One week of reviews

11-1-18

A few more comics that I read after I finished writing the last round of reviews:

SUPERB #14 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. Kayla frees Jonah and they escape the prison-slash-school, but the villains plan on using Jonah and Kayla as bogeymen to demonstrate the danger of enhanced people. I guess this is the last issue… okay, I checked and it’s actually not, it just felt like it was.

PROXIMA CENTAURI #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. This issue we get a look at Orson, Sherwood’s brother. Somehow each of them thinks the other is dead, and Orson is at some kind of combat school, which makes me wonder if his name is a reference to Orson Scott Card. As usual, I love the art in this issue, but I’m mystified by the story.

DETECTIVE COMICS #866 (DC, 2010) – “The Medallion,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Denny O’Neil was a problematic writer even in the ‘70s, and in the 2010s his shortcomings are even more obvious. This issue suffers from a boring plot and very poor dialogue and captions, and Dustin Nguyen’s art is wasted on Denny’s script. I didn’t realize until near the end of the story that the Batman in this issue is Dick instead of Bruce.

ENCOUNTER #6 (Lion Forge, 2018) – untitled, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso. I guess I’m reading this series in reverse order. This is the one where Encounter and the dog meet Champion, who teams up with them to fight the Deconstructinator. There’s a running gag where the heroes keep getting the villain’s name wrong. Overall this is a really fun kid-oriented superhero comic, and I enjoy it more than other Baltazar/Franco titles.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Stalemate,” [W] Evan Narcisse, [A] Javier Pina. I stopped reading this series with #3, and never started again until now. This issue concludes the story of T’Challa’s visit to Latveria. It clearly illustrates the difference between T’Challa and Doom, but it’s just an average comic.

MORNING GLORIES #44 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. This issue takes place across multiple moments in time, and focuses on Ellen’s struggle with Ms. Clarkson to regain access to her (Ellen’s) daughter. Ms. Clarkson, the teacher with the dark hair, ponytail and glasses, is kind of a loathsome character. She’s presented as the embodiment of the cruel, sadistic teacher. This is not a bad comic, but my enjoyment of it is limited by my knowledge that the series was six issues away from going on permanent hiatus.

HUNT FOR WOLVERINE: CLAWS OF A KILLER #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Butch Guice. Daken, Lady Deathstrike and Sabretooth fight a bunch of zombies. in This series is not a good fit for Mariko Tamaki’s talents because it gives her little opportunity to display her skill with characterization. I shouldn’t have ordered it.

MAE #6 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Gene Ha, [A] Paulina Ganucheau. I might have ordered this when it came out if I had realized who the artist was. Paulina Ganucheau’s artwork is just as bright and appealing as in Another Castle or Zodiac Starforce. However, the story is much darker; there’s a scene where a little girl gets eaten by a monster off-panel. The plot is that a human woman with super-strength finds herself in a fantasy world based on the Czech Republic. I will plan on reading more issues of this series if I can find them.

BAD COMPANY #1 (Fleetway/Quality, 1988) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jim McCarthy. These stories reprinted from 2000 AD are about a company of weird-looking soldiers, kind of like the Creature Commandos. Unfortunately this is a Fleetway/Quality comic, so it’s printed on terrible paper, and the printing quality is so low that the letters are barely readable. I bought a few of these Fleetway/Quality comics because I didn’t know any better, but I’m never buying any of them again.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #172 (Fawcett, 1978) – “All Year Long,” uncredited. This issue consists of a series of vignettes, each taking place in a different month. (Which illustrates a fundamental problem with this series: Dennis is the same age at the start of the year as at the end, and he never has a birthday.) Most of the vignettes are just silly gags, but they’re reasonably fun. However, there’s one scene where Dennis’s dad wears blackface, and the December story includes some blatant proselytizing.

ARCHIE #198 (Archie, 1970) – “Constant Replay” and other stories, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey. A pretty good issue. There’s one story where Archie is supposed to send Veronica’s picture to a magazine, but instead he sends a picture of a dog. The way this happens is quite plausible. This issue’s last story includes a brief reference to student protests. The GCD observes that “Unlike the few other Archie stories where this was mentioned, Archie here expresses approval of the protests:  ‘Demonstrations turn me on!’ ”

BATMAN FAMILY #12 (DC, 1977) – “I Am Batgirl’s Brother!”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] José Delbo, plus other stories. A rather lackluster issue. The cover shows Batgirl, Robin and Man-Bat together, but in the actual comic they all appear in separate stories. The Batgirl story reintroduces Batgirl’s brother Tony Gordon. This character had made a few appearances in the ‘50s, and only appeared in one other story, in which he was killed. I’ve read the story where he dies, but I have no memory of it, so Tony must have been a pretty forgettable character. See http://thebatmanuniverse.net/james-gordon/ for more on him. The Man-Bat story is the highlight of the issue because it’s drawn by Marshall Rogers, but it has a ludicrous plot where Kirk Langstrom turns into a werejaguar. The Robin story is as bad as other Robin stories from this period.

CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #9 (DC, 2017) – “I’m Glad I Spent It with You,” [W] Jon Rivera, [A] Michael Avon Oeming. This was my favorite Young Animal title besides Doom Patrol, but I fell behind on it, and never caught up. This issue is really bizarre and apocalyptic, and I don’t really understand it. It includes a scene where a man gets hit in the face with a human brain.

FIELDER #1 (Drawn & Quarterly, 2018) – “Bona, Monarch of Monster Isle,” [W/A] Kevin Huizenga. Kevin H. is one of my favorite current cartoonists – as well as the subject of my first academic paper that was accepted for publication, and the source of this blog’s name – and he just keeps getting better. He could easily have continued to work in the same vein as “Jeepers Jacobs,” but instead he challenges himself to try new stuff. This issue begins with a redrawn version of an old issue of Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle. It took me a while to understand what was going on in this story, and I’m not sure it’s a successful experiment, but it’s certainly a daring one. Next is “Get Up, Glenn,” part one of “Fielder, Michiana.” This story seems to be a continuation of the insomnia story arc from the Ganges series, except instead of having insomnia, Glenn can’t tell if he’s asleep or awake. My favorite thing in the issue is “Fight or Run.” It begins with a pair of half-page strips, “Fight” and “Run,” which depict stylized scenes from a fighting game. These strips look a lot like the fighting game story in Ganges #2. But on the next page, the “Fight” and “Run” comic strips grow arms and legs and fight each other by throwing characters and panel borders at each other. It’s hard to describe this precisely, because I haven’t seen anything like it before, but it’s fascinating. After another installment of the redrawn Kona story, the issue ends with “My Career in Comics,” a highly tongue-in-cheek account of Kevin’s career. In general, Fielder #1 is a fascinating and varied assortment of material, and it demonstrates why the virtual disappearance of the alternative comic book is unfortunate.

MARS #10 (First, 1984) – “No Rust (Just Reality)”, [W] Mark Wheatley, [A] Marc Hempel. This issue, Morgana and a furry woman named Fawn get captured by a giant spider. This issue has very little connection to the last two issues of Mars I reviewed, and I’m not sure how we got here from issues 5. There’s also a backup story starring Dynamo Joe. This story is heavily manga-influenced, but not that good.

Comics received on October 26:

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #36 (Marvel, 2018) – “Save Our School Part 5: You’re Not Asking the Right Questions,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Thanks to a series of mix-ups, Lunella passes the test and saves the school, despite the Kingpin’s best efforts. Also she defeats the Wrecking Crew. I don’t understand how the school got saved because Princess switched ithe tests. I feel that this point was not explained well. In general, this story was mildly better than Fantastic Three, but still not as good as the Ego storyline.

RAT QUEENS #12 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. The Rat Queens and Maddie continue their quest to save Sadie. (Note that Rat Queens is one of three current comics with a character named Sadie. The others are Thrilling Adventure Hour and Babyteeth.) Meanwhile, Dee finds that she’s become a goddess. The other gods and goddesses she meets are probably the best thing about this issue. This current storyline is an improvement over the first ten issues of this volume, but it’s still not as good as Rat Queens volume 1.

BOOKS OF MAGIC #1 (DC, 2018) – “What’s Past is Prologue,” [W] Kat Howard, [A] Tom Fowler. This comic more or less captures the spirit of Rieber and Gross’s Books of Magic, but it’s not spectacular. I’m not sure how this series fits into continuity. It seems like this series starts right after the original Books of Magic miniseries, and replaces the previous Books of Magic ongoing.

HIGH HEAVEN #2 (Ahoy, 2018) – “High Heaven: Chapter Two,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. This may be the best comic of a rather mediocre week. David Weathers tries to escape heaven, but runs into a truly hideous-looking angel. The angel shows him the better version of heaven, and also hell, which looks a lot better than either heaven. Also we learn more about David’s history, and it turns out that his new roommate is his worst enemy from his mortal life.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Benjamin Dewey. A new dog character, Tommy, leads the Wise Dogs to the location of the evil men. Tommy has some cute interactions with the other dogs, but then we learn Tommy is an “eldritch man” posing as a dog. This is another really exciting issue.

THE TERRIFICS #9 (DC, 2018) – “Tom Strong & the Terrifics, Part 3,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] José Luis. The Terrifics and the Strongs battle Doc Dread, the Dr. Doom to the Terrifics’ Fantastic Four, across several realities. Jeff Lemire draws a poignant contrast between Tom, the family man, and Mr. Terrific, whose family was killed. At the end of the issue we learn that Doc Dread is apparently Java. This was a fun issue.

USAGI YOJIMBO #172 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden, Part 7,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Ishida fight an epic battle with the shogunate agents. In the course of their fight, the Japanese Bible is seemingly destroyed, and the agents let Usagi go. At the end of the issue, we learn that Inspector Ishida actually saved the Bible, and that he himself is a crypto-Christian. I get the impression that this story has personal relevance for Stan  because he’s a Japanese Christian himself, though I can’t find proof of that. An interesting comparison could be drawn between Stan Sakai and Gene Luen Yang, as East Asian cartoonists whose work is inflected by Christianity.

Reviews for September and October combined

9-22-18

On September 1, Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find held a “warehouse sale.” They had thousands of comics which were priced at $1 on Saturday, 50 cents on Sunday, and 25 cents on Monday. I went to the sale on Saturday and bought about 40 comics for a dollar each, including:

MUKTUK WOLFSBREATH, HARD-BOILED SHAMAN #2 (DC, 1998) – “Mommy’s Girl, Part 2: Kiss and Hell,” [W] Terry LaBan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Muktuk visits the underworld and meets Nusqua, the villain/femme fatale, who has sex with him and then transforms herself into the Great Mother. Also, he has a rather delicate negotiation with a Siberian tiger. This is a really fun series and, as I’ve written before, it explores a culture that’s hardly ever referenced in any kind of English-language fiction.

KARATE KID #1 (DC, 1976) – “My World Begins in Yesterday,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Ric Estrada. This was one of the only Paul Levitz Legion comics I hadn’t read, but it’s hardly his best effort. Val pursues his archenemy Nemesis Kid into the 20th century, then decides to stay there for no real reason. Princess Projectra neither appears nor is mentioned in this issue, which surprised me, because I thought the whole point of Val’s 20th-century trip was to prove his worthiness to marry her. This series was an obvious attempt to cash in on the kung fu fad by using a character DC already owned.

When I got back from Heroes, there were some new comics waiting for me:

RUNAWAYS #12 (DC, 2018) – “Time After Time,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Nico and Karolina go on a date. Victor tells Gert about his trauma from Tom King’s Vision series, and then Gert kisses him. The issue ends with Alex Wilder unexpectedly showing up. In my mind this issue is overshadowed by #13, which came out just two weeks later.

MS. MARVEL #33 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Ratio, Part Two,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Not much happens in this issue. Kamala fights the Shocker with little success, and Bruno keeps trying to figure out how Kamala’s powers work. The only really notable thing in this issue is the Shocker’s Rube Goldberg device for “catching do-gooders.”

MODERN FANTASY #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Kristen Gudsnuk. As promised, this is the training montage issue. It’s full of funny dialogue, sight gags and hidden messages. Also, Sage kisses Darquin Silvermane. I love this series and I wish it was an ongoing.

X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN – SECOND GENESIS #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue covers approximately Uncanny X-Men #141 to #187. As with the previous issue, Ed doesn’t try to replicate the emotional power and characterization of Claremont’s X-Men. Instead, he seeks to tie together Claremont’s X-Men stories into a coherent narrative, and to make it look like if Claremont planned his whole X-Men run as a single long story. This is a difficult feat, comparable to Don Rosa’s achievement of reconciling all of Barks’s references to Scrooge McDuck’s history. Of course, Ed also makes a lot of changes to established continuity. His version of Days of Future Past is especially surprising because the future Kate Pryde isn’t mentioned at all.

ANGEL LOVE #7 (DC, 1987) – “The Search for Mary Beth,” [W/A] Barbara Slate with John Wm. Lopez. Angel discovers that her long-lost sister Mary Beth has changed her name and is now the front-runner for a seat in Congress. Thus, Angel tries to see Mary Beth and convince her to donate bone marrow to their mother. See my review of Angel Love Special #1 for more on this. In a comic relief subplot, Wendy has an audition which goes terribly. On the leters page, Barbara Slate claims that Angel Love is an eight-issue maxiseries. I’m guessing it was designated as such retroactively, so they wouldn’t have to admit it had been cancelled after eight issues.

SPOTLIGHT #3 (Marvel, 1979) – The Jetsons in “All’s Fair in Love and Warranty,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Tony Strobl. This series is officially called “Spotlight” even though the cover says Hanna-Barbera Spotlight. This issue includes two Jetsons stories written by Mark Evanier, as well as a Yakky Doodle story. The artists, Tony Strobl and Pete Alvarado, are Disney comics veterans. Evanier’s stories in this issue are funny, but not as clever or complicated as his best work.

LITTLE ARCHIE #152 (Archie, 1980) – “Unhappy Birthday,” [W/A] Bob Bolling, plus other stories. Heading to Veronica’s party, Little Archie takes a shortcut, against his parents’ orders, and runs into an alien teenage girl (well, actually her age is 712) who’s also taken an unauthorized shortcut. As a result of this encounter, Archie learns a lesson about love. This story is both wacky and touching. There are no other Bolling stories in this issue.

ISOLA #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. Olwyn turns back into a cat again. Other stuff also happens that I can’t remember very well. As usual, this comic is beautifully drawn but its plot moves rather slowly.

THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #1 (DC, 1986) – “Legends Live Forever,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Trina Robbins. This comic was published because George Pérez’s Wonder Woman revival wasn’t ready by the time the previous Wonder Woman series ended, and at the time, DC’s contract with the Marston estate required them to publish Wonder Woman comics regularly or lose the rights to the character. This Legend of Wonder Woman is not as good as Renae de Liz’s series by the same name, but it’s an affectionate tribute to the Golden Age Wonder Woman. H.G. Peter is one of Trina’s strongest influences, and in this comic she closely imitates his style.

HOT WHEELS #3 (DC, 1970) – “Stakeout,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Alex Toth. This was a very exciting find, because each issue of this series included a story by perhaps the greatest visual storyteller in the history of American comic books. Unfortunately, his story in this issue is inked by the worst inker in the history of American comic books, whose name will go unmentioned. Despite this, Toth’s artwork in “Stakeout” is brilliant, though the story has a typically boring Joe Gill plot about modifying cars to catch crooks. This issue also includes artwork by Jack Keller, a noted artist of car comics, and Ric Estrada.

BLACKWOOD #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish. It turns out that the evil old lady, Grace Drayton (named after a cartoonist), was the lover of Dean Ogden, a.k.a. Nathan Blackwood. Then they both die, and the issue ends by suggesting that there’s also some worse secret behind Blackwood. This was a really effective horror series, and I hope it comes back soon.

X-23 #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals Part 3,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. After a bunch of action sequences, the Cuckoos transfer their dead sister’s mind into Gabby’s body. This issue has some very effective art, but thanks to the emphasis on action over characterization, it’s not as good as the first two. Actually that’s a standard problem in Mariko Tamaki’s superhero comics: her action sequences are much worse than her quieter character-building scenes. Though really, very few superhero writers are, and action sequences are usually the worst part of any superhero comic. Laura’s contact list includes Mariko herself, Moon Kngiht, Nightcrawler, Wasp and Deadpool as well as some names I didn’t recognize.

TRILLIUM #3 (Vertigo, 2013) – “Telemetry,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. As of the Heroes sale, I now have all but one issue of this series. In this issue the future sequences are right-side-up, and the past sequences are upside-down. There’s also a two-page spread that combines right-side-up and upside-down panels. Some of the dialogue in this issue is written in an alien language, which is easy to decode, but time-consuming; however, someone on the Internet has posted a transcript of all this dialogue. Trillium’s plot is very confusing, involving multiple different timelines, and it would be hard to understand this series even if I was reading it in order. It’s fascinating though.

THE SANDMAN #21 (DC, 1990) – “Season of Mists: A Prologue,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. At the Heroes sale I was able to fill a lot of the gaps in my Sandman run, though I’m still missing the two most expensive issues, #1 and #8. This issue, six of the Endless have a family reunion, and Delirium makes her first appearance. She’s one of the best characters in the series, and her appearances are always a highlight. Also, at the urging of Desire and Death, Morpheus decides to go to hell to free Nada, which sets the events of “Season of Mists” into motion. This issue includes a preview for a series called World Without End by Jamie Delano and John Higgins. I hadn’t heard of that series before, but I was able to find a couple issues of it on my return trip to Heroes (see below).

STAR TREK #13 (DC, 1990) – “The Return of the Worthy, Part One: A Rude Awakening!”, [W] Peter David & Bill Mumy, [A] Gordon Purcell. In PAD’s final story arc on this series, the Enterprise crew discover the cryogenically preserved bodies of the Worthy, a family of legendary space explorers called the Worthy. I read this issue once before as a kid, and didn’t understand it at all. When I reread it this month, I was equally mystified; I was like, why are we supposed to believe that the Worthy are great legends throughout the galaxy, when we’ve never heard of them before? Then I read the line where one of the Worthy, a young boy, says “The robot’s as much a member of our team as anyone else.” That’s when I realized that this Worthy are actually the crew of Lost in Space – as hinted by the fact that Bill Mumy, who played Will Robinson on that show, is the co-writer. With that context, the references to the Worthy’s legendary status make perfect sense, and this comic is actually kind of a brilliant crossover between two classic SF franchises.

HARLEY QUINN & GOSSAMER #1 (DC, 2018) – “A Hairy Predicament!”, [W] Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Pier Brito. I stopped reading Harley Quinn a while ago, but I couldn’t resist this issue, which guest-stars my favorite minor Looney Tunes character. This issue has a pretty funny plot, in which Harley discovers Gossamer and mistakenly thinks he was sent by the Joker. But the issue is worth the cover price just for Harley’s interactions with Gossamer. The highlight is probably the panel where Harley imitates the scene with Bugs doing Gossamer’s hair. I do think Pier Brito’s version of Gossamer is a bit off-model; the creature’s mouth should be invisible most of the time, as it is in Sholly Fisch and Dave Alvarez’s backup story.

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #2 (DC, 1994) – “Bindings, Book 2: A Book of Leaves,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Gary Amaro. Tim discovers that the man he thought was his father actually isn’t, and goes looking for his real father. Instead he falls into the hands of a fanged dude who claims to be a schoolmaster and uses a lot of Latin phrases. Meanwhile, Tim’s actual father, Tamlin, goes looking for his son. Not a bad issue.

BATGIRL #26 (DC, 2018) – “Art of the Crime, Part One: Knockdown,” [W] Maighread Scott, [A] Paul Pelletier. A major step down in quality from the previous two runs. This comic isn’t terrible, but it’s uninspired and boring, and lacks any interest. I’m dropping this series immediately.

On Monday, September 3, I went back to Heroes and bought about 140 comics for a quarter each, including:

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #62 (Marvel, 1980) – “One Must Die!”, [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. Luke, Danny, and another superhero named Thunderbolt battle Man-Mountain Marko. Thunderbolt has superspeed powers which are causing him to age rapidly, and at the end of the issue, he uses his last remaining power, and sacrifices his life, to avenge his brother’s murder. This was grimmer than a typical issue of this run.

STRANGE EMBRACE #1 (Image, 2007) – untitled, [W/A] David Hine. I’ve seen several positive reviews of this comic, but I knew nothing about it. But when I found this comic in the quarter box at Heroes and paged through it, I was instantly excited by Dave Hine’s art. Hine draws in the same quasi-Clear-Line style as Paul Grist or Phil Elliott, a style which I’ve previously described as characteristic of British alternative comics. In this comic Hine uses that style to illustrate a creepy Lovecraftian mystery about a house filled with ghosts and stories, or something like that. I can’t clearly remember the details of the plot, but it’s scary. I also got the second issue of this series at Heroes, and I’ll read it the first chance I get.

WEIRD MYSTERY TALES #21 (DC, 1975) – “Deadly Stalkers of the North!”, [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Ricardo Villamonte, etc. Besides Villamonte, this issue includes stories by E.R. Cruz and Alex Niño. The three stories are about werewolves, giant alien slugs, and pirates. All of them are well-drawn, but none are especially well-written.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #1 (Dark Horse, 1986) – “Black Cross,” [W/A] Chris Warner, plus three other stories. This issue is mostly worth owning for completism’s sake, but it also includes one fascinating story that’s not widely available. The highlight of this issue is Paul Chadwick’s first Concrete story. It’s the one where a woman tricks Concrete into attending her child’s birthday party, and in revenge, he puts her car on the roof of her garage. I’ve read this before, although I forgot about the twist ending. The aforementioned fascinating story is “Brighter!”, which stars a woman with light and sound powers. She had previously used these powers for musical performances, but she decides to move on to bigger and better things. This character is obviously a stand-in for Dazzler, the protagonist of Chadwick’s previous series, and maybe her decision to change her career is a reference to Chadwick’s newfound artistic maturity.

GREEN LANTERN #109 (DC, 1978) – “Assault on Replikon,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Mike Grell. Carol Ferris has a new boyfriend, André. It turns out André is really the alien villain Replikon (who wears Batman’s cowl for some reason). Hal, Ollie and Dinah defeat Replikon, but Carol is not grateful to Hal. This story illustrates that Carol and Hal are incompatible and that their relationship is a disaster. Mike Grell’s art is quite good. There’s also an Alan Scott backup story.

SILVER AGE: DIAL H FOR HERO #1 (DC, 2000) – “The One-Man Justice League,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Barry Kitson. This is part of a fifth-week crossover event. It’s designed to look like a Silver Age DC comic, with half-page ads and Gaspar Saladino-esque lettering on the cover. The plot involves a battle between Robby Reed and the Martian Manhunter, who’s swapped bodies with Dr. Light. This comic is underwhelming given the creators involved, and the best part about it, as with all Dial H for Hero stories, is seeing all the different superheroes that Robby turns into.

ACTION COMICS #579 (DC, 1986) – “Prisoners of Time! (1986 AD to CCLIII AD)”, [W] Randy Lofficier & Jean-Marc Lofficier, [A] Keith Giffen. Like Star Trek #13, reviewed above, this comic is an unannounced crossover. In this issue, Superman travels back in time to the ancient Roman era, where he battles a giant fat barbarian and a druid who brews magic potion. These characters are obviously Obelix and Getafix/Panoramix from Asterix. Oddly, Asterix himself does not appear. The cover shows Superman battling a character based on Asterix, but in the comic, that character is stated to have already died. In fact, the comic takes place long after the time period of the Asterix comics, and the Obelix and Getafix characters are only still alive because of the magic potion. The entire issue is full of Asterix references and is written in a Goscinny-esque style. Overall it demonstrates the Lofficiers’ love for French comics, which they helped to promote in America through their translations of Moebius. I’d have enjoyed this issue even more if I’d read more Asterix. I need to get around to doing that.

JUPITER’S LEGACY #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Millar, [A] Frank Quitely. I didn’t realize this was five years old already. During the Depression, some explorers discover a source of superpowers. Many decades later, their descendants are famous but bored young super-celebrities. This comic is less bad than a typical Mark Millar comic, but that’s the best I can say for it. Frank Quitely’s art isn’t the best he’s capable of.

LETTER 44 #3 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jiménez Albuquerque. A bunch of politics, espionage, interpersonal drama, and space sex. Nothing especially memorable happens in this issue, but it’s a good example of Charles Soule’s writing style. I want to collect the entire run of this series.

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #4 (Vertigo, 1994) – “Bindings, Epilogue: Lost Causes,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross & Gary Amaro. Last issue, Tim was killed by the Manticore – the fanged teacher dude from issue 2. This issue, Tim has a long conversation with Death, who is her usual charming self, but then Tamlin, Tim’s real dad, sacrifices his life to resurrect his son. This was one of the better issues of the series, mostly because of the Death appearance, and it was an effective conclusion to the first story arc.

SWEET TOOTH #19 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Endangered Species Prelude: Lost Trials,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire with Nate Powell, Emi Lenox and Matt Kindt. I got a bunch of issues of Sweet Tooth at Heroes, though I’m still missing the first few. This should be a fairly easy run to complete. This issue provides the origin stories of three female characters, including Wendy, the little pig-nosed girl who was imprisoned with the antlered boy. The three origin sequences are illustrated by three guest artists, as listed above.

X-MEN GOLD #28 (Marvel, 2018) – “ ‘Til Death Do Us Part, Part 3,” [W] Marc Guggenheim, [A] Michele Bandini. This issue suffers from uninspired, trite dialogue, competent but unexciting art, and a boring plot. It focuses on my favorite X-Man, Kitty Pryde, but even then it failed to hold my interest. If Marvel thinks Marc Guggenheim is the best choice to write X-Men, then no wonder the series has been bleeding readers for years. Marvel needs to revitalize the franchise by hiring some top-tier writing talent.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #23 (First, 1985) – “The Crucified Man,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Jon Sable goes on a mission in Israel. This comic has some excellent action sequences, but Grell seems to be trying too hard to imitate Lawrence of Arabia, and the sex scene between Jon and his female handler is unnecessary. I think my interest in this series has waned over time. This issue also includes a long essay by Grell about a hunting trip he took in Africa. I already knew Mike was a sport hunter, but this essay is really TMI.

CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST #207 (Harvey, 1979) – “A Boy Named X,” uncredited. Unlike most Harvey comics I’ve read, this issue has a full-length story – about an amnesiac young boy – rather than just consisting of short stories. However, “A Boy Named X” is pretty boring and unfunny, and I fell asleep at least once while reading it. I still haven’t read a Harvey comic that was actually well written, and I wonder if there are any.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #562 (Archie, 1986) – Josie and the Pussycats in “Vacation Blahs,” [W] George Gladir, [A] Dan DeCarlo. Josie and the band go on vacation, but each of the places they visit turns out to be even more stressful than their day job. This story reminds me of MLP Micro-Series #3, where Rarity goes to Flax Seed and Wheat Grass’s resort. The other stories in this issue are forgettable, but even then this comic is much better than Casper #207.

THE DEMON #16 (DC, 1974) – “Immortal Enemy!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Etrigan battles Morgaine Le Fay, and his girlfriend Glenda learns that he’s really Jason Blood. And there the series ends. The Demon is not bad, but it’s not as good as Kamandi or the Fourth World titles.

SWEET TOOTH #5 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Out of the Deep Woods, Conclusion,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Tommy Jepperd takes Gus (the antlered kid) to the Preserve, where he exchanges Gus for his wife’s body. Finally this series is starting to make sense to me. This issue includes a two-page spread with one of Lemire’s trademark experimental page layouts. It’s the scene where Gus gets hit on the head, and then there’s a 4×6 panel grid on the left-hand page, which “crumbles” into individual disconnected panels on the right-hand page.

SAUCER COUNTRY #6 (Vertigo, 2012) – “A Field Guide to Flying Saucers,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Jimmy Broxton. Most of this issue is a lecture about UFO encounters. I’m not sure how well this sequence works as a comic, but it’s interesting. It investigates the psychology and culture behind people’s accounts of UFO experiences. I still haven’t really gotten into this series.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #8 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Dark Kingdom, Part 3: Black & White,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Matteo Buffagni. Spider-Man, Cloak and Dagger battle Mr. Negative. This isn’t a classic Spider-Man comic, but it’s fun and well-drawn. One nice thing about 25-cent boxes is that they allow me to read comics, like this one. I enjoyed reading this comic, but I wouldn’t have paid full price or even a dollar for it.

SWAMP THING #12 (DC, 2012) – “Rotworld Prologue: Part 2,” [W] Scott Snyder & Jeff Lemire, [A] Marco Rudy. This issue’s story is continued from Animal Man #12, which I read when it came out. This is a pretty solid horror comic, with, again, some bizarre page layouts, and it’s fun to see Abigail Arcane interacting with Ellen and Maxine Baker. I went canvassing for the Democratic party yesterday, and my canvassing partner had a volume of this Swamp Thing run in his car. When I noticed that, it was a nice icebreaker.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #20 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark Disassembled Part 1: Counting Up from Zero,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. Here’s another series that I wouldn’t pay more than 50 cents for, but I’m happy to buy it when I see it in a quarter box. This issue is part of the story arc where Tony Stark removes his own memory. Tony spends most of the issue lying in a hospital bed having weird dreams. Matt Fraction is probably the best Iron Man writer since David Michelinie, although that’s not saying much. He seems to have been responsible for making the comic book version of Tony match Robert Downey Jr’s filmic portrayal of the character.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #24 (DC, 2008) – “Ringquest Part 3,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Patrick Gleason. Yet another series that I like, but that I only buy when I see it in the cheap boxes. This issue, a bunch of Green Lanterns battle Mongul, or possibly one of his children, and an army of Black Mercies. The Black Mercy, a parasitic plant that paralyzes its victims by granting them visions of their greatest desire, is one of Alan Moore’s many brilliant throwaway ideas. It was smart of Peter Tomasi to reuse it here. Otherwise, the best thing about this issue is the diversity of the different Green Lanterns.

TRILLIUM #4 (Vertigo, 2014) – “Chapter 4: Entropy,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Nika and William encounter some Amazonian tribespeople who speak the alien language. Meanwhile, Nika’s boss from the future decides to destroy the planet with the trillium on it. This issue has no unusual design elements. One of the many weird things about this series is the lack of connection between issues; it almost feels like every issue is about a different version of Nika and William.

COYOTE #3 (Epic, 1983) – “How Coyote Chased His Tail,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Butch Guice. This is Steve Englehart’s most important creator-owned series, but that’s damning with faint praise. This comic has a convoluted plot which isn’t worth the effort required to understand it. What makes this series interesting is the hero, who is basically a coyote in a human body, and doesn’t understand human stuff like technology and monogamy. Like, one of the subplots is that he’s two-timing two women, and doesn’t see anything wrong with it.

STRANGE TALES #13 (Marvel, 1988) – Cloak and Dagger in “Disorderly Conduct,” [W] Terry Austin, [A] June Brigman, and Dr. Strange in “Ascent into Hell,” [W] Peter B. Gillis, [A] Richard Case. This issue’s Cloak & Dagger story is a prequel to Power Pack #13, reviewed above. It guest-stars the Punisher as well as Power Pack. Despite starring the Punisher, this is a really light-hearted and fun comic, whose highlight is Katie Power’s version of the Punisher’s war journal. In contrast, the Dr. Strange backup story is too serious for its own good. The villain in this story looks a lot like Gillis’s creator-owned character the Black Flame.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #618 (Marvel, 2010) – “Mysterioso Part 2: Un-Murder Incorporated,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Marcos Martín. The art in this issue is really good. Marcos Martín and Javier Pulido are fairly similar artists, which makes sense because they’re both from Spain and they both broke into the industry via Planeta de Agostini. This issue, Silvermane attempts to reassert his control over the Maggia, and there are also some plot threads involving Mr. Negative, Mysterio, and Carlie Cooper’s dad. Dan Slott’s Spider-Man is really quite good, and I should read more of it.

THE WORLD BELOW #1 (Dark Horse, 1999) – “The Flock,” [W/A] Paul Chadwick. This series is Paul Chadwick’s version of Cave Carson – I even wonder if it started out as a rejected proposal for a new Cave Carson series. This issue introduces the rather flimsy premise of the series: there’s a newly discovered underground realm full of bizarre creatures and machines, and a team of six adventurers, equipped with a giant red truck, are dispatched to investigate. This gives Chadwick an excuse to draw the weirdest stuff he can think of. The World Below is an excellent series, and it’s a shame that it’s been totally overshadowed by Concrete.

I received these new comics on September 7. I barely remember most of the comics I read that day, so I must have been very tired.

PAPER GIRLS #24 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. We begin with a flashback explaining how Wari and Jahpo got to the future. Then we learn that Mac has untreatable time travel cancer. And Kaje saves Mac’s life with her rocket boots, which is a really nice moment. Also, Erin discovers a map leading I don’t know where.

BORDER TOWN #1 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Bienvenidos a Hell,” [W] Eric Esquivel, [A] Ramon Villalobos. This debut issue is very important, but also problematic. It takes place in Arizona on the U.S.-Mexico border, which, in this reality, is inhabited by giant monsters. Also the Aztec god of the dead, Mictlántécutli, is involved somehow. This series has the potential to be a fascinating and highly politically relevant exploration of border politics and Latinx identity. The problem is that it suffers from overwriting. Practically every word balloon has one sentence too many, and as a result, the story doesn’t flow well. Also, there’s a ton of stuff happening in the story at once, and it’s not clear what’s important and what’s not. Border Town has explosive potential, which hopefully will not go unrealized.

GIANT DAYS #42 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Esther has a crush on Ed again, but Ed “has been spending a lot of time with some vast and loud Australian entity.” Meanwhile, McGraw is burning a bunch of wood for some reason. So this is a pretty typical issue.

THE LONG CON #2 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] EA Denich. More of the same stuff. Dez fights her way through some feral children to acquire hot dogs, then there’s another flashback to the beginning of the con. I still love the idea behind this series, and the creators are executing it fairly well.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #2 (DC, 2018) – “Action Detectives, Part 2,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. We learn that the kid supervillains come from an alien planet, where the kid Luthor grew up with Lex Luthor as a role model. Also, the kid Joker is actually a good guy, and he helps Jon and Damian escape from captivity, but Jon somehow gets split into Superboy-Red and Superboy-Blue. This is a really fun and exciting superhero comic.

SNOTGIRL #11 (Image, 2018) – “My Second Date,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. I can’t remember much about this issue. Snotgirl has such a convoluted plot and comes out so infrequently that it’s very hard to follow, though it’s worth reading anyway.

KIM REAPER: VAMPIRE ISLAND #1 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Becca and Kim are fans of a show called Vampire Teen Drama, so Kim decides to take them to meet some actual vampires. But while they’re partying with the vampires, Kim gets called away on a Grim Reaper assignment, and Becca and Tyler are left alone, with disastrous consequences. It’s nice to see this comic again.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #70 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Toni Kuusisto. This is a sequel to “Grannies Gone Wild,” the episode where Rainbow Dash accompanies Granny Smith and her friends to Las Pegasus. This issue, the grannies are sick of playing bingo, so Rainbow Dash arranges an extreme bingo game for them, even though Applejack thinks it’s unsafe. This results in a classic conflict between Rainbow Dash’s carelessness and Applejack’s overprotectiveness. There are some excellent gags in this issue, like Pinkie Pie trying to eat all the cakes in the shop because she thinks there’s a bingo ball in one of them.

QUICKSILVER: NO SURRENDER #5 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Eric Nguyen. It turns out the monsters are creatures that live between moments – not sure how that works – and that have been animated by Pietro’s emotions. Pietro defeats the monsters by sympathizing with them, and then hangs out with Wanda. In this series, Saladin has accomplished the feat of taking the most unpleasant superhero in the Marvel Universe and making him kind of sympathetic.

THE DREAMING #1 (DC, 2018) – “The Kingdom,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. I’ve seen some negative reactions to this comic, and I think those reactions are justified. This issue is confusing and convoluted even to a veteran Sandman reader, let alone a new reader, and it’s not that interesting either. I do plan to keep reading this series, since I’m a fan of both Si Spurrier and Sandman.

HOUSE AMOK #1 (IDW, 2018) – “We’re a Happy Family,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Shawn McManus. This is the fourth different Chris Sebela comic I’ve read in the past month or two. Besides having good dialogue, his comics have fascinating and clever premises, which he exploits to their full potential. (For example, the idea of a woman being haunted by the ghost of her heart donor is absurd, but Chris turns this idea into a compelling story.) His latest series is about two preteen twin girls whose parents believe in all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories. Because they don’t know any better, the girls accept their parents’ nonsensical ideas and act as accomplices to their parents’ crimes. But one of them slowly starts to realize her parents are insane. This comic is an intriguing exploration of conspiracy theorists, and also a plausible depiction of a child whose normal meter is broken, as they say on r/relationships.

DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #2 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. I didn’t buy this when it came out, but it turns out to be quite good. In this miniseries, a bunch of Sorcerers Supreme from various time periods team up against a villain named the Forgotten. The Sorcerers Supreme include an older Wiccan, who is married to Hulkling with a child, and Mindful, a sentient Mindless One. Mindful is an adorable character. Other than him, the highlight of this issue is Javier Rodriguez’s brilliant artwork. I think I’ve failed to appreciate him enough because he gets overshadowed by the writers he works with, but he’s an amazing visual storyteller.

LITTLE ARCHIE #166 (Archie, 1981) – “The Team Mate,” [W/A] Bob Bolling. Another story where Little Archie meets an alien. Bob Bolling really liked this premise – in addition to this story and the one in #152, Bolling wrote several stories where Little Archie encounters two aliens named Abercrombie and Stitch. In “The Team Mate,” Archie encounters an alien his own age, Odiko, who has superspeed powers. Archie tries to draft Odiko for his baseball team, but the other kids discover that Odiko is an alien and reject him. As a result, the kids learn a lesson about prejudice. The last panel shows Archie’s black friend saying “I think we lost a good friend.” I’m not sure whether that’s subtle or heavy-handed.

TRILLIUM #5 (Vertigo, 2014) – “Starcrossed,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Another very experimental issue. Each issue has a top half which reads right-side-up and a bottom half that reads upside-down. After getting to the end of the comic, you flip it upside-down and keep reading from the bottom. Each half tells a different story: the top half takes place in some kind of steampunk world, and the bottom half takes place in Nika’s usual future world. The top and bottom halves of each page have the same panel structure and are parallel in other ways, so this issue is reminiscent of Watchmen #5. The plot of Trillium still doesn’t make sense to me – I don’t remember having seen the steampunk universe before – but this issue is fascinating to read anyway.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #139 (DC, 1978) – “Requiem for a Top Cop,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Jim Aparo. In this Batman/Hawkman teamup, we learn that Commissioner Gordon killed an alien as a young man, and now an alien bounty hunter named Vorgan wants to avenge the murder by killing Gordon. Batman and Hawkman join forces to save Gordon. This comic attempts to blend the crime and science fiction genres, but does not succeed; the Batman and Hawkman parts of the plot are at odds with each other. However, this comic is notable for a couple reasons Bob Haney couldn’t have been aware of. First, in a sad way, it’s kind of touching how Gordon feels so guilty over the alien’s death. It would be nice if, for example, Amber Guyger felt equally guilty for killing Botham Jean. Second, the idea of an alien bounty hunter who assassinates murderers seems very familiar. This comic was published just two years before Nexus #1, and it’s very plausible that Mike Baron read it.

VELVET #2 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. A story about a female secret agent who’s running from her employers, or something. It’s essentially a Black Widow comic in all but name. It’s pretty similar to any Brubaker/Phillips comic except that the art is by Steve Epting. This was jarring at first, but Epting’s art is just as terrific as in his and Brubaker’s Captain America.

LANCER #2 (Gold Key, 1969) – “The Diamond-Studded Steer,” [W] Dick Wood, [A] Luis Dominguez. An adaptation of a long-forgotten TV show about two cowboy brothers who dislike each other. Unusually, this story shows cowboys engaged in their actual occupation of herding cows, rather than fighting outlaws. The plot is that the Lancer brothers have to lead a cattle drive to Mexico and prevent it from being sabotaged. Dick Wood’s script is serviceable, and Luis Dominguez’s art is pretty good. He’s from Argentina, and I assume he was influenced by Arturo del Castillo and José Luis Salinas.

HAWKEYE #5 (Marvel, 2013) – “The Tape Part 2: Operation Eucritta,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Javier Pulido. An excellent issue of a series that’s already a classic. The issue is mostly a long action sequence, in which Clint and Kate fight Madame Masque’s henchmen to recover an incriminating tape. Javier Pulido’s art and design are fantastic. The highlight of the issue is when Clint and Kate kick a door open, and the sound effect is FOOTOOMP!

STRANGE TALES #14 (Marvel, 1988) – “Disorderly Conduct,” [W] Terry Austin, [A] June Brigman, and “Apogee,” [W] Peter B. Gillis, [A] Richard Case. Again, the Punisher-Power Pack-Cloak and Dagger story in this issue is heartwarming (I’m trying to limit my use of the word adorable). Katie Power and the Punisher get along surprisingly well, since Katie is the same age the Punisher’s daughter was. But the highlight of the story is the ending, where the Powers have a birthday party for their hamster, and Julie teaches Cloak to read. The Dr. Strange story is just average.

ANGEL LOVE SPECIAL #1 (DC, 1987) – “Dark Revelations!”, [W/A] Barbara Slate. A strong conclusion to a series that never found an audience. Angel convinces her sister Mary Beth to donate bone marrow to their mother. But as a result, Mary Beth is discovered to have been using a false name, and she loses her election for Congress. It’s kind of unethical for Angel to browbeat her sister into doing the donation. As a reader of r/relationships, I’ve heard lots of stories about people being contacted by estranged relatives who want them to donate organs. In those cases, the usual advice is that you’re not obligated to serve as a donor, and if you don’t want to, you shouldn’t be guilted into doing it. But Barbara Slate avoids fully endorsing either Angel or Mary Beth’s behavior, and allows the reader to see the ambivalence of their relationship. Other than that, this issue is full of lots of other drama and funny stuff. Too bad this was Angel Love’s last appearance.

CLASSIC STAR WARS #4 (Dark Horse, 1992) – untitled, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Al Williamson. A reprint of some comic strips that take place between two of the movies of the original trilogy (not sure which two). Luke teams up with a thief named Tanith – named after Tanith Lee? – while Han and Leia have some relationship drama. Al Williamson’s art is really good, but it suffers from being reprinted too large. And the panels are rearranged to fit on the comic book page, so there’s lots of wasted space, and some panels are partly obscured by others.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #11 (Pacific, 1983) – “Meet Big Ugly,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. A minor late Kirby work that suffers from bad lettering, and nonsensical storytelling. It’s superficially similar to New Gods, but not as inspired. There’s also a backup story by Tim Conrad.

STARSLAYER #12 (First, 1984) – “Stranded!”, [W] John Ostrander, [A] Leni Delsol. The Starslayer story in this issue is pretty mediocre. The Grimjack backup story is significantly better, though Ostrander and Truman hadn’t quite figured out the Grimjack formula yet.

WONDER WOMAN #107 (DC, 1996) – “Lifelines Part Three,” [W/A] John Byrne. The best thing about this issue is Cassie Sandsmark, a really cute character. Otherwise, this issue offers further evidence that John Byrne had long since jumped the shark by 1996, and that he was never a very good writer in the first place.

CATWOMAN #18 (DC, 2003) – “No Easy Way Down Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Javier Pulido. An early work by an excellent artist. In this issue Javier Pulido tries to draw like Darwyn Cooke or Cameron Stewart, but you can still recognize his unique style of visual storytelling. Brubaker’s dialogue is pretty good, but the plot is forgettable; it’s some kind of hard-boiled murder mystery.

SAUCER COUNTRY #8 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The Reticulan Candidate Part One,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. A blend of political campaign drama with conspiracy theorizing about aliens. I guess you could call this comic Men in Black meets The West Wing. I’d be willing to read more of this comic if I saw it in a cheap box, but I wouldn’t pay very much for it.

THE WAKE #1 (Vertigo, 2013) – “The Wake Part One,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. The art in this comic is spectacular. Because of his style of linework and the amount of detail he puts into his drawings, Sean (Gordon) Murphy is more like a European than an American artist. His machinery, architecture and animals demand very close attention – which is why I haven’t had the energy to read any of the other issues of The Wake that I have. The Wake’s story is less interesting than its art. The protagonist is a divorced female cetologist who’s hired to decode some mysterious whale songs. I have yet to be truly impressed by Scott Snyder’s writing.

NEIL THE HORSE COMICS AND STORIES #9 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “The Hour of the Hand of the Shadow Fiend from the Forgotten Blood-Cursed Crypt!”, [W] Katherine Collins (under her previous name), [A] Barb Rausch. This issue’s first story is a Conan parody. It’s well-drawn but more silly than funny. The second story is about breakdancing and is narrated in rhyme. I guess it’s an early example of a comic influenced by hip-hop culture.

FIGHTIN’ MARINES #61 (Charlton, 1964) – “The Non-Combatants!”, [W] Joe Gill probably, [A] Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia, plus other stories. A boring piece of mediocrity. This comic promotes a jingoistic and uncritical view of war, which is especially annoying since it came out during the Vietnam war.

BULLY WARS #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Aaron Conley. This is less immediately appealing than I Hate Fairyland was. It’s about bullying and high school drama, but it treats these subjects in Skottie Young’s usual funny and tasteless way. It’s not bad, but it’s not my favorite either. Aaron Conley’s art is less hyper-detailed than in Sabertooth Swordsman, but much less difficult to read, since it’s in color.

CATWOMAN/TWEETY & SYLVESTER #1 (DC, 2018) – “A Fine Fit of Feather and Fur,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Inaki Miranda. A very funny story, especially since it’s full of cats. Catwoman and Black Canary team up with Sylvester and Tweety, respectively, in a battle between cats and birds. Most of DC’s other cat- and bird-based characters are also enlisted, and the issue is full of Looney Tunes references. This is one of Gail’s best-written comics in years, and Inaki Miranda draws some very cute animals.

EUTHANAUTS #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Check Ignition,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Nick Robles. I had to read the previous issue to remind myself what this series was about, and even then I had trouble following it. But this comic at least seems like a sensitive and thoughtful examination of death. Maybe it’s a good thing this comic is coming out now, because it looks like I’ll have to attend a funeral soon. 

MY LITTLE PONY: PONYVILLE MYSTERIES #4 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. Someone has dammed the water supply leading to the spa. It initially looks like the Apples used the water to irrigate their farm, but then it turns out Flim and Flam are responsible. Early in the issue there’s a funny mistake where the word “damn” is used instead of “dam.” I remember this comic more clearly than other comics I read the same day, so that’s probably a point in its favor.

DENNIS THE MENACE FUN FEST SERIES #14 (Fawcett, 1980) – “Having a Ball” and other stories, uncredited. In this issue’s first story, Gina teaches the other kids to play soccer. In the second story, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson move into a retirement community where everything fun is prohibited, and they discover that life without Dennis is less interesting. In the third story, the Mitchells try to get the cat to stop climbing on the table. This was a pretty funny comic, certanly better than the previous Dennis comic I read.

WONDER WOMAN ’77 SPECIAL #2 (DC, 2015) – “The Cat Came Back,” [W] Marc Andreyko, [A] Drew Johnson. The Lynda Carter version of Wonder Woman battles the Cheetah. This comic isn’t terrible, but it’s not great either, and it’s tediously long. I suppose this comic would have some nostalgia value for fans of the ‘70s Wonder Woman TV show, but I have never seen that show.

!GAG! #1 (Harrier, 1987) – various stories, editor uncredited. An anthology of British small-press humor comics. Creators featured in this issue include Eddie Campbell, Ed Pinsent, Steve Way and Glenn Dakin, and Trevs (Woodrow) Phoenix. The Way and Dakin story stars Paris, the Man of Plaster. This comic is perhaps less notable for the individual stories in it, than for its demonstration of the stylistic diversity of British underground comics.

THE BATMAN ADVENTURES #4 (DC, 1993) – “Riot Act,” [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Brad Rader. The Scarecrow engineers a plot to make the people of Gotham City illiterate. I was excited to discover that I had an unread issue of this series, but this issue is not by the usual creators, and it’s kind of mediocre.

Comics received on September 12:

RUNAWAYS #13 (Marvel, 2018) – “That Was Yesterday, Part 1,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] David Lafuente. Alex Wilder reappears, and instantly acts like he’s still the leader of the team, as well as getting them into a fight with a three-headed dog thing. Also, the Gibborim show up again, or rather their children. The issue ends with a panel depicting all six of the original Runaways, plus Victor. This story is paradoxical because it returns us to the premise of the original series – the Runaways versus the Pride and the Gibborim – but it also reminds us how much things have changed since the series began.

MECH CADET YU #12 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. The kids pool their powers to activate the Suprarobo and defeat the Sharg. The issue and the series end with Stanford and Olivia visiting their late parents’ graves. This ending was satisfying, but a bit predictable. I was hoping it would turn out that the Sharg weren’t as evil as they looked. It’s too bad this series is over.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #36 (Marvel, 2018) – “🔇”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. The title of this story is the mute icon. This issue is a piece of Oulipian constrained writing, where the constraint is incorporated into and justified by the story. A librarian’s ghost gets angry at all the noise in New York, so she forces the entire city to be quiet, and thus the entire issue is silent. This enables Ryan North and Derek Charm to display their skill with visual storytelling and humor. The visual storytelling in this series tends to go unnoticed because the reader pays attention to the dialogue instead. But this issue reminds us that the creators are really good with sight gags and body language. I especially like all the scenes set in front of the ESU library, showing how New York changes as the silence continues. Overall this is one of the best issues of Squirrel Girl.

MS. MARVEL #34 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Ratio, Part Three,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. I’m sorry to hear about Willow’s health problems, and I wish her a quick recovery. This issue, Bruno learns that Kamala shapeshifts by absorbing mass from her past or future selves. Also, Kamala encounters Singularity. “The Ratio” has not been among this series’ best story arcs.

WELCOME TO WANDERLAND #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jackie Ball, [A] Maddi Gonzalez. Yet another excellent Boom! Box miniseries. This one is about a girl working at an amusement park, obviously based on Disneyland/world, who discovers a secret portal into the fantasy world that the park’s attractions are based on. Maddi Gonzalez’s artwork is appealing. Jackie Ball’s script is witty, and is inspired by actual experience working at theme parks.

EXILES #8 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Trial of the Exiles!”, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Joe Quinones. I somehow failed to order issue 7, which concludes the Exiles’ encounter with the cowboy Black Panther. This issue, the Exiles are put on trial by a bunch of rogue Watchers, and they all have to recount their back stories. This issue provides a lot of useful insight into the team members. It ends with Blink waking up in an Arabian Nights-based world. Next issue should be good, since it draws upon the same mythology that Saladin Ahmed grew up with and used in his novel.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #39 (Image, 2018) – “Low,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. A bunch more drama, which ends with Persephone discovering that she still has powers. Not a very exciting issue.

SHE COULD FLY #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Just the Place for a Snark,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martin Morazzo. This issue includes one of the wordiest word balloons I’ve ever seen, containing well over 100 words, but there’s a reason for it. Verna asks Luna about her mental illness, and Luna’s response takes up almost half a page, ending “I’ve never told anyone this before.” This is a really powerful moment. Other than that, this issue Luna’s guidance counselor starts looking for her and gets involved in the conspiracy, and the enemy finds Bill. She Could Fly is one of the best miniseries of the year. Too bad there’s just one more issue.

CATWOMAN #3 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats Part 3,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones with Fernando Blanco. This issue is somewhat lacking in the cat department. Selina’s cats only appear in one panel. Also, there’s a four-page sequence devoted to the origin of a new character whose significance is not clear. Other than that, this is an okay issue.

CROWDED #2 (Image, 2018) – “Future Starts Slow,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. Jo saves Vita from some assassins, then they go looking for the person who took out a contract on Vita. Also there’s a funny scene that takes place at a comic book store. This is a good second issue, though less humorous than #1, now that the novelty of the premise has worn off.

FANTASTIC FOUR #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Where We Make Our Stand,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sara Pichelli. This issue we finally get to see Franklin, Valeria and the Future Foundation kids, and our first sight of Valeria is shocking: she has breasts and is receiving a marriage proposal from some alien dude. The last time her age was stated, she was about three years old, so lots of time must have passed while the FF were away. Increasing Franklin and Val’s age is probably a good decision, since Franklin’s improbably young age is the biggest continuity problem in the Marvel universe. However, this solution creates other problems; in particular, if Val is in her early teens, then Alex Power, who is aging at the same rate, must be about 30. It’s best not to think about this too much. Anyway, this issue we learn that Reed, Sue and the kids have been creating new worlds and exploring them, but then Franklin’s power runs out, just as a creature called the Griever starts devouring these realities. So the FF return to Earth to make their last stand, alongside everyone who’s been a FF member. Besides the continuity issues I just mentioned, this is a really good issue. It’s both fun and original, and it effectively builds upon the heritage of this series.

NANCY DREW #4 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. This issue includes a scene where the detectives go to a rave, and they all split up to investigate different things. From there, the sequence is divided into three different narrative threads, each of which has a different color scheme and occupies a different tier of panels. On Twitter, Kelly indicated that she was proud of this sequence, and she should be. This issue also ends on an exciting cliffhanger where Bess is captured by the crooks.

FARMHAND #3 (Image, 2018) – “Pet Sins,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. A dog gets into the Jenkins farm and turns into an awful monster. Other plot stuff happens. This is another good issue, full of witty dialogue and funny gags. The best joke in the issue is the line of guys waiting to get into the “melon patch,” where certain private body parts are grown.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 (DC, 2018) – “Broken Telephone,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson, [A] Domo Stanton. This is, I believe, the first comic by one of my favorite current SF writers. Like many of Nalo Hopkinson’s novels, House of Whispers is heavily based on voodoo and West African mythologies. It begins with a scene set in the Dreaming, where Erzulie Fréda is meeting Uncle Monday – either a version of Baron Samedi, or a very similar character. Meanwhile, in the human world, some girls unwittingly summon a loa called Shakpana by playing telephone. This comic feels like a very passionate and authentic depiction of Caribbean culture and mythology. It’s a bit difficult to follow at times, but it’s fascinating, and it draws upon a cultural tradition that rarely appears in comics except in a very stereotyped form. This comic may be difficult for readers who aren’t familiar with Nalo Hopkinson or West African religion, and its connection to The Sandman is very tenuous.

RAT QUEENS #11 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, Owen Gieni. This was the best issue of Rat Queens volume 2, simply because it was the first one that made sense. After a lot of confusing and unintelligible stories, the Rat Queens are finally back together, and now they’re looking for the evil version of Hannah. I didn’t realize there were two Hannahs, but I guess that was established last issue. Then the Rat Queens go on a quest to help their former teammate Sadie, who’s been turned into an owl. I hope this issue is indicative of the future direction of this series.

MARVEL RISING OMEGA #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Marvel Rising Part 4,” [W] Devin Grayson, [A] Georges Duarte. A predictable but fun conclusion, in which the good guys beat Arcade and save Ember. Lunella Lafayette makes a cameo appearance on the last page. This was a fun series which teamed up some of Marvel’s best characters for the first time. It should be an ongoing series, though.

X-23 #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals, Part 4,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. The dead Stepford Cuckoo gets reanimated in Gabby’s body. This issue was mostly plot with little character development.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #12 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. In the final issue, Dorma finds a way out of the cave, and leaves home to pursue her fortune again. It’s too bad this is the last issue, but this issue was a fairly satisfying conclusion. Scales & Scoundrels was never a great comic, but it was quite a good one.

TINY TITANS: RETURN TO THE TREEHOUSE #6 (DC, 2015) – untitled, [W] Art Baltazar, [A] Franco. A standard example of the Tiny Titans formula.

SUPERMAN #43 (DC, 2015) – “Before Truth Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] John Romita Jr. This issue is slightly less bad than Gene Luen Yang’s other issues of Superman, since it includes some effective character interaction between Clark and Lois. However, Clark and Lois’s relationship has been done to death already, and this issue doesn’t depict it in a particularly original way. This run of Superman was such a disappointment.

MOTH & WHISPER #1 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Once Upon a Time,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Jen Hickman. I’ve read a lot of Ted Anderson’s pony comics and have corresponded with him on Facebook, so I was intrigued to read his new creator-owned series. This comic takes place in a dystopian society ruled by an oppressive government. The hero, Niki, is the child of two legendary thieves, Moth and Whisper. In general this is a pretty good debut issue, but the striking thing about it is that Niki, like the artist, is nonbinary. This is not directly stated or depicted as problematic in any way – there just aren’t any references to Niki’s gender. Niki is a really cute kid and an effective example of nonbinary representation, and I look forward to reading more about them.

HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #2 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Death in the Family,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornés. This issue is about the fallout from Benjamin Khoury’s murder. It’s not bad, but the only really notable thing about it is the scene set in First Avenue in Minneapolis. I only remember having been to First Avenue once – I’m not really the concert-attending type – and I’m not sure if the artist’s depiction of it is accurate.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #3 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 3,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. The thieves infiltrate the library, only to discover that they need to get into the room for heretical books. The most interesting thing about this issue is the author’s note, where Brian Clevinger explains how the Advocatus is a made-up position, but based on officials that actually existed in medieval Europe. On Twitter, I observed that the Advocatus in this series is kind of like Judge Dee from Chinese detective fiction, and Brian Clevinger confirmed that officials like Judge Dee were part of the inspiration for Nicolas.

THE WRONG EARTH #1 (Ahoy, 2018) – “The Wrong Earth, Chapter One,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. I was skeptical about this comic because, although Tom Peyer wrote the comics that made me a Legion of Super-Heroes fan, his other work has been very uneven. But the premise behind this series is amazing. This premise is that the Silver Age Batman and the Dark Knight Returns Batman (or rather, Dragonflyman) swap universes with each other. The results of this are both funny and tragic. The two universes are depicted with wildly contrasting styles of art, lettering and dialogue, and Peyer and Igle brilliantly depict the two Dragonflies’ bewilderment at their new realities. I’m surprised that the idea behind this series hasn’t been used before, but Peyer and Igle execute it extremely well.

ARCHIE 1941 #1 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. After graduating from high school, Archie is bored and listless, not knowing what to do with his life. But it’s late 1941, and December 7 is coming. This is a weird and intriguing comic, and I’m curious to see where it goes. It almost reads like a crossover between Archie and Captain America. Maybe next issue, Archie will get turned down by the Army, but will be asked to volunteer for Dr. Reinstein’s experiment.

HEAD LOPPER #9 (Image, 2018) – “Head Lopper and the Knights of Venora, Part 1,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Head Lopper encounters a talkative female warrior, and they visit a city that contains a mysterious giant egg. Also, some kind of villain is plotting against Norgal. This is a good issue, but it’s more complicated and less immediately gripping than the debut issues of the last two storylines.

PROXIMA CENTAURI #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. The kids fight and defeat Carousel, a man in a top hat who summons demons out of a bag. As usual, this isue is beautifully drawn and evocative, but its plot makes little sense.

RUINWORLD #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. The pig dude finds himself in the Dengus Isles, where some frog people are about to cook and eat him. The other protagonists have to rescue him. This comic is an insubstantial but entertaining romp.

CEMETERY BEACH #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. A special agent from Earth investigates an offworld colony that was created in the 1930s and has had no contact with Earth since. This comic reminds me of Bioshock because of its premise, but otherwise there’s nothing particularly new or original about it, and I don’t know why I should keep reading it.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #15 (Vertigo, 1998) – “Year of the Bastard Part 3: Smile,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. A much better Warren Ellis comic. This storyline is about an American Presidential campaign. The main event this issue is that Spider Jerusalem attends a rally by Senator Bob Heller, which is effectively a Trump rally, except the racism is even less disguised. Spider’s shocked reaction after hearing Heller’s speech is very similar to how actual reasonable people react to Trump’s rhetoric.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #63 (Marvel, 1980) – “Luck and Death,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. The two namesake villains, Suerte and Muerte, blow up the Gem Theater and almost kill D.W. Griffith (named after the filmmaker). This is a pretty good issue, though not especially memorable. Now that I’ve read Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, I have a much better understanding of the area where the Gem Theater is located.

MARS #5 (First, 1984) – “The Whole Shebang,” [W] Mark Wheatley, [A] Marc Hempel. A bunch of science fictional relationship drama, illustrated in a simple and appealing style. The main event of the issue is that one of the two female characters is discovered to be pregnant. I didn’t quite understand what was going on in this issue, but it was much better paced than issue 1, reviewed below.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #21 (Vertigo, 1999) – “The New Scum 3: New President,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. Spider Jerusalem interviews the president, who turns out to be an alcoholic, cynical jerk with no principles. Spider points out that the President is “not interested in anything other than having the Presidency, but […] also not interested in actually being a President.” Besides the alcoholism, this character reminds me of Trump, though he’s not so aggressively stupid. Like #15, this issue is a sensitive and prescient exploration of American politics.

LITTLE MISTER MAN #1 (Slave Labor, 1995) – “Little Mister Man,” [W/A] James Kochalka. A silly Superboy parody, drawn in Kochalka’s trademark minimalist style. The main character looks kind of like Dilbert. This was one of Kochalka’s first comics, but it’s barely distinguishable from his mature work.

PLASTIC MAN #4 (DC, 2018) – “Revenge of the Curse of the Horror Creature,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. Plas buys some clothes for Pado Swakatoon, and discovers that Agent Obscura has ulterior motives. This is a fun and well-drawn series, and Plas’s relationship with Pado is very touching. But the plot of this series is hard to follow.

DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #4 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. It turns out that the Forgotten is a composite of various magicians who were imprisoned by Merlin. Also, sadly, Mindful does not in fact have a soul, but was merely animated by Isaac Newton. As usual with Javier Rodriguez, this issue is beautifully drawn.

THE KILLER: MODUS VIVENDI #4 (Archaia, 2010) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The Killer succeeds in faking Angel Carrasco’s death and getting rid of his unwanted clients. And there the album ends. I still don’t think this series is all that great, but it’s well-executed, and it shows more awareness of global politics than most American comics do.

WONDER WOMAN #54 (DC, 2018) – “The Enemy of Both Sides, Part Three,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Raúl Allen. I wasn’t impressed by the last Steve Orlando comic I read (namely Crude), so I had low expectations for this issue, but I was pleasantly surprised. This comic has excellent art and coloring and an engaging story, and that’s more than I can say for most Wonder Woman comics. The story is about a war between Qurac and the Bana Mighdall.

MARS #1 (First, 1984) – “Rebirth,” [W] Mark Wheatley, [A] Marc Hempel. This debut issue suffers from some of the worst narrative compression I’ve ever seen. As a child, the protagonist, Morgana Trace, loses her father in an attack that also leaves her paralyzed. She invents a system that lets her connect a computer to her legs, allowing her to walk again. Then she travels to the moon and becomes part of a mission to Mars. Then she and her crewmates lose contact with Earth, so they all go into cryogenic stasis for 10000 years. Finally, Morgana wakes up and heads to Mars to look for her missing crewmates. All these events happen in just one issue, and each of them flashes by so quickly that the reader doesn’t have time to process it before the next thing happens. The further irony is that most of this setup is unnecessary; all the reader really needs to know is that Morgana is stranded on far-future Mars with four other people. As noted above, later issues of this series had better pacing.

STAR TREK #40 (Gold Key, 1976) – “Furlough to Fury,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Al McWilliams. This issue ought to have been terrible. First, it screws with continuity by giving McCoy a daughter named Barbara – not to be confused with his other much better-known daughter, Joanna. Barbara only ever appeared in this series, and her existence is hard to reconcile with McCoy’s history. And Kirk has a crush on her, which is rather creepy. (This issue also mentions Scotty’s otherwise unknown brother Robby.) On top of that, this issue’s plot is poorly suited to Star Trek. The plot is that while on furlough on Earth, Kirk and McCoy foil an attempted jewel theft with the aid of a telepathic alien bear. Besides the alien bear part, this plot is more suited to Batman than Star Trek. The shocking part, then, is that this comic is actually good. Arnold Drake was a gifted storyteller who wrote excellent dialogue, and Al McWilliams was a terrific science fiction artist, possibly the best artist who ever worked on Star Trek comics. I especially like his rendition of the Enterprise. So this is a pretty good comic, though not necessarily a good Star Trek comic.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #491 (DC, 1992) – “A Good Head on Your Shoulders,” [W] Tom Grummett, [A] Doug Hazlewood. Superman battles Metallo, with help from Terrible Dan Turpin. This comic is nothing special, but it’s a well-written and entertaining Superman comic.

THE SPECTRE #12 (DC, 1993) – “Final Fate,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. Amy is murdered by a serial killer. This was a rather depressing and grim series, and it was rarely grimmer or more depressing than in this issue.

New comics received on September 22:

LUMBERJANES #54 (Boom!, 2018) – “Follow Your Art,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. Another incredibly cute issue. The villain turns out to be Tromatikos, or Tammy Tickles as Ripley calls her, a creature that drains energy. Tromatikos summons all the magic kittens, resulting in one of the cutest panels in the entire series. Jo and the girls go looking for Ripley. Oh, and we also learn that Rosie knows the phone number for Mount Olympus. Because of course she does.

FLAVOR #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Wook-Jin Clark. Xoo chews out Geof for his inconsiderateness, but enters the competition anyway. Meanwhile, Anant wants to enter too, but his parents refuse. This was a pretty good issue. The highlight was the panel with Geof getting “drunk” on ice cream. The food Anant and his parents are eating looks really good – it may be Korean BBQ.

MISTER MIRACLE #11 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Scott and Barda engineer a brilliant plan to defeat Darkseid and avoid having to give Jacob up. But afterward, it turns out Desaad is actually Metron, and Metron tells Scott that he’s in the wrong universe. This ending is unexpected and confusing. Obviously the high point of this issue is Darkseid eating the vegetables.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #5 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. Finally the truth is revealed: Madame Dragonfly and Colonel Weird kidnapped the superheroes because if they return to Earth, Anti-God will come back. But then it turns out Colonel Weird already sent the ship on a course to who knows where. I’m glad to have finally learned what’s going on, but with the revelations in this issue, some of the suspense in this comic has been lost. This issue includes Doctor Star’s first appearance outside his own title.

OH S#!T IT’S KIM & KIM #2 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. Another great issue. Kim Q tries to call her dad to ask to borrow the Belinda Carlisle tape, but he insists on using her deadname, and the conversation is over before it starts. This is perhaps the best scene in the entire series. It illustrates the pain of transphobia and the insensitivity of people who refuse to acknowledge a trans person’s identity. The rest of the issue is also pretty good. The Kims and Xue Peng execute their plan to steal the tape, but things don’t go as intended. The heist sequence includes some really good dialogue.

BY NIGHT #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. Gardt the goblin leads the protagonists on a tour of his world, but they go off the intended path and run into some sleeping vampires. This issue is quite funny; I especially liked the Mr. T running joke and the reference to Twizzlers as “crimson banquet rods.” But I’m still not sure what this series is supposed to be about.

USAGI YOJIMBO #171 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden, Part 6,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Inspector Ishida track down the Japanese translation of the Bible, but the villains are right behind them. The main virtue of this issue is that it demonstrates the incredibly explosive nature of the Japanese Bible translation. William Tyndale’s English Bible was dangerous enough that it got him executed, and the Japanese Bible is even more dangerous than that. “The Hidden” has been a pretty good story – I would rank it below “Grasscutter” but above “The Treasure of the Mother of Mountains” – and I look forward to seeing how it ends.

BLACK BADGE #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Another good issue, though not as funny as #1, since we already know the premise now. This issue the kids encounter another group of spy campers. Also, the girl camper tells her origin story, but it’s actually the origin story of Pippi Longstocking.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Caselli. BRODOK drives off the giant Tigra, then the two Hawkeyes investigate an Advanced Image Mechanics plant. This was a good issue, with some effective character interactions, but nothing spectacular. I really hope Tigra comes to her senses quickly and doesn’t get killed.

VAGRANT QUEEN #4 (Vault, 2018) – “The Bezoar of Kings,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. This issue mostly consists of a flashback explaining how Elida’s kingdom was overthrown. We learn that Ellida was well-intentioned but was never in charge of her own government, and was led astray by her rather heartless mother. But the people who overthrew her government were even worse. One thing I don’t get is why Elida is the queen if her mother is still alive. I guess her father was the previous king, and her mother was just the king’s consort. This series continues to suffer from very poor artwork.

OLIVIA TWIST #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Darin Strauss & Adam Dalva, [A] Emma Vieceli. I decided to give up on this series before I even finished reading this issue. Olivia Twist is a dystopian SF retelling of Oliver Twist. I’ve never read Oliver Twist, but this premise is interesting enough. The problem is that the writers have no understanding of pacing. As with Mars #1, reviewed above, so much stuff happens in this comic that the reader can’t process any of it. We move from “Please, sir, can I have some more” to the Artful Dodger to Fagin, all in one issue, and at the same time we’re being introduced to Olivia Twist’s world. Because of the excessive pace of the story, none of the events in it have any impact. Neither of this comic’s writers has any previous comics experience, and it shows. I’m glad that I didn’t order issue 2.

IMPOSSIBLE, INC. #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Beyond the Spiral!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Cavallaro. I had kind of low expectations for this comic, but it pleasantly surprised me. The protagonist is the daughter of a character who’s basically Reed Richards. But their father has gone missing in some alternate dimension, and she and her brother have to look for him. For someone who’s never written the Fantastic Four (as far as I know), J.M. DeMatteis captures its spirit of scientific exploration and discovery very well.

SAVAGE DRAGON #238 (Image, 2018) – “Out for Blood!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Malcolm saves Angel’s life by giving her a blood donation, but is immediately besieged by sick people who also want his blood. Also, Maxine finally gets some therapy for her sex addiction. I bought this issue before I decided to drop this series again. If every issue of this series was like this one, I wouldn’t be dropping it.

DICK TRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Tracy Unleashed,” [W] Lee Allred & Mike Allred, [A] Rich Tommaso. Dick Tracy arrives in Chicago and instantly starts cleaning up corruption and shooting people. This comic is well-written and well-drawn, and Tommaso and the Allreds do a good job of capturing the spirit of Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy. However, their version of Tracy is so bloodthirsty that he reminds me of the Punisher.

EDGE OF SPIDER-GEDDON #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Latour, [A] Tonci Zonjić. This alternate-universe story stars thirteen-year-old Petey Parker and his Uncle Ben, both of whom have spider powers. I couldn’t understand the plot of this comic at all; it’s poorly explained and fragmented, and it’s also part of a crossover of some kind. However, this comic is worth reading anyway because little Peter is heartachingly cute, and his relationship with Ben is very sweet.

THOR #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Old Gods,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Christian Ward. The far-future Thor battles the far-future Wolverine, who has the power of the Phoenix. Christian Ward’s art is, as usual, beautiful, but this issue is just a long fight scene, and it’s not all that interesting.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ties That Bind,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Garry Brown. A retelling of the alien costume saga from the perspective of the alien symbiote. I’ve never actually read the original version of this story, but the retold version is easy enough to understand anyway. This issue is a successful piece of science fiction because it shows the reader “a creature that thinks as well as a man, but not like a man,” and it’s also rather touching.

Starting again on October 13:

CAPTAIN AMERICA ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ziegenfarm,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Chris Sprouse & Ron Lim. An excellent Captain America story. It reminds me of Waid and Garney’s “Sanctuary,” in Captain America vol. 1 #454, because it’s a very simple story and yet it perfectly captures the essence of Cap. The plot is that Cap has to rescue some concentration camp escapees, including a man who’s been sentenced to death for being gay. He escorts them to safety, with their assistance, and just when things look hopeless, he comes up with one last trick to save them.

THE UNWRITTEN #18 (DC, 2010) – “Mix,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. I have a lot of unread issues of this series. This issue focuses on a meeting of the people who secretly control the world through writing, including the terrifying bald bearded dude. It was a difficult comic to understand, but it made a lot more sense when I read the Rudyard Kipling issue, reviewed below.

CATWOMAN #36 (DC, 2004) – “War Games: Act 3 Part 7 – Multiple Fronts,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Paul Gulacy. This is barely even a Catwoman comic. It’s part of a giant crossover, and Catwoman appears on less than half the pages. This issue makes no sense out of context of the larger crossover, and it’s a good argument against crossover stories like War Games.

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #30 (DC, 1996) – “Shells: Rites of Passage Part 4,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross & Peter Snejbjerg. Leah, disguised as Molly, tries to seduce Tim and fails, while the actual Molly has a tense encounter with Titania. This was an okay issue. The scene where Tim almost loses his virginity, until he realizes it’s not Molly, is an interesting insight into his character.

SLEEPER #3 (Wildstorm, 2003) – “Secrets and Lies,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Sleeper may be the worst Brubaker-Phillips collaboration. It’s confusing, it’s too heavily tied to Wildstorm Universe continuity, and Sean Phillips hadn’t yet developed his current style. In this issue he uses some weird panel structures in which multiple inset panels are arranged on top of a single background panel. As for this issue’s plot, I don’t understand it at all.

