One more week’s worth of reviews

New comics received on Saturday, September 9:

ASTRO CITY #47 (DC, 2017) – “Who’s a Good Dog?”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mike Norton. The most adorable Astro City story ever. A petty criminal acquires the power to merge with his (stolen) corgi, resulting in the cutest and least threatening superhero I’ve ever seen. Because his personality also merges with the dog’s, the criminal acquires the dog’s honesty and loyalty, causing him to turn his life around and become a solid citizen. But his superhero days are numbered because… well, I won’t spoil it. This is another excellent Astro City story, and I eagerly await part two, which will guest-star Kitty Hawk. When the cat says “Birds. Clawrip. Bonesnap. Throatbite. Land, birds,” I’m pretty sure that’s an accurate depiction of what cats think about.

MOTOR CRUSH #6 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Babs Tarr, [W] Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart. This comic is also very cute, since most of it is a flashback to when Domino was twelve years old. But it’s also quite depressing, since it shows us how Sullivan Swift lost his leg thanks to his refusal to act as a mob enforcer. This issue is excellent and I’m glad this series is back.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #5 (IDW, 2017) – “Somnambula and the Snake,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brenda Hickey. I read this issue the same day I saw “Daring Done,” which introduced Somnambula, and this comic is a strong sequel to that episode. After defeating the sphinx, Somnambula confronts a giant snake, which keeps getting bigger and bigger thanks to having swallowed a magic stone. Brenda Hickey’s art includes some nice sight gags, such as the page where the snake eats the three guards in the background while Somnambula is talking to Hisan in the foreground.

POPE HATS #5 (AdHouse, 2017) – “Things to Come,” [W/A] Ethan Rilly. This is my pick for the best comic book of 2017. At 61 pages, it’s also one of the longest and densest. While this story has some fanciful elements, like the panel where Castonguay’s pants fall down, it’s at bottom a very realistic story about the inhumanity of the business world. Frances becomes such a rising star in her law firm that she’s offered the position of office manager. But her professional success comes at the cost of everything else in her life. We see that she works constantly, she suffers from impostor syndrome, and she has no time for her boyfriend. Meanwhile, Frances’s friend (whose name I forget) becomes a Hollywood star, but she knows it’s not sustainable. We also see that Frances’s firm has no loyalty to anyone and that it subjects all its employees to the same pressure Frances is facing. When I read this comic, I feel grateful that I do genuinely important work that I value for its own sake, and that I didn’t go into the corporate world, because if this comic is an exaggeration, it’s not much of one. It also feels like a parable of contemporary capitalism in general, even though it’s a very specific story about two particular people.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. I was looking forward to this because it’s written by one of the writers of Shirtless Bear-Fighter, but I was not impressed. So far it seems like just a bunch of trite fantasy tropes. I do like the art, and I’m willing to give this series a few more issues.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #31 (Image, 2017) – “I Don’t Love Anyone,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. I still think this is one of the best comics on the market, but I don’t particularly look forward to reading it. Perhaps this is because the characters, other than Baal and Minerva, are just too unsavory. Also, depressing shit keeps happening, such as Sakhmet tearing Amaterasu’s throat out, which is the big event this issue.

MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE PREQUEL #4 (IDW, 2017) – “Tempest of Equestria”, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. Finally this issue introduces an actual pony: Tempest, a unicorn with a broken horn. I’m curious to see what’s going on with her, especially since (as someone else, probably Dave van Domelen pointed out) Andy is careful to not let us see her cutie mark. But other than that, this is kind of an insubstantial story.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: THE MISFITS: INFINITE #2 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St-Onge. On the wrong side of the wall, the Misfits meet the alternate versions of Kimber and Stormer. So I guess Jem’s dad wasn’t telling the complete truth when he said the Misfits were dead. Also, we learn that the alternate world became a dystopia because the secret of Synergy’s technology became public knowledge. This was an okay but not great issue.

USAGI YOJIMBO #161 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “The Body in the Library Part 1 of 2,” [W] Stan Sakai. Kitsune tries to burglarize a rich doctor’s house, only to discover that someone has been there ahead of her and killed the owner. Usagi and Inspector Ishida investigate. I’ve read so much Usagi that I often take Stan for granted, and I forget just how good his storytelling is. This issue also includes a “Chibi Usagi” one-pager co-written by Stan’s wife Julie.

WHAT IS A GLACIER? (Retrofit/Big Planet, 2017) – “What is a Glacier?”, [W/A] Sophie Yanow. The cool thing about the Retrofit line is that it gives me a chance to sample the work of artists whose graphic novels I haven’t read yet. I’ve heard good things about Sophie Yanow’s War of Streets and Houses, but haven’t read it. This comic is drawn in a much simpler style than that graphic novel, but it’s a deep and complex meditation on climate change, as well as travel and aging. It makes me want to read the rest of her work.

GIANT DAYS #30 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. When I posted a Facebook status asking if anyone could explain this comic’s title, Brian Cronin spontaneously decided to pose this question to John Allison and to publish the answer at CBR. That’s kind of cool. It turns out the title is meant to suggest the perceived hugeness of the stuff that happens to you in college. This issue, all the girls are embroiled in relationship drama: Esther and Susan disapprove of Daisy’s romance with Ingrid, but Esther is secretly friends with Emilia, whose boyfriend, McGraw, has secretly been hanging out with Susan.

ROCKET GIRL #9 (Image, 2017) – “Foregone,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Amy Reeder. I still love the idea of this comic, but I still have trouble following the plot. This current storyline has taken about two years to come out, and this issue doesn’t include any kind of recap page. This wouldn’t be a problem if I was reading this series in trade paperback form, but since I’m reading it one issue at a time, it’s a major problem. At one point this issue I found myself wondering if Dayoung was mind-controlled or something, since her behavior seemed very reckless. That point was during the scene in the Javits Center, which I hadn’t realized was in existence in 1986.

HAWKEYE #10 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Enemy Within,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Kate and her friends go out to a club, but it quickly becomes clear that “Kate” is either an LMD or Madame Masque. The writing in this issue is good, but the art is amazing, especially the mostly pink page with the giant BOOM. Leonardo Romero has quietly become an excellent artist.

KING: FLASH GORDON #4 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] Lee Ferguson. Zarkov fakes his and Flash’s deaths in order to spark a revolution against Ming. This was a pretty good issue, with very funny dialogue.

CHAMBER OF CHILLS #1 (Marve,l 1972) – “Moon of Madness, Moon of Fear!”, [W] George Alec Effinger, [A] P. Craig Russell, plus other stories. The first story this issue is fairly good; it’s about a reverse werewolf who turns into a human when the moon is full. Then there’s a reprint of an excellent EC-esque story by Stan Lee and Russ Heath, about a brutal prison warden. The third story is much worse. It’s an adaptation by Roy Thomas and Syd Shores of a Harlan Ellison story, but Roy focuses on including as much of Ellison’s prose as he can, and as a result the story becomes unreadable.

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #148 (DC, 1970) – “Luck is a Puppy Named Schatzi!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Joe Kubert. Simply an incredible comic book. Enemy Ace adopts a stray puppy, Schatzi, who becomes his good luck charm… until Schatzi falls out of Enemy Ace’s plane to his death. Kubert’s art is some of the finest of his career; he is a master aviation artist and storyteller, and he makes the dog look very cute. Schatzi’s death is a stunning moment. These Enemy Ace stories are absolute classics and I’m sorry I waited so long to read them. The backup story, drawn by Ric Estrada, has better art than I expected.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #28 (Marvel, 1973) – “Mountain of Thunder!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Vicente Alcazar. Alcazar’s art in this issue is quite good, but the story is a quite literal adaptation of a Thongor story by Lin Carter. The Carter story is just a bad Conan rip-off, and Gerber adapts it so closely that he has no room for originality. The reprinted backup story, by Lee and Ditko, is probably better than the main story.

DC COMICS PRESENTS #24 (DC, 1980) – “The Man Who Was the World!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] José Luis García-López. One of my Facebook friends – I forget who – said that this was their favorite Len Wein story. I don’t agree (I don’t think I have favorite), but this is certainly an excellent story. It’s a true team-up story because the two heroes work together to solve a problem that neither can solve on their own. A scientist, Alex Atley, tries to stabilize his irregular heart rhythm by tying it to the rhythm of the Earth, however that works. But it has the opposite effect, causing the Earth to vibrate in resonance with the scientist’s heartbeat. So Deadman has to keep the scientist alive, at the same time that Superman dives into the earth’s core to retrieve the device the scientist put there. The climactic page, where Deadman literally defeats the Grim Reaper and saves Alex’s life, is an amazing moment.

DAREDEVIL #367 (Marvel, 1997) – “Cruel & Unusual Punishments,” [W] Joe Kelly, [A] Gene Colan. Not all that great. Gene’s artwork is very loose and lacking in detail, and the story, involving the Gladiator and Mr. Fear, is quite hard to follow. Back in the late ‘90s, I had been reading Daredevil but dropped it after Karl Kesel was replaced as writer by Joe Kelly, and it’s probably just as well that I did.

JONAH HEX #84 (DC, 1984) – “Carnival of Doom!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Tony DeZuñiga. Another hilarious Western story. Jonah buys some new guns, then visits New Orleans, where he is hired to protect a rich man’s daughter from assassination. The daughter’s fiancé turns out to be a coward, so she decides to leave him for Jonah – although Jonah’s previous marriage worked out so well, as we are reminded in a brief scene with Mei-Ling and her son.

BACCHUS #19 (Eddie Campbell, 1996) – “A Breath of Fresh Air” and other stories, [W/A] Eddie Campbell. The problem with this series is that so much of it consists of material I’ve already read in other formats. This issue includes chapters of “Banged Up” and “Doing the Islands with Bacchus” plus some Alec McGarry one-pagers. Little if any of this material is new to me. I still want to collect this whole series if I can, just for completism’s sake.

JACK STAFF #3 (Image, 2003) – various stories, [W/A] Paul Grist. Jack Staff fights the Hurricane, who is basically the Hulk. Also lots of other stuff goes on that I couldn’t quite follow. As usual with Paul Grist’s work, I loved the art but didn’t understand the story.

SPLAT! #2 (Mad Dog, 1987) – various stories, [E] Tom Mason. An anthology of mostly British artists, published by Jan Strnad. This issue features an impressive lineup of talent, such as Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell, Hunt Emerson and Peter Bagge, but only includes minor early works by each of them. The best things in the issue are some Maxwell the Magic Cat strips by Moore, and Eddie Campbell’s story about working in a fish and chip shop.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS VOL. 3 #17 (210) (Dark Horse, 2015) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. The first three stories in this issue are quite bad, even (especially) the one written by Paul Levitz. The issue subsequently redeems itself with some better work by Carla Speed McNeil, David Chelsea, Alex de Campi and Jerry Ordway, and Brendan McCarthy. The Finder story appears to be about Rachel, the oldest Grosvenor-Lockhart sister.

DEADLINE USA #4 (Dark Horse, 1992) – various stories, [E] Chris Warner. A much better anthology of British comics, consisting of material reprinted from a British comic of the same name (without the USA part). The highlight of the issue is a chapter of Philip Bond’s “Wired World”, a science-fictional story about two girls who go to a zoo to buy a pet. The issue would be worth reading for this story alone, and I hope I can find some more chapters of it. Other creators featured include Shaky Kane, Peter Milligan and Brett Ewins, and Dave Cooper.

BLACK HAMMER #7 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Black Hammer Falls!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. An important issue because we finally learn how the characters got to Black Hammer Farm, and what happened to the title character. It turns out that Black Hammer got his powers from Starlok, i.e. Highfather/Odin, in order to battle Anti-God, i.e. Darkseid. There’s a touching scene where Black Hammer refuses a summons from Starlok in order to attend his daughter’s birthday party, but he has to pay the price for his decision, because Anti-God attacks Spiral City. Black Hammer and the other superheroes defeat him but find themselves in Black Hammer Farm, and when Black Hammer tries to leave, he dies (in the same way that Colonel Weird’s wife Eve died, as noted above). So we’re finally starting to get the big picture of what’s going on in this comic.

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #16 (DC, 1995) – “Playgrounds, Part Two: Tag… You’re It,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Snejbjerg. Tim and Molly and their fairy companions are both stuck at tiny size. Meanwhile, Khara and Nikki (the demon and her half-angel child) are held captive by some kind of villain. I’m not sure what’s going on here, but it’s funny and weird.

CRITTERS #23 (Fantagraphics, 1988) – various stories, [E] Kim Thompson. I bought this issue because of the story “Teddy Payne: Right to the Blues” by Ty Templeton and A. Van Bruggen. It’s about some teddy bears who play in a blues band, and it’s both ridiculously cute, and rather melancholy. This issue was published with a flexi-disc recording of the teddy bears’ song, but my copy does not have the disc. Unfortunately, this issue is 64 pages and contains a lot of material I could have done without. There’s an Usagi Yojimbo two-parter and a chapter of Freddy Milton’s Gnuff, but there’s also a lot of very low-quality work by lesser artists.

THE HUMANS #10 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Keenan Marshall Keller, [A] Tom Neely. This is the last issue, which is probably a good thing. This series has an interesting premise, is well-drawn, and effectively evokes the spirit of the ‘70s, but it doesn’t have much of a plot, and I don’t care much about the characters.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #78 (Marvel, 1979) – “Claws!”, [W] Bill Kunkel, [A] Don Perlin. A Spider-Man/Wonder Man team-up. Like the classic Avengers #162, this issue focuses on Wonder Man’s fear of death and lack of confidence, but it’s not nearly as good as Avengers #162, although it’s kind of fun.

THE DESERT PEACH #8 (Mu Press, 1990) – “Dressing Down,” [W/A] Donna Barr. I’m Facebook friends with Donna Barr, but I had not previously read her major work, about Erwin Rommel’s gay younger brother Manfred. Now that I have read it, I am seriously impressed. This issue is a convoluted spy caper in which Manfred and his batman (in the military sense) are sent to England to impersonate two female spies. It’s an exciting and funny piece of screwball comedy, Manfred and Udo are an awesome comedic duo, and Donna Barr appears to have a deep knowledge of German culture. The fact that this comic is about WWII-era Nazis means it’s treading on dangerous ground, but to me it doesn’t feel offensive at all. After reading this comic, I read most of the other Barr comics I had (see reviews in next post) and I wish I had more.

CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS #5 (Marvel/Icon, 2010) – “The Sinners, Part Five,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. A story about a priest who becomes the leader of a gang of assassins. It’s fairly good. It has nothing to do with either of the other two issues of Criminal I read this year.

CRITTERS #20 (Fantagraphics, 1988) – various stories, [E] Kim Thompson. This issue begins with “Speaking Stone,” a rare non-X-rated work by Reed Waller and Kate Worley. It’s an anthropomorphic story about an absent-minded archaeologist and his more sensible assistant. It’s not Omaha, but it’s well-drawn, it has good dialogue, and it shows at least some knowledge of Andean culture. This series was unfortunately never finished. This issue also includes another Gnuff chapter and a story by William Van Horn.


August and mid-September reviews


I have about a hundred of these to review, so let’s try to do these quickly.

ASTRO CITY #46 (DC, 2017) – “The Day the Music Died,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. Joke review: I think I read this comic but I can’t remember it at all. When I think of it, all I can recall is a bunch of dark tentacles and eyes. Serious review: So it turns out that the Jazzbaby/Glamorax/etc. character is the incarnation of music, who keeps reincarnating in different forms. But the Oubor stops him from reincarnating and also makes everyone forget about him. And that’s why he’s spent the entire series appealing to the reader for help. This issue finally explains the weird stuff that’s been going on since the beginning of the series, in an innovative and unexpected way, and hopefully sets the stage for an epic battle in issue 50.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #17 (Image, 2017) – “Gut Check, Part Three,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Jason Latour. A good issue, but not a surprising one. The tensions between Coach Boss and Colonel Quick McKlusky continue to escalate, while Roberta Tubb finally starts to intervene.

RAT QUEENS VOL. 2 #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. The best part of the issue is the opening sequence, where each of the Rat Queens is reliving her greatest regret, and Betty’s regret is letting Hannah have the last piece of pie. What a perfect Betty moment. She’s my favorite character in this series, if I haven’t said so already. The moment with the cursed talking sword is also pretty funny. I wonder if the wizard dude at the end of the issue is a reference to Vaughn Bode’s Cheech Wizard.

SPY SEAL #1 (Image, 2017) – “The Corten-Steel Phoenix,” [W/A] Rich Tommaso. I hope that the social media controversy over this comic has led to higher sales, because this is an excellent comic. It’s obviously heavily influenced by the French Clear Line style, but is closer in tone to Chaland or Swarte than Hergé. The humor is witty and the art is painstakingly crafted. Also, this comic benefits from Tommaso’s excellent design sense.

SUPER SONS #7 (DC, 2017) – “Planet of the Capes, Part 2,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Another terrific issue of DC’s most fun comic. The best part is Kory’s interactions with Jon, especially the scene where she pinches his cheek. But this is just a really fun, cute and well-crafted superhero comic overall.

MISFIT CITY #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith & Kurt Lustgarten, (A) Naomi Franquiz. Oddly enough I received two issues of this comic on the same day. This issue was a bit hard to follow because of the delay since issue 2, but this series continues to be an exciting adventure comic.

MISFIT CITY #4 – as above. At the fair, all kinds of weird stuff happens and then it turns out Captain Denby is still alive. I’m glad that this comic, unlike so many other recent Boom! Box and Kaboom series, is not going to end after four issues.

SILVER SURFER #13 (Marvel, 2017) – “Timeless,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mike Allred. This one was kind of a heartbreaker. Surfer and Dawn try to travel back in time to see Dawn’s dad, but instead they get stuck in the previous universe, where they get married, and Dawn lives to a ripe old age and passes away. I guess it’s a reasonable conclusion, but I mean, Dawn is dead. And even if Norrin got to spend a full life with her, we, the readers, did not, and her death feels very sad and abrupt. I hope this isn’t the end of her story.

BITCH PLANET TRIPLE FEATURE #2 (Image, 2017) – three stories. The stories in this issue are the one about the neck models, the one about self-care, and the one about the biological clock. I think this anthology series may be better than the main title. The best story is probably the second one, which demonstrates the thin line between “self-care” and self-abuse. But the first one, in which a perfect female body is assembled out of the individual body parts of different women, is rather horrifying.

BITCH PLANET TRIPLE FEATURE #3 – as above. The first story is about a police massacre at a gay liberation dance, the second story is about the Family Asset Recovery Agency, and the third one is about a female robot who self-destructs because of the contradictory demands on her. Really that third story sums up this entire series. It’s about how women are forced to follow multiple conflicting demands at the same time, and when they can’t, it’s their fault, not the fault of the men who are imposing those demands. But the other stories are also very chilling. The first one, of course, is a barely fictionalized version of the police murders that occur regularly in real-life America.

On Sunday, August 20, I went to the local Charlotte Comicon. I’m sorry to say this was a very disappointing convention. I had trouble finding anything I really wanted, there were no truly great deals, and no one had any underground comics. I bought a bunch of comics, including three ‘60s Little Archies for $5 each, but I left feeling dissatisfied. I think the problem, as usual, was that my priorities were wrong. I would have had better luck if I had focused on slightly more expensive comics, rather than quarter-box stuff. Here are some of the comics I did buy:

USAGI YOJIMBO #2 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “Samurai! Part Three & Part Four,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. As a young student of Katsuichi, Usagi attends his first tournament and wins, receiving his own swords as a prize. This story was okay, but nothing great. The “Masked Apple” backup story is notable because of the large number of creators who are namechecked in it.

DEFENDERS #57 (Marvel, 1978) – “And Along Came… Ms. Marvel,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] George Tuska & Dave Cockrum. This is a surprising discovery because it’s guest-written by Claremont and it guest-stars Ms. Marvel. It’s not an indispensable Ms. Marvel story, but it is connected to her ongoing character arc (Mike Barnett appears in it). And it’s fun seeing Carol interact with characters like Hellcat and Nighthawk. Like many Claremont comics but few other ‘70s Marvel comics, it passes the Bechdel test.

ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #19 (Archie, 1961) – “Little Archie Puts Out the Cat” and other stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. One booth at the convention had several ‘60s Little Archie issues for $5 each. I bought one of them before I left the convention for lunch, then after lunch I went back and bought the other two. They were my most exciting finds at the show, although this issue unfortunately has a loose cover. As good as Bob Bolling was in the ’80s, he was even better in the ‘60s. The most interesting of his four stories in this issue is “Little Archie Puts Out the Cat,” in which Little Archie foils a burglary attempt because of his habit of leaving his toys around the house. A surprising moment in this story is when Archie shoots at the burglar and misses; there must be very few other comics in which Archie almost kills someone. Another notable story is “The Carson’s Creek Story,” in which the ghost of Riverdale’s founder tells Archie about the town’s history. This is an example of how Bolling made Riverdale a place with its own history and identity, not just a generic small town.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #59 (Marvel, 1979) – “Big Apple Bomber,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Trevor von Eeden. Luke and Danny encounter Bob Diamond, who looks like a ripoff of Oliver Queen, but is actually a preexisting character from the Deadly Hands of Kung Fu magazine. And then they get involved in a bombing plot. This is an okay issue but it’s not Duffy’s best, and the art is ugly at times.

METAL MEN #48 (DC, 1976) – “Who is Bruce Gordon and Why is He Doing These Terrible Things to Himself?”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Walt Simonson. This was part of a brief Metal Man run by Simonson. Pasko’s story is not that special, but he does a good job of capturing the Metal Men’s personalities, and Simonson’s art is excellent. As the title indicates, Eclipso is the guest star.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #73 (Marvel, 1969) – “The Web Closes!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. I bought this from the same dealer who sold me my copy of ASM #107, reviewed above, and it, too, has severe water damage but is fully readable. It’s a classic issue. It’s part of the long-running story arc with the ancient stone tablet, and includes the first appearances of Silvermane and Man-Mountain Marko.

ROCK’N’ROLL #nn (Image, 2005) – four stories, [W/A] Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá, Bruno d’Angelo and Kako. This is the kind of comic I love to discover. It’s an early work by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, and I’ve never heard of it before. It’s no Daytripper or Two Brothers, and the story is only average – it’s a wordless story in which a woman is kidnapped by a rock-and-roll cult – but the art is terrific.

JONAH HEX #32 (DC, 2008) – “The Matador,” [W] Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Jordi Bernet. The great Jordi Bernet’s artwork in this issue is perhaps not his absolute best, although I really haven’t read enough of his work to know what his best artwork looks like. I ought to get around to reading that volume of Torpedo that I bought several years ago. But Bernet’s art is at least very good. And the story, in which a Mexican mobster hires Hex to kill his wife’s matador lover, is surprisingly good. Gray and Palmiotti are underrated as writers.

COMICS FESTIVAL! 2007 (Legion of Evil, 2007) – various stories. This was one of three FCBD comics sponsored by the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, which was a biennial event at the time. This issue has an impressive lineup of talent, including Bryan Lee O’Malley, Cameron Stewart, Chip Zdarsky and Hope Larson. But the highlight is Darwyn Cooke’s four-pager “The Alex”, about an architect who persists in achieving his creative passion despite great adversity. As I correctly guessed, this story is an homage to Darwyn’s hero Alex Toth. I was also impressed by Zach Worton’s story “George Washington Carmack,” and I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of this artist before.

DESCENDER #23 (Image, 2017) – “Rise of the Robots 2 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Another good issue, but very similar to most other issues of Descender – at this point I know what I’m getting from this series. It turns out the evil Tim isn’t dead, but Dr. Quon very well may be.

POWER MAN #49 (Marvel, 1978) – “Seagate is a Lonely Place to Die!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Byrne. An unexpected creative team. This was also the last issue before the cover title became Power Man and Iron Fist. Luke, Danny and Misty invade Seagate Island to rescue Dr. Noah Burstein from Bushmaster. As usual with this series, the main interest comes from the interactions between the main characters, though John’s artwork is very good.

ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #23 (Archie, 1962) – various stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. Just two Bolling stories in this issue. In “Venus Revisited,” Archie befriends an octopus-like Venusian drummer named Herbnik and helps him launch his musical career. The GCD points out that “Herbnik’s musical downfall is an obvious reference to the copying of African-American music by white performers in the late ’50s.” “Ga Ga Over Gary” introduces Betty’s rarely seen big sister Polly. It has a cute plot of the type Bolling was really good at, in which Polly has to choose between dating the cutest boy in schoool and keeping a promise to play with her little sister. I forgot to mention earlier that Dexter Taylor was also much better in the ‘60s than later. These issues include some Taylor stories that I initially mistook for Bolling stories, such as (in this issue) a silent story about Archie’s dog.

CREEPY THINGS #2 (Charlton, 1975) – various stories, [E] George Wildman. Tom Sutton’s cover for this issue is excellent. As usual with ‘70s Charlton horror, the stories in this issue are very pedestrian but the art is reallly good. This issue begins with “The Greatest Treasure” by Enrique Nieto, perhaps the most underrated artist in ‘70s mainstream comics, though this story isn’t his best work. There’s also an okay story by Rich Larson, and a well-drawn story by Tom Sutton, about a boy who adopts a little swamp creature, although the swamp creature could have been even weirder.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #36 (Marvel, 1975) – “Weird Stone,” [W] David Kraft, [A] George Pérez. This Man-Wolf story is one of George’s earliest works. Even this long ago he was already very good. The story is nothing great but at least it’s not objectionable.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #1 (DC, 2017) – “The Quest Reborn!”, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Ariel Olivetti. This spin-off is an adequate replacement for the original Future Quest series, but the lack of the Jonny Quest characters is unfortunate. Ariel Olivetti’s photorealistic style is very different from that of previous artists Doc Shaner and Steve Rude.

GODSHAPER #5 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jonas Goonface. There wasn’t much about this particular issue that stood out to me, but this series is probably Spurrier’s best work yet, and Jonas Goonface’s art is also excellent, despite his stupid pen name.

AQUAMAN #15 (DC, 1995) – “Chronicles,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jim Calafiore. I really like this series. It’s certainly the best Aquaman run since the ‘70s. It combined superheroes with sword-and-sorcery in a unique way. This issue, we learn that there’s a giant skull hidden under Poseidonis, and Kordax makes his reappearance.

TIME & VINE #1 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. Thom’s latest series is about a winery where the wines can be used for time travel. Like most of Thom’s work, this comic is notable for its witty and plausible dialogue and its emotional maturity. The premise isn’t quite as interesting to me as that of Love & Capes or Long Distance.

FANTASTIC FOUR #105 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Monster in the Streets!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. Crystal has to leave Earth because the environment is making her sick. Meanwhile, Reed has to choose between helping Sue fight a monster, or finishing his latest attempt to cure Ben. Jazzy Johnny’s artwork is excellent, but the plot not so much; it feels like in the absence of Kirby, Stan was just rehashing old cliches.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #15 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. The newly good Gert almost escapes from Fairyland, but gets assassinated just before she makes it through the door. She ends up in hell, which is now ruled by the blue-haired girl from earlier in the series. This is a good issue but no different from the standard formula for this series.

DOCTOR STRANGE #20 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Weird, the Weirder, and the Weirdest,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Chris Bachalo & Kevin Nowlan. Zelma and Doc find themselves on Weirdworld, where Zelma allows herself to be contaminated with Doc’s magic in order to save him. This was an effective conclusion to Jason Aaron’s Doctor Strange, which, despite some flaws, was the best Doctor Strange run since the ‘80s. I especially liked the idea that Strange’s magic always comes at a physical cost, because this means that Strange’s powers work logically and have limitations, neither of which was the case before.

