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August reviews

8-20-20

A comic I read earlier, but forgot to review:

JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE #7 (DC, 1989) – “Teasdale Unbound!”, [W] Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Bart Sears. The JLA and JLE team up against a bunch of ordinary people who have turned into vampires. There’s a subplot about the Spectre and the Gray Man. This issue is not bad. The Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League is remembered as a humor title, but people forget that it was often extremely serious.

2000 AD #183 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: “The Schiklgruber Grab Part 2,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny, Wulf and Gronk are sent to Berlin in 1945 to collect Hitler so he can be punished. Mean Arena – untitled, [W] Tom Tully, [A] John Richardson. Matt Tallon proves he’s not a robot, then scores a goal for the Slayers. At this point we still don’t know what Matt’s motivation is. Dredd – “Aggro Dome,” [W] Alan Grant & Kelvin Gosnell, [A] Mike McMahon. An “aggro dome” is created so that the angry people of Mega-City One will have someplace to work off their frustrations. It goes about as well as you’d expect. This story reminds me of “Get It Out of Your System Land” from Mad Magazine #141. Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tale: “Tomorrow Brings Doom,” [W] G.P. Rice, [A] Dave Gibbons. A mad scientist accidentally creates a time loop that destroys the Earth. Meltdown Man: untitled, [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Nick Stone and his companions survive a dam breach.

LITTLE LULU #85 (Dell, 1955) – all stories [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. This issue has one of the best Little Lulu covers I’ve seen; it’s a really cute image of Lulu and Annie dancing in the rain. “Water Everywhere” – Lulu and Alvin go to the beach and cause a lot of mayhem. “The Raffle” – the fellers raffle off Tubby, and Lulu buys him. Quite a funny premise.  “The Spider and the Broken Window” – Tubby breaks Mr. Moppet’s window, then, as the Spider, he fools Mr. Moppet into taking the blame for it. Untitled story – Lulu discovers a potato that looks like Tubby. “Baby-Sits for Little Itch” –  Lulu tells Alvin a story in which the Poor Little Girl babysits for Witch Hazel’s niece. “Mohair” – Tubby walks a “dog’ that’s actually just a pile of hair. This story has some funny plot twists.

STAR SLAMMERS #4 (Malibu, 1995) – “The Minoan Agendas Chapter Four: The Ship,” [W/A] Walt Simonson. A bunch of Star Slammers try to fight their way out of a Minoan Empire spaceship. As usual, Simonson’s artwork in this issue is incredible. I think the issue after this one is the only Star Slammers story I haven’t read.

THE THING #6 (Marvel, 1983) – “Mindscape,” [W] John Byrne, [A] Ron Wilson. Ben fights the Puppet Master inside his (i.e. Ben’s) own mind. Most of this issue takes place against a solid  black backdrop with no backgrounds. I would accuse John of laziness for this, except that he didn’t draw this issue himself.

POWER MAN & IRON FIST #110 (Marvel, 1984) – “O Deadly Debutante!”, [W] Tony Isabella, [A] Greg LaRocque. Luke and Danny are hired to escort a young lady at her debutante ball, but the party is crashed by Doctor Nightshade and a bunch of other villains. This issue is funnier than I expected.

DAREDEVIL #17 (Marvel, 1966) – “None Are So Blind!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. Daredevil and Spider-Man are both chasing the Masked Marauder, and after initially fighting, they team up to fight the Marauder and prove that he’s not Spider-Man’s partner. The earliest issues of Daredevil were hampered by poor characterization, but this issue is better than usual because it’s a Spider-Man story drawn by Romita.

LASSIE #49 (Dell, 1960) – “The Fugitive” and “The Lost Plane,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Bob Fujitani. I’m glad that Gaylord Du Bois finally got a posthumous Bill Finger Award. He was obviously no Alan Moore, but he was a very solid writer. In this issue’s first main story, Lassie and Timmy save a doe from some dogs. In the second story, Timmy goes on a hike with a less outdoorsy friend, Fred, and they discover a crashed plane. While trying to help the plane’s injured pilot, the boys get caught in a rainstorm, but they manage to survive until help arrives. This is quite an exciting adventure story.

THE INVISIBLES #8 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Arcadia Part 4: H.E.A.D.,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Jill Thompson. The Marquis de Sade is introduced to 20th-century sexual mores. Lord Fanny summons Aztec gods to defeat Orlando. Ragged Robin explores the secret of the Templars. I have the next few issues after this, but I don’t know where in my boxes they are.

M.A.R.S. PATROL TOTAL WAR #8 (Gold Key, 1969) – “Tomorrow is Doomsday,” [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Mike Roy. The MARS agents repel an alien invasion of Earth. This issue is even worse than #2 because of the lack of Wally Wood art. MARS Patrol reminds me somewhat of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, but the latter series had much better dialogue and characterization.

ALL-NEW X-FACTOR #4 (Marvel, 2014) – “You have one and only one chance to surrender,” [W] Peter David, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. The X-Factor agents fight Danger, who’s gone insane. This issue is mostly a long fight scene, but after reading it, I wanted to read more of this X-Factor run.

I bought some old British girls’ comics from my Facebook friend, the cartoonist David Roach. The comics in the lot were mostly from the ‘70s, and there were five different titles included: Bunty, Emma, June, Mandy and Debbie. When I started reading these comics, they tended to blur together. It was only later that I was able to notice differences between them.

DEBBIE #33 (DC Thomson, 1973) – I won’t list credits or story titles for any of these girls’ comics, because they all consist of many short stories, none of them credited. Debbie is unusual in that the covers mostly don’t illustrate the stories; instead, for example, this issue’s cover advertises “4 Free Pop Star Transfers” and has headshots of  Gary Glitter, David Cassidy, Jimmy Osmond and Michael Jackson. All these stories have teenage girl protagonists, most of whom are either aspiring ballerinas, gymnasts, etc., or else are suffering from some kind of cruel oppression. Stories in this issue include: “Graceful Gloria,” about a failed ballerina who becomes a gymnast; “Marsala of the Mists,” about a mystery Welsh girl; “Nobody Loves Nancy,” about an amnesiac girl’s search for her parents; “”Million-Pound Mutt,” in which a girl’s dog inherits a fortune; “The Lonely Ballerina,” about an orphaned aspiring ballerina who’s oppressed by her aunt; “Millie – Maid of Metal!”, about a robot domestic servant; etc. All these stories have four tiers of panels and are drawn in a conventional, anonymous style. There are also a few humor stories in a Dandy- or Beano-esque style.

MANDY #320 (DC Thomson, 1973) – This issue’s front and back covers are a separate comic strip. Stories in this issue include: “The Farmer Wants a Wife” – two girls try to find a wife for their widowed father. “A Girl Called Bright Star” – a Chinese table tennis player is smuggled into England to train an English girl. This story is unusual in having a sympathetic POC protagonist, though it includes a lot of Chinese cliches. “Maggie Malone” – a poor girl tries to become a singer despite her cruel, oppressive guardians. ”Charley Boy!” – a girl has to go to a girls’ boarding school with her little brother.  “The Junkyard Jumper” – a poor girl aspires to become a champion show jumper. “She Shall Have Music” – a girl travels back in time by means of a magic trumpet, and meets Mozart as a child. “The Courage of Kathy” – a poor girl is abandoned by her father during the Klondike gold rush. Overall this comic is very similar to the previous one, though it lacks the humor strips (it has a prose story instead) and its content is maybe a bit darker.

JUDY #1003 (DC Thomson, 1979) – This is six years newer than the other two, but still has very conventional draftsmanship and page layouts. “School for the Expelled” –  due to false accusations, a girl is sent to a school for pupils who’ve been thrown out of other schools. These comics include a lot of boarding school stories. I don’t know what proportion of English children attended boarding school in the ‘70s, but it must have been higher than in America. These comics seem to assume that going to boarding school is a universally relatable experience. Anyway: “Tiny Tessa” – a girl is shrunk to tiny size and pretends to be a doll. “The Taming of the Honourable Angelina” – an upper-class girl has to work on a farm. Another constant reality in these comics is England’s rigid class system. “Forgotten Dreams” – another amnesia story. “Wee Slavey” – another story about a poor oppressed girl. “Cat Conway” – a gymnast becomes a cat burglar.

BUNTY #1092 (DC Thomson, 1978) – This issue has cut-out paper dolls on its back cover. Paper dolls were also a common feature of American girls’ comics. “Little Miss Dynamite” – another table tennis story with Chinese characters, though the protagonist is English. “The Taming of Teresa” – about a girl raised by wolves. “The Impossible Pair” – a lower-class girl befriends an upper-class girl. “The Queen Who Wasn’t” – a Ruritanian romance story. “The Four Marys” – starring four classmates all named Mary. This strip appeared in every issue of Bunty. Its title must have been a reference to Mary, Queen of Scots’s four servants named Mary. “The Wandering Starrs” – about English girls in the American Wild West. “Maid to Be a Lady” – a poor servant girl doesn’t realize she’s the daughter of a lord. “Myra Gold, Budding Ballerina” – another ballerina story. I wonder if DC Thomson made any attempt to build a distinct identity for their girls’ comics. On a cursory reading, these four comics all seem very similar.

KONA #15 (Dell, 1965) – “The Cunning Invaders,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Sam Glanzman. Some criminals trick Kona into taking them to Monster Isle, and then they seize control of the island. Until I looked it up, I didn’t realize that this issue was written by Paul S. Newman instead of the mystery Kona writer – either Don Segall or, less plausibly, Lionel Ziprin. That explains why Kona #15 is much more conventional than earlier issues.

DETECTIVE COMICS #619 (DC, 1990) – “Rite of Passage Part Two: Beyond Belief!”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. This is part two of the story where Tim Drake’s mother is murdered by the Obeah Man. It’s kind of excruciating to watch Tim agonizing over his parents’ fate, especially since I know the tragedy that lies ahead. On the other hand, this story depicts Tim’s parents as innocent victims of a cruel villain, when my natural sympathies are in the other direction. Tim’s dad is a rich white corporate boss, while the Obeah Man is a rebel from a desperately poor postcolonial country. But Alan Grant shows no sympathy for the Obeah Man’s perspective.

NEW MUTANTS #67 (Marvel, 1988) – “The Promise,” [W] Louise Simonson, [A] Bret Blevins. Sam gets Magneto’s permission to go to New York City for a Lila Cheney concert, on the condition that he can’t use his powers. Of course the concert is invaded by a giant spider alien, and Sam’s teammates have to bail him out. This issue is also the first time the New Mutants meet Gosamyr. This issue has some cute scenes, but Sam and Lila’s romance is just as problematic as Peter and Kitty’s romance. The former seems more acceptable than the latter only because the genders are reversed.

LITTLE LULU #80 (Dell, 1955) – credits as above. “The Valentine” – Lulu tries to find out who sent her a mean Valentine card. It turns out Alvin sent it, and he didn’t know it was mean because he can’t read. “The Trap” – the girls have a snowball fight with the boys. “A Good Skate” – Mr. McNabbem mistakenly thinks Lulu is playing hooky in order to go ice skating. The Mr. McNabbem stories seem to be the only ones that depict Lulu attending school. In my review of #68, I mistakenly said she never goes to school – the McNabbem stories are the exception to that. “Girl Magician” – Lulu pretends a stick is a magic wand. “Ol’ Witch Hazel and the Birthday Party” – Witch Hazel holds a birthday party for Little Itch. “The Accident” – Wilbur breaks Gloria’s dad’s tobacco jar, and Gloria tries to frame Tubby for it, but instead Tubby breaks everything except the jar.

2000 AD #184 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: as above. Hitler plans to escape while a lookalike commits suicide in his place, but Johnny and Wulf catch him first. Meanwhile, another bounty hunter is also searching for Hitler. Mean Arena: as above. Matt finds that his deceased teammate Paul Simpson was cleared to play by a corrupt doctor. Matt gets ready to tell his origin story. Dredd: “Monkey Business at the Charles Darwin Block,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Mike McMahon. The inhabitants of an apartment block de-evolve into apes. Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tales: “Night of the Werebot,” [W] G.P. Rice, [A] Dave Gibbons. A twist-ending werewolf story. As far as I know, all of G.P. (Gary) Rice’s 2000 AD stories were one-shots. Meltdown Man: as above. Some moles lead Stone and his companions to Kinita.

SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON LOST IN SPACE #22 (Gold Key, 1967) – “Operation Time-Shift,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. With help from some blue-skinned aliens, the Robinsons manage to get back to Earth’s solar system, but they arrive in prehistoric times. So now they’re lost in time, not space. This issue is competently done, but not thrilling.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’92 #44 (DC, 1992) – “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” [W] Barry Kitson, [A] Rod Ramos. The LEGION tries to save the planet of Arga-Prime from both a deadly virus and its own racial divisions. Also there are a bunch of subplots, and Hal Jordan makes a cameo appearance. This issue has excellent characterization, as usual in this series, but Rod Ramos’s artwork in this issue is unimpressive.

BUNTY #741 (DC Thomson, 1972) – This is significantly older than the other Bunty I read, so all the stories are different, except The Four Marys. “Farah from Afar” – a pretty racist story about an Asian princess attending a British girls’ school. “Penny the Peacemaker” – a girl tries to reconcile her separated parents. The dad in this story is a sexist ass who left his actress wife because he believed women shouldn’t work. “The Fantastic Fosters” – two sisters get superpowers from a mysterious monk. “Blabberbeak” – a girl’s pet parrot knows some uncomfortable secrets.

DAREDEVIL #218 (Marvel, 1985) – “All My Laurels You Have Riven Away…”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Sal Buscema. Matt’s girlfriend Gloriana leaves town, and Matt fights the Jester, who has disguised himself as the lead actor in Cyrano de Bergerac. In a touching conclusion, Matt lets the Jester finish his performance before arresting him. This ending goes some way toward redeeming this rather mediocre issue.

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #20 (DC, 2017) – “Space Case,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Dario Brizuela. The Scooby Gang team up with Space Ghost and his sidekicks against Zorak and Moltar. As usual this issue is very fun, though insubstantial. On the last page there’s a funny inside joke about the Space Ghost Coast to Coast TV show.

DETECTIVE COMICS #841 (DC, 2008) – “The Wonderland Gang!”, [W] Paul Dini, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Batman fights the Mad Hatter and his newly formed Wonderland Gang. It turns out that the real mastermind behind the gang is not the Mad Hatter but his subordinates Tweedledee and Tweedledum. The other five members of the gang appear for the first time in this issue. The most interesting of these characters is the Carpenter, a woman who commits crimes with power tools.

SHADOWS ON THE GRAVE #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “Strung Along” etc., [W/A] Richard Corben. This issue’s four short stories are about a crazy puppeteer; a man who turns into a tree; an abused wife who turns her husband into a zombie; and a distant relative of Den. All these stories are in black and white, but Corben’s linework and his airbrush technique are just as impressive in grayscale as in color.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #159 (DC, 1978) – “Crisis from Yesterday!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Dick Dillin. A JLA-JSA crossover in which the third “team” consists of five heroes from earlier eras, such as Jonah Hex and Enemy Ace. The villain is the Lord of Time. This is a potentially interesting setup, but Conway’s writing is unexciting.

2000 AD #185 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: “The Schicklgruber Grab Part 4,” as above. The other bounty hunter, Stix, catches up with Johnny. Stix looks kind of like the Saint of Killers from Preacher. Mean Arena: as above. In a flashback, Tallon tells the story of his rivalry with Archie Sugrue. Dredd: as above. Dredd fights a bunch of apes, and meanwhile, the scientist who caused the de-evolutions is himself de-evolved into an amoeba. Return to Armageddon: untitled, [W] Malcolm Shaw, [A] Jesus Redondo. A spacecraft discovers a ship full of corpses that look like the devil. This story is somewhat difficult to follow even though it’s part one, and I wondered at first if it was a sequel to something else. However, Jesus Redondo’s art is excellent. Meltdown Man: as above. Stone finally meets Kinita, the spiritual leader of the Yujees, but then Leeshar finally tracks Stone down.

JUDY #762 (DC Thomson, 1974) – This comic’s front and back covers are a separate comic strip. Stories include: “Junior Nanny” – about a teenage daycare worker. “Tin Lizzie” – another robot maid story, like “Millie – Maid of Metal!” “The Vet on the Hill” – about a teenage aspiring veterinarian. “Slaves to the Moonstone” – some girls discover an enchanted artifact created by Merlin. “Tunnel to Freedom” – some schooolgirls try to escape from a German prison in 1939. “Backstage Betty” – another dancer story. This comic has somewhat more varied artwork than the last few British girls’ comics I’ve read, and overall it feels a bit higher quality. Although these girls’ comics are often quite formulaic, they have a pretty broad range of subject matter, and their stories are frequently both exciting and grim. In these respects, British girls’ comics contrast with American girls’ comics, which tended to focus exclusively on either humor or romantic dramas. I can’t think of any classic American girls’ comics about sports or dance, for example.

2000 AD #186 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and company escape into a future Earth that’s about to be wiped out by a comet. Mean Arena: as above. We continue the flashback story about Arthur Sugrue. Dredd: “Otto Sump’s Ugly Clinic,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. Otto Sump (who previously appeared in prog 132) starts a clinic thata deliberately makes people ugly. But someone else starts vandalizing Otto’s clinics. Return to Armageddon: as above. The crew of the ship argue about what to do with the cryogenically frozen Satan. Meltdown Man: Kinita fights Leeshar so Nick and his friends can escape.

DEBBIE #34 (DC Thomson, 1973) – Most of the stories in this issue are the same as in #33, but there’s also a new one about tennis. There’s another one where some girls beat some boys at water polo. From reading these comics we can get an idea of what sports and activities were considered appropriate for girls at the time. Some big ones apparently included gymnastics, ballet, figure skating, and horse racing – but not soccer, which was often depicted in boys’ comics.

FINALS #4 (DC, 1999) – “Pomp & Circumstance Beyond Our Control,” [W] Will Pfeifer, [A] Jill Thompson. Nancy is killed in a standoff with police, Dave gets shot while trying to rob a “townie” bar, but some of the other characters manage to survive to graduation. This issue is a bit of an anticlimax. Given that the plot involves a time machine, I expected that Nancy’s death would be reversed, but the time machine ends up as a Chekhov’s gun that never fires. But overall, this is a very funny miniseries.

UNCANNY X-MEN #403 (Marvel, 2002) – “Lurking,” [W] Joe Casey, [A] Aaron Lopresti. The X-Men fight Banshee’s X-Corps. I can barely remember anything about this comic. The only notable thing about it is a scene where Chamber, now a member of the senior X-Men team, meets some of his old Generation X teammates.

A1 #5 (Atomeka, 1991) – various stories, [E] Dave Elliott & Garry Leach. Stories in this issue include: Neil Gaiman and Kelley Jones’s “Cover Story” – a weird story about an alternate earth where Bettie Page is President. Peter Milligan and Brett Ewins’s adaptation of Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony.” Tor by Joe Kubert. Jeff Hawke by Sydney Jordan, Trevor Goring and Thayer Rich. This is based on a classic British comic strip, but is very different in style and format from the original. Knuckles the Malevolent Nun by Cornelius Stone and Roger Langridge. “Party Piece” by Ilya (Ed Hillyer). I don’t recall seeing any of Ilya’s solo work before, and “Party Piece” is an entertaining story about sexual intrigue at a house party. An EC-esque adventure story by Bruce Jones and Jim Sullivan, with beautiful inks by William Stout. Eddie Campbell’s adaptation of a short horror story by Ramsey Campbell, about a house that can be seen through a window, but isn’t really there. Other contributors include Glenn Fabry, Jeff Jones, Shaky Kane and Steve Dillon. Overall, A1 was one of the best anthology titles of its time. Each issue offered a ton of impressive work by top-tier British and American creators.

LITTLE LULU #71 (Dell, 1954) – “Tubby’s Tonic” – Tubby invents a tonic that will help catch bald criminals, starting with Lulu’s dad. “A Handy Kid” – Lulu babysits Chubby, who gets his hand stuck in a tree. “The Animal Trainer” – Lulu tells Alvin a story in which the Poor Little Girl becomes a lion tamer. This is another Poor Little Girl story in which Ol’ Witch Hazel does not appear. ‘The Little Men” – Tubby makes Gloria’s dad think his house has been invaded by tiny aliens. In a twist ending, we learn that there really are tiny aliens in Gloria’s house.

THE JUNGLE TWINS #13 (Gold Key, 1975) – “Captives of the Tower,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Paul Norris. Tono and Kono rescue a captured explorer from some aliens. This story is rather disturbing because there are also some Africans held captive with the white guy, but Tono and Kono make no effort to save them. Also, the white guy is from Rhodesia, a country that was notorious at the time for its apartheid regime. At least the Africans in the story speak in Zulu, instead of made-up gibberish. Besides all of that, this is a competent but formulaic comic.

STAR TREK #48 (DC, 1988) – “The Stars in Secret Influence,” [W] Peter David, [A] Tom Sutton. This is one of two Peter David comics that depict a bachelor party. Star Trek #48 isn’t a classic like Incredible Hulk #417, but it’s not bad. The couple in this issue are Konom and Nancy Bryce, two characters who only appeared in this series. As in Hulk #417, the party ends in disaster: Konom and his rival Bearclaw get drunk by accident and start a brawl.

2000 AD #187 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Wulf defeat the rival bounty hunters, only to discover that they’ve lost Hitler. Return to Armageddon: as above. A scientist uses Satan’s cloned DNA to create two babies, one that looks normal and one that has horns and hooves. Dredd: as above. Dredd investigates the attacks on Otto’s clinics. This story includes some hilarious, realistic-looking fake ads for Otto’s uglifying products. Mean Arena: In the flashback, Tallon kills Sugrue. In the present, Tallon reveals that the late Paul Simpson was his little brother, and that he’s on a mission of revenge against everyone responsible for Paul’s death. Meltdown Man: Stone is apparently killed falling from the sky. Back in the city, the Yujees lead a rebellion against the humans.

CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #56 (DC, 1967) – “License to Kill!”, [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Bob Brown. To distract themselves from their grief over Red Ryan’s death, the Challs go to Mexico to retrieve a rare herb. While there, they discover a hidden city of Indians, and they also encounter another explorer, Pancho Torito, who speaks in stereotypical Mexican dialogue. There’s also a subplot about a rock star named Tino Manarry. Eventually we learn that Pancho Torito and Tino Manarry are the same person, and his real identity is Martin Ryan, Red Ryan’s little brother. This is an exciting, wacky comic, and it makes me want to collect more of this series.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’91 #27 (DC, 1991) – “Deals with the Devil,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Vril Dox negotiates with various alien races; Garryn Bek, Marij’n and Captain Comet form a love triangle; and Stealth prepares to give birth. This issue lacks a strong plot, but it has a lot of great character moments.

UNCANNY X-MEN #259 (Marvel, 1990) – “Dream a Little Dream,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Marc Silvestri. An amnesiac Colossus saves Phillip Moreau and Jenny Ransome from being kidnapped by Genoshan troops. Meanwhile, an amnesiac Dazzler discovers her real identity. This comic is okay, but the Siege Perilous era was a very strange era when the series didn’t have a clear trajectory, and the X-Men weren’t a team at all.

DEATH RATTLE #11 (Kitchen Sink, 1987) – “Keep the Homefires Burning,” [W] Robert Ingersoll, [A] Rand Holmes. “Keep the Homefires Burning” is a war comic in the vein of Frontline Combat or Blazing Combat. It has some great art that reminds me of Russ Heath’s war comics, but it has a stupid plot, about a magic cigarette lighter that can stop time. Michael Sundermeier and Dave Garcia’s “Junk” is a somewhat touching story about a robot who befriends his dead creator’s best friend. Eric Vincent’s “Mirror” has some very gruesome horror art, but way too much text. P.S. Mueller and Bill Hartwig’s “In League with the Devil” is a forgettable twist-ending story about bowling.

OCCULT FILES OF DR. SPEKTOR #16 (Gold Key, 1975) – “The Barbarian and the Brain,” [W] Don Glut, [A] Jesse Santos. Spektor and Lakota team up with Durak, an ancient barbarian, against the disembodied brain of Xorkon. Durak looks a lot like Dagar, but is actually a distinct character who appeared in three issues of Dagar. This is a pretty entertaining issue.

EMMA #70 (DC Thomson, 1979) – “Little Miss Spitfire” – another tennis story. “Carrie and the Conroy Curse” – about a girl who was cursed by g*ps*es to go blind before age 14. This story looks as if it was drawn by a Spanish or Italian artist. “The White Mouse” – starring a girl in occupied Belgium who dresses up as a white mouse in order to rescue captive soldiers. This is perhaps the weirdest and most memorable strip in any of this lot of girls’ comics, largely due to the heroine’s giant mouse mask. This series was drawn by a Spanish artist, José Ariza. See http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2016/06/the-white-mouse-1979/ for more details on White Mouse. “A Girl Called Sam” stars a tomboyish dancer in Depression-era America. “Kitty and the Crooked Myles” is about a failed police trainee who teams up with some inept criminals. “Belinda Born to Skate” is another skating story. Overall, Emma feels like a step up in quality from DC Thomson’s other girls’ comics. The artwork is more varied – most of the stories are illustrated in the Spanish style. Maybe Emma was an attempt to imitate the success of IPC comics like Tammy and Misty.

On August 7, I received a shipment of six issues of the following comic:

WARLORD #235 (DC Thomson, 1979) – According to https://ukcomics.fandom.com/wiki/Warlord, this series was a departure from earlier British comics in that it had more realistic stories, fewer and larger panels, and more varied page layouts. IPC tried to imitate Warlord with their own Battle Picture Weekly, which was a direct predecessor to 2000 AD, and thus Warlord helped reshape the British comics industry. Strips in Warlord #235 include: “Cassidy” – a World War II story about two rival soldiers. “Sergeant Rayker” – a black U.S. Army sergeant leads a bunch of racist white soldiers in WWII Italy. Sergeant Rayker was one of the first black protagonists in British comics; the first was Blackjack in Action. “Union Jack Jackson” – a British soldier fights the Japanese in Burma. “Bring-Em-Back Bert” – about the crew of a tank recovery vehicle. “Codename Warlord” – starring Lord Peter Flint, an aristocratic secret agent. This story has some impressive aviation artwork. “Iron Annie” – a story about the Eastern Front of WWII, told from the German perspective. “Fireball” – I think this is about a spy trying to infiltrate the Mafia. Overall this is a very exciting and well-drawn comic, and it’s head and shoulders above Hotspur, which DC Thomson was publishing at the same time. I can see how this comic helped inspire 2000 AD.

EMMA #67 (DC Thomson, 1979) – Having read Warlord, I have a better sense of how Emma differs from other girls’ comics. This issue has many of the same strips as #70, including the first appearance of White Mouse. Emma’s artwork is less innovative than Warlord’s in terms of page layouts, but “Kitty and the Crooked Myles” and “Little Miss Spitfire” are notable for not following the standard four-tier format. Incidentally, I wish that there was a version of the GCD for British comics. Or that the GCD had better coverage of British comics. It would be nice to at least know who drew all these stories.

2000 AD #188 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: as above. Stix almost kills Johnny but is crushed by a falling rock, the future Earth is saved from the comet, and Johnny turns Hitler in for the bounty. This story arc was funny, though not a classic. Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tale: “Miracle in Slum Alley,” [W] G.P. Rice, [A] Ian Gibson. A robot sacrifices its life to deliver medicine to a dying boy. Ian Gibson’s spotting of blacks here is really good. Dredd: “Otto Sump’s Ugly Clinic Part 3,” as above. Dredd solves the case of the clinic bombings, then imposes an “ugly tax” to shut down the ugly clinics, which he views as a threat to public health. Otto opens one last clinic that caters to the rich, and later in the prog there’s a fake ad for his new clinic. Return to Armageddon: as above. We learn more about the mysterious babies’ powers. Meltdown Man: as above. Stone wakes up from his apparent death, then returns to the city, where Leeshar has violently suppressed the Yujee revolt. I keep saying this, but Belardinelli’s art in Meltdown Man is incredible, especially his cityscapes.

MANDY #317 (DC Thomson, 1973) – Mostly the same stories as in the other issue I read. Notably, “Robbie’s Rovers” depicts a game of football, but it’s the protagonist’s brother who plays in the game, not the protagonist herself. So this story reinforces the aforementioned divide between boys’ and girls’ sports.

For a while I’ve been seeing ads for a booth at the Sleepy Poet Antique Mall in Gastonia where they have a bunch of comics for $1, or 30 for $20. On August 8, I finally decided to go to Gastonia and check this antique mall out. I ended up buying about 90 comics for $60. It was an expensive Uber ride, but it was worth it in exchange for finally being able to buy comics in person again. Shopping for comics online is just not the same experience. Depending on how long it takes for conventions to start up again, I may have to go back to Gastonia and buy more comics. Some of my purchases:

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #21 (Marvel, 2014) – “Lethal Ladies,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Peter/Doc Ock is ironically accused of stealing the ideas in his thesis from…  Otto Octavius. While dealing with that, Spidey also has to fight Doc Ock’s old lover, Stunner. Meanwhile Carlie Cooper is kidnapped by Green Goblins. Another extremely clever and funny issue.

WONDER WOMAN #309 (DC, 1983) – “The Black Canary is Dead!”, [W] Dan Mishkin, [A] Don Heck. Pre-Crisis Wonder Woman comics are relatively hard to find, so it’s exciting when I encounter them in dollar boxes, even though most of them aren’t very good. This issue, Diana and Dinah team up with Zenna Persik, a g*ps* with body-possessing powers, against a Nazi war criminal. This story is reasonably fun, though it’s no Amethyst. In a reversal of when Paul Levitz was writing Huntress, this issue’s Huntress backup story is far worse than its main story.

THOR, GOD OF THUNDER #15 (Marvel, 2014) – “The Accursed, Part Three of Five: Bury My Heart in Jotunheim,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ron Garney. Thor and the League of Realms try to stop Malekith’s invasion of Alfheim. Thor sleeps with the dark elf girl, and the giant dude gets killed. One of the good things Jason Aaron did in his Thor run was to focus attention on the rest of the nine realms, besides Asgard and Midgard. I love his description of Alfheim as “a kingdom of fairies and candy farmers, of mermaid lagoons and orchards the size of oceans,” etc. However, his Malekith was so cruel and heartless that he was very unpleasant to read about.

DEATH RATTLE #8 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – “Xenozoic!”, [W/A] Mark Schultz. This is probably the best find out of the entire stack of comics I bought, because it includes Mark Schultz’s first Xenozoic Tales story. This story was not reprinted in the subsequent ongoing series, and I’ve never read it. The draftsmanship in this story is worse than in Schultz’s later work, and the most memorable thing in this story is some rather gruesome depictions of aliens that look like walking brains. Still, this is an important story. This issue also includes two other horror stories by Steve Stiles and by Kenneth Whitfield and Dan Burr.

X-FACTOR #3 (Marvel, 2006) – “The Big Bang,” [W] Peter David, [A] Ryan Sook & Dennis Calero. Some guy named Tryp invades the X-Factor Investigations building, but Layla Miller kills him by causing a bathtub to fall through the ceiling onto him. She had loosened the supports to the bathtub even before Tryp arrived. Besides that, I don’t remember much about this issue.

ACTION COMICS #657 (DC, 1990) – “There is a Happy Land… Far, Far Away,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] Kerry Gammill. That title may be a reference to Krazy Kat, but it comes from an old song. This issue, the Prankster gets revenge on Luthor by kidnapping the children of top Lexcorp executives. This is a reasonably fun issue that skirts the line between cute and grim.

NIGHTCRAWLER #10 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Best Laid Plans—!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Todd Nauck. Kurt and Betsy fight the Shadow King. This issue is not as fun as I’d hoped for from this character and these creators. It lacks the playful, adventurous spirit of Dave Cockrum’s Nightcrawler miniseries. Also, at this point in continuity, Amanda Sefton is dead for some reason.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #228 (DC, 1984) – “War – of the World?”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] George Tuska. J’onn J’onzz returns to Earth to warn the JSA of an impending Martian invasion. J’onn was one of the earliest Silver Age DC characters, but I don’t think he ever had much of a personality until the Giffen-DeMatteis run, and overall this issue is a bit boring.

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO #252 (IDW, 2018) – “Special Missions Part Two: Baroness,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] David Messina. This is the first issue I’ve read of IDW’s revival of Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe series. It’s mostly a flashback to Baroness’s youth and the beginning of her romance with Destro. While the Baroness and Destro are both rather implausible characters, this issue is effective at expanding our knowledge of both of them.

AQUAMAN #30 (DC, 2014) – “Fallen,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Paul Pelletier & Alvaro Martinez. Aquaman fights Hercules and a bunch of demigods, while Tula helps Mera foil an assassination attempt. This issue is not especially impressive. At least it does help explain why Aquaman’s trident is such a big deal in the current Legion series.

MIGHTY AVENGERS #34 (Marvel, 2010) – “Pre-Siege Mentality,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Neil Edwards. Jarvis makes a nice breakfast for the Avengers, which is interrupted by Pietro being an ass. Then the Avengers fight Loki and trap him inside a machine designed to torture gods. Thor shows up and is extremely unhappy with this. Dan Slott’s Avengers is not one of his better-known works, but he shows a solid understanding of the team’s history and the personalities of the individual members. I should collect more of this comic.

ANIMAL MAN #21 (DC, 2013) – “Splinter Species,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Steve Pugh. Buddy attends an awards show, while Maxine travels into the Red and confronts the parliament of animal avatars. The Maxine sequences in this issue are utterly adorable; she reminds me of Katie Power. I was correct to give up on this series after Travel Foreman left, but it’s a fun series to collect in back issue form.

ORDINARY #2 (Titan, 2014) – untitled, [W] Rob Williams, [A] D’Israeli. This miniseries is by two 2000 AD alumni, and I just noticed that it’s reprinted from Judge Dredd Megazine. It’s about the only normal person in a world where everyone has superpowers. So a bit like Y: The Last Man crossed with Top Ten. D’Israeli’s art is quite good, especially due to the Clear Line-esque coloring, and Rob Williams’s story is entertaining. I particularly like the guy whose superpower is to always have a pint of beer in his hand.

MIGHTY THOR #5 (Marvel, 2011) – “The Galactus Seed 5: God of Carnage,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Olivier Coipel & Khoi Pham. Thor fights the Silver Surfer, Odin fights Galactus, and kid Loki carries out some kind of secret plan. This issue is mostly fight scenes and is rather light on story. Whichever of the artists drew the first few pages, he seems to have been consciously emulating Simonson.

TRINITY #10 (DC, 2008) – “Rough World,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. The JLA invades the anti-matter universe. In the backup story, Nightwing encounters Primat, a romantic ape from Gorilla City. Primat is easily the highlight of this issue. Like many of the comics in this stack, this was a fun but light read.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #11 (Marvel, 1989) – Colossus: “God’s Country Part II: Cold Warriors,” [W] Ann Nocenti, [A] Rick Leonardi. I’ve never been fond of Nocenti’s writing, which is often just too weird for its own good, but Leonardi is a super-underrated artist. Man-Thing: “Elements of Terror Chapter XI: Perception & Actuality,” [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Don Hudson & Tom Sutton. This is the main reason to own this comic. The plot doesn’t make sense to me, but Tom Sutton turns in some beautiful drawings over Hudson’s layouts. Sutton would have been the perfect Man-Thing artist, and it’s a shame he didn’t do more Man-Thing comics. Ant-Man: “Drain Storm,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Bob Layton. Scott Lang has to shrink down to rescue his mother’s wedding ring after Cassie drops it down the toilet. This story is silly but cute. Slag: “Over and Over…”, [W] John Figueroa, [A] Ron Wilson. A well-intentioned but implausible story about the crack epidemic.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #20 (Marvel, 2001) – “Mother’s Day,” [W] Peter David, [A] Chriscross. The wizard Merlin needs to perform a ritual that requires the blood of a hundred virgins. So he organizes an event at a comic book store. This is a pretty cheap joke, but it’s laugh-out-loud funny. Other than that, this issue is mostly about Rick and Marlo, and Genis is relegated to a subplot where Moondragon helps him learn his powers.

WONDER WOMAN #34 (DC, 2014) – “Madness Rains,” [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Cliff Chiang. I don’t understand this comic’s plot, except that it involves Orion and Hera and Ares. I also think Brian Azzarello is a below-average writer who had the good luck to work with a bunch of good artists. However, Cliff Chiang is a good artist indeed. I especially like his giant frog creature on the last page.

KING PRINCE VALIANT #1 (Dynamite, 2015) – “The Life & Times of Prince Valiant,” [W] Nate Cosby, [A] Ron Salas. This is inferior to Dynamite’s other King comics because first, Ron Salas is no Hal Foster. Second, about half this comic is taken up with foreshadowing sequences in which nothing happens. Nate Cosby does seem to have a good grasp of Val’s character. I should mention here that I won’t be giving Dynamite any business anytime soon.

UNCANNY X-MEN #459 (Marvel, 2005) – “World’s End Conclusion: Bad Company,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Alan Davis. The X-Men fight some super-evolved dinosaurs called Hauk’ka in the Savage Land. This comic’s plot is not all that interesting, and the main reason to read it is because of Alan Davis’s art.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #160 (Marvel, 1989) – “Brothers,” [W] Jim Owsley, [A] Andy Kubert. Conan and a bunch of Kozaks fight in a battle between a prince and his father, or something like that. I don’t remember much about this issue’s plot, but I do like Owsley/Priest’s rather grim version of Conan. My old friend Benoit Leblanc is a fan of Priest’s Conan, and I remember him quoting a scene from this issue in which Conan declines to sleep with a young virgin, saying “Virgins are boring.” Later in this issue the girl takes up with a young warrior, and at the end she asks to travel with Conan, saying she’s not a virgin anymore.

2000 AD #191 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: “The Doc Quince Case Part 2,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny’s current target is a doctor named Quince, but Quince’s neighbors refuse to give him up, since they credit him from saving their village from a plague. Mean Arena: as above. Tallon gets a deformed rich man to sponsor his team in a match against Southampton Sharks, led by a giant bruiser named Jensen. Dredd: “Synthi-Caff Vindilu,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson (as “Emberton”). Dredd and Walter the Wobot defeat some thieves using a vile-tasting synthetic curry. By this point Walter’s appearances were very rare; his previous appearance was in prog 121. Return to Armageddon: as above. The two babies continue to cause havoc. Meltdown Man: as above. Gruff the dog and T-Bone the bull help foment a Yujee rebellion.

DEBBIE #46 (DC Thomson, 1973) – A new story here is “Mavis – the Singer with a Secret,” set in Victorian London. Other stories I haven’t seen before are about a field hockey player and a girl with a gnome companion. As I’ve observed before, while these stories are quite rigidly gendered, they do offer a lot of variety of subject matter, and they show girls having exciting adventures, whereas comparable American comics are mostly about romance. Indeed, these British girls’ comics have almost no romance at all, and when there are romantic themes, they usually involve characters other than the protagonist. An example of the latter is the story in Mandy where the girls try to find a bride for their widowed dad. Maybe the assumption was that the target readers for these comics were too young to be interested in boys.

WARLORD #239 (DC Thomson, 1979) – The Sergeant Rayker story here includes a fascinating moment where one of Rayker’s racist soldiers questions his orders, and Rayker chews him out and threatens to knock his teeth down his throat. This sort of open resistance to racism feels kind of progressive. A funny moment occurs in the “Union Jack Jackson” story: the British troops and their Chinese liaison hate each other, and the Chinese officer takes advantage of this by calling a British soldier “my friend” and telling him to do his usual “excellent job.” The British soldiers realize he’s trying to warn them of a trap, because he’d never normally say this. A new (to me) story in this issue is “Cassidy,” in which a pilot has to fly a combat mission despite having gone blind. In general, this issue has exciting stories and artwork. The artists are all uncredited, but most of them take effective advantage of the huge size of the British comics page.

THOR #415 (Marvel, 1990) – “When Gods Wear Mortal Flesh,” [W] Tom DeFalco, [A] Herb Trimpe. Mostly a recap of early issues of Lee and Kirby’s Thor. A new piece of information here is that Donald Blake’s appearance and personality were based on those of Keith Kincaid. I don’t know when this retcon was added. There’s also a Tales of Asgard backup story in which Hogun convinces a young boy not to become a warrior. DeFalco’s Thor was a blatant ripoff of Lee and Kirby’s original, but at least it was entertaining.

X-FACTOR #34 (Marvel, 2008) – “The Darwin Awards,” [W] Peter David, [A] Larry Stroman. X-Factor fights She-Hulk and Jazinda, the Super-Skrull’s daughter. Also, Darwin (the X-Man, not the scientist) and his dad are somehow involved. This issue has some good dialogue, but its plot is hard to understand because it’s a Secret Invasion crossover.

THE WALKING DEAD #179 (Image, 2018) – “New World Order Part 5 of 6,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Some of the protagonists visit a community that has all the pre-apocalyptic amenities, including football – something that doesn’t even exist in America in 2020. Michonne (I think this character is Michonne) decides to stay in the community. This issue has a sweet, warm-hearted tone, though I do get the sense that there’s something wrong with this ideal community.

STAR HUNTERS #2 (DC, 1978) – “The Annihilist Factor,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Larry Hama. A space opera/adventure story in the vein of the original Star Trek. I don’t remember much about this comic’s plot or its characters, and this series never made much of a lasting impact, as it was a casualty of the DC Implosion. Still, this series is mildly interesting and I wouldn’t mind owning the rest of it.

FIGHTIN’ ARMY #90 (Charlton, 1970) – “No Escape,” [W] Willi Franz, [A] Sam Glanzman. Willy Schultz is a German-American soldier wrongly accused of killing his commanding officer. This issue, he fights alongside an Italian resistance unit and narrowly survives a battle that kills his comrades. “The Lonely War of Willy Schultz” had a bleak tone and an anti-war perspective that set it apart from other Charlton war comics, most of which were terrible. The other two stories in this issue are typical crap, though one of them is drawn by Ditko.

ACTION COMICS #649 (DC, 1990) – “Man and Machine,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] George Pérez & Kerry Gammill. Clark Kent gets a new job and uses his new computer equipment to track down Luthor and Brainiac. Meanwhile, Brainiac transforms into a new form, regaining his traditional green skin. This period of Superman comics, after Byrne and before Jurgens, was a pretty good one. Roger Stern was an underrated but effective Superman writer. Pérez’s layouts in this issue are excellent, though it’s too bad he didn’t do complete pencils.

DAREDEVIL #603 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Mike Henderson. As far as I know, Charles Soule is the first and only Daredevil writer who’s actually a lawyer. However, this issue gives Soule no opportunity to use his legal knowledge, because the entire issue is about Matt’s temporary role as mayor of New York, and his attempt to save the city from some kind of crisis. The highlight of the issue is a flirty conversation between Matt and Elektra.

DEVIANT SLICE #1 (Print Mint, 1972) – “Last Rights” etc., [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Greg Irons. Technically this is “Deviant Slice Comics and Stories and Funnies, Etc.” with no number. Greg Irons is one of the most bitter and brutal of the underground cartoonists. Like Rory Hayes and Rick Griffin, etc., he produced a small body of work and died quite young, but his work is unlike that of any other cartoonist. His masterpiece is Legion of Charlies, but I haven’t found an affordable copy of that. The centerpiece of Deviant Slice #1 is a long story in which the world is destroyed by nuclear war, but Nixon and a bunch of other fat-cat politicians survive in an underground bunker, with some soldier flunkies and some kept women. Inevitably, the soldiers get tired of competing for resources with the politicians, and the politicians get exiled to the destroyed surface, where they fight over scraps. It’s a very grim vision of the future, rendered even more grim by Irons’s gruesome draftsmanship. His Nixon looks especially fat and sleazy. This issue also includes a gallery of gruesome mutated people; a Lovecraftian SF story drawn by Veitch; and “The Creature from the Bolinas Lagoon,” a gross horror story about a sewer monster.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #8 (Marvel, 1993) – “Flight of Fancy,” [W] Peter David, [A] Rick Leonardi. Spider-Man 2099 fights Vulture 2099, and there’s a subplot about Miguel’s brother and his girlfriend. This series was not as good as PAD’s other contemporaneous Marvel comics, like Hulk and X-Factor, though it was better than the other 2099 series. However, Rick Leonardi’s artwork is excellent as usual, and I wonder why this series didn’t make him more of a star.

THOR #605 (Marvel, 2010) – “Latverian Prometheus Part 2 of 3,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Billy Tan. Thor fights Dr. Doom in Latveria, and the Destroyer shows up at the end. This issue is mostly a bunch of fight scenes, and lacks Kieron’s usual creativity.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #522 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Future Part 2: Rings,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. The Mandarin summons a bunch of armored villains to steal stuff, and also tells Tony a slightly revised version of his origin. Rescue rescues Tony from the Mandarin’s grasp. The Mandarin originated as a Yellow Peril stereotype, but Matt Fraction does a reasonable job of rehabilitating him. The highlight of this issue is Larroca’s art, though, especially his depictions of armor.

2000 AD #192 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: “The Doc Quince Case Part 3,” as above. Johnny learns that Doc Quince’s “crime” was marrying the princess of a barbaric feudal world. The king, the princess’s dad, sentences Quince to be executed by having a rock dropped on him. Johnny has a change of heart and decides to stop the execution. Mean Arena: as above. The Slayers and Sharks schedule a match, but some old shopkeepers refuse to move out of the area chosen as the arena. Dredd: “Loonies’ Moon!”, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. A company develops a technology for projecting advertisements on the full moon. A cult called the Loonies (i.e. Moonies) is unhappy about this and attacks the projection tower. Dredd shuts the Loonies down. The story ends with Dredd writing NORMAL SERVICE WILL BE RESUMED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE on the moon. This is a pretty funny one-shot. Meltdown Man: as above. King Seth the snake Yujee hypnotizes T-Bone. Meltdown Man has incredible art, but a somewhat slow-moving plot. Return to Armageddon: as above. A gigantic old woman utters a prophecy about the two babies. This story is well-drawn but somewhat confusing.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #326 (Marvel, 1987) – “The Haunting of Skull-House,” [W] Mark Gruenwald, [A] Paul Neary. Cap returns to the Red Skull’s headquarters, Skull-House, for the first time since the Skull’s “death” in issue 300. Dr. Faustus is there, and he makes Cap see visions of dead people, including the Ultimatum soldier he killed a few issues back. Cap returned to Skull-House in #370, which I read a long time ago. I haven’t read any Gruenwald Cap comics in a while, and I forgot that he’s quite an effective writer.

NAMOR #10 (Marvel, 1991) – “Reunion,” [W/A] John Byrne. Just after German reunification, Namor and Namorita visit Berlin, and Namor encounters a revived Master Man and Warrior Woman. These were not actual Golden Age villains but were created by Roy Thomas and Frank Robbins in Invaders. This story shows some anxiety that the new Germany might turn into an imperial power again. Byrne’s draftsmanship in this issue is pretty good.

WONDER WOMAN #326 (DC, 1985) – “Tropidor Heat,” [W] Mindy Newell, [A] Don Heck. Mindy Newell, not Gail Simone, was the first woman to write Wonder Woman regularly. However, this issue is not nearly as good as a typical issue by Gail. Half the issue is about political intrigue in a fictional South American country, and Diana doesn’t get involved in the action herself until the end.

WARLORD #243 (DC Thomson, 1979) – Mostly the same stories as in the last two issues I reviewed, with a couple more that aren’t especially notable. “Cassidy” has some excellent aviation art, though I can’t figure out who the artist was. “Iron Annie” and possibly “Sergeant Rayker” are drawn by Mike Dorey, who did some work for 2000 AD. On Iron Annie and Warlord in general see: https://nothingbutafan.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/battlegroup-niffleheim-abode-of-the-dead/

EMMA #80 (DC Thomson, 1979) – A new story this issue is “Stunt Girl,” about a stuntwoman who is mistaken for an actress and kidnapped. “Lucy and Lightning” is about an amnesiac girl, similar to “Nobody Loves Nancy.” “The Emma Report” stars a character actually named Emma who serves as the magazine’s mascot. In most of these other girls’ comics, the title is a girl’s name but there is no character in the comic with this name. This issue also includes new chapters of Little White Mouse, Kitty and the Crooked Myles, etc.

DEVIANT SLICE COMIX #2 (Print Mint, 1973) – untitled (“Vince Shazam”), [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Greg Irons. In this issue’s lead story, a Vietnam vet returns home to Montana with a drug addiction and a missing hand. He descends into psychosis, and ultimately holds up a bank, murders a man who he thinks is his sergeant, and is killed by police. This story is a gruesome depiction of PTSD and drug addiction. “Flesh” is an even grosser story, about two grossly fat men who compete for the highest weight. Unfortunately the black character in this story is a racist stereotype. 2000 AD #334 included a story with the same premise as this one, entitled “Requiem for a Heavyweight.” Deviant Slice #2 ends with “You Got a Point There, Pop!”, about a postapocalyptic war between the sexes. Like Fresca Zizis, this story includes a gruesome castration scene.

JUNGLE JIM #28 (Charlton, 1970) – “The Magic of Shutan!”, [W] Joe Gill, [A] Pat Boyette. A tyrant named Shutan seeks to unite the people of “Kandar,” apparently in Afghanistan, and conquer Asia. Jungle Jim defeats him, of course. This comic has some impressively weird page layouts, but its story is a boring white savior narrative.

ANIMAL MAN #50 (DC, 1992) – “Journal of a Plague Year,” [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Steve Dillon. Animal Man battles some kind of cosmic evil entity called the Antagon. Meanwhile, an anonymous scriptwriter hangs out at Buddy and Ellen’s house, writes a screenplay about Buddy’s life, and tries to convince Ellen that Buddy is cheating on him. This issue is confusing, and it tries to emulate Grant Morrison’s metatextual techniques but doesn’t quite succeed. Still, Tom Veitch is a better writer than I realized. My opinion of him was negatively influenced by the fact that his first comic I red was Star Treek: Tales of the Jedi. He’s spent most of his career in the shadow of his brother Rick and of Greg Irons.

DOPE COMIX #3 (Kitchen Sink, 1979) – various stories, [E] Denis Kitchen. Howard Cruse’s “That Ol’ Gang o’ Mine” is a beautifully drawn story about an LSD trip. Unlike most of Cruse’s work, it has no LGBTQ themes. The other highlight of this issue is Doug Hansen’s “A Night in a Head Shop,” which beautifully combines painted backgrounds with characters based on early animation. Other artists featured in this issue include Gary Whitney, Steve Stiles and Larry Rippee. As the title indicates, all this issue’s stories are about drugs.

2000 AD #193 (IPC, 1981) – Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny rescues Doc Quince, the king is killed by his own execution method, and Doc Quince’s wife becomes queen of her planet. In a cute ending, Johnny says that he decided to help because he has a heart; “you just have to dig deep to find it.” Mean Arena: as above. More preparations for the big game. Each player is assigned a substitute who will replace them if they get killed. Dredd: “The Fink,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Mike McMahon. A judge is murdered by the Fink, a deformed criminal with a pet rat. Meltdown Man: as above. Stone and Liana confront some cruel humans who are hunting Yujees. Return to Armageddon: as above. The evil baby is rapidly aged to adulthood and becomes the Destroyer, a dead ringer for Satan.

GODLAND #16 (Image, 2007) – “Strange But True,” [W] Joe Casey, [A] Tom Scioli. This issue is priced at 60 cents and is intended as a jumping-on point for new readers. It’s mostly a summary of what’s been going on. The trouble with Godland is that it effectively imitates Kirby, especially his late work for Pacific – but it doesn’t do anything more than that. It has too much Jack Kirby and not enough Tom Scioli.

TUROK, SON OF STONE #62 (Gold Key, 1968) – “Terror of the Dream,” [W] unknown, [A] Alberto Giolitti. Turok and Andar meet a cruel chieftain named Nogu who claims he can predict the future by eating “dream-berries.” Andar eats the dream-berries himself in hopes that they’ll show him an exit from Lost Valley, but it doesn’t work, and Turok proves that Nogu’s visions are fake. Turok is always competently done, but it’s kind of boring and repetitive; there’s no ongoing plotline or character arc, and Turok never makes any progress in escaping from Lost Valley.

PLANET TERRY #3 (Marvel, 1985) – “The Secret of the Space Warp,” [W] Lennie Herman, [A] Warren Kremer. In search of his parents’ ship, Terry is kidnapped by “Gamesfolk” who force him to complete three challenges, based on Space Invaders, baseball and bowling. Terry completes all three and finally finds his parents, or at least some people who look like them. Planet Terry is probably the best Star title. It’s extremely cute and has a sophisticated and compelling plot. It makes me want to read more Harvey comics, though I don’t know which ones I should be looking for.

BARBIE #25 (Marvel, 1993) – “The First Thanksgiving,” [W] Lisa Trusiani, [A] Win Mortimer. A flashback story in which Barbie and Skipper are Pilgrims who participate in the original Thanksgiving. This story is somewhat problematic, like basically every media depiction of the first Thanksgiving, but it’s not as offensive as it could have been. The big problem with Marvel’s Barbie comics was their total lack of narrative complexity. Mattel had a rule that Barbie couldn’t make mistakes. This made it hard to tell convincing stories, and on top of that, Barbie rarely did anything dangerous or encountered any serious villains.

THE ALL-NEW ATOM #13 (DC, 2007) – “Hunt for Ray Palmer Part Two: Second Genesis,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Mike Norton. In the South American jungle, Ryan Choi encounters two warring tribes of tiny aliens. One tribe worships Ray Palmer as a god, the other thinks he’s the devil. This issue is a throwback to Sword of the Atom, easily my favorite Atom comic. The cover even says Sword of the All-New Atom.

LITTLE LULU #30 (Dell, 1950) – credits as above. “She Flies Through the Air” – Lulu and Tubby go skiing, with absurd and implausible results. This story isn’t quite as farfetched as the one with the whale in #61, but it’s worth noting that one difference between Little Lulu and, for instance, Sugar & Spike, was plausibility. Sugar & Spike was full of science-fictional and fantastic elements, but Little Lulu stories are mostly about plausible situations that develop in funny ways. “The Case of the Hairless Shaving Brush” – Tubby tries to figure out who ruined Lulu’s dad’s shaving brush. “Do Not Look in This Hole” – Lulu and Annie defeat the boys in a snowball fight. “Little Lulu and the Snow Giant” – Lulu tells Alvin a story about a giant snowman. “The Christmas Tree” – Wilbur ruins Tubby’s mother’s Christmas tree. Tubby gets revenge by stealing Wilbur’s Christmas tree. All the stories in this issue take place in winter. Most issues of Little Lulu lack any such unifying theme.

JUDY #989 (DC Thomson, 1978) – I don’t think any of the stories in this issue are the same as in #1003. None of them particularly stand out, although “Sonia’s Secret” is notable for its combination of ballet and Russian revolutionary politics. Some of the artwork in this issue is rather old-fashioned. For instance, “Boundary Babs” has lots of ornate detail, but uses a style of linework that reminds me of Victorian illustration.

2000 AD #194 (IPC, 1981) – Strontium Dog: “The Bad Boy Bust Part 1,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Wulf are sent to a Wild West planet to hunt down some carnivorous hairy criminals. Mean Arena: as above. We get some background information on the origins of street football, and then the game begins. Dredd: “The Fink Part 2,” as above. The Fink kidnaps another judge, and Dredd learns that the Fink is the previously unknown fifth member of the Angel family. Meltdown Man: Stone fights a giant bat, then realizes he’s caught the deadly meta-plague. Liana catches the same plague and is kidnapped by evil Yujees. Return to Armageddon: The Destroyer forces the other villains to join his cause. Meanwhlie, the old woman causes the other baby to age to adulthood, and tells him that he’s the incarnation of life.

AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #11 (Marvel, 2008) – “Killed in Action Part 4 of 4: Worst Case Scenario,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Stefano Caselli. A bunch of confusing fight scenes between Avengers trainees and former New Warriors. I didn’t really understand this comic.

ACTION COMICS #786 (DC, 2002) – “Red,” [W] Joe Kelly, [A] Pascual Ferry. Superman fights Kanjar Ro on a planet of granite people. This issue isn’t bad, though as I wrote this review I had trouble remembering anything about it. Pascual Ferry is an interesting and underappreciated artist.

TIGER-MAN #2 (Atlas, 1975) – “Stalker and Concrete Jungle!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Steve Ditko. Tiger-Man fights Blue Leopard, a Black Panther knock-off. This is a highly generic and boring comic, and I barely remember it at all.

X-FACTOR #211 (Marvel, 2011) – “Staying in Vegas,” [W] Peter David, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino. Pip the Troll is being held captive by Hela, and somehow this results in X-Factor fighting a bunch of zombies. Thor shows up at the end. I didn’t quite understand this comic either, but it does have some strong characterization.

ARCHIE #257 (Archie, 1976) – “Early Worms Get the Bird,” [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Chic Stone, etc. A bunch of completely forgettable stories. There’s one where Archie goes to the beach early in the morning and sleeps through the whole day; another where Archie intends to play tennis, but instead uses his tennis racket for various other purposes; etc.

Y: THE LAST MAN #39 (DC, 2006) – “Paper Dolls Conclusion,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. Yorick tries and fails to recover some photographs that show, um, proof of his maleness. Also, Yorick and Agent 355 continue their attempts to track Beth down. The issue ends with a woman apparently shooting Yorick’s mother. I gave up on reading this series after #35 because it was getting boring, and I haven’t made an active effort to acquire the issues I missed.

ANIMAL MAN #28 (DC, 2014) – “Evolve or Die Part Two,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. Inside the Red, Buddy fights Totem, the leader of the Parliament of Limbs (the guy with the giant horns), while Maxine fights Brother Blood. Eventually the good guys win. Rafael Albuquerque’s art here is quite good.

2000 AD #195 (IPC, 1981) – Strontium Dog: “The Bad Boys Bust Part 2,” as above. Johnny and Wulf fight the Bad Boys as the latter attempt to rob a train. Meltdown Man: Stone and Liana survive the Meta-Plague by eating a lot. Liana gets a new longer hairstyle. Return to Armageddon: as above. The Destroyer kills the Triad, whoever they are, and also turns his brother into a freak. The good twin is eventually named Amtrak for some reason. Dredd: “The Fink Part Three,” as above. A flashback reveals the Fink’s origin, and we learn that he’s seeking revenge on the Judges who killed his family, during the Judge Child saga. Dredd: “Knock on the Door,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant. One of Dredd’s subordinate Judges obtains a confession by torture. Dredd arrests the Judge, then tricks his subject into making an admissible confession. Probably the reason this prog has two Judge Dredd stories is because Dredd doesn’t appear in “The Fink Part Three.”

ICEMAN #2 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Edgar Salazar & Ibraim Roberson. Bobby teams up with his ex-girlfriend Kitty Pryde as they try to save a mutant boy from being lynched by his neighbors. Kitty and Bobby have a heart-to-heart talk about Bobby’s failure to tell Kitty that he’s gay. This is a fairly powerful and heartfelt story. Sina Grace has publicly complained about the treatment he got from Marvel when he was writing this series.

CEREBUS #130 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 13,” [W/A] Dave Sim w/ Gerhard. Jaka, Rick, and the Oscar Wilde lookalike are arrested by creepy dudes in white masks. It might not be ideal to read Cerebus in single-issue form, but I like Cerebus’s production values and its cover art, and its letter columns are interesting in a disturbing way.

ANARCHY COMICS #1 (Last Gasp, 1978) – various stories, [E] Jay Kinney. As its title indicates, this underground comic has a theme of radical politics. Kinney’s “Too Real” appears to be constructed entirely from old photos and clip art. Spain’s “Nestor Makhno” is a biography of the eponymous Ukrainian revolutionary. Melinda Gebbie’s “The Quilting Bee” is somewhat incoherently plotted, but has stunning artwork. Gebbie was the most graphically talented of all the female underground cartoonists, and someone really ought to publish a collection of her underground comics. Spain’s “Blood and Sky” is about the Spanish Civil War and includes some beautiful aviation art. “Kronstadt” is about a 1921 anti-Bolshevik revolt. This story is reprinted from L’Echo des Savanes and is credited to Epistolier and Volny. Epistolier is Yves Frémion, a frequent contributor to L’Echo and Fluide Glacial, but I can’t find any information on Volny. Paul Mavrides’s “Straight Talk About Anarchy” is a didactic piece. I’m mostly bored by this sort of ultra-leftist material, but this comic has some excellent art and writing.

ACTION COMICS #831 (DC, 2005) – “Black & Blue,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] John Byrne. In a Villains United crossover, Superman fights Black Adam, while Bizarro tries to get Professor Zoom to join the Injustice Society. This issue is full of entertaining mayhem, and Byrne’s art isn’t as bad as I’d have expected.

BLOODY MARY #1 (DC, 1996) – “Bloody Mary Part One,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. In the early 20th century, the world is consumed by war, and an elderly assassin who dresses like a nun is trying to track down an old comrade. This comic is an impressively grim combination of the horror and war genres. Until I started reading 2000 AD, I didn’t realize how much Carlos Ezquerra influenced Steve Dillon. Carlos Ezquerra may have been the single most influential 2000 AD artist. Bloody Mary was one of various works he produced for the American market in his later years, most of which were written by Ennis.

2000 AD #196 (IPC, 1981) – Strontium Dog: as above. The train fight continues, and the train goes over a cliff. Ro-Jaws’ Robo-Tale: “Spirit of Vengeance,” [W] G.P. Rice, [A] Dave Gibbons. An ex-convict destroys his loyal robot by overworking it. The robot’s ghost gets revenge by causing its owner to get sent back to prison for life. G.P. Rice was only an average writer, but Gibbons’s art on this story is beautiful. Dredd: “The Fink Part Four,” as above. The Fink takes the kidnapped Judge to a corpse recycling plant. Dredd follows him there and saves her. Meltdown Man: as above. Gruff and T-Bone continue their pilgrimage. Return to Armageddon: as above except [A] Johnny Johnson. Amtrak tries to avoid the mutation ray by going back in time, but fails. Then he gets picked up by a passing spaceship. This prog’s cover does not depict any of the comics inside, but rather a prose story that appears below the letter column.

2000 AD #198 (IPC, 1981) – Tharg: “The Revenge of the Thrill-Suckers,” [W] unknown, [A] Ian Gibson. Tharg battles some more of the Thrill-Suckers from prog 180. The Thrill-Suckers look really gross, like mushrooms with faces in their stems. Mean Arena: as above. The game begins. Tallon confronts Jaws, one of the people he blames for his brother’s death. Return to Armageddon: as above except [A] Jesus Redondo. Amtrak’s ship lands on Earth. Amtrak meets Atlanta Watts, who appeared earlier in the story, but I forget who she is. Dredd: “Pirates of the Black Atlantic 2: Nuclear Skank,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. The pirate Captain Skank (not sure if “Skank” is meant in the modern sense) launches a bunch of nukes at Mega-City One. Dredd goes after Skunk in a submarine. Meltdown Man: as above. Gruff meets a giant bear dude named Pole-Axe. This prog also includes the last installment of Dash Decent, a one-page strip which, despite Kevin O’Neill art, is consistently awful. As its name indicates, it’s a parody of Flash Gordon.

DEAD LETTERS #1 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Chris Visions. A career criminal named Sam Whistler wakes up in a hospital with amnesia. At the end of the issue, he discovers that he’s in purgatory or limbo. This is an okay issue, but I haven’t yet felt motivated to read issue 2, which I have. Chris Visions’s art here is more appealing than in Trust Fall.

2000 AD #233 (IPC, 1981) – Ace Trucking Co: untitled, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. This series stars Ace the trucker and his giant bodyguard GBH, who believes himself to be dead. In this story Ace seeks revenge on someone who stuck him with a useless cargo, and then gets a new assignment to smuggle war supplies. As in Meltdown Man, Belardinelli is really good at drawing futuristic technology and weird-looking aliens. Ace’s dialogue is hard to read because he speaks in exaggerated trucker jargon. Strontium Dog: “The Kid Knee Caper Part 6,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Wulf are tracking a shapeshifting villain, the Mutator, alongside another bounty hunter, Kid Knee, whose face is in his knee. Johnny shoots and kills Kid Knee, who is actually the Mutator, then discovers that the Mutator has killed the real Kid Knee. Which is ironic because he was about to retire. Dredd: “The Hotdog Run Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd and Judge Giant lead a team of Judge cadets on a field examination in the Cursed Earth. Nemesis the Warlock: untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. Nemesis and Torquemada battle each other in some kind of alien dimension.

WORLD WITHOUT END #1 (DC, 1990) – “The Moon Also Rises…”, [W] Jamie Delano, [A] John Higgins. We are introduced to Bedlam, a bizarre postapocalyptic world of men only. The only females are “skittons,” or nonsentient sex slaves. A flying scout discovers the existence of sentient females in the wilderness, and the leaders of the Gess, or men, respond by creating a champion called Brother Bones. John Higgins’s art in this issue is amazing; he convincingly creates a bizarre, oppressive, alien world. World Without End’s story is somewhat difficult to read, but fascinating.

CEREBUS #131 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story Book Three: Mystery Achievement,” as above. In prison, Jaka talks with a cellmate who proves to be her old nurse. It must have been excruciating to read Cerebus on a monthly basis, because of how slowly the story moves. Cerebus was an early example of decompressed storytelling or writing for the trade.

MIDNIGHTER & APOLLO #2 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Fernando Blanco. Apollo is killed, and Midnighter has to save his soul from hell. This issue has some good art, and is a good example of gay representation. This comic is set in the DC Universe, but I think I’m going to file it with my WildStorm comics.

BLACKHAWK #254 (DC, 1983) – “What Price Courage?”,  [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. The Blackhawks go on a bunch of missions, and Hitler sends Agent Domino to assassinate Blackhawk. This series is my least favorite Evanier-Spiegle collaboration. Evanier is a humor writer at heart, and he doesn’t have the grim mindset that’s necessary to write effective war comics. The “Detached Service Diary” backups in Evanier’s Blackhawk were often better than the main stories. The one in this issue is drawn by Dave Cockrum. In this story Chuck hunts down a Nazi while recalling a burlesque show he saw in New York.

SUPERBOY #74 (DC, 2000) – “Game, Set & Match!”, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. In a Sins of Youth crossover, the adult Young Justice heroes fight the kid Justice Leaguers. Then Superboy fights Match, and a villain named Amanda Spence assassinates Tana Moon, just after Tana admits that she loves Superboy. This is a really depressing and unnecessary death. Kesel and Grummett created Tana, and I don’t quite see why they chose to get rid of her.

DETECTIVE COMICS #707 (DC, 1997) – “Riddled,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. The best part of this issue is the cover, which shows the Riddler asking how Batman is like a mob informant (answer: when he spills his guts). This issue has a pretty dumb plot in which Batman and the Cluemaster, one of Dixon’s pet characters, try to track down the Riddler.  The Riddler’s riddles in this issue seem impossible to solve unless you can read the writer’s mind.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #381 (Marvel, 1991) – “This Gun’s for Hire,” [W] Mark Gruenwald, [A] Ron Lim. The title is a reference to one of my favorite Springsteen songs. This issue, Cap gets involved in the Serpent Society’s civil war, and Diamondback hires Paladin as backup since she and Cap have apparently broken up. This issue has a ton of characters. At this point in Gruenwald’s run, Cap had so many allies and partners that the series was almost a team comic. This issue has a backup story starring USAgent.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #435 (DC, 1987) – “The Circle Turns,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Jerry Ordway. While driving a race car as Clark Kent, Superman suffers a psychic attack. A bunch of villains called the Circle prove to be responsible. The Circle discover that Superman isn’t the “lost one” they’re looking for, and they leave him alone. As far as I know, the Circle never appeared again, nor did we ever learn who the real “lost one” was.

WARLORD #3 (DC, 1976) – “War Gods of Skartaris,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Morgan fights some lizard people and discovers his lost plane. This issue has very exciting art but is otherwise a typical Grell comic. As I read this issue, it occurred to me that Warlord is basically the same setup as Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar. And DC had just finished doing an adaptation of Pellucidar in Weird Worlds. But of course DC did not own Pellucidar, while they did own Warlord.

2000 AD #235 (IPC, 1981) – Ace Trucking Co.: as above. Ace’s cargo consists of mercenaries in suspended animation, and they come to life and try to take over Ace’s ship. Ace and his crew fight them into submission. Tharg’s Future Shocks: “Once Upon an Atom,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Alan Langford. Earth is destroyed by a hydrogen atom that’s angry at the loss of its love interest, a chlorine atom. Mean Arena: “The Salford Slicers,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Eric Bradbury. Matt Tallon’s latest target is a medic who allowed Matt’s brother to play with injuries. Eric Bradbury’s art is less impressive than John Richardson’s. Dredd: “The Hotdog Run Part III,” as above. The judge cadets fight some creatures called Gila-Munja. Of the seven cadets who started the exam, two of them pass, two fail but are allowed to try again, one is expelled from the academy, and two are killed. Tharg’s Future Shocks: “Sign of the Times,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Mike White. Some American astronauts go on a space mission to stop the Soviets from doing something. We’re led to believe the Soviets are going to drop a bomb on America, but instead they’re putting up a giant FLY AEROFLOT sign that’s visible across North America. Rogue Trooper: “Scum Sea,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Dave Gibbons. Rogue invades a Nort ship in an effort to find out who was responsible for a massacre.

DETECTIVE COMICS #614 (DC, 1990) – “Street Demonz,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Batman meets some young crack dealers. He tries to reform them, while also protecting them from adult criminals who suspect them of informing on them. While doing all this, Batman has flashbacks to his own privileged upbringing. At the end of the issue, Batman, as Bruce Wayne, sets up a scholarship for underprivileged children. This issue is a reasonable response to the “why doesn’t Bruce Wayne use his money to change society” argument.

BEWARE THE CREEPER #4 (DC, 1968) – “Which Face Hides My Enemy?”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Steve Ditko. The Creeper tries to track down a mysterious villain named Proteus. The Creeper was one of Ditko’s best post-Spider-Man works. It had dynamic action sequences and page layouts, a compelling protagonist, and an exciting plot.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #86 (Marvel, 1982) – “Golden Eye… Gleaming Death!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Denys Cowan. Luke and Danny are hired to protect a drug-addicted rock star named Rip Chord who’s recording an album during a train ride. But some criminals destroy the train, and Rip Chord is killed as collateral damage. This issue is okay, but not as good as an average issue of Jo Duffy’s run.

VIOLATOR VS. BADROCK #4 (Image, 1995) – untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Brian Denham. Not one of Alan’s better works for Image. It has some witty dialogue, but Brian Denham is just not talented enough to tell the story Alan has in mind. Also, both the main characters are awful.

THOR #256 (Marvel, 1977) – “Lurker in the Dark!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] John Buscema. Thor, Sif and the Warriors Three visit a generation starship whose people are being menaced by a tentacled creature called Sporr. This issue is not bad, though also not incredible.

I KILL GIANTS #7 (Image, 2009) – “The End,” [W] Joe Kelly, [A] J.M. Ken Niimura. I bought this years ago, but never read it because I subsequently bought and read the trade paperback. In hindsight, I Kill Giants is an excellent graphic novel, a powerful depiction of childhood mental illness, and probably Joe Kelly’s masterwork. This issue is a touching conclusion, in which the bunny-eared protagonist survives her encounter with the monster and succeeds in adjusting to life at school. This issue includes some interesting behind-the-scenes features.

PETER CANNON, THUNDERBOLT #3 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Watch Part Three,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. I received this from DCBS when it came out, but I misplaced it somehow. I finally found it while cleaning out my closet. This issue continues the Watchmen-homage plot from #2, and includes some artwork that explicitly references Watchmen. It also uses the line “That’s quite a drop” at a significant moment. In terms of the plot, the main Thunderbolt character tries to defeat his evil counterpart by using his power to escape the panel grid, but instead he gets plunged into a world based on Eddie Campbell’s Alec.

THE STAINLESS STEEL RAT #1 (Eagle, 1985) – “The Stainless Steel Rat,” [W] Kelvin Gosnell, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. These stories are reprinted from 2000 AD #140-145, none of which I have. They’re an adaptation of Harry Harrison’s novel of the same name. I’ve read the original novel, and I didn’t love it. And Gosnell and Ezquerra’s adaptation is competent, but doesn’t add a whole lot to the original. Also, Eagle must have made lots of alterations to the original pages in order to accommodate them to the American format. For example, in the last panel of the page reproduced at https://shop.2000ad.com/catalogue/XB378, Eagle shrunk down jim’s head so that it doesn’t cross the panel border.

MORELLA AND THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Morella” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” [W/A] Richard Corben. This one-shot contains two adaptations of Poe stories. In “Morella,” Myron’s creepy wife dies, then he sleeps with her daughter Orella. When Myron mistakenly introduces Orella as Morella, she dies, and then Myron commits suicide. Corben’s adaptation departs from Poe’s original, in which Orella is the protagonist’s biological daughter, and he doesn’t sleep with her. A notable visual aspect of Corben’s adaptation is that Morella is covered with tattoos, which look kind of like the Native American designs in Rat God. The second adaptation is of a better-known story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” The solution to this mystery is that the murders were committed by an orangutan, and Corben makes the orangutan look hideous and ferocious.

By this point I hadn’t received any new comics in quite a while. I stopped ordering from DCBS, and they decided to hold all of my unshipped items until they all arrived. I’m currently trying to get them to at least send the items that have already arrived. Meanwhile, on August 19, I went to Heroes to pick up new comics. This was the first time I bought new comics in person since I left Atlanta, where I had been shopping at Oxford Comics. I’m going to miss the convenience of DCBS, but it’s nice to actually talk with people while buying comics, and to be able to make impulse purchases. Some of the stuff I bought:

BIG GIRLS #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jason Howard. A virus is causing  men to turn into giant monsters. Women can get infected too, but the virus just makes them giant and not monstrous. Our protagonist, Ember, is a giant woman who works to protect her city from male monsters. Sadly, on her first mission she has to help kill a little boy before the virus turns him into a monster. As the issue goes on, we realize that Ember is being manipulated in some way, and the monsters might not be what we think. I believe this is Jason Howard’s first solo comic, and it’s an impressive debut. It has an impressive premise, and it feels quite feminist. Howard also seems to have thought through the logistics of giant-sized people. A brilliant detail is when Ember walks into her base, and some men use marshalling batons (the kind that aiport ground crews use) to indicate where she should put her feet.

SEVEN SECRETS #1 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Sigurd and Eva are the guardians of two out of the seven secrets, which are not explained in detail, but they’re really important. But Sigurd gets Eva pregnant, which is forbidden because their secret-keeping mission is supposed to be their entire life. The baby, Caspar, is born and then given up for adoption. 15 years later, Sigurd is killed by a villain named Amon. I assume Caspar is going to be the protagonist of the series, but in this issue he only appears as a newborn. Seven Secrets #1 is one of the most heavily hyped comics of 2020. I’m not sure it lives up to the hype, but it’s an exciting debut issue.

ADVENTUREMAN #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. Claire goes to the hospital and has a vision of Adventureman giving a blood transfusion to Chagall. When she emerges from the vision, she realizes she’s given a man a life-saving blood transfusion. Also, she’s a lot bigger than before. Later, Claire has a second vision while watching a movie. This is another really entertaining issue. I love how the family relationships in this comic feel so warm and friendly – I especially like the Shabbat dinner scenes.

THE GODDAMNED: THE VIRGIN BRIDES #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jason Aaron, [A] R.M. Guera. Sharri and Jael continue their escape attempt and kill one of the women pursuing them. Meanwhile, the women from atop the mountain kidnap some people from a primitive tribe. R.M. Guera’s art in this series is absolutely stunning, and Jason Aaron’s plot is scary and compelling. I need to collect more of their previous series, Scalped.

HEDRA (Image, 2020) – “Hedra,” [W/A] Jesse Lonergan. An astronaut flies in a rocket to a far-off planet, where she meets a giant superhero and helps him defeat some smaller enemies. The superhero offers the protagonist membership in his team, but she refuses and apparently returns to her home planet, though the ending is enigmatic. While its plot seems simple, Hedra is actually perhaps the most impressive and visually innovative comic book of the year. Its style of storytelling is unique: each page is based on a 35-panel grid, but usually some of the panels are combined. Because there are so many panels and the pages are bigger than normal, Lonergan is able to use a lot of space to depict the trajectories of objects that travel across the panels. He also uses the panel structure in other ways – like, there’s one page where the panels are organized like a maze, and you have to read them in nonlinear order. Part of the fun in this comic is seeing all the different things that Lonergan does with the 35-panel grid. I should also mention that Hedra is entirely silent, which explains why the ending is hard to interpret. Another cool thing about this comic is what the title means. At the end, we discover that the four superheroes are based on four of the five regular polyhedra or Platonic solids, and the protagonist is invited to become the fifth member of the team, representing the dodecahedron. I wonder how many readers realized this. Overall, Hedra is one of the best comic books of the year, and I look forward to Lonergan’s next book, Planet Paradise.

LUDOCRATS #4 (Image, 2020) – “The Desolation of the Ludocrats,” [W] Kieron Gillen & Jim Rossignol, [A] Jeff Stokely. Hades betrays Otto to the Hyper-Pope, who makes his first appearance on the last page of the issue. This issue is full of great stuff. Near the start, Otto makes himself two-dimensional by killing Dr X-Position, so that he only has a Y- and a Z- position. Later on, Otto spends a full page lamenting that he’ll never get to destroy the moon. This is such an incredibly fun series that it deserves more than five issues, and I hope it gets a sequel.

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #1 (DC, 2020) – “The Bard and the Bard,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. Lindy, an English grad student and new mother, accidentally swaps places with a native of the Dreaming. While in the Dreaming, Lindy meets William Shakespeare as well as a bunch of alternative Shakespeare authorship candidates. One of them is an Arab named Sheikh Zubayr. A notable moment in this issue is when Lindy meets with her advisor, who, despite being female herself, has no sympathy for Lindy’s struggles as a woman and a mother in academia. (https://www.instagram.com/p/CEFnhDOhsm0/) I know a lot of graduate faculty in English, and none of them would ever treat their students in such a cruel way. But sadly, there are academics out there who are as heartless as Professor Dunbar.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #4 (DC, 2020) – “Out the Window,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads  Doc Shaner. I keep wanting to call him Gerards instead of Gerads. This issue, Mr. Terrific goes to Rann to investigate, but encounters stonewalling whenever he tries to learn anything about the Pykkts. Meanwhile, in flashback, Adam asks Green Lantern and Superman for help with the Pykkts, but they both refuse. It’s become abundantly clear by now that the Rannians are on the wrong side, and it also seems like Adam and Alanna are hiding something.

ASH & THORN #4 (AfterShock, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mariah McCourt, [A] Soo Lee. I haven’t read #3 yet because DCBS still has yet to deliver it. In #4, Lottie and her young assistant bake some “battle scones” as ammunition against the evil Court. At the store, I talked to someone who described this comic as “bare-bones.” I think that’s a good way to put it – Ash & Thorn could be more substantial. But I still think it’s an important comic, because it’s a big step forward in terms of the depiction of older female protagonists.

WONDER WOMAN #759 (DC, 2020) – “I Walk the Line,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Mikel Janin. Diana meets a new roommate, saves a woman who’s gone insane and endangered her children, and then confronts her old enemy Max Lord. This is a good debut issue with excellent artwork, though I have no interest in Max Lord as a villain.

I said I wasn’t going to buy any more 2000 AD comics, but there were a couple lots on eBay that were too cheap to resist. They were from the same seller as the lot I received of July 7. I still haven’t read most of the comics from this shipment yet, but:

2000 AD #791 (Fleetway, 1992) – Dredd: “Judgment Day Part 8,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd leads the defense of Mega-City One against invading zombies. Kola Kommandos: “Part 12,” [W] Steve Parkhouse, [A] Anthony Williams. I don’t really understand this strip. This installment ends with a Coke ad being projected on the moon – see “Loonies’ Moon” in prog 192. Zenith: “Phase IV: Prologue – Golgonooza,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. This chapter is about a character named Michael who lives in a bleak, lifeless city. I don’t know how this character is connected to Zenith himself. Rogue Trooper: “Apocalypse Dreadnought Part 12,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Ron Smith. Friday fights some kind of pink floppy alien. Button Man: “The Killing Game 12,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Arthur Ranson. Harry Exton’s employer poisons him and then tries to shoot him, but Harry survives and cuts his employer’s head off. This is the best story in the prog.

MONEY SHOT #7 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. In a flashback, we see how America’s xenophobic douchebag president ruined America’s reputation with the aliens. Then the Money Shot crew go on a mission to the planet Cockaigne, where everyone is super hot. We don’t see any more of the imperialist aliens from #6. This series is getting really good. It’s well-executed, funny, and sexy.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #7 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. We start with a flashback to before the U.S. was sealed off. Then the train reaches the next section of America: a forest of white trees covered in red and blue veins. And we meet a second Dr. Sam Elgin. This series is not exactly my favorite, perhaps because it feels too ponderous and not funny enough, but it’s fascinating.

SAVAGE DRAGON #251 (Image, 2020) – “Family Reunion!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Heroes also had #250, but I skipped it because it was too expensive. In #251, Malcolm meets Paul Dragon, who has the original Dragon’s memories. Also, Maxine continues to suffer from nymphomania. There’s a scene where Malcolm is playing a game with the kids, and then he interrupts the game to, um, pork Maxine. At least this issue isn’t as offensive and exploitative as the earlier issues that caused me to drop the series.

AQUAMAN #62 (DC, 2020) – “Homecoming,” [W] Jordan Clark, [A] Marco Santucci. Aqualad confronts Black Manta and then meets a new, male love interest. This series was rumored to be ending with issue 65, but I’m not sure if that’s still true.

GIDEON FALLS #24 (Image, 2020) – “Wicked Worlds Part 3: All the best cowgirls have daddy issues,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. In the Wild West version of Gideon Falls, Clara saves two children from zombies, and then she reencounters her dad. This issue is clearer than some of the last few issues, though I’m not sure who the kids are.

X-MEN/FANTASTIC FOUR #4 (Marvel, 2020) – “Welcome to the New World: The Might of Latveria Has Been Unleashed,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Terry Dodson. The X-Men, the FF and Doom have a final confrontation. Franklin agrees to visit Krakoa for training, and Magneto and Professor X destroy Reed’s device that can cloak the mutant gene. This was a fun miniseries, and an effective spiritual sequel to Fantastic Four/X-Men.

DECORUM #4 (Image, 2020) – “And the Eating of a World,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mike Huddleston. Half this issue consists of blank pages or two-page spreads of starscapes. The rest of the issue tells an actual story, but one that makes no sense. I still don’t get what this series is supposed to be about, although I love Mike Huddleston’s art.

SPACE RIDERS: VORTEX OF DARKNESS #2 (Black Mask, 2020) – untitled, [W] Carlos Giffoni, [A] Alexis Zirtt. Space Riders is tough to find because it’s published by Black Mask, a poorly run publisher that’s on the verge of going out of business. That’s a pity because Alexis Zirtt’s artwork is spectacular. He has great coloring and a style that echoes but doesn’t slavishly imitate Kirby, and like Tom Scioli, he allows the reader to see the texture of the original paper. I also like how this series combines space opera with Latinx pop culture.

2000 AD #239 (IPC, 1981) – Ace: “Hell’s Pocket Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. An alien named Ignatz Lg0o convinces Ace to take him on a trip to Hell’s Pocket, the Bermuda Triangle of space. Nemesis: untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. Nemesis fights Torquemada in a series of host bodies, the last of which is a giant grim reaper. Dredd: “Block Mania Part Four,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. The apartment blocks of Mega-City One declare war on each other. This story was a prologue to “The Apocalypse War,” one of the most important Dredd stories. Mean Arena: “The Edinburgh Executioners,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Eric Bradbury. Matt Tallon captures Jessup, the plastic surgeon who helped cause his brother’s death. Rogue Trooper: “The Rookies,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Dave Gibbons. Rogue fights alongside a bunch of new recruits.

2000 AD #241 (IPC, 1981) – Ace: “Hell’s Pocket Part 3,” as above. In Hell’s Pocket, GBH is kidnapped by some of the local natives. Also, by now we know that Ignatz was lying about having been to Hell’s Pocket before. Mean Arena: as above except [A] Mike White. The Slayers-Executioners match begins, and Matt deliberately makes himself a target for some reason. Tharg’s Future Shocks: “The Masks of Arazzor,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] José Casanovas. Some astronauts discover a colony of masks that drive their wearers insane. Casanovas draws this story in a very Spanish style that reminds me of Carlos Giménez. Dredd: “Block Mania Part 8,” as above. Some guy tries to tell Dredd who’s responsible for the block mania, but then gets murdered. Dredd investigates the crime scene and realizes the madness is being spread through water. Rogue Trooper: “Blue Moon,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Colin Wilson. Rogue helps out some entertainers known as “blue mooners”. Colin Wilson had just started his interrnational career at this point, but he was already extremely good at drawing realistic machines and exciting action sequences. Tharg’s Future Shocks: “Joe Black’s Tall Tale!”, [W] Kelvin Gosnell, [A] John Higgins. An astronaut falls in love with a beautiful human-looking alien, only to discover that she’s ten times his size.

SHADOW SERVICE #1 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Corin Howell. Our protagonist, Gina, is a private investigator with magical powers. This is a reasonably fun opening issue, with excellent artwork, but there’s not much about this comic that stands out to me. I’d still be willing to read the next couple issues.

PRETTY VIOLENT #8 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Hunter, [W] Jason Young. Gamma Rae argues with her siblings, and then goes to a graveyard where she encounters a zombified Brodie Perron. I have trouble keeping track of this comic’s plot, but the plot is just an excuse for ridiculous mayhem, as in I Hate Fairyland.

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #6 (DC, 2020) – “Assault on Sector General,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. This comic’s title and premise are an obvious homage to James White’s Sector General novels. I just read one of those and enjoyed it. This issue, Hal is recovering from injuries at a hospital for aliens. Hal’s colleagues come to visit, just in time for the hospital to be attacked by villains from the antimatter universe. This issue is an improvement on the last few, and I especially like Hal’s whiny lion-like roommate.

HEATHEN #12 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Natasha Alterici, [A] Ashley Woods. The story concludes, but I don’t really understand what happens. Without Alterici’s artwork, this series is not all that interesting.

2000 AD #243 (IPC, 1981) – Ace: as above. Ace and his crew escape Hell’s Pocket, and Ace dumps Ignatz back where he found him. Mean Arena: as above. Tallon alters Jessup’s face to resemble Tallon’s, and then forces Jessup to rejoin the game in Tallon’s place. Nemesis: as above. Nemesis and Torquemada’s epic battle continues. Kevin O’Neill’s  art here is brilliant, though difficult to parse. Tharg: “Tharg’s Christmas Tale,” [W] unknown, [A] Eric Bradbury. Some aliens kidnap Santa and replace his presents with deadly menaces. Santa’s reindeer call upon Tharg for assistance. Dredd: “Block Mania Part 8,” as above except [A] Steve Dillon. Judge Giant is murdered, and the enemy takes over Weather Control and creates a madness-inducing rainstorm. Rogue Trooper: “Poison,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Mike Dorey. At the polar ice cap, Rogue has to overcome poisoning to defeat some Nort ski troops. Mike Dorey did some uncredited art for Warlord, and was a very early contributor to 2000 AD, starting with prog 6.

2000 AD #244 (IPC, 1981) – Dredd: “Block Mania Part 9,” as above except [A] Brian Bolland. Dredd defeats the culprit but gets block mania himself, but is cured. The culprit is revealed as Orlok, a Judge from East-Meg One, i.e. the USSR. This leads directly into “The Apocalypse War.” Tharg: as above. Tharg defeats the aliens with aid from all the 2000 AD characters, including some obsolete ones like Black-Hawk and the VCs. Ace: “Lugjack,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. While Ace is towing a giant iceberg, his ship is hijacked by space pirates. Nemesis: as above. Nemesis defeats Torquemada and returns to Termight. That concludes Book One. Mean Arena: as above. Matt Tallon is apparently killed, but then shows up alive, and there’s no proof that it was Jessup who died. Matt’s four surviving targets consult with each other. This was the last prog included in the lot I ordered on July 6.

UNCLE SCROOGE #3/407 (IDW, 2015) – “The Duckburg 100,” [W/A] Romano Scarpa. A bank gives $100 to three infamous spendthrifts, with the promise of $100 more if they keep the original $100 or invest it as a profit. The three spendthrifts are Donald, Gladstone, and a Beagle Boy. Upon learning that he owns the bank, Scrooge tries to prevent any of them from earning the extra $100. This story is actually quite well-plotted and entertaining, and very Barksian, but I found it somewhat tiresome.

NEW TITANS #82 (DC, 1992) – “The Jericho Gambit Part One: The Saviors!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Tom Grummett. The Titans fight an insane Jericho. By this point in its run, this series was a shadow of its former self, but this issue does arouse some fond memories of the Titans’ glory days.

2000 AD #593 (Fleetway, 1988) – Zenith: “Phase II/4: Deep Trouble,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Evil government minister Peter St. John is interviewed on TV, and then learns that London is being nuked. Moon Runners: untitled, [W] Alan MacKenzie & Steve Parkhouse, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. The mother and daughter argue, and the two ships continue their pursuit. This story is a bit like Ace Trucking Co., except not funny. Dredd: “PJ Maybe, Age 13,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Liam Sharp. PJ kills another one of his relatives. This story is quite funny. Nemesis: “Deathbringer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] John Hicklenton. Nemesis fights Torquemada yet again, in new bodies. Hicklenton’s art is gorgeous, if hard to follow. Tharg’s Future Shocks: “Cultural Exchange,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Jim McCarthy (as “I. Dren”). A scientist learns the secret of FTL travel from some aliens. In return, he teaches the aliens that “if it still doesn’t work, hit it with a spanner.” Daily Dredd: “The Mean Machine Part 4,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Dredd arrests the man responsible for reviving the Angel Gang.

2000 AD #637 (IPC, 1991) – Anderson: “Triad,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Arthur Ranson. Psi-Judge Anderson investigates some cases of spontaneous combustion, and there’s a subplot about two little twin girls with psychic powers. Medivac 318: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. A paramedic retrains as an ambulance pilot. That sounds boring, but the main character in this strip is really cute, and Dobbyn’s art reminds me a bit of John Armstrong or Alan Davis. Tharg’s Future Shocks: “House of the Future,” [W] Glen Gormley, [A] Chris Weston. An old woman’s home security system kills some attempted burglers. Gormley’s first name is given in other sources as Chris. I can’t tell which is correct, because he has no other comics credits under either name. Dredd: “And the Wind Cried…”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mike Collins. Dredd and Anderson visit a city that was nuked in the Apocalypse War. There they find a comatose man who’s survived on life support for eight years. Anderson pulls the plug on his life support, allowing his late wife’s ghost to find rest. This story is very touching. Tales from the Doghouse: “Niall of the Nine Sausages,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Simon Jacob. In a series spun off from Strontium Dog, a bounty hunter named Maeve investigates an evil sausage maker. This story’s title is a reference to Niall of the Nine Hostages, a legendary Irish king. Simon Jacob’s art here is quite good, though very cartoony. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 16,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Middenface and some of his allies escape from Milton Keynes, and meanwhile, we learn that a character named Sagan is Johnny Alpha’s brother. I didn’t know this until I looked it up, but Johnny Alpha was permanently killed in this story, and that’s why his co-creator, Carlos Ezquerra, refused to draw it.

FINGER GUNS #4 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Justin Richards, [A] Val Halvorson. Sadie can’t report her father to the police because her mother is an illegal immigrant. This is a sadly realistic dilemma, especially in Trump’s America. Instead, Sadie comes up with a cockamamie plot to manipulate her father into being caught committing a crime. Predictably, Sadie’s plot backfires, and her dad slams a door on her and cuts her finger off. This was my favorite issue since #1.