LUCIFER #3 (DC, 2000) – “A Six-Card Spread,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Chris Weston. Lucifer and Mazikeen visit a cabaret in Berlin, where the star attraction is possessed by some magical tarot cards, or something. Chris Weston’s art in this issue is very good, but I’ve never really gotten into Lucifer. This is only the second issue of this Lucifer series that I’ve read since 2013.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #514 (Gladstone, 1987) – untitled, [W/A] Daan Jippes & Freddy Milton, plus other stories. I usually don’t like European Disney comics, but the ten-pager in this issue is surprisingly good. Donald tries to get the nephews to clean up their room, and through a series of mishaps, he gets stuck with a giant pile of garbage. Jippes and Milton do a good job of imitating Barks’s style. This issue also includes a Mickey Mouse story by Fallberg and Murry, and a Gyro Gearloose four-pager by Barks. This latter story is rather puzzling. Gyro tries to build a hydroelectric plant in a poor, unelectrified Southeast Asian country, but the plant ends up consuming more energy than it produces. “And so, Farbakishan stays un-uplifted – its people toiling like beasts of burden, and its beasts of burden still untoiling!” This story seems like it’s making fun of the people of Farbakishan. But another possible reading is that Gyro’s modernization project fails because he’s an outside interloper with no knowledge of actual life in Farbakishan.

HIT-GIRL #8 (Image, 2018) – “Canada, Part 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Eduardo Risso. I bought this comic because of the creative team. In this story Hit-Girl visits northern Ontario and kills a bunch of people, I forget why. Risso’s art in this issue is pretty good, though also a bit lazy, without the level of detail I expect from him. The highlight of this issue is the ending, where Hit-Girl lies down in the snow and makes a snow angel, reminding the reader that she’s still a little girl. And then the last page shows the corpse of a man who Hit-Girl hit in the head with an axe.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #64 (DC, 1966) – “Batman Versus Eclipso,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Win Mortimer. Bruce Wayne falls in love with Marcia Monroe, actually the Queen Bee, who tricks him into helping her steal a diamond. Bruce has to team up with Bruce Gordon to defeat Marcia and her mob. Inconveniently, Bruce Gordon is also Eclipso. This was a reasonably fun issue. On page four there’s a very disturbing panel where Bruce spanks Marcia. It’s hard to imagine why anyone thought this panel was a good idea. There are a couple weird coincidences in this issue. First, a better-known villain also named the Queen Bee had already been introduced three years earlier. Perhaps this is why Marcia Monroe never appeared again. Second, the symbol of Marcia’s gang is a giant green eyeball that looks exactly like the Emerald Eye, which made its first appearance in 1967.

INVINCIBLE #115 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley. Thragg and Battle Beast beat the crap out of each other, but we don’t see who wins. Also, we learn that Thragg has been fathering an army of children with the insect people. Like most late issues of Invincible, this issue was disgusting and excessively violent.

HEART THROB SEASON TWO #3 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Robert Wilson IV. The main focus of this issue is Callie’s psychology. She’s increasingly depressed over her terminal illness, and it’s making her do weird things, like steal a safe from a bank and then drop it off a pier without looking at it. This was a well-written issue, but I couldn’t remember anything about it until I looked through it just now.

SOUTHERN KNIGHTS #3 (The Guild, 1983) “Paradise: Lost!”, [W] Henry Vogel, Audrey Vogel & David Willis, [A] Michael Morrison. My colleague Brannon Costello is writing a book chapter about this series, but I found very little of any interest in this issue. It feels like just a ripoff of John Byrne’s X-Men. Also, this comic takes place in the South but doesn’t depict any black people. I think I recall Brandon mentioning this point on social media. Perhaps the most notable thing about this comic is that it includes ads for Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find and for the 1984 Heroes Con.

GRAYSON #11 (DC, 2015) – “Nemesis, Part 3,” [W] Tom King & Tim Seeley, [A] Mikel Janin. Dick fights some villain who looks just like him. At its best, this series is a fun, sexy romp with excellent artwork, but this issue was a bit too serious, and I didn’t understand the plot.

HIT-GIRL #6 (Image, 2018) – “Canada, Part 2 of 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Eduardo Risso. Similar to issue 8, but not as good. The highlight is the scene where Hit-Girl dreams about making a snowman.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #26 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark Resilient Part 2: Visionary Men,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. A typical issue of Matt Fraction’s Iron Man, in which lots of corporate intrigue happens, and Tony acts weird. I can’t remember much about this issue specifically. Salvador Larroca is a very underrated artist, one of a number of Spanish artists who have had successful but obscure careers in American comics – Mikel Janin is another such artist.

CODA #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. The protagonist engages in more low-down dirty tricks to get the potion to cure Serka, but he only succeeds in getting the recipe for the potion. At the end of the issue, a creepy-looking drooling dude with a sword shows up instead when he expects Serka. This series is getting a little tiresome and confusing, kind of like Godshaper did. Maybe Simon Spurrier’s problem is that his characters are hard to sympathize with, and maybe that’s why Angelic was his best work so far. But Coda is still very well-executed, especially the art. Matías Bergara is the only Uruguayan cartoonist I know of, unless Alberto Breccia counts.

INCOGNITO #5 (Icon, 2011) – “Bad Influences,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This comic is much better drawn than Sleeper, but like that series, it’s a grim film-noir-influenced superhero deconstruction, and I think this genre is a bit overdone. Also, this issue is hard to understand because it’s the conclusion to a storyline. Brubaker redeems this series somewhat in the author’s note, which explains that his intent was to mash up the superhero and crime comic genres, since they both evolved from pulp fiction.

ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #1 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Bishop’s Man Part One,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Ramón Pérez. Jeff Lemire’s Hawkeye was one of his few unsuccessful series. This comic is essentially an imitation of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye, without the originality or the heart. It feels like just an attempt to cash in. Ramón Pérez does his best to imitate David Aja’s style of storytelling, but he draws faces very differently from Aja, so his art has an uncanny, incongruous feel.

New comics received on September 29:

FENCE #10 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. We meet some of the boys’ relatives, and then Seiji and Nicholas finally fight. Seiji wins easily, but Nicholas scores one touch, which feels like just as much of a victory as if he had won the match. Just a couple issues left.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE 1373 AD (Image, 2018) – “We All Fall Down,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Ryan Kelly. At the height of the Black Plague, the only surviving god is Lucifer. This issue demonstrates the cognitive dissonance caused when a faith-based society is ravaged by a horrible catastrophe. Other than that, it seems mostly intended to offer further hints about Ananke and Minerva’s relationship.

MAN-EATERS #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. I was looking forward to this series, and this is a fun issue, with lots of excellent gags. Also this series is about cats, which is a further plus. However, this comic has several fundamental problems. First, the premise is that women turn into man-eating cats when they menstruate. The trouble, as many people have pointed out, is that this premise implicitly defines women as people who menstruate, and that’s transphobic. As far as I know, Chelsea Cain has not publicly responded to this critique, though I haven’t been on Twitter much lately. Second, this comic is vulnerable to accusations of “white feminism” in the pejorative sense, in that it depicts women as a single, homogeneous group, ignoring differences between them. If the premise of this comic actually came true, black and Latina women would probably be oppressed much worse than white women. Overall, while I still plan to continue reading this comic, I’m a lot less excited by it than I was at first.

HEROES IN CRISIS #1 (DC, 2018) – “I’m Just Warming Up,” [W] Tom King, [A] Clay Mann. The worst comic of 2018. This issue is just a litany of bloody scenes of violence between superheroes and villains, together with monologues where the characters talk about their mental problems. Tom King writes this comic in the same style of dialogue as The Vision or Mister Miracle, but unlike in those series, he shows no affection for his characters. The Vision and Mister Miracle had some very grim content, but the darkness never became dominant or oppressive, the way it does in this issue. The dark moments were always relieved by cuter, happier moments. This comic just feels grim for grimness’s sake. Also, while I obviously think mental illness is an important issue, Tom King’s treatment of this issue feels trivializing. It’s not appropriate to tackle the topics of trauma and PTSD in a comic that‘s primarily about costumed people beating each other up. Just like Alpha Flight #106, Heroes in Crisis addresses a very serious real-world topic while staying within the conventions of the superhero genre, and that proves to be impossible, because that topic is incompatible with those generic conventions. It is possible to write superhero comics about mental illness, but only if they’re quite different from standard Marvel and DC comics. Finally, in this issue Tom King kills off a lot of beloved characters, including Wally West, for no good reason. I don’t care that much, because the New 52 version of Wally West is not the character I grew up with, but still, it feels wrong to kill him off in such a casual way. Anyway, I certainly won’t be ordering any further issues of Heroes in Crisis.

MODERN FANTASY #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Kristen Gudsnuk. A satisfying conclusion to the series. The heroes defeat the demon, obviously, and Sage gets a new job, only to discover that it pays less. I wish this series had been longer than four issues.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #35 (Marvel, 2018) – “Save Our School Part 5: What’s the Big Idea?”, [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella and Devil fight the Wrecking Crew, and Devil turns back into a dinosaur, but Lunella can’t figure out how to stop them from switching bodies. This was an okay issue.

LONG CON #3 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] E.A. Denich. I don’t know if this series has lived up to its initial promise, but this issue isn’t bad. It turns out that since the apocalypse, Skylarks fans have turned into an oppressive gatekeeping army. This plot development has some parallels to stuff that’s happening in contemporary fandom. There’s a page in this issue that’s narrated with emojis, and later there’s a “WILHELM SCREAM” sound effect.

MY LITTLE PONY: PONYVILLE MYSTERIES #5 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. Songbird Serenade’s prized statue, the Abyssinia Albatross, is stolen. The statue’s name is an obvious reference of the Maltese Falcon, but the comic only has casual similarities to that movie. This was a pretty good issue, but I’m glad that this series is ending, because I expect Nightmare Knights will be better.

THE TERRIFICS #8 (DC, 2018) – “Tom Strong and the Terrifics, Part Two,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dale Eaglesham. In a classic Justice League plot twist, the Terrifics get separated and thrust into different alternative realities. These include Warren Strong’s world, as well as the Aztech empire from an early issue of Tom Strong. This issue is a nice throwback to the original Tom Strong series, although I don’t remember the Aztechs being as evil as they’re depicted here.

FAITH DREAMSIDE #1 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] M.J. Kim. After the events of the previous Faith series, Faith is considered a public enemy. This issue, she has to fight a villain without getting arrested herself. This is a pretty good issue, and it’s nice to see Faith again.

HIGH HEAVEN #1 (Ahoy, 2018) – “High Heaven Chapter One,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. There are all kinds of fictional stories about hell, but very few about heaven – perhaps because it’s hard to write stories about a realm of eternal bliss where nothing bad ever happens. High Heaven addresses this general neglect of heaven, by telling a story in which a newly dead person discovers that heaven is boring and sterile (literally so; he has nothing between his legs). So the story is about how he escapes heaven. High Heaven #1 may be the best comic of the week. I had modest expectations for Ahoy Comics, but both their debut issues so far have been very good. However, the Grant Morrison text story at the end of this issue is a waste of space.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Benjamin Dewey. The dogs meet an old dude who can talk to them, and who has a diploma from Blackwood College. That’s a nice piece of cross-title continuity. Then the dogs fight some horrifying raccoons with human faces. This is a pretty good series, but I like Jill Thompson’s art better than Benjamin Dewey’s, and I wish this series had more cats.

WONDER WOMAN #55 (DC, 2018) – “The Enemy of Both Sides, Finale,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Raúl Allen. This issue has a strong story and excellent artwork. Raúl Allen is yet another in a long line of underrated but talented Spanish artists. Steve Orlando’s version of Wonder Woman is clearly based on Marston’s original version. At one point Orlando has Diana say “Loving submission can be intimidating… so can the truth. They both make us stronger.”

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #308 (Marvel, 2018) – “Cracked Hourglass – Part One,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Chris Bachalo. The Sandman is dying of an inability to maintain his cohesion. Peter escorts him to the beach where his origin happened, so he can die in peace. But the Sandman is also being pursued by his future self. This was a pretty sad issue.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #309 (Marvel, 2018) – “Cracked Hourglass, Part Two,” as above. Sandman’s future self takes over his body. Peter and Johnny Storm team up to defeat him. I believe that’s the end of Chip Zdarsky’s PPSSM run. It was generally a pretty good run, though sometimes a bit underwhelming.

DOOM PATROL #23 (DC, 1989) – “The Butterfly Collector,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case. This issue is mostly setup for future storylines. Joshua Clay meets Dorothy Spinner. Rebis comforts Eleanor Poole’s fiancé Dan (Eleanor Poole is Rebis’s female component). And Cliff and Jane discover that the new villain, Red Jack, is Jack the Ripper. Doom Patrol was Grant Morrison’s greatest work, besides Animal Man, because it combined bizarre high-concept ideas with the type of deep characterization that this issue demonstrates.

TRILLIUM #6 (Vertigo, 2014) – “Escape Velocity,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Another issue that has both right-side-up and upside-down sections. It ends with some pages in which right-side-up and upside-down panels alternate. At this point I think I’ve read all but one issue of Trillium, but although I love its artwork and its bizarre formalist gimmicks, I can’t make head or tail of its plot. I need to read the entire series at one sitting.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #10 (Marvel, 2016) – “Scorpio Rising, Part 2: Power Play,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Giuseppe Camuncoli is from Italy, a country which has produced fewer Marvel and DC artists than Spain, perhaps because Italy’s domestic comics industry is more vibrant than Spain’s. This issue, Spidey battles a member of Zodiac on top of a train. He’s assisted by Anna Maria and the Living Brain, which is a pretty funny character.

THE UNWRITTEN #5 (DC, 2009) – “How the Whale Became,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. This is probably the best Unwritten comic I’ve read, and it was deservedly nominated for an Eisner. This issue tells the life story of Rudyard Kipling, with the added twist that his rise to fame was engineered by a cabal of shadowy figures who control the world through stories. Kipling willingly works for them – unlike Mark Twain, who turns them down – and watches as they ruin Oscar Wilde’s life. When Kipling tries to defy his masters, they murder his child, and when he asks them to save his son from being killed in World War I, they refuse to help. Mike Carey must have done a lot of research on Kipling’s life and work, and his story ties together Kipling’s biography, his influence on the British empire, and the fictional conceits of The Unwritten. This issue is a rare moment where The Unwritten approaches the same level of quality as The Sandman.

ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #3 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. The villains succeed in mind-controlling all the adults in town, but have no success with the kids, until the Joker tempts Jughead with burgers in exchange for telling him how to control the kids too. This issue was fun, but no different from the previous two.

SUPERB #13 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “No Time for Tears,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. This issue begins with a public service ad showing how dangerous enhanced people are. Then the researchers force the kids to beat each other up for no reason. Meanwhile, the rescue effort continues. This series is becoming very reminiscent of X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills. I almost wish it was an actual X-Men comic, because it depicts the psychological toll of anti-mutant (or anti-enhanced) prejudice better than most X-Men comics do.

ITTY BITTY HELLBOY #4 (Dark Horse, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco. See previous reviews of this series.

THE UNEXPECTED #4 (DC, 2018) – “Call of the Unknown, Part 4: Answers in the Sky,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Yvel Guichet & Cary Nord. I didn’t understand a single panel of this comic. It consists of a bunch of fight scenes between characters whose names I can’t remember, for reasons I don’t understand. I ordered this comic because it was written by Steve Orlando, but I should have saved my money.

OWLY AND FRIENDS FCBD 2008 (Top Shelf, 2008) – Owly “Picnic Today,” [W/A] Andy Runton, plus other stories. Four stories aimed at little kids. The other three are by Christian Slade, James Kochalka, and Corey Barba. The Owly story is by far the best; it reveals Andy’s mastery of wordless storytelling. Corey Barba’s “Yam” is a pleasant surprise. It’s drawn in a cartoony yet detailed style that’s hard to compare to anything, and it’s very cute. Barba published one graphic novel, which this story is a preview of, but he unfortunately seems to have abandoned comics after that.

THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] M.J. Erickson. This issue, the vampire paralyzes the Doyles and their clients, but they succeed in defeating him. Also, it turns out the reporter who was following the Doyles is a ghost. This series is funny, but I have trouble remembering its plot.

WORLD WITHOUT END #2 (DC, 1990) – untitled, [W] Jamie Delano, [A] John Higgins. I bought this comic because I saw it advertised in Sandman #21, as noted in my review of that comic. World Without End was created by two former 2000 AD creators, and is very stylistically similar to a 2000 AD series. It takes place in a bizarre alien world with multiple races, and focuses on a character called Brother Bones who preaches masculiniy and seeks to destroy women. The challenge of reading this comic is that Brother Bones’s dialogue is full of weird typographical symbols, so you have to pronounce his word balloons in order to understand what he’s saying. (See http://sequart.org/magazine/66424/on-the-origin-of-the-sexes-war-jamie-delano-and-john-higgins’-world-without-end/world-without-end-brother-bones/ for an example.) Although this comic is somewhat difficult to read, it’s fascinating, and I want to read the other five issues.

TALES OF EVIL #3 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “Man-Monster!”, [W] Gary Friedrich & Tony Isabella, [W/A] Rich Buckler. This issue’s first story introduces a new character who’s a second-rate Hulk ripoff. It ends with the words “To be continued in the first exciting issue of Man-Monster,” but that issue was never published. The second story stars the Bog Beast, who was introduced last issue, and is much more interesting. The artist is only credited as “Romero” but is presumably Enrique Badía Romero, best known for Modesty Blaise. On this story he uses the scratchboard style that was common among Spanish artists at the time. His art is visually fascinating, although the story, by Gabriel Levy, is pointless.

I read the next ten comics on the night of October 4, when I had to get up in the morning to fly to Detroit for a funeral. I was too exhausted, saddened and worried to do anything serious, so I thought I might as well read some comics.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #70 (Marvel, 1981) – “Coconut Snow,” [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. Danny and Luke team up with El Supremo, a Latin American strongman, to investigate illegal drug smuggling. In a development that comes as no surprise to the reader, it turns out El Supremo wants to take over the drug trade himself. Meanwhile, Colleen Wing has to take care of her father, who’s lost his memory of her. The issue ends with a touching moment when Colleen’s dad finally remembers who his daughter is.

STARSLAYER #6 (First, 1983) – “The Log of the Jolly Roger” part six, [W/A] Mike Grell. Mike’s last issue of Starslayer includes some good action sequences, but some very sloppily drawn spaceships and alien cities, and the plot is kind of trite. After this issue, Mike left Starslayer and moved on to Jon Sable, which was much better suited to his talents. Starslayer was much less important for the actual Starslayer stories than for its backup stories, which introduced Rocketeer, Groo and Grimjack. However, the backup story in this issue, about a cannibalistic butcher, is terrible.

CHEYENNE KID #97 (Charlton, 1973) – “The Killer’s Lair,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Sanho Kim. The stories in this issue are all awful, and they feature multiple different Indian tribes that all somehow look exactly alike. At least this issue includes two stories drawn by Sanho Kim, the first East Asian cartoonist to make an impact on American comics. His art in this issue is rather crude, but very different from anything else in American comics at the time.

TOM STRONG AND THE PLANET OF PERIL #1 (DC, 2013) – “The Girl in the Bubble,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Chris Sprouse. In an echo of Fantastic Four Annual #1, Tesla is in danger of dying from her pregnancy by Val Var Garm. To save Tesla and the baby, Tom and Val have to return to Terra Obscura. There’s a metatextual joke about how Tom was able to read about Terra Obscura in comic books, but those comics aren’t being published anymore. I bought this comic back in 2013 even though I was boycotting DC at the time, but I never got around to reading it. It’s a competent Tom Strong story, but it lacks the creativity and cleverness of the Alan Moore issues.

AVENGERS #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Planet of Pathogens,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ed McGuinness. Another issue that’s all flash and no substance. It’s full of epic cosmic drama, but lacks any characterization, which is the heart of every good Avengers comic. Also, while the events in this comic are supposed to be epic and earth-shattering, Jason fails to create the sense that they actually matter. The reader knows the Celestials aren’t really going to destroy the world. This is the last issue of this series that I’ll be getting.

THE SENTRY #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sentry World Part 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Kim Jacinto. This is probably Jeff Lemire’s worst current comic, but it’s still good. Most of this issue is a fight scene involving Bob, Billy, and Iron Man. Billy is quite similar to Kid Miracleman in that he’s a former kid sidekick who’s grown more powerful than his old boss. At the end of the issue, Bob finally accepts his evil side and turns into a new character who’s both the Sentry and the Void.

WORLDS’ FINEST #4 (DC, 2012) – “Rebirth Conclusion,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] George Pérez & Kevin Maguire. When Paul Levitz returned to writing comics, I was excited at first, but it soon became clear that his writing style had been stagnant since the ‘80s. Paul’s Huntress and Power Girl stories were groundbreaking in the ‘70s, but back then, the standards for female representation in superhero comics were very low. When Paul wrote superhero comics with capable, confident female protagonists, that in itself was groundbreaking. But the aforementioned standards have evolved since then, while Paul’s writing has not. As a result, Worlds’ Finest #4 is a boring comic. Its redeeming quality is George Pérez’s artwork, but George only drew half the issue.

TOM STRONG AND THE ROBOTS OF DOOM #1 (America’s Best Comics, 2010) – “Black Sun Rising,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Chris Sprouse. Just before Tesla’s wedding to Val Var Garm, Ingrid Weiss changes the past so that the world is ruled by Nazis. Like Planet of Peril #1, this comic is competent but unexciting.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #5 (DC, 2009) – “The Stars We Are,” [W] Tony Bedard, [A] Claude St. Aubin. This was the only Tony Bedard comic I liked. It was a successful sequel to the old L.E.G.I.O.N. title. This issue, Vril Dox fights a bunch of enemies at once, including a warrior woman possessed by Starro, a Durlan disguised as a little girl, and the Dominators.

MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA #6 (Marvel, 2010) – “Closing the Book,” [W] Kurt Busiek & Roger Stern, [A] Jay Anacleto. Maggie explains what happened to her after Marvels #2: she went to live with uncontacted people in Papua New Guinea, who thought that all Americans looked like her. That’s kind of clever. We also learn that Maggie is grateful for Phil’s influence and sees him as a role model. Just as Phil’s wife and daughters are celebrating their reunion with Maggie, Phil passes away, and the series ends with his funeral. This issue is a powerful conclusion to the Marvels series. It gives the reader the sense that though Phil is gone, his legacy outlives him. It was a good comic to read when I was about to attend a funeral myself.

JOURNEY #3 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Woodschildren,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. Wolverine MacAlistaire is trapped in a storm with some other travelers. To pass the time, he tells a story about when some Huron people hired him to rescue a girl from some sasquatches. The story ends as MacAlistaire and a Huron warrior are out of bullets and surrounded by sasquatches. When MacAlistaire’s listeners ask him what happened next, he says “They kilt us,” and we realize the whole issue is a tall tale. Jim Bridger, the real-life mountain man, supposedly told a similar story with the same punchline. An unexpected moment in this issue is when one of the listeners asks MacAlistaire why the Huron hired him to find the girl, rather than doing it themselves. MacAlistaire replies that “the Huron are farmers and fishers mostly. They’re civilized… I ain’t.” This reverses the usual presumption that white people are civilized and natives are savages.

BATGIRL #27 (DC, 2018) – “Art of the Crime, Part Two: Found Objects,” [W] Maighread Scott, [A] Paul Pelletier. This is better than issue 26, because it shows some interesting insights into Batgirl’s disability. But it’s not good enough to make me change my mind about dropping this series.

VAMPIRELLA #9 (Dynamite, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Creees Lee, Paulo Barrios & Andy Belanger. (Not sure which of these were pencilers and which were inkers.) This issue takes place in a postapocalyptic world where no one can die. Vampi fights some punks, sleeps with a woman named Vicki, and then encounters her old acquaintance Pantha. Jeremy is mostly associated with kids’ comics, but he also turns out to be quite good at writing a sexy, violent vampire comic.

My next comics shipment was significantly delayed because DCBS was moving their warehouse. It finally arrived on October 10:

PAPER GIRLS #25 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. Tiffany and Mac kiss. The older Tiffany blows herself up to save the girls. Then Erin’s evil clone shows up and activates a device that sends all the girls to different timelines. This was my favorite Paper Girls in months. I finally feel like I get what’s going on in this series, and this issue engages with a difficult question: does the existence of time travel mean that fate is predetermined?

RAINBOW BRITE #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brittney Williams. This issue stars two little girls, Wisp and Willow. Wisp is chased by some monsters that are stealing the color blue. A creature called Twinkle saves Wisp by teleporting her into Rainbow Land, which has been drained of all its color. I’m guessing that Willow will follow Wisp there, and that they’ll somehow combine to become Rainbow Brite. Having two little sisters, I watched Rainbow Brite a lot as a kid. So I was excited about this revival, and it lived up to my expectations. This issue is cute but also entertaining. Brittney’s art is, if anything, even better than in Goldie Vance and Hellcat. And Willow is a good example of a black kid protagonist.

BLACKBIRD #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Jen Bartel. At age thirteen, this series’ protagonist, Nina, had a vision where she learned that magic is real. Now, as a nominal adult, Nina is an underemployed drug addict who sponges off her sister Marisa. But it turns out that magic still is real, because a magical chimera shows up and abducts Nina’s sister. I had no idea what to expect from this series, but I like it. Nina is a fascinating protagonist because she’s totally unsympathetic. Thanks to r/relationships I’ve read about lots of people like her: people who have no plans in life, and who expect their siblings or parents or significant others to support them forever. Besides Jen Bartel’s creative depictions of magic, the highlight of this issue is the scene where Marisa fills out a college application for Nina, and all Nina has to do is go buy a stamp, and she can’t even do that. I’m curious to see what happens to this character next.

SPARROWHAWK #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Delilah S. Dawson, [A] Matias Basla. I loved Ladycastle, which sadly ended after four issues, so I’m glad to see another comic by Delilah Dawson. Sparrowhawk starts out as a Cinderella story, with the added twist that the Cinderella character is a multiracial love child, so her stepmother’s hatred of her has racist implications. The comic takes an even grimmer turn when the protagonist is sucked into the faerie world, and learns that she has to kill other creatures to gain enough power to escape. This is clearly going to be a much darker series than Ladycastle, aimed at an older audience. Matias Basla is very good at drawing faeries and bizarre otherworldly landscapes. I think he’s from Argentina, but I can’t find much information about him. Sparrowhawk seems to be his first major work.

GIANT DAYS #43 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Daisy gets a job at a Christmas-themed amusement park, and recruits other people to work there too. But it turns out the park is a cult, and none of the workers are getting paid. Also, one of the people Daisy recruited is an undercover journalist. This issue is funny, but also disturbingly plausible, especially the scene where Ed earns negative wages because he has to pay for “costume hire, outsourced training and payment in arrears.” This is an example of debt peonage, which is a real and very bad thing.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #3 (DC, 2018) – “Action Detectives, Part Three,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. This artist is from Mexico, like Humberto Ramos and Bachan This issue, Superboy-Red and Superboy-Blue manage to overcome their mutual hatred long enough to stop the villains’ spaceship from crashing. Meanwhile, Kid Joker is lost in space but is rescued by Space Cabbie, a character I definitely did not expect to ever see again. This was a really fun comic. The two Superboys’ bickering is hilarious.

BORDER TOWN #2 (DC, 2018) – “Máscaras,” [W] Eric Esquivel, [A] Ramon Villalobos. I enjoyed issue 1 of this series, but I was concerned about the convoluted plot and the overwritten dialogue. This issue, the plot is maybe still too complicated, but the overwriting is less noticeable, though some word balloons still have at least a sentence too many. What makes this comic really valuable is the kid protagonists, who embody the class and racial divisions in American society. A nice moment is when Frank asks if people are going to care about Julietta’s immigration status when she says she’s contacted an alien species, and she replies “To them, we already are an alien species.”

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #71 (IDW, 2018) – “Do You Believe in Magic,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. On Nightmare Night, the Mane Six arrange a scary friendship exercise for the Young Six, but it goes badly wrong. The Young Six end up in a castle filled with fake traps and wild animals “as well as hundreds of lit candles and flammable silk draperies.” Besides having an exciting and hilarious plot, this issue is one of Andy Price’s best-drawn comics ever. In addition to the usual sight gags, it includes marginal gags that resemble Sergio Aragonés’s Mad Marginals. In reading this comic, I had the thought that Andy Price is to ponies as Don Rosa is to ducks, and I’m not sure that’s not an accurate comparison.

LONE RANGER #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – “The Devil’s Rope,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Bob Q. This starts out as a pretty standard Western story, but it soon turns out to have a political subtext, like all of Mark Russell’s work. Near the end of this issue, the villain outlines his plan for America. He wants to organize the country like a cotton plantation, where women stick to their housework, black and brown people do all the work, “poor whites have their guns, and a few old rich men rule it all from the porch.” This is a pretty accurate description of the Republican party’s vision for America.

KIM REAPER: VAMPIRE ISLAND #2 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Another fun issue. Kim’s vampire friend Charlie defeats the other vampires by ordering a hundred garlic pizzas. But as a result, Charlie suffers garlic poisoning themself, and needs blood to survive. Also, we learn that Kim became a grim reaper at the same time Charlie became a vampire.

JOOK JOINT #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tee Franklin, [A] Alitha Martinez. Jook Joint is the first comic I’ve read that starts with a trigger warning, and with good reason. It’s about a witch named Mahalia who runs a magic shop, but also has an underwater dungeon where she tortures abusive men. This comic is very grim and bloody, especially compared to Bingo Love. But it makes a powerful statement about domestic violence, and it shows that spousal abuse is a problem that cuts across racial lines. However, I felt kind of bad about reading this comic because in July, it became publicly known that Tee Franklin has a record of rude and unprofessional behavior toward her collaborators. I’m still willing to support her work, but I’m disappointed in her.

THESE SAVAGE SHORES #1 (Vault, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Sumit Kumar. This comic’s premise is completely unique: it’s a sexy vampire story that takes place in eighteenth-century south India. The apparent protagonist is a French vampire who flees to India to escape vampire hunters in Europe. He gets involved in colonial intrigues between France and India, but at the end of the issue he gets killed, so I guess the real protagonists are the native temple dancer and her lover. This comic’s creators do a great job of evoking a place and a historical period that are unfamiliar to Western readers, and they also effectively juxtapose European and native perspectives on South India. This comic also appears to be historically accurate. The Zamorin of Calicut, who appears in the comic, was a real person, and his father really did kill himself to avoid surrendering to Haider Ali of Mysore. (N.B. Calicut, or Kozhikode, is a completely different city from Calcutta, or Kolkata.) Overall, this is a fascinating comic. I forgot to order issue 2, but I look forward to issues 3 and up.

HOUSE AMOK #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Dream of the Machines,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Shawn McManus. This issue is mostly a flashback, detailing how Dylan and Ollie’s parents gradually went nuts, and how their mother accidentally killed a man and covered it up. At the end of the issue, Dylan’s parents demand that she kill a man too. This comic is getting really disturbing and fascinating. It’s an effective depiction of parents who are paranoid conspiracy theorists, and children who grow up not realizing their parents aren’t normal.

EUTHANAUTS #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Liftoff,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Nick Robles. As previously noted, this comic is confusing and difficult. It’s hard to keep track of who the characters even are. But I really like the artwork and dialogue. This issue, we learn that the old dying lady from #1 had a husband who killed himself for purposes of researching the afterlife. Then the issue ends with the protagonist about to die.

TRUE BELIEVERS: MARVEL KNIGHTS 20TH ANNIVERSARY – DAREDEVIL BY LEE & EVERETT #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Origin of Daredevil,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Bill Everett. A reprint of Daredevil #1, which I had not read before. Most of the details of Daredevil’s origin are familiar from many later retellings, but Matt Murdock’s first appearance is still a powerful story, allowing for its outdated nature. It reminds me of Kirby’s “Street Code” in its emphasis on the brutality of Matt’s Manhattan childhood. Bill Everett’s artwork is only average, not nearly at the level of his ‘70s Sub-Mariner comics.

ARCHIE #699 (Archie, 2018) – “So It’s Come to This: An Archie Clip Show,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] various. That’s not the actual title, but it should have been. This issue is a comics equivalent of a clip show: it consists entirely of reused art from earlier Archie comics, and the story is just a recap of all the events of the current Archie series. There’s also a three-page preview of Nick Spencer’s Archie #700, which I don’t intend to read. Archie #699 only costs a dollar, but even then it’s overpriced, since it has no value for people who have already read the comics it summarizes. It should have been given away for free.

MORNING GLORIES #25 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. I was motivated to read this after reading the Nick Spencer backup story in Archie #699. I quit reading Morning Glories because the story was confusing and never went anywhere. It turns out I was right to give up on Morning Glories, because its story never did get finished; the series went on hiatus after isue 50, and Spencer is so busy he’ll probably never have time for it again. Issue 25 is an example of the problems that led me to give up on the series. Without having read the immediately preceding issues, I was unable to understand this issue, and it felt totally incoherent at times. The narrative would shift between characters or even between time periods with no warning.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #75 (Marvel, 1991) – “Weapon X, Chapter 3,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith, plus three other stories. I probably read this comic as a little kid, because a lot of it was vaguely familiar to me. Obviously the reason this comic is worth owning is because of the Weapon X chapter. BWS’s draftsmanship on Weapon X is spectacular, and his visual storytelling is almost equually good. However, BWS’s story is kind of flimsy and not as good as his art. This issue also includes a Shanna story by Gerard Jones (whose work I will never be able to read again without shuddering) and Paul Gulacy, a Dr. Doom story by Dave Cockrum, and a Meggan/Shadowcat teamup by two people I’ve never heard of. The Meggan/Shadowcat story is notable for its sheer awfulness. Kitty meets a new character, a Russian spy, and instantly falls in love with him, but he gets killed. All this happens in eight pages, and Kitty’s dead love is never mentioned again.

THE NAZZ #1 (DC, 1990) – “Michael’s Book,” [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Bryan Talbot. The protagonist of this comic is a very familiar character type: a privileged young man who’s absolutely convinced he’s the smartest person ever. There is a Twitter thread (https://twitter.com/mc_heckin_duff/status/894810972019359744?lang=en) about how men like this are a dime a dozen, even though they all think they’re special and unique. However, the man in this series actually is sort of unique, because he goes to India, acquires superhuman powers, and comes back to New York, where he becomes a brutal vigilante. (Also his name is Michael Nazareth, which may be a reference to Mike Nasser/Netzer.) Despite The Nazz’s boring personality, what makes this comic exciting is the synergy between the writing and the art. I haven’t read any of Tom Veitch’s major work, but I’ve heard that his underground comics are notable for their brutal violence. The Nazz is an extremely violent story, and Bryan Talbot powerfully depicts the brutality of Tom Veitch’s script.

SUPERBOY #167 (DC, 1970) – “The Day Superbaby Blew Up the World!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Bob Brown. Superbaby stories tend to be awful, and this one is not really an exception to that. Frank Robbins makes Superbaby act somewhat more realistically than he usually does, but his plot is ridiculous. This issue also includes a backup story by the same creators, about circus workers who commit crimes using a robot elephant.

MORNING GLORIES #18 (Image, 2012) – as above. This issue is notable for a scene in which Guillaume and Hisao/Jun have sex. I say Hisao/Jun because I can never keep track of which of these characters is which. Otherwise, this comic’s plot is impossible to follow. What did surprise me is that as I read this issue, I felt nostalgic for the characters in this series. Nick Spencer has crippling flaws as a writer (e.g. confusing plotting and hostility towards fans), but he did create some interesting characters.

MORNING GLORIES #24 (Image, 2013) – as above. Perhaps Spencer’s most fascinating character is Hunter, the most loathsome, sociopathic teenage boy ever. This issue mostly focuses on Hunter’s toxic relationship with his father, Abraham. Some other dude tries to force Hunter to kill Abraham, but instead Hunter threatens to kill Jade unless Abraham reveals some kind of secret, I’m not sure what. This issue is still confusing, but at least it helps me understand issue 25.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: HOTEL OBLIVION #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Evil,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. This comic is worth reading because of Gabriel Bá’s brilliant art, but its story makes no sense at all. The writer assumes the reader has read all the previous Umbrella Academy comics, and provides no explanations for new readers. Not only do I not understand the plot, I don’t even understand what this comic’s premise is.

SCARY GODMOTHER #4 (Sirius, 2001) – “Ghouls Out for Summer, Part 4,” [W] Jill Thompson. At summer camp, Orson kidnaps Hannah so a vampire lord can drink her blood. Meanwhile, the Scary Godmother has been replaced by a faerie impostor. Scary Godmother’s hyperdetailed art makes it a very slow read, but it’s an amazing comic. It has just the right amount of creepiness to keep it from becoming annoyingly cute. (I wrote a paper once about this cute/scary affect, but it was never published.) Scary Godmother may have been the best all-ages comic of its time, and it should be more widely known.