MIGHTY THOR #22 (Marvel, 2017) – “A Fistful of Brimstone,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Valerio Schitti. The War Thor invades Muspelheim, but the Jane Thor intervenes and tries to make Volstagg realize that he’s doing the same thing to Muspelheim that they did to the dwarves. The revelation that the dwarves kidnap fire elemental children to feed their forges is very disturbing. Jason is making me very excited for issue 700.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS SPECIAL #1 (Pacific, 1983) – “The Space Musketeers,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. I don’t understand why this is a special and not an issue of the regular Captain Victory series (unless because it’s printed on better paper). I don’t understand anything else about this comic either. The artwork and character design are up to Kirby’s usual standards, but the story makes no sense at all. By this point in his life, Kirby was somewhat past his prime.

‘MAZING MAN #4 (DC, 1986) – “Over the River and Through the Woods…”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Stephen DeStefano. This series is a minor classic, a cute and subtly humorous superhero parody. It’s the only great work of either of its creators. This issue contains one story where Maze’s neighbor Katie’s grandmother shows up and causes havoc, and another one where Maze takes care of Bill and Enid’s cat, with disastrous results. There’s also a Zoot Sputnik story with art by Hembeck.

THE POWER OF SHAZAM! #27 (DC, 1997) – “The Tenants of Time,” [W] Jerry Ordway, [A] Peter Krause. Thanks to Sivana’s meddling with the timestream, Billy and Mary’s parents survive and become the Marvel Family instead of their children. I had the impression that this series was kind of bad, but this issue is not bad at all. In the scenes taking place in the timestream, there are a bunch of names hidden in the background (see for an example); the first of these names is Neal Adams, who had a habit of hiding messages in his art.

MELVIN MONSTER #2 (Dell, 1965) – “The Door in the Cellar” and related stories, [W/A] John Stanley. I’ve never really understood John Stanley, and I’m not sure this is his best work, but it’s a pretty exciting story. Melvin, the little monster, discovers a door in his parents’ basement that leads to an underground dungeon, leading to a lot of convoluted hijinks. Also, we meet Melvin’s guardian demon, who is a complete fraud, like Mr. O’Malley from Barnaby.

New comics received on August 25:

LUMBERJANES #41 (Boom!, 2017) – “Time After Crime,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. In the first issue of a new storyline, Jo creates a device for recording temporal anomalies, then Molly sneaks out and uses it after having a nightmare about her mother. Also, the girls make paper airplanes. Molly’s abusive relationship with her mother has been a major theme or at least a subtext of several recent storylines, and here it’s taking center stage again. I don’t mind because I think this topic is fascinating, but it is odd that Molly is the only character in the series who seems to have a character arc; the other girls are mostly static. It would be interesting, for example, to see what sort of conflicts April is dealing with. Ripley’s sleeping position is hilarious.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER #3 (Image, 2017) – “Tricks & Traps,” [W] Jody Leheup & Sebastian Girner, [A] Nil Vendrell. Another stellar issue. We learn more details about Shirtless’s origin and the death of his wife, and it turns out that the old grizzled army dude is in league with the enemy. Also there are more references to toilet paper than in any other comic book I know of.

MOONSTRUCK #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. I was not in love with this issue. It felt almost too cutesy and lacked any genuine conflict. The cliffhanger, where the centaur character gets turned into a human, felt like a contrived attempt to create such a conflict. But this is still a really promising series, and I have faith in Grace Ellis.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: INFINITE #2 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite, Part Three,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jen Hickman. The first new Jem comic in over a month, which is an unusually long gap. Jem and the Holograms meet the alternate version of Emmett Benton, only to discover that the alternate universe versions of themselves are dead.

MY LITTLE PONY MOVIE PREQUEL #3 (IDW, 2017) – “Capper of Abyssinia,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. Another story that focuses on the two cat thieves, one of whom betrays the other. Andy’s art is excellent as usual, but it’s weird reading a pony comic with no ponies in it.

BATGIRL #14 (DC, 2017) – “Summer of Lies, Part One,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. Babs and Dick Grayson team up against a villain called the Red Queen. Also, there are some flashbacks to their youth. Chris Wildgoose (his real name?) is not as gifted an artist as Rafael Albuquerque, but this is a fun issue, and I’m glad I started ordering this series again.

HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #1 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Nina Vakueva. My favorite comic of the week besides Lumberjanes. Like Misfit City, this latest Boom! Box series is based on a movie I haven’t seen, in this case Empire Records. But I understand it anyway because I grew up in the ‘90s. Usdin and Vakueva’s depiction of the grunge music era seems very accurate. The protagonist, Chris, is the newest employee at an alternative record store, where it turns out that all the other employees are members of a “teen girl fight club.” This looks like another triumph from Boom! Box, and I look forward to reading more of it.

THE INFERNAL MAN-THING #2 (Marvel, 2012) – untitled, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Kevin Nowlan. Gerber’s last work would probably be of little interest to people who aren’t already fans of his. For a Gerber fan like me, it’s an effective coda to his career, though it’s not his best work. This issue also includes a partial reprint of Man-Thing #12, to which this miniseries is a sequel.

ASTONISHING TALES #10 (Marvel, 1972) – “To End in Flame!”, [W] Roy Thomas & Gerry Conway, [A] Barry (Windsor-)Smith. Ka-Zar visits an area of the Savage Land inhabited by World War II veterans, the shipwrecked crews of a British and a German vessel. They and their children are still fighting the war, until Ka-Zar forces them to make peace. BWS’s art in this issue is only average; it wasn’t until about a year later that he got really good.

BARON WEIRWULF’S HAUNTED LIBRARY #46 (Charlton, 1978) – “A Real Gone Guy,” [A] Charles Nicholas, plus other stories. All the stories in this issue are reprinted from issue 6 of the same series. Artists in this issue include Nicholas and Alascia, Wayne Howard, and Demetrio Sanchez Gomez. The last of these was a Spanish artist who seems to have been a member of the same studio as José Luis García-López, although he wasn’t as interesting an artist. The Wayne Howard story is the best-drawn of the three. The Nicholas/Alascia story is annoying because the protagonist is a bank manager who breaks into a client’s house in order to prove that the client is performing evil sorcery. A policeman even warns him not to do this, but he does anyway, and suffers no negative consequences. It turns out the client is in fact an evil sorcerer, but you have to wonder who the real villain of this story is.

ARCHIE #219 (Archie, 1972) – various stories, [A] Harry Lucey. A well-crafted but thoroughly average issue. Probably the best story is the one where Reggie makes fake signs to fool Archie.

On Saturday, August 26, I went to Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, which was having a moving sale, and bought a bunch of 50-cent comics plus a few other things. This was a much more satisfying experience than the convention the previous weekend, perhaps because I had lower expectations, and it made me feel excited about reading comics again. Here are some of the comics I read after the show, some of which I had bought earlier:

BABYTEETH #2 (Aftershock, 2017) – “The Prairie Wolf,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This issue introduces the protagonist Sadie’s father, a surprisingly decent and kind man. His relationship with his daughter is an interesting contrast to Em’s relationship with her own father in Revival. Also, it turns out the baby drinks blood. The first issue of this series was just okay, but this second issue is seriously compelling and makes me very excited for this series.

KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #17 (Marvel, 1982) – “Tag You’re It!”, [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Ron Frenz. This is my favorite version of Ka-Zar, and it’s one of only two occasions, besides the Mark Waid run in the ‘90s, when Ka-Zar was more than just a Tarzan clone. In both these series, the overarching theme was Ka-Zar’s conflict between his jungle lifestyle and his nostalgia for the modern world. There is a lot of that in this issue, in which Ka-Zar goes insane and thinks he’s the protagonist of a hard-boiled detective story he’s reading. This issue, like the rest of the series, is also notable for its fairly realistic depiction of Kevin and Shanna’s relationship.

BABYTEETH #3 – as above. Sadie can’t produce enough blood, so her sister Heather goes looking for the baby’s no-good father, who turns out to be dead. Also, a demon raccoon thing falls out of the sky. This was another fun issue.

BODIE TROLL #1 (Red 5, 2013) – “Bodie’s Bargain,” [W/A] Jay Fosgitt. This is Jay’s first major work, and he’s just announced that it’ll be reprinted along with new material. This issue suffers from poor reproduction but is extremely cute and amusing. Bodie is an adorable character, partly because he tries to be scary and fails. I’m glad we’ll be seeing more of this character.

VICKI VALENTINE #2 (Renegade, 1985) – “Let’s Pretend with Vicki and Angel Cake,” [W] Bill Woggon, [A] Barb Rausch. Another example of a comic I’m excited to have discovered. I’ve never read any of Bill Woggon’s comics before, but this comic appears to be very similar to his classic Katy Keene series, except with art by his longtime fan Barb Rausch. The plot is very cutesy and devoid of conflict, but most of the emphasis is on the characters’ costumes, which are designed by fans. Many of the pages of the comic consist of paper dolls of the characters, complete with costumes. I don’t think I could stand very much of this sort of thing, but in small doses it’s not bad.

ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #34 (Archie, 1965) – various stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. The two Bolling stories in this issue are “The Incredible Cat-Caper” and “The ‘Cuda Complex.” The first of these was reprinted in the 2004 trade paperback, but the second is new to me; it’s about Mad Dr. Doom and Chester and their submarine. Overall this was a good issue as usual, but not my favorite. I need to look for issue 20, which includes Bolling’s masterpiece, “The Long Walk.”

JONAH HEX #51 (DC, 1981) – “The Comforter!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Dick Ayers. Jonah’s wife Mei Ling is about to give birth, but Jonah has to go to town to get her a present. Of course, while in town Jonah runs into a young upstart who challenges him to a fight, then accuses Jonah of cowardice for refusing the challenge. This story is funny and sweet because of the conflict between Hex’s new family duties and his fearsome reputation, but in the very next issue, that same conflict leads to the end of his marriage. This issue also includes an excellent Bat Lash story by Len Wein and Dan Spiegle.

CHAMBER OF CHILLS #24 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Underground Gambit!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Herb Trimpe, plus other reprints. I’m writing this review on the day Len Wein died. I guess he’s been in poor health for a while, but his death is an unfortunate shock. He seems to have been a wonderful man. My Facebook feed is full of sad and affectionate reminiscenes of him, including many from people who aren’t comics creators. “The Underground Gambit,” reprinted in this issue, is the last story of his that I read before he died. It’s about an underground cartoonist, Roger Krass, who secretly hates his fans and his work, so when a wealthy patron offers him an exclusive contract, he jumps at the chance. But of course it turns out the patron is Satan. I had wanted to ask Len whether Roger Krass was based on Robert Crumb or on anyone else in particular, but it turns out he was already asked about this story in an interview, and he couldn’t remember anything about it. Which is no surprise, because it was just one of the thousands of stories he wrote. It’s unfortunate that there won’t be any more.

TIME & VINE #2 (IDW, 2017) – “Vintage 2017,” [W/A] Thom Zahler. On another trip to the past, Megan encounters her own deceased mother and discovers that she has an aunt she never knew about. I couldn’t care less about wine, but the time travel aspect of this comic’s plot is very interesting. I am a big fan of time travel stories (like Iain Pears’s Arcadia, which I just finished today) because of the bizarre narratological tricks they’re capable of. So I’m curious to see where this plot will go from here.

FLASH GORDON #6 (Dynamite, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. On Sky World, Flash and Zarkov are kidnapped by sirens who require men for breeding purposes. Hilariously, they’re more interested in Zarkov than Flash. Other than that, this is just another exciting and well-crafted story by an excellent creative team.

THE FURTHER FATTENING ADVENTURES OF PUDGE, GIRL BLIMP #3 (Star*Reach, 1971) – “This Can’t Be Right… It Feels Too Good,” [W/A] Lee Marrs. This comic book is very long and dense, but worth the effort. It’s a long, rambling story about the life of a… full-figured woman who’s trying to lose her virginity. It’s funny, sensitive and plausible, similar in tone to the work of Roberta Gregory or some of the Wimmen’s Comix artists, and it’s drawn with passion and sincerity. Lee Marrs deserves to be better known. This entire series was reprinted recently, but only in a print-on-demand edition. I want to get the other two issues.

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA #7 (Archie, 2017) – “Witch-War, Chapter One: The Truth About Demonology,” [W] Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa, [A] Robert Hack. This series was doomed from the start by Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa’s chronic lateness. I almost think it would be better to cancel it than to publish one issue of it every six months. This issue is the origin story of Sabrina’s dad, who is currently inhabiting Harvey’s body. It’s not bad, but it wasn’t worth waiting a whole year for.

BROTHER POWER, THE GEEK #2 (DC, 1968) – “A Visit from the Dead!!”, [W/A] Joe Simon, [A] Al Bare. This is perhaps the weirdest and silliest DC comic I’ve ever read, and that’s saying a lot. Brother Power decides to stop being a hippie and go to work in an aviation plant, which is promptly besieged by an evil engineer called Lord Sliderule. Subsequently, Brother Power fixes a snag in the assembly line that’s costing the factory a million dollars a year. It turns out the solution is to have a left-handed man do a certain job instead of a right-handed man – and somehow “the nation’s leading engineers” couldn’t figure this out. Meanwhile, the hippies start a protest outside the plant, which is about to launch a rocket with Brother Power in it. Also, teenage Nazi reenactors are involved somehow. The issue ends on a cliffhanger, which is never resolved because there was no third issue. This comic is fascinating because of its weirdness and mostly unintentional humor, but it’s no surprise that it only lasted two issues.

BLACK AND WHITE COMICS #1 (Apex Novelties, 1973) – “Squirrely the Squirrel” and other stories, [W/A] R. Crumb. A series of cruel and mean-spirited stories, including “R. Crumb vs. the Sisterhood,” in which Crumb depicts himself climbing inside a woman’s vagina. I previously read this story a while ago, and the image of the woman running around with Crumb inside of her is etched in my memory, and not in a good way. If this comic is a classic, it’s mostly because of the disturbing insight it offers into Crumb’s psychology. I can’t say I enjoyed it, though. I still don’t think I quite get Crumb.

JONAH HEX #54 (DC, 1981) – “Trapped in the Parrot’s Lair,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Tony DeZuniga. Now returned to his nomadic lifestyle, Jonah has a second encounter with El Papagayo, the Mexican bandit from earlier issues. This issue also includes a backup story by Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn and Tom Yeates, which is notable for what is, as far as I can tell, an accurate portrayal of Comanche people. I wonder if Dan and Gary had read Jaxon’s Comanche Moon trilogy.