NO ONE’S ROSE #4 (Vault, 2020) – “Away Mission,” [W] Zac Thompson & Emily Horn, [A] Alberto Alburquerque. I just realized that the artist’s surname is not spelled like the city in New Mexico, but has an extra R. This issue, Tenn (the sister) and her team visit a city called Geddontibe that uses mushrooms as technology. She tries to encourage cultural exchange between her team and the city, but instead her teammates start a massacre. Meanwhile, Seren (the brother) participates in an attempted terrorist attack, but has a last-minute change of heart.

MAESTRO #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Symphony in a Gamma Key,” [W] Peter David, [A] Germán Peralta. Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect is PAD’s personal favorite of his Hulk stories, and in this series he revisits it for at least the third or fourth time, revealing the Maestro’s origin. This issue starts as the Hulk is living happily with Betty and their sons, but Bruce quickly realizes that it’s a dream. Then he wakes up inside an underground AIM base, in a world that’s been devastated by nuclear war. I probably shouldn’t have ordered this comic, since I’ve been unhappy with most of PAD’s recent work, but it’s not a terrible comic.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #578 (Disney, 1992) – “Old Quackly Manor,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald is employed as a real estate agent and has to sell a dilapidated old house. Huey, Dewey and Louie have been playing in the house, so they try to dissuade Donald’s client from buying it. But their efforts backfire, and the client buys the house and turns it into a clubhouse for boys. This issue also includes another haunted house story, reprinted from an old Mickey Mouse giveaway comic, and a European story about the origins of soccer.

RESIDENT ALIEN: THE SUICIDE BLONDE #2 (Dark Horse, 2013) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. A pointy-eared Martian travels to Earth and reinvents himself as a private detective. This issue is a reasonably effective combination of the SF and detective genres. However, it feels as if it started out as a rejected proposal for a Martian Manhunter series.

FRONTLINE COMBAT #2 (Gemstone, 1951/1995) – all stories [W] Harvey Kurtzman. “Bouncing Bertha,” [A] Jack Davis: A member of a tank crew gets himself killed by his own cowardice, and his plight is compared to that of a drowning beetle. This story doesn’t have enough of a coherent theme. Like many EC war stories, it makes effective use of sound effects to depict the chaos of battle. “Zero Hour!”, [A] John Severin: In World War I, a young soldier gets caught on barbed wire, and several of his comrades get killed trying to save him. The boy’s commanding officer has to shoot him to put him out of his misery. This story is a powerful depiction of the pathos of war. “Gettysburg!”, [A] Wally Wood: During Pickett’s Charge on the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg, a Northern soldier kills his father, who’s fighting for the South. This story has great art, but its twist ending is trite. “Contact!”, [A] Kurtzman: In the Korean War, some American troops beat some Chinese troops, beecause “America is a way of life… and as long as we believe in good we can’t go wrong.” This story is far more jingoistic than most Kurtzman war stories.

G.I. JOE #55 (Marvel, 1987) – “Unmaskings,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Rod Whigham. Cobra Commander and Destro escape from the ruins of the Pit. Cobra Commander coincidentally discovers his son Billy in hospital, missing an eye and a leg. There’s a subplot about a civil war in Sierra Gordo. Meanwhile, Grunt leaves the military to go to Georgia Tech.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #386 (Marvel, 1994) – “The Wings of Age!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Mark Bagley. Aunt May hires a private investigator to look into Richard and Mary Parker, and as a result Peter convinces himself that Aunt May has Alzheimer’s. He visits an expert on aging for advice. Then the Vulture breaks out of prison and uses the same expert’s experimental device to drain Spidey’s lifeforce. Despite its top-tier creative team, this issue is pretty bad, especially since it includes Richard and Mary Parker (or the clones thereof). The period from 1994 to 1996 was probably the lowest point in Spider-Man’s entire history.

RICHARD DRAGON, KUNG FU FIGHTER #4 (DC, 1975) – “A Time to Be a Whirlwind!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Ric Estrada. Richard Dragon tries to rescue his love interest Carolyn from some hoodlums, but is unable to save her from being fridged. The best thing about this comic is Wally Wood’s inking.

2000 AD #638 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Triad Part 4,” as above. Anderson consults an expert at the “Department of Fortean Events” about spontaneous combustion. Anderson and the expert’s conversation takes place against a background of non-sequitur images, kind of like in Stillman’s monologue in City of Glass. In this story there’s a “Norm Breyfogle City Block.” Medivac 318: as above. The Medivacs try to stop a civil war on an alien planet. Future Shocks: “Brand Loyalty,” [W] Mike Collins, [A] Paul Marshall. An old woman goes out shopping in a world that’s been torn apart by a civil war between rival corporations. Dredd: “Kirby’s Demon,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. A psychotic young boy returns home from a mental  hospital and promptly summons a demon. When his family and his social worker are unable to see the demon, he flies into a rage and murders them. The boy’s name is “Jack Kirby,” his demon looks a lot like Etrigan, and he lives in Matt Wagner Block. So this issue is quite heavy on references to American comics. Strontium Dog: as above. The villains perform a beautifully drawn but incomprehensible ritual, and Middenface and his team head to Stonehenge. I forgot to mention the “Niall of the Nine Sausages” installment.

DETECTIVE COMICS #638 (DC, 1991) – “The Bomb,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jim Aparo. A government agent named Kelly enlists Batman’s aid in tracking down a runaway “human bomb.” We soon realize that Kelly has ulterior motives, and that the human bomb is a lot more human than Kelly has led Batman to believe. In fact, the bomb is a superpowered black teenage girl, and Kelly wants Batman to recapture her for the government. Batman convinces Kelly to let the girl take off her protective suit and go outside for a day, but when she does that, her own powers kill her. This story is very sad and touching, but if published today, it would draw criticism because of its inability to imagine a non-tragic ending for a young black girl with dangerous superpowers.

ANIMAL MAN #49 (DC, 1992) – “The Hot Heart of Abstract Reality,” [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Steve Dillon. More of the same plots as in issue 50, except with a greater emphasis on Animal Man, Vixen and Tristesse. This issue includes an illustrated prose sequence depicting the Antagon’s origin.

2000 AD #639 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson; “Triad, Part 5,” as above. Anderson investigates further and learns about the twins’ psychic powers. Medivac 318: as above. The medivacs’ attempt to calm the civil war turns into a massacre, and the protagonist, Verity, goes to the planet to look for survivors. I assumed Hilary Robinson was a man, simply because most 2000 AD writers are, but she’s a woman. According to the Albion British Comics Database Wiki, she left 2000 AD because Alan McKenzie tried to reassign Medivac 318 and Zippy Couriers to another writer, even though Robinson owned them. Future Shocks: “The Getting of Wisdom,” [W] Mike Collins, [A] Dave D’Antiquis. A scientist receives a communication from aliens, which turns out to be an ad for an encyclopedia. Dredd: “Curse of the Spider Man,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Mick Austin. A man is diagnosed with AGV, a disease that’s going to turn him into a spider. He tries to kill himself so his family will get his life insurance money, but only succeeds in getting himself sent to prison. Ironically, he was misdiagnosed and has AVG, a mild disease, while another of the doctor’s patients has turned into a spider. The Simpsons episode “Duffless” included a similar joke where Chief Wiggum confused DOA and DWI. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5uuaWZYHbM Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 18,” as above. Middenface and his allies arrive at Stonehenge, and some other stuff happens that I don’t understand.

CONAN THE ADVENTURER #3 (Marvel, 1994) – “Blood Days in Brythunia,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Rafael Kayanan. A young Conan arrives in a city for the first time, and gets drawn into a conflict between rival political factions. This short-lived series was intended for younger readers, though it’s not all that different from Thomas’s Conan the Barbarian. This issue includes a somewhat offensive depiction of a Pict. Howard’s Picts were more like Native Americans than like the real Picts, who were ancient inhabitants of Scotland.

WEIRD SCIENCE #1 (Russ Cochran, 1992) – All stories [W] Al Feldstein w/ Bill Gaines unless stated otherwise. “Lost in the Microcosm,” [A] Harvey Kurtzman. A man is hit with a shrinking ray and shrinks endlessly through smaller and smaller microworlds. This story has a powerful premise, but it’s not much of a story. “Dream of Doom,” [W] Harry Harrison?, [A] Wally Wood. An artist named Bristol keeps waking up from a dream only to realize he’s still dreaming. Like the previous story, this story has no real ending. “Dream of Doom” includes fictionalized depictions of Bill Gaines (“Gill Baines”), Harvey Kurtzman (“Bill Kurtz”) and Johnny Craig. “Experiment… in Death”, [A] Jack Kamen: A scientist kills a dog and then resurrects it. The procedure works, so he does the same thing to himself. But then the dog goes insane and has to be put down, presaging a similar fate for the scientist. “ ‘Things’ from Outer Space!”, [A] Feldstein: A woman discovers that America has been infiltrated by three-eyed aliens. She tries to bring this news to the authorities, up to and including the President, but they all turn out to be aliens themselves.

LITTLE LULU #56 (Dell, 1953) – credits as above. “The Downfall of Mr. McNabbem”: Mr. McNabbem thinks he’s caught Lulu playing hooky and smoking a pipe. The pipe actually  belongs to the principal, and when McNabbem breaks it, the principal chases him and he runs away. In a typical ironic Stanley touch, while fleeing, McNabbem discovers two kids who really are playing hooky and smoking. “Elephant Ride”: Lulu and Alvin ride an elephant at the park, Eddie shoots the elephant with a slingshot, and it chases him and the boys. “Space Kids”:   the boys pretend to have traveled to Mars in their clubhouse, but Lulu turns the tables on them. “The Little Pink Cloud”: Lulu tells Alvin a story in which the Poor Little Girl captures a living cloud. “The Buzzard”: Gloria breaks a date with Tubby in order to go out with Wilbur instead. Tubby pursues Gloria and Wilbur implacably, staring at them, until Wilbur runs away. Tubby’s determined stare is the funniest thing in this issue.

STAR TREK #44 (Gold Key, 1977) – “Prince Traitor,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Al McWilliams. Kirk, Spock and Scotty visit a primitive planet, where they become involved in the prince’s rebellion against his cruel father. This issue has some nice art, but also a confusing, overly abbreviated plot that doesn’t feel like Star Trek. The GCD says that this issue is full of Alex Raymond swipes. I didn’t realize this because Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon is one of the biggest gaps in my knowledge of comics.

SUPERMAN #14 (DC, 1988) – “Last Stand!”, [W/A] John Byrne. A Millennium crossover in which Superman and Green Lantern fight the Highmaster. This issue’s story is boring and its art is lazy even for Byrne, with lots of backgrounds that appear to be computer-generated. Also, there’s a scene where Hal finds the Guardians’ discarded clothes, and then he realizes that they’ve removed their clothes because they’re having an orgy with the Zamarons. Ewww.

DETECTIVE COMICS #580 (DC, 1987) – “Double Image,” [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Jim Aparo. Batman and Robin (Jason) fight Two-Face, who turns out to be an impostor. Jim Baikie’s art in this issue is very good, and quite reminiscent of Gibbons, but Jason Todd is an extremely annoying character. I understand why people voted to kill him.

GROO THE WANDERER #6 (Marvel, 1985) – “Eye of the Kabula,” [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [A] Mark Evanier. Groo steals a ruby from King Ojete to give it to the village of Kabula. But unbeknownst to him, the people of Kabula wanted the ruby so they could give it to King Ojete. There’s a scene in this story where Groo disguises himself as a woman to infilrate King Ojete’s harem. Sergio’s storytelling is so immersive and so compelling that when I read Groo, I often find myself not even noticing the art.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #188 (Marvel, 1975) – “Druid-War,” [W] John Warner, [A] Sal Buscema. Cap fights Dredmund the Druid and his robot. This is a boring issue by an unimpressive writer.

CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #58 (DC, 1967) – “Live Till Tomorrow,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Bob Brown. When the Challs attempt to return to their headquarters, a villain named Neutro turns their plane into glass. The Guardians defeat Neutro with help from Martin Ryan/Tino Manarry. This is another very fun issue.

I broke my promise again and ordered another large lot of 2000 AD’s. This lot was about 65 progs for $120. I offered $95 in exchange for leaving out a few progs that I already had, and the seller accepted the offer.

2000 AD #351 (IPC, 1984) – Strontium Dog: “The Killing, Part 2,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Wulf participate in The Killing, which is like Battle Royale or the Hunger Games. The only difference is that Johnny and Wulf are trying to kill all the other participants in order to collect the bounties on them. Dredd: “Mutie the Pig,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd fakes his death in order to catch a criminal. This issue begins with Dredd’s fake funeral, and the people of Mega-City One actually seem sad when they think Dredd is dead. This is ironic since Dredd is such a tyrant. Future Shocks: “The Sum of the Parts,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Steve Hatton. Some aliens abduct a man, take him apart, and then put him together with his head backwards and his arm and leg swapped. Rogue Trooper: “Colonel Kovert Part 2,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. A mysterious colonel sends Rogue to a planet where the Norts are making their own super-soldiers. Cam Kennedy’s art here is excellent, comparable in quality to that of Gibbons. Slaine: “The Shoggey Beast 4,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Slaine kills a monster who was being protected by his human mother. Mike McMahon’s art is effective, but somewhat hard to read. D.R. & Quinch: “D.R. & Quinch Go Straight! Part 2,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Alan Davis. I’ve read the complete D.R. & Quinch before, but it’s fun to see these stories in their original context. This is the conclusion to their first story arc, in which the boys get revenge on Judge Thorkwung. It ends with a scene where the boys are about to feed a bellboy to some rippy fish. This series is probably the funniest thing Alan Moore has ever written, and Alan Davis draws some very weird and humorous aliens.

2000 AD #352 (IPC, 1984) – Slaine: “Sky Chariots Part 1,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Journeying north to his tribe, Slaine bids his girlfriend goodbye, while Ukko says goodbye to his five girlfriends. Slaine is much more open about sex than other 2000 AD strips. Slaine and Ukko ride a mammoth to a village whose people are starving. Slaine lets the villagers eat the mammoth, but then some “skull-swords” show up. This story is followed by a two-page feature in which Mills describes some of his mythological sources. D.R. & Quinch: “D.R. & Quinch Go Girl Crazy! Part 1,” as above. To Quinch’s chagrin, D.R. falls in love with a prim and proper girl named Chrysoprasia. Rogue Trooper: “Colonel Kovert Part 3,” as above. Rogue finds himself marooned with the enemy soldiers. Dredd: “Mutie the Pig Part 2,” as above except [A] Ian Gibson. Dredd defeats and kills Mutie, who is in fact his old classmate Judge Gibson. This whole story was reprinted from progs 34 and 35. Strontium Dog: “The Killing Part 3,” as above. Wulf and Johnny eliminate some more of the competition.

2000 AD #353 (IPC, 1984) – Slaine: “Sky Chariots 2,” as above. The “skullswords” belong to the drune (evil druid) Slough Throt. They kill one of the villagers, and Slaine attacks them. D.R. & Quinch: “D.R. & Quinch Go Girl Crazy! Part 2,” as above. Quinch kidnaps Chrysoprasia in order to break her and D.R. up, but hilariously, Chryssie does a face-heel turn and becomes even more evil than D.R. Dredd: “The Highwaymen,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. Dredd fights a futuristic highwayman, who, like his ancient predecessors, ends by getting himself hanged. Rogue Trooper: “Colonel Kovert Part 4,” as above. Rogue disguises himself as a Nort and infiltrates the group of Nort soldiers, but his cover is blown when Colonel Kovert breaks radio silence and contacts him. On my first reading, I mistakenly thought that Kovert was one of the Norts. Strontium Dog: “The Killing Part 4,” as above. WUlf and Johnny kill some more competitors, but Wulf is poisoned.

LITTLE LULU #70 (Dell, 1954) – credits as above. “Two Lulus”:  A toymaker makes a doll that looks identical to Lulu, and the real Lulu gets mixed up with the doll. “The Clown”: Lulu is sad that her doll is broken, so Tubby dresses in women’s clothing to cheer her up. After a series of mishaps, Tubby finds himself standing outside Lulu’s door in boxer shorts, and when Lulu seems him this way, she finally does laugh. “The Hunters”: Lulu stops the boys from hunting a rabbit. “Black Mumday”: The boys vow not to speak to any girls, on pain of being thrown out of the club. Lulu tricks all the boys into speaking with her. “Cats”: Tubby and Iggy attract a giant horde of stray cats. “A Bus to Fairyland”: Lulu tells Alvin a story in which the Poor Little Girl takes a disappointing trip to Fairyland. “Three Fathers”: Alvin dresses as a baby and makes the boys think they’re responsible for him. This gag, like the doll-girl confusion in the first story, only works because of Irving Tripp’s unrealistic art. With his style, it’s impossible to tell a real girl from a doll, or a little boy from a newborn.

THE COMPLEAT FART AND OTHER BODILY EMISSIONS (Kitchen Sink, 1976) – “The Compleat Fart” and other stories, [W/A] Lee Marrs. A series of short pieces about farts and bodily fluids. These stories are well-drawn and funny, but I’m not a big fan of scatological humor, and I didn’t like this comic as much as Lee Marrs’s other work.

SUPERMAN #348 (DC, 1980) – “The Master of Wind and Storm!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Curt Swan. Superman fights an alien storm entity that was mistakenly summoned by an old Indian man. The Indian character in this story is a stereotype, but at least Conway tells us that he’s an old eccentric and all the local tribes have disavowed him – that is, he shouldn’t be taken as representative of all Indians.

DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES #15 (Gladstone, 1989) – “The Mad Chemist” and “The Sunken Yacht,” [W/A] Carl Barks. In “The Mad Chemist,” Donald becomes super-smart due to a chemistry experiment. He invents a gasoline substitute and uses it to build a rocket and fly to the moon, but when the rocket crashes, he forgets all his new knowledge. After this is a Gutenberghaus story, “Strange Adventures,” in which the nephews try to fool Donald into thinking aliens have invaded. But neither Donald nor the nephews realize that aliens really have invaded. In “The Sunken Yacht,” Donald discovers a sunken ship belonging to Scrooge, but Scrooge won’t pay Donald a fair price to raise the yacht, and he prevents Donald from obtaining any of the usual equipment needed for the job. The nephews come up with the idea of raising the ship by filling it with ping-pong balls. In 1964, a Danish man named Karl Krøyer used this method to raise a real sunken ship. Supposedly, he then tried to patent this method, but the Dutch patent office refused the patent because Krøyer’s method had already appeared in Barks’s comic. See https://www.iusmentis.com/patents/priorart/donaldduck/.

ACTION COMICS #314 (DC, 1964) – “The Day Superman Became the Flash!”, [W] Edmond Hamilton, [A] Al Plastino. A series of imaginary vignettes in which baby Kal-El is sent to planets other than Earth, and grows up to become  Atom, Aquaman, Batman, Flash, and Green Arrow. The backup story, “Supergirl’s Foster Parents” by Dorfman and Mooney, is a lot better. Supergirl’s birth mother, Allura, is depressed at being separated from her daughter, so Zor-El and Allura decide to switch places with Fred and Edna Danvers. This story is touching because of how much Kara is loved by both her sets of parents.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #78 (Marvel, 1981) – “Monster Man!”, [W] Tom DeFalco & David Michelinie, [A] Ron Wilson. Simon Williams, aka Wonder Man, appears in a TV show as a character who resembles the Thing. Jealous of his godson Franklin’s obsession with Simon, Ben tries to sue Simon for plagiarism. It doesn’t work, but Ben ends up having to team up with Simon, because the sponsor of Simon’s show is a disguised Xemnu the Titan. This is an extremely fun issue. I bought it years ago, and I should have read it sooner. Xemnu’s alias in this issue is Amos Moses, a reference to a Jerry Reed song. Simon’s director is named Ted Silverberg, perhaps after Robert Silverberg.

HELLBLAZER #7 (DC, 1988) – “Ghosts in the Machine,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] John Ridgway with Brett Ewins. Constantine asks Ritchie, the last survivor of the Newcastle group, for assistance with the cult that’s been stalking Zed. But Ritchie gets himself killed while surfing the Internet, and meanwhile the cult kidnaps Zed.

2000 AD #354 (IPC, 1984) – Slaine: “Sky Chariots 3,” as above. Slaine loses his fight with the skullswords, but Slough Throt forcibly recruits him as a bodyguard, and they take off in Slough Throt’s flying ship. D.R. & Quinch: “D.R. & Quinch Go Girl Crazy! Part 3,” as above. Chryssie ruins D.R./Waldo’s play, but when Waldo is asked who did it, he blames Chryssie instead of Quinch, choosing friendship over love. Dredd: “Are You Tired of Being Mugged?” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. An entrepreneur starts a “pedestrian escort agency” to deal with Mega-City One’s mugging epidemic. It starts off well, but the business collapses, and ironically, the entrepreneur is himself killed while trying to mug someone. Rogue Trooper: “Colonel Kovert Part 5,” as above. Colonel Kovert airlifts Rogue off the planet, but Rogue leaves behind the bag Kovert gave him. In the bag is a bomb that detonates and blows up the planet. Strontium Dog: “The Killing Part 5,” as above. Johnny saves Wulf’s life, but we’re reminded that for either of them to win the Killing, the other has to die.

2000 AD #355 (IPC,  1984) – Slaine: “Sky Chariots 4,” as above. Slaine discovers that the ship is carrying some of his zombified dead comrades. Then the ship flies into a storm sent by Slaine’s old enemy Slough Feg. D.R. & Quinch: “D.R. & Quinch Get Drafted Part 1,” as above. The boys join the army, which suits them fine because they get to use advanced weaponry, and then they’re sent to fight on an alien planet. Dredd: “Bob’s Law,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. The Judges decide to change the numbers of Mega-City One’s sectors, but this decision sparks massive protests. Dredd pays everyone to agree to use the new numbers instead of the old ones, then confiscates the money back by raising taxes. There are three Bob’s Laws, the first of which is “all it takes is one person to do something stupid and all the rest are sure to join in.” Rogue Trooper: “Colonel Kovert Part 6,” as above. Angry at Kovert’s deceptiveness, Rogue escapes from his ship, but Kovert vows that they’ll meet again. Strontium Dog: “The Killing Part 6,” as above. Johnny and Wulf fight Steelkreeg, one of their few remaining opponents.

DETECTIVE COMICS #652 (DC, 1992) – “Beyond the Law!”, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. Batman and Huntress team up against some criminals from the fictional Balkan nation of Krasna-Volny (I think this means “red-free” or “red waves”). I don’t like the Helena Bertinelli Huntress nearly as much as the Helena Wayne version. Without the connection to Bruce Wayne, Huntress has little to distinguish her from other characters.

LITTLE LULU #59 (Dell, 1953) – credits as above. “The Fright Racket”: Lulu has to go upstairs in a haunted house in order to join the boys’ club. She succeeds, and also fools the boys into thinking their clubhouse is haunted. “Sawdust Trail”: A mean man hires the boys to get rid of his wife’s cat. Lulu saves the cat (though its fate is left somewhat ambiguous) and gets revenge on the boys. “The Comedian”: Tubby tries to throw a pie in Lulu’s face, but instead Annie throws eight pies in Tubby’s face. “The Outing”: Lulu locks herself out at night looking for a stray cat. She enlists Tubby’s aid to get herself back home. We are not told what happened to the cat. I hope it’s not the same cat as in “Sawdust Trail.” “Luluson Crusoe”: Lulu tells Alvin a story in which the Poor Little Girl is shipwrecked on an island and befriends a grossly fat “savage.” This story includes some unfortunate racist stereotypes. “The Manhunter”: Tubby wrongly accuses two men of being the robber Barry Burgle. The real Barry Burgle is the cop who was assisting Tubby.

2000 AD #357 (IPC, 1984) – Slaine: “Sky Chariots 6,” as above. Slaine’s ship is attacked by enemy ships, and a huge battle results. Mike McMahon’s fight scenes are powerful, but, again, rather hard to read. D.R. & Quinch: “D.R. & Quinch Get Drafted Part 3,” as above. D.R. and Quinch find themselves in the same cell as Pulger, from their first story. They escape from their cell into another one, which contains none other than Chrysoprasia. This chapter begins and ends with D.R.’s hilariously bad poetry. Dredd: “Citizen Snork Part 2: The Making of a Nose,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. A man named Snork grows a giant nose, but becomes rivals with Bung, who has an equally long nose. A criminal called the Collector steals Bung’s nose. Strontium Dog: “The Killing Part 8,” as above. Johnny and Wulf defeat Steelkreeg, and now their only surviving rivals are the Osmongs. Time Twisters: “The Great Infinity Inc. Foul-Up Part 2,” [W] Chris Lowder (as Jack Adrian), [A] Jesus Redondo. A mischievous boy named Jimmy Jiss-Cohen joins a time travel tour and causes the destruction of Pompeii and the Great Fire of Rome. Jimmy’s tour guides marooon him in the 12th century, ensuring that he’ll grow up to be Genghis Khan.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #64 (Marvel, 1990) – Wolverine/Ghost Rider: “Acts of Vengeance Part 1 of 8: Ghosts of the Past,” [W] Howard Mackie, [A] Mark Texeira. Wolverine and Ghost Rider have separate encounters with Deathwatch’s minions. Poison: “Vandals of the Heart Part 5: Injuries,” [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Cindy Martin. This is the only story in the issue by a good writer, but its plot makes no sense. It’s about a woman named Poison and a grossly fat mobster, the Slug. Fantastic Four: “Deadly Dimensions Part 1: Common Sense,” [W] Robert DeNatale, [A] Mike Harris. On his night off, Reed accidentally summons a pale-skinned alien dude. Blade: “Vampires,” [W] Marcus McLaurin, [A] Malcolm Davis. Blade saves his girlfriend Saffron from some fake vampires. It’s weird that Blade has never had a successful solo comic, given his success as a film franchise.

DEATH RATTLE #3 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – “A Dead Man’s Chest,” [W/A] Doug Hansen. In 1856, a passenger on a ship is thrown overboard. Three poor children find his coins, fan and whistle, but they all go on to suffer gruesome and unusual fates, and his belongings ultimately return to their owner under the sea. This story is well-drawn and has a well-constructed narrative with a broad historical scope. I don’t know much about Doug Hansen, but this story suggests that he was very talented. “Bulto… The Cosmic Slug!”, [W/A] Jack Jackson: A story that blends myth and history, in which an Apache named Xotl discovers the spoor of a cosmic monster. “Mind Siege!”, [W/A] Steve Stiles: Some soldiers fight a cosmic monster that causes madness. This story ends with two subtly different versions of the same page: one version where the soldiers win, and another where it seems as though they only think they’ve won.

SILVER STAR #2 (Pacific, 1983) – “The Others!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. This story feels like a retread of older Kirby comics. Its hero and villain, Silver Star and Darius Drumm, resemble Orion and Darkseid. But even mediocre late Kirby is still Kirby. This issue has a backup story by Richard Kyle and D. Bruce Berry. It’s a piece of historical fiction set in New York in 1894.

FLASH #16 (DC, 1988) – “The Adventures of Speed McGee Part 1,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Greg LaRocque. Wally breaks up with his much older, married girlfriend Tina McGee, then fights some dude in a white and blue costume, and then Vandal Savage kidnaps Wally’s landlord’s child. This was the second issue after the departure of Mike Baron, whose depiction of Wally West was wildly inconsistent with any other version of the character before or since. At this point in his run, Messner-Loebs was still tying up Baron’s loose plot threads.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #8 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. I missed this issue when I was trying to read all the issues of this series that I had. This issue is a Spider-Verse crossover in which not very much happens.

2000 AD #359 (IPC, 1984) – Slaine: “Sky Chariots 8,” as above. D.R. & Quinch: “D.R. & Quinch Get Drafted Part 5,” as above. D.R., Quinch and friends get caught in a standoff between two armies, but Quinch’s gigantic mother appears and saves them. D.R. has a profound realization about the origins of war, but forgets it at once. Dredd: “The Haunting of Sector House 9,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Brett Ewins. An old sector house (police station) is haunted by something we don’t get to see yet. This story begins with an impressively drawn crowd scene, with a lot of simultaneous dialogue. Rogue Trooper: “You Only Die Twice Part 2,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Gunnar is destroyed, and Rogue has to complete a mission without him. Strontium Dog: “The Killing Part 10,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Wulf kill the Osmongs, but instead of trying to kill each other, they abandon the competition, content with the bounties they’ve already collected. Since the competition was left incomplete, its sponsors are forced to kill themselves.

SAVAGE DRAGON #168 (Image, 2011) – “This Ravaged World,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. A somewhat confusing conclusion to the Emperor Dragon epic. This issue also includes a backup story, by Hyeondo Park, that makes no sense at all.

DETECTIVE COMICS #584 (DC, 1986) – “Fever Break!”, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. In their second appearance ever, the Ventriloquist and Scarface run a scheme to smuggle drugs into America inside a fat man’s corpse. Having read so much 2000 AD, I can now see how the Ventriloquist and Scarface are similar to Wagner and Grant’s wacky characters from Judge Dredd. In this issue, Wagner and Grant heavily emphasize Scarface’s habit of pronouncing “b” as “g”. The reason for this is that ventriloquists have to speak without moving their lips, so they can’t pronounce “b”.

2000 AD #371 (IPC, 1984) – Strontium Dog: “Outlaw! Part 9,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Anti-mutant politician Nelson Bunker Kreelman hires Stix and his identical brother to hunt down Johnny, who is in fact Kreelman’s son. One-shot: “The Domino Theory!”, [W] Martin Feekins, [A] Ian Gibson. An alien domino-toppler tries to set the record for the most dominoes knocked down. He fails, and the unfallen dominoes become Stonehenge. Dredd: “Super Bowl Part 2,” [W John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Kim Raymond. Dredd tries to protect one of the teams in the Super Bowl from a terrorist threat. The threat turns out to be a hoax, and Dredd arrests half the team for petty crimes, causing them to lose the game 94 to 0. This story introduced Judge Dekker. Future Shocks: “Bill Tompkins Meets… Bill Tompkins!”, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] José Casanovas. Bill Tompkins has a nightmare where everyone he meets has his face. When he wakes up, a man with his face is at the door. Bill kills the man, who is in fact his long-lost twin brother. Rogue Trooper: “Message from Milli-Com 3: The Officers’ Mess,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Rogue leads some new recruits on a training course.

THE MIGHTY THOR #11 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Mighty Tanarus 4: The Asgardian,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Pasqual Ferry & Pepe Larraz. Everyone forgets about Thor and thinks the god of thunder is Tanarus. Meanwhile, Thor fights the Demogorgon. This comic is kind of average, but Pasqual Ferry’s art is unusual and impressive. His first name is alternately spelled Pascual.

PUMA BLUES #5 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1987) – “In the Empire of the Senses,” [W] Stephen Murphy, [A] Michael Zulli. A mostly wordless story that depicts a puma hunting at night, as well as various other animals. This comic feels like a symphony because of its use of sound effects below every panel. There’s a constant “tsip-TSIP” that represents the sound of either water or insects, but this bass rhythm is punctuated by the louder sounds of other animals.

TANTALIZING STORIES #3 (Tundra, 1993) – Frank: untitled, [W/A] Jim Woodring. Frank visits the seashore and encounters a creature with an eerie giant smile. Like most Frank stories, this story is beautifully drawn but doesn’t follow conventional narrative logic. Montgomery Wart: “A Faulty Connection,” [W/A] Mark Martin. A “love bug” tries to make Montgomery Wart fall in love. Mark Martin is heavily influenced by Walt Kelly. This issue also includes an installment of Woodring’s “Chip and Monk.”

LITTLE ARCHIE #159 (Archie, 1980) – “The New Man” and other stories, [W/A] Dexter Taylor? The only story in this issue that’s not explicitly credited to Dexter Taylor is the first one, but it doesn’t look like Bolling to me, so I’m not sure why I bought this issue to begin with. The stories in this issue are okay but forgettable.

NEW LOVE #2 (Fantagraphics, 1996) – “Letters from Venus: Life on Mars” etc., [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. In this issue’s first long story, Fritz and Petra attend a party full of people in bizarre costumes. This story reminds me of that one early Palomar story that took place at an outdoor party, and was full of Easter eggs. There’s also “The Fabulous Ones,” about some naked cavemen who kill each other in order to eat each other’s brains and gain their knowledge. And then “Peripeteia,” about a vain woman and her love gremlins. Between the longer stories are one-page biographies of saints.

TUROK, SON OF STONE #96 (Gold Key, 1975) – “Test of Manhood” and “The Man Who Believed,” [W] unknown, [A] José Delbo. In the first story, Andar passes his test of manhood, enabling Turok to teach him their tribe’s secrets. Turok is sometimes described as a Kiowa, but in this story he prays to “Wakan Tanka,” a name associated with Lakota people. In the backup story, Turok and Andar meet a man who can climb the impassable cliffs surrounding Lost Valley. But then the man loses the stone that he thinks is responsible for his climbing skill, and he becomes unable to climb. This story is an example of how Turok’s plot could never go anywhere, because if Turok and Andar ever escaped the valley, the series would end.

ACTION COMICS #543 (DC, 1983) – “In These Hands – Power!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Curt Swan. Superman fights a nuclear-powered villain named Neutron, while Lois tries to interview two rival Middle Eastern leaders. This issue includes a touching conversation between Superman and Lois at the North Pole, but the rest of the issue is mediocre.

2000 AD #377 (IPC, 1984) – Strontium Dog: “Outlaw! Part 15,” as above. In the water world of Och-Il, the Stix brothers kill Middenface McNulty and kidnap Johnny, only Middenface’s death is revealed to have been faked. Like McNulty, the people of Och-Il all have exaggerated Scottish clothes and accents. Halo Jones: “A Little Night Music,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ian Gibson. I may have read this story before, but if so, it was several years ago, and I read it in an awful Quality reprint. In this story Halo and her friend Rodice go to their friend Ludy’s concert. They almost get mugged on the way home, but the muggers leave them alone out of respect for Ludy’s music. Back at home, they realize they’re out of food and have to go shopping. Halo Jones was one of Alan’s earliest major works, and Halo was probably 2000 AD’s best female protagonist yet. Dredd: “Angel Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. Judge Dredd recruits Mean Machine Angel to visit the Cursed Earth and recover some stolen judge clones, though Mean thinks they’re looking for the loot from Liberace’s tomb. Also, due to brain surgery, Mean thinks Dredd is his father. Mean must have been a popular villain, because this is the third story I’ve read in which he appears. Future Shocks: “Doing Time!”, [W] Alan Hebden, [A] John Ridgway. Due to a faulty time travel device, a scientist destroys the same town twice. Rogue Trooper: “Message from Milli-Com 9: Souther vs. Souther,” as above. Rogue defeats a traitor named Coogan, but gets no credit for it.

METAL MEN #50 (DC, 1977) – “Our Mentor, the Robot,” [W] Martin Pasko & Robert Kanigher, [A] Joe Staton & Ross Andru. A heavily edited reprint of Metal Men #6, in which Will Magnus turns into a robot and creates an evil Gas Gang. There’s also a four-page framing sequence. For this reprint, the original story from Metal Men #6 was compressed from 23 and 2/3 pages to 13 pages, rendering it nearly incoherent.

SLOW DEATH #11 (Last Gasp, 1992) – [E] Ron Turner. This was the first and only issue since 1979, although another issue is in the works. It begins with Tom Veitch’s tribute to Greg Irons, who had died eight years earlier. Most of the material in this issuee is quite old. Highlights include: “Cold Snap,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Bryan Talbot: A story about intelligent dinosaurs observing the ice age, reprinted from a 1985 famine relief comic. “Darnold Duck”, [W/A] Greg Irons: “Darnold” Duck is caught in an oil spill. “Super Cosmic Creator Comix,” [W/A] Wally Wood: An artist uses the secret words “Ben Day” to become a comics mogul. Woody’s art here is beautiful. This story is dated 1977, and seems to have been published elsewhere in other versions. “Gregor Baboon,” [W/A] Greg Irons: A story about a suicidal, anthropomorphic baboon. This may have been Irons’s last work. In his two stories in this issue, Irons uses thicker linework and fewer screentones than in Deviant Slice, and his art looks more polished. This issue’s centerfold is a giant poster with all sorts of information about deforestation. It’s very tedious to read because there’s a ton of text and it’s reproduced way too small.

2000 AD #380 (IPC, 1984) – Strontium Dog: “Outlaw! Part 18,” as above. Middenface and his other allies head to Kreelman’s headquarters to look for Johnny. Halo Jones: “The Wild Brown Yonder,” as above. Halo and Rodice leave their giant edifice for a shopping trip. Rodice goes crazy from agoraphobia, and then she and Halo get mugged again. Dredd: “Angel Part 4,” as above. Dredd finds one of the infant clones dead, and Mean starts to realize that Dredd isn’t his father. Ace: “On the Dangle 3,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli (miscredited to Carlos Ezquerra). Ace and his crew party with some space pirates, and the head pirate orders Ace to murder a shaggy-headed dancing girl. Rogue Trooper: “Blind Terror Part 2,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Steve Dillon. Rogue goes blind and puts his chips in the wrong pieces of equipment, but still manages to complete his mission.

Finally done. It took me about two weeks to finish writing this round of reviews.

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July reviews

Trying to write reviews while listening to a Comic-Con panel. This will probably not work.

2000 AD #129 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: “Battle of the Black Atlantic Part 2,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd defeats the Sov troops and arrests their whole ship. This is the highlight of the issue. Tharg: “A Day in the Life of the Mighty Tharg!”, [W] unknown (credited to Tharg the Mighty), [A] Carlos Ezquerra. As the title indicates. This anniversary story replaces Blackhawk this week. It’s pretty cute. ABC Warriors: “Mars! The Devil Planet!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Now that the ABC Warriors team is assembled, their first mission is to resolve a war between Martian food companies. This story is well-drawn, but coming after the story of the team’s founding, it’s an anticlimax. Wolfie Smith: “The Mind of Wolfie Smith,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Ian Gibson. Wolfie battles another psychic named Hobb. This story is a bit like X-Men #117. Bill Savage: “Disaster 1990,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Alan Willow. Bill and Bamber fight some hicks, then they finally get to Oxford where they’re rendered unconscious by a mysterious mist.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #226 (DC, 1984) – “Hell on Earth!”, [W] Joey Cavalieri, [A] Chuck Patton. The Justice League fights some generic demons. A lousy issue by a lousy creative team.

New comics received on July 11:

STRANGE ACADEMY #2 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. It’s nice to see this series again. It’s basically Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men except with magic instead of mutant powers. But that’s not a bad thing because Wolverine and the X-Men was really fun, and so is this comic. The characters aren’t particularly well-defined yet, but I expect that will change.

ASH & THORN #2 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mariah McCourt, [A] Soo Lee. This is good, and important. But it could be funnier, and the art could be better. Soo Lee’s art makes me wish that Jill Thompson was doing the interiors as well as the covers. I believe I saw both Soo Lee and Mariah McCourt on Comic-Con at Home panels.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #8 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. The cop dude tries to kidnap little Bian, but Erica prevents him. Tommy gets abducted by baby monsters. Kind of a forgettable issue.

EMPYRE: FANTASTIC FOUR #0 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva & Sean Izaakse. In her Casino Cosmico, the Profiteer, sister of the Grandmaster, is staging battles betweeen a Kree and a Skrull warrior. The twist is that the two “warriors” are young children. The FF arrive at the Casino Cosmico while investigating something else, and they rescue the two kids and take them back to Earth. I don’t care about the Arena crossover, but this was a really entertaining issue. It’s also a sequel to Fantastic Four Annual #18.

ALIENATED #4 (Boom!, 2020) – ‘Meet Thy Maker,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Chris Wildgoose. It’s Samir’s turn to experiment with Chip (the alien). He uses it to locate and confront his deadbeat father. We learn that Samir wrongly blames himself for his father’s departure; Samir thinks he drove his father away through his own failure to be a proper Muslim and Pakistani, and has been self-harming as a result. Meanwhile, Samuel learns that he lost the YouTube contest. This issue includes the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Alienated is one of Si Spurrier’s best works yet, along with Coda and Angelic.

ADVENTUREMAN #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. Claire goes to the address on the new Adventureman novel and finds a giant building no one else can see, filled with bizarre technology. This issue is much shorter than #1, and thus less tedious to read. Claire is an engaging character, but she seems like a rather irresponsible and carefree parent. Terry Dodson’s art is excellent, but as I’ve observed before, it seems inhumanly slick and polished.

FINGER GUNS #3 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Justin Richards, [A] Val Halvorson. The two kids continue experimenting with their powers, and the girl’s father continues to abuse her mother. This issue is just average, and as a depiction of domestic abuse, this comic is inferior to Middlewest.

SABRINA: SOMETHING WICKED #2 (Archie, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. Della teaches Sabrina to play cards, and then Sabrina casts a spell that has some unintended consequences. I don’t remember much about this issue.

BITTER ROOT #9 (Image, 2020) – “Rage and Redemption Part Four,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. This series just won the Eisner for Best Continuing Series. I voted for Crowded and I expected Immortal Hulk to win, but Bitter Root is a deserving winner, especially at the present cultural moment. This issue continues a bunch of different plotlines, and we meet one of the Chinatown monsters, which takes the form of a lion dance costume. At the end of the issue, Walter Sylvester, the main villain of the storyline, gets chased into a sundown town. This weekend I watched a Comic-Con panel where either Walker or Greene discussed the imp creatures that show up throughout this series.

NO ONE’S ROSE #3 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Zac Thompson & Emily Horn, [A] Alberto Albuquerque. The sister is browbeaten into making a pro-government broadcast, while the brother continues to foment rebellion. This series has a fairly conventional sibling-against-sibling plot, but its plant-based technology is unique, and Alberto Albuquerque’s art is excellent.

MONEY SHOT #6 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. Part of this issue is about an alien warrior who serves an evil colonialist empire. And she’s been ordered to breed with another high-class alien, even though she loves one of her own subordinates. Meanwhile, the Money Shot crew is looking for their next mission, and their leader, Christine Ocampo, seems to have a sexually transmitted disease. The highlight of this issue is Christine’s cat, who uses a cat-to-human translator to say things like ”Quiet. Sleeping” and “No! No touch!”

THE CIMMERIAN: RED NAILS #2 (Ablaze, 2020) – “Red Nails Part 2,” [W] Regis Hautière, [A] Olivier Vatine & Didier Cassegrain. I didn’t like the first Cimmerian album, and I wasn’t going to read the second one, but I ordered this issue by mistake. This is a comic that didn’t need to exist. Thomas and BWS’s adaptation of “Red Nails” is an all-time classic, and probably the best Conan comic ever. This new adaptation adds nothing that’s not in the Thomas-BWS version, except that the artists make Xuchotl look more like a Mesoamerican city.

DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS #7 (DC, 2020) – “Fixed,” [W] Gerard Way & Jeremy Lambert, [A] Nick Derington. Casey revives Crazy Jane so she can deal with the insane Robotman. Jane turns Robotman into a robot baby, and Casey returns to the pages of her comic book. Way and Derington’s Doom Patrol was one of the best DC comics of the 2010s, but it was crippled by chronic lateness.

LOIS LANE #12 (DC, 2020) – “Enemy of the People Part 12,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. This issue wraps up the plot of the series, but I don’t understand that plot anymore, nor do I care about it. Lois Lane started out promisingly but turned into a huge disappointment. Its plot was hard to follow, and Lois was too dependent on Superman; she didn’t have enough agency of her own.

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #5 (DC, 2020) – “Wanted: Hyperman Dead or Alive!”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. In order to avenge the murder of a Green Lantern, Hal fights an evil version of Superman and his evil family. This issue’s art style is an obvious homage to Kirby. So far, Season Two of Green Lantern has been worse than Season One due to its lack of a clear plot. Season One was tied together by the Blackstars story arc, but I’m not sure what Season Two is supposed to be about.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #12 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. Miguel fights his girlfriend, who’s been turned into a giant mutant wasp. Thankfully this is the final issue. This series was not one of PAD’s better works.

2000 AD #587 (Fleetway, 1988) – Nemesis: “Deathbringer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] John Hicklenton. This story has amazing art, but I don’t understand its plot. Nemesis in general is very confusing; it seems to involve a lot of time travel and alternate realities. Strontium Dog: “The No-Go Job Part 8,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Sagan betrays Johnny Alpha and Middenface McNulty (who has an awesome name) and kills McNulty’s dog. The “bones” that served as this storyline’s McGuffin are revealed as belonging to “the magician Malak Brood.” Dredd: “The Brainstem Man,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Dredd fights a mutated lizard man. This story is inconsequential, though its art is good. Tribal Memories: “Part Three,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tony Wright. The protagonist and the last surviving Maasai return to the protagonist’s home planet. This story depicts the Maasai in a problematic way, implying that they represent the primal, original essence of humanity.

DRYAD #3 (Oni, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Osterling. The parents’ village is invaded by soldiers with ray guns, and we now realize that this series is SF, not fantasy; the first issue took place in a fantasy enclave within an SF world. I have doubts about Kurtis Wiebe’s writing, but I’m enjoying this series enough to continue reading it.

VAGRANT QUEEN: A PLANET CALLED DOOM #4 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. It’s been so long since issue 3 that I barely remember what’s going on in this series. In this issue, Ellida is fleeing from the main villain, Brother John, and Ellida’s girlfriend is looking for her. This whole miniseries has been kind of underwhelming.

SUPERMAN #405 (DC, 1985) – “The Mystery of the Super-Batman!”, [W] Craig Boldman, [A] Alex Saviuk. Superman grows horns because of some cursed pipes of Pan. To conceal the horns, Superman disguises himself as Batman. This is quite a funny story. The backup story, by Rozakis and Schaffenberger, is about a little boy who doesn’t believe Superman exists. This idea had already been used in a 1954 TV episode, and later in Superman #96 the following year.

2000 AD #130 (IPC, 1979)- Dredd: “The Testimonial of Lips Lazarus,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dredd has to protect a mob informant who’s lost his body and consists only of a head. This story is funny, but the art looks more like Ron Smith than Gibbons. Blackhawk: untitled, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Blackhawk and Ursa compete in a deadly obstacle course. Blackhawk saves Ursa’s life, against the orders of their trainer Battak. ABC Warriors: “Cyboons,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Dave Gibbons. The ABC Warriors defend a herd of Martian “soya bean cows” from an army of intelligent baboons. This story is ridiculous, and it clashes with the more serious tone of the previous ABC Warriors stories. Wolfie Smith: “The Mind of Wolfie Smith,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Ian Gibson. Wolfie defeats Hobb and heads off to his next adventure. Bill Savage: “Disaster 1990!”, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Carlos Pino. Bill wakes up in Oxford, which is run by a bunch of cliquey, elitist professors. Oxford is invaded by a flock of birds – yes, birds. By this point I was getting rather tired of “Disaster 1990.”

RAT GOD #5 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Richard Corben. Clark and Kito escape from Lame Dog and witness a battle between the titular rat god and a giant panther. The old mad scientist shows up and kills Clark, but he and the rat god get blown up, and Kito escapes and becomes the ancestor of the series’ original narrator. This miniseries’ plot is not without flaws, but Corben’s art is amazing. The rat/panther battle in this issue is particularly epic.

MS. TREE #15 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Skin Deep Chapter Three,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. This storyline is based on the 1984 Miss America scandal, when Vanessa Williams was voted the first black Miss America, but had to resign when Penthouse announced plans to publish nude photographs of her. In “Skin Deep,” a photographer has been murdered after obtaining nude pictures of Veronica Valer (Williams), the new “All-American Miss” (Miss America). Another of the suspects is “Harry Rynd,” i.e. Larry Flynt. Ms. Tree eventually discovers that the culprit is an obsessive All-American Miss collector who wanted to protect the pageant’s reputation. Part of the fun of this issue is identifying the real-world basis of its story and characters.

IRON MAN #251 (Marvel, 1989) – “Wrecked Him? He Nearly Killed Him!”, [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] Herb Trimpe. An Acts of Vengeance crossover in which Iron Man fights the Wrecker. Tony beats the Wrecker, but another villain, Chemistro, shows up to finish Tony off. The scenes with Chemistro and his amputee, ex-con brother are the only interesting things about this issue.

2000 AD #589 (Fleetway, 1988) – Starting with this issue the covers are printed on glossy paper instead of newsprint, and there are also several more color pages. Zenith: “Phase II Prologue: Down Under,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. This prologue takes place in a different universe from the main story, and depicts a fight between two dinosaurs. The prologue doesn’t have anything to do with the main plot of Phase II. Nemesis: as above. Again, this story has excellent art, but I don’t understand what it’s about. Dredd: ‘Twister Part Two: Somewhere… Over the Radzone,” [A] John Wagner, [A] John Ridgway. Another “Dredd in Oz” story, except it’s set in L. Frank Baum’s Oz, not Australia. It’s as funny as you’d expect. It even takes advantage of the fact that 2000 AD only included a few color pages at this time. Dredd’s arrival in Oz takes place on the first color page, so when the twister drops him off in Oz, the world changes from black and white to color, just like in the movie. Slaine: “Slaine the King,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Glenn Fabry. Slaine defeats an army of Fomorians. This story includes a classic nearly-full-page depiction of Slaine’s warp spasm (http://jsbookreader.blogspot.com/2012/08/warp-spasm.html). Rogue Trooper: “Through the Eyes of a Gun,” [W/A] Steve Dillon. As indicated by the title, this story is mostly about Rogue’s gun, Gunnar.

RAGEMOOR #1 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W] Jan Strnad, [A] Richard Corben. Ragemoor is an ancient castle with a dark history of human sacrifice. The castle’s current inhabitants are the insane owner, Machlan,  and his son Humbert. Machlan’s brother tries to gain control of the castle, but the castle comes to life to foil his plot. Despite being black and white, this series is just as beautiful as Rat God. Its plot has obvious similarities to Gormenghast, The Fall of the House of Usher, etc.

RIO AT BAY #1 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Hot Lead for Jonny Hardluck,” [W/A] Doug Wildey. A young boy wins a priceless gold nugget in a poker game with some corrupt mine owners. The mine owners try to kill the boy and get the nugget back, and Rio has to save him. Rio at Bay is some of Doug Wildey’s finest work. His action sequences are beautiful, and his backgrounds are detailed and immersive. It’s a pity that he produced so few comics after his animation career began.

2000 AD #131 (IPC, 1979) – “Sob Story,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. Judge Dredd finds a dead body in a “mo-pad” – a motor home that’s permanently on autopilot. The victim is a former contestant on a reality show where viewers donate money to the person with the saddest sob story. There are some very funny concepts in this story. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk fights Battak in the arena and wins, but refuses to kill him. Ursa becomes Blackhawk’s official sidekick. ABC Warriors: as above. The ABC Warriors resolve the conflict in favor of the Cyboons, but the Cyboon chief’s educated son is killed. Again, this story is rather silly. Wolfie Smith: “Night of the Carnivore,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Eduardo Vaño. Wolfie visits the set of a horror movie, which is being filmed on location next to some creepy old standing stones. Vaño uses the scratchy, mixed-media style associated with other Spanish artists like José Ortiz and Vicente Alcazar. Bill Savage: as above. Savage tracks down a villain who’s raising killer waterfowl. This story is also quite silly, and not on purpose.

ALL-NEW X-FACTOR #13 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Pop Mhan. Quicksilver takes Luna and Georgia Dakei to Colonial Williamsburg. Gorgon – who is now sleeping with Pietro’s ex-wife Crystal – shows up to recover Luna, claiming that Pietro kidnapped her. A fight starts, and Crystal herself arrives to resolve it. There are also a bunch of other subplots. I haven’t read much of PAD’s second run on X-Factor, but it’s a lot better than his second run on Spider-Man 2099.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #38 (Marvel, 1975) – “Night of the Griffin,” [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. Spider-Man and the Beast team up to fight the Griffin. This issue was the first time these two characters teamed up, but otherwise it’s completely uninteresting. That’s too bad because both its protagonists are famous for their witty dialogue.

PRETTY DEADLY #6 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Emma Rios. An old woman is dying, and her descendants try to keep Death away from her until her son can return from World War I. This issue at least has a coherent plot, unlike most issues of Pretty Deadly, but I still hate this series.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #3 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. Miguel fights a villain named Doctor Cronos. This is another pointless issue, and thankfully it was the last one I ordered.

THE WAKE #4 (Vertigo, 2013) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. The protagonists manage to escape from underwater zombies by deafening them with a really loud drill. But then an even bigger zombie appears. This issue isn’t as visually stunning as earlier issues of The Wake, but it’s still well-drawn. I should point out here that Sean Gordon Murphy has exhibited a pattern of problematic behavior, and therefore I don’t want to support his work.

INCREDIBLE HULK #99 (Marvel, 2006) – “Anarchy Part IV,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Aaron Lopresti. The Hulk and Caiera fight, but then Caiera’s boss, the Red King, drops a bomb on her in a futile attempt to kill the Hulk. Caiera and the Hulk decide to team up against the Red King, who they now realize is the real enemy. This issue climaxes in a shocking sequence where Caiera is hit by the bomb while holding a small child, and the child’s body crumbles to dust while Caiera is unhurt. Greg Pak was probably the best Hulk writer between PAD and Al Ewing.

ELFQUEST: THE FINAL QUEST #9 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Wendy Pini, [W] Richard Pini. The elves fight some trolls underground, and there are various other subplots. This whole series was boring and aimless and was of little interest to a casual Elfquest fan like me.

EPIC ILLUSTRATED #9 (Marvel, 1981) – various stories, [E] Archie Goodwin. I bought a bunch of these at a book sale back when I lived in Gainesville, but I’ve only read a few of them. This issue starts with the conclusion of Jim Starlin’s “Metamorphosis Odyssey,” the story that introduced Dreadstar. I have mixed feelings about most of Starlin’s post-‘70s work, but Metamorphosis Odyssey is interesting and has some nice painted art, and it makes me want to read more Dreadstar. Charles Vess’s “Children of the Stars” has gorgeous draftsmanship but a thin plot. The protagonists’ names, Bran and Bronwen, come from the Mabinogion, but otherwise Vess’s story is original. The high point of the issue is part one of a new Weirdworld story by Doug Moench and John Buscema. After their adventures in Marvel Super Special, Tyndall and Velanna are living in a village of dwarves, but Velanna is sick of constant domestic work and is getting ready to dump Tyndall. Luckily, they both get thrust into another epic quest. I love Weirdworld, and I’m excited to discover that there’s another Weirdworld story I haven’t read. Next is a story by Lee Marrs about a science-fictional marriage counseling exercise. This story is a lot like her work in Star*Reach. Finally, there’s a wordless story by P. Craig Russell. Overall this is an impressive issue.

2000 AD #590 (Fleetway, 1990) – Zenith: “Phase II/1: Many Happy Returns,” as above. Zenith fights a robot that’s later revealed to be his father. I already read this story earlier this year, in an American reprint. This story quotes the Smiths’ song “The Queen is Dead.” Dredd: “The Mean Machine!”, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. A series of newspaper strip reprints, in which Dredd fights Mean Machine, the last surviving member of the Angel Gang. Nemesis: as above. I still don’t undertsand this story, although John Hicklenton’s artwork is stunning. Dredd: “Twister Part 3: Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” as above. Dredd meets the Scarecrow and the Tin Man. This story is interrupted by a reprint of Alan Moore’s “The Big Clock” from prog 315, and after that there’s another new Future Shock. Slaine: as above. A fun story, but it’s only three pages. On the back cover there’s a gallery of Slaine and his chief warriors.

STAR SLAMMERS #2 (IDW, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Walt Simonson. Little Ethon sacrifices his life to allow his comrades to escape, but now the galactic powers that be are aware of the Star Slammers’ existence. This series is one of Walt’s major works; its writing and art are both excellent.

TRUTH: RED, WHITE AND BLACK #2 (Marvel, 2003) – “The Basics,” [W] Robert Morales, [A] Kyle Baker. Isaiah Bradley learns he’s become a father, but then his unit’s commander is murdered in cold blood by a higher-ranking officer, and he and his entire unit are put on trucks and taken who knows where. This issue draws some disturbing parallels between the conduct of the US Army and that of the Nazis.

SUPERMAN #66 (DC, 1992) – “Our Army at War,” [W/A] Dan Jurgens. In the conclusion of Panic in the Sky, a bunch of superheroes fight Brainiac in Warworld. Panic in the Sky was a rather pointless crossover, just like Jurgens’s next major crossover, Zero Hour, and these stories together suggest that Jurgens was an overrated writer. This issue shows Metron fighting on the side of the superheroes. That seems wrong since Metron has no principles or allegiances other than his desire for knowledge.

DREADSTAR #29 (First, 1987) – “Mindwar,” [W/A] Jim Starlin. Willow and Oedi battle a telepathic villain named Monalo in his underground lair. This issue has some very effective storytelling. Dreadstar himself and his other companions only appear at the end of the issue.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #21 (DC, 1992) – “Off the Road Part 1 of 5,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Chris Bachalo. Shade, Lenny and Kathy camp out in a junkyard. Shade tries to sleep with Kathy but can’t finish, so he allows his more aggressive split personality, Hades, to take over his body. Issue 26, reviewed below, gives us a different perspective on what happened in this issue.

LITTLE ARCHIE #161 (Archie, 1980) – “A Twist of Fate,” [W/A] Dexter Taylor, etc. The Bob Bolling story in this issue is “Falcons Don’t Forget.” The South Side Serpents try to shoot a mother falcon and her baby, and Little Archie and Dilton use a model airplane to save the birds. This story has a cute plot, and it demonstrates Bolling’s effective action sequences and his realistic drawings of animals.

NEXT MEN #24 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Power 2 of 4,” [W/A] John Byrne. This issue’s epigraph is a Shakespeare quotation which Byrne attributes to Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. I already had enough reasons to dislike John Byrne, but I have an even lower opinion of him now that I know he subscribes to the Oxonian conspiracy theory. Besides that, the issue starts with a dumb metatextual sequence where Byrne, Mignola and another artist confront their editor (named Ben Horowitz, perhaps in reference to Bob Harras). Later in the issue there’s a cameo appearance by Concrete, but he doesn’t act like Concrete. I’m not sure which of the characters in this issue are the actual Next Men.

JONAH HEX: TWO-GUN MOJO #3 (Vertigo, 1993) – “The Resurrectionist,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. Jonah encounters Doc Williams, a snake oil salesman who speaks in a font based on old posters, like P.T. Bridgeport in Pogo. Doc Williams has been resurrecting dead people by curing them in pickle barrels, and he captures Jonah and subjects him to the same treatment. This is a very funny series; it takes the raucous humor of the original Jonah Hex comics and turns it up to 11.

New comics received on July 16:

FANTASTIC FOUR #21 (Marvel, 2020) – “Living History,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Paco Medina w/ Sean Izaakse. The adult FF members go off to participate in the Empire crossover, leaving Franklin and Valeria to babysit the Kree and Skrull kids, Jo-Venn and N’Kalla. Franklin and Val recruit a replacment Fantatsic Four to help defuse the fight between the two kids, but this results in N’Kalla getting stabbed by Wolverine. This is another really fun issue, and it’s a relief that this series is back.

ONCE AND FUTURE #9 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Duncan manages to survive being attacked by Beowulf. Gran returns to the old folks’ home. Grendel shows up at the end of the issue. So far this storyline has been less impressive than the first one. I think Beowulf ought to speak in alliterative verse.

LUDOCRATS #3 (Image, 2020) – “In Which Interrogation Becomes Terrible Seduction,” [W] Kieron Gillen & Jim Rossignol, [A] Jeff Stokely. Otto and Gratty consummate their love, then they investigate what the Hyper-Pope is up to. Highlights of this issue include the tentacled glowing creature in a police hat, and the pedantic dude who appears to provide exposition. Ludocrats continues to be the best new comic of the year.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #3 (DC, 2020) – “Good Guys and Bad Guys,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Doc Shaner. In flashback, Adam fights a lizard dude in an arena. In the present, Adam and Alanna’s conflicts with the Justice League continue. I’m still kind of confused as to where this story is going. Adam and Alanna don’t act like parents who have recently lost a child. This series is better than Heroes in Crisis, but it ought to be the best Alanna Strange story ever, and so far it isn’t. Tom King was in the news this weekend because of his denunciation of Jae Lee. His handling of the situation could be criticized, but I obviously think he’s right to take an aggressive anti-C*micsg*te stance, and it’s important that such an influential figure in the industry is publicly coming out on the correct side.

CONAN: BATTLE FOR THE SERPENT CROWN #3 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Luke Ross. Conan and Nyla encounter Black Panther in Wakanda. The Black Panther guest appearance is a bit unnecessary, but Saladin writes both these characters well.  Saladin earned his first recognition with a sword-and-sorcery novel, and he would be an ideal writer for the regular Conan series.

IMMORTAL HULK #35 (Marvel, 2020) – “A Certain Amount of Light,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Mike Hawthorne. A rather low-intensity issue. The main events are that the Savage Hulk talks with Banner inside their mind, and then he helps rebuild a house. The issue ends with the Hulk blowing up, so there’s more excitement on the way. This issue includes a helpful list of all the Hulk personalities. As mentioned above, I was surprised that this series didn’t win an Eisner for Best Continuing Series.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #12 (DC, 2020) – “Finally!”, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. Jimmy foils Julian’s plot and becomes the new publisher of the Daily Planet. This is a satisfying conclusion, though I still want to reread the series to see how all the plot threads fit together. Overall this was an excellent miniseries, despite its sometimes overly complicatd plot.

GIDEON FALLS #23 (Image, 2020) – “Wicked Worlds Part 2 of 5: Neon Bible,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Father Fred discovers that he can sell his blood for more than enough money to see the bishop, but the “bishop” is actually a cybersex program. Fred befriends a poor young girl, and then the Black Barn chases them both into a steampunk version of Gideon Falls. This issue was far easier to follow than #22.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #106 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell & Ronda Pattison, [A] Nelson Daniel. It’s too bad this issue isn’t drawn by Sophie Campbell, but just like Jem and the Holograms, TMNT is so well-written that I’m willing to continue reading it despite the lack of Campbell’s artwork. This issue, mutant children are disappearing, and Leonardo refuses to believe little Lita when she claims that “the Slithery” is responsible. But the Slithery is real, and Lita herself becomes its next victim.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #17 (Marvel, 2020) – “Game Night,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Francesco Manna. Carol invites Kamala Khan to the regular superhero poker game, only to discover that gambling is against Kamala’s religion. To salvage the situation, Carol, Kamala and friends go to an escape room instead. Of course the escape room is a trap created by a supervillain. This is easily Kelly’s best issue of Captain Marvel. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a throwback to other classic comics like Marvel Two-in-One #51. However, while this issue is fun, it’s mostly fun because of the other characters and not Carol herself. Kelly’s version of Carol is still not interesting enough to carry the entire series.

GIANT-SIZE X-MEN: MAGNETO #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Wait & See,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Ramón Pérez. Magneto negotiates with Namor for the rights to a vacant island, and they fight some undersea enemies together. This issue is okay, but it’s too decompressed. It includes a lot of silent panels that do nothing but pad the length of the story.

FAMILY TREE #7 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. This issue barely advances the plot at all. I’m not yet ready to give up on this series, but I’m starting to think about doing so.

HEIST #6 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Arjuna Susini. Reven manipulates the minds of everyone on the planet, ordering them to kill Glane Breld. This is another fun issue. I was surprised that this wasn’t the last issue. I had assumed Heist was a six-issue miniseries.

THE OLD GUARD: FORCE MULTIPLIED #5 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Noriko tells Nile about Andromache’s complicity in ancient slavery, thereby poisoning Nile’s relationship with the other Old Guard. This issue has only a short action sequence. I haven’t seen the TV adaptation of this comic, but it’s gotten good reviews.

AQUAMAN #61 (DC, 2020) – “Echoes of a Life Lived Well Part 4,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Miguel Mendonça. Mera tries to cancel the wedding, Ocean Master insists on marrying her, and a giant fight starts. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Ocean Master is a very effective villain. I notice that this issue’s entire plot is the result of Dan DiDio’s idiotic anti-marriage policy, because of which Arthur and Mera aren’t married, even though they have a child.

2000 AD #132 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: as above. Dredd apprehends the person who’s killing Sob Story contestants, and in an ironic twist, the host of Sob Story is bankrupted by lawsuits and has to beg his own listeners for money. Blackhawk: untitled, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Ramon Sola. Blackhawk and Ursa fight a giant dinosaur. This prog may be the first time Ursa sings his “crushing thud” song. ABC Warriors: “The Red Death,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. The ABC Warriors investigate a plague that kills people when they get scared. Wolfie Smith: as above. The film shoot starts, and Wolfie has a vision of the Carnivore monster. Vanyo continues to exhibit some interesting artistic techniques. Bill Savage: as above. The crazy bird-breeder gets killed by his own birds, and Savage and Bamber decide to leave Oxford.

A1 VOL. 2 #2 (Epic, 1992) – various stories, [E] Dave Elliott & Garry Leach. This issue begins with Hunt Emerson’ story about a jazz musician and his talking horn. It’s a good introduction to Emerson’s style. George Pratt’s story is well-drawn but is all about his inability to write a good story. Philip Bond and Jon Beeston’s ”Cheekie Wee Budgie Boy in the Castafiore Affair” is an excellent story, an SF murder mystery with a bird-headed protagonist. Nick Abadzis’s “Sacharine Fools” has very distinctive artwork but makes little sense. Peter Milligan and Jamie Hewlett’s “King Leon Part One” is also excellent, though its art is much more restrained than is usual for Hewlett. The issue ends with a two-pager by Roger Langridge.

SUPERMAN #366 (DC, 1981) – “Revenge, Superman Style,” [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Superman disguises himself as an alien in order to infiltrate the Superman Revenge Squad. Bates fails to convince me that the Superman Revenge Squad are scary enough that Superman has to take such elaborate precautions when dealing with them. The backup story, by Rozakis and Schaffenberger, is about Perry Wihte’s attempts to prove that Superboy has moved to Metropolis. According to this story, George Taylor was Perry’s boss at the start of his career.

ARCHIE #197 (Archie, 1970) – “A Fair Shake” and other stories, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey. A bunch of forgettable stories. The first one is about how Betty feels that her musical contributions to the Archies are not appreciated. One of the other stories is set in caveman times.

THOR #332 (Marvel, 1983) – “Blood of a Goddess!”, [W] Alan Zelenetz, [A] Don Perlin. Dracula visits New York and tries to suck Sif’s blood. This issue isn’t actively bad, but it’s not great either, and Dracula is not an appropriate villain for Thor. Notably, this issue depicts Thor and Sif sharing a bed.

At this point I received a small shipment of back issues:

TANK GIRL 2 #3 (Dark Horse, 1993) – various stories, [W] Alan Martin, [A] Jamie Hewlett. This cost $5, and it was the main reason I placed this order. Most of the other comics in the shipment were things I added to justify the shipping costs. The stories in this issue are all reprinted from Deadline. The stories are almost devoid of plot, but Hewlett’s draftsmanship, page layouts, lettering, and coloring are spectacular. He has a unique aesthetic that heavily influenced Evan Dorkin and probably lots of other artists. His talents are perhaps more suited to poster art than graphic narrative, and he’s achieved his greatest fame as the graphic designer for Gorillaz.

SNARF #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1972) – “Rex Glamour, Process Server” and other stories, [W/A] Denis Kitchen et al. This issue is kind of disappointing. The most notable artists in it are Kitchen himself and the Dutch underground cartoonist Evert Geradts. Other contributors include Tim Boxell, Dave Herring, Wendel Pugh and Don Glassford. Kitchen’s art is slick and polished, but the best art in the issue is actually in Pugh’s “Crescent City Rollo.” Later issues of Snarf would have a more exciting lineup of talent.

ACCIDENT MAN #1 (Dark Horse, 1993) – untitled, [W] Pat Mills & Tony Skinner, [A] Duke Mighten. A very funny story about an assassin who’s obsessed with expensive cars and clothing. It’s sort of a parody of James Bond. Duke Mighten is a fairly obscure British artist, but he’s not bad. This issue’s cover is by Howard Chaykin.

UNDERWATER #1 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Chester Brown. Chester Brown’s first post-Yummy Fur work is the story of two twin babies named Yuy and Kupifam. It begins with their birth and depicts their gradual acquisition of language. The gimmick is that the adults’ dialogue starts out as unintelligible gibberish, but is gradually replaced by standard English as the series goes on. Underwater is disturbing and nightmarish, reflecting how small children find themselves in an unfamiliar, intimidating new world. However, this series’ narrative potential is rather limited, and Brown got bored with it and never finished it.

HARDWARE #1 (Milestone, 1993) – “The Man in the Machine Chapter One,” [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] Denys Cowan. Curtis Metcalf is a brilliant young black engineer who was born into poverty. His career was sponsored by white billionaire Edwin Alva (named after Thomas Alva Edison). But when he grew up, Curtis realized that Alva had trapped him in a contract that gave Alva all the rights to Curtis’s inventions and prevented Curtis from ever working anywhere else. This is of course a metaphor for white people’s historical exploitation of black people’s labor. Unhappy with this arrangement, Curtis invents an Iron Man suit and sets about using it to destroy Alva’s company. Of the four Milestone launch titles, Hardware is the one I’m least familiar with. But its premise is just as fascinating as that of Icon, Static, or Blood Syndicate, and I want to read more of it.

THE BLACK LAMB #1 (DC/Helix, 1996) – “The Hated, the Haunted, the Hunted,” [W/A] Tim Truman. The Black Lamb is a vampire who hunts vampire hunters, and who looks a lot like Grimjack. This first issue depicts his adventures in a dystopian future. The idea of monsters fighting back against their hunters is interesting, but late in this issue Truman makes a serious misstep. He shows a werewolf eating a fairy alive, which puts the lie to the idea that the monsters are the injured party and that the humans are the real villains. Truman’s artwork in this issue is very good. This issue includes clever references to Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie (https://www.instagram.com/p/CCzDKeah9fF/).

THE THING #9 (Marvel, 1984) – “What Price a Soul?”, [W] John Byrne, [A] Ron Wilson. The Thing has been possessed by the spirit of an ancient warrior, and Alicia Masters has to save him. This issue is reasonably exciting, but Byrne’s prose style is rather overwrought, and Alicia’s dialogue is especially so; for some reason Byrne never lets her use contractions. I wonder why Alicia doesn’t use a white cane or a guide dog. It would be interesting if someone would write an issue of Fantastic Four from Alicia’s perspective, using techniques like those of the animated film Out of Sight (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qCbiCxBd2M).

2000 AD #591 (Fleetway, 1988) – Zenith: “Phase II/2: Visitors,” as above. Zenith meets Phaedra Cale, and we learn that the villains have Zenith’s mother’s eyes in a jar. Judge Dredd: “The Mean Machine Part 2,” as above. Two pages of reprinted newspaper strips. Moon Runners: untitled, [W] Alan McKenzie & Steve Parkhouse, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A new series about space-traveling cargo haulers. This prog’s cover depicts two women and has the caption “Moon Runners: Where No Woman Has Gone Before,” but these women don’t appear in the story. Judge Dredd: “Twister Part Four: There’s No Place Like Home,” [W] John Wagner, [A] John Ridgway. Dredd meets the Cowardly Lion, and it turns out the whole thing was a hallucination. “Twister” was a very funny story. Nemesis: as above. Yet another story I don’t understand. Slaine: as above. Slaine is bored with feasts and petty fighting, so he decides to go on a quest for three treasures: a sword, a spear and a stone. This sets up “The Horned God,” the most famous Slaine story.

IRON MAN #111 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Man, the Metal, and the Mayhem!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Keith Polllard. Tony gets drawn into a battle between the Rigellian Colonizers and the Knights of Wundagore. This feels more like a Thor comic than an Iron Man comic. Indeed, most of the footnotes are references to old issues of Thor.

SUPERMAN #257 (DC, 1972) – “Superman Battles the War-Horn!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Superman fights an alien that’s trying to harvest Earth’s nitrogen. This story doesn’t live up to the cover, which depicts Superman telling two boys “There’s nobody in this forest but us!”, while directly below, an alien is aiming a weapon at them from underground. This issue’s backup story, Maggin and Dillin’s “The Greatest Green Lantern of All!’”, is about Tomar-Re’s failed attempt to stop the destruction of Krypton. It was included in The Greatest Team-Up Stories Ever Told.

EPIC ILLUSTRATED #16 (Marvel, 1982) – various stories, [E] Archie Goodwin. Rick Veitch’s “Abraxas and the Earthmen” makes no sense, and Marc Hempel’s “Arise, Awake” is a predictable twist-ending story about a man who wakes up as a robot.  This issue’s main attraction is three new stories by Barry Windsor-Smith. The first one, “The Beguiling”, gave its name to the best comic book store in North America, and it has some stunning artwork. It was his first new story in a decade, and also his first comic that used his mature style of coloring. This story is important for completing my understanding of his career. The second BWS story is a two-page Little Nemo homage, and the third one is an illustration to a (bad) prose story by Goodwin. The issue also includes a two-pager by Dave Sim, and then Trina Robbins’s “The Woman Who Loved the Moon,” which I previously encountered in Near Myths. Then there’s a tribute to the recently deceased Gene Day, and stories by Carl Potts and Charles Vess. As usual, Vess’s story has beautiful draftsmanship but below-average writing.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #213 (DC, 1972) – “Peril in a Very Small Place!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Dick Dillin. While trying to visit Superman via a phone line, the Atom gets trapped in a microworld. Superman has to use the Kandorian shrinking ray to free Atom, so they can fight a villain together. This is a fun issue from a very good period of World’s Finest Comics, when Superman was teaming up with heroes other than Batman. There’s a running joke where Clark Kent and his musician neighbor are annoying each other with their music.

MAVIS #2 (Exhibit A, 1999) – “Mavis!”, [W/A] Batton Lash. Mavis has to work at night while all her friends are partying, and what’s worse, one of her clients, a teenaged vampire, is harassing her. This is a funny comic that blends suprenatural humor with effective characterization.

ZAP COMIX #5 (Print Mint, 1970) – various stories, [E] uncredited. There’s an extremely tiny jam comic on the inside front cover. The highlights of this issue are two stories each by Williams and Crumb. Robert Williams’s “Bludgeon Funnies” and “Docil Days” have artwork that’s difficult to parse, but immaculately drawn and lettered. Williams was probably the most talented of all the underground artists, and it’s no surprise he went on to a fine art career. Crumb’s untitled Mr. Natural story is about how Flakey Foont has started ignoring him and sitting in a bathtub all day, and there’s also “The Adventures of Fuzzy the Bunny,” a collaboration with his brother Charles. There’s also Shelton’s satirical “Believe It or Leave It,” and various stories by Moscoso and, unfortunately, S. Clay Wilson.

NEW STATESMEN #1 (Fleetway, 1989) – multiple stories, [W] John Smith, [A] Jim Baikie. New Statesmen originally appeared in Crisis, a 2000 AD spinoff title. It takes place in a mid-21st-century America where England is the 51st state, and each state has its own superhero. As a revisionist superhero story, New Statesmen is comparable to Watchmen or Zenith or Squadron Supreme, and it also addresses issues of race and sexuality. Its main problem is confusing plotting. New Statesmen #1 takes place in multiple timeframes at once and has a huge cast of characters. It’s impossible to keep the timeline straight or to remember who any of the characters are. As I’ve said before, John Smith is a master prose stylist, but perhaps his weakness was his plotting.

SWAMP THING #142 (DC, 1994) – “Soul Train,” [W] Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, [A] Phil Hester & Kim DeMulder. Alec Holland has a vision where he’s on a train of damned souls, and then Odin appears and tells him he’s really Swamp Thing. Meanwhile, Abby is trying to find Swampy. This issue is somewhat confusing, but it does make me want to read more of this storyline.

COYOTE #6 (Marvel/Epic, 1984) – “X-Caliber!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Chas Truog. Englehart is another writer whose plots tend to be overly complicated, and this issue is kind of tough to figure out. I think my favorite thing about this series is Coyote himself, because he’s such a dog in both the literal and the sexual sense. This issue includes a scene where Coyote turns into a panda and whacks a guy with his paw.

2000 AD #133 (IPC, 1979) – This issue has an unusually boring cover; it’s just a wanted poster of an alien’s head. Dredd: “The Great Muldoon,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Barry Mitchell. Dredd tries to stop a magician from attempting a fatal trick. Dredd fails, and the magician dies. “Guess that’s showbiz.” Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk fights a “smiling chukwalla” and then a savage dwarf named Zog. ABC Warriors: as above. The robots defeat the Red Death, which incarnates itself as a creepy little boy. Wolfie Smith: as above. Simon Trent the stuntman has a vision of the Carnivore, causing him to fall and hurt himself. This storyline is rather slow-paced; this and the previous few installments have just been setup. Bill Savage: as above. Savage is sent to contact some sheep farmers in the Pennine Hills, but on the way there he and Bamber are attacked by a water snake. Overall this prog is kind of boring. At this point in 2000 AD, the only consistently good series was Judge Dredd.

JOHNNY NEMO MAGAZINE #3 (Eclipse, 1986) – “New London Pride,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins & Steve Dillon. Johnny has a dream where he kills his parents. When he wakes up, he encounters a gang of skinheads who worship him as the god of violence, and then he goes on a berserk killing spree. The story ends here with no real resolution. Johnny Nemo next appeared in Deadline. There’s also a Sindi Shade backup story, which unfortunately was this character’s last appearance.

HELLBLAZER #292 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The House of Wolves,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Simon Bisley. This issue is mostly a flashback to ten years ago, focusing on Constantine’s future wife, Epiphany or Piffy. When Piffy was 14, her father was supplying elderly House of Lords members with an aphrodisiac that turned them into werewolves. Constantine got an accidental dose of the aphrodisiac, became a werewolf, and tried to either eat or possibly rape Piffy, before her father intervened. As that summary indicates, Constantine and Piffy’s relationship is kind of creepy. Bisley’s artwork in this issue is not bad, but it’s not in the same style as his Slaine or Lobo.

ATLANTIS ATTACKS #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Serpent in the Tower Part 1,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Ario Anindito. I didn’t buy this when it came out because I didn’t realize it was a continuation of Agents of Atlas. This issue, Namor invades Pan and orders Mike Nguyen to return the kidnapped dragon in one day or face an invaison. Jimmy Woo summons the original Agents of Atlas to try to save the day.

THE PHANTOM #749 (Frew, 1982) – “The Jungle Patrol,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Wilson McCoy. I purchased a lot of seven Australian Phantom comics in late June, and they arrived in mid-July. The Phantom is largely forgotten in America but is very popular in other countries, especially Australia, where Frew Publications’ Phantom series is approaching its 2000th issue. These Australian Phantom comics are printed in black and white on paper that’s barely better than toilet paper. The covers are printed on the same paper as the interiors, and the seven issues’ covers look nearly identical; they all have a giant image of the Phantom against a blue background. However, these features actually add to the comics’ charm. “The Jungle Patrol” is a newspaper strip sequence reprinted from 1952. It focuses on Smythe, a new agent of the Phantom’s Jungle Patrol, who’s obsessed with uncovering the identity of the patrol’s commander (i.e. the Phantom himself). Also, Smythe is a coward who didn’t want to join the patrol to begin with. After an adventure with some smugglers, Smythe gains new courage and gives up trying to identify the Phantom. I’ve never read Lee Falk’s Phantom before, and I’m pleasantly surprised that despite its age, this story is exciting and relatable.

THE PHANTOM #764 (Frew, 1983) – “The Prisoner in Marrakech,” [W] Janne Lundström, [A] Jamie Vallvé. This is a much newer story, published in Sweden by a Swedish writer and a Spanish artist, and created for comic books rather than comic strips. “The Prisoner of Marrakech” is a flashback story that takes place in 1912 and stars the 18th Phantom, the grandfather of the current one. On their honeymoon, the Phantom’s wife is abducted by a French officer who carries her off to Morocco. The Phantom follows the officer to Morocco, where the officer is fighting a Berber rebellion. He rescues her and kills her abductor, and also learns that he has a child on the way. This story is notable for presenting the French colonialists as villains who are oppressing the native Moroccans. The Phantom is an archetypal white savior character, but he always fights for the oppressed against their oppressors, and perhaps this explains his popularity in postcolonial countries like India.

2000 AD #592 (Fleetway, 1988) – Zenith: “Phase II/3: Take the High Road,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. This is the one where Zenith’s agent objects to being called a “Scotch fairy” because “Scots is a drink.” Moon Runners: as above. Finally we meet the women from last prog’s cover. In this story they try to preveent the characters from last prog from completing their delivery. Judge Dredd: “P.J. Maybe, Age 13,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Liam Sharp. A story told from the perspective of P.J. Maybe, a 13-year-old serial killer who preys on his richer relatives, the Yes family. Nemesis: as above. I still don’t understand the Deathbringer story, but this installment includes some interesting depictions of punk rock culture and fashion. Judge Dredd: “The Mean Machine,” as above. Dredd’s battle with the Mean Machine continues.

MONSTER MASSACRE #nn (Atomeka, 1993) – various stories, [E] Dave Elliott, Garry Leach & Steve White. A monster-themed anthology from the publishers of A1. John Tomlinson and Kevin O’Neill’s “The Kingdom of Zitturk” is a silly kaiju  story, but it has some very detailed and funny art. Simon Furman and Dougie Braithwaite’s “Headcase” is kind of dumb but is nicely inked by Dave Gibbons. Tomlinson and Henry Flint’s “Of Ill Omen” is about space zombies and has some very nice painted artwork. Tomlinson and Peter Snejbjerg’s “Expressway to Your Skull” is in the same continuity as his later Lords of Misrule miniseries from Dark Horse. It’s a scary piece of supernatural horror, and it makes me want to read more Lords of Misrule. Dave Eliott and Simon Bisley’s “Maximum Force” is the sort of ultraviolent superhero parody that’s hard to tell apart from what it’s parodying. Again, though, it has very good artwork. Overall this is an impressive anthology, even though some of the contributors aren’t well known in America.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #26 (DC, 1992) – “Lenny’s Story,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Chris Bachalo. This issue begins with Kathy and Lenny in bed, and then we flash back to issue 21. Lenny reveals that she and Kathy had sex for the first time in the junkyard, after Shade tried to have sex with Kathy and couldn’t. Then we flash back even further to when Lenny was sexually abused by her uncle, and got her revenge on him by calling him out at his wedding.  Back in the present day, we discover that Shade, who’s currently trapped in na immaterial form, has heard Lenny and Kathy’s entire conversation. I don’t know how well this issue holds up today, but back in 1992, this issue was pioneering in its frank treatment of same-sex relationships and childhood sexual abuse. Peter Milligan deserves credit for helpinig introduce LGBTQ topics into mainstream comics, both in Shade and Enigma.

SWEET TOOTH #29 (Vertigo, 2012) – “Unnatural Habitats,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Jepperd sends Gus back to the dam as he prepares to confront the as-yet-unseen villain Haggarty. But then in the most shocking twist in the series, we learn that the man living in the dam, who calls himself Walter, actually is Haggarty. And the women and kids are trapped in the dam with him. This was such a stunning cliffhanger that I had to read the rest of the storyline at once.

SWEET TOOTH #30 – as above. This is labeled Part 2 of 3, but there are actually four parts. Instead of Haggarty, Jepperd finds the remaining Project Evergreen survivors, who tell him how Haggarty tricked his way into the dam and then expelled them from it. Jepperd rushes back to the dam, but overturns his truck, and is found by a mysterious man with an axe.   Back at the dam, Haggarty terrorizes Gus and Jepperd’s friends.

SWEET TOOTH #31 – as above. Another adult abducts Gus, but Gus frees himself and heads back to the dam, where Haggarty has been threatening to kill the children unless Becky does his bidding. Meanwhile, the man who found Jepperd is holding him captive, and Jepperd has to free himself so he can save the day. “Unnatural Habitats” is a thrilling, tense story, almost as much so as Sentient. By this point in the story I couldn’t wait for Haggarty/Walter to die.

SWEET TOOTH #32 – as above. Jepperd discovers that his rescuer is a fellow hockey player, Jimmy Jacobs, and he accompanies Jepperd back to the dam. But at the dam, Gus and the other kids and women have already disarmed Haggarty and thrown him out in the cold. Jepperd and Jacobs finally reach the dam to find Lucy dying, since Haggarty injected her with the plague. I still don’t have issues 33 and 34, and I really want to get them.

THOR #176 (Marvel, 1970) – “Inferno!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Loki has finally succeeded in taking over Asgard. But much like certain real-life villains, he only wants to be king for the sake of being king, and he has no interest in the responsibilities that come with the job. When Surtur invades Asgard, Loki flees, leaving Thor and the other Asgardians to deal with the crisis on their own. This issue is not bad, although “Loki takes over Asgard” must have been a trite plot even in 1970.

THE PHANTOM #753 (Frew, 1982) – “The Flirtatious Princess,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Wilson McCoy. This story is from 1949, so it’s older than the one in #750. It’s a story in the Ruritanian romance genre, set in the fictional kingdom of Pathia. Two noblemen are contending for the throne, and the king’s daughter, Gwena, promises to marry both of them. To avoid having to choose between them, she flees the country and is rescued by the Phantom. After a series of adventures, Gwena decides to marry the Phantom instead of either of her suitors, but he misinforms her that he already has 300 other wives. She ends up marrying the humble palace guard who she loved to begin with. Gwena is a rather sexist character, but other than that, “The Flirtatious Princess” is a really fun story.

GAY COMICS #18 (Bob Ross, 1993) – various stories, [E] Andy Mangels. Most of the stories in this issue are by people I’ve never heard of, and some of them are quite bad. The highlight of the issue is Ivan Velez Jr’s “Into the Out Of,” which examines intersections between queer, black and Puerto Rican identity. This issue also includes a one-page comic by my friend Diana Green.

2000 AD #135 (IPC, 1979) – “The Invisible Man,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. “Edwin the Confessor” has a habit of falsely confessing to crimes. He accidentally helps Dredd catch a criminal who’s using a time machine to rob banks, and Dredd “rewards” Edwin by giving him a short prison sentence. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk fights the basilisk-like Goool, his weirdest-looking opponent yet. Belardinelli’s art here is better than in earlier Blackhawk stories. ABC Warriors: “Golgotha,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. The robots battle the giant armored dinosaur Golgotha and his mate Delilah. Golgotha is the grandson of Old One Eye from the Flesh series, and this family of dinosaurs also appears in other 2000 AD strips. The Old One Eye family are not related to the dinosaurs from Dinosty, except that both groups of characters were the result of Pat Mills’s dinosaur obsession. Bill Savage: as above. Savage and Bamber fight some crazy farmers, and then they return to Oxford only to find it in ruins.

New comics received on July 22:

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND #3 (Ahoy, 20200 – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. After Shelley and Flynn encounter another escapee, Flynn gives up on escaping and returns to prison. Meanwhile, Trent is tortured, and a “Business Dog” is brought in to decide whether  he’ll live or die. This issue includees some deservedly bitter criticism of the ultra-rich – like, that they literally shit gold, but that faced with a worldwide catastrophe that they created, all they can do is hide on private islands.

MIDDLEWEST #18 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Abel and his dad fight, Abel wins, and Abel’s dad finally apologizes. But Abel refuses to go home; his relationship with his dad is irreparably ruined, and he’s found a new family. This ending feels appropriate, because it shows that Abel’s dad’s apology is significant, but not sufficient to make up for Abel’s lifetime of trauma.

AMETHYST #4 (DC, 2020) – “At a Loss,” [W/A] Amy Reeder. Amy confronts Dark Opal, but accomplishes nothing. Maxixe reveals that he’s not really a prince and abandons Amy and Phoss. Amy starts to realize that House Amethyst has not been an entirely benevolent influence on Gemworld. Amy and Phoss’s next destination is Diamond, but they get captured on the way there. I wish there were more than two issues of Amethyst left.

THE MAN WHO F#&%ED UP TIME #4 (Aftershock, 2020) – “Sins of the Past,” [W] John Layman, [A] Karl Mostert. Sean screws things up even further, creating a future where bees are the dominant species. But then he figures out that his future selves actually aren’t his future selves, because they don’t have the same scars he has. And he realizes whodunit, but he doesn’t tell the reader. It looks like the next issue will be the last.

BIRTHRIGHT #45 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Having killed Lore, Mikey finally gets to meet his newborn daughter. But Brennan, Aaron and Wendy still have to fix the barriers between Terrenos and Earth. Aaron and Wendy get delayed rescuing some orphaned children, and are stranded on the wrong side of the barrier when it closes. Rather ironic.

CHU #1 (Image, 2020) – “The First Course Part 1 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. This Chew spinoff stars Tony’s sister Saffron, who, for as yet unexplained reasons, was not mentioned in the original Chew series. Also, she’s a criminal. Chu #1 is funny and very similar in tone to the original Chew, but Rob Guillory’s artwork is irreplaceable. Without Guillory and all the little details he included, Chu #1 is a much quicker read and is not as funny or clever as Chew was.

USAGI YOJIMBO #10 (Dark Horse, 2020) – “Mon,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Congratulations to Stan on a well-deserved Hall of Fame induction. This issue Usagi visits a town ruled by Lord Hikiji, and encounters hostility because he’s wearing the Mifune clan crest (mon). An old acquaintance betrays Usagi to a bunch of Hikiji’s soldiers. Usagi manages to kill the traitor and the soldiers, of course, but suffers a head injury and falls unconscious in an unmoored boat. Next issue’s cover shows Usagi back in his home village with Mariko. The high point of the issue is when the samurai order Usagi to remove the crests from his clothes, and Usagi replies “You will have to do it from my corpse.” His facial expression shows that he’s absolutely serious.

TARTARUS #4 (Image, 2020) – “Dogs of Tartarus,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Jack T. Cole. Tilde has to ransom her comrade Klinzu from her brother Mogen’s captivity. This story was confusing because it was hard to figure out what happened in the gap between issues, and also I’m having some difficulty keeping the characters straight. But this is an exciting comic, and jack T. Cole’s artwork is very imaginative and immersive.

WICKED THINGS #3 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Lottie starts working as an intern for the police. All they’ll let her do is make tea, but in her abundant spare time, she uncovers a crime wave that the police haven’t even noticed. Issues 1 and 2 were in the cozy mystery genre, but #3 is more of a police procedural, and there’s no mention of the attempted murder of the Japanese detective. Of course this issue is still just as funny as the previous two.

DIE #12 (Image, 2020) – “Hidden Role,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. Angela looks for her daughter, Ash engages in political machinations, and at the end of the issue, Ash meets an unhappy H.G. Wells. This is a good issue, but this series always has a ton of different stuff going on at once, and it can be rather hard to follow.

On July 23 I received a shipment of about 75 comics, most of them priced under a dollar:

MIDAS FLESH #4 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Shelli Paroline & Branden Lamb. This is a Boom! Box title, but it has little in common with the other titles released under that imprint; it’s a SF comic, while most Boom! Box comics are modern-day slice-of-life or fantasy stories with strong queer elements. Midas Flesh is also Ryan North’s only comic book not published by Marvel, as far as I know. It’s about some space pirates who discover a planet that can change anything to gold, but the authoritarian Federation is trying to steal their discovery. This issue, the protagonists battle a Federation ship using an amputated finger from the Midas planet. This issue is grimmer and more violent than most of Ryan’s work, but it’s also quite funny, and one of the main characters is a dinosaur. I need to track down the other seven issues of this series.

DARK CLAW ADVENTURES #1 (Amalgam, 1997) – “Face to Face,” [W] Ty Templeton, [A] Rick Burchett. An “adaptation” of the nonexistent TV cartoon starring Dark Claw, the amalgam of Batman and Wolverine. Like all Amalgam comics, Dark Claw Adventures #1 is very funny and is full of clever Marvel and DC comics. However, in the decades since 1997, the DC animated style has become thoroughly integrated into the look of mainstream comics. Therefore, it’s hard to tell that Dark Claw Adventures #1 is supposed to be a cartoon adaptation rather than a normal DC or Marvel comic.

