Massive review post

New comics received on May 27. This was another really exciting week.

LUMBERJANES #25 (Boom!, 2016) – Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh [W], Carey Pietsch [A]. See previous post for why I read #25 after #26. Like #26, #25 is an incredible comic book and it restores my faith in this series. Basically all the scenes involving the kittens are incredible. From having read the following issue, I already knew the kittens were going to develop super powers, but even then I was amazed by the exuberance and humor of the scene that introduces them. Reading this comic actually made me feel guilty about not playing with my own cat enough. Also, something strange is going on with Molly’s family and I’m eager to learn what it is. The Chynna Clugston-Major backup story is disappointing, but who cares when the main story is this good.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #8 (Marvel, 2016) – Ryan North [W], Erica Henderson [A]. The information about tree lobsters at the beginning of this issue is correct, like most of the real-world facts in Ryan North’s comics. The main plot this issue is that Squirrel Girl discovers Koi Boi is already in a relationship, so she joins an online dating site. I think the best part of the issue is the fake profile that Tippy Toe writes for Doreen, but the two-page dating montage is also very funny and well-executed. Especially the Sentinel that’s programmed to feel heartbreak.

AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #9 (Archie, 2016) – Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa [W], Francesco Francavilla [A] It’s been literally over a year since the previous issue of this series. I guess Roberto and Francesco deserve credit for sticking with it, but this kind of lateness is ridiculous and it’s destroyed whatever momentum this comic has. This is a very good issue, an effective examination of both Reggie’s psychology and his role in causing the zombie apocalypse. But I expect that by the time the next issue comes out, if it ever does, I’ll have forgotten everything that happened in this issue.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #7 (Marvel, 2016) – Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder [W], Marco Failla [A]. This issue introduces Moon Girl’s first archenemy, Kid Kree, and it ends with a scene where Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur switch bodies. This series is still not at the same level as the best Marvel titles, but it’s fun. I think it’s more similar to Hero Cats than to other Marvel titles – like Hero Cats, it’s aimed at quite a young audience, and it requires a massive amount of suspension of disbelief.

PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT #6 (Marvel, 2016) – Kate Leth [W], Natasha Allegri [A]. The guest artist this issue is the creator of Bee and Puppycat, a series I tried and didn’t like, but I did enjoy Allegri’s artwork here. The characters all look like they’re about eight years old, but they’re supposed to. As for the plot, this is basically a fill-in issue, in which Patsy and her friends fight Arcade and nothing plot-relevant happens, but it’s a fun comic anyway.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #15 (IDW, 2016) – Kelly Thompson [W], Sophie Campbell [A]. Another fairly exciting chapter of Dark Jem, with more brilliant Sophie Campbell artwork. It was kind of average, though. The only truly exciting thing this issue is the opening sequence that’s a flashback to Jem and her sisters’ childhood.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS #8 (Action Lab, 2016) – Raven and her friends finally confront Raven’s evil brothers, but the brothers get away and Ximena is seriously hurt. As the characters themselves point out in the last panel, this is a somewhat anticlimactic ending to the second story arc, and this story as a whole has been much less exciting than the first one. I’d like to see more of a focus on Raven’s crewmates – I can’t even remember the names of any of them except Ximena.

WEIRDWORLD #6 (Marvel, 2016) – Sam Humphries [W], Mike del Mundo [A]. I was shocked to realize that this is the last issue. It’s a fairly effective resolution to Becca’s story. Becca can’t save her mother’s ashes, just as she couldn’t prevent her mother’s death, but she realizes that neither of these is her fault. Writing this issue must have been cathartic for Humphries – he has said that Becca’s character arc is based on his reaction to his own stepmother’s suicide. And the issue ends by leaving open the possibility of more stories, since Becca and Goleta still have a quest. I just wish this series hadn’t been cancelled when it still has so much narrative potential. There seems to be no official explanation of why it was cancelled; the reason could be that Sam Humphries is on an exclusive contract with DC, but sadly I think a more probable reason is low sales.

MS. MARVEL #7 (Marvel, 2016) – G. Willow Wilson [W], Adrian Alphona [A]. Because this issue is branded as a Road to Civil War crossover, I was afraid it would be a wasted issue, a pointless crossover that would kill the momentum of the series while also making no sense on its own. (See All-New All-Different Avengers #8, many issues of Captain Marvel, etc.) But it turns out that this is a self-contained story that relates to Civil War tangentially if at all. It’s also delightful. Kamala competes at a science fair against Miles Morales, and they end up causing massive property damage and ruining their chances at a science scholarship. This is one of Willow and Adrian’s funnier stories. Skyshark (“the happiest shark there is”) is of course the coolest thing in the issue, and Adrian Alphona fills each page with funny sight gags. (I know what hammerspace is, but even then I had to ask other people to explain the hammerspace gag to me; it seems that the person pulling improbably large objects out of her bag is Mary Poppins.) The sad part about this issue is the hoops that Kamala and Miles and Bruno have to jump through in order to get a scholarship. As a college teacher, I’ve seen how hard it is for my students to get an education, even when they come from fairly privileged backgrounds. Also, because my college education was paid for, I am far luckier than many of my friends, who have a crippling amount of student loan debt. The line at the end of the issue – “We shouldn’t have to battle to the death just to get into good colleges and not end up a trillion dollars in debt afterward” – is completely true. And in the next panel, Willow even turns this argument into a critique of the whole premise of the Civil War crossover.

ANOTHER CASTLE #3 (Oni, 2016) – Andrew Wheeler [W], Paulina Ganucheau [A]. I just realized that on the cover of this issue, the writing on Misty’s sword is the Konami Code. That’s a cute easter egg. This is another good issue, though it’s fairly similar to the last two; as the third issue out of five, its role is to advance the existing plot rather than to add anything new. The scene with Badlug talking to the severed head is surprisingly violent in a comic that seems to be targeted to young readers.

ACTION LAB: DOG OF WONDER #2 (Action Lab, 2016) – Vito Delsante & Scott Fogg [W], Rosy Higgins & Ted Brandt [A]. The two artists on this comic share the pencilling and inking duties. This comic does not just have a funny title, it’s also a good comic. Despite being a cat person, I think the dogs in this comic are adorable, and I like Higgins and Brandt’s colorful and cute artwork. I hope that a crossover between this title and Hero Cats is in the future.

MONSTRESS #6 (Image, 2016) – Marjorie Liu [W], Sana Takeda [A]. This is still a brilliant and important comic, and I still feel somewhat reluctant to read each new issue because of its dark tone. Hence why it was the twelfth comic I read this week. At this point I’m starting to understand the plot a bit better, and the interplay between Maika and the Monstrum is becoming very interesting; it looks like the Monstrum is not as 100% evil as I had thought. Another fun detail this issue is that it looks like the cats get a new tail for each life they lose.

THE MIGHTY THOR #7 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], Rafa Garres [A]. This is the second and final part of the Boldo the Black story, and I’m glad it’s over. Rafa Garres’s artwork was interesting the first time around, but got old very fast. His art is very loose and sloppy, and though this is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s annoying because it contrasts with the visual identity of this comic. Russell Dauterman has given this comic a very clean and delicate sensibility, and therefore Garres’s artwork seems inappropriate. Also, the Boldo the Black plotline is not very interesting to begin with, and on top of that, it’s an unfortunate interruption in the flow of the series.

BATGIRL #52 (DC, 2016) – Brenden Fletcher [W], Eleonora Carlini [A]. This series could reasonably have ended with issue 50, but it’s just as well that we got two more issues after that, because both of the extra two issues have been fun. This issue is a follow-up to Batgirl Annual #3, where Babs and a bunch of other characters fought Gladius, and it ends with Babs’s going-away party. It’s an effective conclusion and tribute to Brenden’s run on the series. One thing that’s especially good is the two-page spread at the end, where Babs talks to each of her supporting characters, and inset panels depict some of her past encounters with the same characters.

Now for some older comics:

STRANGE ADVENTURES #213 (DC, 1968) – Neal Adams [W/A]. This story has nothing to do with the ongoing Hook plotline. When Deadman’s friend is shot, Deadman possesses a surgeon named Dr. Shasti, who saves him, and then Deadman has to save Dr. Shasti from being swindled by a phony soothsayer. The main appeal of this story is Neal’s spectacular artwork, of course, and Neal’s writing is also less bad than it usually is. A strange thing is that Dr. Shasti and his son are explicitly stated to be Indian, but they’re drawn to look exactly like white people. This issue also includes a backup story by John Rosenberger which may or may not be a reprint; either way, it’s terrible.

DETECTIVE COMICS #611 (DC, 1990) – Alan Grant [W], Norm Breyfogle [A]. I’m surprised that I didn’t read this issue sooner, because the issue before it was one of the first comic books I ever owned, and I know some parts of it by heart – I have a clearer memory of Detective Comics #610 than of many other comics that are much more famous. (Back when I had fewer comics, I spent more time rereading the comics I did have.) Also, that issue is the first part of a two-parter. Now that I’ve finally read the conclusion of “Snow and Ice,” I think that this story is valuable for more than just nostalgia. It’s also a classic Penguin story, displaying both the Penguin’s overinflated ego and his viciousness. The other villain in this issue, the death-obsessed Kadaver, is also rather frightening, and Norm Breyfogle’s art is quite compelling. I need to read more of the Batman stories by this creative team.