THE WAKE #2 (Vertigo, 2013) – “The Descent,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. In this issue, as in #1, Sean Murphy’s depictions of monsters, technology and landscapes are amazing. His artwork would not be out of place in a European comic. The major weakness in his art is that his faces are generic-looking and inexpressive. The Wake’s plot is not nearly as interesting as its art; I feel like Scott Snyder’s writing lacks substance.

THE WALKING DEAD #181 (Image, 2018) – “Together Strong,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. This seems like a reasonably good comic book, but I’m so far behind on this series that I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in this issue. The cover is a close-up shot of Glenn, with no logo, but Glenn doesn’t appear in the issue.

GREEN ARROW #37 (DC, 1990) – “The Black Arrow Saga, Part 3: Quarry,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Rick Hoberg. Dinah has a heart-to-heart talk with Shado, while Ollie looks for Eddie Fyers, who seems to have been visually based on Archie Goodwin. Dinah and Shado’s conversation reminds us that Shado literally raped Ollie, and got away with it. Shado is an example of the “Ursula X.X. Imada” trope, where a female villain rapes a male hero in order to impregnate herself with his baby. This comes up not only here and in Nexus, but also in Tom Strong, twice, and James Robinson’s Starman. It is a sexist trope on multiple levels. On one hand, it implies that the hero is so sexy that even his enemy wants to sleep with him and bear his children. On the other hand, writers who use this trope rarely pay any attention to the psychological damage it inflicts on the male hero. A footnote about this issue is that it depicts a newspaper with the headline PSYCHIC SAYS QUEEN SON OF TRUMP.

ACTION COMICS #651 (DC, 1990) – “Not of This Earth,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] George Pérez & Kerry Gammill. Coincidentally, this comic also has a female villain, Maxima, who wants to sleep with a male hero and bear his child. However, Superman realizes Maxima is a villain and wants nothing to do with her, and a fight ensues. This was a pretty fun issue. At first I was wondering why Superman was acting weird and speaking in a stilted style, without using contractions, but later in the issue we learn that he’s actually the Eradicator. As another footnote, Maxima comes from the planet Almerac. That name is an acronym for Carmela, the name of Roger Stern’s wife.

WORLD WAR HULK #1 (Marvel, 2007) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] John Romita Jr. The Hulk and his Warbound invade Earth. Iron Man kills the pregnant Caiera, who spends most of the issue off-panel. This is a pretty generic event comic; it’s just a lot of fight scenes without much actual substance. I am not a big fan of JR Jr’s art, because his comics tend to be full of epic action sequences and not much else.

DINOSAUR REX #1 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “The Dragons of Summer,” [W] Jan Strnad, [A] Henry Mayo. This largely forgotten series is a mashup of PG Wodehouse and dinosaurs. The Bertie Wooster character, Hempstead, is summoned by his aunt Celia, who tells him that his uncle Grenville has vanished while hunting dinosaurs in Africa. This is relevant to Hempstead because it’s caused his allowance to be stopped. So Hempstead has to team up with his much more competent cousin, Flavia, and Grenville’s dinosaur butler (the Jeeves character) in order to find his uncle. SF and fantasy adaptations of Wodehouse are not that uncommon, but this one is funny and well-executed. There’s also a backup story by William Messner-Loebs and Dennis Fujitake.

CAPTAIN ACTION CAT: THE TIMESTREAM CATASTROPHE #1 (Dynamite, 2014) – “The Timestream Catastrophe!”, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco & Chris Smits. This is a crossover between 1) the original Captain Action, who in this comic is a cat, and 2) Baltazar and Franco’s Action Cat and Adventure Bug. It’s a pretty typical Baltazar/Franco comic, but it may be confusing for younger readers because of its multiple realities and its references to the Golden and Silver Age.

WONDER WOMAN #51 (DC, 2018) – “The Fifty-Second Visit,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Laura Braga. This is one of the best single-issue Wonder Woman stories I’ve ever read. In issue 28, Diana battled a villain named Moon Robinson, a.k.a. Mayfly, and sent her to prison. This issue, Diana visits Moon in prison just to talk to her. Moon emphatically refuses Diana’s help, but Diana keeps coming back, over and over again, until she finally succeeds in rehabilitating Moon. It’s a pretty simple story, but a perfect introduction to who Wonder Woman is: it illustrates both her compassion and her iron will.

LETTER 44 #25 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jiménez Albuquerque. This issue advances a bunch of different plotlines at once, but it had little impact on me, because I’m not caught up on this series. The most memorable moment is when a villain murders an old woman in cold blood.

UNCLE SCROOGE #232 (Gladstone, 1988) – “The Tenderfoot Test,” [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. This issue begins with a ten-pager in which Scrooge, Donald and Gladstone compete in a “desert rat” contest. This story includes some great slapstick comedy, but since Gladstone is involved, the ending is predictable. Although Barks does throw in a surprise: Gladstone loses the contest, but it doesn’t matter because the prize was a uranium mine, and during the contest Gladstone found ten other uranium mines. The other stories in the issue are just credited to Gutenberghus. In one of them, Scrooge thinks Magica de Spell has stolen his dime, but she turns out to be innocent. The other story consists mostly of flashbacks in which Scrooge is repeatedly fooled by the same crook. That seems inconsistent with his character.

The next shipment arrived on October 16. This was a Tuesday, so I had been teaching all day, and I was pretty tired when I read these comics.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #37 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Death of the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl?!”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. This issue begins at Squirrel Girl’s funeral. We quickly learn that she’s not actually dead, and is attending the funeral disguised as Bass Lass (along with Nancy, disguised as Fish Miss). Watching the video of “her” final moments, Doreen realizes that the person who “died” was actually a Skrull disguised as her (Skrull Girl or Squirrel Skrull, I guess). This is a very funny premise, and this issue was quite good.

MS. MARVEL #35 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Ratio,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Kamala beats the Shocker, and Bruno confesses that he loves her. Which makes me wonder what happened to Mike – did she break up with Bruno when he left for Wakanda? This was a reasonably fun issue, but “The Ratio” was the worst Ms. Marvel storyline in quite a while. It just seemed to lack inspiration, and the Shocker is a boring villain.

THE QUANTUM AGE #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Wilfredo Torres. This issue retells the origin of the Legion, focusing on the Brainiac 5 character, Archive, who replaces Lightning Lad as one of the three founders. Like Brainiac 5, Archive’s character arc is driven by the conflict between his computer brain and his human emotions. I squeed really hard at the origin retelling and the two-page splash depicting all the Leaguers. For an old Legion fan like me, this series is an extremely powerful piece of nostalgia, especially considering that there’s no regular Legion series anymore. Of course, that also means it’s especially painful that in this series’ present-day timeframe, most of the Leaguers are dead. I would love it if Kid Martian teamed up with the surviving adult Leaguers to create a new League that surpasses the old, but I fear that this series may end before it gets to that point. If only DC would hire Jeff Lemire, or anyone else for that matter, to write an actual Legion comic. In terms of the overall Black Hammer continuity, this issue is significant because it reveals that Archive was created by Talky Walky.

EXILES #9 (Marvel, 2018) – “One Thousand and One Marvel Nights!”, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodríguez. On Twitter, Saladin said that he’d wanted to do this story for years, and no wonder: it enables him to combine Marvel superheroes with his ancestral culture. In this story the Exiles are trapped in three stories from the Arabian Nights. Blink becomes Aladdin, Valkyrie becomes Ali Baba, and Sheriff T’Challa becomes Sindbad the Sailor. Saladin knows these stories very well, and Javier Rodriguez turns in an amazing artistic performance. The depiction of medieval Baghdad on the splash page is especially striking. The only problem with this issue is that it was too short! Only the three most popular Arabian Nights stories were included, and only small pieces of those. But that’s the trouble with having only 22 pages a month to work with. Luckily this story continues for one more issue. We discover at the end that Nocturne has become Shahrazad, with Dr. Doom as the murderous husband she has to pacify with stories.

SHE COULD FLY #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martín Morazzo. One of the best miniseries of the year concludes in shocking fashion. The two opposing criminal factions both end up at Luna’s house, and a firefight ensues in which lots of people are killed. Afterward, Luna and her guidance counselor both end up in a mental hospital, which is honestly not that bad of an ending, since it means they’re getting the care they need. The violence in this issue is shocking and disturbing, especially considering that the last three issues weren’t violent at all. But unlike in most violent comics, the violence in She Could Fly #4 is depicted realistically and not sensationalistically; the reader experiences it as a horrific, traumatic event. In the author’s note, Chris Cantwell admits that the ending of this issue is kind of inconclusive, but he suggests that this is because real life doesn’t have neat ending. He also mentions that he himself is suffering the same struggles as Luna. I hope that he gets better, and that he continues to produce work of this level of quality. This was a hard comic to read, but an important one – perhaps the best portrayal of mental illness in comic books since I Kill Giants.

THE WRONG EARTH #2 (Ahoy, 2018) – “The Wrong Earth, Chapter 2,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. After a scary comic, a funny one. Each version of Dragonflyman adjusts to his new Earth, and we learn that the Christian Bale Dragonflyman has hidden reserves of tenderness – that his soul has not been totally crushed by his harsh environment. Meanwhile, the Adam West Dragonflyman is not just a joke – he’s a man of great integrity, who simply cannot stand for bribery, corruption, or even foul language. But even if he’s not totally a joke, the Adam West Dragonfly is responsible for the funniest moment in any comic this week: when he realizes he’s in danger of being shot, he takes an “anti-bullet antidote capsule,” and it works. As indicated by the names I gave to the two Dragonflymen, the basic conceit of this series is that Christopher Nolan’s Batman changes places with the ‘60s TV Batman. This premise results in a story that’s hilarious, but also surprisingly poignant.

CATWOMAN #4 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats, Part 4,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones, [A] Fernando Blanco. This issue is mostly about Selina’s troubled history with her sister Maggie. It powerfully depicts Selina’s traumatic childhood, but I don’t quite get how Maggie fits into the overall scheme of this series. I also wish Joëlle Jones had drawn the entire issue, though I’m not surprised that she needed a guest artist. Only two panels in this issue include cats.

FARMHAND #4 (Image, 2018) – “Between Worlds,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. This issue includes some great jokes, like the “arm tree pruning accident.” But it only advances the story a little bit. We learn in this issue that the protagonist’s sister, Andrea, is a government agent, but besides that, I can’t remember much about this issue’s plot.

MOTH & WHISPER #2 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Going to the Ball,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Jen Hickman. Niki goes to a party where they successfully negotiate an alliance with the scion of a leading crime family. Niki’s non-binary nature turns out to be an asset, as they’re able to pose as both a man and a woman. I really like this series; it’s both an outstanding example of non-binary representation, and a critique of the surveillance society.

MY LITTLE PONY: NIGHTMARE KNIGHTS #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. When Celestia dreams about a Pony of Shadows from another dimension, Luna and Stygian use Starswirl’s mirror to visit that dimension. It turns out the other dimension is ruled by Eris, Discord’s sister, and she’s creating an army of villains. So Stygina and Luna return to their home dimension in order to recruit a team to defeat Eris. Nightmare Knights is perhaps the darkest pony comic yet, and seems to be intended for an older audience. Its major theme is Stygian and Luna’s struggle to overcome their evil pasts. There’s a poignant moment where they both have to prove they’re villains in order to enter Eris’s casino, and they both succeed in doing so.

PLASTIC MAN #5 (DC, 2018) – “The Wrong Man to Save Them,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. Plas takes Pado to the boardwalk, where they share some touching moments – until some people from CPS come and take Pado away, and it turns out Plas called them himself. This was absolutely the right thing to do, and yet Plas justifiably feels like an asshole for doing it: “Doing the right thing? It damn well sucks.” Also, lots of other stuff happens. I don’t understand why this is just a six-issue miniseries, because it deserves to be an ongoing. As noted in my review of #1, Gail is the only good Plastic Man writer other than Kyle Baker and Jack Cole himself, and I hope she gets more opportunities to work on this character.

X-23 #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals Part 5,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. Laura and Gabby succeed in defeating the Stepford Cuckoos, then they complete their interrupted birthday party. This was better than the last two issues, but it still wasted too much space on action sequences. There’s one double-page splash near the end of the issue that looks nice enough, but is not worth two pages.

CROWDED #3 (Image, 2018) – “Kill v. Maim,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. This issue introduces two of the assassins who are trying to kill Charlotte: Trotter, a blond celebrity dudebro, and… I don’t know if the other one has a name, but she’s the complete opposite, an enigma who operates in the shadows. This issue is creepy because it shows us how determined the assassins are, and how much the American public has bought into the idea of crowdsourced murder. Sebela even gives a perfunctory explanation of why Reapr is legal. Part of Crowded #3 takes place in a library, which has become a free hotel for homeless people. This idea, just like the idea of Reapr itself, is disturbingly plausible.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #2 (DC, 2018) – “The Power Divided,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson, [A] Domo Stanton. Erzulie and Uncle Monday try to escape the Dreaming, while their human worshippers try to contact them. This issue draws heavily upon what I assume is firsthand knowledge of voodoo culture. There’s one scene where Erzulie’s worshippers summon Agwe, Damballa and Ogun. This comic would actually be better if it wasn’t a Sandman spinoff. Cain and Abel add very little to the narrative, and they draw the reader’s attention away from the voodoo lwa and the human characters, all of whom are more interesting. Maybe after this series, Nalo Hopkinson will get the opportunity to do a creator-owned title that’s not tied to an existing universe. For a writer who hasn’t done comics before, Hopkinson shows almost no signs of inexperience, but she does include some unnecessary caption boxes.

IMPOSSIBLE, INC. #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Lost and Found,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Cavallaro. At times this issue is too cosmic and Kirbyesque for its own good. It includes so much wild, bizarre nonsense that the reader’s credibility is strained. Also, the worldbuilding in this series is a distraction from the main interest of the series, which is Number/Goose’s relationship with her father and her adopted brother. But eventually we do get to the point. Number and Buddy find their father, but it turns out he’s only one of many clones of their father, and their mission is to find the real one from whom the clones were made.

HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #3 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Blood for Blood,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornés. This felt too much like a generic crime comic, without enough emphasis on the two things that make this series unique: the Minnesota setting and the protagonists’ Lebanese ancestry. At least Hot Lunch Special is a well-executed crime comic. I like Jorge Fornés’s art.

RUINWORLD #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. Lots of stuff happens in this issue, but I think that when I read it, I was too tired to pay much attention. Reading this comic sometimes feels like a chore because of its heavy dialogue and its convoluted plot. Derek Laufman has potential, but his jokes could be funnier, and his adventures could be more exciting.

BULLY WARS #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Aaron Conley. After initially being rejected, Rufus succeeds in getting invited to the Bully Wars competition. This series is potentially problematic because it glorifies bullying, which is a major social problem. But Bully Wars appears to be targeted toward an audience of young kids, and if there’s one thing kids love, it’s stories that glorify “bad” stuff – that’s why children’s literature is so full of gross-out humor. Seen in that light, Bully Wars is a pretty successful comic for kids.

TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #6 (DC, 2007) – “Hear No Evil,” [W] David Lapham, [A] Tom Mandrake. The Spectre story in this series is one of DC’s worst comics in recent memory. Its artwork arouses memories of Ostrander and Mandrake’s classic Spectre series, but Lapham’s writing lacks any of the subtlety or humor of Ostrander’s writing. His story is a litany of horrific violence. In this issue, a serial killer murders a little girl, and the Spectre can’t do anything about it. The reason I even have this comic is because of the Dr. Thirteen backup series, which, besides the excellent Cliff Chiang art, is perhaps the best thing Brian Azzarello ever wrote. It’s funny, metatextual and weird, and it introduces Traci Thirteen, an excellent character who was too quickly forgotten.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #3 (IDW, 2013) – “The Judgment Tower, Part Three: Underground,” [W] Phil Hester, [A] Andrea Di Vito. There have been a couple good T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents revivals, but they were both published in the ‘80s, and subsequent attempts to resurrect these characters have all failed. Perhaps this is because the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents just aren’t that interesting except to readers of the original series. Hester and Di Vito’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is just a generic superhero comic with no distinctive features.

WORLDS’ FINEST #5 (DC, 2012) – “Three Midnights, Far from Home,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] George Pérez, Jerry Ordway & Wes Craig. This issue consists of what appear to be two inventory stories, linked by a new framing sequence. It has no redeeming qualities except for a few pages of Pérez artwork.

GORILLA-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2010) – “The Serpent and the Hawk,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Giancarlo Caracuzzo. I’ve had this comic longer than almost any unread comic in my collection. I think I may have bought it in Gainesville, at the now-closed Florida Bookstore vol. II. This comic stars Ken Hale, the gorilla agent of Atlas. It’s funny, but not as funny as you would expect from a comic with a gorilla protagonist. This issue ends with a reprint of Arthur Nagan’s origin story, from a pre-superhero Marvel mystery title.

New comics received on Friday, October 19. I got these in the evening after spending the morning and afternoon at a conference.

LUMBERJANES #55 (Boom!, 2018) – “Follow Your Art” part 3, [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. This is a really fun storyline. The highlight, obviously, is all the scenes with Ripley playing with the superpowered cats. Well, no, maybe the real highlight is the scene where Marigold grows to giant size. I also like the idea that Ripley’s greatest fear is the monsters from the movies she wasn’t allowed to watch. I do wonder about the overall story arc of this series. Several storylines ago, Jo was trying to figure out why time moved so slowly in camp, but I don’t think she ever did find out. The characters seem to have accepted that the summer is never going to end. That’s fine with me, since I want this series to keep going on indefinitely. But it would also be fun if there was a spinoff series showing the Lumberjanes at home, or a series that took place in the future and showed them as adults.

RUNAWAYS #14 (Marvel, 2018) – “That Was Yesterday, Part II” and “Interlude with Dinosaur,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] David Lafuente & Takeshi Miyazawa. The main story in this issue is disappointingly short and doesn’t advance the plot much, except by introducing a new minor villain. This issue is redeemed by the backup story, which is told from Old Lace’s episode. This story is like Momo’s segment in the Avatar episode “Tales of Ba Sing Se”: the POV character is an animal who can’t understand human speech, so it’s a purely visual narrative. Rainbow Rowell executes this type of storytelling quite well, and her version of Old Lace is extremely cute.

FLAVOR #6 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Wook-Jin Clark. This issue begins with the unwelcome announcement that it’s the last issue of Flavor in comic book format. I understand why comics keep abandoning the single-issue format and going to trades-only. I realize that for a series like Flavor, which mostly caters to audiences that don’t visit comic book stores, such a decision is probably correct. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. I like comic books better than trades, and I would collect everything in comic book form if I could. Oh well. The worse problem with Flavor #6 is that it ends on a cliffhanger, with no indication of when, or if, the cliffhanger will be resolved. Xoo starts the first stage of the contest, but we don’t find out if she wins or loses. I really like Flavor, but after reading this issue I feel cheated. If a series is going to end, it should at least wrap up its loose ends.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Gurihiru. I’m thrilled that this series was revived after being cancelled, something that hardly ever happens. The original Unstoppable Wasp was one of Marvel’s best comics for girls, and this revival is equally impressive. This debut issue is a direct continuation of the previous series, with Nadia and her fellow G.I.R.L. agents battling AIM and preparing for a public expo. (I like the inside joke that the date they wanted for the expo was unavailable because of “some sort of comic convention.”) As usual, Jeremy’s female characters are amazing, and he does a great job of distinguishing them from each other.

CAPTAIN GINGER #1 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Captain Ginger, Chapter One,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] June Brigman. This comic is tailor-made for me because it’s about a spaceship crewed by anthropomorphic talking cats. What distinguishes Captain Ginger from Hero Cats or Action Cat is that the characters act like real cats. They breed uncontrollably, they vomit on the floor, they chase the red dot, and they have tiny attention spans. Captain Ginger and his shipmates are fluffy and adorable, but also unpredictable and frustrating – again, just like real cats. So Captain Ginger captures the essential strangeness of cats, better than almost any other cat comic. I’m excited to read more of it.

WELCOME TO WANDERLAND #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jackie Ball, [A] Maddi Gonzalez. Lark and Bellamy explore each other’s worlds, and lots of weird stuff happens. This comic is as cute and entertaining as any Boom! Box comic, but its plot is kind of incoherent and aimless. But maybe that’s intentional: the theme of the comic is “If you can’t find your path… make your path.”

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #6 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Rich Tommaso. The heroes leave the Para-Zone for Earth. But Colonel Weird is separated from his teammates and sent to a limbo-planet, populated by forgotten superheroes like Inspector Insector (ha!) and Barbali-Bunny. This exact same thing happened to Buddy Baker in Animal Man #25, and that’s probably no accident, since everything in this series is borrowed from other comics. But Jeff must have some reason for reusing this plot. At the end of the issue, Anti-God shows up. Rich Tommaso’s artwork in this issue is a major departure from this series’ usual art style.

SHURI #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Gone,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Leonardo Romero. T’Challa fails to return from a space mission – I assume this is related to the current Black Panther series, which I’m behind on – and Shuri has to take up the mantle of the Black Panther again. Shuri #1 is probably Nnedi’s most accomplished work in comics. It’s full of humor and passion, and it shows few signs of inexperience. Also, Leonardo Romero’s art is excellent. His style resembles that of David Aja or Chris Samnee, and his flashback sequence in this issue is very striking; it uses no colors but white, yellow and red. Shuri #1 depicts a Shuri and a Wakanda that greatly resemble their counterparts from the movie, and it explores one of the most interesting aspects of the movie Wakanda: its matriarchal nature. In this issue Shuri revives an ancient tradition where women meet secretly to discuss the nation’s problems. A lot of Nnedi’s work seems intended to critique the sexist stereotypes associated with African culture, and this comic fits into that projec.

BLACK BADGE #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The kids go to Peshawar, Pakistan to rescue a captured spy, and they run into a former teammate. This series is still pretty exciting, but by now I’ve gotten used to the idea of secret agents disguised as summer camp kids, and the novelty has worn off a bit.

EXORSISTERS #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. The two title characters, Cate and Kate, are occult investigators. This issue they’re hired by a bride whose bridegroom was kidnapped by a demon during their wedding. I had modest expectations for this comic after reading the preview, but I really liked it. It reminds me of Supernatural Law, with its casual, deadpan take on the supernatural, but its art and writing remind me more of an Archie comic. Ian Boothby is a very funny writer, possibly thanks to his experience as a Simpsons Comics writer (I had thought he was an Archie writer, but I was confusing him with Ian Flynn), and Gisèle Lagacé’s art is sexy but very tasteful.

MR. & MRS. X #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Love & Marriage, Part 4,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. I missed the last two issues of this series because I wasn’t willing to order a mystery X-Men title without knowing what it was or who its creators were. As of this issue, Rogue and Gambit are charged with the care of Xandra, Professor X and Lilandra’s daughter. Xandra is an utterly adorable character, and the interplay between Rogue and Gambit is really entertaining. I like Oscar Bazaldua’s art, but his Imperial Guard doesn’t look anything like the Legion of Super-Heroes.

THOR #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Midgard’s Final Doom,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Christian Ward. This issue was better than last issue, and Christian Ward’s art is amazing, as usual. But the current Thor storyline has the same all-flash-no-substance problem as Jason Aaron’s Avengers. I wish we’d get back to the present-day Thor already.

LUCIFER #1 (DC, 2018) – “The Fall from Grace and Down the Stairs,” [W] Dan Watters, [A] Max Fiumara. There are interesting ideas in this comic – it begins with a discussion of Bach’s endlessly rising canon – but its story makes no sense at all. There are at least two different plotlines that have no apparent connection to each other. The only reason I’m not giving up on this comic immediately, is because DCBS gives you a discount if you order all the Vertigo titles.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #4 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 4,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. The thieves use some clever social engineering to get the Aryabhata map. I don’t know how historically accurate this comic is, but it feels like a very plausible recreation of medieval city life.

GIDEON FALLS #7 (Image, 2018) – “The Sum of Its Parts,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Another good issue. Maybe the highlight of this issue is the flashback sequence to Daniel and Clara’s childhood, which is drawn in a different graphic style from the rest of the comic. At this point it’s pretty clear that Norton is Daniel, but we’re still waiting for an explanation of how the farm and city storylines are connected.

FLASH GORDON ANNUAL 2014 (Dynamite, 2014) – multiple stories, [E] Nate Cosby. I have no idea why this was solicited in DCBS as if it were a new comic. This issue includes five stories depicting the earlier years of various Flash Gordon characters. The best story in the issue is the one about the princess of Coralia, but none of them are all that great, and only the last one is written by Jeff Parker.

ENCOUNTER #7 (Lion Forge, 2018) – untitled, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso. I’m not caught up on this series, but I decided to read this issue anyway. In this issue Encounter teams up with a new superhero, Champion, who is obviously Kayla’s uncle, except when he takes off his mask at the end of the issue, he has Kayla’s face. Like Superman Family Adventures, Encounter is better than a typical Baltazar/Franco comic because it has an ongoing plot, rather than just being a series of gags.

ARCHIE 1941 #2 (Archie, 2018) – “It’s War!”, [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. After a lot of waffling, Archie decides to enlist in World War II. This series is effective because it depicts the uncertainty and anxiety of America in 1941. At that time, no one knew that the war would be over in four years, or that we would win.

No further comics waiting to be reviewed.

Reviews for the week of August 24

9-13

As I write this, Hurricane Florence is on its way to the Carolinas. I hope my comics don’t all get destroyed before I finish reviewing them.

I am still severely behind. These comics arrived on August 24:

LUMBERJANES #53 (Boom!, 2018) – “Follow Your Art,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. Following a treasure map, the Zodiacs discover a broken stone statue that, when reassembled, comes to life and turns out to be some kind of ancient Greek goddess. So I guess this is another Diana storyline. I really liked this issue, but I can’t remember much about it now.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Caselli. Some Comiscgate troll posted a tweet in which he compared this comic to the original West Coast Avengers #1, and used this comparison as an example of what Comicsgaters are so pissed about. The 1984 West Coast Avengers miniseries was actually good, but this new series is probably better, and certainly more important because it expands the audience for Marvel comics – and that, of course, is why it makes Comicsgaters angry. In terms of its content, the new West Coast Avengers #1 is a sequel to Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye run, with the addition of Quentin Quire, America, Gwenpool, etc. None of these characters are favorites of mine, but their personalities contrast with each other in interesting ways. The reality show angle is rather trite, but that’s not a serious problem. I expect this series will be at least as good as Kelly’s Hawkeye was.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. The heroes confront Madame Dragonfly, and she explains that she was indeed responsible for sending them to Black Hammer farm, but she did it to save them all. Then on the last page, they all wake up in cryogenic chambers inside a space station. It looks like next issue the plot of this series will finally be explained, at long last.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #34 (Marvel, 2018) – “Save Our School,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Devil Dinosaur’s first day at school is a predictable disaster. It’s a bit disappointing that he can barely talk, because I’d like to see more of his personality. But I love how he keeps his arms inside his sleeves, because he’s used to having tiny useless arms. At first I didn’t realize why he was doing this, and I was delighted when I figured it out. I also love the short scene with all four of Lunella’s grandparents. This scene is more important than it looks, because Marvel comics don’t often depict black people just doing normal family stuff.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Benjamin Dewey. Based on his previous work on Autumnlands, another series narrated by a dog, Benjamin Dewey is a good choice as the first artist other than Jill Thompson to draw Beasts of Burden. As a cat person, I’m disappointed that this series is all about the dogs, but it’s a good Beasts of Burden comic. I understand that Beasts of Burden and Blackwood are set in the same universe, and as I read this issue, I kept looking for references to Blackwood.

ROYAL CITY #14 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. All the loose ends are resolved, and the five versions of Tommy walk into the lake together. This conclusion is perhaps overly neat and predictable, but it’s also deeply touching, because Jeff is a brilliant cartoonist and he does a great job of making the reader share the characters’ emotions.

THE TERRIFICS #7 (DC, 2018) – “Tom Strong & the Terrifics, Part One,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dale Eaglesham. This issue starts with some flashbacks to Tom Strong’s past, and then the Terrifics go looking for him, but get stuck in the Forest of Eternity. It really, really sucks that Tom Strong has become a character in the DC Universe even though Alan Moore did everything in his power to avoid working for DC. Leaving that aside, this is a pretty fun comic.

ITTY BITTY HELLBOY #3 (Dark Horse, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco. See my earlier reviews of Itty Bitty Hellboy #2 and #5. I regret having bought this comic. It serves its intended audience well, but it has nothing to offer an older reader.

RED SONJA/TARZAN #4 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Walter Geovani. The blue-skinned woman from Swords of Sorrow makes a return appearance in this issue. Otherwise, it’s very similar to the previous issues.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #2 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 2,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. The heroes plan their infiltration of the imperial library. There’s also a flashback scene where Nicolas catches Iskander making fake passports, and lets him get away with it. This scene is an obvious reference to the contemporary immigration crisis.

LITTLE LULU #63 (Dell, 1953) – “The Tea Party” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. Another collection of brilliant and funny stories. One notable story in this issue is “The Substitute,” where Lulu is chasing an escaped monkey while trying to avoid Mr. McNabbem the truant officer. Mr. McNabbem doesn’t appear in every issue, but when he does, he’s usually trying to catch Lulu even though she has a legitimate reason for not being in school. I know I recently read a non-comics book that referenced this character, but I can’t figure out what book it was.

DENNIS THE MENACE #7 (Marvel, 1982) – “Party Time” and other stories, [W] Fred Toole, [A] Bill Williams or Karen Matchette? These credits are courtesy of Mark Evanier on Facebook. The actual comic is uncredited. This issue’s first story is sort of a crossover, because Dennis puts on a Spider-Man costume to go to Margaret’s party. Otherwise, this issue lacks the humor and tenderness of the Fawcett Dennis comics.

GIDEON FALLS #6 (Image, 2018) – “The Faller of Trees,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This may be the best-drawn comic book of the year. Andrea Sorrentino’s page layouts are radically experimental, and his pages seem to have four dimensions rather than two. The highlight may be the two-page spread containing 45 panels, which all depicting the same scene but are not arranged in chronological order. Similarly radical page layouts have appeared in other Jeff Lemire comics such as Animal Man, and I wonder if Jeff himself is designing these pages, rather than his artists. The story of Gideon Falls still doesn’t make sense, but its artwork is amazing.

BABYTEETH #12 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Birthday,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Sadie and her dad go looking for the baby, even though Sadie’s dad thinks this mission is too dangerous for a girl. This series is getting a bit boring, and I’m disappointed that Sadie is still so weak and unassertive. I thought she’d have become a more effective protagonist by now.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #282 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Bubbleweight Champ,” [W/A] Carl Barks. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Donald has to fight a boxing match against a muscular strongman, even though he’s so addicted to Gurgleurp soda that he can barely walk. This story is very funny, but also unusual because it references a real-life social problem: Donald’s Gurgleurp addiction is an obvious alusion to alcoholism. Also, to quote my own Facebook post, it’s a weird coincidence that this story is about “a man named Donald who’s addicted to carbonated soda, which ruins his physical and mental health and makes him unable to fulfill his duties.” The backup stories in this issue are of no interest.

ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #2 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon enroll at Riverdale high school as new students, resulting in instant romantic drama. Meanwhile, the villains all arrive in Riverdale. This issue is pretty funny, but not significantly different from issue 1.

ROWANS RUIN #4 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Mike Carey, [A] Mike Perkins. This is a pretty scary horror or psychological thriller story, but I had trouble remembering who the characters were. I wish I’d read this series in order.

THE SENTRY #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sentry World Part 3 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Kim Jacinto. It turns out that Billy Turner, a.k.a. Scout, worked together with Sentry’s old enemy Cranio to steal the Confluctor. At the end of this issue there are a couple pages with bizarre layouts, which reinforces my theory that Lemire is partially responsible for the page layouts in Gideon Falls. The Sentry #3 is perhaps the worst of this week’s four Jeff Lemire comics, but it’s amazing that Jeff Lemire is able to write so many different comics at once, covering so many different genres. He deserves an Eisner for that alone.

THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] M.J. Erickson. Frank and Sadie continue to investigate ghosts and drink excessively. Nothing new here.

AVENGERS: WAKANDA FOREVER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Chapter Three: Reflections,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Oleg Okunev. I didn’t enjoy this issue as much as the last two, since it didn’t have any explicit references to Nigerian-American identity. The main event this issue is that Nakia dies, which is probably a good thing, since the character was broken beyond repair. I expect that now Marvel will introduce a new Nakia who will be more similar to the film version of the character. I’m not sure whether to file this issue under A or under W.

HEARTTHROB #2 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, [W] Chris Sebela, [A] Robert Wilson IV. Callie and Mercer rob a bank, then start planning an even bigger heist. This is a really fun comic, both because of its ridiculous premise (a woman is haunted by the ghost of her heart donor), and because Callie commits a bunch of crimes and gets away with them. This comic is a bit like Grand Theft Auto, which also depicts crime as a fun and exciting pursuit. I enjoyed this comic enough that I immediately went on to:

HEARTTHROB #3 (Oni, 2016) – as above. Callie and her accomplices successfully rob the insurance company where she worked before her injury. Then she starts planning another heist. But as suggested by the flash-forwards at the end of this and the previous issue, her streak of luck is about to reverse itself. This was another fun issue.

SWEET TOOTH #7 (Vertigo, 2010) – “In Captivity, Part 2,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Tommy Jepperd buries his wife, and in a flashback, we see the moment where she learned she was pregnant. Meanwhile, the antler-headed kid is taken to surgery. I still have trouble following what’s going on in this comic, but at least I’m becoming more familiar with the characters.

BATMAN #271 (DC, 1976) – “The Corpse Came C.O.D.!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] Irv Novick. Alfred discovers a corpse rolled up in a rug. It turns out the rug belonged to a cult of worshippers of Agni, the Vedic fire god. While reading this comic, I did a little Google research and learned that Vedic deities like Agni and Indra are not commonly worshipped today, at least not compared to Shiva, Vishnu, etc. This issue Batman teams up with an inquisitive reporter named Carol Ames, who is hard to distinguish from Vicki Vale – their names even have the same number of letters and the same meter. Carol Ames never appeared anywhere else.

GIDEON FALLS #3 (Image, 2018) – “The Faller of Trees” (part 3), [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. I missed this when it came out. It’s not quite as beautiful as issue 6, but it fills in some gaps in the storyline.

TARZAN #142 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Dreadful Swamp” and “The Guilt of Belazi,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Jesse Marsh. I don’t understand the appeal of Jesse Marsh’s art. However, all of his stories that I’ve read are from the last few years of his career, and I assume his earlier work was better. This issue’s second story is hideously colonialist, even more so than a typical Tarzan story. The title character, Belazi, is a diamond miner who steals diamonds to pay for his fiancee’s bride price. Tarzan convinces Belazi to return the diamonds to his white employer, and to continue working at the mine until he earns the bride price. No mention is made of the fact that the diamond mine is on Belazi’s people’s ancestral land, and Belazi has a better right to the diamonds than any white dude has. The story essentially suggests that Africans ought to be grateful and deferential to the white people who are stealing their resources. This story is especially tone-deaf because at the time it was published, most of the countries in Africa had either just become independent, or were only a few years from independence. The saving grace of Tarzan #142 is that it ends with a five-page Brothers of the Spear story by Russ Manning.

LOCKE & KEY: CROWN OF SHADOWS #4 (IDW, 2010) – “Crown of Shadows, Part Four,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. I was delighted to discover this comic and Keys to the Kingdom #4 in one of my boxes of old unread comics. This issue, the (gorgeously drawn) shadows continue to threaten the kids. Kinsey realizes she can make them vanish by turning the lights on – as noted in an earlier review, they’re pretty similar to grues. The shadows pursue Kinsey and Bode in search of the wellhouse key, but Ty uses the giant key from the previous issue to turn himself into a giant, which is really awesome. Part of the fun of this series is learning about all the different keys and the unexpected things they can do.

LOCKE & KEY: KEYS TO THE KINGDOM #4 (IDW, 2011) – “Casualties,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Bode makes friends with Rufus, the autistic boy from Head Games #6. A ghost shows Rufus some weird stuff in the basement. This issue includes some pages drawn in a war comic style, depicting the game Bode and Rufus play with their toy soldiers. Besides being funny, these pages demonstrate Gabriel Rodriguez’s ability to imitate any style of comics .

LITTLE IODINE #53 (Dell, 1961) – “The Sultan of Swat” and other stories, [W/A] Jimmy Hatlo (but almost certainly ghosted by someone else). This comic is an adaptation of Jimmy Hatlo’s newspaper strip about a bratty little girl. It’s drawn in a screwball style that was already old-fashioned in 1961, and it lacks the craftsmanship or passion of Little Lulu or even Nancy. One story in this issue includes a magician who keeps calling people “gates,” and their reactions indicate that this term is offensive. After extensive Googling, I’ve figured out that “Greetings, gates” was a catchphrase used by Bob Hope’s sidekick Jerry Colonna, and it didn’t mean anything.

