Second review post of 2018

New comics received on Monday, January 22:

FENCE #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. I was surprised when Fence was promoted to an ongoing series, because its subject matter seemed so esoteric. On the other hand, it’s very funny and well-executed, has a strong LGBTQ theme, and appeals to readers of manga, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. This is another good issue. It focuses mostly on the tryouts for the fencing team and the relationships among the players, but there is also a subtheme of class conflict. I like the scene where Robert complains about how many times he has to change clothes each day.

ANGELIC #5 (Image, 2018) – “Heirs and Graces, Part 5,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. This miniseries is Spurrier’s best work yet. This issue we learn what’s going on with this world: the animals were created by humans to take care of the world in the event of nuclear war, with the expectation that humans would eventually come out of cryogenic sleep and would take the world back. The dead humans in this series are pretty awful, and are matched only for their awfulness by the monkey and manatee leaders, who are perfectly fine with doing their dead creators’ will. Can Qora and Complainer change the entire world all on their own? I’m excited to find out. A highlight of this issue is the murderous teleporting cat who just wants attention.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO #3 (Action Lab, 2018) – “The Ballad of Katie Kling,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Panfil. The fight continues. Katie beats the crap out of Dana, and meanwhile the two engineer girls sink the other ship. And Helena kills someone and is very guilty about it. This is a really fun and progressive comic, but I wish that each issue came with a list of characters. I can’t remember any of the characters’ names besides Raven and Ximena, although the artist does an excellent job of distinguishing them visually.

MIGHTY THOR #703 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Fall of Asgard,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. Much like Spider-Gwen, this series gets bleaker and more depressing with every issue. Jane finally agrees to stop being Thor and accept medical care. But meanwhile the Mangog smashes through Asgard’s defenses, easily beating the Destroyer (controlled by Frigga, which is pretty cool). I’m afraid this isn’t going to end well.

ASSASSINISTAS #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Pregnant Pauses and Campout Makeouts!”, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. This is a fun comic, and it feels very much like a Gilbert Hernandez comic despite not being written by him. Perhaps Tini Howard’s writing is why this comic seems so fun; Gilbert’s solo work is often quite grim and ominous even when it’s funny. This issue both advances the plot, and explores the main characters’ relationships with their children. This comic bears obvious similarities to Kill Bill (I just noticed the reference to “many former assassins who hung up their guns in the past ten years in order to retire and have children”), but it’s an original story.

SUPERB #6 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Dressed for Success,” [W] David Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Alitha Martinez. Kayla finally chooses a code name, unless she did that last issue, and she and Jonah invade the prison. Corinna, one of the teen supervillains, joins forces with them. This was an okay issue.

WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #5 (DC, 2018) – “Like Blood from the Sky,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Disappointingly, it turns out that Yanna is dead and Diana is not her. Or maybe we learned that last issue. Diana gives Conan one of her bracelets, and they fight to save Diana’s fellow Amazons from the evil crow women. Then Diana has to go back to Themyscira, but she leaves Conan with her lasso. I didn’t enjoy this issue much; it felt disappointing somehow.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #697 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Kraven the Hunter kidnaps Cap and forces him to play The Most Dangerous Game, while also protecting an innocent bystander who keeps trying to get himself killed. This character must be related to Mark’s version of Archie. At the end, it turns out that the bystander is working for Kraven, and Cap gets frozen in ice. Neither of the last two issues of this series has been half as good as #695, although Samnee’s art is as brilliant as ever.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #299 (Marvel, 2018) – “Most Wanted,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. Spidey continues to flee from his enemies, who now include Hawkeye, while Hophni Mason turns out to be Phineas Mason inside a robot suit. Chip Zdarsky’s dialogue is getting really good; I especially like the line “Rethink your liiiiivessss…”

SUPER SONS #12 (DC, 2018) – “Super Sons of Tomorrow, Finale: Last Minute Saved,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Tyler Kirkham. A bunch of crossover crap happens that I don’t care about, then Jon asks to join the Titans and is rejected. This and the previous issue demonstrate the problem with crossovers. These two issues are incomprehensible unless you read the other parts of the crossover, and they probably wouldn’t be any good even if I did read the other parts; moreover, these issues have killed the momentum of the series.

UNCANNY X-MEN #220 (Marvel, 1987) – “Unfinished Business,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Marc Silvestri. This issue is a(n inferior) sequel to #186, “Lifedeath.” Returning to Eagle Plaza to look for Forge, Storm sees a bunch of videos depicting her past history with him. Then she finds Nazé, who is also looking for Forge, except I’m pretty sure Nazé is also the Adversary. This issue begins a storyline which had been set up as long ago as #187, though I’m not sure the payoff was worth it. The only other X-Man who appears is Wolverine, and he’s only on three pages.

SLASHER #3 (Floating World, 2017) – “Wandering Blade,” [W/A] Charles Forsman. The female protagonist kills a bunch of people for no clear reason, then sneaks back home. I can’t remember issue 2 very well, but even if I had remembered it, I don’t think issue 3 would have made much more sense; it seems like the senselessness of the murders is intentional.

STUMPTOWN #10 (Oni, 2016) – “The Case of the Night That Wouldn’t End,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Justin Greenwood. This is the last issue so far, which is too bad; this series was a lot more enjoyable than some other Rucka comics (cough cough Lazarus). A man hires Dex to find out if his wife is cheating, which is a very realistic touch, since actual private detectives are much more likely to investigate extramarital affairs than robberies or murders. This issue even made me wonder if there are any mystery novels about private eyes who track down cheating spouses. There’s a mostly wordless sequence stakeout sequence, which is exciting despite Justin Greenwood’s lifeless art. At the end, we learn that the wife’s apparent affair partner is actually her son by a previous relationship, and she agrees to tell her husband about her son.

SLASHER #4 (Floating World, 2017) – “2 Headed Snake,” as above. Christine somehow finds herself tied to a bed being tortured by two hicks. How this follows logically from the previous issue is unclear. They cut her hand off and throw her in a pit, where she finds Joshua’s body. Reading Leonard Pierce’s TCJ review of the comic, I realize that the two hicks actually were Joshua, or rather they were pretending to be Joshua in order to catfish Christine. This wasn’t clear from reading the comic. Then the two guys get killed in a shootout with police, and Christine gets her mask and runs away.

SLASHER #5 (Floating World, 2017) – “Mommy Mommy,” as above. Christine returns home, where she tells her brother that she can only have orgasms from violence, and then commits hara-kiri. She somehow finds herself back in the pit with Joshua’s body, and the series ends with her kissing him. This is a compelling, disturbing comic, but the storytelling was confusing and fragmentary, and I’d need to read it again to really get it.

THOR #196 (Marvel, 1972) – “Within the Realm of Kartag!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Buscema. Like most of Conway’s Thor comics, this is a forgettable and overly convoluted story, though at least it has John Buscema art. The plot is that Thor and the Warriors Three are seeking the “Well at the Edge of the World” for some reason, while the Mangog is attacking Asgard.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #6 (DC, 2018) -“Son of Birdman,” [W] Phil Hester, [A] Steve Rude. This issue’s artwork is better than the story, though the story is not terrible. Birdman learns he has a son he didn’t know about, then Mentok tries to get his son’s mother to kill him, and the issue ends on a cliffhanger.

TWO-FISTED TALES #16 (EC, 1953/1996) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. In Jack Davis’s “Signal Corps,” some Signal Corps soldiers defeat an enemy ambush, demonstrating that they’re soldiers too. John Severin’s “Outpost” takes place in modern-day Afghanistan or Pakistan and is both boring and Orientalist. “Pearl Divers!” is a rare EC story by Joe Kubert, though the plot is not great. Wally Wood’s “Atom Bomb!” is the highlight of the issue; it depicts both the human cost of the bombing of Nagasaki, and the subsequent recovery of the city. It’s not comparable to Barefoot Gen, but it’s not bad. Overall this issue was a significant drop-off in quality from earlier issues of the series.

ANIMOSITY #10 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Honeywine,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael De Latorre. I’m losing enthusiasm for this series and for Marguerite Bennett’s work in general. This issue, Jesse and Sandor hunt for the bees and find themselves in a human/animal colony that seems perfect, except there are no women. Jesse has a good line: “If you’re a girl, and you go into a place, and there’s no other women there, you need to be careful, or else just leave.”

MEASLES #4 (Fantagraphics, 1999) – “The New Adventures of Venus,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez, plus other work. Beto’s stories in this issue are much more heartfelt and enjoyable than most of his stories with Venus and her family. This issue also includes less interesting work by Mario Hernandez, Steven Weissman (who I’m not familiar with) and Sam Henderson.

On January 27, I went to the Charlotte Mini Con at the Grady Cole Convention Center. This was another amazing local convention. I fond some awesome stuff, and then as I was on my way out, I discovered a second dealer’s room I hadn’t known about, with two booths with dollar boxes. I’ve literally had dreams like that. When I got home, my weekly shipment of comics was waiting for me, and it was hard to decide what to read first.

PRINCELESS #4 (Action Lab, 2013) – “The Arduous Business of Getting Rescued,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] M. Goodwin. Adrienne and Bedelia escape from Bedelia’s burning shop, then Bedelia meets Sparks, and they all go off to rescue Adrienne’s next sister. This is a fun comic, and it reminds me that I miss the regular Princeless title, and that I enjoy it more than Raven. I do remember seeing a social media post from Jeremy that suggested that Princeless will be back soon, though I can’t find it now.

LUMBERJANES #46 (Boom!, 2018) – “Zoo It Yourself,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. This was my favorite issue in several months. Emmy’s creatures are adorable, especially the perfectly normal squirrel who may or may not have hatched from an egg, and who imitates Emmy’s hand gestures. There are lots of other cute moments in the issue, and it gives me high hopes for the rest of the storyline.

DAREDEVIL #9 (Marvel, 1965) – “That He May See!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Wally Wood & Bob Powell. I now own two single-digit issues of long-running Marvel titles, the other being Iron Man #2. The highlight of this issue is Wally Wood’s spectacular visual storytelling. The writing isn’t quite the equal of the art, although the art is very good. Searching for the only doctor in the world who can cure his blindness, Matt travels to a small fictional European country that’s ruled by a supervillain dictator and has a name starting with L… except it’s Lichtenbad, not the country you were thinking of. Matt defeats the dictator in battle, but the doctor sacrifices his life to prevent nuclear war, in a scene that reminds me a lot of Spock’s death in Star Trek III, and Matt loses his chance to get his vision back. The subplot in this issue involves a love triangle between Matt, Karen and Foggy, which is surprising since in later years, the latter two were depicted as just friends.

THOR #174 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Carnage of the Crypto-Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. A mad scientist saps Thor’s strength and uses it to create the robotic Crypto-Man. Meanwhile, a certain Mrs. Whyte contacts Don Blake and begs him to find her missing son Jasper. It turns out, of course, that Jasper Whyte is the mad scientist, and on realizing that the Crypto-Man is a danger to his mother, he sacrifices his life to destroy it. Don Blake has to tell Mrs. Whyte that her son is dead, which is a genuinely touching moment. Other than that the best part of this issue is the Kirby art. The Crypto-Man only made a few other appearances, but one of them was notable: in Incredible Hulk #205, it killed Jarella.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #19 (Image, 2018) – “Gut Check, Part Five,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Jason Latour. This series has become very irregular – part one of “Gut Check” came out in November 2016. At least it’s worth waiting for, and its lateness is understandable since both its creators have so many other projects. In the midst of yet another embarrassing football game, Coach Boss and his players murder McCluskey, giving the Rebels enough motivation that they finally win a game. On his way home, Coach Boss is confronted by Roberta, but some bearded dude stops her from killing him because he wants to do it himself. I forget if we’ve seen this character before. I hope issue 20 comes out soon.

KIM & KIM #1 (Black Mask, 2016) – “This Glamorous, High-Flying Rock Star Life,” [W] Mags Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. A promising debut for one of the most exciting new writers in the industry at the moment. This issue provides a queer, I mean clear explanation of who Kim and Kim are, and is extremely fun. I especially like the montage sequence in which Kim and Kim play chess with Death, and then have tea in a Victorian tea room.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #245 (vol. 21 #5) (Dell, 1961) – “Sitting High,” [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. One of the highlights of Charlotte Mini Con was one particular booth that had a ton of old comics for either 50 cents or a dollar each. And I mean old comics, like ’60s Dells and Gold Keys. I bought a lot of stuff from that booth, including this issue of WDC&S, and I should maybe have bought even more. In this issue’s new Barks story, Donald and the nephews travel to a resort frequented by celebrities, and Donald does a bunch of stunts in order to get Hollywood producers to notice him. And he does get noticed and his picture appears in the paper, but they misspell his name as “Ronald Dunk.” The most memorable thing about this story is that it includes characters based on popular actors of the time, including “Snarlin’ Grando,” “Jane Girlsfield,” and “Brigitte Van Doran” (Brigitte Bardot plus Mamie Van Doren, I had to look that one up). This issue also includes a Mickey Mouse story by Carl Fallberg and Paul Murry.

IT’S SCIENCE… WITH DR. RADIUM #1 (Slave Labor, 1987) – “Alien Terror! (oh, my!)”, [W/A] Scott Saavedra. The Slings & Arrows Guide includes reviews of multiple comics by Scott Saavedra, but I haven’t read any of his work. This issue’s cover is a parody of the cover of Mad #1, with the word “science” replacing “Melvin”. The main story is about a mad scientist and his bumbling assistant, and there’s also a backup story that parodies A Contract with God. This comic is pretty funny, and I’d like to read more comics by this author.

SEX CRIMINALS #21 (Image, 2018) – “Spaces,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. Six months after their breakup, Jon and Susie are both in new and unsatisfying relationships. This point is driven home when they both show up at the same party dressed in the same ridiculous outfit. This series has gotten difficult to follow because it comes out so rarely, and I hope we get another issue sooner rather than later.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #10 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. For some reason I got this issue before issue 9, though I didn’t realize this until after I read it. This issue begins as Flash Magnus is trying to stop a war between dragons and ponies. Meadowbrook saves the day by diagnosing and curing the dragons’ illness, then they all go off to recruit Somnambula. The highlight of the issue may have been Somnambula saying “Stay on target! Stay on target!”

JIM VOL. II #4 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Jim Woodring. This “Special All-Frank Issue” includes two stories black-and-white and one in color. In the longest story, Frank buys a top that causes the person who uses it to spin uncontrollably. He throws it away, and Manhog finds it and uses it and gets transformed into a cocoon. Then one of those giant spindle creatures finds him and adopts him, or something. I don’t know why I even bother trying to summarize Woodring comics.

ABBOTT #1 (Boom!, 2018) – “Just My Imagination,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. An important debut issue from another emerging star writer. Abbott is about a black female journalist in early 1970s Detroit, who gets involved in investigating a supernatural crime. Even without the fantasy element, this would be an awesome series because of its historical and local accuracy and its depiction of racial politics. Abbott effectively captures the spirit of the early ’70s, a time when segregation was illegal and you couldn’t say the N-word in public anymore, yet all the old racism was still buried just below the surface. (Actually that sounds like I’m describing America today.) Saladin Ahmed grew up in Detroit, and his depiction of Detroit seems extremely well researched. I’ve been to Detroit frequently, though not this part of it, and Ahmed’s depiction rang true to me. Abbott is going to be one of the best comics of 2018, and I think it may have significant appeal beyond the usual comics audience. For example, I have an uncle who works for the Detroit Free Press, and I think he and his family would enjoy this comic.

MUKTUK WOLFSBREATH: HARD-BOILED SHAMAN #1 (Vertigo, 1998) – “Mommy’s Girl,” [W] Terry LaBan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. This is still the only work of popular culture I know of in which the characters are indigenous Siberians. It’s basically just a hard-boiled detective story, and the joke is that it combines an old, clichéd genre with a setting that’s totally unfamiliar to American readers. In this issue, Muktuk goes to investigate some supernatural murders and encounters an old flame of his.

SUPERMAN #3 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman, Part Three,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Jorge Jiménez. Lois and Clark take an unconscious Jon to the Fortress of Solitude to heal him. On arriving there, they encounter the Eradicator. After a fight scene, the Eradicator offers to heal Jon, but it turns out he really wants to get rid of Jon’s human half, and a further fight ensues. There are some nice moments in this issue, but Superman’s rage at the Eradicator is rather disturbing. Until looking it up just now, I didn’t realize Jon was Lois and Clark’s biological child. I was confusing him with Chris Kent, who was nearly the same character, but was the son of Zod and Ursa.

PRINCELESS VOL. 2 #2 (Action Lab, 2013) – “Get Over Yourself” part 2, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. This issue begins with a confusing flashback in which Adrienne’s father encounters a mysterious Black Knight. Not having read issue 1, I was unsure what was going on here. Then Adrienne and Bedelia arrive at the town where Adrienne’s next sister, Angelica, is held captive. Angelica seems to be something of an evil version of Rarity.

OUR ARMY AT WAR #247 (DC, 1972) – “The Vision!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Russ Heath. This issue’s full-length story is about a reincarnated Joan of Arc, and features spectacular Russ Heath artwork. I need to collect more of the ’70s DC comics drawn by Heath. But the real highlight of the issue is “Color Me Brave!”, Sam Glanzman’s most famous U.S.S. Stevens story. During the Pearl Harbor raid, a sailor, Mac Stringer, rescues some trapped comrades at an incredible risk to his own life. But he gets no reward for his bravery, and on the last page we learn why not: it’s because “his color is black.” I already knew the ending to this story, but it’s still an impressive piece of work, and it was brave of Glanzman to publish such a story in the rather conservative forum of a DC war title. “Color Me Brave!” is also an effective use of color for narrative purposes. Most of the story takes place underwater, so everything is colored in blue tones; therefore, we don’t realize until the last panel that Mac Stringer is black.

SHERLOCK FRANKENSTEIN AND THE LEGION OF EVIL #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Undying Love of Sherlock Frankenstein,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubín. Lucy finally contronts Sherlock Frankenstein and learns his long and tragic history, including the fact that he’s in love with Golden Gail. Disappointingly, Lucy’s conversation with Sherlock takes up the entire issue. I thought this miniseries was going to depict how Lucy got to Black Hammer Farm, but the issue ends before that point.

MOONSTRUCK #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. Chet finally gets his horse butt back. This comic is fun, but it also seems kind of pointless; it doesn’t have a clear premise or a narrative thread. It’s not clear to me just what this comic is supposed to be about. I hope that with the next story arc, Moonstruck will develop more of an identity.

MANIFEST DESTINY #33 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. Madame Boniface… by the way, I couldn’t remember this character’s name and it was difficult to look it up. Madame Boniface confronts Lewis and Clark outside the fort, and they finally explain what’s really going on. The demon – the one who possessed the old Spanish dude – wants “a child born of two people at war” as a sacrifice, and that sacrifice is Sacagawea’s baby. So the central mystery of the series is finally cleared up, although I guess we still don’t know what the demon’s agenda is, or what the sacrifice is supposed to accomplish. Then they all return to the fort and discover that Pryor has mutinied and locked them out.

JOURNEY #1 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Chapter 1: Chase,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. This takes place around the same time as Manifest Destiny, in a different but almost equally wild part of America. It begins with an exciting action sequence in which Wolverine MacAlistaire encounters a bear and barely escapes with his life. Then he meets two men who ask him to deliver a package to the other side of Michigan. This issue lacks the narrative complexity of later Journey stories, but it’s a good start to the series.

THE VISITOR: HOW AND WHY HE STAYED #3 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paul Grist. I would have ordered this when it came out if I’d realized it was drawn by Paul Grist. This comic has a pretty standard Mignolaverse plot, in which the Visitor, a character very similar to the Phantom Stranger, battles a cult leader. However, Paul Grist’s dynamic storytelling and Clear Line-esque draftsmanship are brilliant.

UNCLE SCROOGE #70 (Gold Key, 1967) – “The Doom Diamond,” [W/A] Carl Barks. This is the only comic in my collection that includes a new full-length story written and drawn by Barks, although I have other comics with original Barks ten-pagers. I tend to assume that original Barks comics are outside my price range, but maybe not. In “The Doom Diamond,” Scrooge and the nephews sail to “South Miserystan” with a boatload full of cash, so that Scrooge can purchase the famous Zero Diamond. Scrooge builds all sort of anti-theft measures into his ship, but the Beagle Boys learn about his plans and build their own ship designed to defeat Scrooge’s. After some exciting naval battles, Scrooge makes it to South Miserystan, but the diamond turns out to be cursed. There’s a very funny scene where as soon as Scrooge touches the diamond, he stubs his toe, gets hit by a falling rock, and gets stung by a bee. Then Scrooge has to get back to Duckburg, leading to further adventures. “The Doom Diamond” is one of Barks’s last stories, but it’s very entertaining and shows little evidence of decline.

CRIME SUSPENSTORIES #1 (EC, 1950/1992) – various stories, [E] Bill Gaines. This reprint begins with a tribute page honoring Bill Gaines, who had just died. In Johnny Craig’s “Murder May Boomerang,” an unnamed man’s father is menaced by an escaped convict. The man kills another man who his father identifies as the escaped convict, but it turns out that the father got the wrong guy. This story’s shock ending is not great, but the story is a realistic depiction of how an ordinary man could become a killer. In “W. Allen Wood”‘s “Death’s Double-Cross,” a woman helps her husband’s identical twin brother murder her husband. Afterward, she realizes that she doesn’t know whether her brother-in-law killed her husband, or vice versa. This is probably the best story in the issue because of how its ending leaves the reader in suspense. In Graham Ingels’s “Snapshot of Death!”, a woman is diagnosed with a terminal illness, so she hires someone to kill her. Then it turns out she was misdiagnosed. The real surprise in this story is that it ends happily, because the person who was supposed to kill her is himself killed in an accident. In most other EC stories, the woman would have been murdered. Kurtzman’s “High Tide” is another good one. Five people are alone in a boat when they discover that one of them is an escaped murderer. Thanks to their panicked efforts to figure out which of them is the murderer, they all ensure their own deaths, except the one who actually is the murderer.

MONSTRESS #13 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika, Ren and Kippa arrive in the land of Pontus, and lots of complicated plot stuff happens. But the clear highlight of this issue is the café and pastry shop run by cats. I find it hard to imagine cats serving anyone, but the splash page with the cat café is just adorable. I’m glad this series is back.

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #8 (Gold Key, 1965) – “Lair of the Dragon,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Russ Manning. Korak and some stranded Peace Corps volunteers find themselves in a lost kingdom of Arabs. The Peace Corps was still new when this story was published, and it’s also notable that one of the volunteers is black. However, the real appeal of the story is Manning’s spectacular draftsmanship and his thrilling action sequences. The Arabs in the story are depicted in a rather Orientalist way, but at least they’re not completely evil.

PRINCELESS VOL. 2 #3 (Action Lab, 2013) – “Get Over Yourself” part 3, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. Adrienne discovers that Angelina doesn’t want to be rescued, because she’s perfectly happy living in a place where everyone constantly praises her beauty. Then Adrienne fights some dude wearing a lion skin. This is a good comic, but I still don’t understand what’s going on with the Black Knight and the elves.

ZODIAC STARFORCE: CRIES OF THE FIRE PRINCE #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kevin Panetta, [A] Paulina Ganucheau. The new Zodiac Starforce meets the old one, and drama ensues. This was a pretty good comic, but it was overshadowed by other better comics that I read this week.

DOOM PATROL #10 (DC, 2018) – “No Control,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. The Brotherhood of Dada storyline continues. It turns out Terry None is pregnant with Casey’s baby, which makes no sense because they’re both female, but this is Doom Patrol, it’s not supposed to make sense. I’m not sure how or if this story ties into the Milk Wars crossover.

BATGIRL #19 (DC, 2018) – “Cold Snap, Part One,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. This was a fun issue, but I can’t remember much about it now. The best part is the beginning, when Batgirl defeats some punks who are trying to run a black-owned donut shop out of business. In the main plot, Batgirl fights some hackers who have screwed with the city’s weather prediction system, and the Penguin makes a cameo appearance.

WEIRD SCIENCE #15 (East Coast Comix, 1952/1973) – various stories, [E] Bill Gaines. This is actually “EC Classic Reprint #2,” the second in a short-lived series of EC reprints published by two fans named Ron Barlow and Bruce Hershenson. I have no idea how or if they obtained permission to do this. According to the editorial material in this issue, they intended to reprint all the EC comics, in a somewhat random order, but they only published 12 issues. This issue is printed on worse paper and has worse reproduction than the later Russ Cochran reprints. Its first story is “The Martians,” which has a dumb plot but brilliant Wally Wood art. Al Williamson’s “Captivity” has equally good or better art, which is poorly served by the ugly reproduction, but it too has a dumb plot. Jack Kamen’s “Miscalculation” is even dumber – it’s about a man who inexplicably obtains a supply of dehydrated harem girls, just add water – but at least it’s funny. Joe Orlando’s “Bum Steer!” continues the trend of silly stories with good art; it has the best Joe Orlando artwork I’ve seen, but the characters literally tell the reader the shock ending in advance.

RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT #1 (Gold Key, 1965) – “The Mummy’s Hand,” [W] George Evans, plus other stories. The lineup of artistic talent in this issue is amazing: George Evans, Wally Wood, Al Williamson, and even Alberto Giolitti. Unfortunately, although the art in this issue is at the same level as the art in a classic EC comic, the same cannot be said of the writing.

UNICORN ISLE #1 (WaRP, 1986) – “Unicorn Isle Betrayed: Chapter 1,” [W] Lee Marrs, [A] Romeo Tanghal. This issue is definitely the best place to start with this comic. Unicorn Isle’s plot and worldbuilding are so complicated that they don’t make sense if you start in the middle, as I did. In this issue we meet the protagonists, young twins Nils and Nola. Their mother gets killed trying to stop a plot to kidnap two sacred unicorns, and their father unfairly blames the twins for it. Nils and Nola are appealing characters, and their world is fairly original, though it suffers from “calling a rabbit a smeerp,” i.e. giving fantasy names to ordinary concepts; for example, having sex is called “cleaving.”

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Our First Adventure,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] John Dell. Looking for Reed and Sue (or pretending to), Ben and Johnny visit Monster Island and fight the Mole Man and his monsters. This comic has some good dialogue and some funny moments, like the “Victor von Doof” prank, but it’s forgettable.

DEPT. H #22 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. After a lot of drama, Q stabs Raj, who totally deserved it – he’s become the prime suspect in Hari’s murder. Then everyone agrees to let Mia try for the surface. Two issues left.

POWER MAN #26 (Marvel, 1975) – “The Night Shocker!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] George Tuska. According to its splash page, this issue was an inventory story inspired by the Night Stalker TV movie. It wasn’t needed immediately, and might never have seen print because it was no longer relevant, except that the Kolchak: The Night Stalker TV show came out two years later. It’s unusual for a Marvel comic to be so honest about its influences. I’ve never seen either the Kolchak movie or TV show, so to me this is just a fun but weird story, in which Luke tracks down a man who appears to be a vampire but isn’t. This issue’s plot is rather convoluted, and it’s hard to figure out who actually committed the murders the vampire was accused of, or why.

TALES TO ASTONISH #88 (Marvel, 1967) – “A Stranger Strikes from Space!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Bill Everett, and “Boomerang and the Brute!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gil Kane. In the Namor story, Attuma battles a robot that fell to earth from a passing alien ship, then figures out how to control the robot, and uses it to launch an invasion of Atlantis. The aliens who built the robot were never identified and never appeared again. This story has some excellent artwork, almost as good as Everett’s late issues of Sub-Mariner. In the backup story, the Hulk almost earns an amnesty from the government, but Boomerang shows up and ruins everything. Boomerang’s costume in this issue is one of the ugliest costumes of any Silver Age Marvel character.

NEW ROMANCER #5 (Vertigo, 2016) – “This Byronic Life,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Parson. It’s been a long time since I read the rest of this story, so I don’t remember what’s been going on, but this is a fun if convoluted comic. Milligan’s version of Byron is a really cute character.

NEW ROMANCER #6 (Vertigo, 2016) – “My Date with Destiny,” as above. In the conclusion, Lexy and her allies defeat Casanova, and the series ends with a triple wedding. We’re led to expect that one of the couples will be Lexy and Byron, but instead it’s Lexy’s dad and Mata Hari, and the series ends with Lexy driving off into the sunset. I think this ending makes sense, but I’m kind of sad that Lexy and Byron didn’t end up together, even if he would have been an awful boyfriend.

BLACK MAGICK #10 (Image, 2018) – “Awakening II, Part 5,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. Raven’s partner’s baby is born. A villain invades Raven’s house despite receiving a stern lecture from her cat. Another villain tries to kidnap the baby. This story is well done, but I’m still very confused about who the villains are or what they want.

ASTRO CITY #50 (DC, 2018) – “Aftermaths,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. Kurt and Brent celebrate this milestone issue with a sequel to their greatest story, “The Nearness of You.” Years after his encounter with the Hanged Man, Michael Tenicek is running a support group for other people who suffered collateral damage in superhero battles. As a hobby, he paints pictures of his wife, who was retconned out of existence. But it looks like the Hanged Man wants something else from him. We’ll have to see where this story goes, but it seems like a worthy sequel. As someone who prefers to buy single issues whenever possible, I’m sad that Astro City is going trade-only, though I see why it would make financial sense.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #62 (IDW, 2018) – “Convocation of the Creatures, Part Two,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. The best thing about this issue is the cover, a brilliant parody of Norman Rockwell’s “The Gossips.” This cover is a virtuoso display of Andy’s cartooning skill. The 15 characters on the cover all have totally different facial expressions which indicate their different personalities. The interior story is also pretty good. The assembled bureaucrats find proof that the griffons don’t actually own Equestria, but the tough part is delivering the evidence to Princess Celestia.

JLA/DOOM PATROL SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Milk Wars Part One,” [W] Steve Orlando & Gerard Way, [A] Aco. I was excited about this, but it left me disappointed. I could barely understand what was happening in this story, or how it fit into the continuity of the Doom Patrol series. This comic seems to assume the reader is also reading the ongoing JLA series. I do want to point out that even though this comic isn’t drawn by Nick Derington, it looks visually similar to a regular issue of Doom Patrol, because of Tamra Bonvillain’s distinctive and appealing colors. I’d vote for her for the Eisner for best colorist.

HUNGRY GHOSTS #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Kaidan” and other stories, [W] Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose, [A] Alberto Ponticelli & Vanesa del Rey. An anthology of ghost stories based on the Japanese hyaku monogatari tradition, with the twist that most of the stories are about food. I like the premise of this comic, but the execution is not spectacular.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SPECTRE OF TOMORROW #4 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Robo teams up with Helsingard against… something, I guess it’s the evil computer from Ghost of Station X. Then Helsingard switches sides and joins the enemy. I don’t quite understand this part of the plot because I can’t remember who Helsingard even is. What’s more interesting is the subplot, in which Robo’s allies figure out how to manipulate their HOA’s rules so they can start construction on their base. This subplot is funny because it reminds me of all the posts I’ve seen on r/legaladvice about tyrannical HOAs. I am now convinced that when I buy a house someday, I want to be very sure it’s not in an HOA.

ANGEL LOVE #3 (DC, 1986) – untitled, [W/A] Barbara Slate. On Twitter, Kurt Busiek pointed out that this series was intended for a nontraditional audience, but failed to reach that audience because it was only distributed through comic book stores. ( That explains a lot – both why this comic existed, and why it didn’t last. For my next project, I’d love to interview Barbara Slate and find out more about this comic and its intended audience. Angel Love #3 continues this series’ theme of discussing serious issues in a cartoony style, as Angel’s friend Cindy announces that she’s pregnant and considering an abortion. Cindy ultimately decides to have the baby, but not to marry the father. Also, there’s a silly subplot involving Angel’s blonde friend who wants to be an actress.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Face Off,” [W] Sarah Kuhn, [A] Siobhan Keenan, and “Stargirl,” [W/A] Sarah Winifred Searle. This issue’s first story is about a karaoke contest between the Holograms and the Misfits. It’s quite funny and cute. In the backup story, Shana’s friends help her organize a fashion show. This story has an interesting art style and includes a prominent new (?) character who’s a drag queen. Amusingly, this could easily have been a My Little Pony story instead of a Jem story, with Rarity replacing Shana, except that the plot involves Shana’s indecision between her two careers in music and fashion.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #9 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. As noted above, I received this issue after issue 9. At the end of issue 8, Meadowbrook’s home was besieged by “an army of huggably fluffy animals.” This issue, the other Pillars help Meadowbrook cure the animals of their madness, then they all head off to look for Flash Magnus.

MISTER MIRACLE #19 (DC, 1977) – “It’s All in the Mine,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Marshall Rogers. I had avoided this series in the past because it’s not by Kirby, but I believe Kirby always intended for his Fourth World characters to be used by others. This issue is mostly just a pastiche of Kirby’s Mister Miracle, rather than an original take like Tom King’s current series, but it’s not bad. Englehart and Rogers were DC’s top creative team at the time, and although this issue is not their best work, Rogers’s art is quite impressive. Englehart gets a few things wrong about the Fourth World: he suggests that only Apokolips gods can use Boom Tubes, and, more seriously, he has Metron fighting on the side of New Genesis, when Metron is supposed to be neutral.

KID LOBOTOMY #4 (IDW, 2018) – “The Chambermaid’s Tale,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. This issue is narrated by Ottla the chambermaid, who is based on Franz Kafka’s sister. The story isn’t bad, but I can’t remember much about it now.