SUPERMAN #302 (DC, 1976) – Elliot S! Maggin [W], José Luis García-López [A]. “Seven-Foot-Two… and Still Growing!” is not one of Elliot S! Maggin’s better efforts. Luthor causes Superman’s body to grow larger while his brain stays the same size, making him stupid. With Ray Palmer’s help, Superman defeats Luthor using some sort of poorly explained trick that I didn’t understand. This story had some serious potential for comedy, but that potential was not fulfilled, and JLGL’s artwork was not his best.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #6 (Marvel, 2016) – Greg Pak [W], Mike Choi [A]. I didn’t order issue 5 of this series, so this issue was difficult to follow, and on top of that it was confusing and forgettable. This series is much weaker without Frank Cho’s art.

ROCKETEER ADVENTURE MAGAZINE #3 (Dark Horse, 1995) – Dave Stevens [W/A]. This is one of the best-drawn American comic books ever published. The quality of Dave Stevens’s artwork is stratospheric. His storytelling is clear and effective, his draftsmanship is gorgeous, and he draws on a vast wealth of influences (for example, I was surprised to see some panels that reminded me of L.B. Cole). The writing is almost as good as the art. It’s been a long time since I read the other two issues of this miniseries, so I had forgotten the character Lothar, but his reason for hating Cliff Secord is heartbreaking – he blames Cliff for the death of his midget girlfriend who secretly loved Cliff. Sadly this was also the last Rocketeer story and, to my knowledge, Dave Stevens’s last work in comics. I seem to recall reading that he gave up on comics because he was unable to produce work that met his own standards, and he also had easier ways to make money. As I have previously said in reviews of other comics by similarly talented artists (e.g. Nate Simpson), it’s a shame that the American comics industry is not organized in such a way as to allow artists to do their best work. If you’re working for the French market, you can make a living by doing 50 ultra-detailed and painstaking pages a year; in America, that is a recipe for poverty. I love the comic book format, but there are some artists who are poorly served by it.

GODDESS #1 (Vertigo, 1995) – Garth Ennis [W], Phil Winslade [A]. This comic is weird and not in a good way. It’s a hybrid of Ennis’s funny/American and serious/British styles (see my review of Goddess #3) and these two styles don’t mesh together well. On one hand, the title character, Rosie, and the narrator, Jeff, are portrayed in a sympathetic and realistic way, reminding me of Kit and Constantine a little. On the other hand, everything else in the comic is much more reminiscent of Preacher or (shudder) All-Star Section Eight. It’s full of over-the-top satire and ridiculous violence, including one man being eaten alive by a shark – and that’s just on page eight. And then on page thirteen a different man is eaten alive by a tiger. This comic just doesn’t seem to know what sort of tone it’s going for. Phil Winslade’s art is amazing, though.

SWAMP THING #79 (DC, 1989) – Rick Veitch [W/A]. I’m pretty sure this is the only Rick Veitch Swamp Thing I hadn’t read. In this issue, Swampy tries to get revenge on Luthor for teleporting him into outer space, but Superman prevents Swampy from killing Luthor. This issue prompted my Facebook comment about how I vastly prefer the pre-Crisis mad scientist Luthor to the post-Crisis corrupt CEO Luthor. In this issue, Luthor is cartoonishly evil for no reason; in particular, he forces his new security chief to sleep with him, then probably rapes and/or murders her off-panel. The treatment of this latter character is disturbing; we never find out what happens to her, and Superman does nothing to protect her. This issue does include a very effective scene where Swampy asks Superman why he only protects humans and not other species, and Superman can’t immediately answer.

SUICIDE SQUAD #16 (DC, 1988) – John Ostrander [W], Luke McDonnell [A]. This issue reintroduces Shade the Changing Man, which is an impressive feat considering that the tone of his original series was completely different from the tone of Suicide Squad. Other than that it’s just an average issue of Suicide Squad.

THE SPECTRE #31 (DC, 1995) – John Ostrander [W], Tom Mandrake & Dave Chystek [A]. Considering how much I enjoy Ostrander’s writing, I ought to be collecting this series more heavily. This issue stands out because it focuses on Father Richard Craemer, who appears in both this series and Suicide Squad. When Father Craemer is put on trial before an ecclesiastical court for contesting official dogma on the gender of God, Amanda Waller and some other Suicide Squad members show up to testify on his behalf, but Father Craemer ends up resigning his ministry anyway. This issue’s depiction of canon law is probably somewhat inaccurate, but Father Craemer comes across as a deeply principled and honest man.

WEIRD FANTASY #19 (Russ Cochran, 1997, originally 1953) – Al Feldstein [W], various [A]. This issue starts with an adaptation (unauthorized I assume) of Bradbury’s “King of the Grey Spaces,” about a boy who abandons his best friend to become an astronaut. This is a compelling story with a significant homoerotic subtext, but Feldstein and Severin’s adaptation fails to capture what’s interesting about the story. Jack Kamen’s “Hot Rod” has a funny shock ending but is otherwise forgettable. Al Williamson’s “Brain-Child!” is the high point of the issue, mostly because of the beautiful art. Joe Orlando’s “Time for a Change” is just average.

TWO-FISTED TALES #1 (Russ Cochran, 1992) – various [W/A]. According to the GCD, each of the stories in this issue was written by the same person who drew it. Kurtzman’s “Conquest” is an impressive opening to this series. It has a very basic plot but it’s a powerful condemnation of the Spanish conquistadors. Al Feldstein’s “Hong Kong Intrigue” is a silly piece of Orientalism. Wally Wood’s “Revolution” is beautifully drawn but the writing is uninspired. Johnny Craig’s “Mutiny” is the second best story in the issue; it features some powerful action sequences and a bunch of silent panels.

BATMAN #460 (DC, 1991) – Alan Grant [W], Norm Breyfogle [A]. A fairly good Catwoman story. My favorite thing about it is the multiple scenes taking place in Selina’s apartment, which of course is full of cats. The subplot involving Commissioner Gordon and Sarah Essen is better than the main plot. Norm makes Gordon look as though he’s at least 70 years old.

GREEN ARROW #27 (DC, 1989) – Mike Grell [W], Dan Jurgens [A]. Most of Mike Grell’s protagonists are middle-aged adventurers suffering from midlife crises, and this issue brings together two such protagonists, Oliver Queen and Travis Morgan. The fact that these two characters are so similar is even a plot point in the issue, because people keep mistaking Morgan for Ollie. There’s one funny scene in this issue where you’re supposed to think Ollie and Dinah just had sex, but then it turns out they were fighting.

REID FLEMING, WORLD’S TOUGHEST MILKMAN #1 (Eclipse, 1986) – David Boswell [A]. I’ve been aware of this series for a long time, but have never read it before. I didn’t think it was the kind of thing I’d like. I was wrong, because this is an amazing comic. It’s full of funny absurdist humor, and Reid Fleming himself is a fascinating character – a mean, rude jerk but with a surprisingly tender side. He reminds me a bit of Harvey Pekar. David Boswell’s art is impressive, full of cross-hatching and fine detail; he reminds me of Drew Friedman. Even the lettering complements the artwork very well. I want to read more of this series.

New comics received on June 3. This was a fairly light week and I read more old comics this week than new ones.

PAPER GIRLS #6 (Image, 2016) – Brian K. Vaughan [W], Cliff Chiang [A]. This issue, the girls travel to the future where they meet a future version of Erin. This series continues to be reasonably fun, but the plot still makes very little sense, and I don’t quite understand this comic is supposed to be “about.” The highlight of the issue is Erin and her friends’ amazed reaction on seeing HDTV.

GIANT DAYS #15 (Boom!, 2016) – John Allison [W], Max Sarin [A]. The gimmick this issue is that the girls are competing in a film festival, and they win the top prize by accident. It’s almost pointless reviewing each issue of this series because they’re all very similar, although that’s not a bad thing.

THE GODDAMNED #4 (Image, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], R.M. Guéra [A]. This series has been a bit disappointing on a narrative level – I was honestly hoping for more sex in addition to all the violence. R.M. Guéra’s art is still amazing, and it’s the primary reason to read this comic; Cain is not as interesting a character as some of Jason Aaron’s other protagonists.

HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY #10 (Action Lab, 2016) – Kyle Puttkammer [W], Marcus Williams [A]. When I read this, I initially wondered if I’d missed an issue, because the story begins in media res with no explanation of what’s been going on. In this issue, the Hero Cats somehow find themselves in an Old West town and they have an adventure in which all the old Western clichés are trotted out. It’s funny, but there’s also no explanation for why this town is stuck at a 19th-century level of technology. Though I’ve already pointed out that this series requires more than a normal level of suspension of disbelief.

CASANOVA: ACEDIA #5 (Image, 2016) – Matt Fraction [W], Fábio Moon [A]. This week was full of comics that didn’t quite make sense, or didn’t live up to expectations, or both. Casanova is a bizarre and confusing comic at the best of times, and the confusion gets even worse when there’s a nine-month (!) gap between issues. They should have waited to publish this series until the whole thing was finished. At least Matt and Fábio’s work is up to its usual high level. The highlight of this issue is the bookstore with an interdimensional gateway behind the counter, though I have no idea what this has to do with anything.