COMICS ON PARADE #104 (United Feature, 1956) – various untitled stories, [W/A] Ernie Bushmiller. Comics on Parade was one of the oldest comic books, dating back to 1938. It seems that this series only ever reprinted United Feature newspaper strips, and never published any original material. By the time of #104, the final issue, it was exclusively a vehicle for reprinting Nancy strips. Most of the strips reprinted in this issue are Sunday. As Karasik and Newgarden explain in How to Read Nancy, which I just finished reading, Sunday strips were never Bushmiller’s strong suit. It’s especially annoying how all the strips in this comic begin with a tier of throwaway panels – that is, panels which some newspapers would remove in order to save space, and which therefore could not contain any essential information.

MOCKINGBIRD #8 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Daily Blowhole,” [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. This issue’s “Ask Me About My Feminist Agenda” cover was one of the catalysts for Comicsgate. It’s also the last issue of the series, and that sucks because it’s a really fun comic; it has all sorts of witty dialogue and even a full-page “Ghost Cowboy Stalker Ex Plan Flowchart.” And there’s also a scene where Bobbi is saved by mercorgis, which are exactly what they sound like. As an overarching comment, Marvel’s treatment of Chelsea Cain has been consistently shameful. They cancelled this series after eight issues, they didn’t explain to her how to attend the Eisners, and now they’ve inexplicably cancelled her Vision miniseries before it was released. I can’t imagine she’ll ever be willing to work for Marvel again. The silver lining is that because she doesn’t depend on comics writing for her income, she’s been able to publicly criticize Marvel for their shortsighted actions. Another writer would have to just grin and bear it, for fear of being blacklisted. Also, Marvel’s loss is Image’s gain. I’m eagerly looking forward to Man-Eaters.

LITTLE LULU #95 (Dell, 1956) – “Big Bite” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. My copy of this issue has some giant holes in the pages, causing multiple interruptions in the stories. I hope I can find a replacement copy someday. The most interesting story in this issue is the Witch Hazel story where the Poor Little Girl and Freddy go to a costume party.

MISTY #3 (Marvel, 1986) – “With a Friend Like Darlene… Who Needs Enemies?” and other stories, [W/A] Trina Robbins. In this issue’s first story, Misty and her friend Darlene both appear on the same TV show, and they both fall in love with the same costar. In the second story, Misty and her friends visit an old house that they think is haunted, and it turns out that a lonely old woman lives there. I don’t like Misty nearly as much as other comparable comics like Amethyst or Angel Love, but it’s an important piece of a story I want to tell in my research, the story of how comics publishers abandoned female readers before recently deciding to reach out to them again. This issue’s letters page provides a rather sad demonstration of why Misty failed. There are two letters from female fans who want to subscribe to Misty, because they’re having trouble finding it. The editor replies, “I’m sorry to say that you can’t subscribe to Misty just yet, but you should be able to find it at any comic book store. If they don’t have Misty at your local comic book store, you should ask the manager to order it for you!” (https://www.instagram.com/p/BnKflujF_9U/?taken-by=aaronkashtan) No wonder this series was cancelled.

DETECTIVE COMICS #454 (DC, 1975) – “The Set-Up Caper,” [W] David V. Reed, [A] José Luis García López. JLGL is usually described as a Spanish artist, but he grew up in Argentina and started his career there. His artwork in this issue doesn’t look very much like him, and I initially wondered if the issue was drawn by Ernie Chan, who is also credited with the art. I  guess either this wasn’t one of his better stories, or else I’m just not seeing the resemblance to his usual style. This issue’s main story is about a villain who imitates Batman’s fighting style. It’s pretty forgettable. There’s also a Hawkman backup story which is also drawn by JLGL and is equally unmemorable.

SUICIDE SQUAD #58 (DC, 1991) – “Suicide Attack!”, [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. A War of the Gods crossover in which Amanda Waller assembles a huge team of former villains to attack the sorceress Circe. The first highlight of this issue is when a character named Maser asks why he should take Waller’s orders, and she grabs him by his cape and replies that, first, she’s a sick old woman, and second, if he backtalks her, she’ll skin him alive. (https://www.instagram.com/p/BnKothOl2j7/?taken-by=aaronkashtan) This is a classic Waller moment. Perhaps even better, this issue is the first and only appearance of The Writer, a character who can make things happen by writing them on his computer – except when “the writer who is now writing me intervenes and then I see what’s about to happen.” Unfortunately, he suffers writer’s block at an inopportune moment and gets killed by a werewolf. This is an amazing piece of metatext, and it gets even more amazing when you realize that this character previously appeared in Animal Man #26 under the name of Grant Morrison.

POWER PACK #46 (Marvel, 1989) – “The Great Goo-Gam Rip-Off!”, [W] Terry Austin, [A] Whilce Portacio. I assumed that since this issue wasn’t written by Louise Simonson, it would be bad, but it’s actually not. It’s a direct sequel to #21, which Terry also guest-wrote. It guest-stars the Punisher and Dakota North, who team up with Katie and Jack respectively. The Punisher and Katie Power are a hilarious pairing, even more so than Katie and Wolverine, and Jack’s puppy-love crush on Dakota is cute. So this was a very funny issue. Also, from reading this issue I learned that Strange Tales vol. II #13-14 are a Power Pack guest appearance. See below.

THE KILLER: MODUS VIVENDI #3 (Archaia, 2010) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. This issue begins with a tedious eleven-page diatribe about how humans are cruel and inhumane, America is destroying the world, and Cuba sucks less than all the other countries suck. Such a monologue is a terrible way to begin a comic book, especially one whose primary purpose is entertainment rather than high art. I already know how awful the world is, I just want to get on with the story already. After the monologue ends, this comic does include an actual plot, but I can’t remember what it is. At least the art and coloring are good.

STELLAR #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Bret Blevins. I ordered the first couple issues of this series, but I never felt motivated to read them, and I didn’t order issue 3. That was a wise decision, because there’s nothing particularly memorable about this debut issue – I’m not even sure what this comic is about, except that it’s science fiction. Also, this issue ends with an essay about how much Keatinge loved Blevins’s earlier work, Sleepwalker. I have trouble believing this, because I’ve never heard anyone else say anything positive about Sleepwalker.

SHANGHAI RED #3 (Image, 2018) – “In This Wilderness,” [W] Chris Sebela, [A] Joshua Hixson. More brutal violence and intrigue set in 19th-century Portland. Because of its setting, this comic reminds me of Elizabeth Bear’s novel Karen Memory, except without the steampunk. This is my least favorite of the Chris Sebela comics I’ve read lately, but it’s very well done.

Another week of reviews

On August 18, I went to yet another Charlotte Comicon. For the first time, this con was held on two days. In hindsight, I should have gone either on both days, or just on Sunday. On Saturday most of the comics seemed overly expensive, and also there were too many booths selling things other than comics. It would have been my most disappointing Charlotte Comicon yet, except that I eventually found a box with about ten old Little Lulus for a dollar each. I also made some other good finds, but overall it was a lackluster show. The major theme of my purchases at this show was Gold Key and Dell comics. I’m slowly discovering the diversity and quality of this company’s output.

Comics I read that week, including new comics received on August 18:

SCOOBY-DOO MYSTERY COMICS #27 (Gold Key, 1974) – “The Star-Spangled Spectre” and “Nightmare First-Class,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. I found this in a dollar box, which makes it my second best find of the convention. This issue’s first story is a well-written but unspectacular bicentennial story. The backup story is much better. Its first page includes the caption “These are the heroes whohad the hound that hunted the hoodoo that haunted the house that Hal had,” and it goes on to tell an exciting and complex story about a fake heir. Evanier and Spiegle’s Scooby-Doo is just as much of an underrated classic as their later Crossfire and Hollywood Superstars, and it deserves to be reprinted.

FLAVOR #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Wook-Jin Clark. Anant surprisingly passes his cooking exam. Geof steals Xoo’s stash of money and uses it to enter her in a cooking tournament. This was a fun issue, but as with last issue, it didn’t include enough worldbuilding.

LITTLE LULU #65 (Dell, 1953) – “Little Lulu Pays a Sick Call” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. As mentioned above, I bought about ten old Little Lulus at the convention. They’re all from the early to mid ‘50s, and are therefore among the oldest comics in my collection. They’re all beat up, but completely readable. (For example, my copy of #65 has a giant rip near the top that goes through every page and is badly fixed with tape.) I’m still kind of shocked that I had these comics; I have a ton of ‘60s comics, but I assumed that anything older than that would be beyond my price range. In terms of their content, these comics are just as amazing now as they were 60 years ago. Stanley uses a fairly small cast of characters and an unvarying 2×4 panel grid. But like Herriman or Prohias or Bushmiller, he develops an endless range of variations out of a limited set of premises, and he constantly surprises the reader. As mentioned in earlier reviews, Stanley’s comic timing is brilliant, and he’s a master at getting his characters into bizarre but believeable situations. The highlight of this issue is probably the story where Lulu and Tubby have to make a delivery to a house that turns out to be a grave.

THIRTEEN #17 (Dell, 1966) – “One of These Days” etc., [W/A] John Stanley. This is my favorite John Stanley comic besides Little Lulu. What separates it from Archie and other teen humor comics is, again, Stanley’s masterful storytelling. As I read this issue, I noticed that Stanley sometimes has important things happen between panels or offscreen, which forces the reader to put in a bit more work to get the joke. For instance, in the story “A Knockout” in this issue, Robert sticks his whole body through Judy’s window while Judy is sitting on a couch reading. The scene then shifts to Val, and Robert doesn’t appear again until two pages later, when we discover him lying unconscious in a bush outside the window. In the last panel of the story, we finally learn that Val hit Robert with a dictionary. ”Hiccups” in Little Lulu #65 has a similar off-panel scene, in which Tubby tries to set a trap for Lulu but knocks himself over instead; however, in that story we never learn what exactly happened off-panel. These unseen moments create a sense of mystery and, as noted, force readers to use their imagination.

USAGI YOJIMBO #36 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Gen, Chapter 3: Lady Asano’s Revenge,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. I don’t remember the previous two parts of this story, but in this final chapter, Gen’s old friend Lady Asano and his enemy Oda kill each other. This story is notable because it gives us insight into Gen’s past, and because it shows him acting serious for once, whereas he’s usually a comic relief character.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #52 (DC, 2008) – “Li’l Leaguers Part 2 of 2,” [W] Michael Green & Mike Johnson, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. This isn’t quite as good as the previous issue, but it’s still an excellent story that blends cuteness with heartbreak. The little Superman sacrifices his life at the end of the issue, which is kind of a horrible moment. The little Joker remains in the adult DC Universe at the end, but I doubt if he ever appeared again. It’s too bad this storyline only lasted two issues, although as noted previously, Wolvie in Exiles is the same type of character as the Li’l Leaguers.

BY NIGHT #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. The one protagonist’s dad and her friend go looking for her, and encounter a bunch of punks. The protagonists only appear at the end, and we don’t get to see any of the alternate dimension. This issue was okay, but not great.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #38 (Image, 2018) – “Ambition Makes You Pretty. Also, Ugly,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. There are a lot more plot developments in this issue, but I’ve forgotten most of them. The most notable thing about this issue is the opening scene,  in which Robert Graves uses Ananke and Minerva as evidence for his White Goddess theory.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #64 (Marvel, 1980) – “The Last Gamble,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. Luke and Danny try to track down two villains named Luck and Death, a.k.a. Suerte and Muerte. All the local criminals are terrified of Luck and Death, and Luke and Danny (I just noticed the similarity of names) have to go to extreme measures to find them. This issue is most notable for its witty dialogue.

STAR TREK #49 (DC, 1988) – “Aspiring to Be Angels,” [W] Peter David, [A] Tom Sutton. In my Mind the Gaps paper, I pointed out that even the best Star Trek comics aren’t that good as comics; they never do much to exploit the unique properties of comics. With that caveat, Peter David’s Star Trek comics are probably the best ever written. This issue focuses on three characters who only appeared in DC’s first Star Trek series: Bryce, Konom and Bearclaw. Bryce and Konom, a human woman and a Klingon man, have just gotten married, but when they encounter a half-Klingon child, they realize the difficulties they might encounter in becoming parents. Meanwhile, in this issue’s most memorable scene, Kirk fires Bearclaw from the Enterprise crew. This Star Trek series has nostalgic associations for me because I saw The Undiscovered Country, the last movie with the original crew, in the theater, so to me the TOS movies seem very modern and recent, even though they’re not. I also have some nostalgia for DC’s Star Trek comics because when I was a little kid, I read a lot of them (though not this one) by checking them out of the public library.

FENCE #9 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Nick beats Kally 15-14. Then Nick and Seiji are caught in a compromising position in the (literal) closet. This series is going to become TPB-only after issue 12. Fence is at least the third title I’ve been reading that has gone this route (along with Astro City and Goldie Vance), and as a dedicated fan of the comic book form, I’m disturbed by this trend toward abandoning single issues. However, if any title would benefit from being published in TPB format, it’s Fence. As I have observed repeatedly, this series has a glacially slow pace, and is more like a manga than a comic book in its pacing.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #594 (Gladstone, 1994) – Donald in “The Better Life,” [W/A] William Van Horn, and Mickey in “The Monarch of Medioka, Part 2,” [W/A] Floyd Gottfredson et al. This issue’s Van Horn story is okay, but it seems like Van Horn was only good at imitating Barks’s shorter comedic stories. He doesn’t seem to have done many of the longer adventure stories that Rosa was so good at. “The Monarch of Medioka” is a classic Gottfredson story, a Mickey Mouse version of The Prisoner of Zenda. Whenever I read Gladstone’s Gottfredson reprints, I find myself constantly counting panels in order to figure out where each daily installment begins and ends.

LUCIFER #21 (DC, 2002) – “Paradiso Part 1 of 3,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. This issue has one plotline taking place in heaven, and another plotline focusing on the half-angel child Elaine Belloc. I’ve been wanting to read more of this series, but there was nothing especially memorable about this issue.

KICK-ASS #7 (Marvel, 2009) – untitled, [W] Mark Millar, [A] John Romita Jr. I have a very negative impression of Mark Millar’s writing, although I haven’t read many of his comics. This issue did nothing to change my mind about him. It’s just a lot of mindless violence and torture. Millar’s comics claim to be parodies of ultraviolent superhero comics, but they’re actually among the worst examples of what they’re parodying.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #223 (Dell, 1959) – untitled Donald Duck story, [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. This issue begins with a hilarious Barks ten-pager in which Donald tries to go fishing, while the nephews try to fly their kites, and they keep getting in each other’s way. Barks was really good at slapstick comedy stories like this, though unlike Van Horn, he was also really good at epic adventure stories. Unfortunately, in my copy there’s a giant hole torn out of the last page of this story. The only other good story in this issue is Fallberg and Murry’s Mickey story “Alaskan Adventure.”

INCREDIBLE HULK #160 (Marvel, 1972) – “Nightmare in Niagara Falls!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Herb Trimpe. Betty and Glenn Talbot go to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon. The Hulk follows them there and gets in a fight with Tiger Shark. This was a fairly good issue. Seeing Glenn and Betty on their honeymoon is kind of painful for the reader as well as for Bruce. They were perhaps the least romantic couple in the history of the Marvel Universe, besides Quicksilver and Crystal.

USAGI YOJIMBO #170 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden Part Five,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. At the end of the issue, we learn that the mysterious box contained a Japanese translation of the Bible. No wonder so many people were so obsessed with recovering the box’s contents. However, I think “The Hidden” is a bit too long. It could have included at least one fewer chapter.

LITTLE LULU #45 (Dell, 1952) – “The Case of the Exploding Cigar” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. I believe I paid $4 or $5 for this, shortly before discovering a bunch of other old Little Lulus for a dollar each. But $4 or $5 is still a good price for such a great old comic. I’ve already read the stories in this issue, because they’re reprinted in the one Dark Horse Little Lulu volume that I have. But that book is in black and white, and Stanley and Tripp’s art was meant to be seen in color.

LITTLE LULU #88 (Dell, 1955) – “Picnic in the Cellar” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. Another collection of brilliant short stories, of which the best may be the one where Lulu tricks Tubby and the fellers into digging a well. At this point I was starting to see some patterns in these comics. In particular, each issue of Little Lulu includes a story in which Lulu tells Willie a fairy tale about Witch Hazel and the poor little girl. One of John Stanley’s many amazing achievements is that he told five or six stories every month about the same very limited cast of characters, and each story was different and unique – they never started to feel stale. Few if any other American comic book creators have ever pulled off this feat.

RUINWORLD #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. This issue introduces a new female coprotagonist, Kale (unless she already appeared last issue), and otherwise it’s mostly the same thing as last issue. Derek Laufman’s style takes some getting used to, especially his dialogue, but he’s a pretty effective storyteller.

MANIFEST DESTINY #36 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. In a flashback, we learn what happened outside the fort during the events of the previous couple issues. As I predicted, Charbonneau’s appearance with the Mandan was part of Lewis and Clark’s plan. The scene at the end, where York resists his impulse to beat Jensen to death, is impressive. It may be this series’ best statement about race.

VAGRANT QUEEN #3 (Vault, 2018) – “The Bezoar of Kings,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. This issue mostly examines Elida’s relationship with Stelling. I like this series, but it deserves a better artist. Jason Smith’s storytelling and draftsmanship are average at best.

CODA #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Like Godshaper, Coda is so dense and complicated that I hesitate to actually read it. This is not an uncommon problem with Si Spurrier’s comics, although Angelic and The Spire have mostly avoided it. This issue we learn Serka’s backstory, and the protagonist steals the dead elf dude’s head.

THOR #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “War is Hel,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike Del Mundo. After a lot of wacky complications, Hela ends up marrying Karnilla. This was a fun storyline with excellent art. Some comic relief was badly needed after the relentless grimness of the last few Jane Foster story arcs, and I think that shifting the tone of the series was a wise decision on Jason’s part.

LITTLE LULU #87 (Dell, 1955) – “Bubble Bath” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. The best story in this issue is “The Lookout,” in which the fellers offer to let Lulu join their club if she protects their clubhouse from the West Side Boys. She does that successfully, but they refuse to let her join their club, and she wrecks the clubhouse in frustration. Lulu’s unfair exclusion from the boys’ club, despite (or because of) the fact that she’s smarter than them, is one of the most poignant symbols in this comic. This motif is why Lulu was chosen as the mascot of the Friends of Lulu. There’s another story where Tubby changes his name to Lancelot so that Gloria and Wilbur won’t name a hippo after him. This reminds me a bit of the Max Power episode of the Simpsons.

CROWDED #1 (Image, 2018) – “Welcome to the Working Week,” [W] Chris Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. This new series is a very funny and clever satire of the sharing economy or crowdsourcing or whatever it’s called. The protagonist, Charlotte, works about ten different gig economy jobs – Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, babysitting, etc. Then one day someone starts a campaign on Reapr, the crowdfunding site for assassinations, to have her killed. So she recruits the other protagonist from Dfend, the corresponding site for bodyguards. This premise – that there are versions of Uber for assassins and bodyguards – is ridiculous, yet close enough to real life that it’s almost plausible. The result is a very funny comic that also doubles as a serious critique of the gig economy. I’m looking forward to issue 2.

CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #33 (DC, 1963) – “The Challengers Meet Their Master,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Bob Brown. The Challengers fight a villain called Jacquard who’s better than each of them at their respective specialties. It turns out the whole thing is a setup by Ace to teach them not to be overconfident. There’s also a backup story that I don’t remember at all. The Challengers have some notable similarities to the Fantastic Four, but there are good reasons why the FF are still published today and the Challs are not.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #194 (DC, 1970) – “Inside the Mafia Gang!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Ross Andru. This story refers to the Mafia by name, which was rare in comic books at the time, perhaps because the Mafia controlled the distribution network for comic books. The plot is that Batman and Superman team up to infiltrate the Mafia. This issue is fairly exciting and has some good art, but it’s not a classic.

BATMAN #26 (DC, 2014) – “Zero Year: Dark City,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Like most of the Snyder Batman comics I’ve read, this issue is tough to understand. It takes place before Bruce becomes Batman, and includes a flashback to Bruce’s first encounter with Gordon, when Gordon got his trenchcoat as a kickback. And this meeting happened on the day of Bruce’s parents’ murder. Given the number of events that have been stated as happening on that day, it must have lasted far longer than 24 hours (for example, see Batman #430 and Detective Comics #457).

QUACK! #2 (Star*Reach, 1977) – “Newton the Rabbit Wondr!”, [W] Sergio Aragonés, [A] Steve Leialoha, plus other stories. This issue’s lead story resembles Howard the Duck, but with less social satire and more implied interspecies sex. The next story is by Michael T. Gilbert, and it’s kind of funny, but the lettering is hideous. No wonder he teamed up with Ken Bruzenak later on. Other creators in this issue include Steve Skeates (drawing, rather crudely, as well as writing), Alan Kupperberg and Scott Shaw!. Overall this issue is rather mediocre.

SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON #9 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Creeping Greens,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. I haven’t read this series before. I’d assumed it was an adaptation of Lost in Space, but in fact the reverse is true. Lost in Space was an unauthorized ripoff of Space Family Robinson, and Western Publishing later reached a settlement allowing them to add the title Lost in Space to the cover of Space Family Robinson. As for this actual comic book, “The Creeping Greens” is a well-crafted story by two excellent craftsmen. It’s not Magnus or Scooby-Doo, but it’s a fun comic, and I’d like to read more of this series.

SEA HUNT #11 (Dell, 1961) – “Canyon Danger” and “Davey Jones’s Ledger,” [W] Eric Freiwald & Robert Schaefer, [A] Russ Manning. At Mind the Gaps, I was sitting next to Andy Kunka as he was reading this comic, and I was like, is that a Russ Manning comic I don’t know about? I need to collect it! And he was kind enough to give it to me – it turns out it was a duplicate, and he took it to the conference to give it away. Sea Hunt is an adaptation of a 1958-1961 TV show about two adventurous divers. In general, it’s not the best showcase for Manning’s talents; there’s too much talk and too little action. However, the diving sequences are excellent. They allow Manning to depict the human body in action, which was one of the things he did best. Also, the second story includes a vivacious and proactive female character, who hires the two divers to find evidence to convict her employee of embezzlement.

PROXIMA CENTAURI #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. As usual with this artist, this comic is beautifully drawn and includes some evocative storytelling about childhood, but its plot makes no sense.

LOCKE & KEY: CROWN OF SHADOWS #3 (IDW, 2010) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodríguez. Tyler and Bode find a giant key – this will be important in a comic I’ll be reviewing later. Dodge finds another key that lets him turn shadows into monsters. Gabriel’s depictions of the shadows are just beautiful; they all look terrifying in different ways. This is a really awesome series, and I need to complete my run of it. The only problem is that it’s hard to remember the order of all the different miniseries.

SUPERB #12 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “We Could Be Heroes,” [W] David Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. More of the same plot as last issue. It turns out that Kayla’s dad might not be as dead as he looks.

 

One week of reviews

At the beginning of August I went to the inaugural Comics Studies Society conference in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. It was one of the best academic conferences I’ve ever attended. I felt rather guilty about the quality of my own paper, but I met a lot of old friends, made a lot of new ones, and got some great ideas. After the conference a bunch of us went to G-Mart, a comic store in downtown Champaign, where I bought a few comics. The only one I read before I got back home was:

MR. AND MRS. X #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Love & Marriage,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. I couldn’t have ordered this because I didn’t know what it was. This is an adorable comic, a heartwarming piece of nostalgia for ‘90s X-Men fans, and an effective sequel to Kelly’s Rogue & Gambit miniseries. The plot is that during their honeymoon, Rogue and Gambit have to intervene in an intergalactic conflict involving the Shi’ar, Cerise and Deadpool.

New comics that arrived while I was out of town:

FANTASTIC FOUR #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Signal in the Sky,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sara Pichelli, plus backups. I’ve been looking forward to the FF revival, but this first issue is mostly just setup and flashback scenes. Reed and Sue only appear on a couple pages, and the kids don’t appear at all. Until I wrote this review, I didn’t notice the Impossible Man story on the last page.

MECH CADET YU #11 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. This issue continues to ratchet up the tension, without resolving the dilemma of Buddy having to sacrifice itself. I’m glad this storyline is ending after one more issue, because the suspense is getting ridiculous.

LUMBERJANES: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S SCHEME #1 (Boom!, 2018) – “A Midsummer Night’s Scheme,” [W] Nicole Andelfinger, [A] Maddi Gonzalez. The girls are decorating their cabin for a masquerade, but some fairies steal all their decorations. This was an average Lumberjanes story. At one point while reading it I started to feel bored, which hardly ever happens when I read Lumberjanes. There’s a backup story by Brittney Williams. I’m glad to see her working in comics again.

EXILES #6 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Rod Reis. The Exiles visit a Wild West version of the Marvel Universe, where they meet a sheriff/cowboy version of T’Challa. This is a good start to the second story arc, but Rod Reis is a less exciting artist than Javier Rodriguez.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #35 (Marvel, 2018) – “Last Hunt for Kraven!”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. This was a fun issue, but this Kraven story arc hasn’t really connected me. Whatever Doreen may think of him, Kraven is a murderer and a villain, and it’s hard to sympathize with him as much as Doreen does. Also, I’ve pinpointed why Ryan North’s writing annoys me sometimes: it feels like he’s talking down to the reader. His bottom-of-page captions, in particular, often feel condescending, or they give the impression that Ryan is trying to show how cool he is. But this may just be a personal pet peeve on my part. I don’t think Ryan is deliberately trying to give this impression.

SHE COULD FLY #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Beware the Bandersnatch,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martín Morazzo. Another very strong issue, although it made less of an impact on me than #1, because I was more tired when I read it. The strength of this series is its powerful and realistic depiction of Luna’s mental illness. Luna’s parents are another strong point: the writer shows us that while they truly care for Luna, they aren’t equipped to deal with her problems.

CATWOMAN #2 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats Part 2,” [W/A] Joelle Jones. Selina discovers that the women impersonating her are hired actors, not actual villains, and goes on a quest to find out who hired them. Other than Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman, this is the only Catwoman series I’ve been really excited about. This issue has fewer cats than last issue, but it does include some scenes with Selina’s cats, and I love how Selina sleeps in a curled-up position.

NANCY DREW #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St-Onge. The investigation continues. This was another really good issue, with lots of great character interactions, but nothing about it stands out to me in particular.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #69 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Paul Allor, [A] Toni Kuusisto. Pinkie Pie gains the power to grant wishes. Horrible consequences ensue. This is a pretty average issue, and it offers little that we haven’t seen before in other Pinkie Pie stories. I don’t remember Paul Allor having written for this series before.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Neil Gaiman et al, [A] various. A series of previews of the upcoming Sandman spinoff titles. None of these segments are satisfying in their own right, but they effectively create excitement for the series they’re previewing. I’m especially excited for the voodoo-inspired comic written by Nalo Hopkinson, a brilliant SF writer who has not written for comics before, as far as I know. The last time Neil Gaiman returned to Sandman, I thought it was a cynical cash grab, and that might be true of this new Sandman revival as well. But at least they’re giving other writers a chance to work with Gaiman’s concepts, rather than having Neil retread his old familiar territory yet again.

ARCHIE #153 (Archie, 1965) – “Language Barrier” and other stories, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey. A bunch of typical and mostly forgettable stories. In the first story, Archie and friends are cavemen (or cave boys and girls), and they all come up with different words for the same things. This was one of a few stories from this period in which the Archie characters were cavepeople.

SAVAGE DRAGON #237 (Image, 2018) – “Beware the Scourge!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. I stopped reading this series because of the tasteless and exploitative sex scenes. I decided to give it another chance, but on page four of this issue, there’s a panel where Maxine is eating Angel out while being serviced by Malcolm. Looks like I’ll be dropping this series again for the same reason.

STAR TREK #8 (Marvel, 1980) – “The Expansionist Syndrome,” [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Dave Cockrum. In my Mind the Gaps paper I negatively compared Star Trek comics to My Little Pony comics, but oddly, that made me want to read some Star Trek comics. However, this issue is an example of an ineffective comics adaptation of a TV show. It doesn’t feel like a Star Trek story, it has a trite plot with an overly convenient ending, and Dave Cockrum’s art is lifeless.

PLASTIC MAN #3 (DC, 2018) – “Under Cover of Darkness,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. Another fun issue, but I have nothing new to say about it that I didn’t say about the previous two issues. The highlight is the panel where Plastic Man becomes a My Little Pony doll.

FARMHAND #2 (Image, 2018) – “The Haunted Man,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. The protagonist investigates whatever bizarre mystery is going on, while his kids have some trouble in school. The highlight of the issue is the opening scene where the woman is provided with a new nose. I expect that as with Chew, this series is going to consist mostly of variations on the central joke.

QUICKSILVER: NO SURRENDER #4 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [A] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Erik Nguyen. In the climactic moment of the series, Pietro reads every book in the library and learns to slow down. Geoff Johns already used this idea with Bart Allen in an early issue of his Teen Titans, but Saladin executes the idea better.

DEN #1 (Fantagor, 1988) – “Dreams and Alarums,” [W] Simon Revelstroke, [A] Richard Corben. Simon Revelstroke’s real name is John Pocsik. This series is in fact the fourth chapter of an ongoing saga which started in Heavy Metal in 1977, and its protagonist was created in 1968 for a short film. Therefore, this comic’s plot is somewhat inaccessible, but as usual with Corben, the plot is less important than the beautiful airbrushing, muscular heroes, busty women, awful monsters, etc. This comic has a backup story which is a blatant ripoff of Vaughn Bodé’s works.

HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #1 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Habibi,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornes. I bought this comic because it takes place in the Iron Range of Minnesota, my home state. The writer clearly has Minnesota credentials: on page seven, one character offers another character a “bar,” a Minnesota term for a bar-shaped cookie or cake. The other wrinkle in this comic is that the characters are of Lebanese descent. I like how the daughter works at a fast food restaurant that sells “Mediterranean tuna salad,” which is only Mediterranean because it has olives in it, but she eats dolma at home. It’s an interesting example of the difference between the food people make for themselves and for others. Otherwise this is a pretty standard crime comic, but it’s intriguing enough that I plan to stick with it.

DOORWAY TO NIGHTMARE #4 (DC, 1978) – “Six Claws of the Dragon!”, [W] Catherine B. Andrews & Stuart Hopen, [A] Johnny Craig. A pretty dumb comic. The plot revolves around a Chinese ghost, but the writers know nothing about China. For example, the ghost is a mummified princess from Manchuria named “Shieko Morea.” That’s not a plausible Chinese or Manchu name, and mummification was never practiced in China.

THE SPECTRE #46 (DC, 1996) – “Gather the Ghosts,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. The Spectre encounters an Apache shaman who’s trying to revive the Ghost Dance religion. Meanwhile, some villains are looking for the Spear of Destiny. This story runs the risk of reproducing old cliches about Native Americans, but Ostrander mostly avoids that risk and shows sensitivity to Native American culture. For example, he has a character mention that the Mescalero Apaches never did the Ghost Dance to begin with.

NEW STATESMEN #2 (Fleetway/Quality, 1989) – multiple chapters, [W] John Smith, [A] Jim Baikie. This has been described as a political superhero comic. Not having read the first issue, I’m not sure what’s going on in this issue, but I find it intriguing. John Smith’s prose style is very reminiscent of Alan Moore’s, in a good way, and there are moments in this comic that remind me of Watchmen. This comic feels like it belongs to the same corpus of texts as Watchmen, Miracleman, Brat Pack, etc., and I want to read more of it.

THE KILLER: MODUS VIVENDI #2 (Archaia, 2010) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. This series is a good example of Kim Thompson’s principle that “more crap is what we need” (http://www.tcj.com/a-modest-proposal-more-crap-is-what-we-need/). It’s not a major artistic masterpiece, but it’s a well-executed piece of genre fiction. It effectively confronts the protagonist, a professional assassin, with a moral dilemma: some unknown clients manipulate him into killing a saintly nun in order to cause political unrest. (This plot resembles that of the “Gateless Barrier” chapter of Lone Wolf and Cub.) The most impressive thing about this comic, though, is the gorgeous coloring.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #84 (DC, 1969) – “The Angel, the Rock and the Cowl!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Neal Adams. This story is a blatant continuity violation on multiple levels. First, it states that Batman fought in World War II, and second, it indicates that Sgt. Rock survived World War II, when Robert Kanigher claimed that Rock died on the last day of the war. Apparently DC later established that this story took place on Earth-B, along with other Bob Haney stories that were impossible to reconcile with Earth-1 or Earth-2 continuity. If you can ignore all that, this is an exciting and well-drawn comic, though it’s not as well-written as other Haney-Adams collaborations.

AQUAMAN #17 (DC, 1964) – “The Man Who Vanquished Aquaman,” [W] Jack Miller, [A] Nick Cardy. Aquaman and Mera had a whirlwind (whirlpool?) romance: this is only her sixth appearance and they’re already talking about marriage. In this issue, Mera is kidnapped by Poseidon, who bears little resemblance to how he’s usually depicted in mythology. At one point the writer describes him as Zeus’s son, though he is later correctly identified as Zeus’s brother. The best things about this comic are Nick Cardy’s exciting action sequences and his beautiful renderings of Mera.

BLACK BADGE #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. This series continues Matt Kindt’s usual theme of spies and espionage, while also adding a new wrinkle: the main characters are kids who pose as Boy Scouts. Or rather, they’re Boy Scouts who earn badges by infiltrating foreign countries and assassinating people. I still haven’t finished reading Grass Kings, but Black Badge has a more interesting premise, and I’m more excited about it than I was about Grass Kings.

MISTER X #13 (Vortex, 1988) – “Nightclubs/Daydreams,” [W] Dean Motter, [A] Seth. The best thing about this comic is the beautiful cover by Mike Kaluta (incidentally, the same is true of Doorway to Nightmare #4). The interior story is confusing and incomprehensible. Seth’s artwork is recognizable as his, and there’s one background character who appears to be a self-portrait, but Seth is not well suited to drawing an action comic. Indeed, in most of his comics, barely anything happens at all.

SAVAGE DRAGON #48 (Image, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon fights Powerhouse, and Barbaric and Ricochet’s baby is born. Reading old Savage Dragon comics is a bit weird because it’s hard to keep track of the plot, and so much of the plot has been retconned into nonexistence anyway. I’m not even sure how many different worlds there are in this series, or which world the current issues are taking place in.

FLASH GORDON #2 (Dynamite, 2014) – “Flash in the Forest,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Doc Shaner. Flash and his companions visit Arboria and meet Prince Barin. Flash Gordon has perhaps the most distinguished artistic heritage of any American comic – its past artists include Alex Raymond, Al Williamson and Mac Raboy. A high compliment that can be given to Doc Shaner is that he does honor to his predecessors on this series.

TRIDENT #8 (Trident, 1990) – various stories, [E] Martin Skidmore. A British black-and-white independent comic, published in the American format. Artists in this issue include Paul Grist, D’Israeli, Eddie Campbell, and others I haven’t heard of. Most of the artwork in the issue  is drawn in a style similar to that of Grist and Phil Elliott. I don’t know what this style is called or where it originated from, but it appears to be the dominant style of British indie comics. The Bacchus story by Campbell is easily the highlight of the issue.

KINGDOM OF THE WICKED #1 (Caliber, 1996) – “Chapter One,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. Caliber is a terrible publisher, but this comic is fascinating. The protagonist is a children’s book author who finds himself back in the fantasy realm he created as a child, except that world has taken a very dark turn and has become embroiled in an endless war. The idea of a child’s fantasy world turned real is quite familiar – other examples include Joe the Barbarian or, outside comics, Jonathan Carroll’s The Land of Laughs. But Edginton and D’Israeli approach this idea from a British perspective, creating allusions to World War I, and their writing and artwork are very solid. I want to read more of their work.

CRIMINAL #2 (Marvel, 2008) – “A Wolf Among Wolves,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. An excellent comic. In 1972, Teeg Lawless returns from Vietnam with a massive case of PTSD that renders him unable to relate to his family. He becomes easy prey for criminals, who encourage him to use his military training for evil purposes. Brubaker and Phillips effectively  depict Teeg’s trauma and his inability to cope with civilian life. A visual device they use repeatedly is to interrupt the story with black panels, representing Teeg’s blackouts.

