Reviews for September and early October

New comics received on September 2:

SAGA #37 (Image, 2016) – Brian K. Vaughan [W], Fiona Staples [A]. The best comic book in America is back! But this issue was a bit underwhelming. All it does is advances a bunch of ongoing plotlines, but only a little bit each. I hope next issue will be better.

MS. MARVEL #10 (Marvel, 2016) – G. Willow Wilson [W], Takeshi Miyazawa & Adrian Alphona [A]. I am loving the flashback sequences at the start of each issue; they include some fascinating information about Kamala and her family. Kamala’s first encounter with Bruno is adorable (and I’ve worked it into my still-in-progress book chapter about this series). The problem with the rest of the issue, though, is that I’m thoroughly sick of both Carol Danvers and Civil War II. Carol has become a completely unsympathetic character, with her superior attitude and her unwillingness to think twice about her Ulysses scheme. And as I already pointed out in my review of Ms. Marvel #9, the Ulysses plotline was uninteresting to begin with because of its lack of moral ambiguity. Also, it will really suck if Bruno dies. ☹

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #18 (IDW, 2016) – Kelly Thompson [W], Jen Bartel [A]. Synergy saves Stormer from the bear, then Shana announces she’s leaving the band to do a fashion internship in Europe. Kind of an average issue.

THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #9 (DC, 2016) – Renae de Liz [W/A]. The best DC comic of the year is unfortunately over, but there’s going to be a sequel – or at least I hope so, although they said the same thing about Prez. The final issue was not as good as some of the others due to an excess of fight scenes, but it’s a good conclusion to Diana’s origin; it gives a satisfying explanation of how she acquires the powers of the gods. I look forward to hopefully seeing more of this series.

FUTURE QUEST #4 (DC, 2016) – Jeff Parker [W/A], Ron Randall & Evan “Doc” Shaner [A]. I enjoyed this issue, though I don’t remember much about it now; so much stuff happens in this issue that it was hard to process it all. In this issue, Jonny Quest’s mother’s name is given as Ellen. This is at least the third different version of Jonny’s mother; she was previously known as Judith and Rachel.

SILVER SURFER #200 (Marvel, 2016) – Dan Slott [W], Mike Allred [A]. This barely seems like an “anniversary” issue, except that it includes a cover gallery of all 200 issues. The story is a good one, but it could have been told in any issue of this series. Dawn and Norrin team up to defeat some energy-sucking cephalopods, and then Dawn’s mother completely rejects her. The main reaction I had to this story was fury at this unfeeling, callous woman who gave birth to Dawn. She may not have planned on being a mother, but she is one anyway, and she has no right to just abandon her children. I mean, it would be one thing if she had given Dawn and Eve up for adoption at birth, but she left them when they were old enough to remember her, and now she refuses to have anything to do with them, and I can’t sympathize with that. No wonder Dawn doesn’t want to stay on Earth anymore.

GOTHAM ACADEMY ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2016) – Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher [W], four different artists. In this annual, the Detective Club splits in half and solves two different mysteries, one involving a vampire and another involving a radioactive glowing skeleton. It turns out that the two mysteries are related, in a confusing and convoluted way. This was a really fun story and a good introduction to the upcoming second season. I wonder if the glowing skeleton guy is based on Dr. Phosphorus.

Over Labor Day weekend, since I had just gotten paid, I took a trip to a bookstore downtown. The bookstore was less than a mile away from Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, so I took the opportunity to go there too. I was kind of unimpressed with the Heroes store; they didn’t have any of the recent issues I was looking for, and I had trouble finding anything I wanted. I ended up buying just three comics, one of which was:

CIVIL WAR II: CHOOSING SIDES #4 (Marvel, 2016) – various [W/A]. I had no idea there was a Power Pack story in this issue until I saw it on the shelf at Previews. In fact, this issue has both a Power Pack story and a Punisher story, which has to be the greatest tonal mismatch since Archie vs. the Punisher. The Punisher story is predictably awful, and I despise this character anyway. But the Power Pack story is quite good. It’s written by John Allison, and like Giant Days, it has excellent dialogue and a minimal plot. The focus is mostly on showing how the three younger Power siblings have grown. I wish Marvel would do more with these characters; I think this is the first time Jack Power has appeared anywhere since 2010.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS #10 (Action Lab, 2016) – Jeremy Whitley [W], Rosy Higgins & Jason Strutz [A]. Most of this issue is a flashback sequence, representing a story that Sunshine tells to the unconscious Ximena about how her (Sunshine’s) parents met. It’s a cute Romeo-and-Juliet story about a human-elf romance. There’s a funny line about how the “story gets kind of vague” at the point that Sunshine is conceived.

ROCKET RACCOON & GROOT #8 (Marvel, 2016) – Nick Kocher [W], Michael Walsh [A]. This is only nominally a Civil War crossover. Rocket accepts a mission from Carol Danvers as an excuse to track down an old enemy of his, and while doing so, he runs into Gwenpool. Nick Kocher is a very funny writer, and he effectively plays Rocket, Groot and Gwenpool off of each other.

CIVIL WAR: CHOOSING SIDES II #2 (Marvel, 2016) – various [W/A]. I should have ordered this because of Jeremy Whitley’s War Machine story, but I forgot. It’s not a story starring War Machine, but a story about America Chavez, Monica Rambeau and Storm’s reactions to Rhodey’s death. It’s a touching piece of work that demonstrates Jeremy’s ability to write effectively about black people despite being white himself. The girl named Zuri who Storm encounters is named after Jeremy’s daughter. According to Jeremy on Twitter, I was the first person to notice this.

The other story in this issue is about Goliath. It has some interesting art by Marco Rudy, but it assumes too much knowledge about this character’s history, and does not make sense on its own.

HOWARD THE DUCK #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Chip Zdarsky [W], Joe Quinones [A]. I thought this was the last issue, but I guess there’s one more left. The Chipp and Jho characters are a really funny piece of metafiction (not to mention their colleagues, such as Ta-Nehi-C). There’s also a funny suggestion that Howard himself thinks Steve Gerber was a better writer than Chip. If the next issue is as good as this one, then this story will be the perfect conclusion to a very fun series.

THE SPECTRE #32 (DC, 1995) – John Ostrander [W], Steve Pugh [A]. In this self-contained story, the Spectre fights a murderer who has multiple personalities, only some of which are culpable for his crimes. The Spectre solves this dilemma by destroying all the man’s split personalities, even the good ones, and leaving just the normal unremarkable one. Steve Pugh’s artwork on this issue is reminiscent of that of Richard Corben.

TOMB OF DRACULA #8 (Marvel, 1973) – Marv Wolfman [W], Gene Colan [A]. Another comic that I’ve had for a long time, but never bothered to read because I had already read the story in reprinted form. This is the second issue of probably the best run on any ‘70s Marvel comic. The first six issues of ToD ranged from average to bad, but with his arrival on the series, Marv instantly turned the series around. His first story, in which Frank, Rachel and Quincy battle a bunch of mind-controlled kids, is frantic and tense from start to finish. The art this issue isn’t as good as in later issues because the third member of the team, Tom Palmer, had not arrived yet.

GREEN LANTERN #113 (DC, 1979) – Denny O’Neil [W], Alex Saviuk [A]. This issue is kind of dumb. On Christmas, Hal, Dinah and Ollie encounter a bunch of punk musicians. One of them has a wife who’s about to give birth. The wife is kidnapped by some hillbillies who want to use the baby to break a curse. The religious subtext here is too obvious to be interesting. In Flash #73, Mark Waid wrote a much better story with a very similar premise. Also, Alex Saviuk is a really boring artist.

DEPT. H #5 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Matt Kindt [W/A]. This series gets creepier with every issue. I mention it briefly in my in-progress book chapter about SF comics, but it may be closer to horror than SF. Mia watches the feed from Raj’s suit and sees… it’s not clear what, and then the entire habitat caves in. I have issue 6 of this series but have not read it yet.

AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #10 (Archie, 2016) – Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa [W], Francesco Francavilla [A]. I used to think this was the third best current comic after Saga and Sex Criminals, but this week it was the twelfth new comic book I read. This shows how badly my enthusiasm for this series has suffered as a result of its chronic lateness. This isn’t a bad comic at all, though; in fact, it’s quite impressive. It tells the story of the Afterlife version of Josie and the Pussycats, who turn out to be vampires. Roberto gives a compelling and well-researched account of their origin and their various incarnations as different pop groups.

ISLAND #9 (Image, 2016) – various [W/A]. Probably the worst issue yet. Brandon Graham seems to be a fan of Fil Barlow’s Zooniverse, and Frank Plowright’s Slings and Arrows guide has good things to say about it. But the Zooniverse story in this issue made no sense to me. Fil Barlow is good at drawing bizarre alien creatures and environments, but I was unable to tell any of the characters in this story apart, nor could I follow the plot. Lin Visel’s story “Balst” is boring and amateurish. The only piece in the issue that I liked was Joseph Bergin’s short piece. It makes little logical sense – it appears to be about a possessed garbage disposal or something – but at least the artwork is interesting.

TRUE BELIEVERS: STAR WARS #1 (Marvel, 2016, originally 1977) – Roy Thomas [W], Howard Chakyin [A]. I bought this because it was a dollar. Star Wars #1 was very important because it may have saved Marvel from bankruptcy, but is now mostly a historical curiosity. It includes at least one scene left out of the movie, Biggs Darklighter’s farewell to Luke, but otherwise it follows the first part of the movie closely. Howard Chaykin’s artwork is quite good.

WONDER WOMAN #5 (DC, 2016) – Greg Rucka [W], Liam Sharp [A]. The even-numbered issues of this title are worse than the odd-numbered issues, but still quite good. Greg Rucka’s writing is never spectacular, but it’s always consistently good, with the notable exception of Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1. I wonder what happened to Black Magic though. Liam Sharp’s artwork has gotten a lot better since the ‘90s. I think the best moment this issue was Steve Trevor’s reference to toxic masculinity.

ATOMIC ROBO: KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE #2 (Red 5, 2014) – Brian Clevinger [W], Scott Wegener [A]. Another average issue of Atomic Robo. I think I just don’t like this series as much as my friend Pol Rua does. The only Atomic Robo comic I unconditionally loved was Deadly Art of Science.

SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? #66 (DC, 2016) – various [W/A]. I was sorry to see that the backup story this issue was written by Chuck Dixon. It’s not particularly good or bad, but I regret having unintentionally given Chuck Dixon my money. But the first story this issue, by Ivan Cohen and Walter Carson, is quite good. On President’s Day, the Scooby Gang visit the White House where they encounter a villain who’s posing as the ghosts of various former presidents.

FLASH #253 (DC, 1977) – Cary Bates [W], Irv Novick [A]. Irv Novick is a classic example of a boring artist, but I kind of like his art. Like many Cary Bates comics, this issue has a confusing and convoluted plot, in which the Elongated Man turns into a villain called the Molder and seemingly kills the Flash. This issue is notable for having a scene where Sue Dibny and Iris West talk to each other. It doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test because they’re talking about Barry and Ralph, but at the time, it was unusual for these characters to interact at all without their husbands present.

JONESY #5 (Boom!, 2016) – Sam Humphries [W], Caitlin Rose Boyle [A]. Jonesy’s idol Stuff comes to town and casts Jonesy in his opera production, but he wants Jonesy to play the fat stupid character. I still don’t quite understand this comic, but it’s funny and it’s clearly a labor of love on the part of the creators.

SPIDER-GWEN #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Latour [W], Robbi Rodriguez [A]. This series slipped pretty far down my priority list after the awful Spider-Women crossover issues. This issue is hard to understand, but at least it feels like a classic Spider-Gwen story, if the word “classic” is appropriate for a series that’s only a couple years old. I notice that Gwen is wearing a Power Pack shirt.

SPIDER-GWEN #11 (Marvel, 2016) – as above. I remember liking this better than some other recent issues, but I can’t recall much about it. I like how in Spider-Gwen’s world, Reed Richards is a black teenager. And he builds Gwen a device that’s very similar to the old Thing rings.

HATE #22 (Fantagraphics, 1996) – Peter Bagge [W/A]. Brilliant work. This is as funny as any Hate comic, but also involves some serious relationship and family drama. Buddy’s girlfriend Lisa becomes the primary caretaker for Buddy’s sick father. Buddy and Lisa fight over this because Lisa is more worried about Dad than Buddy himself is. Then Buddy’s dad gets run over by a truck – and good riddance, because he was an awful old man, but still, his death is sobering as well as funny. I need to collect more of these late issues of Hate.

New comics received on September 9:

GOLDIE VANCE #5 (Boom!, 2016) – Hope Larson [W], Brittney Williams [A]. I mistakenly thought this series was written by Kate Leth, not Hope Larson. This issue, Goldie rescues an amnesiac astronaut and gets recruited for astronaut training, making Cheryl bitterly jealous. I thought Cheryl’s reaction was unfair, but oh well. This was a good issue, but in a by now familiar pattern, I was too tired to enjoy it as much as I should have.

PAPER GIRLS #9 (Image, 2016) – Brian K. Vaughan [W], Cliff Chiang [A]. More weirdness. Additional water bears. A giant steampunk airship. A future water-world filled with clones of Erin. I’m still enjoying this series but it continues to make very little logical sense.

DOCTOR STRANGE #11 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], Kevin Nowlan & Leonardo Romero [A]. Part of this issue is a flashback to Strange’s origin and his early encounters with Mordo. The other part takes place in the present day and follows Strange’s struggles with his new lack of power. This issue is a good introduction to the series’ new status quo. Kevin Nowlan and Leonardo Romero’s art styles effectively contrast with each other.

USAGI YOJIMBO #157 (Dark Horse, 2016) – An excellent conclusion to “The Secret of the Hell Screen.” The murderer is found and punished, it turns out there’s an actual secret to the hell screen, and the annoying Lord Shima is financially ruined. This three-parter was a good example of a long-form Usagi story.

REVIVAL #42 (Image, 2016) – Tim Seeley [W], Mike Norton [A]. I still can’t quite follow what’s going on here, but it’s clear that the world of the series is going to hell in a handbasket. This series is approaching what I expect will be a strong conclusion.

THE FLINTSTONES #3 (DC, 2016) – Mark Russell [W], Steve Pugh [A]. Another funny piece of satire. Bedrock is visited by alien teenagers on spring break, who proceed to cause mayhem and kill everyone, until recalled by their parents. This plot reminds me of the Star Trek TOS episode “The Squire of Gothos,” or the Fantastic Four story about the Infant Terrible.

JUGHEAD #9 (Archie, 2016) – Ryan North [W], Derek Charm [A]. This is the “burger girl” story. Surprisingly this was the best comic of the week. It’s very similar to an issue of Squirrel Girl, and that’s good because it means we get two issues of Squirrel Girl a month. Ryan North’s bottom-of-page commentary has become his trademark as a writer, and he uses it here very effectively.

NIGHT’S DOMINION #1 (Oni, 2016) – Ted Naifeh [W/A]. As Ted said to me at Heroes Con, this is his first comic in many years that’s not cute. Instead, it’s a somewhat dark and grim version of Dungeon & Dragons, or of Conan stories like “The Tower of the Elephant.” So far I like this, though maybe not as much as Courtney Crumrin or Princess Ugg.

BOUNTY #3 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Kurtis Wiebe [W], Mindy Lee [A]. I think the best thing about this comic is the coloring. The story and characters just aren’t grabbing me as much as Rat Queens did, and it lacks the political subtext of Pisces. I’m sorry that this is Kurtis Wiebe’s only current comic.

BLACK PANTHER #1 (Marvel, 2016) – Ta-Nehisi Coates [W], Brian Stelfreeze [A]. I finally found this comic at Heroes (see above), and I finally got around to reading it after seeing some negative commentary on this series on Facebook. I was very impressed with this first issue. It’s not hard to understand despite my lack of familiarity with previous Black Panther runs, and it’s an impressive achievement for someone who’s only ever written nonfiction. Somehow this feels like a very African story. It also seems like a deep and serious meditation on the concept of nationhood; I feel like the key question in this story arc (and I may be unconsciously quoting this from somewhere) is whether Wakanda belongs to its king or to its people. Brian Stelfreeze’s artwork here is also very impressive.

BLACK PANTHER #2 (Marvel, 2016) – as above. Another good issue. Changamire is an interesting new character; he reminds me of Chip Delany somehow.

BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 2016) – as above. This issue was also good, though nothing about it particularly stands out to me.

BLACK PANTHER #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Ta-Nehisi Coates [W], Chris Sprouse [A]. By this point this story was starting to remind me of “Panther’s Rage,” if “Panther’s Rage” hadn’t been written by someone who never used one word where three would do. The noteworthy scene in this issue is the one where T’Challa consults with representatives of all the evil Marvel countries – Madripoor, Genosha, etc. This is a significant moment because it’s the sort of thing that a superhero would never do, but that a dictator would certainly do.

New comics received on September 16. Yet again, I was utterly exhausted that day after having spent the morning in meetings.

LUMBERJANES/GOTHAM ACADEMY #4 (Boom!/DC, 2016) – Chynna Clugston Flores [W], Rosemary Valero-O’Connell [A]. This series has just not been what I expected to be, and I wasn’t all that excited about this issue; I only read it first because of a sense of obligation. But I liked this issue better than I expected. The plot is becoming clearer, and the Lumberjanes and the Detective Club are getting the opportunity to do what they each do best. I love the line about Simon dying in a macarena-rollerblading accident. And Mal’s “collective strength” line is a nice moment.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #1 (DC, 2016) – Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl [W], Adam Archer [A]. Very glad to have this series back. This issue introduces Olive’s new roommate Amy, who is just horrible; I expect she’s going to turn into a villain. The last page, where all the other Detective Club kids come back, is a heartwarming moment.

BLACK PANTHER #6 (Marvel, 2016) – Yet another good issue. The Ife folktale has the ring of authenticity to it, even though it was quite possibly made up. At this point in the story, I am seriously losing my sympathy for T’Challa; I feel like he’s really the villain of this piece, while Aneka and Ayo are the protagonists.

WONDER WOMAN #6 (DC, 2016) – Greg Rucka [W], Nicola Scott [A]. Another entertaining chapter of “Year One.” This issue has one of the most adorable covers of the year (the one with Diana and the animals), and the scene where Diana is visited by the gods is equally cute. But why is Hephaestus a mouse? There’s also a very sad scene where Steve Trevor has to inform his comrade’s widow of her husband’s death. Greg Rucka often gives the sense that he genuinely understands and sympathizes with military personnel, and this scene is an example of that.

ASTRO CITY #38 (DC, 2016) – Kurt Busiek [W], Brent Anderson [A]. This is a strange one. It continues Mister Cakewalk/Jazzbaby’s story into the ‘20s. The plot, with Destiné and the Star of Lahkimpur, is reminiscent of a ‘20s Weird Tales story. Kurt and Brent seem to have done an excellent job with their historical research; I was delighted to see a chop suey restaurant in the background of one panel.

DOOM PATROL #1 (DC, 2016) – Gerard Way [W], Nick Derington [A]. This is seriously weird, though in a good way, I think. I liked the artwork but was unable to follow the story. There seemed to be very little logical connection between one scene and another. Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol was really weird, but only at the level of content; the stories usually had a clear narrative logic to them. I am curious to see where this comic is going, though.

THE UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Christopher Hastings [W], Irene Strychalski [A]. I guess “The Unbelievable” is part of the title. This issue, Gwen teams up with Miles Morales. It’s a fairly fun comic, but I don’t remember much about it now.

THE UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #6 (Marvel, 2016) – as above. Due to a misunderstanding, Gwen gets in a fight with Miles and is thrown in jail. This issue has a slightly more serious vibe than earlier issues; it ends with Gwen saying “this isn’t fun.” As I type this, it occurs to me that Gwen is kind of the Marvel version of Pinkie Pie. Gwen’s bedroom is just adorable.

THE MIGHTY THOR #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], Russell Dauterman [A]. Roxxon Island becomes the scene of a battle between Exterminatrix’s Mindless Ones and Dario Agger’s Hulks. Russell Dauterman draws some awesome Mindless Ones, and I love how their thought bubbles are full of exclamation marks. And “ROXXON STRONGEST COMPANY THERE IS!” is an awesome line. But although I liked this issue, I still haven’t gotten around to reading the next one.

ARCHIE #10 (Archie, 2016) – Mark Waid [W], Veronica Fish [A]. Veronica takes an incriminating video of Betty’s uncle, who is a popular high school teacher and Mr. Lodge’s opponent for mayor. The video goes viral, leading to a rift between Archie and Betty. I’m just not enjoying this series nearly as much as Jughead.

ARCHIE #11 (Archie, 2016) – as above. Betty and Veronica each participate in a talent show. During the talent show, Archie and Betty are reconciled to each other and they give each other a friendly hug, but Sayad and Veronica are both watching and they misinterpret what’s going on. Again, this is still just an average comic, though it’s not average enough that I’d consider dropping it. I don’t think Mark is as good at writing teenage protagonists as he used to be.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #45 (IDW, 2016) – Thom Zahler [W], Tony Fleecs [A]. It turns out that the magic dust had the effect of exacerbating each of the ponies’ worst qualities, making them care about their private concerns to the exclusion of everything else. Spike, the CMC and Zecora use their knowledge of the Mane Six to their advantage in order to cure them. The highlight of the issue is how Twilight Sparkle thinks she’s immune to being cured because she’s prepared for absolutely every strategy that might be used against her – and then she falls victim to Pinkie Pie’s super-simple trick. The line “You see, both characters’ mothers have the same name” is a nice Easter egg. I really miss Katie Cook’s writing on this comic and I wish she’d come back, but Thom Zahler is a reasonable substitute, and I thought this latest story was quite good.

THOR, GOD OF THUNDER #19 (Marvel, 2014) – Jason Aaron [W], Esad Ribic [A]. This is a prequel to the current Thor run, and features Roz Solomon and Dario Agger. Reading this issue has given me a slightly clearer understanding of current events in Mighty Thor. I like Esad Ribic’s art, though he’s not as good as Russell Dauterman. I ought to go back and collect the rest of this run.

ROCKET RACCOON AND GROOT #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Nick Kocher [W], Michael Walsh [A]. Pretty much the same thing as issue 8. I love the metatextual comment about the convenient rips in Gwen’s clothing.

AVENGERS TWO #2 (Marvel, 2000) – Roger Stern [W], Mark Bagley [A]. This Wonder Man-Beast team-up is a lot of fun; it feels like a classic Roger Stern Avengers comic, and Hank and Simon are an excellent comic duo. The plot of this issue is heavily based on the ‘90s Wonder Man series, which I’ve only read one or two issues of, but Stern provides enough explanation to ensure that the comic still makes sense.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #9 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – Ed Piskor [W/A]. Lots of interesting stuff here, though I thought the backup story, by a different artist, was rather boring. This issue includes one panel that describes events in the ‘90s and is drawn in a style based on that of Rob Liefeld. I assume this will become the primary style of the series when we get to the early ‘90s.

A-FORCE #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Kelly Thompson [W], Paulo Siqueira [A]. This issue is an example of why I’m sick of Civil War. Carol and Medusa’s actions this issue are heavy-handed and cruel, and while Medusa was never a sympathetic character to begin with, Carol is on the verge of losing the reader’s sympathy as well. (On this point, see my review of Ms. Marvel #10 above.) It turns out there’s a good reason why Nico is supposed to kill someone named Alice. And this demonstrates the stupidity of putting your trust in prophecies as Carol and Medusa have done.

And now, for the first time since arriving in Charlotte, my stack of comics waiting to be reviewed is empty – except for the comics I read this week, but I’ll review those later.


One more comic I read before receiving my new comics shipment:

SUPERMAN #300 (DC, 1976) – Cary Bates & Elliot S! Maggin [W], Curt Swan [A].I I’ve known about this comic for a long time but have never read it. “Superman, 2001” is an imaginary story in which Superman arrives on Earth in 1976, the year of the comic’s publication, making him 25 years old in 2001. The story is a rather strange one in which Superman stops two different Communist plots. Obviously, Bates and Maggin’s predictions for 2001 were wildly inaccurate. As an anniversary issue, Superman #300 is significantly inferior to Superman #400.