HELLBOY IN HELL #9 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Mike Mignola [W/A]. I’m only an intermittent Hellboy reader – it looks like I only read issue 8 of this series, and I can’t remember anything about it. However, the plot of this issue is not difficult to understand: Hellboy is in hell for some reason, as the title indicates, and he’s defeating all the local demons one by one. Mignola’s artwork, which is the primary reason I ordered this comic, is fantastic.

HELLBOY IN HELL #10 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Mike Mignola [W/A]. Even though I’m only a casual Hellboy fan, I had to read Mike’s final issue. There’s a lot of stuff here that I don’t understand, such as the three shapes on the last page (a reference to “The Magician and the Snake?”), but this seems like an appropriate conclusion to one of the most important creator-owned comic books of the last twenty years.

HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY #11 (Action Lab, 2016) – as above. I guess the point of this storyline is that each issue is an homage to a different genre. In this issue, the Hero Cats have a jungle adventure, where they team up with a Tarzan-esque character and fight a jungle demon. Cassiopeia, who is becoming the focal character of the series, saves the day, and the story ends with a group hug. Cute. And now I’m finally caught up on this series. Next time I see Puttkammer or Williams at a convention, I want to show them my picture of my own cat lying on top of an issue of Hero Cats.

MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS: PINK #1 (Boom!, 2016) – Brenden Fletcher & Kelly Thompson [W], Daniele Di Nicuolo [A]. I was excited about this series because of the high level of talent involved, but it proved to be disappointing. It just seems like a generic adventure story with nothing distinctive about it. Perhaps the problem is that I never liked the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers – I only remember seeing one episode when I was a kid, and I hated it. So I’m completely unfamiliar with the protagonist or any of the other characters. I was equally unfamiliar with Jem and the Holograms when I started reading it, and I love that series, but it doesn’t assume any prior knowledge of the TV show.

THE INFINITE LOOP #4 (IDW, 2015) – Pierrick Colinet [W], Elsa Charretier [A]. This is just not a good comic. Elsa Charretier’s artwork is interesting, though her page layouts are sometimes overly cluttered, but Pierrick Colinet… to put it delicately, his writing has substantial room for improvement. First, the message of this series is that tolerance is good and that it’s okay to be gay. This is of course a valuable message, but it’s not nearly as controversial as the creators think. By publishing a comic with this message, Colinet and Charretier are preaching to the choir. Moreover, Colinet makes his points in such a heavy-handed and unsubtle way that he antagonizes the reader. The oppressive society that Teddy is fighting against is an unrealistic strawman: at the beginning of this issue, Teddy’s mother literally tells her that war is peace, freedom is slavery, etc. As other reviewers have pointed out, this comic’s plot is confusing and poorly explained, and the protagonists are essentially ciphers. At this point, the only reason I read the last two issues of this series was because I already had them.

INFINITE LOOP #5 (IDW, 2015) – Pierrick Colinet [W], Elsa Charretier [A]. So here’s another example of Colinet’s heavy-handed writing. At the beginning of this issue, there’s a new character who switches from male to female repeatedly. This is a cool idea, but Colinet proceeds to ruin it by having this character make a long-winded angry sermon about genderqueer identity. Here’s an excerpt:

“You know what, I won’t even get into it. I don’t know why I should fit into your binary, narrow-minded and dark aged system […] Oh, please. Don’t you even dare ‘calm-your-tits’ me! What is that even supposed to mean? That if I had switched to a dude right before you giving my speech, you would have given me more credit? Is that what you mean? Because believe me, I don’t need to grow my pair back to kick yours.”

And it goes on like that for three more panels. When an argument is expressed in such a combative way, it’s annoying even to readers who already believe the argument. I felt as if the character making this speech was insulting me, the reader, as well as the characters to whom she was speaking, and I didn’t do anything to deserve such insults. Another problem here is Colinet’s awkward prose style, but I’ll get to that next.

INFINITE LOOP #6 (IDW, 2015) – Pierrick Colinet [W], Elsa Charretier [A]. A further problem with this series is the prose style. Pierrick Colinet’s English is so awkward and unidiomatic, he might have been better off writing this comic in French and then hiring someone to translate it into English. Here’s an example: “What are the chances?” “So low I don’t even want to think about it. It might take some trial and error, but if those afraid to lose hadn’t taken chances, we’d still be covered in hair, eating stupid seeds.” Overall, this series had some interesting artwork and it launched Elsa Charretier’s promising career, but it was not effectively written.

JEREMIAH: THE HEIRS #1 (Malibu, 1991) – Hermann [W/A]. This comic reprints the first half of an album by Hermann, who recently won the Angoulême Grand Prix under controversial circumstances. Malibu’s reproduction of Hermann’s art is severely problematic. The original Jeremiah albums were in color, but this comic is in black and white, making Hermann’s artwork difficult to parse. And the art is reproduced at a microscopic size, not even filling the entire page. Even then, Hermann’s artwork is brilliant. The level of detail and craftsmanship that goes into each panel is amazing, at least compared to most American comics. This just proves the point I made in my review of Rocketeer #3 above – in France, you can draw with this amount of detail and still make a living, because you only have to produce about 50 pages a year. In America, comics with such high-quality draftsmanship are rare, and this is because of the economic model of the industry. I’m less impressed by this comic’s writing than by its art, but Hermann’s story is reasonably good; this comic is a fairly interesting combination of the post-apocalyptic and Western genres. Dark Horse has published Jeremiah and other works of Hermann in much higher-quality editions, and I’d like to get those books someday.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #10 (Marvel, 2015) – Mark Waid [W], Doc Shaner [A]. I bought this because of the Howard the Duck guest appearance; I don’t remember if I knew about the Doc Shaner artwork. In this story, Mark shows a reasonably good understanding of Howard’s character. On the first page, someone mentions that Howard “can better deal with big emergencies if they’re seasoned with a dash of the comically mundane” and that “the fuel that revs his motor is resentment.” Both of those statements seem highly accurate. Mark also does an okay job of imitating the basic silliness of Steve Gerber and Chip Zdarsky’s Howard stories. Doc Shaner’s art is below his usual level, though.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #111 (Marvel, 1980) – Roy Thomas [W], John Buscema [A]. This is one of the final issues of Roy’s first run on Conan. It’s a high-quality comic, but I’ve read almost this entire run, and there’s not much here that’s new to me. The most interesting thing about this story is the woman who claims to be married to Conan. Characteristically, Conan denies that he’s married to her, but has no objection to sleeping with her.

JACK STAFF #2 (Image, 2003) – Paul Grist [W/A]. I’m not familiar with either the plot of this comic or the classic British comics that it’s based on, but I love Paul Grist’s artwork. One thing that particularly stands out to me is how he uses lettering as one of the major compositional elements of each panel, much like Ellen Forney does.

STARTLING STORIES: BANNER #2 (Marvel, 2001) – Brian Azzarello [W], Richard Corben [A]. This issue’s story is just an excuse for Richard Corben’s beautiful, testosterone-soaked artwork. I have nothing to add to my review of the previous issue.

TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #8 (IDW, 2011) – Tom Scioli [W/A], John Barber [W]. I’ve been collecting this series but not reading it. Tom Scioli’s artwork fascinates me – on one hand it looks primitive and childish and unprofessional, but on the other hand it has an utterly unique and distinctive sensibility, like Kirby crossed with Gary Panter. He seems like kind of a naïve artist, in that he just draws whatever he wants to draw, without much concern for what critics might think of it. I saw him drawing once at a convention, and he was drawing on some random piece of paper that he just happened to have; somehow this working method seems appropriate to his style of artwork. The story of this comic doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I don’t think it’s supposed to.

PAST AWAYS #4 (Dark Horse, 2015) – Matt Kindt [W], Scott Kolins [A]. I’m slowly working my way through this series. In this issue, Arthur goes to a psychiatrist, the team fights a giant evil tentacle, and Phil plots to have Arthur killed. One enjoyable thing about this series is the text pieces at the end of each issue, where Herbert comments on the stupidity of 21st-century America from the perspective of a person from the future.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #2 (Fantagraphics, 2015) – Ed Piskor [W/A]. I think I’ve already read all this material, but it’s enlightening to read it again with Ed’s notes. It’s better to read the notes at the same time as the main story, rather than afterward.

HELLBLAZER #62 (DC, 1993) – Garth Ennis [W], Steve Dillon [A]. This is one of Ennis and Dillon’s better single issues of Hellblazer. It focuses on Constantine’s relationship with his family, especially his niece Gemma, and his heritage. When Constantine finds out that Gemma’s classmate is getting her involved in magic, he finds the classmate and “curses” him. The “curse” is a bunch of made-up nonsense, but the classmate believes every word of it. This scene is kind of a perfect summary of how magic works in this series: for Constantine, convincing someone that you can do magic is the same as doing it. Later in the issue, Constantine exorcises the ghost of an old ancestor of his, and realizes that “it’s no failure to be the last Constantine, ‘cos now no one else has to be.” Reading this issue gave me a sense of déjà vu because I know I’ve read the cursing scene before, but as far as I can tell, I didn’t already have this issue, and the second half of it did not ring a bell. Maybe I read that scene on scans_daily or something.