THUNDERBOLTS #156 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kev Walker. Satana joins the Thunderbolts for a mission to Gothemwald Castle, which looks like something out of Hellboy. Meanwhile, Luke Cage and Mimi Gold interview candidates for the Thunderbolts’ understudy team, the Underbolts. The last candidate is Mr. Hyde, and the issue ends with him  gripping Mimi in one giant fist. As usual this is a very fun issue.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1.2 (Marvel, 2014) – “Learning to Crawl: Part Two,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ramón Pérez. This is set around the time of Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 #2, when Spidey first encountered the Chameleon. It guest-stars a new hero, Clash, who’s inspired to become a superhero by Spidey’s example. But when they finally meet, Clash realizes Spidey is a thrill-seeking glory hound. This is a fun issue. Others, notably Kurt Busiek, have already written new stories set in Spider-Man’s earliest years, but Dan Slott’s style is significantly different from Busiek’s.

THE BOGIE MAN: CHINATOON #1 (Tundra, 1993) – “Barefoot in the Pork,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Robin Smith. I guess this series was picked up by Tundra after the initial miniseries from Fat Man. This issue, Francis Clunie (the lunatic who thinks he’s Humphrey Bogart) escapes from the asylum and goes to Glasgow to investigate an imaginary criminal named Taiwan Lil. Meanwhile, some real criminals, probably the same ones from the last series, are targeting a local Chinese restaurant. This issue is at least as funny as the previous Bogie Man I read. For instance, when we first see Clunie in this issue, we discover that he’s escaped the asylum with no clothes on except a fedora. Given its subject matter, this comic could have been rather Orientalist, but Wagner mostly avoids engaging in Chinese stereotypes.

SOVEREIGN SEVEN #2 (DC, 1995) – “The Twelve Chairs,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Dwayne Turner. This was Claremont’s first new series after he was fired from X-Men. It wasn’t a huge success, and seems to have a rather mixed reputation today. This issue is not bad, but it has way too many characters, and it feels like a retread of Claremont’s later X-Men stories. Dwayne Turner’s art looks very similar to that of Jim Lee, and even the lettering is by Tom Orzechowski. Still, I’d be willing to collect more of this series, simply because I’m a big Claremont fan and I’m running out of Claremont comics I haven’t read. Early in this issue there’s an unofficial cameo appearance by Wolverine.

HIGHER EARTH #3 (Boom!, 2012) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Francesco Biagini. Heidi and Rex fight some dinosaurs and robots, and then they discover that the guys who have been chasing them are all alternate-Earth versions of Rex. I had thought this was a five-issue miniseries, but there were actually nine issues.

STAR TREK #14 (DC, 1990) – “The Return of the Worthy Part Two: Great Expectations,” [W] Peter David & Bill Mumy, [A] Gordon Purcell. Most of this issue is devoted to interactions between the Enterprise crew and the Worthy (i.e. the Robinson family), but there’s also a plot involving the Gorn, the planet of Karimea, and the Lamver device. I probably missed a lotof the humor in this issue because I’m not familiar with Lost in Space. Still, this comic is funny and has some excellent characterization. “The Return of the Worthy” is apparently considered one of the best Star Trek stories in comics form. I must have read this issue as a kid, because I remember the scene where one of the Worthy tries to seduce Chekov, and he turns her down. Of course, as a kid, I didn’t understand who the Worthy really were.

STRANGE ATTRACTORS #1 (Boom!, 2016) – “Tangles in the Tapestry,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Greg Scott. A Columbia grad student and an old professor try to test some dangerous ideas about chaos theory. I like that this comic is mostly about math, because math is underused as a source of inspiration for science fiction. However, I wish this comic was about something other than chaos theory. Chaos theory is already a cliché because of Jurassic Park, and I suspect that the popularized version of chaos theory has little to do with what actual chaos theorists study. Also, Charles Soule’s depiction of mathematical research in this comic just doesn’t feel accurate. I wish he’d chosen to focus on some other important area of math that’s less familiar to the general public – e.g. algebraic geometry or category theory. I’m not in any hurry to collect the rest of this miniseries.

THE GOON: OCCASION OF REVENGE #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Occasion of Revenge Part 1,” [W/A] Eric Powell. This is issue 46 and it comes before Once Upon a Hard Time. Part of this issue is a rather misogynistic story about a femme fatale and the ghost of her dead lover. The rest of the issue depicts a fight between the Goon and a bunch of villains. As usual, Eric Powell’s artwork is excellent. His style is original, but reflects the influence of classic horror artists like Corben and Wrightson.

UFOLOGY #3 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV & Noah Yuenkel, [A] Matthew Fox. A science fiction story that’s set in a small town and involves some aliens with weird melting skin. Based on this issue I’m not quite sure what the point of this series is, but I’m interested in reading more of James Tynion’s work, and I’d like to find the other five issues of UFOlogy.

THUNDERBOLTS #157 – as above except [A] Kev Walker & Declan Shalvey. Mimi avoids being killed by Mr. Hyde. The Thunderbolts defeat Master Gothenwald despite his attempts to confront them with their worst fears. There’s a terrifying moment when Gothenwald makes Luke think that his baby is dead. The Thunderbolts’ next mission is to Najaf, Iraq, home to the world’s largest cemetery. As I’ve said before, Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts is an extremely fun comic with lots of unique and weird characters, and it should be better known.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #73 (Marvel, 1991) – “Weapon X Chapter One,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith. In part one of Weapon X, Wolverine is kidnapped by some scientists who perform cruel experiments on him. This series is of course a modern classic. The only other notable story in this issue is Shanna by Gerard Jones (now in prison for child pornography) and Paul Gulacy. This story is called “The Bush of Ghosts Part 6: A Dance of the Forest,” a reference to two classic works of Nigerian literature. However, the African people in the story are blatant stereotypes.

MURDER ME DEAD #2 (El Capitan, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] David Lapham. Still under suspicion of murdering his wife, Steven reunites with an old flame, Tara. But Tara has some secrets of her own. This is an intriguing issue.

GATECRASHER: RING OF FIRE #1 (Black Bull, 2000) – “Ring of Fire, Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Amanda Conner. All Alec Wagner wants is to take his girlfriend to the prom. But he’s also a member of the superheroic Split-Second Squad, and before he can make it to prom, he has to go to another dimension and fight a bunch of giant bugs. Gatecrasher is an exciting comic that combines two of Amanda Conner’s great strengths: cheesecake art and hideous monsters. I think this comic was underappreciated because it was published by a small, short-lived publisher associated with the unpopular Wizard magazine.

AXEL PRESSBUTTON #4 (Eclipse, 1985) – various stories, [W] Steve Moore, [A] Steve Dillon. These stories are all reprinted from Warrior. In a story continued from last issue, Axel and Laser Eraser battle a villain named Zirk. In “Brides of the Sluzzgreep,” Axel is on a ship with a harem of beautiful women, but he ends up unintentionally killing them and their boyfriends. Until this story I didn’t quite understand the series’ central premise: Axel is impotent thanks to his cyborg modifications, but when his button is pressed, he experiences extreme pleasure and also flies into a violent rage. There are also two backup stories that don’t feature Axel. The last one, “The Poet and the Flowers” starring Ektryn, is notable for its harshly pessimistic tone. The poet in the title is an optimist who praises the gallantry of war, but in the end he gets eaten by a carnivorous plant.

MONSTRESS #29 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Yet again I have to complain about this series’ impenetrable plot. The violence in this issue would be more powerful if I had any idea who the two sides are, or what they’re fighting about, or which side, if any, is in the right. Although maybe that’s the point, that both sides of the war are equally bad. This issue is full of more awful violence, including a brutal two-page sequence where we see various characters’ happy memories, juxtaposed with their pointless deaths in battle.

YASMEEN #1 (Scout, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saif A. Ahmed, [A] Fabiana Mascolo. A slice-of-life series about an Iraqi-American family. Half the issue takes place in 2014, when the protagonists were trapped in Mosul during its siege by ISIS. The other half is set in 2016, when the surviving family members have just arrived in Iowa. This series is potentially fascinating, and I think it’s an example of #OwnVoices representation. There are some points that could be explained better; for instance, one of the characters is murdered by ISIS troops because his name is Hussein, but non-Muslim readers probably won’t know why Hussein is a distinctively Shia name. Still, the murder scene is horrifying, especially when the ISIS troops justify their actions by claiming that Hussein was quoting false hadith. I’d like to continue reading this series if I can find it.

ARCHIE #635 (Archie, 2012) – “Occupy Riverdale,” [W] Alex Segura, [A] Gisele Lagace. This is one of Gisele Lagace’s few actual Archie comics, although her style is heavily Archie-influenced. This issue, a new character, Andy Martinez, leads an Occupy protest against Riverdale’s rich people, primarily consisting of Hiram Lodge. Conflict ensues when the mayor tries to shut the protest down. Alex Segura deserves credit for introducing real-world politics into a series which tends to be highly conservative. However, this issue’s ending is too simplistic and Pollyanna-ish. In the real world, it’s been eight years since Archie #635, and the problems that inspired the Occupy movement have only gotten worse.

THE PHANTOM #750 (Frew, 1982) – “The Betrothal,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Wilson McCoy. 15 years ago, the five-year-old Prince Lioni of Llongo and Princess Wamba of Wambesi were engaged. Now Lioni is a college student living a modern lifestyle, and he’s fallen in love with someone else. When Lioni is summoned back to Llongo to marry Wamba, he refuses, nearly leading to war. This story is a ton of fun, and it’s less racist than one would expect. The Africans in the story are distinctive characters with different personalities. Lee Falk’s story acknowledges the conflict between traditional and modern lifestyles, even if his version of a traditional African society is mostly made up. The most problematic thing about this story is actually its fat-shaming; Princess Wamba is extremely fat, and in order to stop the war, the Phantom makes her lose weight fast so she’ll be more attractive to Lloni (though she marries someone else in the end).

SUPERMAN #102 (DC, 1995) – “Pulp Friction,” [W] Dan Jurgens, [A] Gil Kane with Joe Rubinstein. Jimmy Olsen tries to get a big scoop by arranging a battle between Superman and Arclight. Things don’t work out the way Jimmy wants, and the story ends with Jimmy quitting the Daily Planet. This issue’s plot is stupid, and Jimmy acts like such a brat that the reader can’t sympathize with him. At least Gil Kane’s art is good.

2000 AD #137 (IPC, 1979) – Dredd: “Death of a Judge,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. This story’s title is a spoiler, but the twist is how the judge dies. When Judge Bryce’s partner and love interest is killed, Bryce tries to kill her murderer without due process, and Dredd has to kill Bryce to prevent him from breaking the law. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk and Urza make a failed attempt to escape the Director’s spaceship, and then the ship is attacked by space pirates. Belardinelli’s art was gradually improving. ABC Warriors: “Mad George,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. We meet a giant robot named George whose limbs are each controlled by a separate brain, so he walks like the protagonist of the video game Qwop. The ABC Warriors have to recruit George to fight a corporate army. Wolfie Smith: as above. We get some background information on the monstrous Wendigore. Bill Savage: as above except [A] Mike White. Bill and Bamber are back in Lnodon, where they’re fighting the Greater London Legion, led by the Hitler lookalike from prog 120.

NAMOR #22 (Marvel, 1992) – untitled, [W/A] John Byrne. Namor, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing visit the ruins of K’un L’un, where they encounter the H’ylthri from Iron Fist #2. Namor finds the body of Iron Fist, who had been believed dead since the last issue of Power Man & Iron Fist. Wolverine makes a cameo appearance at the end. For a ’90s Byrne comic, Namor #22 is not bad.

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO – COMPLETE SILENCE (IDW, 2020) – “Silent Interlude,” [W/A] Larry Hama with Steve Leialoha. “Silent Interlude,” from G.I. Joe #21, is Larry Hama’s most famous work. It’s a completely silent story in which Snake Eyes and Scarlett escape from a Cobra base. “Silent Interlude” is based on the silent opening sequence from Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #1, but it’s much longer. Larry Hama achieved an impressive feat of visual storytelling by telling such an exciting action story without using any words. Even more impressive, his storytelling is completely clear, and the reader never has to guess what’s going on. The original G.I. Joe #21 is beyond my budget, so I’m glad IDW published this reprint. Complete Silence also includes a 2008 story, “Silence Between Borders,” that fills in the gaps in the original “Silent Interlude,” but “Silence Between Borders” doesn’t add anything significant to the original.

THE PHANTOM #765 (Frew, 1983) – “The Ghost Pirates,” [W] Norman Worker, [A] Jaime Vallvé. Another relatively new story produced in Sweden. “The Ghost Pirates” is a flashback story set in Cornwall in 1785, depicting a battle between the 12th Phantom and the pirate Black Gull. It’s an entertaining story, and it feels more or less historically accurate. The Swedish comics produced by Team Fantomen are far better than any American Phantom comic books, except maybe the ones drawn by Don Newton. But I don’t think any of the Team Fantomen comics have been published in America.

2000 AD #139 (IPC, 1979) – Dredd: “The Great Plasteen Disaster!” [W] John Wagner, [A] John Cooper. Everything in the 22nd century is made of plasteen, but suddenly alien bacteria start eating all the plasteen. Dredd arrests the president of the company responsible for the bacteria, but this results in his death, since he has a plasteen heart. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk, Ursa and Zog fight a mind-controlling monster called a Soul-Sucker, and then their ship falls in a black hole. Belardinelli’s depiction of the black hole is rather impressive. ABC Warriors: as above. The Mess combines with Mad George to save the day. This was the last ABC Warriors story for several years. With the next prog their slot was taken over by The Stainless Steel Rat. Wolfie Smith: as above. The Wendigore causes more havoc. This series is very slow-paced. Bill Savage: as above. Bill defeats the Legion, and the floodwaters freeze, indicating that the polar ice caps are recovering. Bill Savage’s next chronological appearance was “Invasion!” in progs 1 to 51, but his next actual appearance wasn’t until 2004.

EZEQUIEL HIMES, ZOMBIE HUNTER #2 (Amigo, 2020) – “What I Mean by Revenge,” [W] Victor Santos, [A] Alberto Hernandez. Ezequiel fights some zombies, and we discover that his wife and son have become zombies themselves. It’s always a good thing when comics from Spain are translated into English, but Amigos could have picked a better one to start with, because Ezequiel Santos is an uninteresting work.

CANTO & THE CLOCKWORK FAIRIES #1 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto and his Malorex companion save some fairies from an evil sorceress. This comic is pretty cute.

DECORUM #3 (Image, 2020) – “Take a Ride, Take a Trip,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mike Huddleston. This is much less difficult than the first two issues because it focuses on just two characters – Imogen, the polite assassin, and her rude young protégé Neha Nori Sood. This issue Imogen gets Neha admitted to a school for assassins. Mike Huddleston’s artwork continues to be the highlight of this series. He can draw in a lot of different styles, and he makes effective use of photo collage.

LITTLE LULU #73 (Dell, 1954) – “Two is a Crowd” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. I bought a bunch of Little Lulus in June, but I stopped reading them because I ran out of space in my Dell/Gold Key box. I’ve now solved that problem (or rather, transferred the problem to a different box). Stories in this issue: “Two is a Crowd” – Tubby tries to cheat Lulu out of ten cents. “Wrong Number” – Lulu puts on a space suit, and Tubby thinks she’s an actual alien. “The Smokers” – the kids all get sick from puffing on Lulu’s dad’s cigar. “Breakfast in Bed” – Lulu gets Mr. Inch to cook breakfast for her mom. “Tubby’s Guest” – Tubby has a sleepover with his identical cousin Chubby. This issue doesn’t have a Poor Little Girl story. The back cover is a Wheaties ad starring Roy Campanella, whose Hall of Fame career would be prematurely ended by a car accident after just three more seasons.

JLA #53 (DC, 2001) – “It Takes a Thief,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Bryan Hitch. Six JLAers have had their superheroic and secret identities split off into different bodies, thanks to some sixth-dimensional villains. This is a relatively fun story, but somewhat hard to follow. It includes a scene where an entire city goes blind, like in José Saramago’s novel Blindness(which I’ve owned for many years but have not read). Bryan Hitch’s art is a good example of his widescreen style.

IRON MAN #299 (Marvel, 1993) – “The Doomsday Machine!”, [W] Len Kaminski, [A] Kevin Hopgood. Iron Man gets his ass kicked by Ultimo, and to save himself, Tony has to recruit a bunch of former wearers of the Iron Man armor. Iron Man was pretty bad after Michelinie and Layton left, but this issue isn’t terrible.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #402 (Marvel, 1995) – “Crossfire, Part One,” [W] J.M. Dematteis, [A] Mark Bagley. The Clone Saga was the lowest point of Spider-Man’s entire history, and while this issue is not the nadir of the Clone Saga, it’s still very bad. Spidey encounters Judas Traveller, a confusing villain whose powers and backstory were never made clear, and Traveller tries to bargain with him for Aunt May’s soul.

2000 AD #153 (IPC, 1980) – Robo-Hunter: “Day of the Droids!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Someone has been replacing VIPs with robots, and Sam Slade has to solve the mystery while being driven nuts by his inept sidekick Hoagy. Dredd: “Blood of Satanus Part 2,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd fights a man who’s been turned into a monster by the blood of the dinosaur Satanus. Satanus is the son of Old One-Eye and the father of Golgotha; see the above review of prog 135. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “Part 2,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. In 1941, some German soldiers invade Russia alongside some mysterious Romanian allies. It soon becomes obvious that the Romanians are vampires. Carlos Ezquerra’s style is well-suited to a war comic. Blackhawk: as above. Inside the black hole, Blackhawk fights another man who’s been enslaved by the Soul-Sucker. At this point, Belardinelli’s linework is much crisper, and his backgrounds and alien creatures are much weirder. The V.C.’s: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. A new series about soldiers in a war against the alien Geeks. Cam Kennedy’s artwork here is notable for its heavy spotting of blacks.

2000 AD #158 (IPC, 1980) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Sam Slade uses a giant wrecking droid to fight some enemies. Then Hoagy throws Sam a surprise party, and we meet Hoagy’s human parents. The V.C.’s: as above. A contingent of VCs go on a suicide mission to rescue some stranded comrades. Dredd: “The Judge Child Part 3,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. This was one of the first major Dredd epics, and I think it was longer than any previous Dredd story, at 26 parts. Its overarching plot is that Dredd is searching for a child who’s been prophesied to be the next ruler of Mega-City One. This prog, Dredd is trying to recapture the Judge Child from Faro, a madman who’s “recreated ancient Egypt in the Cursed Earth.” Ron Smith’s establishing shot of Faro’s realm is amazing. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “Part 7,” as above. Two of the surviving German soldiers succeed in killing all the vampires except two. This story puts the reader in the uncomfortable position of sympathizing with Nazi soldiers. It would be just as well if the vampires did manage to kill all the soldiers. Blackhawk: “Warrior in Search of His Soul,” as above. Blackhawk and his allies encounter a robot from Betelgeuse. This story is a rare moment when Tharg’s universe crosses over with the universe of one of the strips. Usually Tharg seems to exist on a narrative level between the real world and the universes of the 2000 AD comics – that is, Tharg himself is fictional, but Judge Dredd and the other 2000 AD characters are fictional from Tharg’s perspective.

THE PHANTOM #766 (Frew, 1983) – “The Drummer of Timpenni,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Sy Barry. The island of Timpenni (i.e. “timpani”) was home to an evil tribe that used hypnotic drums to capture and enslave the people of Bengali. The rest of Bengali finally destroyed Timpenni, but one last drummer of Timpenni survived and taught his craft to his son. Years later, that son uses his drums to try to conquer Bengali, but of course the Phantom defeats him. This story includes some impressive uses of sound effects (including a lot of drumbeats), but otherwise it’s not as fun as the other Lee Falk Phantom stories I’ve been reading.

DONALD DUCK #31 (Dell, 1953) – untitled (Vacation Work), [W] Carl Fallberg, [A] Jack Bradbury. This comic was included with the Little Lulus I bought. In the main story, Donald goes on vacation, but Scrooge tricks him into taking care of an old dilapidated mansion. this story is fairly entertaining, but Fallberg and Bradbury weren’t nearly as good as Barks. There are also a couple shorter stories by the same creative team. One of these stories is the first and only appearance of Donald’s cousin Botcho, an inept inventor.

LITTLE LULU #72 (Dell, 1954) – [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. “A Case of Green Toes”: Lulu uses a trick to prove that Tubby stole Mrs. Dingley’s pie. “Sandwich Boys”: Lulu tricks the boys into providing free advertising for an old lady’s restaurant, instead of for its competitor. “Queen of the Crows”: Lulu tells Alvin about how the Poor Little Girl turned Ol’ Witch Hazel into a scarecrow. John Stanley used the Poor Little Girl and Witch Hazel to tell stories that went beyond the limits of Lulu’s severely constrained world. “The Ball of String”: Gloria is rude to Tubby, as usual, so Tubby takes revenge by destroying Gloria’s vase.

ZAP COMIX #14 (Last Gasp, 1998) – various stories, [E] uncredited. This issue’s wraparound cover is one of S. Clay Wilson’s most impressive works, and it shows that he was capable of creating interesting artwork and not just his usual racist, sexist, hyperviolent crap. This issue includes a long Wilson story in several parts, starring Star-Eyed Stella, the Checkered Demon, and other characters. There are also some shorter works by Moscoso and Spain. The best part of the issue is at the end, when Crumb, Moscoso and Spain (together), and Paul Mavrides tell three different versions of how Mavrides became Zap’s first new contributor in 29 years.

WASTELAND #1 (DC, 1987) – “Foo Goo,” [W] John Ostrander & Del Close, [A] David Lloyd. This series was intended as both a revival of the old horror title and a vehicle for Del Close, who is best known as the founder of modern improv comedy. In comics, he also co-wrote many of the Munden’s Bar stories in Grimjack. “Foo Goo” is about people who deliberately kill themselves by eating fugu. Its depiction of fugu is highly inaccurate, probably on purpose. “R.A.B.,” drawn by William Messner-Loebs, is about an overpopulated dystopian future where parents can perform “retroactive abortions” by throwing their baby out a window. “Sewer Rat,” drawn by Don Simpson, depicts a hallucination, and is described as semi-autobiographical.

THE PHANTOM #776 (Frew, 1983) – “The Last Assignment,” [W] Norman Worker, [A] Bertil Wilhelmsson & Özcan Eralp. Sergeant Svenson is about to retire from the Jungle Patrol. Unsurprisingly, on his last day, his no-good brother kidnaps him and forces him to participate in a jewel theft. Svenson’s fiancee goes looking for him and helps the Phantom prove his innocence. This is another exciting issue. It’s the last of the Australian Phantom comics I ordered. I hope I can get more somehow.

LITTLE LULU #67 (Dell, 1954) – credits as above. “The Dolly’s Ghost” – Lulu fools the boys into thinking that they’re haunted by Lulu’s doll’s ghost. “Good Little Citizen” – Two mayoral candidates each hire Lulu to paint mustaches on the other candidate’s posters. As a result, a third, dark-horse candidate wins the election. “Gran’ma Jones” – Lulu masquerades as a notorious old female criminal. The actual Gran’ma Jones does not appear. “The Case of the Disappearing Drums” – Tubby, as the Spider, solves the theft of Alvin’s drum. Lulu’s dad is the  culprit. “Best-Dressed Boy” – Tubby goes to a party wearing a dog’s coat. “Ol’ Witch Hazel and the Trip to the Moon” – Lulu uses a pogo stick to beat Ol’ Witch Hazel at being the first person on the moon. This story predates Apollo 11 or even Sputnik. “Kite Flight” – Tubby and Chubby accidentally break up a counterfeiting ring while flying kites. This issue’s back cover is a Wheaties ad starring Hall of Fame wide receiver Tom Fears, who played so long ago that his position was still called “split end”.

2000 AD #159 (IPC, 1980) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Sam Slade goes to the police chief with evidence that people are being replaced by robots, only to learn that the police chief himself is a robot. The V.C.’s: as above. The V.C.’s continue their rescue mission. Dredd: “The Judge Child Part 4,” as above. Faro kills himself and the Judge Child, but Dredd discovers that Faro’s Judge Child is an impostor, and the real child was abducted by Faro’s subordinate Bunsen. Fiends of the Eastern Front: as above. One of the soldiers and one of the vampires are killed. The last soldier reaches relative safety, but the last vampire is still hunting him. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk finally makes it to the Soulsucker. By now Belardinelli’s draftsmanship had gotten really good. His depiction of the Soulsucker’s “hell at world’s end” is especially striking.

THE SPIRIT #33 (Kitchen Sink, 1987) – [W/A] Will Eisner. “The Springtime of Dolan” – Dolan almost marries Widow Walker, but doesn’t. “Barkarolle” – a criminal captures Ebony’s dog and trains it to steal purses. This story has some very nice lettering. Ebony, of course, is the worst thing about this great comic, and Eisner’s portrayal of him is really not defensible, even if he had some positive aspects. “The Thing” – an adaptation of Ambrose Bierce’s story of the same name. “Caramba, Crime Capital of the World” – the Spirit visits a fictional jungle country to hunt down Mr. Carrion. I have a bunch of other Kitchen Sink Spirit comics that I haven’t read. This series is the most cost-effective way to collect the postwar Spirit, although it’s in black and white.

INCREDIBLE HULK #314 (Marvel, 1985) – “Call of the Desert,” [W/A] John Byrne. In the first issue of Byrne’s short-lived run, Doc Samson tracks down the Hulk, but the Hulk has a vision in which he imagines himself fighting all his worst enemies. This issue’s plot is somewhat flimsy, but its art is excellent.

THE VISITOR: HOW & WHY HE STAYED #5 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paul Grist. Now widowed, the Visitor is captured and fatally wounded by villains. He stays alive long enough to meet Hellboy face to face for the first time and warn him about future threats. This miniseries is easily my favorite Hellboy comic not drawn by Mignola.

THRILLING MURDER COMICS #1 (San Francisco Comic Book Company, 1971) – various stories, [E] Gary Arlington. As its title suggests, this one-shot is unusually violent even compared to other underground comics. It’s mostly in black and white, but uses red to depict blood. It starts with Jim Osborne’s “Kid Kill!”, about a serial killer who targets pregnant women (and is named after the artist). In Bill Griffith’s “A Fine Way to Die,” the Toad murders his lover’s husband. There’s a pinup by S. Clay Wilson, a three-pager by Osborne, then Crumb’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” about a cultist who murders his female followers. Then a story by Kim Deitch in which a Cajun farmer murders a man who’s sodomizing his prize hen. The farmer’s wife looks like Daisy from Li’l Abner. Finally, Spain’s “In the Gloom of Night” is about a series of mob executions. This comic has an impressive line of talent, but is rather tough to read.

TRANSFORMERS #70 (Marvel, 1990) – “The Price of Life!”, [W] Simon Furman, [A] Andrew Wildman. Megatron and Ratchet’s bodies have merged. Optimus Prime refuses to kill Megatron to save Ratchet, and in response Kup challenges Prime’s leadership. Meanwhile, Grimlock tries to use a dangerous substance called nucleon to revive the other Dinobots. When I read Transformers as a kid, I didn’t realize how closely Furman’s writing style resembled that of 2000 AD.

2000 AD #179 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: “Death’s-Head,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny Alpha, Wulf and the Gronk search for a crook named Willy Blanko. Mean Arena: “The Southampton Sharks,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] John Richardson. This series is about the brutally violent game of “street football,” which is American football played across an entire city. I don’t recall having seen John Richardson’s art before, but he’s quite good. Dredd: “The Judge Child Part 24: Grunwald’s Kingdom,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. The Angel Gang (the same ones from the newspaper strips reprinted in prog 590) have kidnapped the Judge Child and are taking him to the realm of the robot Grunwald. Dredd pursues the Angel Gang and kills two of them. Meltdown Man: untitled, [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. One-eyed Nick Stone finds himself in an alien world where “Yujees,” or anthropomorphic animals, are enslaved by humans. Stone receives a message from the mysterious Yujee leader Kinita. Again, Belardinelli’s art here is really good, especially his establishing shot of the alien citadel. Comic Rock: “Killer Watt Part 2,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. This is the third appearance of Nemesis and Torquemada. Like the first appearance of these characters in prog 167, “Killer Watt” was an adaptation of a music album, but Nemesis and Torquemada were popular enough that their next appearance was in their own series.

LITTLE LULU #61 (Dell, 1953) – credits as above. “The Earwich” – Lulu and Alvin take a disastrous trip to the beach. Most Lulu stories are fairly plausible, but in this story Lulu and Alvin find themselves on  top of a whale. “The Spider and the Secret Six” – Mr. Moppet refuses to let Lulu jon the boys’ club because he thinks kids shouldn’t be in gangs. Some mysterious people come to visit Lulu’s dad. Lulu and Tubby capture them and tie them up, only to learn that they’re members of Mr. Moppet’s own childhood gang. “The Blackout Party” – Tubby throws a party, but the girls cleverly avoid participating in a game of spin-the-bottle, and they also eat all the cake. “The Hungry One” – Tubby pretends to be dying of hunger. His pretense is unmasked when Lulu offers him crackers and milk, and he gets up and leaves. “The Daredevil” – Lulu goes into a cave and captures two bats, but they’re the baseball kind of bats. “The Human Mudpie” – Lulu tells Alvin a story to convince him to take a bath. This is a rare Poor Little Girl story in which Ol’ Witch Hazel doesn’t appear. “The Shark in the Lake” – Tubby sabotages Wilbur and Gloria’s boat ride.

RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT! #17 (Gold Key, 1969) – “The Doom Flower,” [W] unknown, [A] Sal Trapani. A bunch of dumb stories with boring art. The last one is based on the real-life story of Amala and Kamala, two Bengali children who were allegedly raised by wolves. However, in the comic the older child returns to her wolf pack, while in real life she died of tuberculosis – if she even existed. According to Wikipedia, there’s only one source that attests to Amala and Kamala’s existence, and that source’s accuracy has been questioned.

WASTELAND #2 (DC, 1987) – [W] John Ostrander & Del Close. “That’s Entertainment,” [A] William Messner-Loebs: An autobio story. Del performs at a small Kansas town, and a local man threatens to shoot him, but instead shoots a reel of nitrate film and causes an explosion. “Ghengis Sings!!”, [A] George Freeman. A modern-day woman performs past-life regression and switches bodies with Genghis Khan. The results are tragic and hilarious. “Warning Signals,” [A] David Lloyd. A boy is referred to child protective services because his stepfather seems to be abusive. An investigation clears the stepfather of any wrongdoing, but the boy is telling the truth when he claims the stepfather is a werewolf, and “one month later the boy was dead.” Creepy.

TOTAL WAR #2 (Gold Key, 1965) – “Sneak Attack!” and “Breakthrough!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Dan Adkins & Wally Wood. A multiracial team of American soldiers battles an invasion by unspecified foreigners. This comic has some excellent artwork, including some beautiful depictions of military hardware. However, its stories are very boring, and it has no characterization to speak of. The only character who has any distinctive traits is the Japanese soldier, because he’s a stereotype; he’s always spouting proverbs that he attributes to an ancestor. With issue 3 this series was renamed M.A.R.S. Patrol Total War.

BATMAN #464 (DC, 1991) – “Spirit of the Beast Part Three: Sacrifice,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Bamtan fights an evil Native American chieftain named Two-Hearts. Like so many other comics, this issue shows an inability to tell one Native American nation from another. Two-Hearts seems to be Navajo, but his costume looks like something out of the children’s book Arrow to the Sun. And his grandfather, Black Wolf, draws his power from “Manitou,” an Algonquian word. Also, this story shows no sympathy for Two-Hearts and his people, except at the end, when Bruce Wayne decides to be a white savior and donate money to Native American causes. This issue includes previews of the upcoming Impact line of comics. Some of the Impact titles actually look pretty interesting.

ANIMAL MAN #60 (DC, 1993) – “Wildlife,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] Russell Brown. Buddy escapes from an insane asylum and returns home, without any clothes. Meanwhile, Ellen and her mother have a frank discussion about Ellen’s marriage. This issue is pretty cute and has some good characterization. A couple elements from Delano’s run were used in Jeff Lemire’s run, including Ellen’s mother and Maxine’s nickname “Little Wing.”

DOCTOR SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM #8 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Thought Controller,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Frank Bolle. Nuro causes Doctor Solar to suffer hallucinations so that he’ll waste his energy. Given that Doctor Solar’s powers were based on radiation, it’s a miracle that his supporting characters, Gail and Dr. Clarkson, didn’t get cancer. There’s also a short story about breeder reactors, which produce more fuel than they consume. As it turned out, breeder reactors never fulfilled their potential because uranium proved to be more abundant than was previously believed.

ALL-NEW X-FACTOR #10 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. On this issue’s title page, PAD mentions that his daughter has just gotten her master’s degree. In this issue Georgia Dakei is kidnapped by her supervillain father Memento Mori, and the X-Factor members have to rescue her. I ought to read more of PAD’s second X-Factor run. This issue demonstrates that he’s still an excellent writer, Spider-Man 2099 notwithstanding.

2000 AD #180 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: as above. Gronk acquires a living shadow companion. Johnny and Wulf defeat some of Willy’s minions, only to fall into an ambush by Willy himself, who has already dug Johnny’s grave. Meltdown Man: as above. Nick acquires two Yujee sidekicks, a cat and a dog. They escape the city but find thmeselves in “the vats.” Dredd: “The Judge Child Part 25,” as above. Junior Angel kills Dredd’s companion Old Joe Blind, but Dredd executes Junior. This story has another incredible splash page, depicting a volcanic eruption. Mean Arena: as above. Matt Tallon has seemingly murdered an opposing player, but his victim proves to be a robot. Tharg: “Tharg and the Thrill-Suckers,” [W] unknown, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Tharg stops an epidemic of thrill-sucking insects.

LITTLE LULU #78 (Dell, 1954) – credits as above. “Fiddlin’ Around” – Lulu breaks her dad’s pipe. Tubby tricks Mr. Moppet into forgiving Lulu. “Alvin’s Voice” – Tubby fools Lulu with ventriloquism, and they accidentally foil a bank robbery. “The Spider and the Million Cats” – Lulu’s father has some new squeaky shoes that attract stray cats because they sound like mice. The end of this story is enigmatic: Tubby is holding some unidentifiable object, and he says he’s going to leave it at Lulu’s door and ring the bell. I guess the thing he’s holding must be the remains of the shoes. “Ol’ Witch Hazel and the Iron Door” – the Poor Little Girl finds a cache of gold inside a mountain. “Big Fish” – Tubby tricks Wilbur’s dad by pretendiing to have caught a giant fish, but Wilbur’s dad turns the tables on Tubby.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT: MARSHAL LAW TAKES MANHATTAN #1 (Epic, 1989) – untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. Most of this story is set in an insane asylum where the patients are knock-offs of Marvel characters. For example, there’s a Reed Richards knockoff who’s always talking to his invisible wife, and a Lord of Valhalla who talks in faux-Elizabethan English. A new superhero, the Persecutor (i.e. the Punisher), tries to get into the asylum, but is rejected because he has no powers. Meanwhile, Marshal Law is assigned to hunt down the Persecutor. I don’t know what exactly to make of this comic. It has excellent art, it’s often hilarious, and it makes some serious arguments about the fascist and masochistic subtext of superhero comics. On the other hand, it enacts the same ultra-violence that it critiques; for instance, this issue ends with a splash page depicting the mutilated remains of the asylum inmates, after they’ve jumped out a window to their deaths. It feels like Mills and O’Neill are using this serise as an excuse to indulge in more violence, gore and sex than they could normally get away with.

New comics received yesterday, July 31:

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #7 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Stephen Byrne. This is a very poorly written comic: it has no plot at all, not much characterization, and very awkward dialogue. And after seven issues, we still don’t even know all the characters’ names, even though they literally wear nametags. On the other hand, this issue has some adorable moments – like Triplicate Girl realizing that if all the Legionnaires voted for themselves as leader, she would win. Or Bouncing Boy eating all the things, or the Ranzz family reunion. I’m continuing to read this series because it has tremendous potential, but I wish Bendis would co-write it with someone who’s not totally incompetent.

X-MEN #10 (Marvel, 2020) – “Fire,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. Not a great way to restart the series after a four-month hiatus (or longer for me, since I forgot to order #9). This issue is an Empyre crossover in which Vulcan, Petra and Sway fight the Cotati. I have no idea who Petra and Sway even are, and it took me half the issue to figure out that the villains were Cotati.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #107 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell & Ronda Pattison, [A] Nelson Daniel. The Turtles investigate Lita’s disappearance, for which Baxter Stockman seems to be responsible. This issue is fun, but I wish Sophie Campbell was still writing and drawing this series herself. The best moment in the issue is Lita not being able to pronounce “environment.”

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #8 (DC, 2020) – “Britannia, Rule the Waves, Part 2,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A]  Aaron Campbell. Constantine reveals the rest of the fisherman and the mermaid’s story. Like a classic abuse victim, the mermaid tries to justify her boyfriend’s actions. Then she dies in childbirth – like salmon do after they spawn, as Constantine explains by means of an extended metaphor. Constantine feeds the fisherman to his own newborn half-fish children. This story was gruesome, but extremely powerful and clever.

ASCENDER #11 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Driller defeats the vampires, allowing Mila, Tesla and company to escape the planet. A very exciting issue.

BLACK MAGICK #12 (Image, 2020) – “Ascension I,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. Nice to see this series again. Rowan attends a Beltane ritual, then solves a crime singlehandedly. Meanwhile, two of Rowan’s enemies have a lot of sex.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #18 (Marvel, 2020) – “Accused,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Cory Smith. An Empyre crossover in which Carol adjusts to her new role as the Supreme Accuser, and also meets her previously unknown half-sister. This issue demonstrates two of the problems with this series: Kelly’s Captain Marvel has no personality beyond being a strong female character, and Kelly hasn’t given Carol any supporting cast.

HEATHEN #11 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Natasha Alterici, [A] Ashley A. Woods. The pirates join the villagers to prepare for a battle, which the Valkyries stop from happening. This issue is a really quick read and is not very interesting. There’s not much reason to read this series if Alterici isn’t drawing it herself.

ARCIHE #713 (Archie, 2020) – “Archie and Katy Keene 4 of 4,” [W] Mariko Tamaki & Kevin Panetta, [A] Laura Braga. Katy Keene has a fashion show and then decides to stay in New York. As stated in previous reviews, “Archie and Katy Keene” has no plot at all and is mostly an excuse to show off Laura Braga’s costume designs.

FCBD THE WEIRN BOOKS (Yen Press, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Svetlana Chmakova. A preview of Chmakova’s new middle grade graphic novel, about students at a school for magic. The artwork in this comic is adorable, especially the depictions of the kids’ “astral” companions. I already have The Weirn Books, and now I look forward to reading it.

HAWKMAN #13 (DC, 1966) – “Quest of the Immortal Queen!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Murphy Anderson. Because of Gardner Fox’s reputation as a canonical superhero writer, one tends to forget how weird his work is, and how much it owes to classic science fiction and fantasy. This issue, Hawkman is kidnapped by an immortal Valkyrie who lives in St. Martin’s Land, a hollow-earth realm mentioned in some medieval texts. She wants to make him her eighth husband, but first he has to prove his valor by stopping the flying ship Naglfar. Luckily, Hawkgirl saves Hawkman from committing bigamy. Hawkgirl was one of DC’s best female characters of the Silver Age, even though characterization was not Fox’s strong suit.

PLUNGE #5 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Stuart Immonen. The corporate stooge betrays the other humans to the aliens. The female crew member, Moriah, has to dive to open the hatch of the sunken submarine, in order to free the aliens’ queen. This issue is an excellent work of supernatural horror.

IRON MAN 2020 #5 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Pete Woods. Tony builds a new suit of holographic armor and uses it to defeat Arno. Unfortunately, the Extinction Event Entity that Arno was worried about actually exists, and at the end of the issue it finally appears. There’s one issue left.

STRANGE TALES #151 (Marvel, 1966) – Nick Fury: “Overkill!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby & Jim Steranko. Nick Fury defeats a bunch of Hydra agents, but then we learn that they let him win in order to trick him into activating the Overkill Horn. This story was Steranko’s first work for Marvel, though he only did finishes over Kirby layouts. Dr. Strange: “Umar Strikes!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Bill Everett. Mostly a summary of earlier Dr. Strange stories, told from Umar’s perspective.

2000 AD #181 (Fleetway, 1980) – Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny uses a “time-shrinker” to finally kill Willy Blanko. Ro-Jaws’ Robo Tales: “The Tidy-Up Droid,” [W] Gary Rice, [A] Dave Gibbons. A slob murders his wife, but is caught because of his cleaning robot. Dredd: “The Judge Child Part 26,” as above. The Judge Child kills Pa Angel. Dredd concludes from this that the Judge Child is too evil to rule Mega-City One, and decides to leave him behind and go back to town. That’s the end of this story, though there’s an epilogue in the next prog. Meltdown Man: as above. We’ve reached the Vats, where Yujees are executed after they’re no longer useful. Nick destroys the Vats, and a bull-headed vat worker joins his team. Tharg: “Tharg Strikes Back!”, [W] unknown, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Tharg stops the Dictators of Zrag from shutting down 2000 AD. This story is intended to explain why 2000 AD was not available at newsstands earlier in the year. I don’t know the real explanation for this.

LITTLE LULU #44 (Dell, 1952) – credits as above. “Mumps” – Lulu pretends to have mumps, but the pretense becomes real. “The Apple Watcher” – Lulu watches Mr. Joe’s fruit stand and tricks Tubby and the boys into staying away from it. “The Merry-Go-Roundup” – the Poor Little Girl befriends a lonely carousel pony. I think I’ve read all this issue’s stories before in a trade paperback collection, but this story is the only one I remember. “Riding the Pookle” – Tubby makes the West Side Boys think he’s swum through a giant pipe.

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Two more weeks of reviews

7-8-20

2000 AD #880 (Fleetway, 1994) – I have a lot of 2000 ADs to get through, so let’s try a new format. Judge Dredd: “Under Siege,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Paul Peart. A one-shot in which Dredd saves some people from an automated luxury apartment building whose AI is malfunctioning. Grudge-Father: “Part 3,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Jim McCarthy. I can’t remember the plot of this one, though Peart draws some impressive monsters. Dinosity: “Pray It Isn’t True,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Clint Langley. Drakon and the humans execute their master plan against the dinosaurs. This story is hilarious, and Langley’s artwork and coloring are awe-inspiring. Tyranny Rex: “Deus Ex Machina Part 8,” [W] John Smith, [A] Richard Elson. This story has some impressive psychedelic art, but I still can’t follow its plot. I just read some earlier Tyranny Rex stories today, and they have nothing in common with Deus Ex Machina. Rogue Trooper: “Part 8,” [W] Mike Fleisher & Falco, [A Chris Weston & Mike Hadley. Friday saves himself from being blown up by a self-destruct device, then heads to Earth to confront a traitor named Clavell. This whole storyline is unimpressive.

CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS #4 (Icon, 2010) – “The Sinners Part Four,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Teeg Lawless continues to investigate a wave of killings, and is pressured by both the government and Sebastian Hyde. This is not one of my favorite Criminal stories, though maybe that’s because I read it out of order.

SUPERMAN #328 (DC, 1978) – “Attack of the Kryptonoid!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Curt Swan. An intelligent swarm of Kryptonian microorganisms comes to Earth, posssesses a Superman robot, and fights Superman. Afterward, the microorganisms unite with Superman’s human enemy, D.W. Derwent, becoming the Kryptonoid. Notably, the Kryptonoid is hybrid of an nonhumanoid alien creature and a human who has a grudge against a superhero, and it debuted a decade before Venom. I think the similarity between the Kryptonoid and Venom is a coincidence, but it’s a funny one. This issue also includes a Private Life of Clark Kent story where Clark helps reunite a rich man and his kidnapped son. This story is an obvious reference to the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.

JOHNNY NEMO MAGAZINE #2 (Eclipse, 1985) – “The Spice of Death,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins. In a classic hard-boiled detective trope, Johnny discovers that his own client, who’s also his lover, has betrayed him. I wonder why Johnny Nemo wasn’t published in 2000 AD; it had the same creators as Bad Company, which did appear there. This issue also includes a Sindi Shade backup story, in which we learn that the library runs on the chief librarian’s urine. With its library theme, Sindi Shade reminds me of the work of Borges or Eco.

BATTLEAXES #2 (DC, 2000) – “How the Other Half Lives,” [W] Terry LaBan, [A] Alex Horley. The Battleaxes arrive in a civilized town, where their friendships start to collapse as a result of divided loyalties and sexual jealousy. This series is a lot like Rat Queens, but it presents the characters’ relationships and traumas in a grimmer, less funny way, making it less accessible. It’s still really interesting though.

ETERNALS #11 (Marvel, 1977) – “The Russians Are Coming!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Eternals come from everywhere to join in the Uni-Mind, and we’re introduced to a new team of Eternals from Russia. Kirby probably had no idea what Russian gods are supposed to look like, and his Russian Eternals look like generic Kirby characters. But overall, this issue is much more entertaining than #15.

THOR #306 (Marvel, 1981) – “Fury of the Firelord!”, [W] Mark Gruenwald & Ralph Macchio, [A] Keith Pollard et al. Thor battles Firelord, who mistakenly blames him for killing Air-Walker. This issue includes a long flashback detailing Firelord’s origin and his relationship with the other heralds of Galactus. There’s also a backup story in which Balder’s girlfriend Nanna sacrifices her life to stop Balder from marrying Karnilla. This story may have been written to explain why Nanna, the wife of the mythological Balder, is absent from the Marvel Universe.

GREEN ARROW #32 (DC, 1990) – “The Canary is a Bird of Prey Part Two,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Grant Miehm. Dinah rescues Ollie from some criminals who have captured him and beaten him within an inch of his life. In the process, Dinah asks like a classic white savior. The criminals’ hideout is located in a black neighborhood, and Dinah shames the local black people for having tolerated the criminals’ presence.

GREEN ARROW #33 (DC, 1990) – “Broken Arrow,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Dan Jurgens. In the aftermath of last issue’s traumatic events, Ollie sees a psychiatrist, while Dinah deals with her guilt over having killed one of Ollie’s kidnappers. This issue was a more realistic depiction of trauma than was usual at the time. However, the psychiatrist’s questions seem kind of unprofessional; her questions for Ollie seem more appropriate to a cross-examining attorney. At the end of the issue, Dinah decides she wants to have a baby with Ollie, in case he gets killed. This is a dumb reason to have a baby, and Dinah’s line “I want you to plant the seed so I can feel it grow in my body” is cringe-inducing. It’s just as well that Dinah proved to be infertile.

B.P.R.D.: PLAGUE OF FROGS #4 (Dark Horse, 2004) – “Plague of Frogs, Part 4,” [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Guy Davis. Like all the other issues of BPRD I’ve read, this issue feels well-executed, but it’s hard to understand without a complete knowledge of Mignolaverse continuity. By the way, this issue was edited by Scott Allie. I hope that this predator’s career is finally over. It’s an embarrassment that he, like Charles Brownstein and Eddie Berganza, was allowed to inflict pain on vulnerable people for so long.

New comics received on June 25:

ONCE & FUTURE #8 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. The best current monthly comic is finally back. This issue is mostly setup. Duncan and Gran try to figure out what the villains’ plot is, and Beowulf, Merlin and Arthur meet.

ASH & THORN #1 (Ahoy, 2020) – “Chapter One,” [W] Mariah McCourt, [A] Soo Lee. Lottie Thorn, a woman of mature years, is recruited as Earth’s new mystic champion. This series was explicitly intended as diversity representation, of a type that’s very unusual in comics. Lottie Thorn is an old woman, and the basic joke of the series is that her mentor was expecting her to be a vigorous young lady. In comics and SFF, it’s very rare to encounter an elderly female protagonist, or an old woman of any kind who’s not a stereotypical witch or hag. Lottie is also black, but her race is much less central to the series than her age. Besides having an important diversity agenda, Ash & Thorn is also a lot of fun so far.

SEX CRIMINALS #29 (Image, 2020) – “The End Part Four: O.D.D.,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. Jon obsessively destroys everything in Kuber Badal’s apartment, but then gets arrested, because his powers aren’t working. So now we know why Jon was in jail. This was perhaps my favorite issue since the restart, simply because it was the easiest to follow.

WICKED THINGS #2 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. The police investigate the murder of the Japanese detective, who turns out to not be dead, yet. Lottie is released from jail under house arrest and starts her own investigation. This series is a standard example of John Allison’s style, but it’s very funny.

MIDDLEWEST #17 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Nicholas and Maggie confront each other. Abel unleashes the storm, but Nicholas has planned against this contingency, and it looks like Abel is going to die. And then the “cavalry” arrives in the form of Abel’s dad. Surprisingly, this is the next-to-last issue. One more issue seems sufficient to resolve all the dangling plotlines, and I assume the series was always intended to end after 18 issues.

OUTER DARKNESS/CHEW #3 (Image, 2020) – “Fusion Cuisine Part Three,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. A predictable but fun conclusion. The holodeck characters go insane and terrorize the ship, and Tony and Colby accept their inevitable deaths. I’m furious to learn that this is the final issue of Outer Darkness. It seems that Outer Darkness is owned outright by Skybound, and they can make the unilateral decision to cancel it. That seems like a terrible deal for Layman and Chan, and it’s also directly contrary to Image’s founding principles. I know there will be more John Layman comics, but I wanted more of this one.

DIE #11 (Image, 2020) – “Risk,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. This issue is mostly taken up with more political maneuvering and inter-group drama. At the end, we discover that Prussia is invading Angria, and that Angela’s daughter Molly has somehow gotten into the RPG world.

MONSTRESS #28 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Kippa endures more trauma that would drive a much older person insane. The various good guys battle the Grey Riders from last issue and kick their asses. This series continues to be very powerful, but it suffers from an overly complex plot. I still have no idea how many sides there are in the war, or who’s on which side, and I’m not sure what they’re fighting about.

IMMORTAL HULK #34 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Apotheosis of Samuel Sterns,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Butch Guice. I’m sorry to see Butch Guice’s name on this comic because he’s affiliated with Comicsgate. Other than that, this issue introduces the Leader into the series, and it summarizes his complicated history in a very clear and logical way. Al Ewing comes up with an in-universe explanation for why the Leader is always getting killed and coming back. This series is ending with issue 50. That seems fine to me; it’s better if Ewing can conclude his story rather than artificially prolonging it. Immortal Hulk deserves an Eisner for Best Continuing Series, and I think it will get one, though I voted for Crowded instead.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #105 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. The Turtles and their friends go to a concert. Alopex is inducted into the Splinter clan. The Turtles start a martial arts class, and Jenny comforts a lonely little girl. The issue ends with the appearance of a mysterious traveler from the future and/or another dimension. This TMNT run is extremely fun and heartwarming. As with Jem, Sophie Campbell has made me fall in love with a franchise I didn’t care about before (well, I used to be a Turtles fan, but that was a quarter century ago).

HARLEY QUINN AND THE BIRDS OF PREY #1 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Amanda Conner, [W] Jimmy Palmiotti. Harley’s apartment building is repossessed by the mob, and she has to travel to Gotham to deal with the situation. This series’ plot is pretty standard raucous comedy, but Amanda Conner’s artwork is incredible, as usual. She draws extremely cute women – she may be the best female artist of cheesecake in the history of American comics – and her panels are full of sight gags. She’s reached the point in her career where it’s no longer cost-effective for her to do monthly comics, so I’m glad she’s still producing new work.

AQUAMAN #60 (DC, 2020) – “Echoes of a Life Lived Well Part 4,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. Aquaman uses Black Manta’s technology to find Andy, but has to give her up for her own safety. Mera wakes up to discover that the wedding is taking place tomorrow. This was just an okay issue.

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Ramón Pérez. This is Mark Russell’s first work for Marvel. It focuses on Felix Waterhouse, a young black man from the South Bronx. He’s a brilliant engineer, but his college plans are dashed when his neighborhood is destroyed by the Madbomb War, which took place in Captain America #193-200. So Felix goes to work for Advanced Idea Mechanics. Inevitably, Felix ends up fighting Captain America, and the issue ends with a frank discussion between Felix and Cap. This is quite an effective issue. Russell powerfully shows us how generational poverty and racism combine to deny Felix a future. The ending is a bit unconvincing, but I like Cap’s line about how all superheroes know how to do is punch things.

PLUNGE #4 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Stuart Immonen. The Derleth crew try to get the living humans to help them, and one of the humans, a loathsome corporate stooge, is interested in cooperating. This issue doesn’t include any more of the mathematical references from last issue.

IRON MAN 2020 #4 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Pete Woods. The robot war continues. Tony recovers his memory. There’s a flashback revealing that Tony is adopted, but I guess I was already supposed to know that. There’s also a cute scene with a cat typing on a keyboard. Tony’s “13th floor virtual environment” reminds me of the ancient memory palace method.

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #7 (DC, 2020) – “Britannia, Rule the Waves,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Aaron Campbell. For some reason I got #7 before I got #6. Issue 7 focuses on Freddie, an English fisherman whose industry is being devastated by foreign competition and environmental regulations, or so he thinks. Freddie falls in love with a mermaid, and she supplies him with the best fish. But Freddie turns out to be a horrid little monster; he cuts off the mermaid’s tail and sells it as fish. Even though she’s pregnant with his child. Besides being an excellent horror story, this issue is also an incisive critique of the Brexit mentality. Freddie is a classic Brexit supporter, blaming imaginary foreign enemies for his own perceived lack of manliness.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #11 (DC, 2020) – “For the Defense of… Earth!” etc., [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. Most of the characters from earlier in the series show up to save Jimmy from Jix’s evil boyfriend. Jimmy and Jix’s marriage is dissolved, and with that, most of this series’ plot threads have been resolved. This series has gotten a bit tiresome, and I’m not sorry that it’s almost over.

THE LOW, LOW WOODS #6 (DC, 2020) – “Bells to Rest, Lambs to Slaughter,” [W] Carmen Maria Machado, [A] Dani. Vee gets into college. The two girls decide to give the women of Shudder-to-Think the choice of whether or not to restore their memories. This was an excellent series. For a first-time comics writer, Carmen Maria Machado did quite well, and this comic continues the themes of her prose work.

HARLEY QUINN AND THE BIRDS OF PREY #2 – as above. As with last issue, this issue has beautiful artwork and a fun but inconsequential plot. This issue includes an appearance by Atli, aka Terra, one of Conner and Palmiotti’s pet characters.

2000 AD #885 (Fleetway, 1994) – Judge Dredd: “Scales of Justice Part 2,” [W/A] John Higgins. Dredd battles some judge cadets who were abandoned for 18 months in the Cursed Earth. Higgins’s painted art is impressive. Luke Kirby: “Sympathy for the Devil Part 7,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Luke continues his quest, and the devil knocks him off a bridge into an abyss. Babe Race 2020: untitled, [W] Mark Millar, [A] Anthony Williams. This story is about a deadly motorcycle race between hot babes. It’s a bit like Chopper: Song of the Surfer, except it’s utterly tasteless and it’s just an excuse for T&A. Clown: “The Painted Mask Part 5,” [W] Igor Goldkind, Robert Bliss. A superhero story about a deranged superheroic clown, with excellent painted art. Bradley: “The Sprog Prince Part 1,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Simon Harrison. A “Prince and the Pauper” parody starring a crazy alien child. This story has more beautiful painted art, in a style reminiscent of Ralph Steadman (I made this comparison before).

A shipment of two comics from Shortbox:

SOBEK #1 (Shortbox, 2019) – “Sobek,” [W/A] James Stokoe. This is perhaps the most beautiful, elaborately produced comic book in my entire collection. It has a gold foil cover, thick paper, and, of course, insanely lush and detailed artwork by the finest draftsman in comics. Its price is proportional to its quality: 9 pounds, about $11, for just 32 pages, although because of Stokoe’s hyper-detailed draftsmanship, those 32 pages take as long to read as a hundred pages of normal comics. As for its story, Sobek is set in ancient Egypt and depicts a battle between Sobek, the crocodile god, and Set, the god of Chaos. It’s an Egyptian version of Godzilla, including the ending where Sobek wanders back into the water. This comic suggests a possible path forward for periodical comics. If standard-format comic books become unprofitable as a mass medium, they could still survive as an expensive prestige product, intended for a small audience of collectors. I don’t think that’s the only solution for the industry, but it’s a possibility, and I would certainly buy more comics like Sobek. Also, I regret that I didn’t read this comic until after I cast my Eisner votes.

MINÖTAAR #1 (Shortbox, 2019) – untitled, [W] Lissa Tremain. This comic is much smaller than a typical comic book, though it’s still printed on excellent paper, and it’s cheaper than Sobek and has less elaborate art. But it’s delightful in its own way. Like Grady Hendrix’s novel Horrorstör, Minötaar is a horror story set in IKEA. I assume these two stories were developed independently, because IKEA is such a natural setting for horror. And these two stories are actually quite different in tone and subject matter. Minötaar is about two women who go to IKOS (IKEA) to get furniture for their new apartment. But they get lost in IKOS’s (literally) labyrinthine showroom, and they have to use all their courage in order to escape with their friendship intact. Minötaar is very funny and well-executed, and it shows that while Lissa Tremain is mostly known as the initial artist of Giant Days, she’s also a skilled writer-artist in her own right.

2000 AD #888 (Fleetway, 1994) – In this issue, all four of the continuing stories end. Judge Dredd: “The Accidental Culprit,” [W] “Sonny Steelgrove” (Alan McKenzie or John Tomlinson), [A] Anthony Williams. A humorous story about accidental criminals. Luke Kirby: “Sympathy for the Devil Part 10,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Luke discovers that his father can’t be returned to life. He goes back home, content to stay away from magic. Luke Kirby next appeared in prog 954. Babe Race 2000: “Part 6,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Anthony Williams. More horrendous crap. After winning the race, the main character says she’s going to settle down and have some kids. One website calls Babe Race 2000 “possibly one of the worst written in the title’s history” (https://britishcomics.fandom.com/wiki/Babe_Race_2000), and that’s putting it mildly. Clown: “The Painted Mask,” [W] Igor Goldkind, [A] Greg Staples. A conclusion that I don’t really understand. This story is kind of like Batman, except with a second Joker instead of Batman. Bradley: “The Sprog Prince Part 4,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Simon Harrison. Bradley saves the prince of Oscuritania (Ruritania) from being assassinated. Simon Harrison’s art is better suited to color than to black and white.

GAY COMIX #6 (Bob Ross, 1985) – various stories, [E] Robert Triptow. Trina Robbins’s “Tommy Teene” is a gender-swapped parody of Katy Keene, complete with reader-designed clothes, except the “readers” are fak enames like “J.D. Busby, Berkeley” and “W. Whitman, N.Y.” Tim Barela’s Leonard and Larry story depicts a meeting between some gay men and their conservative relatives. Tim Barela’s draftsmanship is excellent, but his comics are very text-heavy. Roberta Gregory’s “Acute Observation” is about aliens observing human sexuality, and it reminds me of her solo comic Winging It. The back cover is a Wendel strip by Howard Cruse. Of the other stories in the issue, the best is a two-pager by Jerry Mills, who also did the cover. Sadly, a later issue of this series included Mills’s obituary.

TRUTH: RED, WHITE AND BLACK #3 (Marvel, 2003) – “The Passage Part III,” [W] Robert Morales, [A] Kyle Baker. Isaiah Bradley and his black soldiers are subjected to dangerous and sometimes fatal experiments, while Isaiah’s wife investigates her husband’s disappearance. I have five issues of this series, and I need to get the other two. This series is one of Marvel’s most important treatments of racial issues.

DAN DARE #4 (Titan, 2018) – “Different Worlds, Different People,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Alberto Foche. This short-lived Dan Dare revival has high production values, but feels like a rehash of old-fashioned old comics. So far the only Dan Dare comic I’ve really liked is Morrison and Hughes’s Dare, but I have a volume of Frank Hampson’s original series, and I ought to read it soon.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #106 (Marvel, 1981) – “A Savage Sting Has – the Scorpion!”, [W] Tom DeFalco, [A] Herb Trimpe. The Scorpion tries to get revenge on J. Jonah Jameson, and Spider-Man teams up with Captain America. This is a surprisingly fun issue, but it’s really a Spider-Man solo story. Cap plays no essential role in the plot. On the last page, Cap even admits that the Scorpion is no match for either him or Spidey alone, let alone both of them. This issue is perhaps most notable for its Frank Miller cover.

ACTION COMICS #703 (DC, 1994) – “Chronocide!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Jackson Guice. Because of Zero Hour, time is disappearing from the past forward, and older people are vanishing as their birthdays are eradicated. Superman tries to save his parents by moving them into another reality. This issue is unimpressive, and it reminds me that Zero Hour was pretty dumb.

RED CIRCLE SORCERY #10 (Archie, 1974) – “Death is My Love’s Name,” [W] Marv Channing, [A] Gray Morrow, etc. A Pygmalion-and-Galatea story that ends much less happily than the original one did. The second story is Channing and Chaykin’s “Pirate Island,” an early example of Chaykin’s central theme of the desire for swashbuckling adventure. Other artists in this issue include Gray Morrow, Al McWilliams and Jack Abel.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #12 (Marvel, 2015) – “Time Alone Shall Murder All the Flowers,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. At the end of time, the evil King Loki tells Thor and the younger Loki about his plan to become king of the multiverse. As part of his monologuing, King Loki summarizes a lot of stories that were never published. This issue includes one panel that’s deservedly gone viral – the one with the caption “actually it’s about ethics in hammer-wielding!” – but the rest of the issue isn’t nearly as good as that panel.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #206 (Marvel, 1977) – “Face to Face with the Swine!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Having just returned to New York from his latest adventure, Cap witnesses a man being kidnapped by agents of the Swine, a brutal Latin American dictator. The Swine is a huge stereotype, though at least he doesn’t speak in a fake Mexican accent, like the Latin American characters in 2000 AD. On this issue’s letters page, several readers criticize Jack Kirby’s writing, and one guy complains about Kirby’s lack of sophistication compared to Englehart. This critique is not wrong, though the editor is also correct to point out that “the difference between Kirby and Englehart is basically one of style.”

GAY COMICS #17 (Bob Ross, 1993) – various stories, [E] Andy Mangels. The highlights of this issue are Eric Shanower’s “Pizza Face,” about a kid with exaggerated acne, and Roberta Gregory’s “Bitchy Butch Returns.” There are also some strips by Jennifer Camper, and Julie Frankl’s “A Trip to Queersville USA,” about queer tourism, is interesting. It depicts a trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts, which at the time was one of the few places where gay people could safely vacation. It’s kind of strange to read a story like this almost 30 years later, when queer culture has become much more normalized.

DEADLINE USA #1 (Dark Horse, 1992) – various stories, [E] Chris Warner & Jerry Prosser. There are too many stories in this issue to mention them all, but highlights include: Richard Sala’s Thirteen O’Clock. Wild World by Philip Bond. Johnny Nemo by Milligan and Ewins. Beryl the Bitch by Julie Hollings, one of the few female artists in the UK alternative comics scene. Hugo Tate by Nick Abadzis. Wild World may be my favorite Deadline strip, and it really should be collected into a single volume. It’s been described, somewhat accurately, as a British version of Locas.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #11 (Marvel, 2015) – “Turn Away and Slam the Door,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. I assume all the issues of this series are named after song lyrics, but I don’t recognize them all, though of course I do recognize the source of this one. This issue, Freyja accuses Loki of betraying Asgard, and then King Loki shows up and reveals his scheme. I’ve already seen what happens next. More thoughts on this series later.

CHAMPION SPORTS #2 (DC, 1974) – “The Enchanted Bat,” [W] Joe Simon, [A] Jerry Grandenetti. A baseball player becomes a superstar because of a magical bat. We later learn that it’s a normal bat and that the player became a star all by himself, but even without this trite conclusion, the story would still be ludicrous. Contemporary baseball players use dozens of bats every season, and I assume this was also true in 1974. Next is an uninteresting story about boxing, and the third story is about an offensive lineman who’s embarrassed that he’s not the quarterback. The story ends with the OL being drafted by the NFL, while the QB becomes an insurance salesman. This ending is quite realistic; the unrealistic part is that the offensive lineman shouldn’t have had such a massive inferiority complex in the first place.

2000 AD #889 (Fleetway, 1994) – This is a “jumping-on point” issue in which several new stories begin, since all the stories from last issue have concluded. This issue also introduces a new format for the opening pages. Judge Dredd: “The Time Machine,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Some Cambridge dons travel from 1999 to 2116 and are horrified by the dystopian Mega-City One. Ezquerra’s opening splash panel is impressive. Mambo: “The New Flesh 1,” [W/A] Dave Hine. Mambo is a 21st-century cop with red hair and a plate over her left eye. I don’t quite get what this story is about. Rogue Trooper: “Mercy Killing Part 1,” [W] Steve White, [A] Henry Flint. Rogue Trooper fights some “ice nomads” and their war mammoth. Henry Flint’s art and coloring here are very impressive; the entire story has a distinctive blue color scheme. Flint only created a small body of work for the American market. Armoured Gideon: “An Evening with Michelle Pfeiffer,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Simon Jacob. A man named Frank Weitz dreams that he’s become rich and famous by taking photos of the robot Armoured Gideon. Then he wakes up. This story’s last panel mentions the Volgans from Invasion! and ABC Warriors. Slaine: “The Queen of Witches,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Dermot Power. Slaine fights some blue guy, then we learn that he’s become a year king, destined to be sacrificed at the next Beltane. Also, the Romans are invading Britain, and Ukko has a plan to stop them.

SUPERMAN #47 (DC, 1990) – “Lives in the Balance Part Two of Three,” [W/A] Jerry Ordway. Superman battles Blaze in hell for the souls of Jimmy Olsen and Jerry White. Luthor reveals that he’s Jerry White’s father. There’s also an unnecessary appearance by the Black Racer. Jerry Ordway is an underrated writer.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #14 (DC, 2014) – “Love Stories,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Laura Braga & Mirka Andolfo. I hate Marguerite Bennett’s writing, and unfortunately I didn’t figure this out until I already had a giant stack of unread comics written by her. My principal problem with her writing is her dialogue. But in the case of DC Comics Bombshells, further problems include an overabundance of forgettable characters, and a lack of an overarching plot. It’s impossible to tell where the story is going, or how the characters connect to each other. This is partly due to the series’ origin as a webcomic. This issue begins with a chapter about Mera and then continues with chapters about Zatanna and about Harley Quinn. However, there’s no explicit indication of where the chapters begin and end, so the reader gets the sense that the entire comic is one story with three different unrelated plots.

SAVAGE DRAGON #94 (Image, 2001) – “Kingdom Khan,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon confronts Sebastian Khan, and there are some other subplots. This is a pretty standard Savage Dragon story. At one point Dragon mentions Calvin’s lucky rocketship underpants.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #13 (Marvel, 2014) – “The Magic Theater,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. Young Loki defeats King Loki thanks to emotional support from Verity. I like the way Al Ewing writes Loki, but the King Loki subplot was pointless and frustrating. It’s not fun to read about Loki being constantly frustrated in his efforts to do anything good. This series would have been better if it had just been about the wacky adventures of Loki and Verity.

HEAVY METAL #86 (HM, 1984) – various stories, [E] Julie Simmons-Lynch. This is the first issue of Heavy Metal I’ve read. It is a very lengthy read at about 100 pages, including numerous text pieces. The issue begins with Pepe Moreno’s “Bunker 6A,” which has some nice coloring in a style similar to BWS’s. There’s also a chapter of Druillet’s Salammbo, and a pre-Cities of the Fantastic piece by Schuiten, although the latter has some very rigid and unchanging page layouts. Then there’s a chapter of The Incal, which I’ve already read, and a chapter of Liberatore’s Ranxerox. I’ve never read this series before, and it’s as gruesome and explicit as I’ve been led to expect. The last notable feature in this issue is Charles Burns’s El Borbah. The issue also includes a lot of material by lesser artists, and some of this material is quite bad. After reading this comic, I ordered a couple other issues of Heavy Metal, and I’d like to read even more. Heavy Metal has some significant flaws, but it’s an important comic that I’ve barely explored at all, although I have read a lot of the comics that Heavy Metal introduced to Anglophone readers.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #14 (Marvel, 2015) – “Born One Morning and the Sun Didn’t Shine,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. Loki is reunited with Verity, and the gods of Asgard prepare for the coming Secret Wars. This issue is severely hampered by being tied to a boring crossover event, and it doesn’t give us enough of Loki and Verity. The good Loki appears on less than half the pages of this issue. The rest of the issue is devoted to the evil Loki and the Asgardian gods.

THE GOON: ONCE UPON A HARD TIME #3 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “Once Upon a Hard Time, Part 3,” [W/A] Eric Powell. The Goon confronts a mobster who’s been persecuting him, and meanwhile, the Nameless Man tells the gruesome story of his skin hat. I didn’t quite understand the plot of this issue, but its artwork is excellent and very creepy. Eric Powell is quite a good horror artist in the tradition of Bernie Wrightson and Kelley Jones.

REVIVAL #17 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. I didn’t quite understand this issue’s plot, but it ends with Professor Aaron Weimar getting killed. This is a good thing because he was cheating on his wife with his student, something that I, as a college instructor, find repulsive.

THE GOON: ONCE UPON A HARD TIME #4 – as above. The Goon defeats some horrific villains, and then he and Franky leave town. This issue feels like it could have been the conclusion of the entire series, although The Goon has now been revived with a different writer.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #15 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Old Army Game,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. This is better than the last few issues because it focuses more on Verity. In particular, we learn that Verity is the daughter of Roger Willis, from Simonson’s Thor run. This issue is also mildly metatextual; it begins by saying “your reading of the text affects the text,” though I don’t think this is really true. Unfortunately, again half the issue is wasted on pointless Secret Wars nonsense.

2000 AD #900 (Fleetway, 1994) – “Casualties of War,” [W] John Wagner, [A] John Higgins. This issue is unique in two ways: it consists of just one long story, and that story depicts Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper’s first mission ever. After a crushing defeat, Friday and his fellow soldiers travel in time (not sure whether forward or backward) to Judge Dredd’s time. With help from the Psi-Division, Dredd and Friday figure out that Friday’s sergeant, Hagar, betrayed his men to the enemy. They team up to bring Hagar to justice. This is an entertaining story that benefits from having more than the usual number of pages.

YUMMY FUR #26 (Vortex, 1991) – “Fuck Part One: Grades Seven to Nine,” [W/A] Chester Brown. At age nine, Chester’s mother punishes him for saying “shit,” giving him an aversion to foul language. When he’s a little older, his schoolmates bully him for not swearing. In collected form, this story was called I Never Liked You, and I’ve read that book, though not for a long time. Chester Brown’s brand of autobio comics is starting to seem dated – Faye Stacey called it the “ ‘I’m a bad person’ sad dude” genre – but back in 1991 it was still groundbreaking. This issue also includes Brown’s adaptation of Matthew 9:14 to 9:17.

KARATE KID #8 (DC, 1977) – “Pandemonium… Panic… Pulsar!”, [W] Barry Jameson, [A] Ric Estrada. Val battles a villain named Pulsar. At the end of the issue, Jeckie travels back in time to see Val and finds him kissing his 20th-century companion Iris. This series was a transparent attempt to cash in on the kung fu craze using a character DC already owned, and it had little to do with the Legion. This issue isn’t terrible, but it’s not great either.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #32 (Marvel, 2008) – “The Death of Captain America Part 2: The Burden of Dreams,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Black Widow and Falcon team up to rescue Sharon Carter from Dr. Faustus. This issue has very solid writing and artwork, but it feels too slick and polished, and I couldn’t get into it. I loved Brubaker and Epting’s Cap when it was just starting, but I eventually got tired of it because of its lack of emotion.

SENTIENT #1 (TKO, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Gabriel Walta. This miniseries was published and distributed by TKO. This company has a unique publishing model: all their series are available exclusively from their web store, as either trades or boxed sets of single issues, and the first issue of each series is free. As a fan of the single-issue format, I of course chose the latter option. Like Shortbox comics, TKO comics are very handsomely produced. Sentient #1 is much taller than a normal comic, but still fits in a drawerbox. Because my copies of Sentient were delivered late, I have a credit for 50% off any other TKO comic, but I haven’t used it yet. On to the actual issue. Sentient #1 takes place on a spaceship headed from a dying Earth to an extraterrestrial colony. Just after the ship passes out of communications range, one of the crew members, Kruger, reveals herself as a “separatist” terrorist. She murders all the other adults on the ship, intending to indoctrinate the children into her cult. The ship’s sentient AI, Valarie, manages to kill Kruger before she can harm the children, but the kids are left alone on the ship, with Valarie as their sole parent. And one of the kids is Kruger’s son. This issue is absolutely thrilling; it creates incredible suspense and excitement, and Kruger’s death is such a cathartic moment that I actually clapped. Lemire and Walta’s characterization is subtle but powerful. For example, the issue begins by depicting the two main child characters, Lil and Isaac, waking up and starting their day. Without using any captions, the creators show us that Lil has a close and tender relationship with her mother, while Isaac and his mother are much more cold to each other.

SENTIENT #2 – as above. This issue is much slower-paced than the previous issue. Its main event is that the kids witness their parents’ bodies and hold a funeral. Still, this is another extremely powerful issue. Walta is the perfect artist for this series; he draws subtle facial expressions and stark, striking page layouts.

2000 AD #909</a. (Fleetway, 1994) – Judge Dredd: “Wilderlands 6,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd and some other judges crash-land on a “hell-planet,” where they start to go insane from eating tainted food. Red Razors: “The Hunt for Red Razors,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. This story takes place in East-Meg Two, i.e. Russia, but I can’t follow its plot. Nigel Dobbyn’s art is quite appealing. ABC Warriors: “Hellbringer Part 6,” [W] Pat Mills & Tony Skinner, [A] Kev Walker. I couldn’t follow this one either, though it has some nice painted art. Having subsequently read some much earlier ABC Warriors stories, I notice that in this story Joe Pineapples can talk in normal English, while originally he could only talk in letters and numbers. Sam Slade: Robo Hunter: “Metropolis 6: Land on the Run,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Rian Hughes. This is the highlight of the issue because of its beautiful Clear Line art, though Sam Slade’s talking pen is yet another Mexican stereotype. Button Man: “The Confession of Harry Exton,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Arthur Ranson. The Button Man has a shootout in a meat warehouse. Arthur Ransom’s artwork is realistic and exciting.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #16 (Marvel, 2015) – “Would You Know More?”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. This title of course comes from Thor #380. Ragnarok happens, but it turns out to all be part of Teen Loki’s plot. Also, at some point in the last couple issues, Loki turned into a woman. To elaborate on earlier comments, the main appeal of this series is that Loki is a fascinating protagonist. That was why Marvel launched this series to begin with, because of the popularity of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Kieron Gillen’s Journey into Mystery. And Verity was a great foil for Loki. But the problem with this series is that it was mired in crossovers and continuity, and there was not nearly enough of a focus on Loki him/herself.

THUNDERBOLTS #146 (Marvel, 2010) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kev Walker. The Thunderbolts examine the mystery of Troll, and then they go on a mission to investigate some miners who have been turneed into spider-creatures. As I have observed before, Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts is like a Marvel version of Suicide Squad because of its weird and distinctive characters. And it’s more accessible than Kurt Busiek’s classic Thunderbolts. A funny thing in this issue is that Man-Thing lives in a giant terrarium and needs to be watered.

GHOST RIDER #72 (Marvel, 1982) – “Remnants!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Bob Budiansky. Johnny Cash leaves his carnival after some sort of disaster for which Ghost Rider was responsible. Johnny befriends an old friend named Adam, who gets kidnapped by a villain called Centurious – not to be confused with Centurius. Centurious is a psychic vampire who drains people’s spirits. I’ve never had much interest in Ghost Rider, but this issue is not bad.

KINGDOM OF THE WICKED #2 (Caliber, 1996) – “Chapter Two,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. Chris sees a psychiatrist, then has another vision of his imagined world of Castrovalva. There are references to the Brontës’ Glass Town and the old British comic Lion. D’Israeli’s art is excellent, though I don’t like his use of greytones. This may be the only good Caliber comic I’ve read.

GRENDEL #6 (Comico, 1987) – “Challenge the Devil,” [W] Matt Wagner, [A] Arnold Pander & Jacob Pander. Christine Spar, the current Grendel, battles an evil kabuki actor named Tujiro. This issue’s plot is confusing, and its art is unimpressive. I’ve never understood Grendel or been able to get into it, and this issue did nothing to change that.

ECLIPSE, THE MAGAZINE #2 (Eclipse, 1981) – various stories, [E] Dean Mullaney. I have a huge backlog of magazine-sized comics, and being in quarantine has given me time to read some of them. This issue starts with a completely nonsensical funny-animal story by Steve Leialoha, then continues with a Ken Steacy story with a dumb plot and too much text. But after that things start to improve. The next story is Coyote. This is Marshall Rogers’s best post-Batman work. Its lack of color is unfortunate, but Rogers’s page layouts and screentones are brilliant. Then there’s Dope by Trina Robbins, and chapter one of Gerber and Mayerik’s “Role Model.” This story is a vicious satire of TV Standards & Practices departments. The villain is a television censor who insists on clean TV, but ironically lives in horrible squalor. This story must be based on Gerber’s personal experience writing for television. He did a lot of writing for animation, though Wikipedia doesn’t show him as having any TV credits prior to 1983. Next there are short stories by Howard Cruse and Rick Geary, and part two of Ms. Tree’s origin story.

BATMAN/THE MAXX: ARKHAM DREAMS #3 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth. A standard Maxx story with a thin plot but gorgeous art. This issue includes a strange monster called a Wumpus Woof. One of Kieth’s most unique qualities as an artist is his ability to draw things that are silly and threatening at once. He also reminds me a lot of Corben. As of this writing, this is the last issue of Arkham Dreams. Issues 4 and 5 have been solicited but not released.

ECLIPSE, THE MAGAZINE #4 (Eclipse, 1982) – as above. In the Coyote story, Coyote sleeps with a mysterious woman named Phyllida. Hunt Emerson’s “Kon-Tiki” is a silly satire of Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition of the same name. Alex Simmons and James Sherman’s “Demon Chronicles” is not interesting, and it shows that Jim Sherman’s art hadn’t evolved much since the early ‘70s. The next stories are by McGregor and Graham and by Trina Robbins, and then there’s an eerie four-pager by Rick Geary. I’ve noticed that Geary has a habit of leaving important information out of the panels, focusing instead on irrelevant details. This forces the reader to imagine details that are worse than what can actually be seen. In the Ms. Tree chapter, Ms. Tree discovers that her late husband has a son she didn’t know about. I have three of the eight issues of Eclipse Magazine, and I want to get the other five.

SENTIENT #3 – as above. The kids start running the ship on their own, but Lil and Isaac become bitter rivals, since Isaac’s mother killed Lil’s mother. The USS Montgomery docks at a derelict space station, and Valarie detects life signs from inside. Against Valarie’s orders, Lil goes to investigate and discovers a crazy man. This issue, and much of the series, is driven by the evolving relationships between Lil and Isaac and between Valarie and the children.

2000 AD #947 (Fleetway, 1995) – Judge Dredd: “Goodnight Kiss,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Nick Percival. Dredd fights a villain named Gideon in the Cursed Earth. Nick Percival’s art here is not the best. Mambo: “Fleshworld Part 8,” [W/A] Dave Hine. I don’t understand this story’s plot, but Dave Hine’s art is very weird, full of strange alien life forms. Even the panel borders are drawn to look like alien flesh. Rogue Trooper: “Ascent Part Two,” [W] Steve White, [A] Steve Tappin. Rogue visits a “biochip mausoleum.” Steve Tappin’s art resembles that of Henry Flint or Ron Smith. Finn: “Interventions Part 18,” [W] Pat Mills & Tony Skinner, [A] Paul Staples. A heavily muscled warrior battles a grotesque alien deity. I don’t know what this story is about, but it has some excellent art. Strontium Dogs: “High Moon Part 8,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Mark Harrison. Gronk and Bullmoose Saxon are lost at sea, but are rescued by Middenface McNulty. None of the stories in this prog really stood out.

COYOTE #9 (Marvel, 1984) – “The Initiation!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Chas Truog. Coyote is trapped on an alien spaceship and has had half his brain removed. Because of the lack of Marshall Rogers artwork, this story is much less exciting than the Coyote stories in Eclipse Magazine. There’s also a backup story by Englehart and Ditko.

SENTIENT #4 (TKO, 2019) – as above. The crazy survivor tries to kill Lil, but Isaac shows up to rescue her. Lil and Isaac manage to get back to the Montgomery, where Valarie kills the crazy dude. The issue ends with the arrival of another ship, controlled by an AI named Victor. This is another thrilling issue.

MOCKINGBIRD #4 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. Bobbi Morse rescues Clint Barton from an underwater AIM lab. This issue is a lot better than Man-Eaters, probably because of more proactive editing.

UNTOUCHABLES #2 (Eastern, 1988) – untitled, [W/A] Lee Hyun-Se. The tyrannical father from last issue secures a contract for his son, Haesong, with a major league baseball club. Later, Haesong tells a friend how his father used to beat him, and he appreciated it, because it meant his father cared about him. In a Western cultural context, this would be horrifying, but in the Korean context, Haesong’s desensitization to abuse seems less shocking. Though in saying that, I might be relying on stereotypes. There’s also a subplot about Haesong’s love interest, Omji.

THOR #309 (Marvel, 1981) – “Beware the Bombardiers!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Rick Leonardi. Rick Leonardi’s art in this issue is very good. His splash page, depicting a futuristic car, could almost have been drawn by Michael Golden. I don’t know why Leonardi wasn’t more of a star. However, this issue’s plot is inappropriate for a Thor story; the villains are a bunch of petty gangsters who are obviously no match for Thor. Besides the art, the best thing about this comic is that Thor spends the entire issue in the company of a cat. And the cat defeats a villain by clawing him in the face.

CAPTAIN CONFEDERACY #9 (SteelDragon, 1988) – “Dear Brutus,” [W] Will Shetterly & John M. Ford, [A] Vince Stone. This issue has ugly lettering and muddy art, but it’s fairly well written. John M. Ford was a brilliant SF novelist. This issue also includes an Ant Boy backup story by Matt Feazell. This comic feels a lot like an SF fanzine. It includes letters from SF authors Peni Griffin and Keith R.A. DeCandido, and an ad for SF books. SteelDragon was owned by Shetterly and his wife Emma Bull, both prominent SF authors, and it published fiction as well as comics. I’d be interested in reading more Captain Confederacy just because of its SFF connections, despite my aversion to Will Shetterly’s politics.

GREEN LANTERN #128 (DC, 1980) – “The Green That Got Away!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Dave Cockrum. An inset story in which Hal fights Hector Hammond, along with a framing sequence by O’Neil and Staton. According to the GCD, the Hector Hammond story was intended for Adventure Comics #467 before that issue was changed from a Dollar Comic to a standard-size comic. See the GCD entry on Adventure Comics #466 for a full explanation.

2000 AD #974 (Fleetway, 1996) – Judge Dredd: “The Pit Part 5,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd fights some rogue judges. This story is very suspenseful, but its computer coloring is ugly. Flesh: “Chronocide Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett & Steve White, [A] Gary Erskine. A man named Regan hunts a monstrous shark. This story is exciting, and Gary Erskine’s depiction of the shark is humorously over-the-top. Vector 13: “Case Ten: Thrillkill,” [W] Brian Williamson, [A] John Burns. Martin, a filmmaker who produces films of celebrity deaths, discovers that the same mysterious mustached man has been present at many different tragedies. The mustached man kills Martin. I’m not sure whether Vector 13 was a continuing story, or a series of one-shot stories like Tharg’s Future Shocks. Parasites: “The Future King Part 12,” [W] Mark Eyles, [A] Mike Hadley. I don’t remember this one at all. Kid Cyborg: “Part 3,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Jim McCarthy. The main character is pursued by the Men in Black.

SENTIENT #5 – as above. The new ship, Victor, forcibly docks with the Montgomery, against Valarie’s objections. It becomes clear that Victor’s ship is full of separatists, and that Victor and his crew do not have the kids’ best interests at heart. Victor starts overwriting Valarie’s code with his own. Isaac and Linda have to save Valarie before Victor can defeat her and gain control of the ship and the younger kids. This issue is tremendously suspenseful. When the separatists enter the ship and declare “This ship is now a free vessel and you are free children. Do not be afraid,” it’s a terrifying moment.

SENTINEL #6 – as above. Lil kills one of the separatists, and then in another extremely cathartic moment, Isaac manages to revive Val so that she can kill the rest. The human villains in this series are just horrifying – they all see the kids as tools to be used, not as people, and the separatists in #5 and #6 are perfectly willing to murder all the kids in order to gain control of the ship. Victor manages to overwrite Valarie’s code, but Isaac traps Victor aboard the Montgomery, and now that Victor’s own ship is empty, the kids use that ship to reach the colony safely. At the colony, they reboot Valarie from scratch, and Lil and Isaac become Val’s parents, rather than vice versa. This series is a masterpiece; it’s one of Jeff Lemire’s greatest short works, and Gabriel Walta also deserves a lot of credit for his brilliant visual storytelling. Now that I’ve read this series, I wish I could change my Eisner vote. Little Bird was very good, but Sentient was better.

New comics received on July 3:

THE GODDAMNED: THE VIRGIN BRIDES #1 (Image, 2020) – “The Wedding Rose,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] R.M. Guera. I’m excited that this series is back. This new series is not directly to the previous Goddamned miniseries. Instead it’s based on Genesis 6:4, about the Nephilim and the “sons of God.” This series is about a group of young girls who are held in slavery at the foot of a mountain, waiting for puberty so that they can be married to the “sons of God.” When one of the girls reaches puberty and is taken up the mountain, two of the other girls climb up the mountain to look for her. There they discover that the sons of God are impregnating their brides and forcing them to bear monstrous inhuman children. The two protagonists, Sharri and Jael, have to flee before the same thing happens to them. This series is a horrifying tale of sexual slavery, and R.M. Guera’s art is spectacular.

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND #2 (Ahoy, 2020) – “Chapter Two,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. The assassin protagonist makes it to Billionaire Island, but his cover is blown at once. Meanwhile, the reporter protagonist makes it out of jail. This issue contains some more very effective satire. Reading this issue, I had the insight that Mark Russell is the new Steve Gerber. Like Gerber, he has a deep understanding of the contemporary moment, and he creates a perfect blend of realism and satire.

RONIN ISLAND #12 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milonogiannis. The islanders repel the invasion, and the shogun finally gets killed. Hana goes back to the mainland to look for survivors. The series ends with an important exchange: “You belong here, Hana… on the island. All of us belong.” “I’ve heard those words all my life, Kenichi… someday we’ll make them true.” The island, of course, is America. This series was a lot darker and grimmer than I expected, especially compared to Mech Cadet Yu, but it was excellent.

THE GOON #11 (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Mike Norton. Witchfinder Matthew Hopkins starts a literal witch hunt against Mother Brewster and her fellow witches. Mother Brewster’s cat plays a significant role in this issue. This is another very fun comic.

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #6 (DC, 2020) – “Quiet,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Aaron Campbell. A terminally ill old racist woman sends out her astral form to attack and kill immigrants. Noah, Constantine’s mute companion, placates the woman by telling her “I’m sorry nobody come 2 visit.” This issue reminds me of the classic “Hold Me,” in that it ends with a moment of compassion, although in this case the recipient of the compassion doesn’t deserve it. This issue also shows deep sympathy for BAME people. There’s one page where we’re told that D.S. Davinder Dole has an “accent adrift between Putney and Punjab,” and nurse Zadie Headley is a descendant of Windrush immigrants.

PSYCHODRAMA ILLUSTRATED #2 (Fantagraphics, 2020) – “Mercy and the Devil,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. This story depicts another one of Fritz’s films, about a mother and daughter who are sleeping with the same men. I have trouble getting into Beto’s Fritz stories because Fritz is an unsympathetic protagonist, and unlike with Luba, the characters surrounding her are as bad as she is. The Fritz stories would be more fun if they had more sympathetic characters like Ofelia or Hector or the young Guadalupe.

ON THE STUMP #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chuck Brown, [A] Prenzy. This issue has a confusing plot, no clear premise, and extremely loose artwork. I’m giving up on this series.

PRETTY VIOLENT #7 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Hunter, [W] Jason Young. Gamma Rae is assigned to be a new superheroine’s mentor, and like everything else Gamma Rae does, her mentorship effort goes horribly wrong. This is a one-joke series, but it’s a good joke.

KIDZ #4 (Ablaze, 2020) – untitled, [W] Aurélien Ducoudray, [A] Jocelyn Joret. The kids go to the mall, where they encounter an adult survivor. This issue is not bad, but the actual story ends on the second page after the staple, and then there’s a ten-page preview of The Cimmerian: Red Nails.

KING OF NOWHERE #3 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The fish dude takes the main character to visit his parents, and there are some other subplots. I don’t quite understand this series.

2000 AD #979 (Fleetway, 1996) – Judge Dredd: “The Pit Part 10,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd fights some rogue judges in a prison. Flesh: “Chronocide Part 7,” [W] Steve White & Dan Abnett, [A] Gary Erskine. The villain gets eaten by a shark, and the protagonist gets sent back into the past, where he finds some humans there already. Darkness Visible: “Part 5,” [W] Nick Abadzis, [A] John Ridgway. The protagonist, Hewitt, encounters a flying skeleton named Manon. I don’t understand this one. Kid Cyborg: “Part 8,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Jim McCarthy. The protagonist fights the Men in Black and wins. Venus Bluegenes: “Venus on the Frag Shell Part 4,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Simon Coleby. Venus Bluegenes, a sort of female version of Rogue Trooper, battles a mutated anthropomorphic shark. Simon Coleby’s art looks a lot like that of Jim Calafiore.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #198 (Marvel, 1992) – “The Soul Eater,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. Conan’s pirate ship picks up three mysterious siren-like women. When the ship arrives at the pirate town of Port Tortage, the women convince all the male pirates to abandon their evil ways and worship a deity called Atarata. Meanwhile, all the women on the island, including Valeria from Red Nails, are exiled. Atarata turns out to be a horrible shaggy monster that lives under a lake, and Conan defeats it and saves the town. This is an exciting issue that makes effective use of its 45-page length. A notable subplot involves the love quadrangle between Conan, Valeria, Conan’s captain Strom, and Strom’s girlfriend/sex slave Morganis.

PROTECTOR #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Simon Roy & Daniel Bensen, [A] Artyom Trakhanov. All the characters arrive at the ruins of St. Louis, and there’s another big fight. I’m losing interest in this series. It has some good worldbuilding, but it doesn’t have much of a plot.

EZEQUIEL HIMES, ZOMBIE HUNTER #1 (Amigo, 2020) – “It Ain’t Just a Job,” [W] Victor Santos, [A] Alberto Hernandez. A combination of the blaxploitation and zombie genres. This is pretty boring, and I regret that I already ordered issue 2.

2000 AD #980 (Fleetway, 1996) – Judge Dredd: “The Pit Part 11,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd finally defeats the criminals. Venus Bluegenes: “Stealth Part 1,” [W] Steve White, [A] Henry Flint. Venus participates in some kind of military operation along a river. Henry Flint’s art and coloring in this story are amazing. Canon Fodder: ‘Part 1,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Chris Weston. Canon Fodder fails to prevent a church from being destroyed by terrorists, while Sigmund Freud plans to psychoanalyze him. I already encountered this character in prog 864. As usual, Chris Weston’s artwork is stunning. Janus: Psi: “A New Star, Part 1,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Paul Johnson. A new story starring a Psi-Judge who talks in exaggerated ‘90s slang. Paul Johnson draws some very scary-looking poltergeists.