New comics received on September 23:

PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Kate Leth [W], Brittney Williams [A]. Hedy imprisons Patsy in a dream version of Centerville High School, and tries to make Patsy feel guilty about ruining her life and the lives of everyone around her. It doesn’t work. This was not the best issue of the series; I hope Kate Leth isn’t running out of ideas.

CHEW #58 (Image, 2016) – John Layman [W], Rob Guillory [A]. Finally things are starting to make sense. It turns out that Tony is supposed to eat Amelia in order to use her powers to kill everyone who’s eaten chicken, because otherwise the aliens will kill everyone in the world. I guess the aliens must be giant chickens or something. I’m looking forward to the next issue; I haven’t been this excited about Chew since I started reading it.

THE VISION #11 (Marvel, 2016) – Tom King [W], Gabriel Hernandez Walta [A]. Just one more issue left of perhaps the saddest Marvel comic ever. I’m not sorry because I’m not sure I could take much more. Vision fights the Avengers in order to get into Victor Mancha’s prison cell and kill him, but Virginia beats him there and kills Victor instead. Virginia was clearly intended to be a tragic character; it feels like her entire story arc has been setting her up to die horribly. I’m sorry if Victor is dead, but Marvel wasn’t using him anyway.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #19 (IDW, 2016) – Kelly Thompson [W], Meredith McClaren [A]. Meredith McClaren’s art is bizarre; she draws some weird facial expressions. Still, I like her art better than Jen Bartel’s. The main thing I remember from this issue is the ending, where the Stingers agree to sign with the Misfits’ recording company only if the Misfits are dropped. Over the course of this series, the Misfits have evolved from villains to friendly rivals, and it would be interesting to see them allied with the Holograms against a greater threat.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE 1831 nn (Image, 2016) – Kieron Gillen [W], Stephanie Hans [A]. Best comic of the week. This one-shot introduces the 19th-century gods, who are based on the Romantic poets. Specifically:

Hades = John Keats
Woden = Mary Shelley
Inanna = Claire Clairmont
Morrigan = Percy Bysshe Shelley
Lucifer = Byron
Morpheus = Coleridge
Angel of Soho = Blake
Perun = Pushkin?
Thoth = Poe?
Hestia = unknown (Jane Austen according to Wikipedia)
Other 3 gods = the Brontës

According to my Victorianist Facebook friends, the idea that the Romantics were the equivalent of modern celebrities is not entirely new. But Gillen and Hans’ execution of this concept is brilliant. Kieron has clearly done his research; even the departures from the historical record seem intentional rather than accidental. (Some of the rela-life versions of the gods were dead by 1831, or survived more than two years afterward.) Of course the whole story revolves around the famous 1816 party at Villa Diodati. The whole issue creates a powerful feeling of claustrophobia, oppression and doom. It’s one of Kieron’s best single issues.

GIANT DAYS #18 (Boom!, 2016) – John Allison [W], Max Sarin [A]. This issue mostly deals with the aftermath of last issue’s plagiarism scandal. It occurs to me that John Allison is a gifted storyteller, but his stories tend to be structured as a series of jokes and gags, out of which a plot develops so gradually that you don’t even notice. Paul Tobin’s writing is kind of like this too.

MANIFEST DESTINY #23 (Image, 2016) – Chris Dingess [W], Matthew Roberts [A]. In this issue, we realize that the Helm/Flewelling flashback is closely related to the main plot of the series. When we know the message that Helm and Flewelling brought back to Washington, we’ll also know why Sacagawea’s baby is so important, and what the Lewis-Clark expedition is supposed to accomplish. Helm carrying Flewelling’s head is a shocking image, reminding me of Head Lopper.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #32 (IDW, 2016) – Ted Anderson [W], Jay Fosgitt [A]. Jay Fosgitt has done a lot of excellent work this year, and I’m glad that he’s starting to achieve more widespread success. This issue stars Fluttershy and Daring Do, perhaps the most dissimilar characters in the entire franchise. Daring Do needs Fluttershy’s help because she has a quest that involves spiders, and she (Daring Do) is terrified of spiders. As in the best MLP:FF issues, the humor comes from the conflict between the two main characters’ personalities. The map spiders are an adorable and hilarious idea. It’s a weird coincidence that this issue came out the same week as “Every Little Thing She Does,” which also involves Fluttershy and spiders.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #8 (Marvel, 2016) – David Walker [W], Sanford Greene [A]. The prison storyline continues. At the end of the issue, Luke gets in a big fight with Carol Danvers, whose character has been absolutely destroyed by Civil War II; in just a few months, she’s gone from Marvel’s flagship superheroine to a borderline villain. More on this later. The most memorable thing in the issue is Luke castigating Danny for “playing the role of the goody-goody white liberal trying to make a point that only other white liberals understand.” The racial politics of this series are perhaps the best thing about it.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #65 (Marvel, 1980) – Mary Jo Duffy [W], Kerry Gammill [A]. I’m not very familiar with Jo Duffy’s writing, and I was pleasantly surprised at how witty and entertaining this issue was. I need to collect more of this series. The main plot involves a villain called El Aguila and Jeryn Hogarth’s harem of action girls. But easily the highlight of the issue is a scene where Luke goes to a tailor to pick up some shirts (since he goes through so many of them), and on his way out, Bruce Banner comes in to pick up some pants. Finally we know where all those pairs of purple pants come from!

GRIMJACK #18 (First, 1986) – John Ostrander [W], Tim Truman [A]. I mentioned Grimjack in my Cambridge SF Encyclopedia article on SF comics, from the 1980s to the 2010s, so I was inspired to read an old Grimjack issue. This issue is the culmination of a story in which a bunch of corporations start a war against the Cynosure government. It’s a bit hard to follow, and Truman’s art is unusually crude. The Munden’s Bar story is also confusing; it feels like it’s the second half of a two-parter.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE TEMPLE OF OD #2 (IDW, 2016) – Brian Clevinger [W], Scott Wegener [A]. A rather average issue. The only thing I remember about it is the “one raid, three fortunes” conversation. I’m losing some of my confidence in this series.

FANTASTIC FOUR #187 (Marvel, 1977) – Len Wein [W], George Pérez [A]. The FF return from New Salem, where they defeated Agatha Harkness’s evil son, only to find that Klaw and the Molecule Man have invaded the Baxter Building. The Impossible Man defeats Klaw, but the Molecule Man possesses Reed’s body. The Molecule Man’s continuity is confusing; I think the one in this issue is different from the one in Secret Wars II. Gentleman George’s art in this issue is not bad at all, though not up to the level of his Avengers or Justice League.

ARCHIE #12 (Archie, 2016) – Mark Waid [W], Thomas Pitilli [A]. Mr. Lodge loses the election and moves out of town. I’m feeling lukewarm about this series. Mark has mostly failed to convince me to sympathize with Veronica.

DEPT. H #6 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Matt Kindt [W]. Another issue that raises a lot of questions but no answers. At the end of this issue, Mia demands answers from her brother, and I hope she gets them; I’d at least like to know what this undersea installation is even for.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #9 (Image, 2016) – Skottie Young [W/A]. For perhaps the first time this series, this issue is a one-off with no connection to any ongoing plotline. Gert offers her pet “catastrophon” as a bet in a poker game, then has to go inside her “hat of holding” to find it. Gert’s trip inside her hat is a hilarious and beautifully drawn sequence, reminding me of the scene in Scud the Disposable Assassin where Scud travels inside Drywall. I love how the catastrophon turns out to be savage and vicious but also adorable, kind of like Lockheed. Overall this was one of the better issues of the series.

VOTE LOKI #4 (Marvel, 2016) – Christopher Hastings [W], Langdon Foss [A]. A very disappointing conclusion. Loki’s supporters all abandon him when they discover that he has no concrete positions about anything. Hello? Donald Trump has no policies or platforms either, other than “build a wall,” and his supporters love him anyway because of who he is. That’s not necessarily enough for him to be elected President, but it proves that you can be nominated for President despite knowing nothing and having no ideas, which means the ending of this issue is silly. Ultimately, this series was an ineffective piece of political satire because of its lack of courage. It played everything too safe, and failed to stress the obvious similarities between Loki and Trump. Of course it’s inevitable that this series failed to deilver effective political satire, since it’s published by a huge corporation that can’t afford to offend people, but Prez was also published by a huge corporation and it was much more hard-hitting than Vote Loki.

THE MIGHTY THOR #11 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], Russell Dauterman [A]. This was the best issue of this series because the ending was just so unexpected. I can’t explain the ending without inadvertently spoiling it, so I might as well just spoil it. It turns out that the character posing as Thor is… Mjolnir. This is a powerful plot twist because we are conditioned to see Mjolnir as just an inanimate object; in the past fifty years, Mjolnir has never spoken a single line of dialogue, and has never been depicted as animate or sentient. The other cool thing is that when you reread the issue, you see that the fake Thor was never shown holding Mjolnir. Kudos to Jason Aaron for delivering a truly effective surprise. Though I do wonder if this episode was inspired by the Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife.”

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #9 (DC, 2015) – Sholly Fisch [W], Dario Brizuela [A]. Another very fun issue, in which the Scooby Gang teams up with Superman and his friends to fight a bunch of classic Superman villains. Funny moments include the appearance of a literal Great Caesar’s Ghost, and Krypto talking to Scooby in dog language.

THE THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR PRESENTS: BEYOND BELIEF #1 (Image, 2015) – Ben Acker & Ben Blacker [W], Phil Hester [A]. Beyond Belief stars a pair of urbane, witty paranormal investigators who drink all the time. They’re obviously based on Nick and Nora Charles except they drink even more, which is quite a feat. This issue is a lot of fun and it makes me want to read more about these characters. There’s also a backup story explaining how they met.

STRANGE FRUIT #2 (Boom!, 2015) – J.G. Jones [W/A], Mark Waid [A]. This comic book should never have been published. After the overwhelmingly hostile reaction to issue 1, Boom! should have said “Sorry, we made a mistake” and killed the rest of the series. Unfortunately, I’m stuck with this comic because I had already ordered it before I saw the reviews for issue 1. It turns out that issue 2 is almost equally bad. Other people have diagnosed the problems with this issue; see for example Emma Houxbois’s review at . I would add that this is the kind of story that’s intended to be anti-racist, but that in fact reinforces racism. Because of its old-fashioned setting, it presents racism as a thing of the past, inviting the white reader to think, “White people sure were awful back then; good thing we’ve learned better now.” By contrast, March constantly reminds the reader that the problems of the civil rights era are still relevant today, and that neither the civil rights movement nor Barack Obama’s inauguration is the end of the story.

New comics received on September 30. For the first time in quite a while, I received a new Saga and a new Lumberjanes on the same day. It was tough to decide which to read first. In the end I decided that Saga takes priority over anything else, but it could have gone the other way.

SAGA #38 (Image, 2016) – Brian K. Vaughan [W], Fiona Staples [A]. I notice Fiona has top billing on the cover, which seems quite appropriate. This issue picks up where #37 ended, but then skips ahead six months. It’s jarring to see Alana suddenly very pregnant, and I’m kind of annoyed that we didn’t get to see Hazel’s reaction to the news that she’s going to be a big sister. But the end of the issue is a far greater shock. Izabel’s (second) death comes completely out of left field, and is almost as traumatic for the reader as it is for Hazel. For once things were looking good for the Hazel family, but now everything’s turned to shit again. I’m almost afraid to read the next issue.

LUMBERJANES #30 (Boom!, 2016) – Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh [W], Carey Pietsch [A]. Another awesome issue. Surprisingly, it turns out that Ligo the gorgon is quite nice (much nicer than Diane) and is not responsible for turning people to stone; instead, the culprit is a pair of ridiculous-looking cockatrices. Also, we are introduced to the Always Locked Peculiar Situations Weapons Cabinet, which is just what it sounds like. The most memorable moment this issue, though, is the explanation of what’s been going on with Molly. It turns out her parents don’t approve of her lifestyle, and they sent her to camp to “fix” her, thinking it was a different kind of camp. The implication is that one of the things Molly’s parents are trying to “fix” is her sexuality, so there are some very disturbing implications here, though presented in language appropriate for young readers. It turns out that maybe the world of Lumberjanes isn’t as utopian as it looks. Besides that one counselor from the boys’ camp, all the characters we’ve seen in this series so far have been comfortable with fluid gender roles, but maybe in the world beyond the camp, there are people who still have outdated notions about gender.

MS. MARVEL #11 (Marvel, 2016) – G. Willow Wilson [W], Takeshi Miyazawa & Adrian Alphona [A]. Just a devastating issue – the saddest Ms. Marvel comic yet. The good news is Kamala finally gets fed up with Captain Marvel’s bullshit, and decides to side with Iron Man instead. The bad news is that Carol is predictably assholish about it, and declares that her trust in Kamala was misplaced. Carol has become such an awful character that Kamala is really better off without her friendship (more on this below). But what makes it even worse is that Bruno is alive, but he’s equally disappointed in Kamala, and decides that he’s moving to Wakanda and doesn’t want to see her again. Ouch. An especially poignant touch here is that at the start of the issue, Kamala’s mom is singing “Yeh Dosti,” which – as I discovered when I looked up the lyrics – is all about an unbreakable bond of friendship. Male friendship in particular, but it’s clearly intended to refer to Kamala and Bruno’s platonic bond. Overall, at the end of this issue it felt like Kamala was at the lowest point of her entire life. I’ve had moments like that before, and I always recovered in the end, and I’m sure Kamala will too, but it won’t be easy. Poor kid.

I also want to comment on Carol Danvers. Civil War II has been a horrible disaster in terms of its effects on the Marvel Universe, and the worst thing it’s done is to assassinate Carol Danvers’s character. Carol has gone from being Marvel’s leading female character, to being almost as bad as many of her own enemies. And I blame Brian Michael Bendis and the editors who let him write Civil War. Ideally Bendis should not be writing any comics at all, but he certainly shouldn’t be writing comics that have negative effects on other comics by good writers.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #12 (Marvel, 2016) – Ryan North [W], Erica Henderson [A]. Not the best issue, though not bad at all. Doreen, Doreen’s mom, and Nancy go on vacation in the woods, while back in New York, a villain called Enigmo takes over the city. I think the best part of the issue is Doreen’s sheer boredom at being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no Internet. And also the magazines like “Earth Boring” and “Painting Quietly.”

ODY-C #11 (Image, 2016) – Matt Fraction [W], Christian Ward [A]. I’m glad this is back. With the intermittent schedule of most Image titles, it can be hard to know whether they’re on hiatus or whether they’ve been cancelled. For instance, I wonder if we’re ever going to see another issue of The Goddamned. Anyway, this issue is an improvement over the second storyline, which I thought was kind of a misfire. It’s a retelling of the history of the House of Atreus, mostly in limericks, although the limericks don’t always scan properly. I guess my criticism would be that it follows the mythological source material very closely. It tells almost the same exact story as Age of Bronze Special #1. Wouldn’t you expect that these events, especially the sacrifice of Iphigenia, would have played out differently if everyone involved had been female? However, Christian Ward’s artwork is as amazing as ever.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #11 (Marvel, 2016) – Amy Reeder & Brandon Montclare [W], Natacha Bustos [A]. Lunella encounters Ms. Marvel again, but then ends up in the hospital because she switches minds with Devil Dinosaur at the wrong time. Then Mel-Varr reveals that he loves (or rather, has a puppy-love crush on) Lunella. My problem with this issue is that it again has Lunella’s parents behaving in implausible ways; they’re even more oblivious and negligent than Jim and Margaret Power. And even in Jim and Margaret Power’s case, I prefer to believe that they knew about their children’s powers and just pretended not to. The fundamental difficulty with child superheroes is that no responsible parents would allow their child to be a superhero. Therefore, any story about chlid superheroes is obligated to explain why the parents either don’t know their child is a superhero (Power Pack), or why they do know and are okay with it (The Incredibles). But Reeder and Montclare have failed to convince me of either of those, so I have to accept that Lunella’s parents are either stupid or irresponsible.

ASTRO CITY #39 (DC, 2016) – Kurt Busiek [W], Carmen Carnero [A]. This is not the first Astro City story that revisits a character from an earlier story, but it’s strange seeing Marta Dobrescu again after 21 years. (17 years in my case, since I didn’t read Astro City v1 #4 until the first trade paperback came out.) Seeing Marta again creates a powerful sense of nostalgia for her previous story, but I also feel glad to see how well she’s done for herself, even if her love life is unfulfilling and her mother’s ghost keeps nagging her. One funny thing about this issue is how Marta accepts ghosts as just a normal part of life. This issue also reveals the origin of the Hanged Man, and it looks like next issue is going to include Raitha McCann and the Silver Adept. I hope we get to see the Tranquility Frog again.

SNOTGIRL #3 (Image, 2016) – Bryan Lee O’Malley [W], Leslie Hung [A]. This is such a weird comic. I’m not sure what it’s even about, and it doesn’t seem to have nearly the same importance as Scott Pilgrim or Seconds. Though James Moore suggests that this might be because it’s in single-issue format, so the overall pattern is harder to see. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is BLOM’s first comic book series. Maybe he’s just not used to this format. This issue surprises me in a couple ways. First, it turns out that Snotgirl is really quite privileged and gets invited to some amazing parties. Second, Coolgirl is alive, although that was kind of predictable.

THE BACKSTAGERS #2 (Boom!, 2016) – James Tynion IV [W], Rian Sygh [A]. This series continues to feel like a male version of Lumberjanes. Jory and another boy explore the mysterious, unstable, House-of-Leaves-esque tunnels behind the stage, where they encounter some “echo spiders.” There are some serious romantic sparks between Jory and the other boy, and I think this is a good thing – it would be nice if this comic worked to normalize male same-sex relationships in the same way Lumberjanes normalizes Mal and Molly’s relationship.

WONDER WOMAN #7 (DC, 2016) – Greg Rucka [W], Liam Sharp [A]. A good but not great issue. Diana and Steve’s hug is a cute moment. I like them much better as platonic friends than as a couple. I’m sorry to see that issue 8 will be the origin of Barbara Minerva, rather than the regularly scheduled Year One chapter.

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS #1 (Archie, 2016) – Marguerite Bennett & Cameron DeOrdio [W], Audrey Mok [A]. I’ve been ordering almost all of these new Archie titles, and there are almost too many of them – I even decided to skip Reggie and Me because it’s written by Tom DeFalco. Still, this issue is a reasonable addition to the Archie lineup. Easily the best part of the issue is the cat, Lord Cuteington, Duke of Kittenshire.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #46 (IDW, 2016) – Ted Anderson [W], Agnes Garbowska [A]. In the first half of a two-part story, Filthy Rich runs against Mayor Mare for mayor and wins, but is immediately confronted with a crisis that he’s unprepared to solve. The parallels with the U.S. election are obvious, but MLP is even less well-equipped than Vote Loki to present really hard-edged political satire, so it’s good that Anderson doesn’t really try to do that. I like how Lyra Heartstrings’s platform is “more benches”.

ROCKET RACCOON & GROOT #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Nick Kocher [W], Michael Walsh [A]. The conclusion of the Gwenpool three-parter. This is a hilarious issue, and Nick Kocher writes Gwenpool better than Christopher Hastings has been writing her in her own series. Probably the best scene is the page where Gwenpool wonders if she’s in a Bendis comic, because the entire page is a parody of Bendis’s style. I’m sorry that this is the last issue of the series, because they’re going to launch yet another new Rocket Raccoon series – the fourth new Rocket Raccoon or Groot series in three years. Nick Kocher is an impressive new talent, and I look forward to seeing what he does next.

SPIDER-GWEN #12 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Latour [W], Robbi Rodriguez [A]. The best Spider-Gwen comic in a long time. For the first time in a while, I was able to follow what was going on, and the level of tension and drama in this issue was impressive. Gwen and her dad finally defeat the Punisher, who is correctly depicted as an insane, monomaniacal villain. But the price is that George has to give himself up (though I can’t remember what he’s guilty of) and Gwen decides she has to work with the Kingpin to free him. I’m excited for the next issue, and again, it’s been a while since I was able to say that about this comic.

DESCENDER #15 (Image, 2016) – Jeff Lemire [W], Dustin Nguyen [A]. This issue is the story of Andy and Effie’s relationship. It’s a rather depressing story of doomed love. Andy and Effie are an adorable couple, but their romance is doomed from the start. The course of Andy’s life has already been determined by his childhood trauma of losing his mother to robots, and his singleminded hatred of robots becomes more valuable to him than Effie’s love. I was surprised at how quickly Effie turned from a robot hunter to a pro-robot activist, but I guess it’s not unusual for real people to make similar 180-degree flips.

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #12 (DC, 2015) – Sholly Fisch [W], Dario Brizuela [A]. The Scooby Gang “teams up” with Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Catwoman, but it turns out they’re really teaming up with Batgirl to defeat the three villains. This is another funny and well-plotted issue.

THE THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR PRESENTS SPARKS NEVADA, MARSHAL OF MARS #4 (Image, 2015) – Ben Acker & Ben Blacker [W], J. Bone [A]. I never ordered issues 2 or 3. This issue is so fast-paced that it’s difficult to follow, but the basic idea is that Sparks has to team up with his parents, who are disappointed in him. It’s funny, but I liked Beyond Belief #1 better.

PAST AWAYS #5 (Dark Horse, 2015) – Matt Kindt [W], Scott Kolins [A]. An okay issue. On the first page, we learn about an “automaton predator” that failed because it “lacked lethal capabilities and had an adorable voice that children loved.” Heh. On the next page, the team fights a giant venomous tortoise. But later in the issue, the characters visit a Mayan temple in Chile, which is a historical impossibility.

STARSLAYER #11 (First, 1983) – John Ostrander [W], Lenin Delsol [A] on lead story. I’m not all that interested in the Starslayer series; it’s just an average Mike Grell comic, and there are enough of those already. I can’t even be bothered to read the back issues of Warlord, Jon Sable and Green Arrow that I already have, and all those titles are better than Starslayer. And this issue’s main story isn’t even by Grell, and is ruined by awful artwork, though John Ostrander’s writing is okay. What made Starslayer an important series was its backup features, which included Groo, the Rocketeer and Grimjack. I’ve gotten interested in Starslayer again because I just learned that the later issues, including this one, include the earliest Grimjack stories. The Grimjack backup story in this issue is, I think, the character’s second appearance. It has excellent Tim Truman artwork, and tells an exciting story in which Grimjack encounters a washed-up powerless god and defends him from a much more powerful one.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #104 (Marvel, 1968) – Stan Lee [W], Jack Kirby [A]. I’m surprised I haven’t read this issue already. My copy is in fully readable condition, although the cover is flaking apart. This classic Lee/Kirby issue includes a number of epic action sequences in which Cap and SHIELD battle the Red Skull’s old henchmen. The funniest moment in the issue is where the Skull says that the Nazis lost World War II because Hitler wouldn’t listen to him.

SUPERMAN #273 (DC, 1974) – Elliot S! Maggin [W], Curt Swan [A]. “The Wizard with the Golden Eye” is rather unimpressive. It depicts a battle between Superman and a stage magician who’s been driven crazy by the Golden Eye of Effron – not to be confused with the Emerald Eye of Ekron, even though it’s pretty much the same thing. If this story weren’t so obscure, some later writer would probably have tried to explain the connection between these two items. The backup story, in which Clark Kent goes blind, is a little bit better; it ends with a cute scene in which Clark plays with some blind kids.

