke shaking hands with the former criminal for whom he found a new job. I do wonder if David is no longer allowed to use Jessica Jones or Danielle. It’s odd that they’ve suddenly vanished from this comic with no explanation.

MEGA PRINCESS #1 (Boom!, 2016) – “Mega Princess,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Brianne Drouhard. The latest in a series of princess comics, this one is about a ten-year-old multiracial princess who gains the powers of all princesses ever. It’s an extremely cute and fun comic, and I look forward to reading more of it. I do feel like there’s a bit too much going on at once. It’s hard to tell what exactly is the central theme of this comic, or where the story is going.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #3 (DC, 2016) – “Second Semester, Part 3,” (W) Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, (A) Adam Archer. I’m a bit confused as to what was happening in this story – why did the Witch Club want all those books? But overall, this is a fun issue of a great comic. . The poem on the first page is amazing; it creates an aura of mystery and intrigue. And I love the goldfish bowl full of Clayface.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS #11 (Action Lab, 2016) – “Issue Eleven,” (W) Jeremy Whitley, (A) Rosy Higgins. Wait, is this the same artist who draws Action Lab: Dog of Wonder? Because it doesn’t look like the same art style. Anyway, this is a fun issue, though it could have used a recap page because it returns us to the main storyline after several issues of flashbacks. I did think there were a couple moments in this issue that were too preachy. But the panel with the line “Do not assume that because I wear a dress and laugh and like things that are feminine I am weak” got a positive response when I shared it on Instagram.

LUMBERJANES/GOTHAM ACADEMY #6 (DC/Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) Chynna Clugston-Flores, (A) Kelly Matthews & Nicole Matthews. This series never lived up to its potential, but this issue is a satisfying conclusion to the story. I think the best moment is Ripley hugging Maps goodbye. I hope there will be a sequel to this miniseries, but with a different writer.

SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME #6 (Oni, 2016) – “Cannibal Coliseum,” (W) Natalie Riess. This miniseries is really good. Cannibal Coliseum is pretty much what you’d expect; it’s a combination of Battle Royale and a cooking show, with aliens. I complained before about Natalie’s lack of visual creativity, but I was wrong. There are a ton of bizarre-looking aliens in this issue, and the two-page splash with all the spaceships is very impressive. It is a bit disappointing that Peony has to be saved by Neptunia instead of saving herself, but at least she managed to stay alive until Neptunia showed up. And Chef Magicorn is an awesome villain.

WONDER WOMAN #10 (DC, 2016) – “Year One, Part Four,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Nicola Scott. This may have been the best comic of the week. Nicola Scott’s art is some of the best of her career, thanks in part to Romulo Fajardo’s coloring. The story is simple – Steve and Etta take Diana to a mall in order to help her get used to America – but it’s executed perfectly. I like how Greg introduces the two children early in the issue, in order to increase the impact of the scene where Diana saves them from terrorists. Also, I don’t know if the mall in this issue is supposed to be Horton Plaza in San Diego, but that’s what it reminds me of.

SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL #2 (DC, 2016) – “Earth Girl Made Easy,” (W) Cecil Castellucci, (A) Marley Zarcone. I’ve been lukewarm about the Young Animal comics because they all seem quite confusing. This is another deeply strange and confusing issue, but in a good way. Unlike with Doom Patrol #1, I feel like I understand what’s going on. Cecil clearly knows Peter Milligan’s Shade very well, but is approaching that series from the viewpoint of a teenage girl, although Milligan’s Shade was already quite feminist.

SUPERMAN #290 (DC, 1975) – “The Man Who Cried Super-‘Wolf’!”, (W) Jim Shooter, (A) Curt Swan. I can’t think of any other Superman stories from this era that were written by Jim Shooter, although he did write a bunch of Legion stories at this time. This is an average issue, in which a janitor named Sam Stern (a possible reference to the Leader?) tries to warn Superman about an impending peril, but fails because of his reputation as a liar. Probably the best moment is when Clark Kent intentionally burns his finger to give himself an excuse to switch to Superman. But he doesn’t realize that his powers are gone, so when he says “Yeoww! I burned my finger,” the pain is genuine. This issue also includes a backup story written by Elliot S! Maggin, in which Mr. Mxyzptlk causes everyone in New York to speak a different language. This reminds me of Mark Waid’s “Tower of Babel” story in JLA.

GREEN ARROW #13 (DC, 2002) – “The Sound of Violence, Part One: Frequency,” (W) Kevin Smith, (A) Phil Hester. I bought this because it’s the first appearance of Onomatopoeia, a villain who speaks in sound effects. Onomatopoeia is an awesome villain, and the writing in this issue is sometimes very witty, but there are things about it I don’t like. For example, early in the issue there’s a somewhat exploitative scene where Black Canary runs out of her bedroom naked.

SUICIDE SQUAD #25 (DC, 1989) – “Sea of Troubles,” (W) John Ostrander, (A) Grant Miehm & Karl Kesel. A typically high-quality Suicide Squad story. The A plot is that the Squad is on a mission against General Haile Selassie Frelimo of the country of Ogaden (a name that combines several African news stories). One of the new characters on this mission is Shrike, who establishes herself as a fascinating and seriously bizarre character, before getting killed. In the B plot, Amanda Waller resigns as director of Task Force X and is replaced by J. Danfield Kale, obviously named after then-Vice President J. Danforth Quayle, who turns out to be an actor.

MASTER OF KUNG FU #99 (Marvel, 1981) – “Bitter Harvest,” (W) Doug Moench, (A) Gene Day. This is a little tiresome because of Doug Moench’s long-winded writing, but still fun. Shang-Chi teams up with Rufus Carter to foil a plot to blow up the docks of Aberdeen. Meanwhile, Leiko investigates some crimes that appear to be the work of Jack the Ripper.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #158 (DC, 1980) – “Yesterday Never Dies!”, (W) Robert Kanigher, (A) Jim Aparo. This was probably one of very few times that Jim Aparo drew Wonder Woman. He was not a great WW artist, but it’s interesting to see his take on this character. The story, about a terrorist who tries to stop a trade deal between the U.S. and France, is rather boring, but there are some mildly interesting interactions between Bruce and Diana.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #48 (IDW, 2016) – “Accord, Part the First: From Chaos to Chaos,” (W) Ted Anderson, (A) Andy Price. Andy is one of my favorite current artists, and his art has only gotten better as this series has gone on. In this issue, he turns an average story, in which Discord becomes an incarnation of order, into a bravura performance. As usual, this issue is full of in-jokes, Easter eggs, and cute moments; for example, there’s one panel where Spike is dreaming about a bucket of Kentucky Fried Crystals, and above him is a picture of Twilight’s old library.

BLACK PANTHER: WORLD OF WAKANDA #1 (Marvel, 2016) – “Dawn of the Midnight Angels,” (W) Roxane Gay, (A) Alitha E. Martinez. The lead story in this issue is probably the first story in any Marvel or DC comic in which every named character with a speaking part is a black woman. The Atlantean terrorist gets a couple lines, but he has no name. Other than that, Roxane Gay, like Ta-Nehisi Coates, is not a fiction writer by trade, and her story is kind of trite. But it also shows promise, and I’m curious to see where it goes. I don’t like the backup story as much, but Killmonger’s rise to power is an eerie parallel to Trump’s.