MARSHAL LAW #4(Marvel, 1988) – “Conduct Unbecoming,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. This issue begins with a splash page of Public Spirit injecting steroids into his arm. At least that’s not as bad as the rape scene from issue 2, which turned me off from this series. This issue includes a letter criticizing the rape scene, and a rather weak defense of it by the editors. Anyway, in the rest of the issue, we gradually realize that the murderers are the former superheroine Virago and Danny, her illegitimate son by Public Spirit.

MARSHAL LAW #5 – “Mark of Caine,” as above. We get Danny’s origin story. Public Spirit murders Virago, and Marshal Law and Danny/Sleepman prepare for their final confrontation. These two issues are very hard-hitting, but also quite disturbing and brutal. This whole series relies way too much on shock value, as exemplified by the aforementioned rape scene.

HERU, SON OF AUSAR #1 (Ania, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Roger Barnes. A superhero-influenced retelling of the myth of Heru, a.k.a. Horus, who in this version is black. This series is rather poorly executed, with ugly lettering and too much text, but it has good intentions. Its inside front covers include citations from Afrocentric authors like Walter Rodney and Molefi Kete Asante. I don’t know if any other issues of this series were ever published.

UNTOUCHABLES #3 – as above. Haesong’s dad gets hit by a bus while drunk. Haesong himself starts batting practice, since all he knows how to do is pitch fastballs. This series has a very manga-esque style, and each issue is a quick read.

UNTOUCHABLES #4 – as above. Haesong confronts Omji, who’s engaged to another man. That’s the end of the series, or at least the part of it that was translated into English. Lee Hyun-Se’s 공포의 외인구단 – unfortunately this title has no standard translation or transliteration – is one of the most renowned Korean comics, but these four issues don’t really convey what was so great about it. I wish someone would translate the rest of it.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES FCBD 2017 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Tom Waltz, [A] Cory Smith. The first half of this FCBD issue is a recap of past stories, then the Turtles fight a villain from Dimension X, and then they travel to Dimension X themselves. This is a boring and pointless comic, especially by comparison to Sophie Campbell’s current TMNT comics.

STAR-LORD #6 (Marvel, 2017) – “How We Die,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Kris Anka. Star-Lord goes to a funeral and then meets Old Man Logan and Rocket Raccoon. The highlight of the issue is when Rocket is drinking in a bar, and the bartender tells him to leave because he’s an unaccompanied animal.

On July 6, I received two orders of comics. One was a recent order from Atomic Avenue, and the other was a lot of old 2000 ADs, plus a few underground comics, that I had ordered in late June.

SAVAGE TALES #2 (Marvel, 1973) – “Red Nails,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. This was about $8, more than I usually pay for any individual comic. But by ordering Savage Tales #2 and #3, I was able to get free shipping, and the shipping would have cost $16, so the two issues of Savage Tales were essentially free. Anyway, eight bucks is a bargain for a comic of such quality. “Red Nails” is BWS’s finest early work, and perhaps his best work ever. I read the reprint of this story in Conan Saga when I was in college, and I wasn’t impressed, but looking at it again, I’m stunned. BWS’s draftsmanship on this story is immaculate; he must have spent days on every page. His visual storytelling is also excellent. A high point is the half-page panel where Conan deals the final blow to the stegosaurus. Another highlight of the story is Valeria, who has a quite different personality from Conan’s other two major woman warrior characters, Red Sonja and Bêlit. Backup features in this issue include Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow’s “Dark Tomorrow,” which has good art but lousy writing; a reprinted Joe Maneely story; BWS’s adaptation of REH’s poem “Cimmeria”; and a reprint of Thomas and Bernie Wrightson’s Kull story from Creatures on the Loose #10.

2000 AD #99 (IPC, 1979) – This and the other progs prior to #127 are entitled 2000 AD AND STARLORD. Judge Dredd: “The Day the Law Died!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd battles the insane Judge Cal, who has taken over the city with help from sone aliens. Angel: “Chapter 5 – The Escape!”, [W] Chris Stevens, [A] Carlos Pino. A cyborg astronaut barely survives reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, then captures a traitorous soldier. Carlos Pino’s artwork is fairly good. He was partners with the better-known Spanish artist Vicente Alcázar, and they both worked on Archie’s Red Circle comics. Ro-Busters: “Terra-Meks! Part Two: Mek-Mania!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Dave Gibbons. This is the highlight of the issue. It begins with an amazing double-page splash depicting a bunch of giant robots that are about to demolish an entire city. A robot named Charlie is tasked with saving the city. Flesh: “Book 2,” [W] Geoffrey Miller, [A] Carlos Pino. Some humans use a time machine to hunt prehistoric monsters. One of the monsters gets pulled forward into the present, and that’s where the Loch Ness monster came from. This story has little in common with the much later Flesh story that I just read.

2000 AD #100 (IPC, 1979) – My copy of this issue is missing a page, but it’s just a recap of previous Sam Slade stories. Ro-Busters: “Terra-Meks! Part 3: To the Death!”, as above. Charlie defeats the Terra-Meks in an epic battle. Judge Dredd: as above. Judge Cal goes further off the cliff, declaring happiness to be illegal. Meanwhile, Dredd fights a subhuman monster named Fergie. Robo-Hunter: untitled, [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Sam Slade and his one-year-old sidekick, Kidd, hang out with some talking appliances. Ian Gibson’s artwork in this story is extremely creative. He draws sentient machines very well. Dan Dare: “Servant of Evil!”, [W] Tom Tully, [A] Dave Gibbons. A dying Mekon robs Dan Dare of his memory so that Dare can save the Mekon’s life. Dave Gibbons is an excellent SF artist.

SCOOBY-DOO MYSTERY COMICS #24 (Gold Key, 1974) – “Mark of the Scarab” and “Monkey See, Scooby Doo,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. This was $5, not a bad price for a series which is quite hard to find. In the first story, Shaggy gets a job as an assistant to a comic book artist, but his boss is terrorized by a living superhero. This story is obviously quite metatextual, though I can’t tell if the comics creators in it are based on any real people. The second story is about an archaeologist who’s being terrorized by a fake gorilla spirit. Both these stories are very exciting and funny. Evanier and Spiegle’s Scooby Doo is as good in its own way as Crossfire, and it sucks that it’s so hard to find. Someone ought to reprint this entire run.

LAUGH IN THE DARK #1 (Last Gasp, 1971) – various stories, [E] uncredited. This was intended to be Bogeyman Comics #4. It starts with Spain’s “Wilfred Kreel, Seeker of the Strange,” a minimally plotted but impressively drawn piece of Lovecraftian horror. It includes a character named Immanuel Kant. Next are two pieces by Rory Hayes, perhaps the strangest and most schizophrenic cartoonist I’ve ever seen. I find his work very disturbing. Then there’s a jam story, and then Bill Griffith’s “The Toad on a Hill!”, starring a character who later appeared in Zippy. Griffith’s style here is crude and unrefined, as in Young Lust #1. Next are short pieces by Larry Fuller, S. Clay Wilson, George Metzger, and Michael McMillan, the last of whom is an important and underrated artist. Then there’s Justin Green’s “The Agony of Binky Brown,” which I may not have seen before. I don’t remember whether it’s in The Binky Brown Sampler. The issue ends with one of Kim Deitch’s earlier Waldo stories, “Blue But True,” in which Waldo escapes from death row and goes to the North Pole with Santa. Overall, this issue is a valued addition to my underground comics collection.

2000 AD #103 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: as above except [A] Garry Leach. Fergie is now on Dredd’s side, and they prepare for their final offensive against Cal. Robo-Hunter: as above. Another story full of weird and creatively drawn animated appliances. Dan Dare: “Servant of Evil! Part Four: Death in Space!”, as above. The Mekon sends a still-amnesiac Dan Dare to find the “Crystal of Life.” Despite his amnesia, Dare still has his principles, so when Dare witnesses some innocent prisoners being executed, the Mekon has to scramble to come up with an explanation. Ro-Busters: “The Fall and Rise of Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. The two main characters are in danger of being sent to the Robo-Knacker’s Yard. Kevin O’Neill’s style was not yet well-developed at this point.

2000 AD #119 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: untitled, [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. Walter the Wobot tells the story of how Dredd sent him to prison. The running joke in this story is that Walter keeps trying to make Dredd eat healthy food. Walter was a major comic relief character in Dredd’s early years, but was later phased out. Bill Savage: “Disaster 1990!”, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Carlos Pino. London is destroyed by floods when an accidental nuclear explosion causes the Arctic ice cap to melt. Bill Savage, who previously appeared in “Invasion!” in progs 1 to 51, has to look for survivors. ABC Warriors: untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. This is the first appearance of this long-running feature, although one of the protagonists, Hammer-Stein, had previously starred in Ro-Busters. In this story, Hammer-Stein engineers the death of his cruel, elitist human commander. The other two initial ABC Warriors are Joe Pineapples and Happy Shrapnel. Kevin O’Neill’s art in this story is much better and much closer to his mature style than in prog 103. Project Overkill: untitled, [W] Kelvin Gosnell, [A] Ian Gibson. A commercial airliner crashes near a secret government base. The plane’s pilot is knocked unconscious and wakes up two days later to find that the plane and passengers have vanished. The visual highlight of this story is the government soldiers’ black uniforms. Ian Gibson was quite good at spotting blacks. Dan Dare: as above. Dan has succeeded in finding the Crystal of Life and regaining his memory, but on returning to Earth, he finds that he’s been framed for treason. Tom Tully and Gerry Finley-Day’s writing seems somewhat old-fashioned relative to that of Mills and Wagner.

HERBIE #11 (ACG, 1965) – “Beware of the B-Bomb, Buster!” and “Christopher Columbus Popnecker!”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Ogden Whitney. In the first story, Herbie’s parents take him to Washington, DC, and the government hires him to recover the stolen plans to the B-Bomb, which is even more powerful than the A- or H-bombs. In the backup story, Herbie goes back in time to get Christopher Columbus’s autograph, which turns out to be an X. This story makes no attempt at historical accuracy; it seems very unlikely that Columbus was illiterate in 1492. One reason this series is so funny is because of Herbie’s utter lack of affect. The most absurd things happen all around him, and he barely cracks a smile.

NO DUCKS! #1 (Last Gasp, 1977) – various stories, [E] Tim Boxell. An underground comic whose stories are all about funny animals. I’m guessing that this comic came out of the fanzine Vootie, which is mentioned in Boxell’s dedication. I think I remember Reed Waller saying something like that in my interview with him. The main contributors to this issue are Boxell and Rich Larson, but this comic also includes some of Reed Waller’s earliest work, which is why I ordered it. My favorite story in the issue is Waller, Boxell and Jim Schumeister’s “Lone Wolf,” which guest-stars Mickey Mouse’s abandoned wife. Other stories in this issue are parodies of Moebius’s Arzach and Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards.

2000 AD #120 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: “The Forever Crimes,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. Dr. Gold runs a suspended animation facility, but he’s secretly waking his clients up and pumping them for secrets that he can use to blackmail their children. Dredd uncovers Dr. Gold’s crimes and fatally wounds him in a gunfight. Dredd puts Gold in suspended animation, so that when science is able to cure his wounds, he can be resurrected to serve out his sentence. The story ends with the classic line “Even death is no escape from the law!” Even as early as 1979, Brian Bolland was an incredible artist. Bill Savage: as above. One of the survivors, a man who looks a lot like Hitler, sets himself up as a dictator. Savage uses an amphibious vehicle called a DUKW to defeat him. ABC Warriors: “The Retreat from Volgow!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Brendan McCarthy. Hammer-Stein defeats the Volgan robot Old Horney, and his mysterious new human officer sends him on a mission to recruit his fourth team member, Mongrol. McCarthy’s opening splash page is beautifully dark and gloomy, although it’s unfortunate that the rest of the story is in black and white. Project Overkill: as above. Captain Kenny Harris is framed for killing a cop, but escapes from prison. Dan Dare: as above. Dan and Sondar visit the space program headquarters try to clear their names, but get captured. According to this issue’s back cover, when Star Wars was being filmed in Tunisia, the local people worshiped C-3PO as a god. This is probably a made-up story, but it bears a curious resemblance to something that does happen in Return of the Jedi.

2000 AD #122 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: “Father Earth,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. A villain named Father Earth, covered in flowers and resembling the mythological Green Man, leads an ecoterrorist crusade against Mega-City One. This story is full of more brilliant Bolland art. Bill Savage: as above. Bill befriends a scientist named Bamber, who will become his sidekick. His name may be a reference to TV presenter Bamber Gascoigne. ABC Warriors: “Mongrol,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Hammer-Stein recruits Mongrol to the team by saving his life. Project Overkill: as above except [A] Jesus Redondo. Kenny discovers the existence of a mysterious conspiracy, created by the President but now independent of his control. This series reminds me vaguely of The Prisoner. Dan Dare: as above. Dare and Sondar manage to escape from captivity. Throughout this story arc, Dan Dare relies heavily on his over-powered “Cosmic Claw”.

SAVAGE TALES #3 (Marvel, 1974) – “The Lurker in the Catacombs,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. Parts two and three of Red Nails are just as gorgeous and thrilling as part one. A subtle highlight of this story is Prince Olmec’s long, bushy beard. Imagine how long BWS must have spent drawing that. The classic moment in this story is Conan’s closing line “Crom, but it’s been a hell of a night!” The other major story in this issue is Stan Lee and John Romita’s “Fury of the Femizons,” an SF story about a 23rd-century female supremacist society. This story is embarrassing because of its outdated, “both-sides” approach to feminism.

2000 AD #123 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: as above. Father Earth invades Mega-City One. Meanwhile, a mayoral election is held, with candidates including a clown and a cat. According to a friend of a friend on Facebook, the newsanchor presenting the election is based on the late journalist Robin Day. This is the sort of reference that would have been obvious to British readers at the time, but that goes straight over my head. Bill Savage: as above except [E] Alan Willow. Bill Savage and Bamber encounter some convicts and also some Marines. The convicts kill the Marines and take their weapons hostage. Alan Willow’s art was very boring and not up to 2000 AD’s usual standards, and he only did a few other stories for 2000 AD. ABC Warriors: “The Order of Knights Martial,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Nill. The fifth ABC Warrior is Deadlock, the priest of an arcane cult. With his introduction, an element of horror and magic enters into the series. Project Overkill: as above. Harris visits a hospital to remove the bomb that Project Overkill has planted in him. Dan Dare: as above. Sondar realizes that he and Dare were betrayed by a shapeshifting alien called a Krulgan. Dare and Sondar visit the planet of Topsoil, similar to Mos Eisley, to look for the Krulgan.

2000 AD #124 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: as above except [A] Ron Smith. Father Earth tries to destroy Mega-City One’s geothermal power plant, and is stopped at the cost of many lives. Bill Savage: as above except [A] Carlos Pino. Savage saves the civilian survivors from the convicts, but the convicts pursue them in powerboats. ABC Warriors: “The Tournament of the Damned,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Brett Ewins. Hammer-Stein succeeds in defeating and recruiting Deadlock. Project Overkill: as above. Kenny finds the location of Project Overkill, but when he gets there in his plane, he’s attacked by four other planes. Dan Dare: as above. Dan and Sondar find the Krulgan, and they also encounter a three-headed singing girl. Dan again uses the Cosmic Claw as a get-out-of-fight-free card.

VAMPIRELLA #13 (Warren, 1971) – “Lurker in the Deep,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] José Gonzalez. Vampirella encounters an ocean-dwelling Lovecraftian monster. The only other notable artist in this issue is José Bea. His story, set in ancient Egypt, is visually attractive, but his characters look stiff and lifeless. Of the other stories, the best is Gerry Conway and Steve Hickman’s “From Death’s Dark Corner,” drawn in a very Wrightson-esque style. There’s also a story both written and drawn by Bill DuBay, in a style that’s a ripoff of Wally Wood.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #20 (Marvel, 1972) – “The Black Hound of Vengeance!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. Conan infiltrates the city of Makkalet in a failed attempt to capture the Living Tarim. When he gets back to the Turanian army, he finds that his friend Fafnir has been murdered. In revenge, Conan slashes Prince Yezdigerd’s face. By this point in his run, BWS was finally getting good. Memorable scenes in this issue include the Tarim’s hall of mirrors, and the climactic scene where Conan attacks Yezdigerd.

INCREDIBLE HULK #245 (Marvel, 1980) – “When the Hulk Comes Raging!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. Searching for Jarella’s body, the Hulk invades Gamma Base and battles a Mandroid-suited Glenn Talbot. I have read very few issues from this era of the Hulk, because I don’t like Mantlo’s writing. This issue has some surprisingly effective art, especially the opening two-page splash. But it also has some odd moments, like Rick Jones coincidentally running into Captain Marvel and Elysius at a concert.

INCREDIBLE HULK #105 (Marvel, 2007) – “Planet Hulk: Armageddon, Part II,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Carlo Pagulayan. Just as the Hulk and Caiera are about to lead Sakaar into a golden age, Caiera is killed in a massive explosion, for which Hulk holds the Avengers responsible. Caiera’s death was a waste of a good character.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #6 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. I bought this series out of a misplaced sense of loyalty to PAD, even though I wasn’t reading it. This issue is a Spider-Verse crossover story in which Miguel O’Hara teams up with a steampunk Spider-Lady and a six-armed Peter Parker. This issue is an extremely quick and insubstantial read, and it reads as though PAD phoned it in.

ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #3 (Marvel, 2015) – “Wunderkammer Part 3,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Ramón Pérez. Clint and Kate rescue the three psychic kids from SHIELD. At the bottom of each page is a separate strip depicting Clint and Barney’s circus days, colored in a very different style from the main story. Jeff Lemire’s Hawkeye was a blatant imitation of Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, and it was not a successful imitation because Lemire is a much less funny writer than Fraction. Lemire’s stories are funny sometimes, but only in a subtle and understated way.

2000 AD #125 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: “Father Earth Part 4,” as above. Father Earth gets himself killed by a giant carnivorous plant with a siren’s song. Bill Savage: as above. Savage defeats the criminals, although it’s not clear why they were pursuing him – just out of sadism, I guess. Then Savage picks up a radio signal from Oxford. This series reminds me a bit of The Eternaut because of its postapocalyptic setting, although The Eternaut is infinitely better. ABC Warriors: “The Bougainville Massacre,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. The sixth ABC Warrior is the Volgan general Blackblood, one of the most visually striking 2000 AD characters of all. Oddly, this story takes place on the Pacific island of Bougainville, but all the people there appear to be white. Project Overkill: as above. Kenny makes it into Project Overkill and meets his captured flight attendant. Dan Dare: as above. Dare and Sondar fight the Krulgan, but a woman named Morag kills it before Dare can use it to clear his name.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #59 (Marvel, 1980) – “The City of Skulls,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Mike Vosburg. For reasons I don’t quite understand, this issue adapts a story that was already adapted in Conan the Barbarian #37. Conan and his black companion Juma are hired to deliver a Turanian princess, Zosara, to her fiancé. Zosara is kidnapped by an evil wizard, and Conan saves her from being killed by a giant living statue, and also gets her pregnant. I can’t think of any other woman who Conan is explictly stated to have impregnated out of wedlock, except Ursla from Conan the Barbarian #48. This issue also includes Thomas and Chan’s adaptation of “Wolves Beyond the Border,” an REH story in which Conan is mentioned but doesn’t appear.

Yet another shipment of 2000 AD comics arrived on July 7. At this point I don’t intend to buy any more 2000 ADs until I finish the ones I already have.

2000 AD #582 (Fleetway, 1988) – Bad Company: “The Krool Heart,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins. This story has impressive artwork but is very confusing, something that can be said of much of Milligan’s work. It was hard to even follow the continuity from panel to panel. Strontium Dog: “The No-Go Job,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Johnny Alpha and his friends rescue a kidnapped Middenface McNulty and his dog. Simon Harrison’s art is excellent, but not well suited to black and white. His linework is often incomplete, and it’s hard to figure out what’s going on in each panel. Judge Dredd: “Full Mental Jacket Part 5,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Steve Parkhouse. This story focuses on some gangsters, one of whom is shot dead by his own mother. Tyranny Rex: “Under Foreign Skies,” [W] John Smith, [A] Steve Dillon. An aerial mall is eaten by a giant floating balloon creature, and Tyranny Rex, an anthropomorphic reptile girl, is enlisted to rescue a celebrity who was inside the mall. This story has nothing in common with the other Tyranny Rex story I’ve read. Sláine: “The Killing Field,” [W] Angie Kincaid, [A] Glenn Fabry. A three-page prologue to Sláine the King, showing Slaine standing over a heap of gruesome corpses.

2000 AD #583 (Fleetway, 1988) – Bad Company: as above. Another beautiful but confusing story, made more so by the fact that at this point, we don’t know who the narrator is, and the narrator doesn’t know either. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and his party continue their quest for a certain “Bishop.” Judge Dredd: “Bloodline,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Will Simpson. This story is deliberately confusing, but it seems to be about a judge named Kraken who’s Dredd’s clone brother. Tyranny Rex: as above. Rex enters the mall and encounters the celebrity and a bunch of his groupies. Overall, these two issues are much darker and more serious than the 1979 issues I’d been reading.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #7 – as above. Another boring and lazily written issue, although it does include a cameo by Punisher 2099. This character is mildly interesting because he was co-created by Pat Mills.

2000 AD #126 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: untitled, [W] John Wagner, [A] John Cooper. Judge Dredd rescues some talking animals that are being used as (literal) guinea pigs to test a common cold virus. The best thing about this story is that it guest-stars a talking cat. On the page after this story is a piece of fan art by Shaky Kane, surely his earliest published work. Bill Savage: as above except [A] Alan Willow. Savage visits the London Zoo and battles an alligator and a bunch of piranhas. ABC Warriors: as above. Joe Pineapples recruits Blackblood by shooting him, even though the shot is almost impossible because Blackblood is using a child as a human shield. Blackblood’s face is really cool-looking. Project Overkill: as above. Harris sacrifices his life to destroy Project Overkill. Dan Dare: as above. Morag tells her story, and she joins Dare and Sondar to go look for the Mekon.

2000 AD #584 (IPC, 1988) – Bad Company: as above. Kano kills the alien that shares half of his mind. Strontium Dog: as above. Most of this installment is a fight scene. Judge Dredd: as above. Dredd meets Kraken, and it becomes clear that he has some kind of secret which the Chief Judge is keeping from Dredd. Tyranny Rex: as above. Rex rescues the captured celebrity, at the cost of involving him in a cross-dressing scandal.

RAT GOD #3 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Richard Corben. Clark saves Gharlena from being executed. This issue has some very effective and weird artwork. Corben is good at drawing things that look both three-dimensional and cartoony at once, and he can shift between the two modes very easily.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #556 (Archie, 1986) – “The Funny Man,” [W/A] Dexter Taylor, etc. I bought this issue because it has one Bob Bolling story, in which Little Archie’s mother forces him to take ballroom dancing lessons. This story is okay, but it’s not Bolliing’s best. The rest of the stories in the issue are by Taylor and are completely forgettable.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #9 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. Miguel travels into an alternate future and encounters the Maestro. I know that PAD really likes this character and is proud of the story that introduces him, but none of his later Maestro stories have been anywhere close to the quality level of Future Imperfect.

2000 AD #127 (IPC, 1979) – With this issue the title changes to 2000 AD AND TORNADO, as 2000 AD adopts three strips from the short-lived comic Tornado. One of the three is a one-page gag strip, and I won’t mention it further. Judge Dredd: “Night of the Fog,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. Dredd fights Sweeney Todd, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and other escapees from a robot wax museum. Again, Bolland’s artwork in this story is amazing. Blackhawk: untitled, [W] Alan Grant & Kelvin Gosnell, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Blackhawk started out in Tornado as a historical fiction strip, but with the move to 2000 AD, it became a science fiction strip. A Nubian warrior, perhaps 2000 AD’s first black protagonist, is telpeorted into the future by aliens. Belardinelli’s artwork here isn’t as amazing as in the early chapters of Slaine. ABC Warriors: “Steelhorn,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Brendan McCarthy. The final ABC Warrior is the indestructible Steelhorn. In his first appearance, Steelhorn is melted down to slag, becoming the Mess, so McCarthy’s beautiful design for this character is only seen on a few pages. Wolfie Smith: “The Mind of Wolfie Smith,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Ian Gibson. Wolfie Smith, a telepathic teenage boy, discovers the existence of another person with powers comparable to his. Bill Savage: as above except [E] Carlos Pino. Bill Savage confronts a war profiteer who’s selling essential supplies at high prices.

2000 AD #585 (Fleetway, 1988) – Bad Company: as above. The narrator reveals himself as both Danny Franks and the Krool Heart. The Krool take over Earth, and Kano and Mac, the two survivors of Bad Company, leave the planet. Strontium Dog: as above. Strontium Dog recovers the bishop he’s been sent to find, but the “bishop” proves to be a bag of burnt bones. Judge Dredd: “Bat-Mugger,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Alan Davis. A criminal disguises himself as a bat in order to mug people and get rich quick. Of course, Dredd eventually catches him. This story is hilarious, thanks largely to the criminal’s deadpan style of narration, and Davis’s art is excellent. He had already drawn a bunch of actual Batman comics by this time. Tribal Memories: untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tony Wright. Some rich people travel from space to a depopulated Earth in order to search for the last surviving Maasai, who is also the last human who still has his own original personality.

RAT GOD #4 – as above. Clark Elwood has some more strange adventures. The second half of this issue takes place at a party where the décor and costumes are Mesoamerican-themed. Corben’s artwork and coloring in this sequence are stunnig.

SWEET TOOTH #28 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The Taxidermist Part 3 of 3: Apocalypse!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Matt Kindt. In the 1910s, some white explorers murder an entire village of Alaska Natives in order to obtain a child who carries the animal plague. They hide the child away in a cave, but on their trip back to civilization, they all die of the plague, and good riddance. I assume the purpose of this interpolated story is to explain where the plague came from.

SIN CITY: THE BIG FAT KILL #1 (Dark Horse, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. This series’ protagonist is named Dwight. A criminal named Jackie-boy invades his girlfriend’s home with a bunch of his friends. Dwight has to get rid of Jackie without being caught by the police himself. This comic feels rather misogynistic, like much of Frank Miller’s work, and it has way too much text in each word balloon. Also, Sin City feels like a far less realistic crime comic than Criminal or even Fell. I have little interest in reading more Sin City.

THE SPECTRE #61 (DC, 1998) – “The Face of God,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. The Spectre meets God, who appears to have gone nuts. Then he has a flashback to his own father’s troubled childhood. Then, in a discussion with Jim Corrigan, Father Cramer raises the possibility that it wasn’t really God who the Spectre met. This is the next-to-last issue. Tom Mandrake’s art here, like that of many of his Kubert School classmates, is very Kubert-esque.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #10 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. With the help of Dr. Strange 2099, Miguel uses Dr. Doom’s time machine to get back to the 21st century. The best part of this issue is identifying all the superhero gear in the Maestro’s gallery.

IRON MAN #71 (Marvel, 1974) – “Battle: Tooth and Yellow Claw!”, [W] Mike Friedrich, [A] George Tuska. Tony fights the Yellow Claw, who’s participating in the Black Lama’s villain contest. There’s also a subplot about Roxanne Gilbert. This issue is as boring as you’d expect from its creative team.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #22 (DC, 2017) – “Mechanical Gods,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Mirka Andolfo et al. The protagonists go on a mission to the country of Zambesi. I can’t believe I have at least 10 more issues of this series to get through. This comic is the poster child for why I shouldn’t keep buying comics that I’m not reading.

UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #13 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] Atli Firmansyah & GuriHiru. Gwenpool and Deadpool team up to escape from Arcade’s RPG dungeon. As one might expect, this issue includes a lot of fourth-wall breaking. It’s less bad than I expected.

2000 AD #128 (Fleetway, 1979) – “Battle of the Black Atlantic,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. While making a random unscheduled investigation of one Mr. Sweet’s home, Dredd discovers that Sweet isn’t guilty of any crime at all. This itself makes Dredd suspicious, and he invetigates further and discovers Sweet to be a Sov agent. Dredd pursues Sweet onto a ship in international waters. The first part of this story, with the random “crime blitz,” shows the extent to which Mega-City One is a dictatorial police state. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk fights a giant sasquatch. ABC Warriors: as above. The Mess becomes the seventh ABC Warrior, and also the ABC Warriors discover that the “demob camp” for robots is actually a slaughterhouse. At the end, we finally meet the ABC Warriors’ human boss. Wolfie Smith: as above. Wolfie investigates the mysterious other psychic, who has just used his powers to make a man commit suicide. Bill Savage: as above. In a scene reminiscent of the end of “This Man… This Monster,” the war profiteer sacrifices his life to save the other survivors from being killed by a whirlpool.

2000 AD #1001 (Fleetway, 1996) – Slaine: “The Treasures of Britain,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Dermot Power. Most of this story is a retelling of Arthur and Mordred’s final confrontation at the Battle of Camlann. Dermot Power’s painted art is excellent. Black Light: “Survivor Syndrome,” [W] Dan Abnett & Steve White, [A] John Burns. A woman named Emma Paris is a victim of a chemical weapon in Kurdistan. Later we meet Emma again, now with a horribly scarred face. Durham Red: “Night of the Hunters Part 2,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Mark Harrison. The vampiress Durham Red battles some bounty hunters who are competing to kill her. Peter Hogan wrote this story under the name Alan Smithee, apparently because his work was rewritten without his consent. Outlaw: “Part 2,” [W] Paul Neal, [A] S.B. Davis. A black gunfighter participates in the second edition of the “Deadliest Man Alive” contest in order to save his kidnapped daughter. Judge Dredd: “Dead Reckoning Part 2,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Greg Staples. Judge Death escapes from prison and possesses a man with an elderly mother. Both these last two stories have very good art. Greg Staples is not the same as Paul Staples from prog 947.

FINALS #3 (Vertigo, 1999) – untitled, [W] Will Pfeifer, [A] Jill Thompson. The students all go home for Thanksgiving, and then return to campus to work on their respective senior projects. Mayhem ensues. The issue ends with a standoff between Nancy’s cult and the police. This is another very funny issue.

JONAH HEX #64 (DC, 1983) – “The Pearl!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Dick Ayers. In San Francisco, Jonah encounters a girl named Sharon who claims to have stolen a priceless pearl from her wealthy father. Some criminals kidnap Sharon to force her to reveal where the pearl is. It turns out that the pearl never existed and Sharon was making it up. Mike Fleisher was much more suited to this series than to 2000 AD. A problematic aspect of this issue is that Jonah initially turns down Sharon’s advances because of her young age (she claims to be 18, but we know she’s a liar). However, later he does sleep with her.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #11 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. Back in the 20th century, Miguel is reunited with his love interest and with Peter Parker. This issue has better dialogue than the previous few issues.

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Two weeks of reviews

LOCKE & KEY: KEYS TO THE KINGDOM #3 (IDW, 2010) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Tyler is trying to become a more vicious hockey player, while also romancing his crush Jordan. Meanwhile, Kinsey is having her own relationship problems. They both try to use the keys to solve their problems, while at the same time, Dodge is manipulating them both. This issue has a lot of different plotlines, but it’s held together by beginning and ending with Tyler’s hockey games.

LOVE AND CAPES: THE FAMILY WAY #5 (Maerkle Press, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. Mark and Abby go on a second honeymoon, leaving Charlotte and Amazonia to babysit the kids. Amazonia is appointed Leandia (i.e. Themyscira)’s new ambassador to Earth, resolving her character arc. But meanwhile, an evil cosmic entity is about to invade Earth, which leads us into:

LOVE AND CAPES: THE FAMILY WAY #6 – as above. The first half of the issue is a flashback to Abby’s second pregnancy, when Mark encountered his much older self from another world. Back in the present, Mark defeats Blackseed (i.e. Darkseid) by summoning versions of himself from alternate realities, one of which is a cat named Marrrk Spencpurr. Paul and Amazonia resume their relationship. James accidentally discovers his father’s secret identity, and in a touching conclusion to the series, Mark takes James flying for the first time. I really hope Thom does another Love & Capes miniseries sometime soon.

DEADLINE U.S.A. #2 (Dark Horse, 1992) – various stories, [E] Chris Warner & Jerry Prosser. We begin with another installment of Milligan and Ewins’s Johnny Nemo. When I read Strange Days, Johnny Nemo suffered by comparison to Brendan McCarthy’s flashier stories in the same issues, but it’s an excellent comic strip in its own right. The next story is by Ho Che Anderson, then there’s “Maxnasty” by Jamie Hewlett, which is visually stunning but is reproduced too small. Unfortunately this issue also includes D’Israeli’s Timulo, the comic where you have to rotate each page eight times to read all the text. Of the other strips in the issue, the best is Philip Bond’s Wired World, and the worst is Alec Stevens’s unintelligible Silence. Other artists  included are Shaky Kane, Nick Abadzis, Julie Hollings, Richard Sala, Steve Dillon and Evan Dorkin.

PLANETOID PRAXIS #3 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. Some foreign humans reach the planetoid and immediately set themselves up as colonists, claiming ownership over the planet’s resources and caring little for everything that the protagonists have built. On the planet’s behalf, Onica refuses to deal with the new humans. Some masked gunmen show up and kill Silas’s pet lizard Koma.

2000 AD #501 (IPC, 1986) – “Slaine the King,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Glenn Fabry, etc. Sláine recovers the Black Cauldron, the same one from the Mabinogi and the Disney film, and has to kill a horrible thing that comes out of it. Ukko says that the Cauldron won’t cook the food of a coward, which is a quotation from the medieval Welsh poem “The Spoils of Annwn.” Glenn Fabry’s artwork here is amazing. Next is Milligan and Ewins’s “Bad Company.” This story’s art is also beautiful, though in a less flashy way. The Dredd story is a split-personality murder mystery by Wagner, Grant, and Brendan McCarthy. Only the first two pages are in color, which is a pity because McCarthy’s coloring is his greatest asset as an artist. However, it is interesting to see what his art looks like without all the rainbow colors. After a three-page Future Shock, the prog ends with a Nemesis the Warlock chapter by Mills and Bryan Talbot, guest-starring the ABC Warriors. The lineup of talent in this prog is really amazing.

SUPERMAN #389 (DC, 1983) – “Brother Act!”, [W] Cary Bates & Paul Kupperberg, [A] Curt Swan. A convoluted and barely coherent story about Cory Renwald, a secret agent who I guess was Clark Kent’s foster brother at some point. There are subplots about Lana and Lois’s rivalry, and about Perry White’s failed marriage.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #321 (DC, 1985) – “The Time of Your Life,” [W] Joey Cavalieri, [A] José Delbo. Batman and Superman team up against Chronos. This story is not interesting to begin with, and is made even worse by Joey Cavalieri’s habit of purple prose. Cavalieri seems to have been imitating Alan Moore’s prose style, but he was no Alan Moore. Also, Delbo’s artwork is overwhelmed by Alfredo Alcala’s inking. I wonder why DC didn’t use Alcala as a penciller rather than an inker. I guess he must have been a very fast inker, despite his hyper-detailed linework.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #6 (DC, 1992) – “Give Me Liberty…,” [W] Len Strazewski, [A] Mike Parobeck. The JSA travel to Bahdnesia on a ship and encounter the last surviving Bahdnesian. This series was influential because it helped revive the JSA characters, and also because Parobeck’s art helped popularize the animation-influenced style of superhero art. However, it’s only an average series in its own right.

VALOR #22 (DC, 1994) – “End of an Era Part Two: The Center Cannot Hold!”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Colleen Doran. Valor tries to prevent the 20th century from being destroyed by time paradoxes. “End of an Era” is depressing because it got rid of the old version of the Legion, not because those characters were unpopular but because their continuity had been broken beyond repair. The Legion’s history from 1986 to 1994 is a case study in why excessive adherence to continuity is a bad thing.

New DCBS shipment received on June 11:

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #6 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Ryan Sook. This issue has gotten some hype because it introduces two new Legionnaires, Monster Boy and Gold Lantern. Objectively this issue is rather bad; it has an incoherent, boring plot and no characterization to speak of. But this comic is still exciting, because it’s such a nostalgic pleasure to see the Legion again. And Ryan Sook’s Legion is diverse and visually exciting.

ADVENTUREMAN #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. The first half of this issue is a pulp-influenced story in the vein of Doc Savage and the Shadow, starring a team of ‘30s superheroes. At the halfway mark, we learn that this story is a pulp novel that a woman named Claire Connell is reading to her young son. After Shabbat dinner with her father and six sisters (a really cute touch), Claire goes to work at a bookstore, where she gets drawn into a mysterious conspiracy. This issue is a really exciting debut. Both the WWII-era and modern-day sequences have some fascinating characters. As Fraction explains in his author’s note, his goal is to recreate the pulp adventure genre without its racist and sexist elements. Even the Punjabi character in the pulp novel is portrayed in a respectful way. The problem with this comic is that it’s too long for the single-issue format, and I got tired of it before it was over. Also, Terry Dodson’s art is highly skilled, but perhaps too slick and immaculate for its own good.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #7 (Boom!, 2020) – “The House of Slaughter Part Two,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Erica meets one of her fellow monster hunters, and he decides to use little Bian, the sole survivor of the monster attacks, as bait, over Erica’s objections. Otherwise this issue mostly updates the existing plotlines. This issue includes a preview of Wynd #1. I was hoping to get this on my last visit to Heroes, but it was already sold out.

AMETHYST #3 (DC, 2020) – “En Route,” [W/A] Amy Reeder. Maxixe, Prince Aquamarine, is forced by his mother to join Amy and Ploss. The three of them visit a nomadic market, but Amy’s old crush Prince Topaz shows up and breaks the market up. At the end of the issue, Amy and her companions reach the Opal Realm. This is a fun issue. Its highlight is the montage sequence where Amy and her friends are traveling through a bunch of weird realms. This scene demonstrates Amy Reeder’s visual imagination. However, this series deserves more than six issues. It’s still too soon for Amy to confront Dark Opal – there hasn’t been enough setup. It seems like Reeder has had to compress her plot to fit the limited space available.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #17 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Garron. Miles helps out a boy who’s being bullied, then he fights some CRADLE agents, and discovers that his mother sympathizes somewhat with Kamala’s Law. I think Outlawed is a terrible idea, especially now that real-world events have made it seem irrelevant. But this issue doesn’t demand too much knowledge of Outlawed’s plot, which may explain Marvel’s odd decision to release it before all the other Outlawed titles.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #6 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. The protagonists mostly succeed in escaping the Destiny Man and continuing their journey down the spiral, but Uncle Sam gets killed. Part of this issue is by a guest artist. Camuncoli must have needed a break, considering the amount of detail in his art.

ICE CREAM MAN #19 (Image, 2020) – “Haunting for Beginners,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martin Morazzo. A highly experimental issue that’s designed to look like an instruction manual. It’s entirely in black and white, and each panel is a step in a set of instructions for becoming a ghost. In the first sequence, a little boy in a ghost costume witnesses a suicide. The next sequence takes place thirty years later, when the boy is an adult with a cheating wife. He almost commits suicide himself, but decides not to. In the last sequence, the now-78-year-old protagonist dies and becomes an actual ghost. The issue ends with an index. “Haunting for Beginners” is an impressive formal experiment, and it’s also quite a touching story.

NEW MUTANTS #10 (Marvel, 2020) – “Parasomnia,” [W] Ed Brisson, [A] Flaviano. The New Mutants visit a fictional Eastern European country, where a young mutant girl’s powers are causing her nightmares to manifest. This issue isn’t as bad as #6, but it’s not good either. It looks like Hickman is no longer writing New Mutants, and I’m going to quit ordering it.

WELLINGTON #4 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Delilah Dawson & Aaron Mahnke, [A] Piotr Kowalski. More boring Mignolaesque horror. There’s nothing particularly appealing about this series, and I’m still annoyed by its lack of historical accuracy. I’ve already complained in previous reviews that the Duke of Wellington’s clothes don’t look period-appropriate, and beyond that, there’s nothing to suggest that the writers have more than a shallow knowledge of Wellington and his era.

DRYAD #2 (Oni, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Osterling. I expected to dislike this even more than the previous two comics, but it’s surprisingly good. The town is being invaded by mysterious creatures armed with science fiction weaponry, and to combat the invaders, the mother pulls out a giant ray gun of her own. This raises some glaring questions about just what kind of world this series is set in. I also like the contrast between the two  generations of characters. I think I actually will keep reading Dryad.

2000 AD #549 (Fleetway, 1987) – “The Rammy, Part 6,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. This prog starts with a Strontium Dog story, a murder mystery in which the victim is named Vint Skully – presumably a reference to Vin Scully. Next is a Bad Company chapter in which Kano, the leader of the Bad Company, is believed dead and has become a legend. The Judge Dredd story is “Judge Dredd in Oz, Part 5,” starring Chopper. It has stunning art by Brendan McCarthy, but the villains are a bunch of grotesque giant birds with stereotypical Mexican accents. This theme of offensive Mexican stereotypes will come up again in later progs. Next is a Nemesis story where Torquemada visits Toledo in the time of the original Torquemada. This story is drawn by John Hicklenton, whose art is unique and stunning, if very disturbing. He had a real talent for body horror. His major work is 100 Months, an autobiographical work about his own terminal illness. The prog ends with a Zenith chapter that I’ve already read. I believe it’s the last chapter of Phase 1.

DECORUM #2 (Image, 2020) – “Singularity Now” and other chapters, [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mike Huddleston. The artwork in this issue is amazing, especially the sequence depicting a god that manifests itself as a bunch of Kirby crackle. This sequence is even colored with fake Ben-Day dots. However, this issue’s plot makes very little sense.

BITTER ROOT #8 (Image, 2020) – “Rage & Redemption Part Three,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. This issue continues the series’ basic plotline and presents no real surprises, but it’s well done. I especially like the gospel music scene. I think I’ve already mentioned how this series reminds me of Clan Destine, perhaps because of the giant character who uses formal language. This issue includes an interview with Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, author of the very important book The Dark Fantastic.

NO ONE’S ROSE #2 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Zac Thompson & Emily Horn, [A] Alberto Albuquerque. The sister gets fired from her “junior liberator” job, but subsequently discovers that her plants are growing super-fast. It becomes clear that the dome’s leaders are manipulating the environment to maintain their own power. The sister and brother debate over the best way to change their society. I remember I read another comic by Zac Thompson and didn’t like it, so I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed this issue. The themes of dictatorship and revolution are not new, but the plant-based technology is cool, and the art is very effective.

LOIS LANE #11 (DC, 2020) – “Enemy of the People Part Eleven,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. I couldn’t follow this issue’s story. I can’t remember who Jessica Midnight is, and I don’t remember who the bad guys are. I’ll be glad when this miniseries is over. It’s not one of Rucka’s better works.

KILLADELPHIA #6 (Image, 2020) – “Sins of the Father Part VI: For God and Country,” [W] Rodney Barnes, [A] Jason Shawn Alexander. The good guys beat Vampire John Adams, and James Sangster Sr. accepts his death. I have very mixed feelings about this series – it seems like a comic I ought to support, but its vampire plot is stupid. I’m not sure if I want to keep ordering it.

THE FILTH #3 (Vertigo, 2002) – “Structures and Ultrastructures,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Chris Weston. This issue starts with a metatextual sequence that looks backward to Animal Man and forward to Multiversity. In this sequence, some comic book characters run into the two-dimensional barrier that separates them from the real world. After that point, the issue’s story becomes incoherent. It’s about a man who’s alternately known as Greg Feely and Ned Slade, and at the end of the issue his cat dies. What this could possibly mean is beyond me.

FLEENER #1 (Bongo, 1996) – “The Land of the Kookamonga!”, [W/A] Mary Fleener. An epic-length, surrealist, silent story about a tribe of island people with trapezoidal bodies. This story doesn’t follow rational logic, but it makes a weird sort of sense, and Fleener’s art is fascinating and weird. The centerfold of the issue is a board game. This issue includes a letter from a reader who drove to Paris, Illinois to see a Mary Fleener painting, only to discover that it was by a different woman of the same name. That reader was my friend Craig Fischer.

TITS & CLITS #6 (Last Gasp, 1980) – various stories, [E] Joyce Farmer & Lyn Chevli. This issue’s first story, by Beverly Hilliard, is a sort of gender-swapped version of Weekend at Bernie’s. Next is a faux-mythological story by Karen Feinberg and Joyce Farmer. It’s described as being “from the Book of Notable Women.” Feinberg published other excerpts from this book elsewhere, but I don’t think it ever existed as a book. The highlight of the issue is Sharon Rudahl’s “More Than a Woman,” about tensions between second-wave feminist principles and the desire for motherhood. The issue also includes Roberta Gregory’s “Bedroom Politricks,” about sleeping with a new lover for the first time, and several other short stories by Farmer.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #136 (Marvel, 1987) – “Seventh Isle of Doom,” [W] Larry Yakata, [A] Andy Kubert. This issue’s main story is really not very good. It’s awkwardly written, and it ends with a dumb scene where Conan sleeps with a princess and then maroons her on an island. The interesting question this story raises is who Larry Yakata was. No biographical information about him is available, and there’s specualtion that he was either Larry Hama or Jim Owsley/Christopher Priest. Andy Kubert’s style in this story is barely distinguishable from his father’s. There’s also a Kull backup story by Chuck Dixon and another obvious pseudonym, Fraja Bator.

2000 AD #565 (Fleetway, 1988) – “The ABC Warriors,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Simon Bisley, etc. This is the last prog I have whose cover is newsprint rather than glossy paper. The cover design is the same as that of progs #600 and up, so this prog feels like a transition between eras. The ABC Warriors story has brilliant draftsmanship by Simon Bisley. I was only familiar with this artist’s painted art, and it seems he’s equally good at line art. After an early review of Star Trek: The Next Generation, we continue with a Strontium Dog story guest-starring Durham Red. Then there’s part 21 of Dredd in Oz, thankfully without the Mexican stereotypes; a Nemesis chapter drawn by David Roach; and a Future Shock drawn by Belardinelli.

TANK GIRL FCBD: A BRIEF HISTORY OF TANK GIRL (Titan, 2018) – “A Brief History of Tank Girl,” [W] Alan Martin, [A] Brett Parson et al. A series of vignettes about Tank Girl and a man who she punches in the face every year on her birthday. One of the vignettes includes some satirical comments about the Tank Girl movie. This issue is okay, but to me the most intriguing thing about Tank Girl is Jamie Hewlett’s art, and the stories by Martin without Hewlett are much less appealing.

SUPERMAN #43 (DC, 1990) – “The Evil Factory,” [W/A] Jerry Ordway. Superman #41 was one of the first comic books I ever read, and of course when I read it, I knew nothing about the Kirby comics it was based on. Reading Superman #43 now, I can see how the entire issue is adapted from Kirby’s Jimmy Olsen. Superman teams up with Guardian to rescue Jimmy’s mother from Mokkari and Simyan. Jerry Ordway doesn’t add a whole lot to Kirby’s mythos, but he shows a good understanding of Kirby. While reading this issue, I noticed that Kirby created two different characters named Mokkari and Makkari.

THE RED WING #2 (Image, 2011) – “Learning to Fall,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Nick Pitarra. This was Hickman’s first creator-owned work that I was aware of, although I haven’t read it until now. Like Decorum, The Red Wing is quite hard to decipher, except that it seems to be about space pilots and Mayan mythology. Nick Pitarra’s draftsmanship on this issue is less accomplished than in Manhattan Projects.

THE FLASH #218 (DC, 1972) – “The Flash of 1000 Faces,” [W] Cary Bates, [A] Irv Novick. Thanks to the Pied Piper, Barry forgets his own secret identity and can’t take his mask off. This story is average, but the real attraction of the issue is the GL/GA backup story, “Green Arrow is Dead!” by O’Neil and Adams. This story is beautifully drawn, and the three-parter that appeared in Flash #217-219 was an effective (temporary) farewell to GL and GA. My favorite moment in “Green Arrow is Dead!” is when Dinah fall  off a building, and Hal manifests a giant Green Arrow to catch her. Sadly we just lost Denny O’Neil, a towering figure in the comics industry.

THE STEEL CLAW #3 (Quality, 1987) – untitled, [W] Ken Bulmer, [A] Jesus Blasco. This issue’s stories are about Dr. Deutz, a mad scientist who turns into a monster and frames the Steel Claw for his crimes. These stories are exciting and beautifully drawn. However, a comparison with the Steel Claw: The Vanishing Man hardcover reveals the violence that was inflicted on these stories in order to turn them into comic book form. The Steel Claw comics were published in the British format, and to make them fit American comic book pages, Quality had to chop up and rearrange panels and add new artwork. The result is a complete distortion of the artist’s intentions.

2000 AD #608 (Fleetway, 1988) – “Contact Part Two,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mark Farmer. In the first story, Psi-Judge Anderson travels to a planet of telepathic aliens. I’m not sure if I’ve seen Mark Farmer’s pencils before. His style is similar to Alan Davis’s. Next there’s a funny Future Shock about three-eyed aliens, and a selection of Judge Dredd daily strips drawn by Ian Gibson. The Dredd story is “Our Man in Hondo Part One’ by Wagner and Colin MacNeil, set in Japan. Unfortunately this story is full of outdated Japanese stereotypes, and even the lettering is done in a faux-Oriental style. Even Claremont and Miller’s Wolverine miniseries was less offensive than this story. The best stories in this prog are John Brosnan and Kev Hopgood’s “Night Zero,” a science-fictional hard-boiled noir story, and Mills and Hicklenton’s Nemesis chapter.

SUPERMAN #27 (DC, 1988) – “Of Course, You Know This Means War!”, [W] Roger Stern, [A] Kerry Gammill. Superman visits Australia to deal with the fallout from Invasion!, then returns to Metropolis exhausted. Later, Gangbuster fights Brainiac and Guardian. I’m pretty sure that the Gangbuster in this issue is not José Delgado but Superman, who’s unknowingly posing as Gangbuster in his sleep, and that this explains why Superman is so tired. This issue isn’t a classic, but it’s reasonably fun.

BIRTHRIGHT #28 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey battles Lore. Meanwhile, on a train, Aaron and Rya encounter a man who turns out to be Lore’s agent, resulting in a fight that derails the train. The last page of this comic reminds me of the opening sequence of Uncharted 2.

SPIDER-WOMAN #41 (Marvel, 1981) – “La Morte de Jessica,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. Jessica Drew and Lindsay McCabe go to a Renaissance fair, where Jess has a vision in which she’s Morgan Le Fay and she witnesses Arthur’s attempted execution of Guinevere. This issue is kind of like a more extended version of Jean Grey’s Mastermind-induced visions in X-Men #133-134. Claremont seems to have liked to use dreams and visions as a way of putting his protagonist into a setting other than the main one of the story. I don’t know if the Arthurian continuity in this issue matches that of other Marvel comics like Iron Man #149-150. On page 3 we see some of the sources Claremont and Leialoha are using for their version of Camelot. They’re mostly the usual ones, like Malory and T.H. White.

DETECTIVE COMICS #847 (DC, 2008) – “Batman R.I.P. Heart of Hush Part 2 of 5: The Last Good Day,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Dustin Nguyen. This issue starts with a flashback to Hush’s childhood, focusing on Hush’s jealousy of Bruce Wayne. The key scene is when Thomas and Bruce are canoeing at summer camp, and then Thomas’s overprotective mother shows up and demands that he come home. Then Batman and Robin fight some Lewis Carroll-influenced villains, including a walrus and a carpenter, and there’s also a scene with Zatanna and Catwoman.

2000 AD #610 (Fleetway, 1989) – “Night Zero,” [W] John Brosnan, [A] Kev Hopgood, etc. In #608, Night Zero/Tanner’s client got killed, but by now she’s somehow alive again. She and Tanner go to see her friend, but have to fight some overly polite guns and a tiger first. This is quite a funny story. The next story is a comparison of two different versions of an old Dredd story, “City of the Damned” from #404. Steve Dillon’s original version of this story was lost, and he had to redraw it from scratch. Later the original pages were rediscovered, and in this prog the two versions are presented side by side. This provides the reader with a rare and fascinating opportunity to examine the creative choices made by a cartoonist. The Dredd story is part 3 of “Our Man in Hondo,” and it’s just as offensive as part one. Steve Dillon’s “Hap Hazzard” is a humorous one-shot story about two men who try to get out of accompanying their significant others to a high school reunion. The last story is the first chapter of “Zippy Couriers,” depicting how Shauna McCullough quits her corporate courier job and starts her own business.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS: THE SUN BEYOND THE STARS #3 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Nick Pitarra. Yuri Gagarin and Laika have an adventure on an alien planet. This issue has some really impressive art, but it’s hard to follow, and it has no apparent connection to the main Manhattan Projects series.

SENSATION COMICS FEATURING WONDER WOMAN #14 (DC, 2015) – “Nine Days,” [W] Karen Traviss, [A] Andres Guinaldo. Diana tries to stop a war between two fictional South American countries, despite interference from the goddess Eris. This issue is boring and incoherent, and it presents the war in a “both sides” fashion. It’s one of the worst issues of this series.

THE INVISIBLES #7 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Arcadia Part 3: 120 Days of Sod All,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Jill Thompson. King Mob and the Marquis de Sade try to get into the sealed castle from The 120 Days of Sodom. Meanwhile, Ragged Robin visits Rennes-le-Chateau, which is famous due to being part of the myth behind The Da Vinci Code. Lord Fanny and Jack Frost fight some guy with a smudged face, and there’s also some more of the plotline about the Shelleys and Byron. At the end of the issue Ragged Robin is shown the head of John the Baptist. This issue is very complicated, but at least it’s understandable and interesting, unlike The Filth.

LUCIFER #46 (Vertigo, 2004) – “Stitchglass Slide 1: The Weaving,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. A giant sentient spider meets an abused little boy with a severe anger management problem. With the boy’s help, the spider attracts a mate, who is much larger than him. Both the boy and the spider are weird but endearing characters, and I’m curious to see what happens to them. There’s also a subplot about Lucifer and Mazikeen.

THE RED WING #4 (Image, 2011) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Nick Pitarra. The protagonist sacrifices himself, I’m not sure why, and the series ends with a scene about his son. This issue makes no sense at all if you haven’t read #1.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #478 (DC, 1991) – “Moon Rocked: Time and Time Again, Phase Seven,” [W/A] Dan Jurgens. I read this a long time ago, possibly in trade paperback form, and I still remember it fairly well. In this issue, Superman visits the 30th century for at least the second time in the Time and Time Again crossover, but this time it’s the v4 version of the 30th century. With the help of some Legionnaires, Superman fights Dev-Em and stops him from destroying the moon, but the crossover’s main villain, the Linear Man, blows up the moon anyway. The aftereffects of this action were depicted in LSH v4 #19. It’s weird that such a major event in Legion continuity happened outside the Legion’s own series. Saturn Girl is heavily pregnant in this issue, but mostly stays out of combat, unlike during her first pregnancy.

SHOWCASE #90 (DC, 1970) – “The Circle of Death,” [W/A] Mike Sekowsky. In the final chapter of Jason’s Quest, Jason and his sister GG are chased through Paris by both the police and criminals posing as police. Meanwhile, Jason keeps trying and failing to tell GG that he’s her brother. This is a thrilling adventure story, and is probably one of Sekowsky’s best solo works. Even at nearly fifty years old, he was capable of writing believable and exciting  stories about young people. However, Showcase #90 drives the reader crazy by constantly deferring closure. Jason has an opportunity to tell GG his identity on nearly every page, yet he never manages to just blurt it out already. And this was the last Jason’s Quest story ever, so GG never did get to learn that Jason was her brother.

SUPERMAN #334 (DC, 1979) – “The Man Who Stole Superman’s Eyes!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Curt Swan. A villain named Opticus steals Superman’s eyes, rendering him blind. We later learn that Opticus is really Lois Lane, and Superman faked being blind in order to catch some other criminals. On the last page, Superman informs Lana Lang, in a very patronizing way, that he can’t trust her and that Lois is his true love. Lana and Lois’s rivalry was a frequent subplot in Superman comics of this era.

2000 AD #669 (Fleetway, 1990) – “By Lethal Injection Part One,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. The first story is also subtitled “Countdown to Necropolis 5.” It’s about a judge named Kraken who is discharged and executed for dereliction of duty. Then there’s a Judge Anderson story with nice art by David Roach, and a Rogue Trooper story with painted art by Will Simpson. This artist’s artwork in Hellblazer is rather unimpressive, but his art here is better. Part 24 of Zenith Phase III is the most interesting thing in this prog, though it doesn’t make much sense on its own. The last story in the prog is a cute Zippy Couriers story, in which Shauna transports a giant tarantula named Shelob, and her talking cat eats it.

A1 TRUE LIFE BIKINI CONFIDENTIAL (Atomeka, 1990) – various stories, [E] Dave Elliott & Garry Leach. This is a long one. It starts with a Mr. Monster story which is more like a series of pinups. Next are two short stories by Brian Bolland, and then the eight-page “Hell City” by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin. This issue includes three chapters of “Jaramsheela” by Steve Moore and three different artists. I haven’t heard of this strip before, but it was one of the less famous features in Warrior. There’s also a story by Melinda Gebbie and Carol Swain about phone sex, a selection of Betty Page pinups, and a Bojeffries Saga chapter that I’ve already read. As its title indicates, this issue’s stories are mostly about sexy women, but other than that it has no thematic coherence. However, it contains a lot of impressive writing and art.

THE JACKAROO #1 (Eternity, 1990) – “Australiana Nights,” [W/A] Gary Chaloner. An adventure story with mild superhero elements, about a boxer from the Australian outback who gets involved in a gang war. Gary Chaloner is an amazing artist of adventure comics, with a style that recalls Will Eisner and Dave Stevens. The Jackaroo also feels very Australian. There’s even a glossary of Australian English at the end of the issue.

BOX OFFICE POISON #4 (Antarctic, 1997) – “Come On Knock On Our Door!” and other vignettes, [W/A] Alex Robinson. This was easily the best series Antarctic ever published. Part of this issue is about the tensions between Sherman’s new girlfriend Dorothy and his roommate Jane. The other half is about Ed’s attempts to get justice for Golden Age cartoonist Irving Flavor, possibly based on Bill Finger. Sadly, this half of the story feels a bit dated now because almost all the Golden Age artists have passed away. Alex Robinson’s art is heavily influenced by Dave Sim, but his page layouts are creative, and he’s really good at drawing faces.

DAREDEVIL #8 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Devil and the Details Part Two of Two,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Kano. Matt teams up with Spider-Man and Black Cat, then he and Felicia almost have sex, but Foggy interrupts them with the news that Jack Murdock’s grave has collapsed. Kano was not a great fit for this series; his art was much more detailed and less cartoony than that of Waid’s other Daredevil artists.

THOR #210 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Hammer and the Hellfire!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Buscema & Don Perlin. Thor battles the trolls Ulrik and Geirrodur (misspelled Gierrodur), the latter of whom is stated to have forged Mjolnir. This was either a mistake on Gerry’s part, or something that was later retconned, because Mjolnir is usually said to have been made by the dwarves Brokk and Eitri. This issue is rather boring.

BATMAN #686 (DC, 2009) – “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Part 1 of 2: The Beginning of the End,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Andy Kubert. As noted in my review of Detective Comics #853, this story was an homage to “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow.” It takes place at Batman’s funeral, and consists largely of two inset stories. Catwoman’s tale is about her romance with Bruce, and includes a lot of cute cat pictures. In Alfred’s story, he reveals that he was the Joker all along; he pretended to be the Joker in order to stave off Bruce’s depression. Both these stories are excellent, but it’s odd that there are only two of them. This storyline could have been extended by adding more stories from other characters, if not for the fact that it had to be just two issues, like the story it was based on. This issue includes a bunch of cute moments; for example, at the funeral, the heroes sit on the right and the villains on the left, but Man-Bat is told that he can sit on either side.

HOUSE OF SECRETS #112 (DC, 1973) – “The Witch Doctor’s Magic Cloak,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Rudy Nebres, etc. This issue’s lead story is well-drawn, but includes politically incorrect depictions of African people, as well as meaningless dialogue that’s meant to sound like it’s in a Bantu language. The backup story, “The Case of the Demon Spawn!” by Gerry Conway and Luis Dominguez, is a Sherlock Holmes parody in which some vampires create a fake mystery so they can turn Holmes into a vampire.

ETERNALS #15 (Marvel, 1977) – “Disaster Area,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. An incoherent and pointless story in which Ikaris fights a duplicate of the Hulk. I once read a review that said that by this point in its run, Eternals was running out of steam. I think that review was correct.

JOHNNY NEMO MAGAZINE #1 (Eclipse, 1985) – “The Spice of Death,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins. Johnny Nemo investigates some “death junkies” who suck people dry. As previously mentioned, when I first encountered Johnny Nemo in Strange Days, I thought his stories were unimpressive by comparison to Brendan McCarthy’s stories in that title. However, Johnny Nemo is exciting on its own, and Brett Ewins is a subtly effective artist. This issue also includes a backup story by the same creative team, starring Sindi Shade, a rebellious girl in a bureaucratic world controlled by librarians.

2000 AD #685 (Fleetway, 1990) – “Strontium Dog: The Final Solution Part 26,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Colin MacNeil. In the lead story, Strontium Dog teams up with a woman named Feral against an army of demons or something. In the Harlem Heroes chapter by Fleisher, Steve Dillon and Kev Walker, the protagonists are framed for the assassination of the president. Hilary Robinson and Nigel Dobbyn’s Medivac 318 seems to be about a war between humans and catlike aliens. In Necropolis Part 12, the Dark Judges have taken over Mega-City One and are executing its entire population. Meanwhile, in the Cursed Earth, Dredd meets a vagrant who he identifies as ex-Chief Judge McGruder. The prog concludes with Rogue Trooper by Gibbons and Simpson. The problem with reading 2000 AD one prog at a time is that it’s hard to follow the storylines. On the other hand, in each prog you get a nice variety of different art styles and subject matter.

DARKNESS VISIBLE #2 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mike Carey & Arvind Ethan David, [A] Brendan Cahill. We learn that Daniel Aston survived the accident because the demon Rhak possessed him. This series is interesting, but as noted in my review of issue #1, its metaphor about racism really does not work. The demons are not an effective proxy for any human minority group because the humans have good reasons to hate and fear them.

INFINITY 8 VOL. 3 #1 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “The Gospel According to Emma,” [W] Lewis Trondheim & Fabien Vehlmann, [A] Olivier Balez. I decided it was finally time to get caught up on this series. Each story arc of Infinity 8 is about a different agent who is sent by the sip’s captain to investigate the floating graveyard that has stopped the ship’s progress. At the end of the story arc, the captain uses its powers to go back in time eight hours. This volume’s protagonist, Emma, is secretly a double agent for a religion that worships a god called Tholman. She betrays the captain, kills its staff and cuts off its air support, then hires some crooks to help her investigate the graveyard, starting with a ship that may contain Tholman’s lost manuscripts. Olivier Balez’s artwork is less detailed than that of the previous two Infinity 8 artists, but that’s actually a good thing because it means that “The Gospel According to Emma” is a quicker read.

INFINITY 8 VOL. 3 #2 – as above. Emma and her crew find Tholman’s corpse, then they go to find another treasure for her companion Pallo Smaïr, as previously agreed. However, Pallo betrays them and orders his pet robot to “kill the stubborn ones,” resulting in a gunfight whose only survivors are Emma and one other companion, Korko Jellan. Emma realizes that Korko must have used telepathy to manipulate the others into killing each other, and on top of that, the robot can’t decide whether Pallo’s dying words were an order to kill Emma and Korko. And at the end, things get even worse. Korko finds the crypt of the ancestors of eight major intelligent species, and he has the ability to manipulate any creature using its ancestors’ DNA. Uh-oh.

INFINITY 8 VOL. 3 #3 – as above. Emma discovers that Tholman’s god really exists, and is dead. Korko uses the god’s DNA to take control of every being on the Infinity 8 except Emma herself. Despite being pursued by a literal army, Emma makes it to the captain and gets it to reset time. But in revenge, the captain declares that after time resets, Emma has to retain her knowledge that her god is dead. “The Gospel According to Emma” is a thrilling story, easily my favorite volume of Infinity 8.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #82 (Marvel, 1991) – “Weapon-X Chapter Ten,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith, etc. Wolverine kills Cornelius, and the Professor cynically uses his aide Lucy as bait so he can try to escape. As always, BWS’s art in this chapter is incredible. Next is the first chapter of a Firestar story written by Marie Javins and Marcus McLaurin. It takes place between Firestar’s miniseries and New Warriors. Next is an Iron Man story by Bill Mumy and Steve Leialoha, in which Tony Stark is planning to build a plant in Hawaii, but changes his mind after an encounter with ancient Hawaiian spirits. Leialoha is of Native Hawaiian descent, and this story has a strong anticolonialist angle and includes Hawaiian-language dialogue. In the last story, Power Man battles a mutant superintendent. I must have read this issue as a kid, because I have vague memories of the last two stories.

ZENITH PHASE II #2 (Fleetway/Quality, 1993) – “Familiar Spirits” etc., [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Phaedra takes Zenith to the hideout of Scott Wallace, an evil techbro. Scott murders Phaedra in cold blood, then explains his plan to nuke London and start a new world order with Zenith at its head. Wallace’s ally Dr. Peyne also invites Zenith to breed with two superpowered women. One of these women later gave birth to Zenith’s son, though we don’t know which one. At the end, Zenith discovers that his dad is inside the robot that attacked him earlier in the story arc. Zenith is different from most of Morrison’s protagonists because he’s an amoral, self-centered little punk; for example, he has no qualms about participating in a breeding program.

ZENITH PHASE II #3 – as above. Zenith is forced to knock his own dad’s head off. Then he confronts Peyne, who makes the fatal error of thinking Zenith has lost his powers. Zenith leaves Wallace to die and saves London from being nuked. At the end, Zenith is contacted by a mysterious creature called Chimera, and there’s an epilogue starring Ruby Fox. Zenith is an important work, though Steve Yeowell’s art is underwhelming, especially when reproduced at this smaller size.

FINALS #2 (Vertigo, 1999) – “All-Nighters,” [W] Will Pfeifer, [A] Jill Thompson. This issue has more of the same jokes as last issue, and also it introduces the school ringball team, which plays a sport based on the Mesoamerican ballgame. Jill Thompson’s art in this series is highly detailed and full of chicken fat.

BATMAN #23 (DC, 2013) – “Zero Year Secret City: Part Three,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. This issue is a rehash of the early part of Batman: Year One, specifically the scene where Bruce sees the bat. It also has some other plots that I don’t understand, including one involving Edward Nigma. There’s a backup story, “The Pit,” by Snyder, Tynion, and Rafael Albuquerque. I still haven’t read an issue of Snyder’s Batman that I’ve really liked.

CHEVAL NOIR #32 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Sabotage,” [W/A] Daniel Torres, etc. I actually have all three parts of Sabotage, though I read them in reverse order. Sabotage begins with an enigmatic scene set at the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Then we’re introduced to automotive engineer Gonsalves, whose wife is having an affair with his assistant. In chapter 3, we learn that the person sabotaging Gonsalves’s work is the Vietnamese girl who was mentioned in the Dien Bien Phu scene. Daniel Torres’s art in this story is gorgeous, and highly ‘50s-influenced. This issue also includes chapters of Cosey’s In Search of Peter Pan, and Cailleteau and Vatine’s Fred and Bob.

INFINITY 8 VOL. 4 #1 (Lion Forge, 2019) – “Symbolic Guerrilla,” [W] Lewis Trondheim & Kris, [A] Martin Trystram. Our next protagonist, Patty Stardust, is an Afro-wearing secret agent embedded within the Symbolic Guerrillas, a sort of combination of a cult and a rock band. As usual, the captain orders her to investigate the necropolis. Trystram’s artwork is similar in style to the artwork in the first two volumes.

2000 AD #687 (Fleetway, 1990) – “The Final Solution Part 28,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Colin MacNeil. The Strontium Dog story ends with Johnny Alpha seemingly dead. There’s another chapter of Medivac 318, and then part 14 of Necropolis, in which Dredd and the former Chief Judge infiltrate Mega-City One. I didn’t understand Necropolis before, but now I think it’s a powerful and frightening story.  The other two stories in this prog are Rogue Trooper and Harlem Heroes.

I ordered the following comics from cyberspacecomics on Atomic Avenue. I also got some recent issues of 2000 AD, but I can’t read those yet, because I’ve been reading all of my progs in order.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #8 (Marvel, 2013) – “Troubled Mind Part Two: Proof Positive,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Spidey/Doc Ock fights the Avengers and loses, but their brain scan fails to detect that he’s not the real Spider-Man, and it also arouses his suspicion that he has Peter Parker’s personality inside his head. In need of a better brain scan, Doc Ock tries to steal a “neurolitic scanner” from Cardiac, only to discover that Cardiac is using the device to heal a critically ill little girl. Oh, and the girl’s brain damage is Doc Ock’s own fault. Faced with this predicament, Doc Ock’s heart grows three sizes; he cures the girl himself, she gives him her stuffed penguin in thanks, and then Cardiac lets Doc Ock borrow the scanner without a fight. This is a really touching issue that illustrates Doc Ock’s gradual transformation into a hero.

STARLORD #6 (IPC, 1978) –  “Mind Wars,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Jesus Redondo, etc. Starlord was a short-lived comic that was merged into 2000 AD after 22 issues. It was notable for introducing Strontium Dog and Ro-Busters, from which ABC Warriors was spun off. This issue starts with Mind Wars, an intriguing story about two psychic twins. Jesus Redondo was no relation to Nestor; he was Spanish, and he draws in a similar style to José Ortiz or Vicente Alcazar. Mind Wars ended when Starlord did, and is considered a forgotten classic. Next comes a Ro-Busters story starring Hammerstein and Ro-Jaws, who later appeared in ABC Warriors. Then there’s a Strontium Dog story by Wagner, Grant and Ezquerra, and “Planet of the Damned” by R.E. Wright (an alias for either Pat Mills or Kelvin Gosnell) and (Jesus?) Suso. Last is a time travel story written by Chris Lowder. This is an exciting issue whose style is very similar to that of 2000 AD.

BIRTHRIGHT #12 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Federal agent Kylen takes Aaron into his custody. Mikey and Brennan go looking for Sameal, while Rya tells Wendy how awful Sameal is. At this point the reader doesn’t know Sameal is Aaron’s dad. At the end of the issue, it’s revealed that Kylen is one of the mages.

HIGHER EARTH #2 (Boom!, 2012) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Francesco Biagini. The two protagonists have to escape from Earth 9, which advertises itself as a paradise but is really a hellhole. Biagini’s art in this issue reminds me of Amanda Conner’s. I like the idea of this series, but if it’s about 100 earths positioned one on top of another, then five issues hardly seems like enough. I mean, I’d like to see the heroes reach the highest earth, but not without going through all the others.

INNER CITY ROMANCE #2 (Last Gasp, 1972) – “Radical Rock,” [W/A] Guy Colwell. A forgotten classic that’s just as relevant today as when it was published. In a long introduction, we’re told that a black man named James is organizing a concert to help bail out people who have been unfairly jailed. The main story is narrated entirely in musical lyrics. The police are planning to crack down on the concert, and when James resists their pressure, they assassinate him. James’s friends insist on holding the concert anyway, and the police interrupt it and start a riot. Then there’s a sequence depicting an elderly black couple having (surprisingly hot) sex. In part three, we discover that the couple are the parents of one of the concert planners, who resembles Jimi Hendrix. The police offer to let the son go if he agrees not to attract media attention. The son initially accepts the offer, but when the father shows up to bail the son out, the son denounces the police, who proceed to murder both the son and the father. On the back cover, we learn that the media has painted the murdered black people as the perpetrators of the riots, while exonerating the police of any blame. Throughout the summer of 2020, the police across America have acted just like the police in “Radical Rock,” killing black people and then trying to paint themselves as victims. The only difference between 1972 and 2020 is that we have cell phone cameras and social media now, and so it’s become harder for the police to control public opinion.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE REVENGE OF THE VAMPIRE DIMENSION #4 (Red 5, 2010) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. This miniseries was really more of a collection of four single-issue stories. In this issue, a ghost appears at Tesladyne headquarters, and it proves to be the ghost of Robo’s father’s archenemy, Thomas Edison. This is a good issue, but I preferred the one with the vampires.

GATECRASHER #1 (Black Bull, 2000) – “Three for Four,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Amanda Conner. This miniseries takes place after Ring of Fire, when Alec is in college. Alec develops a romantic rivalry with one of his Split-Second Squad teammates, which turns potentially deadly when Alec is forced to abandon their shared love interest in another dimension. I can’t believe Amanda Conner has already been a superstar for more than 20 years. Her art here isn’t her absolute best, but her style was more or less fully developed by this point in time.

STRANGEHAVEN #14 (Abiogenesis, 2002) – “My Beauties” etc., [W/A] Gary Spencer Millidge. Alex decides not to contest his divorce, but his lawyer threatens him into joining the Knights of the Golden Light, i.e. the KKK. Meanwhile, Maureen tries to seduce her brother-in-law George in order to force her husband Charles to divorce her. And it’s no wonder Maureen does that, because in a subsequent scene, we learn that her husband is a horrible abusive asshole, and he refuses to grant her a divorce. Under British law at the time, it was possible for one spouse to delay the other spouse a divorce until five years had passed, and apparently this unfair law is still on the books.

New comics received on June 18:

THE LUDOCRATS #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen & Jim Rossignol, [A] Jeff Stokely. Otto and Professor Hades execute a cunning plan to free Gratty from the cloud caterpillar that’s eaten her. And the plan works, but after it’s too late, Otto discovers that he’s “rescued” Gratty from her own home, in addition to destroying that home. This issue doesn’t have the same novelty value as #1, but it’s hilarious, especially when it tries to take itself seriously. Ludocrats is probably the best new series of 2020.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #2 (DC, 2020) – “A little demanding,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Doc Shaner. On Rann, Adam gets stranded in the desert while on a campaign against some savages. On Earth, Mr. Terrific investigates Adam’s story while constantly quizzing himself. This issue is impressive, but it also reminds me a lot of Mr. Miracle, and it gives me the suspicion that Tom King only knows how to write one kind of story. I hope this series is going to be another Mr. Miracle, but I also fear that it’ll be another Heroes in Crisis.

THE MAN WHO F#&%ED UP TIME #3 (Aftershock, 2020) – “Race Against Time,” [W] John Layman, [A] Karl Mostert. Sean tries to save himself from execution, but fails. Luckily, the Future Police are able to rescue him. Sean figures out that his own future self is sabotaging his efforts, and was also responsible for saving Abraham Lincoln from assassination and thus screwing up history. This series is a thrilling time-travel romp. It reminds me of other time travel stories like Heinlein’s “All You Zombies” or the IF game First Things First. Writing this comic must have been a fun challenge for Layman, and I’m looking forward to the similar challenge of decoding its plot.

GIDEON FALLS #22 (Image, 2020) – “Wicked Worlds Part 1 of 5: Who’s That Flying with the Crows?”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. The protagonists are all scattered across various different weird worlds, and at the end of the issue, Angela is told that instead of destroying the Black Barn, she “set it free.” I’d thought I had a reasonable understanding of what was happening in this series, but this issue was very difficult.

BIRTHRIGHT #44 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. This issue’s cover doubles as its first page. I can think of only one other American comic book that did this, namely Excalibur #55. Like Superman #75, Thor #380, or for that matter Copra #6, this Birthright #44 consists entirely of splash pages. As with all those issues, Birthright #44 is an issue-long fight scene, which ends with Mikey beheading Lore. This was probably the climax of the series, and in the remaining issues we’ll see what happens after the good guys win.

As I was about to write the next review, I saw the news that Jason Latour had been accused of sexual harassment. Jesus, is there any straight white male comics creator who’s not a creep?

GRUMBLE: MEMPHIS AND BEYOND THE INFINITE #2 (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. Tana and Eddie’s team is ambushed, but they make it out. Tana reveals that her plan is to replace her mother with one of her and Eddie’s teammates. One of their supposed allies, Rekk, betrays them to the enemy, and Tana chooses him as the replacement. Not a bad issue.

TARTARUS #3 (Image, 2020) – “Love x Squalor,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Jack T. Cole. This is the second best debut of the year, after Ludocrats. However, this issue is confusing. After arriving on Tartarus, Tilde and her companion get separated and have various adventures, and at the end of the issue, Tilde meets Mogen, who claims to be her twin brother. Which makes no sense because in #1 we saw Tilde as an infant, and she didn’t have a twin. To be continued.

FAMILY TREE #6 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. Judd (the grandfather) has a flashback to his reunion with his son Judd, and then he wakes up in captivity. He manages to escape and recover Judd’s hand. The rest of the family doesn’t appear in this issue, and there’s no flash-forward to the postapocalyptic world.

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #4 (DC, 2020) – “Golden Giants of Neo-Pangaea,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Hal, Barry Allen, and Hal’s old girlfriend Olivia Reynolds fight some giant gold aliens. This issue made very little sense, and so far this series has been worse than the previous season, largely due to its lack of a strong overarching plot.

DYING IS EASY #5 (IDW, 2020) – “Chapter Five,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Martin Simmonds. We finally learn whodunit, but by this point I couldn’t care less. Dying is Easy is my pick for the worst comic of 2020. It’s boring, its protagonist is loathsome, and as I have complained numerous times, it’s a total waste of Martin Simmonds’s talent. I do have high hopes for Simmonds’s upcoming series with James Tynion IV, The Department of Truth.

2000 AD #726 (Fleetway, 1991) – “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home Part 4,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Vanyo. Vanyo was a team of two brothers. Vicente and Eduardo Vañó Ibarra, and no one knows which of them drew which of the stories signed “Vanyo.” Their story in this issue is about some old soldiers who think the war with the Sovs is still going on. In the end they all get killed by the Judges. This prog’s Nemesis story, by Mills, Skinner and Carl Critchlow, is a murder mystery in which each suspect worships a different god. Next is Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter by Millar and Casanovas, then a Bix Barton story by Milligan and Jim McCarthy, in which Bix tries to protect his clients from assassination and fails spectacularly. Then there’s Tao de Moto by Myra Hancock – one of 2000 AD’s few female creators – and David Hine, and finally Junker by Fleisher and Ridgway.

WIMMEN’S COMIX #5 (Last Gasp, 1975) – various stories, [E] Trina Robbins & Terry Richards. This is billed as the “International Issue,” though all the creators seem to be American. Notable stories: Trina’s “Julia Pastrana” is about the so-called ugliest woman in the world. Joyce Farmer’s “Doin’ It” is about childhood sexuality and the repression thereof. “My Kitty Loves to Do the ChaChaCha,” signed Clothilde but actually by Melinda Gebbie, is told from the perspective of a horny female cat. As with Tits & Clits #6, this issue’s high point is a Sharon Rudahl story. This one is called “Die Bubbeh” and is about her grandmother’s life in the old country and subsequent emigration to America. (I’m old enough that my parents still called it the old country.) Dot Bucher’s “Tiger Lily” is about a romance between a U.S. soldier and a Vietnamese civilian.

2000 AD #856 (Fleetway, 1993) – “Roadkill Part 1,” [W] John Smith, [A] Peter Doherty. In this prog’s Dredd story, an old man loses his driver’s license due to poor eyesight, so he buys a new self-driving car with a built-in brain. Unfortunately the brain is that of a dead criminal, and mayhem ensues. This story is quite funny. “Mean Arena” by Alan McKenzie and Anthony Williams is about gladiatorial combat. Its protagonist, Sam Grainger, shares his name with a comic book artist. The cover feature is Smith and Paul Marshall’s “Tyranny Rex,” which I don’t understand, except that it’s about a religious war. It includes one really impressive splash page, showing a panda-like creature being attacked by a tentacled monster. Ennis and Dobbyn’s “Strontium Dogs” chapter stars Feral and Gronk but not Johnny Alpha. Mills and Fabry’s “Sláine: Demon Killer, Part 5” has gorgeous painted artwork, and consists mostly of a flashback in which druid women fight Roman soldiers. Hilariously, one of the druid women utters a “mysterious curse”: “Póg mo hón!” This is “pogue mahone,” Irish for “kiss my ass.”

SCARAB #2 (DC, 1993) – “Lost and Found,” [W] John Smith, [A] Scot Eaton. Scarab meets the Phantom Stranger, confirming that this series is set in the DCU, even if Scarab isn’t Dr. Fate. There’s a flashback depicting the Sicari’s past history. Louis makes himself young again. I still don’t quite get John Smith, but as mentioned before, he was comparable to Alan Moore as a prose stylist. I need to read the rest of Scarab.

KANE #14 (Dancing Elephant, 1996) – “Officer Katie NEPD,” [W/A] Paul Grist. This issue is mostly a flashback to the childhood of Kane’s partner Kat(i)e Felix. As a child, Katie is taken by her cop father to the police station, where she saves a cop from being shot by a suspect’s lawyer. Later, as an adult, Katie/Kate apprehends another suspect in a way that reminds her of this childhood experience. This is a really cute and well-constructed issue, though in the context of current events, it feels odd to read a story that depicts the police in such a positive light. (Notably, Grist is British but New Eden is in America.)

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 (Marvel, 2015) – “Spider-Verse Part Six: Web Warriors,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Olivier Coipel. In the conclusion of the Spider-Verse crossover, a bunch of different Spider-people from different realities defeat Morlun. Crossvoer stories are always somewhat disappointing, but this one is not bad, and it has some of the humor of the movie it inspired.

GLAMOURPUSS #1 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 2008) – “The Top Secret Origin of Glamourpuss,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is barely even a comic; it’s more of a series of illustrations of women, coupled with ruminations about Sim’s attempt to imitate the realistic art of Alex Raymond and Al Williamson. Dave’s art in this issue is beautiful, but he treats the women he draws as mere objects to be illustrated. He has no interest in the interiority of these women; when he shows them thinking, they only think about fashion. Dave’s only interest in these women is how he can most effectively render their beauty with black-and-white linework. Of course, I already knew that Dave Sim barely sees women as people.

THE EXTREMIST #1 (Vertigo, 1993) – “December, Nineteen Ninety-Three,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Ted McKeever. This issue includes some fascinating discussions of sex and violence, and Ted McKeever’s art style is unique and well suited to this subject matter. But this really should have been issue 2 and not issue 1. It takes place after Judy’s husband has already been killed and she’s already assumed his identity as the Extremist. The reader has to piece together who Judy is and what’s happened to her, and we don’t get her full backstory until #2. I wonder why Milligan chose to structure the series in this way.

1984 #8 (Warren, 1979) – various stories, [E] Bill DuBay. This is much longer than a typical Warren comic, at 84 pages, and it has hideous typeset lettering. It begins with “Painter’ Mountain” by DuBay, Budd Lewis and Alex Niño. This story is beautifully drawn, but is written like a plot summary rather than a story. It initially looks like a retelling of Noah’s ark, but proves to be about humans crashlanded on an alien planet (like Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden). DuBay and José Gonzalez’s “Herma” is basically softcore porn. Jim Stenstrum and Rudy Nebres’s “Twilight’s End” is confusing, but at least it has a plot that’s more than an excuse to draw naked women. Strnad and Corben’s “Mutant World” chapter is the best story in the issue. There’s also a chapter of Frank Thorne’s Ghita, in which Ghita symbolically has sex with Khan-Dagon’s sword. I’ve read Ghita before, and I think R.C. Harvey’s enthusiasm for it, in The Art of the Comic Book, is somewhat misplaced; it’s a self-insertion fanfic in which Thorne depicts himself as Red Sonja’s lover. However, Thorne is an excellent visual storyteller, and Ghita’s adventures are quite sexy. DuBay and Abel Laxamana’s “Madmen and Messiahs” is a paranoid right-wing apocalypse story which ends with Robert F. Kennedy Jr assassinating President Ted Kennedy. Cuti, DuBay and Niño’s “Once Upon a Holocaust” is an EC-esque twist ending story, but at least it has beautiful art. Overall, the art in this issue is much stronger than the writing.

UNDERGROUND #2 (Image, 2009) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Steve Lieber. The two rangers confront the criminals and are forced to flee from them into the depths of the cave. This is a thrilling story and a plausible-seeming depiction of caving, and Steve Lieber’s art is excellent. I really want to read the rest of this series. I wish Jeff Parker would do more creator-owned comics.

SUPERMAN #324 (DC, 1978) – “Beware the Eyes That Paralyze!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Curt Swan. Superman battles the Atomic Skull and Titano the super-ape, and Lois and Lana continue their petty rivalry. This is a pretty average issue.

On Saturday, June 20, I went to Heroes to drop off a Previews order form. They were sold out of Wynd #1, and the $1 issues of Savage Sword of Conan were all gone, but I did find a few things to buy:

X-MEN/FANTASTIC FOUR #3 (Marvel, 2020) – “To the Victor,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Terry Dodson. I love the original Fantastic Four/X-Men miniseries, and I regret not ordering this spiritual sequel to it. In this issue the X-Men and the FF both invade Latveria to rescue Franklin and Valeria, who were diverted there while trying to fly to Krakoa. The two teams’ rivalry is further complicated by the fact that Franklin and Valeria don’t want to be rescued. I haven’t always been impressed by Chip’s superhero writing, but this issue is exciting, and it shows understanding of all the many characters involved.

SAVAGE DRAGON #247 (Image, 2019) – “Modern Warfare,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. I dropped this series on two previous occasions because of its tasteless and disgusting sex scenes, but I think it’s time to start reading it again. This issue takes place after the subterranean Demonoid race has been massacred. The sole surviving male Demonoid invades the surface world to free the surviving female Demonoids from a zoo. There’s a running joke where Malcolm and Maxine call each other pet names like “cliff notes” and “cheese spread.”

SAVAGE DRAGON #248 (Image, 2020) – “The Gathering Storm!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dart, the series’ nastiest and most persistent villain, leads a jailbreak. Malcolm gives Angel a blood transfusion to heal the wounds she suffered last issue. The government decides to spray the entire city of Chicago with Freak Out. Frank proposes to Angel. The high point of this issue is when Maxine reads a children’s book to her daughter Maddy, even though Maddy’s electrical powers could kill Maxine.

THE BOGIE MAN #2 (Fat Man, 1990) – “Bogie Man Escapes!”, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Robin Smith. Fat Man Press was set up for the sole purpose of publishing The Bogie Man, which had been rejected by DC, and it never published anything else. DC should have accepted The Bogie Man because it’s a hilarious comic. The protagonist is a lunatic who thinks he’s Humphrey Bogart. While he’s investigating imaginary crimes, some actual criminals steal a load of frozen turkeys instead of the videotapes they meant to steal. When the Bogie Man hears the criminals talk about “big birds,” he thinks they mean the Maltese Falcon, and mayhem ensues. Part of the fun of this comic is its local specificity; it’s set in Glasgow, and the criminals speak in Scots or Scottish English. Robin Smith’s artwork is not flashy but is very effective.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #15 (Marvel, 2015) – “Spider-Verse Epilogue,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Having won the war, the Spiders have to choose who will stay behind to maintain the stability of the web of worlds. Meanwhile, the Superior Spider-Man refuses to return to his own timeline, since he’s learned that he’s going to die. This issue includes a lot of touching moments, like Ben Parker deciding to become a father to an orphaned baby.

2000 AD #875 (Fleetway, 1994) – “The Sugar Beat Part 3,” [W] Alan McKenzie or John Tomlinson, [A] Ron Smith. “The Sugar Beat” is funny and well-drawn, but is full of offensive Latin American stereotypes. In “Sympathy for the Devil,” Luke Kirby meets a beggar who invites him to hell to visit his (Luke’s) father. Luke Kirby is fascinating because he resembles Harry Potter and Tim Hunter, but predates either of them. Dinosty Part 3 is full of more hilarious mayhem, while Tyranny Rex still doesn’t make much sense. The other story in this prog is Rogue Trooper by Fleisher, Falco and Weston.

EERIE #75 (Warren, 1976) – various stories, [E] Louise Jones (i.e. Simonson). This issue is much shorter than 1984 #8. It begins with DuBay and Ortiz’s “The Demons of Jeremiah Cold,” about a city of mutants called Kalerville that goes to war with its human neighbors. This story has some very gruesome imagery, including an opening scene that depicts some crucified children. Ortiz’s spotting of blacks is powerful and oppressive. This story was part of an untitled story arc that ran through various other issues of Eerie. The second story, Budd Lewis and Leopoldo Sanchez’s “Freaks,” is also set in Kalerville, but I can’t tell if it’s set in the same continuity as the first story. Kalerville may be named after the writer Dave Kaler. DuBay and Maroto’s “Oogie and the Worm” is a metatextual story about Flash Gordon and second-wave feminism. José Bea’s “Invasion” is a five-page twist-ending story with some very unusual art. Finally, Lewis and Bermejo’s “Gillian Taxi and the Sky Pirates” is an example of proto-steampunk.

INFINITY 8 VOL. 4 #2 (Lion Forge, 2019) – as above. Patty investigates the necropolis, while Ron, the leader of the Symbolic Guerrillas, plots to sacrifice a bunch of 27-year-old musicians. This issue has excellent artwork, but its plot is not especially exciting. I do like all the rock music references. Near the end of the issue Ron arrives at a floating space island covered with giant guitar necks.

INFINITY 8 VOL. 4 #3 – as above. Patty discovers a mausoleum containing the deceased founders of eight unknown alien species. Ron executes his master plan, whatever it is. The captain reboots time. A basic problem with this series is the lack of suspense. The reader knows that each volume has to end with time being rebooted, so it doesn’t matter what happens to the characters. This is illustrated in volume 5, when the main character’s daughter is turned into a zombie, but the impact of this tragedy is lessened because we know she’ll come back to life.

GRAYSON #12 (DC, 2015) – “A Fine Performance,” [W] Tim Seeley & Tom King, [A] Mikel Janin. This issue includes some pages that have at least 30 word balloon floating in negative space. These pages are ugly and extremely annoying to read. Most of the issue consists of conversations or battles between Dick Grayson and his fellow Batman Family members. I mostly didn’t understand what was going on in these scenes, but at the end of the issue, Seeley and King reveal a secret: in each scene, the first letter of each of Dick’s word balloons spells out BREAK IT. He was using a code to tell Jason, Tim, Babs and Damian to break the gifts he had given them, as part of his plot to escape the evil organization that had recruited him. This revelation does a lot to redeem this issue.

FORBIDDEN WORLDS #119 (ACG, 1964) – “The Girl from Bald Mountain,” [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Chic Stone. A cute romance story about a witch who falls in love with a human man. After a rocky start to their relationship, they marry and the witch becomes a housewife, but their daughter inherits her mother’s powers. Again, Richard Hughes’s writing here is very funny. There are two backup stories, one about a mummy and another about an alien invasion. The letters page includes a list of the editor’s favorite ACG stories.

CHEW #18 (Image, 2011) – “Flambé 3 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. Tony and Colby invade North Korea along with a bunch of USDA agents. There’s a running joke where for unexplained reasons, the USDA agents are all well-endowed women with cyborg animal companions. The USDA agents all get killed in an ambush, and Tony has to activate the weapon of mass destruction that he was given. Of course the weapon turns out to be Poyo. The best thing about this issue is all the companion animals, including a frog and a goldfish.