DETECTIVE COMICS #596 (DC, 1988) – “Video Nasties,” [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Eduardo Barreto. Part one of a two-parter about a villain who makes films of people being beaten. I reviewed the second part of this story a while ago. The only thing I really remember about this issue is that Batman identifies one of the villains by observing that one of his legs is shorter than the other.

USAGI YOJIMBO #15 (Mirage, 1995) – “Kaiso,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. In the same vein as other Usagi stories like “Shoyu” or “Taiko,” “Kaiso” is an exploration of a unique aspect of Japanese culture – in this case, seaweed farming. Usagi meets a seaweed farmer and helps him prove that a local merchant is trying to ruin his business. As Stan must have intended, this story is both fun and educational.

SAN FRANCISCO COMIC BOOK #3 (Print Mint, 1970) – various stories, [E] Gary Arlington. This underground comic features interesting work by a large number of artists, including Kim Deitch, Trina Robbins, Justin Green, Willy Mendes, R. Crumb, and Spain. Trina’s story is perhaps her best-drawn story that I’ve read, and the Crumb story is similar in tone to “R. Crumb vs. the Sisterhood”, but more substantial and less horrifying. The real revelation of the issue is an insanely detailed two-page spread by Jim Osborne. I was also impressed by the fourth-wall-breaking strip by George Metzger, drawn in a Steranko-esque style.

New comics received on September 1:

SAGA #46 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. This was a pretty quick read, but the scene where Hazel says goodbye to her never-to-be-born brother is perhaps the most heartwrenching moment of the series.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #22 (Marvel, 2017) – “Girl-Moon, Part 4 of 5,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella tricks Ego into acknowledging his daughter. Meanwhile, Lunella’s parents continue to be the most oblivious parents ever and are unable to tell that their daughter is a robot. I still think this is the best Moon Girl story yet.

KIM & KIM: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #2 (Black Mask, 2017) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. One of the Kims consults her grandmother in the afterlife, then the other Kim berates her over her toxic attachment to her evil girlfriend Laz. I like this comic a lot; it’s like Rat Queens, but… I never found a way to finish that sentence. I guess I wanted to point out that it feels more serious somehow, and also it’s written by a woman.

LADY KILLER II #5 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Joëlle Jones. Josie finally gets rid of Irving, with help from her husband and Mother Schuller. But Josie’s husband finally figures out what’s been going on and leaves her, taking the kids. This was a funny series, but the art was better than the writing, and the joke is getting old. Joëlle Jones should move on to something else.

FAITH AND THE FUTURE FORCE #2 (Valiant, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Barry Kitson & Diego Bernard. The Future Force’s second attempt to defeat Do-Bot is just as unsuccessful as their first, so they try again, this time with a team of superheroes. The best part of this issue was when I figured out that Do-Bot was quoting Plato.

HEAD LOPPER #6 (Image, 2017) – “Head Lopper and the Crimson Tower, Part 2,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Another fantastic piece of art and storytelling from Andrew. I don’t have anything to add to my review of issue 5, but I should note that in this issue one of the two surviving warrior women gets killed.

PEEP SHOW #10 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1997) – “Fair Weather, Part Four,” [W/A] Joe Matt. The conclusion of an autobiographical story about Joe Matt’s childhood. Like much of Joe Matt’s work, it’s rather disturbing, it presents the author in a very negative light, and it engages with unsavory topics like shoplifting and voyeurism. But it also has a lyrical, affectionate tone that’s absent from earlier issues of this series; it ends with a cute moment when Joe reconciles with his friend after they’ve been fighting. Therefore, this story feels like an advance over earlier issues of this series.

ANYTHING GOES! #5 (Fantagraphics, 1985) – various stories, [E] Gary Groth. The clear highlight of this issue is Crumb’s “The Goose and the Gander Were Talking One Night,” an emotionally charged, ambivalent story in which two spouses have a pessimistic conversation about the future of the world. I remember once hearing someone say that this was the only Crumb story they liked, and I can see why. Other notable pieces in this issue are a Wolverine McAllister story by Bill Messner-Loebs, and a selection of classic Little Orphan Annie strips.

GENERATIONS: THE UNWORTHY THOR & THE MIGHTY THOR #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. A time-travel story in which the Odinson Thor encounters the Jane Foster Thor. This was a funny and enjoyable comic and an effective illustration of the difference between the two Thors. I also like the running joke about Thor comforting the dead men’s wives. But this still felt like a comic that didn’t need to exist. It had no significant impact on the plot of the ongoing Thor title, and I wouldn’t have missed much if I hadn’t read it. This comic was published primarily in order to fit into the Marvel Legacy crossover, and only secondarily in order to tell a good story.

SPIDER-GWEN #23 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Hannah Blumenreich, with a framing sequence by Latour and Rodriguez. I couldn’t recall who Hannah Blumenreich was until I Googled her and reminded myself that she drew those adorable viral Spider-Man fan comics. Kudos to Marvel for giving her an opportunity to draw Spider-Man “for real.” This issue interrupts the Gwenom story arc to focus on Mary Jane and the band, back in New York. Blumenreich’s work looks worse here than in her online comics, but her dialogue is fantastic. And the scene where MJ beats up Glory’s creepy stalker is brilliant, precisely because it depicts the sort of harassment that happens to women on a daily basis in real life, but is rarely depicted in popular culture.

SAD SACK AND THE SARGE #145 (Harvey, 1980) – various uncredited stories. This is indistinguishable from Beetle Bailey except that it’s even more tedious.

KING: JUNGLE JIM #3 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Sandy Jarrell. This is a fairly exciting story and it’s drawn in a style that resembles Evan Shaner’s, but it’s not all that memorable. The best part is the character who gets drunk so she won’t turn into a snake.

GUMBY’S SUMMER FUN SPECIAL #1 (Comico, 1987) – “Gumby’s Summer Fun Adventure,” [W] Bob Burden, [A] Art Adams. I liked this comic a little bit less than the Winter Fun Special, but it was still a lot of fun. While babysitting some robot kids, Gumby has an adventure involving space bears, space zombies, pirates, etc. In what I assume is Bob Burden’s typical style, this story is absurdist and ridiculous but is presented in a deadpan manner. And amazingly, the plot hangs together logically (at least according to its own logic) and there are few if any dangling plot threads.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #5 (Eclipse, 1985) – “The Float Factor,” [W/A] Larry Marder. Beanish makes his first trip to the alternate reality with the floating female head. Meanwhile, Proffy interviews some Hoi Polloi and learns about their surprisingly complex system of decision-making. The highlight of the issue is that it lets us see the Hoi Polloi’s perspective, which is quite different from that of the beans.

GENERATIONS: HAWKEYE & HAWKEYE #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Raffaele. Like Generations: Thor, this comic suffers from didn’t-need-to-exist syndrome. Kate and the younger version of Clint have some cute moments, but young Clint is basically the same character as the current version of Clint. So this comic didn’t provide much we’re not already getting in the regular Hawkeye title.

BLACK MAGICK #7 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. This is a good issue, but I don’t have anything new to say about it. The highlight is the scene where Rowan and her partner arrest the bigoted old lunatic.

BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT COMIC BOOK #7 (Marvel, 1992) – “Time is Up!”, [W/A] Evan Dorkin. This is hard to follow because I haven’t read the previous issues and it’s been years since I saw the films, but it’s an enjoyable time travel adventure, full of funny jokes and sight gags.

DOCTOR SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM #3 (Gold Key, 1963) – “The Hidden Hands,” [W] Paul Newman, [A] Bob Fujitani. This comic is on the borderline between the superhero and science fiction genres, because Doctor Solar doesn’t wear a costume – he started wearing one in the fifth issue. It’s a pretty average comic, and my copy is in awful condition.

ATOM AND HAWKMAN #44 (DC, 1969) – Hawkman in “The Ghost Laughs Last!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Murphy Anderson; and Atom in “Hate is Where You Find It!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Dick Dillin. I liked this issue a lot. The Hawkman story features one of the coolest Silver Age DC villains, the Gentleman Ghost, and has a touching story in which the Ghost falls in love with a blind woman. Hawkman and Hawkgirl have much more personality than other Kanigher characters, although their characterization mostly consists of bickering. The Atom story is written in a much more energetic and Marvel-esque style, and Atom engages in some witty Spider-Man-like banter. The plot involves a man who hates Germans because he thinks they’re all Nazis. Given the time when this comic was published, I suspect that Denny was using anti-German sentiment as a Code-approvable substitute for anti-black racism.

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA #8 (Archie, 2017) – “Witch War Chapter Two: The Psychopomps,” [W] Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa, [A] Robert Hack. This was published just a month after the previous issue, which, as Bleeding Cool pointed out, is a record. This issue, Sabrina fights her aunts to a standstill after they forbid her to date Harvey. The aunts eventually give up their opposition, but that’s not a good thing because as we recall, Harvey is actually the reincarnation of Sabrina’s dad. This comic, in general, suffers from the lack of any sympathetic characters. All the characters have evil agendas of one kind or another, except Sabrina, who only wants Harvey – and even Sabrina is acting out of wishful thinking and willful ignorance. (She has been told that Harvey is evil, and she refuses to listen.) What sort of positive outcome are we supposed to hope for from this story?

WILD ANIMALS #1 (Pacific, 1982) – “The Land That Time Ignored!”, [W/A] Scott Shaw!, plus other stories. I’ve known Scott Shaw! personally for a long time, but I’ve read very little of his work. The main story in this issue, which is continued from Quack #3, was a pleasant surprise because of its humor and its witty artwork. It’s a convoluted funny animal story that parodies Tarzan, King Kong and a bunch of other stuff. This issue also includes a four-pager by Larry Gonick, a two-pager by Sergio Aragonés, and several one-page strips by Jim Engel, which are rip-offs of Vaughn Bodé and George Herriman. Overall this is an interesting comic that partakes of both underground comics and the emerging independent comics scene, and it’s too bad there wasn’t a second issue.

ALL-STAR COMICS #66 (DC, 1977) – “Injustice Strikes Twice!”, [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Joe Staton. The JSA battles the Injustice Society. There are a lot of fun moments in this issue, but Levitz and Staton never managed to generate as much energy in this series as in Huntress or Adventure Comics.

PROPHET #37 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Giannis Milogiannis. One Prophet clone, Brother John Atum, sacrifices its life to reawaken another one, Brother John Agro. Despite not being written by Brandon Graham, this is very similar to most of Brandon’s issues of Prophet, except maybe slightly less bizarre.

ANGEL LOVE #2 (DC, 1986) – untitled, [W/A] Barbara Slate. Another fascinating issue by an extremely underrated creator. After learning last issue that her new boyfriend, Don, is a cocaine addict, Angel regretfully dumps him. Meanwhile, Angel’s roommate, who is a bit of a black stereotype, gets dumped himself because he’s been neglecting his girlfriend, and her other roommate discovers an injured baby bird (see my review of issue 5 for what happens next). Two of this issue’s three plotlines are as humorous as you would expect from its cartoony artwork, but the Angel and Don plotline is unexpectedly touching and realistic.

MASTER OF KUNG FU #76 (Marvel, 1979) – “Smoke, Beads and Blood!”, [W] Doug Moench, [A] Mike Zeck. Shang-Chi approaches a wise old man for advice, only to discover that the old man has betrayed him to Fu Manchu. Shang-Chi goes home to Leiko and complains about being unhappy. Like much of Doug Moench’s work, this issue is histrionic and full of purple prose, but it’s also rather touching and has some excellent action sequences.

MYSTIC FUNNIES #3 (Fantagraphics, 2002) – “The Hipman” and other stories, [W/A] R. Crumb. I enjoyed this much more than the previous Crumb comic I read (Black and White #1). The longest story in the issue is about a bearded mulleted dude who drives a tiny car, and who falls in love with a woman with huge thighs. It combines two of Crumb’s preoccupations: drawing full-figured women and making fun of dudes with inflated egos. “Don’t Tempt Fate” is about Crumb getting his front teeth knocked out as a child. It’s amusing to think that Crumb is one of two autobiographical cartoonists who have addressed this exact topic, and the other is Raina Telgemeier. There’s also a silly Donald Duck parody. “Cradle to Grave,” on the back cover, may in fact be the best story in the issue.

CATWOMAN #26 (DC, 2004) – “A Knife in the Dark,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Paul Gulacy. Catwoman and Slam Bradley attempt to rescue a kidnapped child. Also, the Penguin appears in one scene. I don’t remember much else about this issue. Paul Gulacy’s artwork is very moody.

CLAW THE UNCONQUERED #9 (DC, 1976) – “Long Die N’Hglthss!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Keith Giffen. An early effort by two creators who would go on to do much better work. This issue’s plot is very obviously inspired by Elric; it includes a scene where the Gods of Elder Light recruit Claw to serve as their champion in their struggle against the seven Shadow Gods, whose symbol is a bunch of arrows pointing in different directions (like Moorcock’s Lords of Chaos).

COMMIES FROM MARS #5 (Last Gasp, 1986) – various stories, [E] Tim Boxell. A very late example of underground comics. This issue is difficult to follow because all the stories seem to presuppose that Earth has been taken over by Martians, but the circumstances in which this happened are not explained. Artists featured in this issue include Hunt Emerson, Peter Kuper and Spain, as well as a bunch of people I’ve never heard of. Perhaps the best story is the one by Hunt Emerson, about some thieves who steal everything, then have to abandon it.

BLACK HAMMER #8 (Image, 2017) – “Introducing the Golden Family!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. This issue is mostly narrated from the perspective of Golden Gail, who, we realize, is based on Captain Marvel. We also learn that before being sent to Black Hammer Farm, she was having an affair with Sherlock Frankenstein, i.e. Sivana. Meanwhile, Lucy Weber discovers that all the books in town are blank, and Colonel Weird shoots Talky-Walky dead. I’ve been reading this series out of order, but I’m enjoying it anyway.