THE AUTUMNLANDS #13 (Image, 2016) – “At the Temple of the Sun,” (W) Kurt Busiek, (A) Benjamin Dewey. Still a disappointing series, but at least this issue was fairly readable and fun. I feel like this storyline could have been finished in at least two fewer issues.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #497 (DC, 1992) – “Under Fire,” (W) Jerry Ordway, (A) Tom Grummett. An early chapter of the Death of Superman. This issue is mostly one fight scene after another, but at least they’re good fight scenes. Reading this issue, it occurred to me that Tom Grummett is something of an heir to Curt Swan.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #5 (DC, 1978) – “The Captive of Changing Captors!”, (W/A) Steve Ditko, (W) Michael Fleisher. It’s been a while since I read a Ditko comic. This is sadly not his best. There are a few scenes that showcase Ditko’s artistic brilliance, but overall, this issue does not really exploit the radical potential of Shade or his milieu. I feel like Charlton Action Featuring Static did a better job of what this comic is trying to do.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #27 (Marvel, 2014) – “Goblin Nation, Part One,” (W) Dan Slott, (A) Giuseppe Camuncoli. The first part of a storyline in which Doc Ock, in Spider-Man’s body, battles Norman Osborn. Dan Slott’s Spider-Man has something of an uneven reputation, but at least this comic feels like a Spider-Man comic. It’s full of character interaction and politics as well as action sequences. It reminds me somehow of Roger Stern’s Hobgoblin Lives miniseries. I should collect more of this Spider-Man run.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #15 – I read this not realizing that I already own another copy and have already read it.

NO MERCY #11 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Alex de Campi, (A) Carla Speed McNeil. This series suddenly just became a lot more important, because of the way it unpacks and critically examines American national myths. It reminds me of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, in that it displays the shallow foundation on which America’s claims to superiority are based. The scene with the parents who are visited by Duane Okonkwo is the most interesting thing in the issue. I assume these are the parents of the two kids who hate each other.

JONESY #8 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) Sam Humphries, (A) Caitlin Rose Boyle. The second excellent issue in a row. Suffering from writer’s block, Jonesy’s friend Susan tries to get into a club to see her favorite songwriter, Sister Cee Cee. The trouble is that she’s underage. Mayhem ensues. Besides being funny (I love the panel with Jonesy and Susan hidden in Sister Cee Cee’s hair), this issue has a genuine message about creativity. Also, it’s funny how the club represents a kid’s notion of what an over-18 venue must be like. Instead of alcohol and drugs, it has a pizza bar, a ball pit, a petting zoo, etc.

FAST WILLIE JACKSON #4 (Fitzgerald, 1977) – various stories, (W) Bertram Fitzgerald, (A) Gus Lemoine (these credits come from the GCD pages for other issues of this series). Like Zwana, Son of Zulu, this is a fascinating example of a pioneering but unsuccessful African-American comic. It’s a blatant Archie knock-off, in which almost all the characters are black. It looks almost exactly like an Archie comic, both in its publication design and in its art style. There is even a theory that Gus Lemoine may have been a pen name for Henry Scarpelli or another Archie artist, though that seems to be false, since Gus Lemoine has some credits on real Archie comics. Unfortunately, the weak point of this comic is the storytelling. All the plots are terrible, and the jokes fall completely flat. That might be why this series only lasted seven issues. But this comic is still an interesting predecessor to today’s kid-oriented comics with black protagonists, e.g. Princeless and Jonesy.

FINALLY no more comics left to review. Starting now, I resolve to at least try to write reviews every Thursday night.

About 100 reviews

10-30-16

I might as well post these reviews now, even though it hardly seems to matter.

At the beginning of October, I went to New York Comic Con. It was fun, but I did not enjoy it as much as last year, mostly because I was too tired. I was coming off several very busy weeks and was never able to really muster any enthusiasm for attending a comic convention. I think I may have been doing too many comic conventions lately; maybe I should skip NYCC next year and go to Dragon*Con instead.

The back issue selection at NYCC was worse than last year; there were very few comics for less than a dollar, and I was disappointed that the prices didn’t go down significantly on Sunday. I still bought a lot of stuff, but not as much as last year – which may be a good thing, given that I have a huge backlog of unread comics and no time to read them. I barely even have time to write these reviews.

From now on I’m going to give the title of the main story in each issue as well as the writer and artist.

The comics I read on the week of October 7 include both comics I bought at NYCC, and comics from the new shipment that was waiting when I got home.

LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #6 (DC, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Renae de Liz. This is the issue I forgot to order when it came out. It’s another excellent issue, though I’m a bit sad that now there’s no more of this series. I hope the sequel really does come out. Notable scenes in this issue are Etta evicting Pamela Smuthers from the stage, in the background of Diana’s conversation with Steve, and the costume-designing sequence.

UNCLE SCROOGE #213 (Gladstone, 1987) – “City of Golden Roofs,” (W/A) Carl Barks. The conceit here is that Donald challenges Scrooge to see who can make a fortune quicker, starting from scratch. They both get jobs as salesman in Southeast Asia, ultimately arriving in the namesake city, which is based on Angkor Wat. It’s a witty and brilliantly plotted piece of storytelling, but is somewhat tarnished by a rather unflattering portrayal of Southeast Asian people. I assume this story was inspired by The King and I, the film version of which came out the previous year.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #169 (Marvel, 1977) – “Confrontation,” (W) Len Wein, (A) Ross Andru. It turns out I already had a copy of this issue, though the copy I got at the convention was better than the one I already had. This is the issue where JJJ thinks he has proof that Peter is Spider-Man, but Peter “proves” otherwise.

PAPER GIRLS #10 (Image, 2016) – “What is Past is Epilogue,” (W) Brian K. Vaughan, (A) Cliff Chiang. Another issue full of confusing but fun mayhem. It turns out that “don’t trust other Erin” refers to the little other Erin, not the big one. And by the end of the issue, all the papergirls have arrived in the future, which is truly weird. This series is fun, but very difficult to follow.

THE FLINTSTONES #4 (DC, 2016) – “Domestications,” (W) Mark Russell, (A) Steve Pugh. The sabretooth tiger’s line “I prefer you to starvation,” at the start of the issue, is a perfect summary of the cat-human bond. The main theme of this issue is the debate between marriage and the old way of life, which involved sex caves. I was curious to learn more about the latter, but I guess this is an all-ages comic, sort of. The marriage jokes are pretty good, especially the scene where Maude pretends Henry is dead. There’s also a subplot about the appliances.

GOLDIE VANCE #6 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) Hope Larson, (A) Brittney Williams. Besides Black Panther, this is probably the best new series of 2016. This issue continues the astronaut story, as Goldie looks for Cheryl and somehow finds herself competing in a beauty contest.