SWAMP THING #7 (DC, 1973) – “Night of the Bat,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Bernie Wrightson. This  Batman-Swampy team-up is probably Wein and Wrightson’s best Swamp Thing story. Wein writes an exciting story that provides a plausible reason for Swampy and Batman to meet. Wrightson’s anatomy, action sequences, and moodiness are amazing, and the Swamp Thing-Batman fight scene is a highlight of his career. It’s too bad he didn’t get to draw Batman again until he was past his artistic prime. Wrightson draws Swampy as a hulking naked guy with a weird-shaped head. I believe it was Steve Bissette who started the trend of drawing Swamp Thing as a man-shaped heap of plant matter, composed of leaves and vines and constantly dripping.

UNDERWATER #4 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1995) – three stories, [W/A] Chester Brown. The main feature in this series is told from the viewpoint of a pre-verbal baby. The baby can’t understand most of the words s/he hears, so much of the dialogue in the series is gibberish, and s/he is unable to distinguish between waking and dream states. This all results in a sense of extreme weirdness. The second story, “My Mother is a Schizophrenic,” presents Chester’s theory that schizophrenia doesn’t exist. As the son of a psychiatrist, I am inclined to be very unsympathetic to this theory, although Chester makes a superficially convincing case for it. There’s also a chapter of Chester’s ongoing adaptation of the New Testament.

THE LAST AMERICAN #2 (Marvel, 1991) – “Apocalypse: The Musical,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Mike McMahon. This is one of the most depressing comics ever, which is why I took a while to get around to reading it. The protagonist spends most of the issue driving around a barren, sunless post-nuclear wasteland, and finally decides to kill himself. But on the last page he picks up a radio transmission from another survivor, which is lucky, because I was wondering how this series could possibly go on for two more issues.

DEE VEE #2 (Dee Vee, 1997) – various stories, [E] Marcus Moore. Like Trident #8, this anthology comic includes an Eddie Campbell story which is vastly better than anything else in it. The Campbell story in this issue appears to be a chapter of “How to Be an Artist.” The other artists featured in Dee Vee #2 include Bruce Mutard, Pete Mullins, and lots of people I’ve never heard of, and to put it politely, the material in this issue is of variable quality.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: DALLAS #4 (Dark Horse, 2009) – untitled, [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. This comic’s story makes no sense, and the recap on the inside front cover doesn’t help at all, although Gabriel Ba’s artwork is as brilliant as usual.

THE TERRIFICS #2 (DC, 2018) – “Meet the Terrifics, Part 2,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Ivan Reis. We learn Linnya’s origin, which is sort of a mix of Superman and Mon-El’s origins, and then there are a bunch of action sequences. This issue would have been more impressive if I’d read it when it came out – I bought it at G-Mart in Champaign.

ZOOT! #4 (Fantagraphics, 1993) – “Mister Piggy Fibs,” [W] Andrew Langridge, [A] Roger Langridge. Not at all what I expected. Roger Langridge is one of the most skilled storytellers in English-language comics, but this issue consists of a series of absurdist surrealist comics, with no apparent plot and with unfunny jokes. Roger draws with great precision and slickness and shows a great diversity of style, but I don’t think I care for Andrew’s writing.

METROPOL #1 (Marvel, 1991) – “Secrets and Revelations,” [W/A] Ted McKeever. I think this is my first McKeever comic. It’s a rather surrealistic and Kafkaesque story, taking place in a grim totalitarian city. It’s well done, but it didn’t make a huge impact on me.

MR. MONSTER #1 (Dark Horse, 1988) – “Origins,” [W/A] Michael T. Gilbert. In the past I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about this series, but I’m starting to really get into it now. Its histrionic, over-the-top style of writing and art is deliberate, and quite funny. This issue begins Mr. Monster’s origin story long before his conception, as Kelly’s mother explains how she broke up with the previous Mr. Monster because he cared more about fighting monsters than about her. The issue also incorporates a reprint of one of the original Mr. Monster stories from the Canadian Whites.

SWEET TOOTH #6 (DC, 2010) – “In Captivity Part 1,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. One of this issue’s plotlines focuses on Tommy Jepperd, a former hockey player, as he carries his wife across a postapocalyptic Canada to bury her. The other plotline is about an antler-headed kid, presumably Tommy’s son, who is trapped in a scientific facility along with other hybrid human-animal children. This issue is hard to understand out of context, but it’s pretty good, and it features a lot of Lemire’s stock themes – hockey, Canada, family, etc.

UNNATURAL #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Mirka Andolfo. Leslie goes to the reproduction center to find a fellow pig to breed with. This comic is still very interesting, and   Mirka Andolfo draws some beautiful animal people, but her use of animals as a metaphor for LGBTQ identity is kind of crude and unsubtle.

BLOODSTRIKE BRUTALISTS #24 (Image, 2018) – “Life in Hell,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. In this final issue, Cabbot goes on a mission to recover (what he thinks are) the dead bodies of his teammates so they can be revived again. On the letters page, Michel Fiffe explains that this series was created to fill in the gap between Bloodstrike #22 and #25, since those issues were published, but #23 and #24 were not – it’s complicated. This was a well-done series with some brilliant art.

WIMMEN’S COMIX #8 (Last Gasp, 1983) – various stories, [E] Kathryn LeMieux & Lee Binswanger. This issue has an amazing lineup of talent: Trina Robbins, Lee Marrs, Lynda Barry, Dori Seda, Carol Lay, Phoebe Gloeckner, Mary Wilshire and Sharon Rudahl, among others. Highlights include: 1) A science fiction story by Marrs. 2) Caryn Leschen’s “Holding the Torch,” a story with obsessively dense artwork, in which some New Yorkrs visit San Francisco and suffer a culture shock. 3) Dori Seda’s story about self-defense against rape. 4) Carol Lay’s “The Misogynist,” which reads like a prototype for Irene Van De Kamp. 5) Sharon Rudahl’s “Mein Rue Platz,” which I believe was discussed in one of Margaret Galvan’s conference papers.

MOCKINGBIRD #7 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter investigate a murder aboard a cruise ship. It turns out that Bobbi’s dead rapist, the Phantom Rider, is responsible. This is an excellent comic with lots of great jokes, and I’m glad that this creative team has a new series forthcoming from Image.

U.S.AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “$kullocracy Part One,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina. A new team of Avengers fights a new Secret Empire. This was okay, but not nearly as good as the later story with the Archie characters.

OMAC #5 (DC, 1975) – “New Bodies for Old!!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Omac battles some criminals who are stealing young people’s bodies in order to transplant old people’s minds into them. This is a pretty good Kirby comic, but it suffers from D. Bruce Berry’s poor inking and ugly lettering.

Multiple review posts at once

7-19-18

I’ve been hesitant to write any more reviews because I’m almost out of space in my boxes. I ordered five more boxes, and they’re supposed to arrive on Wednesday.

A few comics I read after I finished the last round of reviews:

ARCADE #4 (Print Mint, 1975) – various stories, [E] Art Spiegelman & Bill Griffith. This was one of my most exciting finds at Heroes Con. I never thought I’d own an actual issue of Arcade. This issue is most notable because it’s the only comic in my collection that includes new work by Art Spiegelman. His story, “As the Mind Reels/A Soap Opera,” is very experimental and nonlinear, and its artwork and lettering are brilliant. This issue’s lineup of talent also includes Crumb, Griffith, Spain, Deitch, and Robert Williams. As is well known and as this issue demonstrates, Arcade was a bridge between the early underground comics and the more mature tradition of comics represented by Raw.

MANHUNTER #13 (DC, 2005) – “Manhunted Part Four: Skin Deep,” [W] Marc Andreyko, [A] Brad Walker. This series was unusual when it came out (and still today, I guess) because its protagonist was a single mother. But it’s mostly forgotten now, and perhaps with good reason. This issue has a couple nice moments, but Andreyko spends most of the issue exploring the connections between all the previous Manhunters.

ATOMIC ROBO: THE SAVAGE SWORD OF DR. DINOSAUR #1 (Red 5, 2013) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Robo and his employees explore a cryptid sighting in Venezuela, and run into Dr. Dinosaur. This issue was less funny than other issues of this miniseries, mostly because there was less Dr. Dinosaur. There’s one funny moment when Robo has to carry his entire team using one climbing harness.

LOCKE & KEY: KEYS TO THE KINGDOM #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Luke uses the animal key to turn himself into a wolf, and tries to kill Ty (who I mistakenly referred to as Rendell in two previous reviews; Rendell is his father). Bode saves Ty by turning himself into a flock of birds. The scenes from Bode’s POV are drawn in a faux-Calvin & Hobbes style, demonstrating Rodriguez’s stylistic versatility.

BATMAN #375 (DC, 1984) – “The Glacier Under Gotham,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Don Newton. This issue’s cover has Batman saying “Robin – what have I done to you!” I assume this is just a coincidence, unless the infamous panel with that same line of dialogue was already a meme in 1984. The issue’s story is narrated in awful rhymed verse that doesn’t even scan, which proves that Moench’s poetry was even worse than its prose. The plot is that Mr. Freeze tries to freeze Gotham solid, and Julia Pennyworth and Vicki Vale try to stop him, but only succeed in getting captured. Meanwhile, a social worker decides to take Jason Todd away from Bruce because Bruce is an unfit parent. I can’t blame her.

At the end of June I went to visit my parents in Minneapolis. While I was there, my dad and I visited the Comic Book College at its new location. I have a deep sentimental attachment to the old Comic College because it was the first comic book store I ever visited. But I do have to admit that the new location is really nice and quite spacious. They had a ton of back issues and I could easily have spent an hour hunting through everything they had, but I didn’t have the time. I did buy a small stack of comics, of which I only read one before I got home:

GOAT: H.A.E.D.U.S. #1 (Valiant, 1998) – “The Troll,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Keith Giffen & Charlie Adlard. This is probably the rarest Quantum & Woody comic, so I didn’t mind paying $5 for it. This one-shot tells the origin of Eric and Woody’s pet goat. Like all Q&W comics, it’s very funny but also confusing and nonlinear, and requires serious effort to decipher. It includes a scene that’s also shown from a different perspective in Quantum & Woody #15 or #16, I forget which.

New comics that I picked up on July 4, after I got home:

LUMBERJANES #51 (Boom!, 2018) – “Board, Board, Board” part 3, [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. Another great issue of a really fun storyline. The board game storyline is almost as exciting as the underground exploration storyline. I don’t play board games, but I kind of want to play Penterra. Molly’s line “Everyone is enjoying this game in different ways… there’s nothing wrong with that” is kind of the central principle of this comic, as well as My Little Pony.

SAGA #53 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. The problem when Saga and Lumberjanes both come out the same day is that I have to choose which comic to read first – the best current comic (Saga) or my favorite current comic (Lumberjanes). I chose Saga the last three times this happened, but this time I chose Lumberjanes. This issue of Saga is full of brutal violence. The mole assassin is shot in the face, though unfortunately she doesn’t die, and on the last page The Will rips Prince Robot’s head off. A few days ago, I was thinking that it would be nice if Saga didn’t have a shocking twist every issue, or if not every storyline ended with a horrible catastrophe. If only Marko, Alana and Hazel could get some quiet time to themselves for once. But that’s not BKV’s style – his comics depend on shocks and twists and constant tension.

MS. MARVEL #31 (Marvel, 2018) – “One Night Only,” [W] G. Willow Wilson et al, [A] Nico Leon et al. Kamala invites Nakia, Zoe and Mike to a sleepover, but keeps having to run out on her own party to deal with emergencies. Within this framing sequence are three sequences by guest writers, including Rainbow Rowell, Saladin Ahmed and Hasan Minhaj. The lineup of talent in this issue is tremendous – G. Willow Wilson, Rainbow Rowell and Saladin Ahmed are three of Marvel’s four best current writers (besides Ryan North), and each of them is also a successful novelist. And this comic mostly lives up to the talent involved. Kamala asking Lockjaw if Black Bolt fell down the old well is a priceless moment. It’s heartwarming when Kamala finally reveals her secret identity to her girlfriends, all of whom knew it already. The weak link in the issue is Hasan Minhaj’s segment; it’s obvious that he hasn’t written comics before.

ASTRO CITY #52 (DC, 2018) – “And, in the End…”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. The last monthly issue of Astro City is an effective finale to the series. Michael tells the truth about his wife to his support group, and most of them believe him – except Rose, the bereaved woman from last issue, who calls him a liar and storms out. But most of the group members come back anyway. There’s no real resolution at the end, but there doesn’t need to be. For selfish reasons, I’m sorry that Kurt is dispensing with the monthly Astro City comic. I’m sure that going straight to trade paperback is a better option; it’s just that I love the comic book format, and I’d rather own everything in that form.

SEX CRIMINALS #25 (Image, 2018) – “No Tell,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. This series continues to be rather difficult and confusing, but this was the best and clearest issue in a while. Perhaps inevitably, Jon and Suzie get back together, and it’s a heartwarming moment, even if it feels like they haven’t really resolved the issues behind their breakup. Also, I guess Kegelface isn’t evil anymore?

MODERN FANTASY #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Kristen Gudsnuk. I haven’t heard of this writer before, but I loved Kristen Gudsnuk’s Henchgirl. I actually wish I’d read it slower than I did, because it’s a very dense work, with all sorts of Easter eggs and hidden jokes. This comic is similarly full of little details and references, and Gudsnuk uses them to build a unique and evocative fantasy world (whereas Henchgirl takes place in our world). Modern Fantasy is sort of like Monsters, Inc. or Top Ten in that its world is full of epic fantasy tropes and cliches, but otherwise operates according to real-world logic. The protagonist, Sage of the Riverlands, is an office drone whose boss is a Conan-esque barbarian. Given the depth and originality of the worldbuilding, this comic would be good enough if it were just a slice-of-life story. But it also has a plot, in which Sage gets stuck with some property that belongs to the mob. I’m excited for this series and I look forward to the next issue.

KILL OR BE KILLED #20 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. We begin with a fake happy ending in which Dylan survives his gunshot wound, returns to his normal life with Kira, and continues being a vigilante even though he’s free of the demon. Unsurprisingly, it turns out this is just an imaginary sequence and Dylan really is dead. And then Kira gets possessed by the demon. This issue is a satisfying conclusion to a well-done series. Besides being an entertaining crime story, it also functions as a critique of the superhero genre, showing that one dude fighting bad people doesn’t solve any problems.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #37 (Image, 2018) – “Nothing to Be Scared Of,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. This issue begins with ten pages of black panels. This was a… surprising decision, but it makes sense in context. And apparently the ten blank pages were free to the reader; the issue cost the same and had the same number of “real” pages as any other issue. I remember either Kieron or Jamie said something about these pages on Twitter, but I can’t find that tweet now. In the rest of the issue, Baphomet fights Morrigan, and she apparently dies.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #32 (Marvel, 2018) – “Save Our School Part 1 of 5,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella’s new classmate is the Kingpin’s daughter, Princess Fisk, who is the same proportionate size as her father. And Lunella catches Princess breaking into school after hours. This was a fun issue, though not as memorable as last issue, and a promising start to a new storyline. On Twitter, I asked Brandon what Lunella’s parents’ first names are, and he replied, “Mr. and Mrs.”

BLACKWOOD #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish. Another really strong issue, but basically the same sort of thing as last issue. It turns out the four protagonists were all recruited for Blackwood’s secret school within the school, which trains students to protect the world from occult threats. And the blond-haired kid tries to leave Blackwood and go home, only to run into the creepy old lady from last issue, who is carrying around a giant rat-eating bug.

THE TERRIFICS #5 (DC, 2018) – “Element World! Part One,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Doc Shaner. The Terrifics try to resume their interrupted personal lives, but get summoned to fight Algon, the Ancient Elemental Man. Compared to Jeff’s other current titles, The Terrifics is kind of a minor work, but it’s very fun, and Doc Shaner’s art is brilliant. Metamorpho and Sapphire have always had an extremely unhealthy and codependent relationship, and they really ought to break up.

DODGE CITY #4 (Boom!, 2018) – “Whump!”, [W] Josh Trujillo, [A] Cara McGee. The Jazz Pandas lose their match, but learn a valuable lesson about friendship, I guess. This was the worst Boom! Box title yet. The characters were insufficiently developed, and the reader had no reason to care whether they won or lost. If there’s another Dodge City miniseries, I won’t be buying it.

DESCENDER #31 (Image, 2018) – “The End of the Universe 3 of 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Nothing truly unexpected. Tim tries to get the Descenders to stop destroying the universe, and they say no. One more issue left.

LUCY DREAMING #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Michael Dialynas. Lucy and Welsey find themselves in a superhero story, where Welsey turns out to be the supervillain. And Lucy’s mom reveals that “the masculine energy of this world has become lopsidedly pronounced,” so I guess this comic is an allegory about boys’ versus girls’ stories, though I’m not sure what the point of the allegory is. The issue ends with Lucy reawakening within an Alice in Wonderland story.

THE WEATHERMAN #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody LeHeup, [A] Nathan Fox. A science fiction comic from one of the writers of Shirtless Bear-Fighter. It takes place on Mars seven years after Earth was destroyed, and the protagonist is a celebrity weather reporter. I enjoyed this comic, but I have trouble remembering anything about it, even what the premise is. There’s a scene where the (male) hero attempts to breastfeed a baby.

PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #306 (Marvel, 2018) – “Coming Home – Part One,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert & Juan Frigeri. Back in the present, Spidey and some other superheroes come up with a plan to stop the Vedomi. This issue was a step down in quality from the previous storyline; it lacked the emotional resonance of the encounter between the past and present Spideys. I had trouble remembering anything about this issue.

LUBA #2 (Fantagraphics, 1998) – “Luba in America, Part 2” and other stories, [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. At this point in Beto’s ongoing Luba saga, its plot was still fairly understandable – whereas now it’s gotten so convoluted that I’m not even sure who the characters are. This issue of Luba includes some references to “Poison River,” a story I don’t understand well, but otherwise it’s pretty clear. Conveniently, Beto includes a list of characters on the inside front cover. The stories in this issue feature Luba herself, Fritz and Petra, and Guadalupe and Gato.

MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #14 (Marvel, 1973) – “Ice and Hellfire!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Jim Mooney. Daimon Hellstrom visits “Gateway University” in St. Louis to investigate some demon sightings. While there, he encounters a female professor who becomes intrigued by him. This issue has some Gerberesque touches, like the flaming chariot with demon steeds at the beginning, but Gerber’s Son of Satan is not one of his major works.

FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #1 (DC, 1975) – “Atlas the Great!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Atlas is a heroic warrior who will eventually become the model for the Greek Titan of the same name. Atlas, the comic, feels like Kirby’s take on the barbarian genre, although it’s drawn in a typically Kirbyesque style and looks nothing like a barbarian comic. Atlas is orphaned as a child, and when he grows up, he becomes a mercenary warrior seek revenge on the wizard who killed his parents. This is the same plot as Wulf the Barbarian or Dagar the Invincible. Besides that, Atlas is a pretty typical ’70s Kirby comic, and lacks the excitement and originality of his better works of that period.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “Chasing Your Monster,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. Ben, Johnny and Rachna travel to yet another alternate reality, where they have to fight in a gladiatorial arena. Then Rachna runs off in search of a device to heal her sister, abandoning Ben and Johnny. This series honestly hasn’t been all that good, and this issue felt like a chore to read. MTIO also lacks a sense of purpose, since Ben believes Reed and Sue are dead, meaning that his and Johnny’s attempt to find them is futile. Of course the reader knows that Reed and Sue are coming back in a few months, but there’s no hint of that in MTIO itself. MTIO’s lack of purpose is a problem which is intrinsic to the text, and I don’t think you can solve such a problem by applying knowledge from outside the text.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR: TRANSATLANTIC COMICS #1 (Dark Horse, 1998) – “Transatlatic Comics,” [W] Harvey Pekar, [A] Frank Stack & Colin Warneford. Most of this issue is drawn by an autistic British fan, Colin Warneford, and consists of a sequence in which Harvey reads Warneford’s letter to him. Warneford’s letter has little to do with Harvey Pekar’s life, but Harvey enjoyed using American Splendor to tell other people’s stories as well as his own – he did that on a larger scale in the Unsung Hero miniseries. Warneford’s story is quite touching. His autism isolates him and subjects him to mockery and prejudice – for example, people make fun of him whenever he goes out. Attitudes about autism have changed since this comic came out, but I expect that the prejudices this story depicts are still very common. This issue of American Splendor was Colin Warneford’s only published comics work, and I can’t find any information as to what became of him. I hope he’s still alive and well.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #41 (Marvel, 1975) – “Havoc on Homeworld!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Al Milgrom. My collection of this series mostly stops with Jim Starlin’s departure, but I ought to collect all the late issues that Englehart wrote. In this issue, Mar-Vell and Rick visit the Kree homeworld, which is a hideous dystopia, and the Supreme Intelligence makes them fight Ronan. Al Milgrom does an okay job of imitating Starlin.

THOR #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Odinson Boys Ride Again,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike Del Mundo. Thor and Loki go to Niffleheim, where they meet some characters we haven’t seen in a while: Balder, Tyr, Karnilla and Skurge. And they all try to organize a defense against Malekith and the Queen of Cinders. Also, Thori receives a marriage proposal from Tyr’s pet dinosaur, and we briefly encounter Lady Allmour of the Pleasure Lands, who I’d like to see more of. Mike Del Mundo’s art helps to distinguish this series from the previous Thor comic, which is good because that series is a tough act to follow.

GIRL OVER PARIS: THE CIRQUE AMERICAN SERIES #1 (JetCity, 2016) – untitled, [W] Gwenda Bond & Kate Leth, [A] Ming Doyle. I pulled this from a cheap box at Heroes Con because Kate Leth wrote it. This comic is published by Amazon’s comics imprint, and it’s an adaptation of a novel series also published by Amazon, about a female circus performer. The comic is a fairly intriguing depiction of the circus lifestyle, and it has an air of verisimilitude, but it’s not all that exciting.

SUICIDE SQUAD #24 (DC, 1989) – “Slings and Arrows,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Luke McDonnell. Amanda Waller is forced to testify to Congress about the Squad’s existence. To prevent the Suicide Squad themselves from having to testify, she sends them on a mission to the African country of Ogaden – named after an actual disputed territory in Ethiopia. This is just a great superhero comic; it’s full of fascinating characters and exciting moments. A high point of the issue is when Nemesis stands up to Waller, calls her a bully, and refuses to go on the mission. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a scene where Punch and Jewelee engage in foreplay in front of their teammates – including Punch telling Jewelee to “eat this salami.” How did that get past the Code?

ACTION COMICS #466 (DC, 1976) – “You Can Take the Man Out of the Super, But You Can’t Take the Super Out of the Boy!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. What a title. According to this issue’s Neal Adams-drawn cover, Luthor has turned Batman and the Flash into children and killed them, and is now doing the same to Superman. The story inside is okay, but it doesn’t quite live up to the cover, although Superboy, Batboy and Kid Flash are fairly cute.

REVOLVER #5 (Renegade, 1986) – “The Crackling Blazer,” [W/A] Steve Ditko, plus other stories. I read this just after learning that Steve Ditko had died. He’s not my favorite artist, but I admire both his artwork and his personal integrity, and his death is a great loss. “The Crackling Blazer” is a series of one-page strips which were created in 1977 for a newspaper about CB radio, but never published. It’s a typically bizarre piece of work, about a radio-powered superhero who defends drivers on a living highway. It includes all of Ditko’s stock characters: an eccentric old inventor, his attractive daughter, a mad scientist, and a superhero with bizarre energy powers and a two-syllable name (Cal Bane). Indeed, this comic is similar enough to Ditko’s Static that I wonder if one was a prototype for the other. CB also strongly resembles Shade the Changing Man. This comic also includes some short backup stories, including one of Henry Boltinoff’s last one-pagers.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: WAKANDA FOREVER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “A Strange Little Birdie,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Alberto Albuquerque. Spidey teams up with Ayo, Aneka and Okoye to fight Nakia and Hydro-Man. Incidentally, the comic version of Nakia, who appears in this issue, is shockingly different from the movie version. New readers encountering this comic will probably wonder why Nakia looks and dresses crazy and is terrorizing children. Marvel would be well advised to retcon Nakia so that she matches her depiction in the movie. Anyway, the story in this issue is pretty average, but the characterization is very impressive. The Dora Milaje themselves, as well as the kids at the beginning of the issue, are interesting, their dialogue is well-written, and they remind me of the characters in Okorafor’s books. In writing these characters, Nnedi Okorafor is able to draw upon her firsthand knowledge of both African and American culture. I’m glad she’s getting more work for Marvel. There are several Caribbean restaurants named The Hummingbird Restaurant, including one in Trenton, NJ, but none of them are in New York City.

BLOODSTRIKE BRUTALISTS #23 (Image, 2018) – “Tag, You’re It!”, [W/A] Michel Fiffe. Bloodstrike member Tag gets involved in a bizarre and disturbing murder mystery. This issue has a fairly intricate plot, and as usual, Michel Fiffe’s art is exciting and radically experimental. Perhaps the highlight of the issue is a backup story by Rob Liefeld, starring his self-parody character The Pouch.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #123 (Marvel, 1970) – “Suprema, the Deadliest of the Species!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. A new villain called Suprema (later Mother Night) hypnotizes Nick Fury and takes control of SHIELD, but Cap figures out her weakness and defeats her. This issue’s plot is pretty dumb, but Gene’s artwork is spectacular. There’s one page where Stan doesn’t include any dialogue and just lets Gene’s artwork tell the story. Stan did that at least one other time, in Tales of Suspense #85.

DETECTIVE COMICS #484 (DC, 1979) – “Assault on Olympus!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Don Newton. In the opening story, Batman battles Maxie Zeus. This story is well-drawn, but nothing special. There are backup stories starring the Human Target, Batgirl, Robin, the Demon, and Batman again. The Robin story is mildly poignant because Dick revisits Haley’s Circus, and the Demon story is drawn by Steve Ditko. I like Jack C. Harris’s Batgirl stories because I like Batgirl, but those stories weren’t especially well written.

BACCHUS #6 (Eddie Campbell, 1995) – “King Bacchus, Part 5: Ours is a Random Association” and “The Gods of Business, Part 2: The White Knight,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell with Pete Mullins and Ed Hillyer. This issue’s first story guest-stars Neil Gaiman. In the backup story, the Telchines, the eponymous gods of business, explain their origin and then try to kidnap Joe Theseus’s previous wife and his young son. I’ve read a bunch of Eddie’s Bacchus stories in collected form or in other comic books, and I’m never quite sure which ones I have and haven’t read, so it was nice to realize that I hadn’t read either of these stories before. Eddie is equally good at telling a story with a plot (The Gods of Business) or a plotless meandering ramble (King Bacchus).

ACTION COMICS #391 (DC, 1970) – “The Punishment of Superman’s Son!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Ross Andru. This imaginary story depicts some of the worst parenting in comic book history. Superman is disappointed in his teenage son, who keeps making all sorts of stupid mistakes. He wishes his son were more like Batman Jr, who is following in his father’s footsteps. And Superman tells Superman Jr all of this, repeatedly and at length. In short, Superman is an abusive father. He constantly criticizes and insults his son and sets him up to fail, and he never considers the possibility that Superman Jr’s failings are the result of bad parenting. (Batman is just as bad; he mocks Superman for having such an inferior son, which is actually kind of hilarious.) And at the end of the issue, Superman erases Superman This story continues into the following issue, which is even worse: Superman Sr has second thoughts and gives his own powers to Superman Jr, who now has an impossible burden to live up to. The saving grace of this story is that it was a prototype for Bob Haney’s Super Sons stories, which were much better, and eventually for Peter Tomasi’s Super Sons series. This issue also includes a Legion backup in which Element Lad and some other Legionnaires go on an espionage mission. This story is pretty average, and the only really interesting moment occurs when Saturn Girl meets a friend of hers from before she joined the Legion.

BATMAN #42 (DC, 2015) – “Superheroes, Part 2,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. This issue seems quite well done, but it’s confusing and not new-reader friendly. As of the start of this issue, Jim Gordon is the new Batman. There’s no explanation of why he’s Batman or why Bruce Wayne has a beard and is working at some sort of youth center. I should have been reading Scott Snyder’s Batman when it came out, but by now the original issues are going to be tough to find, and I try to avoid buying trade paperbacks of Marvel or DC comics.

SUPERMAN #28 (DC, 2017) – “Independence Day,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Scott Godlewski. Clark, Lois and Jon visit Washington DC, tour the monuments, and meet some descendants of a soldier lost at Gettysburg (a Union soldier, thankfully). Superman recovers the soldier’s body and delivers it to his family. This issue has some heartwarming moments, but it’s full of a type of unquestioning patriotism that rings very hollow at the moment. I know I can’t expect very much political critique from a DC comic, but right now I have trouble believing that our country is in okay shape, or that our heritage is something to be uncritically proud of. I especially don’t like the opening scene, which draws a false equivalence between pro- and anti-climate-change protesters.

FANTASTIC FOUR #150 (Marvel, 1974) – “Ultron-7: He’ll Rule the World!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Rich Buckler. The first half of this issue is the conclusion of a crossover with Avengers #127, in which the Avengers, FF and Inhumans battle Ultron, who looks very odd because he’s wearing a red costume. The second half of the issue is Quicksilver and Crystal’s wedding, but oddly enough, neither Quicksilver nor Crystal has any dialogue in the entire issue. Perhaps that was a bad omen for their marriage. In general, this is a very average comic.

ARCHANGEL #1 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, [W] William Gibson, [A] Butch Guice. I’ve read Neuromancer, and I have three other William Gibson novels that I haven’t read. He’s not my favorite author. His first comics project is a time-travel story in which some future scientists investigate alien sightings during World War II. About half of this issue consists of sketches and worldbuilding material, and it’s obvious that a lot of thought and preliminary work went into this comic. But I haven’t yet felt motivated to read the other four issues.

THE SENTRY #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sentry World, Part 1,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Kim Jacinto. Bob Reynolds is working at a diner and living in a hovel, while using a device called the Confluctor to engage in fantasy adventures as the Sentry. One day he comes home and finds the Confluctor stolen, but the fantasy world it creates still exists independently. This comic is an interesting take on Superman. It reminds me of Black Hammer in its blending of the superhero and slice-of-life genres, and it also reminds me of early issues of Miracleman.

KID BLASTOFF #1 (Slave Labor, 1996) – “The Attack of the Bomb Squad,” [W/A] Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer. A collection of strips that originally appeared in Disney Adventures, about an incompetent new superhero and his much smarter female sidekick. These stories are entertaining and funny, but they’re not the best Evan is capable of. Kid Blastoff could have been presented as even more of an incompetent glory-hound. I did a little research on Disney Adventures for my UF keynote speech, and I’d like to look into it further. That magazine was an important precursor to the current YA comics boom.

TARZAN #161 (Gold Key, 1966) – “Fight for the Treasure,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Russ Manning. The conclusion of an adaptation of The Jewels of Opar, an exciting novel with a very complex but understandable plot. I’ve never read an actual Tarzan novel, but I’ve read so many comics adaptations of ERB novels, it’s as if I had read the novels themselves. Russ Manning is one of my favorite classic comic book artists, and this issue demonstrates why. Manning’s anatomy and his action sequences are perfect. It seems like no detail in any panel could be changed without making it worse. There’s one very funny moment in this issue where Tarzan speaks in great ape language and pretends he’s speaking Greek. (Edit: Turns out I already had this issue.)

BACCHUS #7 (Eddie Campbell, 1995) – “King Bacchus, Part 6” and “The Gods of Business, Part 3,” creators as above. One of the characters in “King Bacchus” has a shirt depicting Gran’ma Ben from Bone. The Gods of Bacchus story includes a brutal moment where the Telchines murder Joe Theseus’s sleeping child. The Telchines may be the worst villains Eddie has created. See the review of #6 above for more general comments.

BROTHERS OF THE SPEAR #15 (Gold Key, 1975) – “The Phantom Leopards,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. A workmanlike but well-crafted story in which the Aba-Zulu fight off an invasion by an enemy tribe. This series never gets the credit it deserves for depicting interracial friendships and an integrated society, at a time when such depictions were risky.

SUPERB #10 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Those Who Remain,” [W] David Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. The Foresight people are torturing the captured Jonah by forcing him to engage in constant testing. Kayla tries to break in and rescue him. Foresight’s brutal treatment of Jonah is disturbing, as well as the ways they justify it – the one dude basically says it’s okay because Jonah isn’t human. I enjoyed this issue more than the last few.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #21 (Eclipse, 1993) – “The First Time Professor Garbanzo Discovered the Four Realities,” [W/A] Larry Marder. Proffy tells the Cuties the story of how she got inside the Fix-It Shop and discovered the Four Realities. Unlike some of the other later issues, this issue doesn’t expand our understanding of the Beanworld very much, but it does fill in some past history, and the Cuties are adorable. Professor Garbanzo’s story suggests that the Beanworld recreates itself every year, and that the current Beanworld is the latest in a succession of others.

BACCHUS #8 (Eddie Campbell, 1995) – “King Bacchus, Part 7” and “The Gods of Business, Part 4: The Joe Theseus Interview,” creators as above. Again, this issue’s King Bacchus installment has no real plot. In the “Gods of Business” chapter, Joe Theseus explains his entire history, then frees the Eyeball Kid from the Telchines’ captivity.

BATMAN #12 (DC, 2017) – “I Am Suicide Part Four,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janin. I enjoyed this more than the Scott Snyder issue I reviewed above, mostly because the artwork is really good. Mikel Janin’s draftsmanship is excellent. However, this issue mostly consists of two-page splashes in which Batman fights a bunch of guys, and it’s not clear who they are or why Batman is fighting them. Unless you’re as good a storyteller as Walt Simonson, it’s probably better not to imitate Thor #380.

My next new comics shipment came on July 10th. UPS previously made two unsuccessful delivery attempts on the 7th and the 9th. I wasn’t at home either time, and the delivery driver didn’t want to leave the package, even though I had left instructions that he should do so. Apparently he thought the package was valuable because it contained “comic books.” After a phone call to UPS and a conversation with the driver, I’ve cleared this up, and I didn’t have any problem receiving the subsequent two packages.

PAPER GIRLS #22 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. The girls discover that Jahpo is still alive, then a giant robot librarian chases them out of the library. They split up to look for Jahpo and Wari and to find a cure for Mac’s cancer. Mac uses a walkie-talkie and hears the voice of her future self. Overall another good issue.

QUANTUM AGE #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Wilfredo Torres. This issue’s framing sequence takes place in the year 3041, 25 years after the Quantum League – i.e. the Legion of Super-Heroes – failed to prevent Earth from being conquered by Martians. A young Martian boy is recruited by the League’s few remaining members. A flashback sequence depicts the League in its glory days, just before the invasion. Quantum Age #1 is probably the best Legion comic of the decade – not that there’s a lot of competition, but it really feels like a classic Legion story. The Quantum League has a large and diverse membership, including not just humans with blue or orange skin, but also a telepathic floating armadillo, a gorilla, a giant rock creature, etc. We only get glimpses of each of these characters, but we can tell that they all have stories and personalities. Like the actual Legionnaires, they engage in soap opera romance as well as adventure – the characters based on Brainiac 5 and Supergirl are a couple. In this issue Jeff shows that he understands the appeal of the Legion, and that he has the rare ability to write a satisfying Legion story. If only DC would hire him, or for that matter anyone else, to write the actual Legion.

CATWOMAN #1 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats, Part 1,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. This comic has the one thing every Catwoman comic needs: cats. There’s a scene where Catwoman goes home and is greeted by at least eleven cats. Then she gets angry and throws something, and one of the cats looks at her in complete shock. I’ve seen expressions like that on my own cat’s face. Besides the cats, this comic also has an intriguing plot: Selina Kyle moves away from Gotham after her aborted wedding, and discovers that some other female thieves are pretending to be her. I’m excited about this series, mostly because of the cats, but also because Joëlle Jones is really good.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #67 (IDW, 2018) – “The Return of Tempest Shadow,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but Jeremy provides all the background on Tempest Shadow that I need. Sick of Twilight Sparkle’s constant friendship lessons, Tempest Shadow leaves Ponyville for the Crystal Empire. Princess Cadance sends her to assist another pony in investigating some crimes. The other pony turns out to be Tempest’s old friend Glitter Drops, and during the investigation, Tempest encounters the same creature that broke her horn. This issue is fascinating because it stars a character who doesn’t subscribe to the guiding principles of the series. Tempest Shadow sincerely refuses to believe that friendship is the solution to everything. No amount of parties or friendship lessons is enough to change her mind. She offers a perspective we basically never see in the MLP franchise, because it denies the foundations on which the MLP universe is built. Jeremy and Andy also do a good job of depicting Tempest’s reaction to past trauma. This issue is reminiscent of the Demon Bear Saga from New Mutants, maybe intentionally so. There’s also a really cute panel where Glitter Drops feeds a bunch of cats and other animals, and one of the cats insists that it hasn’t been fed, even though its bowl is full. Andy draws some really cute cats.