DC COMICS PRESENTS #6 (DC, 1979) – Paul Levitz [W], Curt Swan [A]. This Superman-Green Lantern team-up is a fun comic, but it’s not comparable to some of Levitz’s other works from this period. Star Sapphire defeats Green Lantern in battle, but Hal sends his ring to Superman, and they team up to beat the villain. It’s a well-executed but formulaic piece of work.

XENOZOIC TALES #9 (Kitchen Sink, 1989) – Mark Schultz [W/A]. I believe this was the last issue of Xenozoic Tales I hadn’t read, but “Last Link in the Chain” was the first Mark Schultz story I ever read. It was reprinted in a free comic that was published to promote the short-lived Cadillacs & Dinosaurs TV show. (Just to remind myself, it’s the one where Jack is chased by a big dinosaur that then gets eaten by an even bigger dinosaur.) When I read that comic in 1993, I had no ability to appreciate Mark Schultz’s brilliant artwork, but reading it again now, I realize how amazing this story is; it’s full of spectacular action scenes that remind me of the best work of Frazetta or Williamson. The only thing I don’t like about Schultz’s art is his faces. The backup story by Steve Stiles is of course not as gorgeously drawn, but it does advance the ongoing plot. Unfortunately, Mark Schultz is another artist whose work is too labor-intensive to be profitable.

DAREDEVIL #46 (Marvel, 1968) – Stan Lee [W], Gene Colan [A]. Like most Lee/Colan Daredevils, this issue has brilliant artwork, witty dialogue, and a plot that wouldn’t have been any different if Spider-Man had been substituted for Daredevil. When Matt is falsely accused of killing the Jester, he has to find the actual Jester and fight him on live camera in order to clear his name, but even after he does that, he’s still depressed over not being able to see Karen Page. This comic is more fun than most current superhero comics, but it’s not better than the Spider-Man comics of its day.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #130 (DC, 1976) – Martin Pasko [W], Dick Dillin [A]. This issue introduces the Dharlu, the female alien who becomes imprisoned in the JLA Satellite’s computer. I’ve been curious about the origin of this character ever since I encountered her in later issues of JLofA, so it was fun to finally learn what the Dharlu was and where she came from. In terms of its actual merits, this issue is a competent effort but nothing great.

INCREDIBLE HULK #190 (Marvel, 1975) – Len Wein [W], Herb Trimpe [A]. My copy of this issue is brittle and flaking apart; I need to replace it. Herb Trimpe’s run on the Hulk was the high point of the series between Stan Lee and Peter David, and this issue is a good example of his work. The Hulk is feeling sad and lonely and persecuted, as usual, when the Shaper of Worlds’s servant Glorian creates a paradise for him. Of course the Hulk only gets to stay there for a little bit before he’s abducted by alien toads (?), but his brief sojourn in paradise is very touching, and reminds me of another classic Hulk story from this period, “Heaven is a Very Small Place” from #147. This issue also includes a posthumous appearance by Crackajack Jackson, whose only actual appearance was in #182, a classic issue that I’ve never been able to afford because it’s also the third appearance of Wolverine.

CHEVAL NOIR #31 (Dark Horse, 1992) – various [W/A]. This series reprinted a number of classic European comics, although some of them, like the Hermann story discussed above, were reprinted in black and white when they were originally in color. This issue begins with a segment of Cosey’s “In Search of Peter Pan.” The plot of this album is not entirely clear to me, but it takes place in an Alpine village in Switzerland, which is depicted in loving detail. Cosey is from Switzerland himself and he must know this area like the back of his hand. The other long piece in the issue is the conclusion of Comès’s “Tree-Heart.” This story has perhaps the heaviest spotting of blacks I’ve ever seen; there is so much black ink on each page that you can actually feel it. The visual effect of this is stunning, but because this chapter is the conclusion of the story, it doesn’t make much sense on its own. “In Search of Peter Pan” was also published in book form by NBM, but “Tree-Heart” is the only work by Comès that’s available in English, and it was only published in Cheval Noir. This issue also includes a few other things, such as a chapter of David Lynch’s “The Angriest Dog in the World,” which Bart Beaty once described as the worst comic strip in history.

X-MEN: WORST X-MAN EVER #4 (Marvel, 2016) – Max Bemis [W], Michael Walsh [A]. This series is fun, but it’s more of a parody of the X-Men than an actual X-Men comic, and Michael Walsh’s artwork is both unsuited to, and better than, Max Bemis’s story. This issue begins with a funny dream sequence in which the X-Men make metatextual comments about baseball games and other X-Men clichés. But after that, the rest of the issue consists of a series of scenes with little connection to each other. This series is all right, but I’d rather be reading a real X-Men comic, and I wish Marvel would get the license back from Fox already, so that they could start making better X-Men comics.

A-FORCE #6 (Marvel, 2016) – Kelly Thompson [W], Ben Caldwell [A]. This issue continues the story with Enchantress and Dazzler Thor. It’s okay but not amazing. The one thing that impresses me most about this issue is Ben Caldwell’s hand-lettered sound effects, which make a big contribution to the visual aesthetic of each page. I’m going to have to ask him about his sound effects if I see him at Heroes Con.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #12 (DC, 2016) – Marguerite Bennett [W], Laura Braga & Mirka Andolfo [A]. This conclusion to the first story arc is exciting but also a bit disappointing. Kortni’s death is a heroic sacrifice, but also seems like a waste of a perfectly good character. Somehow I forgot to order issue 13.

DOCTOR STRANGE #8 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], Chris Bachalo [A]. This is another fairly good issue, but quite similar to the last few issues. Empirikul storyline has been going on for this entire series, and I wish Jason would move on to something else. As I read this issue, I wondered how it’s possible that in this series, almost all the magic in the world has been destroyed, but in Power Man & Iron Fist, the Supersoul Stone still works and Doctor Strange has all his powers. And don’t tell me that that story takes place before Last Days of Magic, because it came out at the exact same time. Oh well, I guess I don’t mind this sort of loose approach to continuity.

New comics received on June 10, the final new comic book day before Heroes Con. Lots of exciting stuff this week.

LUMBERJANES/GOTHAM ACADEMY #1 (Boom!/DC, 2016) – Chynna Clugston-Flores [W], Rosemary Valero-O’Connell [A]. I was very very excited about this series – it’s the best idea for a crossover title in many years. The Lumberjanes and the Gotham Academy characters are so perfectly suited to each other. They’re the same age, their titles have very similar sensibilities, and the boarding school and summer camp genres are really the same genre, just with different settings. My enthusiasm waned when I saw that Chynna Clugston-Flores wrote this issue, because I was not impressed by her backup story in Lumberjanes #25. But she did a much better job on this issue, though maybe another writer could have done even better. And Rosemary Valero-O’Connell’s art is impressive. Some especially nice things in the issue are the deer-chicken-whatever creature in Rosie’s office, and the panel where Bubbles turns from a hat into a raccoon. A cool thing that we discover in this issue is that while the Lumberjanes and the Gotham Academy kids are very similar in many ways, they also have different competencies; the Lumberjanes are perfectly at home in the wilderness while the Academy kids are out of their element. I hope there will be a later issue where the Lumberjanes visit Gotham Academy and are equally out of their depth. This issue also includes a preview of James Tynion and Rian Sygh’s The Backstagers. I don’t know if I’ve read anything by James Tynion before, but this preview is impressive and it makes me want to read the series when it comes out.

HOWARD THE DUCK #8 (Marvel, 2016) – Chip Zdarsky [W], Joe Quinones [A]. “The Return of Bev” is the story I’ve been waiting for since Chip’s first issue of Howard. Howard’s relationship with Bev is the emotional center of his life, and her absence left a gaping hole in this series, which had to be filled by introducing Tara. This issue we finally see Bev again, and we learn that she’s finally had enough of the weirdness that surrounds Howard, and she needs a break from him. (As an example of how trouble always follows Howard around, as soon as he arrives at Bev’s house, he’s attacked by Sentinels.) As a huge Bev fan, I find this story rather bittersweet – it feels like a break-up. But you do get the sense that Bev and Howard genuinely love each other and that they’re going to get back together eventually. I also think that this is the most emotionally rich story Chip Zdarsky has written, and it’s proof that he’s continuing to grow as a writer.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #20 (Image, 2016) – Kieron Gillen [W], Jamie McKelvie [A]. Thanks to a deceptive clicikbait headline that I saw at Bleeding Cool, I expected this issue to be much more shocking than it was. Still, this issue effectively fills in the gap between the second and third story arcs, explaining how Inanna and Laura’s parents died and how Laura herself survived. And in general it’s another good issue of an excellent series. I don’t understand why the name Nergal is so embarrassing.

GOLDIE VANCE #3 (Boom!, 2016) – Hope Larson [W], Brittney Williams [A]. Another excellent issue. I think this is the best Boom! Box title besides Lumberjanes and Giant Days. I did think that this issue went by very quickly compared to the last two, and the most memorable thing about it may have been the absurdly low gas prices. I’m glad to see that Goldie Vance is now an ongoing series, because it really deserves to be one.