THE MARVEL NO-PRIZE BOOK #1 (Marvel, 1982) – “Lest We Should Goof…!”, (W) Jim Owsley, (A) Bob Camp and many others. This fascinating historical curiosity is a collection of mistakes from old Marvel comics, with commentary by Stan Lee (not actually written by him). Some of these are quite well-known, like Peter Parker being called Peter Palmer, or Captain America saying “it won’t be me.” But there are many others I never noticed, such as the contradictions in Peggy Carter’s backstory. I really love this sort of hyper-detailed commentary, and I’m sorry that this comic book wasn’t even longer.

ANIMOSITY #2 (Aftershock, 2016) – “The Funeral,” (W) Marguerite Bennett, (A) Rafael De Latorre. The first issue of this series got a lot of critical attention, and I’ve ordered the reprint of that issue, plus all the other later issues, on ComicBookDB. Animosity is a post-apocalyptic narrative in which the apocalypse is that all the animals learn to talk. This premise has a lot of humor potential, and there are lots of funny jokes in this issue, like the cat selling Xanax and Adderall, or the references to Watership Down and Animal Farm. But this series is also a serious examination of animal rights and human-animal relations. I can’t wait to read more of it.

THE CHAMPIONS #1 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Champions,” (W) Mark Waid, (A) Humberto Ramos. I love the idea of a team of all the young heroes, and I love the characters in this series, especially Kamala and Viv. But I think the execution leaves something to be desired. Kamala’s speech at the end of the issue leaves me unclear as to what the purpose of the Champions is. What does she mean by “enforcing justice without unjust force”? It’s so vague that it could mean anything. If this comic is supposed to be an explicit reference to things like BLM, then Mark should have the courage to say so. In general, I feel that, while Mark used to be the industry’s top writer of teen superheroes (besides PAD), he has now fallen behind the curve. I’m going to keep reading this series, but this first issue was disappointing.

SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL #1 (DC, 2016) – “Earth Girl Made Easy,” (W) Cecil Castellucci, (A) Marley Zarcone. Another strange debut issue from Young Animal. I believe this is Cecil Castellucci’s first published comic book; I enjoyed her graphic novel The Plain Janes (and my little sister loved it), but I never got around to reading the sequel. This issue is heavily inspired by Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo’s Shade, but has more of an emphasis on Meta and how weird it is. Overall, I like this issue better than Doom Patrol #1, and I look forward to reading more of this series.

GRAYSON #1 (DC, 2015) – “Grayson,” (W) Tim Seeley & Tom King, (A) Mikel Janin. This series was critically acclaimed, but I only got into it after it was already cancelled. This is a fun first issue. Mikel Janin’s art is excellent, and the story emphasizes the sexy and dangerous side of Dick’s personality.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #131 (Marvel, 1974) – “My Uncle… My Enemy?”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Ross Andru. This is the one where Doc Ock almost marries Aunt May. It is definitely a minor classic, and includes some very effective characterization. The reason Doc Ock wants to marry Aunt May is ridiculous – it turns out she’s somehow inherited an island with uranium reserves – but you also feel like he has genuine affection for her. Meanwhile, Peter and Mary Jane are going through some relationship drama. Ross Andru’s artwork is very good. A funny mistake in this issue is that in Amazing Spider-Man #120, Doctor Octopus kills a man named Jean-Pierre Rimbaud. But in #131, Hammerhead refers to this man as Arthur Rimbaud, who of course was a famous poet.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #139 (Marvel, 1971) – “The Badge and the Betrayal!”, (W) Stan Lee, (A) John Romita. Easily the best part of this issue is Jazzy Johnny’s artwork. What a shame that his run on this title was so short. The story is not nearly as good. Cap becomes an undercover cop to investigate why cops have been mysteriously vanishing, and it turns out the Grey Gargoyle is responsible.

AVENGERS #111 (Marvel, 1973) – “With Two Beside Them!”, (W) Steve Englehart, (A) Bob Brown. I only need a few more issues to have a complete run of Avengers #103 to #303. This issue is the second part of a two-parter in which the Avengers and Daredevil fight Magneto. It includes some fun relationship drama between Daredevil, Hawkeye and Black Widow, but it’s clear that at this point, Englehart was still getting his feet wet.

BLACK PANTHER #2 (Marvel, 1998) – “Invasion,” (W) Christopher Priest, (A) Mark Texeira. At NYCC, I attended at least one panel about Black Panther, and it became clear that Priest’s Black Panther was a key inspiration for Ta-Nehisi Coates’s current run. So I took the opportunity to buy some cheap back issues of Priest’s run. The narrative style of this issue is quite similar to that of Quantum & Woody. But this issue is a poor jumping-on point; it begins with a dude sitting in a waiting room next to the devil, and there’s no explanation of how this situation came about. I need to read more of this run before I can have an informed opinion about it.

WONDER WOMAN #179 (DC, 1968) – “Wonder Woman’s Last Battle,” (W) Denny O’Neil, Mike Sekowsky. I paid $6 for this, which is a bargain, although one of the pages is loose. This is one of the pivotal issues of the series, though it’s only the second issue of the New Wonder Woman era. In this issue, Diana loses her powers, I Ching makes his first appearance, and Dr. Cyber is mentioned for the first time. This comic is kind of silly from a modern perspective – when I saw the line “rubbing your hands in rice grains will give them toughness,” I thought it was funny, and I still do. I Ching of course is a whopping stereotype. But this comic is also genuinely exciting and innovative. In 1968, Wonder Woman was a mediocre embarrassment, a comic no one, least of all its creators, really cared about. O’Neil and Sekowsky deserve credit for making Wonder Woman interesting again.

DAREDEVIL #81 (Marvel, 1971) – “And Death is a Woman Called Widow,” (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Gene Colan. This issue introduces Black Widow into the series. She would soon become the regular co-star, and the series was retitled Daredevil and Black Widow from #92 to #107. Conway and Colan’s Daredevil and Black Widow stories were probably the high point of the series at the time; they helped to give Daredevil its own identity and to distinguish it from Amazing Spider-Man. In this issue, Matt and Natasha are both on the rebound from failed relationships, so they seem like a natural couple. Gene the Dean’s art is as amazing as ever. This issue also includes a reprinted Thing/Torch story from Strange Tales, which turns out to be very funny. I think this was the month when Marvel temporarily raised the price and page count of all their titles in order to bait DC into doing the same.

FUTURE QUEST #5 (DC, 2016) – “The Wheel of History,” (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Doc Shaner; also a backup story. This issue is full of fun mayhem, but it’s very similar to previous issues – which is not a bad thing, it just means there’s not much to be said about it. The backup story introduces some new characters, the Impossibles.

INVINCIBLE #22 (Image, 2005) – untitled, (W) Robert Kirkman, (A) Ryan Ottley. The main event this issue is that Amber figures out that Mark is a superhero, based on his repeated poorly excused absences. This is a good example of Kirkman’s habit of deconstructing old superhero cliches. It is very rare for a superhero’s love interest to spontaneously figure out his or her identity, although it does happen (Bethany Cabe and Silver St. Cloud come to mind). But in real life, Clark Kent wouldn’t be able to disappear every time a job for Superman came up, at least not without arousing suspicion. Kirkman does a good job of handling both Amber’s discovery of Mark’s identity, and Mark’s reaction thereto.