DETECTIVE COMICS #579 (DC, 1987) – Mike W. Barr [W], Norm Breyfogle [A]. The Crime Doctor is a fascinating character, but I don’t know if I’ve ever read an actual story about him before. In this issue, Batman rescues a petty criminal, Schuyler, who the Crime Doctor is about to operate on. The writer does not state what the Crime Doctor was going to do to Schuyler. But as I read the issue, I came to the shocking realization that the Crime Doctor was going to cut out Schuyler’s heart and transplant it into the body of a crime boss, killing Schuyler as a result – and that Schuyler agreed to this in exchange for money for his wife and child. This whole story is an uncanny mixture of humor and horror; Jason Todd makes a lot of annoying jokes, and the Crime Doctor has a killer nurse assistant who behaves just like a regular nurse. I used to hate Mike W. Barr’s writing, but I think he’s actually an impressive writer, and Norm Breyfogle’s art is also quite good.

FANTASTIC FOUR #191 (Marvel, 1977) – Len Wein [W], George Pérez [A]. A very maudlin story in which the FF disbands, and everyone is very sad about it. The impact of the story is lessened because even back in 1977, the FF disbanding was already an old cliché. The reader could have been confident that they were going to get back together a few issues later. There’s one scene where Ben and Johnny hug each other, which seems very out of character for both of them.

DETECTIVE COMICS #615 (DC, 1990) – Alan Grant & Marv Wolfman [W], Norm Breyfogle [A]. The Penguin is maybe my second favorite Batman villain, after the Riddler, because of his combination of pompous foppery and brutal viciousness. Both of those are displayed in this issue, in which he kidnaps an actress known as the Heron, while also using birds to attack Gotham City. (I assume this is a reference to Hitchcock’s The Birds, which I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t seen.) Norm Breyfogle does a great job of drawing threatening-looking birds. However, one plot point in the issue is that the same bird is present at every bird attack, and you can’t tell this from the art.

ASTONISHING TALES #7 (Marvel, 1971) – Roy Thomas [W], Herb Trimpe [A] on lead story; Gerry Conway [W], Gene Colan [A] on backup story. The Ka-Zar story this issue has some nice art by Herb Trimpe, who was perhaps trying to draw like Barry Windsor-Smith. However, the story is overwritten and histrionic and is an example of some of Roy’s worst tendencies. The Doctor Doom backup story is also rather overwritten, though the encounter between Doom and the Black Panther makes the story interesting. Doom develops a grudging respect for T’Challa, and it would be kind of cool if he appeared in the current Black Panther series. (Latveria was not one of the evil countries that T’Challa consulted for advice.) One annoying thing in this story is that Doom describes Wakanda as a poor country with primitive people, which is inconsistent with every other portrayal of Wakanda.

Some reviews I wrote in August but never posted

New comics received on July 25:

FUTURE QUEST #3 (DC, 2016) – Jeff Parker [W], Steve Rude & Aaron Lopresti [A]. I was a bit surprised that the artwork this issue was by Steve Rude and not Doc Shaner. I love The Dude’s artwork, obviously, I just wasn’t expecting it. I also didn’t think the Birdman story was very interesting. But I liked the Herculoids story. I’m not familiar with these characters at all, but they’re very intriguing, especially Gloop and Gleep.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Ryan North [W], Erica Henderson [A]. Another fantastic issue. Mole Man falls in love with one of his own monsters, ending his creepy stalkerish attempts to win Squirrel Girl’s love. The reporter interviewing the squirrel is a particularly nice moment, but really, every issue of Squirrel Girl has so many funny and cute moments that I can’t remember them all.

MS. MARVEL #9 (Marvel, 2016) – G. Willow Wilson [W], Adrian Alphona [A]. The opening sequence in this issue confirms that it was Kamala’s great-grandmother who emigrated from Pakistan, and also suggests that there’s something weird about the Khan family. I’m curious where this is going. As far as the main story, I have serious problems with this Ulysses plotline. There is not much room for debate about the morality of Kamala’s actions – it is clearly wrong to imprison people who haven’t committed a crime yet. When the moral conflict at the center of a story is this one-sided, that’s a sign of an ineffective story. Willow is not responsible for the idea of Ulysses, but she could maybe have used it to create a greater sense of moral ambiguity. This issue does include some good characterization, especially the revelation that Zoe has a crush on Nakia. Zoe started off as just an overprivileged ignorant bigot, but Willow has turned her into a far more complex character.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #17 (IDW, 2016) – Kelly Thompson [W], Jen Bartel [A]. Compared to Sophie Campbell’s artwork, Jen Bartel’s artwork is rather bland, though her facial expressions are good. But this is a very well-written issue, with some deep characterization. And it ends on a scary cliffhanger as Stormer crashes her car in the woods and then gets attacked by a bear.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Amy Reeder & Brandon Montclare [W], Natacha Bustos [A]. As usual, this comic is both adorable and wildly implausible. Lunella and Devil’s rampage through New York seems to have had no consequences at all, and somehow Lunella has become a superhero, without her mother noticing, and also no one is calling Child Protective Services to report that this unsupervised nine-year-old girl is fighting criminals. But I have already observed that this comic requires a higher level of suspension of disbelief than is usual even for a superhero comic. I look forward to seeing Kamala’s meeting with Lunella, though I wonder if Kamala is making too many guest appearances.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #44 (IDW, 2016) – Thom Zahler [W], Tony Fleecs [A]. This is an okay issue, but it’s pretty much exactly what I expected based on last issue. Evil Pinkie Pie is basically a silly version of the Joker. And of course evil Princess Luna is Nightmare Moon; that’s too obvious to be exciting. Are we going to see an evil version of Princess Celestia? Because that would be a lot cooler.

USAGI YOJIMBO #3 (Dark Horse, 1996) – Stan Sakai [W/A]. “The Wrath of the Tangled Skein” is one of Stan’s creepier stories in the yokai genre. Usagi is hired to defend a woman who’s been possessed by demons, and has to save her from some truly horrible supernatural monsters. This story demonstrates that Stan has the ability to be utterly terrifying. This issue also introduces Sanshobo; he makes a cameo in the first story, and the backup story reveals his tragic origin.

GROO THE WANDERER #29 (Marvel, 1987) – Sergio Aragones [W/A], Mark Evanier [W]. “Rufferto” is the best Groo story I’ve read lately. I already know most of the details of how Groo and Rufferto met – Rufferto is bored with his pampered life, he meets Groo when Groo demolishes his palace by accident, Rufferto’s original owner wants him back because of his diamond collar, etc. But this story narrates all of these events in a very funny way. The running joke this issue is that Groo, as usual, does all sorts of ridiculously stupid things, which Rufferto always interprets in the most positive light. This issue is also full of funny jokes and sight gags, such as the panel where Groo has a completely empty thought balloon, and Rufferto assumes Groo is thinking “deep and heroic thoughts.”

SUICIDE SQUAD #43 (DC, 1990) – John Ostrander & Kim Yale [W], Geof Isherwood [A]. This issue is part 4 of “The Phoenix Gambit,” and I can’t remember if I’ve read any of the previous three parts. So I was pretty confused as to what was going on, but this issue was fun anyway, with all sorts of funny characterization. Probably the highlight of the issue is the opening scene where Deadshot is hired to kill Amanda Waller, and Waller pays him the same fee, plus one dollar, to kill the person who hired him. Later in the issue, Poison Ivy has the opportunity to take over the country of Vlatava, but decides not to do so because it’s too much work. (Anyway, isn’t Vlatava the size of a city block? No, that’s Modora.)

YOUNG JUSTICE #53 (DC, 2003) – Peter David [W], Todd Nauck [A]. In this issue, rescues her father from prison where he’s about to be executed, then for some reason Darkseid appears and tries to recruit her. This is confusing because I’ve forgotten the details of Secret’s origin. However, Secret is the most important character who was created specifically for this series, and it’s appropriate that the final storyline revolves around her. Also, this issue we learn that Empress has to take care of her parents, who have been reverted to infancy. This seems kind of unfortunate.

DETECTIVE COMICS #375 (DC, 1968) – Gardner Fox [W], Chic Stone [A]. Chic Stone’s art this issue is surprisingly good, but the plot, about a criminal who has prophetic dreams, is kind of forgettable. The Elongated Man backup story is better. Having just finished reading The Thin Man, I now realize how heavily Ralph and Sue Dibny were influenced by Nick and Nora Charles.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #23 (DC, 1995) – Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle [W], Vince Locke [A]. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Sandman Mystery Theatre storyline in the correct order, and “Dr. Death” is no exception. This is part 3 of 4, and I don’t know what’s been happening up to this point. It’s well-written and well-drawn, though. I wish I had time to sit down and read all my issues of SMT in the proper order. This issue, Wes and Dian have sex for the first time but it turns out that Dian has partly ulterior motives, in that as soon as Wes falls asleep, Dian goes looking for his hideout and costume. I’m curious to read issue 24.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #3 (Fantagraphics, 2015) – Ed Piskor [W/A]. I’m slowly working my way through this fascinating series. I believe I’ve read all the material in this issue before, but this issue is well worth owning anyway. The production values are excellent – every aspect of each issue, including the paper stock, is designed to resemble a Marvel comic from the ‘70s or ‘80s. This issue also includes Ed’s annotations as well as some pages from his very early student work.

MIGHTY THOR #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], Russell Dauterman [A]. After having lost a lot of momentum thanks to the two disappointing flashback issues, this comic is good again. I don’t remember much about this issue, though.

BATGIRL #1 (DC, 2016) – Hope Larson [W], Rafael Albuquerque [A]. I’m not very familiar with Hope Larson’s work. This comic is not bad, and Hope Larson seems to have more than trivial knowledge of Japanese culture. However, this comic is less interesting than the previous Batgirl run, and I don’t feel highly motivated to keep reading it.

WONDER WOMAN #2 (DC, 2016) – Greg Rucka [W], Nicola Scott [A]. When I started reading this, my initial reaction was to wonder why we needed yet another Wonder Woman origin retelling, when Renae de Liz was already doing the definitive Wonder Woman story. But this story was surprisingly enjoyable. It’s much grimmer and more Rucka-esque than Legend of Wonder Woman, and I think WW is a sufficiently deep character to be the subject of two different and contradictory origin stories.

WONDER WOMAN #3 (DC, 2016) – Greg Rucka [W], Liam Sharpe [A]. I guess the odd-numbered and even-numbered issues of this series are telling two different stories. This Cheetah story is not bad, but also not as exciting as Year One. Liam Sharpe’s page layouts have gotten a lot less radical than in the ‘90s, but I still see some flashes of his old style.

More late reviews


I now have five weeks of comic books waiting to be reviewed. Let’s see if I can do it all in one day. (LATER NOTE: I couldn’t)

New comics received on August 12:

ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2016) – various [W/A]. I was really excited about this because it’s a collection of Kamala Khan’s fan fiction stories, and I’m in the middle of writing an article about Kamala’s fan practices – in fact I was supposed to have submitted the article three days after this issue came out, but the deadline was extended. The lineup of talent on this issue is very impressive. I believe that the story by Zac Gorman and Jay Fosgitt is the first Marvel work by either of them, and I only know of one other Marvel comic by Faith Erin Hicks. But anyway, while I love the idea behind this issue, I’m not equally in love with the execution. The stories mostly seem to be parodies of different types of bad fanfic, and I can recognize some of the tropes being parodied, but not all of them. I need to read this comic again more carefully, though.

LUMBERJANES/GOTHAM ACADEMY #3 (Boom!/DC, 2016) – Chynna Clugston Flores [W], Rosemary Valero-O’Connell [A]. Definitely a case of the concept being better than the execution. The plot of this crossover is reasonably exciting and allows both teams to display their unique strengths. But this comic is missing the characterization that makes both of its parent series so great, and it also doesn’t have the brilliant dialogue of Lumberjanes. I wish this series had been written by Shannon Watters and Brendan Fletcher, instead of Chynna.

THE VISION #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Tom King [W], Gabriel Hernandez Walta [A]. This was already a very sad comic, but this issue was perhaps the saddest one yet. The Visions try to react to Vin’s death, but they don’t really understand how to feel or express emotions, and that makes it even sadder. It’s too bad that there are just three issues left, but this sort of heightened emotional state can only be sustained for so long.

ANOTHER CASTLE #4 (Oni, 2016) – Andrew Wheeler [W], Paulina Ganucheau [A]. This has been an excellent miniseries – or at least I thought it was a miniseries, though there’s no indication of this in the actual issue. This issue was fun, but also the least impressive yet, because it’s just setting things up for the conclusion. At Heroes Con, I met Paulina Ganucheau and she confirmed that the symbols on the sword are indeed based on the Konami Code, and that joke has been there since the first issue.

THE FLINTSTONES #2 (DC, 2016) – Mark Russell [W], Steve Pugh [A]. Another weird issue of the weirdest comic of the year. This story is a fairly witty satire of both religion and consumerism. It also explores the bizarre implications of a society where people use live animals as appliances. My favorite appliance in this issue is the octopus dishwasher, but there’s also the cobra garden hose, the rabbit neck pillow, etc. I was surprised to see Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm in this issue; based on their absence from the previous issue, I assumed they hadn’t been born yet.

SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME #4 (Oni, 2016) – Natalie Riess [W/A]. I still don’t have the second issue of this series. This issue, Peony finally makes friends with the one-eyed blue dude, but then the melon-headed guy sends her off to be eaten by cannibals. It’s another fun but not great issue.

WONDER WOMAN #4 (DC, 2016) – Greg Rucka [W], Nicola Scott [A]. In the second chapter of the Year One story, Diana wins the contest and is sent off to Man’s World, though unlike in other retellings of her origin, she thinks she’s never going to be able to return to Themyscira. This is a story I’ve read many times before, but this version of it is exciting and well-written, and Nicola Scott’s art is impressive.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #7 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – Ed Piskor [W/A]. This issue takes the story up to 1982. A lot of interesting things happen this issue, but I’ve forgotten most of them.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #131 (Marvel, 1970) – Stan Lee [W], Gene Colan [A]. Brilliant artwork and an okay story. A villain named The Hood, who turns out to be Baron Strucker, tries to defeat Cap by convincing him that Bucky has come back to life. Strucker does this by finding an amnesiac person who somehow looks and acts exactly like Bucky. In the following issue, it turns out that “Bucky” is a Life Model Decoy created by MODOK.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #2 (DC, 1989) – Keith Giffen [W/A], Tom Bierbaum & Mary Bierbaum [A]. Probably the most emotionally affecting thing about the v4 Legion was the sense of nostalgia it created for the Legion’s glory days. The best part of this issue is the series of gossip columns about Jo and Tinya’s wedding that appear on the first page. The actual comic part of this issue is not nearly as good; there are too many concurrent plotlines happening at once, and the story lacks any coherent direction.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #504 (Marvel, 2011) – Matt Fraction [W], Salvador Larroca [A]. In this Fear Itself crossover, Tony battles the Grey Gargoyle, who’s found one of the Serpent’s hammers. Meanwhile, Pepper Potts tries to hire Bethany Cabe as a security consultant for the latest incarnation of Stark Industries. I take this opportunity to point out that ever since the ‘90s, I’ve enjoyed Salvador Larroca’s art because of its realistic, convincing quality. It’s weird that he’s never been all that popular. In issue 19, … and I have no idea how that sentence was going to end.

New comics received on August 19:

LUMBERJANES #29 (Boom!, 2016) – Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh [W], Carey Pietsch [A]. The new storyline develops directly out of the previous one. The campers from the Zodiac Cabin, including Barney, have been turned to stone by a gorgon, and Diane/Artemis has come back to earth to hunt it. This issue doesn’t grab me as much as the beginning of the previous storyline did, but it’s still a lot of fun – although the best scene, where April wakes her friends up at an ungodly hour, was already included in a preview. Notable things we learn this issue are that Barney’s pronoun is “they,” Molly has some sort of unspecified family problems, and Ripley claims to be the youngest in her family – which contradicts issue 13, unless the baby in that issue was her nephew or niece or something. As a general comment, I notice that this series came out of its slump and returned to its previous level of quality as soon as Shannon Watters became the co-writer. I wonder how she and Kat Leyh are dividing up the writing chores.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #22 (Image, 2016) – Kieron Gillen [W], Jamie McKelvie [A]. An epic and brutally violent ending to the current story arc. Persephone’s faction of gods defeats Ananke’s faction. Ananke claims that her actions are justified because she’s trying to fight the “great darkness,” which was mentioned before but only in passing, and Ananke doesn’t explain what it is. And then Persephone kills her, which is a deeply questionable act, even though the reader (at least this reader) hated Ananke and is thrilled to see her go. I guess now we’ll find out what the great darkness is, but only after the special 1830s issue.

MANIFEST DESTINY #22 (Image, 2016) – Chris Dingess [W], Matthew Roberts [A]. “Sasquatch” continues. In the flashback sequence, it turns out that Maldonado was recruiting the captain and the major as servants of some sort of giant bird-demon. In the present-day sequence, the party decides to stop for winter. This was a pretty average issue.

THE BACKSTAGERS #1 (Boom!, 2016) – James Tynion [W], Rian Sygh [A]. I saw the preview of this in the back of another Boom Box comic, and I was impressed enough to order the first issue. The actual issue was aslo quite impressive. It’s a sort of absurdist comedy taking place at an all-boys high school, where the actors are the big men on campus. But instead of becoming an actor, the protagonist joins the backstage crew, who apparently are going to have all sorts of bizarre adventures because the backstage area is a gateway to some kind of alternate dimension. This series reminds me of Lumberjanes a bit, both because of the single-gender environment and the queer subtext, and Rian Sygh’s art is very appealing.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #7 (Marvel, 2016) – David Walker [W], Sanford Greene [A]. This was just an okay issue; I didn’t like it as much as the last one. It’s clearly the second issue of a three- or four-part story. The only clear reference to BLM in the issue is where Shadrick tells Tony that people like him don’t understand the criminal justice system because they can buy their way out.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #31 (IDW, 2016) – Tony Fleecs [W/A], Sara Richard [A]. The guest star this issue is Little Strongheart. “Over a Barrel” was one of the most problematic episodes of the entire series, and I won’t be sorry if we never see Little Strongheart or Chief Thunderhooves again, but this issue at least makes an effort to redeem these rather stereotypical characters. The best thing about this issue is Sara Richard’s painted artwork which depicts the story of the Rainbow Crow. I don’t know if this is an actual Native American myth, but at least it has a flavor of authenticity. I also like Little Strongheart’s explanation that her people aren’t primitive, they just like to keep her traditions alive.

KLAUS #7 (Boom!, 2016) – Grant Morrison [W], Dan Mora [A]. The conclusion to this series contains nothing surprising or unexpected. Magnus is killed by the demon he summoned, but Klaus kills the demon, saves the day, and marries Dagmar. But it’s still a satisfying conclusion even though it’s predictable. Overall this was a pretty good miniseries, and my favorite Grant Morrison work in a long time, even if it was a bit padded.

A-FORCE #8 (Marvel, 2016) – Kelly Thompson [W], Paulo Siqueira [A]. I think the best moment this issue is Nico’s conversation with Misty Knight, though that’s only one page. Otherwise, this issue suffers from being part of the Civil War II crossover, which can’t end soon enough for me. I wish Nico’s former Runaways teammates would appear in this series, or that she would at least mention them.

IRON FIST #8 (Marvel, 1976) – Chris Claremont [W], John Byrne [A]. This was okay, but I barely remember anything about it now. The plot has something to do with a villain named Chaka who’s trying to take over New York’s Asian crime scene.

THE THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR PRESENTS SPARKS NEVADA, MARSHAL OF MARS #1 (Image, 2015) – Ben Acker & Ben Blacker [W], J. Bone [A]. I bought a few of these Thrilling Adventure Hour comics a couple years ago, when I was just starting to order comics from DCBS, because they looked interesting. But I didn’t know what these comics actually were, and I never read them. Later I learned that these comics were adaptations of a radio drama podcast. When I finally got around to reading Sparks Nevada #1, I was impressed. It’s a clever blend of the Western and SF genres; it’s set on a Mars that resembles the Wild West, and the protagonists are a (human) sheriff and a Martian who’s his voluntary indentured servant. This latter character is obviously based on offensive Native American stereotypes like Tonto, but he’s funny enough that I don’t mind. I need to go back and read the rest of this series and the companion series Beyond Belief.

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #16 (DC, 2016) – Sholly Fisch [W], Dario Brizuela [A]. The guest stars this issue are the Shazam Family. This is a somewhat formulaic Shazam story that hits all the old clichés (e.g. Mr. Mind, and Uncle Marvel and his shazam-bago). But despite or because of that, it’s a lot of fun; it’s more like a classic Captain Marvel comic than most contemporary Shazam comics are. Scooby-Doo Team-Up has become quite similar to the old Marvel Adventures line in that it presents kid-friendly but intelligently written superhero stories with a Silver Age flavor. If the issues I’ve read are any indication, it’s much more of a DC superhero comic than a Scooby-Doo comic.

DESCENDER #14 (Image, 2016) – Jeff Lemire [W], Dustin Nguyen [A]. I didn’t notice this until now, but each issue of the current storyline is the origin story of a different character. This issue is Bandit’s origin, or rather his history over the past ten years. It begins with Andy’s mother sacrificing herself to save her family, which is a heartbreaking scene, though I think we may have seen it already from a different perspective. The rest of Bandit’s memories are mostly wordless, and all the more poignant because of that; Bandit is a really effective animal character, kind of like his Jonny Quest namesake.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #8 (Image, 2016) – Skottie Young [W/A], Jeffrey “Chamba” Cruz [A]. The gimmick this issue is that Gert and her new sidekick Duncan are transported inside a fighting video game, and the in-game sequence is drawn by Chamba in a manga-esque style. Otherwise this is a rather formulaic issue.

New comics received on August 26:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #11 (Marvel, 2016) – Ryan North [W], Jacob Chabot [A]. This self-contained issue is probably the best possible introduction to this series. It consists of a dream sequence in which Squirrel Girl defeats three villains – Dr. Doom, Count Nefaria and Nightmare – using her knowledge of computer science. In the process, she gives the reader a basic introduction to concepts like binary code and Boolean logic, and as usual with Ryan North, all the factual information in this comic is accurate. Jacob Chabot does a reasonable job of filling in for Erica Henderson.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder [W], Natacha Bustos [A]. Kamala Khan’s guest appearance this issue seems like a gimmick, but I guess it’s a sign of progress that Marvel is using Kamala as a sales-magnet guest star, instead of Wolverine or Punisher. Kamala’s interaction with Lunella is unusual because Kamala rarely teams up with anyone younger than her, and I’m not used to Kamala being the older, more mature voice of reason. Reading this issue, I initially thought that Lunella’s behavior was sort of exaggerated and nonsensical, but then it hit me that this is actually realistic. Because of her age, Lunella is not good at expressing herself, she doesn’t always know how to react properly to stuff, and her emotions are exaggerated and histrionic. In other words, she acts like a third-grader. So Brandon and Amy are actually writing this character in a realistic way; I just wish I had realized this sooner.

SNOTGIRL #2 (Image, 2016) – Bryan Lee O’Malley [W], Leslie Hung [A]. This issue was confusing, and the recap on the inside front cover doesn’t really help. All I could remember from the first issue was that Snotgirl thinks she’s killed Coolgirl. It didn’t help that the semester has now started, and I teach every day except Friday, when I often have to go to campus to teach. So on Friday, when I get my comics, I’m often feeling barely conscious. Anyway, to the extent that I was able to understand this comic, I liked it reasonably well, but it’s not grabbing me as much as Scott Pilgrim or Seconds.

PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Kate Leth [W], Brittney L. Williams [A]. I wonder how Brittney Williams manages to do two full issues a month. Her artwork is not ultra-detailed, but still, that’s a lot of work. As noted in the previous review, I was barely awake when I read this comic, so although I liked it, I don’t remember much about it, except for the scene with Jubilee and her son.