THE VISION #8 (Marvel, 2016) – Tom King [W], Gabriel Hernandez Walta [A]. Another good issue of what is probably the densest, most intelligently written comic book at the moment. In terms of his prose style and the density of his writing and the way that he packs interesting stuff into every panel, Tom King is the closest current writer to Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore. This issue introduces Victor Mancha from Runaways, who has become an uncle to Vision’s kids. (And we also learn that he’s going to get killed, but I’m not worried; he can always be resurrected.) Introducing this character into the series is a very smart decision which demonstrates Tom King’s impressive ability to build on older continuity, and Victor’s interactions with the Visions are cute. Also, the dog is named Sparky.

WONDER WOMAN: REBIRTH #1 (DC, 2016) – Greg Rucka [W], Matthew Clark & Liam Sharp [A]. This issue got some positive reviews, but I hated it. To quote myself from a Facebook post: “No plot to speak of, hideous artwork for the first 14 pages, too much focus on continuity, and only 20 pages of story for $2.99.” I couldn’t understand what the hell was going on in this issue; it’s supposed to be a jumping-on point, and yet it assumes knowledge of both Azzarello and Chiang’s Wonder Woman, and DC Rebirth #1. Also, the entire issue was readable in a matter of minutes. I still think Greg Rucka is one of the best Wonder Woman writers, and I’m going to stick with his Wonder Woman at least for a bit, but this issue makes me much less excited both for this Wonder Woman series and for DC Rebirth in general.

BAKER STREET PECULIARS #4 (Boom!, 2016) – Roger Langridge [W], Andy Hirsch [A]. This is another satisfying and fun issue, but I still think that overall, neither this series nor Abigail and the Snowman was as impressive as Snarked. Though I still haven’t read the last three issues of Snarked, so maybe that series had an anticlimactic ending. I do think this comic deserves a sequel, and it ends in a way that clearly leaves room for one. It was really obvious that Sherlock Holmes was Mrs. Hudson, but I was surprised by the revelation that there never was a real Sherlock Holmes.

SHUTTER #22 (Image, 2016) – Joe Keatinge [W], Leila del Duca [A]. SPOILER WARNING. This is the most shocking and unexpected issue of the series yet. It reminds me of the issue of The Wicked + The Divine where Laura dies. In the space of just a few pages, the entire cast except for Kate and Christopher gets killed. As I was reading this scene, I was like, wait, there’s no way this is really happening – and then I realized that yes, it was really happening. I expect that at least some of the characters who seemingly died in this issue are going to turn up alive, but even then, this massacre was brutal. It’s going to be tough to wait for the next issue.

REVIVAL #40 (Image, 2016) – Tim Seeley [W], Mike Norton [A]. I have gotten hopelessly confused as to what’s going on in this comic, but by the time I finished reading this issue, I more or less got it. General Cale’s goal is to destroy the Revivers, and Riley is trying to stop her, and he’s figured out a way for the yellow ghost creatures to possess people other than their hosts. Also, things are looking bad for Dana and Em. My excitement for this series has decreased a bit, but I expect that the conclusion of this story will be exciting.

VAMPIRELLA #3 (Dynamite, 2016) – Kate Leth [W], Eman Casallos [A]. If I hadn’t already ordered the next couple issues of this series, I would stop reading it now. It’s not bad exactly, but Kate Leth’s writing just doesn’t grab me, and I can’t figure out who any of the characters are. Also, I like the way she writes Vampirella, but Vampi herself has never been a particularly strong character; the backup features in the Warren Vampirella comic were always better than the actual Vampirella stories.

BLACK CANARY #11 (DC, 2016) – Brenden Fletcher [W], Sandy Jarrell [A]. Every recent issue of Black Canary has seemed totally disconnected from the issues before and after it. This series is seriously lacking in narrative flow. This issue does have some fairly good artwork that occasionally reminds me of German Expressionism, and the opening scene, with Dinah standing on a pile of knocked-out bodies, is pretty funny.

PAST AWAYS #6 (Dark Horse, 2015) – Matt Kindt [W], Scott Kolins [A]. The gimmick in this issue reminds me of David Ives’s play “Sure Thing.” Phil hires some dude to assassinate Arthur, and every time the assassin fails, Phil rewinds time so the assassin can try again. And finally Arthur does get assassinated, which is supposed to be impossible. Cool things in this issue include a sword that inflicts wounds and then makes the victim forget about them, and Herbert’s revelatory discovery of coffee. It looks like I forgot to read Past Aways #5.

JONESY #4 (Boom!, 2016) – Sam Humphries [W], Caitlin Rose Boyle [A]. I still don’t get the joke behind this comic, if there is one, but it’s a fun comic anyway. This issue is a prom story that draws upon lots of old prom clichés. I’m not sure I was previously aware that the same writer was responsible for both Weirdworld and Jonesy. I guess Humphries’s exclusive DC contract does not include creator-owned work (so it’s still possible that this contract is why he left Weirdworld).

Reviews I forgot to post earlier

5-26-16

New comics received on May 13. This week I was scrambling to finish grading and I had limited time to read comics.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #42 (IDW, 2016) – Katie Cook [W], Andy Price [A]. I was going to try to write this in Pinkie Pie’s voice, but I have too many of these reviews to get through. I’m very sorry that this is Katie’s last pony comic. However, it’s a very effective conclusion to one of the great children’s comics of the decade, and it combines two things I love about MLP: metafiction and Pinkie Pie. I need to read this comic again to catch all the references and metatextual moments. It’s a good thing this comic came out after my pony transmedia article was already finished, or I would have had to write a whole extra section about it.

GOTHAM ACADEMY #18 (DC, 2016) – Brenden Fletcher [W], various [A]. Another yearbook issue. Most of the vignettes this issue are just okay, although the Silversmith character’s obsession with silver is adorable. The Faith Erin Hicks story is brilliant and I’m sorry it’s just a two-pager. Incidentally, earlier today I reread that ThinkProgress story from 2013 about the ignorant sexist comments made by Gerry Conway, Todd McFarlane and Len Wein, and one of the stupid things Gerry said was that his daughter was interested in reading Faith Erin Hicks comics, but not superhero comics, because those are for boys. It’s ironic that Faith Erin Hicks has now been published by DC.

THE VISION #7 (Marvel, 2016) – Tom King [W], Michael Walsh [A]. Instead of following up on the cliffhanger from last issue, Tom King offers us a summary of the Vision’s relationship with the Scarlet Witch over the years, which ends in the revelation that Virginia is based on Wanda’s brain patterns. The story is called “I Too Shall Be Saved by Love,” which is a brilliant reference to Avengers #147 (this is mentioned on the letters page, but I got the reference on my own). It’s a beautiful tribute to 50 years of Marvel history, and Tom King writes Wanda very well. He even takes John Byrne’s West Coast Avengers – a series which did irreparable damage to both Vision and Wanda, and which I’d like to pretend never happened – and makes it seem like part of a greater pattern. Unfortunately, in order to get the full meaning out of this story, you have to be an Avengers expert, and I’m afraid that newer readers may miss a lot of the nuance in it.

SHUTTER #21 (Image, 2016) – Joe Keatinge [W], Leila del Duca [A]. This issue introduces a new Kristopher child and his mother Zohra, a truly formidable character; I assume she’s based on Oprah but she impresses me even more than Oprah. It also reintroduces that one cat assassin dude whose name I forget, as well as providing an origin for the three mouse dudes. There’s one page where Leila del Duca depicts the three mouse characters’ histroy in a funny animal style, and this is another demonstration of her impressive stylistic range.

BAKER STREET PECULIARS #3 (Boom!, 2016) – Roger Langridge [W], Andy Hirsch [A]. Another very effective issue of Roger Langridge’s latest masterpiece, though it doesn’t offer any big surprises or shocking revelations. This issue demonstrates Roger’s skill with characterization; the three main characters all come from different backgrounds, have different personalities and skills, and yet they succeed in working together.

STARFIRE #12 (DC, 2016) – Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti [W], Elsa Charretier [A]. The last issue of this series is also the worst. It’s a disappointing conclusion to a series I really enjoyed. Kory leaves Key West and her relationship with Sol ends before it starts, because it turns out he’s in love with someone else. Given how this entire series has revolved around Kory’s sex appeal, it’s frustrating that she goes 12 issues without ever getting to have actual sex with anyone. It’s like some theoretical text I read once (Adorno and Horkheimer’s Culture Industry maybe?) about how popular texts constantly hold out the promise of sexual pleasure but never satisfy it. Also, I already said that I think the end to this series is stupid. Kory has to leave Key West because she’s a danger to the people around her, but where is she supposed to go instead? The answer is that she’s going to vanish back into limbo, and who knows if we’ll ever get another Starfire series as promising as this one was.

MOONCOP: A TOM GAULD SAMPLER #nn (Drawn & Quarterly, 2016) – Tom Gauld [W/A]. I couldn’t get to a comic book store for FCBD this year, and I missed my chance to order FCBD issues from DCBS. Luckily they let me order some anyway, but they were out of the ones I really wanted, like the Boom! Studios issue. I was excited about this issue because I love Tom Gauld’s single-panel cartoons and strips, but this example of his longer-form work proved to be disappointing. It has no plot to speak of, and it fails to arouse any major emotional reaction in me. This issue also includes some of Tom Gauld’s shorter work, but it’s all things I’ve read already.