THE PHANTOM #50 (Charlton, 1972) – four different stories, (W) unknown, (A) Pat Boyette. The artwork in this issue is good, but the stories are mediocre at best and blatantly racist at worst. I don’t think this series got really good until the brief Don Newton run a few years later.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #570 (Archie, 1987) – “Blast from the Past” and two other stories, (W/A) Bob Bolling. This is one of several late Bolling Little Archie stories whose existence I only discovered recently, because they were published in Archie Giant Series instead of the main Little Archie title. The longest story in this issue is “Blast from the Past,” in which Little Archie uses an old World War I cannon to stop Mad Dr. Doom and Chester from robbing a bank. I kind of wish these two villains would show up in one of the current Archie titles, although Mad Dr. Doom would probably have to be renamed. This story includes a literal Chekhov’s gun, in that the cannon is introduced before it gets fired.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #58 (Marvel, 1979) – “El Aguila Has Landed!”, (W) Mary Jo Duffy, (A) Trevor von Eeden. This issue introduces El Aguila, a Latin American vigilante, who also appears in the last issue of this series that I read. Luke and Danny sympathize with him, but a client demands that they stop him, and it turns out Luke and Danny can’t refuse the client because he already paid them a retainer. This issue is a good introduction to Duffy’s Power Man & Iron Fist, and makes me want to read more of this run.

New comics received on October 14:

GIANT DAYS #19 (Boom!, 2016) – “Music Festival Time!!!”, (W) John Allison, (A) Max Sarin. Susan, Daisy and Esther go to a music festival, where Susan gets roofied, and then all three of them nearly drown in a flash flood. This issue was as funny as usual, but the jokes fell kind of flat to me because I’ve never been to a music festival – and after reading this comic, I never want to go to one.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #2 (DC, 2016) – “Second Semester, Part 2,” (W) Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, (A) Adam Archer. For a while I was feeling lukewarm about this series, but now I’m enjoying it again, maybe because I missed it while it was on hiatus. The plot this issue is that a new teacher is hypnotizing students into joining something called Witch Club. Adam Archer’s art is similar to that of Karl Kerschl, but his emotional subtlety is impressive. I love Maps’s expression when she says “It’s okay. I’m okay.”

HOWARD THE DUCK #11 (Marvel, 2016) – “Howard’s End,” (W) Chip Zdarsky, (A) Joe Quinones. A sweet and funny conclusion to the only good Howard the Duck comic not written by Gerber. Howard dies, but is revived thanks to divine intervention from the Sparkitects. Howard and his friends walk off into the sunset, and the series ends with a hint that Howard and Bev are getting back together. A highlight of this issue is Biggs, who behaves just like my cat would behave if he could talk, and who appears to be based on Joe Quinones’s cat. Overall, Chip and Joe’s Howard the Duck was both an affectionate tribute to Gerber, and a distinctive and original piece of work. They deserve congratulations on the end of an excellent run.

SHUTTER #23 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Joe Keatinge, (A) Leila del Duca. This issue begins several months after the shocking conclusion to #22, and it looks like at least some of the Kristopher children survived the massacre of the family, though I’m not quite sure which ones. Also, Chris Kristopher himself is somehow alive again. I thought this was kind of an ineffective conclusion to the new storyline; I don’t understand how we got here from where we were before.

MONSTRESS #7 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Marjorie Liu, (A) Sana Takeda. I always hesitate to read this comic because it feels so raw and brutal. This is a world where characters suffer permanent damage and where not everything turns out all right. The proof of this is the large number of characters with missing arms. But this comic is more fun than I give it credit for. This issue is full of not only talking cats, but also anthropomorphic tigers. It also gives us a better sense of the size and diversity of Maika’s world. I do think that Monstress is one of the best and most important comic books at the moment, and I should try to muster more enthusiasm for it.

LUMBERJANES/GOTHAM ACADEMY #5 (Boom!/DC, 2016) – untitled, (W) Chynna Clugston Flores, (A) Kelly Matthew & Nicole Matthews. I still think this series hasn’t lived up to its potential, but at least this issue was better than the last few. The Lumberjanes and Academy kids finally confront the skeleton dudes, resulting in some fun action sequences. The last page of this issue reminds me of the last page of Daredevil #232.

WONDER WOMAN #8 (DC, 2016) – “Interlude,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Bilquis Evely. Instead of the regular chapter of “Year One,” this issue is Barbara Minerva’s origin story. It’s as well-written as any Greg Rucka comic book, but I don’t understand the point of the story. What does Barbara mean when she says she went the wrong way?

THE GREAT LAKES AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2016) – “Same Old, Same Old Great Lakes Avengers,” (W) Zac Gorman, (A) Will Robson. I was unimpressed with this comic, but I remember being rather tired and cranky when I read it, and I may not have given it a fair shake. Zac Gorman’s writing is witty and shows keen awareness of contemporary culture; something about it just left me cold. I’ll try to be more open-minded when I read the next issue.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #9 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) David Walker, (A) Sanford Greene. The prison break story ends with a big fight, after which Luke finally gets his chance to tell Carol Danvers off. His speech to her is a milder version of the things I’ve been saying about her in several recent reviews. But this was a bit of a disappointing issue overall. One of the replies on the letters page hints that Jessica Jones won’t be appearing in this comic anymore because she has her own solo series now, and I think that’s a pity.

SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME #5 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Natalie Riess. This issue advances the story in a predictable way. Peony escapes from Cannibal Coliseum, while Chef Neptunia goes looking for her. While the plot of this issue is predictable, there are a few nice touches that make it memorable. The recap page is actually fun – it’s a comics page rather than a text summary – whereas such pages are usually just afterthoughts. Ariella Magicorn is a funny new character, and I love the idea that Zorp and Vorp used to be “part of the same pan-dimensional polytope cluster.”

WEST COAST AVENGERS #46 (Marvel, 1988) – “Franchise,” (W/A) John Byrne. Normally I avoid John Byrne’s WCA like the plague, but this issue is the first appearance of the Great Lakes Avengers, so it was interesting to compare it with the first issue of their new series. Unlike Gorman or Dan Slott, John treats the GLA like complete jokes, and shows little interest in their personalities or private lives. And the jokes mostly fall flat, since John has no sense of humor. This issue also reveals his inability to draw female faces: his Mockingbird looks exactly like his Sue Storm. It should be obvious by now that I deeply hate John Byrne’s comics (or at least his post-1986 solo work), but this is at least not the worst thing he’s done.

SUPERNATURAL LAW #24 (Exhibit A, 1999) – “You’ll Never Suck Blood in This Town Again,” (W/A) Batton Lash. This was the first issue published under the title Supernatural Law. It’s confusing because it’s the second half of a two-parter, and I can’t remember if I’ve read the first part. Also, there are a lot of new characters in this story and it’s hard to keep them all straight. This story is sort of a crossover between Ally McBeal and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or as Batton calls them, Ally McGraugh and Myrtle the Vampire Hater. The runing joke in this issue is that Ally McGraugh claims to be a feminist icon, yet she suffers from an eating disorder and she throws herself at men.