DETECTIVE COMICS #465 (DC, 1976) – “The Best-Kept Secret in Gotham City!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] Ernie Chua. Some criminals kidnap Commissioner Gordon because they think he knows Batman’s secret identity, but it turns out Batman has a contingency plan for exactly this situation. David V. Reed is not the most exciting writer, but this is a well-crafted story, and it deliberately leaves open the question of whether Gordon really does know Batman’s secret identity. The Elongated Man backup story is interesting because it’s set at a comic book convention.

BLACK HAMMER #9 (Image, 2017) – “The Ballad of Talky-Walky,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubin. In a flashback sequence, we learn how Colonel Weird met Talky Walky. Unlike some of the other protagonists in the series, these two don’t seem to be based on any particular characters. David Rubin’s art is as amazing as ever.

BLACK PANTHER #17 (Marvel, 2017) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 5,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Chris Sprouse. I realized as I wrote this that I forgot to order issue 16. This issue, T’Challa and Storm continue to investigate the returning gods. The fascinating part about this issue is how Storm accepts her role as a goddess, rather than trying to deny it, as T’Challa would. Storm’s decision seems ethically questionable, and yet it makes sense; as she points out, you shouldn’t take people’s faith lightly.

ANIMOSITY #9 (Aftershock, 2017) – “God Dam,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael De Latorre. For perhaps the first time in this series, we encounter animals that genuinely behave like animals: a colony of bees that speak with a single voice and are furious that their queen was kidnapped. I wish this series had more of this sort of thing, because I’ve complained before about how the animals in Animosity are too much like people.

BLACK HAMMER #5 (Image, 2016) – “The Odyssey of Randall Weird,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. This issue is Colonel Weird’s origin story. Among other things, we learn that he visits a dimension called the Para-Zone, that he has visions of his future self, and that he got his wife killed when he tried to enter the Para-Zone with her. And now that I look at this issue after having read issue 7, I realize that Eve’s fate is exactly the same as what happened to the Black Hammer when he tried to leave Black Hammer Farm. There’s a clue I missed.

BLACK HAMMER #10 (Image, 2017) – “Abraham Slam Gets Extreme!!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. In a parody of the Image Comics style of the early ‘90s, Abraham Slam tries to fight crime wearing a Liefeldian costume, but it fails miserably. Meanwhile, Madame Dragonfly kills the wife-beating local sheriff, after Abraham Slam had threatened to do so himself.

UNSUPERVISED EXISTENCE #1 (Fantagraphics, 1989) – “Morning Becomes Eccentric,” [W/A] Terry LaBan. A slice-of-life story about two lovers: Danny, a taxi driver, and Suzy, who doesn’t seem to have a job. This is quite an enjoyable comic; it’s funny and realistic and it’s drawn in a cute and distinctive style. It reminds me most of Box Office Poison, except without the references to geek culture. Annoyingly, issues 2 through 4 of this series were magazine size, and then the remaining three issues were comic book size.

Comics criticism: Basic questions to ask when reading a comic — version for students

The following is a slightly edited version of this blog post. It strips out some of the more technical language and the more specific examples, so as to be more accessible to students.

This is intended as a resource for students or for academics who are new to reading comics critically. It is a list of basic questions one might want to ask when reading a comic book or graphic novel. Most of these questions have to do with the visual or artistic aspect of a comic — what it looks like — rather than the literary or narrative side (storyline, themes, characterization, etc.). I focus on this because teachers and students tend to have a basic understanding of how to analyze the story of a graphic novel; in doing so, you can apply the techniques you learn in high school English classes. But no one really tells you how to analyze a comic book from a visual perspective, and that’s why a guide like this one might be useful.

1. Art style (draftspersonship). In general, what does the artwork look like? What sort of linework does the artist use? How much detail does the artist employ in drawing people and objects — where does the artwork fall on the continuum between minimalist and hyperdetailed? How does the artist depict characters, including their faces and figures? How does the artist draw backgrounds?

2. Visual storytelling – within the panel. In general, how is each panel composed? From what viewpoint are the panels drawn — are there more close-ups, more long shots, etc.? What “camera angles” does the artist use (bird’s eye view, worm’s eye view, etc.)? How are the panels framed — what does the artist choose to include in each panel, and what does s/he choose to leave out? Does the artist use motion lines to indicate that something is moving? Does the artist use emanata to represent abstract concepts, such as by using a light bulb over a character’s head to represent an idea?

3. Visual storytelling – between panels. How are adjacent panels related to each other? How many action sequences are there, and how good is the artist at depicting action? How much closure does the reader have to do — that is, how much work does the reader need to do in order to understand what happens in the gaps between panels?

4. Page layout and composition. How is each page structured? How many panels are there on each page? What size and shape are the panels? How are the panels arranged relative to each other — for example, does the artist use a 2×2 grid, a 4×2 grid, or what? Does each page have the same page layout (as is often the case in American or European comics) or does each page have a different layout (as is often the case in Japanese comics)? What do the panel borders look like — are they solid borders or just single lines? In what order is the page supposed to be read, and how does the panel structure help guide the reader through the page?

5. Lettering. What does the text in the comic look like? What is the style of the letters? Does the comic use hand-lettering or a font? Is the text in ALL UPPER CASE or in mixed case? How does the lettering contribute to the overall visual appearance of the comic — does it try to be as unobtrusive as possible, or is it a major element of the overall “look” of each page? … Are there sound effects, and if so, what do they look like? Are there caption boxes, thought balloons, neither, or both?

6. Color. Is the comic in black and white or in color? If in black and white, how many shades of gray are there? If in color, how many colors? What general mood is created by the colors or shades of grey — is the comic bright and cheery, dark and gloomy, or what? How does the artist use color as a compositional element or as a way of directing the reader’s gaze? If the comic is in color, what coloring technique was used — the traditional four-color process, computer coloring, watercolor, painting, or what?

7. Materiality and paratext. Are you reading the comic in print or digital form? If in digital form, what sort of device are you reading it on, and what application (e.g. ComiXology) are you using? Are you able to view the entire page at once or only parts of it? If you are reading the comic in print form, is it a comic book, a paperback book, a hardcover, or what? Are you reading the comic in the form in which it was originally published? If not, what changes were made in order to adapt the comic to the form in which you are reading it? Does the comic include any paratextual materials, i.e. materials that are not part of the comic itself but are ancillary to it? (Examples: advertisements, letters pages, introductions, afterwords.)

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New comics received on July 28:

LUMBERJANES #40 (Boom!, 2017) – “Let’s Be Prank” (conclusion), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. A perfect ending to the storyline. The whole fox business is resolved in a satisfying and funny way, and Ripley’s grandmother steals the show as usual. And then we finally meet Molly’s mother, who is just as horrible as we’ve been led to expect. Rosie’s behavior in this scene is exemplary – she realizes right away that Molly does not want to see her mother, and gets rid of her (i.e. Molly’s mother) in a polite but firm way. Molly’s mom is a stark contrast to Mal’s mom, who throughout the current storyline has been acting like a mother to Molly as well, and I wonder if this plot thread will end with Molly going to live with Mal instead of returning home. That’s assuming this series ever does end, because this issue also confirms that the entire camp is in a time bubble.

SAGA #45 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. For perhaps the first time, I decided to read Lumberjanes before Saga when they both came out on the same day, because I’ve honestly been enjoying Lumberjanes more lately. But I liked this issue more than I was expecting. Maybe because it wasn’t keeping me from reading Lumberjanes. The highlight of this issue is the heartbreaking scene with Hazel and her unborn brother’s ghost. Also, Prince Robot’s return is an exciting “cavalry arrives” moment.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER #2 (Image, 2017) – “Part 2: Enter the Hillbilly Warlock,” [W] Jody Leheup & Sebastian Girner, [A] Nil Vendrell. This is probably the funniest comic book of the year – it’s even funnier than the previous issue. The highlight is the scene where Shirtless visits a bunch of different cities and fights bears, and then on the next page, we see him fighting football players in Chicago, and then fighting bearded men in San Francisco. It’s cool how this joke depends almost entirely on the images. The Hillbilly Warlock is also a very funny character, though in a much less subtle way. And there’s also the following exchange: “I thought pandas only lived in China.” “THEY DO NOW.”

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #21 (Marvel, 2017) – “Girl-Moon, Part 3: There’s No Place Like It,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. This is probably the series’ best storyline yet – which is kind of sad because it suggests that Montclare alone is better than Montclare and Reeder. Luna’s meeting with her other-dimensional counterpart, Devil Girl, is funny and cute; predictably, the two Lunas can’t stand each other, but they each realize in the end that the other one isn’t so bad. A running joke throughout the issue is the subtle weirdness of Devil Girl’s world. Everyone wears funny hats in public, and we see a man using a banana as a phone and another man walking an armadillo. And what makes all this weird stuff even funnier is that none of it is mentioned in the dialogue.

MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE PREQUEL #2 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. Not as good as last issue. The pirate parrots are cute, but otherwise, this issue just continues last issue’s plot in a predictable way.

FAITH AND THE FUTURE FORCE #1 (Valiant, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Stephen Segovia. This title is a reference to the old Valiant title Rai and the Future Force. A time-traveling scientist and her dinosaur-girl friend recruit Faith to help them save the universe. Faith gets killed, but it’s okay because they’re time travelers, so they recruit Faith again, and this time she brings some friends. This was a fun comic and I especially like Ank the dinosaur girl, but I think the regular Faith series was better. In particular, I miss Marguerite Sauvage’s art.

DEATH RATTLE #13 (Kitchen Sink, 1987) – various stories, [E] Denis Kitchen & Dave Schreiner. The only good story in this issue is another chapter of Jaxon’s Bulto, later collected under the title “Secret of San Saba.” The second story, “Rainmaker” by John Holland and Dave Garcia, is only notable because it was inked by a young Sam Kieth. The third story is an illustrated adaptation of Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death.” This is not a comic at all, and it’s tedious to read because it includes the entire text of Poe’s story. P.S. Mueller and Bill Hartwig’s “The Voices in My Head” has some creepy Rick Geary-esque art, but no plot to speak of.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #67 (Marvel, 1968) – “To Squash a Spider!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. This issue has an amazing cover – it’s the one with the giant Mysterio hands about to squash Spidey. It’s especially striking because unlike almost all ‘60s Marvel covers, it has no captions. This issue’s fight between Spidey and Mysterio is pretty routine, though Jazzy Johnny’s action scenes are brilliant as ever. Otherwise, the most important thing about this issue is that it introduces Randy Robertson.

SUPER POWERS #6 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [A] Franco. A lackluster conclusion to the storyline that began in Superman Family Adventures. The scene where Superman uses Starro to beat Darkseid is pretty cool. But the best thing about Superman Family Adventures was that it took itself semi-seriously at times, and this issue doesn’t do that.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #566 (Archie, 1987) – “Land of the Lost” and “Orphans of the Storm,” [W/A] Bob Bolling. Two Christmas-themed Little Archie stories. In the first story, Archie knocks himself unconscious while traveling through a swamp, and wakes up in the cave of Santa’s elves, who repair lost toys. The best thing about this story is the establishing shot of the creepy, gloomy Hockomock Swamps. I’ve said before that one of Bolling’s greatest skills was his depiction of nature. His version of the Riverdale area is comparable to the forest behind Calvin and Hobbes’s house. In the second story, the kids and Mr. Weatherbee go on a field trip during a snow storm, and the kids start bickering with each other, but when the snow forces them to take shelter at a dilapidated orphanage, they realize how fortunate they are. This story is thematically similar to Bolling’s stories with Sue Stringly.

DC COMICS PRESENTS #28 (DC, 1980) – “Warworld!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Jim Starlin. This is the second appearance of Mongul, and looking at the way he’s drawn in this issue, you can tell how similar he is to Thanos. And Starlin later went on to create this same character a third time, as Papal in Dreadstar. Otherwise, this Superman-Supergirl team-up is pretty formulaic and forgettable. The backup, “Whatever Happened to Johnny Thunder?”, is better than the main story, since it’s a Western story with Gil Kane artwork. It makes the suggestion that Johnny Thunder (John Tane) is an ancestor of Bouncing Boy (Chuck Taine), but this was never mentioned again.

CIRCUIT BREAKER #2 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kevin McCarthy, [A] Kyle Baker. I should have stopped buying this series after the first issue. The artwork is quite good, but it’s hard to pay attention to the art when the writing is so fatally flawed. The first problem with this series is the incoherent storytelling. I honestly can’t tell who all the characters are or what they’re doing. Even after reading the last four issues in quick succession, I still couldn’t understand the plot. A second problem is that this comic is culturally appropriative, though I’m willing to let that pass, since Kevin McCarthy does seem to have quite deep knowledge of Japanese culture. But that leads to the third problem, which is that McCarthy assumes the reader knows as much about Japan as he himself does. Circuit Breaker is full of, not only unexplained cultural references, but even untranslated Japanese words and phrases. You would have to be an anime and manga expert to get everything in this comic. And if you were an anime and manga expert, why would you read this comic, instead of reading actual manga? That’s a legitimate question because Circuit Breaker is so derivative of anime and manga, it has very little new to offer. Finally, this comic is very self-consciously Japanese, in a way that actual Japanese narratives never are. Anime and manga don’t need to remind you that they’re about Japan, because you know that already, but this comic trumpets its Japanese-ness in every panel, to the point of annoyance. So overall, this series is a waste of Kyle Baker’s talent.

CIRCUIT BREAKER #3 (Image, 2016) – See above.

JONAH HEX: RIDERS OF THE WORM AND SUCH #1 (Vertigo, 1995) – “No Rest for the Wicked and the Good Don’t Need Any,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. This miniseries has some brilliant art by Tim Truman, and while the story is needlessly violent and gonzo, that is very much in line with Mike Fleisher’s classic Jonah Hex stories. I certainly want to read the rest of this miniseries and the other one by this team. Johnny and Edgar Winter sued DC because of how they were portrayed in this miniseries, but I don’t think the characters based on them are in this issue.

THE ZAUCER OF ZILK #1 (IDW, 2012) – [W/A] Brendan McCarthy, [W] Al Ewing. Like most of McCarthy’s work, this is tedious, confusing and difficult. But it’s also visually stunning and includes some daring ideas, like the couch potato people with teeth for heads. I feel kind of guilty for liking McCarthy’s work, considering the annoying and offensive stuff he keeps saying on social media.