STINZ VOL. 3 #6 (A Fine Line, 1998) – “A Marvelous Resistance,” [W/A] Donna Barr. In this issue Stinz tells the story of his return from the war, i.e. World War I, and in the process he clarifies a lot of things about his world that I hadn’t understood. It turns out that the war was ended by some kind of magical event that turned people into animals, except in Stinz’s case it had the opposite effect, turning him into a human. Compared to the current Moonstruck storyline, this issue is a much more “realistic” depiction of how a centaur would feel about having their horse legs replaced with human legs. Donna effectively shows Stinz’s confusion and embarrassment at having to walk on two legs. As soon as Stinz returns to his valley, though, he magically turns back into a centaur, which explains why he never wants to leave his valley again. Overall, this comic is quite long and visually dense, but excellent.

EIGHTBALL #13 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – “Blue Italian Shit” and other stories, [W/A] Daniel Clowes. This issue’s inside front cover is a bizarre parody of Peter Bagge’s characters Buddy Bradley, Stinky and Lisa. “Blue Italian Shit” is a rambling, emo story about growing up in the ’80s. It’s not Clowes’s best short story, but it’s moody and evocative. “Cool Your Jets” is a four-pager in which two misogynistic jerks complain about women. The second half of the issue is an installment of “Ghost World,” which I haven’t reread in many years.

HUGO #2 (Fantagraphics, 1985) – “It’s No Man’s Affair,” [W/A] Milton Knight. A series of lewd funny animal stories starring a medieval jester, drawn in a style that reminds me of Fleischer Studio cartoons. The first story is based on the medieval story of Phyllis riding Aristotle, and contains some near nudity, which is surprising since this looks like a kids’ comic. In the second story, the protagonist, Hugo, quits his job as a jester and starts drawing comics instead, until the local church shuts him down. Knight draws upon the same influences as Kim Deitch, though he’s not nearly as talented. Despite that, Knight’s stories are funny and raucous, and I’d be interested in reading more of his work.

SPIDER-GWEN #28 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. This issue explains the origin of this universe’s Matt Murdock. I’m still enjoying this series enough to keep buying it, but I’ve gotten thoroughly sick of the current plotline. Matt Murdock is a frustrating villain because he can do anything he wants to Gwen, and she’s powerless against him. That makes for an unsatisfying reading experience. Also, Gwen has been fighting Matt for way too long, and I’d like to see her do something else.

OMEGA MEN #2 (DC, 2015) – “Victory is Assured,” [W] Tom King, [A] Barnaby Bagenda. I have about half of this series, but I only read the first issue, and I didn’t understand it. Somehow issue 2 is clearer. On the planet of Ogyptu, the Citadel arranges a mass public execution as punishment for an Omega Men raid. It looks like Primus and the Omega Men are going to stop the execution, but instead they use it as cover to steal a spaceship and escape the planet. This issue was brutal to read because of the Omega Men’s blatant lack of concern for the people of Ogyptu. Primus explains that saving the victims would have backfired, but he explains this in such a smug and cruel way that he completely loses my sympathy. At the end of this issue, it’s clear that the Omega Men are almost as bad as the Citadel. The truly sympathetic character in the issue is Kyle Rayner, who has to watch these awful events and is powerless to intervene.

OMEGA MEN #3 (DC, 2015) – “Save the Princess,” as above. The Omega Men recruit Kalista, a beautiful princess who’s also a complete sociopath; her hobby is killing people in single combat. After reading these two issues, I really want to read the rest of this maxi-series. I have issues 9 through 12, but I’m not sure if I should read them yet.

ARCHIE #27 (Archie, 2018) – “I Built a Speedometer,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Audrey Mok. After a lot of relationship drama, Archie invites Betty – now able to walk again – to the spring dance, and she turns him down. Perhaps my favorite thing about this comic is the visual comedy. Audrey Mok’s depictions of Archie’s bad luck are very funny – an example is the page where Jughead steers Archie around a patch of wet cement and a barking dog.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #12 (Marvel, 1973) – “Wolf at Bay,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Ross Andru. This issue takes place right after Gwen Stacy’s death. Trying to get his mind off Gwen, Peter visits San Francisco, where he encounters Werewolf by Night. The main plot of this issue is boring, but the depiction of Peter’s psychology is quite good, and Ross Andru’s art is excellent. It’s kind of disturbing how on the splash page, Peter is thinking “Maybe here I can finally get my mind off Gwendy for a while,” but as he’s thinking this, he’s climbing on top of a bridge.

MOTHERLANDS #1 (DC, 2018) – “One,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Rachael Stott. Yet another in a string of Si Spurrier miniseries with fascinating and original premises. He has a real gift for worldbuilding. Motherlands takes place in a reality where humans are in contact with other humans from alternate realities. The protagonist, Tabitha Tubach, is a multiversal bounty hunter who’s trying to escape the influence of her domineering mother. Then Tabitha has to get in touch with her mother again, because it turns out her latest target is her (Tabitha’s) estranged brother.

CHEER UP #1 (Hic & Hoc, 2015) – various stories, [W/A] Noah Van Sciver. This small-format comic is a collection of blackly humorous short stories. It’s an effective demonstration of Noah’s art style and his depressing, cynical sense of humor. I need to read more of his work.

ARCHIE #21 (Archie, 2017) – “Over the Edge, Part 2,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Pete Woods. This may be one of the most powerful Archie comics ever. Betty’s car crash is not directly shown. Instead, the issue depicts various characters learning that something’s happened to Betty. We don’t see Betty herself until the end of the issue, when we see her lying comatose in a hospital bed while doctors frantically try to revive her. It looks like I stopped reading this series regularly after issue 12, but I’m glad I kept ordering it anyway.

New comics received on February 9:

RUNAWAYS #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Find Your Way Home, Part VI,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. An amazing conclusion to one of the best Marvel storylines in recent memory. The Runaways fight Molly’s grandma and her horde of telepathic cats, until Nico casts a “herd cats” spell. Molly is torn between loyalty to her grandma and her friends, until it turns out that Molly’s grandma had Molly’s parents cloned. Molly is reluctantly forced to admit that her grandma has gone off the deep end, and she leaves with her teammates. While all this gloomy stuff is going on, we learn that Old Lace ate the cats. As a cat person, I think this is… hilarious, actually. Especially the panel where Old Lace coughs up a hairball. And then the Runaways decide to go home, wherever that is.

PAPER GIRLS #20 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. Charlotte gets shot by people from the future. The girls figure out how to operate one of the robots, and they use it to time travel into the future. The plot developments in this comic have been so fast and relentless that I’ve never quite understood what’s going on. At some point I’d like to read the entire series in one sitting.

MECH CADET YU #6 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Baby Sharg invade the mech cadet academy. Showing true heroism, Stanford risks his life to save two of his comrades. At the end of the issue, the academy is demolished and the mech cadet program is terminated, but obviously that’s not the end of the series.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO #4 (Action Lab, 2018) – “Stitches,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Panfil. The pirates clean up after their battle, while each grieving the loss of Sunshine in their own way. It turns out that Sunshine isn’t actually dead, of course, but is in some kind of undersea kingdom. A cute moment in this issue is the conversation where Desideria says she was given something by “the girl… you know, the black one,” and Quinn needs three guesses to identify which character Desideria means. Another highlight of this issue is the editorial, where Jeremy states his commitment to his readers: “I am, after all, a straight white cis man writing a whole crew full of diverse queer women. That’s a responsibility I take very seriously.” Jeremy is saying exactly the right things here, and so far he’s been practicing what he preaches.

SNOTGIRL #9 (Image, 2018) – “Weekend, Part One,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Snotgirl and the other characters go to a conference. Snotgirl has visions of the ghost of Caroline. This is a fun comic, though I always have trouble following the plot of this series. I really like the eight-panel strip at the end where Cutegirl demands the smallest possible waffle.

MOON GIRL #27 (Marvel, 2018) – “Fantastic Three” (part three?), [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. This is an improvement over the last two issues, though still worse than the Girl Moon storyline. Ben and Johnny rescue a cat from a tree, there’s a funny meta-joke about Johnny being replaced by Herbie the robot, and the Super-Skrull shows up at the end – it was obviously him who was impersonating the FF.

TWISTED ROMANCE #1 (Image, 2018) – “Old Flames,” [W/A] Katie Skelly, [W] Alex de Campi (I assume, it’s not clear who did what). The first issue of a weekly anthology miniseries. The main story is about an encounter between an incubus and a succubus. I don’t remember much about this story now, but it’s witty and well-drawn. I’ve had one of Katie Skelly’s books for several years but have not read it, so this story was a good introduction to her. The backup story, by Sarah Horrocks, is visually impressive but makes no narrative sense. Unfortunately this issue also includes an eight-page unillustrated text story. I didn’t like this story much, but even if it had been better than it was, I really hate it when comic books include lengthy prose stories.

GIANT DAYS #35 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Ed suffers a concussion from his fall off the wall. The girls are forced to hang out with Lottie, Esther’s friend’s little sister, who, according to Google research, also appears in some of Allison’s other comics. Thanks to Esther, Daisy realizes she doesn’t actually like Lottie. This is another fun issue, and it includes more funny jokes and gags than I can list or remember.

ROGUE & GAMBIT #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ring of Fire, Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Pere Pérez. Rogue and Gambit go to therapy and remember their first couple meetings, then they fight some mutant dudes. I still have slightly mixed feelings about this series, and I think it’s a little creepy how the plot seems to be forcing Rogue and Gambit into each other’s arms, although I trust Kelly to not do anything truly anti-feminist to Rogue.

ARCHIE #28 (Archie, 2018) – “Riverdale’s: The Bachelor,” [W] Mark Waid & Ian Flynn, [A] Audrey Mok. This issue’s plot is mostly just a bunch of drama and hijinks surrounding the upcoming spring dance. Also, Jason and Cheryl’s dad plans to break out of prison. This issue has a lot of excellent sight gags; I think the best is when Archie inflates some balloons and they come out as cubes and pyramids instead of ovoids. This issue includes references to two other Archie comics, Cosmo and The Shield.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE 1923 AD (Image, 2018) – “And Then There Was One…”, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Aud Koch. This is the best TWTD special yet, because all the characters are still alive when it begins, and we get to see how their personalities interact. Also, the creators effectively capture both the political climate and the aesthetics of the ’20s. I love how the entire issue is colored in sepia tones, like a silent film, and how the caption boxes and text segments look like silent film title cards. It is unfortunate that so much of the story is delivered through unillustrated text pages, but even that can be justified as a reference to pulp fiction. The story is a powerful depiction of how the aesthetic scene of the interwar period helped lead to World War II. On Twitter, someone named RicG and I came up with the following historical models for the gods:

Neptune = Ernest Hemingway
Minerva = Shirley Temple
Dionysus = Pablo Picasso
Baal = Ezra Pound / T.S. Eliot
Set = Virginia Woolf
Woden = Fritz Lang / Joseph Goebbels?
Lucifer = Aleister Crowley

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #6 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. Dorma and Koro narrowly survive their encounter with the demon, after being subjected to Black Mercy-esque visions of their secret desires. Koro emerges as a complex character: she loves Prince Aki but resents having had to devote her life to him. Luvander and Prince Aki don’t appear in this issue, but I assume neither of them is dead.

INCOGNEGRO: RENAISSANCE #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Soaked,” [W] Mat Johnson, [A] Warren Pleece. I have not read the graphic novel this is based on, and I really should have; I’m adding it to my Amazon want list now. This issue takes place in New York during the Harlem Renaissance. Zane Pinchback, a light-skinned black reporter, attends a party held by rich white people who cultivate black acquaintances. One of the black celebrities at the party is murdered, and the police don’t care, so Zane, who can pass for white by putting his hat on, decides to get to the bottom of it. This is an important comic; it shows deep insight into racial issues that are just as relevant today as in the 1920s. Zane’s ability to pass as white is poignant because it lets him move in both worlds and hear things that white people only say to each other.

JOHN BOLTON’S STRANGE WINK #1 (Dark Horse, 1998) – several stories, [W/A] John Bolton. A collection of short pieces by the versatile and underrated John Bolton. The first story is a very effective adaptation of Goethe’s Der Erl-King, although it’s hampered by a bad translation of the German text. “A Lot on His Plate” and “Permanent Fixture” are short stories that I assume were previously published in some British comic. The highlight of the issue is Bolton’s brilliant adaptation of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market,” although it too has a significant flaw, namely the decision to include Rossetti’s entire poem verbatim. I’m not reading Bolton’s story because I want to reread “Goblin Market”; I’m reading it because I want to focus on Bolton’s illustrations and his narrative decisions. It’s hard to focus on those things when I have to read every word of Rossetti’s poem.

KING MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN #2 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Jeremy Treece. This issue continues the story of Mandrake and Karma’s battle with Mandrake’s ex-wife. It has excellent, snappy dialogue, but a forgettable plot.

HAWKEYE #15 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family Reunion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Hawkeye and Hawkeye fight a bunch of Madame Masque’s goons, then they fight more goons and kidnap Kate’s dad. The action sequences in this issue are really good, as well as the character interactions. It’s such a shame that this series was cancelled.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #16 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. Gert suffers the torments of hell, including having a vision of being returned to her home. I think this is the first time we’ve seen Gert’s home or her family. With its emphasis on gluttony, this scene reminds me of the transformation of Chihiro’s parents in Spirited Away. This scene also implies that even if Gert did get to go home, she couldn’t return to her life as a normal little girl (which I guess is also a theme of Spirited Away). The issue ends with Gert being returned to Fairyland, which is her real personal hell.

BLACK PANTHER #169 (Marvel, 2018) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 10,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. In his base, Klaw uses a massive dose of sonic energy to attempt to revive his sister. This creates a distraction that allows Ayo to escape from him. Because Klaw’s sonic energy drowns out all other sound in the area, most of this issue consists of silent sequences, which is a nice touch. However, this current storyline has been going on way too long already, and there’s no end in sight.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Shooting Stars,” [W/A] Nicole Goux, and “Haunted,” [W] Sam Maggs, [A] Rachael Stott. This issue’s first story is perhaps the worst Jem story IDW has published. It may have just rubbed me the wrong way, but I thought that the plot was implausible and that almost every line of dialogue was a cliché. The story is about characters who insist on performing in public even though they’re not ready yet, and I feel that this is also what the story’s author is doing. The backup story, in which the Misfits and the Holograms team up to escape a haunted house, is better.

SWEET TOOTH #23 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Endangered Species: Part Four,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This is a well-drawn and suspenseful comic, but it’s impossible to understand without having followed the entire series.

THE BACKSTAGERS: VALENTINE’S INTERMISSION #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Rian Sygh, plus backup stories. This is probably the best Backstagers story yet. It’s touching, funny, and full of both straight and queer romance. The plot of the main story is that Beckett, who hates Valentine’s Day, decides to sabotage the school’s Valentine’s Day show, but a visit to the pocket universe behind the stage causes him to change his mind. There are also some short backup stories. I’m glad to see Backstagers again, and I hope the series will return again soon.

SUPERMAN #4 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman, Part Four,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason, c[W] Peter J. Tomasi. Clark and Jon continue their fight with the Eradicator, who has somehow become a vessel for the dead souls of Krypton. This issue was not as good as later issues of this series.

POWER COMICS #2 (Eclipse, 1988) – “The All-Africa Wrestling Championship” and “The Return of Dr. Crime,” [W] Don Avenall & Norman Worker, [A] Dave Gibbons & Brian Bolland. I was reminded I had this comic after a conversation with Tayo Fatunla on Facebook. This issue is a reprint of stories which were produced in the ’70s by British artists for publication in Nigeria. The writers were veterans of the British industry, and the artists were a very young Gibbons and Bolland. The Superman-esque protagonist, Powerman, was renamed to Powerbolt for obvious reasons when the comics were reprinted in America (but the renaming was done inconsistently – there’s at least one panel where he’s called Powerman). These comics have fairly simple plots, and were clearly intended for an audience with no prior knowledge of comics. According to the inside front cover, Gibbons was instructed to put a number on each panel to indicate the reading order, even though his storytelling was already quite clear. Despite all that, these stories are exciting and vigorous, kind of like Golden Age Superman or Captain Marvel stories. And just the idea of an African Superman is quietly revolutionary. I wish there were more comics like this, by African rather than European creators.

BATMAN #409 (DC, 1987) – “Just Another Kid on Crime Alley!”, [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Ross Andru. Bruce Wayne enrolls Jason Todd in a boarding school that turns out to be a school for criminals, run by an old lady named Fay Gunn (i.e. Fagan – I needed help to figure this out). Jason helps Batman bring Fay Gunn to justice, and Batman decides Jason can be the new Robin. It strains credulity that Batman didn’t already know Fay Gunn was a criminal. It’s also disturbing how according to this issue, Batman only visits Crime Alley once a year, letting the criminals dominate it the rest of the year. I was also confused as to why Jason Todd wasn’t Robin already at this point. Apparently this story was Jason Todd’s completely revised post-Crisis origin, and the earlier stories in which he appeared were no longer in continuity.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SHADOW FROM BEYOND TIME #5 (Red 5, 2009) – “From Beyond,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. An excellent Atomic Robo comic. I enjoyed it more than most of the recent issues of the series, which suggests that Atomic Robo may be declining in quality a little. Two of Robo’s assistants create a “quantum decomputer,” which Robo instantly recognizes as evil, but they turn it on anyway, and it transforms into a Lovecraftian monstrosity. Robo defeats the monster with the assistance of three of his past selves. I haven’t read every issue of this miniseries, but apparently each issue of this miniseries takes place at a different period in Robo’s life (except #2, which takes place right after #1) and depicts this same encounter from the perspective of a different one of Robo’s selves. That’s a really cool trick, comparable to the adventure where Corum, Hawkmoon, Elric and Erekosë met each other.

BATMAN #413 (DC, 1987) – “The Ghost of Masahiko Tanaka,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Kieron Dwyer. The best thing about this issue is the Walt Simonson cover. In this issue, Batman and Robin battle a Japanese criminal who’s trying to steal a rare suit of Japanese armor. This issue demonstrates a basic knowledge of Japanese culture, but is nonetheless heavily based on stereotypes like samurai and ninjas, and it’s not very good either.

WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #38 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Pepe Larraz. I bought this when it came out, but never bothered to read it, becuase the series was already close to cancellation at that point. This is a surprisingly good issue, though, and it reminds me why Wolverine and the X-Men was my favorite X-Men comic until Grand Design. Two new students enroll at the Jean Grey School, one of whom has a squid for a head, and Broo gives them a guided tour, resulting in numerous funny moments. At the end, it turns out the students are spies working for Cyclops and Emma Frost.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Coffin for Head of State,” [W] Evan Narcisse, [A] Javier Pina. I just saw the Black Panther movie, which was amazing, and this comic would be a great introduction to the comics for fans of the movie. I hope Marvel is promoting it heavily. I didn’t remember having heard of the Heart-Shaped Herb before reading this issue, and I wondered if it was introduced in this comic because it appears in the movie, but I guess it already existed in the comics. This issue, T’Challa encounters Namor for the first time as they rescue Nigandan citizens who were kidnapped by an Atlantean warlord. Evan Narcisse effectively depicts the encounter between these two characters, who are both kings, but who have sharply different personalities.

BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 1999) – “The Price,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Mark Texeira. I read this and some of the following comics after reading Abraham Riesman’s article on Priest ( I had trouble understanding some of the earlier issues of this series, but Riesman points out that this is partly deliberate. Riesman says the following of Quantum & Woody: “Told in nonlinear fashion, it was a delightful challenge to read: Details were withheld, recollections were unreliable, and jokes often required a detailed memory of what had gone before.” That also applies to Priest’s Black Panther, and difficulty and lack of linearity seem to be his stylistic trademarks. This issue, T’Challa fights some Wakandan secret police, then beats up Mephisto with one punch.

THE BLACK MONDAY MURDERS #1 (Image, 2016) – “A Story of Human Sacrifice,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Tomm Coker. Thanks to Hickman fatigue, I only ordered the first issue of this series. That was a mistake, because this is a good comic. It’s a dense, complicated story about the 1929 stock market crash and the four families that run the finance industry. It looks like this series is still going on, and I ought to look for the other issues of it.

JUSTICE LEAGUE TASK FORCE #37 (DC, 1996) – “Rejoice,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Ramon Bernado. Surprisingly, this extremely low-profile comic was my favorite of the several Priest comics I just read. I heard from Facebook friends that this series was basically a joke; the JLTF were supposed to be the JLA’s secret weapon for emergencies, but they were never needed, and they were really the team where the JLA dumped all the people they didn’t want. This final issue of the series demonstrates Priest’s skill with characterization. It’s a difficult comic to understand without having read the previous issues, and I didn’t figure out that Will and Triumph were the same person until halfway through the issue. But the interpersonal drama is very well done, and Priest effectively shows what a jerk Triumph is.

BLACK PANTHER #8 (Marvel, 1999) – “That Business with the Avengers!”, [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Joe Jusko with Amanda Conner. This issue’s first five pages are a near-verbatim retelling of Captain America #100, drawn in a Kirbyesque style. I don’t think this sequence matters to the narrative, but it’s a surprising stylistic decision. Conner’s artwork contrasts radically with Joe Jusko’s photorealistic style. This issue is also notable for the revelation that T’Challa joined the Avengers to spy on them. It includes a guest appearance by Busiek and Pérez’s version of the Avengers, which makes me feel very nostalgic.

WEAVERS #2 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Dylan Burnett. This is one of the few Spurrier comics I haven’t read. Like most of Spurrier’s comics, it has an innovative high concept, as well as excellent artwork from an artist I’m not familiar with. Either Spurrier or his editor is really good at spotting artistic talent. This particular comic is a film-noir-esque story about people infested with alien spiders that give them superpowers.

New comics received on February 16:

MS. MARVEL #27 (Marvel, 2018) – “Teenage Wasteland, Part Three,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. The Substitute Kamalas battles the Inventor, and they use Kamala’s signal watch to summon Captain Marvel, who hasn’t appeared in this series lately (and good riddance). Meanwhile, Naftali continues searching for Kamala. This is the third consecutive issue in which Kamala doesn’t appear. It’s a testament to Willow’s skill with characterization that she’s able to tell an interesting story starring only her supporting characters, without using her main character at all. Still, I want to see Kamala again soon.

ANGELIC #6 (Image, 2018) – “Heirs and Graces, Part 6,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Casper Wijngaard. Qora recovers Ay’s Eye by petting the cat and making him/her cough it up. I feel a bit guilty for enjoying Runaways #6, in which a number of cats get eaten by a dinosaur (and see also Babyteeth #5 below). I feel a bit less guilty now that I’ve read a comic in which a character literally saves the world by petting a cat. Anyway, Qora sends the bird on a mission to restore Ay’s Eye, which will resurrect the humans or something. But Qora pulls a sleight-of-hand trick and replaces the Eye with the EMP pulse bomb, and Ay gets destroyed, leaving the monkeys and manatees free to choose their own destiny. Sadly, the bird gets killed in the process, making Qora realize that she’s sacrificed an animal for her own benefit, just like the humans did. The final surprise is that the last page says “Angelic will return,” so this could be more than just a miniseries. Overall, this is Simon Spurrier’s best work yet, and would be a great introduction to his work for new readers. I don’t know why he’s not more popular, because he’s an awesome writer.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #29 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Forbidden Pla-Nut” part ???, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. This series is starting to feel a bit repetitive, but that’s an uncharitable thing to say, because Ryan and Erica are still doing an amazing job. This issue, Loki summons a bunch of characters to fight the Silver Surfer, including Hocky Hoof Hank, the Thor who’s an actual horse. Eventually the misunderstanding about the Surfer’s identity gets resolved, but by then it’s too late, because the planet is being besieged by aliens who were robbed by the fake Surfer. Besides Hocky Hoof Hank, the best jokes in this issue are the Star Wars opening crawl, and the caption about Ulyaoth putting his reading glasses back on and returning to his book.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #63 (IDW, 2018) – “Ponies Versus Prohibition,” [W] Christina Rice, [A] Brenda Hickey. I made up that title. A new character named Temperance Flowerdew arrives in Ponyville and leads a campaign against sugar. She manages to enlist Pinkie Pie, of all ponies, to her cause. However, her campaign backfires: the other ponies open a speakeasy that serves illegal desserts, leading them to eat even more sugar than before. At the end of the issue, it turns out that Temperance hates sugar because she was deprived of it as a filly, and things go back to normal. This issue is a very funny parody of real-life prohibition, and includes some jokes that younger readers will miss; for example, the password to the speakeasy is “swordfish.” There’s also a song, with lyrics that scan perfectly.

BABYTEETH #8 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Marty and Me,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This is the second comic I’ve read this month in which a cat gets eaten by a monster, although in this case it happened before the issue began. This issue, Sadie’s mother turns out to be an awful person who drugs her own daughter. Also, the dark-haired guy in the maroon suit is Sadie’s brother. But Heather, Sadie’s dad, and the demon raccoon are going to try to rescue Sadie.

TWISTED ROMANCE #2 (Image, 2018) – “Twinkle & The Star,” [W/A] Alejandra Gutiérrez, [A] Alex de Campi. In this issue’s main story, an Indian-American, non-conventionally-attractive woman falls in love with a celebrity actor. The story powerfully demonstrates Twinkle’s low self-esteem, compared to the confidence of the people who work with, and her struggle to see herself as worthy of the star. Alejandra Gutiérrez’s art seems heavily influenced by Brandon Graham, but her style is not a carbon copy of his. My problem with this comic is the ending, where it turns out that Nick is asexual. I get that asexual representation is important, but Twinkle clearly does have sexual desire for Nick – there’s an entire page that shows her fantasizing about him – and it seems unfortunate that she should end up with a man who can’t satisfy her desires. This issue includes another prose story, but it’s much more enjoyable than the one from last issue, and I’d read it even if it wasn’t published in a comic book that I was already reading. It’s a touching portrayal of both college life and relationship angst. The backup story, by Meredith McClaren, is about a relationship between a human and an AI.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #698 (Marvel, 2018) – “Out of Time, Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Having been frozen in ice again, Cap wakes up in the future. In this era the U.S. is run by a capitalist fascist dictator named King Baby, who used a nuclear war as a pretext to seize total power. And it’s only 2025, so this all happened in seven years. Gee, it’s a good thing that this is a totally fictional and implausible scenario, and that there’s no contemporary American political figure to whom the name “King Baby” could obviously refer. After two unimpressive issues, Mark has gotten back to the level of quality he achieved in #695. This issue is powerful, political and exciting, and could be a spiritual sequel to Peter B. Gillis’s What If? #44. Meanwhile, Chris Samnee continues to be one of Marvel’s two best artists.

XERO #2 (DC, 1997) – “The Rookie,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Chriscross. This partially creator-owned series stars a secret agent who specializes in cleaning up after other secret agents’ mistakes. Also, he disguises himself as a blonde white man, but in his secret identity he’s a black basketball player. There is a lot of potential here, but this comic is so confusing and convoluted that I had serious trouble following it, and that’s especially bad since this is only the second issue. I would read more of this series, but I’d want to start with #1.

MOTHER PANIC/BATMAN SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Milk Wars, Part 2,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ty Templeton. Mother Panic is the only Young Animal title I haven’t been reading, although I’m behind on Cave Carson and Shade. In this issue, Mother Panic and Batman team up to rescue some children from a creepy milk cult. I’m not sure if these Milk Wars installments are all meant to be read together, or if they’re all separate takes on the theme of milk. Either way, this is a fun and creepy comic (I have “Cushy cow Bonny, let down your milk” running through my head) and Ty Templeton’s art and John Workman’s art create a nostalgic feel.

DIRTY PLOTTE #11 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1997) – “My New York Diary, Part 2,” [W/A] Julie Doucet. I’ve read the My New York Diary graphic novel, but I read it years ago, and it was my first Doucet comic. Now that I have a bit more familiarity with her work, I can see how this story was a big advance on her previous work, in terms of its narrative scope and realism. Also, I remember Julie’s boyfriend being a real asshole, but reading this story again, I see that he was an even bigger asshole than I realized.

SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Mother’s Milk,” [W] Cecil Castellucci, [A] Mirka Andolfo. This has no connection to the Mother Panic-Batman issue. In this issue, Wonder Woman is the priestess of a cult of domesticity and motherhood, and her servants are several different versions of Shade, each representing a different emotion. Eventually Shade helps Diana recover her true identity. I enjoyed this issue.

ARCHIE #22 (Archie, 2017) – “Over the Edge, Part 3,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Pete Woods. Betty’s friends all have flashbacks to their past lives with her. There’s even one sequence that shows Little Archie’s first meeting with little Betty, which I assume is an intentional homage to Bob Bolling. At the end, Betty wakes up but can’t feel her legs. I wish I’d ordered the next two issues.

KILL OR BE KILLED #4 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue begins with a sequence in which Dylan kills two muggers on the subway. Thankfully, it turns out that this was just a fantasy, and Dylan proceeds to explain why it was unrealistic and racist. Having trouble finding a bad person to kill, Dylan eventually kills a Russian sex trafficker, but is then forced to kill one of his girls in self-defense. Also, Dylan’s roommates are starting to figure out who he is. These events illustrate how difficult it would be to actually maintain a secret identity in real life, or to be a professional crimefighter. Sean Phillips’s artwork in this issue is spectacular, both realistic and attractive.

VIC AND BLOOD #2 (Mad Dog, 1988) – “A Boy and His Dog” and “Run, Spot, Run,” [W] Harlan Ellison, [A] Richard Corben. Since reading the first issue of this series, I’ve read Ellison’s original story. As a result, when I read Corben’s adaptation of the second half of Ellison’s story, I was frustrated by how much was missing. Corben leaves out a lot of important points, including the ambiguity as to whether or not Quilla June had sex with Vic voluntarily, and Ira’s incestuous passion for his daughter. The adaptation reads like a summary of the high points of “A Boy and His Dog,” rather than an adaptation, although the shock ending is still quite powerful. I know it’s not possible to adapt a prose work to comics without certain sacrifices, but I think Corben could have done better. The backup story in this issue, a sequel to “A Boy and His Dog,” is better because it was intended as a comic rather than a prose story. However, it has an anticlimactic ending in which Vic gets eaten by giant spiders, and Blood goes off on his own. According to Wikipedia, Ellison wrote this story because he was sick of being asked for more stories about Vic and Blood.

ARCHIE AND FRIENDS #147 (Archie, 2010) – “Twilite, Part 2,” [W] Angelo DeCesare, [A] Bill Galvan. A dumb but funny parody of Twilight, with Veronica as Bella. I assume it’s better than actual Twilight, but I wouldn’t know. This comic is not exactly poorly crafted, but it feels much lighter and less ambitious than Waid or Zdarsky’s Archie comics.

And now, for the first time all year, I have no comics left to review.


First reviews of 2018


This is now the sixth calendar year in which I’ve worked on this project.

Comics I read before the first new comic book day of 2018:

USAGI YOJIMBO #165 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Mouse Trap, Part 3,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Ishida capture the lesser criminals, but their mastermind escapes. This was not a bad conclusion, and it effectively set up the next story. I think this is the last issue with the current numbering; it looks like the next Usagi story will be a miniseries.

BATGIRL #18 (DC, 2017) – “White Elephant,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Sami Basri. Babs and her friends get together for Christmas, but Harley Quinn shows up and leads them on an adventure. There’s also a subplot about an evil dudebro venture capitalist. This was a fun issue, but I don’t remember much about it now.

WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #4 (DC, 2017) – “War and the Windrider,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. This issue has some fun character interactions, but it doesn’t advance the plot much. This series could maybe have been five issues instead of six.

SPIDER-GWEN #27 (Marvel, 2017) – “Gwenom,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Veronica Fish & Olivia Margraf. Another issue in which not very much happens. This issue has pages by two separate artists, but it’s hard to tell them apart.

DETECTIVE COMICS #645 (DC, 1992) – “Electric City, Part 2: Grounded!”, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Tom Lyle. Batman and the Electrocutioner, Gotham’s version of the Punisher, race against each other to catch a serial  killer. Despite my intense dislike for Chuck Dixon, I thought this was a fairly exciting comic.

SOMERSET HOLMES #3 (Pacific, 1984) – untitled, [W] Bruce Jones & April Campbell, [A] Brent Anderson. This series, one of Bruce Jones’s numerous creator-owned titles, is a hard-boiled detective story. It’s very well-drawn, but hard to follow because it’s part 3 in an ongoing story. In my memory I confused it with Hand of Fate, which is also a detective comic by Bruce Jones, but with more of a supernatural element. This issue also includes a backup story with excellent art by Al Williamson.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #9 (DC, 1991) – “The Prophet Margin,” [W] Peter Miligan, [A] Chris Bachalo. Like many Peter Milligan comics, this comic felt very profound and complex when I was reading it, but I couldn’t remember much about it afterward. In this story Shade battles an aging hippie who wants to share his LSD addiction with the rest of the world, or something like that, and also Shade gets stuck in the body of a giant newborn baby.