2000 AD #876 (Fleetway, 1994) – “The Sugar Beat Part 4,” [W] Alan McKenzie or John Tomlinson, [A] Ron Smith, etc. Again, “The Sugar Beat” is full of offensive stereotypes, including a fat general who’s constantly eating. In the Luke Kirby chapter, the bum takes Luke into hell, which manifests to different people as a railway station, Christmas shopping, an encounter with a street preacher, etc. The Dinosty chapter depicts a game of polo with human heads as the balls. The Tyranny Rex chapter still doesn’t make much sense. The Rogu Trooper chapter includes a villain who looks a lot like Modok.

THE LONE RANGER #86 (Dell, 1955) – “Ambush,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Tom Gill. Some corrupt ranchers try to assassinate a visiting accountant before he can find proof of their embezzlement. Of course the Lone Ranger arrives and saves the day. In the second story, the Lone Ranger prevents some Mexican bandits from stealing a shipment of guns. This story’s plot hinges on characters acting stupid: the bandits drop the map to their hideout and don’t try to recover it, and then Tonto finds the map and doesn’t realize what it is. Other than that, both these stories would be excellent if not for their offensive depictions of Tonto. However, this issue redeems itself somewhat by including a Young Hawk backup story, where Young Hawk uses indigenous technology to catch a giant pike and fight off a bear. Young Hawk feels like a plausible and respectful depiction of precolonial indigenous people, at least by the low standards of its time.

INFINITY 8 VOL. 5 #1 (Lion Forge, 2019) – “Apocalypse Day Part One,” [W] Lewis Trondheim & Davy Mourier, [A] Lorenzo De Felici. Our new protagonist, Ann Ninurta, is a cop and a divorced mother of a little girl. The captain orders her to investigate the necropolis. While there, she gets attacked by zombies. Meanwhile, for unclear reasons, the people on the Infinity 8 also start turning into zombies. The issue ends as Ann returns to the ship. The name Ninurta comes from Mesopotamian mythology.

CRIMINAL VOL. 2 #4 (Marvel, 2008) – “Bad Night Part One,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Jacob Kurtz (named after Jack Kirby) is a disabled, widowed newspaper cartoonist – as we later learn, he was beaten by Sebastian Hyde’s goons after his wife committed suicide. I wish I’d read this story in order, because it’s hard to keep Jacob’s story straight in my head. One night Jacob witnesses a woman being beaten by her boyfriend in a diner. After the fight is resolved, Jacob picks up the woman, Iris, and they have sex. Later, Iris’s boyfriend shows up at Jacob’s house. The boyfriend kidnaps Jacob and demands that Jacob make him a fake FBI badge. Again, this story would have been more enjoyable if I hadn’t read the first chapter last.

SWEET TOOTH #25 (Vertigo, 2011) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. While in a coma, Gus has horrible visions, but is saved by a blood transfusion. The women and children decide to stay with Walter, but Jepperd insists on taking Tommy to Alaska. Meanwhile, the main villain is using Jepperd’s son to track him. I have almost all the remaining issues of Sweet Tooth, and it’s probably time I read them. Maybe I should order the seven issues I’m missing.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS: THE SUN BEYOND THE STARS #1 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Nick Pitarra. This miniseries takes place on an alien world, and the only Manhattan Projects characters in it are Gagarin and Laika. Nick Pitarra’s depictions of aliens and alien technology are weird and beautifully detailed. There’s one page that contains so many different-looking characters, it reminds me of the final page of Kaptara. However, Hickman’s plot is of no particular interest.

JSA #65 (DC, 2004) – “Out of Time Part 1,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Don Kramer. Rick Tyler is dying from injuries suffered in combat. To save himself, he swaps places with his father Rex, who is trapped inside an hour-long time bubble. The future Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite are able to save Rick, but the operation consumes all of Rick’s allotted hour with his father. This means Rex has to go back in time to his battle with Extant in Zero Hour (ironically), where he’s fated to die. Infuriatingly, Rick insists on going back in time to die in his father’s place. I know this is the heroic thing to do, but by doing it, Rick invalidates his father’s sacrifice, and also, his friends’ efforts to save his life are wasted. Of course this is only part 1, and I know that Rick won’t actually die.

THE WORLD OF KRYPTON #4 (DC, 1988) – “Family History,” [W] John Byrne, [A] Mike Mignola. Superman tells Lois the story of how Krypton became a sterile, loveless world. In a flagrant example of lazy writing, the closing pages of this issue have exactly the same text as the opening pages of Man of Steel #1. Only the artwork is different. Byrne shouldn’t have been able to get away with this.

Last night I received two different small shipments of comics. One of them consisted of five issues of Gay Comics, a very hard series to find:

GAY COMIX #4 (Kitchen Sink, 1983) – various stories, [E] Howard Cruse. A lot of different stories on various gay-related themes. Unsurprisingly, the Howard Cruse story is the best one in the issue by far, although it’s less a story than a bunch of unrelated vignettes. This issue came out at the beginning of the AIDS era, but I think Cruse’s story is the only one that explicitly mentions AIDS. There’s also a story by Roberta Gregory, “The Unicorn Tapestry,” though it’s rather hard to follow. And there’s a cute two-pager by Lee Marrs, about understanding how people are connected to each other. Of the other artists in the issue, the most impressive is Carl Vaughn Frick, who signs himself Vaughn. His work is very visually dense, with nice spotting of blacks. It appears that all of his work was published in queer alternative comics like this one. Also, Rick Campbell’s story about coming out is quite heartfelt, though not highly accomplished.

GAY COMICS #19 (Bob Ross, 1993) – “Coming Out Story” etc., [W/A] Alison Bechdel. This comic is an absolute treasure. It’s Alison Bechdel’s only single-authored comic book, and it contains some work that’s quite hard to find. First, “Coming Out Story” is a sort of rough draft for the college chapter of Fun Home. Compared to Fun Home, it feels far less composed and more straightforward, and it hardly mentions Alison’s father at all. “The Power of Prayer” is a funny story about Alison’s childhood. Unlike Fun Home, it shows Alison reading comics, specifically Little Lulu and Mad. “True Confessions” is about how Alison still isn’t out to some of her relatives. This issue also reprints all nineteen installments of “Servants of the Cause,” a strip Alison published in the Advocate. It’s about the staff of a gay newspaper. My friend Margaret Galvan has published a detailed analysis of this strip, though I have not yet read it.

ARCHIE #23 (Archie, 2017) – “Bruising” etc., [W] Mark Waid, [A] Audrey Mok. This completes my run of Mark Waid’s Archie. In this issue, Betty learns that she has spinal cord injuries and may or may not ever walk again (which of course leaves the door open for a return to the status quo). Archie tries to atone for his role in Betty’s injury, but his clumsiness prevents him from helping. The issue ends with the people of Riverdale using candles to create a giant heart containing the letters BC. Mark Waid’s “Over the Edge” and its aftermath were his best work in at least twenty years. This is largely because these Archie issues were drawn by artists who were very good at depicting emotion.

SUICIDE SQUAD #60 (DC, 1991) – “Legerdemain Part Two: Dangerous Games,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. Superman, Batman and Aquaman fight a three-sided battle against the Hayoth and the Jihad. The Americans, Israelis and Quracis are all trying to capture the Quraci dictator Marlo, each for their own reasons. John Ostrander rarely got to write the higher-profile DC heroes, and in this issue he shows that he can write Superman and Batman just as well as he writes Captain Boomerang or Deadshot. It’s also nice to see the Hayoth again, especially Rambam. The Suicide Squad themselves are mysteriously absent from this issue, except Nemesis.

ECLIPSE, THE MAGAZINE #3 (Eclipse, 1981) – various stories, [E] Dean Mullaney. This black-and-white magazine starts with a Coyote story by Englehart and Rogers that retells part of Coyote’s origin. Coyote is an interesting character, and Rogers’s artwork here is the equal of his ‘70s masterpieces, although his work is much better in color. Next are three strips by Kaz, an artist I’m not familiar with. The low point of the issue is McGregor and Colan’s “Kindergarten Run.” This story is a piece of pointless nostalgia, and Colan’s art is reproduced directly from pencils and is thus nearly invisible. Also, this entire story was reprinted in Ragamuffins #1, which I already have. Charles Vess’s “Homer’s Idyll” has some nice linework, but no real plot. Hunt Emerson’s “Large Cow Comix” may be a tribute to Krazy Kat. Trina’s “Dope” is just average. Gerber and Mayerik’s “Role Model” is a really weird story about three writers. It reminds me a bit of the Ramsludge Hawthorne scene in Howard the Duck #16. Finally there’s a Ms. Tree story in which Ms. Tree investigates her husband’s murder. I thought I’d read this before, but I hadn’t.

2000 AD #877 (Fleetway, 1994) – “The Sugar Beat Part 5,” [W] Alan McKenzie or John Tomlinson, [A] Ron Smith, etc. Dredd’s helicopter crashes while he’s looking for the source of the illegal sugar, and we get even more offensive depictions of Latin Americans. In “Sympathy for the Devil,” the bum takes Luke to his own personal hell. In “Dinosty,” the human rebel leader tries to win support for his rebellion against the dinosaurs, with limited success. He asks a man ‘D’you want to be trampled on all your life?” and the answer is “Well… yes!” I still don’t understand Tyranny Rex, and Fleisher and Falco’s Rogue Trooper is still not interesting.

INFINITY 8 VOL. 5 #2 – as above. Ann gets back to the ship and learns she’s dying from a zombie bite. Also, her daughter has been zombified. As discussed above, neither of these revelations are as tragic as they should be, because Ann and the reader both know that time is going to be reset. Ann’s next task is to find a military vehicle so she can complete her mission to explore the necropolis.

INFINITY 8 VOL. 5 #3 – as above. While reading this issue, I was thinking how it’s weird that none of the volumes’ protagonists appear in any of the other volumes. But in this issue Ann Ninurta teams up with Patty Stardust, the protagonist of volume 4, and there are also brief appearances by two other characters from that volume, Mitch Led and Ron Digger. Ann discovers that the necropolis was created by a race called the Garlinians, and then, as expected, the captain reboots time.

CAP’N QUICK & A FOOZLE #2 (Eclipse, 1985) – untitled, [W/A] Marshall Rogers. An absurdist, illogical story about a little boy and his alien bird companion. In this issue, after a bunch of adventures, the protagonists visit a kingdom where everyone is insane except the king. And then the king decides to go insane too. Rogers’s writing is kind of tedious, but his art is spectacular and innovative. Sadly, to my knowledge, none of his later work was this good.

CHAMPION SPORTS #1 (DC, 1973) – “The Kid Who Beat the Oakland A’s!”, [W] Joe Simon, [A] Jerry Grandenetti. Young David Wexler becomes a superstar pitcher after a shoulder injury, but loses his talent when his shoulder is fixed. Then he injures his hip and becomes a star placekicker. This story is really stupid and implausible, and the one after it, about soapbox derby racing, is no better. The only adequate story in the issue is the last one, about an Irish track athlete who’s prejudiced against his black teammate. It’s a shame that America, despite its sports-obsessed culture, was only able to produce bad sports comics like this one, while France had Michel Vaillant and England had Roy of the Rovers.

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May and June reviews

5-30

Just woke up to the awful news that Uncle Hugo’s was destroyed in the Minneapolis protests. Going to distract myself by writing reviews.

LOIS LANE #10 (DC, 2020) – “Enemy of the People, Part Ten,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. Another comic that was delivered by DCBS even though Diamond was shut down. This issue had some sort of plot about multiple universes, but I don’t remember anything else about it. This series has been a disappointment.

BATMAN #407 (DC, 1987) – “Year One Chapter Four: Friend in Need,” [W] Frank Miller, [A] David Mazzucchelli. I’ve read this before, as a reprint, but not for a while. The main thing that strikes me on rereading is its incredible narrative economy. I remembered the climactic kidnapping scene as if it took up half the issue, but it’s actually just seven pages. And Miller and Mazzucchelli effectively created the modern Catwoman in just a few pages. This is all possible because of Miller’s super-economical writing and Mazzucchelli’s mastery of visual narration. A couple other points: The black criminal in this issue is an offensive stereotype. And I didn’t realize before that in the last couple panels, when Gordon’s face is suddenly illuminated, it’s because he’s just turned on the Bat-Signal.

FANTASTIC FOUR #172 (Marvel, 1976) – “Cry, the Bedeviled Planet!”, [W] Roy Thomas & Bill Mantlo, [A] George Pérez. The FF fight Gorr the Golden Gorilla, then they team up to protect Counter-Earth from Galactus. This issue’s story is not terrible, and Pérez’s art is excellent, though I’ve always been unimpressed by his FF as compared to his other ‘70s and ‘80s comics.

GUNMASTER #5 (Charlton, 1966) – “Death Wears Black to Boothill” and “White War-Chief,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Bill Fraccio. A mediocre Western comic whose gimmick is that the hero is a gunsmith. The second story spreads the harmful message that the only “good” Indians are those who submit to white supremacy.

U.S.AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2017) – “$kullocracy,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina & Carlo Barberi. The USAvengers fight the Golden Skull with the help of a grown-up future Danielle Cage. There’s one cute moment when Danielle reveals that she remembers when Squirrel Girl was her babysitter. Otherwise this is a pretty average issue. I assume this was the last part of the introductory storyline.

EVIL EYE #4 (Fantagraphics, 1999) – “Reflection in a Glass Scorpion” and “Peculia,” [W/A] Richard Sala. Unfortunately Richard Sala just died. I haven’t read much of his work, only the graphic novel Cat Burglar Black, but he was similar to Edward Gorey and Rick Geary and Charles Addams. This issue includes two creepy and humorous adventure-mystery stories with female protagonists. It definitely makes me want to read more of his work.

MY ROMANTIC ADVENTURES #92 (ACG, 1958) – “Bad Luck Girl!”, [W] unknown, [A] John Rosenberger, plus two other stories. This issue’s first story is about a woman who thinks she has awful luck, but the unlucky things that befall her turn out to be blessings in disguise. Craig Yoe included this story in his Weird Love anthology series. The other stories are about a woman who almost gets killed climbing a mountain, and a woman who thinks she’s a better artist than she is. None of these stories are especially progressive, but the third story’s depiction of the beatnik art scene is kind of funny. An unintentional moment of humor in this issue is a panel explaining that women shouldn’t talk about manly things like baseball. https://www.instagram.com/p/CATm4dsBFTw/

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF TERROR SEASON TWO #6 (Ahoy, 2020) – “The Purloined Letter,” [W/A] Carol Lay, and “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Steve Yeowell. The first story is a very funny and gory prequel to “The Purloined Letter,” explaining that the letter reveals how the lady had the minister’s son butchered and turned into stew. The second story is even funnier. It’s about what if (or for copyright reasons, “which things wuold occur when”) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was written by an Englishman. Accordingly it’s full of silly English stereotypes. And it guest-stars the great cricketer W.G. Grace. I should mention here that I’m very angry because Ahoy has announced that Captain Ginger Season Two will be completed in digital form. This trend toward digital-only releases of comics that were previously solicited as single issues is absolutely infuriating, and it needs to stop at once.

KILLADELPHIA #5 (Image, 2020) – “The Sun Will Rise,” [W] Rodney Barnes, [A] Jason Shawn Alexander. I have very mixed feelings about this series. It’s obviously highly relevant right now because of its focus on black people and the police. But the vampire plot seems rather trite and uninteresting, and I think the series would be better if it was just a crime drama. I’m not sure if I want to keep buying Killadelphia.

TOMORROW #2 (Dark Horse, 2020) –“A Town Called Hope,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jesús Hervás. This issue continues the stories of each of the various survivors. Like many other Peter Milligan comics, Tomorrow suffers from a lack of focus. It’s not clear to me just what this comic’s central premise is, or how it differs from other postapocalyptic stories. The most interesting character in the series, by far, is the autistic cellist kid, and I wish the series was just about him and not the other characters.

FCBD MANHWA CONTEMPORARY KOREAN COMICS (Drawn & Quarterly, 2020) – four stories, [W/A] various. This FCBD comic reprints four of Drawn & Quarterly’s translations of manhwa. The only substantial Korean comic I had previously read was a volume of Kim Dong-Hwa’s Color Trilogy, and this issue was a good introduction to the field. The most impressive of the four stories is the excerpt from Keum-Suk Gendry Kim’s Grass, about Korean prisoners of war during WWII. Gendry Kim’s style of brushwork reminds me of Mazzucchelli or Baudoin. The excerpt from Ancco’s Bad Friends was also exciting enough that it inspired me to read the entire book, which I already had. I also already have Hong Yeon-Sik’s Uncomfortably Happily, and I will get around to it eventually.

ON THE STUMP #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chuck Brown, [A] Prenzy. This issue is full of very gruesome violence, and it strays quite far from what I thought was the core premise –that of a society where political issues are resolved by wrestling matches. I’m going to give this series one more issue.

CAT SHIT ONE #1 (Antarctic, 2020) – “Special Mission,” [W/A] Motofumi Kobayashi. This manga is a very realistic take on the Vietnam War from the American perspective, with the gimmick that the natives of each nation are depicted as a different animal. This comic began in 1998, so it could have been influenced by Maus. Kobayashi’s artwork is very detailed and is full of visible pencilwork; it’s closer to Miyazaki than to most other manga. My criticisms are that first, the comic book format is inappropriate for manga. Second, Cat Shit One lacks an interesting plot; it feels like just a series of straightforward retellings of things that happened in the war. Finally, its characters’ personalities are not well defined.

EVE STRANGER #5 (IDW, 2020) – “A Change is Gonna Come,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Philip Bond. Sadly this is the final Black Crown comic. Black Crown deserved to last longer than it did. This issue has some excellent artwork, but I had trouble caring about its plot. See later reviews for more thoughts on Philip Bond.

THE ‘NAM #2 (Marvel, 1987) – “Dustoff,” [W] Doug Murray, [A] Michael Golden. I’ve never read this long-running series before, but this issue does not make me want to read more of it. It’s a less realistic or introspective war comic than G.I. Joe. This issue is just a series of fight scenes, with a subplot about a rivalry between officers. The writer shows no interest in the Vietnamese perspective on the war. Some of Michael Golden’s artwork is excellent, especially the first three pages where the soldiers set up an ambush in darkness. However, Golden’s faces look ugly and unrealistic.

THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #2 (Marvel, 2013) – “The Peter Principle,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ryan Stegman. Doc Ock, in Peter’s body, tries to date MJ, but it doesn’t work. Also, Doc Ock sets up a system of spider-bots. Part of Slott’s brilliance in this series is that he writes Doc Ock as a very typical supervillain. Everything Otto says in his own voice (i.e. when not pretending to be Peter) is a mad scientist cliché. And that makes it even more powerful when Otto gradually becomes a hero.

BATWOMAN: REBIRTH #1 (DC, 2017) – “Batwoman Rebirth,” [W] Marguerite Bennett & James Tynion IV, [A] Steve Epting. This issue is a patchwork of scenes from Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams’s Batwoman: Elegy. When I read this issue, I felt at times as if I was reading a reprint of that story. This issue certainly doesn’t feel like an original or new take on Kate Kane, although it does reveal some details about her overprivileged upbringing.

NINA’S ALL-TIME GREATEST COLLECTOR’S ITEM CLASSIC COMICS #1 (Dark Horse, 1992) – various stories, [W/A] Nina Paley. Nina Paley is such an awful TERF that her picture should be in the dictionary next to the word TERF. Her transphobic attitudes have destroyed her reputation. This is unfortunate because she’s a talented cartoonist. She draws in a very appealing comic-strip style, and she has a sardonic sense of humor. The best story in this issue is “Nina’s Adventures with the Big Editor Boss-Man,” where she’s told that her work is unmarketable, and so she tries to draw underground comics style instead. Thus, the story includes several pages drawn in a style that parodies that of Aline Kominsky-Crumb or whoever.

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: FANTASTIC FOUR #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer, [A] Benjamin Dewey. This is really a Human Torch solo story. It takes place at Johnny and Dorrie Evans’s high school reunion in Glenville. The people of Glendale act like they’re ashamed and resentful of Johnny, but the twist ending is that they actually love Johnny, and their disdain for him is just an act. This was a pretty fun issue.

Had to stop writing here to watch Trump’s utterly terrifying Rose Garden speech. Fuck. This week was bad enough already.

THE CIMMERIAN: QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST #2 (Ablaze, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jean-David Morvan, [A] Pierre Alary. I’m always glad when French comics are translated into English, and this issue has some striking artwork. However, it offers nothing we haven’t seen in lots of other Conan comics, and Morvan’s take on Conan is pretty boring.

DEADLINE U.S.A. #6 (Dark Horse, 1992) – numerous stories, [E] Chris Warner. Lots of interesting stories here. Unfortunately there’s a story by Molly Eyre and D’Israeli where you have to rotate each page in a circle twice in order to read all the text around the edges. And there are three different chapters of this story scattered throughout the issue. So this comic is a very annoying read. Besides that, highlights of this issue include Nick Abadzis’s Hugo Tate and Milligan and Ewins’s Johnny Nemo. More about Deadline later.

ICE CREAM MAN #8 (Image, 2018) – “Emergencies,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. The most impenetrable of all the Ice Cream Man comics I’ve read. “Emergencies” is about two ambulance drivers who are addicted to drugs, but it doesn’t have a clear plot, except that it ends with the discovery that there’s a corpse in the back of the ambulance. There’s some very disturbing imagery, including a panel showing a face with way too many mouths.

EIGHTBALL #3 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – “Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron” and other stories, [W/A] Daniel Clowes. This issue’s main story is a chapter of Clowes’s first major graphic novel. “Like a Velvet Glove…” is very surreal and disturbing, and I suspect it was influenced by Chester Brown’s Ed the Happy Clown. Next is “The Stroll,” a five-page monologue by a misanthropic jerk. Last is a chapter of “Young Dan Pussey,” in which the title character, a cartoonist, tries to make the transition from superhero to alternative comics, but it doesn’t go well. This story includes obvious parodies of Art Spiegelman, Gary Groth, and Los Bros Hernandez. The name ”Krzchyk” appears in both of the last two stories.

SUPURBIA #8 (Boom!, 2013) – untitled, [W] Grace Randolph, [A] Russell Dauterman. The supervillain Hector Hunt kidnaps Zuri, the daughter of one of the main superhero couples, and a huge fight results. This is a rather conventional superhero comic, and its plot is hard to understand out of context, but Russell Dauterman’s art is excellent.

SCARAB #1 (Vertigo, 1993) – “All Roads Lead to the Minotaur,” [W] John Smith, [A] Scot Eaton. The Scarab is an old retired superhero. His wife Eleanor is trapped in an extra-dimensional labyrinth, and he himself is being hunted by a villain called the Sicari. Scarab was originally pitched as a revival of Dr. Fate, and it helps to know that in order to understand what’s going on in this comic. Scarab #1 is rather difficult and depressing, but John Smith’s prose style is very lyrical and intricate. (Example: “The tiger menace of things to be is red in the sky.”) Smith is certainly comparable to Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman as a prose stylist, though not necessarily in other areas of his writing.

THE MULTIVERSITY #2 (DC, 2015) – “Superjudge,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Ivan Reis. Grant Morrison’s greatest flaw as a writer is extreme obscurancy. You often can’t understand his comics unless you read them at one sitting, and then read them again, and even then it often doesn’t feel worth the effort. Moore and Ellis’s comics are equally deep, but they don’t seem to resist understanding as much. Multiversity #2 is a prime example of Morrison’s excessive difficulty. I had no idea what was going on in this issue. It had something to do with Nix Uotan, the Gentry, and a 17-move solution to Rubik’s Cube, but all of that went over my head, and the whole issue felt like just a generic example of an epic cosmic superhero story. Multiversity #2 would probably make more sense now that I’ve read some of the earlier issues, but again, I don’t know if it’s worth the trouble of rereading it.

ONE FOR ONE: BRAIN BOY #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Psy vs. Psy Part One of Three,” [W] Fred Van Lente, [A] R.B. Silva. This series, starring a rude teenage telepath, is a revival of an old Dell comic. I honestly think that Fred Van Lente is just an average writer. The only one of his comics I really liked was Incredible Hercules, which was co-written by Greg Pak. Brain Boy #1 is okay, but it didn’t make me want to read issue 2.

MULTIVERSITY: MASTERMEN #1 (DC, 2015) – “Splendour Falls,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Jim Lee. Mastermen is set on an alternate Earth where Kal-El’s rocket crashlanded in Nazi Germany. It’s well-written, I suppose, but it leaves me kind of cold. I read this issue along with the commentary at comicsalliance.com, and that did help, but I still think it’s a problem when a comic is unintelligible without notes. At least Mastermen isn’t as tough as Multiversity #2.

CHARLTON BULLSEYE #9 (Charlton, 1982) – “Bludd the Ultimate Barbarian,” [W] James Waley, [A] Gene Day & V. Marchesano. This was intended for Waley’s magazine Orb, but was left in limbo when that magazine was cancelled. (Note: On page 123 of his Star*Reach Companion, Richard Arndt mentions that a preview of Bludd appeared in the last issue of Orb, but he says that to his knowledge, Bludd was never published anywhere. He was wrong about that.) Bludd has the same premise as Starslayer, but is not nearly as well-written. Gene Day’s art is pretty good, but is hampered by Waley’s excessive captions. In his editor’s note, Waley admits Bludd’s resemblance to Starslayer, though he points out that Bludd was created first.

STALKER #4 (DC, 1976) – “Invade the Inferno,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Steve Ditko. There are four names in this issue’s credits box –  Levitz, Ditko, Wally Wood, and Joe Orlando – and all four of these men are now in the Eisner Hall of Fame. Sadly, Stalker is not as good as you would expect from such a team. Stalker is an unsympathetic character – a cursed warrior who’s trying to rescue his stolen soul from hell – and his adventures are boring. Easily the best thing about the issue is the combination of Ditko pencils and Woody inks.

THE PHANTOM #60 (Charlton, 1974) – “Assault on the Phantom’s Treasure!”, [W] Giovanni Fiorentini, [A] Mario Pedrazzi. This story is reprinted from an Italian comic, and was probably produced by Alberto Giolitti’s studio. Pedrazzi’s art is competent, but lacks any distinctive style, and Fiorentini’s story is boring.

MANY GHOSTS OF DR. GRAVES #46 (Charlton, 1974) – “Swamp!”, [W] Steve Morisi, [A] Pete Morisi. Steve Morisi seems to have been Pete’s son. Pete Morisi did not publish his comics under his real name, but I guess Steve Morisi did. Their story in this issue is about a ventriloquist who escapes from prison, and it has no supernatural elements. Next is a fortuneteller story by Joe Gill and Rudy Palais, whose style looks as if it had barely changed since the Golden Age. Last is a ghost story drawn by Sanho Kim. This comic isn’t great, but it’s an interesting juxtaposition of art styles.

SON OF SATAN #3 (Marvel, 1976) – “Demon’s Head,” [W] John Warner, [A] Sonny Trinidad. A confusing, pointless and overwritten story. I can barely remember anything that happens in this issue, let alone explain it. In the 1970s there were lots of writers like John Warner who worked in comics for just a couple years, then vanished from the industry. I have no idea what he’s doing now. Of course, in every era of comics there have been people who drifted in and out of the industry.

THE DESTRUCTOR #3 (Atlas, 1975) – “In the Hands of the Huntress,” [W] Larry Lieber & Archie Goodwin, [A] Steve Ditko. The Destructor battles two new villains, the Huntress and Lupo. Another comic that’s disappointing given the caliber of talent behind it. Atlas/Seaboard was extremely derivative of Marvel, and the Atlas titles were all cancelled before they could hit their stride.

PUMA BLUES #2 (Aardvark/Vanaheim, 1986) – “Watch That Man,” [W] Stephen Murphy, [A] Michael Zulli. Most of this issue is a flashback to 1995, when white supremacists assassinated President Jack Kemp and started a nuclear war. Eerily, Jack Kemp really was nominated for Vice President in 1996. The farfetched part is that white nationalists would kill a Republican president; as we’ve seen this past week, white nationalists are our current President’s most enthusiastic supporters. Anyway, Murphy and Zulli’s depiction of the 1995 events is very compelling. I especially like how they cut away from the main events to show us the impassive or shocked reactions of spectators.

SKULL THE SLAYER #2 (Marvel, 1975) – “Gods and Super-Gods,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Steve Gan. I recently wrote a negative review of Skull the Slayer #5, but issue 2 shows that Skull the Slayer could have been a good series if Marv Wolfman had stayed with it longer. Jim Scully is a Vietnam vet who finds himself trapped in the prehistoric age with three other modern-day people. Skull and his companions’ adventures are exciting and fun, and I particularly like the scene where they talk about their respective problems with the modern world. For example, the one woman in the group complains about suffering employment discrimination because of her gender.

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS #4 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, [W] Marguerite Bennett & Cameron DeOrdio, [A] Audrey Mok. I’m biased because I dislike Bennett’s writing, but this issue really annoyed me. Almost every line of dialogue in the issue is a pun or a pop culture reference. Also the syntax of the dialogue is awkward. Two sample word balloons (both from the same character): “I haven’t heard a sound that captures true rock and roll like this since Stillwater! But I’ll take Josie’s voice over that My Name is Earl-lookin’ guy’s any day!” This sort of dialogue is only acceptable in small doses. The only thing I like about this issue is the page before that, which is drawn in a style that parodies shojo manga, with flowers and no panel borders.

FELL #3 (Image, 2005) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Ben Templesmith. Fell goes to buy new clothing, but finds a suicide bomber in the dressing room. Fell discovers that the clothing store owner is giving away guns illegally, and the bomber’s brother was killed by one of those guns. Fell manages to resolve the situation with minimal violence. I’ve read a lot of Warren Ellis comics lately, but Fell is among the most interesting of them. Fell is a compelling character, a Sherlock Holmes with a heart. Snowtown is so horrible it’s funny, but not too funny; as a reader, I laugh at it, but I realize it could actually exist.

THE PHANTOM #11 (Gold Key, 1965) – “Blind Man’s Bluff,” [W] Dick Wood or Bill Harris, [A] Bill Lignante. The GCD has two candidates for who wrote this story. This issue isn’t great, but it’s less bad than #60, reviewed above. It has a somewhat suspenseful plot in which the Phantom goes blind. Last night I was wondering why Phantom comics are so popular overseas, e.g. in Australia and India, while they’re completely unknown in America. The reason may be that American Phantom comics aren’t very good – the only truly excellent Phantom comics I’ve read are the ones drawn by Don Newton. The best Phantom stories were created in Sweden starting in the ’70s, but that was about the same time that the American Phantom series was cancelled, and most of the Swedish Phantom comics were never published in America. (Out of curiosity, I just ordered some Australian Phantom comics. Watch this space for reviews of them.)

SPIDER-WOMAN #13 (Marvel, 1979) – “Suddenly… the Shroud!”, [W] Mark Gruenwald, [A] Carmine Infantino. Jessica Drew moves into her friend Jerry’s apartment and tries to get a job through a temp agency – even though her only previous work experience is with a “nest of spies.” None of her temp placements work out, and she tries to improve her employability by visiting the “Hatros Institute for Emotional Research,” which is probably a reference to the Church of Scientology. Of course the Hatros Institute turns out to be an evil cult, and while investigating it, Jessica runs into the Shroud. This is a fairly enjoyable issue, though Infantino’s artwork is awful.

ADVENTURE COMICS #404 (DC, 1971) – “Super-Girl?”, [W/A] Mike Sekowsky. Supergirl has to fight Starfire’s gang (not Princess Koriand’r of course) even though she’s been losing and regaining her powers at random intervals. Mike Sekowsky was actually a good writer of female protagonists, both here and in Wonder Woman, and this issue is a fun read. I also like Supergirl’s costume from this period, with the skirt and the knee-length boots.

G.I. JOE #62 (Marvel, 1987) – “Transit,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] William Johnson & Arvell Jones. In Borovia, Stalker, Quick-Kick and Snow-Job are convicted of espionage in a show trial and are sent to a prison camp, with no rescue forthcoming. Meanwhile, Outback, the fourth member of their mission, returns to America and faces scorn from his fellow Joes, but Snake-Eyes and Scarlett seem to be organizing a covert rescue mission. I read the issue after this one as a kid, and I still remember its brutal depiction of a Communist prison. In both #62 and #63, Larry Hama powerfully depicts how when people are subjected to dehumanizing conditions, they respond by acting in inhuman ways. Stalker tries to get his fellow prisoners to behave better, and in explaining why, he delivers a stunning line of dialogue: “You know who gives quarters to the bums on the street? Poor people. They’re close enough to the edge to see the drop.” You wouldn’t expect this sort of insight from a comic based on a toy line.

MULTIVERSITY: ULTRA COMICS #1 (DC, 2015) – “Ultra Comics Lives!”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Doug Mahnke. I have very mixed feelings about Multiversity, but this issue is perhaps Grant’s best metatextual experiment since Animal Man. Indeed, the whole issue is an extrapolation from the classic “I can see you!” moment in Animal Man #19. Ultra Comics #1, the actual comic book, is a crucial part of Multiversity’s plot because it’s the vehicle through which the series’ extradimensional villains, the Gentry, are entering the DC multiverse. Accordingly, this issue begins with a warning telling the reader not to turn the page (like The Monster at the End of This Book). Also, it’s set on Earth-Prime, and it stars Earth-Prime’s only superhero, Ultra(a), who is literally made of paper and ink. The issue is full of fourth-wall-breaking moments like that. One moment that particularly appeals to me, given my interest in materiality, is when a man addresses the reader and says “You’re interacting with a real, physical object.” (But is this still true if you read Ultra Comics #1 digitally? See my discussion of Finder: Talisman in Between Pen and Pixel.)

SANDMAN #15 (DC, 1990) – “Into the Night,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. In the penultimate chapter of A Doll’s House, Rose Walker goes to sleep and causes her housemates’ dreams to blur together. The “vortex” sequence begins by depicting each dreamer’s dreams (Hal, Ken, Barbie, Chantal) with a unique style of art and lettering, and then as Rose creates the vortex, the dreams start to blur together and encroach on each other. I love the moment where Barbie and Martin Tenbones suddenly “hear” a caption box from Ken’s dream. Todd Klein deserves credit for this sequence because of his creation of all the different lettering styles. During this sequence, the reader sympathizes with Rose’s desire to merge everyone’s minds together – but we also realize that Morpheus really does have to kill her, because she’s destroying the privacy of people’s dreamworlds. Mike Dringenberg’s art throughout A Doll’s House was excellent, and I wonder why his career never went anywhere.

THE WOODS #2 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. An entire school is teleported to an alien planet (like in Kazuo Umezu’s Drifting Classroom), and the students and teachers have different plans on how to survive. James Tynion’s characterization in this issue is very effective, and Michael Dialynas draws some delightfully weird alien creatures and settings. I’m going to have to read more of this series, as well as Tynion’s other creator-owned works.

IRON MARSHAL #13 (Jademan, 1991) – untitled, [W] Henry Wright, [A] F.L. Khoo. The title character battles the Bloody Duke and some other villains. This issue has an execrably poor translation; the dialogue is so awkward and confusing that it’s very hard to tell what exactly is going on in the plot. At least the art is good.

DETECTIVE COMICS #582 (DC, 1988) – “Sole Survivor,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Norm Breyfogle. A Millennium crossover issue in which Commissioner Gordon tries to save his old navy buddies from being assassinated by Manhunters. Millennium was a terrible crossover event, and the best thing about this issue is Breyfogle’s art.

On May 22, I finally got a full DCBS shipment, i.e. one that included items from publishers other than DC. It was a small shipment consisting of just six comics and one graphic novel. The industry is not yet back to full production capacity yet, and will not be until September at least.

THE LUDOCRATS #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen & Jim Rossignol, [A] Jeff Stokely. This is by far the best comic book published since the pandemic began. The Ludocrats takes place in a world dominated by bizarre and ridiculous people/creatures, where the greatest sin is to be boring. The protagonist, Baron Otto von Subertan, meets Grattina Gavelstein, High Steam-Judge of New Prussia, at a wedding, and it’s love at first sight. But Gratty is immediately kidnapped by “mechanical boring people.” Ludocrats’s premise gives the creators carte blanche to draw the strangest and silliest things they can imagine, and they take full advantage of this opportunity. The high point of the issue is the wedding scene, where we see a person with a goldfish bowl for a head, a giant octopus holding a martini glass, etc. Casanova Quinn makes a cameo appearance in this issue, and his presence in this universe makes complete sense.

BIRTHRIGHT #43 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey explains to Rya why he worked with Lore, but we don’t get to hear what he says. Mikey and Rya share a tender moment, and then Mikey finally confronts Lore. Next issue is going to be an epic fight scene.

THE DOLLHOUSE FAMILY #6 (DC, 2020) – “Una,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. A talking cat tells Alice that the entire series’ plot was caused by a struggle between itself and the demon Cloax. Alice enters the dollhouse for the last time and uses the Bright Metal to defeat Cloax, allowing the cat to eat it like a mouse. As a reward, the cat fixes Alice’s personal timeline so that her parents both survive (sadly including her dad), she marries Jake, and Una is born with a silver hand. Which may be a reference to Nuada Airgetlam or Corum or both. This feels like a tacked-on happy ending, but other than that, I really enjoyed this series.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #10 (DC, 2020) – “Up to Old Tricks!” etc., [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. It finally becomes clear that Jimmy’s brother Julian is trying to kill Jimmy in order to steal the money in his personal trust. Also, there’s a funny quotation of the music video for Madonna’s “Material Girl,” with Jimmy as Madonna. As usual, lots of other stuff happens in this issue. This has been a fascinating series; however, its shtick is getting a bit tiresome, and I’m not sorry there are just two more issues.

PLUNGE #3 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Stuart Immonen. The crew of the sunken ship return as zombies, and they claim to have found the last digit of pi and solved the Riemann hypothesis and Crouzeix’s conjecture. Crouzeix’s conjecture is a real thing, but it’s very obscure. I wonder if Joe Hill meant Collatz’s conjecture, which is far better known. Anyway, I like how this issue uses math as a vehicle for horror.

GHOSTED IN L.A. #10 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Sina Grace. Daphne tries to come up with a solution to the evil ghost, and also sleeps with Zola, off-panel. Meanwhile, Daphne’s awful roommate sneaks into the ghost house. I’m glad this series is still being published in single-issue form, unlike some other Boom! comics. However, I don’t see issue 11 on Boom!’s current release schedule, and even more disturbingly, I don’t see Lumberjanes either. Ghosted in LA #11 and Lumberjanes #73 and #74 were both supposed to come out next week, according to https://bleedingcool.com/comics/boom-studios-latest-may-june-2020-schedules-triple-lumberjanes/, but neither of them is listed at comiclist.com. Now I’m worried.

HITMAN #28 (DC, 1998) – “Door into the Dark,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John McCrea. Tommy has a nightmare, argues with his girlfriend, and then goes to the bar, where he listens to a bad “Irish” musician. I hate this series, and this issue does nothing to change my opinion of it. Hitman #28 is crude and vulgar, and its main character is an unsympathetic jerk. I do want to read more Hitman now that I’ve read some 2000 AD (see below), just to see if my opinion changes.

INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #18 (Marvel, 2014) – “Humanity Bomb Part Two,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Jheremy Rapack & Miguel Sepulveda. A very average Hulk comic. Indestructible Hulk was  fine when it came out, I guess, but it’s not comparable to Immortal Hulk.

THE MULTIVERSITY: SOCIETY OF SUPER-HEROES #1 (DC, 2014) – “Conquerors from the Counter-World,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Chris Sprouse. Two parallel worlds are involved in a proxy war between The Immortal Man and Vandal Savage. This was another very difficult issue, and even after reading it, I’m not quite sure what it was about.

BATMAN #701 (DC, 2010) – “R.I.P. The Missing Chapter, Part One: The Hole in Things,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Tony Daniel. I guess this storyline was intended to fill the gap between Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis. I’m not familiar with either of those stories, so I found this issue difficult to understand, and I don’t get what its point was.

DC COMICS PRESENTS #51 (DC, 1982) – “Rendezvous with Death,” [W] Dan Mishkin, [A] Alex Saviuk. Superman and the Atom use the Time Pool to go back in time to figure out what happened to his ancestor, Var-El. The issue ends with Var-El remaining on Earth in the 20th century, but I don’t think he ever appeared again. Overall this is a forgettable story. This issue is interrupted halfway through by a Masters of the Universe preview comic, the same one that appeared in Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 2 #293.

THE LONE RANGER #96 (Dell, 1956) – “Gunshy” and “Revenge,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Tom Gill. Two ten-page stories, one about a sheriff who suffers from cowardice, another about a rancher who tries to get revenge on cattle rustlers, but targets the wrong people. Paul S. Newman’s scripts for these stories are adequate, but Tom Gill’s art is impressive. He draws with a ton of detail and dynamism, and he makes potentially boring material exciting. Tom Gill had an extremely long run on this series. He attended at least one Comic-Con that I went to, but at the time I wasn’t familiar with his work. The main problem with this issue is the racist portrayal of Tonto. However, the real gem of the issue is the backup story, a chapter of Gaylord DuBois and Rex Maxon’s Young Hawk. This series stars two Mandan Indian brothers, possible prototypes for Turok and Andar, in what seems to be precolonial America. In this issue’s installment, Young Hawk and Little Buck meet some Iroquois people and teach them canoe sailing. This story shows awareness that precolonial Native Americans were not a single monolithic bloc. The Mandan and Iroquois people in the story look and dress differently and have different customs and technology. Young Hawk is included on Paul Gravett’s “1001 comics you must read” list, and I want to look for more of it.

BATMAN #28 (DC, 2017) – “The War of Jokes and Riddles Part 3,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janin. Batman dresses up as Commissioner Gordon, and each of them infiltrates one of the warring villain camps. Batman sleeps with Catwoman. Deadshot and Deathstroke fight each other. This issue has some excellent art, but feels kind of muddled. It has too many giant epic splash pages for its own good. Also, I strongly doubt either that Deathstroke could compete with Deadshot in marksmanship, or that Deadshot could challenge Deathstroke in a hand-to-hand fight. These two villains are not mirror images of each other.

BATMAN #335 (DC, 1981) – “The Lazarus Affair Chapter Four: Ashes to Ashes!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Irv Novick. I can’t believe I haven’t already read this, because it’s the conclusion to “The Lazarus Affair,” perhaps the best Batman story arc of the early ‘80s. At this point, Ra’s al Ghul has kidnapped Batman and friends and brought them to an island with a Lazarus Pit. Ra’s offers Batman immortality, but Batman of course refuses. This results in an epic battle that finally ends when Ra’s falls into the Lazarus Pit and blows it up. A subplot involves Batman’s tense relations with Robin after Robin left college. As a conclusion to Batman and Ra’s al Ghul’s rivalry, this issue works far better than “Requiem for a Martyr” in Detective Comics #490, and it’s a thrilling read.

NEW YORK: YEAR ZERO #4 (Eclipse, 1988) – untitled, [W] Ricardo Barreiro, [A] Juan Zanotto. This is a reprint of an Argentine comic, which seems to be set in a postapocalyptic New York. Zanotto’s artwork in this issue is amazing. He does a great job of spotting blacks, and his machinery and costumes look highly realistic. The masked battle suits that appear in nearly every panel are a striking visual image. Zanotto’s only weakness as an artist is his indistinct facial expressions. The main problem with this comic is Barreiro’s script, which is wooden and devoid of characterization. However, I still want to track down the other three issues of this miniseries.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #5 (Marvel, 2013) – “Emotional Triggers,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Massacre holds everyone in Grand Central Station hostage (this reminds me of a certain mission in the PS4 Spider-Man game), but Spidey/Doc Ock defeats him. Faced with the real possibility of death, Massacre suddenly becomes repentant, but Spidey executes him anyway. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Also, this issue is the first appearance of Anna Maria Marconi, perhaps Slott’s best new supporting character.

COGNETIC #1 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Eryk Donovan. Cognetic is the second in a trilogy of three miniseries, preceded by Memetic and followed by Eugenic. In Memetic, the Empire State Building is taken over by what seems to be a living meme; people possessed by it speak in blue text, and anyone who hears them starts to speak in blue text too. The issue’s other plot thread is about a young woman with red hair, and at the end of the issue, she goes to the Empire State Building and says “It’s been a long time, brother” in red text. This is an intriguing setup.

HILLBILLY #9 (Albatross, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. Rondel battles Tailypo, Hansel and Gretel, but is rescued by James Stoneturner. In a flashback we see James’s origin story, which is mildly Afrofuturist. This was a pretty average issue.

GASP! #3 (ACG, 1967) – “Sorry, You’ve Got the Wrong Ghosts!”, [W] Richard Hughes (as Adam Barr), [A] Sal Trapani. Gasp! was ACG’s last new series. The first story in Gasp! #3 is about two soldiers, one from the Civil War and one from World War II, both of whom died after betraying their comrades. Many years later, their ghosts petition the afterlife for a chance at redemption, and each of them is sent back in time to the other one’s era. In their new time periods, the soldiers sacrifice their lives heroically and are sent to heaven. This story is compelling and also very funny; there’s a scene where an “appeals agent”, with a suit and briefcase, descends from heaven to rule on the soldiers’ case. Richard Hughes was an excellent writer and would be a good candidate for a posthumous Bill Finger Award. The backup story, written by Lorna Cass, is really dumb. It appears to be her only comics credit, and no wonder.

GREEN LANTERN #110 (DC, 1978) – “Brand of Power,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Mike Grell. The high point of this issue comes on page two, when Dinah tells off Ollie for badmouthing Carol Ferris. The rest of the issue is disappointing. Hal and Ollie somehow find themselves in a Wild West town, except the local bad guy is a four-armed alien. There’s also a boring Alan Scott backup story by Cary Burkett and Juan Ortiz.

SON OF VULCAN #49 (Charlton, 1965) – “The Diamond Dancers,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Bill Fraccio. An awful comic. Son of Vulcan is an obvious rip-off of Thor, but Gill and Fraccio are no Lee and Kirby. Besides having bad writing and art, this issue also includes some stereotypical depictions of Chinese people. This issue’s cover says “Special thanks to Dave Cockrum for costume ideas.” At this time Cockrum was not yet a professional, so Son of Vulcan #49 was probably the first comic book whose cover had his name on it.

ACTION COMICS #359 (DC, 1968) – “The Case of the People Against Superman!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Curt Swan. This issue has a classic Neal Adams cover, in which Superman is sitting on the witness stand in court, and a little girl is accusing him of killing her father. That moment only occupies one panel in the actual issue, and of course we learn that the mob killed the girl’s father and framed Superman for it. The trial depicted in this issue is implausible; the prosecution introduces a lot of irrelevant evidence, and the defense commits shenanigans that should have led to a mistrial. In the backup story, Supergirl stops a Stanhope College fraternity from hazing new members. This was Kurt Schaffenberger’s first story as the regular Supergirl artist.

DETECTIVE COMICS #768 (DC, 2002) – “Purity,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Steve Lieber. Batman tries to track down the source of a lethal batch of heroin. The climactic scene in this issue takes place in a Chinese garden in the middle of downtown Gotham. Steve Lieber lives in Portland, so I wonder if this garden is based on the Lan Su Chinese Garden in that city. This issue includes a Josie Mac backup story by Judd Winick and Cliff Chiang.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #325 (Marvel, 1989) – “Finale in Red!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Todd McFarlane. In the finale of “The Assassin Nation Plot,” Spidey battles the Red Skull and a bunch of terrorists in the National Archives. Drawing Spider-Man is just about the only thing Todd McFarlane is good at, but he’s very good at it. Reading this issue, I realized that Todd’s characteristic vertical page layouts are probably inspired by Cerebus.

GROO #1 (Image, 1994) – “The Promised Land,” [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. This is the first issue after Sergio and Mark left Marvel, and on page one, Groo gestures to this by thinking “Everything looks so different here… the marvels of the world are but images before me” (emphasis added). In this issue Groo meets some refugees and finds a ship to take them to a new homeland across the sea. Somehow he succeeds in this even though the ship he hires is captained by Ahax. At the end, Groo discovers that there are already people living in the refugeees’ new land, and they’re happy to share what they have: “There will always be enough, so long as we respect one another’s rights and culture.” Uh-oh. As usual this issue is full of funny moments; for example, on the way to the promised land, the ship disembarks in another country that turns out to be full of giant monsters.

SHOWCASE #83 (DC, 1969) – “Sing a Song of Sorcery!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Bernie Wrightson. This is the second of three issues starring Nightmaster. In terms of its plot, Showcase #83 is a mildly parodic sword-and-sorcery story. It’s reminiscent of Wally Wood’s fantasy works, but it’s not as well written. However, this issue is a hidden gem because of who drew it. Nightmaster was one of Bernie’s earliest professional works, but he was already an amazing artist by 1969. His draftsmanship is stunning, and his visual storytelling is almost equally so. I need to get Showcase #84, and I should also look for more of Wrightson’s early works.

In late May I discovered the website atomicavenue.com, and I found a seller on that website who was selling a lot of cheap British comics. I ordered a bunch of stuff from him, including a lot of 2000 ADs and an assortment of other things. I haven’t read a lot of British comics, so I was very excited to receive this order. It included the following comics:

2000 AD #665 (Fleetway, 1990) – “Chopper: Song of the Surfer Part 12,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Colin MacNeil, etc. Of the British comics I received in the aforementioned shipment, 2000 AD is easily my favorite. I really like its format. Each issue consists of five or six stories of about six pages each, so the reader gets a substantial chunk of a number of different stories, representing different subgenres and art styles. Most of the artists take effective advantage of the tabloid-size pages. 2000 AD also has a unique aesthetic that combines brutal violence and black humor. This issue begins with the conclusion of Wagner and MacNeil’s “Chopper: Song of the Surfer,” about a surfer who’s the last survivor of a bloody competition, and dies as he crosses the finish line. The silent page where the protagonist dies is very powerful. Next is Peter Milligan and James McCarthy’s “Bix Barton,” starring an upper-class detective who makes constant references to rugby. Also, he meets a member of the Ugly People’s Liberation Army, whose honorary president is Cecil Parkinson. If you Google Cecil Parkinson, you’ll see why. This issue’s Judge Dredd chapter is by Wagnre and “the Simpsons” and is a prelude to the epic Necropolis story arc. The other stories are “Beyond Zero” and “Zippy Couriers,” the latter of which has some impressive color art by John Higgins.

TAMMY #409 (IPC, 1978) – “Bella tackles the snake,” [W] unknown, [A] John Armstrong, etc. So far, this is the best British comic book I’ve read that wasn’t 2000 AD. Tammy is an example of British girls’ comics, a massive body of work that has gotten very little critical attention. This issue begins with a chapter of John Armstrong’s gymnastics strip Bella at the Bar, another comic that’s on Gravett’s “1001 comics” list. Armstrong’s female anatomy is amazing, and his linework really reminds me of Alan Davis’s. I even wonder if he was an influence on Davis. This particular Bella story guest-stars an Australian Aboriginal girl who is depicted in a relatively non-stereotypical way. In San Diego I bought the collected edition of Bella at the Bar that Rebellion recently published, but I haven’t read it yet. This issue also includes stories about dancing, theater, dogs, Gothic romance, etc. Tammy is not notably progressive or feminist, but it also doesn’t condescend to its readers; it feels like an intelligent piece of girls’ entertainment. I wish there was an easy way I could get more comics like this, although I could read them online if I wanted.

THE HOTSPUR #997 (D.C. Thomson, 1978) – “The Red Sands of Roga,” [W] and [A] unknown, etc. Not nearly as impressive as 2000 AD. This issue includes various sports and adventure stories, all of them uncredited and with fairly generic art and writing. The best is probably V for Vengeance, in which “Jack One, Leader of the Deathless Men” infiltrates a Nazi forced labor camp. This story focuses on a Czech prisoner who sacrifices his life after witnessing the death of a fellow Czech. A low point in the issue is the story immediately following this one: “The Coonskin Grenadier,” in which a British regiment gets a new recruit who’s a stereotypical American hillbilly.

2000 AD #682 (Fleetway, 1990) – “Necropolis Part 9,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra, etc. This prog’s Judge Dredd story is obviously epic in scope, but makes little sense on its own. The highlight of the issue is “Indigo Prime’s Fegredo and Brecht” by John Smith and Chris Weston. This is a self-contained story (divided into two parts, both in this prog), but it’s part of a larger continuity. It’s about two agents who discover a community of aliens that worship the ’70s. I already praised John Smith’s writing in my review of Scarab #1, and Chris Weston is the most impressive artist in all the 2000 ADs that I’ve read lately. His work is amazingly intricate and imaginative. The highlight of “Fegredo and Brecht” is a 3/4-page splash depicting a giant statue of Starsky and Hutch. Chris Weston achieved some success in America thanks to The Filth, but he should have been an even bigger star. The other notable story in this issue is Alan McKenzie and Simon Harrison’s “Bradley Goes Mental,” which has very vivid painted art that reminds me of both Brendan McCarthy and Ralph Steadman.

THE BEANO #1561 (D.C. Thomson, 1972) – numerous uncredited stories. My British comics order included several issues of The Beano and The Dandy. These comics are national institutions in Britain, probably even more so than 2000 AD. However, so far I don’t enjoy them nearly as much as 2000 AD. The Beano #1561 consists of a bunch of one- and two-page strips, most of them about kids engaging in shenanigans. Some of these strips were created by famous artists, like Ken Reid and Leo Baxendale. But by 1972 those artists were long gone, and the general level of artwork in this issue is rather low. And the humor is aimed at young kids and has little appeal to adults. One thing I do like about this comic is the occasional breaking of the fourth wall; for example, when there’s a narratively important detail in a panel, there will be an arrow and caption pointing to it. The Beano #1561 also includes one adventure strip, “Billy the Cat and Katie,” but it clashes with the overall aesthetic of the comic, and it was dropped two years later.

THE DANDY #2021 (D.C. Thomson, 1980) – numerous uncredited stories. I can’t tell the difference between The Dandy and The Beano, although Nick Richardson claims that The Dandy is more focused on Scottish and northern English humor (https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2013/january/izzy-skint). The Dandy’s flagship character seems to be Desperate Dan, a super-strong cowboy who loves cow pies – which to an American reader sounds very disturbing, but in this context a cow pie is a meat pie with cow  horns sticking out. Desperate Dan was created by the great cartoonist Dudley D. Watkins, but he died in 1969, and as with The Beano #1561, none of the artwork in The Dandy #2021 is particularly distinctive. A lot of the humor in The Dandy focuses on  food. Lew Stringer has argued that the central importance of food in British comics is related to Britain’s history of rationing and poverty.

Before I finished writing the following review, I saw the bombshell news about DC abandoning Diamond. I think I’ve gotten over my initial panic at this news, but I’m still nervous as to what might come of this development. By the way, fuck DC. The long-term effects of their action could be positive, but in the short term, the already suffering direct market will suffer even more.

2000 AD #679 (Fleetway, 1990) – “Necropolis” part 6, [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. I still don’t quite understand Necropolis. Overall this prog is less memorable than the last two I read. The highlight of the prog is Hilary Robinson and Ron Smith’s “Chronos Carnival,” more for the art than the writing. Ron Smith’s art is highly detailed and shows great visual imagination. Ron Smith is not well known to American readers who aren’t Dredd fans, but he had a fifty-year career and was the most prolific Dredd artist of his time. This issue also includes a Peter Milligan story, “Shadows,” but it’s part eight, and doesn’t make sense on its own.

TRINITY #6 (DC, 2008) – “Truth, Justice & the American Way,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. It feels very strange to read a standard-sized American comic book after reading 2000 AD. Regular American comics are so much smaller. About half this issue is a discussion between Clark, Diana and Bruce about their relative similarities and differences. This sequence shows Kurt’s keen insight into all three characters. The rest of the issue is a team-up between Hawkman and Gangbuster.

THE EXTREMIST #3 (DC, 1993) – “July, Nineteen Ninety-Three,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Ted McKeever. A woman discovers that her late husband was an assassin belonging to some sort of evil BDSM conspiracy. She puts on his gimp suit (a term I know because of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) and tries to hunt down her husband’s killers. This is an excellent issue; it’s full of bizarre sex stuff, but Milligan also convincingly portrays Judy’s horror at learning who her husband was, and her growing curiosity about his secret life. Ted McKeever’s expressionistic style of art is unique and fascinating, if not conventionally beautiful. I want to complete my run of this miniseries.

THE WILD STORM #3 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. This issue focuses on Angela Spica, aka the Engineer from The Authority. She’s in hiding from some kind of secret organization, but three members of the WildCATs – Void, Grifter and Savant – show up to look for her. This issue was confusing, though it made more sense when I figured out who the characters were (and I had to look up Savant just now). This issue includes some in-jokes about DCU characters like Martian Manhunter and Crime Doctor.

COR!! #115 (IPC, 1972) – “Gus Gorilla” and other stories, [W/A] unknown. This is another humor comic, but it’s even less memorable than the issues of The Dandy and The Beano reviewed above. It does include some stories with better than usual art, including “Jasper the Grasper” and “Hire a Horror.” The former was created by Ken Reid, but the installment in this issue is by Trevor Metcalfe. The latter seems to have been drawn by former DC Thomson artist Robert Nixon. One annoying thing about these old British comics is that there are no credits – apparently this was on purpose, so the artists wouldn’t demand a better deal – and so it’s hard to become familiar with individual artists. The one strip in Cor!! #115 that does stand out is Rat-Trap, which is silly, but is drawn in an adventure-comic style. It says at  http://kazoop.blogspot.com/2012/07/look-at-cor-strips-rat-trap.html that the artist of this comic was Giorgio Giorgetti, who, according to Lambiek, was from Italy but spent his entire career working for British comics.

2000 AD #708 (Fleetway, 1990) – “Wot I Did During Necropolis Part Two,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Anthony Williams, etc. In this prog’s Dredd story, an overgrown child murders his parents and then murders another boy using poisoned pants. Typical 2000 AD humor. The next story is “Time Flies” by two familiar creators, Garth Ennis and Philip Bond. This story doesn’t make much logical sense, but it has beautiful art and funny writing – it takes place on the planet Meetne 2vej in the Kolest’rol system. To my surprise, the third story, “Junker,” is by American writer Michael Fleisher. According to my Facebook friends, he was working for 2000 AD at the time because no one else would hire him, and his stories were not well liked, although I can’t see any major difference in quality between his work and that of other 2000 AD writers. The next story, “Silo,” is by Mark Millar and Dave D’Antiquis and is drawn entirely in black and white, with no variations in tone. I’ve never heard of this artist before, but he’s interesting. Last, there’s a Psi-Judge Anderson story by Alan Grant and Arthur Ranson. This story begins with an impressive depiction of a Tibetan or Bhutanese temple.

DEADLINE #26 (Deadline, 1991) – various stories, [E] Si Spencer. This magazine was one of the major venues of British underground comics, along with Escape, for which see below. Deadline included music reviews and articles as well as comics, and it had a significant impact on U.S. culture because it introduced Tank Girl. This issue begins with a short story by Philip Bond, then the next story is “Fireball,” with utterly amazing art by Deadline’s other primary artist, Jamie Hewlett. “Fireball” has a totally incoherent plot, but Hewlett’s full-page depictions of cars and women’s faces are breathtaking. I’d love to read more of Hewlett’s work, but Tank Girl is difficult to find in any format. BTW, I didn’t realize until now that Hewlett was a major influence on Evan Dorkin. Other stories in this issue are by Carol Swain, Shaky Kane, William Potter, Glenn Dakin, and Glyn Dillon. The latter artist’s story is the most impressive; it includes some impressive collage art. Overall this was an entertaining read, though I could have done without the music articles, and I hope I can find more issues of Deadline.

SPARKY #414 (DC Thomson, 1972) – “Barney Bulldog” and other humor comics, [W/A] unknown. Another unimpressive humor comic. A few of the stories are drawn in a realistic style, but all of them are humorous. A problem with this and other British kids’ comics is the lack of continuity. Each issue is just a series of one- or two-page gag strips. The status quo in each strip never changes. Reading one of these comics is probably like reading an old newspaper Sunday comics section, from back when Sunday strips were a full page, except that American Sunday comics had more variation in style and subject matter.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #28 (Marvel, 2014) – “Goblin Nation Part 2,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Superior Spidey battles the Green Goblin and a bunch of his goblin minions, while Peter has trouble untangling his memories from those of Otto Octavius. The best moments in this issue are the pair of two-page sequences in which Peter relives Otto’s memories, including his history of being abused as a child.

AXEL PRESSBUTTON #3 (Eclipse, 1985) – multiple stories, [W] Steve Moore, [A] Steve Dillon. A series of reprinted Laser Eraser and Pressbutton stories from Warrior. This issue’s plot is complicated and I don’t recall much about it, but the two title characters are entertaining foils for each other. There are two backup stories: one by Steve Moore and Cam Kennedy, which includes a same-sex kiss, and another by Steve Parkhouse and John Ridgway.

NUTTY #215 (DC Thomson, 1984) – “Bananaman,” [W] Steve Bright, [A] John Geering, etc. Bananaman is a superhero parody strip that presupposes an audience familiar with American superheroes. The installment in this issue isn’t especially funny to me, but it was Nutty’s biggest hit and became one of The Dandy’s primary strips, according to Wikipedia. The other strips in this issue are all standard Dandy/Beano material, though the “Eddie the Gent” strip has an unusual half-page panel. Most of the other strips in this and similar comics seem to use a strict three- or four-tier page layout.

2000 AD #716 (Fleetway, 1990) – “First Offence: A Death Aid Interlude,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Steve Yeowell. The Dredd strip in this issue is a one-shot in which a man steals a wallet from a corpse, and Dredd of course brings him to “justice.” Short stories like this are an effective way to demonstrate who Dredd is. Next is a “Tharg’s Future Shock” by David Anderson and Ron Smith, about a man who steals talents from others. Ron Smith also draws this issue’s Rogue Trooper story, written by Fleisher. Next is a Psi-Judge Anderson story by Alan Grant and David Roach. I know David Roach from Facebook but have never seen his art, which is intriguing. The issue ends with another installment of Junker, by Fleisher and John Ridgway.

THE FILTH #7 (Vertigo, 2003) – “Zero Democracy,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Chris Weston. This issue is about a revolt on a gigantic floating city called Libertania. I didn’t understand this issue and couldn’t see how it connected to #6, and Chris Weston’s art here is not as exciting as in 2000 AD. It just looks like normal artwork, although his two-page splash depicting the gigantic ship is pretty impressive. Perhaps Weston’s style didn’t adapt well to color or to the smaller U.S. page size.

ZENITH #2/1 (Fleetway/Quality, 1993) – “Phase II/Prologue: Down Under” etc., [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. This issue’s prologue takes place in a parallel universe and depicts a fight between two dinosaurs. Then we cut to Zenith as his apartment is attacked by a giant robot, and then a woman named Phaedra Cale tells him that she can help him find his parents. A funny moment in this issue is when a man is called an “old Scotch fairy” and replies “It’s Scots, if you don’t mind. Scotch is a drink!”

OUR LOVE IS REAL (Image, 2011) – “Our Love is Real,” [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Steven Sanders. Wikipedia claims that this issue is a prequel to Higher Earth, but I don’t see how. Our Love is Real is about a “zoosexual” policeman, i.e. he does what Dori Seda claimed she didn’t do. He hunts “vegisexuals” and “mineralsexuals.” Eventually a mineralsexual turns him into a crystal, and they have amazing sex. No one in this world seems to even realize that it’s possible to have sex with other humans. Our Love is Real is a one-joke comic, but it’s a very funny joke, and since it’s just a one-shot, the joke doesn’t have time to get old.

The following comics were part of a second order from Atomic Avenue:

THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE #1 (Epic, 1993) – various stories, [W/A] Moebius. This is one of Moebius’s greatest works, and sadly, this four-issue comic-book-format reprint is the easiest way to get it in English. Dark Horse has the license to publish Moebius in English, but they’ve been publishing Moebius books that nobody wants – like The Art of Edena and a book of interviews – and his major works like Arzach and The Airtight Garage are nowhere to be seen. I almost suspect that they’re holding the best Moebius comics hostage until more people buy the bad ones. Or maybe Dark Horse is bowing to the will of his estate. Anyway, The Airtight Garage does have a plot, but it’s deliberately overcomplicated and not all that important. What makes it an essential comic is Moebius’s art. His visual imagination is the equal of Kirby’s, and he can draw scenes that combine the fantastic with the mundane, and that feel slick and futuristic but also dirty. His visual language is unique to him, and it inspired hundreds of other artists. It’s a shame that his work is still so hard to find in English.

ALL-NEW COLLECTOR’S EDITION #C-55 (DC, 1978) – “The Millennium Massacre,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Mike Grell. This was an incredible find at just $3. It’s the most obscure of Paul Levitz’s Legion comics, thanks to its inconvenient size – it’s one of the largest comics in my entire collection. In “The Millennium Massacre,” Superboy travels to the 30th century to attend Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl’s wedding, only to discover that the peaceful 30th century he knows is gone, and has been replaced by one where all the planets are at war. We eventually learn that the Time Trapper is responsible, although this version of the Trapper is a Controller from Malthus. (The Time Trapper probably holds the record for having had the most major retcons of any Marvel or DC character, except maybe Donna Troy.) Levitz’s characterization is not as great as it would become in the ‘80s, but he gives each Legionnaire a chance to shine, and there are some nice character moments. For example, there’s a panel in this issue where Shadow Lass kisses Superboy on the cheek, and this issue is probably the first time that Light Lass and Star Boy both used their powers on the same thing. Mike Grell makes effective use of the giant-size treasury format, though unfortunately he’s inked by the inker-who-must-not-be-named. Overall, this comic is a gem, and I’m proud that it’s in my collection.

LASSIE #30 (Dell, 1954) – “The Jungle Princess” and other stories [W] unknown, [A] John Lehti. The first story takes place in the Brazilian Amazon, and the “princess” is a jaguar. In the backup story, Lassie’s owners travel from Brazil to New York, but some criminals hide stolen emerals in Lassie’s collar. In the third story, Lassie carries some drugs to a sick patient, like Balto. These stories aren’t spectacular, but they’re entertaining. John Lehti’s artwork is generic but serviceable. The back cover is the last page of the third story.

FOUR COLOR #1256 (Dell, 1962) – “Kona,” [W] Don Segall or Lionel Ziprin, [A] Sam Glanzman. This is the only issue of Four Color in my collection so far. Four Color was probably the highest-numbered American comic book ever, though it wasn’t really a coherent series but rather a sequence of one-shots that introduced new characters and titles, like DC’s Showcase. Four Color #1256 introduces Kona, one of Dell’s most famous and bizarre original characters, and it also counts as issue 1 of Kona’s own series. Kona’s first appearance is somewhat less weird than later ones, but it does include some of the histrionic captions that the series is famous for. Don Segall is usually credited with writing Kona, but Lionel Ziprin, better known as a beat poet and rabbi, also claimed that he wrote it; however, his claim sounds too good to be true.

FORBIDDEN TALES OF DARK MANSION #7 (DC, 1972) – “Eye of the Beholder,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Howard Chaykin, etc. This title started out as Dark Mansion of Secret Love, but unfortunately the gothic romance format was dropped after issue 4, and it became just another horror series. The main appeal of this issue is that its cover and splash page are by Mike Kaluta. The first story is not bad; it’s about a romance between a man and a woman whose sister is a giant spider. It ends with a “lady or the tiger” decision, or rather “lady of the spider.” The other two stories are drawn by Win Mortimer and Bill Draut and are not very interesting. The third story has a plot that revolves around a nobleman’s droit du segnieur, though of course we are not told what exactly this right allows the nobleman to do.

RAGMAN #3 (DC, 1977) – “See No Evil,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Joe Kubert & Redondo Studio. Ragman meets a blind, mute black orphan boy – wow, talk about starting life on the highest difficulty setting! – who has witnessed a murder. All the boy knows is that the murderer has a habit of snapping his fingers. During a Chinese New Year festival, the boy encounters the murderer again, and the boy’s pet cat saves him. Ragman is one of Kanigher’s greatest works; its depiction of urban life is grim and depressing, but also deeply compassionate. Also, Ragman’s costume is amazing. It’s too bad his first series only lasted five issues. This issue’s letters page states that Rory Regan is Irish, not Jewish as he was later retconned to be.

G.I. JOE #40 (Marvel, 1985) – “Hydrofoil,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Rod Whigham. The G.I. Joes fight a sea battle with Cobra, but it’s actually a ruse to get the Joes to blow up an underwater tectonic fault. There’s also a subplot about Candy Appel. A weird thing about G.I. Joe is that none of the characters’ real names are ever used, probably because there are so many of them that it’s hard to remember more than one name apiece. Also, while some of the characters are generic soldiers, others are specialists who have only one job and are the only person who can do that job. If a fire needs to be put out, only Barbecue can do it. If a phone call has to be traced, only Dial-Tone can do that.

THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE #2 (Marvel, 1993) – as above. Not much to say here that I didn’t say in my review of issue 1. The Airtight Garage was initially published as a series of two- to four-page installments in Métal Hurlant. Each installment begins with a title page, some of which have unique logo designs, like Will Eisner’s Spirit stories did.

ARCHIE’S MADHOUSE #56 (Archie, 1967) – “Captain Sprocket in The Shape Scrape,” [W] unknown, [A] Joe Edwards, plus other stories. This series had an unusual number of title and format changes. As of 1967 it seems to have been a sort of Mad imitation, like Marvel’s Spoof. Most of the stories in this issue are superhero parodies, probably inspired by contemporary Marvel and DC comics. One story is a science fiction parody and is drawn by Chic Stone, who worked for a lot of companies in the ’60s, most notably Marvel. None of the writing in this issue is all that funny.

TREASURE CHEST #18.2 (Geo. A. Pflaum, 1962) – “Fearless Ferdy,” [W] Frank Moss, [A] Frank Borth, etc. This issue includes two stories by Dick Giordano, one about colonial Canada and the other about the 1914 Boston Braves. The next story is an informational feature on the Battle of Lepanto, and it actually taught me something I didn’t know: in a trireme, each rower pulled his oar by climbing some steps and then falling back on his bench. Not surprisingly given Treasure Chest’s Catholic perspective, this feature is a piece of propaganda; it ends by saying that just as Christians in 1571 prayed for a victory over “Mohammedism,” they should pray for a victory over Communism today. The highlight of this issue is Fran Matera’s adventure strip Chuck White and His Friends. Matera draws in a similar style to Milton Caniff, and was one of Caniff’s successors on Dickie Dare.

New DCBS shipment received on May 27:

FARMHAND #15 (Image, 2020) – “The Knowledge of Good and Evil,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. Rob Guillory suggested on social media that this issue would contain an Easter egg for readers who have followed the series closely, but I’m not sure what he meant. Unless he meant that this issue explains how Ezekiel’s mother, Anna, died. She was shot by Monica Thorne, and then Jedediah tried to heal her with his seed, but instead it gave her cancer. At the end of the issue, Monica raises an army of zombies, and Ezekiel is tempted to join her in order to bring his mother back. That’s the end of the third volume.

EXORSISTERS #6 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. I doubted this series would ever return, and I’m glad I was wrong. Because it’s been over two years since issue 5, I can’t quite remember what happened in that issue, but Exorsisters #6 is a lot of fun anyway. Because of my enjoyment of this series I ordered Gisèle Lagacé’s new book, Sticky Dilly Buns, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.

BASKETFUL OF HEADS #7 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Leomacs. June uses the axe to save herself from drowning, them rescues Liam. But she discovers that Liam was complicit in Emily Dunn’s death, and inevitably, she cuts his head off too. It’s rather surprising that June does this, and it only makes sense because she’s already beheaded so many other people. She’s picked up by the Clausens’ housekeeper, who turns out to have been gathering evidence on the corrupt police chief for the FBI, and the series ends happily. This miniseries was lots of fun and was easily Joe Hill’s best non-Locke & Key comic.

ALIENATED #3 (Boom!, 2020) – “Things to Do, People to See,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Chris Wildgoose. It’s Samantha’s turn to experiment with the psychic alien. She uses it to relive her traumatic experience of being impregnated and abandoned by a boy named Craig, and then giving their baby up for adoption. Craig is an awful little shit, but by the end of the issue, we do feel that the baby is better off with its adoptive parents. Meanwhile, the alien becomes a sort of surrogate child to Samantha, replacing her actual child. This continues to be a brilliant series, probably Spurrier’s best yet.

AQUAMAN #59 (DC, 2020) – “Echoes of a Life Lived Well Part 2,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. Aquaman invades Atlantis to look for baby Andy, but Orm convinces Aquaman that he didn’t kidnap Andy, even though Orm does seem to be guilty of something or other. Meanwhile, Aqualad goes looking for his father Black Manta. The best moment of the issue is when Jackson’s mother says that she’s “a black woman in Maine! Maine!” and that she stayed there for her son.

OUTER DARKNESS/CHEW #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan with Rob Guillory. This issue starts with a holodeck – excuse me, holosseum – sequence in which a Jane Austen story is interrupted by aliens and lizards. Then Tony and Colby discover that they themselves are holosseum characters, and they have a funny fourth-wall-breaking conversation about Layman and Guillory’s faults as creators. Also, it seems that they’re both going to suffer a premature and gruesome death (though we already saw that happen in Manhattan Projects #17). Tony negotiates with the alien ambassador and discovers that there’s nothing to negotiate – the interests of the aliens and the humans are identical. That’s a bad thing for Tony and Colby, because they’re both going to disappear as soon as the negotiations end. So Colby summons a bunch of other Chew characters to help out, including Poyo, who’s been possessed by a demon. The splash page depicting the Chew characters seems to be the only part of the issue that’s drawn by Guillory. This miniseries is very fun and is a great gift to readers of either Chew or Outer Darkness.

BLACKWOOD: THE MOURNING AFTER #3 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. The kids try to revive their dead classmate Dennis. Dean Ogden’s funeral is held, and promptly descends into chaos. Dean Ogden’s two-headed monkey tries to escape from captivity. This was an exciting and funny issue, but nothing about it stood out as much as the cats in issue 2.

THE LOW, LOW WOODS #5 (DC, 2020) – “The Witch’s Tale,” [W] Carmen Maria Machado, [A] Dani. Finally we get an explanation of what the hell’s been going on. The witch explains how the local insane asylum employees were using Lethe water to rape women and make them forget about it. When the witch’s mentor, Circe, discovered this, the men killed her. In response, the witch cast a spell to send all the guilty men beneath the earth, but the spell backfired. And now it seems that a younger generation of boys are planning to abuse the Lethe water in the same way. With these revelations, we realize that The Low, Low Woods is a powerful story about unresolvable trauma.

2000 AD #719 (Fleetway, 1991) – “Death Aid Part 6,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Carlos Ezquerra, etc. This issue has a spectacular cover by Zac Sandler, depicting 150 different characters from 2000 AD’s first 14 years. I’ve never heard of Sandler before. This prog’s Dredd story is about a club of assassins. Next is “Brigand Doom” by McKenzie and D’Antiquis, drawn in the same duotone style as D’Antiquis’s story in prog #708. After a Rogue Trooper story by Fleisher and Ron Smith, there’s an anniversary story, “Galactic Greetings,” starring 2000 AD’s mascot, Tharg the Mighty. This story is drawn by industry veteran Eric Bradbury, but the writing is credited to T.M.O., i.e. the Mighty One or Tharg himself, and I don’t know who really wrote it. In this story some aliens send Tharg a mysterious package that turns out to be a birthday cake. The last story is “Danzig’s Inferno” by John Smith and Sean Phillips, who is older than I realized: he was already ten years into his career at this point. “Danzig’s Inferno” is bizarre and fascinating; its plot involves Situationism and spontaneously generating sheep.

KING OF NOWHERE #2 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Denis dreams he’s the father of a fish baby, then he encounters a talking tree named Greg, and lots of other weird stuff happens. This series isn’t grabbing me as much as Ice Cream Man, but it’s interesting.

THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE #4 (Epic, 1993) – as above. We learn that the entire series’ plot is driven by a war between two cosmic entities, the Bakalite and the Nagual. This is a bit like the war between Order and Chaos that motivates Moorcock’s Eternal Champion universe, and the Airtight Garage’s multiverse, consisting of multiple “levels” of reality, is also similar to Moorcock’s multiverse. Perhaps that explains why the character Lewis Carnelian, in the English translation of The Airtight Garage, was originally called Jerry Cornelius. As expected from this series, this final issue contains some stunning graphic imagery.

2000 AD #737 (Fleetway, 1991) – “Teddy-Bear’s Firefight,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Brian Williamson. “Teddy Bear’s Firefight” is a one-shot Dredd story about a living teddy bear with a gun. It’s full of Ennis’s signature black humor, without his signature lack of good taste. After a boring Rogue Trooper story, there’s an installment of a new Bix Barton serial (see the review of prog #665 above), in which Bix tries to stop a mass lover’s leap off the cliffs of Dover. Also, he falls in love with his own walking stick. Bix Barton is hilarious and I’d like to read more stories about this character. Next is another Indigo Prime story by John Smith and Chris Weston. This story is just as well-drawn as the one in #682, and is also in color. Its plot is a blend of steampunk and horror. Then there’s a two-pager drawn by Dave Hine, creator of Strange Embrace, and the last story is “Below Zero” by John Brosnan and Kev Hopgood.

SERA AND THE ROYAL STARS #7 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Audrey Mok. This comic is honestly not as good as I’d like it to be. It has some impressive coloring and okay characterization, but it often feels like just a generic fantasy comic, except with Persian names. I still want to support it because of its use of Persian mythology, but I wish it were more exciting.

THE TERRIFICS #27 (DC, 2020) – “The Day Simon Stagg Died Part 2,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Sergio Davila. Simon Stagg finally dies, and he leaves his fortune to a secret child we didn’t know he had. This is the last issue I’ll be reading, because the rest of the series will be digital-only. In return for supporting this series loyally for more than two years, my “reward” is that I don’t get to own the final issues in physical form, unless I want to buy a trade paperback that contains material I already paid for once. This trend of making comics digital-only is utterly infuriating, and it needs to stop immediately. I don’t care what the excuse is. Sadly, making The Terrifics digital-only is not even the most frustrating thing DC has done this month.

G.I. JOE #93 (Marvel, 1989) – “Taking the Plunge,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] M.D. Bright. I owned this comic as a kid, but I think I lost my copy of it, and if I did have it, it would be at my parents’ house. It’s probably been 25 years since I read this story, but I remember it very well. The moment when Snake-Eyes explains (through sign language) why he wants facial restoration surgery is one of Larry Hama’s most poetic moments. And then a couple pages later we get to see Snake-Eyes’s unmasked face, which is horrific. A moment that went over my head the first time I read this issue is when Roadblock scares off a crowd of anti-military protesters. This scene could be read as a piece of chauvinistic pro-military propaganda, but it can also be seen as a critique of the materialism and insincerity of ‘80s America.

ESCAPE #8 (Escape, 1986) – various stories, ed. Paul Gravett & Peter Stansbury. Besides Deadline, Escape was the other major British alternative comics anthology. While Deadline was tied to the punk rock scene, Escape feels more like a British version of Raw. Escape #8 includes work by Gary Panter, Jacques Tardi, Charles Burns and Lynda Barry, all of whom appeared in Raw. However, there was overlap between Deadline and Escape; for instance, Glenn Dakin and Shaky Kane appeared in both. Escape #8 includes comics by several artists I’m not familiar with: Ed Pinsent, Bob Lynch, Chris Flewitt and John Bagnall. Pinsent’s experimental story “Primitif” is especially intriguing. Bagnall’s story is about a girl who’s obsessed with President Kennedy. The Tardi story in this issue is “The Murderer of Hung,“ which also appears in Tardi’s anthology New York Mon Amour. The other notable story in this issue is Eddie Campbell’s “Hermeese.” It’s an Alec story set in the King Canute bar, but it was intentionally excluded from the various Alec reprint editions, thuogh I have read it before in Bacchus #51. In that issue, Campbell explains that he excluded “Hermeese” from the “Alec canon” because it was made-up and not truly autobiographical. Finally, Escape #8 includes Alan Moore’s glowing review of a book by Rick Geary. I would love to read more issues of Escape, but finding them will be tough.

BAD COMPANY #2 (Fleetway/Quality, 1988) – multiple stories, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins. Fleetway/Quality’s 2000 AD reprints are so low-quality as to be barely readable. The art is reproduced way too small, making fine details invisible and caption boxes illegible. There’s no indication of where each chapter of each story begins and ends, and the covers are hideous. Bad Company is an exciting story, by the same team as Skreemer and Johnny Nemo, but it would be better to read it in some other format. This issue also contains Rogue Trooper and Universal Soldier backup stories, as well as a two-pager drawn by Bryan Talbot.

LOONEY TUNES AND MERRIE MELODIES #107 (Dell, 1950) – various stories, [W] unknown, [A] John Carey et al. The stories in this issue aren’t especially memorable, but they’re cleverly written and appealingly drawn. According to Lambiek, John Carey started out as a WB animator, and he obviously knew how to draw the Looney Tunes characters. Dell comics of the ‘50s were consistently high-quality, and they’re not as hard to find as I’d have thought.

2000 AD #789 (Fleetway, 1992) – “Judgement Day Part 5,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. In “Judgement Day,” a major Dredd epic, the judges deal with a doomsday cult and an army of zombies. Steve Parkhouse and Anthnoy Williams’s “Kola Kommandos” is about evil advertising mascots. Pat Mills, Tony Skinner and Kev Walker’s ABC Warriors chapter is probably the first ABC Warriors story I’ve read, so it didn’t make much sense to me, though Walker’s art is striking. Then there’s a Rogue Trooper story by Fleisher and Ron Smith. The most notable story in the issue is part ten of John Wagner and Arthur Ranson’s “Button Man,” which is on Paul Gravett’s 1001 comics list. This chapter is about an assassin who has to hold off four other assassins with just one bullet. Ranson’s art style is less flashy than that of other 2000 AD artists, but also very detailed and distinctive.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #209 (Marvel, 1977) – “Arnim Zola – The Bio-Fanatic!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. In his second appearance, Arnim Zola creates a giant dough monster to imprison Cap and Maria. Kirby’s solo run on Cap has kind of a poor reputation because of its extreme contrast to the Englehart run that preceded it. Kirby’s Captain America is fine when judged on its own terms, but it’s not one of his better ‘70s works.

LEAVING MEGALOPOLIS: SURVIVING MEGALOPOLIS #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jim Calafiore. Yet another comic set in a gimmick superhero universe; in this case, the gimmick is that the superheroes have all turned evil. This issue includes a funny Southern-accented supervillain named Southern Belle, and Calafiore’s artwork is pretty good, but overall this is not the most memorable comic.

INCREDIBLE HULK #322 (Marvel, 1986) – “Must the Hulk Die?”, [W/A] Al Milgrom. Al Milgrom is the classic example of a competent but unspectacular superhero artist, and on the Hulk he had the bad luck of following John Byrne and preceding Peter David. But Hulk #322 is better than I expected. At this point in the series, Bruce Banner and the Hulk are in separate bodies, but Bruce is dying of Hulk withdrawal. Milgrom deserves credit for helping to introduce what has now become the Hulk’s central theme – i.e. that his status quo is constantly changing.

DETECTIVE COMICS #766 (DC, 2002) – “Procedure,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Scott McDaniel. In part one of “Bruce Wayne: Murderer?”, Bruce Wayne and Sasha Bordeaux are arrested for the murder of Vesper Fairchild. As its title indicates, this issue is a good example of the police procedural genre. I like the moment when Renee Montoya lies to Sasha while interrogating her; Renee falsely claims that Bruce’s attorney is already here and is helping him make a plea bargain. This feels like the sort of lie that a cop really would tell. This issue includes a Josie Mac backup by Winick and Chiang, in which Josie’s dad tries to get her to drop her interrogation.

HELLBLAZER #49 (DC, 1992) – “Lord of the Dance,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Steve Dillon. Garth Ennis’s Hellblazer stories often reference Irish music – as does Hitman #28, reviewed above –but this entire issue is about a song, “Lord of the Dance,” which is sort of an Irish song because it was covered by the Dubliners. In this issue we learn that “Lord of the Dance” is about the real Lord of the Dance, a sort of mashup of Santa Claus and Herne the Hunter, and that Sydney Carter (who Ennis oddly avoids naming) bastardized it into a Christian song. Constantine meets the Lord of the Dance and shows him that midwinter dancing and revelry are still alive. Constantine’s encounter with the Lord gives him the confidence to make a move on Kit, and they sleep together for the first time. This is a fun issue, though I don’t understand Ennis’s dislike of the standard version of “Lord of the Dance”; it’s one of the few Christian songs I actually like.

DAREDEVIL #4 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Marcos Martin. After fighting a lion and saving people from a fire, Matt takes on a client who was fired because he heard people speaking in Latverian. Midway through this issue, Foggy mentions a person who wants to sue a cemetery because his mother’s grave is sinking. This is a clever piece of foreshadowing for the Mole Man story a few issues later. Mark Waid worked with multiple artists on this series – Marcos Martin, Chris Samnee, Paco Rivera, etc. – yet somehow they were all really good, and they all had compatible styles.

UNCANNY X-MEN #261 (Marvel, 1990) – “Harriers Hunt,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Marc Silvestri. This issue introduces Hardcase and the Harriers, although some of them had already appeared in Wolverine #5. They were pointless and redundant characters, and they only ever made one more major appearance (Wolverine #139). At least this issue has some interesting dialogue between Wolverine, Jubilee and Psylocke, who are the only X-Men who play a major role in it. There’s also a subplot where the Muir Island team returns to the ruins of the mansion.

DRAWN & QUARTERLY VOL. 1 #9 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1992) – various stories, [E] Chris Oliveros. This issue has an amazing lineup of talent, though most of the stories in it are short. The first long story, by Spanish artist Marti, is about an old lady who gets scammed by two people claiming to be her relatives. The other long story is Michael Dougan’s “Kentucky Fried Funeral,” an autobiographical story in which he works at a funeral home and fails to get a refund for some inedible fried chicken. There are shorter pieces by Peter Kuper, Seth, Debbie Drechsler, David Mazzucchelli, Lloyd Dangle, etc.

JONNY QUEST: THE REAL ADVENTURES #4 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “Net of Chaos,” [W] Kate Worley, [A] Francisco Solano Lopez. That’s a surprising creative team for an adaptation of a short-lived, barely remembered TV cartoon. Clearly Dark Horse, like Comico, was taking Jonny Quest seriously. In this issue, Jonny and his friends team up with some young Roma people in order to defeat an opportunistic Roma nationalist, who’s actually a supervillain. This issue isn’t as stunning as Bill Messner-Loebs’s Jonny Quest was, but it’s good, and it depicts Roma people in a respectful way.

VAMPIRELLA VOL. 5 #0 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Disciple,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Ergün Gündüz. This was an FCBD comic. The new Vampirella story in this issue is well-drawn, but it’s confusing, and it doesn’t make me want to read more of Priest’s Vampirella. The backup story in this issue is Kurt Busiek and Art Adams’s “Bugs,” a reprint from 1993, and it’s much better. Art Adams draws a very sexy Vampirella, and Busiek tells a satisfying story about a conflict between sentient insects and bigoted villagers.

WORLD WITHOUT END #3 (DC, 1991) – “Rumour,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] John Higgins. “Rumour” is very confusing at first, thanks to its alien setting and the weird syntax of its dialogue. We gradually realize that the protagonist, Rumour, is a Skitton, i.e. a woman, created as a sex toy for Gess, i.e. men. Rumour manages to escape and find her way to the Scarlots, or free women. But a conflict is developing betwene the Skittons and the Ges thanks to the emergence of Brother Bones, an anti-female crusader. This comic is by two 2000 AD alumni and would have been entirely at home in that magazine; however, it also feels very much like a proto-Vertigo comic.

DETECTIVE COMICS #517 (DC, 1982) – “The Monster in the Mirror,” [W] Gerry Conway & Paul Levitz, [A] Gene Colan. Batman turns into a vampire. A priest shows up and explains that the vampire who bit Batman was originally a Southern slaveholder, and became a vampire when he was cursed by his former slaves. Meanwhile, Rupert Thorne tries to figure out Batman’s secret identity. Despite its all-star creative team, this issue is not memorable at all. There’s a backup story, by Cary Burkett and José Delbo, in which Batgirl turns into a snake.

ACTION COMICS #393 (DC, 1970) – “Superman Meets Super-Houdini!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Curt Swan. Superman meets Hair-Breadth Holahn, an ex-con turned super-escape-artist, and his young son. Holahan is not a ripoff of Mr. Miracle, who wasn’t created until the following year. I think Curt Swan was at his peak in the early ‘70s when he was inked by Murphy Anderson, and his artwork here is excellent. The backup story is “The Day Superboy Became Superman,” by Dorfman and Andru, and it starts out well with a vivid depiction of some children playing in a squalid Metropolis slum. In this story, set while Clark Kent is in college, Superboy keeps punishing slum children for committing petty crimes. His classmate, Marla, shames him into helping the children instead. So far this story seems surprisingly progressive, and reminiscent of Green Lantern #76. But then Marla gets killed in an accident, and Superboy chooses to “honor” her memory by doing nothing at all to help the slum dwellers; instead, he exhorts them to lift themselves up by their bootstraps. Thus, the story stops short of actually being progressive. Its ending resembles that of “Must There Be a Superman” in Superman #247, but that story was better written.

ANIMAL MAN ANNUAL #2 (DC, 2013) – “One Last Flight,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Travel Foreman. Just after Cliff’s funeral, Buddy has a flashback to the day of Maxine’s birth, when Cliff was kidnapped by a sentient spider-woman who was feeding her babies on human emotions. Buddy managed to rescue Cliff and convince the spider-woman to feed her children on animal emotions instead. This is a touching story, and Travel Foreman draws some spectacular body horror. He was probably the best artist of the early period of the New 52.

2000 AD #818 (Fleetway, 1993) – “Ex-Men,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John Higgins. This prog begins with a one-shot Dredd story about terminally ill assassins who turn themselves into living bombs. It’s a rather cruel story; it focuses on an Ex-Man who agrees to blow himself up so his wife and baby will be provided for. Next is “Dead Meat” by Michael Cook and Simon Jacob, about a meat-eating Texan in a society where meat is illegal. One of the characters in this story is a human-sheep hybrid who pronounces “a” as “aa,” as if baa-ing. Ennis and Nigel Dobbyn’s Strontium Dog story stars a Gronk, a muppet-like creature who gets heart attacks at the drop of the hat and who adds unnecessary s’s at the ends of words. Then there’s a Brigand Doom story by Alan McKenzie and Dave D’Antiquis, and “Flesh: The Legend of Shamana,” written by Pat Mills and Tony Skinner and with lush painted art by Carl Critchlow.

CLONE CONSPIRACY #4 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Jim Cheung. This is from the tail end of Slott’s run, after Superior Spider-Man. The Jackal, formerly Ben Reilly, tries to win Peter Parker’s support by showing him clones of all his dead loved ones. But we then learn that all the Jackal’s clones have a fatal and contagious disease. Meanwhile, Doc Ock, back in his own boody, encounters his ex-lover Anna Maria. Probably the high point of the issue is when Anna Maria refuses the Jackal’s offer of a new, normal-sized body, because she’s already perfect. This issue does a reasonable job of taking the worst Spider-Man story ever (the clone saga) and turning it into something good.

DENNIS THE MENACE AND HIS FRIENDS SERIES #22 (Fawcett, 1974) – “Fishing Around” and other stories, [W/A] uncredited. A bunch of stories guest-starring Joey. These stories are all well-crafted but are typical examples of the Dennis comic book formula. The best one is the last, where Dennis and Joey play golf inside the house.

ALL-STAR COMICS #61 (DC, 1976) – “Hellfire and Holocaust,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Keith Giffen. The JSA battle a villain named Vulcan. This series wasn’t great even when Paul Levitz was writing it, and it was worse before Levitz arrived. The best thing about this issue is Wally Wood’s inking.