BATGIRL #2 (DC, 2016) – “Beyond Burnside, Part Two,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. I quit reading this series after issue 1, and I’m not sure why, because I like both these creators. My verdict on issue 1 was just that “this comic is less interesting than the previous Batgirl run, and I don’t feel highly motivated to keep reading it.” But this issue is better than that review suggests. Rafael’s art is very good, with a Latin American or Italian sensibility, and the story is reasonably exciting and benefits from Hope Larson’s knowledge of contemporary east Asia. I’ve put this series back on my pull list, which is unusual for me.

BATGIRL #3 (DC, 2016) – “Beyond Burnside, Part Three,” as above. I had some trouble following the plot of these two issues, since it’s been a while since I read issue 1. This issue has Babs running all over South Asia after her new boyfriend Kai. It includes some impressive fight scenes.

BATGIRL #4 (DC, 2016) – “Beyond Burnside, Part Four,” as above. This issue we learn that the McGuffin in the current story is a bacterial drug that raises intelligence, and it’s marketed to Chinese students who are struggling to pass the gaokao, the incredibly cutthroat college entrance exam. The gaokao is an actual thing, and I think it’s fascinating that Hope would include it in a story for a non-Chinese audience. This was the last issue of Batgirl I bought before I quit ordering it, and I was kind of sorry that I didn’t have any more to read.

CIRCUIT BREAKER #4 (Image, 2017) – See above.

CIRCUIT BREAKER #5 (Image, 2017) – See above. At this point the story was starting to make a bit more sense, and it contains some interesting ideas, but the flaws of this comic (as described above) are so severe as to outweigh any value it has.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES/USAGI YOJIMBO (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Namazu or The Big Fish Story,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This is a Stan Sakai comic, so it’s not bad or anything. But it feels like an average, by-the-numbers Usagi comic, and the Turtles don’t really add much to the story. Also, $7.99 is quite a high price.

KING: MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN #4 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Felipe Cunha. This is an exciting and witty comic, but even Roger Langridge can’t make me care very much about Mandrake. Also, Felipe Cunha’s art is just average.

SPACE CIRCUS #3 (Dark Horse, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. This is not one of Sergio and Mark’s better-known works, and there’s a reason why not. The best thing about this comic is that it gives Sergio a chance to draw a lot of bizarre-looking aliens. Otherwise it’s not all that funny.

GREEN LANTERN #153 (DC, 1982) – “The Secret of the Starcycle!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn, [A] Joe Staton. Even the script by Mishkin and Cohn, who I like a lot, is not enough to redeem this boring comic. The backup story is even worse because of its implausible premise: it’s about a Green Lantern who’s a complete pacifist and cannot use violence. How did she get to be a Grenen Lantern in the first place then?

JSA #8 (DC, 2000) – “Shadowland,” [W] David Goyer & Geoff Johns, [A] Stephen Sadowski. I think I read this because I took a Sporcle quiz about Green Lanterns, and it reminded me that I used to like Geoff Johns’s Green Lantern. Anyway, this issue the JSA battles an insane Obsidian. This comic is not amazing, but it’s not terrible either; it generates a strong sense of excitement and suspense.

THE HIC & HOC ILLUSTRATED JOURNAL OF HUMOR #1 (Hic & Hoc, 2013) – “Volume One: The United States,” [E] Lauren Barnett & Nathan Bulmer. This anthology comic includes short pieces by a large number of artists, such as Noah Van Sciver, Box Brown, Grant Snider, Julia Wertz and Dustin Harbin. These stories are widely varied in quality, but the best of them are very good, and it’s nice having such a diverse assortment of work in such a convenient package.

THE HIC & HOC ILLUSTRATED JOURNAL OF HUMOR #2 (Hic & Hoc, 2013) – “Volume Two: The U.K. Edition,” [E] Lizz Lunney & Joe List. As the title indicates, this issue focuses on British artists. I was unfamiliar with most of the creators in this issue; the only names I recognized were Luke Pearson and Gary Northfield. As with the previous issue, there was some good work here, but the humor was harder to appreciate because of its British sensibility. This was the final issue of this anthology, although I imagine it was not intended as such.

NUMBER 1 #1 (Retrofit/Big Planet, 2014) – “Kayfabe Quarterly,” [W/A] Box Brown. I bought this directly from Box Brown at TCAF several years ago, but I felt motivated to read it after encountering Box’s work again in Hic & Hoc #1. This issue mostly consists of a long story about pro wrestling. It reminds me of both Joe Keatinge’s Ringside and Adrian Tomine’s hortisculpture story. It’s a very well-done piece of work, and while Box’s artwork is very cubist and minimalist, this is a deliberate stylistic choice. I ought to read more of his work.

DARK CORRIDOR #2 (Image, 2015) – “The Red Circle” and “Seven Deadly Daughters,” [W/A] Rich Tommaso. I read this because Rich Tommaso was in the news, thanks to his public comments about the poor sales of Spy Seal. I bought most of this series when it came out, but only read the first issue – it was a period when I was buying a lot of comics I didn’t read. Having finally read this comic, I think it’s a solid piece of work. I’m not in love with the story, and I can’t quite tell whether this issue’s two stories are self-contained or parts of a serial. But Rich’s design sense and artwork and lettering are amazing. His artwork is powerfully evocative of ‘50s and ‘60s Hollywood, although there are clues that the story takes place in the present day. I’m looking forward to Spy Seal, whose subject matter is more appealing to me.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #14 (Image, 2017) – “Fluff This Maze,” [W/A] Skottie Young. Gert travels through a maze, with the assistance of a bunch of creepy creatures who ask to marry her. And she has to marry the owner of the maze if she can’t complete it in time. This was another pretty good issue; I especially like the page with all the unseen creatures proposing marriage to Gert. The ending, where Gert magically becomes Good Gert, is a surprise.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “Sister Act!”, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. This is a good Spider-Man comic, but it’s not the best. Zdarsky does a brilliant job with Spidey’s witty banter, but his story is hampered by being reliant on some awful old stories. Also, I’d like to see more soap opera and relationship drama.

BUG! THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #3 (DC, 2017) – “Atlas Bugged: Domino Effect Part 3,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. The best thing about this comic is still the way it evokes Kirby’s ‘70s DC comics. This issue reintroduces Atlas, who, I believe, only appeared in one issue of First Issue Special. Bug! still doesn’t have much of a plot, but that’s not the point. I’m not sure how I feel about the Midnight backup by James Harvey.

BLUBBER #2 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – “T.A.C. Man vs. Pollum” and other stories, [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. I didn’t like the first issue of this series, and the second issue isn’t much better. It’s full of body horror and creepy sex, and it’s deeply disturbing, but not at all fun.

SECONDS HELPING (Deluxe, 2015) – “Seconds Helping,” [W/A] Jason Fischer. This is a memoir by Jason Fischer, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s assistant, about how he and Bryan created Seconds. There is some interesting stuff here, but I wish there was less stuff about Jason’s personal life, and more about his creative process and his technique.

NORMALMAN #1 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “The Panties ‘n Capes Syndrome!”, [W/A] Jim Valentino. Valentino is a fairly well-respected creator, but from this issue, it’s not clear why. It’s just a trite and unfunny superhero parody, and unlike Don Simpson’s contemporaneous work in this genre, it has nothing else to offer besides bad humor.

New comics for August 4:

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Ro Stein. Jeremy has now confirmed that this title was cancelled because of poor sales, and not because it was only intended to last eight issues. This is a real shame. Unstoppable Wasp was a sweet, heartfelt comic with a powerful feminist message, and its cancellation is a bad sign for the industry in general. Jeremy has lots of other projects underway, but I wish we’d gotten more of Nadia. At least this issue goes out on a high note. This final issue is again narrated by Janet, and the scene where she talks with Nadia about being abused by Hank is probably the highlight. Hank’s abuse of Jan is one of those dark moments that Marvel can never really erase or recover from (like Carol being raped by Marcus, except they’ve swept that under the rug). But no previous writer has done such a good job of integrating that moment into the characters’ history, without apologizing for Hank. Also, Jan and Nadia’s accidental mother-daughter relationship is lovely.

SEX CRIMINALS #20 (Image, 2017) – “Outs,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. The current storyline is the low point of the series so far. It’s hard to follow and it’s depressing, and reading this comic feels difficult. Sex Criminals is still one of the top ten current monthly comics, but it’s slipped lower down that ranking. This issue, Suzie and Jon finally break up, which was inevitable given how awful Jon has been behaving lately, but still very sad.

ROCKET GIRL #8 (Image, 2017) – “Big G Whiz,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Amy Reeder. I’m very glad to see this again, but it’s been over a year and a half since issue 7, and I’ve completely forgotten what happened in that issue. (Not coincidentally, there have been 20 issues of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur since the last issue of Rocket Girl.) This issue is not bad, but it was hard to read because of a severe stapling error, which is something I have rarely if ever encountered before. I was able to finish reading the issue, but have asked for a refund.

MECH CADET YU #1 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Like Amadeus Cho, this comic’s protagonist is a teenage Asian boy, but the similarities mostly end there. Yu is a poor janitor who unexpectedly becomes the pilot of an alien super-robot. (Now that I look at the comic again, Yu’s poverty seems like more of a handicap than his race, because the villain, a smug rich girl, also seems to be Asian.) Anyway, this comic has some powerful and emotional moments, but it suffers from an overly compressed story. When I finished it, I was like, is that all?

HAWKEYE #9 (Marvel, 2017) – “A Fearful Face-Off!”, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Kate wins a fight at the underground fight club, sort of, and rescues Mr. Donnelly. This was a pretty good issue, but I was feeling tired and unmotivated when I read it.

GREEN LANTERN #21 (DC, 2007) – “Sinestro Corps, Chapter One: Fear & Loathing,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Ivan Reis. As with all of Geoff Johns’s work, this issue has some mildly innovative ideas in it, but is also bloody and overly violent.

GIANT DAYS #29 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. As a college teacher and a literature major, I found this issue hilarious. Esther is the best student in her Romantic literature course… until Emilia joins the course and turns out to be even better, causing Esther to hate and despise her. Having been in this position a number of times, I know just how she feels – though the issue takes a darker turn when Esther’s professor tries to seduce her. This issue shows that John Allison actually knows something about college and literature: the information about Romantic literature seems to be accurate, and there’s a joke about trigger warnings on the first page.

GRENDEL TALES: DEVILS AND DEATHS #2 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Devil’s Ways,” [W] Darko Macan, [A] Edvin Biukovic. A powerful and brutal conclusion to this two-parter. The story ends with most of the characters dead, including the blind Grendel leader, who is murdered by his young son. You have to think that this story was influenced by the bloody sectarian violence that was going on in Macan and Biukovic’s country at the time. Biukovic’s European-influenced art is brilliant.

TARGITT #1 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “Boston Tea Party,” [W] Ric Meyers, [A] Howard Nostrand. This spy comic is so poorly written and implausible, I’m not sure it’s not supposed to be a parody. The hero’s wife and daughter get blown up on the first page, and he barely seems to care. One of the villains says “Do you know what this is? It’s a Combat Magnum .357! One of the most powerful hand guns ever made! It can blow your head clean off” – a blatant plagiarism of Dirty Harry. Those are just the things that stood out to me, but this whole comic is awful, even for an Atlas-Seaboard comic.

IMAGE FIRSTS: THE NIGHTLY NEWS #1 (Image, 2011) – “Chapter 1: I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore,” [W/A] Jonathan Hickman. This comic is about a conspiracy to assassinate journalists, because of fake news. The political message of this comic is kind of naïve. Its main point is that media consolidation is bad and leads to untrustworthy news, which is true, but very obvious. And Hickman gives few if any examples of just how the media lies to us. What does make this comic interesting is the mixed-media art, which is quite unusual, though it’s hampered by too many captions.

FUTURIANS #1 (Lodestone, 1985) – “Aftermath!”, [W/A] Dave Cockrum. This is a little hard to follow because it’s a sequel to a graphic novel. Which I have, and I could have read it first, but I didn’t feel like it. Other than that, this is a pretty good superhero comic, and also has a surprisingly grim tone; it takes place just after most of the large cities in the world have been destroyed, and most of the protagonists have lost family members. But Cockrum is not as gifted a superhero writer as his collaborators such as Claremont or Shooter. His characters are often very similar to various X-Men.

FUTURIANS #2 (Lodestone, 1985) – “The Burrowers Beneath!”, [W/A] Dave Cockrum. See above. One of Cockrum’s talents is his ability to draw horrible monsters, and this issue has some seriously scary ones.

MARVEL ADVENTURES SUPER-HEROES #8 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Scott Koblish. For some reason the Vision is featured on this issue’s cover even though he barely appears in the issue. Probably this cover was intended for a different issue. This issue, Thor and Nova go on a mission to Asgard where they encounter the Valkyrie. Scott Koblish draws this comic in a very Simonson-esque style, and the story has the same combination of humor, action and grim seriousness that characterized Simonson’s Thor. The three characters are all effective foils for each other. Overall this was a really good issue of an imprint that was never appreciated as much as it should have been.

KING: FLASH GORDON #3 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, [A] Lee Ferguson. Not nearly as good as Parker and Shaner’s Flash Gordon, but not bad either, and written with a similar tone. The highlight of this issue is a scene where Dale Arden defeats a giant octopus monster in an arena.

DARK CORRIDOR #4 (Image, 2015) – “The Red Circle, Part Four: Blow Out” and “Seven Deadly Daughters,” [W/A] Rich Tommaso. I didn’t order issue 3, so both stories this issue were difficult to follow, and I’m not sure if they’re even related to the stories from issue 2. The artwork and graphic design are just as impressive as in issue 2, though.

THE FIRST KINGDOM #15 (Bud Plant, 1981) – “Book 15: Tundran is Kenmoor,” [W/A] Jack Katz. This was a revolutionary comic for its time, and it’s still fascinating to read today, but it also has severe flaws. Katz’s plot is much too ambitious – which is a common mistake for first-time SF and fantasy writers – and he has to use really long captions to tell parts of the story that he doesn’t have room to illustrate. There are too many characters to keep track of, and there’s one long flashback that turns out to be irrelevant to the current plot. However, Katz’s art is often breathtaking. He does a great job of drawing naked athletic people, which, it must be admitted, is a big part of the appeal of this series. And he succeeds in making me care what happens to Tundran and Fara, even if they’re not the deepest characters.