MICKEY MOUSE #228 (Gladstone, 1987) – “The Captive Castaways,” [W/A] Floyd Gottfredson, [W] Merrill de Maris. Now that I’ve read the awful pre-Gottfredson Mickey strips (see my review of The Uncensored Mouse #1 from last year), I understand what a great storyteller Gottfredson was. This issue is the conclusion to a complex and funny story in which Peg-Leg Pete becomes the captain of a pirate ship and kidnaps Minnie. But Mickey tricks Pete into making Mickey the captain, so that Mickey can perform Pete and Minnie’s wedding, and Mickey orders Pete’s men to mutiny. The plot is driven by Mickey’s brilliance and Pete’s stupidity – the fact that Pete can’t read is a significant plot point. After reading this issue, I begin to understand why Gottfredson was so great, and I want to collect more of the Gladstone reprints of his work.

TWO-FISTED TALES #8 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1994) – four stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. The first two stories, Jack Davis’s “Mud!” and Wally Wood’s “Bunker Hill!”, have excellent artwork, but the plots aren’t that great. The highlight of this issue is “Corpse on the Imjin!”, one of Kurtzman’s most famous stories. An American soldier sits by the Imjin river watching a corpse float by, then gets attacked by a North Korean soldier. The American kills the North Korean with his bare hands, turning him into another corpse floating in the river. This story exhibits the great themes of Kurtzman’s war comics – the brutality of war and the common humanity of “us” and “them”. The story is also a masterful demonstration of cartooning, especially the page in which Kurtzman depicts the orgasmic buildup to the Korean soldier’s death, and the release of tension afterward. Severin and Elder’s “Buzz Bomb!” is another good-but-not-great story.

ASTONISHING TALES #9 (Marvel, 1971) – “The Legend of the Lizard Men!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. For unspecified reasons, the story originally intended for this issue was postponed to issue 10. This may have been related to the fact that #9 was the first issue of Astonishing Tales with only one feature instead of two. Instead, #9 consists of a fill-in story in which Ka-Zar encounters a witch who turns men into lizardmen. This story has some nice artwork, but is otherwise forgettable. This issue also includes a reprinted “story” starring Lorna the Jungle Girl, with art by Jay Scott Pike. I put “story” in quotation marks because the first four and the last two pages of this story are in fact reprinted from two different stories, both originally published in the same issue. I assume this was not intentional.

DAREDEVIL #145 (Marvel, 1977) – “Danger Rides the Bitter Wind!”, [W] Jim Shooter & Gerry Conway, [A] George Tuska. Daredevil battles the Owl, whose last adventure has left him in a wheelchair. This is a boring issue from a bad run of Daredevil comics.

NAUGHTY BITS #5 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Toadman Returns,” [W/A] Roberta Gregory. Earlier in the series, Midge had an unsatisfying sexual encounter with a man named Lyle, a.k.a. Toadman. This issue, he turns out to be Midge’s new coworker. Toadman instantly starts hitting on Midge, to the point of sexually harassing her. All his Midge’s female coworkers encourage him in it, while needling Midge for refusing his advances. This is an effective depiction of how sexism and workplace harassment are perpetuated by women as well as men. In the end, Midge takes Toadman out on a date just so she can tell him to go to hell ( Toadman subsequently gets fired for conducting personal business on work time and for being a deadbeat dad, but his female coworkers all make excuses for him, showing that while Toadman may be gone, he’s just a symptom of a bigger problem.

THE SPIRIT #44 (Kitchen Sink, 1988) – “The Crime of Passion” and three other stories, [W/A] Will Eisner. This series is probably the best way to collect The Spirit, since the Archives volumes are beyond my price range, but it’s a pity that the stories are reprinted in black and white. Without color, Eisner’s artwork can be difficult to read. The four stories in this issue are all good examples of Eisner’s postwar style, but none of them particularly stand out. The last one, “Black Alley,” is marginally better than the rest.

MADMAN ATOMIC COMICS #16 (Image, 2009) – “Last Night the Atomics Saved My Life!”, [W] Jamie S. Rich, [A] Joëlle Jones; and “Tweenage Wasteland!”, [W/A] Mike Allred. This issue’s main story is narrated by a groupie who falls in love with the lead singer of the Atomics. The backup story also guest-stars the Atomics. Neither story is all that great.

USAGI YOJIMBO #22 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – “Blood Wings, Part 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi defends a village from the Komori ninja. These characters are a poor fit for this series because they have superhuman abilities that correspond to the animal they’re based on – in other words, they can fly because they’re bats. The animal forms of most of the other characters in Usagi Yojimbo are purely cosmetic; for example, Usagi is effectively a human with a rabbit’s head, not a human-sized rabbit. Maybe this is why Stan has used the Komori ninja very rarely in recent years. The backup story in this issue is a little better than usual because some of the art is by Stan.

LEGEND OF OZ: THE WICKED WEST VOL. 2 #1 (Big Dog Ink, 2012) – untitled, [W] Tom Hutchison, [A] Alisson Borges. A trite and poorly drawn Oz parody. I got this for free at a convention, and I’m glad I didn’t waste any money on it.

FIGHTIN’ ARMY #103 (Charlton, 1972) – “The Sniper,” [W] unknown, [A] Sam Glanzman. This issue’s lead story has some good art, but the writing is lifeless, and the writer makes no attempt to examine the psychology of the characters. The other stories in this issue don’t even have Glanzman artwork to recommend them.

THE MIGHTY AVENGERS #28 (Marvel, 2009) – “The Unspoken, Part 2,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Khoi Pham. I bought this from a 50-cent box because I like both the writers, but they both phoned it in on this issue. There are at least some rudimentary attempts at characterization, including some scenes with Stature, but it doesn’t feel like a lot of effort went into this comic.

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

PAPER GIRLS #19 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. An average issue. There are more scenes with Charlotte and Jahpo and giant robots, but none of it is especially striking or memorable.

RAT QUEENS #7 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. This issue’s main plot is about a bar that’s serving some weird mushrooms. Also, Orc Dave has somehow gotten his son killed, and Violet’s father is dead. I had trouble following this issue’s plot – in particular, I can’t remember what happened to Dave’s son. But the Cheech Wizard character shows up on the last page, suggesting that all or part of this issue was a dream sequence or a hallucination.

MISTER MIRACLE #6 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. A truly touching piece of work. Barda and Scott have a conversation about renovating their condo, all while escaping traps and battling Orion’s flunkies. It turns out the reason Barda wants to renovate the condo is because she’s pregnant. This is an adorable moment that totally changes the tone of the issue, although then there’s another jarring shift in tone when Scott reaches Orion’s throne room and finds him dead, with Darkseid standing over him.

X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue continues the story up to the point where X-Men was cancelled. The next miniseries, coming later this year, will start with Giant-Size X-Men #1. The stories summarized in this issue were written by multiple people and were not originally intended as a single cohesive plot. Piskor’s achievement is to combine all these different stories into a giant overarching narrative, hence the title Grand Design. He even makes it seem like the X-Men writers prior to Claremont were intentionally setting up for events in Claremont’s run, even though that is obviously not factually true. In general, this is an awesome comic; it’s probably the best Marvel comic since Vision, and the best X-Men comic in at least a decade.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The King at the End of Everything,” [W] Evan Narcisse w/ Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Paul Renaud. This is possibly even better than the regular Black Panther series. Narcisse retells Black Panther’s origin clearly and passionately, revealing lots of details that are either new or unfamiliar to me, and investing these details with strong emotion. T’Challa’s mother N’Yami is an impressive character, whose death in childbirth is surprising and saddening. This series will be the definitive Black Panther origin story.

GIANT DAYS #34 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Esther and Ed go on  a pub crawl, which ends with Ed falling off a roof. This was a pretty typical issue of Giant Days.

HAWKEYE #14 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family Reunion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Eden Vale offers to bring back Kate’s mom if Kate helps her against Clint. Kate touchingly refuses because Clint is as much her family as her mother is. Then Madame Masque and Eden Vale decide to team up. This is a pretty good issue of a series that will be sadly missed.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SPECTRE OF TOMORROW #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. This is good, but it suffers from “third issue syndrome,” meaning that it continues all the existing plotlines but doesn’t resolve any of them. I don’t remember much about it.

ROGUE & GAMBIT #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ring of Fire, Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Pere Pérez. This is one of the few new X-Men comics I’ve bought since Wolverine and the X-Men ended. I think one of Marvel’s bigger problems at the moment is their inability to produce successful X-Men comics. This series is at least a reasonable attempt at an X-Men title that has top-tier creators and appeals to a broad audience. Rogue and Gambit were never my favorite X-Men, partly because of their accents, but I grew up reading about them in Fabian Nicieza’s X-Men and watching them on the TV cartoon, so this issue triggers some nice feelings of nostalgia, and Kelly Thompson displays her usual brilliant characterization.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. Tom Spurgeon just said something nice about this comic on Twitter, and it’s definitely not the sort of comic he usually praises. This issue, the heroes finally get to the treasure, but then the prince falls off a cliff.

DOOM PATROL #61 (DC, 1992) – “…”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case & Stan Woch. The Candlemaker systematically demolishes the Doom Patrol, but Dorothy, Cliff and Rebis succeed in defeating him, only to realize that Niles Caulder’s nanomachines are an even bigger threat. This issue is an epic conclusion to one of Grant’s greatest works.

WORLDS’ FINEST #0 (DC, 2012) – “Beginnings,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Kevin Maguire. I bought this when it came out, but never read it. When Paul was writing Huntress and Power Girl in the ‘70s, they were among DC’s best female characters. But when he returned to these characters in the 2010s, the standards for female superheroes were much higher, while Paul was still the same writer he was in the ‘70s, so his Worlds’ Finest series was a failure. This issue depicts Huntress/Robin and Power Girl/Supergirl’s first team-up, and it has some nice moments. But it covers the same events as Paul’s “From Each Ending… a Beginning” in DC Super Stars #17, and that story was better.

BLACK BOLT #9 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Midnight King Returns to Earth,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. Black Bolt and Titania get in a fight which ends when Titania realizes her husband is dead. Carl Creel’s wake and funeral are very touching, even if it won’t be long before Carl is resurrected by some other writer. Then some evil Inhumans invade the funeral and kidnap Blinky. There’s a rumor that this series is going to end with #12, which would be a pity, but Saladin Ahmed is going to go on to bigger and better things; see my review of Abbott #1 below.

DIVA #2 (Starhead, 1994) – “Doudou, the Poilu in Strays,” [W/A] Diana Sasse, plus other stories. An anthology of comics by women, edited by Michael Dowers and with creators such as Donna Barr and Roberta Gregory. The first story in this anthology title is a translated German comic, taking place in a postapocalyptic world divided between humans, or Poilus, and centaurs, or Boches. These terms of course also refer to French and German soldiers. As Donna Barr points out in her introduction, this comic is shockingly similar to Stinz, although I assume Donna didn’t discover it until Stinz already existed. This issue also includes some intriguing but narratively weak comics by E. Fitz Smith, who is better known as a graphic designer. The highlight of the issue is the multiple stories by Roberta Gregory, including one in which Bitchy Bitch meets Bitchy Butch, and they don’t hit it off well.

FIGHTIN’ FIVE #28 (Charlton, 1964) – “Introducing the Fightin’ 5, America’s Super Squad,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Bill Montes. Despite the issue number, this is the first appearance of these characters. As usual, Charlton continued the numbering from a cancelled title, Space War, in order to qualify for lower mailing rates. As the GCD points out, the Fightin’ 5 are very similar to the Blackhawks, except they lack individual personalities. Still, Joe Gill clearly put more effort into this comic than into the dozens of other stories he churned out every month, and the result is an exciting adventure story with lots of references to Cold War politics.

VIC & BLOOD #1 (Mad Dog, 1987) – “Eggsucker,” [W] Harlan Ellison, [A] Richard Corben. This is Corben’s adaptation of Ellison’s classic short story “A Boy and His Dog.” I’ve never read any of Ellison’s non-comics work, although I have one of his short story collections, but this comic makes me interested in reading more of his work. It stars a teenage boy and his telepathic dog, who live in a very bleak and disturbing fantasy world. Corben’s art is up to his usual high standards.

GIANT-SIZE SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP #2 (Marvel, 1975) – “To Bestride the World!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Mike Sekowsky. Based on Namor and Doom’s costumes in this issue, I thought it might be the issue where Doom says “Doom toots as he pleases,” but it’s not. In this issue, Doom and Namor team up against a robot named Andro who makes androids. It’s a tiresome and overly long piece of work. The backup story, a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #8, is much better than the main story.

SUPERB #5 (Lion Forge, 2017) – “Matters of Trust,” [W] Sheena Howard & David Walker, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Alitha Martinez. Another cute issue of an enjoyable series. The issue begins with a flashback to Jonah and Kayla’s childhoods, then Jonah and Kayla plan their assault on the facility where their parents are being held, and Jonah repeatedly insists that Kayla choose a code name.

HAPPY HOUR IN AMERICA #1 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – “Steve McQueen Has Vanished,” [W/A] Tim Lane. This is an ambitious piece of work, with beautiful art and lavish production design. The main story focuses on Steve McQueen, who is traveling the country incognito just after becoming America’s highest-paid film star. Steve McQueen died before I was born and I know nothing about him, so this story was a fun look at some history I’m not familiar with. Tim Lane’s artwork reminds me of Drew Friedman’s because of its photorealism and its nostalgia for mid-century America, though Lane’s draftsmanship is nothing like Friedman’s. This comic could be an Eisner contender.

NOT BRAND ECCH #14 (Marvel, 2017) – “Secret Empire: Abridged,” [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Scott Koblish. This issue’s main story is a frustrating piece of trollery. In this story, Nick Spencer repeats fans’ criticisms of Secret Empire in a mocking way, without in any way addressing the concerns behind these criticisms. This is a classic example of lampshading, where a text points out its own problems and then makes no attempt to resolve those problems. This story demonstrates Spencer’s hostility to his readers and his inability to accept criticism, and it won’t win him any new fans. It’s a shame that this story draws the reader’s attention away from the other quality work in this issue, including stories by Katie Cook, Jay Fosgitt, and Ryan North and Erica Henderson.

PLANETARY #6 (Wildstorm, 1999) – “It’s a Strange World,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] John Cassaday. I’ve bought a bunch of issues of this comic lately, and I only need #4, #9, #23 and #25 for a complete run. This issue narrates the origin of the Four, a.k.a. the Fantastic Four, the primary villains of the series.

PRYDE AND WISDOM #1 (Marvel, 1996) – “Mystery School,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Terry Dodson. This miniseries co-stars Kitty Pryde, one of my favorite Marvel characters, but it has two serious problems. The first is Terry Dodson’s barely competent artwork. He’s become something of a fan favorite, but I’m not sure why. The second problem is the other co-star, Pete Wisdom, who is a blatant Gary Stu. He’s not a totally unoriginal character, but he’s also not as interesting as Ellis thinks, and it takes some nerve for Ellis to refer to Pete and Kitty –  rather than Nightcrawler, Meggan or Captain Britain – as “the heart and soul of Excalibur. (BTW, I need to get that annual that introduces Brian and Meggan’s baby.) I have the other two issues of this miniseries, but I haven’t felt like reading them.

SUPERMAN #29 (DC, 2017) – “A Minute Longer,” [W] Keith Champagne, [A] Doug Mahnke. I only bought this comic because I didn’t realize Peter Tomasi had left the series. I only read it because I was about to go to sleep, and I wanted to read something non-challenging. This comic has one good line – “courage is fear trying to hold on a minute longer” – but otherwise it’s pointless.

AVENGERS #99 (Marvel, 1972) – “—They First Make Mad!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. I read this story many years ago when it was reprinted in one of the later issues of Kurt Busiek’s run. In this issue, an amnesiac Hercules explains how he lost his memory, and then the Avengers fight Kratos and Bia, who show up to kidnap Herc. Meanwhile, there’s an extended subplot involving a love triangle between Vision, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye. This subplot includes perhaps the worst line Roy Thomas ever wrote – “in which case, Witchie, there’s weddin’ bells in your future!” – but Wanda’s growing passion for Vizh, despite her brother’s attempts to scare her away from him, is genuinely touching. BWS’s artwork on this issue is very good, though not up to the level of his later issues of Conan.

SNOID COMICS #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1980/1989) – “The Snoid Goes Bohemian” and other stories, [W/A] R. Crumb. The various stories in this issue are more notable for their misogyny and their bizarre sexual obsessions than for their artistic quality. One of them is about the Snoid’s foot fetish. After reading a bunch of Crumb comics, I still feel like I’m not quite getting the point. What other work has he done that’s on the same level as “Uncle Bob’s Mid-Life Crisis” or “The Goose and the Gander Were Talking One Night”? What is there to his work besides weird male power fantasies? The artistic highlight of the issue is the famous “A Short History of America,” which depicts the same piece of ground at intervals of many years, although this piece originally appeared in a non-comics publication.

FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS #2 (Rip Off, 1972/1980) – “Shootout at the County Slammer” and other stories, [W/A] Gilbert Shelton. Unlike Crumb, Shelton is genuinely fun even when his work lacks philosophical depth, as it generally does. This issue begins with a ten-page story in which the Freak Brothers break into a prison. Then there are a bunch of one-page strips, as well as some short pieces by Bobby London, Ted Richards and Dave Sheridan. In one of the sequences of strips, the Freak Brothers split up and return to their family homes (they’re not actually brothers), and Fat Freddy ends up sleeping with his own sister.

EXIT STAGE LEFT: THE SNAGGLEPUSS CHRONICLES #1 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Feehan. This is a thematic sequel to Flintstones, although it’s much more “realistic,” in that the only fantastic element is that some of the characters are anthropomorphic animals. I’m not familiar with Snagglepuss, but it seems like all I need to know about him is that he’s an anthropomorphic lion, like Loony Leo from Astro City. This issue is set in the ‘50s and initially seems very straightforward, but it quickly takes a surprising turn when Snagglepuss disguises himself and visits the Stonewall Inn. Meanwhile, the McCarthy hearings are in full swing, and it looks like Snagglepuss will be blackmailed into testifying. The Rosenbergs and Dorothy Parker also appear, and the latter has some very witty dialogue. Like Prez and Flintstones, this comic is a deep, complex and political work, even though – or especially because – it’s based on some very banal source material.

MICKEY MOUSE #256 (Gladstone, 1990) – “The Mystery of Tapiocus VI,” [W/A] Romano Scarpa. I was disappointed to realize that this wasn’t by Gottfredson. But at least instead it’s by Scarpa, perhaps the only European Disney artist I actually like, and its cleverness and epic scope are worthy of Gottfredson or Barks. In this story, Mickey encounters an old man who behaves exactly like a six-year-old child. It turns out the old man is a king who’s been deposed and rendered amnesiac by Pete, and Mickey restores his memory and returns him to his throne.

New comics received on January 16:

RUNAWAYS #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Find Your Way Home Part V,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. I’m loving this comic so much that I read it before Ms. Marvel or Squirrel Girl. Gert is now living with Molly and her grandmother, but it becomes clear that Molly’s grandmother has ulterior motives, and Gert and Molly decide to escape and return to their former teammates. Molly’s grandmother catches them escaping, but Chase, Nico, Karolina and Victor show up in the nick of time. This comic continues the major themes of the series – nostalgia for childhood and the inability to go home again – and Rowell and Anka depict the characters’ emotions beautifully, especially Gert’s homesickness. Also, this issue is full of cats and cute cat-shaped objects. The panel with the eight unconscious cats is just amazing. Until reading this comic, I actually didn’t know that you could buy loose catnip and give it to cats, and I have now bought some for my own cat. So who says comics can’t be educational?

MS. MARVEL #26 (Marvel, 2018) – “Teenage Wasteland, Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. The Legion of Substitute Kamalas (I just thought of that name) battles a giant robot lizard, and Zoe realizes that it must be the work of the Inventor, who returns for the first time since issue 11 of the previous volume. It turns out the Inventor has switched to kidnapping old people instead of teenagers. Also, Naftali makes another brief appearance.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #28 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Forbidden Pla-Nut” (part 2), [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. Doreen and Loki defeat Dormammu by summoning squirrel ghosts, then they head to the squirrel planet and defeat the fake Galactus. But then the real Silver Surfer shows up and Doreen mistakes him for the fake one, with unfortunate results. Until I read through this issue again, I didn’t notice the visual gag on the last page, where Norrin’s body is conveniently positioned so that Doreen misreads Loki’s message. The letters page includes a letter from (a squirrel friend of) a Professor Scott who teaches at Longwood and goes to Heroes Con. I’d like to meet that person.

MECH CADET YU #5 (Boom!, 2018) – A good but not great issue. The kids are grounded and forced to work as janitors with Stanford’s mom – and by the way, this series makes the important point that janitors are just as important as anyone else. Then they clean up some alien eggs, and Skip Tanaka gives them some special training.

ROYAL CITY #9 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This issue doesn’t advance the plot very much, except that it shows us the scene where Pat quits the factory, which we’ve already seen as a flashback.

NEW SUPER-MAN #19 (DC, 2018) – “Day in the Life of a Shanghai Reporter,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Brent Peeples. I gave up on this comic months ago, but I ordered this issue because it’s written by Mariko Tamaki. This issue is not a classic, but it’s much better than Gene Luen Yang’s issues of this series. Tamaki is much better at writing periodical comics than Yang. She succeeds in making Laney Lan a unique character rather than a Lois Lane clone, and her story feels like it’s set in China rather than in America disguised as China, which was my problem with Yang’s run on this series.

STUMPTOWN #4 (Oni, 2014) – “The Case of the King of Clubs, Part 4,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Justin Greenwood. I can’t remember much about this issue’s plot, but it’s an entertaining detective story. Unfortunately, Justin Greenwood is perhaps the worst artist Rucka has ever collaborated with.

BABYTEETH #7 (Aftershock, 2018) – “The Coyote,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This issue begins with a flashback to an earlier Antichrist-baby incident. Then Sadie and Heather’s mom, who appeared at the end of last issue, starts trying to impose her will on her children and ex-husband, but Heather is not willing to put up with it. Heather is so much more forceful and proactive than Sadie that she’s almost the real protagonist of the series. Sadie has a meek personality and is in a near-constant state of shock, making her almost recede into the background. The issue ends with Carl the assassin deciding to switch sides and protect Sadie instead of killing her.

BATMAN #1: BATMAN DAY SPECIAL EDITION (DC, 2016) – “I Am Gotham, Part One,” [W] Tom King, [A] David Finch. This is a reprint of Batman: Rebirth #1 that was distributed for free. It consists of an extended action sequence in which Batman nearly sacrifices his life to save an airliner from crashing, but is saved at the last minute by two new characters, Gotham and Gotham Girl. It’s an okay Batman story, but it doesn’t make me want to read any more of Tom King’s Batman. The John Workman lettering is a nice touch.

ARCHIE #20 (Archie, 2017) – “Over the Edge, Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Pete Woods. Reggie challenges Archie to a dangerous illegal drag race. Trying to stop them, Betty gets in a near-fatal car crash. This is only an average issue, but it leads to some very interesting plot twists.

SWORD OF AGES #2 (IDW, 2018) – “The Sacred Cave” and other chapters, [W/A] Gabriel Rodríguez. This issue didn’t impress me as the last issue, because I knew what to expect, but it’s still an exciting and exquisitely drawn SF/adventure comic. It’s an attempt to create an American commercial comic with the same level of quality as French commercial comics. Rodríguez’s writing is maybe not the best, and I have trouble following the plot, but his art and visual storytelling are so good that the plot almost doesn’t matter.

THE SPIRIT #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1983) – “Hildie & Satin” and other stories, [W/A] Will Eisner. The early issues of this series were in color. This issue’s first story introduces Silk Satin’s daughter Hildie, while in the last story, Eisner gets rid of Ebony, who had become an embarrassment, by sending him to school to learn to speak proper English. The racist implications of this are unfortunate, but at least this story shows that Eisner was beginning to regret his portrayal of Ebony. What especially impresses me about all these stories is their narrative compression. Eisner succeeded in telling complete and satisfying stories in seven pages by having multiple things happen in the same panel, and by relying on the reader to supply missing information.

TWO-FISTED TALES #4 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1993) – four stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. In Jack Davis’s “Ambush!”, eight soldiers get caught in a North Korean ambush, and only one of them survives. This story is less impressive for its shock ending, in which the surviving soldier realizes that he survived because he didn’t have his good luck charm, than for Davis’s brutal depiction of the soldiers’ deaths. For example, one of them sacrifices his life to throw back a grenade at the enemy, and the expression on his face is indescribable. Severin and Elder’s “Pigs of the Roman Empire” is an underwhelming story about an alcoholic Roman commander. In Wally Wood’s “The Murmansk Run!”, a sailor is forced to stand watch on the deck in freezing cold. Disobeying orders, he lights a can of Sterno to warm himself, but this reveals his ship’s location to an enemy sub, which sinks the ship. We hate the sailor for his selfishness and insubordination, but at the same time, we sympathize with him for the inhuman conditions in which he’s placed. Finally, Kurtzman’s “Search” is kind of predictable. Its protagonist, an American soldier who emigrated to Italy, has returned to Italy during World War II and is looking for his brother who never left. Of course the brother turns out to be dead. But at least this story is a rare and valuable example of Kurtzman artwork.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #596 (Archie, 1989) – “A Reel Experience” and other stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling. This issue begins with another of Bolling’s excellent nature stories, in which Archie tries to catch the Perilous Pike. The next story isn’t that great, but at least it includes the line “grown-ups aren’t supposed to be happy.” There are two other stories, one in which Betty’s cat causes mayhem, and another in which Archie’s dog-washing business causes even more mayhem.

HATE #19 (Fantagraphics, 1995) – “Partners,” [W/A] Peter Bagge. Buddy opens a book and record store with his partner Jay, who nearly runs the business into the ground with his drug addiction. This issue is less funny than some issues of Hate, but it’s an effective depiction of the ‘90s alternative cultural scene and the perils of small business ownership. This story takes place in Jersey and not Seattle, but when I read it, I kept visualizing Buddy’s store as the Fantagraphics store. At the end of the story, Jay overcomes his addiction, which is heartwarming if somewhat hard to believe.

INCREDIBLE HULK #169 (Marvel, 1973) – “Calamity in the Clouds!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Herb Trimpe. The Hulk and the Harpy, a.k.a. Betty Ross, encounter the Bi-Beast, who makes his/their first appearance in this issue. Despite the stupid villain, this is a pretty exciting issue from a good run of Hulk comics.

HERO CATS #20 (Action Lab, 2018) – “Bot to the Future!”, [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Andy Duggan. The Hero Cats team up with a robot from the future, resulting in some Terminator jokes. This issue is another piece of good clean fun. Next issue is billed as the finale of “season one.” The series has been running since 2014, so it seems rather disingenuous to declare that the whole series so far has been one season.

STUMPTOWN #6 (Oni, 2015) – “The Case of a Cup of Joe: Part One,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Justin Greenwood. Despite Greenwood’s very subpar artwork, this is an entertaining story and a funny sendup of the Pacific Northwest’s coffee culture. A coffee franchise owner named Weeks hires Dex Parios to pick up a shipment of his new civet coffee – I won’t describe what civet coffee is, but it’s pretty gross. Then Weekes’s professional rival tries to hire Dex to deliver some of the coffee to him instead. Meanwhile, Dex’s ne’er-do-well sister drops in on her unannounced and demands to stay for six weeks.

SHE-HULK #161 (Marvel, 2018) – “Jen Walters Must Die,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Jahnoy Lindsay. Jen defeats the Leader, then visits someone named Flo for therapy. I had no recollection of who Flo was, but Google tells me that she appeared earlier in this series, and that she’s a therapist who Jen was supposed to visit but didn’t. This was a fairly unimpressive issue, and it’s further proof that Mariko Tamaki is better at characterization than superheroic action.

BLACK PANTHER #168 (Marvel, 2018) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 9,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Chris Sprouse. Half of this issue is a fight scene between T’Challa and his allies and the ancient gods. The other half depicts negotiations between T’Challa’s stepmom and the Dora Milaje. This is still a good comic, but the current storyline has dragged on way too long (much like “Panther’s Rage”), and I still haven’t read issue 169.

ADVENTURE FINDERS #3 (Antarctic, 2018) – “The Village of Orphans,” [W/A] Rod Espinosa. I ordered this because Espinosa’s previous work, Courageous Princess, got a positive review in the Slings & Arrows Guide. This comic is an epic fantasy narrative with a teen girl protagonist. Espinosa relies too much on standard epic fantasy cliches, he includes too many unimportant named characters, and his facial expressions are kind of ugly. But this comic is exciting enough that I enjoyed it despite all that, and I’d read more of it.

SLASHER #1 (Floating World, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Charles Forsman. I have this entire series now, and I finally decided to finish reading it. This issue introduces us to two protagonists: a disabled boy and a girl who’s obsessed with blood. The girl turns to murder and violence for unclear reasons. This is a gruesome and enigmatic but intriguing work, with a much looser art style than Forsman’s I Am Not Okay With This, which I just read.

STUMPTOWN #7 (Oni, 2015) – “The Case of a Cup of Joe, Part Two,” as above. Dex delivers the first shipment of coffee, then returns home to find that her sister Fuji has been a terrible houseguest. But Fuji has weaseled her way into the good graces of Dex’s disabled brother, so it won’t be easy for Dex to get rid of her. I read r/relationships frequently, and I see so many stories about people who have awful roommates that they can’t get rid of, so Fuji’s behavior seems very realistic.

STUMPTOWN #9 (Oni, 2015) – “The Case of a Cup of Joe, Part Four,” as above. I forgot to order issue 8, but I was able to understand issue 9 anyway. As if Fuji’s behavior wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that she’s been conspiring with some local louts to steal the civet coffee. In a parlor scene, Dex defeats both plots to steal the coffee. Then Fuji finally leaves town. This was a cute and entertaining story.

Final reviews of 2017


Last reviews of comics read in 2017:

PAPER GIRLS #18 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. Another issue full of events that are funny and exciting, but difficult to follow. The only thing I specifically remember from this issue is that the bearded future dude turns out to be Jahpo, the cavegirl’s son.

GIANT DAYS #33 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Having been abandoned by their respective roommates, Esther and Ed both search frantically for housing for next year. This was another hilarious and poignant issue, though not very different from any other issue of Giant Days.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #61 (IDW, 2017) – “Convocation of the Creatures!”, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. Representatives of all the intelligent species gather at Mount Metazoa for a convention. While there, Twilight discovers ancient treaties that state that Canterlot technically belongs to the griffins. This issue has no real plot until the end, but it’s an excellent display of Andy Price’s artwork; it’s full of spectacular crowd scenes and sight gags, like the cat trying to grab the Breezie.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Catnap,” [W/A] Sophie Campbell, and “Roll with It,” [W] Kate Leth, [A] Tana Ford. In the first story, the Misfits go on a ski trip. It’s Sophie Campbell’s first Jem story in a long time, and it heavily features Pizzazz’s cat, so it’s got two things going for it. In the backup story, Jem and the Holograms play Dungeons & Dragons. It’s good, but not as good. I think the highlight is Kimber’s pony costume.

MOONSTRUCK #4 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. The protagonists are still trying to get Chet’s horse body back. This issue was not as good as #3, though better than #2, and I can’t remember much about it.

BLACK BOLT #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. Black Bolt and Blinky return to Earth, then head off to inform Titania about Crusher Creel’s death. (Wait, he died? I forgot that.) This issue has some spectacular artwork, as usual, but is mostly just an interlude between bigger storylines. The best moment is the splash page where Black Bolt surprisingly gives his estranged son a hug.

USAGI YOJIMBO #164 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Mouse Trap, Part 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This was a good issue, but I don’t remember much about it specifically. I’ll have more to say about this storyline when I get to issue 165, which I read this morning.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO: LOVE AND REVENGE #2 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Overboard,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Panfil. Jeremy seems more interested in Raven than in Adrienne, which is his prerogative, but it’s too bad that the main Princeless series has been on hold for more than a year. This issue is an exciting fight scene in which the girls beat up a bunch of male chauvinist pirates. But by the end of the issue, Sunshine still hasn’t been rescued.

SECRETS OF HAUNTED HOUSE #35 (DC, 1981) – “Deathwing, Lord of Darkness!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Fred Carrillo, plus other stories. This issue’s first story is full of Haney’s typical nonsense, but it must not have gone over well with readers: it appears to have been intended as the start to an ongoing strip, but the characters in it never appeared again. The second story is a mildly funny piece by Arnold Drake and Al McWilliams, in which aliens visit a post-apocalyptic Earth. The issue ends with a Mr. E story, which has some nice Dan Spiegle artwork, but it’s no wonder that Mr. E failed to become a successful character.

FANTASTIC FOUR #228 (Marvel, 1981) – “Ego-Spawn,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Bill Sienkiewicz. Doug Moench was the worst Fantastic Four writer ever. This issue demonstrates why. Moench includes too much text, he writes unrealistic dialogue, and he wastes too much space on three new characters (Lorrie Melton, Abe Jankowitz and Ego-Spawn) who rarely if ever appeared again. By a weird coincidence, Ego-Spawn’s real name is Franco Berardi, which is also the name of a well-known philosopher.

WEIRDO #5 (Last Gasp, 1982) – various stories, [E] R. Crumb. I’m glad that I finally own an issue of this legendary series, but I can’t say I enjoyed reading it. This issue is an obvious homage to Mad, and like a typical issue of Mad magazine, it contains a lot of different material in various styles, but much of that material is very tedious and poorly done. In particular, the two-page text article by Clifford Neal is unreadable. The highlights of the issue are Crumb’s “The Old Songs Are the Best Songs” and Harry S. Robins’s Professor Brainard strips. Robins is better known as a voice actor, but his artwork and lettering are amazing, though they deserve to be reproduced even bigger.