CHEW #57 (Image, 2016) – John Layman [W], Rob Guillory [A]. This issue explains the cause of the avian flu, though I don’t quite understand the explanation. It seems to have been a misguided attempt to prevent an invasion by the aliens who were responsible for the fire writing. At the end of the issue, Tony is told that he has to eat Amelia. My friend James Moore’s cats, Wallace Wells and Marceline, appear on the letters page.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE TEMPLE OF OD #1 (IDW, 2016) – Brian Clevinger [W], Scott Wegener [A]. There is an odd (Od?) story behind this one. I didn’t recall having received this comic from DCBS. When I visited Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find (see below), I almost bought it again, thinking I must have forgotten to order it, until I checked my e-mail and confirmed that I had indeed ordered it. Then I was like, wait, if I ordered it, why didn’t I receive it yet? And I checked again and found that it was supposed to have been delivered in my August 26 shipment, so then I thought I must have received it but misplaced it by accident. And then today I looked in my pile of comics waiting to be reviewed, and there it was. It turned out that not only did I receive Atomic Robo and the Temple of Od #1, I read it the same day. I guess it wasn’t a very memorable comic. Now that I look at it again, the only thing I really remember is Robo’s reunion with Helen, Jack Tarot’s daughter from Deadly Art of Silence.

THE ISLAND #7 (Image, 2016) – various [W/A]. As of August 26, I was four issues behind on this comic, so I decided it was time to get caught up. The best part of this issue is the introductory art section by Kim Kirsch. These pages are in comics format, but they don’t tell a coherent or intelligible story, they just depict some scenes of life on an alien world. They create a convincing sense of a strange but believable world, and Kim Kirsch’s art is quite appealing, kind of like Brandon Graham’s own artwork. I wasn’t impressed by Johnnie Christmas’s “Firebug”; it was a formulaic piece of fantasy about a volcano goddess and her descendant. The text pages by Robin Bougie are well-written but annoying, in that I don’t buy comics in order to read text pages – if I wanted to do that, I’d read a book. This issue also includes part three of the ongoing story by Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward.

INCREDIBLE HULK AND WOLVERINE #1 (Marvel, 1986) – Len Wein [W], Herb Trimpe [A]. This is a reprint of Incredible Hulk #180 and #181, two issues I may never be able to own in their original form. If Wolverine hadn’t become a breakout character, these issues would be remembered as just two average issues from a pretty good run of Hulk comics. Wolverine’s distinctive personality was already present in his first appearance, although Len hadn’t yet decided that his claws were part of his hands rather than his gloves. This issue also includes an essay by Peter Sanderson, which I only skimmed, and a reprint of a story from Marvel Treasury Edition #26 in which Wolverine and Hercules get into a bar fight. This is a rare example of a story inked but not pencilled by George Pérez.

DENNIS THE MENACE #105 (Fawcett, 1969) – uncredited (according to Rodrigo Baeza, Mark Arnold is writing a book that will provide credits for all the Fawcett Dennis comics). In the first story this issue, Dennis and his dad go to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. In the backup story, Dennis uses a false beard to trick a bunch of people into not recognizing him. These stories are both very fun, but this issue also includes a feature called “Bungle Island” by Ed Nofziger, which is just shockingly incompetent.

HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY #12 (Action Lab, 2016) – Kyle Puttkammer [W], Omaka Schultz [A]. For the third time in as many issues, the Hero Cats participate in a story from a different genre. This issue, the Hero Cats become involved in a Japanese martial arts story with ninjas. This story is kind of annoying because of its reliance on Orientalist cliches, though Puttkammer does at least make token efforts toward cultural sensitivity.

CHEW: DEMON CHICKEN POYO #1 (Image, 2016) – John Layman [W], Rob Guillory [A]. This is the last of three one-shot issues starring Poyo. It’s funny, but at this point I’ve had enough of Poyo; I feel like he’s a joke that’s run his course. Though it’s hypocritical of me to say that, given that I still read Groo.

IRON MAN #127 (Marvel, 1979) – David Michelinie [W], John Romita Jr [A], Bob Layton [W/A]. “A Man’s Home is His Battlefield!” is one of my favorite issues of Iron Man. I read it long ago in the Power of Iron Man TPB, and I bought the original issue some years ago, but never got around to rereading it until now. This issue is the epic conclusion to the first part of Michelinie, Layton and JR Jr’s classic run. Tony finally defeats Justin Hammer, who tried to destroy him by remote-controlling his armor. But Hammer already did so much damage to Tony’s reputation that even when Tony beats him, it’s only a partial victory. What makes this issue truly unforgettable is the conclusion. To forget about the gradual ruin of his life, Tony drinks himself into a stupor. As a result, he accidentally stands up Bethany Cabe and provokes Jarvis into quitting. The panel where Jarvis walks into the computer room and sees Tony with a prostitute on his arm is permanently etched in my memory. A funny historical note is that on the next page, Jarvis’s resignation letter is actually Dave Cockrum’s real resignation letter from Marvel. According to Bob Layton, this letter was inserted into the issue as a prank by some unidentified person in the production department. Anyway, all of this sets up the greatest Iron Man story ever, “Demon in a Bottle.” I used to have that issue, but I gave it away after I got the trade paperback; I need to buy it again.

AVENGERS #116 (Marvel, 1973) – Steve Englehart [W], Bob Brown [A]. This is a chapter of the Avengers-Defenders War, which, again, I’ve already read in TPB form. I guess this series is something of a classic, but it’s really not that great, not compared to some of Englehart’s other Avengers stories. It’s a rather generic and formulaic superhero story, a Marvel version of a JLA/JSA team-up, and it’s mostly important for being one of the earliest Marvel crossovers.

ISLAND #8 (Image, 2016) – various [W/A]. A very impressive issue. The introductory art pages by Xulia Vicente are quite good; I liked the revelation that the floating piece of rock was the body of some kind of dragon. The first long story this issue is by Michael DeForge, who is easily the highest-profile creator to have appeared in Island, and his involvement with this series ought to elevate its reputation. His story, “Mostly Saturn,” is typical of his work in that it’s a bizarre narrative delivered in a deadpan style. Next are some breathtaking art pages by Ben Sears. I’m pretty sure I’ve met him at Heroes Con, but this is the first time I’ve read his work, and I need to read more of it. The issue ends with the final chapter of Simon Roy’s “Habitat.” I still don’t understand everything that’s going on in this story, but it’s a fascinating and weird piece of science fiction. Overall, this issue shows the heights that Island is capable of reaching.

GREEN LANTERN #121 (DC, 1979) – Denny O’Neil [W], Don Heck [A]. A boring story with boring artwork, in which Hal and Ollie battle a boring villain called El Espectro. The notable event this issue is that Kari Limbo proposes marriage to Hal. I believe their wedding was the next issue, only it was called off because Kari learned that Guy Gardner was still alive.

THUNDERBOLTS #13 (Marvel, 1998) – Kurt Busiek [W], Mark Bagley [A]. After their epic confrontation with the Avengers, the Thunderbolts are transported to the planet of Kosmos, which was introduced in Tales to Astonish #44, and was visited by Goliath in Avengers West Coast #92 and Avengers #379-382. Kurt Busiek must be the only person in the world who read either of the latter two stories. His encyclopedic knowledge of even the least significant Marvel stories is amazing. Other than that, this is a well-written comic, but I’ve never really been able to get into Thunderbolts. The characters are all quite complex and deep, but I don’t find any of them particularly appealing, except maybe Jolt.

Reviews for late July and early August


I’m resuming these reviews after a long hiatus. I read so many comic books on the week of August 5 that I didn’t have the energy to review them all, and so they kept piling up. Also, because of the way my apartment is set up, the area where I usually sit to write my reviews was so dark that I couldn’t see the comics I was reviewing. I just bought a new floor lamp, which solves that problem. So here we go, starting with new comics received on August 5.

PAPER GIRLS #8 (Image, 2016) – Brian K. Vaughan [W], Cliff Chiang [A]. Another strong issue. After three weeks, I’ve forgotten most of what happened in this issue, but the image of the hockey stick floating in the air above the mall fountain has stuck with me. And the twist ending, where the hockey stick turns out to say DON’T TRUST OTHER ERIN, is quite a shock.

JUGHEAD #8 (Archie, 2016) – Chip Zdarsky [W], Derek Charm [A]. This is one of two recent comic books with a cliffhanger involving a bear attack, the other being Jem and the Holograms #17. It’s also a strong conclusion to the two-part story about camping. I like that Mr. Weatherbee is not willing to forgive the man who bullied him as a child, and that he refuses to romanticize his unhappy history with Ted Mantle. As a minor point, I also like how in the flashback, everyone is wearing ‘70s clothing. And I love that the camp formerly known as Camp Lucey is now Camp Bolling. At the Archie panel at Heroes Con, I asked the panelists if they had any interest in using the continuity that Bob Bolling introduced, and I think they misunderstood the question and talked about continuity instead of Bolling. So I’m glad to see that Chip is indeed aware of Bolling’s work.

GIANT DAYS #17 (Boom!, 2016) – John Allison [W], Max Sarin [A]. This is the one where Daisy goes on an archaeological dig, and meanwhile Esther and Susan participate in a natural language processing project that turns out to be a plagiarism operation. As a college writing teacher, I think the plagiarism racket is eerily plausible.

BOUNTY #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Kurtis Wiebe [W], Mindy Lee [A]. This is an okay comic but it’s no substitute for Rat Queens. I love the cover, but the kitten is much more prominent on the cover than in the actual comic.

ACTION LAB: DOG OF WONDER #3 (Action Lab, 2016) – Vito Delsante [W], Scott Fogg [A]. Like Hero Cats, this comic is lighthearted and fun if not exactly groundbreaking. I think it’s about the same level of quality as Hero Cats, with perhaps slightly better artwork. The conclusion to the first storyline is predictable but fun, and I look forward to the additional stories previewed on the last page.

LADY KILLER 2 #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Joëlle Jones [W/A]. The original Lady Killer was a fun combination of an adventure comic and a satire of ‘60s sexism, and this sequel, which is now written as well as drawn by Joëlle Jones, continues in the same vein. Joëlle Jones does an excellent job of capturing the look of ‘60s America, and Josie’s husband’s new boss is a truly vile character.

VOTE LOKI #3 (Marvel, 2016) – Christopher Hastings [W], Langdon Foss [A]. This is just an average comic. I’m not sorry that there’s only one more issue to go. I suppose Marvel can’t be too overtly political, but I think they could have gotten away with drawing stronger parallels between Loki and Trump.

SUICIDE SQUAD #29 (DC, 1989) – John Ostrander & Kim Yale [W], John K. Snyder III & Pablo Marcos [A]. This issue is part eight of a crossover with three other much lower-quality titles (Checkmate, Firestorm and Manhunter), so it doesn’t make much sense on its own, even compared to other issues of Suicide Squad. At least it does have Amanda Waller and the other Suicide Squad characters in it, but nothing about it stands out in my memory.

MARVEL UNIVERSE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Steve Melching [W], Joe Caramagna [A], sort of. I bought this comic because it has Rocket Raccoon’s family in it. I shouldn’t have bothered. First of all, this is not an original story but an adaptation of an episode of the GOTG TV show. As a result, the artwork looks really weird – the characters look like two-dimensional cutouts on top of a three-dimensional background. And the story suffers from having been compressed from a 22-minute TV episode into a 22-page comic book. Not that the story was particularly good to begin with; it’s a very average piece of children’s entertainment. I regret buying this comic.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #42 (DC, 1966) – Gardner Fox [W], Mike Sekowsky [A]. I’m not sure if “Metamorpho Says No!” is a classic, but it’s certainly a memorable story. Metamorpho’s reason for joining the Justice League is both plausible and sad. Unlike the other JLAers, he views his powers as a curse, and does not want to be obligated to remain a superhero if he has a chance to give up his powers. As I write this, I realize that Metamorpho had more in common with Marvel superheroes like the Thing and the Hulk, who also saw their powers as curses, than with most DC heroes. Also, the villain in this story, The Unimaginable, is really cool. He’s a creature that can’t be seen or even conceptualized by human beings, and some of the panels in which he “appears” are so abstract that they almost remind me of Alex Toth art. I’m surprised that he didn’t become a recurring character – he seems like an ideal villain for a Grant Morrison story.

DENNIS THE MENACE #163 (Fawcett, 1979) – unknown [W/A]. I’ve heard that the Dennis the Menace comic books were a big influence on the Hernandez brothers, and that they’re sometimes considered superior to Hank Ketcham’s original comic strips. The classic creative team on this series was Fred Toole and Al Wiseman, but I have no idea whether they were still working on it at this late date. In this particular issue, Dennis and his parents visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center at Huntsville, Alabama. The staff of this museum appear to have collaborated with the creators of this issue, and the issue includes all sorts of interesting information about NASA and the space program. It doesn’t have much of a story, but it’s very cute and charming, and also kind of nostalgic because of the optimistic attitude toward the space program that it reflects. At the end of the issue, Dennis learns about the then-new Space Shuttle program. In 1979, the Challenger disaster was still seven years in the future. Anyway, I liked this comic and I want to build a collection of these Dennis comics.

WEIRD WESTERN TALES #40 (DC, 1977) – Michael Fleisher [W], Dick Ayers [A]. This is the first appearance of Scalphunter. It’s written in Fleisher’s distinctive style, and is full of hilarious dialogue and enjoyable mayhem. However, when I read it, I was annoyed by its negative portrayal of Native Americans. Scalphunter’s native Kiowa people are portrayed as ignorant savages with few positive qualities.

ATOMIC ROBO: KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE #4 (Red 5, 2014) – Brian Clevinger [W], Scott Wegener [A]. Another Western comic, but a very different one. It’s reasonably fun, though because this is issue four, it’s hard to tell what exactly is going on. I vaguely recall issue one of this series, and its plot seems to have little to do with that of issue four.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #4 (Fantagraphics, 2015) – Ed Piskor [W/A]. This issue completes the reprinting of material from the first treasury-sized volume. Unfortunately it’s also the last issue that contains Piskor’s annotations. In the notes to page 11 of this issue, Piskor points out that his version of Rick Rubin is based on Buddy Bradley, which inspired me to go and read some back issues of Hate.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #583 (Archie, 1988) – Bob Bolling [W/A]. This includes three new Bob Bolling stories. The first and longest of them reintroduces Mad Dr. Doom and his hippie sidekick Chester. I hope Chip Zdarsky is familiar with these characters because I’d love to see him bring them back. The second, and perhaps the best, is about Archie and Jughead’s attempt to catch the Perilous Pike of Logger’s Pond. Bob Bolling was what Craig Thompson calls a great nature cartoonist; his stories in which Archie explores the hinterland of Riverdale were some of his best work. In the last story, Archie saves a lost dog from the pound by spending money he was saving for a baseball glove.

MS. TREE #14 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – Max Allan Collins [W], Terry Beatty [A]. I’ve already read the later chapters of “Skin Deep,” but not the first chapter, which appears in this issue. In “Skin Deep,” a national beauty pageant winner hires Ms. Tree to retrieve some photographs of her which are about to be published in a porn magazine. This is obviously based on the then-recent scandal where Vanessa Williams resigned as Miss America because Penthouse was about to publish nude photos of her. In fact, now that I read about that scandal on Wikipedia, I realize just how closely “Skin Deep” was based on it, although the fictional version of this scandal had a happier ending than the real one.

HATE #4 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – Peter Bagge [W/A]. I’ve had this comic for a long time, but I never bothered to read it because it contains material I’ve already read in reprinted form. However, I read “Buddy Bradley is Not His Brother’s Keeper” such a long time ago that rereading it was almost like reading it for the first time. In this story, Buddy’s awful younger brother Butch moves in with him unannounced and causes all kinds of havoc. Peter Bagge really was the funniest cartoonist of his generation; I need to seek out whichever of his comics I haven’t already read.

THE BATMAN ADVENTURES: THE LOST YEARS #1 (DC, 1998) – Hillary Bader [W], Bo Hampton [A]. I don’t know why this is called The Lost Years – I assume it fills in a gap between seasons of the TV show. This is a pretty good comic, though not quite as good as the previous Batman Adventures series. Although I’m a lifelong Dick-Kory shipper, I have to admit that this issue’s depiction of Dick and Babs’s relationship is cute. Batman’s patronizing attitude toward Babs is annoying, though at least he reveals his secret identity to her at the end of the issue.

On August 7, I went to the thrice-yearly Charlotte Comicon, which is actually in Concord. I had somewhat low expectations for this convention because I’ve been in a bit of a collecting slump lately; I’ve had trouble finding stuff that I really want and that’s within my price range. But it turned out that this convention was seriously impressive. The highlight was the Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find booth, which had a huge selection of Bronze Age and even Silver Age comics for 50 cents each! There were also other dealers that had interesting stuff. Overall I was very satisfied with my experience; it reminded me of the one-day comic conventions I used to go to in Atlanta. I look forward to attending the next one of these shows, which is in December. Of the comics I bought at this show, the first one I read was:

TALES OF SUSPENSE #84 (Marvel, 1966) – Stan Lee [W], Gene Colan and Jack Kirby [A]. This comic is not in great condition but is still complete and readable – unlike the Amazing Spider-Man #107 I got at the convention, which turned out to be missing its centerfold. In the Iron Man story, Tony finally has his hearing with Senator Byrd, but as soon as he gets on the stand, he suffers a heart attack. Happy Hogan then has to protect Tony’s secret identity by putting on the Iron Man suit. This plot device – a superhero getting someone else to wear his costume in order to protect his secret identity – was very common in Silver Age DC comics, but I can’t think of any other Silver Age Marvel comic that used it. In the backup story, Captain America battles the Super-Adaptoid, who is a really awesome-looking character, even though he’s basically just Cap with Hawkeye’s mask and the Wasp’s wings. Overall, this was a fun comic, and ToS is one of my favorite Silver Age Marvel titles.

THE UNTOLD LEGEND OF THE BATMAN #1 (DC, 1980) – Len Wein [W], John Byrne [A]. This is one of the first comic books I ever read. I read it at a childhood friend’s house – I can’t even remember whose house. I believe the version I read was much smaller than a normal comic book. Looking at Wikipedia, I see that this comic was indeed reprinted in a 9’’ x 6’’ format as a breakfast cereal premium. That was in 1989, when I was six years old, so I may have read it very shortly after that. But I never owned my own copy, and it’s been a long long time since I read it, so I’m surprised at how many details of it I still remember. It seems as though the earlier I read a comic book, the more of an impact it had on me.

This issue is a retelling of Batman’s origin, based heavily on “The First Batman” from Detective Comics #235. It has a gloomy and mysterious tone that I still remember from when I first read it. Len Wein introduces or reintroduces a number of details that were rarely if ever mentioned again, including the notion that Bruce Wayne’s housekeeper, Mrs. Chilton, was Joe Chill’s mother. I don’t know if this character ever appeared anywhere else. In general, as a Batman origin story, Untold Legend is clearly not at the same level as Batman: Year One. But it’s not bad at all, and rereading it was a fun trip down memory lane.

AVENGERS #48 (Marvel, 1968) – Roy Thomas [W], George Tuska [A]. I paid $6 for this, easily the most I paid for a comic at the convention. In this issue, Dane Whitman, who first appeared in #47, makes his debut as the Black Knight, and promptly gets in a fight with the Avengers because of mistaken identity. Meanwhile, Quicksilver and Wanda try to escape from Magneto. This is not Roy’s best Avengers story and it suffers from boring George Tuska art, but it’s a fun issue of perhaps my favorite classic Marvel title.

IRON LANTERN #1 (Amalgam, 1997) – Kurt Busiek [W], Paul Smith [A]. Unlike Doctor Strangefate, reviewed above, this comic takes full advantage of the Amalagm premise. Kurt is the perfect writer for Amalgam comics because of his encyclopedic knowledge of both Marvel and DC continuity. Half the fun of this comic is identifying the sometimes quite obscure characters who each Amalgamized character is based on – for example, Senator Ferris is Carl Ferris crossed with Senator Byrd. Paul Smith’s art is serviceable, though not his best, and this issue also includes a funny fake letter column.

DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES #11 (Gladstone, 1989) – Carl Barks [W/A]. This issue reprints “Adventure Down Under.” In this story, Donald is hypnotized into thinking he’s a kangaroo, so he buys tickets to Australia for himself and the nephews, and hijinks ensue. In general this is a fun Barks story, but it has a major flaw, in that it includes some highly stereotypical depictions of Aboriginal Australians. Barks depicts the Aboriginal people in the story as savage cannibals, and shows little interest in or sensitivity to their culture. Unfortunately this was a common problem in his work, though some of his stories, like “Land of Totem Poles,” do depict indigenous people in a more positive way.

DAREDEVIL #50 (Marvel, 1969) – Stan Lee [W], Barry Windsor-Smith [A]. This issue is mostly notable for the early BWS artwork, but at this point he was still mostly imitating Kirby and had yet to develop his familiar style. The story, involving Starr Saxon/Machinehead/Mr. Fear II, is rather forgettable. According to the Wikipedia page on Machinesmith, BWS intended for this character to be gay, but this is impossible to guess from the artwork.

HATE #3 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – Peter Bagge [W/A]. This is the other old issue of Hate that I’ve had for years. The first story is about Buddy’s mysterious roommate George, the backup story is about Buddy’s dysfunctional relationship with Valerie. It’s some very funny stuff, though I’ve read this story before.

THOR #200 (Marvel, 1972) – Stan Lee [W], John Buscema [A]. “Beware If This Be Ragnarok” is described as a classic in Mark Gruenwald’s essay in the back of Thor #294, which was one of the first old Thor comics I read and which made a strong impression on me. Now that I’ve finally read Thor #200, I’m not sure it’s a classic, but it’s certainly a strange and unique story. It retells the Ragnarok myth, closely following the version in the Eddas. What makes it a classic is the epic grandeur of Stan’s writing and Big John’s art. This story is weird, though, in that it’s an anniversary issue but it feels like a fill-in. Besides a short framing sequence, it’s unrelated to the then-ongoing storyline, which was written by Gerry Conway instead of Stan. And apparently it’s a retelling of earlier Tales of Asgard material. I would be curious to know how this story came to be published in this issue.

DOCTOR STRANGE #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], Chris Bachalo [A]. This is an okay conclusion to Last Days of Magic, but at this point I’ve long since grown tired of this storyline and I just want to move on to something else.

SUICIDE SQUAD #35 (DC, 1989) – John Ostrander [W], Luke McDonnell & Geof Isherwood [A]. This is a fun one. The Squad go to Apokolips, I forget why, and fight an epic battle with the Female Furies and other Apokoliptians. Ostrander effectively contrasts the gritty realism of the Suicide Squad characters with the over-the-top histrionics of the New Gods, and conveys the sense that the Suicide Squad are out of their depth. He also does a good job of reproducing the unique personalities of each of the Kirby characters.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #171 (Marvel, 1977) – Len Wein [W], Ross Andru [A]. A disappointing effort from an underrated Spider-Man creative team that I really like. This issue is a crossover in which Spidey and Nova attempt to discover the true identity of a new villain named Photon. The answer is obvious from the first page: the person Photon murdered is pointing to the calendar pages for July, August, September, October, November and December, and one of the suspects is named Jason Dean. There is very little of the characterization and soap opera that I look for in a Spider-Man comic, besides one brief scene with Harry Osborn and Liz Allan.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #5 (Fantagraphics, 2015) – Ed Piskor [W/A]. This issue unfortunately has no annotations, but at least it contains material I haven’t already read. And I think I prefer reading Hip Hop Family Tree in this format rather than in the treasury-sized volumes. As I have said before (though not necessarily in this forum), I just prefer comic books because they take less time to read and are more materially rich. The theme of this issue is the interaction between the hip hop and punk subcultures, although a lot of other stuff happens in this issue too.

UNCANNY X-MEN #113 (Marvel, 1978) – Chris Claremont [W], John Byrne [A]. This was in the aforementioned 50-cent box, making it possibly the cheapest Claremont-Byrne X-Men issue that I’ve ever found. “Showdown!” is the conclusion of the Magneto three-parter, and is most memorable, at least to me, for the scene where Ororo picks a lock with her mouth. It also includes some fantastic action sequences, and it ends with Hank and Jean thinking the rest of the team is dead and vice versa, which sets up the next year’s worth of stories.