CRICKETS #4 (self-published, 2015) – “Blood of the Virgin, Chapter 2,” [W/A] Sammy Harkham. A chapter of a graphic novel about a filmmaker who’s making a B-movie, while his marriage and personal life collapse around him. This is just a brilliant piece of work. Like other Harkham comics I’ve read, it seems like a simple slice-of-life story told with minimal artistic intervention, but it has great power and subtlety. Harkham shows us the hectic pace of life on the film set, and the extreme pressure that the protagonist and his coworkers are under. This is a major work by a cartoonist who’s not very prolific, but whose work is always of top quality.

THOR #233 (Marvel, 1975) – “Midgard Aflame!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Buscema. Loki claims the throne of Asgard and leads an army against New York. Ho hum. As with most Thor comics from this period, this issue is only interesting for the Buscema art. There’s one unusual scene where Thor saves a child from being hit by a truck, and for some unexplained reason, no one is driving the truck.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #457 (DC, 1989) – “Echoes,” [W] George Pérez & Roger Stern, [A] Dan Jurgens & Ty Templeton. A surprisingly good issue. The late ‘80s, after Byrne left and before the Death of Superman epic, was quite a good period for Superman. This issue, Superman fights some Intergang thugs who attack a Wonder Woman Foundation gala, while back in Smallville, the Matrix (the future Supergirl) imitates everything Superman does, with disastrous results. At this point, Matrix is shapeshifted into Clark Kent’s form and is referred to with male pronouns, yet I’ve never heard Matrix described as a transgender character.

THE DYING & THE DEAD #1 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Ryan Bodenheim. This debut issue is overly long, but sets up an interesting premise. An old soldier dude, whose wife is dying of cancer, is recruited by a supernatural entity for one last mission. This was intended to be an ongoing series, but has gone on indefinite hiatus after three issues.

CRICKETS #6 (self-published, 2017) – “Blood of the Virgin, Chapter 4,” [W/A] Sammy Harkham. Either I forgot to order issue 5, or it was never solicited in Previews, but the conclusion to this story is easy to follow even without reading the third chapter. This story, the protagonist’s life falls apart around him. His wife doesn’t come back from vacation, he gets thrown off his movie and locked out of his own office, and the end of the story finds him in jail for drunk driving. The issue ends with no real resolution, but I’m not sure if this is because it’s not the last chapter, or because Harkham just decided to stop there. I’m not sure if there’s any overarching lesson or moral to this story, but it’s a brutal and subtle portrayal of the collapse of a man’s life and career. When this story is published in collected form, it will earn massive critical acclaim.

ECLIPSE MONTHLY #9 (Eclipse, 1984) – three stories, [E] cat yronwode & Dean Mullaney. The first story in this issue is awful; it’s an implausible and historically inaccurate medieval adventure. The only thing I like about it is the coloring. Luckily the second story is a chapter of Rio by Doug Wildey. This story is exciting and gorgeously drawn. It’s a pity that Wildey didn’t do more comics work in his later years. There’s also a Masked Man story by B.C. Boyer, in which the homoerotic tension between the Masked Man and his friend Barney is so thick that the characters themselves lampshade it.

WAY OUT STRIPS #1 (Tragedy Strikes, 1992) – five stories, [W/A] Carol Swain. I haven’t read any previous work by this artist, and maybe this comic was not a good introduction. As Paul Gravett points out in a one-page introduction, Swain came to comics from painting, and these stories are drawn in a style that resembles surrealist art as much as comics. However, none of these stories is a satisfying narrative. They all seem more focused on mood than storytelling. I finished the issue feeling unsatisfied and confused, but I would like to read more work by Carol Swain.

MEGA PRINCESS #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Brianne Drouhard. Max escapes the underwater jail using Rapunzel powers, and encounters an underwater princess who looks just like her and is also missing a baby brother. This comic is cute, but has limited appeal for readers who aren’t small children, not that that’s necessarily a criticism. “Thank you, my hair” is perhaps the best line in the series.

MEGA PRINCESS #5 – as above. It turns out an evil witch turned all the missing princes into frogs. Max and Justine save the day. Somehow I enjoyed this more than most of the previous issues, but I’m not sure why.

DETECTIVE COMICS #590 (DC, 1988) – “An American Batman in London,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. On Guy Fawkes Day, Batman visits London to foil a plot by Middle Eastern terrorists. The leader of the terrorists is Abu Hassan, probably based on Abu Nidal. The terrorists are described as being from “Syraq,” instead of Qurac, which is DC’s usual generic Arab country. This story benefits from Wagner and Grant’s intimate knowledge of London, and it shows at least some understanding of the terrorists’ grievances, which makes it more sophisticated than many later stories about Islamic terrorism.

MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #11 (Marvel, 1973) – Ghost Rider in “Season of the Witch-Woman!”, [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Tom Sutton. This issue’s villain – Linda Littletrees, an Apache who becomes a Satanic witch while at college – is more interesting than Ghost Rider himself. She is something of a Native American stereotype, but she at least has a personality and a history. She falls off a cliff at the end of the issue, but was not dead, and became a recurring character for a little while. Her name appears to have come from the TV show Laredo.

MAN-THING #2 (Marvel, 1974) – “Nowhere to Go But Down!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Val Mayerik. This may be the only Gerber Man-Thing I hadn’t read. This issue introduces Ruth Hart, Richard Rory’s love interest, who flees from the swamp after inadvertently robbing her biker ex-boyfriend. While Richard is trying to protect Ruth from the biker and his gang, F.A. Schist is trying to kill Manny by replicating the accident that created him. As usual, Gerber’s writing is head and shoulders above that of his contemporaries. I think he’s my favorite comics writer of the ‘70s.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #87 (Dark Horse, 1994) – various stories, [E] Randy Stradley. The most interesting story in this issue is “The Eighth Wonder, Part 3,” a steampunk story with hyper-detailed art by Killian Plunkett. This artist mostly worked on Star Wars comics, which I suppose is why I’m not familiar with him. I’d like to see more of his work. Unfortunately, the Concrete story in this issue is a waste of space; it’s just a four-page origin recap. There are also four one-pagers by Rick Geary, and one other story, “Star Riders” by Etienne Gagnon and Alex Racine, which is terrible.

WHEN I RETURNED (Center for Cartoon Studies, 2016) – This was one of several comics that I received as a prize for winning the Best Online Comics Scholarship award, for my contribution to the Comics as Scholarship issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly. This comic is a collection of stories by CCS students, based on interviews with local veterans about their war experiences. It includes six pieces representing a wide range of styles and subject matter. I think my favorite is the one by JD Lunt and Kelly Swann, which is not about war at all, but about the narrator’s rape at the hands of two other men and the lifelong trauma he suffered as a result. I haven’t heard of any of the contributors to this comic (except Noah Van Sciver, who did the cover), but this comic is a fascinating project and it shows a lot of promise.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #7/200 (Dark Horse, 2015) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. This anniversary issue is much more consistent than a typical issue of DHP. There are a couple unimpressive stories, but the level of talent is very high; the issue includes art by Gabriel Bá, Jerry Ordway, Aaron Conley, Matt Kindt, Brendan McCarthy, Sergio Aragonés and Dave Gibbons. The best pieces are a short Groo story and a MIND MGMT story. As pointed out previously by Multiversity Comics, MIND MGMT looks very different when printed on glossy paper instead of newsprint. The Dave Gibbons story is notable for being written by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn.

DEPT. H #16 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. The opening sequence of this issue is brilliant; it creates a powerful sense of just how huge the giant squid is. The rest of the issue is mostly a flashback. I don’t think I knew before that Blake’s last name was Mortimer, i.e. Blake and Mortimer.

THE MIGHTY THOR #21 (Marvel, 2017) – “The War Thor,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Valerio Schiti. Much less impressive than last issue. The War Thor goes back to Muspelheim and beats people up – including Ulik, who, along with his lookalike Blastaar, is one of my favorite minor Marvel villains. Meanwhile, it looks like Jane really is about to die.

THE DYING & THE DEAD #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Ryan Bodenheim. This issue, the protagonist rescues some of his old friends from an nursing home, and it becomes clearer what this series is about: old age. Which is a bold decision since the writer is only in his mid-forties, but he shows a fairly sophisticated understanding of what it must be like to be old and forgotten.

WONDER WOMAN #40 (DC, 1990) – “Divided We Fall,” [W] George Pérez & Mindy Newell, [A] Chris Marrinan. Eris, goddess of discord, tries to ruin the Themyscira peace summit, but Diana and the Amazons foil her plot. This wasn’t a terrible issue but it wasn’t great, and it suffered from boring art and no Julia or Vanessa.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #100-4 (Dark Horse, 1995) – This issue includes seven stories, four of which are good, yet it’s the bad ones that stick in my memory. Of the good ones, the best is “The Night Tom Waits Poured Me a Bourbon on the Rocks,” adapted by Ellen Forney from a friend’s true story. It’s a cute story about hero worship. There’s also a well-drawn but anticlimactic Martha Washington story by Miller and Gibbons, and one-pagers by Rick Geary and by Harvey Pekar and Joe Sacco. The bad stories include Mean Mr. Applehead by Brian Sendelbach and Black Cross by Chris Warner, and “Bird Dog,” written by a young Ed Brubaker, which is a piece of self-indulgent navel-gazing that could only be written by a man in his twenties.

TRUE BELIEVERS: KIRBY 100TH – BLACK PANTHER #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “King Solomon’s Frog!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. This reprints the first issue of Kirby’s Black Panther. It’s a typical late ‘70s Marvel Kirby comic, with all sorts of weird artifacts and exciting action scenes. Kirby at least tried to incorporate African motifs into his designs, though there’s not much else about this comic that’s noticeably African. And in general, this run of Black Panther comics had little impact on the future trajectory of the character. Oddly, Kirby introduces a new sidekick to Black Panther – a midget with a monocle – at the start of the issue, but then kills him off. This issue also reprints the Captain America story from Tales of Suspense #98, which is much better written.

New comics received on August 11:

MS. MARVEL #21 (Marvel, 2017) – “Mecca, Part 3,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marco Failla. Another excellent issue of perhaps Willow’s greatest story. Deciding to fight rather than give in, Kamala helps the detainees escape. This leads to a nice moment when some of the detainees meet a Muslim clergyman for the first time. This scene reminded me of earlier this summer when I visited a mosque for the first time. (And it looked very similar to the one in this comic – a large room with a carpeted floor and no furniture.) And then it turns out that Lockdown is not Kamran, as I expected, but Josh. Here the story takes another brilliant turn, as Josh explains his actions using the same rhetoric that many real white people have used to justify voting for Trump: “I was so sick of being told how lucky I was and how fortunate I was and how easy I had things. If I have it so great in life, why do I feel like this?” Willow doesn’t use words like “white privilege” or “Trump,” but it’s clear that that’s what this conversation is about. In this story, G. Willow Wilson is doing a brilliant job of coming to terms with America in the post-Trump era.

My headcanon is that on the splash page where Kamala surrenders, the cat is staring at the pigeon and ignoring all the other stuff going on.

MISTER MIRACLE #1 (DC, 2017) – “Meet: Mister Miracle,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. This is probably the most important DC title of the year. It was hard to form my own opinion on this comic because I had previously read a bunch of other people’s takes on it. But overall I think this is an impressive work, a strong follow-up to The Vision. This comic is a synthesis of Kirbyesque characters and prose styles with the rather un-Kirbyesque topic of depression. The phrase “Darkseid is” appears throughout the comic as a shorthand for the feeling of horrible despair that depression creates. We’ll have to see where this goes, but so far this comic is a really interesting use of the superhero genre to confront issues of mental illness, similar to Mariko Tamaki’s Hulk.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #23 (Marvel, 2017) – “Young Love (and Doombots) in the Savage Land!!!,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. I haven’t appreciated this series lately as much as I ought to. It’s been going on for a long time, and sometimes Ryan North’s humor is too obvious and blunt – like, he really belabors the joke about programming montages being boring. But this issue is really funny and sweet. Nancy finds herself falling in love with one of the Latverian students, which is cute and creepy at once. By the way, this may be the first time we’ve ever seen Latverians who are intelligent Doom supporters, rather than rebels or downtrodden peasants.

MANIFEST DESTINY #30 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. Sacagawea’s baby is finally born. Her complicated facial expression on seeing the baby for the first time is one of the most powerful moments of the series. Other than that, the men discover another arch, and the Spanish ghost dude shows up again at the end.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #12 (DC, 2017) – “The Ballad of Olive Silverlock, Finale,” [W] Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, [A] Adam Archer. After lots of crazy stuff happens, Olive tries to commit suicide but Maps saves her, and Olive finally comes to terms with her family history. I’m very sad this series is over; I think it was my favorite DC comic of the decade. I certainly hope we see these characters again in some capacity, especially Maps.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #57 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Tony Fleecs. Another issue that’s based on a season 7 episode. It begins with Fluttershy thanking Discord for hosting a tea party (with plaid-flavored biscuits and self-dunking tea), implying that this issue takes place after “Discordant Harmony”. The main plot of the issue is that Pinkie Pie becomes the ruler of Discord’s realm, with the predictable awful consequences. Since this is a Pinkie Pie issue, it includes a bunch of fourth-wall-breaking moments, such as literal word balloons. If I ever revise my essay on transmedia in MLP, I should mention this issue.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #30 (Image, 2017) – “No Rest for the Divine Too,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. Another series I’m not enjoying as much as I’m supposed to. The Baphomet-Dionysus scenes are really good, though.

HULK #9 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Julian Lopez. Another unnecessary issue that could have been combined with the previous issue. Mariko really needs to work on her pacing. The best thing in this issue was the two kids’ conversation on page two.