HAWKEYE #13 (Marvel, 2017) – “Family Reunion, Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. It sucks that this series was cancelled. It’s the worst casualty of Marvel’s recent cancellation bloodbath. I don’t agree with some of the alarmist takes on Marvel’s cancellations, because most comics get cancelled eventually, and some of the cancelled titles had serious flaws (America, Gwenpool, She-Hulk – more on the last one later). But Hawkeye had no such flaws, and it deserved more of a chance. This issue, Kate and Clint team up and fight Eden Vale, the Swordsman’s apprentice. I hope Kate gets to find her mother before the series ends.

LOVE AND ROCKETS VOL. IV #2 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – multiple stories, [W/A] Los Bros Hernandez. This issue begins with the words “Fritz haters will just have to be patient,” which could have been personally addressed to me. I have trouble caring about Fritz and Petra or any of their associated characters, even after reading about them for over a decade. Looking through this issue again, I don’t see much else that I particularly liked, besides the first of the two Jaime stories. But things would improve with issue 3, reviewed below.

FAITH’S WINTER WONDERLAND SPECIAL #1 (Valiant, 2017) – untitled, [W] Marguerite Sauvage, [A] Francis Portela. Faith gets sucked into the world of her favorite childhood TV show. This is much more of an Alice in Wonderland pastiche than a Christmas story, but it’s fun.

LOVE AND ROCKETS VOL. IV #3 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – as above. This issue is much more enjoyable than #2, though maybe it just seems that way in retrospect. It begins with a flashback story about a 14-year-old Maggie. It would be kind of cool if in some future collected edition this story was reprinted in chronological order. There’s also a Beto story which is an obvious Doctor Who parody. The highlight of the issue is the present-day Maggie and Hopey story, which ends on a cliffhanger in which Maggie and Hopey are about to be attacked by Eugene, a very large man. The Fritz/Killer story is still not my favorite, but at least it’s easier to follow when you read multiple issues consecutively, and Luba shows up at the end.

LOVE AND ROCKETS VOL. IV #4 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – Gilbert’s “Since I Don’t Have You” is set just after Soledad’s death in a mental asylum, and incorporates a flashback showing that Pipo was partly responsible for Soledad killing Manuel. This story is a throwback to Gilbert’s very first Palomar story, and to the Palomar stories more generally; for example, it includes a haunting splash page depicting a mysterious statue. I think this was Gilbert’s best story in these three issues. There’s also some more flashback stories by Jaime, depicting the earliest days of Maggie and Hopey’s relationship. Disappointingly, last issue’s cliffhanger with Maggie, Hopey and Eugene is not resolved; we have to wait several months to find out whether Maggie and Hopey will be okay.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #4 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. The protagonists discover a city at the bottom of Dened Lewen, then they go on past there to a mysterious ruin full of creepy fish people. This is still a pretty standard plot, but this series is worth reading because Lu is an awesome protagonist, and because Galaad’s art is quietly excellent.

CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #87 (DC, 1978) – “Twelve Million Years to Twilight,” [W] Carla Conway & Gerry Conway, [A] Keith Giffen. This issue guest-stars Deadman and Swamp Thing and includes some effective early Giffen artwork, which resembles his later work on the Legion. But none of that was enough to save the series from cancellation, because this was the last issue. Perhaps that was partly because the Conways’ story is convoluted and forgettable.

YUMMY FUR #4 (Vortex, 1987) – “Forgiven,” [W/A] Chester Brown. Most of this issue consists of a bizarre, surrealistic story that seems to be a chapter of Ed the Happy Clown, though I didn’t realize this at first. The basic idea is that Chester finds himself reliving the life of St. Justin, who cut off his own hand to avoid sinning. Similarly, Chester loses his hand, and when it gets reattached, it just flops around. There is some obvious phallic and masturbatory symbolism here. This St. Justin appears to be Brown’s invention; there are several real St. Justins, but they all lived at different periods from the one in this story. This issue also includes the first chapter of Brown’s adaptation of the Gospel of Mark.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #696 (Marvel, 2017) – “Home of the Brave,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Not nearly as good as last issue, despite Chris Samnee’s amazing art. Cap visits a small town incognito but is immediately recognized, creating a media sensation, and the Swordsman immediately comes to town and threatens to blow up the local dam. Cap saves the town, of course, but no one bothers to mention that the town wouldn’t have needed to be saved if Cap hadn’t been there. On top of that, the at the end of the issue we’re expected to believe that the town is safe and no damag is done, but this requires us to forget that the Swordsman murdered a bunch of the workers at the dam.

DC SPECIAL #27 (DC, 1977) – “Danger: Dinosaurs at Large!”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Rich Buckler. Tommy Tomorrow and Captain Comet team up to defeat an attempted dinosaur invasion of Earth. This comic is not especially profound or well-crafted, but it’s silly and fun; all it promises is lots of scenes of future people fighting dinosaurs, and it delivers on that promise. The best part is the panel where Tommy Tomorrow defeats a dinosaur by throwing a rock at it, with a “SOKK” sound effect.

GROO THE WANDERER #98 (1993) – “The Wager of the Gods, Book Three,” [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. This was as good as any other issue of Groo, but I don’t remember much about it. The plot of this four-parter is that the god Megatheos is trying to get Arcadio to emulate the feats of other gods’ heroes, but Groo keeps screwing up everything Arcadio does.

SIX FROM SIRIUS #1 (Marvel, 1984) – “Phase 1: Phaedra,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Paul Gulacy. This space opera story does not have the most original or exciting plot, and it suffers from Doug Moench’s habit of overwriting. But other than that, it’s not bad at all, and it includes some very impressive visual storytelling and draftsmanship. Gulacy’s art has declined over the years to the point where he’s no more than an average artist, but back in 1984 he was still really good.

DETECTIVE COMICS #446 (DC, 1975) – “Slaughter in Silver,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Jim Aparo. A pretty average story in which Batman battles Sterling Silversmith, coupled with impressive art by Jim Aparo at the peak of his career. This issue also includes a Hawkman story in which Carter behaves in a sexist way toward Shiera.

ACTION LAB, DOG OF WONDER #6 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Stash’s Story,” [W] Vito Delsante & Scott Fogg, [A] Reilly Leeds. Action Lab encounters an alien dog. This was a cute issue, but I can’t remember much about it. This series appears to have been silently cancelled.

TALES TO ASTONISH #95 (Marvel, 1967) – “The Power of the Plunderer!”, [W] Roy Thomas & Raymond Marais, [A] Bill Everett; and “A World He Never Made!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Marie Severin. In the Sub-Mariner story, Namor battles Ka-Zar’s brother, the Plunderer. It’s pretty average. The credits don’t make it clear what Marais did, so I assumed he was the co-artist. It turns out he was the co-writer and Everett did all the artwork, but his art is badly hurt by lazy inking. The Hulk backup story is more fun, but it’s kind of weird in that it features the High Evolutionary, one of the most Kirbyesque villains, but is not drawn by Kirby.

GREEN LANTERN #98 (DC, 1977) – “Listen to the Mocking Bird!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Mike Grell. An alien called Ffa’rzz convinces Black Canary that her dead husband is still alive, then tries to kidnap Katma-Tui. The main appeal of this story is Denny’s portrayal of Dinah’s bereavement and Katma’s unfamiliarity with Earth. Unfortunately, this story, like Brave and the Bold #91, becomes really creepy if you accept the retcon that Larry Lance was the Earth-1 Black Canary’s father, not her husband.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #303 (Marvel, 303) – “Dock Savage,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Todd McFarlane. This issue’s title is lettered in the same font as Doc Savage’s logo. The plot is that Spidey teams up with Silver Sable and Sandman against some neo-Nazis, while MJ wrestles over whether to move with Peter to Kansas so he can take a job there. In the end, MJ grudgingly decides to do it, but Peter decides to reject the job offer because it might ruin MJ’s career and their marriage. This seems like a pretty accurate portrayal of a marital disagreement – it can be a pretty big dealbreaker if two spouses can’t agree on where to live.

HAUNTED LOVE #5 (Charlton, 1973) – “Until We Meet Again,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Steve Ditko, plus other stories. This series must have been Charlton’s attempt to imitate DC’s gothic romance titles like Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love. It even says “Tales of Gothic Romance” on the cover. However, it’s really just a standard Charlton horror comic except that all the stories involve romantic relationships. The three stories in this issue are drawn by Steve Ditko, Joe Staton and Tom Sutton. The latter was probably Charlton’s best horror artist of the ‘70s, and his story is the best one in the issue; it’s about a witch who manipulates her son into getting married so she can be reincarnated as her own grandchild.

JOHNNY DYNAMITE #1 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Underworld, Book One: Revenge for a Black-Eyed Blonde,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. This is a revival of the ‘50s Pete Morisi comic of the same name, which was reprinted in some later issues of Ms. Tree. Probably very few people admire Johnny Dynamite as much as Collins and Beatty do, but this adaptation is more than just a pastiche of the source material. This first issue is a very grim hard-boiled detective story, narrated by an old Johnny Dynamite as he’s dying of cancer, in which Johnny avenges his old lover’s death. But at the end of the issue, we’re told that his lover’s killer, Faustino, is going to come back from the dead thanks to a pact with Satan, so the other issues of this series will be much less realistic than this one. I need to look for the other issues of this miniseries.

THUNDERBUNNY #5 (WaRP, 1986) – “Moonlight Miss,” [W] Marty Greim, [A] Brian Buniak. This could also have been called “The Last Rutland Story,” although there were a couple other such stories in the ‘90s. Like several ‘70s Marvel and DC comics, this story takes place at the Rutland, VT Halloween Parade and guest-stars the parade’s co-founder, Tom Fagan. Specifically, the plot is that Thunderbunny/Bobby Caswell visits Rutland for the parade, where he teams up with Moon Miss, a new character his own age, against some villains who are an obvious parody of the A-Team. This comic is heavily aimed at an audience of Greim’s fellow comics fans, and is full of references to other comics, some of which reach the point of copyright infringement. This comic has a rather limited appeal, and Moon Miss is sexualized to a disturbing extent given her age, but otherwise, this issue is a really fun piece of nostalgia.

THIEVES & KINGS #4 (I Box, 1995) – untitled, [W/A] Mark Oakley. The main problem with this comic is that it’s full of giant blocks of text. Oakley makes the questionable choice of using text to narrate things he doesn’t have time to draw. As I have written in many other reviews, if I want to read text, I’ll read a book, not a comic book. Also, this comic has a convoluted and poorly explained plot. I’d buy more issues of this comic if I saw them for under a dollar, but I’d prefer to start with issue 1.

PEACEMAKER #5 (Charlton, 1967) – “The Fire World,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Pat Boyette. This comic combines some excellent Pat Boyette artwork with a fairly good script. As Dick Giordano points out in an interview published in Last Kiss #2 (reviewed below), Joe Gill wrote so many comics so quickly that he couldn’t devote much effort to any of them, but Peacemaker and Fightin’ 5 were among the few series that he really cared about. The Fightin’ 5 backup story in this issue has much worse art, by Montes and Bache, but an even more sophisticated and politically charged story. In this issue’s letter column, the editor points out that at a price point of 12 cents, a publisher has to sell 100,000 copies of each issue in order to just break even. Things have changed a lot since then.

On December 17, I went to the winter edition of the Charlotte Comic Con. My last Charlotte Comic Con, in August, was pretty disappointing, but this one was fantastic. The main reason was because I’ve rethought my approach to comic collecting. I’ve always read all kinds of comics, but in the past I’ve mostly focused on Marvel and DC from the Bronze Age and up. But now I already have most of the classic post-‘60s Marvel and DC comics, and there aren’t many more of them to collect. The solution is to diversify my interests and look for other kinds of comics to collect. Reading the Slings & Arrows Comic Guide has really helped with that, because it discusses so many obscure but interesting comics. I thought I had a comprehensive knowledge of the comics field, but on almost every page of the Slings & Arrows Guide, I learn about comics I’m not familiar with. So at this latest convention, I specifically looked for cheap but interesting stuff that I haven’t read before, and I was able to find quite a lot of it. My purchases included:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #105 (Marvel, 1972) – “The Spider Slayer!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gil Kane. A rare example of a classic Spidey story I hadn’t read. This issue, JJJ hires Spencer Smythe to build a third Spider-Slayer robot, but it turns out that Smythe really intends to use the robot to take control of the surveillance cameras around town. This issue is also full of subplots; Peter stops a protest at the Daily Bugle offices, then goes to a party to welcome Flash home from Vietnam. The five-way love triangle between Peter, Gwen, Flash, MJ and Harry was a prominent feature of this era of Spider-Man.

SNARF #10 (Kitchen Sink, 1987) – various stories, [E] Denis Kitchen & Dave Schreiner. This issue includes something even more rare: an Omaha story I haven’t read. It’s a flashback to Omaha and Chuck’s first meeting, and is extremely cute. After some initial misunderstandings, Omaha and Chuck bond over their shared hatred of roommates. The other stories in this issue aren’t nearly as good, though there’s some work by Mary Fleener, Howard Cruse and Chester Brown. The story by J.D. King includes a scene where two teenagers throw a cinder block off an overpass into traffic. Last October, some teenagers in Michigan killed someone by doing that, and are now facing murder charges.

TWO-FISTED TALES #5 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1993) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. One of my best finds at the convention was eight issues of Two-Fisted Tales (the Russ Cochran reprints) for under a dollar each. Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat are the best war comics ever published in America. Unlike the much more jingoistic war comics published by Marvel and DC, Kurtzman’s war comics are bitter, unromantic blackly humorous depictions of war, from the perspective of the common soldier. The standout story this issue is Severin and Elder’s “Chicken!”, about a brutal infantry captain who enforces regulations to the letter, but doesn’t realize that “soldiers are human beings.” Another impressive one is Jack Davis’s “Enemy Contact!”, in which a medic risks his life to save a soldier dying of appendicitis, only for that soldier to get killed by the enemy. Toth’s “Dying City” and Woody’s “Massacre at Agincourt” are less powerful, but brilliantly drawn.

UNICORN ISLE #3 (Apple, 1986) – untitled, [W] Lee Marrs, [A] Nicholas Koenig. This is a very different genre of story from Marrs’s other major work, Pudge, Girl Blimp, but is just as dense and complicated. It’s a fantasy story about two telepathic twins who team up with a sacred unicorn to rescue the unicorn’s mate. This comic has a pretty cool premise, but as noted, it’s extremely dense, to the point that I had a hard time getting through it.

RIO AT BAY #2 (Dark Horse, 1992) – untitled, [W/A] Doug Wildey. This was the last Rio comic published in Wildey’s lifetime, though two more appeared later in IDW’s complete Rio collection. The premise is that Rio arrives at San Francisco with a lot of money, then gets robbed and shanghaied by a crooked casino owner, but gets his revenge. It’s a pretty low-stakes story (no pun intended), but it’s elevated to classic status by Wildey’s incredible artwork. Every panel is lush and gorgeous, drawing upon photo reference and extensive historical research, and the action sequences are thrilling. Doug Wildey was a Hall of Fame-caliber artist, although he’s not in the Hall of Fame, perhaps because he produced a limited body of work and was more famous as an animator.

IRON MAN #16 (Marvel, 1969) – “Of Beasts and Men!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] George Tuska. I read the issue before this one earlier this year. In #14, the Red Ghost tricked the Unicorn into teaming up with him. This issue, Iron Man and the Unicorn reluctantly team up against the Red Ghost. In the end, the Red Ghost’s super-apes get tired of his oppressive behavior and turn on him, which is a rather unexpected and poignant development.

THE ADVENTURES OF EVIL AND MALICE #2 (Image, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Jimmie Robinson. A comic I would never have bought if I hadn’t read a fairly positive review of it in the Slings & Arrows Guide. It’s about two young superheroines whose father is a supervillain. It’s no Bone, but it’s funny and exciting, with reasonably good manga-style art.

MR. NIGHT #1 (Slave Labor, 2005) – “Mr. Night’s Greek Holiday” and other stories, [W] Glenn Dakin, [A] Phil Elliott. An unjustly obscure comic which, again, I only bought because the Slings & Arrows Guide includes positive reviews of other comics by these creators. It contains three stories about the title character, a gloomy pessimist, and his more sunny friend Mr. Day. These stories are very much in the vein of Eddie Campbell’s Bacchus; they’re drawn in a sort of Clear-Line-esque black and white style, and they have impressive humor and philosophical depth. Dakin and Elliott are two of the many artists who came out of the ‘80s British underground scene and who have been unfairly overshadowed by Eddie Campbell. Other such artists include Shaky Kane, Paul Grist, Rian Hughes, Ed Pinsent, etc.

DOOM PATROL #88 (DC, 1964) – “Revealed at Last the Incredible Origin of the Chief,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Bruno Premiani. The Doom Patrol encounters a villain called the Baron who turns out to be sponsored by General Immortus. To explain why he’s scared of General Immortus, the Chief has to reveal his origin: General Immortus was the Chief’s own patron, and as a result of their involvement, the Chief lost his legs. The Chief’s origin story provides a valuable insight into this somewhat enigmatic character. In particular, we learn that he needed private funding because despite being a brilliant scientist, he was so disagreeable that no one would work with him.

THE RETURN OF ALISON DARE: LITTLE MISS ADVENTURES #2 (Oni, 2001) – “Alison Dare and the Secret of the Blue Scarab,” [W] J. Torres, [A] J. Bone. At boarding school, the title character is told that her superhero father, the Blue Scarab, is dead, but she responds by explaining why he can’t die. This comic is similar to Bone or Leave it to Chance, if less successful than either. In particular, the artist’s surname is a weird coincidence because his artwork and lettering are a lot like on Jeff Smith’s. While the story in this comic is entertaining, it concentrates too much on Alison’s parents instead of Alison herself.

JIM #3 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – “The Hindu Marriage Game” and other stories, [W/A] Jim Woodring. This issue includes several short stories. The Jim story is typically bizarre. Jim goes to a party where he’s forced to “marry” a stranger, then she convinces him to fight a dead man for control of the man’s raft, only it turns out the dead man is alive. There are two Frank stories, one in color and one in black and white. In the black and white story, Frank gets a fruit out of its inedible shell by hanging it from a tree, but when Manhog tries to do the same thing with a cube, the cube grows arms and legs and attacks him. So yeah, this is a pretty typical Woodring comic.

TWO-FISTED TALES #6 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1993) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. All four stories in this issue are brilliant. Jack Davis’s “Death Stand” is about a soldier who volunteers for a suicide mission, only to survive when all his comrades die. Woody’s “Old Soldiers Never Die,” set in WWI, is about a soldier who survives the entire war, only to be killed at the exact moment hostilities end. Kurtzman’s “Kill!” is probably the highlight of the issue. It’s a parallel story of an American and a Chinese soldier, whose common homicidal tendencies cause them to kill each other. Like many Kurtzman war stories, “Kill!” humanizes the enemy, demonstrating that “they” are just as human as “we” are – though in this case it demonstrates that in a negative sense, showing that the Chinese and the American soldier are both equally barbaric. Finally, Severin and Elder’s “Dog Fight!” is about a flying ace who thinks his girlfriend has stopped writing to him, only for a huge packet of her letters to appear just before he gets killed.

TAILGUNNER JO #1 (Dc, 1988) – “The Curve of Binding Energy,” [W] Peter B. Gillis, [A] Tom Artis. I’ve seen lots of house ads for this series, but, again, I finally felt motivated to buy it because of the Slings & Arrows review. I should have bought it sooner, because I enjoy Peter Gillis’s writing and I’ve corresponded with him on Facebook. This comic is a cyberpunk story about a cyborg warrior whose brain is implanted with the personality of his disabled young daughter. It’s a powerful story about a man whose life is destroyed by an evil corporation, but Jo’s cheerful personality makes this comic less grim than it could have been. I’ll be looking for the rest of this series.

THE UNTOUCHABLES #1 (Eastern, 1988) – untitled, [W/A] Lee Hyun-Se. I was excited to learn that this comic even existed (again thanks to the Slings & Arrows Guide, which gives it a poor review) and I was even more excited to come across all four issues of it. This series is the only English publication of Lee Hyun-Se’s manhwa 공포의 외인구단, which is variously translated as The Terrifying, Alien or Mercenary Baseball Team. It’s one of the seminal works of Korean comics, and is included in Paul Gravett’s list of 1001 comics you must read, although there’s very little English-language information about it. This issue is somewhat poorly translated and reproduced, and represents only a tiny fraction of the entire work, but it’s better than nothing. Lee Hyun-Se’s story is about a father and son who live in the woods, where the father trains his son to become a star pitcher by throwing baseballs at animals. Then they head to town so the son can try out for baseball. While this series is technically a sports comic, it has more in common with Lone Wolf & Cub, and Lee Hyun-Se draws in a style reminiscent of samurai manga. This is a really intriguing comic, and I want to learn more about it. Unfortunately, English-language information about classic Korean comics is very hard to find.

CHIP ZDARSKY’S PRISON FUNNIES #2 (Legion of Evil, 2003) – “Destiny’s Child!”, [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. This early self-published work of Chip Zdarsky is so obscure that it doesn’t have a GCD entry. You would think it would have gone up in value thanks to Chip’s superstar status, but I guess not. As the title suggests, this comic takes place in prison, and it’s full of brutal black humor and hidden messages in tiny text. It’s much cruder than Kaptara or Sex Criminals, which are pretty crude to begin with, and it has limited value on its own, but it’s an interesting glimpse at an early stage of an important artist’s career.

SKELETON KEY VOL. II #1 (Slave Labor, 1999) – “Roots,” [W/A] Andi Watson. I’ve only read one or two other comics by this artist. This comic seems to be about a high school girl who’s friends with a Japanese fox spirit. It’s hard to follow because it assumes knowledge of the previous miniseries, though it does provide some background. It’s drawn in a minimal but appealing style, with impressive emotional depth. Watson reminds me a bit of Colleen Coover, though he’s not as good. I should read more of his stuff.

THE WEDDING OF POPEYE AND OLIVE OYL #1 (Ocean, 1999) – “The Wedding of Popeye and Olive,” [W] Peter David, [A] Dave Garcia. I have sort of a personal connection to this comic because my friend Lisa Palin is the daughter of its publisher, but I hadn’t read it before. This comic is heavily based on the classic E.C. Segar Popeye, rather than any of the later versions. It’s not as successful a pastiche of classic Popeye as Roger Langridge’s version was, but it’s exciting and fun, and shows extensive knowledge of the source material. However, if I didn’t know that Peter David had written it, I wouldn’t have guessed.

BANANA SUNDAY #4 (Oni, 2005) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin (as Root Nibot), [A] Colleen Coover. In the final issue of this miniseries, we finally learn where the monkeys came from: they’re the original monkeys from the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” meme, and Kirby found them when they fell out of heaven. Also, this issue resolves the ongoing plot about Kirby’s high school troubles. Like the other issues of this series, it’s an adorable and well-executed piece of work.

I received the following new comics on December 18. These comics arrived three days late to begin with, and I didn’t pick the package up until late at night, because the tracking information was slow to update, and I didn’t realize it had been deilvered.

RUNAWAYS #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Find Your Way Home Pt. IV,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Probably the best issue yet. Molly’s house and her grandmother are just what you’d expect. Molly’s house is full of cats and other cute stuff, and her grandmother is such a kind, sweet woman, you have to wonder how Molly’s parents turned out so badly. Molly seems like a truly happy kid. Which makes it even more poignant that the other Runaways, especially Gert and Nico, are so lost and aimless. In the end, Gert chooses to stay with Molly. I’m not sure where the series is going to go from here, but I trust that Rainbow knows what she’s doing. By the way, I have now read two of her novels. I just finished Fangirl, which was one of the best books I read in 2017.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #27 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Forbidden Pla-Nut, Part 1,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. Some alien squirrels abduct Nancy so she can tell them how to save their planet from Galactus. Doreen teams up with Loki in order to figure out where Nancy went. And then it turns out that Galactus himself is the herald of an even bigger being that eats universes… no, wait, that’s Moon Girl #25. This is yet another fun issue of Squirrel Girl, and it contains more squirrel characters with speaking parts than almost any previous issue.

MISTER MIRACLE #5 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Another fantastic issue of one of the best comics of the year. Scott and Barda enjoy a last day together before Scott’s execution, including some kinky sex and a meal at Canter’s Deli. It’s appropriate that Scott has a bondage fetish. And then Barda decides she’s not okay with Scott being executed, after all. As someone else pointed out on Facebook, the panel with a naked, bloodstained Barda saying “Stay” is, strangely, one of the most romantic moments in the series.

ROYAL CITY #8 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Kind of an uneventful issue. Tommy has a psychotic reaction while in the car with Richie, and Tara discovers she’s pregnant. Which may explain the cliffhanger in issue 5 where Patrick learns he has a niece.

MY LITTLE PONY HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2017 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] James Asmus, [A] Brenda Hickey. I somehow got the artist’s edition of this issue, with a cover reproduced from Andy Price’s pencils, and that cover is better than the interior story. Flim and Flam try to capitalize on Hearth’s Warming Eve by making everyone buy windigo merchandise. Twilight Sparkle gets rid of them by asking them to give their merchandise away for free, but then everyone gets mad at her for ruining their holiday, and Twilight realizes that they’re right to be angry. This comic could have been a witty critique of the excessive commercialism of Christmas, but instead it ruined its own message, by declaring that a little commercialism is okay if it’s all in good fun.

SLAM! THE NEXT JAM #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Pamela Ribon, [A] Marina Julia. This is an okay conclusion to the series, and it’s better than the last couple issues, but it’s still disappointing compared to the first Slam! miniseries. This comic never recovered from the departure of Veronica Fish. At least it lasted more than four issues, unlike some Boom! Box titles.

SHE-HULK #160 (Marvel, 2017) – “Jen Walters Must Die,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Jahnoy Lindsay. Part two of the Leader storyline is worse than part one; there’s nothing as good in this issue as the burgercakes from last issue. This series’ cancellation is disappointing but understandable. Mariko Tamaki is an amazing writer, and her depiction of trauma was groundbreaking, but she has serious problems with pacing.

TWO-FISTED TALES #7 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1994) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. The famous story in this issue is Kurtzman’s “Rubble!”, about a Korean peasant who painstakingly builds a house with his own hands, only to see it blown up along with himself and his family. This story depicts the Korean family in a somewhat patronizing way, but it’s a deeply powerful piece of comics storytelling. It demonstrates that our “enemies” are people too, and that what seems like insignificant collateral damage, from the perspective of an entire war, can be a matter of life and death, from the perspective of an individual civilian. Jack Davis’s “Hill 203” is a brutal story about a soldier who sacrifices himself to defend a hill. In Woody’s “Bug Out!”, a starving soldier is so desperate for food and shelter that he sacrifices his sanity and even his humanity. In Severin and Elder’s “Weak Link!”, an individual soldier’s cowardice gets his entire platoon killed. All four stories this issue demonstrate the horrors that war inflicts on average people.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE CHRISTMAS ANNUAL #nn (Image, 2017) – “Sumer Loving” and other chapters, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. Each chapter of this story has a different inker. I have mixed feelings about this series, but this annual is fascinating because it shows us the beginning of the gods’ careers, when Lucifer and all the others were still alive and still enchanted with their new powers. It’s also kind of cool to see how McKelvie’s artwork changes with different inkers.

HAND OF FATE #1 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Night of the Siren,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Gerald Forton. One of Bruce Jones’s many Eclipse and Pacific titles, Hand of Fate is about a “psychic detective,” though it’s actually his female assistant who’s the psychic. This comic is a well-plotted and exciting private eye mystery, though I’m not sure the plot made complete sense. Gerald Forton’s art is kind of Ditkoesque. His opening splash panel, which is a top-down view of Fate’s office, is impressive.

TALES OF GHOST CASTLE #3 (DC, 1975) – “The Demon’s Here to Stay!”, [W] Jack Oleck, [A] Ernie Chua. The last issue of one of DC’s more obscure mystery titles. It’s no wonder it was the last issue, because none of the three stories in it are very good. The second story, about a man who murders the woman he’s having an affair with, is slightly better than the others because of the Frank Redondo artwork.

GREEN LANTERN #78 (DC, 1970) – “A Kind of Loving, a Way of Death!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. This is one of only three O’Neil/Adams GL/GA issues I own, although I’ve read all of them in reprinted form. I am a long way from having a complete collection of this run, since I still don’t have #76, #85 or #87. This issue has one of my favorite story titles ever, but the only thing I really remembered about it was the page with Black Canary beating up the bikers (which also includes the unfortunate line about how “you look at her and see a soft, totally feminine woman”). On reading this story again, I realize it’s probably even more topical today than in 1970, since it’s about a crazy racist ideologue who organizes an anti-government militia in the American West. Joshua is sort of a combination of Cliven Bundy and the Ku Klux Klan. The final scene in this issue, where Dinah overcomes Joshua’s mind control and refrains from killing Ollie, is quite powerful.

FANTASTIC FOUR #89 (Marvel, 1969) – “The Madness of the Mole Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Not one of the better Lee/Kirby issues. The FF battle the Mole Man, whose plan is to make everyone on the surface world blind, so he can take over. The highlight of the issue is the angry lecture that Johnny Storm gives the Mole Man after defeating him; Johnny tells the Mole Man to suck it up and stop pitying himself.

TELLOS #2 (Image, 1999) – untitled, [W] Todd DeZago, [A] Mike Wieringo. The late Mike Wieringo’s only major creator-owned work is a somewhat formulaic piece of epic fantasy, but it’s well-drawn and professionally produced, and one of the characters is a giant anthropomorphic tiger. I’d buy more of these if I found them at a low price.

KID LOBOTOMY #3 (IDW, 2017) – “Lost in Franz,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. As usual with Peter Milligan (and his master Grant Morrison), this comic gets harder and harder to follow as it goes on, but it’s still well-executed enough that I’m enjoying it even when I can’t follow it. I didn’t really notice Tess Fowler’s art when she was drawing Rat Queens, but her art on this series is really impressive.

DEPT. H #21 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. This issue is yet another flashback to Roger and Hari’s past. I guess it’s not surprising that there are so many flashbacks, given that this is a mystery story, and mysteries are all about uncovering what happened before the story began. At the end, Roger tries to get Mia to go to the surface alone, but one of the other characters objects.

SUPERNATURAL THRILLERS #11 (Marvel, 1975) – “The Asp’s Big Score!”, [W] Tony Isabella, [A] Val Mayerik. This Living Mummy story is a convoluted, overwritten piece of work with few interesting characters, although it’s not terrible. One of the principal characters is named Olddan, which is apparently not a typo for Old Dan. The two-page backup story by Tom Sutton is better than the main story.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #214 (DC, 1968) – “To Haunt a Killer,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Neal Adams. An awesome Deadman story. Feeling lonely, Deadman possesses a man named Phil who’s desperately in love with his fiancee, or at least she is with him. But then Deadman discovers Phil is a professional assassin. The creators set up a poignant contrast between Phil’s two sides, as a loving husband-to-be and a heartless killer. Adams’s artwork is fantastic, although this issue is full of double-page compositions that are printed ineptly (see

PSYCHOANALYSIS #3 (Gemstone, 1955/1999) – “Freddy Carter” and other stories, [W/A] Jack Kamen. This is the weirdest comic EC ever published, and that’s saying a lot. It consists of three stories, each depicting a session between a psychoanalyst and his client. Each story is an extremely text-heavy talkfest, in which the analyst and the analysand go over a lot of complicated psychosexual material in an extreme hurry. The analyst is depicted as the Lacanian “subject supposed to know”; he knows everything and has all the answers, and the client’s job is to figure out what the analyst is telling him or her. (As a caveat, my use of Freudian and Lacanian language here may imply that I understand psychoanalysis better than I actually do.) The analyst’s conclusions are unquestionable even when they’re wrong. For example, the father in the first story is an abusive asshole who ridicules his son, yet the analyst only cares about convincing the son to be more fair to the father. In general, this comic is disturbing and poorly executed, but it’s also kind of fascinating. EC’s Psychoanalysis is a fascinating depiction of how people thought about psychoanalysis in the ‘50s, and I’m surprised that there seems to be no scholarship on it – it would be a great project for a psychoanalytically inclined comics scholar. I showed the cover of this comic to my grandfather, who used to be a practicing psychoanalyst, and he was delighted.

New comics received on Friday, December 22:

MS. MARVEL #25 (Marvel, 2017) – “Teenage Wasteland, Part One,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. This is probably the funniest issue of this series ever. Kamala doesn’t appear in this issue. Instead, it focuses on her friends, who are trying to find her while also impersonating Ms. Marvel, so no one realizes that Ms. Marvel is missing too. This premise leads to all sorts of hilarious hijinks and misadventures, and the issue ends with Kamala’s friends confronting a giant iguana in a robot suit. This issue has gotten some attention from non-comics readers thanks to its reference to Orthodox Union kosher certification. The reason Kamala can eat the sandwich Naftali brings her is because kosher is a more restrictive standard than halal, so kosher food is generally considered halal, though not vice versa. This scene is based on G. Willow Wilson’s personal lifestyle: according to her own Twitter page, most halal meat is below her standards for zabihah, or ritual slaughter, so she eats kosher meat instead.