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #15 (DC, 2016) – Sholly Fisch [W], Dario Brizuela [A]. This issue, the Scooby Gang team up with the Flash to investigate a ghost in Gorilla City. Surprisingly, the ghost is not Grodd, although Grodd does make an appearance. This comic is a lot of fun. The best part is the running joke where gorillas can’t tell humans apart, but besides that, it’s just a funny and well-crafted adventure story, comparable to the old Marvel Adventures line.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #175 (Marvel, 1977) – Len Wein [W], Ross Andru [A]. This is better than #171, but still a bit disappointing. It’s one of the earlier appearances of the Punisher, a character I utterly detest. As a result, the main plot of this issue is less interesting than it could have been, although the plot does involve JJJ, Marla Madison and Robbie, and there’s one cool scene at the Statue of Liberty. The one major subplot this issue is that Bart Hamilton beats up Harry Osborn and claims the mantle of the Green Goblin.

MAGNUS, ROBOT FIGHTER #12 (Gold Key, 1965) – Russ Manning [W/A] with Don Christensen [W] and Mike Royer [A]. At the convention, I was thrilled to find two issues of Magnus that I didn’t already have, although both of them contain stories that I’ve already read, because they were reprinted in later issues of the series. Magnus is perhaps my favorite ‘60s comic not published by Marvel or DC. I think Russ Manning is an absolute master, with his brilliant action sequences, his cute faces, and his slick, futuristic robots. “The Volcano Makers” is a typical Magnus story. A mad scientist starts a series of volcanic eruptions, but after he repents of his actions, his robots try to finish the job he started and destroy the human race. Of course Magnus stops them. At one point Leeja saves Magnus’s life, which is unusual because she tends to be a passive damsel-in-distress.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #146 (Marvel, 1972) – Gary Friedrich [W], Sal Buscema [A]. This is a pretty fun issue, despite the unexciting creative team. I don’t remember much about it now, though. It has a confusing plot which involves Sharon Carter, Hydra, the Femme Force (a group of female SHIELD agents), and a barely disguised parody of Howard Hughes. The Femme Force was a cool idea that was never mentioned again after this storyline.

AUTUMNLANDS #12 (Image, 2016) – Kurt Busiek [W], Benjamin Dewey [A]. I’ve been rather unimpressed by this series lately, but this issue is a slight improvement. The origin of the Galatea creatures is rather sad, and also gives us some insight into how the world of this series got to be the way it is.

MS. MARVEL #2 (Marvel, 1977) – Gerry Conway [W], John Buscema [A]. This is the earliest issue of this series that I have. Too bad it’s from before Claremont took over. It’s still a fairly progressive comic book for its era; it includes one conversation between Carol and Mary Jane Watson that easily passes the Bechdel Test.

GREEN LANTERN #38 (DC, 1965) – Gardner Fox [W], Gil Kane [A]. A fairly typical Silver Age Green Lantern comic. The villain in the first story is an “atomic changeling” that reminds me a bit of Mutant X/Proteus. There’s a clever visual trick where every time the changeling transforms, we see a little mushroom cloud, whose significance does not become clear until later. The backup story is the first appearance of Goldface, though he’s not called that yet.

YOUNG JUSTICE #47 (DC, 2002) – Peter David [W], Todd Nauck [A]. In the first half of the issue, all the female protagonists have a slumber party. This sort of thing is what made Young Justice great – it had a large cast of realistically depicted female characters who interacted with each other in interesting ways. I can’t remember all the funny and cute moments in this scene, but there are a lot of them. Oh, right, one that sticks out to me is Traya being traumatized by her first viewing of Old Yeller. The rest of the issue sets up the Fighting MAAD storyline in which the YJers invade Zandia to avenge the murder of Empress’s mother.

SENSATION COMICS FEATURING WONDER WOMAN #15 (DC, 2015) – Adam Beechen [W], José Luis García López [A] on first story; Carla Speed McNeil [W/A] on backup story. I hated the main story in this issue; even JLGL’s artwork couldn’t save Beechen’s fundamentally flawed premise. The Cheetah escapes from pretrial detention and kills a bunch of people, and Wonder Woman takes her back into custody instead of killing her, despite knowing that she’s going to kill again. This is a plot that I’ve seen many times before, usually with Batman and the Joker. It’s a tired old cliché and Adam Beechen fails to add anything new to it. Moreover, this plot is not realistic. Or rather, this trope is “realistic” in the sense of “unnecessarily grim and gritty” rather than “plausible.” To quote what I said on Facebook: “One of the rules of superhero comics is that Batman (for example) can never kill the Joker, even though the Joker is inevitably going to escape and kill more people. This is fine as a dramatic conceit, but I don’t think it would work this way in real life. If there was a person who was committing mass murder and who couldn’t be stopped without killing him, I think we would just execute him. We wouldn’t just allow the Joker to kill people rather than violate his rights.” (Though I did also add: “On the other hand, that’s exactly what we’re doing right now with gun owners, so who knows.”) The other problem is that Wonder Woman, in particular, should be willing to kill someone when rehabilitation is impossible, like when she killed Deimos in #5 of the Pérez series.

Carla Speed McNeil’s backup story is much better, despite or because it’s less ambitious. Diana meets a man who adopted a lion cub, but wasn’t prepared to take care of it when it grew up, and sold it to an illegal zoo. Even though the man is clearly kind of an idiot, Diana takes care of his problem in a sensitive and creative way. Carla is really good at drawing lions, although I knew that already from reading “The King of the Cats.”

MARVEL PREMIERE #24 (Marvel, 1975) – Chris Claremont [W], Pat Broderick [A]. I didn’t know Pat Broderick’s career started this early. The most notable thing in this issue is a scene where Iron Fist participates in a softball game. His team is obviously based on the Marvel Bullpen softball team, though the only team member who I can identify is Claremont himself; all the others are drawn too indistinctly to be recognized. The plot this issue involves a royal visit by an Islamic princess. I wondered if this was based on the Iranian Shah and Shahbanu’s visit to America (which I know about because it was shown in Doonesbury), but that happened a couple years later.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #6 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – Ed Piskor [W/A]. This issue chronicles the making of Wild Style, the first hip hop film. While writing this review, I balanced this comic book on my chest and realized that it smells just like an old comic book.

DAREDEVIL #92 (Marvel, 1972) – Gerry Conway [W], Gene Colan [A]. This issue is from the Daredevil/Black Widow era, which was perhaps the high point of the series prior to Frank Miller. But this issue has just an average story, though the art is spectacular. Matt goes looking for a missing Natasha, and fights some boring villains named Damon Dran and the Blue Talon. Also, Matt protects his secret identity by having Black Panther wear his costume so that “Daredevil” and Matt Murdock can be seen in public together (see the review of Tales of Suspense #84 above).

MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #15 (Marvel, 1974) – Steve Gerber [W], Jim Mooney [A]. Steve Gerber’s Son of Satan is one of his few ‘70s works that I haven’t read. I can’t remember much about this issue now except that, like all Gerber comics, it’s really strange, and Jim Mooney’s art is much more outlandish and psychedelic than I expect from him. The story involves a Satanist coven on a college campus, which is probably something that really did exist back then. The story takes place in St. Louis, so I assume the university is Wash U. Oh, one minor point. In this story, there’s a busy city street directly under the Gateway Arch. I remember that when I visited the Gateway Arch, the area below it was a marshy wetland.

THE MAXX #2 (Image, 1993) – Sam Kieth [W/A], William Messner-Loebs [A]. This comic is seriously confusing and I’m not sure what it’s about, but it’s an intelligently written and well-drawn piece of work, unlike most other Image comics of this period. I never really got into Sam Kieth’s artwork, but he was much more interesting than many of his Image colleagues, although his panel structure is sometimes too ornate for its own good. I’ve always unconsciously imagined grues (from Zork) as looking something like the black Isz from this comic.

MANHUNTER #21 (DC, 2006) – Marc Andreyko [W], Javier Pina & Fernando Blanco [A]. This is not great, but it’s not bad either. Kate Spencer was one of DC’s better female protagonists from this time. For some reason, in this issue she has to defend Dr. Psycho. This issue includes one very implausible scene where Kate asks Dr. Mid-Nite if she has a fever, and he says no, and she says that now they have doctor-patient confidentiality. That doesn’t work in real life (and you also can’t establish an attorney-client relationship just by giving a lawyer a dollar, as depicted in shows like Breaking Bad).

NAUGHTY BITS #31 (Fantagraphics, 2000) – Roberta Gregory [W/A]. An excellent issue. First there’s a three-page story about Roberta’s cat, then a long Bitchy Bitch story in which lots of stuff happens. Bitchy breaks up with her boyfriend when she discovers child porn under his mattress, she finds a lump on her breast, and her awful coworker Marcie gets kidnapped by criminals, but unfortunately survives. There’s also a personal diary entry about Roberta’s breakup with her boyfriend. One panel in this issue that really stood out to me was Bitchy complaining that everything is geared toward rich people, and she’s worked her whole life with nothing to show for it. I certainly feel this way often.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #5 (Marvel, 2000) – Peter David [W], James Fry [A]. This issue has a clever premise in which Drax the Destroyer is kidnapped by Jarella’s people, who mistake him for the Hulk. Meanwhile, Moondragon tries to get Rick and Genis to go after her dad. I need to finish reading the Captain Marvels I already have, so I can buy more. Like many other Marvel comics from 1999 and 2000, this issue includes a chapter of an eight-page anti-drug story called “Fastlane.” I was strongly tempted to just tear these eight pages out of the comic, as I must have done with other comics that included these Fastlane inserts.

THE SPECTRE #8 (DC, 1993) – John Ostrander [W], Tom Mandrake [A]. This issue has a glow-in-the-dark cover, which really does glow in the dark, though faintly – I checked. In this issue, the Spectre tries to save Amy from a serial killer called the Reaver, since Amy is similar to the Reaver’s past victims. It’s a good example of Ostrander and Mandrake’s Spectre, and includes some very lurid and gruesome art.

SECRETS OF HAUNTED HOUSE #25 (DC, 1980) – various [W/A]. A very forgettable comic, whose only interesting feature is the Jun Lofamia artwork on the first story. I’m not familiar with this Filipino artist, but his style is similar to that of Nestor Redondo or E.R. Cruz. In the backup story, Destiny appears as a character as well as a horror host, and behaves in a way that’s wildly inconsistent with Neil Gaiman’s version of him.

And now I am FINALLY done with reviews for the week of the convention. Though I still have three or four more weeks’ worth of comics to review…

Late reviews for July


I’m almost a month behind on these reviews. I just moved from Oxford, Ohio to Charlotte, North Carolina (thank God) and I’ve had limited time or energy to read comic books. I only just finished setting up my drawerboxes and arranging them into the proper order.

New comics received on Friday, July 8th. This was four days before the movers came and I was overwhelmed with packing and other preparations, so I didn’t get much reading done this week.

FUTURE QUEST #2 (DC, 2016) – Jeff Parker [W], Evan “Doc” Shaner, Ron Randall and Jonathan Case [A]. Another well-written, exciting and well-drawn comic. Less impressive than last issue only because it’s not the first issue. The highlight was the surprise Jezebel Jade appearance on the last page.

PAPER GIRLS #7 (Image, 2016) – Brian K. Vaughan [W], Cliff Chiang [A]. I don’t believe I voted for this series in either Eisner category for which it was nominated, but I still think it’s a deserving Eisner winner. My biggest problem with this series is that I’m still confused as to what exactly it’s about and where the plot is going. The hug between the two Erins is a lovely moment, and the fight between the two giant water bears is awesome. BKV must be a big fan of these creatures because they also showed up in Saga #35.

GIANT DAYS #16 (Boom!, 2016) – John Allison [W], Max Sarin [A]. I still don’t understand the title of this comic book. In this issue, Daisy volunteers to do campus tours for prospective students. As a result she is forced to hang out with a bunch of horrible people, as well as one decent person who has already decided to go to a different university. Meanwhile Susan goes on a bunch of disastrous speed dates. Overall this issue is another good example of the Giant Days formula.

REVIVAL #41 (Image, 2016) – Tim Seeley [W], Mike Norton [A]. This is the end of what appears to be the next-to-last storyline of this series. By the end of this issue, General Cale has been publicly discredited on national TV and Em is apparently about to give birth. I’ve been increasingly confused as to what exactly is going on in this comic, though I still enjoy it, so hopefully the conclusion will clarify things.

SILVER SURFER #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Dan Slott [W], Mike Allred [A]. There is unfortunately no complete list of all the people on the cover. Some of them are easy to recognize (e.g. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Kyle Baker) but others are just people that Mike Allred happens to know. The actual issue is a little scattershot. After saving Earth from Zenn-La, Norrin becomes a global celebrity, but he’s depressed that no one remembers Zenn-La. There’s a cute metatextual scene where Jeremy, the little kid from the previous volume, shows Norrin some old Marvel comics where all references to Zenn-La have been excised. To distract himself, Norrin takes Dawn to look for her absent mother. I was wondering if Costas Prado might be the first Cape Verdean character in superhero comics history, given that he lives in Massachusetts and has a Portuguese-sounding name, but it turns out he’s Brazilian.

FLINTSTONES #1 (DC, 2016) – Mark Russell [W], Steve Pugh [A]. I knew this was going to be a weird comic, but I didn’t expect it to be this weird. It’s like the Flintstones crossed with The Office or Mad Men or something (or at least that’s my impression, given that I’ve never watched either of those shows). It’s full of sight gags and political references and weird jokes that don’t always work, and I’m not sure the story goes anywhere. It’s fun, though, and I’m excited for the next issue.

BOUNTY #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Kurtis Wiebe [W], Mindy Lee [A]. This is Kurtis Wiebe’s third ongoing series, and let’s hope it lasts longer and comes out more regularly than the first two. This comic was a bit hard to follow, but it’s an exciting and well-drawn piece of space opera, with a mostly female cast. It would be too simplistic to call it the science fiction version of Rat Queens, but it is a bit like that. I just hope it doesn’t suffer the same fate as Pisces.

VOTE LOKI #2 (Marvel, 2016) – Christopher Hastings [W], Paul McCaffrey [A]. Strange to say, this series is still not political enough – that is, the political satire is too generic and unrelated to actual politics. That prevents it from being a truly serious piece of satire, like Prez, but it’s still a funny and enjoyable comic. I’m writing this review on August 1, in the middle of the Khizr Khan controversy, and I can confidently say that Loki would be a far better President than Trump and would be a much more formidable general election candidate.

SUPER ZERO #6 (Aftershock, 2016) – Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti [W], Rafael de Latorre [A]. This issue, Dru finally gets super powers and uses them to stop the alien invasion, seemingly at the cost of her own life. I’m a bit surprised at the turn this series took in the last two issues; I thought it was taking place in a realistic universe, but instead it takes place in a science fiction universe. I wonder if this detracts from the serious argument that Amanda and Jimmy were making about superhero fandom and obsession with superheroes.

USAGI YOJIMBO #13 (Mirage, 1995) – Stan Sakai [W/A]. Most of this issue is an extended flashback. In the flashback, Usagi learns that Mariko has married Kenichi. His heartbroken expression on learning this news is the highlight of the issue; his eyes get so big that he looks like an anime character. Next, Usagi is hired to escort a princess named Kinuko, who turns out to be a spoiled brat, but inevitably they fall in love. The issue ends there. The backup story explains the origin of Keiko, the little girl who’s Jei’s sidekick. Keiko is a poor orphan being raised by her grandfather, but her grandfather is cruelly murdered by samurai. Jei shows up and kills the samurai, but then Keiko is left completely alone. So she decides to follow Jei, which, in context, seems like the only reasonable decision. This story is an effective depiction of the brutality of peasant life in Edo Japan.

New comics received on July 15, the day I moved into my Charlotte apartment. At this point, I was in the middle of the most hectic and stressful move of my life. On July 13, I moved out of my old apartment but then had to spend the night in Dayton because my flight to Charlotte was cancelled. The following day, I got to Charlotte after my apartment complex’s leasing office was closed, and a future colleague was kind enough to put me up for the night. So by the time I was able to get into my new apartment, I had slept in four different rooms in as many days. And I had my cat with me the whole time. It was not fun. Anyway, that explains why I didn’t read a whole lot of comics that week.

GOLDIE VANCE #4 (Boom!, 2016) – Kate Leth [W], Brittney Williams [A]. I heart this comic so much. I think it’s the best new ongoing series of the year (Future Quest is the second best) and I’d like to see it win an Eisner. And of course I’m thrilled that this won’t be the last issue. In this issue, the first storyline is resolved in an effective and surprising way, and there are some romantic sparks between Goldie and Diane.

LUMBERJANES/GOTHAM ACADEMY #2 (DC, 2016) – Chynna Clugston Flores [W], Rosemary Valero-O’Connell [A]. This crossover is worse than either of the two series it’s based on, but it’s still fun, and this second issue is an improvement on the first. The cultural differences between the Lumberjanes and the … Academicians, I guess, are interesting, and Chynna Clugston Flores does an admirable job with characterization, given the large number of characters.

THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #8 (DC, 2016) – Renae de Liz [W/A]. Somehow I forgot to order issue 6 of this series, which explains why I thought the series was poorly paced. This is another excellent issue, whose highlight is a surprise appearance by a young Alfred Pennyworth. I’m thrilled to learn that there’s going to be another “season” of this comic, because DC cannot let Renae de Liz’s phenomenal talent go to waste.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #21 (Image, 2016) – Kieron Gillen [W], Jamie McKelvie [A]. An exciting issue in which the contention between the two factions of gods escalates quickly. I initially had trouble remembering which god was on which side, but I figured it out. The death of Minerva’s parents was just about the least surprising thing ever, but it makes me hate Ananke even more than I already did.

THE VISION #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Tom King [W], Gabriel Hernandez Walta [A]. In this issue, we learn that Victor agreed to work with the Avengers because he’s addicted to vibranium. We also learn that Vin is dead. And he’s never coming back. And Victor killed him. This revelation is all the more shocking because of the deadpan way in which it’s delivered. And its horror is not lessened by the fact that we knew something like this was coming. The Vision isn’t my favorite Marvel comic right now – that would be Ms. Marvel or Unbeatable Squirrel Girl – but this twelve-issue maxiseries will be remembered as one of the most intelligent, grimmest, and most powerful comics ever published by Marvel.

ROCKET RACCOON AND GROOT #7 (Marvel, 2016) – Nick Kocher [W], Michael Walsh [A]. I’m not familiar with Nick Kocher, but this issue is an excellent self-contained story, about a friend of Rocket who keeps faking his own death. This issue covers a large span of time and packs in a massive number of jokes and running gags, yet it never gets confusing. Highlights include the building named Drumpf Plaza, and the line “Spit it out! My adult son is fighting a space squid thing!”

SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME #3 (Oni, 2016) – Natalie Riess [W/A]. I forgot to order issue two of this series, and have not gotten it yet. This issue is a lot of fun, but my complaint is that the aliens aren’t alien enough. Besides the one dude who looks like two pyramids stacked together, the rest of the aliens just look fairly normal. That is to say, this comic could be even weirder than it is.

POWER MAN & IRON FIST #6 (Marvel, 2016) – David Walker [W], Flaviano [A]. This issue is a Civil War II crossover in that it deals with the aftermath of War Machine’s death and She-Hulk’s life-threatening injuries (like Patsy Walker #8, reviewed below). This is probably the best kind of crossover tie-in issue because it makes sense if you haven’t been reading the main series of the crossover; you just have to know that She-Hulk is hurt and possibly dying, and it doesn’t matter why. In the second half of the issue, Danny and Cage get hired to help out some people who are being targeted by “predictive justice” police (see the review of Ms. Marvel #9 below for a discussion of this rather stupid idea). As this subplot continues, David Walker comes very close to explicitly supporting Black Lives Matter. He has one character say “never call the cops,” and then later, Danny attacks a cop and says “Let the man breathe!” Supporting BLM is a courageous decision, given that it’s likely to lead to negative feedback and boycotts from racist people, and I’m curious to see how far David Walker will go in this direction.

DESCENDER #13 (Image, 2016) – Jeff Lemire [W], Dustin Nguyen [A]. This issue is the origin of Telsa. The daughter of a high-ranking official in the UGC, she watches her mother get killed by robots, then joins the UGC herself under a false name because her father won’t let her. There are some obvious cliches in this issue, including the bar that’s very reminiscent of the Mos Eisley cantina, but in general it’s another fun issue of Descender.

NEW SUPER-MAN #1 (DC, 2016) – Gene Luen Yang [W], Viktor Bogdanovic [A]. Gene Luen Yang’s much-hyped new Superman title is a serious disappointment. The gimmick of this comic is that it stars a new Superman who’s from Shanghai. However, the Chinese setting turns out to be just window dressing, because the characters act exactly like Americans. There are small indications that the characters are Chinese (the lunch of rice and pickles, the newscaster asking Superman if he acted out of a sense of duty). However, to quote what I said about this comic on Facebook:

“The Chinese setting of this comic is just window dressing — this story is supposed to be taking place in Shanghai, but the characters are all acting exactly like Americans. It could have been set in New York City instead, and the entire plot would have been exactly the same.

There are two problems with this. First, the plot of this issue is not good or original — it’s just a generic superhero origin story. The use of China as a setting just masks the fact that the story lacks any substance.

Second, the Chinese teenagers in this story behave exactly like American teenagers. Based on my experience working with a number of students from mainland China over the last year, I think this is implausible. My Chinese students do not behave like Americans of the same age. They have different social norms and different styles of communication, and they come from a culture with different traditions and different values. The characters in New Super Man #1 are more like American teenagers who happen to speak Chinese.”

(Now, when I posted this on Facebook, one person disagreed with me, saying that it makes sense that people in Shanghai would act in a more Americanized way. Still, I don’t buy that their behavior would be totally indistinguishable from the behavior of Americans their age.)

I think what’s going on here is that, number one, Gene Luen Yang is just not a good DC comics writer. I haven’t read The Shadow Hero yet, but my impression is that Gene’s superhero comics lack the originality and creativity of his creator-owned work or even his work-for-hire at Dark Horse. Second, as Gene himself said in his ChLA keynote address, he’s not as familiar with China as he is with the lives of Chinese people in America, and as a result, he’s not nearly as good when he writes about native Chinese people as when he writes about Chinese Americans.

New comics received on July 23. This was the day the movers were supposed to come, and they did come, but not until 9 PM. Meanwhile, I had been suffering from terrible insomnia because I was sleeping on an aerobed that kept leaking. So I was not in an ideal frame of mind for reading comic books. Still, I did manage to read far more comic books this week than during either of the previous two weeks.

LUMBERJANES #28 (Boom!, 2016) – Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh [W], Ayme Sotuyo [A]. An excellent conclusion to a terrific story arc. Most of what happens here is fairly predictable, but I wasn’t expecting Barney to become a Lumberjane. The gender politics of this are kind of weird: you can’t really see this as Barney reclaiming his masculine identity, because in the world of Lumberjanes, the definitions of masculinity and femininity are the reverse of what they are in normative American culture. Oh, and also Diane is back. I was really not expecting that.

SNOTGIRL #1 (Image, 2016) – Bryan Lee O’Malley [W], Leslie Hung [A]. This is the first new Image comic this year that I’m really excited about; Image seems to be developing fewer exciting new projects this year compared to the past few years. I don’t know if Snotgirl can be considered one of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s major works, given that he’s only writing it. But you can clearly tell that it’s him, and it has the same aesthetic sensibility as Scott Pilgrim or Seconds. I can’t quite tell where this comic is going yet, but I’m excited about it.

PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT #8 (Marvel, 2016) – Kate Leth [W], Brittney Williams [A]. This is the first issue of this series that’s not primarily humorous. Like Power Man & Iron Fist #6, it deals with Patsy’s reaction to She-Hulk’s near-fatal injuries. This issue suggests that Patsy and Jen are best friends, which is not necessarily supported by past continuity, but oh well. Most of Kate Leth’s recent work (this series and Goldie Vance) has been humorous, but in this issue she shows she can also write a very good sad story. And she does it by infusing the sadness with humor. Most of the issue focuses not on Patsy’s grief over Jen’s injuries, but rather on Patsy’s memories of the good times she and Jen shared.

MANIFEST DESTINY #21 (Image, 2016) – Chris Dingess [W], Matthew Roberts [A]. Part three of “Sasquatch.” Not a whole lot happens here, and I’m not convinced that this needed to be a six-part story.

At this point, the movers came with my stuff, including my boxes of unread comics, such as:

WOLFF & BYRD, COUNSELORS OF THE MACABRE #14 (Exhibit A, 1997) – Batton Lash [W/A]. I believe I read this story before, as part of the fourth Case Files volume. But I didn’t remember much about it other than the broad outline of the plot, so it was worth revisiting. In “Bad Blood,” Ayn Rice (an obvious parody of Anne Rice, with a bit of Ayn Rand) gets involved in a legal dispute with Dracula over the ownership of a house. And this feeds into one of the ongoing romantic subplots because Ayn Wrice’s lawyer is Chase Hawkins. The main thing I remembered about this story is the ending, where Ayn Wrice asks Dracula to make her a vampire, and he refuses because she wants it too much. But there are lots of other funny jokes and character interactions in this story.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #638 (DC, 2005) – Greg Rucka [W], Matthew Clark [A]. When Lois tries to convince Clark to have a baby, Mr. Mxyzptlk shows up and gives Lois and Clark a vision of an alternate future where they become parents. This is a surprisingly cute and touching story, though I don’t think it had any long-term consequences; I don’t believe that Lois and Clark ever did try for a baby, and Chris Kent didn’t appear until over a year later. This story includes some pages that are parodies of the work of Frank Miller, Bill Watterson, and (I think) Bruce Timm. The Frank Miller page includes a nearly full-page panel of Black Canary, even though she has nothing to do with the story; I assume this is a parody of Miller’s inclinations toward T&A.

SHAZAM! #25 (DC, 1976) – Denny O’Neil [W], Dick Giordano [A] on lead story; E. Nelson Bridwell [W], Kurt Schaffenberger [A] on backup story. The first story this issue is the first comic book appearance of Isis, and serves as a preview for Isis’s ongoing series. It’s a rather generic story which does not succeed at arousing enthusiasm for the new character. The backup story, in which Billy Batson appears on a TV show about young people in American history, is slightly better though still just average.

KILL SHAKESPEARE #2 (IDW, 2010) – Conor McCreery & Anthony Del Col [W], Andy Belanger [A]. I met Conor McCreery at ICFA a few years ago, and I was excited to read this comic, but when I did read the first issue, I was disappointed. And after reading the second issue, I’m still kind of disappointed. There’s an interesting premise here, but I can’t really explain what that premise is. This comic takes place in a world where all the Shakespeare characters are real, and Shakespeare himself is somehow in charge of the world, but beyond that, I don’t quite get what’s going on. As a metafictional fantasy story based on Shakespeare, this comic is worse than Sandman #19 and #75 or Poul Anderson’s A Midsummer Tempest.

CATWOMAN #15 (DC, 2003) – Ed Brubaker [W], Cameron Stewart [A]. An amazing issue. It’s been a year and a half since I read issue 14, so I’m not quite sure what’s going on here, except that Selina is trying to get revenge on the people who critically injured Slam Bradley. But Cameron Stewart’s visual storytelling is brilliant, and Ed Brubaker effectively communicates Selina and Holly’s grief over Slam Bradley’s condition, and Selina’s determination to get revenge.

BROTHERS OF THE SPEAR #3 (Gold Key, 1972) – Gaylord DuBois [W], Jesse Santos [A]. This issue has a fairly standard Gaylord DuBois plot, where the city of Tungelu gets taken over by Tuareg invaders, and Dan-el and Natongo have to capture it back. The sheer amount of stuff that happens in this story is impressive – in just a few pages, Dan-el and Natongo get shipwrecked, nearly eaten by hyenas, and sold into slavery. Jesse Santos’s art is less radical than in his collaborations with Don Glut, but still pretty good. One thing that impressed me about this comic is Gaylord DuBois’s more than basic knowledge about Africa – like, at one point he refers to “shiftas,” which is an actual East African word for bandits. I even wondered if he had ever been to Africa, but apparently he just read the same books that Edgar Rice Burroughs read.

DOCTOR STRANGEFATE #1 (Amalgam, 1996) – Ron Marz [W], José Luis García-Lopez [A]. Despite the JLGL artwork, this is not one of the better Amalgam comics. Unlike the writers of Amalgam comics like Spider-Boy or Bullets & Bracelets, Ron Marz doesn’t take advantage of the comic potential of blending the Marvel and DC universes. This comic reads like a standard Dr. Strange story. It’s also too heavily tied to the ongoing plot of the Marvel vs. DC crossover.

CHEW #56 (Image, 2016) – John Layman [W], Rob Guillory [A]. Tony starts eating Mason Savoy’s ear, but finds out that Mason deliberately ate beets before his suicide, in order to prevent Tony from learning anything. So we have to wait a few more issues to find out the big secret of this comic. I’m glad that there are just four issues left; this comic is a lot of fun, but it’s time for the creators to move on. The Cereduratus, who can cause lethal ice cream headaches, is one of the funnier food-related powers in the series.

GWENPOOL #4 (Marvel, 2016) – Christopher Hastings [W], Gurihiru [A]. I didn’t realize Christopher Hastings was writing both this series and Vote Loki. He’s not the best writer at Marvel, but he’s funny. This was less fun than the last three issues, though. Gwenpool defeats Modok with help from Cecil’s ghost, and then the issue ends as she’s about to find out who Modok was working for. I kind of thought this was the last issue, but I guess this is an ongoing series.

A-FORCE #7 (Marvel, 2016) – Kelly Thompson [W], Ben Caldwell [A]. This is fairly good but not incredible. I like the “power of love” moment, and Ben Caldwell’s artwork is sometimes brilliant, but this series still doesn’t grab me as much as Jem and the Holograms.

BETTY & VERONICA #1 (Archie, 2016) – Adam Hughes [W/A]. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a comic written by Adam Hughes before, but he’s a surprisingly good writer. And his art is as beautiful as ever, though I feel ashamed of liking his art because it’s so full of T&A. Particularly nice touches include the dog narrator and the page that’s completely full of word balloons.

USAGI YOJIMBO #156 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Stan Sakai [W/A]. The second chapter of “Secret of the Hell Screen” is as exciting as the first. Lord Shima is a really obvious prime suspect, but maybe too obvious. I look forward to reading the solution to this mystery.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #204 (DC, 1971) – Denny O’Neil [W], Dick Dillin [A]. This is one of, I think, three appearances by the New Look Wonder Woman outside her own title. The others are Brave and the Bold #87 and #105, both of which I’ve already read. This issue is fairly good. It has an implausible plot in which Superman and Wonder Woman have to save a young man who is singlehandedly responsible for avoiding a dystopian future, but there’s a nicely ambiguous moment where they aren’t sure whether they’ve accomplished their mission or not. There’s another nice scene where Clark and Diana are about to kiss, but they realize that it’s better if they don’t. I think it’s better if Superman and Wonder Woman have a purely professional and friendly relationship. Or at least it’s better than the Superman/Wonder Woman romance that DC is currently trying to force on us.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #165 (DC, 1979) – Gerry Conway [W], Dick Dillin [A]. A second Dick Dillin comic in a row. Dick Dillin is often considered a very boring artist, and he was, but I enjoy his art anyway; he’s the essential Bronze Age Justice League artist, if only because he was the only artist on that title during the Bronze Age. This issue focuses on Gerry’s pet character, Zatanna, and explains the origin of the Homo Magi and the story of how Zatanna’s parents met. And then at the end of the issue, Sindella dies. It’s an effective story, though it’s hampered by Gerry’s histrionic prose style.

ASTRO CITY #37 (DC, 2016) – Kurt Busiek [W], Brent Anderson [A]. I was not enthusiastic about this issue at first, but This issue is another flashback story narrated by the Broken Man, who I guess is Astro City’s version of Uncle Creepy or the Vault Keeper, and it consists of several historical vignettes linked together by the theme of music.

DNAGENTS #18 (Eclipse, 1985) – Mark Evanier [W], various [A]. This issue consists of several segments, each illustrated by a different artist and focusing on a different DNAgent. It’s a pretty average issue of DNAgents, but it’s notable for being one of the last works of Mike Sekowsky.

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA #5 (Archie, 2016) – Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa [W], Robert Hack [A]. If I remember this issue correctly, Sabrina tries to resurrect her dead boyfriend Harvey but resurrects her father instead. So we can expect some bizarre incest shenanigans, reminiscent of Saga of the Swamp Thing #29. Instead of a reprinted backup story, this issue has a preview of Afterlife with Archie.

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA #6 (Archie, 2016) – as above. This issue reveals the origin of Sabrina’s cat Salem, as well as two snakes that apparently belong to Sabrina’s aunts. It’s another very gruesome and shocking horror story, but I’m not sure this is the sort of thing I like, and I don’t know if I’d be reading this comic if it wasn’t a spinoff of Afterlife with Archie. Also, personally, if I were transformed into an immortal cat that could talk, I really wouldn’t mind.

AQUAMAN #38 (DC, 1997) – Peter David [W], Jim Calafiore [A]. This late issue of PAD’s Aquaman run is unexpectedly good. The plot is that Aquaman tries to raise money by turning Poseidonis into a tourist attraction. But the highlight of the issue is a scene where Vulko expresses his deep disappointment in Aquaman’s recent behavior, and when Aquaman says “And you can still call me Arthur,” Vulko replies “No. No, I don’t think I can.” PAD’s run on Aquaman was epic and humorous at once, and had a truly unique aesthetic. I need to complete my collection of this series.

DOOM PATROL #43 (DC, 1991) – Grant Morrison [W], Steve Yeowell [A]. This issue begins with a quotation from Lucy Clifford’s horror story “The New Mother,” which was a heavy influence on Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. I’m familiar with this story from its retelling in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Even that watered-down version is horrifying, and no wonder it fascinated both Neil and Grant. The rest of the issue deals with Flex Mentallo and the Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E., and is as surreal and bizarre as any Morrison Doom Patrol comic.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #90 (DC, 1969) – unknown [W], Irv Novick [A]. Like many Silver Age Lois Lane stories, in this issue Lois is subjected to a series of horrible traumas, which the reader is somehow supposed to consider humorous. Lois falls in love with a time-traveling Kryptonian named Dahr-Nel, who proposes to her. Before she can give him an answer, Superman unexpectedly tells Lois to drop everything and meet him at City Hall for a wedding. Of course Lois is overjoyed that she’s going to be Mrs. Superman – and of course it turns out the wedding is a fake. Superman is using Lois as bait to catch a criminal who swore to kill Superman’s wife on their wedding day, only he forgot to tell Lois! After Superman gives Lois a lame-ass apology, she understandably decides to marry Dahr-Nel instead, but Dahr-Nel promptly gets himself killed. So at the end of the story, Lois is left with nothing except the hope that someday Superman will agree to marry her. I don’t know what kind of person would find this sort of thing funny.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89 #2 (DC, 1989) – Keith Giffen & Alan Grant [W], Barry Kitson [A]. Vril Dox leads his team on a mission to destroy the Computer Tyrants of Colu, and shows himself to be just as cynical and manipulative toward his own teammates as his enemies. This story is a fairly good introduction to the series, but it suffers from what TVTropes calls Early Installment Weirdness. It’s unusual to see Vril Dox going on a mission himself, rather than serving as an administrator and strategist.

DEPT. H #4 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Matt Kindt [W/A]. Mia finally gets her chance to go rescue Raj, and as she looks for him, she has flashbacks to her mother’s death. This was a good but not great issue.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #7 (Image, 2016) – Skottie Young [W/A]. Gert goes on a quest for I can’t remember what, and she encounters a boy who’s somehow been transported from Fairyland to Earth. I have that “Fairy Freezy” song in my head, even though I don’t know the tune.

FAITH #1 (Valiant, 2016) – Jody Houser [W], Pere Perez & Marguerite Sauvage [A]. This was fun, but I barely remember anything about it.

HOWARD THE DUCK #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Chip Zdarsky [W], Joe Quinones [A]. I’m sorry that there’s only one more issue of this series, but it appears to be ending because Chip and Joe want it to, not because of low sales. This is a sweet and funny comic, and while the Lea Thompson guest appearance feels like a publicity stunt, Chip makes her an interesting character, very similar to Beverly Switzer.

CAPTAIN KID #1 (Aftershock, 2016) – Mark Waid & Tom Peyer [W], Wilfredo Torres [A]. I bought this comic because of the intriguing premise: it’s Captain Marvel in reverse, in that the protagonist is an aging man who turns into a young superhero. Miracleman explored this territory but only in a limited way. The trouble with this comic is it covers too much territory and it’s not clearly focused on its central premise. Waid and Peyer pay some attention to the central idea of an older man who can transform into a younger man, but they also waste time on exploring other ideas that are much less interesting, like the woman who traveled back in time and ended up in the wrong year.

I still have more reviews to write, but I’ll just post these now.

Comics criticism: Basic questions to ask when reading a comic.

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

1. Art style (draftspersonship). In general, what does the artwork look like? What sort of linework does the artist use? How much detail does the artist employ in drawing people and objects — where does the artwork fall on the continuum between minimalist (John Porcellino) and hyperdetailed (Geof Darrow)? How does the artist depict characters, including their faces and figures? How does the artist draw backgrounds? If the penciller and inker are not the same person, how does the inking affect the appearance of the pencils? (This aspect of comics is similar to mise-en-scène in cinema.)

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

3. Visual storytelling – between panels. How are adjacent panels related to each other? Which of McCloud’s six types of panel transitions (action-to-action, aspect-to-aspect, etc.) is most prevalent? How many action sequences are there, and how good is the artist at depicting action? How much closure does the reader have to do — that is, how much work does the reader need to do in order to understand what happens in the gaps between panels? (This aspect of comics is similar to editing in cinema, with an exception. In cinema, editing is responsible for the temporal pace of the film; the editor determines the rhythm of the shots and the amount of time that takes place in each shot. In comics, the pace of reading is determined by page layout and composition.)

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

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

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

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

You will notice that these are all basic questions — they’re all things you should ask yourself when you start reading a comic, as opposed to when you return to it in order to interpret or criticize it. Most of these questions only ask you to notice things or make factual judgments. After you figure out the answers to these questions, the next step is to explain these answers — to try to justify why the artist made certain choices rather than others. For example, after you understand how each page of the comic is laid out, you can take the next step and try to understand why the artist chose to use that particular type of page layout, and how the page layout helps to shape the meaning of the comic.

Very late reviews


(NOTE WRITTEN LATER: I wrote these reviews earlier this month, but never posted them because I was too busy moving and stuff. And now I have three more weeks worth of comic books that I’ve read but not reviewed. Oh well.)

I have almost a short box full of comics to review, so let’s get started. Many of these were comics I purchased at Heroes Con. Overall it was a fantastic Heroes Con, and I came home with a ton of comics (and also some back pain from being hit by a car, but I’m fine now, thank God). Since it was the first time I’ve been able to buy genuinely cheap comics in over a year, I spent most of my money on 50-cent and dollar comics, instead of focusing on more expensive older stuff. I felt a little regretful about that in hindsight, but oh well.

UNCLE SCROOGE #292 (Gladstone, 1995) – Don Rosa [W/A]. This was the most exciting comic I got at Heroes Con, and the first one that I read. It’s one of my collecting Holy Grails: the only chapter of Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck that I hadn’t already owned. It’s also the climactic chapter, which ends with the decisive moment of Scrooge’s life, when he finds the Goose Egg Nugget and becomes a rich man… I mean duck. Rosa effectively shows how Scrooge’s ultimate triumph is the result of his hard work and ingenuity, as well as the lessons he learned from all his previous failures. The final page of this story is maybe one of the best scenes Rosa ever illustrated. Suspecting that the dust-covered rock he’s found might be solid gold, Scrooge wonders if he really wants to become rich and stop having adventures. He stands paralyzed for a full panel (just like Donald does in “Luck of the North” when he realizes he may have sent Gladstone to his death) before diamonds flash in his eyes and he washes the rock off. And the rest is history.

USAGI YOJIMBO #17 (Fantagraphics, 1989) – Stan Sakai [W/A]. Also at Heroes Con, I found about half of the Usagis I had been missing, for a dollar each. In fact, I got so many of them that I wasn’t sure which one to read first, so I still haven’t read most of them. This particular issue is the climax of “The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy,” Stan’s first major epic. It’s a very effective conclusion that ends appropriately with a giant explosion. My copy is signed by Stan at the top of the first page.

Those were the only two comics I managed to read while I was in Charlotte. When I got home, my shipment of new comics was waiting for me, and I felt obligated to read one of them right away.

LUMBERJANES #27 (Boom!, 2016) – Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh [W], Ayme Sotuyo [A]. A third excellent issue in a row. Maybe a bit less impressive than the previous two, but only because I’ve gotten used to this level of quality by now. Barney and Hes are both becoming major characters in this story, and I’ve just realized that Barney looks like Tintin with black hair. Easily the best line in the issue is “MAGIC GIANT FLOATING FIRE-BREATHING GHOST KITTENS!”

DOCTOR WHO SPECIAL 2013 (IDW, 2013) – Paul Cornell [W], Jimmy Broxton [A]. I am not a Doctor Who fan – I watched the first three episodes with Christopher Eccleston, but didn’t feel motivated to keep watching – and I generally have no interest in Doctor Who comics. But I’ve been looking for this particular comic for a while because of the fascinating metatextual premise. The Doctor travels through the TARDIS to the real world, where he’s a character on a TV show, and he meets a 12-year-old girl who’s a huge fan of his. This is a really clever idea and Paul Cornell exploits its full potential. The Doctor helps the girl deal with her bullies while simultaneously defeating a Cyberman who’s followed him into the real world. Meanwhile, he goes to a convention and meets lots of people who have been inspired by him. And there’s lots of other stuff in this story, most of which I probably didn’t understand because I’m not a Doctor Who fan. But even for a non-fan, this was a really enjoyable comic. It even makes me want to start watching Doctor Who myself.

MS. MARVEL #19 (Marvel, 1978) – Chris Claremont [W], Carmine Infantino [A]. I have all but six issues of this series now, but the remaining issues are all getting expensive, so I’m glad I was able to find this one. Most of this issue is a fight scene in which Carol teams up with Mar-Vell against Ronan. The most interesting scene is a flashback to Carol’s past, where we learn what a sexist jerk her dad was. Carol’s dad explicitly tells her that he can only afford to send one of his children to college, and it’s going to be her brother, because she doesn’t need to go to college to find a husband. Sadly this sort of attitude was not unusual then or now.

AVENGERS #84 (Marvel, 1971) – Roy Thomas [W], John Buscema [A]. One of the few old Marvel comics I was able to get at Heroes Con. This issue has an over-complicated plot involving Arkon and the Black Knight, and it’s not Roy Thomas’s best-written comic, but John Buscema was doing some of the best work of his career at this point. And it’s always nice to read a Silver Age Avengers comic I’m not already familiar with.

WOLFF & BYRD, COUNSELORS OF THE MACABRE #17 (Exhibit A, 1997) – Batton Lash [W/A]. I also got a bunch of these at Heroes Con. This issue was intended as a jumping-on point for new readers, and it consists of three self-contained stories that make no reference to any of the ongoing subplots. I kind of got the impression that some of these stories had already been published elsewhere, since the first one has a different style of lettering from the other two. The best of these stories is “The Deaths and Times of Dr. Life,” about a reverse Dr. Kevorkian who resurrects people who want to stay dead. The second story, “Nosferatu: Special Report,” is presented as a series of excerpts from TV news shows (like the talking-heads panels in Dark Knight Returns). It’s about a vampire gangster, and it’s very similar to all the other Wolff & Byrd stories about vampires. In the final story, Ygor, a descendant of Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant, gets a job at a preschool but is falsely accused of abusing the children. Wolff & Byrd succeed in clearing his name, but he decides he’s had enough of working at a preschool and becomes a mad scientist’s assistant instead. This story is a clever parody of the Satanic ritual controversy of the ‘80s.

THE OCCULT FILES OF DR. SPEKTOR #9 (Gold Key, 1974) – Don Glut [W], Jesse Santos [A]. This series may be my favorite of Don Glut’s three Gold Key titles from the ‘70s. Adam Spektor is much like Dr. Strange, but with a darker side – you get the sense that his adventures have left him seriously damaged. Also, Lakota Rainwater is an unfortunate stereotype, but at least her relationship with Dr. Spektor is less creepy than Dr. Strange’s romance with Clea. This story revolves around Adam and Lakota’s relationship problems: Adam encounters a witch who brainwashes him into falling in love with her and dumping Lakota, but Lakota figures out what’s really going on and saves the day.

FLASH GORDON #1 (Dynamite, 2014) – Jeff Parker [W], Evan “Doc” Shaner [A]. A strong start to an excellent series. I’ve repeatedly stated how much I love Doc Shaner’s art, but Jeff Parker’s writing on this issue is equally impressive. His script is an impressive piece of narrative economy – in just a few pages, he manages to convey that Flash Gordon is an adventure-seeking daredevil who thinks that life in contemporary America is boring and unimaginative. Also, I get the sense that Flash, Dale and Zarkov were always quite flat characters, but Parker succeeds in investing each of them with significant depth. Dale is like a snarkier Lois Lane, and she’s the sensible one of the three, while Flash and Zarkov are respectively obsessed by their passion for adventure and science, to the point where their ability to function in normal society is impaired.

PATSY WALKER A.K.A. HELLCAT #7 (Marvel, 2016) – Kate Leth [W], Brittney Williams [A]. Another excellent issue. This issue finally resolves the Hedy subplot, and Hedy gets her comeuppance in a satisfying way. But I do have to wonder where this comic is going to go next, since the Hedy plot was the main thing tying it together. Jessica Jones guest-stars in this issue and plays quite a significant role. I think this issue sort of makes up for her unsympathetic portrayal in Power Man and Iron Fist. Brittney Williams is a really good artist; she kind of reminds me of Colleen Coover.

THE SPIRE #8 (Boom!, 2016) – Simon Spurrier [W], Jeff Stokely [A]. A strong conclusion to one of the best miniseries of the year, though as I have said before, it would probably read better in trade paperback form. The shocking revelation this time is that [SPOILER] Shå used to be male and is the father of Tavi, who she’s been sleeping with. I guess Claremont already came up with this plot twist (he originally meant for Destiny to be Nightcrawler’s father), but I didn’t expect to see it again in this context, and it’s especially poignant here because Shå has unknowingly been her own daughter’s lover. Overall this was an excellent miniseries and I look forward to seeing what Spurrier and Stokely do next.

PRINCELESS: MAKE YOURSELF #3 (Action Lab, 2016) – Adrienne’s conversation with Bern is the high point of this miniseries so far. It’s a model of how to talk to kids about sexuality. Adrienne’s questions are reasonable (and she asks them in an adorably shy way) and Bern answers them in a sensitive and compassionate way. These scenes are examples of why I love Jeremy’s writing. Bedelia’s reunion with her mother is also exciting, but I still don’t understand what’s going on with the five people who are searching for Adrienne. I wonder if the two dudes at the end of the issue are based on Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

YOUNG JUSTICE #34 (DC, 2001) – Peter David [W], Todd Nauck [A]. At Heroes Con, I was able to get all six of the issues of Young Justice that I was missing. Which makes me a bit sad because now I need something else to collect. This issue is the conclusion to the Wendy the Werewolf Stalker arc. I don’t remember much about it specifically, but as usual it’s hilarious and it passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors, and it draws upon PAD’s experience working in television.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #85 (Marvel, 1982) – Denny O’Neil [W], Keith Pollard [A]. You’d think Denny O’Neil would be an ideal writer for this series given its mild resemblance to Green Lantern/Green Arrow, but this was a boring and formulaic comic and I can’t remember much of anything about it. I still want to collect more of this series.