ROCKET #4 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Blue River Score, Part 4: Dirty Money,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Adam Gorham. This issue, Al Ewing did not succeed in overcoming my dislike of Deadpool, but I did like the fourth-wall breaks involving the prose gutter. Also, I’m glad that the Technet show up again at the end of the issue.

SPIDER-GWEN #22 (Marvel, 2017) – “Predators, Part 4,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez and Jorge Coelho. The point of this entire storyline is to turn Gwen into Gwenom, and that’s about to happen at the end of the issue, but I don’t quite understand how. What does the Lizard virus have to do with the symbiote? The other thing that happens this issue is that Kraven beats Captain Stacy half to death in prison. Jorge Coelho’s fill-in art is noticeably worse than Robbie’s art.

FLASH GORDON #18 (Charlton, 1970) – “Scourge of the Locust Men!”, [W] uncredited, [A] Pat Boyette. The two Flash Gordon stories in this issue are pretty boring, though the first one is kind of cute because the locust men turn out to be okay people (or insects). What makes this issue memorable is the four-page “Great Battles of History” story by Michael Wm. Kaluta. It details the Battle of Shiraz between Tamerlane and Shah Mansur, which wasn’t great enough to merit a Wikipedia entry. Kaluta’s artwork is a bit crude, but you can tell it’s him, and his draftsmanship is quite good, especially compared to Pat Boyette’s much looser art in the main story.

AQUAMAN #52 (DC, 1970) – “The Traders’ Trap,” [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Jim Aparo; and “Never Underestimate a Deadman,” [W/A] Neal Adams. A fascinating issue. Aquaman #50-52 may have been the best work of Jim Aparo’s entire career. The alternate dimension where the story is set is depicted in a bizarre and breathtaking way – I already raved about this in my review of issue 50. And his draftmanship and storytelling are top-notch. This issue is also unusual in that the Aquaman and Deadman stories intersect with each other. There’s even a two-page Aquaman epilogue after the Deadman story. The two stories don’t completely fit together – there are some plot threads in the Aquaman story that aren’t wrapped up, though I forget what they are – but it was very unusual at the time for multiple stories in the same issue to be coordinated with each other. This issue even includes an epilogue explaining how this coordination was managed.

RED CIRCLE SORCERY #6 (Archie, 1974) – various stories, [E] Gray Morrow. The best stories in this issue are the first two, by Gray Morrow and Ed Davis. The latter artist had a very short and obscure career and there’s very little information available about him, but Howard Chaykin called him the greatest natural draftsman he ever met. There’s another story in the issue by Chaykin himself. The other two stories are by Marvin Channing and Carlos Pino, two creators who are mostly associated with Red Circle comics and nothing else, though Pino seems to have had a long career in Britain.

WHITE LUNCH COMIX #1 (Georgia Straight, 1972) – various stories, [W/A] Rand Holmes and Jim Jones. This one requires a bit of explanation. When I was a kid, my dad had some underground comics that I wasn’t allowed to read. He eventually gave them to me when I got older and became interested in comics, but I filed some of them away in my boxes without ever reading them. The other day I decided to remove them from my boxes and add them to my to-be-read stack (or more accurately, my to-be-read boxes). This is one of those comics. The lead story, Rand Holmes’s “Baldric the Barbarian,” is a Conan parody which is very similar to the actual Conan comic except that it includes explicit nudity and sex. Rand Holmes’s brilliant draftsmanship elevates this comic above the level of mere parody. However, this comic does end with an offensive rape scene, which underscores the point that underground comics were often male power fantasies, just as much as superhero comics were. It’s also unfortunate that almost all the other material in this issue is by Jim Jones. This appears to be the only comic he ever published, and that’s a good thing, because his stories are just second-rate Crumb knockoffs. The only interesting thing about it is the occasional Canadian topical references.

RIBIT! #1 (Comico, 1989) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Thorne. I unfortunately read this comic just before I went to sleep, and I was annoyed to find that it was 28 pages with very dense captions. Besides that, this is a pretty interesting comic. It takes place in a milieu that combines fantasy and SF elements. Thog is a dim-witted assistant to a sorceress, and Ribit is his pet lizard, who later gets turned into a petite woman. Thog and Ribit’s devoted but platonic relationship reminds me of Ghita and Dahib’s relationship in Ghita of Alizarr, Thorne’s greatest work. And it looks like the next issue is going to introduce a character who corresponds to Thenef, Ghita’s other male companion. In general this comic often feels like a sanitized version of Ghita, but it’s clearly a significant work of Thorne, and I want to hunt down the other three issues.

BLACK GOLIATH #5 (Marvel, 1976) – “Survival!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Keith Pollard. This minor ‘70s Marvel comic is notable for a few reasons. First, it’s not bad at all. Keith Pollard does a good job of imitating Perez, and Claremont’s story is surprisingly heartfelt. It ends with the friendly alien guest-star getting killed. Second, this issue takes place on a planet called “Sharra’s Forge,” named after a goddess. I don’t know if this was before or after Claremont introduced Sharra as a Shi’ar deity. Finally, this seems to be the only comic book appeaance of the A’askvarii race, who were mentioned in one line of dialogue in the Guardians of the Galaxy film.

SUPERMAN #45 (DC, 2015) – “Street Justice,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Howard Porter. Whatever his other talents, Gene is just not a talented superhero writer. This issue is a trite story about a superhero fight club. It fails to create any kind of excitement, and it doesn’t feel like a Superman comic. Also, the reader quickly gets tired of trying to pronounce the villain’s name, HORDR_ROOT. The only thing I like about this issue is its use of Filipino mythology.

UNCLE SCROOGE #7/411 (IDW, 2015) – “Mummy Dearest,” [W/A] Romano Scarpa, and “Of Mice and Magic,” [W] Thad Komorowski, [A] Mark De Jonge. I quickly lost interest in IDW’s Disney comics once I realized that they were just European reprints. However, this issue’s lead story is by Romano Scarpa, one of the few European Disney artists I like, and it’s an exciting and very Barksian piece of work in which Scrooge converts the Money Bin into a pyramid. The other story in the issue is a waste of space.

JOHN BOLTON’S HALLS OF HORROR #1 (Eclipse, 1985) – two stories, [W] Dez Skinn and Steve Moore, [A] John Bolton. This issue consists of stories reprinted from an unknown British comic. The first story, adapted from R. Chetwynd-Hayes’s “The Monster Club,” is about a woman who tries to take advantage of a shadmock, a monster that kills by whistling. The depiction of her destroyed body after the shadmock whistles at her is horrific. There’s also a two-part werewolf story set in 18th-century Spain. Overall, this issue effectively showcases the work of a brilliant artist.

SKULL #5 (GCD, 1972) – various stories, [W/A] Richard Corben, Spain Rodriguez, etc. For this issue, the creators had the innovative idea of adapting HP Lovecraft stories in an underground comics style. All of these stories were new to me – I haven’t actually read much Lovecraft – and it’s also fascinating to see them through an underground comics lens. Corben’s “The Rats in the Walls” and Spain’s “The Hand of Kaä” are the highlights. I need to read more Spain comics. The other two stories, by Larry Todd and Charles Dallas, are less impressive. The cat in Corben’s version of “The Rats in the Walls” is named “N**aman” and you can probably guess what are the two letters I left out of that name, and what the cat was named in Lovecraft’s original version of the story.

BATMAN #395 (DC, 1986) – “The Film Freak,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Tom Mandrake. Doug Moench is not my favorite Batman writer, largely because his version of Jason Todd was very annoying. But in this issue, Jason is better than usual; it’s Jason who diagnoses that Batman is acting recklessly and is chasing after Catwoman. At the same time, Batman and Catwoman’s relationship is quite cute, and this issue also introduces the villain named in its title, who has a really cool gimmick.

GHOST MANOR #2 (Charlton, 1971) – “It Will Roam Again,” [W] Joe Gill (?), [A] Steve Ditko, and other work. Two average stories by Ditko and one mediocre story by Nicholas and Alascia. The best thing in the issue is the panel where “Mr. Mooney sits by the fire with his weird-looking cat and he fantasizes.” The Nicholas and Alascia story is set in Haiti, but includes no black people.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #62 (Marvel, 1976) – “Lord of the Lions!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. After reading several comics where the art was more interesting than the writing, I wanted to read something well-written, and this fit the bill. This issue includes the origin story of Amra, a character Roy created so he could have Conan fight Tarzan. Amra is a compelling character, but also a jerk and a borderline rapist, though Roy stops short of suggesting that he may have raped Bêlit. Amra’s jealous girlfriend/concubine Makeda is also an interesting character.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #61 (Marvel, 1980) – “The Coming of Her!”, [W] Mark Gruenwald, [A] Jerry Bingham. This issue reintroduces Her, the female counterpart to Adam Warlock, who had previously appeared as a male character named Paragon. (And yet she, like Matrix, is rarely if ever mentioned as a transgender character.) Starhawk also makes a guest appearance. Mark’s writing was always of variable quality, but this issue was pretty good.

GRASS KINGS #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. This series is just okay; I don’t like it as much as MIND MGMT or even Dept. H. I do like how the letters page is a list of all the stores that ordered at least as much of issue 2 as of issue 1.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #215 (DC, 1968) – “A New Lease on Death,” [W/A] Neal Adams. In part one of the epic conclusion to the Deadman saga, Deadman discovers that Hook is Willie Smith and that he killed Boston Brand as an initiation ritual for the League of Assassins. The League and its Sensei make their first appearances in this issue, later to reappear in Neal’s Ra’s al Ghul stories. Neal’s art is brilliant and, unusually, his writing is not bad either. The backup story by John Giunta is awful.

DETECTIVE COMICS #404 (DC, 1970) – “Ghost of the Killer Skies,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. I’ve read this before in the Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told volume, but I haven’t revisited it in a long time. It’s both an exciting aviation-themed story, and an affectionate tribute to Kubert and Kanigher’s Enemy Ace (which debuted only five years earlier – somehow I assumed it was published long before this story was). The Batgirl backup story, “Midnight Doom-Boy” by Frank Robbins and Gil Kane, is also worth reading.

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #138 (DC, 1968) – “The Slayers and the Slain,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Joe Kubert. I haven’t actually read Enemy Ace before, so this story was a revelation. Kubert’s artwork is spectacular – he must have been the greatest aviation artist in the history of American comics, besides George Evans. He depicts Enemy Ace’s dogfights with excitement and economy of line. But the story is just as powerful as the art. Enemy Ace is a complex character, tormented by guilt over his own actions and by the inevitability of his own death in combat. This is just an amazing comic. I need to read more of these stories.

SHROUD OF MYSTERY #1 (Gold Key, 1982) – various stories, editor uncredited. The real mystery is why this comic book exists. It’s a one-shot consisting of what are either reprints or inventory stories, by artists like Jack Sparling and Sal Trapani. All the stories are terrible, though one of them has some okay art by Al McWilliams. This must have been one of the last comics Gold Key/Whitman published, and I guess they were desperate for material.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #364 (Marvel, 1992) – “The Pain of Fast Air,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Mark Bagley. This issue reintroduces Peter Parker’s parents. They’re not yet identified as such, but Michelinie makes it really obvious who they are (or claim to be). Also, Spider-Man fights the Shocker for some reason. This was not one of Michelinie’s better issues.

NAUGHTY BITS #4 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – “Unhappy Holidays,” parts one and two, [W/A] Roberta Gregory. A two-part Christmas-themed story. Part one is a flashback to a Christmas in Bitchy’s childhood, during which she was molested by her creepy uncle. In part two, the adult Bitchy goes home for Christmas and visits the same uncle on his deathbed. The disturbing subject matter of this story is made more palatable by Roberta’s cartoony style and by Bitchy’s well-deserved glee in the knowledge that her abuser has been punished. This story also reveals how awful and cruel childhood can be. In addition, this issue includes an essay by Roberta about how her work was rejected from an anthology of “dyke” comics because she’s bi. That anthology seems to have been Dyke’s Delight, edited by Kate Charlesworth.

IRON MAN #23 (Marvel, 2014) – “Rings of the Mandarin, Chapter 1,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Luke Ross. I wrote a review of this, but lost it when my computer crashed. I’ll just briefly summarize and say that Malekith is the villain of this comic, so it ties in with Kieron’s Journey into Mystery, but is not as good.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #15/208 (Dark Horse, 2015) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson & Jim Gibbons. I lost my review of this one too. Notable stories are Finder by Carla Speed McNeil, Dream Gang by Brendan McCarthy, and Snow Angel by David Chelsea.

SNOW ANGEL #1 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “Snow Angel,” [W/A] David Chelsea. A one-shot about a little girl who can turn into a superpowered snow angel. This comic has a random and illogical style of humor, perhaps because it originated as a 24-hour comic, but it’s extremely cute and fun.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #214 (Marvel, 1977) – “The Power,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. The last issue of Kirby’s Cap run is rather unimpressive, clearly showing that he’s at the tail end of his career. The action scenes are brilliant, but there’s not much of a story.

FLASH GORDON #2 (King, 1966) – “The Death Trap of Mongo,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Frank Bolle. This is not the best Flash Gordon comic – it’s too bad that Al Williamson only drew a couple issues of this series – but Archie’s script is, as usual, well above average.

MS. TREE #10 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Deadline, Chapter One: Black and White and Red All Over,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. While investigating a series of murders, Ms. Tree agrees to grant an interview to a sleazy journalist, only to find the journalist dead. This is the first issue that uses the series’ characteristic two-color process. Also, there’s a scene where Ms. Tree buys a bunch of magazines including Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Soldier of Fortune, and Guns & Ammo.

DETECTIVE COMICS #418 (DC, 1971) – “…And Be a Villain!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Irv Novick, plus other stories. In this issue’s lead story, Batman battles a mind-controlled Creeper. There’s also a Batgirl story (in which we learn that Commissioner Gordon was a rookie cop in the 1920s!) and two reprinted stories. The second of these is the highlight of the issue, because it has some fantastic artwork by Alex Toth.

Pre-vacation reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New comics received on July 17, several days late:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New comics received on July 21:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over 100 post-Heroes-Con reviews


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just six more to go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews for May and early June


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

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

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

New comics received on June 20:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New comics received on May 26:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New comics received on June 2:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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