Somewhere around this point, it occurred to me that I was not having enough fun reading comics; I was treating it like a chore, and was taking it too seriously. I need to keep in mind that this is supposed to be fun.

DC COMICS PRESENTS #67 (DC, 1984) – “’Twas the Fright Before Christmas!”, (W) Len Wein & E. Nelson Bridwell, (A) Curt Swan. A charming and cute story in which the guest star is none other than Santa Claus. Appropriately, the villain is the Toyman. Superman’s encounter with Santa happens after he’s been knocked unconscious at the North Pole. The writers effectively create a sense of uncertainty as to whether Superman’s visit to Santa is real or a dream, and therefore whether or not Santa exists in the DC universe.

SNARKED! #10 (Boom!, 2012) – “Fit the Tenth: Beware the Cyberwock,” (W/A) Roger Langridge. At NYCC, I managed to complete my run of Roger Langridge’s masterpiece. This issue, the Walrus finally develops a heart, and risks his life to save his companions from the Gryphon. Meanwhile, Scarlett’s father finally remembers his daughter’s name. I still have two more issues of this series to read, but I almost don’t want to read them, because then there won’t be any more.

WOLFF & BYRD, COUNSELORS OF THE MACABRE #20 (Exhibit A, 1999) – “Sonovawitch! Chapter Three,” (W/A) Batton Lash. I enjoyed this more than the previous Wolff & Byrd comic I read, though I forget why exactly. Maybe it has to do with my realization, discussed above, that I wasn’t having enough fun when reading comics. This issue is also the conclusion of a multipart story, but it makes more sense on its own than #24 did, and it’s full of funny relationship drama, including Mavis’s refusal of Toby’s marriage proposal.

SUPERMAN #8 (DC, 2016) – “Escape from Dinosaur Island,” (W) Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, (A) Doug Mahnke. I’ve heard good things about this series, and it turns out to be a good comic indeed. This series focuses on Superman’s relationship with his son Jon. I don’t understand why Superman has a son, but oh well. The way Tomasi and Gleason write this relationship is just perfect; Jon is a realistic child, and Clark is a wonderful father. They remind me of me and my dad when I was Jon’s age. The story, involving Dinosaur Island, is intriguing but is just an excuse for Clark and Jon to have an adventure together. Doug Mahnke’s art is quite good.

DOCTOR STRANGE #12 (Marvel, 2016) – “Blood in the Aether, Chapter One,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Chris Bachalo. Doctor Strange confronts the creature he was keeping in his basement, which names itself Mister Misery. Meanwhile, Baron Mordo shows up in New York. This was a very average issue; it seemed like Jason was just marking time between more important stories.

JLA #25 (DC, 1999) – “Scorched Earth,” (W) Grant Morrison, (A) Howard Porter. This is one of the middle chapters of a longer story in which the JLA battles the Ultra-Marines. It doesn’t make much sense out of context, and I’ve never much liked Howard Porter’s art.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #222 (DC, 1983) – “Beasts II: Death Games,” (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Chuck Patton. Much of this issue consists of fights between anthropomorphic beast-men, who bear a strong resemblance to the New Men of Wundagore. As a result, this issue often feels like a Justice League story in name only; there’s at least one long scene with no Leaguers in it. My sense is that the last 40 issues of this series were pretty bad.

BATMAN #339 (DC, 1981) – “A Sweet Kiss of Poison…”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Irv Novick. This is one of Poison Ivy’s earlier appearances, and it’s clear that at this point her character was not well-defined. In this story, she’s not an eco-terrorist but a common criminal with a plant gimmick. The backup story is much much better. In “Yesterday’s Heroes,” by the same creators as the main story, Dick Grayson performs at the circus and realizes that he’s content with his various identities. It’s a very sweet story, although it’s not totally consistent with his character arc in New Teen Titans – in fact, I don’t think this story mentions the Titans at all. This issue came out at the same time as NTT #11, and by issue 27 of that series, it was clear that Dick was having a serious identity crisis which would culminate in his reinvention as Nightwing.

SUPERMAN #355 (DC, 1981) – “Momentus, Master of the Moon!”, (W) Cary Bates, (A) Curt Swan. The main story in this issue is stupid; it’s a bunch of nonsense about lycanthropy and gravitational energy. But it’s funny because the villain, Asa Ezaak, is an obvious parody of Isaac Asimov. He has the same hairstyle as Asimov, and like Asimov, he’s a popular lecturer who prides himself on having written several hundred books. Bates’s portrayal is rather unflattering, and I wonder how he really felt about Asimov; I also wonder if Ike ever knew about this comic. The backup story, by the same creative team, takes place in 2020 and involves a team-up between three generations of Superman.

THE THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR PRESENTS: BEYOND BELIEF #3 (Image, 2016) – “Sticks and Stones May Murder Your Friends and Influence People!”, (W) Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, (A) Phil Hester. There are lots of fun moments in this issue, but it’s difficult to understand, and this is odd since I only missed one of the two previous issues.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #24 (Marvel, 1973) – “Red Swords, Black Wings!”, (W) George Alec Effinger, (A) Val Mayerik. This may be the first thing I’ve read by George Alec Effinger. I’ve had his collection Maureen Birnbaum, Barbarian Swordsperson for many years, but have never felt sufficiently motivated to read it. This issue is an adaptation of a Lin Carter story about Thongor of Lemuria. On the evidence of this issue, Thongor is the exact same character as Conan except with no sense of humor, and this comic is effectively just a bad Conan story. This issue also includes a reprinted Lee-Ditko horror story, which is one of several Lee-Ditko stories in which an alien invasion is prevented by accident.

STARMAN #78 (DC, 2001) – “1951, Part Two: — What?”, (W) James Robinson & David Goyer, (A) Peter Snejbjerg. One of the few issues of this series that I haven’t already read. The 1951 Starman story was kind of a pendant or bonus chapter to the series as a whole; its main purpose was to tie up loose ends. The main thing that happens in this issue is that Jack tells David that he (David) is going to die after he returns to the present, and David is okay with it. Which creates an interesting and poignant paradox, since it implies that David knew he was going to die all along, but never told anyone.

(It turns out I already *had* read this issue, but I will allow this review to stand.)

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #117 (DC, 1969) – “The Planet of the Capes!”, (W) Otto Binder, (A) Pete Costanza. Like many ‘60s DC comics, this issue has a hilarious premise, but fails to exploit that premise effectively. On an expedition with Professor Lang, Jimmy gets transported to a parallel universe where people who wear superhero capes are masters, and people without capes are slaves. Sadly, the explanation is disappointing and improbable. I’m not even going to say what it is, because it’s dumb. Notably, this issue seems to be the first mention of Shadow Lass outside Adventure Comics. Her cape appears in the story, though she herself doesn’t appear on panel.

SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? #51 (DC, 2015) – “Out of Line,” (W) Sholly Fisch, (A) Robert Pope; also “Fashionistas,” (W) Jack Briglio, (A) Karen Matchette. This series is less interesting than Scooby-Doo Team-Up because of its lack of DC Universe characters. Neither of the stories in this issue was memorable at all.