X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This is a dense, compelling, and provocative work. As a longtime Marvel fan, I loved reading this – it engaged my geek instincts because it kept making me think “That’s not how I remember that happening” or “I didn’t notice that before.” What I’m not sure about is what exactly this comic is trying to do. My initial take was that this comic is Ed’s version of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. He’s taking a vast body of stories that were not meant to be read together, and combining them into a cohesive whole. But that analogy doesn’t completely work, because Ed Piskor isn’t necessarily being strictly faithful to the source texts. Peter Sanderson complained that Piskor got a number of things wrong, and Sanderson knows Marvel continuity better than anyone alive, so he’s probably right. (Even I noticed, for instance, that Piskor’s version of the Xavier/Shadow King battle doesn’t exactly match the version in X-Men #117.) So maybe this comic is intended instead as Ed Piskor’s personal and necessarily selective vision of Marvel history. It’s hard to tell at this point. Either way, this is a brilliant and important comic, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

One minor thing I liked about this comic is that on one hand, it doesn’t say that Magneto is Wanda and Pietro’s father, since that is no longer true – but on the other hand, Piskor draws Pietro to look exactly like Magnus.

ANGELIC #4 (Image, 2017) – “Heirs and Graces, Part 4,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. Things get worse, as Qora and Complainer are caught in the struggle between the monkeys and the manatees. Also, they find a bunch of cryogenically frozen humans. This wasn’t the best issue of Angelic, but I love the panel where the humanoid robot turns out to have tentacles for legs.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #5 (DC, 2017) – “Birdman in Invisible Sun!”, [W] Phil Hester, [A] Steve Rude. This is the first Future Quest story not written by Jeff Parker, but Phil Hester does an admirable job of filling in, and the Dude’s artwork is as brilliant as you’d expect. The thing that soured my enjoyment of this issue was that Rude’s depiction of Maori people struck me as offensive. However, I can’t pinpoint anything offensive in particular, except that the people’s faces look a bit apelike. It’s possible that I’m being oversensitive because I’m remembering the blatantly racist depictions of Africans in an earlier Rude comic, The Moth Special #1.

FENCE #2 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Like issue 1, this issue is heavily influenced by sports manga, but it also has a significant queer subtext that I didn’t notice in issue 1. I guess that means this comic is treading the same territory as The Backstagers, in that it’s a queer comic with an all-male cast. In particular, this issue introduces a new character, Bobby, who… I think he’s a boy, but he’s depicted with visual conventions borrowed from shojo manga. Another thing I notice about this comic is that it’s genre-savvy; Seiji tells Nicholas that “you’re one of those… someone told you once that you had potential [but] hundreds of fencers get told that.” This comic seems somewhat unsure as to what sort of tone it’s going for, but it’s a really interesting piece of work. I just hope it doesn’t get cancelled after four issues.

ASSASSINISTAS #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Dominic Price and the Semester Abroad,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. A rare example of a comic written but not drawn by Gilbert Hernandez. However, it feels very much like a Beto comic, with its focus on action girls, family relationships, sex, etc. It’s also somewhat reminiscent of Kill Bill, though that could be because Kill Bill was drawing on the same body of influences. I haven’t heard of Tini Howard before, but her writing is not bad at all.

SHERLOCK FRANKENSTEIN AND THE LEGION OF EVIL #3 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Part Three: Who is the Metal Minotaur?”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubín. An issue full of unexpected developments. The third villain on Lucy’s list is the Metal Minotaur, a battlesuited villain who surprisingly turns out to be a black woman. Also surprisingly, the Metal Minotaur tells Lucy that Sherlock Frankenstein was trying to save the heroes, not kill them, and Lucy realizes that Sherlock has been in Spiral Asylum all along.

MIGHTY THOR #702 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Last Days of the Goddess of Thunder,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. As things get grimmer and grimmer, Jane recruits Hercules, then shames Odin into emerging from his seclusion. Just in time too, because the Mangog shows up on the last page.

SUPERMAN #37 (DC, 2017) – “Super Sons of Tomorrow, Part 1: Dark of the Son,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Jorge Jimenez. This entire issue is a fight scene between Superman and an alternate-universe Tim Drake who’s become an evil version of Batman. It’s a complete waste of an issue, and I shouldn’t have bought it. Also, this comic’s cover is deceptive in that none of the characters on the cover appear in the comic, except Superman himself.

SUPER SONS #11 (DC, 2017) – “Super Sons of Tomorrow, Part 2: Sundown,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Ryan Benjamin. This is even worse than Superman #37 because it’s a wasted issue of a series I was enjoying. This issue does have a cute scene with the Super Sons and the Titans, but it spends too many pages on plot developments that I don’t care about. And the evil Batman is a crappy villain; he’s so grim and dark that he’s not fun to read about, and Super Sons is supposed to be a fun comic. This issue illustrates the problem with crossovers: they interrupt the plots and character arcs of the titles involved, and they’re rarely good enough to justify this interruption.

BACCHUS #1 (Eddie Campbell, 1995) – “The Face on the Bar-Room Floor,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell & Dave Sim, plus other stories. The problem with this series is that almost all the material in it has been published in a variety of other formats, so whenever I read an issue of Bacchus, I always suspect that I’ve already read the stories in it elsewhere. The opening story in this issue is a new Bacchus-Cerebus crossover where Campbell and Sim collaborated on both the writing and the art, but most of the issue is occupied by the first chapter of King Bacchus, and I’m pretty sure I’ve read at least some of this before.

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #8 (Marvel, 1985) – “Local Super Hero!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Geof Isherwood. This is weird and not very good. The opening eight pages of this issue depict the origin of the Smithville Thunderbolt, local superhero of a small Pennsylvania town. The word balloons in this segment all have four words or less, which appears to be a deliberate formal constraint, but not a very successful one. In the second half of the story, Spider-Man goes to Smithville to do a story on the Thunderbolt. It turns out the Smithville Thunderbolt has lost his powers with age, and is now creating disasters so he can solve them. This is an intriguing premise, but Michelinie deals with it way too quickly, wasting the chance to explore its implications.

DOOM PATROL #6 (DC, 2017) – “Brick by Brick, Part 6,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. I quit reading this comic because of its chronic lateness, but when it started appearing on critics’ year-end lists, I decided to get caught up on it. I had trouble remembering what was going on in this series, but this issue is fairly self-contained. The premise is that Crazy Jane has founded a cult of “oneness,” and she wants to drop a gene bomb on herself and her fellow cultists, so as to merge them all into one being. But Jane’s other personalities sabotage the bomb so that it instead kills the version of Jane who’s leading the cult, and leaves Jane’s other personalities intact. This issue is an impressive reimagining of Grant Morrison’s best Doom Patrol character, and it also explores the relationship between Jane and Cliff Steele, which was vitally important in the Morrison series.

DOOM PATROL #47 (DC, 1991) – “The World, the Flesh, and the Devil,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case. Not Morrison’s best issue. It’s mostly a prelude to the Doom Patrol’s battle with Shadowy Mr. Evans. The best moment is when Rebis is informed that hs mother died, and he replies “Which one?”

DOOM PATROL #7 (DC, 2017) – “Into the Scantoverse or Emotional Robots and Psychic Werewolves,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Mike Allred. A weird and wacky story in which Niles Caulder rejoins the Doom Patrol, then leads them on a bizarre adventure that almost gets them killed. It turns out that the Chief is just manipulating the Doom Patrol into helping him settle a debt to the mob, and they all decide they’re better off without him. Gerard Way has a good take on the Chief’s toxic personality, and Allred’s art is some of his weirdest in recent memory.

GIANT-SIZE KUNG FU BIBLE STORIES #1 (Image, 2014) – various stories, [E] Erik Larsen & Bruce Timm. This treasury-sized comic has a cover price of $20. I “only” paid $12 for it, but I still feel like I got ripped off. There’s not much here that justifies the price. Bruce Timm’s story is impressively drawn but is a dumb and outdated piece of superhero parody, and the only truly impressive things in the issue are the pinups and one-pagers by Art Adams and Tom Scioli. Another serious problem with this comic is its unwieldy format. This comic is impossible to store properly because I don’t think they even make boxes that are big enough for it. My copy of this comic is badly damaged because it’s taller than the box I was storing it in, and I piled things on top of that box by accident.

BUG! THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #5 (DC, 2017) – “Water, Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Shrink,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. Forager meets Omac and they fight Dr. Skuba, the villain who shrinks oceans into cubes (see my review of Omac #7 from earlier this year). Lots of other weird stuff happens. This is another fun issue, but I would rather it had included three blank pages than the Midnight backup story. James Harvey’s style is intriguing, but not well suited to linear storytelling, and his text is overwritten and tedious to read.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #298 (Marvel, 2017) – “Escape Plans,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. Peter is rescued from a questionably legal prison by Human Torch and Ant-Man, then they set out trying to save Peter from the deep state, which is surprisingly tough. Just when things look hopeless, Black Panther shows up. In this storyline, Chip Zdarsky has achieved the difficult feat of making me genuinely wonder how Spider-Man can get out of his predicament.

HEAD LOPPER #8 (Image, 2017) – “Head Lopper and the Crimson Tower, Part 4 of 4,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. This issue was recalled because of a printing error in which one page was printed twice and another page was omitted. DCBS didn’t get the memo in time and sent me one of the misprinted copies anyway, and I was unpleasantly surprised to discover the printing error after I was 15 pages into the comic. I asked Andrew MacLean if he would post the missing page on Twitter, and he was kind enough to do so, which allowed me to finish reading the comic. This issue is a rather depressing conclusion to the Crimson Tower story. Zhaania Kota Ka discovers that Berserkr is her own mother. She drops her weapons and begs her mother to team up wth her against Ulrich, but in a reversal of the usual cliché, Zhaania’s mother fails to overcome her brainwashing and kills her daughter. In the end, Norgal, Agatha, Twerpal and Bik defeat the enemy, and little Bik becomes the master of the Crimson Tower. And now we have to wait for Norgal and Agatha’s next adventure.

BUG! THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #6 (DC, 2017) – “Just Another Bug in the Wall,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. This issue finally explains what’s been going on in this series, though the explanation isn’t all that clear. It turns out that Chagra, the main antagonist, is a clone of Metron, and Forager and Chagra team up against Metron, who’s the real villain. And then Kuzuko is reunited with her parents, who turn out to be the living embodiment of the Source. It’s pretty cool how this series and Mr. Miracle are so different in tone, and yet they both feel like faithful adaptations of Kirby’s source (no pun intended) material.

DOOM PATROL #8 (DC, 2017) – “Nothing Matters: Part 1 of Nada,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. In part one of the next major storyline, Casey is reunited with her cat Lotion, who has somehow become a cat-headed human, but continues to act just like a cat. He’s a bit like the human Greebo in Witches Abroad, if a bit more articulate. Finally, Sam Reynolds’s son Lucius tries to summon a demon. At this point I think we can say that there are three major Doom Patrol writers: Arnold Drake, Grant Morrison, and Gerard Way.

DOOM PATROL #9 (DC, 2017) – “NineNineNine99999: Part 2 of Nada,” creators as above. The demon Lucius summons turns out to be Grant Morrison’s greatest Doom Patrol villain, Mr. Nobody, who has put together a new Brotherhood of Dada. I don’t know if the new Brotherhood members are as funny as the originals, but I’m delighted to see Mr. Nobody again. Also, there’s a new villain, The Disappointment, and there’s a subplot involving a superfood called $#!+.

TUROK, SON OF STONE #126 (Whitman, 1981/1970) – “Too Many Signs” and “The ‘Magic’ Arrows,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Jack Sparling. Both stories in this issue are boring and formulaic. In the first story, Turok and Andar find an exit from Lost Valley, but it caves in before they can escape, which is lucky because if they ever got out of Lost Valley, the series would end immediately.

TWO-FISTED TALES #3 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1993) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. This wasn’t one of the eight issues I bought at the convention; I already had it, but forgot about it. The highlight of this issue is Kurtzman’s “Pirate Gold!”, in which a pirate is shipwrecked and suffers amnesia. On being rescued, he slowly recovers his memory while hunting down his former comrades, who, he realizes, have betrayed him and stolen his treasure chest. He finds his betrayers and brutally murders them, but his lack of memory is his undoing, because he forgets that he buried his treasure chest in quicksand. I recognized this story because some panels from it are reprinted in R.C. Harvey’s Art of the Comic Book. The second best story in the issue is Woody’s “Devils in Baggy Pants,” in which a paratrooper is ridiculed by his sergeant for cowardice, but bravely sacrifices his life while the sergeant runs away. The other stories are Severin and Elder’s “Massacred!”, in which a North Korean officer outsmarts himself and gets killed by his own men, and Jack Davis’s “Army Revolver”, about a gun whose six bullets kill six man, the last of whom is the gun’s original owner. Because of its focus on an inanimate object and its ironic, circular ending, “Army Revolver” is a bit like an Eisner Spirit story. This issue of Two-Fisted Tales is different from later issues in that only two of the stories about war, while the other two belong to other genres (pirates and cowboys).

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #193 (DC, 1975) – “Save the Children!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gerry Talaoc. As a war comic this is vastly inferior to Two-Fisted Tales, not just because it has worse writing and artwork, but also because it lacks realism. Where Two-Fisted Tales focuses on common soldiers, this issue stars the Unknown Soldier, an elite super-commando, and it has a deeply implausible and farfetched plot. The Unknown Soldier impersonates an elite Nazi officer and hangs out with the officer’s wife and children, who somehow fail to notice the impersonation. Then the Unknown Soldier makes it all the way into Hitler’s personal presence, but doesn’t bother trying to assassinate Hitler because he assumes he’d fail – which is odd, since he seems to be able to do anything else the plot requires. This story does have a poignant ending – the Unknown Soldier is unable to save the officer’s wife and children from being sent to a concentration camp. But that’s not enough to save this story. This isn’t a horrible comic, but it pales in comparison to the comic I read just before it. The backup story, written by Arnold Drake, is a little better than the main story.

COMBAT #35 (Dell, 1972) – “Cassino,” [W] unknown, [A] Sam Glanzman. This is reprinted from #9 of the same series, which was misnumbered as #8. The writer is unknown, but I’m guessing Don Segall, because the histrionic tone of the writing reminds me of Kona. The main story in this issue is a dense and deeply researched retelling of the bombing of Monte Cassino. This abbey was a world-renowned artistic and historical treasure, but in 1944 the Allies bombed it because they wrongly suspected that the Germans were occupying it. Glanzman and the unknown writer tell this story with poignant detail, focusing on the abbey’s saintly 80-year-old abbot, Gregorio Diamare. This story is full of precise factual detail, suggesting deep research on the writer’s part. The writer’s style is florid and verbose, but his prose style is not bad at all. The artistic highlights of the story are Glanzman’s powerful splash pages and his almost abstract depictions of the abbey’s bombing. In short, this comic is a forgotten classic. Drew Ford is organizing a Kickstarter to reprint one of Glanzman’s other stories from this series, but someone really ought to reprint the entire run of Combat.

THE UNCENSORED MOUSE #1 (Eternity, 1989) – untitled, [W] Walt Disney, [A] Ub Iwerks and Win Smith. The story behind this comic is better than the comic itself. Eternity’s publishers realized that the earliest Mickey Mouse comic strips were in the public domain, so they published a comic book that reprinted those strips from the beginning. To avoid legal action from Disney, they published the comic under a solid black cover that does not use the words “Disney” or “Mickey.” Alas, Disney sued anyway, and the comic was cancelled after one more issue. The word Uncensored in the title refers to the fact that these comics are reprinted without alteration, but also implies that Disney would rather these strips didn’t see print, since they reflect a crude, unsanitized version of Mickey. The eventual goal of this comic was to reprint Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse strips, which were out of print at the time, and Bill Blackbeard’s essay on this comic’s inside front cover is all about how great Gottfredson was. However, the strips in this issue predate Gottfredson’s tenure on the strip, and are not nearly as good as his work. They’re essentially just silent animation gags in print form, with almost no continuity, and they’re full of blatant racist imagery. So these strips are only of historical interest. Also, this comic is quite poorly printed. Luckily, though The Uncensored Mouse was a failed project, its goal was achieved anyway, since the Gottfredson and pre-Gottfredson Mickey Mouse is now back in print.

UNICORN ISLE #4 (Apple, 1987) – “Unicorn Isle Betrayed, Chapter 4,” [W] Lee Mars, [A] Nicholas Koenig. This comic is a bit easier to follow than chapter 3, but I don’t like it nearly as much as Pudge, Girl Blimp or Lee Marrs’s stories in Star*Reach. The two main kid characters are cute, but the other characters are kind of boring, and the plot is too complicated.

KINGSWAY WEST #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Mirko Colak. I kind of regret not getting this when it came out, but it should be easy to find the back issues. This comic is a hybrid of the western and SF genres, with a Chinese-American protagonist. It has some interesting premises, but its plot is hard to understand without having read the first issue.

LAST KISS #2 (Shanda, 2001) – “Widow Ms. Muffet,” [W] John Lustig, [A] Dick Giordano, plus other stories. This comic consists of old Charlton romance comics with new satirical dialogue, although the first story in the issue is entirely new. It was published the same year as Jeanne Martinet’s Truer than True Romance, which also consists of rewritten old romance comics, but Martinet was unaware of Lustig’s work (see The stories in this comic are reasonably funny in an unsubtle way, but the most interesting thing about this issue is Lustig’s interview with Giordano about his Charlton years. I mentioned this interview in my review of Peacemaker #5 above.

TEEN CONFESSIONS #71 (Charlton, 1971) – “A Cure for Heartbreak,” uncredited, plus other stories. I bought this at a store I visited in Orlando with some friends from UF. The stories in this issue are all pretty bad, and the best thing about them is the ‘70s fashions. The first story includes a scene where the protagonist decides to go to a resort and look for a husband until her money runs out, and her boss says that she can have her job back whenever she wants. I wish my job was like that. (

TANK GIRL: 21ST CENTURY TANK GIRL #2 (Titan, 2015) – “Nanango ‘71” and other stories, [W] Alan Martin, [A] Brett Parson et al. I shouldn’t have bought this because it’s a poor introduction to Tank Girl. It provides no background on the characters, and it’s not all that good on its own. Also, I feel like Tank Girl’s aesthetic is a bit dated today. I do still want to read the original Tank Girl comics, if I can ever afford them.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “Fast Burn,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jim Cheung. Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm are both feeling adrift in life after the disappearance of the Richards family. At Dr. Doom’s prompting, they get together to look for Reed, Sue and the kids. This issue is fairly poignant and funny, but it makes me realize how much I wish Marvel would publish a Fantastic Four comic again.

New comics received on December 30, the last New Comic Book Day of the year:

LUMBERJANES #45 (Boom!, 2017) – “Zoo It Yourself,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. The best thing in this issue is probably the sleeping giant kitty on the first page. Other than that, this issue is a little underwhelming, and it seems less dense and rich than some earlier issues. It was over too fast. But this is just part one, so we’ll see where this story goes.

MOTOR CRUSH #9 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Babs Tarr, [W] Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart. Domino, Lola and Calax find Julianne, but the mysterious masked dude shows up and interferes, and Julianne decides she doesn’t want to be rescued. This is a very exciting issue, but it doesn’t give us any new information about the central mysteries of the series. This issue does mention the name Ulterion, which we haven’t heard before.

BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #2 (DC, 2017) – “Boy Wonder, “ [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] John Paul Leon. This comic took a long time to finish, mostly because I was exhausted while reading it, but also because it’s a very long and dense piece of work. Bruce Wainwright graduates from college and goes on to a successful business career, while “Batman” continues to fight crime. Bruce starts using his money to sponsor orphans, the first of whom is significantly named Robin. But the issue ends with a shocking revelation: Bruce’s apparently effortless successes are not his doing. Instead, “Batman” is manipulating Bruce’s life to protect him and keep him safe, regardless of the cost to anyone else. This is a brilliant plot twist, and I’m eager to see what happens next.

SCOOBY-DOO! TEAM-UP #33 (DC, 2017) – “The Ghost of Ferro Lad!”, [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Dario Brizuela. This is a shallow but fun comic. It’s not as good as the Batman ‘66/Legion team-up, but it’s not bad. The Matter-Eater Lad scene is awesome, and using Ferro Lad’s ghost as the fake villain is a clever idea. It’s kind of unfortunate that this comic guest-stars the Adventure Comics Legion, with its total lack of diversity. I had a conversation on social media recently that forced me to realize just how much the Legion falls short of its own ideals of diversity and inclusion, and I wish DC would publish a Legion comic that didn’t have a majority straight white human cast – although any Legion comic is better than none at all.

MOON GIRL #26 (Marvel, 2017) – “1 + 2 = Fantastic Three,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Alitha Martinez. This was a disappointing issue – in general, most of the comics this week were disappointing. I don’t like the idea that Galactus is the herald of an even bigger being that eats whole universes. Galactus creates enough of a sense of wonder on his own. I do like the interactions between the Thing and Moon Girl’s classmate Eduardo.

MISFIT CITY #8 (Boom!, 2017) – An excellent conclusion to the series, though it would have been even better if I had remembered more of the plot. After a Barksian or Indiana Jones-esque treasure hunt and a confrontation with the villains, the girls finally find the treasure. It turns out to be cursed so that it can only be used to benefit the local people, so the girls use it to open a Tillamook Nation Culture Center. I don’t understand what’s going on in the last panel; it suggests that there’s still an unresolved mystery, but I can’t remember what that mystery is.

Total number of comics read this year: 1452, which is by far the highest total since I started keeping track, but I think I can do even better next year.

Reviews for November


It’s been a horrible, awful week, and I’m afraid the country will collapse, so let’s write some reviews.

These first reviews include some comics received on November 3rd (actually November 6, when I got back from Seattle), and some others I bought at the Fantagraphics bookstore in Seattle, while attending ICAF.

PAPER GIRLS #17 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. The main event this issue is the girls’ talk with the new Charlotte/Chuck character. I hardly remember anything about this comic except the discussion of homosexuality.

POWER PACK #63 (Marvel, 2017) – “Rarely Pure and Never Simple,” [W] Devin Grayson, [A] Marika Cresta. As a huge Power Pack fan, I was looking forward eagerly to this, though Devin is not my favorite writer. This issue is surprisingly good. It’s framed as a flashback story that Katie tells to her teacher, though Katie carefully disguises it as a story about normal kids and not superheroes. Like Louise Simonson and June Brigman, Grayson and Cresta depict the Powers as realistic children who act their age, and the climax of the story – where Katie dares Alex to crush her, knowing he won’t do it – is powerful. I also like how this story focuses on the relationship between Katie and Alex, the two Power children who have the least in common. I just wish there were more Power Pack comics in the pipeline.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #6 (Marvel, 2017) – “My Dinner with Jonah,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Michael Walsh. This is easily Chip’s best issue yet. It’s the best exploration of Spidey and JJJ’s relationship that I can think of, and it ends with an epic climax in which Spidey tells JJJ his secret identity. For the first time, this Peter Parker series feels like a real, consequential Spider-Man comic.

USAGI YOJIMBO #163 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Mouse Trap, Part 1,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Inspector Ikeda confront Nezumi, a Robin Hood-esque thief. I remember enjoying this issue, but when I look through it again, it just seems like a standard Usagi comic.

GIANT DAYS #32 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. The girls decide to split up and move out on their own, instead of renewing their lease. It’s a sad moment which seems to presage the end of the series. This issue is full of cute unrealistic stuff like ghosts, hordes of spiders, and a Hyperloop station.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SPECTRE OF TOMORROW #1 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. This is fresh in my mind because I just read issue 2. Atomic Robo and Tesladyne are building a new base in the desert, but their neighbors, Richard Branson and Elon Musk, are angry about the construction noise. Robo can’t be bothered to do anything about them because he’s holed up in his lab, working on his nanobots. This is a funny issue, and I like how it includes a scene at a scientific conference.

SAVAGE LOVE #2 (Bear Bones, 1994) – “My First Time… In Drag!” and other stories, [W] Dan Savage, [A] Ellen Forney & James Sturm et al. I didn’t know this comic existed until a month or two ago, and now I have it. I’ve enjoyed Dan Savage’s writing ever since I encountered it in the Minneapolis City Pages in high school, so I was delighted to learn that there was a comic book version of Savage Love, and then to find that comic at the Fantagraphics store. This comic is a collection of stories based on Dan Savage’s life and his Savage Love advice column. Most of these stories are funny, and the last one, about a time in Savage’s childhood when he saw two gay men waiting for a movie, is very poignant.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #695 (Marvel, 2017) – “Home of the Brave, Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. I’ve felt very ambivalent about Mark’s writing lately (see my Champions #10 review), but this comic is the best thing he’s done in a while, and perhaps the best Captain America comic in twenty years. At a time when horrible rich old bullies are trampling this country into the dirt, this comic is a reminder that America should be about protecting the weak, not exploiting them. The comic begins with a flashback in which Cap saves some children from terrorists. Ten years later, he returns to the same town and defeats the same terrorists, with the help of the local people. And he reminds those people that ”we know what’s right. The strong protect the weak. Never forget that.” This is an especially important message at a time when “the strong” are doing just the opposite. This issue is even more powerful because of Chris Samnee’s art. He is Marvel’s best artist right now, except maybe Christian Ward, and he gets better with every issue. He reminds me a lot of Mazzucchelli, but he’s even better at drawing superheroic action.

ARCHIE #25 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Audrey Mok. I gave up on this series, but returned to it because it was getting good reviews. As of this issue, Betty has been paralyzed, and her dad has refused to let her and Archie see each other. This issue, Archie’s friends engineer a way for him and Betty to get together. This is a very emotional story, and a big step forward compared to Waid’s earlier issues.

BATMAN FAMILY #14 (DC, 1977) – “Old Super-Heroines Never Die – They Just Fade Away!”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Don Heck, plus other stories. The main story in this issue has a silly plot in which Batgirl and Robin try to stop a mad scientist from releasing a deadly virus. Also, Kathy Kane is involved but I forget how. However, this story has some very cute interactions between Dick and Babs. There’s one panel where Dick asks Babs “You remember everything? Even when we –“ and then he never finishes his sentence, leaving the reader to wonder what they did. The only backup story features Man-Bat behaving somewhat chauvinistically toward his pregnant wife.

BLAMMO #6 (Kilgore, 2010) – various stories, [W/A] Noah Van Sciver. This is an issue of Noah’s self-published comic, consisting of numerous stories. None of the stories really stand out in my memory, though the funniest one is probably the one where the Krampus visits Bob Dylan. What all these stories have in common is distinctive artwork and an irritable, sarcastic tone. The Fantagraphics store had several issues of this series on display near the cash register, and I probably should have bought more than one, because who knows if I’ll get another chance.

THE EXPERTS #nn (Retrofit, 2016) – “The Experts,” [W/A] Sophie Franz. On the last day of ICAF, I visited the Short Run Comix festival, which was held in central Seattle near the Space Needle. By that point in the week, I was exhausted and needed some time to myself, so I didn’t spend as much time at Short Run as I perhaps should have. The show had an excellent guest list, but I had trouble finding anything I wanted to buy. Anyway, after the show, Tom Spurgeon said on Twitter that the standout artist of Short Run was Sophie Franz, and I looked her up and realized that I already had one of her comics, so I read it. The Experts really is a beautiful piece of work. It combines very clear and visually appealing artwork and gorgeous colors, on the one hand, with an inexplicable science fiction plot and an enigmatic mood, on the other hand. Sophie Franz has an amazing design sense, and when she publishes a more substantial piece of work, it ought to be really good.

CUD #1 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Oh! The Creative Life!” and two other stories, [W/A] Terry LaBan. Of the three stories this issue, my favorite is the one that introduces Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard-Boiled Shaman. This is perhaps the only work of fiction I can think of that’s based on Siberian shamanism. Telling the story of a Siberian shaman in hard-boiled detective novel language is kind of a silly gimmick, but LaBan either knows a lot about indigenous Siberians, or is able to convince the reader that he does. Both the other stories in the issue are realistic, mostly. One of them is about a starving artist who pressures his muse into prostituting herself, and the other is about a naïve college graduate in performance art who gets a job as a stripper. Overall, these stories aren’t at the level of Bagge or Clowes, but they’re entertaining and funny.

BLACK BOLT #3 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. I fell behind on this comic partly because the art is so dense and beautiful, and it takes a while to read. This issue, T’Challa and his fellow prisoners work on escaping from prison, but not much really happens in terms of plot. However, Christian Ward’s art is incredible, and Saladin Ahmed’s characterization is very good, though later issues were even better in this area.

New comics received on November 10:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #26 (Marvel, 2017) – “Comics Extravaganza #26,” [W/A] various. This is probably the best Squirrel Girl comic yet, and that’s saying a lot. The conceit of this comic is that it’s a zine compiled by Squirrel Girl’s friends as a benefit for a library. Guest creators includee Carla Speed McNeil, Michael Cho, Anders Nilsen, and Jim Davis (or more likely his assistants). The best of the individual segments is McNeil’s Loki two-pager, which can be read in either of two directions with opposite meanings. Besides that, most of these stories are insubstantial, but they’re all fascinatingly different, and most of them are funny and full of fourth-wall breaks. This comic is a sort of Squirrel Girl equivalent of Howard the Duck #16, and it’s the best introduction to Squirrel Girl.

MS. MARVEL #24 (Marvel, 2018) – “Northeast Corridor, Part Two,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Diego Olortegui. Kamala saves the train by having the engineer drive it up hills, so that gravity slows it down. But Red Dagger gets all the credit. This was an okay storyline but was far worse than the one before it.

MISTER MIRACLE #4 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Another great issue. Like many Kirby comics, this issue seamlessly blends the cosmic and the eridiculous. Orion puts Mr. Miracle on trial for disobedience… and the trial takes place in Scott and Barda’s living room, and Barda brings a veggie tray. The mundane setting and the veggies create some necessary comic relief, in the midst of a very dark story about depression and totalitarian rule.

RUNAWAYS #3 (Marvel, 2017) – “Find Your Way Home, Part III,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Gert, Chase and Nico visit Karolina at college, only to find out that she’s happy with her life and doesn’t want to go back on the run. Gert is equally unpleasantly surprised to learn that her family is growing up without her. The scene with Gert and Chase at the end underscores that this series is really about growing up, and about how you can’t recover the past. I love the moment where the girl walks out of her dorm room, sees Old Lace, and walks right back in with a “nope” sound effect.

SLAM! THE NEXT JAM #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Pamela Ribon, [A] Marina Julia. This was better than the last issue, but still below the standards of the previous volume of Slam! Marina Julia’s art is so subpar that I have trouble telling the characters apart.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #60 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. The CMC hold a cutie mark summer camp, and one of their campers is Gilded Lily, Filthy Rich’s niece. But she refuses to make any progress toward her cutie mark, because her uncle wants her to get a cutie mark in “being important and influential,” and she knows she’s really interested in astronomy. In the end, Gilded Lily gets her cutie mark in astronomy anyway, her uncle is okay with it. This ending is unfortunate, because number one, Gilded Lily should have learned to be herself and stop worrying about what her awful family will think. Number two, until now Filthy Rich has been depicted as a completely negative character, and it seems odd that he would act so nice. But maybe I’m just feeling antipathetic to rich people today.

ROYAL CITY #7 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Tommy goes to the doctor and gets some disturbing news. Meanwhile, we learn how Pete Pike got interested in collecting vintage radios. This was a good issue. I found myself involuntarily remembering the scene where Tommy’s doctor says that he sees something he doesn’t like, and that Tommy needs to see a specialist. It just makes me imagine what it would be like to hear a doctor say that.

NAUGHTY BITS #1 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – “Bitchy Bitch Gets Laid” and other stories, [W/A] Roberta Gregory. One of the highlights of my Seattle trip was having dinner with Roberta Gregory and Donna Barr, at the bar down the street from the Fantagraphics store. I’ve corresponded with them both on Facebook, but it was great to talk with them in person. After dinner I asked Roberta to sign this issue, which I had just bought. This issue includes a number of stories, most notably the first full-length Bitchy Bitch story, as well as a very gruesome story about castration. In the epilogue, Roberta describes “Bitchy Bitch Gets Laid” as “something to make men feel as queasy as all this sexist garbage makes women feel,” and it definitely achieves that. Her Bitchy Bitch stories got more complex and subtle as Naughty Bits went on, but this first issue is already a powerful and politically savvy work.

WIMMEN’S COMIX #6 (Last Gasp, 1975) – “Special Bicentennial Issue,” [E] Becky Wilson & Barb Brown. At ICAF, Leah Misemer gave a paper that discussed this comic, and later she told me it was her favorite issue of Wimmen’s Comix. As usual with this series, this issue includes a lot of stories of varying length and quality. The opening story, about Victoria Woodhull, is a highlight. But beyond any of the individual stories, this comic is valuable for the variety of styles and subject matter that it offers. Through the diverse range of stories that it tells, it represents the breadth of women’s experience worldwide.

CATALYST PRIME: ASTONISHER #2 (Lion Forge, 2017) – “State of Mind,” [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Pop Mhan. This appears to be about a superhero who fights delusional people by being able to see and battle their delusions. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on in this comic, though I enjoyed it.

MICKEY MOUSE #165 (Gold Key, 1976) – “The Viking Raiders,” [W] Carl Fallberg, [A] Paul Murry. This reprints #116 of the same series. It begins with a caption about how Mickey and Goofy are traveling through history in search of a time machine, but there’s no evidence of the time machine in the story itself; it just sems like an alternate universe story in which Mickey and Goofy were born in medieval England. Anyway, in this story, Mickey and Goofy rescue Minnie from Viking kidnappers. This story is fun, but not as good as the next Mickey Mouse comic I read, for which see below.