CLASSIC STAR WARS #13 (Dark Horse, 1993) – untitled, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Al Williamson. This issue consists of reprints from the newspaper strip. It begins with the last part of one story arc, in which the rebels establish a base on Hoth. The issue concludes with the start of a new story arc, where Luke and his friends visit a swamp planet to rescue Admiral Ackbar (of “It’s a trap!” fame). These strips follow the continuity of the films very closely, and seem to have been intended to bridge the gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Williamson’s art is excellent, but was not meant to be seen at comic book size.

MINIMUM WAGE #1 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Bob Fingerman. This is in fact the third volume of Minimum Wage. At this point in the series, protagonist Rob Hoffman has just gotten divorced, and this issue begins with his friends taking him to a bar to pick up girls. Then Rob discovers that his job as an erotic cartoonist might be doomed, and then he starts going on blind dates. This issue didn’t impress me. It feels a lot like Box Office Poison, but with a less interesting style of art, and Rob’s friends’ dialogue is extremely annoying.

HILLBILLY #2 (Albatross, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. A young woman has been cursed by a witch. Rondel, accompanied by Death himself, volunteers to break the curse. Rondel discovers that the cursed girl’s sister and her fiancé conspired with the witch to curse her. This issue’s plot is a little confusing, but otherwise it’s excellent, and I like Eric Powell’s version of the Grim Reaper.

GWENPOOL #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] GuriHiru. Gwenpool fights some squid aliens, and at the end of the issue she encounters a Doombot. I don’t like this series to begin with, and this issue is confusing and aimless.

FELL #1 (Image, 2006) – “My New Home,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Ben Templesmith. Fell arrives in Snowtown, meets his love interest Mayko, and solves his first case, about a woman who killed her husband by giving him a whisky enema. As with other issues of Fell, this mystery is based on a real murder. Ellis’s editor’s note in this issue explains his rationale for publishing a shorter-than-normal comic at just $2.

JUDGE DREDD: LEGENDS OF THE LAW #4 (DC, 1995) – “Stop the Music – I Wanna Be Sick!”, [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Brent Anderson. Legends of the Law was an anthology series consisting of original Dredd material. In this story, Dredd battles an insane surgeon who’s been stapling people’s bodies together. This issue was written by two veteran Dredd writers, and it feels like a 2000 AD story. However, the next issue would be written by D.G. Chichester, and I can’t imagine that he was able to write Dredd properly.

HILLBILLY #6 (Albatross, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. Rondel is imprisoned in a town on the back of a giant zombie. He tells his cellmate that he’s only ever loved three woman: his mother, his unrequited love interest (i.e. Esther), and a bear. Then Rondel tells the story of his encounter with Lucille the talking grizzly bear, and after the story is finished, Lucille shows up again and saves Rondel from prison. This was a fun issue.

PRYDE & WISDOM #2 (Marvel, 1996) – “Mystery Walk,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Terry Dodson & Aaron Lopresti. Kitty Pryde and Pete Wisdom try to track down a serial killer. This issue isn’t bad, and it has better art than most of Ellis’s Excalibur comics did. However, Ellis’s Kitty Pryde doesn’t feel like Kitty Pryde to me. In fact, she feels like a generic girlfriend character with no real personality.

VAMPIRELLA OF DRAKULON #4 (Harris, 1996) – “Slithers of the Sand!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] José Gonzalez. In a story reprinted from Warren’s Vampirella #21, Vampi, Pendragon and the Van Helsings travel to a desert planet to look for Dracula. Warren’s Vampirella stories were never all that great, and “Slithers of the Sand” is just average. Also, José Gonzalez’s art wasn’t meant to be seen in color.

DETECTIVE COMICS #853 (DC, 2009) – “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Part 2 of 2,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Andy Kubert. A bunch of heroes and villains give elegies at Batman’s funeral, and then Batman has a near-death experience in which he meets his mother. The issue ends with a flashback or flashforward to the moment of Bruce Wayne’s birth. This two-parter was obviously intended as the Batman version of Alan Moore and Curt Swan’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” It’s a lyrical and powerful story, but its plot is kind of incoherent, and it’s not nearly as much of a classic as Moore and Swan’s story.

THE BEANO #2799 (DC Thomson, 1996) – multiple uncredited stories. This issue’s cover story is about a Dennis the Menace lookalike contest – the UK Dennis, not the American one. Unlike The Beano #1561, #2799 is entirely in color, and it uses a wider variety of page layouts. However, this issue’s humor is still rather unfunny, and its stories still lack any narrative depth.

THE HOTSPUR #1034 (DC Thomson, 1979) – “The Coonskin Grenadier” and other stories, [W/A] uncredited. A weird feature of The Hotspur is that each individual page has a title, which appears in a thought balloon somewhere at the top or bottom of a panel tier. There’s some good artwork in this issue, but none of it is credited, and the stories are implausible and unexciting. Even the sports stories are rather farfetched.

HERBIE #13 (ACG, 1965) – “Pirate Gold!”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Ogden Whitney. In the first story, Herbie goes back in time to get a chest of pirate gold, in order to help his dad become president of the men’s club. It almost makes sense in context. In the backup story, Herbie goes to the Arctic to get a fur coat for his mother. This story sadly includes some of the Native American stereotypes that were ubiquitous at the time. Besides that, this issue of Herbie is weird and funny. Herbie was one of the strangest and most unique comics of the ‘60s.

New comics received on June 4:

FAR SECTOR #6 (DC, 2020) – “Do not fear mistakes. There are none,” [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. Jo continues her romance with Marth, while also trying to deal with the riots. Far Sector #6 is prophetic: it was written long before George Floyd was murdered, yet it feels as if it’s specifically about the George Floyd protests. Jemisin writes: “The Council has issued an official apology. Full investigation, mistakese were made, blah blah blah. No one’s lost their job or been arrested. Councilor Marth… hasn’t resigned in disgrace.” She could be talking about the killers of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor. Jemisin was able to seemingly predict the future in this way because she’s such an incisive observer of American society – and also, sadly, because these things have happened before, and it was inevitable that they would happen again. Besides that, Jo and Marth’s romance is really cute.

COPRA #6 (Image, 2020) – “Heads of Ochizon, Annihilate,” [W] Michel Fiffe. This issue is a stunning formalist experiment. It consists entirely of silent splash pages, so it combines the constraints of G.I. Joe #21 and Thor #380. On top of that, the frame of each page is a giant letter. The first page is a giant letter H, the second page is a letter E, and so on until all 24 issues of the title have been spelled out. So this entire story is its own title page. The narrative of this issue is a little hard to follow, as one would expect, but it more or less makes sense, and Fiffe’s fight scenes are very epic. This issue also includes a reprint of Fiffe’s minicomic Negativeland, starring characters who seem to be based on the Doom Patrol.

THE GOON #10 (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Mike Norton. The fight between the witches and the fish continues. This is another funny issue, but it’s very similar to #9. My favorite thing about it is that the witches’ brewery is full of black cats.

RAGNAROK: THE BREAKING OF HELHEIM #5 (IDW, 2020) – “In Hel’s Horizon…,” [W/A] Walt Simonson. Thor finally reaches Hela, but discovers that she’s trying to doublecross him. The artwork in this issue is excellent as usual, and there are some cute Ratatoskr moments.

CATWOMAN #22 (DC, 2020) – “The Cleaners,” [W] Paula Sevenbergen, [A] Aneke. I bought this by accident, not realizing it was written by neither Joëlle Jones nor Ram V. However, this issue was a lot better than I expected. Its plot is that Catwoman fights two lingerie-clad thieves who disguise themselves as house cleaners. This issue is obviously a huge dose of cheesecake, but it’s tasteful and funny cheesecake.

SABRINA: SOMETHING WICKED #1 (Archie, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. Sabrina tries to trace the origins of a mysterious curse, and discovers that her aunts are responsible. This issue is a direct continuation of the previous Sabrina series, and there was no real need to restart its numbering. Other than that, this is an excellent comic.

KIDZ #3 (Ablaze, 2020) – “Just Shut Up,” [W] Aurélien Ducoudray, [A] Jocelyn Joret. The kids’ house is invaded by a zombie at night. In the morning, they do some target practice. I was on the verge of dropping this series, but this issue is exciting and funny enough that I’ve changed my mind, and I now intend to keep reading Kidz.

FINGER GUNS #2 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Justin Richards, [A] Val Halvorson. The kids try out their new powers. The girl deals with her father’s abuse, and discovers that her father may be plotting her mother’s death. This issue wasn’t as good as #1, but this series is still very intriguing.

PSYCHODRAMA ILLUSTRATED #1 (Fantagraphics, 2020) – “False Modesty,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. This series was solicited years ago – the cover is signed “Beto / 2016.” Like many of Beto’s other miniseries, it’s an “adaptation” of one of Fritz’s films, Hypnotwist 2.0, but it also has an extensive framing sequence in which Fritz and Killer discuss the film. I’ve never particularly liked Beto’s Fritz stories, but I’m willing to read anything he publishes.

2000 AD #840 (Fleetway, 1993) – “Tough Justice,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Mick Austin. Some kids tell each other stories about Dredd’s exploits, and then Dredd arrests them all because one of them has a gun. I usually hate Millar’s writing, but this story is not bad, and it includes a funny Reservoir Dogs parody. Next, John Tomlinson and Simon Jacob’s Armoured Gedeon installment is okay but forgettable. John Smith and Paul Marshall’s “Firekind” installment is part seven, but was mistakenly skipped and was published after all the other parts. It has some excellent prose, but makes little sense on its own. Millar and Ezquerra’s “Purgatory” is about a rogue Judge. Alan McKenzie and Mick Austin’s “Karma” is a Tharg’s Terror Tale, which I guess is like a Tharg’s Future Shock, but its surprise ending is predictable: it’s about a serial killer and a victim, but we’re misled as to which is which.

ROY ROGERS COMICS #53 (Dell, 1952) – “The Portrait of Uncle Ezra,” uncredited. Roy Rogers, “King of the Cowboys,” meets an artist who’s drawn a portrait of a fugitive counterfeiter. In the backup story, Roy deals with a case of cattle rustling. These stories are exciting and professionally written, though the art is unexciting. Oddly, these comics, like the show they were based on, are set in the Old West, yet the characters have cars and artificial lights and modern furnishings. This issue also includes a backup story, about a wolf hunter and his dog, which has better art than the main stories. I would definitely read more issues of this series if I could get them cheaply.

PLANETOID #4 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. Silas goes to investigate the Ono Mao signal that was received at the end of the last issue. The Ono Mao capture him and sentence him to be “commodified.” He escapes thanks to his pet lizard, and warns the other humans that an Ono Mao assault is coming. At the end of the issue, Silas sleeps with Onica.

PLANETOID #5 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. The humans fight valiantly against the Ono Mao, but get their asses kicked. Silas crashes his plane into the Ono Mao’s control tower, saving the other humans at the cost of his life and the humans’ chance of escaping the planet. The issue ends with an epilogue set ten years later, where we meet Onica and Nkunda’s children (including Zuri from Planetoid Praxis #1), and they discover some money which is now only useful as compost. Onica’s son has silver hair, implying that he may be Silas’s posthumous child.

2000 AD #864 (Fleetway, 1993) – “Book of the Dead,” [W] Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, [A] Dermot Power. Dredd narrowly escapes a death trap in an Egyptian prison. Dermot Power’s art here is reminiscent of Simon Bisley’s. Peter Hogan and David Hill’s “A Time of Peace” is a Tharg’s Future Shock in which aliens resolve a war between humans. In Millar and Chris Weston’s “Canon Fodder,” Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty investigate the murder of God. This story is the high point of the issue because of Weston’s amazing art, especially in the splash page depicting the horrors that have been inflicted on heaven. The other two stories are Strontium Dogs by Ennis and Dobbyn, and Timehouse by Hogan and Tim Bollard. Peter Hogan is perhaps best known in America for co-writing Terra Obscura with Alan Moore.

BATMAN #452 (DC, 1990) –“Dark Knight, Dark City,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Kieron Dwyer. I had already read part three of this storyline, but not the first two parts. “Dark Knight, Dark City” begins with a flashback to an 18th-century occult ritual in which Thomas Jefferson participated, and then in the present, Batman has to rescue some newborn babies who have been kidnapped by the Riddler. “Dark Knight, Dark City” is one of the darkest and most frightening Batman stories I’ve ever read. The Riddler’s plot is truly horrible, especially since at this point in the plot, the reader doesn’t know what he’s trying to achieve. At one point in this issue, the reader thinks for a moment that Batman has run over a newborn baby with the Batmobile.

SAVAGE DRAGON #128 (Image, 2006) – “Wanted,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. This issue is a crossover with Mark Millar’s Wanted, a comic I have no interest in ever reading. It’s also part of the ongoing Mr. Glum story arc. A major problem with Savage Dragon is its convoluted plot; this issue includes two versions each of Dragon and Angel, and I can’t remember which universe each of them is from. I stopped ordering Savage Dragon a while ago, but I’m going to order the next issue, simply because there are so few new comics at the moment.

LOVE AND ROCKETS #8 (Fantagraphics, 2020) – “Rosy,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez, etc. The highlight of this issue is Jaime’s “Lifer Drawing,” in which some mean girls harass Maggie and steal her hat, only to discover that she’s the wife of their art teacher. This is a funny and touching story that feels like a classic example of Jaime’s style. The issue’s other Jaime story, “Anima,” doesn’t make much sense. This issue’s Beto stories are also quite good. They’re mostly about the relationship between Fritz and her long-lost relatives. Over time, Fritz has gradually replaced Luba as the center of Beto’s universe. At the end of this issue, Beverly, the surrogate mother of Fritz’s children, and her husband, Zander, are both murdered.

BRAVEST WARRIORS #27 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] Kate Leth, [A] Ian McGinty. In the main story, the Bravest Warriors get some new Voltron-esque battlesuits. I’ve never understood what exactly Bravest Warriors is supposed to be about, and this particular story is pretty boring. Also, it has bottom-of-page “alt texts,” like Squirrel Girl, but Kate Leth is not as good at writing these texts as Ryan North. The backup story, “Praying Mantis Prom” by Mad Rupert and Kat Leyh, is better than the main story.

FANTASTIC FOUR #542 (Marvel, 2007) – “We Used to Go to Hyperspace Just for Donuts,” [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] Mike McKone. This issue starts with a conversation between Reed and Johnny about Civil War. This sequence is boring and annoying, but the issue improves when Reed goes to visit the Mad Thinker. I like this villain a lot, and McDuffie had a good understanding of how to write him. Later in the issue, there’s a cute moment where Franklin and Valeria are throwing stuff through a hole in the ceiling, but then Sue gets angry at Reed for reasons which are not explained to the reader.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #40 (First, 1988) – ‘The Fan,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Jon Sable competes in a ”practical shooting” competition against Rob Leatham, an actual competitor in this sport. This issue rubbed me the wrong way, because the sport of practical shooting (not to be confused with Olympic shooting) is sponsored by the NRA and is highly connected to America’s toxic gun culture. I don’t want to know anything about this sport. At least the art in this issue is better than was usual at this point in the series.

VAMPIRELLA #49 (Warren, 1975) – “Bloody Queen of Hearts,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Esteban Maroto. Vampirella battles her archenemy the Blood Red Queen of Hearts. Maroto’s art in this story is excellent at times, but as previously noted, Warren’s Vampirella stories are never all that great. This issue includes five other stories, all by Spanish artists. “The Thing in Jane’s Closet” by Budd Lewis and Ramon Torrents is probably the best. It’s about a girl whose psychiatrist gaslights her into thinking she’s crazy. The second best is a succubus story, also by Torrents. Other artists in this issue are Joaquin Blazquez, José Bea and Isidro Mones.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #211 (Marvel, 1993) – “The Gods Above, the Beasts Below,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Rafael Kayanan. The other day I visited Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find and bought four issues of SSOC for a dollar each. I decided that before reading them, I should read some other SSOCs that I’ve had for a long time. This issue begins Marvel’s adaptation of Conan and the Gods of the Mountain, the sequel to Red Nails. Roy writes some great dialogue between Conan and Valeria, and Rafael Kayanan effectively imitates Barry Windsor-Smith’s art style. This issue also includes a never-published inventory story, “The God of Thieves, Part One” by James Rose and Ernie Chan. I’ve never heard of James Rose, but he’s a mediocre writer.

2000 AD #873 (Fleetway, 1994) – “The Sugar Beat Part 1,” [W] “Sonny Steelgrove” (pen name for Alan McKenzie or John Tomlinson), [A] Ron Smith. Dredd goes to Bolivia to investigate an illegal drug operation. We’re led to think that the drug is cocaine or heroin, but it’s actually sugar. Next is a Luke Kirby story written by Alan McKenzie, with Clear Line-esque art by Steve Parkhouse. Unlike most 2000 AD serials, this is a fantasy or horror story set in modern England, instead of science fiction or high fantasy. Other stories include Tyranny Rex by John Smith and Paul Marshall, Rogue Trooper by Fleisher and Weston, and Dinosity by Pat Mills and Clint Langley. This last is probably the highlight of the prog. It’s a raucous, gruesome story about a war between dinosaurs and humans, written as if it were a chivalric romance.

HELLBLAZER: BAD BLOOD #1 (Vertigo, 2000) – “Bad Blood (A Restoration Comedy) Part 1,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] Philip Bond. An elderly John Constantine lives in an antiseptic, dictatorial England where Princess Diana is worshipped as a goddess. Constantine and a young woman named Dolly, short for Daljit, try to uncover some kind of plot to steal the throne. I like both Delano and Bond a lot, and this is an interesting debut issue.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #25 (Marvel, 1977) – “A Tale of Two Countries!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Ron Wilson. While Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters are at a New York Jets game, Ben is abducted and taken to a fictional Asian country, where he teams up with Iron Fist. This issue has some witty dialogue, but its plot is boring. This issue includes a severe lettering or editing error in which an entire caption box is repeated. https://www.instagram.com/p/CBKU2CHBeOk/

GRIMM’S GHOST STORIES #8 (Gold Key, 1973) – “The Genius Touch,” [W] unknown, [A] Frank Bolle, etc. This issue’s first story is mediocre. The second is kind of funny, since it’s about a man who trips over the cord to his iron and dies. The third story, drawn by Argentinian Oscar Novelle, is also mediocre. The thing that redeems this issue is the last story, “The Locket,” drawn by Al Williamson. It’s not his best or most labor-intensive work, but it’s head and shoulders above the rest of the issue.

LITTLE LULU #36 (Dell, 1951) – “Pieces of Eight” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. In the first story, Lulu, Alvin and Dolly go to the beach and find a treasure chest that turns out to be full of balloons. In the second story, Lulu tricks the fellers into selling her their clubhouse and then buying it back at a loss. Then there’s a Lulu/Alvin story where Lulu travels all over the world looking for her mother. In the last story, the child actress Little Rita Rosebud comes to town, and Tubby can’t afford to see her, but then he encounters a mysterious girl who, of course, is none other than Little Rita. More on Little Lulu later.

I was enjoying my 2000 ADs so much, I went back to the seller I ordered them from, and I ordered all his other 2000 ADs that were $1.50 or less. They arrived on June 8, and I read them in order, starting with:

2000 AD #337 (Fleetway, 1983) –  “The Graveyard Shift Part 3,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant (as T.B. Grover), [A] Ron Smith. Dredd investigates a bunch of crimes taking place at night. A key moment in this story is when Dredd tells a man “The only freedom you got, creep, is freedom to do what you’re told!” That could almost be Dredd’s motto. Judge Dredd would be a better symbol for U.S. police than the Punisher, since he’s a fascist authoritarian who sees everyone other than himself as a potential criminal. The next story is Sláine by Pat Mills and Massimo Belardinelli. This story’s art is stunningly detailed, reminding me of Alcala’s Voltar, and Sláine is a fascinating character. Sláine’s stories are inspired by the ugly, gory aspects of Irish mythology, especially the Ulster Cycle. The high point of the issue is a Nemesis the Warlock chapter by Mills and O’Neill, in which Nemesis’s son is hatched. O’Neill drew some extremely alien-looking aliens, and it’s possible that Nemesis, and not League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, is his masterpiece. Next is a Strontium Dog story that I’ve already read in reprinted form, and the prog ends with a Rogue Trooper story by Gerry Finley-Day and Brett Ewins. This issue is printed on newsprint and is mostly black and white.

2000 AD #342 (IPC, 1983) – “Suspect,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Cam Kennedy. Dredd arrests a man for moonlighting at three different jobs. Humorously, one of the jobs is testing beds, which explains how he gets any sleep. Next is the conclusion to the Sláine story that began in #347. Sláine saves a woman from being sacrificed to the god Crom Cruach, but she’s not grateful at all. At the beginning of this chapter Sláine is in his warp-spasm, a state of berserk fury in which his whole body is transformed. The warp-spasm is a direct borrowing from the myths of Cuchulain. Next is a Nemesis story that begins with an enormous two-page splash, depicting a giant battle robot on roller blades. Again, Kevin O’Neill’s art here is incredible. Next is the continuation of the Strontium Dog story “The Moses Incident.” Johnny Alpha tries to resurrect a boy he’s accidentally killed, but only succeeds in turning the boy into a zombie. Last is a Rogue Trooper chapter by Finley-Day and Rafael Boluda, a Spanish artist. Boluda’s art here is extremely solid, although it’s overshadowed by Belardinelli and O’Neill’s art earlier in the issue. Overall, although 2000 AD maintained a constant high level of quality, 1983 seems to have been a really good year for the series. I wonder how I can get other 2000 ADs from this period.

2000 AD #372 (IPC, 1984) – “Outlaw Part 10,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Sadly there’s no Sláine or Nemesis in this prog. Instead it begins with a Strontium Dog story that guest-stars the Gronk, who I previously encountered in prog #818. Next is “What’s Up, Dock?” by Alan Hebden and José Casanovas, in which a ship captain accidentally destroys New York by falling asleep at the wheel. This issue demonstrates why it’s an awful idea to have only one crew member aboard a gigantic ship. Then there’s a very funny Dredd story, “Bingo,” about an illegal Bingo operation. Next is a Tharg’s Future Shock about aliens with hyperdeveloped senses. I don’t think I understand the twist in this story. Finally, there’s a Rogue Trooper chapter in which one of Rogue’s fellow soldiers is a traitor.

2000 AD #373 (IPC, 1984) – “Outlaw Part 11,” as above. Johnny Alpha and his companions try and fail to escape from the pursuers. One of the companions is Middenface McNulty, who has a deformed face and an exaggerated Scottish accent. After a two-page Future Shock about overeating, there’s a one-shot, “The Right Stuff,” about trainee astronauts. Alan Hebden writes this under an anagram of his real name, Dean Behnal. Pseudonymous credits are unusually common in this series. In the Dredd story, Dredd’s trainee, Dekker, finally becomes a full-fledged Judge. In the Rogue Trooper story, the traitor succeeds in getting rid of the entire squad except himself and Rogue. It was only after reading this story that I felt I understood Rogue Trooper’s premise. The prog ends with another Future Shock written by Hebden.

THE POWER OF SHAZAM! #24 (DC, 1997) – “The Trail of the Scorpion,” [W] Jerry Ordway, [A] Peter Krause. Most of this issue is a flashback to C.C. Batson and Spy Smasher’s adventures during World War II. C.C. is Billy and Mary Batson’s father, and at the end of the issue, we discover that he’s somehow still alive. Captain Marvel himself does not appear in this issue.

CHEVAL NOIR #33 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “The Man from the Ciguri,” [W/A] Moebius. This issue starts with a chapter of Moebius’s sequel to The Airtight Garage. Like its predecessor, The Man from the Ciguri” has some excellent art, but an incoherent plot. Next, Daniel Torres’s “Sabotage” is about classic cars and illicit love. It’s part two of three, so it’s not understandable on its own, but it has gorgeous art. As a modern Clear Line artist, Torres was on the same level as Yves Chaland. “Sabotage” was also published in a single installment in Heavy Metal vol. 11 #1. Unfortunately, both these stories suffer from the lack of color. Finally, Cosey’s “In Search of Peter Pan” works much better in black and white. It’s a poetic story about a Yugoslavian living in the Alps, where he meets a mysterious woman.

DAREDEVIL #136 (Marvel, 1976) – “Hanging for a Hero!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] John Buscema. The Jester uses doctored video to convince everyone in New York that Daredevil is a criminal and that the police are murdering innocent people (well, that last one is true). In this story Marv Wolfman predicts the concept of deepfakes, over 40 years before that term was even coined. However, this issue feels like a Batman comic, with the Jester instead of the Joker. The whole problem with Daredevil is that he’s either a poor man’s Batman or a poor man’s Spider-Man, and very few writers have succeeded in distinguishing him from either. Unfortunately this issue also includes Heather Glenn.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #14 (Marvel, 1972) – “A Sword Called Stormbringer!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Roy Thomas. This is Elric’s first comics appearance. Michael Moorcock and his longtime collaborator James Cawthorn are credited with co-plotting this issue. Roy Thomas shows a reasonably good understanding of Elric’s character, and it’s fun to see Conan and Elric interacting. However, BWS’s draftsmanship was still far from his best. It would be a few more issues before he became the artist he is now.

BARBARELLA #2 (Dynamite, 2017) – “Red Hot Gospel Part Two: Fall from Grace,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Kenan Yarar. I was predisposed to not like this issue, but Carey and Yarar do a good job of replicating the strangeness and whimsicality of Jean-Claude Forest’s original stories. The main problem with this comic is that it’s not sexy. Barbarella’s original claim to fame was that the heroine was a sexual libertine, but this issue has no sexual content and is just a normal adventure story.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #484 (DC, 1991) – “Blackout,” [W] Jerry Ordway, [A] Tom Grummett. Mr. Z manipulates Emil Hamilton into making Superman put on a mind-controlling helmet. Superman manages to remove the helmet, but only by blowing out Metropolis’s power grid. This issue shows a surprising amount of knowledge as to how municipal power systems work. Tom Grummett’s art is quite good. I don’t know what happened to Mr. Z; he only appeared in Superman comics for a couple years.

2000 AD #392 (IPC, 1984) – “Rogue Trooper: To the Ends of Nu-Earth – Final Episode!”, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Rogue Trooper and his sentient pieces of equipment defeat a traitor general. Cam Kennedy’s art here reminds me of Al Williamson. Next is a Nemesis the Warlock chapter by Mills and Bryan Talbot, which is also an ABC Warriors crossover. Talbot’s art here is very detailed and impressive. In the Dredd story, Dredd apprehends a rogue Judge who’s been smuggling arms, i.e. actual limbs, not weapons. Ewins draws this story in an almost Clear Line style, though maybe I only think that because I was just reading some Daniel Torres. In the Ace’s Trucking Company story by Wagner, Grant and Belardinelli, Ace’s coworkers rebel and take over his trucking operation. Ace is a pointy-headed alien with two extra arms that operate independently. Belardinelli’s art here is not as stunning as in his Sláine chapters, but it’s still very good. The issue ends with “Hell Trekkers” by Wagner, Grant, and Horacio Lalia.

This afternoon, June 9, I used Facebook Marketplace to purchase a collection of Little Lulu comics. There were a bunch of them, and I paid $25 for the lot, less than $1 an issue. This was  an amazing bargain, but I feel the price was fair; the comics are complete but in low grade, with a lot of browning.

LITTLE LULU #68 (Dell, 1954) – “The Bear Trap” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. Little Lulu is probably the best kid humor comic ever published. It had perfect comic timing and was quite feminist; there’s a reason why the Friends of Lulu called themselves that. As Michael Barrier points out in Funnybooks, the only problem is that its stories tended to be repetitive, a problem Stanley tried to solve by having Lulu tell fairy tales to Alvin. A weird thing about Little Lulu is that the stories take place in an endless summer. None of the characters ever seem to go to school. In this issue’s first story, Lulu gets stuck inside a trophy bear’s head and foils an attempted robbery of Wilbur’s house. Second story: Lulu accidentally convinces the fellers that she has super-strength. Third story, Mr. Moppet gets stuck in a closet. Fourth: Lulu fools the fellers into thinking that a dinosaur egg has hatched. Fifth: Lulu’s picture gets used in an ad for “tiny tot’s tonic.” Sixth: the Poor Little Girl is hired as an assistant to Ol’ Witch Hazel. Seventh: Tubby switches places with a midget prisoner who looks just like him.

LITTLE LULU #26 (Dell, 1950) – “Piggy Bank Blues” etc., as above. This issue begins with a very funny silent strip where Lulu keeps appearing at the window and then disappearing, and we finally learn that she’s on a pogo stick. In the first story, Lulu tries to hide her piggy bank in the woods, but the fellers learn where it is. Like much of Stanley’s work, this story has a very clever and intricate plot, which elevates it aboove the British humor comics I’ve been reading. The next story is about a surprise party, and it has an awesome moment where Alvin refuses to go to Lulu’s party (https://www.instagram.com/p/CBOR4F4hQPH/). Stanley almost always used a 2×4 panel grid, but he was a master at using this format for comic effect. A continuity error in this story is that it shows Annie and Iggy living in separate houses, even though they’re siblings. The next story would have been “The Bogeyman,” but Marge Henderson Buell rejected this story for being too cruel. It was replaced by a reprint from 1946, in which Alvin looks very off-model. In the last story, Tubby has to guard the clubhouse at night.

LITTLE LULU #84 (Dell, 1955) – “The Case of the Grasshopper’s Ghost” etc., as above. By this point the issues were 36 pages each instead of 52 pages, and the Dell Pledge to Parents had started to appear. This issue’s first story is kind of pointless, though it has the amusing implication that Mrs. Moppet gave away her hat because all the other women were wearing the same hat. The other stories are about: a fake trip to the moon, a bird that sets up its nest in the fellers’ clubhouse, Little Itch (Witch Hazel’s apprentice) trying to steal the Poor Little Girl’s doll carriage, and Tubby’s worm ranch.

LITTLE LULU #58 (Dell, 1953) – “Special Delivery,” as above. Annie and Iggy are getting a baby sibling. Lulu tries to get the stork to bring it to her house instead, but ends up with five kittens. I doubt if Annie and Iggy’s baby brother ever appeared again; he was introduced just for the sake of this one story. The next story is possibly the first appearance of Sluggo’s worm ranch, which also appears in #84. The next two stories are about Wilbur, then there’s one where Tubby becomes a cowpoke. Next is the usual Ol’ Witch Hazel fairy tale, and finally a story where the kids get temporary tattoos. This story suggests that in the ‘50s, tattooing was strongly associated with sailors and nobody else.

2000 AD #439 (IPC, 1985) – “Nemesis the Warlock Book Five,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Bryan Talbot. Torquemada’s wife Candida learns that her children have been killed by Nemesis. I wonder if Torquemada’s kids ever actually appeared in the series, or if they lived and died off-panel. Talbot’s artwork is again very impressive, and Candida looks a lot like Octobriana from Luther Arkwright. In a story by Wagner, Grant and Ian Gibson, Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter visits a gambling planet to track down some missing robots. In a Dredd story by the same two writers and Carlos Ezquerra, a journalist discovers that the Judges are using tranquilizing drugs to keep the population docile, but Dredd has him lobotomized so he can’t reveal this information. This story is another good example of Dredd’s anti-democratic nature. Next is a Future Shock about an elderly gladiator, written by Peter Milligan, and last is a Mean Team story by Grant, Wagner and Belardinelli.

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2020 Eisner Awards votes

As I do every year, I’m providing a tentative list of my votes in each Eisner Awards category.

Best Short Story
  • “Hot Comb,” by Ebony Flowers, in Hot Comb (Drawn & Quarterly)

Best Single Issue/One-Shot
  • Our Favorite Thing Is My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)

Didn’t read any of the others. I’d like to get Sobek, but $14 for one issue is a bit much.


Best Continuing Series
  • Crowded, by Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, and Ted Brandt (Image)

Immortal Hulk is probably the better series, but Christopher Sebela deserves an Eisner. I’m surprised to see Daredevil nominated because I dropped it after about three issues.


Best Limited Series
  • Little Bird by Darcy Van Poelgeest and Ian Bertram (Image)

Ghost Tree was a poorly written series and should not have been nominated. I don’t see why Ascender counts as a limited series.


Best New Series
  • Once & Future, by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora (BOOM! Studios)

A very tough category. I haven’t read Dr. Doom, but all four of the other nominees are deserving.


Best Publication for Early Readers

No vote


Best Publication for Kids
  • New Kid, by Jerry Craft (Quill Tree/HarperCollins)

Though I haven’t read it yet. Guts would also be an excellent choice.


Best Publication for Teens
  • Hot Comb, by Ebony Flowers (Drawn & Quarterly)

Hot Comb should have been nominated for Best Graphic Album – New or Best Reality-Based Work instead. It doesn’t feel like a teen comic. If I was able to vote for Hot Comb in a different category, I’d vote for Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me in this category.


Best Humor Publication

No vote. I wish there was a cheaper way to get these Shortbox comics.


Best Anthology
  • The Nib #2–4, edited by Matt Bors (Nib)

Haven’t read Kramer’s Ergot yet


Best Reality-Based Work
  • They Called Us Enemy, by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker (Top Shelf)

But I’d really like to read Grass. I was considering buying it today but balked at the $30 price tag.


Best Graphic Album—New
  • Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden (First Second/Macmillan)

Haven’t read any of these yet


Best Graphic Album—Reprint
  • Glenn Ganges: The River at Night, by Kevin Huizenga (Drawn & Quarterly)

A tough category.


Best Adaptation from Another Medium

No vote


Best U.S. Edition of International Material
  • The House, by Paco Roca, translation by Andrea Rosenberg (Fantagraphics)

Haven’t read any of these


Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia
  • The Poe Clan, by Moto Hagio, translation by Rachel Thorn (Fantagraphics)

I own this but have not yet read it. Again, I really want to read Grass.


Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips
  • Cham: The Best Comic Strips and Graphic Novelettes, 1839–1862, by David Kunzle (University Press of Mississippi)

Haven’t seen any of these


Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books
  • The Complete Crepax, vol. 5: American Stories, edited by Kristy Valenti (Fantagraphics)

Haven’t read any of these


Best Writer
  • G. Willow Wilson, Invisible Kingdom (Berger Books/Dark Horse); Ms. Marvel (Marvel)

Mariko Tamaki would also be a great choice.


Best Writer/Artist
  • Raina Telgemeier, Guts (Scholastic Graphix)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
  • Ian Bertram, Little Bird (Image)

Best Painter/Digital Artist
  • Christian Ward, Invisible Kingdom (Berger Books/Dark Horse)

Best Cover Artist
  • Christian Ward, Machine Gun Wizards (Dark Horse), Invisible Kingdom (Berger Books/Dark Horse)

Best Coloring
  • Dave Stewart, Black Hammer, B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know, Hellboy and the BPRD (Dark Horse); Gideon Falls (Image); Silver Surfer Black, Spider-Man (Marvel)

Best Lettering
  • Jim Campbell, Black Badge, Coda (BOOM Studios); Giant Days, Lumberjanes: The Shape of Friendship (BOOM Box!); Rocko’s Modern Afterlife  (KaBOOM!); At the End of Your Tether (Lion Forge); Blade Runner 2019 (Titan); Mall, The Plot, Wasted Space (Vault)

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism
  • Inks: The Journal of the Comics Studies Society, edited by Qiana Whitted (Ohio State University Press)

Though I wish I could also vote for Women Write About Comics


Best Comics-Related Book
  • The Book of Weirdo, by Jon B. Cooke (Last Gasp)

I haven’t read this yet, but I had problems with Making Comics.


Best Academic/Scholarly Work
  • EC Comics: Race, Shock, and Social Protest, by Qiana Whitted (Rutgers University Press)

Congratulations also to Christina Meyer.


Best Publication Design
  • Making Comics, designed by Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly)

Best Digital Comic

No vote


Best Webcomic
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Lockdown reviews

5-12

Starting again now that I’ve finished grading. These comics were from a shipment I received from HipComic:

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SHADOW FROM BEYOND TIME #3 (Red 5, 2009) – “At the Farm of Madness,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. In 1967, Robo travels to Cloverdale, Oregon with his team to confront the next manifestation of the Lovecraftian monster. They discover that the monster has turned the town’s population into Zombies. This is a really fun issue, but it feels like just a standard Atomic Robo comic.

CRIMINAL: THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT #3 (Icon, 2011) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker,  [A] Sean Phillips. Riley (Archie) successfully frames Teddy (Reggie) for the murder of Riley’s wife (Veronica), but Riley’s father-in-law (Hiram Lodge) suspects something and hires a private investigator. This issue’s main story is interspersed with short funny vignettes drawn in an Archie-esque style. Sebastian Hyde appears in this issue, connecting this story to the rest of the Criminal universe. If not for Hyde, Last of the Innocent could have been an independent work instead of a Criminal miniseries.

LOVE AND CAPES #12 (Maerkle Press, 2009) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. On the eve of her wedding, Abby finds herself in an alternate universe where Mark was killed three years ago. The Dr. Strange character sends Abby back in time to three  years to the night of Mark’s death, which was also the night of her and Mark’s first date. Since Abby looks exactly like her past self, she saves Mark by distracting him with a kiss, causing him to miss his appointment with death. The wedding goes as planned. This was a really sweet wedding issue. The background characters in the wedding scene are all caricatures of readers.

CRIMINAL: THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT #4 (Icon, 2011) – as above. Riley gets Teeg Lawless to arrange Teddy’s murder (another connection to the Criminal universe). In a flashback, we learn that Mrs. Grundy and Mr. Weatherbee were responsible for a spree of murders. Teddy ties up the last loose end by murdering Freakout (Jughead), then goes off to live happily ever after with Lizzie (Betty). The PI, Britt Black, is unable to prove anything, though he promises to keep an eye on Riley. Britt Black is based on Encyclopedia Brown. I realized this when he said he’d been catching people in lies since age 12. His first name stands for Britannica. As other reviewers have discussed, this issue ends enigmatically. In the last panel, Riley and Lizzie are drawn in the faux-Archie style and are smiling, but in the background, we see two people conducting an apparent drug deal, and they’re drawn in Sean Phillips’s normal style. The point here is to remind us that Riley’s new idyllic life is tainted by his sordid murders. But I thought at first that one of the people in the background was either Phil or Britt Black. Maybe this scene is also meant to indicate that Riley’s crimes are eventually going to catch up to him.

PLANETOID PRAXIS #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. This is the second volume of Garing’s other major work besides Gogor. This issue, an alien named O-Hom lands on an ugly-looking planet and befriends a little girl named Zuri. But O-Hom turns out to be a member of the Ono Mao, a race that’s at war with humans, and the human adults execute him. As in Gogor, Ken Garing’s art is appealingly weird. The alien’s space suit and his hideous face are particularly impressive.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #652 (Marvel, 2011) – “Revenge of the Spider-Slayer Part One: Army of Insects,” [W]Dan Slott, [A] Stefano Caselli. While Peter is watching Carlie Cooper play roller derby, the Scorpion and Smythe sabotage John Jameson’s rocket launch. This story is very well-executed and exciting, though nothing about it especially stands out, except maybe the scene where Peter injures himself by walking into a glass door. There’s a backup story written by Fred Van Lente, who, I’m coming to realize, is a far worse writer than Slott.

STRANGEHAVEN #2 (Abiogenesis, 1995) – “Special Delivery/Guide of Souls/Secrets,” [W/A] Gary Spencer Millidge. Alex’s new love interest Janey shows him around town, while in the last segment, we witness an initiation ritual for a KKK-esque secret society. I’m really starting to like Strangehaven. It effectively evokes the atmosphere of rural England, but it also feels very weird.

HERBIE #22 (ACG, 1966) – “Just Like Magic!”, [W] Shane O’Shea (Richard Hughes), [A] Ogden Whitney. Herbie has to learn magic to defeat a creature named Magical Moe whose catchphrase is “Oh, tiddle, tiddle, tiddle.” Richard Hughes’s absurdist plot contrasts oddly with Whitney’s sober artwork. It turns out I already had this issue, but my old copy was coverless.

STAR SLAMMERS #4 (IDW, 2014) – “The Minoan Agendas Chapter One: The Prisoner,” [W/A] Walt Simonson. This issue begins with another stunning fight scene, but it turns out to be taking place inside the mind of a captured Star Slammer. Then we’re introduced to his captor, the white-haired, half-naked Phaedra. This story originally appeared in issue 1 of Malibu’s 1994 Star Slammers series.

THOR #218 (Marvel, 1973) – “Where Pass the Black Stars There Also Passes… Death!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Buscema. Thor, Tana Nile and some other Asgardians go to Rigel to search for the home planet of the Colonizers. But the Colonizers have already fled their planet to escape from five galaxy-eating black stars. This issue has some exciting Buscema artwork, but its story is unimpressive, and the Black Stars are barely distinguishable from Galactus or Ego. The Black Stars and their Rhunian masters never appeared again after this storyline.

RIP IN TIME #5 (Fantagor, 1987) – untitled, [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Richard Corben. Four modern humans are stranded in the era of dinosaurs, and one of them decides to play The  Most Dangerous Game with the other three. In the future, a scientist sacrifices his life to bring the stranded people back. Corben’s art in this issue is beautiful, as usual, and Jones’s plot is exciting, though his female characters have unflattering personalities.

SUICIDE SQUAD #15 (DC, 1988) – “Devil to Pay,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Luke McDonnell. The Suicide Squad are trapped in the Nightshade dimension, where Eve Eden discovers that her brother is possessed by a creature called the Incubus. This issue is okay, but its plot is very hard to understand without prior knowledge of Nightshade. This character was introduced in Ditko’s Captain Atom, but got most of her character development in Suicide Squad.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #7 (IDW, 2012) – untitled, [W] James Roberts, [A] Alex Milne. The Decepticon Justice Division tracks down a victim, and then the rest of the issue deals with the Lost Light crew. This series has brilliant dialogue and appealing art, but I don’t understand its plot, and I can’t tell any of the characters apart.

DAREDEVIL #14 (Marvel, 2012) – “Damned If You Do… Damned If You Don’t,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Matt tries to escape from Latveria, where he’s been abducted by Dr. Doom’s chancellor. Chris Samnee’s art is as amazing as always, but this issue’s plot is very forgettable – so much so that when I looked at it again just now, I wasn’t sure if I’d actually read it or not.

DEN #5 (Fantagor, 1989) – “Drowned Worlds,” [W] Simon Revelstroke, [A] Richard Corben. Lost at sea, Den is picked up by a submarine crewed by fish people. He finds that his lover Kath is captive on the same ship. Den is taken to the fish people’s city, where they try to make him their queen’s consort, but he and Kath escape. Corben’s art really demands to be seen in color, as it is here; his virtuosity with the airbrush is perhaps his most distinctive quality as an artist. Also, his fish people are very creepy. This issue includes two backup stories. The first one previously appeared in Catalan’s Werewolf hardcover, and the second is a silly two-pager that had never been published before, though it was done as “a possible men’s magazine feature.”

DEN #6 (Fantagor, 1989) – “Giants Below,” [W] Simon Revelstroke, [A] Richard Corben. Den and Kath travel through an underground passage using a tunnel-boring vehicle – and they’re fully aware of the sexual subtext of this. On finishing their journey, they continue their quest for the wizard Scon. Den may be Corben’s best work; it’s funny, exciting, and beautifully drawn, and it enables him to fully express his unique talents. It’s a shame that Den has fallen completely out of print. Dark Horse or Heavy Metal ought to do a complete collection of the entire saga.

ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN #14 (Marvel, 2012) – “Divided We Fall,” [W] Brian Wood, [A] Paco Medina w/ Reilly Brown. The U.S. has split up into several different nations, and a group of former X-Men are trying to escape from Reverend Stryker’s anti-mutant persecution. This doesn’t feel like an X-Men comic at all; the characters have the same names as familiar X-Men characters, but that’s all. Also, this issue is extremely bleak. It feels like the X-Men can’t possibly escape from genocide. That is not the sort of mood I’m looking for in a superhero comic.

ALIEN ENCOUNTERS #1 (Eclipse, 1985) – “Pretending,” [W] Eric Dinehart, [A] Mike Gustovich, plus other stories. I read this thinking it was Alien Worlds, but it’s a different series, which Bruce Jones was not involved with. This issue’s main story, about a planet called Bocland, is overwritten and completely incoherent. While reading it, I had no idea what it was about. The second story, by Ken Macklin, is forgettable, but at least it makes logical sense. The only good story in the issue is Buzz Dixon and Mike Hoffman’s “Gorgonzo,” about a special effects supervisor who gets revenge on his philistinic, penny-pinching boss.

ELFQUEST: THE FINAL QUEST #11 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Wendy Pini, [W] Richard Pini. I think the main event this issue is that Skywise and Timmain become a couple. Otherwise, this issue consists mostly of relationship drama that I don’t care about. As with Transformers, a difficulty with reading Elfquest is the large cast of characters, some of whom are hard to tell apart.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #8 (Image, 2015) – “Cosmic Apocalypse,” [W/A] Ryan Browne. The present version of Shelley goes into the past to recruit her and Bill’s past selves, and a lot of other nonsensical stuff happens. This series is only enjoyable if you like its absurdist, over-the-top style of humor, and I don’t.

PLANETARY #11 (DC, 2000) – “Mad World,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] John Cassaday. This issue introduces John Stone, Agent of S.T.O.R.M., based on James Bond and Nick Fury. We begin with one of his adventures from 1969, and then in the present, Elijah Snow consults him for information on his (Snow)’s past. This issue is well-executed, but it’s not nearly as clever as #7.

SUPERMAN #23 (DC, 2017) – “Black Dawn,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Doug Mahnke. Superman fights Mr. Cobb, the father of Jon’s friend Kathy. Meanwhile, Jon has been kidnapped by Manchester Black, who started out as a parody but who was later treated as a serious example of the character type he was parodying. I think I owe this insight to someone else.

HOME GROWN FUNNIES #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1971/1997) – “Whiteman Meets Bigfoot” and other stories, [W/A] Robert Crumb. This issue unfortunately begins with a grossly racist Angelfood McSpade story. Based on stories like this, it’s no wonder that younger generations of cartoonists are disowning Crumb. The bulk of this issue is devoted to “Whiteman Meets Bigfoot,” which I’ve read before. This story is perhaps Crumb’s ultimate wish fulfillment fantasy: it’s about a man who escapes from society and lives alone in the woods with a giant, hairy, horny woman. Despite being an obvious piece of wish fulfillment, it’s one of his most powerful and affecting works. I especially like the sequence where Whiteman returns to society, gets henpecked by his cruel wife (although of course we don’t get her perspective), and then discovers that scientists are experimenting on Bigfoot.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #80 (Marvel, 1991) – “Weapon X Chapter Eight,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith, plus other stories. The main story in this issue is another beautiful Weapon X chapter, in which Wolverine escapes captivity and hacks the Professor’s hand off. As a child, I got some issues of MCP featuring Weapon X from the library, but I didn’t understand its plot, and I was unable to se what was so distinctive and special about BWS’s art. It’s nice to revisit this storyline as an adult. The issue continues with a Captain America  story by Steve Ditko, which is a standard example of his late style. It includes his odd monosyllabic names, like “Jake Bage,” and a character with a similar hairstyle to Norman Osborn. Its politics are also a bit reactionary. Next is a Daughters of the Dragon story written by Jo Duffy, and then a Mr. Fantastic story by Danny Fingeroth, in which Reed encounters a black child prodigy scientist. I know I read this story when I was little,  because I remember the kid telling Reed to use the sine instead of the cosine. I think that was the first time I ever heard those words.

WONDER WOMAN #218 (DC, 2005) – “The Calm,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Ron Randall. Ares comes to Paradise Island and kidnaps his young daughter Lyta. There are also a lot of other subplots. This was a very average issue, and I don’t remember much about it. I was very enthusiastic about Rucka’s first Wonder Woman run when it began, but I gradually lost interest in it.

LOCKE & KEY: CLOCKWORKS #4 (IDW, 2012) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. This issue is a flashback to Rendell Locke and Dodge’s high school years. With their high school graduation coming up, Rendell, Dodge and their friends decide to go through the forbidden Black Door, since they’re only forbidden to look through it, not open it. But Rendell’s little brother Duncan, who plays the same role in this series as Bode does in the other miniseries, insists on coming along. Dodge makes Duncan promise not to “walk down these steps into the Drowning Cave” again that day, but there’s a loophole in that promise, and when the kids open the Black Door, Duncan shows up again and ruins everything. Which I assume was Dodge’s plan. Locke & Key back issues have become hard to find, probably due to the TV series. I hope I can find more of them soon.

HILLBILLY #11 (Albatross, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. Half this issue is a sequence in which a mother tells her son a story about the Iron Child. The Iron Child sequence is illustrated with deliberately crude art that seems to have been reproduced directly from pencils. In the other half of the issue, Rondel tries to recruit people to fight the witches, but it doesn’t work until he reveals that he himself is the Iron Child. For most of this issue the only color used is green, but there’s a striking moment when a witch fires a purple energy bolt at Rondel.

QUANTUM & WOODY #19 (Acclaim, 1999) – “Heroes,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] M.D. Bright. Quantum and Woody’s link has been severed, but Toyo Harada is planning something. This issue made even less sense to me than a typical Priest comic, and I don’t remember much about it. Quantum & Woody is one of those comics that I’d like to go back and read in order, if I had unlimited time.

Some of the following comics were part of an order I received from Midtown Comics, consisting entirely of dollar books. One thing I’m going to miss about conventions is being able to dig through dollar and quarter boxes.

BATMAN #41 (DC, 2015) – “Superheavy Part One,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Commissioner Gordon assumes the role of Batman, puts on a suit of armor with rabbit ears, and battles an electricity-powered villain. I remember that when this comic came out, people made a lot of jokes about the rabbit armor, but it’s not as silly as it looks. However, this comic is only okay and not great, though Capullo’s art is excellent.

THE NEW AVENGERS #13 (Marvel, 2016) – “A.I.M. vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. Part II: Part of the Team,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina. A Civil War II crossover in which the main event is Songbird’s battlewith a bunch of Life Model Decoys of Dum Dum Dugan. The New Avengers was a sort of prequel to USAvengers, a series I really like, and it has a similar sense of humor.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #17 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Graveyard Shift Part Two: Trust Issues,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Humberto Ramos. This issue begins with a funny scene in which Aunt May and JJJ Sr think Peter and Anna Maria are a couple, because they don’t know that Peter was possessed by Doc Ock while he and Anna Maria were together. Afterward, the Ghost invades Parker Industries, and the main story ends as he’s about to kill Peter’s coworker Sanjani. The backup story is about the Black Cat.

MOON KNIGHT #4 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Declan Shalvey. Moon Knight investigates the case of a sleep scientist whose patients are all having the same dreams. I’ve never had much interest in Moon Knight, but the dream sequence in this issue is stunning. It’s drawn in a surrealistic style, with bizarre colors and fungal growths everywhere, and it ends in a splash page depicting an insectoid-fungal creature that looks like something out of Jeff VanderMeer. The plot of this issue is also VanderMeer-esque, since the dreams are being caused by a corpse with a fungal infection.

STRANGEHAVEN #3 (Abiogenesis, 1996) – “Call No Man Happy/My Alien Retina/Too Many Questions,” [W/A] Gary Spencer Millidge. Alex gets hired as a teacher at Strangehaven Primary, but his boss is a member of the creepy local version of the KKK.  This is another dense and fascinating issue. I think the best thing about this series is its sense of extreme local specificity.

ZENITH #1/3 (Fleetway/Quality, 1993) – “Fixin’ to Die” and other sequences, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Zenith defeats the Lovecraftian monster, and then in a couple  flashback sequences, we get some background on the WWII-era origins of this universe’s superheroes. This series is very reminiscent of Miracleman, though not as accomplished. Steve Parkhouse’s art is old-fashioned and he’s not great at drawing cosmic horror, but Brendan McCarthy’s costume designs are excellent.

INJECTION #6 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Declan Shalvey. This issue has the same creative team as the issue of Moon Knight I just reviewed. Injection #6 introduces a detective named Headland, who resembles Sherlock Holmes but seems to be even further on the autism spectrum. A rich man hires Headland to locate his missing son, and Headland discovers that the son was murdered and turned into ham. This issue isn’t as stunning as Moon Knight #4, but it’s fascinating. I can’t see how it connects to the other issues of Injection that I’ve read.

DETECTIVE COMICS #47 (DC, 2016) – “Robin War Part Three: Getting Dirty,” [W] Ray Fawkes, [A] Steve Pugh. Jim Gordon is still Batman and is still wearing the bunny suit. Gotham has been imprisoning and locking up teenagers who sympathize with Robin. The Robin War premise is interesting, but otherwise this is just an average Batman comic.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #104 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. Jenny befriends the runaway mutant kids from last issue, and then the Turtles are finally reunited. This issue is very emotionally charged, and the four Turtle siblings’ reunion is a heartwarming moment. Issue 101, to be reviewed later, offers important context as to why the Turtles were separated and why some of them were in such poor mental health.

ACTION COMICS #371 (DC, 1969) – “The President of Steel!”, [W] Otto Binder, [A] Curt Swan. Superman forgets his secret identity, so he assumes he must really be the President. He manages to successfully substitute himself for the President, but then he discovers that the real President was kidnapped, and rescues him. The obvious problem with Superman’s guess as to his secret identity is that the President is hardly ever alone long enough to maintain a double life. Superman even points out that with the Secret Service always around, it was hard to switch to his other identity. According to a footnote, the President in this issue was drawn to look different from any real politician, “in order not to offend the dignity of the office of President.” Back in 1969, that office still had some dignity. In the backup story, by Dorfman and Schaffenberger, Supergirl discovers a biography of herself from the future.

BATMAN #592 (DC, 2001) – “Shot Through the Heart,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Scott McDaniel. Bruce is shot by Deadshot, then meets an alleged childhood friend of Mallory Moxon. If that surname sounds familiar, that’s because her father is Lew Moxon, who, in pre-Crisis continuity, arranged the Waynes’ deaths. Deadshot is depicted in this issue as just a generic villain, without the personality that Ostrander and Yale gave him.

KARNAK #3 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Flaw in All Things Part 3,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Roland Boschi. Karnak investigates a cult called the Chapel of the Single Shadow. The most interesting thing about this series is its exploration of Karnak, both his personality and the strange implications of his powers. Other than that, this comic is just okay.

THE FILTH #6 (Vertigo, 2003) – “The World of Anders Klimakks,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Gary Erskine. The protagonists battle two villainous sex-themed villains called Tex Porneau and Anders Klimakks. Chris Weston’s art in this issue is excellent, but this issue’s is a disturbing read. There is sex everywhere in this issue, including the cover. It depicts sex with even less subtlety than Sex Criminals, as hard as that is to do, and it makes the reader feel embarrassed and dirty. Also, as usual with Morrison, this issue’s plot is hard to follow.

TRANSFORMERS #68 (Marvel, 1990) – “The Human Factor!”, [W] Simon Furman, [A] Dwayne Turner. This issue introduces the Neo-Knights, a team of human superheroes assembled by G.B. Blackrock. I don’t understand why Furman chose to introduce a superhero team into a comic about giant robots. Based on information from tfwiki.net, I think Furman may have been hoping to spin off these characters into their own series, though that didn’t happen. In any event, this issue is handicapped by Dwayne Turner’s art. He was okay at drawing people, but he had no ability to draw realistic-looking robots.

G.I. JOE #65 (Marvel, 1987) – “Shuttle Complex,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Ron Wagner. A G.I. Joe spaceship battles a Cobra spaceship piloted by the Baroness and Fred, who is posing as Cobra Commander. This issue expresses a basic paradox of this series. On one hand, it was a realistic, gritty war comic, based on Hama’s own military experience. On the other hand, it was based on a toy line, so it had to include farfetched stuff like space dogfights.

DETECTIVE COMICS #743 (DC, 2000) – “Evolution One: Whispers in the Dark,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Shawn Martinborough. Gotham is embroiled in a five-way gang war stemming from No Man’s Land. I actually remember No Man’s Land from when I read Batman comics semi-regularly, so this issue serves as a bridge between the Batman comics I remember and the era when I wasn’t following Batman at all. Also in this issue, Bruce meets a love interest named Whisper A’Daire who’s actually a minion of Ra’s al Ghul. I don’t like Shawn Martinborough’s draftsmanship, but the coloring in this issue is quite distinctive; the only colors used are red and orange.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #23 (DC, 1973) – “Where Broods the Demon!”, [W] George Alec Effinger, [A] Val Mayerik. An adaptation of a story starring Thongor, Warrior of Lost Lemuria. Thongor is a bargain-basement version of Conan, and this story is barely distinguishable from an issue of Conan the Barbarian, except it lacks Roy Thomas’s witty dialogue. At least Val Mayerik’s art isn’t bad. A demon in this issue is named Aqquoonkagua, presumably after the South American mountain Aconcagua. This issue includes a reprinted old story about some giant aliens who decide not to conquer Earth because it‘s beneath their notice.

FANTASTIC FOUR #180 (Marvel, 1977) – “Bedlam in the Baxter Building!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. This issue has an exciting cover depicting Thundra, Tigra and the Impossible Man, but none of those characters appear in it. Instead, the entire issue is a Dreaded Deadline Doom reprint of FF #101, which I already had. It has been a while since I read FF #101, and it’s not a bad issue; its plot is that a Maggia leader called the Top Man tries to take over the Baxter Building.

TEEN TITANS #33 (DC, 1971) – “Less than Human?”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] George Tuska & Nick Cardy. It’s not clear which of the two artists did what. In this issue the Titans return from a mission to the past, but a caveman named Gnarrk comes back with them, and they have to “civilize” him and turn him into a modern man. In the process, Gnarrk falls in love with Lilith. This issue’s treatment of Gnarrk is very paternalistic and colonialist; the Titans treat him as if he were a baby, and there’s little acknowledgement that he’s 17 years old and has his own language and culture. Still, Gnarrk and Lilith’s romance is cute, and the art in this issue is good. Gnarrk is oddly similar to Garn from issue 2, as I mentioned in my review of that issue earlier this year.

SKULL THE SLAYER #5 (Marvel, 1976) – “Magic, Myth and Madness!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. Mantlo was this series’ third writer in as many issues. This issue, Skull and his friends team up with the Black Knight and King Arthur’s knights and fight a villain named Slitherogue. But both the knights and the villains turn out to be robots, endlessly refighting a pointless war. This issue has a vague anti-war message, but it’s mostly a bunch of fight scenes with tedious captions.

HILLBILLY #10 (Albatross, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. Rondel and his friends James and Esther try to recruit allies, both human and animal, for the coming battle against the witches. This issue is mostly setup for the next two. Again, Eric Powell’s art is excellent. I like how his characters look highly stylized, while also seeming to have three dimensions.

ROYALS #9 (Marvel, 2017) – “On the Other Side,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This series stars the Inhuman royals, including Medusa and Gorgon, who are sleeping together. I don’t recall much about this issue’s plot, but Javier Rodriguez’s art is amazing, especially his full-page depictions of bizarre alien worlds. He is one of the best artists Marvel has at the moment, and he deserves to be more of a superstar than he is.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #7 (Eclipse, 1987) – “New & Improved Gunk’l’dunk!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. Mr. Spook is suspicious of the hypnotic powers of the Clang Twang, but Proffy discovers that it can be used to produce a superior version of Gunk’l’dunk. The fun part about Beanworld is that every issue gives us more understanding of what the Beanworld is and how it works. There’s a sequence in this issue where one of the Boom’r Beans has to swim under the island to get to the other side. I don’t see why he couldn’t have walked there.

FANTASTIC FOUR #96 (Marvel, 1969) – “The Mad Thinker and the Androids of Death!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. The Mad Thinker kidnaps Johnny and Sue, but Reed and Ben manage to beat him and his androids. This is an exciting issue with thrilling artwork. Its weak point is its sexist depiction of Sue. The scene where she goes shopping for clothes is kind of cringeworthy.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #653 (Marvel, 2011) – “Revenge of the Spider-Slayer Part Two: All You Love Will Die”, [W] Dan Slott & Fred Van Lente, [A] Stefano Caselli. Peter tries to save John Jameson’s space shuttle from the Scorpion, while other insect villains are invading the Daily Bugle offices and the spa where Aunt May and Marla are relaxing. The most memorable moment in this issue is when Spidey calls Avengers Mansion and Squirrel Girl answers the phone. This was when she was Danielle Cage’s nanny, so she’s depicted less seriously than in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. It’s easy to forget that Slott, not Ryan North, was the writer who revived Squirrel Girl. This issue suffers a bit from the lack of Slott’s dialogue.

EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN #12 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Humberto Ramos. A boring story that’s mostly about Apocalypse and Magik. There’s little or nothing about this issue that indicates that Jeff Lemire wrote it.

THOR #264 (Marvel, 1977) – “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Walt Simonson. Walt Simonson’s first Thor run was far less impressive than his second, because first, he didn’t write it himself, and second, he was saddled with inappropriate inkers like Tony DeZuniga. There are only a few places in this issue where you can recognize Simonson’s style under DeZuniga’s inks. This issue has a formulaic plot where Loki seizes the throne of Asgard, and Thor and his friends have to get it back. The best moment in this issue is when Volstagg says his eye, arm and heart are like those of an eagle, titan and lion, and Fandral replies that his mouth is like that of the “bellowing wind.”

WONDER WOMAN #302 (DC, 1983) – “Victory!”, [W] Dan Mishkin, [A] Gene Colan. Diana fights a skeletal Amazon warrior named Artemis, not to be confused with the later, more prominent character of that name. Mishkin’s Wonder Woman helped qualify him to write Amethyst, and this issue is reasonably good, but it’s not spectacular. There’s also a Huntress backup story by Joey Cavalieri. When written by Paul Levitz, the Huntress backup stories in Wonder Woman were always much better than the main stories, but here it’s the other way around. Cavalieri’s Huntress stories were boring, and he ruined Helena and Harry Sims’s relationship.

STAR TREK #51 (DC, 1988) – “Haunted Honeymoon,” [W] Peter David, [A] Tom Sutton. Bryce and Konom, two characters who only appeared in this comic book series, get married. Lieutenant Castille, another character unique to this series, loses control of his telepathic powers, and the entire crew goes crazy. I love how Peter David writes the classic Star Trek characters, but Tom Sutton was an odd choice of artist for this series. His talents are far more suited to horror. Perhaps he was chosen because of his prior experience drawing Planet of the Apes.

TWISTED TALES #3 (Pacific, 1983) – “Me an Ol’ Rex,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Richard Corben. All the stories in this issue are written by Jones. The first one is about an abused, neglected little boy who starts feeding people to his pet tyrannosaurus. The twist ending is that the tyrannosaurus is actually his dad. This seems unnecessary and tacked on. Next, in Doug Wildey’s “Off Key,” a screenwriter and his wife discover that they’re characters in a screenplay. Wildey’s art here is phenomenal. He’s especially good at drawing naked women, something I would not have expected. Bill Wray’s “With Honor” is an unconvincing story about a Japanese soldier who’s tricked into thinking World War II is still going on. Last, Bret Blevins’s “Sunken Chest” has the typical EC plot where a woman conspires with her lover to murder her husband. The way the murderers are revealed is gruesome and surprising.

HILLBILLY #12 (Albatross, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. On the eve of the final battle, Rondel confesses his love for Esther. Rondel and his allies ar victorious, but Esther is killed, and Rondel goes off to wander the hills with his bear companion. This is an effective conclusion to a series that was better than I realized.

CRITTERS #14 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “Bounty Hunter II,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Gen team up to collect a bounty, and Gen emerges unscathed while Usagi gets into a bloody, painful fight. Usagi gets his revenge by sticking Gen with their tavern bill. Usagi behaves rather differently with Gen than with anyone else, and this may be because Usagi and Gen’s relationship originated in early stories like this one, when Usagi’s personality was not fully developed. This issue also includes a Gnuff story, which is not bad, and a chapter of Steven Gallacci’s Birthright, perhaps one of the worst comics Fantagraphics ever published.

AQUAMAN #42 (DC, 1998) – “Necessary Poisons,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jim Calafiore. Aquaman battles a new villain who turns into a werewolf when wet. Back at home, he gets increasingly impatient with running Poseidonis. I get the sense that at this point in his run, PAD was getting kind of tired of Aquaman. There aren’t a lot of new ideas in this issue.

PLANETOID #1 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing, An astronaut lands on a grim, ugly planet covered with decaying industrial buildings. After fighting a robotic snake, he meets another human, and they tell each other their stories. The upshot is that the astronaut arrived on the planet while fleeing from the hostile alien Ono Mao – but now that he’s on the planet, he can’t leave. I have a few more issues of Planetoid, but I haven’t read them yet.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #655 (Marvel, 2011) – “In Memory of Marla Jameson,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Marcos Martin. This is probably Dan Slott’s best issue of Spider-Man, or perhaps of any comic book. In #654, Marla Jameson was killed. The first half of this issue is a wordless sequence depicting her funeral. In the second half, Peter has a ddraem sequence where he sees all his dead loved ones – his parents, Uncle Ben, Gwen, Sally Avril, the Kid Who Collects Spider-Man, and many others I couldn’t recognize. Peter’s only response is to swear that he won’t let anyone else die. The problem is that the end of the issue introduces Massacre, a villain who openly states he has no concern for human life. The real MVP of this issue is Marcos Martin. Without using any words, he conveys the grimness of the funeral service. In the dream sequence, his nonstandard page layouts (one page is a spiral, and another page  is an Escherian scene with no clear up and down) convey Peter’s sense of uneasiness and distortion.

BATMAN #74 (DC, 2019) – “The Fall and the Fallen, Conclusion,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janin. Batman and his alleged father travel through the desert to a Lazarus pit. Because of the desert setting and Batman’s lack of a shirt, I assume this issue is a deliberate homage to “The Demon Lives Again” from Batman #244. This issue extensively quotes from a Russian folktale where some animals fall into a pit and eat each other. This is a real folktale called “The Animals in the Pit,” written or recorded by Alexander Afanasyev, and it previously showed up in issue 57.

THE DESERT PEACH #6 (Mu Press, 1990) – “A Day Like Any Other,” [W/A] Donna Barr. A new medical officer joins Pfirsch Rommel’s regiment and is shocked to discover all the weird people that Pfirsch surrounds himself with. This issue is very funny and also serves as an efficient introduction to the series. Throughout her work, Donna Barr threads the needle of presenting German culture sympathetically without becoming an apologist for Nazism. In this issue, she accomplishes that balance by showing that Pfirsch is disgusted by typical Nazi racism. This issue has a visual gimmick where somewhere on each page, there’s a bird (a duck maybe) that has the page number attached to it. At the end of the issue, one of Pfirsch’s soldiers captures and kills the bird.

HAUNTED LOVE #9 (Charlton, 1975) – “Death Waits for Moonrise,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Sanho Kim, plus other stories. This issue starts with a werewolf story which is reasonably good, but has an incongruous happy ending. It includes an unintentionally funny moment where the protagonist says he can’t marry his fiancee until he creats a vaccine for lycanthropy. Next are two ghost stories: a boring one by Pat Boyette, and a gorgeous one by the super-underrated Enrique Nieto.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: DALLAS #1 (Dark Horse, 2008) – “Dallas Part One: The Jungle,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. I still don’t understand this series at all, and I probably won’t until I read the first miniseries, the original issues of which are prohibitively expensive. At least this issue is extremely well-drawn. I love Moon and Bá’s art. And this issue is at least a little clearer than Hotel Oblivion was.

BATMAN #606 (DC, 2002) – “Death-Wish for Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker & Geoff Johns, [A] Scott McDaniel. Batman tries to save David Cain from being assassinated by Deadshot. This is a pretty boring issue, although at least it gives Deadshot a bit more of a personality than issue 602 did.

HILLBILLY #7 (Albatross, 2017) – “Beware the Wolf,” [W/A] Eric Powell. Rondell meets a shaman who causes him to have a vision of a monstrous wolf. The vision sequence is in 3D, but I don’t think this comic came with 3D glasses. Also, the vision sequence is drawn rather sloppily as  compared to Powell’s usual style.

SILK #7 (Marvel, 2016) – “Spider-Women 3,” [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Tana Ford. Cindy Moon finds herself on Earth-65, I think, where she meets alternate versions of herself and her family. This issue is part of the Spider-Woman crossover, which in the case of this series is actually a good thing, because its usual plots were less interesting than that of the crossover.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #16 (Marvel, 1972) – “Warrior of Mars,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane. This issue is an adaptation of Edwin L. Arnold’s 1905 novel Lieut. Gullivar Jones, which has some curious similarities to ERB’s John Carter novels, and may have helped inspire them. Gullivar Jones was totally forgotten until Dick Lupoff rediscovered it in the ‘60s, and in tribute to Lupoff, an Abin Sur-esque character in Creatures on the Loose #16 is named Lu-Pov. My friend Ian Gould has read Gullivar Jones and says it’s “not that similar” to John Carter; however, Jones and Kane’s adaptation of the novel reads very like a John Carter comic.  As one would expect, Gil Kane’s artwork on this story is brilliant. Unfortunately the Gullivar Jones story is just ten pages, and the rest of the issue consists of reprinted monster stories.

Some of the next comics were part of an order I received from Mile High, who had a 65% off sale:

THE AUTHORITY #12 (Wildstorm, 2000) – “Outer Dark Four of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. The Authority battle God and win, but Jenny Sparks dies as the century ends (and she has an answer for why she’s dying in 2000, not 2001). This issue produces a powerful sense of wonder; Ellis’s writing and Hitch’s widescreen art convey the sublime majesty and terror of the alien entity. I’ve probably said this before, but I think Ellis is fundamentally a science fiction writer, and his work often seeks to convey the sense of wonder which is a characteristic affect of SF. By contrast, his successor on Authority, Mark Millar, is more interested in shock value.

SUPERNATURAL LAW #33 (Exhibit A, 2002) – “Lawyers & Clients,” [W/A] Batton Lash. A demon named Huberis the Dybbuk hires Wolff & Byrd to sue a church for not letting him worship there. However, Huberis refuses to work with Wolff because she’s a woman, and when Byrd wins his case anyway, he’s still not happy because the judge is also a woman. This issue is an extremely witty parody of Cerebus. Huberis, of course, is a parody of Sim’s extreme sexism, and may have been prompted by Sim’s misogynistic “Tangents” essay from the previous year. Huberis’s part of the story is narrated in illustrated text, which Sim often used in the latter part of Cerebus, and these sequences even use Sim’s characteristic fuzzy black panel borders. The issue is also full of Cerebus in-jokes, including references to Astoria, Tarim, and “something fell.” “Lawyers and Clients” actually makes me want to read more Cerebus, because some of the in-jokes probably went over my head.

FLASH GORDON #7 (Dynamite, 2014) – “Skyfall,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. This was the last issue of this series that I was missing. In “Skyfall,” Vultan, king of Sky World, wants Flash, Dale and Zarkov’s assistance against Ming, but Zarkov gets Vultan drunk so they can steal their ship back from him. Doc Shaner’s art in this issue is amazing, and Jeff Parker gives the characters more of a personality than they ever had before. The problem with this issue is that it’s too short; the main story ends on the first page of the centerfold.

ARCHIE #24 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Audrey Mok. “Over the Edge” and the issues immediately following it were probably Mark Waid’s best comics of the past decade. This issue deals with Betty’s trauma over her injury, as well as the extensive accommodations required to make her house accessible. A powerful moment is when Archie sells his car to pay for Betty’s physical therapy, even though Betty’s father is refusing to let him see her. So instead, Archie draws a heart in the frost on Betty’s window.

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #5 (DC, 2020) – “Scrubbing Up, Part Two,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Tommy Willowtree tells Constantine that he was appointed this generation’s Mystagogue by the Guardians of the Merlintrove. Constantine has never heard of these Guardians, so he goes out looking for him, but while he’s gone, they attack Tommy and severely injure him. Meanwhile, Constantine’s older self recruits his younger self’s enemy Barry. Much of the appeal of this series comes from the interplay between Constantine and Tommy, who embodies all the stereotypes about hipsters.

JIMBO #1 (Zongo, 1995) – numerous vignettes, [W/A] Gary Panter. A series of short strips mostly focusing on a Bart Simpson-haired punk who wanders through a postapocalyptic world. This comic’s art style is intentionally crude; the lettering and linework are shaky, and there’s no variation in line width. The story also seems incoherent at first, though it eventually does start to make sense. The strange thing is that though Panter’s artwork looks awful at first glance, at least in this comic, he’s unquestionably one of the most important influences on contemporary comics. He inspired lots of artists who deliberately reject virtuosity and seek to convey the handmade quality of their art. Jeffrey Brown is the first example who comes to mind. Also, Panter’s elaborate cover art for this issue shows that he (like Brown) is not an incompetent, but a highly skilled artist who’s capable of working in many different styles. I’ve never been able to get into Panter, but I need to try. I   bought Jimbo: Adventures in Paradise back in high school but never read it, and it’s still at my parents’ house. The next time I go there, I need to take that book back.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #657 (Marvel, 2011) – “Torch Song,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Marcos Martin et al. This was part of another order from Heroes. This issue was published just after Johnny Storm’s temporary death in  Fantastic Four #587, and so Slott was faced with the task of writing two funeral stories in three issues. Peter alludes to this by saying that he skipped Johnny’s funeral because he’s been to too many funerals later. Slott wisely chooses not to do another sad story like #655. Instead, #657 is a frame story with three inserted stories by different artists, each illustrating a different facet of Peter and the FF’s relationship. At the end, Johnny bequeaths Peter his spot in the FF. This issue is a touching tribute to Peter and Johnny’s friendship, and it still holds up well even though Johnny has long since come back to life.

SKYWARD #4 (Action Lab, 2013) – “Rabite Season,” [W/A] Jeremy Dale. I wonder if the next issue was called “Duk Season.” This issue has a number of different plotlines, including one about a young prince whose father refuses to let him join the royal army, and another about a tribe of warrior bunnies. Jeremy Dale’s artwork and storytelling are extremely appealing, and this is a very fun comic. It’s too bad he didn’t get a chance to develop his talents further.

HEATHEN #10 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Natasha Alterici, [A] Ashley A. Woods. Aydis infiltrates the prison, and there’s also a subplot about her friends who are looking for her. This series is significantly worse without Alterici’s art. She’s still doing the coloring, but Woods is unable to imitate her unique art style.

DETECTIVE COMICS #51 (DC, 2016) – “Our Gordon at War,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Fernando Pasarin. Jim Gordon meets an old war buddy who tells him that the members of their unit are being murdered, and then the buddy is himself murdered, by an Egyptian cultist. Gordon heads to a military base in Afghanistan to investigate. This issue is very gruesome and grim, but its depiction of the army feels realistic.

WILD’S END #4 (Boom!, 2014) – “Upper Deeping,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. The survivors reach the village of Upper Deeping, where they find one remaining survivor, but he and Alph apparently get blown up by a pursuing Martian. I love how the Martians in this comic have heads that look like lampposts; it makes them seem quaintly Victorian, yet also threatening. This issue’s bonus feature is an excerpt from one of Lewis F. Corbett’s stories, which, as we learn this issue, were ghostwritten by his ex-wife. I forgot to mention earlier that the setting of this comic is not the real England, but an idealized fantasy version thereof. But its setting still feels very English.

STARMAN #61 (DC, 2000) – “In Tranquility and Fire: A Prologue to Grand Guignol,” [W] James Robinson, [A] Peter Snejbjerg. This was one of only two issues I was missing, along with #69. This issue is a bridge between the series’ last two major story arcs, The Stars My Destination and Grand Guignol. Jack goes home and can’t wait to see Sadie, but she’s not there, and something weird is going on in Opal. The issue ends with Culp staging a massive terrorist attack.

WILD’S END #5 (Boom!, 2015) – “Downstream,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. Alph survives the Martian attack, but with serious injuries. The old dog guy gives him a speech about war. This character’s wartime trauma is an important subtext to the series. The survivors visit the local squire, who has a car (though he’s not a toad), but he foolishly confronts an alien and gets killed. The protagonists take his car and drive off, only to realize that they don’t dare go to the nearest town because the aliens would follow them there. This issue completes my Wild’s End collection. I still have to read the third volume, which was only released as a trade.

HEATHEN #4 (Vault, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. Aydis saves an alleged witch from being lynched, and learns that the witch was arranging meetings for two male lovers. In a flashback, Aydis tells a story about a similar experience that made her realize she was gay. This is a touching story about queer identity, and it also benefits from Alterici’s entirely unique style of art.

SHE-HULK #16 (Marvel, 2007) – “Planet Without a Hulk, Part Two: Gamma Flight,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Rick Burchett. She-Hulk and Wolverine fight Wendigo, while the Hulkbusters and the Tsuu T’ina First Nation argue about jurisdiction. There are also some scenes set back in New York at the GLKH law firm. At the end of the issue, Jen propositions Wolverine, but he turns her down because he doesn’t want Juggernaut’s sloppy seconds. This foreshadows a later issue which retcons away the story where Jen slept with Juggernaut. A similar metatextual reference occurs earlier in this issue where Stu Cicero’s staff can’t figure out how Avengers/Power Pack and Stan Lee Meets Spider-Man fit into continuity. On Stu and his comics vault, see my recent essay in the edited collection Ms. Marvel’s America: No Normal.

INJECTION #8 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Declan Shalvey. Headland continues to investigate the Case of the Human Ham, and we get some background on his lack of emotion. There’s also a subplot that I don’t quite understand. Injection is one of the more interesting of Ellis’s less prominent works.

STINZ #5 (Brave New Worlds, 1990) – “Wedding Hell,” [W/A] Donna Barr. Stinz’s wedding is coming up, but he has to stop his dumb friends from staging a traditional Brautjagd, or bride abduction. Bride kidnapping, real or staged, is a traditional custom in many cultures, but I can’t tell if it was ever a custom in Germany. The wedding turns out fine in the end, but what Stinz doesn’t know is that his unit is about to be called up to action. There’s a backup story in which a two-legger scientist describes his observations of the Geisel Valley  at an earlier period.

HELLBLAZER #176 (DC, 2002) – “High on Life Part 2 of 2,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Steve Dillon. In Liverpool, Constantine, who is wearing a beard for some reason, investigates a crime spree in which women are being murdered with a straight razor. He discovers that the killer is an old lady who’s murdering beautiful women so she can magically access their memories of being beautiful. This issue gives a powerful sense of the grim, gritty atmosphere of Liverpool, but I had trouble remembering anything else about it.

WINTERWORLD #1 (Eclipse, 1987) – untitled, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Jorge Zaffino. An SF story set in a dystopian snow-covered future world. Chuck Dixon’s story is average (and I feel obliged to mention here that I can’t stand him), but the real attraction of this comic is Zaffino’s art. He was from Argentina, and he draws in a scratchy, realistic style presumably influenced by Breccia and Pratt. His art is fascinating, although it would probably be far more effctive in black and white. IDW did reprint Winterworld in black and white, but if I bought that book, I would make sure to buy it used, so as not to give any money to Dixon.

SENSATION COMICS FEATURING WONDER WOMAN #17 (DC, 2016) – “Island of Lost Souls,” [W] Trina Robbins, [A] Chris Gugliotti. A full-length story that focuses on Wonder Woman and Cheetah’s relationship. It also includes a doctor named George Herbert and a bunch of human-animal hybrids, so it’s a mildly disguised homage to The Island of Dr. Moreau. It’s not the best Wonder Woman story, but it’s reasonably good. Chris Gugliotti has a cute and distinctive style of art that vaguely reminds me of that of Tana Ford.

CATWOMAN #40 (DC, 2015) – “The Issue and End,” [W] Genevieve Valentine, [A] Garry Brown. Another lousy issue: a bunch of uninteresting mob intrigue, dressed up with classical and Renaissance references. I still haven’t read any of Valentine’s fiction, but I’m not impressed with her comics work.

THE FOX #2 (Archie, 2015) – “The Other Shoe,” [W/A] Dean Haspiel, [W] Mark Waid. The Fox and his son, the Ghost Fox, fight three different villains at once. Some of my friends liked this series because it reminded them of older comics, but I was never particularly impressed with it.

DEATHBLOW: BYBLOWS #1 (WildStorm, 1999) – “Byblows Part One,”  [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. I’ve often been underwhelmed by Moore’s Image and WildStorm work, so this issue was a very pleasant surprise. A naked, bald woman wakes up inside an incubator on an alien planet. She fights and defeats an alien cyborg, and then meets a little boy in a suit. All three characters are named Cray. This issue creates an appealing sense of mystery and strangeness, but perhaps its best quality is its art, which was often the weak point in Moore’s Image comics. Baikie was an old collaborator of Moore’s – they worked together on Skizz, which I have not read – and he draws in a very British style that resembles that of Dave Gibbons. His draftsmanship is kind of blocky, but his storytelling is extremely strong. About half this issue is wordless, yet the reader is never confused as to what’s going on.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #659 (Marvel, 2011) – “Fantastic Voyage Part I of II,” [W] Dan Slott & Fred Van Lente, [A] Stefano Caselli. Peter and the Fantastic Four go back in time to look for Blackbeard’s treasure, and they fight some zombie pirates. Meanwhile, Carlie Cooper gets a drunk tattoo. This is an entertaining issue, and it’s really fun seeing Peter interacting with the Future Foundation kids, but Van Lente is a worse dialogue writer than Slott. There are two backup stories: a two-pager written by Slott, and a longer one written by Rob Williams, in which Spidey teams up with Ghost Rider.

THE WILD STORM #2 (DC, 2017) – “The Wild Storm – Chapter Two,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. I guess this series was a reboot of the entire WildStorm universe. It includes characters like Grifter and Henry Bendix. It’s not bad, but it’s not as interesting as other Ellis comics I’ve read lately, and its story is hard to understand.

CURSE WORDS #3 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Sizzajee decides to send Ruby Stitch to the human world. Meanwhile, Wizord accidentally discovers how to use Places of Power to restore his powers. There are no real surprises in this issue since I’ve already read many of the later ones, but this issue does fill in some gaps in the plot.

DYING IS EASY #4 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Martin Simmonds. Another issue that completely squanders Martin Simmonds’s artistic talents. The only thing in this issue that looks like Simmonds (or the version of him that we saw in Punks Not Dead) is the woman carrying balloons. I’m so frustrated with the art in this series that I don’t care about the writing. I’m sorry that I already ordered issue 5.

ARCHIE #522 (Archie, 2002) – “Repair Despair!”, [W] Bill Golliher, [A] Stan Goldberg, plus other stories. In the main story, Mr. Andrews refuses to pay for repairs to Archie’s car, but when he’s forced to drive the car himself, he changes his mind. This issue also includes a story where Archie works as a waiter, a Star Trek parody, and a story about Archie’s pet turtle. This issue’s two stories written by Bill Golliher are much wittier than the two written by Mike Pellowski.

NEOTOPIA #1 (Antarctic, 2003) – “The Replacement Princess,” [W/A] Rod Espinosa. In a utopian world that blends SF and fantasy elements, we’re introduced a kind and brave young princess. But then we realize that this girl is a stand-in for the real princess, who is a horrible person. I’d be willing to read more of this series. Espinosa’s artwork here is perhaps better than in Adventure Finders, because it’s less obviously reliant on digital imagery.

ASTONISHER #6 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “It’s a Beautiful Li(f)e,” [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Al Barrionuevo & Pop Mhan. This issue is about two brothers, one of whom is a crazy ne’er-do-well. I’ve never been able to follow the plot of this series, although Alex de Campi is a great writer whose work I need to explore further.

THE FIX #8 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Steve Lieber. This issue begins with a partly silent sequence about an injured dog. A funny moment here is when one of the dog’s owners says that the family cat will be worried sick, and in a four-panel sequence, we see the cat licking itself and going back to sleep in its basket. The second half of this issue is an unfunny parody of the secret agent genre. I hate Nick Spencer’s writing, largely because of the contempt he shows for his readers, and I mostly bought this comic because of Steve Lieber’s art.

LEGENDARY STAR-LORD #12 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Paco Medina. This issue includes some funny depictions of the Collector’s collection, which includes items like the Beyonder’s blazer and Rocket Raccoon’s original tail. Also, the Collector’s museum is located in the head of a giant frog. This version of the Collector is clearly based on Benicio del Toro’s film portrayal, and not on the depiction of the character in earlier comics. Other than that, I neither understand nor care about this comic’s plot.

LOVE AND CAPES: THE FAMILY WAY #1 (Maerkle Press, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. Like Eric Shanower with Age of Bronze, Thom Zahler has stopped publishing new issues of Love & Capes through the direct market, but he’s still selling them on his website. I resisted ordering them before because of the high shipping costs, and because I expected to be able to buy them from him in person at a convention. But with the pandemic, I decided to order all the issues that were available, and Thom was nice enough to sign them. The Family Way takes place five years after What to Expect, when Mark and Abby’s five-year-old son James has been joined by an eight-month-old baby sister, Hayley. This issue is mostly devoted to establishing the new status quo: Darkblade and Amazonia are broken up, but they miss each other, and baby Hayley has inherited her dad’s powers. Love & Capes is as cute and heartwarming as any superhero comic I know of, and it’s great to see it back.

LOVE & CAPES: THE FAMILY WAY #2 – as above. This issue is msotly a continuation of the previous one, but it does have a self-contained subplot, about how Mark is disturbed that James wants to be Kylo Ren for Halloween. Meanwhile, Abby applies for a liquor license for the bookstore. Having written that, I realize why this series describes itself as a situation comedy.

The next few comics were from a MyComicShop shipment:

PRINCELESS: SHORT STORIES FOR WARRIOR WOMEN #1 (Action Lab, 2012) – “The Thing in the Dungeon,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Nancy King. This must be one of the rarer Princeless comics. I didn’t even know it existed at first. This issue’s first story is about a childhood adventure of Adrienne and her brother Devin, and the backup story shows how Adrienne’s parents met. Both of these stories are prime examples of the Princeless style, but unfortunately this issue wastes some space on an unnecessary preview of Princeless volume 2.

ZAP COMIX #0 (Last Gasp, 1967/1988) – “Meatball” and other stories, [W/A] Robert Crumb. The stories in this issue were intended for Zap #1, but the artwork was lost and not recovered until after #2 was published, hence the number #0. While Zap #0 was not the truly groundbreaking issue of the series, it’s still an extremely important comic, and it gives me a better understanding of Crumb’s impact. “Meatball” is the key story here; it’s a metaphor for the experience of being jolted out of conventional midcentury American life and joining the counterculture. The issue includes a bunch of other stories on similar themes, including a Mr. Natural six-pager. While the material in this issue must have seemed utterly unprecedented to ‘60s readers, it clearly didn’t come out of nowhere. Zap #0 is full of referencse to EC comics, Fleisher Brothers animation, and other pop-cultural texts. For example, the title “Meatball” is lettered in the same style as Kurtzman’s story titles.

VICTOR LAVALLE’S DESTROYER #1 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Dietrich Smith. In the first half of this issue, Frankenstein’s monster emerges from isolation and hijacks a ship. The second half introduces Dr. Josephine Baker, a modern-day Frankenstein, and her young son. In his author’s note, LaValle explains that he never read Frankenstein until he was an adult, and that this series is an attempt to combine the story of Frankenstein with the contemporary topic of violence against black people. I now have this entire miniseries, but I haven’t read #4 yet.

AQUAMAN #24 (DC, 1965) – “Aquaman, Save Our Seas,” [W] unknown (Bob Haney?), [A] Nick Cardy. Aquaman and Mera battle the Terrible Trio, consisting of the Fisherman and two new villains, the Un-Thing and Karla. The latter is especially interesting because she’s sort of an evil version of Mera, with equally red hair but with fire powers instead of water powers. This story actually passes the Bechdel test because Mera and Karla argue with each other while they’re fighting. It’s too bad Karla never appeared again. As always, Nick Cardy’s artwork in this issue is incredible.

DAREDEVIL #4 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Matt teams up with the Shroud against the Owl, but it’s not clear where the Shroud’s loyalties lie. This was the only issue I was missing from this volume of Daredevil, but it’s only an average issue. Of course Chris Samnee’s fight sequences are excellent.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #101 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. This issue finally explains what was going on in #102-104. In #100, Splinter was killed, and a section of Manhattan was quarantined because of an airborne mutagenic agent. That explains why the Turtles are all so sad, and why there are so many mutants. This issue also heavily features Jennika, a preexisting character who Campbell redesigned as a female Turtle. (Jennika is not to be confused with the other female Turtle, Venus de Milo.) As she did with Jem, Sophie Campbell has made me care about a franchise in which I previously had no interest. I used to watch the Turtles TV show and movies, but that was way back in the early ‘90s.

LOVE AND CAPES: THE FAMILY WAY #3 (Maerkle Press, 2019) – as above. Abby, James and Hayley all get sick. Mark is obviously immune, but he exhausts himself taking care of them, causing him to do things like rearrange the Hollywood sign in alphabetical order. (DHLLOOOWY.) There are also a bunch of subplots, and a running joke about Amazonia’s inability to find a new tiara.

STRANGE EMBRACE #6 (Image, 2007) – untitled, [W/A] David Hine. In Paris, Sarah gradually gives in to her father-in-law Edward’s seduction, until finally he embarrasses her in front of his creepy friends and then rapes her. Strange Embrace may be the perfect horror comic. It disorients the reader with its multiple layers of frame stories, and it’s writing and art are consistently gloomy and ominous. The highlight of this issue is the splash page showing the leering faces of Edward’s friends, illustrated in thick black linework.

KING READING LIBRARY #R-05 (King Features, 1973) – “Quincy Gets a Job,” [W/A] unknown (Ted Shearer?) I read this comic after attending a virtual panel consisting of Rebecca Wanzo, Barbara Brandon-Croft and Bianca Xunise. From listening to Rebecca’s lecture, I realized that there have been a lot of comic strips with black authors and protagonists – Curtis, Luther, Wee Pals, Where I’m Coming From, etc. Most of these strips are unavailable now. Another example of this archive of material is Ted Shearer’s 1970-1986 strip Quincy. In the present comic book, part of a series intended for beginning readers, preteen Quincy gets a job at a supermarket. The humor in this comic is pretty lame, but its urban setting is realistic, reminding me of the setting of Sesame Street. And there’s a surprising moment when Quincy says that his grandmother thinks he’ll have trouble getting a job when he grows up, and his friend replies “Was she thinking of your color?” (Though Quincy clarifies that it’s because of his grades.) Unfortunately the Quincy material is only half the issue, and the other half consists of Henry and “The Little Guy” strips by John Loney.

DEADSHOT #4 (DC, 1988) – “Astride a Grave,” [W] Kim Yale & John Ostrander, [A] Luke McDonnell. Deadshot’s therapist confronts his evil mother, trying to understand how Floyd’s brother died and how his father was paralyzed. Then Floyd himself shows up, seeking revenge for the death of his son. The confrontation ends with Floyd shooting his mother and paralyzing her too. At the end, the therapist tries to initiate a relationship with Floyd, but he tells her that he’s incurable. I wish I’d read this miniseries in order. Deadshot is the most complicated of all the fascinating characters in Suicide Squad, and his miniseries is the key to his personality.

THE DREAMING #20 (DC, 2020) – “One Magical Movement, Part Two,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. I received this comic in a DCBS shipment on May 1, because even though Diamond was still closed, DC was still distributing comics through DCBS and Midtown. I think DC’s actions are disgraceful – by continuing to sell comics while Diamond and most comic stores are closed, they’re sabotaging the health of the direct market. Because DCBS was complicit in this, I plan to quit ordering from them and start using a local comic store instead, possibly through mail order. Anyway, the title of this issue is a quotation from David Bowie’s “Station to Station,” which, appropriately, is about the return of the thin white duke. In this issue Daniel comes back and tries to sacrifice Rose Walker,  just like in Sandman #16. But Wan/Moth offers itself in her place, and things go back to normal. The Dreaming #20 was a strong conclusion to an excellent series, but I wish DC had waited to release it until after May 20.