WONDER WOMAN #61 (DC, 1992) – “To Avenge an Amazon,” (W) George Pérez, (A) Jill Thompson. In this “War of the Gods” tie-in issue, Diana has somehow gotten herself killed. Her friends and allies react to her death and vow to avenge her. Just like “Time Passages” (#8), one of George’s best Wonder Woman stories, this issue doesn’t feature Diana herself, but instead teaches us about her by depicting her impact on other people. However, this issue is less effective than “Time Passages” because the reader knows that Diana’s death isn’t going to stick, and the plot is hard to follow, especially the part involving Circe and Cheetah.

MIGHTY SAMSON #5 (Gold Key, 1966) – “The Death Geysers,” (W) unknown, (A) Frank Thorne. This comic is a post-apocalyptic narrative set in the ruins of New York. In this issue, the title character and his friends Sharmaine and Mindor encounter a man who’s been turned into a shapeshifting monster by radiation. This comic is a bit like Hercules Unbound or Kamandi, but is worse than either, and its primary source of interest is the early Frank Thorne artwork. I see a bit of a Wally Wood influence in the art, but I don’t know if Thorne was ever part of Woody’s studio.

DAREDEVIL #214 (Marvel, 1985) – “The Crumbling,” (W) Denny O’Neil, (A) David Mazzucchelli. The artwork in this issue is amazing. By 1985, David Mazzucchelli’s style was fully developed, and this issue is almost as well-drawn as Daredevil: Born Again or Batman: Year One. I’m especially impressed by his compositional ability; at various points, he creates a dramatic effect by leaving out the background and the panel borders. The writing in this issue is not the equal of the artwork. It’s the conclusion to a multipart story about Micah Synn, the savage chief of a white African tribe. Denny O’Neil was a problematic writer to begin with, and his ‘80s Marvel comics were worse than his ‘60s and ‘70s DC comics.

ZWANA, SON OF ZULU #1 (Dark Zulu Lies, 1993) – “Enter the Zulu,” (W) Nabile Hage, (A) John Ruiz. I found this comic in a cheap box at the convention in August. I had never heard of it before, but it was so strange I had to buy it. It stars an African superhero whose secret identity is a student at “Black African State University.” As its title indicates, this is a superhero comic written from a radical black perspective. In Demanding Respect, Paul Lopes quotes Nabile Hage as saying that his goal for this comic was to integrate the direct market, since there were no black-owned comics publishers at the time. It is not surprising that this project failed and that the first issue of Zwanna was also the last. The level of craftsmanship in this comic is very low. The plot is hopelessly confused and aimless, and the art is only average at best. This comic is also extremely explicit and unsubtle. Zwanna is an unabashed male power fantasy, and the villains are a bunch of cross-dressing Confederate reenactors. Zwanna stabs one of them to death with a spear through the chin. Given the explicit content of this comic, as well as its potentially controversial racial politics, I’m surprised that it contains ads for major motion pictures and video games. I guess at the time, advertisers were willing to buy advertising space in any comic book, regardless of its content.

While this comic was not a success, it’s an interesting historical precedent. In 1993, comic book publishers lacked either the ability or the desire to market their products to black readers. Milestone had some success at attracting a black readership, but ultimately failed. At the time, the default comic book audience was assumed to be white. Now maybe that assumption is starting to change. I went to a bunch of different panels at NYCC that focused on black comics, and I heard a lot of positive buzz for comics like Black Panther and Black, the first issue of which was sold out when I went to look for it. In the ‘90s, comics like Zwanna, Son of Zulu and the Milestone titles were unable to connect with significant numbers of black readers. But now, both major publishers like Marvel and smaller publishers like Black Mask seem to have made a much more serious effort to reach out to black audiences, and have achieved much more success. The reasons for this are worth thinking about, but are beyond the scope of this review.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #52 (Marvel, 1976) – “Demon on a Rampage,” (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Sal Buscema. This issue appears to be a sequel to Captain America #202, which was written by Kirby, and is therefore a poor fit for Gerry’s more realistic and down-to-earth style of writing. I don’t remember much else about this comic. The ending, which shows that Cap and Spidey are envious of each other, is kind of poignant.

LADY KILLER 2 #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Joelle Jones. Josie assassinates some people, then teams up with a man named Irving who offers to dispose of bodies for her, then assassinates some more people. If you’ve read one issue of this comic, you’ve read them all.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #10 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Ed Piskor. The pleasant surprise this issue was when I realized that it was the origin story of Public Enemy. I just finished reading Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, and there are some notable points of similarity between that comic and HHFT.

Man, I read a lot of comic books that week. I received the following comics on October 21. As usual, I was very sleepy when I read them.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #13 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Ryan North, (A) Erica Henderson. This issue’s cover is a cute parody of Avengers #223. The issue itself is not one of Ryan and Erica’s best. The Northern Ontario setting and the Canada jokes are funny, but Enigmo is more disturbing than funny. I hope this story is over soon.

PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT #11 (Marvel, 2016) – “Don’t Stop Me-Ow,” (W) Kate Leth, (A) Brittney Williams. Another comic that underwhelmed me, probably because I was too tired to fully enjoy it. As usual this was a well-written and funny story, with some fun dialogue between Patsy and Felicia. But I had trouble keeping all the characters straight, especially in the scene that takes place outside Patsy’s apartment. I’m a bit surprised to learn that Ian swings both ways.

MANIFEST DESTINY #24 (Image, 2016) – “Sasquatch, Part 6,” (W) Chris Dingess, (A) Matthew Roberts. Finally we’re starting to get some tentative answers. It’s obvious that Sacagawea’s baby is the War Child mentioned in Helm’s message. I didn’t quite get what was happening on the last page, until the letters column mentioned that there’s a barely visible arch in the image.

ASTRO CITY #40 (DC, 2016) – “The Party of the Second Part,” (W) Kurt Busiek, (A) Carmen Carnero. The second part of the Marta two-parter reintroduces the Silver Adept, and also gives us more information than we’ve ever had before about the magical side of the Astro City universe. Kurt’s version of Astro City’s magical realms is a nice tribute to Ditko’s Dr. Strange. The resolution to Marta’s character arc is fairly satisfying, but I’m a bit skeptical that she was able to solve a problem no one else could. It’s a bit like the ending of the Green Lantern film. I also think that even at the end of the issue, she’s still stuck in a dead-end romance.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #20 (IDW, 2016) – “Enter the Stingers, Part Two,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Meredith McClaren. I still don’t like Meredith McClaren’s art; she draws some weird-looking mouths. I hope we get Sophie Campbell back after this current arc. This is a fun story, though. The political struggle between the Holograms, Misfits and Stingers is entertaining, and each character gets some time in the spotlight.

SPELL ON WHEELS #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kate Leth, (A) Megan Levens. I enjoyed this new comic about a coven of witches, but I can’t remember much about it now. I expect when #2 comes out, I will have to remind myself what #1 was about.