ASSASSINISTAS #6 (IDW, 2018) – “Die Young and Save Yourself the Trouble!”, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. A satisfying conclusion to an excellent miniseries. Dominic and Octavia resolve their relationship, which was the central conflict of the series, and everything else works out okay. I look forward to seeing what Tini Howard does next.

GIANT DAYS #40 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Thank God Max Sarin is back, because the guest artist for the last two issues was not nearly as good, and Sarin’s artwork has become just as essential to this series as Allison’s writing. Other than that, this is a pretty standard issue. The girls redesign Ed’s bedroom, and Susan sees her ex Ingrid kissing some guy.

MARVEL RISING: SQUIRREL GIRL/MS. MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Marvel Rising, Part 2,” [W] Ryan North, G. Willow Wilson & Devin Grayson, [A] Irene Strychalski & Ramón Bachs. Another comic with an all-star cast of writers. This issue consists of two segments, each narrated by one of the two title characters, and wrtten by that character’s regular writer. Therefore, this issue offers a unique opportunity to compare Ryan and Willow’s writing styles and to see each of them write the other’s character. Besides being out of continuity, this comic is effectively an extra issue of both Unbeatable Squrrel Girl and Ms. Marvel. It also guest-stars America and Inferno, who I’m not familiar with, but see the Inhuman review below. They just announced a Marvel Rising cartoon, and I might actually reactivate my Netflix account just for that.

VAGRANT QUEEN #2 (Black Mask, 2018) – “The Bezoar of Kings,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. Elida and Isaac break into the prison where Elida’s mother is being held. This wasn’t bad, but it didn’t make a huge impression on me. So far this series is less impressive than Kim & Kim (see below).

SPACE ADVENTURES #10 (Charlton, 1978) – “Backfire” and other stories, [W] Joe Gill, [A] Steve Ditko. This comic includes four Captain Atom stories reprinted from an earlier series also called Space Adventures. All four stories are terrible. They’re just five pages each, so they have only the flimsiest of plots, and Ditko shows little of the creativity he displayed in other works of that period (1960 and 1961). Captain Atom didn’t start appearing in full-length stories until 1965.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #19 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. I didn’t bother reading this issue until the next issue came out, which is perhaps a sign that this series has worn out its welcome. This issue’s opening sequence is confusing because it turns out to be a flashback to Gert’s past, when she was still trying to complete her original quest. Duncan recruits Gert’s past self to defeat Dark Cloudia, which leads us to…

I HATE FAIRYLAND #20 – as above. Gert defeats Dark Cloudia and returns to the real world, which turns out to be just as bad as Fairyland. This is a pretty satisfying and ironic ending. I think Skottie made a wise decision by wrapping this series up. It was basically the same joke every issue, and that joke has gotten pretty old. Now Skottie can move on to something different.

INCOGNEGRO: RENAISSANCE #5 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Byline,” [W] Mat Johnson, [A] Warren Pleece. Zane and Bette successfully prove that Arna is the murderer, but Bette is outed as a balck woman, forcing her to leave Broadway for the black theater. This was a satisfying and surprisingly happy ending. I kind of expected that the killer would get off scot-free and that at least one of the protagonists would be killed. This issue has some really fun moments, including the janitors’ strike, and Zane rolling his eyes when the two white people talk about Arna’s “authenticity” and “dedication” (https://www.instagram.com/p/BlHJBEslBt2/?taken-by=aaronkashtan).

VALIANT HIGH #3 (Valiant, 2018) – “The Big Game, Part Three,” [W] Daniel Kibblesmith, [A] Derek Charm. More high school drama, including Livewire discovering that her feelings for Aric aren’t mutual. This is a fun series, but nothing spectacular. It makes me feel old that Gilad describes the ’90s as a long-ago, faraway time.

RED SONJA/TARZAN #3 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Walter Geovani. Looks like I missed issue 2. In this issue, Eson Duul tries to abduct Korak’s son Jackie, Tarzan’s grandson. As depicted in this comic, Tarzan seems too young to be a grandfather. Maybe he ages slowly or something. Tarzan and Red Sonja become blood siblings, and they use a time machine to head back to the past to confront Eson Duul. The time machine is borrowed from HG Wells, who makes a cameo appearance in this comic. Coincidentally I just read his novel The First Men in the Moon. This comic also mentions that Red Sonja has one of the Swords of Sorrow, which gave me an excuse to read:

SWORDS OF SORROW #2 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Sergio Davila. I ordered this entire miniseries, but only read the first issue. This was during a period when I was ordering a lot of comics I shouldn’t have. Back in 2015, I probably thought the first issue was disappointing and didn’t live up to the hype, but I think I was expecting too much from it. This series doesn’t have high artistic aspirations; it’s just a fun team-up between a lot of classic female genre fiction characters (e.g. Dejah Thoris, Vampirella and Red Sonja). It’s also implicitly feminist, in that it enables these women to be the heroes of their own story. That’s all this series is trying to do – to tell an exciting and mildly feminist adventure story – and it basically succeeds.

AVENGERS #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “A Battle That Was Lost a Million Years Ago,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ed McGuinness. Another issue full of thrilling superhero action but very little characterization. I’ve been complaining about this series’ lack of characterization since the beginning, and I’ve had enough of it. I’ve already ordered issues 5 and 6, but those are the last issues I’ll be getting. My problem with Marvel and DC flagship titles is that they focus on shock and awe and cool stuff at the expense of telling a good story or creating interesting characters or settings. It turns out that not even a brilliant writer like Jason Aaron is able to avoid that trap. Maybe the problem is Ed McGuinness’s art. McGuinness tends to draw epic splash pages with very few panels, and he doesn’t give the writer much opportunity to develop the story.

UNNATURAL #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Mirka Andolfo. This is translated from an Italian independent comic, although oddly it seems to have been published in the American comic book format – or at least the pages seem to have the standard dimensions of American comic book pages. I had no idea what to expect from this comic, and I was pleasantly surprised. It takes place in a furry universe where people are only supposed to breed with others of their own species. The protagonist, a pig woman, is having erotic fantasies about a wolf man, but her government is forcibly setting her up with a pig dude. Mirka Andolfo is using the furry genre to tell a pretty interesting story about sexual desire and repression. In some furry and funny animal comics, species is just a cosmetic feature, or a proxy for characters’ personalities. For example, Stan Sakai consistently refuses to answer questions about whether different “species” in Usagi’s world can crossbreed with each other. The characters in Usagi are all humans, they just happen to look like different kinds of animals, according to their personalities. The same is true with Omaha. But in this series, Mirka Andolfo seriously considers the implications of a world where everyone is a different kind of animal, and asks how such a society would think about issues of sex and race.

SWORDS OF SORROW #3 – as above. See previous review. This series’ plot is a bit hard to follow because it’s part of a crossover event, and there are lots of other one-shots and miniseries that tie in with it. However, the plot hardly matters; it’s mostly just an excuse for fight scenes and interactions between characters from different universes.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #17 (Eclipse, 1990) – “The Mystery Pods Must Go!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. Mr. Spook throws some Mystery Pods over the Legendary Edge, with unexpected results. And he discovers that the Elusive Notworm is actually his lost fork. This was just an average issue. There’s a short backup story starring the Goofy Service Jerks.

INHUMAN #8 (Marvel, 2015) – “Comes the Light,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Pepe Larraz. This series introduced Inferno, who appears in Marvel Rising #1. There’s some fairly good writing in this comic, including a scene where a cop has to tell two children that their mother was killed. But Inhuman seems like a rather forgettable series.

PALOOKA-VILLE #5 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1994) – “It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, Part Two,” [W/A] Seth. I already have the graphic novel version of this story, but I bought this comic anyway because it was cheap. I read “It’s a Good Life…” a long long time ago, and it’s nice to revisit it with my current level of knowledge. When I read it the first time, I don’t think I even realized that Seth’s long-haired friend was Chester Brown. Reading this comic again now, I can appreciate the quietness and melancholy of Seth’s storytelling and the deliberately old-fashioned style of his draftsmanship. This story is still his best work, at least until the complete edition of “Clyde Fans” comes out.

SWORDS OF SORROW #4 (Dynamite, 2015) – as above. See previous reviews. This issue we learn that the main villain of this comic is Prince Charming, and the blue-skinned woman is the witch from Snow White. This comic includes some short sequences in which two of the protagonists team up together, just like in an old Justice League comic.

SWORDS OF SORROW #5 (Dynamite, 2015) – “The Long Walk Across Worlds,” as above. We’ve now learned that Vampi, Sonja and Dejah Thoris need to use their three Swords of Sorrow to defeat Prnice Charming. But Vampi seemingly gets killed at the end of this issue. Nothing else to add.

SWORDS OF SORROW #6 (Dynamite, 2015) – as above. Vampi isn’t really dead, of course, and the heroines defeat the villains and they all live happily ever after. There’s a cute cameo appearance by Dejah Thoris’s pet monster dog. This was a fun series, although, as explained above, it has modest intentions.

BLAMMO #7 (Kilgore, 2011) – various stories, [W/A] Noah van Sciver. I got this and several other issues of Blammo as a Kickstarter reward. The Kickstarter was a nice opportunity because I haven’t read much of Noah’s work, but I love what little of it I’ve read. I also love the comic book format, and Noah is one of the few remaining alternative cartoonists who works in that format – and several of the stories in this issue are self-parodies of Noah’s allegiance to periodical comics. He calls Blammo “an alternative comic book that is introspective and drawn by a hopelessly poor twentysomething with seasonal affective disorder” – just like Palooka-Ville or Optic Nerve or Yummy Fur. The stories in this issue are of somewhat varying quality, though. The best is probably the one where a depressed guy encounters a little girl who’s been abandoned while trick-or-treating, and essentially becomes her surrogate dad until her asshole brother shows up to claim her. There’s also a short adaptation of the Book of Mormon, a topic also covered in Blammo #10, as discussed below.

HAUNTED LOVE #1 (Charlton, 1971/1978) – “Eternal Teacher,” [W] Nick Cuti, [A] Joe Staton, and “A Kiss to Save Him from the Grave,” [W/A] Tom Sutton. This series was Charlton’s lower-budget answer to Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love. (All the ’70s gothic romance comics must have been inspired by the TV show Dark Shadows.) The first story is a rather creepy horror version of the movie 50 First Dates: in both, a man falls in love with a woman who can’t form new memories. The backup story is more interesting because it’s a 16-pager by Tom Sutton. He was a brilliant horror artist, probably the best at Charlton. But his talents were more suited to supernatural horror than Gothic romance, and too many of this story’s pages are just static talkfests. Sutton was a better writer than you’d expect, though.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Winter in America, Part 1,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. As of the start of this issue, Hydra has conquered America with the aid of a bunch of Nukes (i.e. guys with flag tattoos, not nuclear bombs), and Cap has defeated them. That must have happened in the last few Waid/Garney issues, which I have not read yet. This issue begins with Cap mopping up the remaining Nukes. This comic doesn’t mention Trump, of course, yet it’s obviously a comment on the current political situation. The image of an America occupied by hostile forces is powerfully resonant today. Coates’s Cap is an attempt to think through what it means to be loyal to the American dream, at a time when American patriotism has been corrupted and appropriated for evil purposes. Coates is not the most fun or thrilling superhero writer, but his Captain America is going to be an important comic. I like how he explicitly references the original Nuke story, by having Cap say he’s loyal to nothing except the dream.

DAREDEVIL #58 (Marvel, 1969) – “Spin-Out on Fifth Avenue!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gene Colan. Another Gene Colan comic with brilliant art but kind of a dumb story. Matt reveals his secret identity to Karen Page and proposes to her, and she accepts. Matt promises that he’s going to quit being Daredevil so he won’t leave Karen a widow. But of course he breaks that promise the first chance he gets. Matt is attacked by villain named the Stunt-Master, probably based on Evel Knievel. After defeating the Stunt-Master, Matt is so high on adrenaline that when he’s about to announce his retirement, he instead says nothing, and Karen quite justifiably leaves him. Matt Murdock is supposed to be a moral man of great integrity, but until Frank Miller’s run, he was actually an awful sexist and gloryhound, and that’s rarely more clear than in this story. Matt also reminds me of Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4, who similarly almost ruins his marriage through his addiction to danger.

New comics received on July 14:

MECH CADET YU #10 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. I read this first because the cliffhanger from the previous issue was so thrilling. However, this issue doesn’t resolve the cliffhanger, but instead ratchets up the tension even further. Buddy keeps trying to sacrifice itself to power the super-robo. When Stanford switches Buddy to manual control so that it can’t, Olivia jumps inside Buddy so that she can sacrifice herself and him. I assume next issue is the real conclusion, and I’m excited and nervous for it.

MS. MARVEL #32 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Ratio, Part One,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Bruno experiments on Kamala to figure out how her powers work, but something goes wrong and Kamala gets stuck at tiny size, just as the Shocker attacks Jersey City. This was an average issue compared to #31, which was a classic. I don’t know what “the ratio” means.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #34 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. Doreen and her friends are jailed and put on trial as accomplices to Kraven, who, we remember, is a thief and a murderer. Everyone is acquitted except Kraven, who is convicted and immediately flees from the police. This was a fun issue as usual, but its depiction of court procedure is ludicrously inaccurate. I know that’s not unusual in comic books, but it would be nice if Ryan North could depict the law as accurately as he depicts computer science.

EXILES #5 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This has become one of my top four Marvel titles, along with Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, and Runaways. This issue is less funny and lighthearted than the previous four, but it’s quite powerful. Kamala sacrifices herself to defeat Kang, and we learn incidentally that she was married to Bruno and they had a daughter. Blink encounters her foster father, Sabretooth. Wolvie does more cute stuff. This was a great first storyline, and I’m excited to see what happens next.

ARCHIE #32 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid & Ian Flynn, [A] Audrey Mok. We never do find out how Eddie got back into the gym after he locked all the doors from outside. Either this is a plot hole, or it was explained last issue and I missed it. This issue, Archie tries to use his bad-luck powers to defeat Eddie, but his luck turns good just when he doesn’t want it to. However, Jughead saves the day. This issue was kind of disappointing, although it’s a reasonable conclusion to Mark’s groundbreaking Archie run. Unfortunately this is also the last issue of Archie I’ll be reading anytime soon, since the new writer is Nick Spencer, who I can’t stand.

RAT QUEENS #10 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. We finally get some idea of what’s going on. After the end of the previous volume, Dee summoned N’Rygoth to bring back Hannah. But instead she created a new Hannah, or something. And the entire last ten issues have been taking place in a series of dreams that Dee created. I’m glad this comic is finally almost making sense. The trouble is, it’s not much fun anymore. As I was reading the new Kim & Kim, reviewed below, I realized that it was like Rat Queens used to be. Rat Queens volume 1 was a thrilling, raucous, anarchic adventure story about four women with no inhibitions and no sense of shame. Rat Queens volume 2 has abandoned that core identity and has become a depressing and overly complicated. I’m going to keep reading Rat Queens for now, but I think this series has gone seriously off the rails.

SHE COULD FLY #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Agony in Eight Fits,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martín Morazzo. I really enjoyed this, although now I have trouble remembering any details about it. The protagonist, Luna Brewster, is a high school girl who has severe anxiety and OCD, and is terrified that she’ll kill someone. Meanwhile, a flying woman has been sighted in her town, and this is somehow the result of a conspiracy involving a device called the accelerator. The issue ends with Luna climbing up on a roof to kill herself. The creators do a fantastic job of depicting a mentally ill teenager’s psychology. Because of its combination of SF with realistic exploration of mental health issues, She Could Fly reminds me of I Kill Giants – though the two series are otherwise very different – and it has the potential to be as good as I Kill Giants was.

RUINWORLD #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. Continuing with the theme of comparing comics to other comics, I would compare Ruinworld to Nilson Groundthumper & Hermy. Like that series, Ruinworld is an epic fantasy parody with two anthropomorphic protagonists, a smart one and a stupid one. Derek Laufman’s dialogue is kind of annoying and doesn’t flow well, but he’s good at worldbuilding and slapstick humor, and this series shows promise.

NANCY DREW #2 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. Nancy meets a boy named Pete, and discovers that he summoned her back to Bayport to solve his mother’s murder, which happened at the same time Nancy’s own mother died. This issue offers ample amounts of exciting adventure, slapstick, and detective work, and is alternately funny and poignant. It’s another demonstration of Kelly’s writing skill.

ISOLA #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brendan Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. In a flashback, we learn that Queen Olwyn was turned into a tiger by her evil brother. In the present, Rook has to choose whether to donate her skin to save Olwyn. This issue was less compressed than the previous issue, and its plot moved a lot faster, but I feel that this series could still be delivering more storytelling per issue. The artwork is amazing as ever, though.

MONSTRESS #18 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. I didn’t vote for Marjorie Liu, but she’s a deserving Eisner recipient, and I celebrate her achievement of becoming the first woman to win an Eisner for best writer. This issue, Maika successfully uses the masks to defeat the attack on Pontus. Meanwhile, Ren decides to betray his bosses and not deliver Kippa to them, but they abduct Kippa anyway and beat Ren up.

INCREDIBLES 2: CRISIS IN MID-LIFE AND OTHER STORIES #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Crisis in Mid-Life, Part 1,” [W] Christos Gage, [A] Gurihiru, plus other stories. I wrote about The Incredibles in my dissertation, and I tried to argue against the common reading of the film as politically conservative. Now, I think that that reading is probably well-grounded. I’m not willing to defend the film anymore, although I still love it, and I haven’t seen Incredibles 2, but I think it looks pretty bad. The stories in this new Incredibles issue are just okay, and they don’t do anything to counteract my current lack of enthusiasm for this franchise. I liked Mark Waid’s Incredibles comics a lot better.

QUICKSILVER: NO SURRENDER #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Eric Nguyen & Paul Renaud. While continuing to fight the superspeed creatures, Pietro ruminates on his vexed and complicated relationship with Wanda. This comic is very touching, and it fits together 50 years of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch stories into a coherent and logical narrative, kind of like what Ed Piskor is doing in X-Men: Grand Design. My one complaint about this issue is that I’ve spent my entire life believing Magneto was Pietro and Wanda’s father, and in my headcanon, he still is. But that’s not Saladin’s fault. In black and white, Wanda looks very similar to the Enchantress.

FARMHAND #1 (Image, 2018) – “You Can Go Home Again… But Why?” [W/A] Rob Guillory. In Rob Guillory’s first solo comic, the big surprise is that the title is meant to be taken literally. The comic is set on a farm that grows hands, as well as other replacement organs. The protagonists, an interracial family, are the heirs to this farm. But of course there’s some bizarre conspiracy going on with zombies or something. This comic has much the same sensibility as Chew, except it’s about body parts instead of food. Rob Guillory has never written a published comic before, but it’s hard to tell, because his writing shows no lack of experience. I suspect that he contributed more actively to the writing of Chew than I realized at the time. In particular, this comic is full of textual gags and hidden messages, and that suggests that the similar textual gags in Chew were partly Rob’s work.

LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE TEMPEST #1 (Top Shelf, 2018) – “Farewell to Forever,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Kevin O’Neill. LOEG has always been a difficult comic, but this issue was beyond difficult. I couldn’t make head or tail of it. I haven’t read the Nemo trilogy, and it’s been several years since I read The Black Dossier or Century, and this issue assumes knowledge of all those comics. And as usual with LOEG, it’s full of references and Easter eggs. Jess Nevins’s annotations to LOEG have always been useful, but for this series they’re going to be indispensable. The one delightful moment in this issue is the panel where they’re thawing out Austin Powers.

CODA #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This comic is somewhat difficult to read because of its length and the density of its art, but it’s another excellent Spurrier miniseries. Matías Bergara is a super-talented artist whose work wouldn’t be out of place in a European comic. Coda’s plot is similar to that of Godshaper, since both series takes place in a post-apocalyptic society that runs on a scarce resource – magic and belief respectively. This issue ends with the surprising revelation that the protagonist’s wife is still alive and that he can summon her.

PUMA BLUES #9 (Aardvark/Vanaheim, 1987) – “Deconstruction,” [W] Stephen Murphy, [A] Michael Zulli. I’ve been seeing this comic in cheap boxes for years, but I didn’t realize it was actually worth buying until Dover published a collection of it. This issue is narrated in a confusing, fragmentary style, and I was unable to follow its plot. But I did gather that it’s an environmentalist story, and Michael Zulli’s art is really good. I also like this comic’s slim format – it’s just 22 pages with no ads. This issue’s back cover features what may have been the first-ever ad for the CBLDF.

ALISON DARE AND THE HEART OF THE MAIDEN #1 (Oni, 2002) – “The Heart of the Maiden, Part One,” [W] J. Torres, [A] J. Bone. The protagonist and her friends uncover a conspiracy at their boarding school. This comic looks a lot like Bone and its protagonist kind of resembles Chance Falconer, but it’s only average. It would have been a top-tier kids’ comic in 2002, but standards for kids’ comics have improved since then. Also, this comic’s plot is confusing because it includes a single scene that’s repeated three times.

CODENAME: KNOCKOUT #14 (Vertigo, 2002) – “H.E.A.V.E.N. Sent,” [W] Robert Rodi, [A] Amanda Conner. This comic’s main purpose is apparently to give Amanda Conner an excuse to draw cheesecake, and she does that beautifully. Amanda Conner is the best cheesecake artist in the industry, which is evidence that erotic art is not inherently sexist. This issue also has some fairly good dialogue, and a flimsy plot about a rivalry between two spy organizations.

ETERNITY GIRL #5 (DC, 2018) – “Earth’s Rough Kiss,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Sonny Liew. This issue has excellent art as usual, but a very confusing plot. I’m losing the ability to follow what’s going on in this series. I tried to write a summary of what happens in this issue, and I can’t.

KLAUS AND THE CRISIS IN XMASVILLE #1 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Dan Mora. In this one-shot, a dying old soda magnate sells children to aliens in exchange for ownership of the concept of Christmas. Klaus defeats them with help from other incarnations of Father Christmas. I think this was better than the previous Klaus one-shot. It includes some of Dan Mora’s best art yet – at times his art is close to that of Dustin Nguyen. And the scenes with the old grandmother are quite touching.

NEW LIEUTENANTS OF METAL #1 (Image, 2018) – “Ride the Lightning,” [W] Joe Casey, [A] Ulises Farinas. I don’t like Joe Casey’s writing, but I bought this comic because of Ulises Farinas’s art – which is very good, although not as hyperdetailed as in Gamma or Motro or Judge Dredd. New Lieutenants of Metal is a superhero or tokusatsu comic about a group of heavy metal fans who fight monsters. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s full of Easter eggs and references to heavy metal music. I probably missed a lot of references because I don’t listen to this kind of music myself.

BLACK PANTHER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. On a planet ruled by the Wakandan space empire, a nameless prisoner escapes from captivity and joins a group of rebels. They give him the name T’Challa. We also meet several other characters who have familiar names like M’Baku and N’Jadaka. As explained on this issue’s last page, we’re not supposed to understand what’s going on here yet, and the connection between this comic and the previous Black Panther title is intentionally unclear. I’m curious to see where this series is going.

FLASH #252 (DC, 1977) – “Double Dose of Danger!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Irv Novick. The Elongated Man goes missing and subsequently reappears as a villain called the Molder. This is a very average issue. The only really interesting moment is when Barry comes home and tells Iris “Guess who’s back home and ready for some good-” But we never find out how that sentence would have ended.

GUFF! #nn (Dark Horse, 1998) – untitled, [E] Scott Allie & Dave Land. A one-shot humor anthology whose organizing theme, apparently, is gross-out humor. The highlight of this issue is Sergio Aragonés’s Timoteo, about a kid whose cellphone ringtone is a fart noise. This must have been one of the earliest comic book stories specifically focused on cell phones. Other creators include Dave Cooper and Gavin McInnis, Jay Stephens, and Jay Lynch and John Pound.

INVINCIBLE #136 (Image, 2018) – “The End of All Things, Part Four,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley. Just a big long fight scene with some very gross moments. A good example of why I quit reading this series, although I’m still willing to buy it when I see it for a dollar or less.

THE LAST SIEGE #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Landry Q. Walker, [A] Justin Greenwood. The castle prepares for a siege, and it turns out the vault is full of barrels of gunpowder, which is still a novelty in this time period. There’s nothing particuarly exciting about this series, and this issue will be my last.

X-23 #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. I had low expectations for this issue because I’ve been unimpressed by some of Mariko’s other recent comics, but it turned out to be excellent. Juann Cabal’s art is excellent, and Gabby is a super-cute character and an effective foil for Laura. This comic’s plot is about the three surviving Stepford Cuckoos and their attempt to revive their two dead sisters. My favorite part of this comic is the poster for the band Wham! that doubles as a sound effect.

PLASTIC MAN #2 (DC, 2018) – “Where the *&^% is Pado Swakatoon?”, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. Another pretty good issue. Gail is writing Plastic Man much better than Jeff Lemire is writing him in Terrifics. I don’t remember much about this issue’s plot, but what matters in this series is not the plot but Plas’s transformations and the bizarre situations he gets into.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Javier Garron. Scott and Nadia finally get back to their normal size, but they take the micro-alien scientist Dalen with them. And then Scott gets photo-reversed somehow. This series is super-weird and reasonably fun, but not much more than that.

HYDROGEN BOMB FUNNIES #1 (Rip Off, 1970) – Another exciting find from Heroes Con. This one-shot has a loose theme of atomic bombs and nuclear warfare. It begins with a long Wonder Wart-Hog story by Gilbert Shelton, and there’s also a Freak Brothers story elsewhere in the issue. The issue ends with Frank Stack’s “Jesus, Savior of the World.” I hadn’t read any of Stack’s New Adventures of Jesus before, and this story was funnier than I expected. I especially like Jesus criticizing God’s grammar. In addition there’s a Kim Deitch story which is fairly rudimentary and is missing Deitch’s usual theme of pre-WWII pop culture. Other artists featured in this issue include R. Crumb, S. Clay Wilson, Robert Williams and Greg Irons.

SOMERSET HOLMES #4 (Pacific, 1984) – “California Screamin'”, [W] Bruce Jones w/ April Campbell, [A] Brent Anderson. Unusually for an ’80s comic, this is printed on glossy paper. It’s an exciting crime drama, but suffers from women-in-refrigerators syndrome. The protagonist befriends a sex worker, Barbie, who is portrayed in a surprisingly positive way. Barbie is a kind and forthright woman who happens to practice an unpopular profession. She and Somerset Holmes (I assume that’s the protagonist’s name) also have a same-sex flirtation. This seems intended as titillation for the male reader, rather than as a genuine portrayal of a queer relationship, but it still would have been unusual in 1984. Unfortunately, at the end of the issue Barbie gets shot for no reason, and a good character is wasted. This issue also includes an Al Williamson backup story which, unlike every other Williamson story I’ve reviewed on this blog, is unimpressive. It’s mostly just talking heads with few action sequences.

TWO-FISTED TALES #12 (EC, 1952/1995) – four stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. Not the best issue of this series. Jack Davis’s “Korea!” is probably the highlight. It’s about a soldier in the Korean War who gets so mad about his buddy’s death that he stops seeing Koreans as people. It’s an effective portrayal of the dehumanization and racism caused by war. Severin’s “Red Knight!”, about the Red Baron, and Severin and Elder’s “Washington!” are fairly straightforward historical tales. The surprise of the issue is “Fire Mission” by Dave Berg, better known for his 40 years worth of mediocre “The Lighter Side Of” strips in Mad Magazine. “Fire Mission” is also fairly mediocre, but at least it shows that he had some drawing skill.

ATOMIC ROBO: REVENGE OF THE VAMPIRE DIMENSION #1 (Red 5, 2010) – “Bernard’s First Day,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Robo interviews two job candidates: Bernard Fischer and Rex Cannon. As one can guess from their names, the latter is far more qualified. But the Tesladyne office is invaded by interdimensional vampires and Rex is killed instantly, and Bernard, a bespectacled milquetoast, has to help Robo save the universe. Which they do, with help from Tesladyne employee Jenkins, who somehow has the ability to kill tons of zombies singlehandedly. This was a really fun issue, one of the best Atomic Robo comics I’ve read lately.

SUPERMAN #44 (DC, 2015) – “Before the Truth,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] John Romita Jr. There’s nothing interesting in this issue at all. Gene’s Superman was a huge disappointment.

STRANGE TALES #155 (Marvel, 1966) – Nick Fury in “Death Trap!”, [W/A] Jim Steranko, and Dr. Strange in “The Fearful Finish–!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Marie Severin. You need to read lots of other old comic books in order to understand why Steranko was so impressive. In 1966, most artists in the industry, even Kirby, tended to treat the page as a grid of independent panels. Steranko’s innovation was to think of each page as a single compositional unit. He used the vertical and diagonal dimensions of the page, and he was equally willing to leave a lot of white space, or to fill up a page with a dozen panels (for the latter, see the splash page of Captain America #111). The SHIELD story in this issue is less radical than later work by Steranko, but the page layouts are much more varied than in a typical 1966 Marvel comic. However, the plot, involving a battle between SHIELD and HYDRA, is pretty average. The Doctor Strange story pales by comparison to the SHIELD story, though it’s not bad.

PEEP SHOW #5 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1993) – “Binswhacker, Part Two,” [W/A] Joe Matt. If I ranked all the autobiographical cartoonists according to how much I liked them personally based on their comics, then Harvey Pekar would be at the top of the list, and Joe Matt would be at the bottom. Joe Matt is a disgusting sexist creep, or at least that’s how he portrays himself. This issue, he tries to convince a very sweet girl to have sex him, even though she’s clearly not all that interested in him, and he sees her as just a stopgap until the girl he really likes returns to town. Also, he refers to the latter as “the Asian girl” and he seems to have a racist Asian fetish. At least Joe has the self-awareness to realize that his behavior is creepy and that he might be better off just watching porn. I still don’t quite understand why Joe makes himself look so unpleasant, and it makes for a disturbing reading experience. At least his art and lettering are really good, and there’s a panel where a squirrel climbs on his lap.

RIP IN TIME #3 (Fantagor, 1987) – “Rip in Time,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Richard Corben. An exciting and well-drawn time travel story with dinosaurs and cyborgs. The lettering is kind of ugly, and Corben’s dinosaurs could be more realistic. Also, this story deserves to be seen in color. There’s also a backup story which is a reprint from 1972, with three new pages. On the letters page, Corben apologetically explains that some of the reprinted stories in this series had to be edited to remove nudity: “Comic dealers put up with people with inflexible attitudes, so I decided this time it was better to cover the nudes.” Remember that the Friendly Frank’s case was still going on at the time.

SUPERMAN #33 (DC, 2017) – “The Super Man Who Would Be King,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Doug Mahnke. The continuity of this title is very hard to follow, because I only bought about half the issues, and some of those issues weren’t written by Tomasi and Gleason. This issue, Luthor pretends to be a good guy and teams up with Superman, but of course he has a hidden agenda. This issue has a cute Clark-Lois-Jon scene, which is the main reason this series is worth reading.

INVINCIBLE #138 (Image, 2017) – “The End of All Things, Part Six,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley. In perhaps the most disgusting scene in the entire series, Thragg kills Nolan by literally ripping his heart out. It’s a bit hypocritical to complain about this sort of thing, because when I buy an issue of Invincible, I know what I’m going to get. Still, I followed Invincible for quite a while, and I’d like to collect the whole series and to see how the story ends. It’s annoying that in order to do that, I have to put up with all this tasteless gore and violence.

SUGAR & SPIKE #58 (DC, 1965) – “Lion in the House!”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. My copy of this issue is missing some pages, but they don’t affect the story. In this issue’s main story, the babies encounter an escaped circus lion and his mouse friend. I don’t like Mayer as much as Stanley, Barks or Bolling, but he had a real knack for putting his characters in ridiculous situations.

YUMMY FUR #29 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1992) – “Fuck Part Two,” [W/A] Chester Brown. This issue’s main story is a chapter of the I Never Liked You graphic novel. I’ve read that, but not for a while, and it was nice to revisit it. The backup story is an adaptation of Matthew 9:18 to 9:30. I enjoy Chester Brown’s Bible adaptations because they feel realistic and unfiltered. This one includes a funny moment that’s not in the Bible: Jesus heals two blind beggars, and one of them tells the other, “Hey, man, you’re really ugly.”

AQUAMAN #44 (DC, 1998) – “Depths of Perception,” [W] Peter David & Bill Mumy, [A] Jim Calafiore. Aquaman teams up with Alan Scott and Jay Garrick to defeat a monster. This is a fun issue, although there’s a sad ending when Aquaman has to euthanize the monster – which is named Timmorn, an odd Elfquest reference. I do suspect that PAD may have been losing interest in this series at this point. At least three times in this issue we’re reminded that Jay and Joan Garrick still have sex.

HELLBOY: KRAMPUSNACHT #nn (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Krampusnacht,” [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Adam Hughes. This issue just won the Eisner for Best Single Issue/One-Shot. That award should have gone to Pope Hats #5, but probably far more voters read Hellboy: Krampusnacht than Pope Hats #5. That’s just how Eisner voting works. This comic isn’t bad, though. It’s a pretty straightforward Christmas-themed Hellboy story, but Adam Hughes’s art is beautiful.

BOOK OF BALLADS AND SAGAS #3 (Green Man, 1996) – “Barbara Allen” etc., [W] various, [A] Charles Vess. Three adaptations of folk songs, plus some other miscellaneous material. Vess’s adaptations of ballads are often less narratively effective than the originals, because Vess and his collaborators make unnecessary changes that water the stories down. For example, Vess and Midori Snyder’s “Barbara Allen” includes an unnecessary subplot in which Barbara is a demon or something. But the primary appeal of this series is Vess’s artwork, which, as always, is incredible. This issue includes one of only two comic book stories written by Delia Sherman, an award-winning fantasy novel. I wasn’t previously familiar with “The Galtie Mare,” which is adapted in this issue; it’s a humorous ballad about some farmers who sell their horse and are tricked into buying it back at a loss.

ATOM #21 (DC, 1965) – “Combat Under Glass!”, [W] Gardner Fox & Gil Kane. I don’t like The Atom as much as other Silver Age DC heroes. Neither Ray Palmer nor his supporting cast is particularly interesting, and there are better-written comics about shrinking heroes. Maybe this explains why I’ve only read one other Atom comic, besides this one, since at least 2013. At least this issue includes a story where Atom fights a cat. In the backup story, Atom travels back in time to 1752 to solve a trivial mystery. Fox and Kane seem to have at least tried to be historically accurate.

SPACE ADVENTURES #4 (Charlton, 1968) – “Surrender Earth!”, [W] Joe Gill, [A] Pat Boyette, and “The Imitation People,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Jim Aparo. “Surrender Earth!” is forgettable, but “The Imitation People” is a pleasant surprise. It’s about a scientist who creates a planet of androids, falls in love with one of them, and eventually becomes an android himself. Joe Gill’s stories were usually very boring, but this one is surprisingly moving. And Aparo’s artwork is brilliant. This story is almost as well-drawn as his Aquaman run. The late ’60s and early ’70s were the peak of Aparo’s long career.

New comics received on July 23:

RUNAWAYS #11 (Marvel, 2018) – “Am I the Same Girl You Used to Know,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. This may be my least favorite issue yet, although it’s still pretty good; it’s just that this series has set a high standard. Basically all the Runaways are sad about one thing or another. The Doombot builds Victor a new body, but he rejects it because he’s still traumatized after the Vision series, and he prefers to remain a disembodied head. Meanwhile, Gert dyes her hair, and her teammates are okay with her new look, which is a nice moment. There’s also a backup story explaining what happened to Klara. I don’t mind Klara’s absence because she’s not part of the original series; she’s the only Runaway not created by BKV. However, I still want to know what happened to Xavin. I assumed Rainbow had plans for them, but maybe not.

FLAVOR #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Wook-Jin Clark. There’s not much worldbuilding this issue, which is unfortunate, but in exchange the creators demonstrate their skill with narrative. Xoo and Anant both have to prepare crepes Suzette, the signature dish of Anant’s culinary academy, under severe pressure, but in very different circumstances. The artist effectively juxtaposes Xoo and Anant’s cooking competitions, and creates a lot of suspense. This is a great series so far.

FENCE #8 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Seiji beats Harvard easily, and we only have another issue or two to go before the team is decided. This series continues to move at a pace more typical of manga than American comics. I think that’s a valid artistic decision, but I hope this series doesn’t get cancelled before Nicholas and Seiji get to compete in a tournament. I just read the second volume of Haikyu!, and Fence is very similar, only it takes the homoerotic subtext of a typical sports manga and turns it into text. My impression is that Fence is actually kind of innovative in being an explicitly gay sports comic. I Googled “gay sports manga” and the first page of results included two news stories about Fence.