NEAT STUFF #2 (Fantagraphics, 1985) – “Studs Kirby Gets Drunk by Himself” and other stories, [W/A] Peter Bagge. This issue contains long stories about Studs Kirby and Junior, as well as some short strips in the same vein as Evan Dorkin’s House of Fun. These stories are quite entertaining – for example, in the Junior story, Junior moves in with a cranky old landlord who tells all sorts of implausible stories about his tenants. At this point in his career, Peter Bagge seemed to be trying a bunch of different ideas, prior to settling down with Buddy Bradley.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR #15 (self-published, 1990) – various stories, [W] Harvey Pekar, [A] various. Two of the many stories in this issue stand out. In “A Lull at the Convention,” Harvey is tabling at a convention and encounters Frank from Friendly Frank’s. “Festering” is a flashback to Harvey’s youth when he got in a fight with his father and his uncle. This story is powerful because it ends with no resolution, just after Harvey has punched his uncle in the face. There are also two stories about buying books, and a story where Harvey and Joyce try and fail to rescue an injured squirrel.

SHE-HULK #159 (Marvel, 2017) – “Jen Walters Must Die, Part 1,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Jahnoy Lindsay. It’s very frustrating that this series has been renamed from She-Hulk to Hulk, and that they’ve decided that the previous issues are included in the numbering of She-Hulk. Now am I supposed to file my copies of Hulk #1-11 under S or under H? Anyway, the best part of this issue is the Burgercakes restaurant, which is just plausible enough to be funny.

THE SAGA OF THE MAN ELF #1 (Trident, 1989) – “Reigns of Power,” [W] Guy Lawley, [A] Steve Whitaker. A confusing and fascinating comic. This issue begins as a certain Miss Brunner has just been elected prime minister, and then we get a flashback to the earlier lives of Miss Brunner and her friends Judy Birch and Jenny Carpenter. Jenny gives birth to the titular Man Elf, Janus, whose father is some kind of cosmic entity. While the story is a bit difficult to understand, it’s grippingly written, and Steve Whitaker’s artwork is beautiful. Neither Lawley nor Whitaker have a lot of comics credits other than this series, and it’s a pity that they didn’t go on to bigger things. This comic is heavily based on Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius – it features many characters from that series, including Miss Brunner herself as well as Bishop Beesley and Una Persson, and Janus and Jenny Carpenter both share Jerry’s initials. So after reading this comic, I finally felt motivated to read Moorcock’s Cornelius Quartet, and I’m glad I did.

KID LOBOTOMY #2 (IDW, 2017) – “Vile Bodies: Part Two of A Lad Insane,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. This was less difficult than issue one, and Tess Fowler’s art is getting really good. She reminds me of either Fábio Moon or Gabriel Bá, but I forget which. This issue has some very obvious allusions to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, including Kid Lobotomy being hit in the back with an apple.

BLACK BOLT #4 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. While tied up and powerless, Black Bolt and Crusher Creel have a heart-to-heart talk. This issue is fascinating and poignant because it humanizes these two characters – Black Bolt, who normally can’t talk and who seems utterly implacable, and Absorbing Man, who is usually portrayed as a heartless brute. Even more surprisingly, these two men manage to form a sort of rapport, despite their radical differences – you can tell how different they are just from their speech patterns.

BLACK BOLT #5 (Marvel, 2017) – as above, except the first four pages are drawn by Frazer Irving. At the end of last issue, Lockjaw sprung Black Bolt from prison, but this issue he goes back to free the other captives. This issue isn’t as memorable as last issue, though the art is still fantastic.

BLACK BOLT #6 (Marvel, 2017) – as #4 above. Black Bolt and friends defeat the Jailer by having the Absorbing Man absorb Black Bolt’s voice, which is ridiculous but cool. This is an effective conclusion to the story, and Christian Ward’s art just keeps getting better.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #3 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. As previously noted, I have been feeling quite ambivalent about this comic, but this issue convinced me to keep buying it. The plot still sucks, but the artwork, plot and characterization are good enough that this comic is worth buying anyway.

INTERSECT #1 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Ray Fawkes. I bought this when it came out, but I finally got around to reading it because I heard someone say something good about Ray Fawkes; I forget who, or what they said. This comic seems to be about two characters who both occupy the same body. However, the storytelling is so unclear that it’s literally impossible to figure out what’s going on. Fawkes fails to provide the reader with any kind of background, or to explain the premise of the comic. According to a review I read, this comic makes more sense if you read it in trade paperback form, and even then only if you read the blurb on the back cover.

ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN #5 (Image, 2017) – “A Hobo Came A-Walkin’,” [W/A] Kyle Starks. This issue is a flashback to Jackson’s past. In 1945, Jackson gets drafted just after his wife has given birth. Afraid of being killed in battle, he sells his soul to the devil in exchange for invincibility. This allows him to personally kill Hitler and steal the Spear of Destiny (why are there so many stories where Hitler has the Spear of Destiny?). But on returning home, Jackson finds that Satan has cheated him by killing off his wife and daughter. This is a poignant story, and Starks’s cartoony art saves it from being unbearably bleak.

BLACK BOLT #7 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Frazer Irving. Black Bolt heads to Earth along with Lockjaw and the alien child Blinky. On their way there, they drop off a monster child that was in the prison with them. The scene on the monster planet is funny. Even though Frazer Irving is a star artist, his art pales in comparison to Christian Ward’s.

FRANK #3 (Fantagraphics, 2000) – “Frank’s High Horse” part one, [W/A] Jim Woodring. I saw Jim Woodring speak on a panel at ICAF, and afterward I told him that I find his work very disturbing and creepy, and he took it as a compliment. Also, during the panel, he denied that his work was primarily influenced by classic animation, and mentioned Moorish and Arabesque architecture as another major influence. These two things suggest to me that I’ve misunderstood Woodring. His work definitely draws upon animation tropes, specifically the work of Max Fleisher. But it’s not about animation in the same way as Kim Deitch’s work is. Woodring’s work is its own thing; it’s sui generis. The long story in this issue is a good demonstration of that. In this issue, Frank encounters a creepy-looking moon-faced creature (unnamed, but identified elsewhere as Whim) and they pull some even weirder creatures out of a hole in the sky. This story is difficult to summarize because it’s full of bizarre things with no names, and that’s part of its appeal.

DETECTIVE COMICS #512 (DC, 1982) – “The Fatal Prescription of Doctor Death!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gene Colan. This is billed as a 45th anniversary special, but it just feels like a regular issue. The main story is about an evil doctor, and there’s also a Batgirl backup story. Neither is especially good, though Gene Colan’s art on the main story is fairly exciting.

MICKEY MOUSE #225 (Gladstone, 1987) – “The Crazy Crime Wave, Chapter Two,” [W/A] Floyd Gottfredson, [W] Merrill de Maris. In these reprinted newspaper strips, Mickey and Goofy try to solve a bizarre series of thefts in which the thieves only steal hair and flannel underwear. Meanwhile, there’s also a counterfeiting operation going on in the same town. It turns out that the thieves are turning the hair and underwear into pulp, to make paper for counterfeiting currency. I was delighted to realize this because I just read Mark Kurlansky’s book about paper manufacturing. This comic is funny and exciting, and definitely better than #165.

HATE #7 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Paranoia Rules Supreme!”, [W/A] Peter Bagge. This issue disappointed me a bit because it barely features Buddy Bradley at all. Instead, the issue is about a date between Buddy’s shut-in nerdy roommate George and his insane future wife Lisa. Because these characters are so different, I expected them to fall in love at first sight, but instead their date is a disaster, which is more in keeping with the tone of Bagge’s work.

New comics received on November 17:

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #33 (Image, 2017) – “A Little Woden Boy,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. Reading this issue made me realize that I don’t understand this comic’s plot at all. We learn early in the issue that Woden is David Blake, a character we’re supposed to remember even though he hasn’t appeared in several years. So this revelation went right over my head. I did get that David’s son, Jon, is the god Mimir, and his severed head is the source of Woden’s power. Also, Minerva is really Ananke, which makes no sense at all. Generally, this issue was full of powerful revelations, but it would have been much more powerful if I had been reading the series in omnibus form.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO: LOVE AND REVENGE #1 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Chapter One: A Ship in the Night,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Panfil. The big event this issue is that Raven starts an affair with Sunshine, then Sunshine falls overboard and Raven nearly drowns trying to rescue her. The art this issue is problematic; I found it quite hard to tell the characters apart. I am glad that Princeless is coming out again, for the first time this year, but I also wish Jeremy would return to the main series.

MECH CADET YU #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. This issue was a bit less exciting than last issue because it focused mostly on Stanford himself, rather than Stanford’s mother, who is a much more well-developed character. Still, the action sequence that occupies most of this issue is very exciting. Boom! has thrown a lot of things at the wall this year, and I think they’ve finally found something that’s stuck.

FENCE #1 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Another example of throwing things at the wall to see if they stick: a comic about fencing. I keep trying to watch fencing in Olympic years, but I find it incomprehensible; it goes too fast and I can never tell who scored and why. Anyway, this comic is about a novice high school fencer from a poor background, who decides to challenge the local fencing prodigy. This sort of plot is very typical of sports manga – I was reminded of Hikaru no Go in particular, except without Fujiwara no Sai – but the main character’s poverty adds a political theme which is absent in Hikaru no Go. This is a promising debut issue, although I fear that this comic won’t last much longer than other recent Boom! Box titles did. I wish the artist had an actual name.

BABYTEETH #6 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Long Live the King,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. The wizard dude takes Sadie and her family to his secret castle. I wish this comic’s plot would move faster.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #8 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. Stygian tries to recruit Rockhoof for his pony Justice League, but Rockhoof is busy saving a town from lumber bears, which are like timber wolves but worse. After solving that problem, Stygian and Rockhoof collect another recruit, Meadowbrook, who needs help to cure some cute animals that have been brainwashed. I know where this story is going, but it’ll be exciting to see how it gets there.

MISFIT CITY #7 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith & Kurt Lustgarten, (A) Naomi Franquiz. On Halloween, the girls put on costumes and go out, and lots of weird stuff happens. I have no idea how the writers are going to finish their story in just one more issue.

WEIRD WAR TALES #96 (DC, 1981) – “The Mutation of Pvt. Voight!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Dan Spiegle, and other stories. The first story is the best; it’s about a heroin-addicted soldier in Vietnam who either grows wings, or hallucinates that he does, and either way he dies. It’s a bit like Eisner’s “Gerhard Shnobble,” except with heroin. The other stories are drawn by Ruben Yandoc, Tenny Henson, and Vicatan.

DESOLATION JONES #2 (WildStorm, 2005) – “Made in England, Part 2,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] J.H. Williams III. This issue’s plot is very typical Warren Ellis material and is difficult to understand, but the artwork is just as phenomenal as one would expect. It’s kind of unfortunate that this series was J.H. Williams’s follow-up to Promethea, because it was obscure and was largely overlooked.

WEIRD WAR TALES #20 (DC, 1973) – “Death Watch,” [W] Jack Oleck, [A] Don Perlin, plus other stories. This issue includes not one but two stories by Alfredo Alcala. The first one is impressive enough, although it provides an incorrect account of how Jean-Jacques Dessalines died. But the splash page of the second story is one of the most amazing Alcala illustrations I’ve ever seen. It looks as if he spent hours just drawing the clouds. (See

HAWKEYE #12 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Best There Is,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Michael Walsh. Kate teams up with Wolverine/X-23, along with her even younger clone Gabby and her pet wolverine. Kate and Laura are a natural pairing, and Gabby is adorable. Michael Walsh’s art in this issue is also impressive; there’s one particular two-page splash that looks like it took several days to draw, because it includes about 30 human bodies in action.

SUPER SONS #10 (DC, 2017) – “One Fine Day,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] José Luis. As the title suggests, this is a self-contained day-in-the-life issue, in which Bruce and Clark build Jon and Damian their own fortress. It’s full of adorable moments, like Jon teaching Damian to “fly.” The “intermezzo” in the middle of the issue seems completely unrelated to the rest of the story, and I wonder if it was inserted as part of some kind of crossover.

MIGHTY THOR #701 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Wrath of the Mangog,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] James Harren. The Mangog battles the War Thor. Meanwhile, Karnilla goes to Hel and encounters Balder. This was a forgettable issue, particularly since Jane doesn’t appear in it, and Russell Dauterman’s art is missed.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #4 (DC, 2017) – “Galaxy’s Most Wanted!”, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Ron Randall. In a flashback, Space Ghost hunts down three alien criminals, the Galaxy Trio, and convinces them to go straight. In the present day, Space Ghost decides to try to find the Galaxy Trio again after they’ve vanished fighting Omnikron. This was a fun comic, and because of the weird names, the outer-space milieu, and the team of two men and a women, it felt like a Legion comic. Jeff Parker would be a great Legion writer.

DESCENDER #26 (Image, 2017) – “Rise of the Robots 5 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. All hell breaks loose as the Harvesters return and Tim encounters his creator. Notable moments in this issue include Tim hugging Telsa, and the surprise four-page splash.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #297 (Marvel, 2017) – “Most Wanted, Part 1,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Andy Kubert. Peter’s home is invaded by some very well-prepared jackbooted thugs, and he has to escape with no spider-sense. This issue has Chip’s best action sequences yet; it really feels at times like Peter has no way out. And JJJ shows up to rescue him at the end, continuing the theme of last issue.

OUR ARMY AT WAR #291 (DC, 1976) – “Death Squad!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Frank Redondo. Sgt. Rock avenges some villagers who have been massacred by Nazis. This is a fairly powerful story, and a reminder that Kanigher really could write when he wanted to. There’s also a backup story with art by Golden Age artist Norman Maurer.

BLACK CROWN QUARTERLY #1 (IDW, 2017) – various stories, [E] Shelly Bond. This anthology issue has some impressive artwork by Rob Davis and Philip Bond, who I didn’t realize was married to Shelly. But too much of the issue is taken up with previews and text articles, although it’s a worthwhile purchase anyway.

JASON CONQUERS AMERICA #nn (Fantagraphics, 2011) – various stories, [W/A] Jason. This is a collection of previously unpublished short stories by Jason, as well as interviews with him and his colorist Hubert. It’s a quick and fun read which provides some useful insights into Jason’s process. I like Hubert’s qutation “My favorite color is the one I never use: black.”

PLANETARY #26 (Wildstorm, 2006) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] John Cassaday. I was reading this series when it was coming out, but somehow I gave up on it before the end, so I’ve never read this story before. This issue, Elijah Snow confronts Randall and Kim, i.e. Reed and Sue, and defeats them using a somewhat poorly explained deus ex machina.

PLANETARY #27 (Wildstorm, 2007) – as above. Last issue was just okay, but this final issue is one of the best Warren Ellis comics I’ve ever read. Most of his work leaves me cold, but this issue has some heart to it. Having defeated the Four, Elijah Snow is determined to rescue Ambrose, a Planetary member who died earlier in the series, and he succeeds. Also, a bunch of his future selves show up to watch him do it.

WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #3 (DC, 2017) – “The Dance of Wicked Crows,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. In the present-day sequence, Conan and Diana escape from the sharks only to fall into the hands (talons?) of the two raven women. I love how Diana calls the shark “great swallowing prince of many fangs” – in general, I think Gail writes animals very well. In the flashback, young Conan and Diana decide to run away together. This series has been fun, and Gail has managed to convince me that Conan and Diana are a potential couple, despite Conan’s womanizing and Diana’s perpetual virginity.

A BULLETPROOF COFFIN ONE-SHOT: THE 1000-YARD STARE #nn (Image, 2017) – “The 1000 Yard Stare,” [W] David Hine, [A] Shaky Kane. Compared to the previous Shaky Kane comic I read, this one is far better because it at least has a plot. That plot is mostly a bunch of metatextual self-mockery, but it’s well-executed at least, and Shaky Kane’s art is as stunning as usual.

ELRIC #6 (Pacific, 1984) – “At Last – Stormbringer!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] P. Craig Russell & Michael T. Gilbert. A very competent adaptation of the end of Elric of Melniboné, although lacking the brilliance of PCR’s Stormbringer adaptation. There’s a lot of stuff in this issue that I forgot about, or didn’t notice when I read the original book. For example, I didn’t realize just how vaginal or anal the Tunnel Under the Marsh was.

ANYTHING GOES! #6 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – various stories, [E] Gary Groth. This anthology issue includes a bunch of seemingly randomly selected stories, some of them reprinted from elsewhere. The best thing in the issue is probably the Matt Howarth story, which features some really weird aliens, and makes me want to read more of his work. The last story, Tom Sutton’s “That Damn Dog,” has brilliant art, but ends very abruptly with no conclusion. After some research, I believe that the reason is because this story is reprinted from a 1977 one-shot called Barn of Fear, except the last page was left out!

LUKE CAGE #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] David Walker, [A] Nelson Blake II. I really like the opening sequence of this issue, in which Luke rescues a kidnapped girl. The rest of the issue is not as good. Luke learns that Noah Burstein is dead, so he attends the funeral – which, tritely enough, takes place in the pouring rain – and then goes to New Orleans to investigate Burstein’s death.

LUKE CAGE #2 – as above. Luke encounters Mitchell Tanner and also a bunch of young criminals who Dr. Burstein was experimenting on. This issue is only average, and I really miss Iron Fist and Sanford Greene.

LUKE CAGE #3 – as above. A boring, lifeless issue. By this point it was clear to me that this series is an inferior substitute for Power Man & Iron Fist.

New comics received on November 24:

LUMBERJANES #44 (Boom!, 2017) – “Time After Crime,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. Molly chops down the time tree and saves the day. This storyline was fun as usual, but worse than the previous three stories; it was more plot-driven and less rich in detail or characterization. Also, I’m starting to get kind of tired of stories that are driven by Molly’s stepmother problem. I wish the other Lumberjanes would get their own character arcs.

ASTRO CITY #49 (DC, 2017) – “Resistance,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. This story is nominally about the anti-Trump resistance, but most of it is taken up with the protagonist’s attempt to discover her father’s fate. I love the idea of a group of heroes each of whom gets stronger as their number increases. However, Kurt wastes too much of the issue on plot, and thereby loses the opportunity to make a truly meaningful statement about politics.

RAT QUEENS V2 #6 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. I’ve lost track of what’s been going on in this series, but this is a good issue. The hallucination sequence, drawn in a cartoony style, is a very funny moment.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #25 (Marvel, 2017) – “Fantastic Three, Part 1,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella teams up with Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm and they fight the Silver Surfer. Meanwhile, in what must be a homage to Fantastic Four #2, someone is committing crimes using the Fantastic Four’s powers. This is a fun issue and it makes me wish Marvel was publishing a monthly FF title.

ANGELIC #3 (Image, 2017) – “Heirs and Graces, Part 3,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Caspar Winjgaard. Qora and Complainer continue their quest for Ay. Meanwhile, the other monks, who never cared about Qora before she left them, use her disappearance as a pretext to start a war. This is both an adorable animal story and an effective work of science fiction. I think it’s my favorite Simon Spurrier miniseries besides The Spire.

SNOTGIRL #8 (Image, 2017) – “The Boys Issue,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. As the title indicates, this issue focuses on the male characters, and is full of fanservice targeted at female readers. The two primary characters are Lottie’s ex-boyfriend Sunny and Meg’s fiance Ashley – Lottie is Snotgirl and I forget who Meg is, but whatever. Ashley is an amazing depiction of a stereotypical dudebro. He literally thinks about nothing but exploiting women.

ELEANOR AND THE EGRET #5 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Broken Eggs,” [W] John Layman, [A] Sam Kieth. The conclusion to this miniseries does not provide as much clarification as I had hoped for, although we do learn that Anastasia Rüe is some kind of creativity vampire, and Eleanor’s quest is to defeat Anastasia and reclaim all the creativity she stole. I’m still not sure where the egret came from. On Twitter, Layman reported that he and Rob Guillory were unable to get work at Marvel despite the success of Chew. That’s very frustrating.

BATGIRL #17 (DC, 2017) – “Summer of Lies Finale,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. I had to reread this entire issue just now, because I honestly wasn’t sure if I had finished it or not. I guess when I read this, I was so exhausted that I couldn’t retain it in my memory. But this is a good conclusion to the story, and a poignant examination of Babs and Dick’s relationship.

ADVENTURE COMICS #418 (DC, 1972) – “The Face of the Dragon,” [W] Len Wein, [A] José Delbo, plus other stories. The main attraction of this issue is the eight-page Black Canary story by Alex Toth. Alex is a consummate master of storytelling, and his Dinah Lance is both cute and powerful. It’s too bad that he only did two Black Canary stories – the other appeared in the following issue, which I need to get. This issue’s main story, in which Supergirl and Jonny Double investigate a crime in Chinatown, is okay, but includes some annoying Orientalist stereotypes. This issue also includes a Phantom Stranger reprint, and a previously unpublished Dr. Mid-Nite inventory story from the Golden Age, with new inking by Sal Amendola.

On November 25, I went to a local comic book store – not Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find – for a Black Friday sale. It was not a productive trip. Let me quote how I d escribed this store on Facebook: “Lots of back issues but almost all Marvel and DC, unenthusiastic service, clutter everywhere, boxes that were too full to look through, a limited graphic novel selection… I was there for at least half an hour and could only find $16 worth of stuff I wanted. At one point in my collecting career I would have loved a place like this, but my standards have gotten higher.”

To elaborate on the last line, the store had a pretty big back issue selection, but it was mostly comics I already have. At this point in my collecting career, I already have most of the low-hanging fruit, so it takes more to impress me. One of the comics I did buy at that store was this:

SPIDER-WOMAN #42 (Marvel, 1982) – “The Judas Man,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. Thanks to the Slings and Arrows Guide, I just learned that Claremont wrote Spider-Woman. In this issue Jessica Drew battles Silver Samurai and Viper, the latter of whom has some sort of personal connection to her. As a result, in this issue the Viper shows some very uncharacteristic humanity and emotion. This issue also has some nice character interaction between Jessica and her roommates. On the whole, this issue isn’t as good as Claremont’s Ms. Marvel, but I’m glad to have something else to collect now that my Ms. Marvel collection is almost complete.

GIANT DAYS 2017 HOLIDAY SPECIAL #1 (Boom!, 2017) – “To Us, You Are Perfect,” [W] John Allison, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. The absence of Max Sarin in this issue makes me realize how essential he is to this series. His art is full of sight gags and magic-realist touches, and it contributes greatly to the comic’s sense of humor. This issue, the girls go to London to stay with a friend, and try to help her choose between her two suitors. This is a good issue, but as noted, Max Sarin is missed.

SHERLOCK FRANKENSTEIN AND THE LEGION OF EVIL #2 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “The Call of Cthu-Lou!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubín. The second villain on Lucy’s list is Cthu-Lou, a plumber who was transformed into an eldritch monstrosity. The highlight of the series so far is Lucy’s encounter with Cthu-Lou’s little daughter Cthu-Louise. You get the sense that Cthu-Louise parents have made her feel ashamed of herself, and that Lucy’s positive interaction with her might have made a real difference to her self-esteem.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #70 (Dark Horse, 1993) – “The Madwoman of the Sacred Heart, Part 1,” [W] Moebius, [A] Alejandro Jodorowsky, plus other stories. This issue’s lead story is the first chapter of a BD album about a pompous professor. Moebius’s art is beautiful, but it’s presented in black and white, which is truly unfortunate given the central role that color plays in Moebius’s work. Luckily there’s a color edition of this album. This issue also includes an okay strip by Gary Davis, and some Alec strips by Eddie Campbell, most or all of which I’ve read elsewhere. Among these strips is the one with the line “The successful candidate will not partially fill panels.”

DEPT. H #20 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. This issue reveals the origin of Q, who grew up in the Australian outback and killed his father before embarking on a life of crime. Kindt powerfully depicts Q’s miserable, doomed existence, although he relies a bit on stereotypes of Aboriginal Australians. I was just reading the proofs of my chapter on MIND MGMT, and I’m reminded of the lengths to which Kindt went in order to make that series a materially rich experience. Dept. H is not a bad series, but its materiality is much less powerful.

THE PHANTOM STRANGER #2 (DC, 1969) – “The Man Who Died Three Times!”, [W] Otto Binder, [A] Bill Draut, et al. This issue consists of two old reprinted stories with a new framing sequence. Both the reprints and the new material are stupid, and the Phantom Stranger is depicted as just some vaguely mysterious dude, rather than an ominous being of incredible power. The modern version of the Phantom Stranger didn’t appear until at least #4 of this series.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #94 (DC, 1969) – “The Lois Lane in the Mystic Mirror,” [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Curt Swan. Lois uses a magic mirror to switch places with her duplicate from a parallel world, who is married to Superman and has a child. This story doesn’t make any sense – the alternate Lois abandons her husband and son for no reason at all. The backup story, a reprint by Siegel and Schaffenberger, is even worse. It’s so full of misogyny and fat-shaming that it would have been considered offensive even in 1969.

BLACK PANTHER #167 (Marvel, 2017) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 8,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. T’Challa and Shuri forcibly recruit Thunderball as an ally against Klaw, then they travel into the Djalla, i.e. the realm of the ancestors. The interesting things in this issue are, first, getting to see inside Thunderball’s head, and second, the flashback sequence showing how the Wakandans stole their land from the native beast-people. I guess the lesson here is that Wakanda isn’t the perfect anti-colonial utopia.

FANTASTIC FOUR #155 (Marvel, 1975) – “Battle Royal!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Rich Buckler. A surprisingly fun story from an undistinguished period in the FF’s history. The Silver Surfer discovers that Shalla Bal is on Earth but has somehow become Dr. Doom’s wife.

AVENGERS #287 (Marvel, 1988) – “Invasion!”, [W] Roger Stern & Ralph Macchio, [A] John Buscema. The Avengers search for Marrina, who was kidnapped by the Fixer and Mentallo. Meanwhile, Dr. Druid openly challenges Captain Marvel’s leadership. The subplot about Monica’s leadership problem is interesting, but the main plot of this comic is not, and the Avengers lineup at this point was terrible.

LEGIONNAIRES #81 (DC, 2000) – “Widening Rifts, Part 2: Event Horizon,” [W] Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, [A] Adam DeKraker. In the midst of a crisis in which Stargates stop functioning, the UP votes to disband the Legion and impeach RJ Brande. This is the last issue of the series, and is followed by Legion Lost and then The Legion. It’s exciting, but also includes some annoying moments, such as Jo and Tinya acting codependent, and Jazmin being rude to Star Boy.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #134 (Marvel, 1988) – “Sin-Cere,” [W] Peter David, [A] Sal Buscema. In the first part of the sequel to “The Death of Jean DeWolff,” the former Sin-Eater is paroled. Also, Electro finally defeats Spider-Man after realizing that Spidey uses static electricity to stick to walls. This seems to have been the official explanation of Spidey’s wall-crawling at the time, but was later abandoned. This is an entertaining issue with some cute moments, like the page where Peter surprises MJ taking pictures, but the art is bad and the inking is worse.

SUPERMAN #306 (DC, 1976) – “Backward Battle for the Bizarro World!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Curt Swan. Bizarro invades Earth, mistakenly thinking that Bizarro World has disappeared somehow. Superman proves to him that Bizarro World still exists. A mediocre issue.

SUICIDE SQUAD #17 (DC, 1988) – “Battleground Manhattan,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Luke McDonnell. Disappointingly, this issue’s first 15 pages are taken up by of an overlong action sequence in which the Jihad invade Manhattan. The rest of the issue consists of more typical Suicide Squad material, and is more fun to read. I do like the idea that the Jihad’s members are all from countries that have been destabilized by American intervention.

MYSTERY IN SPACE #114 (DC, 1980) – “Betrayal on Gamma Nova,” [W] Carl Wessler, [A] Johnny Craig. This issue’s lead story was created by two men with a combined age of well over 100, and it shows. The other material in the issue is better. There’s a three-pager by Levitz and Spiegle in which Earth is saved thanks to the existence of a single good man. The horrible alien creatures in the last panel are a nice touch. Other creators represented in the issue include Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn, Steve Ditko, and the underrated Tom Yeates. The juxtaposition of Ditko and Yeates in the last two stories is striking.

New comics received on December 1, which was kind of an awful day because I was terrified about the tax bill:

BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #1 (DC, 2017) – “Book One: I Shall Become…”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] John Paul Leon. This miniseries is the spiritual sequel to Superman: Secret Identity. Like its predecessor, Creature of the Night is the best story about its title character in many years. It’s clearly a labor of love for both Busiek and Leon, whose art in this issue is the best of his career, as was Stuart Immonen’s art in Secret Identity. Both Alfred and little Bruce are deeply compelling characters. I especially like the implication that Alfred can’t be Bruce’s adoptive father because he’s gay. Besides Secret Identity, this series also bears a heavy resemblance to Batman: Year One, but is much warmer and more emotional.

MOTOR CRUSH #8 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Babs Tarr, [W] Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart. Domino, Lola and Cal invade a Crush processing plant. Besides being another high-quality issue of Motor Crush, this issue is notable for its spotlight on Catball. Until now Catball was just a generic annoying mascot, but in this issue it finally starts to show a distinct personality.

HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Nina Vakueva. For legal reasons this issue was published under a different title, but I refuse to acknowledge that title because it’s dumb. In this final issue, the good guys use the power of music and electronics to rescue the kidnapped band, then the protagonist and her crush start a relationship. This was a fun series, but like so many other Boom! titles, it didn’t get the chance to realize its potential. Both its creators are quite talented, and I hope we see more of them.

MANIFEST DESTINY #32 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. This issue is narrated by Irene the French maid, a character who I didn’t even realize existed until now, but who, of course, has her own story and her own perspective. All the narration in this issue is in French, which is appropriate because it demonstrates the separation between Irene and the Anglophones who constitute the rest of the party. (I’m proud to report that I can read French and I didn’t need the translation, except for an unfamiliar word or two.) I hope they go on and do an issue narrated by Sacagawea in Shoshone. This issue is also very relevant at the present cultural moment, because the plot is that one of the soldiers has sexually assaulted Irene, and she knows he’s planning to do it again and no one will stop him. So she takes matters into her own hands – or maybe I should say claws – and kills him, with Sacagawea’s unexpected help.

SUPER SONS ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2017) – “Animal Planet,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Paul Pelletier. Stories about teams of super-pets are nothing new at this point, but this is a really good one nonetheless. In the part of the issue involving the pets, all the dialogue is in animal noises, but Tomasi and Pelletier’s storytelling is strong enough that the story makes sense anyway. The pets are funny and have distinctive personalities, especially Streaky, and their adventure is exciting. As a Legion fan, I’m disappointed that Proty was replaced by “Clay Critter.”

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SPECTRE OF TOMORROW #2 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. This issue continues all the subplots from last issue. Also, a bunch of killer robots, resembling the one from the first issue, appear all over the world. So far, this is my favorite Atomic Robo miniseries since Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur.

SWORD OF AGES #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Prelude: Castaways,” [W/A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Gabriel Rodriguez’s first full solo work is further proof that he’s one of the best artists in American comics. However, this feels more like a European comic than an American one, since Rodriguez’s artwork and Lovern Kindzierski’s coloring are heavily influenced by Moebius. The subject matter – an adventure on an alien planet that blends SF and fantasy –reminds me of French SF comics like Aquablue or Lanfeust de Troy. Even the chapter titles, in black text inserted into the panel gutters, are reminiscent of Moebius. As suggested, Rodriguez’s draftsmanship and storytelling are amazing, but the plot of this comic is unclear; there are multiple different plotlines with different characters, and it’s not clear how these plots are connected. I’m sure it’ll make sense eventually, though.

SPIDER-GWEN #26 (Marvel, 2017) – “Gwenom,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. Besides the Bodega Bandit scene, this is another grim and depressing issue. I wish Gwen would just kill Matt Murdock already. I hope this storyline will have a happy ending.

MARVEL ADVENTURES: FANTASTIC FOUR #35 (Marvel, 2008) – “Go One Way Orrgo Another,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] David Nakayama. I haven’t collected this series as avidly as the other Marvel Adventures titles, but this issue is fantastic, and a perfect example of Tobin’s ability to blend humor with the Silver Age Marvel writing style. The FF battle Orrgo, a monster from Marvel’s pre-superhero era. Then Johnny and Ben are invited to serve as judges for a beauty pageant, and it turns out Orrgo is the other judge. The scenes with Ben and Orrgo discussing the contestants are as hilarious as you’d expect. There’s also a further plot involving AIM, and Sue Storm teams up with the coincidentally named Chili Storm, from Millie the Model, to save the day.

DC COMICS PRESENTS #31 (Marvel, 1981) – “The Deadliest Show on Earth!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] José Luis García-López. Superman teams up with Robin to defeat a circus of criminals. This plot is familiar from lots of Marvel comics, and the writer acknowledges this; at one point Robin suggests that Superman should attack the ringmaster first because “isn’t he usually the guy who’s the mastermind in all the comic books?” At least this story is a bit different from your average Circus of Crime story because of Robin’s circus upbringing. However, the main attraction of this comic is JLGL’s brilliant artwork.

TANTALIZING STORIES PRESENTS FRANK IN THE RIVER #1 (Tundra, 1992) – “Frank in ‘The River’”, [W/A] Jim Woodring. The main story in this one-shot was probably one of Woodring’s first stories in color, and it’s a masterpiece. The artwork and coloring are phenomenal. The plot is clearer than in the previous Woodring comics I reviewed, though its narrative logic is based on magic instead of causality. This issue also includes a backup story by Mark Martin, which is interesting and well-done, but pales in comparison to the lead story.