LOVE & ROCKETS #1 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – various stories, (W/A) Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez. This may have been my most anticipated comic this week, but it’s fairly similar to a typical issue of either of the last two L&R volumes. My favorite story this issue was the first one, Jaime’s “I Come from Above to Avoid a Double Chin.” The long Gilbert story, like much of Beto’s recent work, was just confusing and aimless. I think the last time I was really impressed by one of Gilbert’s stories was when he killed off Sergio and Gato, although I have not read Marble Season.

USAGI YOJIMBO #158 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “The Fate of the Elders,” (W/A) Stan Sakai. This was the best issue since the reboot, and a possible Eisner nominee for Best Single Issue. In this one-part story, Usagi visits a famine-stricken area and helps a young man carry his elderly mother up a mountain, where her husband is waiting. It was easy to figure out that the old man was dead, but – SPOILER WARNING – I had no idea that the young man was going to leave his mother to starve. As with many of Stan’s best stories, this ending fills me with complex and contrary emotions. I feel horrified at this awful custom, which is all the more shocking given the son’s obvious love for his mother, as well as the fact that Japanese culture places such a high value on filial piety. At the same time, I’m impressed by the mother’s brave sacrifice, and the last panel suggests that Usagi feels the same way. Overall, this story proves that Stan is still perhaps the best storyteller in the industry.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #530 (Gladstone, 1986) – “The Three Boxes,” (W/A) Carl Barks, plus other material. “The Three Boxes” is the first story in which Gyro Gearloose makes more than a cameo appearance. It has a silly premise in which Gyro invents some boxes that can give animals the ability to talk. Unlike most of Gyro’s inventions, this one is not even remotely plausible. But Barks is able to use this absurd premise as the basis for some funny jokes. This issue also includes a Carl Buettner story starring Bucky Bug, which did not deserve to be reprinted. Besides being written in annoying rhyming language, it includes racist depictions of black people. The last story in the issue is “The Legend of Loon Lake,” starring Mickey and Goofy. This story also includes some offensive images of Native Americans, but at least it’s exciting and well-plotted. I think I’ve read one of the other parts of this story in some other Gladstone comic.

THE BACKSTAGERS #3 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) James Tynion IV, (A) Rian Sygh. At NYCC, I went to a panel on LGBTQ comics that included James Tynion, and he confirmed my suspicion that The Backstagers is supposed to have a gay subtext. My description of Backstagers as a male version of Lumberjanes appears to be accurate. This was the best issue yet. It focuses on Beckett, the light manager, who is proud of his light board and doesn’t want to let anyone else use it. However, he is forced to let Sasha into his light room, and disaster ensues. The emotions in this comic are over-the-top and histrionic, but also genuine, and I feel I’m starting to understand these characters.

THE MIGHTY THOR #12 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Untold Origin of Mjolnir,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Russell Dauterman & Frazer Irving. Two excellent artists illustrate a story that doesn’t really tell us anything new. I’m sure at least some of the information in this issue is retconned – at the beginning of the issue, the librarian mentions that there are several versions of Mjolnir’s origin. But i couldn’t tell what exactly was new about this version,

BLACK PANTHER #7 (Marvel, 2016) – “A Nation Under Our Feet, Part 7,” (W) Ta-Nehisi Coates, (A) Chris Sprouse. I am told that the writer’s name is prononuced Ta-na-HAH-see. I think I must have been suffering from reader’s block on Friday, because this comic just didn’t make much of an impression on me.

BOOM BOX MIX TAPE 2015 (Boom!, 2015) – various stories by various (W/A). Yes, this says 2015, not 2016. I have no idea why it took so long to come out. This issue includes short stories based on a wide range of Boom! comics, including Power Up, which I had almost forgotten about. The highlight is probably the Giant Days story, which is drawn as well as written by John Allison, but the Lumberjanes story is also very touching. And the series of Help Us! Great Warrior one-pagers were much better than the actual Help Us! Great Warrior comic. I think this character may be too insubstantial to carry an entire full-length story.

BLACK PANTHER #3 (Marvel, 1999) – “Original Sin,” (W) Christopher Priest, (A) Mark Texeira. This is just as confusing as the previous issue. I hope this comic will start making more sense as I continue to read. It’s an odd coincidence that the villain, Achebe, just happens to have the same name as the most famous African writer.

WONDER WOMAN #50 (DC, 1990) – “Embrace the Coming Dawn,” (W) George Pérez, (A) Jill Thompson. This oversized anniversary issue is one of the high points of George’s Wonder Woman run, which is my favorite version of the character by far. The Amazon embassy arrives in Manhattan, and most of the issue is devoted to showing how various characters react to this historic event. There are all kinds of lovely scenes here, including Diana’s private chat with Superman, and Vanessa’s appearance in a ridiculous dress. There’s also an odd scene where Terry Long reveals that he and Donna can’t make it to the ceremony. The really odd part here is that Diana says she’s sorry that Donna can’t meet Hippolyta. Come on, I read Tales of the Teen Titans #50 and I know that Terry and Hippolyta have met. This is the problem with post-Crisis DC continuity – that we were supposed to pretend that old stories didn’t happen the way we remembered them. Anyway, besides that, this is a very happy comic book – the feeling of joy at the end is overwhelming. George said in some interview somewhere that he likes to draw happy people, and this issue is certainly an example of that (even if he didn’t draw it).

CATWOMAN #7 (DC, 2002) – “Disguises, Part Two,” (W) Ed Brubaker, (A) Brad Rader. Despite the subpar artwork, this is a gripping and powerful issue. When Holly suffers a serious gunshot wound, Selina takes her to Leslie Thompkins for treatment, then teams up with Slam Bradley to investigate who did it. This issue is a good example of Ed’s skill at writing gritty crime fiction. Now that I mention that, I’m not sure why I’m not more interested in his creator-owned work with Sean Phillips.

HELLBLAZER #81 (DC, 1994) – “Rake at the Gates of Hell, Part Four,” (W) Garth Ennis, (A) Steve Dillon. I read this issue just after hearing about Steve Dillon’s tragic death. I don’t believe I ever met him, but he was a great artist. At this point in this story arc, east London is engulfed in a brutal race riot, and Constantine is hiding out in a church, where he has a long uncomfortable conversation with a priest. I’m not sure quite what’s going on here, or how it fits in with the larger arc of Ennis’s Hellblazer, but it’s a well-written and well-drawn story.

UNCANNY X-MEN #212 (Marvel, 1986) – “The Last Run,” (W) Chris Claremont, (A) Rick Leonardi. I think this is the earliest Claremont X-Men issue that I had not previously read. At this point, I have every issue from #143 to #243, and I only need five more issues to have #143 to #279. And I’ve read all the earlier issues in the form of Classic X-Men reprints. Anyway, the Mutant Massacre is a strong piece of work, though it’s one of Claremont’s bleaker and more depressing stories. The Marauders’ destructon of the Morlocks seems very poorly motivated; it seems like just wanton murder for its own sake. Which may be the point. Rick Leonardi’s artwork in this issue is excellent, and it’s a shame that he never became a superstar; he was far better than Marc Silvestri, if nothing else.