GRIZZLY SHARK #2 (Image, 2016) – Ryan Ottley [W/A]. I also bought the first issue of this, but was disappointed to learn that it was just a reprint of the second half of Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark #1 (reviewed elsewhere on this blog). This issue is a sequel to that story. It’s basically just 22 pages of ridiculously overblown violence. This sort of thing is funny the first time around, but gets old fast, and I can already get ridiculous over-the-top nonsense from Chew or God Hates Astronauts. I’m willing to stay with this series for another issue or two, but after that I’ll probably get sick of it.

ACTIONVERSE FEATURING MOLLY DANGER #1 (Action Lab, 2016) – Jamal Igle [W/A]. This is part of a crossover, but I’m not interested in the other parts. I funded the Molly Danger kickstarter, if I recall correctly, and I have the hardcover Molly Danger book, though I haven’t read it yet. This issue has the same beautiful Jamal Igle artwork as the hardcover book, though at a much smaller size, and it’s also a good introduction to the character. I especially like the splash page with Molly lifting a giant weight that’s bigger than she is.

WILDC.A.T.S #30 (Image, 1996) – Alan Moore [W], Travis Charest [A]. Hard to believe this comic is 20 years old already. This is a minor Alan Moore work; it’s a fun and exciting superhero story, but not much more than that. The best thing about it is Alan’s witty dialogue. Travis Charest’s art is good but not incredible.

GODDESS #3 (Vertigo, 1995) – Garth Ennis [W], Phil Winslade [A]. I think the difference between Garth Ennis comics I like and Garth Ennis comics I don’t like is that the former tend to have British themes, while the latter tend to have American themes. Ennis’s American stories always emphasize the most obnoxious and hateful things about America, even when he’s trying to depict America in a positive light. And his American comics tend to be more about satire and low comedy than about genuine passion. This miniseries is about both British and American themes, so it’s kind of a hybrid of good Ennis and bad Ennis. The best thing about this issue is Phil Winslade’s art. It has a very photorealistic style, reminding me of what I’ve seen of Frank Bellamy’s art, and it uses color brilliantly. It’s surprising that this was his first pencil work for a major publisher.

L’ECHO DES SAVANES #11 (Editions du Fromage, 1975) – various [W/A]. This is a French comic published in the American format. I bought it a couple years ago at Heroes Con, I think, but never read it because of the language barrier, which is formidable – this comic contains a number of text pages, which were very tedious to get through. This issue includes some translated material by Wally Wood (“My Universe” from Big Apple Comix), Harvey Kurtzman and Bobby London, as well as new stories by Nikita Mandryka, Annie Goetzinger and Jacques Lob. The Mandryka story is an average piece of slapstick, and I don’t think it’s his strongest work. The Goetzinger story is maybe the strongest piece in the issue. It’s beautifully and sensuously drawn, and while I don’t fully understand the story, it seems to be about a girl who reads romance novels as an escape from her stifling family environment. The Lob story, “L’homme au landau,” is his first work as a writer-artist – he was previously known only as a writer. It has sort of a Crumbian sensibility – it’s about a grown man who rides in a baby carriage and who convinces an attractive woman to take care of him as if he were a baby. Again, I don’t quite get the point of this, but it’s funny in a shocking way. Overall, this issue was difficult to read given my somewhat poor understanding of French, but it’s an interesting glimpse into an area of French comics that’s very badly represented in English translation.

SOLO #12 (DC, 2006) – Brendan McCarthy [W/A] The final issue of Solo spotlights Brendan McCarthy, and unlike all the other issues, it consists of stories that are all interconnected. However, as with much of McCarthy’s other work, the stories here are all highly surrealistic, and they’re linked by dream logic rather than narrative logic. Characters and objects from one story show up in other stories, but none of the stories make much logical sense even on their own, and it’s not clear how they all fit together. This comic also has some metatextual elements, such as a page where Johnny Sorrow finds a bunch of torn-up Silver Age comics on a beach. But again, it’s not clear that McCarthy is trying to express any coherent message with his use of metatext. On the last page we find out that the entire issue is just a dream that Saturn Girl is having, but this seems like just a cop-out that doesn’t really explain anything. I’m not saying any of this as a criticism; this comic was not meant to be logically consistent, and it succeeds in resonating with me on an emotional level. Also, McCarthy’s artwork is brilliant. His coloring is my favorite thing about his artwork, but in this issue he shows a lot of versatility; he experiments with collage and other techniques, and draws in lots of different styles.

NOMAN #2 (Tower, 1967) – Steve Skeates and possibly others [W], Ogden Whitney and Chic Stone [A]. Another comic that I’ve had for a long time, but didn’t want to take the time to read, because of how long it is. This T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents spinoff includes five stories, four with NoMan (one of which guest-stars Dynamo) and one with Lightning. These stories are all about equal in quality to the main T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents title, though the art is not as good; four of them are drawn by Ogden Whitney and the fifth by Chic Stone. Probably the most fun story is the fourth one, where a villain tries to resurrect Hitler.

SWAMP THING #84 (DC Comics, 1989) – Rick Veitch [W], Tom Mandrake [A]. This is one of the last Rick Veitch Swamp Things I hadn’t read; the only one I don’t have is #77. Swampy does not appear in this issue because he’s still stuck in the past. Instead, the issue focuses on Abby, who discovers that she’s on the hook for her comatose husband Matt Cable’s medical bills, and, worse, that his body is being used for gruesome medical experiments. Abby decides to put Matt out of his misery, but Matt saves her the trouble by coming out of his coma and killing himself, having had a dream where Morpheus advised him to do so. Nine months later, Sandman #11 introduced a new character named Matthew the Raven. I was shocked when I realized how the timing of these two stories worked out, because I hadn’t realized Veitch and Gaiman must have intentionally coordinated their plans for this character. Indeed, it turns out that Rick was going to kill off Matt Cable anyway, and he asked Neil if he could have Matt die in the Dreaming, but Neil took advantage of the opportunity to introduce Matt into Sandman as Matthew the Raven. Also, Rick and Neil were already in close contact because Neil was going to be the next writer on Swamp Thing, only he quit in solidarity with Rick over the cancellation of the Jesus story. Anyway, that’s a cool piece of history that I wasn’t aware of. The main thing I dislike about this issue is Abby’s lack of agency; the only proactive thing she does is to decide to kill Matt, and even then he beats her to it.

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA #2 (Archie, 2015) – Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa [W], Robert Hack [A]. This comic got off to a promising start, but lost all of its momentum because of chronic lateness. I missed issues 2 and 3 when they came out, probably because they were cancelled, and I forgot to reorder them when they were solicited again. Issue 5 did just come out, so at least this comic hasn’t been abandoned, but who knows when there’ll be another issue. Anyway, whereas Afterlife with Archie is a funny horror comic, Sabrina is more of a pure horror comic; the fact that it features Archie characters is almost incidental. The main villain (whose name and backstory I’ve forgotten thanks to the amount of time since I read issue #1) is horrific, and the plot is bleak and depressing, offering little reason for hope. The Ann-Margret scene is cute though.

KENNEL BLOCK BLUES #4 (IDW, 2016) – Ryan Ferrier [W], Daniel Bayliss [A]. This comic failed to live up to the hype. In the end, it’s just a trite example of the prison escape genre, with the gimmick that the characters are dogs and cats. I still like the artwork, but I won’t rush to buy any more comics from this writer.

HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY #8 (Boom!, 2016) – Kyle Puttkammer [W], Marcus Williams [A]. In part one of the Crow King story, the Crow King puts all the Hero Cats to sleep, and they have a shared dream where they’re all humans. Seeing the Hero Cats in their human forms is cute and funny; the best one is Belle, who becomes a queen living in a castle full of statues of cats and fish. Rocco, who becomes a giant hulking warrior, is also pretty cool.

TYSON HESSE’S DIESEL #3 (Boom!, 2015) – Tyson Hesse [W/A]. In this issue, Dee gets stuck on solid ground where she encounters Bull, one of her adoptive brothers. (I don’t think I even knew Dee was adopted; it’s been a while since I read issue 1.) Tyson Hesse’s artwork is really strong, but the problem with this series is Dee, who is just an awful protagonist. She’s an entitled brat with no marketable skills, who’s spent her whole life coasting on the expectation of her inheritance, and this issue doesn’t advance her character arc very much.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2016: ALL AGES #nn (Dark Horse, 2016) – Michael Dante DiMartino [W], Heather Campbell [A] on lead story. The cover story in this issue is the tale of Korra’s first meeting with her polar bear dog Naga. Little Kora and Naga are really really cute, but the story didn’t do much for me because I’ve only seen one episode of Korra; I haven’t been able to get into it even though I’m a huge fan of the first Avatar series. I could have done without the other two stories in this issue. The How to Train Your Dragon story is reasonably well done, but I haven’t seen the film and I don’t intend to. As for the Plants vs. Zombies story, I don’t see the point of making a comic about a video game that has no plot. (Which Paul Tobin has done twice, with PvZ and Angry Birds.)

ARCHIE #8 (Archie, 2016) – Mark Waid [W], Veronica Fish [A]. I’ve been somewhat lukewarm about this series lately, but this issue is pretty good. The plot is exciting if farfetched, and Veronica Fish draws some cute dogs and cats. The one thing that surprises me about Mark Waid’s Archie is its emphasis on Archie’s clumsiness. I guess Archie was a klutz from the very beginning, but I never got the impression that clumsiness was his strongest character trait. Indeed, for me, the most distinctive thing about his character is that he doesn’t have any distinguishing traits because he’s just a generic high schooler.