MISTER MIRACLE SPECIAL #1 (DC, 1987) – “No Escape from Destiny!!!”, [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Steve Rude. Evanier and Rude are the perfect creative team for a Mister Miracle adaptation. The former was Kirby’s assistant on the original Fourth World comics, and the latter has been described (by Jon B. Cooke) as one of the few artists who truly “gets” Kirby. Together, they show a deep understanding of Kirby’s sensibility, resulting in one of the best post-Kirby Fourth World stories. The plot is that Funky Flashman coaxes Scott Free out of retirement for one more show, threatening Scott’s marriage since Barda wants him to stop risking his life. Also, the risk is even worse than Scott realizes, because Funky Flashman is working for Darkseid.

SUPERMAN #263 (DC, 1973) – “Man of Molten Steel!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Curt Swan. An unimpressive effort by my favorite Superman creative team. The plot is about a director named Simon March who makes his actors perform risky stunts, but beyond that, it’s a bunch of mystical mumbo jumbo that makes no sense. The World of Krypton backup story isn’t much better.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT #7 (Russ Cochran, 1994) – various stories, [E] Bill Gaines. This was originally Tales from the Crypt #23. The highlight of this issue is Graham Ingels’s “Last Respects.” In this story, a wealthy but underage heiress secretly marries her chauffeur. Her tyrannical uncle has the marriage annulled, and she dies of grief. The chauffeur murders the uncle in revenge, but then when he visits his wife’s mausoleum to say goodbye, he gets locked in and can’t escape. He survives for a month by eating… well, you can figure out what… but eventually he dies too, from formaldehyde poisoning. This is one of the grimmest, bleakest EC stories I’ve read, thanks in part to Ingels’s “ghastly” art. This issue also includes lesser stories by Feldstein, Davis and Craig. Jack Davis’s “Seance” is the best of these three, though its shock ending is too predictable.

CHARLTON BULLSEYE #1 (Charlton, 1981) – “The Enigma!”, [W] Benjamin Smith, [A] Dan Reed. This Blue Beetle/Question teamup is a piece of hackwork that demonstrates Charlton’s low standards. The story is of no interest at all (notably, the plot is credited to “A. Committee”), and the only time the art is effective is when it’s blatantly copied from Neal Adams.

WORLD OF ANIMOSITY #1 (Aftershock, 2017) – untitled, [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael De Latorre. This mostly text-based issue is a compendium of information about the world of the series. It effectively fleshes out Animosity’s world, but is full of tiny text that’s tedious to read. Moreover, at the same time that it tells us more about Animosity’s world, it also provides more evidence that the premise of the series makes no logical sense. For example, Bennett is forced to acknowledge that animals shouldn’t be able to speak if they don’t have vocal cords, though I guess that might be a plot point.

LUKE CAGE #4 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] David Walker, [A] Nelson Blake. This is the best issue yet, though that’s a low bar to clear. Noah Burstein is, of course, not dead, and on encountering him again, Luke has to confront their dysfunctional and exploitative relationship. Noah claims to be Luke’s father, but really he takes all the credit for all the good Luke does, without accepting blame for the bad consequences of all his other experiments. I’d enjoy this series more if it had more of this kind of storytelling.

SPY SEAL #4 (Image, 2017) – “The Corten-Steel Phoenix” (part 4), [W/A] Rich Tommaso. The first storyline ends in an exciting if somewhat predictable way. As I’ve suggested before, this comic might be underwhelming to French readers, because it’s so similar to Tintin. But in the American market, Spy Seal is a very unusual comic because it’s explicitly influenced by Clear Line comics, and American commercial comics have mostly ignored this source of influence.

ACES HIGH #4 (Gemstone, 1999) – various stories, [E] Bill Gaines. This issue includes aviation stories by George Evans, Bernie Krigstein, Wally Wood and Jack Davis. George Evans is the only artist in this issue who’s not in the Eisner Hall of Fame, and he really should be. His story, “The Green Kids,” is probably the highlight of the issue, though it reminds me a lot of “The Keg” from Piracy #5, also by Evans. Both these stories are about commanding officers who seem to be horrible brutes, but who turn out to have been secretly protecting their men.

BLACK MAGICK #9 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. This issue just advances all the ongoing plotlines a little bit. The cat on the cover only appears on a few pages of the comic.

WILDMAN COMICS #6 (Miller, 1989) – “Wildman & Rubberoy in Paradise,” [W/A] Grass Green. This comic includes three stories by Grass Green: two superhero parodies, and an installment in the long-running saga of his main character, Xal-Kor the Human Cat. Grass Green is known as a fan artist, but his work is of professional quality, though it’s not spectacular. His art is heavily influenced by Ditko, and is more energetic than most of Ditko’s later work.

SHATTER SPECIAL #1 (First, 1985) – “Headhunters,” [W] Peter B. Gillis, [A] Mike Saenz. This is historically important as the self-proclaimed “first computerized comic,” though who knows if that’s really true. Mike Saenz’s art appears to have been created with the same version of MacPaint that was on my childhood computer. It looks hopelessly primitive today, but Saenz’s ability to achieve subtle effects with very crude tools is impressive. Gillis’s story is pretty standard cyberpunk material.

ROWANS RUIN #3 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] Mike Carey, [A] Mike Perkins. This was pretty good, but I wish I’d had the time to reread issues 1 and 2 before reading it.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #83 (Marvel, 1982) – “War Without End!”, [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Denys Cowan. Luke and Danny separately battle Warhawk. Meanwhile some other stuff happens, like Noah Burstein trying to get Luke back together with his ex-girlfriend Claire Temple. This issue passes the black female Bechdel test because of a scene in which Misty Knight and Harmony Young talk about boots. Other than that, this is a well-written issue, but not Duffy’s best, and Denys Cowan’s art is lackluster.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #278 (DC, 1982) – “Assault on Thanagar!”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Rich Buckler. The best things in this oversized issue are the Zatanna story drawn by Dan Spiegle, and the Marvel Family story drawn by Don Newton. However, nothing in this issue is truly great.

THE WORLD BELOW: DEEPER AND STRANGER #1 (Dark Horse, 1999) – “The Spare!”, [W/A] Paul Chadwick. In this sequel to an earlier miniseries, some strange people explore an even stranger underground world. The premise of this comic is similar to that of Cave Carson, but Chadwick’s underground creatures and environments are truly bizarre – the trees with ring-shaped branches are just one of the many weird things in this issue. Chadwick is such a brilliant writer that you sometimes forget he’s also a phenomenal artist, and because this story lacks the philosophical and literary depth of Concrete, it gives the reader the chance to appreciate Chadwick’s art.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #72 (Marvel, 1981) – “The Might of Maelstrom,” [W] Mark Gruenwald & Ralph Macchio, [A] Ron Wilson. The Thing and the Inhumans battle Maelstrom and his minions. Gruenwald also provides some new or retconned information about the Inhumans’ history. This comic was pretty average.

FRANK #4 (Fantagraphics, 2001) – “Frank’s High Horse, Part 2,” [W/A] Jim Woodring. This issue begins with a summary of part one, which is very helpful, since I read part one but didn’t understand it. It turns out that Whim was teaching Frank to “pull dupes from hidden yonis,” but instead of a dupe, Frank got a High Horse – the thing that looks kind of like an evil stingray. This issue, Frank and his High Horse terrorize a bunch of other innocent creatures, until the High Horse decides to go back into the cosmic vagina that it came from. Frank follows it through, and finds himself in a world full of horrible creatures. I audibly gasped on seeing the two-page spread in which Frank arrives in the High Horse’s dimension. This issue also includes a four-pager in which Frank tries to capture a creature in a jar, but the creature keeps getting bigger. Sadly, this is the last of the Woodring comics I bought in October. I’m going to need to get more.

WOLFF & BYRD, COUNSELORS OF THE MACABRE #5 (Exhibit A, 1995) – “That Model Client,” [W/A] Batton Lash. This issue introduces the model Dawn Devine, Byrd’s future love interest. She becomes Wolff and Byrd’s client when she tries to get out of her modeling contract, and her employer retaliates by revoking the beauty spell he cast on her. This story would be considered fat-shaming if it were published today, but it’s very funny and entertaining, in typical Wolff & Byrd fashion.

KILL OR BE KILLED #2 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Needing to kill a bad person, the protagonist remembers having learned of a childhood friend who was repeatedly raped by his older brother, so he tracks down the brother and kills him in cold blood. This issue demonstrates why the protagonist of this comic is a morally ambiguous and disturbing character, more of a villain than a hero. Even if the older brother was a sexual predator, did he deserve to be shot without a trial? You can tell that the protagonist himself is unsure of that.

Eisner Hall of Famers who are or were Jewish

  1. Rube Goldberg
  2. Milt Gross
  3. Jerry Iger
  4. Al Capp
  5. John Broome
  6. Joe Simon
  7. Bill Finger
  8. Joe Shuster
  9. Jerry Siegel
  10. Mort Weisinger
  11. Bob Kane
  12. Dick Sprang
  13. Robert Kanigher
  14. Julius Schwartz
  15. Martin Nodell
  16. Carl Burgos
  17. Mort Meskin
  18. Sheldon Mayer
  19. Jack Kirby
  20. Will Eisner
  21. Bernie Krigstein
  22. Irwin Hasen
  23. Sheldon Moldoff
  24. Will Elder
  25. Jerry Robinson
  26. Stan Lee
  27. Arnold Drake
  28. Harvey Kurtzman
  29. Al Feldstein
  30. René Goscinny
  31. Gil Kane
  32. Joe Kubert
  33. Jules Feiffer
  34. Mort Drucker
  35. Trina Robbins
  36. Harvey Pekar
  37. Marv Wolfman
  38. Steve Gerber
  39. Len Wein
  40. Art Spiegelman
  41. Chris Claremont

Unsuccessful Eisner Hall of Fame nominees

I believe these are all the people who have been nominated for the Will Eisner Hall of Fame, but not elected:

Paul S. Newman

Yves Chaland

Frank Hampson

Frank Robbins

Creig Flessel

Bernard Baily

Lily Renée

Bob Powell

Cliff Sterrett

George Evans

Tarpé Mills

George Tuska

Alberto Breccia

Bob Oksner

Jack Kamen

Frans Masereel

George McManus

Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Kim Deitch

Jenette Kahn

Rodolphe Töpffer

Carlos Ezquerra

Bob Fujitani

Jesse Marsh

Dan O’Neill

Howard Cruse

Bud Fisher

Al Jaffee

Thomas Nast

Gary Panter

Gus Arriola

Philippe Druillet

Fred Kida

Françoise Mouly

Rumiko Takahashi

Edward Gorey

P. Craig Russell

Peter Bagge

Steve Englehart

Justin Green

Roberta Gregory

Jackie Ormes

Posy Simmonds

Garry Trudeau

Some of these have been nominated multiple times, including Oksner, Mills, Tuska, and Newman. This list is in order by when they were first nominated, so some of the names lower down on the list are likely to make it in soon.

Reviews of about 125 comics


New comics received on October 7:

PAPER GIRLS #16 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. An exciting start to the new story arc, which is really more of a continuation of the old story arc. As usual, a ton of stuff happens this issue, and I can’t remember or understand all of it. Notably, we get a solution to the Frankie Tomatah mystery, which turns out to be a bit disappointing. I was hoping that the name Frankie Tomatah was a clue that the reader could solve by looking carefully at earlier issues. It turns out that Frankie Tomatah is the name of a comic strip that appeared on the letters pages, and the protagonists just have to go visit the cartoonist who created the strip. I wonder if those letters pages are included in the collected editions.

MOTOR CRUSH #7 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Babs Tarr, [W] Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart. Another excellent issue. Dom discovers that Lola has started seeing someone else since Dom apparently died, but then she finds Catball and her father. I guess that doesn’t sound all that exciting, but it is. I notice that there’s a really sharp color contrast between Dom and Lola, but the creators mostly avoid any suggestion that Dom’s darkness and Lola’s brightness have moral implications.

MOONSTRUCK #3 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. I thought Moonstruck #2 was disappointing because of the lack of any conflict, but this issue was significantly better. The conflict (Chet’s loss of his horse half) is kind of contrived, but Ellis and Beagle handle it quite well. I especially like Chet’s line about colonialism. And the parade scene is full of funny mayhem and cute sight gags.

USAGI YOJIMBO #162 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “The Body in the Library, Part 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. An exciting conclusion to last issue’s mystery. The murderer’s motives and true identity are left unclear, creating a hook for a future story. Usagi and Kitsune’s interactions are funny, but also very familiar from other Kitsune stories; however, it’s fun to see Kitsune interacting with Inspector Ishida.

KIM & KIM: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #3 (Black Mask, 2017) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. This issue is incorrectly labeled as #4 in the indicia, which made me afraid that I’d missed the actual #3. Otherwise, this issue is witty and well-drawn, but not significantly different from the previous two.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #59 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. Yet another issue that’s a sequel to a season 8 episode – in this case, an episode that I hadn’t seen when I read the issue. Specifically, this issue is a sequel to “Secrets and Pies,” in which we learn that Rainbow Dash dislikes pie. In MLP: FIM #59, Pinkie Pie attempts to cure Dashie’s pie-phobia by making her try every kind of pie. However, Rainbow Dash turns the tables by demonstrating that Pinkie also hates Dashie’s favorite pastime: sitting around doing nothing. This issue is an effective sequel to “Secrets and Pies” – as Dave van Domelen, I think, suggested, it completes the friendship lesson from that episode – and I wish I’d seen the episode before I read the comic.

GIANT DAYS #31 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Another typical issue. Esther causes a huge friendship problem when her new girlfriend Ingrid runs up an unpayable heating bill. Then for some convoluted reason, Ed and McGraw almost get beaten up by Spanish dudes. Then Esther pays the bill by selling her scooter, but the underlying friendship rift remains.

HAWKEYE #11 (Marvel, 2017) – “Countdown to Doom!”, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. After some very well-drawn action sequences, Kate defeats Madame Masque and kisses that one character whose name I forget. But she still has no clue to her mother’s location. I hope that will be the next storyline.

ELEANOR & THE EGRET #4 (Afterhshock, 2017) – “Jailbreak,” [W] John Layman, [A] Sam Kieth. Eleanor and the egret finally decide team up with Belanger and the cat against Anastasia Rue. As usual, this issue is short on plot but has beautiful art. We still haven’t gotten a real explanation of the egret or Anastasia or how they’re connected.

MANIFEST DESTINY #31 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. Sacagawea is an unenthusiastic mother. Charbonneau shows up in time to name the baby. Lewis and Clark’s men are getting insubordinate again. This issue feels like a lull between bigger storylines.

ALIEN WORLDS #4 (Pacific, 1983) – several stories, [W] Bruce Jones, [A] various. This issue is most notable for “Princess Pam,” one of Dave Stevens’s few non-Rocketeer stories, though he’s only credited with the inks. It’s a clever riff on Sleeping Beauty. “Girl of My Schemes,” drawn by Bo Hampton, has a shock ending that makes no sense; it’s about a sexbot who turns out to be an actual woman, except that doesn’t explain her behavior earlier in the story. “One Day in Ohio,” drawn by Ken Steacy, is pointless, though it reminds me a bit of WALL-E. “Deep Secrets,” drawn by Jeff Jones, is just average, but rather misogynistic – which is not an uncommon trend in Bruce Jones’s writing. The last story is drawn by Al Williamson but is far from his best work, and the plot isn’t great either.

VERTIGO: WINTER’S EDGE #2 (Vertigo, 1999) – “The Minx,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sean Phillips & Kent Williams, with many inset stories. This 100-page special consists of stories about many different Vertigo characters, linked together by a somewhat mediocre framing sequence. The Death story by Gaiman and Jeff Jones should have been the high point of the series, but it’s crippled by poor reproduction. In particular, it looks pixellated. This is especially obvious on the Death logo on the first page. Next is a Sandman Mystery Theatre story which is drawn by Paul Rivoche and explores some of the same ideas about architecture as Mister X. Next is a pretty good Books of Magic story which contains Jason Lutes’s only artwork in a DC comic book. Brubaker and Lark’s Scene of the Crime story, about an abused child who gets shot by accident, is perhaps the high point of the issue. The other three stories in the issue feature Nevada, The Dreaming, and Constantine, but by that point my attention was flagging a bit. The Dreaming story is an interesting exploration of Nuala’s reaction to Morpheus’s death.

DAREDEVIL ANNUAL #4 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Name of the Game is… Death!”, [W] Marv Wolfman & Chris Claremont, [A] George Tuska. Despite the Claremont script, this issue is a waste of space. The plot is needlessly convoluted, and the writers fail to take advantage of the potentially exciting combination of Daredevil, Namor, and the Black Panther.

XIII #1 (Alias, 2005) – “The Day of the Black Sun: I,” [W] Jean Van Hamme, [A] William Vance. This comic reprints the first half of the first XIII album. I don’t know why Alias decided to publish it in comic book format, and it’s obsolete now, since Cinebook has reprinted all of XIII in album format. But at least this issue is a good introduction to one of Europe’s most popular thriller comics. An elderly couple discovers an amnesiac man who has no idea who he is, except he has a tattoo that reads “XIII,” which becomes his name. Some assassins promptly show up at the old couple’s cottage and kill them, but XIII survives and has to uncover his own identity. As Kim Thompson said in his article “A Modest Proposal: More Crap is What We Need,” XIII is an example of “solid, unpretentious, accessible genre fiction.”

ROCKET GIRL #10 (Image, 2017) – “Only the Good…”, [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Amy Reeder. There are two big surprises in this issue: first, that it’s the last issue, and second, that it ends with Dayoung dying. I’m not exactly sure what she died for, since I don’t quite understand the plot of this series, and her death seems like a waste of a great character. On the letters page, Brandon suggests that Rocket Girl will be back. I certainly hope so, because otherwise this series will be remembered, if at all, as just a footnote to Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #210 (DC, 1968) – “Hide and Seek,” [W] Jack Miller, [A] Neal Adams. As usual this comic’s art is fantastic, but unfortunately the lead story is just 12.5 pages (the other half page is an ad). The plot revolves around a cop who gets fired for killing a suspect. It’s sad that in 1968, it could be taken for granted that a cop who unjustly killed someone would be fired. This issue also includes a bad reprinted story. It’s drawn by Nick Cardy, but you can’t tell.

SCENE OF THE CRIME #1 (Vertigo, 1999) – “A Little Piece of Goodnight, Part One,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Michael Lark. I was motivated to read this because of the aforementioned story in Winter’s Edge #2. This series is about a private eye who lives in his elderly aunt and uncle’s mystery bookstore. It’s an exciting and realistic piece of mystery fiction, with a shocking conclusion (“she was dead by morning”). Michael Lark’s art is not as good as in Gotham Central, but it’s getting there. I need to look for the other three issues of this miniseries.

THE DYING AND THE DEAD #3 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Ryan Bodenheim. After this issue, this series went on a two-year hiatus. It resumed in May of this year, but I either forgot or didn’t bother to order the remaining issues. This issue is a significant drop in quality from #1 and #2 because it focuses on the villains, instead of the elderly heroes, who are much more interesting. Also, it includes a preposterous scene where Hirohito kills Hitler and Mussolini with a sword. I’m willing to accept all the magical stuff in this series, but I’m not willing to believe that a Japanese emperor would negotiate personally with people who weren’t his subjects.

ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE #1 (Image, 2015) – “Flight Plan,” [W] Larry Young, [A] Charlie Adlard. I ordered this from DCBS at a time when I was ordering a lot of comics that I didn’t read, and I didn’t get any other issues. I’m not entirely sure what this series is about, but it seems like a fairly realistic and well-executed SF story about the US space program. However, there are lots of other comics I want to read before I read any more of this series.

KAIJUMAX #2 (Oni, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Zander Cannon. I lost interest in this series as soon as I realized that Ulises Fainas wasn’t involved with it – I’m not sure why I thought he was. And the rather grim tone of issue 1 didn’t appeal to me much. When I finally got around to reading issue 2, I had some trouble following it, but it’s funnier and more exciting than I expected. This comic basically has just one joke – namely, the idea of combining the prison and kaiju genres – but it’s a funny joke.

ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR #3 (Archie, 2015) – untitled, [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Fernando Ruiz. Another issue filled with disgusting and hilarious mayhem. This comic may actually be better executed than Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, if not Afterlife with Archie, because it has a clearer idea of the tone it’s trying to create.

SPIDER BABY COMIX #1 (SpiderBaby Grafix, 1996) – various stories, [W/A] Steve Bissette et al. This issue includes several different early stories by Bissette, along with a catalogue of all his published work until late 1979. None of this stuff is absolutely incredible, and some of it is just disgusting for the sake of being disgusting. But it’s a good demonstration of Steve’s gruesome horror artwork and his effective synthesis of various influences, and one of the stories is a prototype for Tyrant. In the text columns at the back of the issue, Steve repeatedly mentions Cara Sherman-Tereno, a Kubert School classmate of his who unfortunately died the year this comic came out.

HEAD LOPPER #7 (Image, 2017) – “Head Lopper and the Crimson Tower, Part 3,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. The dungeon crawl continues. Nothing truly unexpected happens this issue, but MacLean’s artwork is as brilliant as usual, and the conclusion will be exciting.

MIGHTY COMICS #44 (Archie, 1967) – “The Sinister Powers of the Mad Gadgeteer” and other stories, [W] Jerry Siegel, [A] Paul Reinman. This comic blatantly attempts to copy the ‘60s Marvel style, and fails to do so because of a lack of talent. Jerry Siegel’s stories are implausible and devoid of characterization, and Paul Reinman is a boring artist. Most of the letters on the letters page are rather lukewarm, suggesting that Archie had trouble finding positive letters to print, and no wonder.

CLASSIC STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI #2 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Return of the Jedi, Book Two,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Al Williamson & Carlos Garzon. This is a reprint of Marvel’s adaptation of ROTJ. Despite the high level of talent involved, this comic is disappointing because it’s a very literal film adaptation, and the art isn’t good enough to elevate it above the film it adapts (unlike in Williamson’s adaptation of the Flash Gordon movie). It’s not always easy to tell which pages were drawn by Williamson and which by Garzon.

HERO CATS #18 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Part III: Cosmic Showdown!”, [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Omaka Schultz. The Hero Cats of Skyworld invade the Crow King’s palace. This is an okay story, but the characters aren’t as exciting or well-developed as the Hero Cats of Stellar City.

HERO CATS #19 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Mystery on the Mountain,” [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Andy Duggan. This issue again stars the Hero Cats of Stellar City, who fight a snow monster and then have an adventure with the underground stone people. This issue was nothing spectacular, but it’s nice to have the familiar characters back again.

LIBBY’S DAD #nn (Retrofit, 2016) – “Libby’s Dad,” [W/A] Eleanor Davis. According to the copyright page, this is Retrofit #55. I wish there was a comprehensive catalog of all the Retrofit publications, because there doesn’t seem to be one. This is my first Eleanor Davis comic, and it’s a good place to start. Her artwork is gorgeous and expressive; it appears to be drawn in crayon, which creates a sense that the characters in the story are even younger than they are. The premise is that a girl named Libby invites her friends to her divorced father’s house for a sleepover, but Libby’s dad is rumored to have threatened to kill her mother. As a result, the story has a threatening, oppressive atmosphere, because the girls are worried that Libby’s dad will kill them, but he turns out to be an okay guy. But the narrator comes to the disturbing conclusion that “Libby’s mom is crazy and a liar,” so the happy ending of the story proves to be ambiguous: maybe this is a story about how women learn to distrust each other. I’d like to read more of Eleanor Davis.

AKIKO ON THE PLANET SMOO #1 (Sirius, 1995) – “Akiko on the Planet Smoo,” [W/A] Mark Crilley. This 40-page one-shot was a prequel to the ongoing series, which was just called Akiko. It’s about a ten-year-old girl who is taken by aliens to an alien planet, where she has an adventure that turns out to be a test of her worthiness to marry the planet’s prince. When it came out, this series must have seemed like a candidate for the next Bone, but it was nowhere near as successful as Bone. This may have been partly due to Crilley’s sloppy art: he makes excessive use of computer graphics, and he doesn’t bother to draw backgrounds, which severely hurts his worldbuilding. Still, this is a cute and funny comic.

JONAH HEX #67 (DC, 2011) – “Ghost Town,” [W] Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Jordi Bernet. Either just before or just after reading this comic, I read the first volume of Torpedo, which gave me a better understanding of Bernet’s style. His artwork in this issue is impressive, but not at the same level as Torpedo, which is an artistic masterpiece. Also, this issue’s plot is hard to follow.

PAST AWAYS #9 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Scott Kolins. In the conclusion to this series, Ursula gets killed, leaving Herb and Marge as the only surviving protagonists. And thanks to the timestream reediting itself, they forget that the other characters ever existed. This is kind of a depressing ending, but it was hard to care much about this series in the first place.

BANANA SUNDAY #2 (Oni, 2005) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin (as Root Nibot), [A] Colleen Coover. I read this when I was too tired to really appreciate it, but it’s an awesome comic. It’s similar in tone to Bandette, though it has a completely different premise (it’s about a high school girl who has three superpowered monkey companions). As in Bandette, Paul and Colleen do a brilliant job of characterizing even the minor characters. A funny moment is the dream scene on the first page where Kirby, the girl-chasing monkey, is awarded three harems.

New comics received on 10-13:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #25 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. I decided to read this first because I feel like I haven’t appreciated this comic enough lately. This issue, Squirrel Girl and her friends use the power of friendship and programming to defeat Dino-Ultron. Besides the dinosaurs, this issue isn’t that different from any other Squirrel Girl comic, but it’s exciting, witty and warm-hearted. I should stop taking this series for granted.

MS. MARVEL #23 (Marvel, 2017) – “Northeast Corridor, Part One,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Diego Olortegui. Kareem (the hero from Pakistan) shows up at Coles High School as a transfer student. In a complete coincidence, the Red Dagger shows up in Jersey City, and he and Kamala have to team up to stop a runaway train, even though they can’t stop bickering. This issue was fun, but it’s a bit of a letdown after “Mecca.”

SLAM! THE NEXT JAM #2 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Pamela Ribon, [A] Marina Julia. This is still a very well-written comic, but Marina Julia is a much less effective artist than Veronica Fish. She fails to create the same level of energy. At least this issue has some cute cats, and a scene where three women who delivered vaginally are standing on a diving board and talking about their loose bladders.

RUNAWAYS #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “Find Your Way Home, Part II,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Gert comes back to life, but is not happy to discover that the team broke up in her absence. Meanwhile, we get glimpses of Victor (or at least his head) and Molly, who is being stalked by red-eyed cats. There wasn’t a lot of plot in this issue, but Rainbow Rowell shows a deep understanding of the characters and premise of Runaways. After reading this comic, I read her novel Landline and loved it, and I finally got a copy of Fangirl.

ROYAL CITY #6 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This issue is a flashback to about a decade ago. As we observe the past versions of the characters, we can see them developing the problems that have ruined their lives in the present. The POV character is Richie, who is suffering from the neurological problem that must have killed him. I kind of got the impression that Richie died in childhood, but I guess not.

MISTER MIRACLE #3 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. One of the best comics of the week. This issue picks up on an idea that was briefly explored in Kingdom Come: that Orion is no different from his father. We learn that Orion is throwing away the lives of Forager and his people, and then Orion beats the crap out of Scott for daring to question him. And because of his worsening depression, Scott is unable to stand up to his “brother.” In this series, as in The Vision, Tom King is creating a truly oppressive and ominous atmosphere. The hilarious cameo appearance by Funky Flashman is a much-needed piece of comic relief.

BABYTEETH #5 (Aftershock, 2017) – “I Was a Teenage Apocalypse,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Heather defeats the Prairie Wolf by driving a truck into her, and then some red-eyed wizard in a suit shows up and claims to be Sadie’s bodyguard. This issue was okay but not as good as #2 or #3.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #32 (Image, 2017) – “The Red Shoes,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. The fact that this was the eighth comic I read this week is evidence that my interest in it is flagging. Perhaps this is because of the lack of sympathetic characters other than Baal and Minerva. And this issue Minerva is traumatized by being forced to kill Sakhmet (who totally deserved it). Also, Dionysus gets functionally killed fighting against Woden – I didn’t quite get what was happening here. Also, there’s a hidden passage behind Ananke’s machine, which goes who knows where. Given the number of characters who have been killed lately, this series seems to be approaching its conclusion, which will be something of a relief.

BOOM BOOM #3 (Aeon, 1995) – “Eyeless Ease,” [W/A] David Lasky. I’m only familiar with this artist from his Carter Family graphic novel with Frank M. Young. This issue is his 24-hour comic. It follows dream logic rather than narrative logic; that is, it consists of a series of narrative strands that are connected to each other by shared symbols and characters rather than causality. It’s interesting but not great. The backup story, about a fictionalized version of Jack Kirby and his adaptation of Joyce’s Ulysses, is better than the main story. This story is credited to “Tim Redwing,” but that’s a pseudonym for Lasky, and is meant to indicate that he’s emulating the style of Jim Woodring. That makes more sense to me now that I’ve read an issue of Jim (to be reviewed later).

THE GOON: THEATRE BIZARRE #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “Theatre Bizarre,” [W/A] Eric Powell, [A] John Dunivant. I was motivated to read this when I realized that I have a ton of unread Eric Powell comics. Fleeing from something or other, the Goon and his companions have an adventure in a haunted theme park. This park is based on the real-life Theatre Bizarre, which, according to Wikipedia, is an annual Halloween event held in Detroit. This comic’s art is spectacular at times, but other than that it’s forgettable.

HILLBILLY #8 (Albatross, 2017) – [W/A] Eric Powell, [A] Simone Di Meo on the backup story. I keep ordering this comic but not reading it. This issue includes two stories. The main story, with art by Eric Powell, is mostly forgettable, but the second story, drawn by Simone Di Meo, is more interesting. In this story Hillbilly encounters the ghosts of two brothers who found a treasure. One of them reburied it elsewhere, and the other killed him out of jealousy, but then died of despair because he didn’t know the treasure’s new location. This story feels like an Appalachian version of Hellboy. An uncanny thing about this series is that it’s based on Appalachian culture, but it’s set in a fantasy world and has no specific geographical references to America.

TIME & VINE #4 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. Megan finds her long-lost aunt, then Jack goes back in time for good and leaves the winery to Megan. At the end, Megan encounters a potential love interest. This series was quite stylistically similar to Long Distance, but it was a sweet and touching story, which was less about time travel than about the sad experience of watching one’s parents grow old.

HULK #11 (Marvel, 2017) – “Is Love in the Air for Hulk?”, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Bachan. Jen goes on a blind date which starts out poorly, and gets even worse when her date turns out to be an evil robot. Mariko was trying to have fun here, but I’m not sure that she succeeded. I think humor is not her forte. The fourth-wall breaking was funny but also kind of jarring, since Jen has never previously broken the fourth wall in this series.

MECH CADET YU #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Stanford and his teammates have their first battle, even though they’re supposed to be evacuated. I was lukewarm about this series’ first issue, but it’s gotten really good. The protagonist is kind of a blank slate, but his mother is the real gem of the series. She seems like a terrible person at first, but turns out to be a formidable person with hidden depths.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. I think the protagonist of this comic, and I like the artwork and coloring, but the plot is a series of unoriginal fantasy cliches. I’m ambivalent as to whether I want to keep reading this series.

ROCKET #6 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Blue River Score, Part 6: The Mourner,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Adam Gorham. Rocket gets killed, but survives thanks to Joyboy’s powers. He recovers the deeds, but ruins his chances at romance with Gatecrasher, and the end of the issue finds him sitting alone and drinking. I assume this is the last issue. This was a pretty fun take on Rocket Raccoon, but I wish Marvel would stop starting new Rocket series and then cancelling them immediately.

DAN DARE #1 (Titan, 2017) – “He Who Dares Part One,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Alberto Foche. The latest revised version of perhaps the most famous character in British comics. This comic is okay, but it assumes the reader is already familiar with Dan Dare, and I would guess that there are better introductions to this character. I already have one volume of the classic Dan Dare comic strip, but I haven’t read it yet.

ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR #4 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Fernando Ruiz. A hilarious conclusion. The Predator kills Archie, but Betty and Veronica capture the Predator and use Mr. Lodge’s healing machine to turn it into a substitute for Archie. This was a fun series.

HILLBILLY #4 (Albatross, 2016) – “The Fiddle That Screamed for Blood,” [W/A] Eric Powell. Hillbilly encounters a ghost fiddle that possesses people. He defeats it, but only after it kills all the people of a village. This issue is good, but I suspect that if you’ve read one issue of Hillbilly, you’ve read them all.

ARYA #1 (Antarctic, 2017) – “Adventure Quest,” [W/A] Akimiya, and “Grocery Quest,” [W/A] Sofia Davila. I ordered this on a whim and I’m not sure what it is. I think it’s intended an anthology of comics by women. The first of the two stories this issue is about two schoolgirls who become friends thanks to a video game. It’s okay, but it’s so similar to manga that I don’t see why you’d want to read it instead of reading actual manga. The second story is drawn in a more original style. It’s about a girl who goes to the grocery store, but takes a detour and winds up in a magical forest, and in order to escape she has to collect the items she needed from the store. I’m vaguely curious about what happens next, but not curious enough to keep reading this series.