MANIFEST DESTINY #20 (Image, 2016) – Chris Dingess [W], Matthew Roberts [A]. I’ve met Matthew Roberts a couple times and he’s told me that Chris Dingess really does his homework. We see that in this issue, where Maldonado’s ghost reveals that he was indeed a member of the Narváez expedition that Cabeza de Vaca was on, but he was not one of the four survivors (hence why his name is Arturo, not Alonso, as noted in my review of #19). Roberts even shows us the four survivors, and correctly depicts one of them as a black man. Besides that, the best thing in this issue is the last page, where Russell threatens to smash Bullock’s face, and Bullock says “I’d like to see you try” and then a sasquatch slaps him and knocks half his face off. Ow.

DC RETROACTIVE: WONDER WOMAN – THE ‘90S #1 (DC, 2011) – Bill Messner-Loebs [W], Lee Moder [A]. Each of these DC Retroactive issues includes a new story by a classic creative team, plus a reprint of an old story. I didn’t buy any of these issues when they came out. They were too expensive and they had unimpressive creative teams. But I had this specific issue on my want list because I saw some panels from it somewhere, I forget where. The plot of the new story is that Etta Candy asks Diana to babysit a bunch of spoiled, lazy tween girls. Diana whips the girls into shape, turning them from lazy slobs into near-Lumberjanes. It’s a really cute story which also effectively demonstrates Diana’s personality and outlook. The reprinted backup story is not as good, but it does make me interested in reading more of Bill Loebs’s Wonder Woman run, although I’ve heard some bad things about it.

VOTE LOKI #1 (Marvel, 2016) – Christopher Hastings [W], Langdon Foss [A]. I love the idea behind this series, and the execution is reasonably good. It’s a witty piece of political satire, though maybe too generic and non-partisan. I think my favorite part of the issue is Loki casually changing gender.

FLASH GORDON #5 (King, 1967) – Archie Goodwin [W], Al Williamson [A]. I got another copy of this issue at Comic-Con a long time ago, but it turned out to be missing its centerfold. This copy is complete. I love Archie Goodwin’s writing, but the plot in this issue is just average. Al Williamson’s artwork, though, is spectacular. His draftsmanship and his action sequences and his backgrounds are gorgeous, and his artwork doesn’t become so ornate and detailed that it impairs readability, as happened with his ‘90s Flash Gordon miniseries. Al Williamson drew Flash Gordon in comic book form on three occasions, each time for a different publisher and in a different decade, and each time he produced a classic piece of work. By the way, I should start collecting Williamson’s Star Wars comics.

JSA #2 (DC, 1999) – James Robinson & David Goyer [W], Stephen Sadowski [A]. Back in 1999, JSA was one of DC’s flagship titles. Drawing upon the sensibility of James Robinson’s Starman, it offered a vision of a DC Universe that respected and honored its past, while also being open to newness and change. I wish we still had that DC Universe instead of the one we have now. This particular issue follows the typical plot structure of old Justice League comics (and maybe old Justice Society comics, I don’t know): the team splits up into three squads to deal with three different aspects of a single threat. And at the end of the issue we find out that the mystery villain is Mordru – I wonder if this was his first appearance in a story not involving the Legion.

ASTRO CITY #36 (DC, 2016) – Kurt Busiek [W], Ron Randall [A]. Like the Jack-in-the-Box story from the previous volume, this story is okay but not one of Kurt’s best. Drama Queen’s origin story is reasonably powerful, and I like the conclusion where Ike decides to become a psychiatrist. Now that I think of it, this story reminds me of James Robinson’s Starman, which I was just talking about, in that all of the principal characters are participants in a family drama that started before they were born. Still, this was one of the more underwhelming stories in this Astro City run, though I suppose it was intended to be subtle rather than epic.

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA #3 (Archie, 2015) – Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa [W], Robert Hack [A]. I went to the Archie panel at Heroes Con, and one of the panelists (I think Francesco Francavilla) said that this title and Afterlife with Archie are so late because Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa is backed up with other work. This is hardly surprising, but I think it was a questionable decision to ask him to write a second Archie title when he couldn’t meet his deadlines with the first one. You would think that after what happened with Kevin Smith, comics publishers would be more wary about hiring writers who are extremely busy with other stuff. Anyway, this comic is okay but not great; it’s basically the same as the other issues of this series. The Madam Satan backup is almost as interesting as the main story.

AVENGERS #103 (Marvel, 1972) – Roy Thomas [W], Rich Buckler [A]. I found this in a cheap box at Heroes Con; it’s in awful condition but is complete and readable. At this point I only need about five more issues to have a complete run from Avengers #103 to #200, and I’m getting really close to a complete run from #100 to #300. I didn’t notice until just now that this issue is written by Roy Thomas rather than Steve Englehart, but it makes sense, because this story is a direct sequel to the Sentinels three-parter from X-Men #57 to #59. It’s also much worse than that story, because as much as Rich Buckler tries to slavishly imitate Neal Adams, he is clearly no Neal Adams.

STORMWATCH #37 (Image, 1996) – Warren Ellis [W], Tom Raney [A]. This is the first issue of Warren Ellis’s Stormwatch run, which later evolved into The Authority, and it introduces Jack Hawksmoor and Jenny Sparks. I’ve never been a huge Ellis fan, and I even have something of a bias against him because of his pseudo-intellectual pomposity, but this is a pretty good comic. In one issue, Ellis turns what used to be an awful piece of Image crap into an intelligent and excitingly written revisionist superhero comic.

UNCANNY X-MEN #126 (Marvel, 1979) – Chris Claremont [W], John Byrne [A]. I only need eleven more issues to have the complete Claremont/Byrne run, but those eleven issues include #129, #141 and #142, and who knows when I’ll be able to afford any of those. This issue is part two of the Mutant X/Proteus four-parter. Proteus is not Claremont’s best villain, but this issue includes some fantastic action sequences. It also includes other interesting moments, notably the flashback where Jean Grey and Jason Wyngarde engage in a deer hunt with a human instead of a deer.

EXCALIBUR #88 (Marvel, 1995) – Warren Ellis [W], Larry Stroman et al [A]. Warren Ellis’s Excalibur is another comic I haven’t bothered to collect because of my skepticism about Ellis. But I am a big Kitty Pryde fan, and I remember seeing a positive review of this particular story, “Dream Nails,” in Frank Plowright’s Slings and Arrows guide. This issue isn’t spectacular but it is entertainingly written, though I think Stroman’s art is very ugly.

ADVENTURE COMICS #362 (DC, 1967) – Jim Shooter [W], Pete Costanza [A]. This was the only Shooter-written Legion issue of Adventure comics that I was missing. It was one of those comics that I didn’t bother to buy because I mistakenly assumed I already had it. “The Chemoids Are Coming” is far from Shooter’s best story – Mantis Morlo is a stupid villain who only ever made one subsequent appearance that I know of. But this issue is still head and shoulders above other Legion stories from this era by other writers. Notably, this story begins with a cute scene showing the Legionnaires relaxing in their headquarters. Later in the issue, Shooter takes us to Orando for the first time, and establishes that it has a medieval level of technology. I think this story is also the starting point of Projectra and Karate Kid’s doomed romance.

DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES #18 (Gladstone, 1989) – Carl Barks [W/A]. This issue reprints Carl Barks’s “No Such Varmint,” with a beautiful new cover by Don Rosa, which I got Rosa to sign while at Heroes Con. According to the blurb on the back cover, Western prohibited artists from depicting snakes – I guess because they were considered scary to children? – but this particular story, which is all about snakes, was so brilliant that the censors ignored it. I’m not going to try to summarize the plot of the story, but it’s hilarious, and includes some gorgeous illustrations of a giant sea serpent. It’s also a great example of the conflict between Donald, with his chronic lack of discipline, and his nephews, with their high ambitions and strong work ethic. One funny thing about this story is Barks’s verbal depictions of the sound of Donald’s flute (“twee te tweetle” and so on).

SPIDER-GWEN #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Latour [W], Robbi Rodriguez [A]. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the last two issues were wasted on a crossover, now we have another story that doesn’t make sense without knowledge of that crossover. It seems that now Gwen’s lost her powers and can only restore them a limited number of times. I don’t know or care how this situation came about, and I think it’s stupid. Basically, this is the third consecutive issue of this series that I just couldn’t understand.

MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #11 (Marvel, 1992) – various [W/A]. The first two stories in this issue are stupid, but the third one is a fascinating curiosity. It’s Chris Claremont and Mike Vosburg’s unpublished story that was intended for Ms. Marvel #25, with a new seven-page conclusion, written by Simon Furman, that bridges the gap between this story and Avengers Annual #10. In this story, Carol investigates Mike Barnett’s murder and encounters Destiny, Avalanche and Pyro for the first time. In terms of quality, this story is up to the usual level of Claremont’s Ms. Marvel stories, though the conclusion by Simon Furman is a shoddy piece of hackwork. The history behind this story is equally fascinating. Ms. Marvel #25 would have come out in about August 1979. If that comic had been published in the form in which it appears in Marvel Super-Heroes #11, it would have been the first appearance of Destiny, Avalanche, Pyro, Rogue, Sebastian Shaw and Donald Pierce. Instead, Rogue first appeared in Avengers Annual #10 in 1980, and the other five characters didn’t appear until 1981. So you really have to wonder what Claremont intended to do with these characters, and how much he had to change his plans in order to use them in X-Men instead of Ms. Marvel. I guess there’s some room for doubt as to whether the scenes with Rogue and the Hellfire Club actually were written and drawn in 1979, or whether these scenes were added in 1992. But it really looks to me like the entire first 20 pages of this story were both written and drawn in 1979, and it seems plausible that there were already two complete issues of Ms. Marvel in the can when the series was cancelled. Assuming that this version of Ms. Marvel #25 really does represent Claremont’s original intentions, it’s an intriguing glimpse into an alternate reality that never existed.

WOLFF & BYRD, COUNSELORS OF THE MACABRE #11 (Exhibit A, 1996) – Batton Lash [W/A]. “Strange Bedfellows” consists of two inset stories, plus three framing sequences involving the three couples in the series (Mavis and Toby, Jeff and Dawn Devine, Alanna and Chase). The first inset story is about a shrewish wife who literally turns her husband into a blob of jelly; the second one is about a comedian who is cursed with a personal laugh track. Both these stories are hilarious, though the second one includes some uncomfortable stereotypes of Roma people. The three framing sequences are also really good, and much sexier than is normal for this series. The issue begins with a scene where you think Mavis is receiving oral sex, but it turns out she’s getting a foot massage. Later, there’s a scene where you think Chase and Wolff are having sex, but it turns out they’re both having separate phone conversations. Funny.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #231 (DC, 1975) – Bob Haney [W], Dick Dillin [A]. I usually like Bob Haney’s Super Sons stories; my favorite is the one where Superman Jr falls in love with Lex Luthor’s daughter. I even plan on reading the new Super-Sons title even though I’m not familiar with the creative team. However, this particular issue was not good. It starts with Superman Jr and Batman Jr putting their fathers on trial for being grandstanding egomaniacs. Haney fails to explain what exactly the Super-Sons are accusing their fathers of, or why. And then the Super-Fathers are found guilty and sentenced to jail, but again, why they were found guilty is not clear. From there on, the story gets even more confusing and implausible, and I’m not going to attempt to summarize it. Haney was probably trying to convey some sort of message about generational conflict, but he failed. At Heroes Con, I asked Ramona Fradon what Bob Haney was like, and she told me, according to my imperfect recollection, that he always wanted to be a novelist and was somewhat ashamed of working in comics.

New comics received on June 24:

MS. MARVEL #8 (Marvel, 2016) – G. Willow Wilson [W], Takeshi Miyazawa & Adrian Alphona [A]. The best scene in this issue is the flashback at the beginning, which shows Kamala’s great-grandparents* emigrating from Pakistan. This scene has no obvious connection to the rest of the story, besides being about civil war, but it creates a powerful sense of both uncertainty and hope. In the rest of the issue, Kamala works with some new assistants, including one who has precognitive powers. Just like in Minority Report, they use precognition to stop crimes that haven’t occurred yet, and this leads to the same ethical issues as in Minority Report. And one of the future criminals Kamala is pursuing turns out to be Josh. The other adorable moment in this issue is where Kamala demands a hug from Tyesha, and Tyesha obliges. They have such a great sister-in-law relationship. Another point I want to make is that G. Willow Wilson has successfully avoided allowing Ms. Marvel to be derailed by crossovers. Where other Marvel titles like Captain Marvel and All-New All-Different Avengers have suffered badly from involvement in crossovers, Ms. Marvel has succeeded in acknowledging the events of crossovers while still keeping its own story on track. I’m not sure whether this is because G. Willow Wilson is getting special treatment from the editors, or whether it’s just the result of good writing.

* We are not told which generation Kareem and Aisha are, but they must be Kamala’s great-grandparents and not her grandparents, or else Kamala would have been born when her mother was over 50.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #5 (Marvel, 2016) – David Walker [W], Flaviano [A]. This self-contained issue is a cute Rashomon-esque story, in which a fight between Luke, Danny and Manslaughter Marsdale is told in multiple contradictory ways. I was delighted when I realized what was going on here – it took me a second to decipher the name Ralphie Aaron Shomon. I do think that Batton Lash did this sort of thing more effectively in Wolff & Byrd #21. And the cool thing about the original Rashomon story is that the last version of the story is told by the dead man, so it would have been funnier if the final version of this issue’s story was told by the car, or something like that. But I’m nitpicking.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS #9 (Action Lab, 2016) – Jeremy Whitley [W], Rosy Higgins & Sorah Suhng [A]. The framing sequences in this issue are better than the main story, which is a flashback to the origin of the first Xingtao pirate queen. This story is too short to be really compelling, though I do like the way the demons are drawn. But the framing sequences include a lot of effective character development, including Raven realizing she’s in love with Ximena.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #8 (Marvel, 2016) – Amy Reeder & Brandon Montclare [W], Natacha Bustos [A]. The other day I told someone that this series isn’t perfect, but at least it’s trying. I would stand behind that assessment. I have lots of nitpicky problems with this comic, but Lunella Lafayette is a fascinating character and the writers’ hearts are in the right place. I love the idea of Lunella switching minds with Devil, though the execution could have been better.

KLAUS #6 (Boom!, 2016) – Grant Morrison [W], Dan Mora [A]. I’m still enjoying this miniseries, but it’s at least one issue too long. All the plot development in this issue could have been included in issue 5 instead.

WONDER WOMAN #1 (DC, 2016) – Greg Rucka [W], Liam Sharp [A]. I hated Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1, but this issue was a major improvement, and it reminds me a lot of Greg Rucka’s previous Wonder Woman run. I assumed that the commander at the start of the issue was Amanda Waller, and I was delighted to discover that she was Etta Candy. What an awesome way to reboot a character. The new Cheetah also looks pretty cool.

SUPERMAN #166 (DC, 1964) – Edmond Hamilton [W], Curt Swan [A]. “The Fantastic Story of Superman’s Sons!” is a classic Imaginary Story. Superman and his unidentified wife (who looks a lot like Lois) have two sons, Jor-El II and Kal-El II. Jor-El II has Superman’s powers but Kal-El II doesn’t, and he grows up with a terrible inferiority complex, which he eventually cures by saving his father’s life from a Phantom Zone villain. It’s a poignant story with an impressive epic scope, but it depicts Superman as kind of a crummy parent.

THE AUTHORITY #2 (DC, 1999) – Warren Ellis [W], Bryan Hitch [A]. I bought the first 12 issues of this series at Comic-Con several years ago, but I only ever read the first issue. This second issue is very well-drawn but the story didn’t make much of an impression on me.

I SAW IT #1 (Educomics, 1982) – Keiji Nakazawa [W/A]. Another comic I bought at Comic-Con several years ago but didn’t read. I decided to read it because I was reading Casey Brienza’s Manga in America, and she mentions that this comic was the first manga published in America, and its publisher, Leonard Rifas, was disappointed with its sales. I think one reason why is because this comic makes no attempt to explain what manga are or how to read them. It just throws the reader right in at the deep end. A reader encountering this comic in 1982, with no prior knowledge of manga, would probably have thought “WTF is this? Why is the art so simple? Why are there so many panels on each page?” Etc. Not to mention that this comic is full of Japanese cultural references that would have made little sense to Americans in 1982. Also, this is not exactly an entertaining comic book; it’s a bleak and depressing story of the bombing of Hiroshima. Even on an artistic level, it’s a weaker piece of work than Barefoot Gen, which is a much longer story on a similar topic. I Saw It only deals with the actual atomic bombing and its immediate aftermath, and does not explain the context that led up to the atomic bombing. It leaves itself open to the criticism that Nakazawa is trying to present the Japanese people as innocent victims, a criticism that was also leveled at Fumiyo Kouno’s Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms. In contrast, Barefoot Gen extensively depicts how the people of Hiroshima suffered not just from the bombing but also from the fascist and militarist policies of their own government, so it has a level of nuance that’s missing in I Saw It. Overall, I Saw It is an interesting historical artifact, but no wonder it was a commercial failure.

DNAGENTS SUPER SPECIAL #1 (Antarctic, 1994) – Mark Evanier [W], various [A]. This is another weird curiosity. But it doesn’t contain any significantly new DNAgents material – just a seven-page story that’s a heavily condensed retelling of the group’s origin, with that appears to have been lifted directly from the first issue or two of the original DNAgents series. There is also an essay by Mark Evanier, explaining what happened to the planned DNAgents TV show. In the essay, Evanier also suggests that this special issue was published as a “revival/preview for when we do [DNAgents] again,” but it’s been 22 years since this issue was published and there haven’t been any more DNAgents comics, so essentially this comic is a preview issue for a series that never happened. The only thing that makes this comic worthwhile is that it also contains a new Crossfire story by Evanier and Spiegle, which contains a brilliant twist ending. A psychotic Holocaust survivor tries to assassinate an actor who plays Nazi characters, thinking the actor is a Nazi. Crossfire is unable to prevent the assassin from getting to the actor… but the actor saves his life by rolling up his sleeve and revealing his own concentration camp tattoos. It’s a powerful moment that justifies the existence of this otherwise pointless comic.

THE AUTUMNLANDS #11 (DC, 2016) – Kurt Busiek [W], Benjamin Dewey [A]. Not a whole lot happens in this issue. The protagonists get attacked by some monster, and then they encounter some living statues that are tired of living and want to be killed. I notice that this series used to have 32 pages per issue, but now it’s down to 24 pages. I think this has resulted in a drop-off in quality, and it would be better if this series had 32 pages per issue again and came out less often.

JUGHEAD #7 (Archie, 2016) – Chip Zdarsky [W], Derek Charm [A]. I was hesitant to read this because it’s (I think) the first issue not drawn by Erica Henderson. But it was hilarious anyway. Archie and Jughead go camping, but their campsite turns out to be right next to the Reggie Mantle family reunion, and it turns out that Archie only agreed to go because there’s alslo a girls’ summer camp nearby. And then Archie and Jughead get lost in the woods. This issue also includes some very clever one-page gag strips by Harry Lucey, in which Jughead paints pictures that become real.

INVINCIBLE #15 (Image, 2004) – Robert Kirkman [W], Ryan Ottley [A]. This is the earliest issue of Invincible I have. At this point, I have a complete run from Invincible #23 to #109, but the issues earlier than #23 are the most expensive. This issue is somewhat similar to the Atlanta episode of Futurama. For convoluted reasons, Mark is supposed to marry the queen of Invincible’s version of Atlantis. It turns out that she looks like a fish, and also the wedding ceremony requires Mark to publicly copulate with her. Mark finds a clever way of avoiding the marriage and allowing the queen to marry the man (or fish) she really loves. It’s a cute and funny story, unlike some later issues of Invincible, as we will soon see. A subplot involves Mark’s mother becoming friends with SuperPatriot’s wife. It’s a bit surprising to see a character from another Image comic in the pages of Invincible – Savage Dragon does this all the time, but Invincible not so much.

USAGI YOJIMBO #155 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Stan Sakai [W/A]. Part one of “The Secret of the Hell Screen” is one of Stan’s best issues since the reboot. The scene where Usagi confronts the rude watchman is brilliant. Usagi is usually the very soul of politeness, but this scene indicates that even he has his breaking point, and that he’s terrifying when he’s angry. And like all the other Inspector Ishida stories, this story is an intriguing and creepy mystery. My one complaint is that the hell screen isn’t scary enough. We’re told that it’s terrifying and horrendous, but it sure doesn’t look that way to me.

FLASH GORDON #3 (Dynamite, 2014) – Jeff Parker [W], Evan “Doc” Shaner [A]. Another good issue, but I don’t have anything original to say about it. Flash has to fight in a gladiatorial arena against some people with animal heads, but he convinces some of them to fight alongside him against Ming.

ANGEL AND THE APE #5 (DC, 1969) – Bob Oksner [W/A]. I’ve had this comic for a long long time and I’ve never felt motivated to read it. I don’t now why not, because this is a beautifully drawn piece of absurdist humor. Bob Oksner was almost as good at drawing stunning women as Nick Cardy, and much better at doing sight gags. I don’t understand why this series has never been reprinted.

PHANTOM STRANGER #24 (DC, 1973) – Len Wein [W], Jim Aparo [A]. This is the first issue of Phantom Stranger that I’ve read. I have been neglecting this series unjustly, because this issue includes some beautiful Jim Aparo artwork. The story isn’t terrible either – it takes place during the carnival in Rio. This issue also includes a Spawn of Frankenstein backup story with Mike Kaluta artwork.

GRIZZLY SHARK #3 (Image, 2016) – Ryan Ottley [W/A]. An intentionally tasteless, disgusting piece of gross-out humor. This sort of thing is funny in small doses, but I’m glad this is the last issue.

DAREDEVIL #65 (Marvel, 1970) – Roy Thomas [W], Gene Colan [A]. Beautiful Gene Colan artwork is hampered by a boring and unoriginal story. While shooting a TV show, Karen Page is menaced by a villainous actor named Brother Brimstone, but Matt saves her life because he (i.e. Matt) has been stalking her.

THOR #197 (Marvel, 1972) – Gerry Conway [W], John Buscema [A]. I must have been feeling rather out of sorts this week, because I read a bunch of comic books that I didn’t particularly enjoy. I don’t have a whole lot of issues of Thor from between Jack Kirby’s departure and Roy Thomas’s late-‘70s run, and the reason why not is because this was a pretty bad period for Thor. Too many Thor comics from this era were just reruns of old Lee and Kirby stories. For example, this issue is a boring retread of the Mangog Saga.

DEVIL DINOSAUR #2 (Marvel, 1978) – Jack Kirby [W/A]. Another comic I didn’t enjoy as much as it may have deserved. The trouble with some of Kirby’s late works, including this one, is that it’s hard to tell one issue from another. Also, at this point Kirby’s artwork was no longer at its best. My favorite thing about this issue is the giant hairy spider that Devil Dinosaur fights.

SHOWCASE #99 (DC, 1978) – Paul Levitz [W], Joe Staton [A]. Finally, an actual good comic. Power Girl establishes her new Karen Starr identity, and saves Jay Garrick and Alan Scott from Brain Wave, a villain who looks almost exactly like Sivana. Karen is able to save the day because she’s become a computer expert thanks to a Themysciran “memory teacher” device, and therefore she’s able to use Brain Wave’s computer to fix the damage Brain Wave did. The curious thing about this story is that Paul Levitz doesn’t really explain what Power Girl did to Brain Wave’s computer, or how her computer knowledge allowed her to save the day. He didn’t need to explain, because back in 1978, computers were essentially magic.