New comics for May 20. This was a much less busy week and also the comics were better. I hope I can finish all these reviews before I have to go to sleep.

FUTURE QUEST #1 (DC, 2016) – Jeff Parker [W], Evan “Doc” Shaner & Steve Rude [A]. I was very excited about this, especially after Corrina Lawson’s glowing review, and it did not disappoint. Jeff Parker and Doc Shaner are really one of the top creative teams in the industry. Jeff is a very consistent and skilled writer who never gets the recognition he deserves, and Doc Shaner’s art is amazing in every way. And this comic even includes some pages by future Hall of Famer Steve Rude. Most of this issue focuses on the Quest family, and Jeff Parker and Doc Shaner really get these characters; this comic is very much in the spirit of the ‘80s Jonny Quest comics from Comico. I’m not familiar with any of the non-Jonny Quest characters featured in this comic, but I look forward to learning more about them. Overall, this is the most exciting current DC comic besides Legend of Wonder Woman, and I wish DC could achieve this same level of quality in their mainstream DC Universe titles.

LUMBERJANES #26 (Boom!, 2016) – Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh [W], Ayme Sotuyo [A]. I haven’t received Lumberjanes #25 because DCBS got shorted on it, though it should be arriving tomorrow [NOTE: “tomorrow” as of the day I wrote these reviews]. Other than that, this is easily the best issue of Lumberjanes since Noelle Stevenson left, and it restores much of my faith in this comic. I mean, this issue has a scene where half the Lumberjanes are riding on a giant kitten, and the other half are riding on a moose. And there’s lots more where that came from – for example, the panel where the Lumberjanes do a terrible job of pitching their tent, while Jen looks at them with affectionate resignation. Overall, this issue has the same blend of fun and heartfelt emotion that formerly made this series the second best in the industry, and it will be the second best comic in the industry again, if it continues to be this good. Also, I love that Barney is now part of the regular cast, and Hes (not sure what that’s short for) is an interesting addition to the cast.

ASTRO CITY #35 (Image, 2016) – Kurt Busiek [W], Ron Randall [A]. It’s weird when a superhero comic takes place in real time. The last time we saw Jerome Johnson, he was in his mother’s womb. But that was in 1997 and now he’s 19 and almost ready for college. This issue was less impressive than the last three, but it’s an intriguing exploration of the concept of superhero legacies. Jerome is the third generation in the Jack-in-the-Box family, but the current Jack-in-the-Box is somewhat else, and Jerome is uncertain about how he fits into his family’s tradition, if at all. I’ll be interested to see where this goes.

JUGHEAD #6 (Archie, 2016) – Chip Zdarsky [W], Erica Henderson [A]. By the time I got to this comic, I was sort of overwhelmed by two epically awesome comics and one very good one, and my attention was flagging a bit. This issue is a pretty good conclusion to the spy school story, but it didn’t excite me as much as the last five issues did, and it’s the first issue of Jughead that doesn’t have a parody dream sequence. Probably the best part is the last page where Mr. Weatherbee gets recalled from retirement.

USAGI YOJIMBO #154 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Stan Sakai [W/A] “Kazehime” – meaning “wind princess,” I think – is probably the best issue since the hiatus, though it’s not one of Stan’s absolute best stories. Usagi saves a dying Komori Ninja, Kazehime, and nurses her back to health, but three months later he has to fight her when she tries to assassinate his client. Kazehime eventually has Usagi at her mercy, but seems to be about to spare him when she’s killed by Usagi’s partner (the other ronin from the stone appreciation story). There was no other realistic way this situation could have ended, and yet the reader shares Usagi’s regret at Kazehime’s death. This story also includes a hilarious moment where a tavern owner advertises her business by saying “Cheap food! You get what you pay for! But no one has died from eating here! This week.” I’ve been to lots of restaurants like that.

PRINCELESS: MAKE YOURSELF #2 (Action Lab, 2016) – Jeremy Whitley [W], Emily Martin [A]. This is still a high-quality series, though I’m not enjoying it as much as the Raven spinoff. The centerpiece of this issue is Bedelia’s reconciliation with her grandfather. To save writing time I’m not going to explain the context here, but it’s a deeply emotional moment and Jeremy and Emily Martin handle it very well. BTW, I forgot to include writer/artist credits in any of the previous reviews, so I interrupted writing this review in order to go back and add them. Okay, carrying on. Another cool thing about this issue is the idea that dwarf women become warriors because tradition prevents them from becoming smiths. I know I complain about the lettering almost every time I review an issue of Princeless, but I still wish they would use a better lettering font.

LUMBERJANES: MAKIN’ THE GHOST OF IT #1 (Boom!, 2016) – Jen Wang [W], Christine Norrie [A] on main story. Two issues of Lumberjanes in one week is an embarrassment of riches. This is the weaker of the two, but it’s still very good. Jen Wang’s novella-length Lumberjanes story is well-plotted – I guessed the plot twist slightly before it was revealed, but it was a clever plot twist which was set up so subtly that the reader was likely to ignore it. And this story effectively showcases the personalities of all the main characters, especially Mal with her fear of ghosts. The backup story by Kelly Thompson and Savannah Ganucheau (Paulina’s sister, I think) is at least as good. I mean, it literally includes a scene where Ripley becomes a superhero made of kittens, with the head of a dinosaur, covered in glitter, riding a fat unicorn, with a shark’s fin. Which reminds me that I can’t wait until Riley meets Maps Mizoguchi.

MANIFEST DESTINY #19 (Image, 2016) – Chris Burgess [W], Matthew Roberts [A]. Most of this issue is a flashback to the expedition that preceded that of Lewis and Clark. This expedition ended in disaster as the men had to resort to cannibalism, until one of them had a vision of a Spanish ghost: Arturo Maldonado, a lieutenant of Panfilo de Narváez. When I saw that latter name, I knew it sounded familiar, and I was right. Narváez was the leader of an early expedition to continental North America, which is described in Cabeza de Vaca’s book. And that expedition even included at least one man named Maldonado (though his first name was Alonso), so this is another indication that Chris Burgess has done his research. In the last few pages of this issue, we see how much better prepared Lewis and Clark are than their predecessors were. The previous expeditions encountered a series of horrible perils each of which cost them multiple men, but Lewis and Clark encounter the exact same perils and escape unscathed. (BTW, I have that Cabeza de Vaca book and I think now might be a good time to read it.)

GOLDIE VANCE #2 (Boom!, 2016) – Hope Larson [W], Brittney Williams [A]. Unlike the previous issue, this is not a self-contained mystery story, and I was a bit disappointed by this. But otherwise, this is another really good comic. Goldie is a cute and entertaining character, and this issue shows us a lot more of her world, which is like ‘50s America with racial equality. We also learn a bit about Goldie’s family, and meet her mother for the first time. I think this comic would appeal to the same kids who read Lumberjanes or Drama or Roller Girl. On the last page of this issue, a character is reading an issue of Patsy Walker.

SILVER SURFER #4 (Marvel, 2016) – Dan Slott [W], Mike Allred [A]. This is an okay issue, but this anniversary story has been disappointing. I don’t particularly care about Shalla Bal or Zenn-La; I want to see the Surfer and Dawn exploring the universe and fighting cosmic menaces. On the last two pages of the issue, it seems like Dawn proposes to Norrin and he accepts, though this is ambiguous. One of my Facebook friends, I forget who, just pointed out that Dan Slott is an excellent writer when he’s writing lower-tier titles (Silver Surfer, She-Hulk, GLA) rather than flagship titles, and this is very true.

DEPT. H #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Matt Kindt [W/A]. An impressive follow-up to a very good debut issue, although it doesn’t tell us much that we didn’t already know. Matt’s artwork and Sharlene Kindt’s coloring continue to be amazing. The last page of this issue includes a diagram of Dept. H headquarters.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #4 (Marvel, 2016) – David Walker [W], Sanford Greene [A]. A reasonable conclusion to the first storyline, though it didn’t thrill me as much as #3 did. Predictably, Jennie is saved from her possession by the Supersoul Stone thanks to Black Mariah’s friendship, so this ends up being a My Little Pony story in disguise. The other day, Evan Narcisse wrote an article on io9 where he complained that David Walker is misusing Jessica Jones, writing her as a nagging shrew who doesn’t seem to care for her husband very much. I do think this is a valid critique and I hope future issues will depict Jessica more positively.

NEW X-MEN ANNUAL 2001 (Marvel, 2001) – Grant Morrison [W], Leinil Yu [A]. An ambitious experiment that failed. This issue is in sideways format, meaning it has the same proportions as a normal comic book but is stapled on what would normally be the top edge, rather than the left edge. This has a negative impact on the story. Because of the much larger amount of horizontal space available, Yu seems compelled to use all that space as dramatically as possible, creating lots of widescreen panels. This means there’s less space for dialogue or explanation, and the story often becomes quite hard to follow. At least I think that’s what’s going on; certainly this was a very confusing and illogical comic, and I had trouble understanding who the villains were or how they were connected. In terms of the plot, this issue is notable for introducing Xorn, and it does include some intriguing developments in Scott, Jean and Emma’s love triangle. A weird thing about this issue is that it frequently mentions a character named Muñoz, but every time her name is mentioned, it’s spelled “Mu-oz.” Probably the issue was lettered with a font that didn’t include the Ñ glyph, and no one noticed until it was too late.