STRANGE TALES #160 (Marvel, 1967) – “Project Blackout,” (W/A) Jim Steranko; and “If This Planet You Would Save!”, (W) Raymond Marais, (A) Marie Severin. Like almost every Steranko Nick Fury story, “Project: Blackout” is an artistic masterpiece. The plot is forgettable, but the machinery, the action sequences, and the page layouts are stunning. The artwork in the Dr. Strange story is good, but not nearly as good. When I reviewed Tales to Astonish #96 in 2013, I wrote that I couldn’t find any information about Raymond Marais, and I still can’t.

DOCTOR STRANGE #13 (Marvel, 2016) – “Blood in the Aether, Chapter Two: Night of Four Billion Nightmares,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Chris Bachalo. Much better than the previous issue. The notion of traveling through dreams is familiar from The Sandman, but Jason Aaron executes this idea well. Doc’s dream sequence is fun; I like how his female companions keep multiplying when he’s not looking.

REVIVAL #43 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Tim Seeley, (A) Mike Norton. The big revelation this issue is that Lester Majak both killed Dana and caused the apocalypse, by sacrificing Dana in a ritual intended to defeat death. More on this next issue (which I have already read as I write this). This series is building up to an exciting conclusion.

NO MERCY #10 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Alex de Campi, (A) Carla Speed McNeil. I’m glad this series is back; the last issue was in April, I think. The highlight of the issue is Travis’s psychedelic experience, which is beautifully depicted by Carla. There’s also a scene where the partner of Alice (who I assume must have died in a previous issue) is pressured into signing some contracts. This scene is intentionally disturbing; it’s really obvious that the university is trying to manipulate her, and that they’re discriminating against her on the basis of her sexual orientation. And it’s totally plausible that a university would do this.

HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY #13 (Action Lab, 2016) – “Hero Cats of the Apocalypse,” (W) Kyle Puttkammer, (A) Sey Viani. An imaginary story in which Ace becomes the “Last Cat on Earth” after the planet is invaded by zombies, vampires, aliens, kaiju, etc. Some of these monsters bear an uncanny resemblance to the other Hero Cats. There’s not much of a plot here, but it’s a funny comic.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #10 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Skottie Young. Another self-contained issue, in which Gert has to choose between taking the left or the right passageway in a dungeon, and she makes the wrong choice, resulting in a horrible apocalypse. Then Future Gert has to come back in time and persuade Present Gert to make the right choice. It’s a funny (and beautifully drawn) story, especially since Skottie leaves it to the reader to imagine how Gert’s actions could have such a wildly disproportionate effect. This issue includes four blank pages, which is a bit lazy, but oh well.

SUPERMAN #9 (DC, 2016) – “Escape from Dinosaur Island, Part 2,” (W) Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, (A) Doug Mahnke. An exciting adventure story which is full of good characterization. Clark and Jon have such an adorable relationship. As I suspected after last issue, the castaways who Clark and Jon are supposed to rescue are the Losers.

JONESY #7 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) Sam Humphries, (A) Caitlin Rose Boyle. I’ve been lukewarm about this series, but this was the best issue yet, by far. Most of the previous issues were lighthearted fluff, but this issue is a serious exploration of Jonesy’s relationship with her divorced mother. Jonesy claims to hate her mom, but it turns out Jonesy really thinks her mom has abandoned her. The splash page where Jonesy says “I want you to love me” is the high point of the entire series thus far. And the way Jonesy’s mother explains the divorce is perfect; it’s a model of good parenting. This would be an ideal comic for kids who are in a family situation similar to Jonesy’s.

DEPT. H #7 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Matt Kindt. The weakness of this series, compared to MIND MGMT, is that Matt is not doing nearly as much with the format. Each issue of MIND MGMT was distinctive and unique because of the fake ads and the other formatting tricks, but each issue of Dept. H feels the same as all the others. In this issue, one of the characters kills another of the characters, and we get a little bit of new information about what the underwater facility is for.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #47 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, (W) Ted Anderson, (A) Agnes Garbowska. In the second part of the mayoral election story, Filthy Rich is elected, but proves completely unqualified for the job. After he nearly destroys the town through his incompetence, he resigns and the citizens demand that Mayor Mare become mayor again. This story is heavily reminiscent of the Simpsons episode “Trash of the Titans,” and, of course, it’s also a not-so-subtle commentary on the presidential election – which is two days away as I write this. I am confident that in real life, the competent, efficient woman will prevail over the rich but stupid and overconfident man. I just hope the country won’t have to be nearly destroyed first. (EDITED LATER: Um, well. Huh. Crap.)

I’ve never paid much attention to Agnes Garbowska’s art because she’s less flashy than Andy Price or Jay Fosgitt, but she’s a talented pony artist, and she draws great facial expressions.

INHUMANS #5 (Marvel, 1976) – “Voices from Galaxy’s End,” (W) Doug Moench, (A) Gil Kane. I’ve had this comic for quite a while. I finally read it because this series is mentioned in Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, which I was reading at the same time. One of the characters in that book also mentions that George Pérez, who drew the earlier issues of Inhumans, couldn’t draw Farrah Fawcett (in Logan’s Run) to save his life. Anyway, this issue has some good artwork, but suffers from severe overwriting. The story involves yet another battle between the royal Inhumans and Maximus. The good guys win in the end, but Black Bolt is so sad that he starts screaming and destroys the city, which is a dumb ending.

DEFENDERS #30 (Marvel, 1975) – “Gold Diggers of Fear!”, (W) Bill Mantlo, (A) Sam Grainger. Even in 1975, that title (a reference to the film Gold Diggers of 1933 and its similarly titled sequels) must have gone over the heads of most readers. This was another comic that I’ve owned for a while, but finally decided to read because it comes from the same period as The Fortress of Solitude. Sadly, this is a pretty bad issue, and not just because it’s a fill-in issue that interrupted Steve Gerber’s brilliant Defenders run. It seems like Mantlo was trying to imitate Gerber’s absurdist style of humor, but he failed. This issue’s plot and its villain, “Tapping Tommy,” are ridiculous in a stupid way, whereas Gerber’s plots and characters were ridiculous in a funny way.

OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #6 (Marvel, 2008) – “The Unparalleled Mink in: Night Terrors,” (W) Jonathan Lethem, (A) Farel Dalrymple. This comic is still confusing to the point of incomprehensibility. I don’t think I’ll be able to understand it until I read the whole thing in order, and probably not even then. But now that I’ve read one of Lethem’s novels, I understand this comic better. Omega the Unknown is referenced frequently in The Fortress of Solitude. I think Lethem responded to that series so strongly because the protagonist, James Michael Starling, was so similar to him at the time – a bookish, lonely 11-year-old boy growing up in a grim inner-city neighborhood. Lethem’s own Omega comic is sort of a fan fiction, in that it attempts to recapture what appealed to him about Gerber and Skrenes’s original. I don’t think he entirely succeeds in doing that, but at least now I get what he was trying to do.

OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #7 (Marvel, 2008) – untitled, creators as above. See previous review. This issue begins with a very strange sequence that’s drawn in a childish style. Farel Dalrymple’s artwork is an independent reason to read this comic, even if one has no interest in Lethem’s story.