ROCKET RACCOON AND GROOT #6 (Marvel, 2016) – Skottie Young [W], Brett Bean [A]. Rocket and Groot compete in a series of successively more bizarre games, but when they can’t decide who’s better, they decide to fight some aliens and see who can rack up more kills. This is kind of ultraviolent and disturbing, but of course Skottie Young handles it in a funny way. Overall this was an enjoyable issue.

DESCENDER #12 (Image, 2016) – Jeff Lemire [W], Dustin Nguyen [A]. This issue reveals the poignant origin of Tim-22. It turns out Tim-22 was supposed to be a companion to an old man, but the old man insisted he didn’t need any help, and forced Tim to stand in a closet for eight months. Then Tim was freed because of the robot revolution – the splash page of the giant robot destroying a city is one of the most powerful pages in this series yet. And he then had to kill a human child to save his own life. That’s a clear violation of the First and Third Laws of Robotics – a robot can’t protect its own existence by harming a human being – and yet it makes psychological sense. Tim-22 is still an awful, screwed-up villain, but now we understand why.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #29 (IDW, 2016) – Ted Anderson [W], Brenda Hickey [A]. The pairing of Rarity and Maud Pie makes perfect sense because on the one hand, they’re the two ponies who are interested in rocks, but on the other hand, they’re on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. Rarity is a histrionic drama queen, while Maud Pie is completely inexpressive. Anderson and Hickey do a good job of exploiting the humor value of this pairing, but I’m not sure I believe the notion that Maud does have feelings and is just shy about expressing them. Actually I’m fine with that; what bothers me is the idea that Maud wants to express herself more openly, but is somehow able to. Well, actually I may have misread; Maud does write in her diary that “I wish I could be more open about my feelings, like Rarity,” but she immediately adds “But that’s just not the kind of pony I am!” That sounds more believable. Maud does have feelings, she just prefers to keep them on the inside.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #6 (Image, 2016) – Skottie Young [W/A]. Gertrude’s reign as queen of Fairyland lasts less than an issue. Skottie is kind of apologetic in this in his author’s note, but he seems to have decided that the premise of Gert as queen was less interesting than he initially thought. So who knows where this series is going next. But I trust Skottie to come up with an interesting new narrative direction. This series is like Grizzly Shark in that it relies on tasteless gross-out humor, but unlike Grizzly Shark, its premise is deep enough to sustain an extended series. My favorite thing about this issue is Hup of the Buffle Truffs, a pink furry winged teddy bear who turns out to also be a savage killer, much like my cat.

BEOWULF #4 (1975) – Michael Uslan [W], Ricardo Villamonte [A]. This is a convoluted, confusing, overambitious story. Besides Beowulf, it also includes the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel and Dracula and a warrior woman in a bikini. It’s never clear how all these elements fit together, and Michael Uslan’s writing is full of pseudo-profound nonsense. But I kind of enjoyed this story anyway because of how weird it was. I’d rather have a comic that tries to do too much rather than not enough. Ricardo Villamonte’s artwork is uneven but has occasional flashes of brilliance, and this issue includes some funny Easter eggs, like a magic incarnation that reads “SIHT POTNANOC EESSTEL!”, which is easily decoded as “Let’s see Conan top this!”

New comics received on July 1. This was not an ideal day for new comics because I was scrambling to finish up a piece of academic writing. I should have finished it before I started reading comics.

THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #7 (DC, 2016) – Renae de Liz [W/A]. This was maybe my least favorite issue yet, but only because the quality of this series has been so uniformly high. This issue introduces Priscilla Rich, i.e. the original Cheetah. Also, we get some more information about the plot, and Zeus tries to get Diana to be his champion, but Diana correctly refuses, because it entails killing everyone in Patriarch’s World. I notice that in the panel where Diana says “home,” on the third page from the end, she looks like a little girl; I assume this is deliberate. In addition, we get some more characterization of Etta and Steve. I love how Etta seems to have no sense of embarrassment or self-consciousness – she’s not ashamed at all of being full-figured (not that she should be), and her reaction to Pam Smuthers’s attempts to humiliate her is to get angry. And Steve is adorable. I’m sorry there are only two more issues (I think), but Renae de Liz is an amazing writer/artist, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Ryan North [W], Erica Henderson [A]. A fantastic issue, though I was a bit too preoccupied to enjoy it to the fullest. After Ms. Marvel, USG is the best current Marvel or DC comic. In this issue, Squirrel Girl tries to gently rebuff Mole Man’s romantic advances, but he doesn’t take the hint and keeps trying to court her, even when Nancy gives him a well-deserved slap. And finally Mole Man decides to hold the entire world hostage unless Doreen goes on a date with him. This is very funny, and also relevant to real life, because this is exactly the way some men act when they get rejected by women. At Heroes Con, I asked Erica if she had read Jason Shiga’s Meanwhile, and she said that she’d never heard of it, and that as far as she knew, it was just a coincidence that Koi Boi’s last name is Shiga. I want to ask Ryan North the same question but I’ve never met him.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #16 (IDW, 2016) – Kelly Thompson [W], Sophie Campbell [A]. A fairly strong conclusion to the Dark Synergy story. Though I’m not sure what the fallout from this issue will be, or how Synergy is going to survive whatever Silica did to her – I’m not even sure I understand the relationship between Synergy and Silica. I also don’t know who the new characters on the last page are supposed to be. But Kimber and Stormer’s kiss on the lsat page is nice. My favorite part of the issue is the profile of Pizzazz’s cat, Madmartigan, especially the statement that her favorite possession is Pizzazz.

SPIDER-GWEN ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Latour [W], various [A]. I didn’t like this issue on my first reading, but I suspect that it’s actually an amazingly good comic and that I was just too tired to appreciate it. I need to read it again. The Donald Trump/Modok character is an amazing visual image which has understandably gone viral. After writing the previous part of this review, I sat down and read this comic again, and I enjoyed it a lot more than I did the first time around. On the first reading, I didn’t even realize that Baron Blood was supposed to be Prince. And I completely forgot about the villain who turns koalas into drop bears.

BLACK PANTHER #3 (Marvel, 2016) – Ta-Nehisi Coates [W], Brian Stelfreeze [A]. I forgot to order the first two issues of this series, and still haven’t read them. Therefore, this issue didn’t make sense to me at all. I do love the quotation from Henry Dumas, a writer I’m not familiar with at all.

USAGI YOJIMBO #8 (Mirage, 1994) – Stan Sakai [W/A]. An excellent issue. “Blood Money” is a sequel to “The Duel” from #26 of the Fantagraphics series, which I have not read. In that story, Usagi killed a professional duelist named Shubo, who was partnered with a gambler named… actually this character doesn’t seem to have a name. In this story, Usagi encounters the gambler and his new partner Kedamono. Meanwhile, Shubo’s widow, Kuniyo, also recognizes the gambler (but not Usagi, for some reason). Kedamono forces Usagi to fight him, mistaking Usagi’s politeness for weakness, and Usagi kills him, while Kuniyo poisons the gambler and takes his money. So both villains get their comeuppance, but neither Usagi nor Kuniyo ever learns the other’s identity, and only the reader understands the full picture. A weird thing about this story is that Usagi saves the day without really doing anything proactive; all he does is fight the duel with Kedamono, and he only does that because Kedamono demands it. This issue also includes a backup story in which a young Usagi meets Lord Mifune for the first time, while trying to return a sword that he stole from a dead samurai. In the panel where Lord Mifune appears, I initially thought he was the ghost of the dead samurai, and I assume I was supposed to think that. (N.B.: After writing this review, I discovered I already had a copy of this issue.)

UNCANNY X-MEN #112 (Marvel, 1978) – Chris Claremont [W], John Byrne [A]. This was the other Claremont/Byrne X-Men that I got at Heroes Con. It’s part two of the New X-Men’s second encounter with Magneto. I’ve only read this story once or twice, and so there was a lot here that was unfamiliar to me. The issue is mostly a big fight scene, but with gorgeous artwork, and it’s an interesting fight scene because of what it indicates about the New X-Men – in short, they get their asses kicked because they fight Magneto one at a time instead of working together.

ARCHIE #9 (Archie, 2016) – Mark Waid [W], Veronica Fish [A]. I keep saying that this series isn’t as good as Jughead, but I liked this issue a lot. Veronica moves in with Archie’s parents, but it turns out that because she’s always had servants, she’s incapable of doing simple things like shopping for groceries. The grocery store scene ought to be implausible, but Mark Waid somehow makes me believe it. There are also some cute scenes that suggest that Archie and Betty’s relationship is not over.

TALES OF SUSPENSE #73 (Marvel, 1965) – Stan Lee [W], Gene Colan [A] on first story; Stan Lee [W], Jack Kirby & George Tuska [A] on second story. This is an impressive Silver Age Marvel comic, though neither of the stories is an absolute classic. In the Iron Man story, Tony tries to save Happy Hogan from the Black Knight; in the Captain America story, Cap battles the Red Skull’s three Sleepers.

AW YEAH COMICS! ACTION CAT & ADVENTURE BUG #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Art Baltazar [W/A], Franco [W]. This is an enjoyable read, but the trouble with Baltazar and Franco’s comics – at least for an adult reader – is that once you’ve read one of them, you’ve read them all. Nothing in this issue particularly stood out to me.

NEW ROMANCER #4 (Vertigo, 2016) – Peter Milligan [W], Brett Parson [A]. As often happens with miniseries, I got a few issues behind on New Romancer, and then once I had all the issues, I didn’t feel any urgency about reading them. That’s unfortunate because this really is a well-written and intelligent comic. Like most Peter Milligan comics, it’s seriously weird and confusing, but Milligan has clearly done a lot of research on Byron, and he understands both the appealing and the repulsive aspects of Byron’s character. I need to read the next two issues sooner or later. Memorable scenes in this issue include Byron’s reunion with Ada, the daughter he abandoned, and his line “I was drunker than Lord Elgin when I wrote that.”

FLAMING CARROT COMICS #2 (Image, 2005) – Bob Burden [W/A]. Yet another quality comic that I’ve never paid much attention to. This comic has the same absurdist sense of humor as Reid Fleming, though with worse art. The plot involves two women fighting over the Flaming Carrot, and some pygmies building a giant ear out of bread. I won’t be in a hurry to get more of these, but I will pick them up if I see them in a cheap box.

STRANGE SPORTS STORIES #3 (Vertigo, 2015) – various [W/A]. The most disturbing and therefore most memorable story this issue is Ben McCool and Darick Robertson’s “Leap of Glory,” about a football game where players can sacrifice their lives to give their team a bunch of points. Inevitably, the game ends with all the players, coaches, spectators, and announcers sacrificing themselves. This is disgusting, and yet surprisingly plausible given the culture of U.S. sports. I also like CM Punk and Andy MacDonald’s “The Most Cursed,” which is a barely fictionalized tribute to the Chicago Cubs. Brandon Montclare and Natacha Bustos’s “Going Nowhere” is about sumo, and it seems very well-researched – the costumes and scenery in the story look very similar to photos and videos I’ve seen of actual sumo. Which is cool because they could have gotten away with not doing the research, and very few people would have noticed. However, this story has a vapid plot. The last story in the issue (actually the first in order) has nice art by Michael J. DiMotta, but I didn’t remember what it was about until I looked at the issue again.

CONAN THE CIMMERIAN #18 (Dark Horse, 2010) – Tim Truman [W], Tim Truman and Tomas Giorello [A]. I lost interest in Dark Horse’s Conan after Kurt Busiek’s run ended, and I only bought this issue because it was cheap. Part 3 of “The Free Companions” is a sequel to “Black Colossus.” Reading this story was a weird experience for me because I’m intimately familiar with Roy Thomas’s version of “Black Colossus.” His adaptation of this story in Conan #249 was the first Conan comic I ever read. Tim Truman’s sequel goes in a different direction from Thomas’s sequel, in Conan #250 and the following issues, and it was hard for me not to think that Truman was somehow getting the facts wrong. Most of the art in this story is by Truman himself, and it’s not his best; I feel like he’s declined since his peak in the ‘80s.

JSA #24 (DC, 2001) – David Goyer & Geoff Johns [W], Stephen Sadowski [A]. I reference my previous comments about this series. It’s ironic that when this series was coming out, people were praising David Goyer and Geoff Johns for their imaginative reinvention of the DC Universe, and now both Goyer and Johns have been complicit in running DC into the ground. “The Return of Hawkman” is an exciting and epic story that got a lot of praise at the time. What does annoy me about it is the male JSAers’ gaslighting of Kendra Saunders. There’s one scene where Jay tells Kendra to calm down, and Carter Hall literally says “It’s okay, Jay. You know how she can get a temper sometimes” – as if she wasn’t even there. I also have issue 25 and I’ll get to it sometime soon.

PLUTONA #5 (Image, 2016) – Jeff Lemire [W], Emi Lenox [A]. I’m a bit surprised that this is the last issue. The plot twist here is that, first, Plutona’s not dead; she wakes up and flies away. Second, when Teddy realizes that he didn’t get super powers by injecting himself with Plutona’s blood, he goes nuts and threatens the other kids with a knife. And then Diane whacks him with a stick, perhaps fatally. And the story ends with Mie’s little brother lying awake in bed, horrified. This is an inconclusive ending, but that’s on purpose; we’re meant to assume that the kids’ encounter with Plutona has marked them permanently. In essence, this was a horror comic, only we didn’t realize it until the end. Overall, this was a somewhat subtle and low-key work, and I see why some reviewers are disappointed with it, but I think Lemire and Lenox effectively achieved what they were trying to do.

X-MEN: WORST X-MAN EVER #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Max Bemis [W], Michael Walsh [A]. Curiously, this issue begins in the future, when Lord Riches rules the entire world and Bailey is a ne’er-do-well loser. It turns out this is an alternate future, and Miranda shows up to put the universe back on the right track. It also turns out that Miranda has been doing this since the 1960s, and it’s because of her that Marvel’s heroes never get older, Nick Fury became a black man, Bucky came back to life, etc. In other words, Miranda is singlehandedly responsible for every continuity error and retcon in the history of Marvel comics. This is impossible to accept at face value, but it’s funny. At the end of the issue, Bailey uses his one-shot power to blow himself up and kill Lord Riches, and the issue ends with a letter from editor Jordan White to Max Bemis, suggesting that it’s not the right time for Bemis’s proposed story about Bailey and that maybe this character can be revisited later. So I guess we’re supposed to assume that Miranda changed our universe so that the X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever miniseries was never published. Weird. Overall, this was a strange and not entirely successful miniseries, but I’m not sorry I read it, though I am perhaps sorry I paid full price for it.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #43 (IDW, 2016) – Thom Zahler [W], Tony Fleecs [A]. This issue begins with the Mane Six returning from an unspecified adventure in the kingdom of Abyssinia. I wonder if Thom knows that Abyssinia used to be the name of a real country. And then the ponies drink from a mysterious hot spring that causes them all to turn evil. I have sometimes wondered which of the Mane Six has the greatest potential to turn into a supervillain, and my answer was Rarity, and indeed, in this issue Rarity declares herself the empress of Ponyville (and also puts on a mask because, like Dr. Doom, she can’t stand to have anyone see that she’s not absolutely perfect). But Twilight Sparkle also declares herself the queen, while Rainbow Dash causes constant sonic rainbooms, and Applejack becomes a slavedriving real estate tycoon. And we’ve barely even seen Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie yet. This story will be continued next issue, and I’m looking forward to it.

INCREDIBLE HULK #108 (Marvel, 1968) – Stan Lee [W], Herb Trimpe [A]. Very nice artwork by the Trimpe/Severin team, but a somewhat unimpressive story in which the Hulk, Nick Fury and a Soviet colonel battle the Mandarin. The Mandarin had the potential to be a truly formidable villain, with his ten different superpowers and his massive resources, but he was hampered by being both a blatant stereotype and a relic of the Cold War.

NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. #5 (Marvel, 1968) – Jim Steranko [W/A]. “Whatever Happened to Scorpio?” is Steranko’s last Nick Fury story, and one of his best. The photo colllage on page 4 is maybe the most striking thing in it, but nearly every page of this comic is a masterpiece. Steranko’s achievement is all the more amazing considering that his active career only lasted five years (1966-1970). His body of work was tiny but was so innovative and so ahead of his time that even today, it still looks radical. Maybe the reason for Steranko’s reputation is because his career was so short – unlike Neal Adams, he didn’t keep doing comics long enough to become a parody of himself.

SWEETNESS #1 (Z2, 2016) – Miss Lasko-Gross [W], Kevin Colden [A]. I only ordered this because I recognized the name Miss Lasko-Gross, and when it arrived, I didn’t expect much from it and I even regretted ordering it. Z2’s output has been kind of underwhelming. But it turns out this is actually a good comic. It’s a science fiction story about space smugglers, and what makes it interesting is the intelligent writing. The plot is intriguing and the dialogue is really good. Based on this, I want to keep reading this comic. However, Kevin Colden’s artwork reminds me uncomfortably of Mike McKone’s artwork, which I strongly dislike for reasons I can’t explain.

HILLBILLY #1 (Albatross, 2016) – Eric Powell [W/A]. I maybe shouldn’t have ordered this because I’m not a big Eric Powell fan – The Goon is one of those comics where the joke is funny for a while, but gets old quickly. But again, this comic was surprisingly good. It has excellent artwork that makes effective use of graytones, the dialogue is written in a distinctive voice, and it has an intelligent plot that seems to be based on Appalachian folklore. This is another comic I want to read more of.

HEAD LOPPER #4 (Image, 2016) – Andrew MacLean [W/A]. This came out a few weeks ago but I didn’t read it immediately because of its length. This issue, Head Lopper fights an epic battle with Lulach and Barra, and of course he wins, in epic fashon. The two-page splash with Head Lopper facing off against the three-headed serpent is a stunning piece of work. There are also some touching and funny moments here, like the late king’s last visit with his pregnant queen, and Head Lopper apologizing to the dead guy for cutting his head off. I’m glad that there’s more Head Lopper material coming, because Andrew MacLean is seriously good.

BITCH PLANET #8 (Image, 2016) – Kelly Sue DeConnick [W], Valentine De Landro [A]. I finally got to meet Kelly and Matt at Heroes Con, though only very briefly, and I only had time to tell them how much I enjoy their work. For the first time in this series, this issue shows us how transgender women are treated in Bitch Planet’s world (obvious spoiler: not well). And Meiko Maki’s dad realizes his daughter is dead, which is a major plot point. Also, I’m not entirely sure who Eleanor Doane is, but she appears on the last page. It may be a while before Bitch Planet #9 comes out, but I look forward to it. The back matter in this comic continues to be excellent, and at least as powerful and effective as the actual comic. This issue includes an essay by my fellow comics scholar John Jennings.

DEPT. H #3 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Matt Kindt [W/A]. At Heroes Con, I told Sharlene Kindt that she deserves an Eisner nomination for her coloring, and she may well get one, because Dept. H has not been eligible yet. This latest issue is exciting but sort of leaves the reader hanging. Raj gets trapped in the ocean, but when Mia goes to rescue him, she’s prevented from doing so because of a bunch of other crises. And then when those crises are resolved, Mia goes to bed instead of making another rescue attempt, and Raj is not mentioned again. So there’s a massive dangling plot thread here.

THE MIGHTY THOR #8 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], Russell Dauterman [A]. This series is finally back on track after two bad filler issues, although not a whole lot has changed since the first issue. Jane Foster is still Thor and she’s still dying of cancer because her superhero adventures are interfering with her treatment. But despite the lack of progress, this was an exciting issue. I love the idea that there’s a secret organization of all of Marvel’s capitalist supervillains. Frr’dox is a new character but all the other members of this group are preexisting characters, though a couple of them were created by Jason Aaron previously.

DOCTOR STRANGE #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], Chris Bachalo [A]. I love the cover of this issue, with a giant eye looking out of a well. This is the next-to-last chapter of Last Days of Magic, and that’s good, because this story has gone on too long. Notable occurrences in this issue are that, first, we see Zelma Stanton again, and second, Doctor Strange finally finds out about Wong’s ethically questionable secret-disciple operation.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #30 (IDW, 2016) – Christina Rice [W], Agnes Garbowska [A]. Like MLP: FIM #38 and #39, this issue suffers from being out of sync with the TV show. The featured characters are Twilight Sparkle and Princess Cadance, but Cadance is not a mother yet, and there’s no mention of her pregnancy. (Which is odd because “The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows” was the episode right after “Crusaders of the Lost Mark,” and the latter episode has already been mentioned in the comics.) Also, the story in this issue is annoying. Cadance is depressed because she’s less popular than Twilight, Luna or Celestia and everyone sees her as just “the pretty princess.” This is a fine premise, but the way it’s resolved is that Twilight tells Cadance she inspires people because she’s “kind, thoughtful, accessible, and accepting” and “full of love and light.” The trouble is, that could be a description of Snow White or Barbie or a million other sexist characters. (Not that Snow White and Barbie are necessarily sexist, but bear with me for the sake of argument.) The message here is that Cadance is admired because of traits which are passive and stereotypically feminine, and not because of anything she does. I agree that Cadance is an overshadowed and underused character, but if Christina Rice wanted to rehabilitate her, she could have found a better way to do it.

WONDER WOMAN #55 (DC, 1991) – George Pérez [W], Jill Thompson [A]. An excellent late Pérez issue. Dr. Psycho is Wonder Woman’s most disgusting and disturbing villain, and in this issue he nearly succeeds in driving Diana, Julia and Vanessa away from each other, while he apparently does succeed in killing a pregnant woman. This is a really powerful issue, and the artwork is great, even if Jill Thompson’s line-drawn art is less spectacular than her painted art.

UNCANNY X-MEN #240 (Marvel, 1988) – Chris Claremont [W], Marc Silvestri [A]. I’ve read lots of Inferno crossovers, but I’ve never read the core Inferno story, and somehow I got the impression that it was not good. But this issue is a pretty good X-Men story. It’s full of characterization and creepy foreboding, and it even includes some direct quotations from X-Men #175. I wonder how N’astirh is pronounced and where Claremont came up with that name.

INVINCIBLE #112 (Image, 2014) – Robert Kirkman [W], Ryan Ottley [A]. This is the issue where Robot murders half the cast of the series. I deliberately skipped this issue when it came out, but I bought it at NYCC because it was cheap, and I finally decided to read it because I was having a discussion on Facebook about why I had stopped reading Invincible. As I expected, this issue is disgusting, tasteless and offensive, and if I had read it when it came out, I probably would have dropped the series right there. Robert Kirkman is free to take this comic in whatever direction he wants, but I really feel like he’s run out of ideas and he’s just doing stuff for shock value. I think it’s probably best to pretend that Invincible ended with issue 100.

UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #2 (Marvel, 2016) – Christopher Hastings [W], Gurihiru [A]. When I read issue 1, I didn’t understand the premise, but now I get it. Gwenpool is a Marvel fan from the real world who has somehow gotten into the Marvel Universe, and as a result, she knows all the heroes’ secret identities and stuff. She tries to use that knowledge to become a superhero, but inadvertently becomes a villain instead. There’s an awesome moment in this issue where Gwenpool addresses Thor as Jane. Later in the issue, she comments “I’m in comic book world. I got a costume. Someone’s reading this…”

UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #3 (Marvel, 2016) – as above. This issue’s cover is a cute homage to My Neighbor Totoro. This issue is very similar to the previous issue. The best moment this time around is when Gwenpool tells Batroc that his name is derived from “batrachian,” i.e. frog, because he’s French. I never knew that.

INVINCIBLE #16 (Image, 2004) – Robert Kirkman [W], Ryan Ottley [A]. After a bad Invincible comic, a good one. Back in 2004, Invincible was perhaps the best superhero comic there was, and I’m sorry that it’s jumped the shark so badly. This issue introduces Angstrom Levy, and now I finally understand who he is: he’s a villain whose power is the ability to contact his alternate selves. This issue includes a one-page strip by a pre-professional Jason Latour, who ironically is now a much better writer than Kirkman.