FANTASTIC FOUR #225 (Marvel, 1980) – Doug Moench [W], Bill Sienkiewicz [A]. Doug Moench was probably the worst Fantastic Four writer, besides the team of Rafael Marín and Carlos Pacheco. His Thor wasn’t great either, because his talents were not suited to Kirbyesque superhero comics. For example, this issue is an imitation of Lee and Kirby’s “hidden land” stories (e.g. the stories with Prester John and the Inhumans). But the new characters Moench introduces are weird and boring, Moench’s overly verbose dialogue slows the reader down, and the plot is resolved by divine intervention from Odin. Also, Bill S’s artwork is only average.

DETECTIVE COMICS #649 (DC, 1992) – Chuck Dixon [W], Tom Lyle [A]. I have such a strong distaste for Chuck Dixon that it’s hard for me to read one of his comics without finding fault with it. For instance, this issue is exciting because it’s an early Spoiler appearance. However, Batman doesn’t let Spoiler accompany him and Robin on their mission against Cluemaster, and he doesn’t explain why (BTW, it’s cute that Stephanie points out that she’s older than Tim). Of course Spoiler follows Batman and Robin anyway, but she ends up accomplishing nothing; Cluemaster takes her hostage, and Batman saves her by telling Cluemaster her secret identity, which is kind of a dick move. Even for 1992 this treatment of Steph is kind of insulting, and again, it’s hard for me not to somehow attribute this to Chuck Dixon’s conservative ideology. Matt Wagner’s cover for this issue is quite good.

TYSON HESSE’S DIESEL #4 (Boom!, 2016) – Tyson Hesse [W/A]. As I started to read this issue, I wondered how it could possibly resolve all the outstanding plot threads, and the answer is it doesn’t – it ends on a cliffhanger, with a caption saying “End of Book 1.” So by the end of the issue, Diesel still hasn’t gotten back to the clouds, we don’t know where her father is, her character arc has still not progressed significantly, etc. etc. This is a real problem because for all I know, this could be the last Diesel comic – I haven’t seen any announcement of any more issues, and who knows if the first miniseries sold well enough to justify a sequel. Therefore, Tyson Hesse should have at least tried to offer some closure to this Diesel story, in case there weren’t any more. He shouldn’t have allowed for the possibility that the plot might be left permanently in limbo. (I had the same complaint about Prez #6, although with that series, the plot didn’t really matter.) When Matt Kindt started MIND MGMT, he had an alternative ending in mind in case the series ended with issue 6, and I wish that all creators would do that. Basically, I think that if you start to tell a multipart story, and you don’t know if you’ll be able to finish it, you should at least end each segment of it in a satisfying way. You shouldn’t leave the reader hanging. And I can think of one major genre novelist who would have done well to take that advice…

Eight more. Really need to go to bed but still want to finish.

HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY #9 (Action Lab, 2016) – as above. This is a fun conclusion to the Crow King story arc, and it also explains what was going on in the Midnight miniseries. The only thing that disappoints me is that all the Hero Cats’ human forms are white men. This comic is much better than a lot of other comics with better publicity and higher production values – out of the last five comics I reviewed, this was the best.

NEGATIVE BURN #13 (Caliber, 1994) – various [W/A]. There is some excellent talent associated with this anthology comic, including Brian Bolland, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman, but it turns out to be very disappointing. Brian Bolland only contributes a one-page absurdist story, which has no plot and is not drawn in the style he’s famous for. As for Moore and Gaiman, this issue only includes some lyrics from a song by Alan Moore, which are illustrated by Neil Gaiman. It’s no surprise that Alan Moore’s lyrics and Neil Gaiman’s artwork are not at the same level of quality as their comic book writing. So including their names on the cover verges on deceptive advertising. The other material in this issue ranges from average to unreadable, though there’s one wordless story by Brian Michael Bendis that’s kind of cute. The clear highlight of the issue is a Milk & Cheese two-parter by Evan Dorkin.

BATMAN #487 (DC, 1992) – Doug Moench [W], Jim Aparo [A]. This issue has a fairly simplistic plot where a dude with filed teeth tries to assassinate Commissioner Gordon. The main highlight is Jim Aparo’s artwork (and lettering). Gordon’s treatment of his new wife in this story is quite brutish.

JONAH HEX #52 (DC, 2010) – Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti [W], Jordi Bernet [A]. The story in this issue is average. Jonah is pursued by three criminals who live in a swamp, but gets saved by a woman who turns out to be in league with the criminals. What makes this issue exciting is Bernet’s artwork. He draws some very nice action scenes that remind me of both Pratt and Toth. There’s one striking splash page where Jonah emerges from the swamp, bleeding from a gunshot wound and covered with bugs, but with a look of furious determination on his face. I do think Bernet’s art would look much better in black and white, or with flatter coloring.

CEREBUS #34 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – Dave Sim [W/A]. Again, I don’t quite get what’s going on here, but it’s funny and well-drawn. This issue heavily features Elrod, who is based on Elric but talks like Foghorn Leghorn. I did order the first Cerebus phonebook, so maybe now I can finally achieve an understanding of this comic. The backup story in this issue is a strange but funny early work by Bill Messner-Loebs, in which Benjamin Franklin goes to heaven and is asked to replace Marcus Aurelius in the role of God. One odd thing here is that Franklin is excited when he arrives in heaven and sees a beautiful young woman in a toga; I thought he liked older women.

PAST AWAYS #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – Matt Kindt [W], Scott Kolins [A]. In this issue, the Past Aways reunite, it turns out that four of them hate the fifth one who brought them together, and then they have to go fight a giant robot. Each page of this comic includes one object with a red square around it, with a footnote at the bottom identifying the object in the red square; these footnotes are often quite funny, and remind me of the MIND MGMT Field Guide. This issue was fun enough that I immediately read the next one.

PAST AWAYS #3 (Dark Horse, 2015) – In this issue, the Past Aways battle and defeat the giant robot, ending the first story arc, and it’s not clear what’s going to happen next. This was good but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous issue.

STARTLING STORIES: BANNER #1 (Marvel, 2001) – Brian Azzarello [W], Richard Corben [A]. I have this entire miniseries but never got around to reading it until now. In terms of plot, this issue is a very formulaic and generic Hulk story, with the twist that the Hulk’s rampages result in actual deaths. In the main Marvel Universe, the Hulk somehow manages to destroy massive amounts of property without killing anyone (and we’re supposed to accept that this is because Bruce Banner is unconsciously controlling the Hulk, which is just about as believable as Superman hypnotizing everyone in the whole world with his glasses). Anyway, it turns out that this is the entire point of the miniseries from a plot standpoint; it examines what would happen if the rule that the Hulk can’t kill anybody were repealed. That’s not a very interesting premise, and Brian Azzarello doesn’t do much with it. Therefore, the only real interest of this series is Rich Corben’s artwork, which is very good. His Hulk and Doc Samson are gruesomely hypermasculine, and his coloring is beautiful. I have a bunch of other unread Corben comic books and I ought to get around to them soon.

FANTOMAS #171 (Editorial Novaro, 1974) – uncredited [W], Victor Cruz [A]. I got this at Heroes Con two years ago, and it’s a rare treasure: a Mexican comic which has probably never been reprinted, even in Mexico. I’ve read that Mexico used to have the world’s fourth largest comics industry, and there is a massive repertory of classic Mexican comics. Yet with rare exceptions like Paquito Burrón, almost no classic Mexican comics are available in book form even in Spanish, let alone in English. This is a frustrating problem and I wish someone would do something about it. Currently you can get Cortázar’s novella “Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires” in English, but the actual comics it’s based on are totally inaccessible. Speaking of which, I have complained about the lettering that Semiotext(e) used in their version of that book, but it’s actually fairly close to the lettering in the real Fantomas comics; the only mistake Semiotext(e) made was to use the Comic Sans font. So anyway, this comic was fairly easy to read even though my Spanish skills have atrophied, and it’s a ton of fun. Fantomas (a very loose adaptation of the master thief created by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre) goes to France to steal the iron crown of Charlemagne. While there, he accidentally activates a Nazi robot that’s programmed to kill anyone who speaks a language other than German, and adventures ensue. It’s a bizarre story, but it’s also genuinely exciting, and Fantomas is a compelling protagonist, a figure of daring, mystery, and sex appeal. The story guest-stars the real-life actors Monica Vitti and Charlton Heston, plus a director named Sergius Leonescu, i.e. Sergio Leone. I don’t know if the former two actually gave their permission to be depicted in this comic, but I somehow doubt it. Overall, this is a really fun comic, and it’s a shame that this comic and others like it are impossible to find in any language.

Reviews for 5-12-16

5-12-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This week’s reviews

5-5-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

NOTES:

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

Reviews for March and most of April

4-24-16 (still)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New comics received on Friday, April 22.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come on, almost done.

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

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

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

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

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

And that is that. Phew.

Oh, one more:

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

Reviews for most of March

4-7-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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