MOONSHINE #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Eduardo Risso. The art in this comic is excellent, but the plot is impossible to follow. And even if I could understand what was going on, I wouldn’t care, because there are no interesting characters.

MOONSHINE #6 (Image, 2017) – as above. At this point, I had completely lost interest in this comic’s story and was only reading it for the art. Even then, I was annoyed by this issue’s ending. This miniseries ends on a cliffhanger that resolves absolutely nothing; at the end, we still don’t know which character is the werewolf. Azzarello completely fails to offer any kind of resolution to his story. The last page says “End Book One,” but I doubt there’ll be a Book Two. After reading this series, I suspect that Azzarello was never that great a writer in the first place, and that he just had the good luck to work with Eduardo Risso.

THE UNEXPECTED #210 (DC, 1981) – “Vampire of the Apes,” [W] George Kashdan, [A] Jess Jodloman, and other stories. The stories in this issue are all pretty stupid, though Mike W. Barr’s “Johnny Peril” is at least part of an ongoing continuity. This issue does have some good art by the Filipino artists Jodloman and Vicatan.

RAY BRADBURY COMICS #1 (Topps, 1993) – “A Sound of Thunder,” [W/A] Richard Corben, and two other stories. This issue provides the reader with the unique opportunity to read two adaptations of the same story by two different artists. Besides Corben’s new adaptation of “A Sound of Thunder,” it also includes Al Williamson’s adaptation of the same story from Weird Science-Fantasy. Somewhat to my surprise, Corben’s version is far better. Williamson’s version was hamstrung because the writer, Al Feldstein, decided to include nearly all the text from the original story. The captions and word balloons are so huge that they take up about half the space of each page, rendering Williamson’s artwork nearly invisible. For example, we can barely see the butterfly at the end. Corben’s version isn’t perfect either – for example, his dinosaur is pretty ugly – but at least he tells the story with pictures instead of text, avoiding unnecessary words. So this issue is a good example of what you should and shouldn’t do when adapting prose fiction to comics. The issue also includes an adaptation of a different Bradbury dinosaur story by an artist I’ve never heard of, Antoni Garces.

ORIENTAL HEROES #1 (Jademan, 1986) – untitled, [W/A] Tony Wong. This is one of a number of translated Hong Kong comics published by Jademan in the ‘80s. According to the editorial at the end, its creator, Tony Wong, was personally responsible for 90% of the comics published in Hong Kong at the time. This comic is mostly a series of martial arts action sequences illustrated in a manga-esque style. However, they’re fun action sequences, and the comic has a definite Chinese sensibility. It’s about a courageous hero who defends people against corrupt officials, which seems like a classic Chinese plot. This issue also includes one very funny sequence, where one of the heroes tries to rent a boat (see I will plan on buying more of these Jademan comics if I find them at a low price.

VERTIGO: WINTER’S EDGE #3 (Vertigo, 2000) – various stories. This issue’s marquee story is “How They Met Themselves” by Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli, in which Desire encounters Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lizzie Siddal and Algernon Charles Swinburne. The characters in this story are not explicitly named, and part of the fun of reading it is figuring out who they are. After this there are a bunch of other stories that are more or less forgettable. The Transmetropolitan story is probably the best of these, but I also liked the Books of Magic story, in which Rowland and Paine encounter a gender-swapped Tim Hunter. The Constantine story is especially annoying because it’s illustrated text and not comics. If I wanted to read a lot of prose, I would read a book and not a comic book.

THE DESERT PEACH #2 (Thoughts & Images, 1989) – untitled, [W/A] Donna Barr. Despite his peaceful nature, Pfirsch gets in a bar fight with a belligerent Russian soldier. This story isn’t as complex as the other Desert Peach comics I reviewed last time, but it’s good. It also includes some slight fourth-wall-breaking (on the third page when Rommel drains the black out of the art). The story effectively demonstrates that while Pfirsch doesn’t enjoy violence, he will do so in defense of his men. The best moment in the issue is when the Russian soldier beats up Pfirsch’s assistant, and Pfirsch stands up ramrod straight and says “Mein Herr, your difference is with me, not with my orderly.”

HAWKWORLD #3 (DC, 1990) – “Winged Fury,” [W] John Ostrander & Tim Truman, [A] Graham Nolan. Katar and Shayera pursue some flying criminals into the Cabrini-Green housing projects. They learn to their surprise that they can’t just kill the criminals, because Earth has laws about that. However, they also learn that those laws are not always consistently applied, because they are aided by a black single mother, who is rewarded for her good deed by being arrested for illegal gun ownership. This issue is a good example of what made Hawkworld effective: it’s an exciting and tense story with a strong political angle.

JINGLE BELLE’S ALL-STAR HOLIDAY HULLABALOO #1 (Oni, 2000) – various stories, [W] Paul Dini et al, [A] various. I read one of the other Jingle Belle series and had mixed feelings about it, but this issue is pretty good. It has a good lineup of talent, including Sergio Aragonés, Jeff Smith and Stephen DeStefano. All the stories are funny, and are held together by Jingle Belle’s rebellious and naughty personality.

KAIJUMAX #3 (Oni, 2015) – “No Such Thing as a Halfway Monsta,”[W/A] Zander Cannon. More of the same as last issue. This comic’s plot is not easy to follow, but at least this issue includes a guide to all the monster gangs.

JACK KRAKEN #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Race Relations,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Sophie Campbell, plus other stories. I bought this comic when it came out because of the Sophie Campbell art, but never got around to reading it. The first story in this one-shot was originally published on a digital comics app called Double Feature, and its protagonist is based on a character Seeley created when he was five years old, though neither of these facts is mentioned in the comic itself. Jack Kraken is a half-human, half-squid superhero who lives in some kind of postapocalyptic world. All the three stories in the issue are reasonably good, but Jack Kraken has never appeared again as far as I know, and I don’t understand why Dark Horse chose to publish just one issue with this character.

ADVENTURE COMICS #394 (DC, 1970) – “The Mysterious Motr of Doov!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Win Mortimer, plus another story. This issue’s lead story is a clever pastiche on The Wizard of Oz, and its opening caption box includes an acrostic that reads “The Wizard of Oz.” Unfortunately I spoiled this story’s gimmick for myself because I looked at its GCD entry before I read it. The backup story, by Robert Kanigher and Kurt Schaffenberger, is just awful, though it has much better art than the lead story.

HERO CATS: MIDNIGHT OVER STELLAR CITY VOL. 2 #1 (Action Lab, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Alex Ogle. I liked this better than the most recent storyline in the main Hero Cats title. In this issue, Rocket teams up with Cassiopeia to defeat some villains who have escaped from prison, starting with two space pirates. Alex Ogle’s art is heavily based on that of Frank Miller, which creates a humorous effect because this story is about cats and not grim dark superheroes.

JONNY QUEST #26 (Comico, 1988) – “Reputation,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Marc Hempel. Race Bannon is captured by an evil criminal mastermind. Rather than pretending to be scared of the villain’s world-conquering schemes, Race taunts him by telling him a bunch of stories about his (Race’s) history with the Quest family. For example, one of the stories is about an incident when Jonny betrayed his father’s trust, and another is about how Hajji captured some escaped snakes. At the end, it turns out Race told these stories to distract the villain so the other Quests could capture him. As usual with this series, this was a heartwarming and extremely well-crafted story.

HELLBOY AND THE B.P.R.D.: 1953 – BEYOND THE FENCES #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paolo Rivera. A young Hellboy battles a giant mutated dog. This was just an average Hellboy comic, but Paolo Rivera’s art is excellent.

New comics received on 10/20, when I was exhausted from spending the day at my department’s annual conference. This was one of the biggest new comic book days of the year; I got about 20 new comics this week that I had to read immediately.

LUMBERJANES #43 (Boom!, 2017) – “Time After Crime” (part three), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. Rosie gets hit by a bubble and becomes an old lady. The girls use pulleys and ropes to defeat a giant golem. And it turns out that to save the day, the Lumberjanes have to use the axe belonging to the first Lumberjane. This storyline has been fun, but not quite as fun as the previous two. The best line of the issue is “Yeah, it was in my axe corner. Where I keep my axes.”

ASTRO CITY #48 (DC, 2017) – “Dog Days,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mike Norton. Andy Merton meets the previous owner of his amulet, who tells him about his powers. Then as G-Dog, he joins a team of superpowered pets, including an awesome new character, Dr. Monkey. But in the end, the inevitable happens: the dog dies of natural causes, and Andy leaves the amulet for someone else to find. In the best Astro City tradition, this comic uses superheroes as a metaphor for real life. Andy and his dog become a single entity, but because of the dog’s short lifespan, their closeness is only temporary. As a cat owner, I know how this feels. My cat is my other half, but I won’t have him forever. It seems appropriate that I read this comic while petting my cat.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup & Sebastian Girner, [A] Nil Vendrell. Shirtless defeats the Logger and Brother Bear, then returns to his life of fighting evil bears. This was kind of a one-joke comic, but it was a really funny joke. I’m sorry it only lasted five issues, and I hope there’s a sequel.

SHERLOCK FRANKENSTEIN AND THE LEGION OF EVIL #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Part One: Whatever Happened to Sherlock Frankenstein?”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubín. Lucy Weber tries to track down her missing father by contacting all his old enemies, starting with Mectoplasm, who reminds me of Validus. I’m sorry that Black Hammer is on hiatus, but this series is an adequate replacement, and it gives us a lot of interesting new information on Black Hammer’s world. The two-page spread where Lucy is walking to the bottom of Spiral Asylum is very intricate and difficult to follow.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #7 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. An unnamed new character encounters some sirens who proceed to brainwash all the people of his town, so he recruits heroes to defeat them, starting with Rockhoof. Now that I’ve seen “Shadow Play,” I know that this new character is Stygian, the future Pony of Shadows. (And I guess maybe this issue was forgettable, because I didn’t recognize Stygian when I saw him in the episode.) The fact that I’ve seen “Shadow Play” also means that I already know where this story is going, but it’ll be fun to see how we get there.

MISFIT CITY #6 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kristen Smith & Kurt Lustgarten, [A] Naomi Franquiz. The girls head through the cave, but fall through a trap and wind up in a sewer. Which makes me wonder how, or if, they can get back to the cave and take the correct path. They also find a clue that points to a location out at sea, but they go there and find nothing. So I’m not sure where the story is going now, and the writers have just two more issues to resolve it.

MIGHTY THOR #700 (Marvel, 2017) – “Blood of the Norns,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman et al. An excellent anniversary issue with contributions by many great artists, including Walt Simonson, Jill Thompson, Mike Del Mundo and Andrew MacLean. Thor doesn’t actually die in this issue as promised, but there are several different plotlines that intersect in a satisfying way, and it turns out that the Frog Thor subplot is essential to the overall story. It’s appropriate that this issue includes a collaboration between Jason Aaron and Walt Simonson, the two best Thor writers other than Stan Lee.

SUPER SONS #9 (DC, 2017) – “Planet of the Capes, Part 4: It’s a Madhouse!”, [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Jorge Jimenez & Carmine Di Giandomenico. It turns out that Hard Line and Big Shot are clay dolls created by Kraklow, but Kraklow (the good one) stays on their planet to help them, and creates some kid superheroes for them to train. I’d like to see Hard Line and Big Shot again. This was a good issue of one of DC’s best titles. I especially love the panel where Damian says “I have a plan, but it requires everyone to ignore your emotional state and do exactly as I—” and Jon cuts him off.

DESCENDER #25 (Image, 2017) – “Rise of the Robots 4 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Tim and Bandit’s psychic connection allows Tim to locate Telsa and the evil red-haired Tim. This was an okay issue, but no different from any other issue of Descender.

KID LOBOTOMY #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Do Not Disturb: Part One of A Lad Insane,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. This is an intriguing comic with excellent art, but I had to read it carefully to figure out what was going on, and now I’ve forgotten what it was that I figured out. I’m going to have to read this comic again when issue 2 comes out.

SUPERB #4 (Lion Forge, 2017) – “No More Secrets,” [W] David F. Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Eric Battle. This issue is mostly a series of fight scenes. I like the page at the end of the issue where Jonah tries to get Abbie and Kayla to stop arguing.

FLASH GORDON #19 (Gold Key, 1978) – “Return to Mongo,” [W] John Warner, [A] Carlos Garzon. This is a very average Flash Gordon story, but Carlos Garzon’s art is interesting. Garzon was a Colombian artist who was brought to America by Al Williamson, and you can see why Williamson liked Garzon’s work, because his style is sort of a watered-down version of Williamson’s.

DRAGON CHIANG #nn (Eclipse, 1991) – untitled, [W/A] Tim Truman. A collection of five stories originally published in Europe. These stories take place in a rather bleak future in which there’s a highway across the Bering Strait and all of America’s wealth is draining into China. The protagonist is a trucker who drives between China and the American Southwest. This comic is fairly exciting and well-drawn, but not as good as Scout.

KANE #27 (Dancing Elephant, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Grist. This story revolves around an assassin wearing some kind of battlesuit. Like most Paul Grist comics, it features witty dialogue and excellent visual storytelling; however, its plot is very hard to follow.

WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #2 (DC/Dark Horse, 2017) – “Blade and Bracelets, Blood and Sand,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. I think that’s the title; I’m not sure where the first “and” is supposed to go. Conan defeats Diana in the arena, but then they both get sent to a slave ship. Then the ship gets attacked by pirates, and Conan and Diana are tossed overboard to be eaten by sharks. This has been a somewhat predictable story thus far, but it’s been fun.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #3 (DC, 2017) – “Ghosts,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Ariel Olivetti. Space Ghost defeats Metallus, the armored energy ghost, by showing him that he’s missed his chance at revenge on the Space Force. But now Space Ghost has some spare power bands, so in the next storyline, he, Jace and Jayna will be looking for people to wear them. This was a fairly good storyline, but I hope we see the Quest family again soon.

BITCH PLANET TRIPLE FEATURE #5 (Image, 2017) – various stories. This issue’s first story is about a feminist grandma who ruins Christmas. This is a clever variation on the present-day trope where the racist grandparent ruins Christmas. The second story is about two actors, one white and one Asian, who go through exactly the same training, but the Asian actor is passed over for a role in favor of the white actor. The trouble with this story is that it doesn’t even qualify as satire; it’s a realistic depiction of the sort of thing that happens in the film industry on a regular basis. The third story is about a white woman who dyes her skin black, because African-American clothing is fashionable, but then gets shot by cops who mistake her for a real black woman. Of course, the cops get off scot-free. This story is also very reminiscent of stuff that happens in real life, but unlike the previous story, it’s just a little bit exaggerated, so that it feels like a satire rather than just an accurate depiction of reality. This is the last issue of BPTF, which is actually somewhat unfortunate, because I’ve been enjoying it more than the main Bitch Planet series.

FAITH AND THE FUTURE FORCE #4 (Valiant, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Cary Nord. All else having failed, Faith recruits Chris Chriswell, who “defeats” Do-Bot by convincing it that destroying the world is not the best way to take revenge on humanity. This series was okay, but it was much worse than the regular QFaith series.

SPIDER-GWEN #25 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. Matt manipulates Gwen into taking revenge on the Rhino, even though Matt himself is standing right there and is a much better target for revenge. I’m starting to lose sympathy for Gwen because she’s allowed Matt to completely ruin her life. Matt is at the root of literally all her problems, and yet she lets him continue to manipulate and control her, and I honestly don’t understand why.

PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #5 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. I was reluctant to read this comic because I’ve been losing patience with this series. It’s neither a great Spider-Man comic nor a great Chip Zdarsky comic. Chip has had to spend so much time on plot and fight scenes that he’s had little opportunity for characterization, which is the whole point of Spider-Man. And since this series is a spinoff title, Chip is not able to make any substantial changes to Peter’s life. At least this issue ends with a funny conversation between Peter and JJJ. And I’ve heard some good things about issue 6 (which I won’t get to read until Monday at least), so maybe this series is going to get better.

DEPT. H #19 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. There’s a flashback to Bob’s past, and then the crew reaches the first of six underwater fueling stations. Not much happened in this issue.

SPY SEAL #3 (Image, 2017) – “The Corten-Steel Phoenix, Part 3,” [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Spy Seal and Kes get thrown off a train, then find themselves in an Alpine village that’s full of spies. This issue is exciting and beautifully drawn, but exactly the same as the first two issues. The train on the cover is named the Flupke Rocket, after one of Herge’s lesser works.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: THE MISFITS: INFINITE #3 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite, Part 6,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St-Onge. The Holograms and Misfits use the power of music to save the alternate world, then return to their own world, having agreed not to reveal the secret of Synergy. “Infinite” was an underwhelming story and a disappointing conclusion to the Jem saga. The next Jem series is going to be an anthology, but I hope that after that’s over, Kelly will be able to continue her story. In particular, she left Jem and Rio’s relationship unresolved.

ALIEN ENCOUNTERS #4 (Eclipse, 1985) – various stories, [E] cat yronwode. This issue’s first story, by Tim Conrad, is about a member of a brutal alien race who learns about love thanks to a human-created sexbot. The next story is about a little alien kid who destroys Earth by accident. The third story is the best, though none of them are very good. “Wish Upon a Jewel” is one of the last comics Gardner Fox wrote prior to his death the following year. It’s about an astronaut who lands on a planet that grants wishes, but gets himself killed by misusing his wishes. There’s also a two-pager by Tim Truman.

SEA DEVILS #16 (DC, 1964) – “The Strange Reign of – Queen Judy and King Biff,” [W] Hank Chapman, [A] Bruno Premiani. The Sea Devils find themselves on a mysterious uncharted island, where two of their members, Judy and Biff, become king and queen. The island turns out to be a Brigadoon-esque place that appears every hundred years. This comic is just okay, and the best thing about it is the beautiful Russ Heath cover. Heath also did interior art for the first ten issues of this series, which are supposedly very good.

CAP’N DINOSAUR #nn (Image, 2014) – “Cap’n Dinosaur and the Carnevil of Crime!”, [W] Kek-W (Nigel Long), [A] Shaky Kane. This comic is a cute, zany pastiche of Kirby, but not much more than that. It has very little plot. I remember liking That’s Because You’re a Robot more than I liked this comic.

THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO #3 (Topps, 1994) – “It Crawls! Part Three,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. The Lone Ranger and Tonto encounter an old Chinese martial artist, then the Lone Ranger reveals to Tonto that he was responsible for the death of Tonto’s tribe. Truman’s artwork on this issue is quite good, though not his best.

BAKER STREET #8 (Caliber, 1991) – “Children of the Night Act III: London After Midnight,” [W/A] Guy Davis. A female cop, Sharon, investigates a modern-day female Jack the Ripper who only kills men, while an American reporter, Sue, follows her around. This comic is a revelation. It’s a gritty murder mystery set in a realistically depicted version of London’s East End. The characters, many of them female, are complex and fascinating. I’m only familiar with Guy Davis’s art thanks to Sandman Mystery Theatre, but his art is even better in black and white than in color, and it benefits from his local knowledge. I hope I encounter some more issues of this comic.

HELLBLAZER #89 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Dreamtime,” [W] Paul Jenkins, [A] Sean Phillips. Constantine visits the Australian outback, where he teams up with an Aboriginal shaman who’s trying to prevent white people from stealing his mob’s land. This comic is well-intentioned, and it shows at least some knowledge of Aboriginal culture, but it also seems heavily reliant on tired old stereotypes of Aboriginal people. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but the idea of a white dude participating in Aboriginal religious ceremonies and playing the didgeridoo seems a bit offensive.

JACK STAFF VOL. II #1 (Image, 2003) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Grist. By this point in the week, I was getting into a rut; I was reading comics because I felt obligated to, not because I was having fun. This comic, in which Jack Staff battles some villains apparently based on the Hulk and Iron Man (and maybe also Thor), is okay, but I didn’t love it.

CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #8 (DC, 2017) – “Rest in Peace, Michael Pembrook,” [W] Jon Rivera, [A] Michael Avon Oeming. I’ve fallen behind on this series, and I’m not sure why. In this issue, the underground monster has succeeded in invading the surface and killing lots of people, so there’s all kinds of creepy and disgusting artwork. I liked this comic better when it was taking place in Muldroog.

SUPERMAN #20 (DC, 2017) – “Black Dawn, Chapter 1,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason, [W] Peter Tomasi. I’ve been reading this comic very intermittently because it comes out twice a month, and I usually forget to order both issues. Also, it’s been involved in some crossovers with other comics I’m not reading. This issue is really good, though. Batman and Robin show up in Hamilton to investigate why Jon is losing his powers. It turns out Jon is drinking milk contaminated by aliens or something. Before we learn that, though, there are some really funny and cute interactions between the Kents and the Waynes, including a scene where Damian tells Jon, “Batman doesn’t eat pie.”

HERO CATS: MIDNIGHT OVER STELLAR CITY VOL. II #2 (Action Lab, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Alex Ogle. Midnight, Cassiopeia and Belle battle the evil paleontologist Dr. Ross Rex, who is trying to romance Galaxy Man’s housekeeper, just like Doc Ock with Aunt May. This is another cute story. With his Batman-like personality, Midnight is an effective foil for the other Hero Cats, who are much nicer.

HERO CATS: MIDNIGHT OVER STELLAR CITY VOL. II #3 – as above. Despite the title, this issue features all the Hero Cats, who team up with the people of Stone City to defeat Ross Rex. I liked this miniseries better than the main Hero Cats title.

New comics received on October 27:

SAGA #48 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. As is traditional, this issue begins with a shocking splash page that depicts Upsher preparing to murder Friendo the walrus. Things get better from there. Ghüs and Squire go on an unsuccessful hunt for food to feed themselves and their starving companions, but when they get back, they find that Marko and Alana have arrived. And Hazel meets Squire, “who would become my brother.” This is the last issue before a hiatus, so I’m glad it ends happily.

SILVER SURFER #14 (Marvel, 2017) – “A Power Greater Than Cosmic,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mike Allred. This one, on the other hand… Surfer lives through the end of the previous universe and the start of the current one, visits Dawn periodically throughout her life, and then leaves a copy of himself and Dawn’s family on the hologram planet, so the hologram Dawn can have a full life with them. I guess this is technically a happy ending, but I’m just so sad that Dawn is dead. To think that such a vibrant, lifelike character could be gone so fast. I wasn’t prepared for this. In the end, the Slott/Allred Silver Surfer was one of the best Marvel comics of the decade, and easily the best Silver Surfer comic not written by Stan Lee. I’m just sad about the way it ended.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #24 (Marvel, 2017) – “Girl-Moon: Epilogue,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos and three others. In three separate sequences by different artists, Lunella tries out three different partners: the X-Babies, Ghost Rider, and Daredevil. None of them works out. On the letters page, Brandon writes that “Devil Dinosaur will never, ever, ever, ever come back to this title.” I don’t believe that at all, but Brandon’s statement seems to offer little wiggle room, so who knows. I will have some nice things to say about this title in my ICAF paper this Friday.

HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Nina Vakueva. Chris and Dolores resolve their differences, then they solve part of the mystery about the kidnapped band. This is a really fun series that effectively depicts the culture of the ‘90s. I’m just afraid that like so many Boom! Box titles, it’s going to end just as it’s getting interesting.

KIM & KIM: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #4 (Black Mask, 2017) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. The Kims finally capture Laz and move on to bigger and better things. I hope this won’t be the last Kim & Kim miniseries, even if the writer is moving on to bigger assignments. In a very short span of time, Magdalene Visaggio has become one of the most exciting writers in the industry.

BATGIRL #16 (DC, 2017) – “Summer of Lies, Part Three,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. Another issue that combines flashback and present-day sequences. In the present-day sequence, we learn that Ainsley Deane can’t be the Red Queen because she’s dead, but I doubt that’s really true. Like Hope Larson’s first Batgirl storyline, this one involves nanotech-based drugs. This comic includes an ad for Doomsday Clock. I wish I could rip that ad out of the comic book, but I can’t because there’s a story page on the other side.

BLACK PANTHER #166 (Marvel, 2017) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 7,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. This is billed as “Klaw Stands Supreme Part 1” on the cover. This issue is mostly a flashback to Klaw’s past. I was unable to figure out if Klaw’s girlfriend Julia has ever appeared before, or whether she’s Coates’s invention.

MEAT CAKE #15 (Fantagraphics, 2006) – untitled, [W/A] Dame Darcy. I did not enjoy this. Darcy’s art style is kind of appealing, but much of this issue consists of heavily illustrated prose essays rather than comics. This comic has the same sort of Gothic subject matter as Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, although it’s more sophisticated than that comic, and I have no interest in this sort of subject matter. Also, Darcy’s lettering is so ornate that it’s difficult to read.

METAMORPHO #12 (DC, 1967) – “The Trap of the Test-Tube Terrors!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Sal Trapani. Metamorpho visits Simon Stagg’s old college, where he somehow gets involved in a football game against some monsters made of various obscure elements. This is a very bizarre and funny comic and a good example of the Metamorpho formula, but at the time I read it, I was too tired to enjoy it much.

ARCHIE #211 (Archie, 1971) – “Power Mad” and other stories, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey. A bunch of well-drawn but extremely formulaic stories. Maybe the most memorable is the one where Archie keeps trying to lie in a hammock, but fails every time.

On Saturday, October 28, I went to the annual Heroes Pop Swap, an event where people who aren’t professional comics dealers get together at the Heroes store to buy and sell comics and other pop culture stuff. Only about half the sellers had comics, but I made some amazing finds, and also bought a couple things at the Heroes store. Most of the following comics were among my purchases at this event:

JIM #5 (Fantagraphics, 1995) – “Dive Deep” and other stories, [W/A] Jim Woodring. One seller at the Pop Swap had a bunch of Woodring comics as well as other alternative comics. I’ve only read a little bit of Woodring, and have been reluctant to read more because I find his work extremely disturbing. Jim might be a better introduction to Woodring than Frank. This issue includes some of his black-and-white Frank stories, one of which is autobiographical, except not really; it’s a surrealistic, absurdist dream sequence whose main character resembles Jim Woodring. The backup story in Boom Boom is based on this story and others like it. Despite its title, this issue also includes two Frank stories, including one, “Peeker,” which is in color. Woodring’s silent storytelling is brilliant, but maybe an even better thing about “Peeker” is the colorful, curvilinear environment that Frank lives in. It feels like a real city, but one that was not built by humans.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #1 (DC, 1990) – “Execution Day,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Chris Bachalo. I’ve read a lot of issues of this series, but until now I didn’t know how it began. Kathy Greene travels to Louisiana with her black boyfriend Roy to visit her parents, but her parents are murdered by serial killer Troy Grenzer, and then Roy is killed by racist cops who mistake him for the murderer. Grenzer is executed, but then he comes back to life, claiming he’s really a man called Shade from Meta. And thus begins a brilliant series. Reading this issue, I realized that Kathy must be one of the most traumatized characters in any comic book. Besides all the stuff she suffered in this issue, she later had an unwanted pregnancy and died in childbirth along with the baby, although she got better.

ANGELIC #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. I forgot to order this, so I’m glad Heroes had it. Qora teams up with the flying manatees, and with one of them in particular, who is just as much an outcast among the manatees as Qora is among the monkeys. And they head off to look for Ay’s missing eye. At this point, it’s clear that “Ay” is really an AI. This is another in a series of brilliant series by Spurrier.

MADMAN COMICS #1 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “The Living End: A Proem,” [W/A] Mike Allred. Lots of stuff happens in this issue, none of which I can summarize, but it’s all exciting and dynamic and funny. This is perhaps the best Madman comic I’ve read, partly because of Allred’s art. After this comic, Allred developed a very standardized style that changes very little from one of his comics to another, but as of 1994, that style was not fully formed, and he drew with a lot more detail. I feel like now that I’ve read this comic, I have a much better idea of what Madman is about and why it’s appealing.

DEVIL DINOSAUR #5 (Marvel, 1978) – “Journey to the Center of the Ants!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Devil teams up with some other proto-humans to rescue Moon-Boy from some aliens. In this issue, Devil is depicted as much smarter than his human companions, which is a marked contrast to how Brandon Montclare writes him; however, even a really smart dinosaur would still seem stupid compared to Lunella. This issue has one unintentionally funny page where, due to an awkward panel transition, it looks like one of the aliens is about to step on Devil.

MARSHAL LAW #1 (Marvel, 1987) – “Stars and Strippers,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. In a post-earthquake San Francisco, normal people are being tormented by “superheroes” who are in fact hooligans. The protagonist is a superhero who hunts these fake superheroes. This comic is clearly intended as a parody of comics like Watchmen and DKR, but it’s hard to tell that it’s a parody or that we’re not supposed to admire Marshal Law.

HELLBLAZER #41 (DC, 1991) – “The Beginning of the End: Dangerous Habits – Part One,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Will Simpson. In Garth Ennis’s first issue, Constantine is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer thanks to a lifetime of smoking, plunging him into deep despair. The reader knows Constantine will get out of this eventually, but Constantine doesn’t know that, and this issue creates a powerful sense of despair. It also has one hilarious moment, where a waiter castigates Constantine for buying one cup of tea and then sitting for two hours, and Constantine demands a refill.

KILL OR BE KILLED #11 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. I started ordering this series after reading issue 3, but I hadn’t read any more of it yet. I guess the premise is that the protagonist has some kind of compulsion to put on a mask and kill criminals. This issue, he stops killing people and gets his life back together, but he soon gets violently ill, which convinces him that he has to kill people again. This issue is a good piece of work by a very consistent creative team.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #7 (DC, 1978) – “The Color Coma!”, [W/A] Steve Ditko, [W] Michael Fleisher. This is clearly a late-period Ditko comic, full of action, abstract art, philosophy, and characters with bizarre short names. This comic has so many characters and such a convoluted plot that it’s difficult to read, but it’s exciting, and Fleisher is a better scripter than Ditko is.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #60 (Marvel, 1979) – “The Terrorist Manifesto!”, [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Marie Severin. Much better than #59, which I reviewed earlier this year. Luke and Danny investigate the attempted bombing attack on the Ducal Cellar restaurant, leading to a lot of plot complications. The issue ends at the Halwani embassy, which was the target of the bombing. Halwan, which appeared in several other ‘70s Marvel comics, is a generic Middle Eastern/West Asian country, but it seems to be based on pre-revolutionary Iran in particular. At the climax, Luke discovers that a bomb has been sent to the embassy disguised as a samovar, and he heads to the embassy and asks Danny, who’s already there, if he’s seen a samovar. And Danny asks “What’s a samovar?” even though he’s standing right in font of it. A poignant subplot in this issue has to do with Misty’s resentment of Alan Cavanaugh, the former IRA terrorist who was wrongly suspected of planting the bomb. It turns out that Misty is angry at him because of her own trauma from having lost her hand in a terrorist attack.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR #11 (Harvey Pekar, 1986) – various stories, [W] Harvey Pekar, [A] Spain, Joe Zabel, etc. This and #15, which I haven’t read yet, were among my best finds at the Pop Swap. None of the stories in this issue are among Harvey’s absolute best, but they’re all funny and relatable. I think the best is one where Harvey listens to two bus drivers talking about how pedestrians don’t watch where they’re going, and then Harvey almost gets run over himself. (By the way, Harvey is depicts African-American English better than perhaps any other white comics writer.) All of these stories are faithful depictions of an America that’s gone, but still survives in the memory of people who experienced it. In the bus story, one of the drivers says “When ah was goin’ t’ school we didn’t have no computers, didn’t have nothin’ but them Chinese things.” And an old man replies, “When ah went t’ schoo’ we didn’ have nothin’ but our haids.” That man is very likely dead now, but his lifetime overlapped with mine, and the time when he went to school is not as far away from 2017 as it seems.

UNEARTHLY SPECTACULARS #3 (Harvey, 1967) – various stories, [E] Leon Harvey. This issue was part of Harvey’s short-lived Thriller line, which, like Archie’s Mighty Comics line, was an unsuccessful imitation of Silver Age Marvel and DC. The best of the various stories in this issue is a five-pager by Reed Crandall, which is actually a reprint from an earlier Harvey title. Of the other stories, perhaps the most interesting is Joe Simon and Jerry Grandenetti’s “Miracles, Inc.”, which has the same wacky, oddball sensibility as their Outsiders story in First Issue Special. It’s about a team of “superheroes” that includes a superheroic chef, a hillbilly with bad luck powers, and so on.

FROM THE ASHES #1 (IDW, 2009) – untitled, [W/A] Bob Fingerman. A story that stars Fingerman and his wife Michele, and is set in the aftermath of an apocalypse. The nature of the apocalypse is not stated, but Fingerman plays it for laughs. Rather than being horrified that nearly everyone in the world is dead, he and his wife are happy that they no longer have to work and that they can have sex outside. The most emotionally affecting part of this comic is in fact the flashback to before the apocalypse, when Michele keeps getting interrupted by her Blackberry whenever she tries to do anything.

DENIZENS OF DEEP CITY #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1988) – “Denizens of Deep City,” [W/A] Doug Potter. I bought this because it was recommended in Frank Plowright’s Slings and Arrows Comic Guide, which I am slowly reading. This is a rather bizarre and uncanny comic. On the first page, a woman eats her young. This is never mentioned again. The main story is about a man named Jason whose TV is stolen. He can’t recover it, nor can he find another TV that will work. He slowly goes insane until he shoots a paperboy and is sent to jail, where he finally has TV again. According to Plowright’s book, this issue is not representative of the rest of the series, so I’d be curious to see what the other issues are like.