PRINCELESS VOL. 2 #1 (Action Lab, 2013) – “Get Over Yourself Part 1,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. This issue starts with the same sequence that appeared in Short Stories for Warrior Women #1, in which Ashe recruits some knights to go after Adrienne – including the Black Knight, who is later revealed as Adrienne’s mother. Then Devin decides to go after Adrienne himself. Meanwhile, Adrienne and Bedelia go looking for Angelica. This is a really fun issue, and it makes me wish that volume 10 would come out soon.

TOMATO #1 (Starhead, 1994) – “Birdie & Spike in… After Hours,” [W/A] Ellen Forney. This rather obscure comic is the first issue of Forney’s short-lived solo series. Tomato #1 and #2 were probably the only standard-format comic books that she ever published. This issue begins with a four-page story in woodcuts, showing a woman using a ketchup bottle as a sex toy. Next is a very cute and sexy story about two women doing an erotic photo shoot. This is followed by some “I Was Seven in ‘75” strips, possibly reprinted from somewhere else, and the last main story is “My Date with Camille Paglia,” whose title accurately describes its contents, except that the date never happens. Like Forney’s graphic novel Marbles, this story uses lettering as a primary visual element. Its pages all have far more text than images, yet it still feels like a comic and not a prose story. Overall, Tomato #1 is an exciting comic that justifies its author’s nickname, Horny Forney.

THE MUPPET SHOW #3 (Boom!, 2010) – “On the Road Part 3: Box Clever,” [W/A] Roger Langridge. The Muppets return home, without Gonzo or Fozzie, and put on a show. But they’ve received a mysterious box addressed to Fozzie, who still hasn’t shown up. Of course it turns out that Fozzie himself is in the box. There are also a bunch of subplots, the most notable of which is about Statler and Waldorf. Here’s a controversial opinion: Roger Langridge is the heir to Don Rosa. His visual storytelling is masterful, he crams every page full of content, and he’s just as good with intellectual properties as with his own characters. I’ve never even watched the original Muppet Show, and yet from reading Langridge’s comics, I feel I understand its premise completely.

HE SAID/SHE SAID COMICS #5 (First Amendment, 1994) – “The O.J. Simpson Story/The Nicole Simpson Story”, [W] Arthur Meehan, [A] Mike Scorzelli & Roberto Andujar. This issue is a flip book where half the issue tells the story of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman’s murders from OJ’s perspective, and the other half retells the same story from Nicole’s perspective. As a comic book, this issue is pretty terrible; the art and the lettering in the OJ story are below professional standards. But as a historical curiosity, this issue is fascinating. It was released so early in the OJ Simpson trial that it doesn’t even mention Judge Lance Ito. He Said/She Said Comics is most notable because issue 3 (Bill Clinton/Gennifer Flowers) has a classic cover by Drew Friedman.

MONSTRESS #27 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. I always find this series somewhat hard to read, but this issue is fairly clear. And its depiction of war is grimly realistic, despite all the magic and talking animals. This issue, Kippa tries to save the fox refugees, but ends up leading the enemy into the city instead. Also, Maika meets some apparently new characters called the Grey Riders.

DEATHBLOW: BYBLOWS #2 (WildStorm, 1999) – “Byblows Part 2,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. Genevieve and John-Joe Cray continue their journey. In a strange city called Providence, they meet the psychotic Damon Cray, and then Klaus Cray, the cyborg, shows up alive again. At night, Genevieve is attacked by a talking mandrill, but he says that he’s trying to save her, and that John-Joe and his twin brother Joe-John are trying to kill her. This proves to be true. All the nice things I said about issue 1 also apply here. The main problem with this series is that its computer coloring is not suited to Jim Baikie’s linework.

GIFTS OF THE NIGHT #3 (Vertigo, 1999) – untitled, [W] Paul Chadwick, [A] John Bolton. This series is a hidden treasure. Its rather simple plot is about a scholar, Reyes, who tutors a young prince and tells him enriching stories, in order to make him a good king. But Reyes is also sleeping with the prince’s nurse, and his rival Leuchet takes advantage of this by telling the prince stories that counteract Reyes’s lessons. What makes this comic special is John Bolton’s painted art. His facial expressions are beautiful, and his style of painting alternately recalls Jeff Jones and Gustav Klimt. I need to track down the rest of this series.

MILLENNIUM FEVER #1 (Vertigo, 1995) – “A Way of Saying Things,” [W] Nick Abadzis, [A] Duncan Fegredo. Despite the promising creative team, this issue is less impressive than Gifts of the Night #3. The protagonist, Jerome, is a British high schooler of partial Caribbean descent. He meets his dream girl and is about to lose his virginity with her, but her fingers start turning into phalluses, and the issue ends there. This issue includes some effective art and writing, but first, neither creator is black or Caribbean, and their depiction of Jerome is unconvincing. Second, this comic feels like a plotless slice-of-life story until the final three panels, where it takes a hard right turn into horror. I would read the other issues of this series, but only if they were very cheap.

BIRTHRIGHT #24 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey finally discovers that Rya is pregnant, just in time for her to go into labor. The opening Mikey/Rya scene is heartwarming, but the issue quickly bcomes much grimmer. Mikey kills Kylen in cold blood, but Kylen comes back to life and reveals himself as Kallista.

AVENGERS #311 (Marvel, 1989) – “The Weakest Point,” [W] John Byrne, [A] Paul Ryan. The only Avenger who appears in this issue is Quasar. The issue focuses on the Avengers’ civilian staff members, like Peggy Carter and M’Daka, as they unsuccsesfully try to save Hydrobase Island from being sunk by robots. This is a pretty unimpressive issue, though at least it’s inked by Tom Palmer.

TRANSFORMERS #65 (Marvel, 1990) – “Matrix Quest Part Four: Dark Creation,” [W] Simon Furman, [A] Geoff Senior. This is far better than #68 because first, it’s about the Transformers instead of their human supporting cast, and second, Geoff Senior understands how to draw giant robots. This issue’s plot is that the Decepticon leader Thunderwing takes control of the Matrix of Leadership. That plotline leads directly into Transformers #75, one of the first comic books I ever read. On this issue’s first page we learn the names of the Autobot leaders who preceded Optimus Prime.

THE ONCE AND FUTURE QUEEN #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Adam P. Knave & D.J. Kirkbride, [A] Nick Brokenshire. This is the same creative team as Amelia Cole, which is an okay comic but not great. The Once and Future Queen stars Indian-American teenage chess prodigy Rani Arcturus, i.e. Queen Arthur. On a trip to Cornwall for a chess tournament, she goes walking on the shore and discovers the Sword in the Stone, which turns her into King/Queen Arthur. She promptly makes two new friends who become her Lancelot and Guinevere. This comic isn’t awful, but because of its title and premise, it’s hard not to compare it to Once and Future, and it suffers by the comparison. Its Arthurian references are obvious and unsubtle.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #660 (Marvel, 2011) – “Fantastic Voyage Part 2 of 2,” [W] Fred Van Lente & Dan Slott, [A] Mike McKone with Stefano Caselli. Peter, the FF and the Future Foundation fight the new Sinister Six. Back at home, Carlie Cooper shows Peter the Spider-Man tattoo she got when she was drunk. This is a fun issue, but it’s not as good as a typical issue written by Slott alone.

STAR #3 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Javier Pina with Filipe Andrade. Early in May, Marvel announced that the remaining issues of this miniseries and  Ghost-Spider will be digital-only, and will only be released in print as part of trade paperbacks. My response to that is, fuck you, Marvel. This decision is an appalling slap in the face to fans who have been buying those series in print form, and also to retailers. And just today DC followed Marvel over the same cliff, announcing that Terrifics will be  concluded in digital form only. This decision means that I won’t be able to have a complete collection of any of these series, and that if I want to read the rest of Star, I either have to read it digitally, or buy a trade paperback that contains stories I already own. I’m not willing to do either of those, so I’m probably not going to read the rest of Star, Spider-Gwen or Terrfiics at all. It’s just as well that none of these series are particular favorites of mine. As for the actual issue under discussion here, I liked Star #3 a bit more than the previous two issues, but I’m not sure why.

SWEET TOOTH #3 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Out of the Deep Woods 3,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Gus and Tommy continue their journey, ending up in the brothel of mutant women. Gus and Tommy’s interactions in this issue are very touching, but also ironic since I already know that Tommy is planning to betray Gus. I don’t know if this issue’s original readers would have known this, since I haven’t read issue 1. A powerful moment in this issue is when Gus finds a dead boy his own age, clutching a children’s book.

VIXEN: RETURN OF THE LION #1 (DC, 2008) – “Return of the Lion Part 1: Preparations,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Cafu. Superman gives Vixen a lead on the whereabouts of her mother’s killers, and Vixen travels to Africa to seek revenge. This was one of Willow’s first comics, and it didn’t get much attention, but it’s impressive. Her characterization of Vixen and Superman is excellent. Although Zambesi is a fictional country, it has a sense of verisimilitude, and Willow’s childhood friend Abiesa feels like an actual character rather than a collection of characters. Willow’s writing benefits from the fact that she’s lived and traveled extensively in non-Western countries.

PRINCELESS: SHORT STORIES FOR WARRIOR WOMEN #2 (Action Lab, 2012) – “The Runaway Prince,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Kelly Lawrence. The first story in this issue is confusing at first, but we eventually discover that it’s about Shadira the elf and how she helps a prince escape from prison. I’m not sure what this story has to do with anything. Much better is the second story, in which Bedelia’s mother leaves her abusive alcoholic husband, but Bedelia refuses to come with her. This story is depressingly plausible, and it adds a new wrinkle to Bedelia’s character.

POPEYE #5 (IDW, 2012) – “The Wrong Side of the Tracks,” [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Bruce Ozella. Angry at his father for correcting his spelling of “cat” to “kat,” Swee’pea runs away and joins a gang of older kids. This comic is another example of Langridge’s virtuosic ability to adapt the work of other creators. It feels just like a long-form version of E.C. Segar strips. Its depiction of pre-WWII America also feels authentic. The highlight of the story is when Popeye makes “tomato yum-yum” for dinner, but it consists entirely of spinach.

KANE #13 (Dancing Elephant, 1996) – “Point of View,” [W/A] Paul Grist. Grist and Millidge were part of the same generation of British alternative cartoonists, and they mention each other in their editorial notes. This issue has a gimmick in which every panel has the same point of view, hence the title. In each panel, we’re looking over the shoulders of two policemen sitting in their car. This could have been a cheap labor-saving device, but its plot is quite complicated, and Grist generates a lot of visual interest by varying the body language of the policemen and the things that are happening outside their car. At the end of the issue, a sniper shoots out the windshield of the police car, and then there’s no image in the following panel, only captions. This page is especially striking because by this point, the reader is so used to seeing the same POV in every panel.

IMMORTAL HULK #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Avenger,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. This issue starts with a three-page sequence where the Hulk destroys a family’s home. Marvel comics are usually very cavalier about property damage, but this sequence shows the human cost that superhero battles would have, if they were real. Most of the issue is an epic fight scene between the Hulk and the Avengers, and at the end, the Hulk is captured, taken to Shadow Base, and dissected. On Facebook, I suggested that Al Ewing might be the second best Hulk writer ever, after Peter David. Some of my friends disagreed, saying that Ewing is the first best.

RUNE #1 (Malibu, 1994) – “Rune,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith, [W] Chris Ulm. This issue has a rather thin plot about an immortal vampire, but its art is spectacular. Barry Windsor-Smith’s draftsmanship is incredible; Rune himself is a stunning visual image, and this issue also includes some imaginative depictions of alien machinery. And BWS takes full advantage of Malibu’s computer coloring technology, which was perhaps the best in the industry at the time (and was allegedly the reason why Marvel later bought Malibu). I don’t think this comic has ever been reprinted. According to his personal website, BWS has been trying to get Marvel to either reprint Rune or give him the rights to it, but Marvel has refused.

PROTECTOR #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Simon Roy & Daniel Bensen, [A] Artyom Trakhanov. I had trouble following this issue’s plot. Mari (I think that’s the protagonist’s name) discovers more evidence of the ancient robot’s origins, and she leads her followers to investigate the robot further, but a bunch of other characters are plotting against her. Protector is reminiscent of The Last American because it’s about a soldier who goes into hibernation and wakes up in a very different world. But besides that, the two series don’t have much in common.

DARKNESS VISIBLE #1 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mike Carey & Arvind Ethan David, [A] Brendan Cahill. This urban fantasy series is set in a world where humans live alongside demons, or Shaitans. The protagonist, Daniel Aston, is a policeman and single father. In an encounter with Shaitans, Daniel is killed and his daughter Maggie seriously hurt, but Daniel comes back to life while in the morgue. This series tries to draw a parallel between Shaitans and real-life minorities; at the start of the issue, Daniel and Maggie go to see The Merchant of Venice. The problem with this analogy is that humans’ prejudice against Shaitans seems justifiable, since all the Shaitans who appear in this issue are dangerous criminals. Though maybe that doesn’t invalidate the analogy. At the end of his famous speech, Shylock asks “If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

FOLKLORDS #5 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Matt Smith. Sal becomes the new leader of the Librarians, and Ansel continues his journey to the Writers’ Room. After a promising start, this series quickly became disappointing, and its ending doesn’t offer much of a resolution. I’m surprised it wasn’t turned into an ongoing, given the high sales of the early issues. I’m also surprised that it was solicited as just a five-issue miniseries, when it clearly needed more issues to wrap up its story.

THE SAGA OF THE MAN-ELF #2 (Trident, 1989) – “Animal Magic” and “The Price of Love,” [W] Guy Lawley, [A] Steve Whitaker. The Man-Elf rescues Una Persson from prison, and meanwhile, Una Persson and Mitzi Beesley consolidate their control over the government. This issue is difficult to follow because of its large cast of characters and its multiple plotlines, but it feels like a very savvy depiction of British politics and mythology. It’s hard to say why exactly, but of all the comics based on Michael Moorcock’s work, Man-Elf (and Luther Arkwright) feels like it’s the closest to the spirit of Moorcock’s writing.

THOR, GOD OF THUNDER #18 (Marvel, 2014) – “Days of Wine and Roses,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Das Pastoras. In 894 AD, Thor wakes up with a hangover, and inside the mouth of a dragon. Thor and the dragon, Skabgagg, become fast friends as they fight alongside the local Vikings, but Skabgagg eventually gives in to his desire to eat people, and Thor has to kill him. This is a sad story, and it suggests that Thor’s own love of drinking and fighting is partly responsible for Skabgagg’s death. Das Pastoras has a very distinctive style of painted art. His artwork is grisly and bloody, kind of like a cruder version of Corben. He got his start in the ‘80s in Spanish underground comics, and he only started working in American comics fairly recently.

NOT REALLY KANE #24 (Dancing Elephant, 1999) – “Shots,” [W/A] Paul Grist. This is indeed not Kane #24, but a free comic that Grist gave out at conventions. It includes just eight pages, comprising two stories. The longer of the stories is about Kane’s confrontation with his corrupt partner.

Another shipment from Mile High, consisting mostly of cheap comics:

WANDERING STAR #1 (Pen & Ink, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Teri S. Wood. Teri Sue Wood was one of the first comics professionals I ever interacted with online, but I haven’t read her work until now. I should have read it sooner. Her artwork is evocative and attractive, reminding me very much of Carla Speed McNeil, and her writing is charming and passionate. Wandering Star is a space opera with a female protagonist, Casi. Issue 1 begins with a flashforward sequence where an older Casi is talking with a biographer, and then we flash back to her youth, when she leaves Earth for the space academy. I especially like the scene where Casi meets up with her friends. It reminds me of a Legion or Young Justice comic.

WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY #1 (WildStorm, 2007) – “Fade to Grey,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Neil Googe. Tranquility is a town full of retired old superheroes, like a World War II aviatrix who insists on continuing to fly her plane, and an elderly Captain Marvel who can’t remember his magic word. The protagonist, Tommy (Thomasina), is tasked with keeping the town safe from the superheroes without destroying their value as a tourist attraction. I have mixed feelings about Gail’s work in general, but this feels like one of her more innovative and exciting works, and I ought to read more of it.

GLOBAL FREQUENCY #2 (WildStorm, 2003) – “Big Wheel,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Glenn Fabry. A government-created cyborg is going crazy, and a Global Frequency team has to stop him before he causes a nuclear disaster. This comic is notable for its realistic depiction of what being a cyborg would actually involve. Most other superhero comics assume that you can just tack a bionic limb onto a person’s body without making any other changes. But in this issue, one of the Global Frequency agents explains that she has a bionic arm, and that her entire body had to be reinforced to support it. Now extrapolate that to a man whose entire body is bionic. When we actually see the cyborg, he barely looks human. Glenn Fabry’s art on this comic is not as incredible as I expected, but his depiction of the cyborg is horrifying and heartrending.

TRINITY #4 (DC, 2008) – “Caped Simioid Thinks So, Hm?”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman all collaborate against the monster Konvikt, and Kurt uses the fight scene to illustrate the differences between the three heroes. In the backup story, a tarot card reader has a vision of Kanjar Ro and Despero. Trinity is not one of Kurt’s greatest works, but it’s interesting and well-written.

THE MUPPET SHOW: THE TREASURE OF PEG-LEG WILSON #1 (Boom!, 2009) – “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral,” [W/A] Roger Langridge. I didn’t know this miniseries existed until I saw it on Mile High’s website. This issue includes a bunch of short gag strips, but the main plot is that some mysterious people are trying to excavate a treasure under the Muppet Theater. Also, Kermit and Animal seem to have been replaced by Animal. This issue is another example of Langridge’s storytelling brilliance.

PRAIRIE MOON AND OTHER STORIES #1 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Prairie Moon” and other stories (duh), [W/A] Rick Geary. A collection of short pieces by Geary, mostly about turn-of-the-century America. I’ve read some of these stories before, probably in Cheval Noir. I especially remember the one about Aimee McPherson, “that wonderful person,” and the one that lists how the narrator’s relatives died (e.g. “bursten and rupture”). But some of the other stories are new to me. Rick Geary is a unique artist – his stories illustrate the weirdness of old-time America, and they always feel vaguely creepy, whatever their subject matter.

NEAR MYTHS #nn (Last Gasp, 1990) – “Ankhesenamun” and other stories, [W/A] Trina Robbins. I thought this was a kids’ comic at first, but it’s an adult underground comic. It shares its title with an older British underground comic, which included the first Luther Arkwright stories and the first work of Grant Morrison; however, in the indicia, Trina says that Bryan Talbot gave her permission to use the title. All the stories have mythological themes. I think my favorite is “Sinsemella,” a Cinderella parody in which the main character is “permanently stoned” and can only say “o wow.” Another notable one is “The Woman Who Loved the Moon,” a lesbian-themed epic fantasy story written by World Fantasy Award winner Elizabeth Lynn.

PLANET TERRY #1 (Marvel, 1985) – “The Search,” [W] Lennie Herman, [A] Warren Kremer. The title character is a little boy who travels from planet to planet in a spaceship, seeking his parents. In his first story, he finally gets a lead on them, and he also acquires two companions, a robot and an alien. Star Comics was essentially a revival of Harvey Comics. I don’t know anything about Lennie Herman, but Warren Kremer was Harvey’s greatest artist, and his art in this issue is extremely appealing and cute, with lots of gags and weird creatures. I like Planet Terry’s premise, though its plotting is contrived; it’s rather convenient that Terry just happens to run into someone who knew his parents. I need to find the rest of this series. I should also collect more Harvey comics; it seems like Hot Stuff may be a good place to start. I was hoping to talk to Tom DeFalco about Star Comics at Heroes Con, but that will have to wait until next year.

GATECRASHER: RING OF FIRE #2 (Black Bull, 2000) – “Don’t Touch That!”, [W] Mark Waid w/ Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Amanda Conner. Black Bull was a short-lived comics imprint of Wizard magazine. Their two main series were Gatecrasher and Garth Ennis’s Just a Pilgrim. Gatecrasher is about a clumsy teenage boy, Alec, who gets recruited into the Split-Second Squad, similar to the Nova Corps. This issue, Alec is forced to go on a Split-Second Squad mission on prom night. He wants to get home before the prom starts and without losing the corsage he bought for his date, but he fails on both counts. Amanda Conner’s art here is not her absolute best, but it’s excellent, especially in terms of facial expressions. I need to collect more Gatecrasher because I’m running out of Amanda Conner comics to read. She seems to have reached the point in her career where it’s no longer cost-effective for her to do monthly comics.

LOVE AND CAPES #7 (Maerkle Press, 2008) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. This was distributed as an FCBD comic. Mark decides to propose to Abby at Christmas, but Charlotte talks him out of it. I approve of this, because I hate public proposals; they make it impossible for the woman to say no. Mark ends up proposing in private, in a very simple and heartfelt way, and Abby accepts. Also, Paul offers Charlotte a scholarship to the Louvre, and there are some subplots about Mark’s fellow superheroes.

STORMWATCH #40 (Image, 1996) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Tom Raney. This issue gets off on the wrong foot, with a description of a plane crash that ends “Two hundred and thirty-three people have just found out there’s no God.” That’s just tasteless and disturbing. The rest of the issue is also rather gross. A team of Stormwatch agents investigates the plane crash and discovers a lot of people with hideous mutations. Kaizen Gamorra proves to be responsible, and Rose Tattoo is sent to Gamorra Island to kill 233 random people in revenge. At Ellis is self-aware about how gruesome this issue is; its last line is “Well, I thought it was about time somebody tried to make a joke.”

TALES TO OFFEND #1 (Dark Horse, 1997) – “Lance Blastoff,” [W/A] Frank Miller, plus other stories. This one-shot consists of short stories reprinted from Dark Horse Presents and other anthologies. One of them is a sordid Sin City story about masochism and incest. The others are about Lance Blastoff, an ultraviolent, misogynistic space mercenary, kind of like Duke Nukem. These stories are all deliberately offensive, but at least they’re vry well-drawn.

THE SAGA OF THE MAN-ELF #4 (Trident, 1990) – “The Boys’ Night Out” and “Father’s Day,” [W] Guy Lawley, [A] Richard Weston. Man-Elf rescues his mother from prison (again?) but gets captured himself. Miss Brunner performs a ritual and discovers that Man-Elf’s father was the last survivor of an advanced elven race – an origin story which resembles that of Corum. It’s a real shame that this series was never finished and has never been collected. It’s fascinating.

THE VINYL UNDERGROUND #1 (DC, 2007) – “Snogging for England,” [W] Si Spencer, [A] Simon Gane. This series stars Morrison Shepherd, the idle rich son of a famous footballer. In his debut story, he and two of his love interests investigate a case of African ritual murder. This series has some impressive artwork, but its depiction of African people is frustrating. The writer conflates different African cultures: the evil traditional healer is named Femi Abiola, an obviously Nigerian name, but he performs “mutu” magic (more often known as muti), which is native to Southern Africa. And Vinyl Underground isn’t good enough to make up for this lack of accuracy.

WONDER WOMAN #222 (DC, 2005) – “Blood Debt,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Cliff Richards. As a result of the events of Infinite Crisis, Diana is on trial for killing Max Lord. Meanwhile, Cheetah is jealous of Wonder Woman for being so perfect and for not being enslaved to an evil god. This issue is an interesting contrast to Sensation Comics #17, in terms of its depiction of the Cheetah’s feelings toward Wonder Woman. However, this issue is much too closely tied to Infinite Crisis.

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #3 (DC, 2020) – “Thunder on Wonder Mountain,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. This comic and the next one were part of another DCBS shipment. Hal and his pet baby birds have to save Hal’s old girlfriend Cowgirl from a liquid cloud creature. This issue’s story is okay, but its art is a failed experiment. Liam Sharp’s art and colors in this issue are entirely digital. His colors are outdated, looking like something out of the ‘80s or ‘90s, and his compositions are full of wasted space. He ought to stick to traditional line-drawing.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #20 (DC, 2020) – “I Will Meet Thee, Sister, in the Land of Souls,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Domo Stanton. In 1817, “Black Joe” Johnson, a former American slave living in England, meets an upper-class British woman. After his death, “Black Joe” is escorted to the afterlife by Agwe. Then there are a bunch more scenes involving Anansi, Poquita, etc. Black Joe’s story is fascinating, but it has no clear relevance to the plot. That’s a major problem with this series: it has great ideas, but its plot constantly meanders and goes in circles. That’s fine in a novel, but not in a monthly comic.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #1 (Marvel, 2008) – “The Five Nightmares Part 1: Armageddon Day,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. Tony discovers that someone has stolen his Iron Man technology and used it to stage a terror attack in Tanzania, realizing his worst nightmares. Matt Fraction is the best Iron Man writer since David Michelinie – though that’s a very low bar to clear – and in this issue he explicitly calls back to Michelinie and Layton’s classic Armor Wars storyline. My copy of this issue has Robert Downey Jr’s photo on the cover.

FALLEN ANGEL #3 (DC, 2003) – “Little Better Than a Beast, Part One: Night and Day,” [W] Peter David, [A] David Lopez. The protagonist spends much of this issue lying unconscious in an elevator. Meanwhile, there’s a cleverly written scene where a schoolgirl asks her coach about abortion, except it turns out she’s not talking about abortion. I don’t quite get what Fallen Angel is about, except that it’s a sort of spiritual sequel to PAD’s Supergirl. It feels somewhat darker than most of PAD’s work.

STAR TREK #8 (DC, 1990) – “Going, Going…”, [W] Peter David, [A] James Fry. Kirk and R.J. Blaise are kidnapped by a bounty hunter named Sweeney, whose gimmick is that when anyone hears his name, they say “Not… Sweeney!” PAD is the best writer of Star Trek comics, as far as I know, and this issue includes some very witty dialogue. I read this issue as a kid, but I forgot everything about it except the tagline “Not… Sweeney!”

WANDERING STAR #11 (Pen & Ink, 1996) – untitled, [W/A] Teri S. Wood. This was the last self-published issue before the series moved to Sirius. It begins with a convenient summary of what’s been happening. Casi’s friend Mekon has been kidnapped and subjected to the Tul’sar process, which turns people into emotionless robots. Casi has to use his aid to save herself and the telepathic boy Madison, who was mentioned in issue 1. Casi finally succeeds in escaping in her ship, the Wandering Star (hence the title of the series). I have to collect the rest of the comic. It’s a good example of how the ‘90s were a flourishing time for independent and alternative comics.

LOVE AND CAPES: THE FAMILY WAY #4 (Maerkle Press, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. Abby runs into her college friend Bria, who has a high-powered corporate job. Abby struggles with feeling inferior to Bria, but eventually realizes that she’s happy with her life. That sounds like the plot to a Hallmark Channel movie, but one advantage of this series is that Abby is not an antifeminist stereotype. Her role as a wife and mother is not her entire identity.

YUMMY FUR #15 (Vortex, 1989) – untitled (Ed the Happy Clown), [W/A] Chester Brown. Some disguised aliens attend a church service, where the pastor says that “only when you have the love of Jesus inside you will you live forever.” The aliens take this literally, and they kidnap two little girls from the church in order to make them reveal the secret of immortality. This issue also includes the first part of Brown’s adaptation of the Gospel of Matthew, starting with Jesus’s genealogy. Brown includes a number of details here that aren’t in the original text, like the story of David and Bathsheba.

OCEAN #2 (Wildstorm, 2005) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Chris Sprouse. Accompanied by the scientist Fadia, Nathan Kane travels under the ice of Europa and discovers that the moon’s ocean is full of alien weapons. Also, the megacorporation Doors (i.e. Microsoft) has already made the same discovery. This issue is a great example of Warren Ellis’s ability to create a sense of wonder. Chris Sprouse is unexpectedly good at the widescreen style of comics.

HIGHER EARTH #1 (Boom!, 2012) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Francesco Biagini. This series is a sequel to the one-shot Our Love is Real, which I own but have not read. Its premise is that there are hundreds of worlds, each arranged vertically on top of the next. A man from a higher world visits a lower world and brings a native woman back with him to the next world up. This series’ premise is great, but probably too ambitious, and so far this series isn’t as impressive as other comics by Humphries.

THE OLD GUARD: FORCE MULTIPLIED #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Leandro Fernandez. This issue starts with a long flashback to Noriko and Andy’s shared history, and then there are various scenes with the present-day Noriko and the other immortals. This issue makes a lot more sense than any of the previous three, and again, Leandro Fernandez’s art is spectacular. If I were an immortal, I would assemble the world’s largest personal library.

DEATHBLOW: BYBLOWS #3 (WildStorm, 2000) – “Byblows Part 3,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. Judgment Cray kills all the other Crays except Genevieve, thinking that they’re all hallucinations. Genevieve manages to escape from him into the real world. She discovers that she and the other Crays are clones of Michael Cray, the original Deathblow, and that until now they’ve been in a virtual world designed to test which clone was strongest. Judgment escapes too, but Genevieve kills him and goes off to explore her new world. The series ends with a Winston Churchill quotation: “I am ready to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” This was a really impressive miniseries, one of Alan’s best works at Image or Wildstorm, and it should be better known.

MADE MEN #1 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Arjuna Susini. Before reading this comic I assumed it was about mobsters. Then I read the opening scene, where the protagonist and her fellow police officers are all killed in an ambush, but the protagonist wakes up. At that point I thought this series had the same premise as The Old Guard. But then the protagonist reveals that she’s a member of the Frankenstein family, and suddenly the title “Made Men” takes on a different meaning. I suppose I’d categorize Made Men as a horror comic, but it has the whimsical tone of most of Tobin’s work. Arjuna Susini’s art here is more appropriate than in Heist.

FELL #2 (Image, 2006) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Ben Templesmith. This series’ gimmick was that it cost $1.99 for just 16 story pages. Fell is a hybrid crime/horror comic about the eponymous protagonist, a homicide detective in a dystopian city, and his love interest Mayko, a bartender. Ben Templesmith draws it with highly stylized linework and coloring. In this issue, Fell discovers that someone is killing pregnant women to use their fetuses as lucky charms. This is allegedly a form of magic used in Cambodia, where these charms are called “smoke children” or “kun krak,” but I don’t know whether it’s a real crime or just an urban legend. Anyway, Fell #2 is fascinating, and it made me want to read more of the series.

BOMBSHELLS UNITED #1 (DC, 2017) – “American Soil,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Marguerite Sauvage. This is something very rare: an entire comic book illustrated by Marguerite Sauvage. Unfortunatley it’s written by the other Marguerite, Bennett, whose work I strongly dislike. Her writing is full of platitudes and slogans, and it lacks any real substance. Because of my dislike of this comic’s writing, I had difficulty enjoying its artwork. This issue is relevant to my interests as a Legion fan because it introduces Dawnstar into Bombshells continuity.

FINALS #1 (Vertigo, 1999) – “Back to School,” [W] Will Pfeifer, [A] Jill Thompson. I now have this entire miniseries, but I hadn’t read any of it until now. I also have Vertigo Resurrected: Finals, a collection of the entire series in comic book format, but I can get rid of it now. Finals is set at Knox State University, where the students are required to do harmful and dangerous experiments as their senior thesis projects. For example, the main character’s girlfriend is a religious studies major, and as her project, she forms a cult and makes the underclasswomen worship her as a goddess. This series has a funny premise, and Jill Thompson’s artwork is very expressive and full of funny details, although her artwork is line-drawn rather than painted (as in Beasts of Burden).

JOURNEY #13 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Normaltimes,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. In this crossover story, Jim Valentino’s Normalman teleports back in time and befriends Wolverine MacAlistaire and his Ojibwe friend “Runs Amid Bones of Foxes.” Loebs convincingly shows us the vast cultural differences between MacAlistaire and Normalman, but he also makes me believe that they can be friends despite that. A notable aspect of this series is that it’s set in a place and time where Native Americans are the majority, and MacAlistaire often seems more comfortable with native people than with European-Americans. This issue includes a letter from my friend Kevin Maroney, and also a “special hello” to my fellow Charlotte native Michael Kobre.

DOOM PATROL #64 (DC, 1993) – “Sliding in the Wreckage Part 1: Burn in the Curse,” [W] Rachel Pollack, [A] Richard Case. One issue after Cliff, Jane and Rebis left for Danny the Planet, Dorothy Spinner is stuck on Earth. She is plagued by hallucinations of gibberish-speaking monsters, and she also suffers discrimination for her facial appearance. Rachel Pollack had the impossible task of succeeding Grant Morrison on Doom Patrol, and as a result, her Doom Patrol run is largely forgotten. But she’s an important writer in her own right, a World Fantasy Award winner and Nebula nominee, and her comics probably deserve more attention. I’m especially curious about her later issues that explore the topic of transgender identity, since Pollack is a trans woman herself, and she was writing at a time when trans people had no visibility.

BATMAN #66 (DC, 2019) – “Knightmares Part 4,” [W] Tom King, [A] Jorge Fornes. The Question questions Catwoman about her history with Batman. Jorge Fornes draws this entire issue in a style that heavily imitates David Mazzucchelli’s art from Batman: Year One. This issue is okay, but its artwork feels very derivative.

NO ONE’S ROSE #1 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Zac Thompson & Emily Horn, [A] Alberto Albuquerque. In a dystopian future, the only surviving humans live inside a giant glass dome. The dome is divided into higher and lower levels, reserved for the upper class and the workers respectively. A sister and brother from the lower level sneak to the higher level, where the brother starts a demonstration in favor of “non-human rights.” I’m not sure what this means; I guess the plants in the city are sentient. This comic’s setup is kind of cliched, but its theme of plants and flowers is interesting. I’d be willing to read at least the next couple issues.

FCBD STEPPING STONES/MAX AND THE MIDKNIGHTS (RH Graphic, 2020) – “Stepping Stones,” [W/A] Lucy Knisley. This FCBD comic was included in my last pre-pandemic DCBS shipment. I don’t know when the remaining FCBD comics for this year will be available. This comic is mostly a preview of Lucy Knisley’s upcoming graphic novel for kids. I have problems with her work – in the two books of hers I’ve read, she seems blind to her own privilege. But Stepping Stones is fascinating so far. The protagonist is a little girl, Jen, who lives on a farm. A family friend comes for a visit, and Jen is forced to hang out with the friend’s daughter Andy, who turns out to be a horrible little goody-two-shoes. Andy acts as if she can do all of Jen’s tasks better than Jen herself can, and Jen’s parents encourage her. By the end of this excerpt, I hated Andy. Jen seems to be a self-portrait; she shares Knisley’s farm background and interest in drawing. This issue also includes a story by Lincoln Peirce that doesn’t appeal to me at all.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #661 (Marvel, 2011) – “The Substitute Part One,” [W] Christos Gage, [A] Reilly Brown. This is an issue of Avengers Academy disguised as an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, but that’s okay because I liked Avengers Academy. Ant-Man hires Spidey as a substitute teacher for the academy students, but when Spidey goes on patrol with the kids, they run into the Psycho-Man. I think the best part of this issue is when the kids question Peter’s usual assumptions – like, Veil suggests that Spidey could have done more good if he had stayed in show business. This issue’s bonus feature is a silent story by Paul Benjamin and Javier Pulido, whose visual storytelling is excellent.

PLANETOID #3 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. Silas, the stranded spaceman, organizes the planet’s human population into a functioning society. He gets some buy-in from some frog people who can’t speak the humans’ language, and he even builds a kite to keep the kids busy. I guess this issue is a bit of a white savior narrative, but it stresses the communitarian nature of the society Silas is creating. But as the issue ends, the warrior Ozender – who left town earlier rather than work with Silas – is found murdered, apparently by the Ono Mao.

BATMAN #252 (DC, 1973) – “The Spook’s Master Stroke!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Irv Novick. Batman matches wits with the Spook. Throughout this story, Batman and the Spook each show an implausible ability to predict exactly what the other will do. A weird moment in this story is when Batman fakes his own death and is buried in a grave, but then we learn that Jason Bard is in the grave, instead of Batman. Since the point of this stratagem was just to make the Spook think Batman was dead, I don’t see why it mattered whetheror not the fake corpse really was Batman. The backup story, by Elliot S! Maggin and Dick Dillin, is better than the main story. Davy King, a thinly disguised stand-in for Danny Kaye, enrolls at Hudson University, where he entertains some kids and helps Robin catch a criminal.

FELL #6 (Image, 2006) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Ben Templesmith. Fell and Mayko go out on a date, but they get sidetracked into investigating a disturbance at the house of a single father and child. Fell discovers that the father is a horrifying pedophile who injects his daughter with her own feces in order to keep her under his control. This plot element was based on an actual crime that happened in 2005. Fell is a very grim series, but Fell and Mayko’s relationship is cute.

GWENPOOL #12 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] GuriHiru. Gwenpool and her friends find themselves in a role-playing-game dungeon, which is in fact one of Arcade’s Murderworlds. This issue is better than I expected from this series.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #43 (First, 1986) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Grell. Sable and Rachel foil a terrorist plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty. The terrorists’ plan is very clever, but by this point in the series, Grell no longer seemed to care about the quality of his art. His linework is very loose and crude, with hardly any fine detail.

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Reviews: The Longest Wednesday

My last DCBS shipment, until further notice, arrived on March 25. (DCBS has actually started shipping comics again, but only DC comics. This is partly why I’m leaning toward not using DCBS anymore after my outstanding orders are filled. More on that later.) I haven’t even finished all the comics from the March 25 shipment. I’m not in any hurry to finish the current week’s comics before the next week’s comics arrive, and also, I don’t want to run out of new comics to read; I think that would make me very sad. I’m probably going to wait to finish the March 25 comics until distribution has resumed and the next shipment of new comics is on the way. Hopefully, that will happen around May 20 as planned. Meanwhile, in the absence of new comics or local comic book conventions, I’ve been ordering a lot of back issues online.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #5 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Ryan Sook. I can’t be bothered to read the giant blocks of Interlac text on the first page. I wish Bendis would stop doing that. I used to be able to read Interlac, but I’m out of practice. This issue finishes the Legion’s origin story and also reintroduces R.J. Brande, who is female in this continuity. Bendis is getting a bit better at giving Legionnaires individual personalities; I especially like the scene where Blok is invited to join the Legion, and he answers in monosyllables. However, it is ridiculous that we still don’t know the characters’ names. I’ve started enjoying this series despite my general hatred for Bendis, but it’s still not a great Legion comic.

ONCE AND FUTURE #7 (Boom!, 2020) – “Old English,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. With Saga still on hiatus, Once and Future is probably the best current ongoing title. This issue, the bad guys steal the original manuscript of Beowulf and use it to summon Beowulf himself. This plot twist introduces another essential English medieval text into the series. At the end of the issue, one of the villains reads the start of Beowulf out loud. I took a photo of this scene and shared it on social media, and it got positive reactions from people who hadn’t heard of Once and Future.

AMETHYST #2 (DC, 2020) – “Out of Place,” [W/A] Amy Reeder. Amy and Phoss escape from the Sapphire Realm on the back of a caterpillar and flee to the Aquamarine Realm. There Amy learns how to teleport between amethyst stones, and by using this ability, she discovers that her birth parents are still alive. Amy Reeder’s dialogue feels clumsy at times, but her artwork is highly imaginative. So far, this series is the only good Amethyst comic not written by Mishkin and Cohn.

FAR SECTOR #5 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. The flashback to Jo’s origin is perhaps the high point of the series so far. After suffering a lifetime of racism, Jo went into the army and then the police force, where she became an agent of racist violence against other oppressed people. Jo was recruited into the GLC because of her commitment to the justice that was denied to her: “Nobody ever goes to jail for this shit. It never gets better. It has too get better. I have to make it better somehow.” This expresses some major themes of Jemisin’s work: righteous anger at the treatment of oppressed groups by dominant groups, together with a conviction that a more equitable world can be imagined. On a lighter note, when CanHaz says that Jo is paying her salary in cat memes, that must be an allusion to Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please.”

MARVEL ACTION: AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Katie Cook, [A] Butch Mapa. I’ve been unimpressed by the Marvel Action titles, but I had to order this one because I love Katie Cook’s writing. This issue has a silly plot, in which Thor breaks Black Widow’s ceramic figure, and he and Ant-Man have to replace it. But the issue is full of funny inside jokes, and Katie skillfully parodies each Avenger’s personality. This comic was lots of fun, and I hope Katie writes more of this series.

BASKETFUL OF HEADS #6 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Leomacs. June decapitates Hank, then gets the heads to tell her the rest of what’s going on. She sets out to save Liam from Hank’s dad’s boat (named Skidbladnir, a Norse mythological reference), but it turns out Hank has set a trap for her, and the issue ends with June being thrown overboard tied to an anchor. This has been a very fast-paced and exciting series, easily the best of Joe Hill’s three current titles.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #88 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Tony Fleecs. Silver Streak wins the Draytona Breach, but only because he doesn’t stop to help an injured Rainbow Dash. This ending reminds me of the ending of the original Cars, where the villain wins the race, but it’s a hollow victory. Also, Sacks Roamer is captured and the dragon statue is recovered. This was a fun story. Next issue, whenever it finally comes out, will be the start of Season Nine.

INCREDIBLE HULK #182 facsimile (Marvel, 1974/2020) – “Between Hammer and Anvil!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Herb Trimpe. I’ve heard this is a really good issue, but the original issue is prohibitively expensive because it includes an early cameo appearance by Wolverine. So I was excited when this facsimile edition was announced, and now that I’ve read it, I agree that it’s a classic. After parting company with Wolverine, Hulk meets an old homeless black man named Crackajack Jackson. Hulk and Crackajack, both outcasts from society, become instant friends. But their friendship is short-lived: Crackajack is killed by his own son, a convict turned supervillain, and the story ends with Hulk writing Crackajack’s name on his tombstone. Crackajack only ever appeared on a few pages, but he’s a memorable character, and his friendship with Hulk is truly touching. As an aside, Hammer and Anvil have a really cool gimmick – they’re a black man and a white racist who are attached to each other by a chain. Sadly they only appeared a couple more times before being murdered by Scourge. This issue’s letter column includes a bunch of letters on whether it’s appropriate to show naked people in comics.

CROWDED #12 (Image, 2020) – “Glad Girls,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein & Ted Brandt. This is the last monthly issue, but there’s only one more storyline left anyway. Vita and Charlie find a clever and funny way to escape the missile silo, but they leave Dog beind, and Vita has to go back for it. Sadly, when she returns with Dog, Charlie has cancelled Vita’s contract and has hired a new Dfendr who is none other than Circe the assassin. It’s going to be hard to wait for the next trade. Crowded is Sebela’s best comic yet by far.

SEX CRIMINALS #28 (Image, 2020) – “As Badal as I Wanna Bedal,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. This issue is Kuber Badal’s origin story. As we learn, Badal can only get off by making other people suffer, and his goal is to use sex powers to change the past. This is another extremely well-done issue, but I’ve been losing enthusiasm for this series, and under the present circumstances, I found it hard to fully enjoy this issue.

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #22 (DC, 2017) – “Nothing is Impossible,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Dave Alvarez. The Scooby Gang team up with the Impossibls to fight Frankenstein Jr, who has been mind-controlled by the Mad Inventor. Unusually for a Scooby comic, there is no  mystery villain, although the Mad Inventor does deliver the “meddling kids” line. This issue is entertaining enough, but not memorable.

HILLBILLY #5 (Albatross, 2016) – “The Midnight Devilment of Tailypo,” [W/A] Eric Powell. This issue’s lead story is a retelling of the old Tailypo legend, in which a hunter cuts off a monster’s tail and eats it, and then the monster pursues the man, demanding its tail back. There’s also a backup story, drawn by Steve Mannion, starring the Iron Child, who we later learn is the same character as Rondel the hillbilly himself. I got tired of this series quickly, perhaps because I found the dialogue annoying. However, Eric Powell’s draftsmanship is really good, and he’s a gifted visual storyteller.

AQUAMAN #17 (DC, 1996) – “Numbers,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jim Calafiore. Aquaman and Dolphin travel to Hy-Brasil, one of the lost cities of Atlantis. Aquaman fights and defeats the guardian of Hy-Brasil, who kills himself, and Aquaman becomes the new guardian and is expected to marry the old guardian’s widow. PAD’s Aquaman is extremely fun; it’s closer to fantasy or SF than superheroes, and it creates a sense of strangeness and wonder. It also has great dialogue, and the two main artists, Calafiore and Marty Egeland, are both quite underrated.

FANTASTIC FOUR #153 (Marvel, 1974) – “Worlds in Collision!”, [W] Tony Isabella, [A] Rich Buckler. The FF and the super-female-chauvinist Thundra battle the super-male-chauvinist Makhizmo. The story ends with Thundra’s Femizons and Makhizmo’s male chauvinists achieving gender equality. Putting these two worlds on the same level feels like false equivalence. This issue is okay, but Roy Thomas wrote a better version of this story in Avengers West Coast #75 (one of the first comic books I ever read).

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #21 (DC, 2017) – “Happy Harley Daze!”, [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Dario Brizuela. The Scooby Gang and Harley Quinn investigate some appearances by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. The Joker shows up to complicate matters. This isuse is full of funny jokes – for example, two of the suspects are Doug Chippendale and Sarah Shaker from the antique department. Oh, and Harley has two pet hyenas who she calls her babies.

WEIRD WESTERN TALES #58 (DC, 1979) – “Weep the Widow,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Dick Ayers. While pursuing some homicidal Union army deserters, Scalphunter meets a widow whose husband was killed in the war, and who is terrified of any kind of violence. The deserters appear, and Scalphunter is about to kill them and rescue the widow and her son. But the widow decides to coldcock Scalphunter with a frying pan so that he won’t commit further violence. As a result, the deserters burn the widow’s house down, she and her son barely survive, and Scalphunter kills the deserters anyway. I guess this story is a meditation on the awfulness of war, but the widow’s decision to attack Scalphunter was extremely stupid and counterproductive, and she deserved to have her house burned down. Her actions can only be excused if we assume she was so traumatized as to not be responsible for her own behavior.

SUICIDE SQUAD #45 (DC, 1990) – “The Jerusalem Serpent,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. Kobra announces that the next Kali Yuga will begin in Jerusalem,  and the Suicide Squad travels to Israel to stop Kobra’s plot. This issue includes some excellent dialogue scenes between pairs of characters – Ravan and Bronze Tiger, Captain Boomerang and Deadshot, Amanda Waller and Vixen. It also introduces the Israeli superhero team Hayoth. Neither Ostrander nor Yale are or were Jewish as far as I know, but they must have had nontrivial knowledge of Judaism, judging by the Hayoth’s names and powers. For example, one of them is named Rambam, after Maimonides’s nickname, and he swears by the Ineffable Name.

GRUMBLE: MEMPHIS AND BEYOND THE INFINITE #1 (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. I’m glad to see this back, if only for one month. This issue, Eddie and Tala begin their plot to rescue Tala’s mother from prison, and they get drafted into an elaborate rescue mission run by a bunch of aliens. I think the best part of this issue is the giant hairy aliens with no visible faces.

MISTER MIRACLE #21 (DC, 1977) – “Command Performance!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Marshall Rogers. These creators were perhaps the greatest Batman creative team ever, but Mister Miracle is not Batman. This issue has some nice page layouts and effective artwork, but it doesn’t feel Kirbyesque. Its plot is that Barda is dying, and Scott tries to revive her by fomenting a revolution in Armagetto.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #76 (Marvel, 1991) – “Weapon X Chapter Four,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith, plus other stories. This issue’s four stories were drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith, Paul Gulacy, Bryan Hitch and Dave Cockrum. That’s an amazing lineup of talent for such a bottom-drawer title. The highlight of this issue is Weapon X because of its stunning artwork and coloring, and I think Hitch’s Death’s Head story, written by Simon Furman, is the second best. I vaguely remember getting this issue from the library when I was a little kid.

IMMORTAL HULK #33 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Thoughtful Man,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett et al. In a segment drawn by Nick Pitarra, the Hulk from Planet Hulk convinces the original Hulk to free himself from Xemnu’s mind control. Pitarra was a good choice of guest artist bceause he’s skilled at body horror and his art is fundamentally weird. Rick inspires the Hulk to defeat Xemnu in an extremely gruesome fight, but then we learn that Rick has been mind-controlled by the Leader all along. I think the most memorable thing in this issue is the”Xemnu’s Magic Planet” theme song, which includes the line “where the sun is black as hair and the mountains are not there.”

THOR #472 (Marvel, 1994) – “If Twilight Falls…”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] M.C. Wyman. I have very few issues of Thor from between #400 and #500, since the series went into a massive decline after Simonson left. At least this issue is written by Thomas and not DeFalco, but it has a boring plot and unappealing art, and it feels somehow like a relic of the early ‘90s. I’d still pick up more issues of this Thor run if theye were very cheap.

SILVER SURFER #3 (Marvel, 1987) – “Heaven,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Marshall Rogers. By 1987, Rogers’s art only barely resembled his art from his Batman run. This issue the Surfer meets the Runner, an Elder of the Universe, and Mantis shows up at the end. The idea of the Elders of the Universe was introduced by other writers, but it seems like it was Englehart who developed them in detail.

ATOMIC ROBO: SHADOW FROM BEYOND TIME #1 (Red 5, 2009) – “Horror on Houston Street,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. In 1926, a young Robo meets Charles Fort and H.P. Lovecraft. The latter is accurately presented as an awful racist who speaks in hysterical, archaic language. Fort enlists Robo’s aid against an extra-dimensional monster that’s possessed Lovecraft. Shadow from Beyond Time is my favorite Atomic Robo miniseries because of its extremely clever narrative structure, although that structure is not yet evident in this issue.

SWAMP THING #3 (Vertigo, 2000) – “Kill Your Darlings,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Roger Petersen. A grown-up Tefé is working on a fishing boat. One of the crewmen starts killing the others. The captain overreacts to this and hangs his prime suspect, who is his daughter’s boyfriend and the father of her unborn child. But it turns out that the real murderer was another crewman, things go to hell in a hurry, and everyone dies except for Tefé and the captain’s daughter, but the latter’s baby is killed. This is a rather tasteless and gruesome piece of horror, and it has nothing to do with Swamp Thing. Tefe’s powers have almost no effect on the plot. As its title indicates, this issue also has a theme of metatext, but BKV doesn’t do anything exciting with this theme. The one thing I did like about this issue is the captain’s daughter, a woman whose tyrannical father has prevented her from becoming her own person, but this character suffers some unfortunate fridging.

GREEN LANTERN #26 (DC, 1964) – “Star Sapphire Unmasks Green Lantern!” and “The World Within the Power Ring!”,  [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Gil Kane. Star Sapphire tries to get Green Lantern to marry her by forcing him to admit defeat and thus weakening his will. Of course it doesn’t work. Star Sapphire is a much more forceful character than Carol Ferris, who is portrayed in this story as a total wimp. Fox was a rather sexist writer, but he was capable of writing interesting female characters, especially Hawkgirl. The backup story is the first appearance of Myrwhydden, the evil wizard trapped in Hal’s power ring. Grant Morrison recently did a brilliant revival of this character.

STAR SLAMMERS #3 (IDW, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Walt Simonson. Uncle Walt has been working on this series off and on for his entire career, but this IDW series is the definitive remastered edition of all the Star Slammers comics from Marvel, Malibu and Dark Horse. The material in #3 originally appeared in a 1983 Marvel Graphic Novel. I had trouble following this issue because I hadn’t read the previous two, but the art in it is stunning. It includes some very ambitious page layouts that depict the Star Slammers’ Silvermind, which is similar to the Eternals’ Unmind. These pages remind me of the fractal page in Thor #341 where Fafnir hypnotizes Lorelei. Walt’s best-known works are in the fantasy or superhero genre, but he’s also extremely good at drawing space battles.

BATMAN #323 (DC, 1980) – “Shadow of the Cat!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Irv Novick. Batman tries to arrest Catwoman for stealing some Egyptian cat artifacts, but she protests her innocence. The real culprit proves to be Cat-Man. There’s a subplot involving Gregorian Falstaff, and there’s also a scene where Lucius Fox argues with his younger and more radical son. This reminds me a lot of Robbie and Randy Robertson’s similar arguments.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #249 (Dell, 1961) – “Stranger than Fiction,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald is annoyed that the nephews are reading science fiction stories about teleportation, so he gets Gyro Gearloose to invent a real teleportation device. This results in a bunch of funny gags. This issue includes an early example of Tuckerization. The book the nephews are reading is Ten Seconds to Mars by Spicer Willits. That name references John Spicer and Malcolm Willits, the first two fans who learned Barks’s name and corresponded with him. (https://www.mouseplanet.com/9969/How_Disney_Fans_Found_Carl_Barks) Of the three other stories in this issue, the only notable one is a Mickey Mouse story by Fallberg and Murry.

At this point I received an order from Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, including a graphic novel as well as five Slott Spider-Man issues. The latter were the first new comic books I had gotten since DCBS shipments stopped.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #648 (Marvel, 2011) – “Big Time,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Spidey fights the Sinister Six alongside the Avengers, but then gets thrown out of his apartment and has no luck finding a roommate. Luckily he gets hired by a tech startup run by a man named Max Modell. There’s also a backup story written by Paul Tobin. #648 was the start of Slott’s solo Spider-Man run, and it’s a great start. One of my favorite things about Slott is how he constantly keeps the reader interested. On nearly every page there’s a funny joke or a touching piece of characterization or a clever new piece of continuity. The highlight of this issue is when Peter saves the day by realizing that it’s the first day of Daylight Savings Time, so the Avengers have an extra hour before Doc Ock’s bomb goes off.

UNCLE SCROOGE #233 (Gladstone, 1989) – “Outfoxed Fox,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Uncle Scrooge wants the land Donald’s house stands on, but Donald won’t sell because he doesn’t want to give up his garden. Scrooge tricks Donald and his neighbor, Jughead Jones, into digging up their gardens and tearing down their houses in search of a made-up treasure. The nephews turn the tables on Scrooge by convincing Donald and Jughead to do the same to Scrooge’s own house. I have no idea whether the name Jughead Jones was a coincidence or an intentional reference to Archie comics. If Barks used the name on purpose, I don’t understand why. The Jughead in this story has nothing in common with Archie’s best friend. This issue also includes two European stories.

JONAH HEX #65 (DC, 2011) – “Snowblind,”[W] Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, [A] Jordi Bernet. Jonah Hex is caught in a snowstorm and has to spend the winter living with an eccentric hermit, who he protects from wolves and bandits. On the last page, we learn that Jonah was supposed to capture the hermit for a reward, but he decides not to. This issue is a quite effective piece of storytelling, but Bernet’s art is less effective in color than in black and white.

DETECTIVE COMICS #770 (DC, 2002) – “Purity Part 3 of 3,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Steve Lieber. Batman fights some Chinese drug dealers, whose leader has a beak and wings. There’s also a Josie Mac story by Judd Winick and Cliff Chiang. This issue is rather forgettable. The best thing about it is Andrew Robinson’s cover art.

STAR SLAMMERS #1 (IDW, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Walt Simonson. This issue introduces the Star Slammers, a group of intergalactic mercenaries. We first see them when they’re hired to help out the losing side of a war. Only three of them show up, but that’s more than enough to win the war, even when they’re betrayed by the side that hired them. As in issue 3, Walt’s draftsmanship, page layouts, and costume designs are amazing.

THE GOON: ONCE UPON A HARD TIME #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. The Goon beats up a lot of people and drinks himself into a stupor. His friend Frankie grows increasingly worried about him. As in issue 2, Eric Powell’s art is extremely effective. I think the closest artist to him is Kevin Nowlan, but Powell’s art is more painterly than Nowlan’s.

GREEN LANTERN #167 (DC, 1983) – “Ring Against Ring!”, [W] Joey Cavalieri, [A] George Tuska. In the lead story, some Green Lanterns go rogue because they’ve heard that the Guardians are intentionally depriving them of rings that don’t have a weakness to yellow. This story is no better than you would expect from its creators. The backup story, “Successor” by Todd Klein and Dave Gibbons, is much better. It’s about a horse-like Green Lantern who retires  and is replaced by his robot butler. Gibbons is a great visual storyteller, and he draws some cute horses.

ACTION COMICS #364 (DC, 1968) – “The Untouchable from Krypton!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Ross Andru. The best thing about this issue is Neal Adams’s cover. Ross Andru’s interior art is also good, but far more old-fashioned-looking. “The Untouchable from Krypton!” is part of a continuing story in which Superman contracts Kryptonian leprosy and has to leave Earth. There’s also a Supergirl story by Otto Binder and Kurt Schaffenberger, in which two of Supergirl’s acquaintances both marry the same man and immediately die. To investigate their deaths, Supergirl gets engaged to the man herself. This story’s premise is extremely dumb, and the resolution to the mystery is also ridiculous.

PLANETARY #7 (Wildstorm, 2000) – “To Be in England, in the Summertime,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] John Cassaday. This is quite possibly Warren Ellis’s best individual comic book, although you have to have read lots of other comics in order to understand why. Jack Carter, i.e. John Constantine, is dead, and the members of Planetary attend his funeral. For Ellis, Carter is the embodiment of ‘80s comics, which in his view were principally about the horribleness of Thatcher’s Britain. The examples Ellis has in mind are mostly the work of Moore, Gaiman and Morrison; for example, there’s a panel where two stand-ins for Morpheus and Death are feeding pigeons. The murderer turns out to be a character based on Miracleman, who’s angry because he liked his old, boring, respectable self and was unhappy with being deconstructed and turning grim and dark. At the end, Jack Carter reveals himself to be alive, and he visually transforms himself into Spider Jerusalem. Here Ellis is making an implicit declaration of independence: he’s tired of the ’80s school of comics, and in Transmetropolitan (and Planetary) he’s trying to do something different. This issue may be faulted for demanding too much insider knowledge of comics, but it’s an extremely ambitious and clever piece of metafiction.

DAREDEVIL #10 (Marvel, 2012) – “Underground Crime,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Paolo Rivera. Daredevil fights the Mole Man, who dug up Jack Murdock’s grave because his own lost lover (or stalking victim, rather) was buried nearby. Matt shows a total lack of sympathy for the Mole Man, but he really doesn’t deserve any. Paolo Rivera’s art in this issue is excellent. The issue begins with a scene where Matt escapes from a monster which we never see fully – we only see its eyes, tongue and teeth.

CLASSIC STAR WARS: THE EARLY ADVENTURES #6 (Dark Horse, 1995) – “The Second Kessel Run,” [W/A] Russ Manning. I believe this issue consists of newspaper strips cut up and rearranged in comic book form. Luke, Han and friends have to save the planet of Kessel from being destroyed by a scientist’s terraforming project. Luke has a cute flirtation with the scientist’s daughter. Russ Manning’s artwork in this issue is excellent, although it’s reproduced too large. However, Manning’s graphic style does not fit with the style of the Star Wars films. Manning’s spaceships and machines look slick, aerodynamic and futuristic, but they’re juxtaposed with costumes and ships that are borrowed from the films, and that look dingy, dilapidated, and overly complicated. The result is a clash between two incompatible design styles, and Manning’s own designs come off looking old-fashioned by comparison to the designs from the films. Al Williamson did a better job of matching his own style to the visual aesthetic of the Star Wars franchise.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #651 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled (Big Time), [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Spidey and Black Cat invade the Kingpin’s headquarters and fight the Hobgoblin. As a countermeasure to the Hobgoblin’s powers, Spidey uses a device that blocks out sound,  and this leads to some funny complications. The dialogue in this issue is also excellent; Slott is really good at writing Spider-Man’s witty banter. The main story ends with Peter realizing he’s finally hit the big time, hence the title of the story arc. There’s also a backup story where Alistair Smythe recruits the Scorpion to help him get revenge on JJJ.

CHEW #25 (Image, 2012) – “Major League Chew Part 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. Tony Chu has been kidnapped, and the kidnapper auctions him off, with his cibopathic powers, to the highest bidder. Amelia Mintz saves him. At the end of the issue, Colby is assigned Poyo as his new partner. This issue begins with a scene where Colby’s boss basically rapes him. This is funny in context, but may be offensive to some readers.

ADVENTURE COMICS #442 (DC, 1975) – “H is for Holocaust,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Jim Aparo. Aquaman has to save a hijacked ship before the U.S. government can nuke it, which would devastate Atlantis’s environment. There’s a subplot about an insurrection in Atlantis. This story is okay, but not as good as other Aquaman stories from this period. This issue also includes a Seven Soldiers of Victory story, drawn by José Luis Garcia-Lopez from an unpublished Golden Age script. JLGL’s art is only average, and Joe Samachson’s script is extremely stupid and childish. Samachson was still alive at the time, though he had long since abandoned his writing career.

SUICIDE SQUAD #50 (DC, 1991) – “Debt of Honor,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood et al. This issue begins with a confusing scene in which Rick Flag abandons his friend Jess Bright after a mountaineering disaster. This scene is shown more fully in Secret Origins #14, which I don’t have. Jess Bright survives, but suffers extreme injuries and becomes the supervillain Koshchei the Deathless. Many years later, Bright kidnaps Flag’s posthumous son by Karin Grace. The Squad have to save the boy, even though Koshchei tries to stop them by resurrecting their many dead teammates. This is a very exciting issue that effectively draws upon the series’ previous four years of continuity.

DETECTIVE COMICS #759 (DC, 2001) – “Unknowing Part Two,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Shawn Martinborough. I’m surprised this issue is so old because its cover art and design look extremely up to date. Rucka’s run on Detective Comics feels like the beginning of the contemporary era of Batman, as opposed to the previous era that was dominated by crossovers like Knightfall and No Man’s Land. This issue, Batman tries to unravel the Mad Hatter’s mind control plot, and Bruce Wayne’s bodyguard Sasha Bordeaux tries to assist him, even though Batman doesn’t want her help. There’s also a Slam Bradley backup story with beautiful art by Darwyn Cooke and Cameron Stewart, though it’s a bit hard to tell which of them did what. I think this was Darwyn’s second published comic book story, after Legion Worlds #2, and not counting Batman: Ego.

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Pandemic reviews

4-11-2020

Well, a lot has changed since I last wrote reviews. The world is suffering from a deadly pandemic, and the comics industry is in the middle of an existential crisis. Of course comics are far less important than people’s lives, and it seems silly to be worried about mere entertainment at such a time. But my biggest worries stemming from COVID-19 have been about comics and academia. The bigger consequences of the pandemic for society and public health are too big to think about, and I’m trying to avoid thinking about them. But periodical comic books have been central to my identity for my entire life.  The prospect that there might be no new comic books again, ever, is terrifying. I feel far less worried about coronavirus now, though, than I did in March, and I think that one way or another, the comics industry will survive. Sooner or later there will be monthly comics and comic conventions again. Meanwhile, I’ve been ordering a lot of old comics, and I’ve been keeping a list of major developments in the industry, so that when all this is over, I can write about it.

Early in March, I read some old comics that I’d had for years:

SKREEMER #1 (DC, 1989) – “Souls to the Devil,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins & Steve Dillon. This comic is narrated out of chronological order and is very difficult to understand, but it’s interesting. It’s sort of a hybrid of crime fiction and postapocalyptic SF, focusing on a mobster named Vito Skreemer. Like many other Peter Milligan comics, it seems to demand multiple readings in order to make sense of it. At the end of this issue there’s a quotation from the song “Finnegan’s Wake,” which inspired the novel.

SGT. ROCK #399 (DC, 1985) – “Sgt. Rock is Dead!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Adrian Gonzales. Sgt. Rock fakes his own death in order to exterminate an SS patrol. This story is fairly gripping and brutal, but somewhat forgettable; in writing this review, I had to remind myself what it’s about. The backup story by Darren Auck, about science-fictional mercenaries, is even less memorable.

ALIEN WORLDS #7 (Pacific, 1984) – “The Small World of Lewis Stillman,” [W/A] Richard Corben from a story by William F. Nolan, etc. William F. Nolan is best known for Logan’s Run. This issue begins with Corben’s adaptation of a postapocalyptic story by Nolan in which a young couple are murdered by creepy children. The plot here is nothing special, but Corben’s artwork is gorgeous. I’ll have more to say about him in some much later reviews. Bruce Jones and Gray Morrow’s “It All Fits” is an EC-esque SF story, featuring an illicit love affair on an alien planet, plus some carnivorous fur coats. Perhaps the highlight of the issue is the last story, “Ride the Blue Bus,” a rare example of a story both pencilled and inked by George Pérez. He is his own best inker because his inks bring out the meticulous detail of his pencils.

KIRBY GENESIS #5 (Dynamite, 2012) – “From Out of the Depths,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Jack Herbert & Alex Ross. This comic is based on a number of unpublished concepts created by Jack Kirby. However, Kurt’s story incorporates all these concepts at once, with the result that they all draw attention away from each other. Even worse, this comic’s plot is so convoluted and involves so many different characters that it makes no sense at all.

THE FLASH #314 (DC, 1982) – “Look Upon the Eradicator!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Carmine Infantino. I may have said this before, but The Flash was the perfect comic for Cary Bates because it was all plot. It didn’t require him to waste time on characterization, which he was very bad at. Because of his exclusive focus on plot at the expense of character, he was a natural heir to Fox and Broome. This issue balances several plots at once: the love triangle between Barry, Fiona Webb and Senator Creed; a new vigilante called the Eradicator; and the Rogues Gallery’s revenge scheme. It’s not the best Flash comic, but at least it’s entertaining.

WEIRD WAR TALES #65 (DC, 1978) – “The Last Cavalry Charge!”, [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] Danny Bulanadi. In this issue’s main story, set in Greece in 1943, the witch Circe turns an old cavalry officer into a centaur so he can participate in one final cavalry charge. According to Wikipedia the actual “last cavalry charge” in history was at the Battle of Schoenfeld in 1945. The backup story, “Death’s Head” by Jack Oleck and Fred Carrillo, also stars Circe; in this story, she turns some Nazi soldiers into pigs. Neither of these stories is particularly good.

UNKNOWN SOLDIER #263 (DC, 1982) – “Death Sub, U.S.N.,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Dick Ayers. In the first story, the Unknown Soldier solves the mystery of a submarine that was captured and then abandoned by the Japanese. It turns out that the Japanese put beer aboard the submarine that was contaminated with the plague, so that when the Americans took the sub back to Pearl Harbor, they would infect the rest of the country. I’m not sure the plague works that way. The second story, “Killers in the Sky” starring Balloon Buster and Enemy Ace, is the best story in the issue because it’s drawn by Dan Spiegle; however, Balloon Buster’s dialogue is extremely annoying. Finally, there’s a Tomahawk story by Haney and Delbo, which is hampered by boring art and dubious historical accuracy.

LEGION LOST #6 (DC, 2000) – “Burnout,” [W] Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, [A] Pascal Alixe. Umbra goes crazy due to being unable to contact her ancestors, and Saturn Girl tries to help her and also goes crazy. Later, the Legion explores a new planet. This series made the Legion more popular than they had been in years, but it was extremely dark and grim. In a way it was even grimmer than the v4 Legion, which at least had frequent moments of hope and humor.

THE SHADOW #12 (DC, 1975) – “Night of the Damned,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] E.R. Cruz. I may be the only one who likes E.R. Cruz’s art. No one ever mentions him much, but his style of linework is very distinctive, with tons of fine detail. This issue has a pretty dumb story about a Russian mystic named Ivan Zarnovitch. One of Zarnovitch’s henchmen is a giant weightlifter named Sergei Diaghilev. I assume that for some reason Denny named this character after the famous ballet impresario who founded the Ballets Russes.

KULL THE DESTROYER #11 (Marvel, 1973) – “King Kull Must Die!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Mike Ploog. This issue adapts REH’s “By This Axe I Rule!”, which was later converted into the first Conan story, “The Phoenix on the Sword.” “King Kull Must Die” felt very familiar to me, and I think I may have read it somewhere before. It’s good, though. It sums up what seems to be the main theme of the character: Kull finds the throne of Valusia to be an unwelcome burden, but he’ll be damned if he lets anyone else take it from him. And Mike Ploog’s art is very powerful. I especially like the climactic quasi-splash page where Kull shouts “Now – who dies first?”

ACTION COMICS #430 (DC, 1973) – “Bus-Ride to Nowhere!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. In Clark has to figure out which of his neighbors is an alien monster from the 420th century. This story is well-drawn, but implausible and stupid. In the backup story, by Elliot S! Maggin and Dick Dillin, the Atom takes Jean Loring’s nephew to the circus and gets involved in an adventure. This story is not memorable, but at least it’s cute.

RED SONJA #13 (Marvel, 1979) – “Shall Skranos Fall?”, [W] Roy Thomas w/ Clair Noto, [A] John Buscema. Clair Noto, more often credited in comics as Clara Noto, is best known for writing the unpublished screenplay The Tourist. Red Sonja was the only comic she ever wrote. According to Back Issue #118, this was because she became acquainted with Roy at a time when he was feeling burnt out and needed a partner. Maybe her presence explains why Red Sonja feels rather different in tone from Roy’s Conan comics. “Shall Skranos Fall?” wraps up most of the series’ dangling plots in a satisfying way, but it’s too bad that Frank Thorne didn’t draw it.

I received a new comics shipment on March 6. This was the last normal week before the pandemic. For new comics released in March, each review should be understood to include the unstated comment “I hope I get to read the next issue soon.”

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #13 (Marvel, 2020) – “Introducing: Amulet!”, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Joey Vazquez. Kamala and her friends go to the fair, Kamala and Bruno have some relationship problems, and then we’re introduced to Marvel’s first Arab-American superhero, Amulet. This character, created by Saladin and Sara Alfageeh, has been heavily hyped, and so far I love him. Saladin doesn’t reveal his origin or secret identity this issue, which is a reasonable choice, but unfortunately it means it’ll be a while before we learn any more about him.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #1 (DC, 2020) – “They Floated Above the Ground,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner. I love the idea of Adam and Alanna Strange, but their original stories are very sexist (see Mystery in Space #75 review below). And the only major modern take on them is Swamp Thing #57 and #58, where Adam is presented very negatively, and Alanna doesn’t get to do anything. So Tom King has a great opportunity to redefine these characters. This issue, Adam and Alanna are stuck on Earth and are dealing with the tragic loss of their daughter. The Earth scenes are drawn by Mitch Gerads, and the Rann flashbacks by Doc Shaner. This is an extremely promising series, though it has some obvious similarities to Tom and Mitch’s Mr. Miracle – both are 12 issues and have a theme of parenthood. I hope we will soon see where this series is going.

STRANGE ACADEMY #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. This series is essentially NewMutants, except with magical characters instead of mutants. The POV character is a human girl, but the other characters include fairies, Asgardians, giants, Dormammu’s son, etc. Among the instructors are Voodoo, Loki, and Zelma from Aaron and Bachalo’s Dr. Strange. Strange Academy is utterly adorable, and like that Dr. Strange series, it fully embraces the humor and weirdness of the magical side of the Marvel Universe. I really want to read more of it.

OUTER DARKNESS/CHEW #1 (Image, 2020) – “Universes Collide Part One,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan & Rob Guillory. The Charon crew encounters an alien who can only communicate through food, so they summon Tony Chu and Colby from the past in order to assist them. However, while in the future, Tony and Colby learn about their awful fates at the end of the Chew series, so they resolve to escape their impending doom. This comic’s plot is a somewhat contrived way to bring together John Layman’s two primary series, but it’s a fun comic anyway. The future sequences are drawn by Afu Chan, and the flashback to the 21st century is drawn by Rob Guillory.

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND #1 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. Some billionaires create an island where they can get away from the problems of the real world, most of which are their own fault. On this island, they have a prison for all the normal people who have offended them, including a crusading investigative journalist. This series is sadly even more relevant now than when it was published, since billionaires are currently making windfall profits, while poor people have to choose whether to die of coronavirus or to starve. So far this series is not nearly as fun as Second Coming, but it’s important.

FARMHAND #14 (Image, 2020) – “The Voice,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. This issue continues a bunch of ongoing plotlines, and is bookended by flashbacks depicting Monica Thorne’s past. As I mentioned previously, my students loved the first volume of Farmhand, and it was a great way to start off my comics class.

THE DREAMING #19 (DC, 2020) – “One Magical Movement, Part One,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. Lucien explains the origin of Wan/The Moth, and then in an epic “cavalry arrives” moment, the rest of the Dreaming natives come back and sacrifice themselves to beat Wan. I believe that next issue is Si Spurrier’s last, and then G. Willow Wilson will take over… eventually.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #16 (Marvel, 2020) – “Day/Night,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Cory Smith. In the first story, Miles takes his new baby sister to the park, but somehow winds up fighting an alligator. This story is a lot of fun, and I appreciate that Billie is still a newborn and has not been subjected to Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome. The backup story, starring Uncle Aaron, is less interesting.

BIRTHRIGHT #42 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. The world’s defenses are collapsing as Lore invades. Mikey fails to get anything useful out of Lore’s witches, and then Lore sends a werewolf to kill them anyway. Rook invades Mikey’s military base, gets shot by troops who don’t know who he is, and dies in Mikey’s arms. A sad issue.

CONAN: BATTLE FOR THE SERPENT CROWN #2 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Luke Ross. Conan fights Black Widow and Scarlet Spider, then Conan and Nyla get teleported to Wakanda. Saladin writes Conan very well, and I think he could do a great job on Conan’s ongoing series. I have far more confidence in him than in Jim Zub. The highlight of this issue is when the guard asks Conan if his loincloth is real fur and if he has it drycleaned.

MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Boy… and the Brute,”  [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Steve Rude. I believe these creators’ only other collaboration was Thor: Godstorm. Unfortunately this issue’s credits box is lettered confusingly, so it looks at first like Kurt drew the story and the Dude wrote it. “The Boy… and the Brute” takes place shortly after Avengers #4 and focuses on Rick Jones’s relationship to the Hulk. It’s not the most ambitious story, and it has little in common with Marvels, which this series is based on; however, it’s very well done. There are two other stories in this issue, but I don’t remember anything about them.

RAGNAROK: THE BREAKING OF HELHEIM #4 (IDW, 2020) – “The Wolves of Helheim…”, [W/A] Walt Simonson. Thor has a funny conversation with Ratatoskr and then enters Helheim. There he meets some wolves who used to be Einherjar, and they blame him for their current sorry state. I read Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology recently, and I think it was much less original or interesting than Ragnarok – although Neil has made better use of Norse myths in Sandman and American Gods.

THE CIMMERIAN: QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST #1 (Ablaze, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jean-David Morvan, [A] Pierre Alary. This French comic is an adaptation of REH’s Conan story of the same title. That story is in public domain, but the name and character of Conan are still trademarked. That’s why this comic is called The Cimmerian instead of Conan – as with the old Uncensored Mouse comic books. The Cimmerian #1 was supposed to come out last year, but Diamond refused to carry it due to pressure from Marvel and Conan Properties. Later Ablaze reached an agreement with Conan Properties, the terms of which are not public, and The Cimmerian #1 finally did come out. Now as for the actual comic: Alary’s artwork is spectacular, as one expects from a French comic, and his and Morvan’s Conan is far sexier than any American Conan comic. However, besides that, this comic doesn’t add much that wasn’t in other adaptations of “Queen of the Black Coast.” I have the second issue, but have not read it yet.

DRYAD #1 (Oni, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Osterling. I’ve lost all confidence in Kurtis Wiebe, for several reasons: Rat Queens jumped the shark, Pisces was never finished, and he seems to still be friends with Roc Upchurch. This new comic does nothing to redeem Wiebe in my eyes. It’s an epic fantasy about two young twins and their parents, but its premise is not clear, and it just feels incoherent. I don’t plan on continuing with this series.

IRON MAN 2020 #3 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Pete Woods. This comic has an exciting plot with a ton of surprising twists; it’s never quite clear who’s winning. As I was midway through this issue, I remembered that it was Slott who gave Awesome Android a personality, back in She-Hulk. That was a while ago. I ordered a couple issues from Slott’s previous Iron Man series, but I haven’t read them yet.

KING OF NOWHERE #1 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Tyler Jenkins. This new series is about a somnambulist who wakes up to find himself in a weird town full of bizarre creatures. I don’t get what’s going on in this comic, but at least it has an ongoing plot, unlike Ice Cream Man. Tyler Jnekins’s art here is very similar to his art in Black Badge and Grass Kings, except he also gets to draw fish-men and women with horns.

WELLINGTON #3 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Delilah Dawson & Aaron Mahnke, [A] Piotr Kowalski. This series is very similar to Hellboy, except not as original, and it also doesn’t feel historically accurate. I don’t believe the Duke of Wellington would have worn clothes that look identical to modern men’s clothing. This series doesn’t interest me at all, and I’m giving up on it.

THE GOON #9 (Albatross, 2020) – “Witches’ Brew,” [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Mike Norton. I stopped reading The Goon because it was repetitive (this was an incorrect decision; see other reviews below), but I bought this issue because Roger Langridge was the guest writer. In this issue, a group of witches enters into competition with the existing brewery in the Goon’s town, where beer is essential because the dock-worker goblins need to be constantly drunk. This is a funny comic and I plan on continuing with this series.

MYSTERY IN SPACE #75 facsimile (DC, 1962/2020) – “The Planet That Came to a Standstill,” [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Carmine Infantino. Adam Strange and Alanna team up with the Justice League to battle Kanjar Ro. This is an exciting, epic-length story, and it probably deserved the Alley Award it won in 1962. However, Fox’s characterization, as usual, is very poor by modern standards. And he keeps calling Alanna a “girl,” although at least Alanna gets to ply an active role in the story, unlike most of Fox’s superhero girlfriends. Also, at the end of this story, Adam saves the day by using metal from Kanjar Ro’s home planet against him, on the theory that such metal would affect Kanjar Ro the same way kryponite affects Superman. That’s pretty stupid logic, even if it worked. (Edit: It turns out I already had this issue, but my copy is in awful condition, so I will keep the facsimile edition as a reading copy.)

REVIVAL #3 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. The highlight of this very early issue is the multiple scenes with the old Hmong lady, Mrs. Vang. This may be the only comic ever published that passes the Bechdel test with two Hmong women. There’s also a scene in this issue that implies that Martha has been having an affair with her drama professor. I forget if this was ever mentioned again.

ARCHIE’S PALS AND GALS #218 (Archie, 1990) – “The Cookie Caper,” [W] Mike Pellowski, [A] Howard Bender. A bunch of boring gag stories.

8HOUSE #5 (Image, 2015) – “Yorris Part 2,” [W/A] Fil Barlow, [W] Helen Maier. Two incoherent and nonsensical SF stories, one of which is a reprint from 1993. Brandon Graham really seems to have liked Fil Barlow’s work, but I suspect that this was because Graham was quite young when he read Zooniverse. In general, 8House was far less successful than other Graham projects like Prophet or Island. Its ambitions were probably set too high.

LOIS LANE #9 (DC, 2020) – “Enemy of the People Part Nine,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. I’m getting tired of this series. At one point in this issue, Renee tells Batman that it doesn’t matter that Superman’s help might be unreliable, because she and Lois are going to handle things themselves. That points to a major problem with this comic: no matter what trouble Lois and Renee get into, Superman can always bail them out, and the only reason they’re not relying on him is because they don’t want to. It’s like they’re just playing at being heroes. Surely Rucka could have come up with a way to make Lois less dependent on Superman. Another weird moment in this issue is when Renee says that Superman, Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter get a pass for being undocumented because they’re heroes, and Lois replies “That’s not why they get a pass.” Implicitly, the reason is because they’re white. But as one of my Facebook friends pointed out, J’onn does not always benefit from white privilege; his current secret identity is a black man, although I did not know that. Also, as another friend observed, it’s strange that Lois is making this point and not Renee.

MONEY SHOT #5 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. This issue wraps up the first storyline, and is much sexier than last issue. It also leaves room for a possible sequel. I will have to add Money Shot #1 and #2 to my next online comics order.

SILK #4 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish. Silk fights the Goblin Nation and tries to track down her brother. This issue is an excessively quick read, like all issues of Silk. At least it has better art than is usual for this series.

THE GOON: ONCE UPON A HARD TIME #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “Once Upon a Hard Time Part 2: A Man Turned Animal,” [W/A] Eric Powell. An adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau, with a very brief framing sequence showing the Goon reading the novel. I’ve never actually read The Island of Dr. Moreau, but I’ve seen one film adaptation and read two comics adaptations of it. Eric Powell’s version is far better than Gabriel Rodriguez’s, except in the area of draftsmanship. Instead of trying to draw slick, realistic animal people, he brings out the horror of Wells’s story.

CLAW THE UNCONQUERED #3 (DC, 1975) – “The Bloodspear,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Ernie Chua. Claw meets an attractive female centaur and goes on a quest to turn her back into a human. She tries to betray him and gets killed, and Claw discovers that she was never a human to begin with. Claw the Unconquered is not nearly as good as Roy Thomas’s Conan, but it’s not terrible.

SON OF MUTANT WORLD #3 (Fantagor, 1990) – untitled, [W] Jan Strnad, [A] Richard Corben. The protagonist, Dementia, meets a guy named Herschel, and then her pet bear is captured by redneck hunters. This story is a pretty good example of Corben’s raucous, intentionally vulgar style, but it’s also very short. The backup story, “Dead Run” by BrucE Jones and Corben, appears to be original to this issue. It’s about a woman who, as we learn, killed her husband because they were both dying of thirst, only to be rescued shortly afterward. It’s a lot like Jones and Corben’s Warren stories. Finally, there’s a reprinted Corben story from 1970, “Twilight of the Gods.”

HOUSE OF YANG #1 (Modern/Charlton, 1978/1975) – “Empress of Evil,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Sanho Kim. This is a formulaic martial arts story, but it benefits from being drawn by an artist who was actually from East Asia. Sanho Kim’s depictions of Chinese clothing, architecture, and fighting styles feel realistic. He gets a bad rap sometimes, but that’s largely because his art style had nothing in common with anything else in ‘70s American comics; he was a manhwa artist working for an audience that had never heard of manhwa. His Korean work from the ‘50s and ‘60s was very important, but it seems unlikely that this material will be translated into English anytime soon.

GODZILLA: THE HALF-CENTURY WAR #2 (IDW, 2012) – “Vietnam 1967,” [W/A] James Stokoe. I bought this several years ago, but never read it because Stokoe’s comics are so time-consuming to read. He draws every leaf on every tree and every scale on Godzilla’s back. This results in comics which are spectacular to look at, but somewhat hard to read. I also notice that his facial expressions are far less detailed than his backgrounds – that’s the masking effect – and his action sequences would be very fast-paced and thrilling, if the art wasn’t so detailed. In summary, his comics are like manga, but with much more detailed art. The storytelling demands to be read quickly, but the artwork demands to be pondered carefully. It’s a weird effect. This particular issue takes place in Vietnam, obviously, and the plot involves the army’s attempts to divert Godzilla back to the ocean before he causes a disaster.

COLD HEAT #1 (PictureBox, 2006) – “Chocolate Gun,” [W/A] BJ (Ben Jones) and Frank Santoro. This is an extremely well-designed comic, with slick covers and ultra-vivid coloring. But its plot doesn’t make much sense. I can’t really explain what this comic is about, except that it focuses on a teenage girl, and it’s hard to compare it to anything else. I should read Santoro’s recent graphic novel Pittsburgh. Cold Heat must be a very rare comic; I’m guessing it was only sold at shows and through the mail. There seem to have been six issues in total.

WILD’S END #3 (Boom!, 2014) – “The Dark Woods,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. I finally read The War of the Worlds just before classes were cancelled for the semester. It’s a great novel, but I chose an unfortunate time to read it, because it’s way too relevant to the present situation. Early in the novel, Wells emphasizes how at the beginning of the Martian invasion, people were living their normal lives, with no idea that their society was about to collapse. That seems to perfectly describe my own situation at the beginning of March. Anyway, this issue is mostly devoted to characterization. The surviving characters spend an uncomfortable night in the open, then head back to town to warn the authorities, and then they run into some trigger-happy dude – I wonder if this is Fawkes. (Answer: yes)

DECORUM #1 (Image, 2020) – “And the Womanly Art of Assassination,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mike Huddleston. Decorum was advertised as being about an extremely polite assassin, but that character only shows up near the end of the issue, and the series also has lots of other stuff going on. Much of the issue is devoted to worldbuilding, and it’s not yet clear what the core premise of the series is. However, Mike Huddleston’s draftsmanship and coloring are stunning, and are enough to justify the price of the comic all on their own. This issue has the weird design and lettering that are characteristic of all Hickman’s comics. I assume he’s responsible for these things himself.

CAPTAIN GINGER SEASON TWO #2 (Ahoy, 2020) – “Dogworld Chapter Two,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] June Brigman. The cats have to abandon their ship and crash-land on Dogworld. This issue is mostly action sequences, but it’s extremely fun, as usual.

THE DOLLHOUSE FAMILY #5 (DC, 2020) – “Only One,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. This issue is credited to M.R. Carey. I wonder why he uses that pseudonym. Alice goes to Cordwainer’s old house in Wicklow, gets arrested for trespassing, and then discovers that she legally owns the house. On a return visit, she sees a vision of the “mallacht de ort” scene from a previous issue, but this time it ends with the house being created from a newborn’s placenta. I hope we can read the end of this story soon.

THE MAN WHO F#&%ED UP TIME #2 (AfterShock, 2020) – “Just in Time,” [W] Sean Layman, [A] Karl Mostert. Sean tries to fix things, but keeps making them worse. So far the most fun thing about this series is seeing the effects of all Sean’s changes. By the end of the issue, Sean finds himself in a town full of medieval timber-framed architecture, where everyone dresses in animal skins, and there are biplanes and a zeppelin in the sky. This whole series is basically an extended version of the Simpsons segment “Time and Punishment” from Treehouse of Horror V, which was itself based on Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder.” (BTW, I recently had a dream where my second book manuscript was rejected even though Ray Bradbury said he liked it.)

X-MEN #8 (Marvel, 2020) – “Something’s Coming,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Rahne has brought a Brood King egg back from space, and the Brood show up on Earth to claim it. This issue includes guest appearances by Gladiator and the Starjammers, as well as my favorite character from Wolverine and the X-Men, Broo.

MANIFEST DESTINY #42 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. This issue has the cutest cover of the entire series, showing baby Pompey playing with a bear cub. It may be inspired by the cover of Swamp Thing #95, where baby Tefe is playing with a baby Swamp Thing. The scene on the cover does occur in the comic, but the bear cub is actually the Spanish ghost dude, and he engineers the destruction of the boat. Also, two of the Corps of Discovery initiate a same-sex romance. This was an exciting issue.

IMMORTAL HULK #32 (Marvel, 2020) – “Hulk is Hulk,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett & Javier Rodriguez. I think Rodriguez only drew the three pages with the stacks of TVs, and Bennett drew the rest of the issue. This issue begins with a terrifying scene where Xemnu, Marvel’s hungwiest villain, devours Dario Agger’s most faithful lieutenant. Xemnu’s adorable appearance makes him all the more uncanny. Meanwhile, the Hulk’s friends finally realize that Xemnu is screwing with their minds, and the Hulk from Planet Hulk makes an appearance. One of the impressive aspects of this series is how Ewing has succeeded in tying together every period of the Hulk’s history. This is a difficult feat because the defining aspect of Hulk comics is that their core premises are always changing.

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #2 (DC, 2020) – “The Cosmidor Conspiracy,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Back on Earth, Hal romances Eve Doremus, a character whose only previous appearances were in five Silver Age issues. Also, the planet gets taken over by some bird-headed creatures. This issue didn’t make much sense to me, and I don’t remember much about it.

B.B. FREE #3 (Boom!, 2020) – “Spit, Butterflies, and Wildflowers,” [W] Gabby Rivera, [A] Royal Dunlap. This may be the last issue, because Boom! cancelled the solicitations for issues 4 through 6. The Boom! Box imprint seems to be moving toward a trade-paperback-only model. That sucks for me because I prefer periodical comic books, but it’s probably a sound decision. In any event, even if the current crisis has endangered the existence of monthly comics, it’s also revealed that monthly comics do still have a devoted readership, and that I’m not the only one who wants this format to survive. Anyway, this issue, b.b. and her friend stop some mean kids from draining a swamp. This series is a tremendous improvement over Gabby Rivera’s America, and it suggests that the problems with that series were due to inexperience rather than a lack of writing ability.

RONIN ISLAND #11 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milonogiannis. Kenichi and Hana defeat the escaping soldiers in a sea battle, and then Hana convinces not to execute the other captive shogunate soldiers. The impressive part of this issue is Hana’s speech about how she hates the island, because it will never accept her, even though it’s the only home she has, and even though she’s had to do awful things on its behalf. The political relevance of this is obvious. Americans of color are expected to love and to fight for America, even though America won’t return the favor.

SNOTGIRL #15 (Image, 2020) – “My Next Mistake,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Snotgirl attends Normgirl’s wedding, which is being held in a forest. Snotgirl tries to confront Caroline about their relationship, but accidentally knocks her off a cliff, then falls off the cliff herself. Meanwhile, the entire forest is on fire, and the wedding guests are sick from eating poisonous berries. This issue must have been inspired by last year’s California wildfires, although that crisis now seems like nothing compared to coronavirus.

GHOSTED IN L.A. #9 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Siobhan Keenan. I don’t remember this issue very well. Someone vandalizes the mansion, and Agi realizes that it happened because when she performed the ritual on Shirley, she released the wrong soul. Given my above comments on Boom! Box’s marketing strategy, I’m surprised that the single issues of Ghosted in LA are still being solicited.

NEW MUTANTS #9 (Marvel, 2020) – “Something Rotten in…”, [W] Ed Brisson, [A] Flaviano. The New Mutants go on a mission to the fictional European country of Carnelia. I bought this issue by accident (thinking it was written by Hickman), and I wish I hadn’t.

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: SUB-MARINER #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Reunion,” [W] Alan Brennert, [A] Jerry Ordway. New comics by Alan Brennert are always welcome. His entire comics corpus is small enough to fit into one volume, but almost every story he’s written is a classic. In this one-shot, Betty Dean and Namor try to resume their relationship after Namor returns from World War II. But Namor is suffering from PTSD, as is Betty’s brother, and Namor’s PTSD is triggered when he has to fight a Nazi shark villain. Like Marvel #1, this issue has little in common with the original Marvels series, but it’s a powerful, heartfelt depiction of the veteran experience. It also feels very historically accurate, largely due to Ordway’s highly detailed and immersive art.

ADLER #2 (Titan, 2020) – untitled, [W] Lavie Tidhar, [A] Paul McCaffrey. Irene Adler visits the opera, investigates the murder of Professor Moriarty, and meets the main characters from The Prisoner of Zenda. This series’ plot is complicated and I’m not sure where it’s going, but overall, Adler is a very effective piece of steampunk and fanfiction. Paul McCaffrey’s faces look a bit weird somehow, but I like his art.

THE TERRIFICS #26 (DC, 2020) – “The Day Simon Stagg Died, Part One,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Sergio Davila. Simon Stagg has a terminal disease. Yay! Without telling anyone, he sends the Terrifics to test a new rapid transit system, but somehow it’s actually a cover for Stagg’s attempt to extend his life by sacrificing Plastic Man’s son to some demons. Or something like that. Yang’s plots are rather complicated. At the end of the issue, Tom and Tesla Strong show up along with some other heroes. I’d forgotten that the Strongs were in this series.

BLACKWOOD: THE MOURNING AFTER #2 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. By this point it was getting hard to concentrate on reading comics, because I didn’t know if there would ever be any more new comics again, after the last couple weeks. I still don’t know that, but I feel more hopeful than I did in March. I believe Diamond will be able to start shipping again in May. This issue, the kids investigate a bunch of weird mysteries around campus. Clearly the highlight of this issue is the library scene. The librarian says that the kids won’t see the cats “until they want you to. They’re cats, after all,” and two panels later, the librarian is suddenly surrounded by five cats.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #19 (DC, 2020) – “So Our Souls May Fly,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Domo Stanton. This series is ending with #22. That’s too bad, but the last few issues have been excessively slow-paced and haven’t really gone anywhere. I still love Hopkinson’s writing and I hope she writes more comics. This issue continues a bunch of different plotlines, and also brings back Anansi. As I just mentioned, I’m not sure where this storyline is going.

CATWOMAN #21 (DC, 2020) – “Living with Both Faces,” [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Fernando Blanco. Catwoman fights a bunch of zombies at Raina Creel’s mansion, then confronts Raina herself. In a rather sad flashback to Selina’s origin, we learn that what she really wants is to be loved. Selina sends her boyfriend a goodbye letter, then leaves town with her sister, who’s begun to speak. It seems that this was Joëlle Jones’s last issue. With Jones as the writer, Catwoman was as good as it’s been since Darwyn Cooke and Cameron Stewart’s time.

ATOMIC ROBO: DOGS OF WAR #3 (Red 5, 2008) – “Going Off Track,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. In Croatia in 1943, Robo and Sparrow fight some Nazi monsters on top of a train. Robo and Sparrow’s interactions are very funny. Pages 2 through 9 of this issue have an interesting gimmick. Each page has three panels arranged vertically, and on each page, the top panel shows the Nazi leader Skorzeny, the middle panel shows Robo himself, and the bottom panel shows the Sparrow. So these pages can be read either horizontally or vertically. The gimmick ends when the three characters all end up in the same place.

BLOODSHOT REBORN #4 (Valiant, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Mico Suayan. This issue introduces Magic, who will become Bloodshot’s love interest and the mother of his daughter. Also in this issue are Bloodsquirt, a tiny cartoon version of Bloodshot, and another character who looks like Bloodshot but is a homicidal zealot. I’m not sure how this issue fits with the later issues I’ve read.

BATMAN #324 (DC, 1980) – “The Cat Who Would Be King!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Irv Novick. Catwoman is dying of a rare disease that can only be cured by certain herbs, but she and Batman have to fight Cat-Man to get the herbs. This is a pretty exciting issue. The first half of the #300s were a good period for this title. There’s a panel in this issue where Catwoman wakes up naked with Batman sitting next to her (https://www.instagram.com/p/B9273iHBkOo/), but sadly this doesn’t seem to be what it looks like.

FIRE FROM HEAVEN #2 (Image, 1996) – “Moonlight and Ashes,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Lee. This isn’t what you would expect from two such legendary creators. It’s the conclusion to a crossover between a bunch of Wildstorm titles. It has a confusing plot and too many characters, and it doesn’t feel particularly Moorean.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #501 (Marvel, 2011) – “Fix Me Part 1,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. A dying Dr. Octopus threatens to blow up Manhattan and also kill a friend of Tony’s, unless Tony cures Doc Ock’s terminal disease. In a series of flashbacks, Tony encounters Doc Ock at an academic conference, and they make enemies of each other. Iron Man and Dr. Octopus rarely encounter each other because Doc Ock is another superhero’s villain, but it makes logical sense that they would have met in their civilian lives, and Matt Fraction succeeds in drawing a connection between them. I really like Larroca’s art, and I think he’s very underappreciated. He draws the flashback sequences in a much less slick and more European style than his usual style. His style in these scenes reminds me a bit of Vittorio Giardino’s.

My next DCBS shipment arrived on March 19:

LUMBERJANES #72 (Boom!, 2020) – “Forestry is the Best Policy Part 4,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Kanesha C. Bryant & Julia Madrigal. We get the end of the first Lumberjane’s story. The Lumberjanes help Rosie and Abigail kill the invasive vine thing, which seems a bit odd because it’s a living creature. There are further suggestions that Rosie and Abigail are a couple. This was a fun storyline, though I was hoping to learn even more about the camp’s history.

FANTASTIC FOUR #20 (Marvel, 2020) – “Welcoming Party,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Paco Medina. The FF return home, and Johnny and Sky go to help Wyatt Wingfoot with a crisis on the Keewazi reservation. The Mole Man has laid claim to the Keewazi’s land and is trying to drive them off of it with tyrannosauruses. But since dinosaurs are just large birds, Sky talks to them and convinces them to switch sides, and the day is saved. The issue ends  with Reed reconciling with Ben. This is a well-written and heartwarming done-in-one story. Wyatt Wingfoot is a potentially problematic character, though Slott depicts him in a fairly respectful way. I do wonder about the appropriateness of using a fake name for a Native American tribe. Maybe the Keewazi should just be the Kiowa, since they live in Oklahoma. In She-Hulk #16, to be reviewed much later, Slott did use a real name for a First Nation.

RUNAWAYS #31 (Marvel, 2020) – “Cannon Fodder Pt. VII,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andres Genolet. Doc Justice almost kills the Runaways, but Victor shows up at the last minute to stop him, and Old Lace kills Doc and feeds him to Gib. So it’s a relative happy ending. Alec makes a cameo appearance on the last page.

WICKED THINGS #1 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. This new series by the Giant Days team stars Lottie Love, a teenage private detective. She gets nominated for the Detective of the Year Awards, where she meets a bunch of other detectives who all represent various national stereotypes. But although she wins the award, she also gets framed for murdering a Japanese detective. This series is a witty and self-aware parody of the cozy mystery genre, and it has Allison’s characteristic style of humor.

ALIENATED #2 (Boom!, 2020) – “We Need to Talk,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Chris Wildgoose. We meet Chelsea, who is the most popular girl in the three protagonists’ school, but is obsessed with being even more popular. The three Sams test their new powers by having the alien devour her mind. Chelsea is a less loathsome character than Leon from last issue; she’s self-absorbed and disingenuous, but not truly harmful. Thus, the reader feels uncomfortable with what the three Sams do to her. At the end of the issue, we learn that Samuel’s mother is a cop, and she needs to talk to her son.

TARTARUS #2 (Image, 2020) – “Homegoing,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Jack T. Cole. This issue’s title probably comes from the brilliant novel by Yaa Gyasi, or else the folk belief that the novel is named after. This issue, Tilde smuggles herself from the station to Tartarus by boarding a vessel that’s participating in a bizarre funeral rite. This issue is action-packed and exciting, and Jack T. Cole’s art is stunning. Tartarus is an important new series.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #6 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. In the aftermath of last issue’s epic confrontation, James is in a coma, and there’s a cave full of dead teenagers. (In the context of coronavirus, the line “the morgue isn’t big enough for all of these kids” has an eerie resonance that Tynion obviously did not intend.) From the little girl who was held captive in the cave, Erica learns that the monster has reproduced. Meanwhile, the other members of Erica’s organization decide to kill Tommy. This series has been really good. I need to collect more of Tynion’s other creator-owned titles.

ASCENDER #10 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Effie frees Andy from jail, but then Andy is tragically forced to kill her at her own request, because her vampirism is incurable. Meanwhile, Helda almost gets killed by a ghost, but is rescued by a magician and his companion, none other than Driller. I think we’ve seen the magician before, but I forget who he is.

USAGI YOJIMBO #9 (IDW, 2020) – “Tatami Part 2 of 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Kagemaru suceeds in destroying the tatami shipment, meaning that the shipment’s guards will have to volunteer to commit seppuku to atone for their mistake. Quite a sad ending. Meanwhile, we learn that Kashira is working on Chizu’s behalf to undermine Kagemaru’s leadership of the Neko Ninja.

AQUAMAN #58 (DC, 2020) – “Echoes of a Life Lived Well,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Miguel Mendonça. Arthur and Mera’s daughter is now an incredibly adorable ten-month-old, but her mother is still in a coma. For political reasons, Vulko announces that he’s going to go through with his proposed marriage to Mera. This issue’s plot would be very different if not for Dan DiDio’s asinine refusal to let Aquaman and Mera get married. I wasn’t even reading Aquaman back in 2013 when DiDio announced that they couldn’t get married, and that announcement still pissed me off. I never approved of Dan DiDio’s leadership, and I’m very glad he’s gone. Also in this issue, Orm and Dolphin arrange a coup against Atlantis, and on the last page, the baby is kidnapped.

MIDDLEWEST #16 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Abel and his friends execute their escape plan, but it turns out that Nick Raider already anticipated their escape and ensured that it wouldn’t work. What he didn’t expect was the arrival of the people from the carnival. Nick Raider is a truly loathsome villain, a smug, self-satisfied enslaver of children, and I hope Abel kills him.

BANG! #2 (Dark Horse, 2020) – “One Way Ticket,” [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Wilfredo Torres. Most of this issue is a fairly straightforward tale about a super-spy named John Shaw. There are no metatextual elements until the very end, when Shaw meets Thomas Cord and discovers that he (Shaw) is a character in a novel. This issue was less interesting than #1.

GHOST-SPIDER #8 (Marvel, 2020) – “All You Wanna Do,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Ig Guara. Gwen continues to investigate the Storm siblings. Back on Earth-616, she learns about Kamala’s law and has a tantrum. The issue ends with Gwen saving some people from a fire. This is another low-key but entertaining issue; however, it suffers from being part of the Outlawed crossover. Speaking of which:

OUTLAWED #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Wanted for Teenage Vigilantism,” [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Kim Jacinto. Ailana Kabua, a stand-in for Malala Yousafzai, is giving a speech at Coles Academic High School, and Roxxon decides it’s a good time to assassinate her. The Champions prevent the assassination attempt and save Ailana, but Kamala Khan is badly hurt, and in response, the government passes a law against teen superheroes. On one hand, I love Eve Ewing’s writing, and it’s nice that she gets to write characters like Viv Vision and Nadia van Dyne. On the other hand, the premise of this crossover is really stupid. It’s just a rehash of the original Civil War. And it sucks that Kamala’s character arc has to be derailed in order to accommodate this crossover. Outlawed has also sparked a major controversy because it was supposed to introduce two new characters named Snowflake and Safespace. I actually think those names are funny, but some people have plausible reasons for finding them offensive. The other problem with Outlawed, of course, is that just as it was getting started, it was overtaken by real-world events, and now when it does come out, it will feel even less relevant. In general, I love Eve Ewing’s writing, but her work has suffered from the need to fit into the Marvel Universe, and she hasn’t been able to stay on any title for very long. I wish she would start doing creator-owned comics.

DRAGONFLY & DRAGONFLYMAN #5 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Peter Krause. On Earth-Omega, Chip leaves town, correctly realizing that Dragonfly is abusing him. He throws away the suitcase that Dragonfly prepared for him, and a young runaway girl finds it and opens it to find a Stinger costume. On Earth-Alpha, Dragonflyman throws a giant party for the other Stinger. This series was entertaining, but the novelty of its premise has worn off, and it’s unfortunate that the two storylines don’t interact in any way. I would rather have gotten a sequel to The Wrong Earth, instead of a prequel.

X-RAY ROBOT #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Allred. This new series is about a scientist who projects his brain into a dimension-hopping robot. The premise is fun so far, and the art is some of the best of Allred’s career. The two-page splash showing the moment of interdimensional travel is a particular highlight. I’m not sure whether or how this series is connected to the Madman universe.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #16 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Last Avenger Finale,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. Carol borrows the other Avengers’ powers, including Mjolnir and Captain America’s shield, and finally defeats Vox Supreme. This storyline was annoying and contrived, and I’m glad it’s over. However, I am losing hope that Kelly will ever be able to develop an innovative take on this series, the way she did with Hawkeye.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #9 (DC, 2020) – “…His Only Begotten Son!” and other vignettes, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. I think the highlight of this issue is the appearance by Arm-Fall-Off Boy and his similarly powered family, although there’s no explanation of how they got from the 31st to the 21st century. Besides that, this series continues a bunch of ongoing subplots. I hope this series ends soon so that I can reread it all at one sitting. It’s hard to make sense of it one issue at a time.

ATLANTIS ATTACKS #3 (Marvel, 2020) – “Sword of the Sirenas,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Ario Anindito & Robert Gill. The two Atlas teams almost go to war, but manage to resolve their differences. The highlight of this issue is the scene where the Atlanteans and Sirenas tell two contradictory versions of the story of their ancestral combat. Each version is illustrated in a different style that resembles ancient vase painting. I ordered and received issue 1 of this series, but have not read it yet.

FAMILY TREE #5 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. This is probably my least favorite of Lemire’s creator-owned titles c. This issue begins with a very effective scene showing how the two parents’s marriage collapsed, and how the two children bonded despite or because of that. But the main part of the issue is less satisfying. Megan turns into a tree, and for unexplained reasons, this causes an apocalypse. Five years later, Josh is one of the few remaining humans, and he has to save the world. I’m going to keep reading this series, but I hope it gets better.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #5 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. The flashbacks in this issue focus on the old soldier, Pavel Bukowski (no relation to Fante). In the main story, Lottie and Uncle Sam make it to the train that leads to the next part of America. This is a very ambitious and weird series, and I look forward to seeing where it goes next.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #28 facsimile (DC, 1960/2010) – “Starro the Conqueror!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Mike Sekowsky. The first Justice League story also introduces Starro and Snapper Carr. Setting the template for Fox’s later JLA stories, it consists ofan introduction followed by three vignettes. Two of these are Flash and Green Lantern solo stories, while a third is a team-up between Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter. Finally, in the conclusion, the entire team comes together to defeat Starro. Fox’s JLA stories tended to highlight just one or two characters at a time, rather than the entire team together, and this is partly why the JLA has less of a distinctive group identity than the  Avengers.

THE LOW, LOW WOODS #4 (DC, 2020) – “Einstein on the Beach,” [W] Carmen Maria Machado, [A] Dani. The girls are attacked by skinless zombies, and then they confront the witch who looks like a little girl, demanding answers. To be honest, I barely remember anything about this issue, although I was not in a great mental state when I read it.

ARCHIE #712 (Archie, 2020) – “Archie and Katy Keene Part 3,” [W] Mariko Tamaki & Kevin Panetta, [A] Laura Braga. Katy, Sis and the Archie gang go to Manhattan. Katy refuses an insincere offer of mentorship from a self-centered jerk. This storyline still has a very minimal plot and is mostly an excuse to show off Laura Braga’s fashion designs, but I think that’s on purpose.

PLUNGE #2 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Stuart Immonen. The protagonists investigate the resurfaced ship and discover some horrible creatures and some mathematical inscriptions. This is a powerful piece of Lovecraftian horror, but this issue was not as impressive as #1.

VAGRANT QUEEN: A PLANET CALLED DOOM #3 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. Elida manages to escape from her kidnapper, and she meets up with her old partner Stelling. Meanwhile, Florence is looking for Elida. I don’t remember much about this issue.

BITTER ROOT #7 (Image, 2020) – “Rage & Redemption Part Two,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. This issue advances the main plot a bit, but is primarily devoted to the origin story of the series’ main villain, Dr. Walter Sylvester. The essays at the end are by Donna-Lynn Washington, who edited the John Jennings: Conversations book, and Stacey Robinson. I have met the latter but not the former.

VALKYRIE: JANE FOSTER #9 (Marvel, 2020) – “At the End of All Things Part 2,” [W] Jason Aaron & Torunn Grønbekk, [A] Ramon Rosanas. Jane fights Thor, who’s been corrupted by an ancient king named Øde and a power called the Rokkva. This issue is not very interesting, and I continue to suspect that Jason Aaron’s contribution to this series is only nominal. I’m going to give this series a couple more issues before dropping it.

HEIST #5 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Arjuna Susini. Glane Breld executes a complicated plot to blackmail a judge into verifying the deeds to the planet. Meanwhile, Eddy’s long-lost sister tracks him down. This series is very funny, and the main thing that stops it from being truly excellent is the inappropriate art, which I have complained about before.

I only had the energy to read two older comics this week:

BARBIE #46 (Marvel, 1994) – “My Name is Amy” and “A Fishy Story,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] José Delbo. Amy, a friend of Skipper’s, is convinced that she’s ugly, and Skipper helps her get over it. This story is actually a somewhat serious depiction of low self-esteem. The backup story is about water pollution and includes a poster that appears to have been drawn by Slate herself.

ACTION COMICS #355 (DC, 1967) – “The Mighty Annihilator!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Wayne Boring. In an Iron Curtain country, a political prisoner, Karl Keller, accidentally gains super powers and becomes a rival to Superman. Keller has been sent to a forced labor camp despite having a Nobel Prize in chemistry. This reminds me of Bill Mauldin’s Pulitzer-winning cartoon where Boris Pasternak is in a prison camp, and he’s telling a fellow prisoner “I won the Nobel Prize for literature. What was your crime?” I wonder if Dorfman had Pasternak in mind when writing this story. There’s also a Supergirl backup story in which Luthor almost kills himself by accident, but Supergirl saves him.

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Reviews for February

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NEW GODS #5 (DC, 1971) – “Spawn,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. This is Kirby at his most Kirbyesque, Kirby at his most epic and awesome and yet also human. This issue begins with the unforgettable scene where Metron visits the Source Wall and sees the Promethean Giants. Then the very next scene shows Orion’s human friends wondering where he’s gone. This contrast between cosmic and human scales is essential. Besides Dan Turpin, none of the human characters in New Gods are especially important; however, they act as surrogates for the reader, allowing us a lens through which to understand Orion’s cosmic adventures on our own human level. That’s especially crucial in this series because Orion is a difficult character to relate to or sympathize with. This issue’s main plot is about Orion’s battle with the Deep Six, and then there’s a rather long Manhunter reprint, which is the reason why I didn’t read this issue sooner. There’s also a short backup feature that introduces Fastbak.

SUICIDE SQUAD #3 (DC, 1987) –“Jailbreak,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Luke McDonnell. This title began as a spinoff of Legends, and this issue picks up a dangling plot thread from that crossover. Darkseid sends the Female Furies to rescue Glorious Godfrey, a major villain in Legends, from Belle Reeve prison. That leads to a big fight scene, and at the end, Bernadeth intentionally abandons Lashina on Earth. She later becomes the Squad member Duchess. In this issue Ostrander shows an excellent understanding of the Fourth World characters. I like the moment where Bernadeth criticizes Darkseid’s decision to send the Furies, and Darkseid is silent for several panels and then says “It’s what I want.”

New comics received on February 7:

CAPTAIN GINGER SEASON TWO #1 (Ahoy, 2020) – “Dogworld Chapter One,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] June Brigman. I’m very glad that this series is back. In this issue the cats continue to be their lovely, awful selves, but they also encounter a bunch of stupid dogs, as well as the aliens that wiped out the Feeders (i.e. humans). I’m not sure where this story arc is going, but I’m excited to find out.

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #12 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. Kamala has to choose between saving her dad and saving her enemy Josh, and of course she makes the heroic and dumb choice: she chooses Josh. Bruno asks her why she’s nt saving her dad first, and she says, “That’s just… not how it works.” As a result, Abba survives but is permanently disabled. This is very similar to Miles Morales’s choice to save Uncle Aaron from the consequences of his own misdeeds, rather than witness his sister’s birth. I wish that once in a while Saladin would allow his characters to do the selfish thing. Also in this issue, Kamala and Bruno decide to leave their relationship undefined.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #15 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Garrón. Miles saves the school from a horde of Green Goblins, and in return, his principal agrees not to reveal his secret identity. This conclusion is predictable and slightly anticlimactic, but it’s executed well. Javier Garrón’s art in this issue is excellent.

SPIDER-MAN & VENOM: DOUBLE TROUBLE #4 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] GuriHiru. Spidey and Venom manage to switch their minds back with the squirrel and cat occupying their bodies, and everything ends happily. This series was a very quick, light read, but it was tremendous fun. I didn’t know that Mariko Tamaki could be this funny. GuriHiru are surprisingly good at drawing animals. I especially love the scene where Venom tries to summon some cats, and they all ignore him. And the antics of the squirrel and cat in Spidey and Venom’s bodies are hilarious.

MANIFEST DESTINY #41 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. Lewis and Clark finally come clean to Magdalene about the Spanish ghost dude. It turns out they were able to communicate about him through their diaries, even though they couldn’t speak about him. The plot with the rabbit women is put on the backburner for most of the issue, and Lewis and Clark ultimately decide not to go back for the crewmen who went to the rabbit village.

CROWDED #11 (Image, 2020) – “Anxious Type,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein & Ted Brandt. Charlie and Vita hole up in a commune located in an abandoned missile silo. Of course it turns out thhe commune is stockpiling weapons for some reason, and at the end of the issue they lock Charlie and Vita inside their room. This issue includes more excellent scenes between the two protagonists. Crowded is Chris Sebela’s best work yet, by far. I’m just sorry that the last story arc won’t be available in single-issue form.

GIDEON FALLS #21 (Image, 2020) – “The Pentoculus Part 5 of 5: The Eater of All Things,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. The two groups of protagonists confront the Black Barn, and the issue ends with some weird fourth-wall-breaking page layouts in which the comic book seems to collapse into itself. I don’t quite understand what happens in this issue, but it’s exciting.

ISOLA #10 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. Rook has a dream where Olwyn is human again. But it turns out that “Olwyn” is actually the evil witch from the last few issues, and the real Olwyn shows up and defeats her. Unfortunately, Rook also learns that her mother was killed on Olwyn’s orders. I’m glad this series is continuing to come out, albeit rather sporadically.

USAGI YOJIMBO #8 (IDW, 2020) – “Tatami Part 1 of 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. “Tatami” is the latest in a long line of Usagi stories that focus on elements of Japanese traditional culture – in this case, tatami mats. The issue begins with a detailed description of how tatami mats are made. Of course, there’s also a plot. A caravan carrying tatami mats is attacked by Neko ninja, and Usagi and Chizu join the caravan as guards. The ninja are in the employ of Lord Hikiji, and the caravan seems to be carrying something more than just flooring.

BIRTHRIGHT #41 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Most of this issue is a flashback to the origin of the main villain, Lore. At the end, we find that Mikey has captured the three witches, who originally turned Lore from a human boy into a demono lord. This series has two story arcs remaining.

On February 8, I went to my fourth Charlotte Mini-Con. It was held in the downtown Westin, in the same room where they hold the Drink & Draw at Heroes Con. The Westin is a far better venue than the Grady Cole Convention Center, where the last three Mini-Cons were held; the Grady Cole is a decaying old hockey rink in an inconvenient part of town. However, that particular room at the Westin was far too small. There wasn’t enough space for vendors, and people were constantly having to push past each other.

At the con I had lunch with Andy Kunka, and I also saw Craig Yoe and a bunch of other people. Craig Fischer was apparently there, but I somehow didn’t see him, despite the aforementioned small size of the venue. Some of the comics I bought were:

THE ADVENTUROUS UNCLE SCROOGE MCDUCK #2 (Gladstone, 1998) – “A Little Something Special,” [W/A] Don Rosa. It’s been a while since I read an unfamiliar Don Rosa story, and I’d forgotten what an incredible genius he is. In this story, the city of Duckburg stages a celebration to honor the 50th anniversary of Scrooge’s arrival, but all three of Barks’s recurring villains – Magica DeSpell, Flintheart Glomgold, and the Beagle Boys – team up to spoil the party. Even by Rosa’s usual high standards, this story has an extremely clever and intricate plot, and it’s full of brilliiant visual and narrative moments. For example, near the end of the story, Blackheart Beagle almost escapes. But on Gladstone’s suggestion, the mayor offers a reward for his capture, and Gladstone immediately captures him by a stroke of luck. The interactions between the villains are also brilliant. When the Beagle Boys succeed in stealing Scrooge’s fortune, Magica’s plans are frustrated because Scrooge is now no longer the world’s richest duck, so his Number One Dime is powerless. A key theme of the story is desire. The three villains are able to team up because they all want different things from Scrooge: Magica wants the dime, the Beagle Boys want his money, and Glomgold wants to be richer than him. Meanwhile, the city of Duckburg stages a competition to give Scrooge something he wants and doesn’t already have. It turns out, of course, that the answer is a kiss from Glittering Goldie.

THOR #152 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Dilemma of Dr. Blake!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Thor battles the Destroyer, while elsewhere Balder battles Ulik. This issue has some amazing fight sceenes, but not much plot or characterization. There’s also an Inhumans backup story in which Triton visits New York. This story is inked by Joe Sinnott, while the main story is inked by one whose name will not be mentioned.

TEEN TITANS #2 (DC, 1966) – “The Million-Year-Old Teenager,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Nick Cardy. In the town of Smedleyville, the Titans help a reanimated caveboy defeat his old enemy and get together with his girlfriend. The caveboy in this issue is named Garn, not to be confused with Gnarrk, who was a separate character. Perhaps Bob Haney created Gnarrk because he forgot he’d already craeted Garn. Bob Haney’s art in this issue is good, but far from his best.

GLORY #0 (Awesome, 1999) – “Glory and the Gate of Tears,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Brandon Peterson. Glory grapples with her newfound mortality. This comic is interesting, but only contains ten pages of actual story, making its $2.50 cover price an insult. The rest of the issue consists of sketches and previews. Because Awesome went out of business, no other issues of this volume of Glory ever appeared. However, two more issues of Alan Moore’s Glory were later published by Avatar.

MAGNUS, ROBOT FIGHTER #8 (Gold Key, 1964) – “Havoc at Weather Control,” [W/A] Russ Manning. This was one of the only original Magnus stories I hadn’t read. While Magnus and Leeja are celebrating a festival, an evil robot sabotages North Am’s weather control system. To defeat it, Magnus has to team up with a gang of kids called the Outsiders, who show up again in a few later stories. As always, Manning’s artwork in this issue is phenomenal. His robots look slick and realistic, and his anatomy and action sequences are dynamic and thrilling.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #133 (Marvel, 1974) – “The Molten Man Breaks Out!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Ross Andru. Spidey battles the Molten Man and meets Liz Allan, who hadn’t appeared since the ‘60s. This issue is a good example of Conway and Andru’s Spider-Man. Conway gives Peter, Liz and MJ some nice characterization, and the Molten Man is an effective villain because he doesn’t have bad intentions; he’s just terrified of his own impending doom.

MUKTUK WOLFSBREATH, HARD-BOILED SHAMAN #3 (Vertigo, 1998) – “Mommy’s Girl Part 3: Hi, Mom!”, [W] Terry LaBan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Muktuk defeats the femme fatale Nusqua and saves the day. This series was not perfectly executed – its central mystery and its villain are a bit boring. But I forgive that because the series’ premise is so original and entertaining. I wish there had been more than three issues.

AVENGERS #67 (Marvel, 1969) – “We Stand at… Armageddon!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. This issue has impressive art by BWS in his Kirby-imitator phase. However, this second Ultron story feels like a rehash of the first one. The Vision gets a lot of panel time, but he spends most of the issue complaining, and the rest of the issue consists mostly of fight scenes.

THIRTEEN GOING ON EIGHTEEN #23 (Dell, 1967) – “For an Opener,” [W/A] John Stanley. Another demonstration of John Stanley’s comedic genius. I think the best story in this issue is the first one, where Val and Billy are unable to have both a bottle and a bottle opener at the same time. There’s another story where Judy dreams she’s on the phone with King Arthur, and one where Judy goes to a party in a truly absurd costume.

TANTALIZING STORIES #4 (Tundra, 1993) – multiple stories, [W/A] Jim Woodring, Mark Martin & Gerald Jablonski. In this issue Woodring and Martin switch characters, with Martin drawing Frank while Woodring draws Montgomery Wart. Each cartoonist does a good job of imitating the other’s style, and I couldn’t even tell at first that the Frank story was not by Woodring. But both stories feel kind of unoriginal, and I would have preferred if the artists had stuck to their own characters. This issue also includes some of Jablonski’s absurdist Farmer Ned stories, drawn in a style that reminds me of Drew Friedman.

COPRA #5 (Image, 2020) – “Tender Living,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. The team fights some supervillains who are empowered by Ochizon. Meanwhile, Sonia tries to recruit some more allies. Michel Fiffe’s art this issue is really impressive; his cosmic New Gods-based stories seem to inspire him to higher levels of visual imagination. Here is a useful website that matches Copra characters to their Marvel and DC counterparts: http://en.wikibedia.ru/wiki/Draft:COPRA_analogues

DAREDEVIL #76 (Marvel, 1971) – “Deathmarch of El Condor!”,  [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gene Colan. Matt Murdock gets involved in a civil war in the fictional country of Delvadia. Gene Colan’s action sequences in this issue are excellent, and he draws some very realistic machinery. However, this issue’s plot is trite and full of stereotypes, and there’s no Black Widow, who was the best thing about Conway’s Daredevil run.

CAPTAIN ACTION #2 (DC, 1969) – “The Battle Begins!”, [W] Jim Shooter, [A] Gil Kane. The villain Krellik steals some of the coins that give Captain Action and Action Boy their powers, but the heroes use other coins to defeat the villains. The artwork in this issue is amazing. Kane is inked by Wally Wood, and Kane’s compositions plus Woody’s linework are a perfect combination. I don’t remember the detailed history behind this comic, but it only lasted five issues, and no creator worked on all five of them. With #3, Gil Kane took over as writer, and the tone of the series shifted significantly. Still, Captain Action was one of the finest DC comics of the late ‘60s, and it shouldn’t be so hard to find. IDW announced at Comic-Con last year that they would be reprinting the entire series, but there’s still no date for it.

IRON FIST #2 (Marvel, 1975) – “Valley of the Damned!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Byrne. This issue is mostly a flashback in which Danny Rand’s sister, Miranda, tries to flee K’un Lun with her lover, but they both get killed by some plant monsters. The plant creatures are called H’ylithri, a name which sounds a lot like the Shi’ar deity K’ythri. It was news to me that Danny even had a sister; she only ever made a few other appearances. Iron Fist is my least favorite Claremont-Byrne collaboration, and a particular problem in this issue is Frank Chiaramonte’s lazy inking, which obliterates all of Byrne’s fine linework.

YUMMY FUR #32 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1994) – “Matthew 11:2-12:45, 14:2-14:12,” [W/A] Chester Brown. The final issue of Yummy Fur is devoted entirely to a chapter of Brown’s adaptation of the New Testament. Part of the issue depicts the death of John the Baptist. It’s hard for me to read any version of this story without thinking of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé. In the rest of the story, Brown depicts Jesus as a terrifying, uncompromising figure. His Jesus is radically different from Mark Russell and Richard Pace’s kind, gentle Jesus. It’s too bad this adaptation was never finished. Brown apparently cancelled Yummy Fur because the name was no longer appropriate, and he wanted to devote his energies to Underwater, though that series was never finished either.

SUICIDE SQUAD #34 (DC, 1989) – “Armagetto,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] John K. Snyder III. I love the cover of this issue, which shows Amanda Waller and Granny Goodness fighting. It’s a battle of DC’s two greatest old battleaxes. In this issue, Lashina has shanghaied most of the Squad to Apokolips in order to help her recapture leadership of the Female Furies from Bernadeth (whose betrayal was shown in #3, reviewed above). The Squad are facing the fight of their lives, but they rise up to the challenge. Meanwhile, Bronze Tiger tries to organize a relief mission, despite being officially forbidden to recruit any felons. The Apokolips storyline was one of the most exciting moments of this series.

CONAN: BATTLE FOR THE SERPENT CROWN #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Luke Ross. In modern-day Las Vegas, Conan teams up with a thief named Nyla. The idea of Conan in the 20th/21st century is not new, but this story is better executed than most of the previous stories with this premise. Nyla is an exciting new character, and I like her interactions with Conan. I just wish Saladin had explained how Conan got to the 21st century. I assume this is a result of events in some other comic that I’m not reading.

BATMAN #225 (DC, 1970) – “Wanted for Murder-One, the Batman,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Irv Novick. Batman is accused of murdering Jonah Jory, a talk-show host who was notorious for his rudeness. It turns out that Jory killed himself and framed Batman for it. Denny invites the reader to solve the mystery before Batman does. I failed to do so, though I did notice the key clue. Probably the biggest clue that it was a suicide is that there are no other likely suspects – except Arthur Reeves, and it can’t be him because he appears in later issues. This issue also includes a backup story about illegal street racing.

FANTASTIC FOUR #70 (Marvel, 1967) – “When Fall the Mighty,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. This issue is from just after Lee and Kirby’s greatest period (the #40s to the #60s), but their FF is still the greatest superhero comic ever created. This issue, the three male FF members fight the Mad Thinker and his androids. This plot is nothing special, but Kirby and Sinnott’s artwork is beyond incredible. The main problem with this issue is the sexist treatment of Sue, whose pregnancy makes her even more useless than usual. In contrast, Saturn Girl fought the Legion of Super-Villains while nearly at full term with twins.

CRIMINAL #2 (Icon, 2006) – “Coward Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. It’s weird to read such an early Criminal story now that I’m almost caught up on the series. This issue, Tommy Patterson executes a clever plot to steal a shipment of diamonds from a police evidence van. But his co-conspirators betray him even before the heist is over, and then he discovers that what he’s stolen was not diamonds but drugs.

TALES TO ASTONISH #85 (Marvel, 1966) – “—And One Shall Die,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan, and “The Missile and the Monster!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. In the Namor story, Namor battles the first Number One of the Secret Empire, whose goal is to win worldwide fame. In an ironic twist, Number One blows himself up, and his body is burned beyond recognition. Unusually for this series, the Sub-Mariner story leads directly into the Hulk story. As a result of Number One’s failed plots, the Hulk finds himself in New York, and he has to save the city from a missile launched by a Soviet spy. This is a pretty fun issue.

THE MAN WHO F#&%ED UP TIME #1 (AfterShock, 2020) – “The Here and Now,” [W] John Layman, [A] Karl Mostert. Our protagonist is Sean Bennett, a young scientist working on a time travel project, who is subjected to possibly racist abuse from his lab partner. Sean’s future self visits him and tells him to go back in time, so he does, but he accidentally creates a dystopian reality where everyone dresses like Abe Lincoln. I really like time travel stories, and so far this series looks like a fun example of that genre.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. This issue takes place right after the end of the Superior Spider-Man saga. The Black Cat seeks revenge on Spider-Man, not realizing that he’s not the same Spider-Man who incurred her hatred. Meanwhile, Peter tries to reintegrate himself into his old life. This is yet another super-fun issue.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #69 (DC, 1969) – “A Matter of Menace!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Dick Dillin. Wonder Woman quits the JLA because she’s lost her powers, and then a villain named Head Master frames Green Arrow for murder. Perhaps because of its new young writer, this issue feels more energetic than a typical ‘60s JLA issue, but it’s still kind of  forgettable. Dick Dillin’s Wonder Woman is cute.

BIRTHRIGHT #10 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Wendy is shocked to discover that she’s about to be a grandmother. There’s another flashback to Mikey’s childhood, and Mikey defeats some kind of creature called a Diviner. This issue is the end of the second story arc.

ARCHIE: THE MARRIED LIFE 10TH ANNIVERSARY #6 (Archie, 2020) – “Happily Ever After?”, [W] Michael Uslan, [A] Dan Parent. Both stories end with Dilton taking Archie, Betty and Veronica for a ride in a Back-to-the-Future-esque flying car. Overall, this was a disappointing series with just one really memorable moment (“I wish I had spent more time at work!”).

THE LEGION #7 (DC, 2002) – “Terror Incognita 2: Fear of Change,” [W] Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, [A] Olivier Coipel. The Legion fights Ra’s al Ghul and his Hypertaxis plot. I believe I bought issue 8 when it came out, and it impressed me enough that I started reading the Legion again after having given it up for a couple years. This issue is genuinely quite exciting and has a high-stakes, tense plot. However, as usual with these writers, it also includes insufficient characterization, and it feels too dark and grim to be a Legion story.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #178 (Dell, 1955) – untitled, [W/A] Carl Barks. Suffering from insomnia, Donald decides to move to a quieter house. But he only succeeds in starting a noisemaking arms race with his new neighbors. It only ends when an elderly neighbor blows a giant alpenhorn, causing Donald to go deaf. This story is a typically hilarious Barks ten-pager. The only other notable thing in the issue is a Mickey Mouse story by Fallberg and Murry, taking place in Mexico. Of course, the Mexican characters in the story are all extreme stereotypes.

THE DREAMING #18 (DC, 2020) – “The Crown, Part Four,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Marguerite Sauvage. Dora is dying and the Dreaming is in a state of collapse. Cain, Matthew and Rose Walker try to save the day, with some assistance from an off-panel Desire. I wonder if there’s some legal reason why Desire isn’t fully shown. Dora discovers that Morpheus hid his ruby inside her, and it may be the key to saving the Dreaming. I didn’t like this series much at first, but now I love it, and I’m sorry Si Spurrier is leaving after #20. Marguerite Sauvage’s art didn’t impress me as much in this issue as in #17, but I still love her work.

LOIS LANE #8 (DC, 2020) – “Enemy of the People Part Eight,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. A skull-masked assassin tries to kill Lois and Renee. This is just an average issue, and the scene where Superman is swarmed by admirers is kind of annoying. I kind of feel like there’s been too much Superman in this series. The whole point of the series is (or should be) to depict Lois as a hero in her own right, who doesn’t need to use Superman as a crutch. But Rucka has been continuously undercutting her independence, perhaps not on purpose.

INCREDIBLE HULK #167 (Marvel, 1973) – “To Destroy the Monster!”, [A] Steve Englehart, [A] Herb Trimpe. Betty learns that her new husband Glenn Talbot is dead (though he wasn’t, yet) and suffers a psychotic break. This leads into her debut as the Harpy in the next issue. Meanwhile, the Hulk battles MODOK in a giant robot body. This is a pretty good issue from one of the best Hulk creative teams prior to Peter David. There’s a funny moment in this issue where someone (Jim Wilson) greets the Hulk, and the Hulk complains that he was happier alone. https://www.instagram.com/p/B8cK-pJBcPV/

ADLER #1 (Titan, 2020) – untitled, [W] Lavie Tidhar, [A] Paul McCaffrey. I think this is the first comic by the World Fantasy Award-winning novelist Lavie Tidhar, and I bought it because of him. This series is named after Irene Adler, but it’s really more of a League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen; it co-stars Estella Havisham, Jane Eyre, and J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. Steampunk pastiches like this are a dime a dozen now, and Theodora Goss has even used a premise similar to this one in her Athena Club series. But Tidhar seems to have done a lot of research, and he succeeds in creating a sense of historical plausibility. And Paul McCaffrey’s artwork is very good. I need to remember to order the rest of this series.

MONEY SHOT #4 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. I regret that I didn’t order issues 1 and 2, because I had trouble following what was going on in this issue. At least it seems pretty entertaining, though there’s not a whole lot of sex in it.

DOLLAR COMICS: BATMAN #386 (DC, 2020) – “Black Mask: Losing Face,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Tom Mandrake. A reprint of Black Mask’s first appearance. Moench writes Black Mask as an anti-Batman: a rich boy whose parents don’t die, and who grows up without a clear sense of who he is. Eventually, Roman Sionis kills his parents himself and becomes a supervillain. The theme of masks and the faces they conceal is emphasized very heavily; Black Mask is the heir to a cosmetics company, and his hobby is collecting ritual masks. It seems like later writers have de-emphasized Black Mask’s obsession with masks and have made him into more of a typical crime boss, although I haven’t read many other stories with this character.

BIRTHRIGHT #20 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey and his family’s encounter with Enoch ends in a battle with a dragon. Sameal kills Enoch to save Aaron, but Mikey is kidnapped by one of the other remaining wizards, Kylen. Meanwhile, Mastema reveals that Lore is her father. Nothing about this issue particularly stands out.

SUPERBOY #171 (DC, 1971) – “Dark Strangler of the Seas!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Bob Brown. Superboy and Aquaboy, the teenage version of Aquaman, team up to fight some polluters. This story is one of the few times Aquaman’s Aquaboy phase was ever mentioned. Aquaboy has a girlfriend named Marita who looks a lot like Mera. This character never appeared anywhere else, and I’m guessing that she was initially supposed to be Mera, but that someone remembered at the last minute that Aquaman didn’t meet Mera until they were both adults.

LOGAN’S RUN 2 (Marvel, 1977) – “Cathedral Kill,” [W] David Kraft, [A] George Pérez. This series is only interesting because of George Pérez’s artwork, but his art is very good. Logan’s Run’s mixture of SF and action sequences makes it a good fit for his talents. The inker is Klaus Janson, whose style clashes with Pérez’s, but at least Janson doesn’t ruin Pérez’s pencils.

BARBIE #45 (Marvel, 1994) – “Melissa’s Dress Mess,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Win Mortimer. This issue’s main story includes a long sequence set in a fantasy version of ancient Rome, so it’s somewhat similar to Barbara Slate’s Sweet Sixteen. Unfortunately, Win Mortimer was a very boring artist. He was in his seventies at the time, and died four years later. This issue includes a letter from an eight-year-old girl complaining that she can’t find Barbie comics at comic book stores. https://www.instagram.com/p/B8czi6xhkS9/This is exactly the problem that has historically plagued girls’ comic books – not a lack of potential readers, but a lack of effective marketing and distribution.

DEVIL DINOSAUR #4 (Marvel, 1978) – “Object from the Sky,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. Devil and Moon-Boy encounter some really cool-looking aliens. This issue includes some excellent individual pages and some exciting fight scenes, but Devil Dinosaur was never as exciting as Kirby’s other ’70s comics. One problem with it was the lack of characters who could actually talk.

KING JUNGLE JIM #1 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Sandy Jarrell. Lille Devrille, a woman from Arboria, leads an expedition to find the legendary Jungle Jim and enlist his aid against Ming. Dynamite’s King Features comics were all really fun, and this one is no exception.

New comics received on February 12:

ALIENATED #1 (Boom!, 2020) – “Three Kids Named Sam Go Walking in the Woods,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Chris Wildgoose. We are introduced to three high school kids, all named Sam. Samuel is an online troll, Samantha is being slut-shamed due to an unwanted pregnancy, and Samir is a victim of racism. All three are being bullied by a little bastard named Leon. While walking in the woods, they encounter an alien creature that melds their mines. It also kills Leon, and good riddance. This is a fascinating first issue, a good start to yet another exciting Si Spurrier comic. I didn’t even get that it was a pastiche of E.T. until I read some reviews of it.

THE DOLLHOUSE FAMILY #4 (DC, 2020) – “Come Up,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. Alice survives the bombing but loses a leg, and her daughter loses a hand. Alice’s daughter makes a deal with the dollhouse to get her mother’s leg back. This series is still really good, but I still don’t understand why Alice has to suffer so much. The dollhouse seems to be targeting her even though she didn’t do anything wrong – besides killing her father, and she should have gotten a medal for that.

ASCENDER #9 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. This issue begins  with a flashback to Mother’s origin. As a child, she was the hated, abused servant to a coven of witches, while her older red-haired sister was the witches’ cherished protégé. Mother finally murdered her sister and took over the senior witches’ power for herself. But back in the present, Sister comes back to life and overpowers Mother. This issue reminds me of the fairy tale Snow White and Rose Red.

RONIN ISLAND #10 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milonogiannis. After some more fighting, Kenichi and Hana finally get back to the island, but some captured shogunate soldiers escape back to the mainland to warn the shogun. This issue finally gives us some reason to hope, but this series is still very grim.

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #1 (DC, 2020) – “Young Guardians,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. An intergalactic law enforcement convention is held on Oa, and we meet some more bizarre new characters. Hal is sent to Maltus to recruit some new Guardians, with the aid of a candidate GL, Ryk, who’s a sentient rock crystal. On Maltus, Hal and Ryk have to rescue Mother Juna from some evil gorillas so she can create the new Guardians. Mother Juna is a clever throwback to old continuity. I believe her only previous appearance was in GL #81, the story that introduced the planet Maltus. (That story was about overpopulation, and the name Maltus is a reference to Thomas Malthus.)

IMMORTAL HULK #31 (Marvel, 2020) – “Remember?”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett & Javier Rodriguez. In a flashback sequence drawn by Rodriguez, Dr. Charlene McGowan remembers encountering Daredevil while working for the Kingpin. Back in the present, Xemnu, the Marvel villain who sheds the most, manipulates everyone’s memories to make them think he (Xemnu) is and always was the Hulk. There’s a historical in-joke here because Xemnu was originally called the Hulk before Bruce Banner was created; see the Bruce Banner review below. At the end of the issue, the original flashback is repeated, but with Xemnu replacing Daredevil. This whole storyline is very clever.

X-MEN #6 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Oracle,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Matteo Buffagni. Mystique accepts a mission to infiltrate a space station called the Orchis Forge, which is manufacturing Sentinels. In exchange, Xavier promises to resurrect Destiny, but he reneges on that promise in order to keep Mystique under his thumb, and Mystique is not happy. The emotional high point of this issue is Mystique shouting “I want my wife back!” Claremont always intended Mystique and Destiny to be a couple, but in his time, their relationship couldn’t be explicitly mentioned on-panel. Now they are an official couple, and X-Men #6 is the first time their marriage has been revealed.

THE TERRIFICS #25 (DC, 2020) – “The Adventures You Choose,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dan Mora. This is a choose-your-own-adventure story. It’s not as innovative as the CYOA issues of Squirrel Girl or Adventure Time, let alone Meanwhile, but it’s fun. It has a couple gamelike elements. You need to use information from a dead-end narrative branch in order to choose between four identical door knockers (although I chose the right one by accident). Later on, you need to do a side quest in order to learn the crow people’s language, which is necessary to finish the issue. On Twitter, Yang confirmed that the name Lord Shiga in this issue is a reference to Jason Shiga. I’m kind of surprised that The Terrifics has lasted 25 issues, but it’s a genuinely fun series.

POWERS IN ACTION #4 (Action Lab, 2020) – “Suplexian Supremacy,” [W/A] Art Baltazar. Suplex fights some villains from his home planet. This series is the same as any of Art Baltazar’s other comics, and it offers nothing I haven’t seen before. This issue will be my last.

DRAGONFLY & DRAGONFLYMAN #4 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Peter Krause. Dragonflyman has been hypnotized and can’t fight, so he creates a device that allows Stinger to control him like a video game character. Meanwhile, the other Stinger discovers that Dragonfly implanted a tracking device in his wrist, and at the end of the issue, Dragonfly discovers him trying to dig it out with a scalpel. This page is a deliberate homage to Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85.

BLACKWOOD: THE MOURNING AFTER #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. In today’s comics market, you never know whether an innovative series like Blackwood will survive or not, and I’m glad it’s gotten a second miniseries. This issue, the Blackwood faculty deals with the aftermath of Dean Ogden’s death. Meanwhile, the students decide to use the well to resurrect their dead classmate Dennis. This series has some very detailed and spooky art, and it effectively blends humor with horror.

CATWOMAN #20 (DC, 2020) – “No Guts No Glory,” [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Fernando Blanco. A party at the Creel mansion is invaded by zombies. Meanwhile, Catwoman suffers from despair, but her cats motivate her to regain her confidence and confront Raina Creel one last time. Catwoman’s cats have had some great moments in this series, though not as many as I’d have liked.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #18 (DC, 2020) – “Heart of Glass,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Domo Stanton. Poquita makes a new friend who is transgender and disabled. Erzulie tries to reassemble the Corinthian, but discovers a piece missing, which explains where Poquita’s cat friend came from. People throughout the world have visions of Erzulie’s ship. I like this series a lot, but its plot tends to ramble and not really go anywhere, though this may be intentional.

GUTT GHOST #1 (Scout, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Enzo Garza. I ordered this because the art looked interesting. The protagonist, Gute, is a ghost who can manipulate his own entrails. Garza draws Gute really well; he (Garza) shows a talent for body hororor that reminds me of Michael DeForge. However, this comic has a flimsy plot, and Garza has a limited ability to draw things other than intestines. Many of his panels lack backgrounds. This artist is promising, but he needs to develop his craft more.

GHOSTED IN L.A. #8 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Siobhan Keenan. Daphne lets Agi possess her body for a ritual that will allow Shirley’s spirit to move on. It’s not clear whether the ritual works or not. Agi-possessing-Daphne gets some cute scenes. This series is entertaining and insightful, but rather slow-paced. This is the end of the second story arc. I hope that there will be a third, and that it will be published in comic book form.

ARCHIE 1955 #5 (Archie, 2020) – “Real Gone, Baby!”, [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Rick Burchett. Archie refuses to re-sign his contract with Hiram Lodge, and he and Veronica walk off into the sunset. Archie joins Big Earl’s band. This is a satisfying ending, and I like how Archie actually chooses between Betty and Veronica for once. Overall, Archie 1955 was significantly better than Archie 1941. I wonder if there’s going to be an Arcihe 1966 or whatever.

IRON MAN 2020 #2 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Pete Woods. Tony launches a robot uprising, but Arno Stark stays one step ahead of him and foils his plans. Iron Man 2020, the nominal hero of this series, is actually the villain, and the reader’s sympathies are firmly with Tony. Early in this issue there are some really cute scenes depicting the start of the robot revolution. Awesome Android rescues an experimental robot (built by “Brevoort Dynamics”), and Quasimodo and Herbie save some crash test dummies who are sick of repeatedly getting killed.

TARTARUS #1 (Image, 2020) – “As Above/So Below,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Jack T. Cole. In this issue’s first sequence, a badass rebel woman named Surka tries to escape from a space prison, but is killed. 17 years later, Surka’s daughter Tilde, a cadet in a military academy, discovers her parentage and is thrust into the same conflict that killed her mother. This is a really fun and exciting debut issue, though it’s very long. Jack T. Cole is unlucky in that he shares his name with a much better known comic book artist (hence why he uses his middle initial), but his art is very striking, and his visual imagination is impressive. Johnnie Christmas also wrote Firebug, which I read when it appeared in Island, but I don’t remember it well.

QUEEN & COUNTRY #30 (Oni, 2006) – “Red Panda Part 1,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Chris Samnee. Tara is still not recovered from her previous mission, but Paul sends her and Nick to Iraq to perform an assassination. There are hints that Tara is pregnant with Tom’s posthumous child, and this was indeed the case, as revealed in the prose novels that take place after the comics. Chris Samnee was just starting his career in 2006, and his art is unimpressive compared to his later work; it just looks like generic black and white art. His mature style didn’t develop until around 2011.

FANTASTIC FOUR #88 (Marvel, 1969) – “A House There Was!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. This issue has an adorable splash page showing Alicia cradling the newborn, still unnamed Franklin. The rest of the story also indirectly revolves around Franklin, as Reed and Sue are looking for a new home for their family, and the house they choose turns out to be a trap created by the Mole Man. There’s some breathtaking artwork in this issue: https://www.instagram.com/p/B8pxUKOBSUS/

BATMAN #177 (DC, 1965) – “Two Batmen Too Many!”, [W] Bill Finger, [A] Sheldon Moldoff. Batman catches some crooks by having Atom and Elongated Men disguise themselves as two additional Batmen. There’s also a backup story about art theft. This story is most notable for containing a tacked-on, unconvincing romance. ’60s Batman comics are generally not very good; however, they’re very hard to find, compared to ‘60s Superman comics, and I’m glad I have this one.

TALES TO ASTONISH #70 (Marvel, 1965) – “The Start of the Quest!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan (as Adam Austin), and “To Live Again!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Starting with this issue Sub-Mariner replaced Giant-Man as one of TTA’s two features. In the Sub-Mariner story, Krang takes over Atlantis, and Namor goes on a quest to find the lost trident of Neptune in order to prove his right to the throne. This story isn’t great, and it’s inked by the worst inker in comics history. The Hulk story is better. The Hulk is trapped in Hulk form but with Banner’s mind, and he has to fight a giant android sent by the Leader (who is depicted with a normal-sized head). According to the GCD, this is the first story in which the Hulk says “the madder I get, the stronger I get.”

NAILBITER #19 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Mike Henderson. A horror/thriller series about a bunch of serial killers who all come from the town of Buckaroo, Oregon. This series lacks the strong theme of “family” that characterizes Birthright, and Mike Henderson is a much less impressive artist than Andrei Bressan. I don’t plan to collect any more of this series.

SUPERBOY #194 (DC, 1973) – “The Super-Merman of the Sea!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Bob Brown. Superboy is turned into a merman by an Atlantean scientist. He teams up with the scientist’s niece Yorell, who kind of looks like Mera, and gets his legs back. This story has some cute art, but is rather boring. Superboy #194 was the second to last issue that didn’t include a Legion story. Starting with #197, the Legion got equal billing on the covers, and they gradually took the series over entirely. This was a positive development bcause the Legion stories were far more exciting than the Superboy solo stories.

New comics received on February 20:

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #4 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Ryan Sook & Mikel Janín. This issue is better than the first three issues put together, and it singlehandedly restores my interest in the series. We get a partial retelling of the Legion’s origin, and as a result, we finally get to see the characters (specifically, Luornu, Ayla and the three founders) as people rather than anonymous voices in a crowd. I especially like the Winath sequence. In this continuity, Garth and Ayla come from a large family with two mothers and six other children, and they’re sharply divided about the wisdom of joining the UP’s youth delegation. Braal and Titan are also interestingly different from earlier versions of the same planets. I hope Bendis can maintain this level of characterization and worldbuilding in forthcoming issues. However, I still don’t care about the whole trident business.

LUMBERJANES #71 (Boom!, 2020) – “Forestry is the Best Policy Part 3,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Kanesha Bryant & Julia Madrigal. The girls defeat the evil rhizome monster. In a flashback, we learn how the original Lumberjane ran away from home, disguised herself as a male lumberjack, and then discovered that her mother’s campsite was about to be clearcut. I love the explanation of why the camp was originally located in the woods: “If they [the girl campers] could keep their hair neat and dresses pristine in such awful conditions, they could do so anywhere!” Another nice touch is the sasquatch with a monocle and top hat.

RUNAWAYS #30 (Marvel, 2020) – “Cannon Fodder Part VI,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andres Genolet. Gert discovers that Doc Justice is going to get all her teammates killed on purpose. Despite resistance from Matthew, Gert rushes off to save the day. Doc Justice is the creepiest villain of Rainbow’s run; he pretends to be a hero, but his “heroism” masks a total lack of concern for his young friends’ lives.

FANTASTIC FOUR #19 (Marvel, 2020) – “Four Gone Conclusion,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sean Izaakse. The situation on Spire is resolved peacefully, and Sky comes back to Earth with the FF. Back on Earth, the kids are having a wild party with Lunella and Devil, and the Mole Man’s monsters are attacking Wyatt Wingfoot’s tribe’s reservation. This issue is mostly just a bridge between the last storyline and the next one.

MIDDLEWEST #15 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. The relief mission is stopped at a river where the bridge has been washed out by a flood. Maggie uses magic to revive the old “river master” from his coma so he can help them get across. Meanwhile, Abel begins to execute his escape plan. The most striking thing in this issue is the two-page conversation between Maggie and Mick. It shouldn’t work because it’s two pages of nothing but dialogue, yet somehow it does work.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #8 (DC, 2020) – “Eminent Domain!” etc., [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. This series is getting a little tedious, but it’s still the best current DC comic, besides Dial H for Hero. This issue is a bunch of random vignettes. The first sequence shows us the four replacement Jimmys (a reference to Reign of the Supermen), and later in the issue Jimmy is reunited with his alien wife.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule & Scott Snyder, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Daniele Orlandini. Daniel steals the key and runs off with Charlotte. The rest of the team escapes from the Destiny Man’s fortress and pursues Daniel. We learn that all of the team members are there because someone named “aurora” requested them by name. As usual, the art in this issue is amazing. I really didn’t expect that Daniel would betray his teammates. I’m kind of disappointed in him.

NEW MUTANTS #7 (Marvel, 2020) – “Spoilers,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Rod Reis. The New Mutants succeed in resolving the Shi’ar civil war, and Xandra is restored to the throne. Until I looked it up, I totally forgot that Xandra was from Mr. & Mrs. X. Most of this issue is narrated by Bobby, and Hickman perfectly captures his boastful personality. This issue has some great metatextual moments: Bobby and Dani argue over what happened in which issue, and later, the reader is invited to use dice to simulate a fight scene.

BANG! #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Wilfredo Torres. Thomas Cord, a secret agent, is sent to recover a manuscript from a reclusive writer named Philip Verve. But Verve reveals to Cord that he’s not the only Thomas Cord; he’s just one of many incarnations of the same character. This series continues the metatextual, metaleptic themes of much of Kindt’s other work. Thomas Cord is an obvious reference to James Bond, and the novel The 18 Stigmata of Philip Verve references Philip K. Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, although Verve has appeared in some of Kindt’s other comics.

AQUAMAN #57 (DC, 2020) – “Amnesty, Finale: Xebel’s Daughter,” [W] Kelly SueDeCononick, [A] Robson Rocha. Aquaman takes Mera back to Atlantis, where she gives birth prematurely to a baby girl, then falls into a coma. Meanwhile, Arthur discovers a chaotic and unsettled situation in Atlantis. I’m not sure where the storyline is going from here, but Arthur’s first sight of his daughter is a heartwarming moment.

ON THE STUMP #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chuck Brown, [A] Prenzy. I was hesitant to order this because I disliked Chuck Brown’s previous solo work, The Quiet Kind. So far this series is a bit more interesting. Its premise is funny: it’s set in a future America where senators get bills passed by beating each other up in MMA matches. However, this comic also includes some very gruesome and exaggerated violence. I’m going to keep reading it for now, but I’m not sold on it yet.

BITTER ROOT #6 (Image, 2020) – “Rage & Redemption Part One,”  [W] David Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. This is one of the most important comic books currently being published, and I’m glad it’s back. This issue includes a lot of fight scenes, but the best moment is the inter-ethnic summit between the head Sangerye and his Chinese, Punjabi and Irish counterparts. This issue includes an essay by a scholar named Reynaldo Anderson, who I don’t know.

FAMILY TREE #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. The biggest emotion this comic arouses in me is hatred of the old grandpa dude. He’s such an insufferable know-it-all, especially toward his daughter-in-law. I hope he dies. This issue, the apartment where the main characters are staying is invaded by a bunch of goons, and the grandpa holds them off so the mother and daughters can escape. So far I’m not liking Family Tree nearly as much as Jeff’s other series, but it’s still worth reading.

SKULLDIGGER AND SKELETON BOY #3 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tonci Zonjic. Skeleton Boy intervenes in Skulldigger’s fight with Grimjim. Skulldigger reveals that Grimjim is his father. This issue includes some very well-drawn action sequences, but otherwise it’s rather forgettable.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #15 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Last Avenger Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. Carol beats the Hulk, and then Captain America surrenders to her without a fight, which is a nice moment. But Vox Supreme defeats and captures Carol anyway. This whole storyline has felt very contrived and annoying. Kelly seems to have systematically closed off every loophole that could allow Carol to not fight the Avengers, just so Carol can be the bad guy. And Vox Supreme’s smugness is driving me nuts. Also, Kelly still has yet to truly define who Carol is. This series has been consistently disappointing, and I’m actually considering giving up on it.

ARCHIE #711 (Archie, 2020) – “Archie and Katy Keene Part 2,” [W] Kevin Panetta & Mariko Tamaki, [A] Laura Braga. This issue has no real plot and is mostly an excuse to show off Laura Braga’s fashion designs for Katy and the other girls. Laura Braga does some excellent fashion art, but this issue’s lack of plot makes it somewhat tedious to read.

ATLANTIS ATTACKS #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “Tactics and Trust,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Ario Anindito & Robert Gill. This series should have been called “Agents of Atlas: Atlantis Attacks”; if it had been called that, I’d have bought the first issue. And it is an Agents of Atlas comic in all but name. In this issue, the new and old Atlas squads team up against Namor. On Ario Anindito, see https://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2017/11/06/finding-indonesia-in-marvel-universe.html. He’s one of a number of Indonesians who have been working for the Big 2. Most of them have been under fans’ radar, with the unfortunate exception of Ardian Syaf.

GHOST-SPIDER #7 (Marvel, 2020) – “Into the Unknown,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Ig Guara. We get some more information about the Earth-GS Sue and Johnny and their awful mother. Gwen has some low-key encounters with criminals. This series is very slow-paced and lighthearted, but that’s why I like it.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #103 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. April and Donatello make their way inside the walled-off city, where some baby mutanimals are causing a lot of havoc. I don’t understand the plot of this comic, but Sophie Campbell arouses a genuine sense of emotion. When Donatello is sad, the reader feels sad too. And Campbell is a truly masterful artist. She’s as good at drawing animals as she is at drawing diverse human bodies.

VALKYRIE #8 (Marvel, 2020) – “At the End of All Things Part 1,” [W] Jason Aaron & Torunn Grønbekk, [A] Cafu. Jane and Thor fight an invasion of demons. This is a very formulaic and forgettable issue. It makes me wonder how much Jason Aaron is actually contributing to the series, and it makes me suspect that the things I liked about issues #1-#7 were mostly due to Al Ewing.

PLUNGE #1 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Stuart Immonen. A sunken ship called the Derleth floats back to the surface after an earthquake, and it’s full of some kind of monsters. This is an effective piece of Lovecraftian horror, and it demonstrates significant knowledge about marine biology and maritime professions. The fictional island where the ship sank is Sinnikik Ungayagagta. According to Google, that phrase is Aleut for “to disturb the mind.”

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #32 (IDW, 2014) – “Northampton Part 4,” [W] Tom Waltz et al, [A] Sophie Campbell. This issue is a marked contrast to #103 because it has very little story or characterization. It’s mostly a fight between the Turtles and the mutant bird Koya, who also appears in #103. There’s also a subplot with April’s family, but their characterization is much shallower than in #103. Sophie Campbell’s art is good, but it’s overshadoowed by the poor writing. The comparison between #32 and #103 demonstrates that Sophie Campbell is a great writer as well as a great artist.

DAREDEVIL #39 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Exterminator and the Super-Powered Unholy Three,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. Daredevil fights the Unholy Three (Ape-Man, Cat-Man and Bird-Man) and their boss the Organizer, who ‘s built a time travel device. Also, Matt and Foggy go on a double date with Karen and Debbie. This issue has a very effective plot, but only average writing.

THE OLD GUARD: FORCE MULTIPLIED #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Leandro Fernandez. The soldiers get in some more fights, and the authorities try to figure out what they’ve been up to. Two things remain true about this series. First, I can’t follow the plot. I can’t tell the characters’ personalities apart, and I can’t remember which name corresponds to which character. Second, Leandro Fernandez is a stunning artist who deserves an Eisner nomination.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #16 (Image, 2013) – “Schism,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Nick Pitarra. While the scientists are imprisoned, Oppenheimer tortures Leslie Groves. In a flashback, we see how Einstein and Feynman captured an alien creature, and then back in the present, the creature is freed from captivity. I bought this issue at Charlotte Mini-Con so that I could read #17 and #18, which I already had.

THE LOW, LOW WOODS #3 (DC, 2020) – “The Fruiting Body,” [W] Carmen Maria Machado, [A] Dani. Vee visits the local witch, then she makes out with her girlfriend, whose mother has a giant hole in her middle. This series has a very oppressive, disturbing mood, but its plot is meandering and not making much progress, though I think that’s also characteristic of Machado’s stories. One scene in this issue takes place in Hungry Daughters State Park, a reference to Machado’s story “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers.”

SERA AND THE ROYAL STARS #6 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Audrey Mok. Sera goes back to Parsa to rescue her family. The other gods visit the Pleiades, who are depicted as seven naked women with varying body types. The page that introduces the Pleiades is the high point of the issue. The best things about this series are Audrey Mok’s costume designs, and the complicated mythology that’s being built up around the stars.

100 BULLETS #16 (Vertigo, 2000) – “Hang Up on the Hang Low,” [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Eduardo Risso. Like every Risso comic, this issue has excellent artwork, but its plot centers on some black criminals who are depicted in a rather stereotypical way. In my opinion, Brian Azzarello was never a very good writer. 100 Bullets was his biggest success by far,  and on that series he benefitted from collaborating with a world-class artist.

BROTHERS OF THE SPEAR #10 (Gold Key, 1975) – “The Raiders’ Roost,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. I haven’t read a Dan Spiegle comic in a while, and it’s nice seeing his art again. This issue, Dan-el and Natongo have to rescue some women who were kidnapped by buffalo-riding raiders. This issue is competently written, but kind of boring.

TRANSHUMAN #3 (Image, 2008) – “Business is War,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] J.M. Ringuet. This early work of Hickman is one of his worst comics. It has too much text, and the text carries the entire story. The artwork is almost all just talking heads. The only exception is a page that shows a monkey raping a man. I’m not even sure what this series is about.

SANDMAN MIDNIGHT THEATRE #1 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Sandman Midnight Theatre,” [W] Neil Gaiman & Matt Wagner, [A] Teddy Kristiansen. This was perhaps my best find at Charlotte Mini-Con, although it took me a while to read it because it’s rather long. In this crossover between DC’s two Sandman titles, Dian Belmont has gone to London to get away from Wesley Dodds. But Wesley goes there too, not to follow her but to investigate his father’s friend’s suicide. Meanwhile, a super-thief called the Cannon is committing a spree of crimes. The Cannon is based on Leslie Charteris’s The Saint, and his name puns on his secret identity as a canon, i.e. a clergyman. Wesley, Dian and the Cannon are all invited to a party at Roderick Burgess’s mansion Fawney Rig, where Morpheus is being held captive, and they alll find themselves prowling around the mansion at night. The centerpiece of the story is the page where Wesley meets Morpheus for the first and only time. Wesley can’t help Morpheus escape and doesn’t understand who he is. But when the murderer escapes, Morpheus uses his limited powers to help Wesley out by giving the villain an incapacitating nightmare – or at least that’s my interpretation of the ending. Sandman Midnight Theatre is an excellent comic and an integral part of Sandman Mystery Theatre’s storyline. Sadly, it’s hard to find even in reprint form. (While looking for reprints of this issue, I learned that Neil wrote Swamp Thing Annual #5. I will have to look for that.)

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF TERROR SEASON TWO #5 (Ahoy, 2020) – “The Man That Was Used Up,” [W/A] Rick Geary, and “Berenice,” [W] Alisa Kwitney, [A] Mauricet. Rick Geary is a perfect artist for this series because his work blends horror and humor, and because of his expert knowledge of the 19th century. “The Man That Was Used Up” is a very clever story about (then-)modern technology and its disembodying effects, and its art is beautifully weird. “Berenice” is not nearly as impressive, but its conclusion involves the vagina dentata motif, which I don’t think was in the original story.

HEIST #4 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Arjuna Susini. Glane Breld executes his plot to steal the deeds to the planet. I still think Arjuna Susini’s artwork is inappropriate for this type of story, but there are some striking images in this issue, like the giant bearded six-armed creature in a top hat. Also, one character tells another character a story about a house-sized cat.

WONDER TWINS #12 (DC, 2020) – “Astrisk*,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Stephen Byrne. The Wonder Twins win a final victory over Cell Phone Sylvia and some other villains, and the Justice League decides to create a new organization staffed by them and Filo and Polly Math. This is a surprisingly happy conclusion to a series that was rather depressing at times. Overall, Wonder Twins was excellent, though there are other Mark Russell comics that I liked better.

ADVENTURE FINDERS: THE EDGE OF EMPIRE #5 (Action Lab, 2020) – “The Bones of Argodor,” [W/A] Rod Espinosa. The main character falls into an underground tomb and fights a giant snake. But then the entire traveling party gets captured by some bandits. This is the last issue of the current volume. I like this series, but I don’t know if I like it eough to follow it in a format other than single issues.

THE HIDING PLACE (Fleming H. Revell, 1973) – “The Hiding Place,” [W/A] Al Hartley. This Spire Christian Comic is an adaptation of Corrie ten Boom’s narrative about hiding Jews during the Holocaust. As a comic it’s just average; the art is okay, but there’s too much text. However, this comic is rather offensive. Corrie ten Boom’s story uses the Holocaust as an excuse to preach the word of God. In her view, she survived because of divine favor, and if she hadn’t survived, she would have been better off in heaven. This view of the Holocaust trivializes the actual human suffering of its victims. Near the end of the story, we learn that ten Boom was released from a concentration camp due to a clerical error, and all the other women her age were killed. Are we supposed to think that God liked ten Boom better than all the women who died? Or that they’re better off dead because now they’re in heaven? Also, Ten Boom and Hartley show no interest in the central theological problem of the Holocaust: the question of why a loving God would have let it happen. She implies that her faith in God was never shaken at all by her suffering. It’s probably unfair to compare The Hiding Place to Maus, but even a comparison to the much older story “Master Race” reveals what an insubstantial work The Hiding Place is. A weird moment in this story is when the young Corrie asks her father what “sexsin” means, and her father refuses to answer. All the Google hits for “sexsin” are references to this scene. It appears to be a mistranslation from the Dutch.

DETECTIVE COMICS #698 (DC, 1996) – “The Tomb,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. Batman has to rescue some villains who are being held captive by Lock-Up. This is an okay comic, but both its creators are conservative Comicsgate supporters and are on my boycott list, or would be if I made one. Graham Nolan’s politics are a shame because he’s a talented artist. This comic includs a scene where Lock-Up attacks some black criminals. As I read this comic, I realized that black and Latinx people rarely appeared in ‘80s and ‘90s Batman comics except as criminals. When I was reading these comics as a kid, I’d been socialized to not notice this kind of subtle racism, but it would be obvious to a black or Latinx reader.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #17 (Image, 2014) – “What We Made,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Nick Pitarra. In a flashback, we see more of Einstein and Feynman’s encounter with the alien hunter. In the present, the alien rampages through the project and kills a bunch of people, two of whom are based on John Layman and Rob Guillory. (See https://www.instagram.com/p/B87zB9zBMmo/. The clue was the FDA badges.) Humorously, the alien talks like a hippie.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #18 (Image, 2014) – “Assassination,” as above. General Westmoreland kills the alien. The scientists escape their cell. Someone shoots Oppenheimer in the head. This was the last issue of the regular series that I bought, though I do still have a couple unread issues of the sequel miniseries, The Sun Beyond the Stars. Overall, I should have stopped collecting this series after I stopped reading it. It’s just not that great.

THE MAXX #5 (Image, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth, [W] William Messner-Loebs. The Maxx has a dream in which he’s inside a children’s cartoon. This sequence is written entirely in Dr. Seuss-style verse, with correct meter, and it’s drawn in a style that’s very different from how Sam normally draws. This sequence is very impressive, and it demonstrates how much better Sam’s comics get when he works with a dialogue writer.

TRUE BELIEVERS: KIRBY 100TH – GROOT #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “I Challenged… Groot! The Monster from Planet X!” and “I Was a Slave of the Living Hulk!”, [W] Stan Lee & Larry Lieber, [A] Jack Kirby. This reprints the first appearances of Groot and Xemnu, from Tales to Astonish #13 and Journey into Mystery #62. These are both very typical pre-superhero Marvel stories. The original version of Groot has little in common with the character depicted in the Guardians of the Galaxy film. However, Al Ewing’s version of Xemnu is very consistent with the character’s original depiction. The first Xemnu story depicts his hypnosis powers, which are vitally important in the current Immortal Hulk storyline.

New comics received on February 26:

AMETHYST #1 (DC, 2020) – “Amethyst in Gemworld,” [W/A] Amy Reeder. I’m excited about this series because I love the original Amethyst, and I even have a forthcoming essay about it. Amy Reeder’s Amethyst suffers from some awkward dialogue, just like Moon Girl did. But her Amethyst feels like a realistic 16-year-old girl, and her plot is exciting. Amethyst returns to Gemworld for her sweet sixteen party, but she discovers that her realm is deserted, and no one remembers her except her flying horse. Unlike Christy Marx’s earlier revival – which was Amethyst in name only – Reeder’s series is a direct sequel to Mishkin and Cohn’s original. It picks up sometime after their run ended, ignoring the dreadful miniseries by Keith Giffen. However, this Gemworld is subtly different; for example, the people in the Turquoise realm all have four arms. Overall, this is a promising debut, and I hope it will bring DC some new, younger readers.

DIAL H FOR HERO #12 (DC, 2020) – “Dial F for Finale!”, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Joe Quinones. Miguel and Summer save the day by dialing H for hope, and they live happily ever after. This issue includes a lot of different homages, including Krazy Kat, Popeye, Howard the Duck, and Elfquest. Overall, this was an incredible series. The homages were extremely clever, and they were perfectly integrated into the narrative. I’m sorry this is the last issue.

INVISIBLE KINGDOM #10 (Image, 2020) – “Edge of Everything Part Five,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Christian Ward. Vess and Grix kiss. The other Lux captain betrays Grix to the company, and things are looking grim, but at the last minute, a new group of Nones shows up and tells Grix that they want to start a revolution. The other captain’s betrayal is a really depressing moment; it seems for a moment that no one cares about the truth, and that Grix’s efforts are pointless. The ending feels like a bit of a deus ex machina, but I’m sure the other Nones have their own hidden agenda.

SEX CRIMINALS #27 (Image, 2020) – “Before It’s Too Late,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. This issue is mostly plot, but somehow it makes a lot more sense than last issue did. The opening scene with Jon and Suzie in bed is beautiful. I still don’t know why Jon was in prison at the end of last issue. As with last issue, I was exhausted when I read this, and I couldn’t be bothered to read the entire letter column.

FINGER GUNS #1 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Justin Richards, [A] Val Halvorson. This new Vault series is about two teenagers, Wes and Sadie, who discover that they can make people angry by doing the finger-gun gesture at them. Wes’s parents are perpetually absent, and Sadie’s father is abusive. I really like this comic’s premise and characters, and Val Halvorson’s art is appealingly simple. This looks like yet another exciting Vault comic.

X-MEN #7 (Marvel, 2020) – “Lifedeath,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. It takes some nerve to reuse the title of a classic X-Men story, but the title makes sense in this context. This issue, Melody Guthrie participates in the first “Crucible.” This means that she fights Apocalypse, loses, and is killed, so she can be revived with her mutant powers restored – since she was one of the mutants who lost her powers during House of M. Throughout the issue, various characters grapple with the moral implications of killing and reviving mutants in this way. I like how every issue of this series has felt very different from the others.

BASKETFUL OF HEADS #5 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Leomacs. The villain in this issue, Hank, is the most insufferable, smug, overprivileged little bastard ever. I couldn’t wait for June to cut his head off, and I was very disappointed that he was still alive at the end of the issue. Also, this issue Hank explains the plot of the entire series, or at least the non-supernatural part of the plot. The McGuffins are a Senate seat and a bunch of drug money.

FAR SECTOR #4 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. Jo tries to resolve the riots, while the aliens plot against her. We also learn that she has super-limited powers and that her ring takes days to recharge. This is perhaps the best issue yet, and it feels very similar to Jemisin’s other work. I love the moment when she declares that firing on an unarmed crowd is “not peace.” It reminds me of the “no voting on who gets to be people” moment in The Obelisk Gate.

FOLKLORDS #4 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Matt Smith. There are only a few issues left, since this series hasn’t been upgraded to an ongoing. So in this issue Ansel and the troll girl finally get to the library. There are some good moments in this issue, like the “Librarynth” and the librarians shouting “Sshh!”, but I still feel that this series hasn’t lived up to its potential.

HEATHEN #9 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Natasha Alterici, [A] Ashley Woods. I just this moment realized that Natasha Alterici didn’t draw this issue herself, though Ashley Woods’s style resembles hers. Maybe that’s why this was the least impressive issue yet. The protagonist is captured by two trolls, a father and son, but she convinces them to let her into Odin’s palace so she can free their wife and mother.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #87 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Tony Fleecs. This series has been spinning its wheels lately, and I’m impatient for the start of the Season Ten stories. However, this issue is better than the last few. Big Mac and Applejack enter the “Draytona Breach” race, where Big Mac has to compete against his old rival Silver Streak. Meanwhile, a thief named Sacks Roamer is using the race as a cover to steal the Mangalese Drake. (The puns here are too obvious to explain.) This storyline will continue into next issue. A cute new idea this issue is that Spike is able to “interpret” for Big Mac by reading his facial expressions.

VAGRANT QUEEN: A PLANET CALLED DOOM #2 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. Elida languishes in prison, while her deceitful old partner, whose name I forget, is also in dire straits. Not much happens this issue. Jason Smith’s art still isn’t great, but I noticed it less than usual.

ICE CREAM MAN #18 (Image, 2020) – “Watch as It All Recedes,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. A dying old man steadily loses his memories, while his adult children struggle with his impending loss. The ice cream man is only mentioned once or twice. This issue was touching and sad, and very different in tone from the other two I’ve read. I need to look for some back issues of this series.

STAR #2 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Javier Pina & Filipe Andrade. Wanda and Star fight some alien creatures. There’s a subplot with some characters I don’t recognize, but at the end, we learn that they’re the Black Order in human form. This series is kind of boring so far, and I probably should have skipped it, but I might as well finish it now that I’ve started it.

MONSTRESS #26 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. This series continues to be very hard to follow. I feel like only a very dedicated fan could understand the overall plot. But the central conflict is still that Maika has to control her compulsion to eat people. This issue takes place in the besieged city of Ravenna, where civic order has broken down, and there are hordes of refugees demanding entry. In a powerful scene, Maika is forced to kill a bunch of people in order to resolve the refugee crisis and restore morale. And as the reader, I feel like she did exactly the right thing.

DYING IS EASY #3 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Martin Simmonds. This is Joe Hill’s worst series yet, and it’s a complete waste of Martin Simmonds’s talents. This issue begins with a car chase, even though Simmonds is not particularly good at drawing action scenes. What he is good at is static visual arrangements, like fashion designs or psychedelic dream visions, fashion design, bizarre page layouts, etc. But this series gives him no opportunity to do what he’s good at. The striking “Meet Your Match!” billboard in this issue is an example of what he can do, but this comic should have had much more of that kind of art.

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #4 (Image, 2020) – “Scrubbing Up, Part One,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This issue reunites Simon Spurrier with one of his best artistic collaborators. Bergara’s art looks scratchier and less slick in this issue than in Coda, but it’s still beautiful. The poop demon is a particular highlight. This issue, Constantine meets a new sidekick, Tommy, a New Age hipster with a man-bun who performs magic using puns. Together they investigate a mystery at the Tower of London. This storyline continues the series’ theme of the toxic influence of British nationalism. In a funny reference to From Hell, Tommy discovers a hidden network of magical sites all over London. Constantine guesses that they’re in the shape of a pentagram, but instead they’re arranged in a much more obscene shape.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: DAILY BUGLE #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Hanging Judge Part 2,” [W] Mat Johnson, [A] Mack Chater & Francesco Mobili. Peter Parker and Chloe Robertson investigate the mystery webbing. This issue is pretty good, but it feels more like a standard Spider-Man comic than like Incognegro. At one point in this issue, Ben Urich takes a taxi all over New York to investigate some addresses. I wonder if he could have just used Google Earth instead.

KILLADELPHIA #4 (Image, 2020) – “Sins of the Father Part IV,” [W] Rodney Barnes, [A] Jason Shawn Alexander. More of the same stuff as last issue. I’m leaning toward giving up on this series. The relationship between James Sangster Sr and Jr is fascinating, but the mąin plot about Vampire John Adams is stupid, and this series is concentrating more on the latter than the former.

TOMORROW #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – “Going Viral,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jesús Hervás. The world is struck by a pandemic that kills all adults but leaves children untouched, and that seems to be spread by communications media. There are several POV characters, but the most memorable one is Oscar, a young virtuoso cellist who seems to be autistic and psychologically dependent on his twin sister. There’s also a plot about a cyber security expert, who discovers the virus, and his two young children. This is a very exciting first issue, and it’s much more straightforward and less confusing than most Peter Milligan comics.

FLASH #123 (DC, 1961/2020) – “Flash of Two Worlds!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Carmine Infantino. This is the most important issue of the 1959-1985 Flash series, and one of the most important of all DC comics. It introduces Earth-2, thus paving the way for the DC multiverse, and it reintroduces the Golden Age characters into the Silver Age DCU. The scene where Barry Allen first meets Jay Garrick is pretty epic. After that, though, the rest of the issue is a letdown. It’s just a lengthy battle of wits between the two Flashes and three Golden Age villains.

DETECTIVE COMICS #632 (DC, 1991) – “The Golem of Gotham Part Two,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jim Aparo. Batman battles a golem created by an old rabbi who survived the Holocaust. Then Batman saves the rabbi from some white nationalist thugs, before coercing him into deactivating the golem. My review of issue 631 was rather lukewarm (https://ogresfeathers.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/reviews-for-may-and-early-june/#tec631), but in comparison with The Hiding Place, ‘Tec #632 looks much better. It shows understanding of how the Holocaust is a generational trauma that continues to terrorize its victims, even fifty years later. And it doesn’t just affect those who directly experienced it. When Batman bullies the rabbi into erasing the golem’s forehead, he reflects that he’s doing to him what the Nazis did.

PROTECTOR #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Simon Roy & Daniel Bensen, [A] Artyom Trakhanov. The protagonist, whose name I can’t remember, causes a lot of havoc with her new robot friend. She also tells a garbled version of the story of Jesus. The writing in this comic is kind of average, but I like the worldbuilding, and the artwork is often stunning.

KIDZ #2 (Ablaze, 2020) – untitled, [W] Aurelien Ducoudray, [A] Jocelyn Jordet. The kids explore some abandoned houses and have a pool party. This series is not particularly interesting or original, and I’m going to stop ordering it.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #22 (Dark Horse, 1988) – “Goodwill Ambassador,” [W/A] Paul Chadwick, plus other stories. This issue begins with a very cute Concrete story. It’s told from the perspective of a little Tibetan or Nepali boy, Kirkyap, whose village is preparing for a visit by Concrete. Kirkyap is terrified at his first sight of Concrete, but changes his mind, and Concrete carries him to the next village. Paul Chadwick writes very effectively from the perspective of a child, and as usual, his art is fantastic. This issue also includes a one-pager by Rick Geary, as well as Trekker and Duckman stories, and an illustrated prose story about cloning.

HITMAN #19 (DC, 1997) – “Ace of Killers, Part Five,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John McCrea. I frankly hate this series, and I’m only reading this issue because I’ve owned it for years. Like every issue of Hitman, this issue is full of brutal violence and vulgar black humor.

DETECTIVE COMICS #865 (DC, 2010) – “Beneath the Mask Part Two: Face Off!”, [W] David Hine, [A] Jeremy Haun. This issue mostly focuses on two villains I’m not familiar with, Jeremiah Arkham (aka Black Mask II) and Alyce Sinner. It’s hard to understand out of contxt, and it doesn’t seem espceially interesting. At least this issue also has a Question/Huntress backup story written by Greg Rucka.

BATMAN #501 (DC, 1993) – “Code Name: Mekros,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Mike Manley. This issue includes a scene where some mobsters are eating in an Italian restaurant, with red-and-white checkered tablecloths. Not surprisingly, some other mobsters barge into the restaurant and assassinate them. This issue also contains some scenes where Jean-Paul Valley acts like a complete jerk. I read once that the Batman writers intentionally made Azrael unlikable, but that they made him even more unlikable than they had meant to.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #17 (Marvel, 1976) – “This City – Afire!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. Spidey and the Thing team up to fight the Basilisk. This story was part of a crossover that continued into Marvel Team-Up. This issue is very boring and formulaic, and offers the reader little motivation to read the second half of the crossover.

DAREDEVIL #199 (Marvel, 1983) – “Daughter of a Dark Wind,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] William Johnson. This storyline is most notable for introducing Yuriko Oyama, the future Lady Deathstrike. This issue is set in Japan, and was probably an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Frank Miller’s Japanese-themed stories. However, O’Neil and Johnson are no substitute for Miller. Daredevil was William Johnson’s highest-profile assignment by far, and he seems to have vanished from the industry after about 1988. I can’t find any biographical information about him.

NEW GODS #11 (DC, 1972) – “Darkseid and Sons!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. The last issue of New Gods is a bit of an anticlimax. I get the sense that Kirby was required to wrap up his storyline  very quickly. Still, this issue include some epic fight scenes between Orion and Kalibak. There’s no explicit acknowledgement in the issue that the series was cancelled, thuogh there are references to Kirby’s upcoming series Kamandi and The Demon.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #142 (Dell, 1952) – untitled, [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. In this issue’s new Barks ten-pager, Donald makes the nephews spend their summer vacation with him on a houseboat, so that they won’t be able to get in any trouble. Of course, the nephews find every possible way to cause havoc and mayhem, and the story ends with Donald going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. This story is hilarious and its plot is perfectly crafted. Nearly every element that Barks introducse into the story (e.g. the fish, the water barrel and the gasoline) ultimately plays a pivotal role in the plot. This issue also includes a Li’l Bad Wolf story that guest-stars Goofy, as well as a Mickey Mouse adventure story. The latter story provides an example of the old stereotype that all cops were Irish. https://www.instagram.com/p/B9M3G3FBBfA/

SUPERBOY #132 (DC, 1966) – “Krypto’s Cat Crook Caper!”, [W] Otto Binder, [A] George Papp. In this issue’s lead story, Krypto and the Space Canine Patrol Agency battle some criminal cats. The SCPA is an awesome example of Silver Age weirdness, but this story tries too hard to be funny. The backup story is “The Youth Who Was Braver Than Superboy!” by Dorfman and Swan. Here, Superboy meets a new, even more powerful super-teen named Supremo. In an unexpectedly poignant ending, Supremo dies of a terminal illness, and we learn that his scientist uncle faked his superpowers so he could die a hero. This ending reminds me of the classic “Be Wonder Woman… and Die!” from Wonder Woman #286.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #119 (Marvel, 1969) – “Now Falls the Skull!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. Captain America and the Falcon battle the Red Skull, who has acquired a Cosmic Cube for the second time. They defeat the Skull thanks to some unintentional help from Modok. I already have this issue, but my existing copy is coverless. Gene Colan’s artwork here is really good.

BATMAN #219 (DC, 1970) – “Death Casts the Deciding Vote!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Irv Novick. In this issue’s main story, Batman accompanies an elderly senator on a plane trip to Washington, but the plane is hijacked by crooks. This story is well-crafted but unspectacular. However, the backup story, Mike Friedrich and Neal Adams’s “The Silent Night of the Batman,” is a minor classic. On Christmas, Batman decides to sing Christmas carols instead of fighting crime. Somehow, this causes the spirit of Christmas to spread over Gotham. In a silent sequence, we watch as some young thieves return their stolen goods, a would-be murderer throws away his gun, and a young army widow is saved from suicide when her husband turns up alive. In each case, an image or representation of Batman is somehow responsible for stopping the tragedy (for instance, the thieves return a stolen Christmas present when they see that it’s a Batman toy). This story is rather syrupy, but it demonstrates Neal’s mastery of visual storytelling.

TOR #6 (DC,1976) – various stories, [W/A] Joe Kubert. The stories in this issue are all reprints from the ‘50s. Compared to Kubert’s later work, they have more detailed linework, but less dynamic visual storytelling. Also, Tor is a rather boring character because of his lack of a supporting cast, other than his pet monkey.

HELLBLAZER #39 (DC, 1990) – “The Hanged Man,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] Steve Pugh. Constantine spends the first half of this issue whining about nothing much. In the second half, he has a mystical vision and discovers that he has an unborn twin brother, the Golden Boy, who he strangled in the womb. This sequence includes some striking artwork. During the vision, Constantine dreams that he’s entering a cave through a narrow entrance. This is an obvious piece of vaginal symbolism, and it reminds me of a similar scene in Robertson Davies’s The Manticore.

BATMAN #414 (DC, 1987) – “Victims!”, [W] Jim Starlin, [A] Jim Aparo. While investigating a series of murders of young women, Batman meets a feisty young social worker named Kate Babcock. Kate is a compelling character, but annoyingly, she only survives for a few pages before she becomes the serial killer’s next victim. Batman tracks down a man he believes to be the killer, but while he’s doing that, another woman is killed. This issue is actually not too bad. I thought it was going to be very straightforward and formulaic, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Batman guessed wrong as to who the killer was. However, Kate’s fridging is very frustrating.

ACTION COMICS #527 (DC, 1982) – “Sorcery Over Stonehenge,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Curt Swan. This issue introduces two new magical-themed villains, Lord Satanis and his wife Syrene. I’m guessing Marv created these characters in order to give Superman some enemies who could exploit his vulnerability to magic. Lord Satanis is more or less the same character as the post-Crisis Lord Satanus, but the two versions of the character have little in common besides being magical. Syrene’s post-Crisis counterpart is Satanus’s sister Blaze. “Sorcery Over Stonehenge” is an average story, but it suffers from Satanis’s poorly defined powers; he can basically do anything he wants. There’s also a backup story by Rozakis and Saviuk in which Air-Wave teams up with Aquaman. Air-Wave was a boring character, and I think Bob Rozakis was the only writer who used him.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #16 (Dark Horse, 1988) – “A Sky of Heads: With a Whimper,” [W/A] Paul Chadwick, plus other stories. This issue’s Chadwick story has a double framing sequence: Concrete and Larry watch a TV show, and in the show, a disembodied head tells some other heads a story. The story is about an Olympic runner who whimpers a lot. This is not one of Chadwick’s better stories, and the framing sequences are a waste of space. There were two other “Sky of Heads” stories, in DHP #18 and Concrete: Strange Armor #6. The second story in this issue is the third installment of Gary Martin’s superhero parody Captain Crusader. It’s also the last installment, as the inept protagonist is shot dead at the end. Last, there’s a story by Gary Davis about Native Americans hunting buffalo. This story has some very attractive Moebius-inspired art. Davis was a regular contributor to DHP, and he published one solo comic, Warworld. I should look for more of his work.

DETECTIVE COMICS #637 (DC, 1991) – “Control Freak,” [W] Louise Simonson, [A] Jim Fern. Batman battles a mind-controlled kid who’s able to bring video game characters and objects to life. This issue is really dumb. It’s based on conventional stereotypes about video games, rather than actual knowledge. And the story is wildy inconsistent as to how real the video game entities are, or what they can and can’t do. I like Weezie’s writing, but this story makes her weaknesses evident.

ANIMAL MAN #24 (DC, 2013) – “Hollywood Babylon Part 1 of 2,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. Brother Blood becomes the new avatar of the Red and holds the Academy Awards hostage. This series never recovred from the loss of Travel Foreman, and this issue is well-written and well-drawn, but not particularly memorable.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #15 (Marvel, 1969) – “That Zo Might Live… A Galaxy Must Die!”, [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Tom Sutton. The first half of this issue is a psychedelic, Steranko-esque dream sequence in which Mar-Vell is shown a series of visions by a god named Zo. (I was going to say Starlinesque, but this was before Starlin’s career began.) Tom Sutton was pretty good at this kind of art, and this sequence is rather striking. The second half of the issue, in which Zo sends Mar-Vell on a mission to Hala, is more conventional. As Brian Cronin explains, the character of Zo was created by Arnold Drake and then fleshed out by Friedrich, but the next writer, Archie Goodwin, retconned him into nonexistence. https://www.cbr.com/captain-mar-vell-god-zo/

FANTASTIC FOUR #128 (Marvel, 1972) – “Death in a Dark and Lonely Place!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. The Thing goes to Subterranea to find a cure for Alicia’s blindness, but he gets involved in a three-way power struggle between the Mole Man, Kala and Tyrannus. Roy’s FF suffers from being a follow-up to the best run of superhero comics ever, but it’s still pretty good in its own right. I especially like the poignant conclusion, where Ben realizes that he’s better off than the Mole Man because he’s not alone.

Last comic in the stack:

SHOWCASE #85 (DC, 1969) – “I Don’t Belong Here… I Don’t Belong There!”, [W/A] Joe Kubert. This issue introduces Firehair, a young white man raised by Blackfoot Indians, who is tormented by being too white for the Indians and too Indian for the whites. Kubert’s artwork here is much more accomplished and exciting than in Tor #6. The issue is full of thrilling action scenes and dynamic page compositions. At times this story shows a tendency to conflate different Native American nations: the Blackfoot are wrongly depicted with a totem pole, and one page has border designs based on Navajo art. However, the Blackfoot are consistently shown as far more honorable and courageous, while the white people in the story are all murderous brutes. As a result the reader sympathizes with the Indians. Firehair appeared twice more in Showcase and then starred in a backup feature in Hawk, Son of Tomahawk.