ROYAL CITY #12 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Olive, Tommy’s daughter, settles into the Pike home, and then we get a flashback that finally shows Tommy’s death. Afterward, Patrick picks up Tommy’s journal, which made me wonder if he used it as the source for his only successful novel. Next issue I discovered that this was indeed the case.

OH S#!T IT’S KIM & KIM #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. Probably the best comic of the week. Kim & Kim are now working for a corporation, but that means they have to control their irresponsible impulses and accept undesirable jobs – like distracting Xue Peng, a famous art thief, so another bounty hunter can recover the property she stole. As I was just saying, Kim & Kim is like the best issues of Rat Queens because of its raucous humor and its irresponsible, reckless characters, not to mention its deep characterization. This issue also has some excellent action sequences as well as one laugh-out-loud funny moment. When Kim Q tells Xue Peng that she knows the location of the original master tape of “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” Xue squeals “Do you know what that’s worth?”

BY NIGHT #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. On the other side of the portal, Jane and Heather discover a weird and silly fantasy world. I’m still not sure where this series is going, and I’m not getting into it as much as Giant Days, but I look forward to reading more of it.

THOR #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “A Lovely Day in Hel for a Wedding,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike del Mundo. Another issue with lots of fun moments, especially the line “Mead. Wenches. Wenches with mead.” Loki kills Thor so he can get to Valhalla. Meanwhile, Balder is forced into a marriage of convenience with Hela, despite his love for Karnilla. But the wedding is interrupted by an unexpected but appropriate guest: Thanos.

MY LITTLE PONY: PONYVILLE MYSTERIES #3 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. This series is less interesting than some of the other MLP spinoffs because each issue has the same protagonists. I preferred the broader cast of characters in Friends Forever. This issue, the CMC investigate a fire at the retirement home. It turns out it was caused by an old mare reliving her days as a Filly Guide (i.e. Girl Scout).

RAT QUEENS SPECIAL: NEON STATIC #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] William Kirkby. This one-shot is an alternate reality story that takes place in a cyberpunk setting. Dee is a hacker instead of a sorceress, and the Rat Queens fight with guns instead of swords. The characters translate very well to this genre, and this issue is a lot more fun than recent issues of the main Rat Queens series. I think it was while I was reading this issue that I realized how unfun Rat Queens had become. William Kirkby has a similar style of linework to James Stokoe, although his art is far less detailed.

DRY COUNTY #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. This issue’s timeframe is a little confusing, but it eventually becomes clear what happened. Janet was kidnapped again after being kidnapped the first time, and finally freed herself. Lou goes back to his normal life. As I’ve probably said before, this series had somewhat modest ambitions, but it was a very fun and well-crafted crime comic, with a strong sense of local specificity. I’d like to see more comics like this.

SUICIDE RISK #5 (Boom!, 2013) – “Instant Access,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Joëlle Jones. Going into this issue I knew nothing about this series, but this issue is a mostly self-contained story. A middle-aged woman is living a horrible life in rural California with an abusive husband, a pregnant teenage daughter, and a son who’s being hunted by criminals. A stranger offers her superpowers, which she uses to kill her husband (good riddance), save her son, and take over the criminals’ racket. This was a pretty fun story with an air of verisimilitude, except for the superpowers. Joëlle Jones’s art, which was the primary reason I bought this comic, is up to its usual high standard.

EUTHANAUTS #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Ground Control,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Nick Robles. A young woman who works in a funeral home discovers that she has the power to see dead people’s spirits, and is recruited as a psychopomp. I’m a little unclear on exactly what happened in this issue, but this comic is both an enjoyable read and a thoughtful meditation on death, and Nick Robles’s art is very good.

PROXIMA CENTAURI #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. Another typically beautiful but confusing comic from Farel Dalrymple. I still don’t understand the plot, but one thing that impresses me about this comic is the intensity and determination of the kid protagonists. Intense, determined kids are a trademark of Dalrymple’s comics, including Omega.

ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #1 (Archie, 2018) – “The Batman of Riverdale,” [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. I stopped reading Batman ’66 a while ago, but Batman ’66 and Archie are a natural pairing, and Jeff Parker effectively draws out the fun and silliness of these characters. Having just published a book that dealt with e-reading devices, I was delighted by the scene where the Bookworm steals a prototype of an electronic book. It can display up to twenty different works, it has a postage-stamp-sized screen, and for its time, it’s an amazing technological marvel. And the Bookworm smells it and complains that it has “no bouquet of decayed parchment and india inks.”

BLAMMO #10 (Kilgore, 2018) – “Burning Brigsby” etc., [W/A] Noah Van Sciver. This shows even more artistic maturity and skill than Blammo #7, reviewed above. The first major story in the issue, “The Hypo,” is a slice-of-life autobio story about Noah’s anxieties over his artistic career and reputation. It’s a really effective meditation on authorship and the role of comics as art. “Burning Brigsby” approaches this same topic from a fictional standpoint. It’s about the adult children of a dead cartoonist and their quest for their father’s final unpublished work. “Artemus Ward (His Travels) Among the Mormons” is maybe the highlight of the issue, thanks to its funny and historically accurate depiction of the 19th-century American West. Like the Joseph Smith story in #7, this story is Noah’s attempt to engage with his own Mormon heritage. Now that the art-comics community has mostly shifted to graphic novels, the “alternative” or “art” comic book is almost extinct, and I’m glad that at least one artist is continuing to publish in this form.

GIDEON FALLS #5 (Image, 2018) – “We Are All Just Soft Instruments,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. In the Father Wilfred segment, a character I don’t remember murders another character I don’t remember. In the Norton segment, Norton uses hypnosis to recover his memories of the Black Barn. The hypnosis scene is the highlight of the issue. It includes some bizarre full-page compositions that are closer to abstract art than comics. Come to think of it, Lemire and Foreman’s Animal Man also included some pages like this, so I wonder whether the idea for these pages came from Lemire or Sorrentino.

SPIDER-GWEN #34 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Life of Gwen Stacy, Conclusion,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. Gwen is released from prison and publicly unmasks herself as Spider-Woman. I’m glad this series is over. I probably should have dropped it several months ago. I can’t remember the last issue I fully enjoyed.

SUPERB #11 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “For Us, the Living,” [W] David Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. The rescue mission continues. Kayla discovers that her father has been killed. This series is continuing to move at a fairly slow pace, but the last few issues have been very hard-hitting.

THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] M.J. Erickson. Despite the title, this series focuses solely on Frank and Sadie Doyle, and not Sparks Nevada. This comic follows the same formula as the previous Beyond Belief comic and, I assume, the radio show: Frank and Sadie Doyle investigate ghosts while drinking a lot. It’s a good formula, though. I just read Thorne Smith’s novel Topper, about a husband-wife pair of alcoholic ghosts. I assume Beyond Belief must have been partly inspired by this novel, as well as by The Thin Man.

BLACK AF: WIDOWS AND ORPHANS #2 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Tim Smith 3. This issue contains a powerful scene in which superpowered black children are being sold into slavery, but otherwise it’s just average. I don’t see much reason to continue reading this series.

PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #307 (Marvel, 2018) – “No More – Part Four,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. Spidey defeats the Tinkerer and the aliens, saves the world, and, obviously, doesn’t die. This was a mediocre and overly predictable issue. Its only saving grace is the last scene, where Teresa can’t bring herself to meet Aunt May.

100% #1 (Vertigo, 2002) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Pope. This miniseries has some mild science fictional elements and a plot involving a serial killer, but this issue is mostly a slice-of-life story about hipsters in Manhattan, or a town very similar to it. 100% is a very visually and narratively dense comic, but its most striking quality is its sense of mood. Using only words and images, Paul Pope somehow manages to convey the sounds, smells and atmosphere of dark nightclubs and deserted city streets. This comic is titled “A Graphic Movie,” but comparing it to a movie is selling it short, because it makes effective use of the unique properties of comics.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #666 (Gemstone, 2006) – “Mickey’s Inferno,” [W] Guido Martina, [A] Angelo Bioletto. Considering its issue number, it’s appropriate that this comic includes the first English translation of “Mickey’s Inferno.” This 37-page Italian story from 1949 is an adaptation of Dante’s Inferno, with Mickey and Goofy replacing Dante and Virgil. It’s included on Paul Gravett’s list of the 1001 comics you must read before you die, and it inspired a whole series of “Great Parodies” in which classic literary works were reinterpreted with Disney characters. This story is somewhat dated and tedious to read, but it’s impressive because of its sheer scope. Martina and Bioletto don’t have enough room to adapt the entire Inferno, but they do their best. The story displays a deep knowledge of Dante’s original text. For example, a character says “Pape Pluto, pape Pluto, aleppe”, and the narrator mentions that no one except Dante himself knows what that means. This is a reference to “Papé Satàn, papé Satàn aleppe,” a line from canto VII of the Inferno, the meaning of which is unexplained. I didn’t understand this reference until I looked it up. Lots of other Disney characters besides Mickey and Goofy appear in the story, but I don’t know enough about Dante to appreciate the correspondences between the Dante characters and the Disney characters. But perhaps the most impresive thing about “Mickey’s Inferno” is that all the captions are written in terza rima, and the translator of the English version manages to maintain the same rhyme scheme. Overall, while this story is less impressive today than it must have been in 1949, it’s still a great achievement.

FANTASTIC FOUR #137 (Marvel, 1973) – “Rumble on Planet 3,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Buscema. In this story, a hidebound old man, Slugger Johnson, has used the Shaper of Worlds’s powers to return America to the ’50s. As a result, America is embroiled in a civil war between traditionalists and “youthies.” And for some reason, there’s also a giant gorilla with a nuclear warhead for a head. This issue is much weirder and more interesting than a typical ’70s FF comic, and the Buscema-Sinnott artwork is excellent, especially the depiction of the castle on the splash page.

THE SANDMAN #6 (DC, 1976) – “The Plot to Destroy Washington, D.C.!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Jack Kirby. This is kind of a stupid and campy comic, and while its three creators (Fleisher, Kirby, and inker Wally Wood) are all excellent individually, their styles don’t mesh well. At least this issue has some funny moments (like this panel: https://www.instagram.com/p/Blv2doeFpMa/). The ’70s Sandman series is mostly remembered today because of Neil Gaiman’s use of the characters Jed, Brute and Glob, and it’s kind of cool to see those characters in their original form.

CHILDREN OF FIRE #1 (Fantagor, 1987) – “”Children of Fire,” [W/A] Richard Corben. This is a pretty typical Corben comic, with beautiful airbrushed artwork, muscular naked people, and weird monsters. The plot involves aliens landing on a primitive world. This comic took a while to read because the aliens’ dialogue is written in code. I couldn’t resist decoding the dialogue, and it was easy, but time-consuming. There are also two reprinted stories from the early ’70s. The second of these, “To Spear a Fair Maiden,” is very funny, but I feel ashamed of myself for liking it, because of its premise: it’s about a mercenary who’s hired to rape a girl so that she’ll be an unsuitable candidate for a virgin sacrifice.

SUPERBOY #64 (DC, 1999) – “Hyper-Tension! Part Five: Zero Tolerance,” [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. Kesel and Grummett’s second run on Superboy was an excellent homage to Kirby, but I haven’t felt like reading it lately. I guess it’s a bit repetitive. In this issue, a bunch of Superboys from different dimensions team up to defeat the evil Superboy Black Zero. There’s a funny panel on the last page where Dabney Donovan puts on a party hat and blows a noisemaker after hearing that Superboy is dead.

SNARF #12 (Kitchen Sink, 1989) – multiple stories, [E] Denis Kitchen & Dave Schreiner. This issue begins with Howard Cruse’s “Raising Nancy,” which is basically about raising sea monkeys, except instead of sea monkeys, they’re identical copies of Nancy the comic strip character. It’s a weird and disturbing story. There’s also a chapter of Frank Stack’s “New Adventures of Jesus,” which is probably the highlight of the issue, as well as Harvey Pekar’s “What Superman Means to Me.” The latter story is not really about Superman at all; it’s a vignette that takes place at a comic convention. Harvey did several stories about comic conventions, and I’m sorry that I never attended a convention he was at, or if I did, it was before I knew about American Splendor. I expect it would have been easy to walk up to his table and talk to him. The other notable story in Snarf #12 is a very early piece of work by Joe Matt.

MR. MONSTER #4 (Dark Horse, 1988) – “Origins, Chapter 4,” [W/A] Michael T. Gilbert. Mr. Monster’s mother gets pregnant, and tries to induce an “accidental” abortion – I don’t remember what her motivation is for doing this. But despite her best efforts, Strongfort Stearn is born. This is a well-drawn story with beautiful lettering, and it humorously combines horror with ’50s domesticity.

SHAZAM! #33 (DC, 1978) – “The World’s Mightiest Race,” [W] E. Nelson Bridwell, [A] Tenny Henson. Captain Marvel competes against Mr. Atom in the Indy 500. This comic is a dreadful piece of nonsense.

New comics received on July 28:

SAGA #54 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. OH GOD DAMN YOU BRIAN. NO. HOW DARE YOU. YOU HEARTLESS MURDERER. This is the second time Brian has killed off a character I deeply loved. And unlike when he killed Gert in Runaways, there is little chance of that character being resurrected by another writer. And I need to wait at least a year to find out what happens next. Grrrr.

After reading that comic, I had to take a few minutes to recover before reading the next one:

LUMBERJANES #52 (Boom!, 2018) – “Board, Board, Board” (part 4), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. Another funny and touching issue. In the mess hall, the players discover that nobody can win the game because of rules glitches. Meanwhile, Ripley, Mal and April get back above ground, but are followed by a horde of giant moths and caterpillars. Just as everyone is fleeing the mess hall in terror (the rain having stopped), Ripley stops and asks Jen if it’s okay to go outside – showing that Ripley has learned a lesson, even if she hasn’t applied it well. One reason this story was successful is that it broke up the usual pairs of Lumberjanes (Mal/Molly, Jo/April, Ripley/Jen) and created interactions between characters who aren’t each other’s closest companions.

X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN – SECOND GENESIS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Second Genesis,” [W/A] Ed Piskor. Another brilliant piece of art, writing and design. This issue covers Giant-Size X-Men #1 and X-Men vol. 1 #94 to #138. Unlike in the first X-Men: Grand Design series, Ed is retelling stories that are well-remembered as classics and that already have strong characterization. Therefore, instead of developing the characters, he concentrates on making explicit the often scattered threads of Claremont’s plots. In particular, he focuses on the Dark Phoenix Saga, showing how everything in the New X-Men’s early years was leading up to X-Men #137. He concentrates less on characterization than on explaining why things happened the way they did. Ed makes some surprising choices about what to include and what to leave out, and he contradicts some things that happened in the original comics. For example, he mostly ignores the Savage Land story in X-Men #114-116, and he has the other X-Men arrive in Scotland after Jean has already defeated Proteus. The result is, not a retelling of Claremont’s X-Men, but a reinterpretation of those comics from a very different perspective.

DESCENDER #32 (Image, 2018) – “The End of the Universe 4 of 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Not the ending I expected. The Descenders take Tim away, and he can’t prevent them from killing 99% of the population of the universe. At the last minute, Driller saves Andy and Effie. Ten years later, we’re introduced to Andy’s daughter Mila, who will be the protagonist of the sequel series, Ascender. At the back of the issue, Jeff explains that this was indeed not the ending he originally planned on. After writing the issue where Driller meets the old Yoda-esque alien, Jeff got an idea for how to continue the series, and rewrote the ending accordingly. I’m really curious what the original ending was, and I wish Jeff would publish a “Descender #32b” that represents his initial conception of the ending (like Phoenix: The Untold Story).

MODERN FANTASY #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Kristen Gudsnuk. Sage and her friends break into a power plant to rescue Fentax and recover the amulet, which has the power to end the world or something. They get Fentax back, but not the amulet, so now they have a new quest. This is another really fun comic, with great character interactions and worldbuilding, as well visually dense artwork full of sight gags. Looking through this issue just now, I noticed something I missed or had forgotten about: an ad for an “R.O.U.S. Surprise.”

THE LONG CON #1 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] Ed Denich. There have been lots of individual comic books set at comic conventions (we’ll see another example shortly), but to my knowledge, this is the first entire comic series that takes place at a convention. Several years after the apocalypse, a reporter for the “Post Event Post” is sent to investigate the site of Long Con 50, where there seem to be people and artifacts that survived the apocalypse. We then get a flashback to the beginning of the convention, and I assume these flashbacks are going to explain how the apocalypse happened in the first place. So far, The Long Con #1 is a well-executed comic with an amazing premise. It also shows understanding of fan culture, and not just the comics part of it: at the end of the issue, there’s some Kirk/Spock fanart, a fan fiction story, and a convention schedule.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #68 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price. Tempest Shadow and Glitter Drops succeed in defeating the bear, or rather escorting it back to its mother, and they resolve their past trauma and renew their friendship. This ending was a little disappointing because Tempest Shadow ends up accepting the logic of friendship after all, whereas her critical attitude toward friendship was what made the last issue so unusual. Still, this was a very good issue overall. Tempest and Cadance’s conversation at the end is probably the highlight.

BLACKWOOD #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. This issue’s first panel depicts the dead, maggot-ridden face of the kid who was trying to leave town at the end of last issue. Ewww. So we now know that the stakes in this comic are pretty high. The rest of the issue is full of even more creepy horror and tense character interactions. Horror is not my favorite genre, but Blackwood is a great example of that genre.

ROYAL CITY #13 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire. More stuff happens this issue than in the last few issues combined. Both Pike parents admit to each other that they’re having affairs, Patrick admits that he stole his first book from his dead brother, and Tommy’s ghost tries to convince Richie to kill himself, but Richie calls home instead. This issue packed a lot of emotional power, but if it had been the last issue of the series, it would have felt like an overly comfortable, tidy conclusion. However, there’s still one issue left, so we’ll see whether this ending is as happy as it seems.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #33 (Marvel, 2018) – “Save Our School, Part Two: Daddy’s Little Girl,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella tries to cure her random body exchanges with Devil, but instead she turns Devil into a red-haired human child. Meanwhile, Lunella and Princess’s personality conflict continues. Princess and Kingpin are a funny reimagining of Little Orphan Annie and Daddy Warbucks.

THE TERRIFICS #6 (DC, 2018) – “Element World! Part 2,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Joe Bennett. The lack of Doc Shaner artwork is disappointing. Although it turns out I was wrong in thinking that Doc was the regular artist. He’s only drawn two issues so far. This issue has a nice gimmick the first few pages each consist of four panels, each panel depicting one of the team members. Then when the team members get together, the panels merge: there are two pages with two panels each, then three splash pages. Otherwise, this is a well-executed but average superhero comic.

SAVAGE DRAGON #236 (Image, 2018) – “Kids’ Day Out!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. I dropped this series because of the tasteless and exploitative sex scenes, but I ordered this issue because it looked fun. My favorite Savage Dragon stories are the ones that focused on Angel when she was a kid, especially #105 with the Candyman. In this issue, Malcolm’s kids have their first solo adventure, and their scenes are drawn in a style that parodies Calvin & Hobbes (see also Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom #1). However, this comic’s tasteless depiction of sex is still a severe problem. Malcolm’s wife Maxine is so obsessed with sex that she’s more worried about getting off than about finding her missing children. I hope next issue begins with Malcolm taking Maxine to a therapist to treat her sex addiction.

X-23 #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals, Part 2,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. This is even better than last issue. I think it’s Mariko’s best-written comic since Supergirl: Being Super. Gabby is a cute and realistically written kid, and her conversation with Laura at breakfast is the high point of the issue. The art isn’t bad either. The two-page spread where Laura gets psychically attacked is brilliant. It’s drawn in such an abstract, nonlinear style that you can only look at it and not read it.

SENTRY #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sentry World, Part 2 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Kim Jacinto. This is the fourth Jeff Lemire comic I read this week. Jeff deserves an Eisner for Best Writer, if only for being so versatile, and for maintaining such a high level of quality with such a heavy workload. This issue is only okay, though. Tony Stark throws Bob in prison, Bob turns into the Sentry and escapes, and it turns out Bob’s evil coworker stole the device that was controlling Bob’s powers.

X-MEN: WAKANDA FOREVER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Echo Chamber,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Alberto Albuquerque. This one-shot is mostly about Nakia’s history with Storm, with a couple other X-Men as side characters. The main appeal of this issue is the scenes in the African grocery store. These scenes are presumably based on personal experience, and they show us Okorafor’s perspective of an American of recent African descent, a perspective which is almost unprecedented in American comics. The actual plot of the issue is a little underwhelming by comparison. I still think they either need to radically change Nakia’s character, or rename her, because her depiction in this comic is going to be an unpleasant surprise to readers who only know her from the movie. It was an unpleasant surprise to me, even.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #1 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 1,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. This comic takes place in Constantinople in 1095, where a group of rogues and misfits are teaming up to recover some stolen manuscripts. Initially I had no idea where this comic was going or what it had to do with Atomic Robo. But eventually I understood, and in the back of the issue, Brian Clevinger confirmed that my understanding was correct. In the 11th century, things like astronomy and mathematics were the forefront of science, and copying and translating old manuscripts was how science was done. The protagonists in this comic are scientist-adventurers, just like Robo and his sidekicks. So this is a promising comic: it’s an interesting twist on science and history, set in a milieu that’s rarely depicted in popular culture.

THE WEATHERMAN #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nathan Fox. It turns out that the protagonist is the same man who destroyed Earth, only he gave himself an unexpected memory wipe. This is a fascinating twist that makes this series a lot more interesting; after the last issue, I wasn’t sure where this comic was going. Nathan Fox’s art is quite good.

INFINITY 8 VOL. 2 #1 – “Back to the Führer,” [W] Lewis Trondheim, [A] Olivier Vatine. This is an interesting comic with beautiful art, but it was completely ruined for me by one page, in which we meet an alien named “Shlomo Ju.” He has a long beard and earlocks and dresses in black, and he abused a woman because she spoke to a man. This character is an unbelievable anti-Semitic caricature. The writers try to cover their asses by describing him as an “ultraorthodox radical,” but he’s also the only Jewish character in the comic; there are no positive representations of Jews to counter this offensive stereotype. I have no idea why anyone thought this was okay. Ironically, the actual depictions of Nazis in this comic are much less offensive, and are kind of funny.

CHAMPIONS #1.MU (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Ro Stein. The Champions fight a team of teenage supervillains who are trying to break up an environmentalist protest, and then some giant monsters show up. I expected this to be just a typical crossover issue, but it’s actually good. Just like in Raven or Unstoppable Wasp, in this issue Jeremy writes excellent dialogue and shows a sympathetic understanding of teenagers, including both the heroes and the villains.

MEN IN BLACK VOL. II #3 (Aircel, 1991) – “Con Sequences,” [W] Lowell Cunningham, [A] Sandy Carruthers. I bought this because I’ve never seen an actual Men in Black comic before. Probably the vast majority of people who have seen the movies don’t even know they were based on a comic, and this may be because the comic was rather mediocre. Although Men in Black v2 #3 is not a very good comic, it’s interesting because the story takes place at an Atlanta science fiction convention. The writer shows an insider knowledge of SF fan culture, and I assume some of the characters in the issue are based on actual Atlanta fans, though I have no idea who they’re based on.

BRAVEST WARRIORS #26 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] Kate Leth, [A] Ian McGinty. The two stories in this issue have appealing artwork and coloring, but I can’t remember anything about their plots. Bravest Warriors was notable less because of its actual quality than because of the careers it launched; besides Leth and McGinty, this issue also includes art by Kat Leyh.

LUCY DREAMING #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Michael Dialynas. Lucy summons all her past selves to defeat Welsey, and as we learn from the infodump at the start of the issue, this also represents a symbolic victory of female-oriented over male-oriented stories. Then Lucy starts drawing comics. Max Bemis is a good dialogue writer, but I’m not so sure about his plots. I also think this comic engages in gender essentialism. I agree with the general point that boy-oriented hero narratives do a lot of harm, but instead of suggesting any better models for stories with boy protagonists, Bemis limits himself to arguing that stories with girl protagonists will solve everything. Both halves of this argument are equally reductive: quest stories about boys are not uniformly regressive, and stories with girl protagonists are not uniformly progressive.

SECRETS OF YOUNG BRIDES #8 (Charlton, 1976) – “Nothing Special” and other stories, [W] Joe Gill (probably), [A] Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia et al. Some very boring romance stories. In this issue’s second story, a young girl leaves home for the big city and falls in with a crowd of dirty, drug-abusing hippies, but her blue-collar boyfriend rescues her and takes her home. It’s instructive to compare this story with contemporaneous underground comics, where the hippies were the good guys and the “straights” were the villains.

KID COLT OUTLAW #179 (Marvel, 1962/1976) – “The Circus of Crime!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Keller. The Circus of Crime in this comic is not to be confused with the similarly named group led by the Ringmaster. However, this story was originally published in September 1962, the same month that the original Circus of Crime were reintroduced in Incredible Hulk #3 (they first appeared in the ’40s). Probably Stan was trying to economize by using similar villains in two different stories. Otherwise Kid Colt #179 is of little interest.

STRONTIUM DOG #4 (Quality, 1987) – “The Moses Incident,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. The Quality comics published from 1987 to 1989 were so poorly printed as to be almost unreadable, and I don’t plan to buy any more of them. The comics published under the Eagle label before 1987, and under the Fleetway/Quality label in the early ’90s, had much higher production values. Despite the poor printing, this comic is enjoyable. The protagonist, mutant bounty hunter Johnny Alpha, accidentally kills a little boy in a gunfight, then goes on a quest to resurrect him. I like the 2000 AD style of art, and Carlos Ezquerra was one of the masters of that style. My problem with this comic’s storyline is that Johnny Alpha is really not to blame for the boy’s death. If anyone is at fault, it’s the boy’s mother, who couldn’t stop him from watching a gunfight at close range, but the mother acts as if it’s all Johnny Alpha’s fault.

FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS #6 (Rip Off, 1980) – six stories, [W] various, [A] Gilbert Shelton. I have mixed feelings about Crumb, but I unreservedly love Shelton. His comics are raucous, immoral, anarchic, and hilarious. The stories in this issue aren’t all equally well written, and they all have super-implausible plots, but that’s kind of deliberate. “He Who Hesitates” and “The 4th Freak Brother!” are a two-parter, in which a cop tries to arrest the Freak Brothers, but ends up losing his memory and joining them. “The Death of Fat Freddy” includes a scene where Fat Freddy’s friends attend his wake (though he’s not dead, of course) and then confiscate his property to cover his debts to them. The friends/creditors appear to include Spain Rodriguez, Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Trina Robbins, and I assume the others are based on other comics people. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bl9YlmfFGpN/?taken-by=aaronkashtan

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #29 (DC, 1995) – “The Hourman, Act One,” [W] Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle, [A] Guy Davis. Another typically high-quality issue. Wesley and Dian continue to progress their relationship, while Hourman tries to help a wife save her abusive husband from criminals. Along with the subtle and deep interactions between Wes and Dian, the highlight of the issue is the gritty depiction of the craven, cowardly husband and his browbeaten wife.

ALL-STAR COMICS #59 (DC, 1976) – “Brainwave Blows Up!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Ric Estrada & Wally Wood. It appears that Ric Estrada did the layouts and Woody did the finishes, so in this comic you get Woody’s draftsmanship, but not his masterful storytelling. This issue is basically an extended fight between the JSA and the team of Brainwave and Per Degaton. The ’70s All-Star Comics was only slightly above average even when Paul Levitz took it over, and this issue is just average.

FRANKENSTEIN #3 (Dell, 1966) – “The Trap,” [W] D.J. Arneson, [A] Tony Tallarico. Usually when I say that a comic is bad, I mean that it’s just average or mediocre. Most “bad” comics are written and drawn at a professional level, but they lack interest or excitement or a creative spark, or else they don’t suit my tastes. But this comic is just straight up bad. It’s worse than mediocre: the art is ugly and barely competent, the lettering is hideous, and the story is a series of dumb cliches. Obviously Dell was desperate to cash in on the superhero fad (tthis is a superhero comic, despite the title), and they were willing to hire anyone who could hold a pencil.

WULF THE BARBARIAN #3 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “The Colossus of the Iron Citadel,” [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Leo Summers. Like most Atlas/Seaboard titles, Wulf got a new creative team after just a couple issues. Wulf #3 isn’t completely terrible, but it’s weird. It’s supposed to be a barbarian comic, but the plot is that Wulf’s archenemy tries to take over a giant foundry that uses Industrial Revolution-era technology. And this comic just doesn’t feel like the first two issues of Wulf, which were actually kind of good. Leo Summers drew less than 20 comics stories, almost all of them for Warren or Atlas/Seaboard in 1974 and 1975, and I can’t find any biographical information about him.

TARZAN #249 (DC, 1976) – “Tarzan and the Champion,” [W] Joe Kubert, [A] Rudy Florese. Joe Kubert’s last issue of Tarzan is an adaptation of an ERB story, in which Tarzan saves a boxer from being eaten by cannibals, then defeats him in a boxing match. Because of its depiction of the cannibals, this story is even more racist than Tarzan comics usually are. Otherwise, this is a typical example of the later part of Kubert’s Tarzan run.

MARA #4 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Brian Wood, [A] Ming Doyle. I bought Mara when it came out because of its unusual topic – the protagonist is a professional volleyball player. It turns out I just don’t like Brian Wood’s writing – I find his comics unsubtle and humorless – and this comic does nothing to change my mind about him.

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER #1 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “The Fall of the House of Usher,” [W/A] Richard Corben. As he explains in a note, Corben has adapted this Poe story before, so this time he changed things up by adding plot elements from “The Oval Portrait.” This comic is gruesome, creepy, and beautifully drawn and colored, making it an example of Corben’s classic style. However, the characters talk in modern dialogue, even though the story is clearly set in the 19th century.

FIGHTIN’ ARMY #113 (Charlton, 1974) – “The Brothers,” uncredited, and “Shoot Out at Argentan!”, [A] Nicholas/Alascia. “The Brothers” is about two German immigrants to America who end up fighting on opposite sides of WWII. It has a cheap and unsatisfying ending: the one who fights for the Nazis is redeemed at the end, because he visited Auschwitz and realized that Nazis suck. However, this happens behind the scenes, rather than on-panel, so what should be the emotional heart of the story is left out. What makes this story interesting is the excellent draftsmanship. The art is not by José Luis García-López, but it resembles his realistic style, and I suspect the artist might be Spanish or Argentine. I would love to know who drew this story, but sadly there are no credits, and the GCD is no help.

IMAGINE AGENTS #4 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] Brian Joines, [A] Bachan. I was glad when I finally came across my copy of this issue; it was hiding somewhere in the back of a box. This issue has a pretty conventional happy ending, but what makes this series unique and interesting is Bachan’s creative depiction of children’s imaginary friends. Also, Joines writes a pretty poignant speech about why imaginary friends are important to children. A highlight of this issue is “The Guier,” an orange tutu-wearing winged creature who’s always complaining.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #34 (DC, 1965) – “The Deadly Dreams of Doctor Destiny!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Mike Sekowsky. Having lost his original materioptikon, Dr. Destiny builds a new one in his dreams, then uses it to nearly defeat the Justice League. I haven’t read many Dr. Destiny stories, and this issue demonstrates why it made sense for Neil Gaiman to use him as a villain in Sandman. In general, JLoA #34 is a pretty exciting and weird Silver Age comic.

DENNIS THE MENACE #53 (Fawcett, 1961) – multiple stories, [W] Fred Toole, [A] Al Wiseman. I can’t really tell the difference between Al Wiseman and his successor Owen Fitzgerald, but the stories in this issue are cute and often very funny. The highlight of the issue is a page where Dennis’s dad is relaxing on a lawn chair, when a hammer falls out of the sky and almost hits him. https://www.instagram.com/p/BmCK2UvFJ4r/

THE SPIRIT #26 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – four stories, [W/A] Will Eisner. This issue’s two middle stories are a duology about on a young convict named “Bleak,” a typically Eisneresque name. Bleak is released from reform school and immediately gets roped into committing more crimes, but he frees himself and is reunited with his childhood sweetheart. There’s also a story about diamonds being smuggled in army surplus umbrella handles, and a Charles Atlas parody. I wasn’t all that impressed by the last couple Spirit comics I read, but this issue reminds me what a god of comics Eisner was. The reason he was able to tell complete, satisfying stories in seven pages – one of which doubled as the cover – was because of his skill at narrative compression. The panels in these stories often have multiple things happening at once, so that the reader is forced to slow down and read carefully just to follow the story. Eisner also conveys lots of information through body language and facial expressions as well as text. His mastery of storytelling is one reason why the annual awards are named after him.

New comics received Saturday, August 4:

QUANTUM AGE #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Wilfredo Torres. Compared to the previous issue, this comic was a bit disappointing. The problem was that I wanted to learn more about the original Quantum League, and instead Jeff focuses on Barbali-Teen and the older Modular Lass and Erb, and their struggle against Earthgov (a name borrowed from the actual Legion comics). But it’s not really Jeff’s fault if the story he wants to tell is not the story I want to read. This is still an exciting comic, and I love the scene where the kids are debating who was the best Quantum Leaguer – Gorilla Girl, Doppler Damsel or Modular Lass. I do hope we get to see more Quantum Leaguers soon, because to me, it doesn’t feel like a Legion comic unless there are a whole bunch of Legionnaires.

MISTER MIRACLE #10 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. I didn’t vote for Mitch Gerads in the Eisners, but he’s a deserving winner. I’ve already talked about this series’s bizarre and touching combination of domesticity and cosmic warfare. This issue gives us a lot more of that, and it also shows Scott confronting the dilemma of whether to sacrifice his son to stop the war. When you put it like that, the answer is pretty obvious: no. Scott is the ultimate escape artist, and he had better not fall victim to this trap. I also think that Scott is being kind of selfish in acting like this is his decision alone, not his and Barda’s.

PAPER GIRLS #23 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. Kaje reveals that she and Mac are lovers in the future, and Mac is not happy. Erin and the two Tiffanies locate Wari. This was a pretty typical issue. I really like the future dialogue, and I almost wish it wasn’t translated. There’s a crossword puzzle at the end of the issue, but I didn’t even attempt it. I’d have to reread the entire series to learn the answers to some of the clues.

GIANT DAYS #41 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Susan destroys a little girl’s soccer ball, and she’s right to do it. Daisy learns that Ingrid has a new boyfriend, despite her friends’ best efforts to keep her from finding out. More assorted drama happens. Again, this was a very typical issue.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #1 (DC, 2018) – “Action Detectives, Part One: Bad Guys,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. At the beginning of their “Summer of Super,” Clark and Damien encounter some adorable kid versions of DC villains. This was another excellent Super Sons story, and was probably the best comic of the week besides Mister Miracle #10, although it was an underwhelming week. The sculptor who made the statue at the beginning of the issue is named “Alan Swan” because this statue first appeared in “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow,” by Alan Moore and Curt Swan.

MARVEL RISING: MS. MARVEL AND SQUIRREL GIRL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Marvel Rising, Part 3,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, Ryan North & Devin Grayson, [A] Ramon Bachs & Irene Strychalski. Unfortunately my copy of this issue has a printing error in which one page is printed twice, just like Head Lopper #8. On Twitter, Ryan North confirmed that Marvel is aware of this error and that the issue will be reprinted. As far as I can tell without reading the missing page, in this issue we learn that the real villain is Arcade, and Kamala, Doreen and their allies almost convince Emulator to go straight. Also, they get thrown into an MMORPG world where they spend weeks grinding. One cool thing about this issue is seeing Ryan and Willow write each other’s characters. I’m not sure if Ryan wrote Squirrel Girl’s dialogue in the Ms. Marvel half of the issue, or if Willow just did a good job of imitating Ryan’s prose style.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #11 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. Dorma brings her brother’s body back to their home cavern, and gets in a fight with her parents about whether to move elsewhere. Also, it turns out that the next issue of Scales & Scoundrels will be the last. That’s kind of sad. Scales & Scoundrels was never the best fantasy comic on the market, but it had potential.

LEVIATHAN #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Layman, [A] Nick Pitarra. So far, John Layman’s post-Chew project is less interesting than that of Rob Guillory. There are a lot of funny moments in this comic, but the artwork is too busy and is also rather gross, and I’m not sure how this comic is different from a generic kaiju story. But I will reserve judgment until I read a few more issues.

VALIANT HIGH #4 (Valiant, 2018) – “The Big Dance,” [W] Daniel Kibblesmith, [A] Derek Charm. Valiant High loses the homecoming game, and some other drama happens. This series was cute and easy to read, but it was no substitute for Faith, which is thankfully returning soon. My favorite thing about this issue is the line “float like a jellyfish, sting like a jellyfish.”

ANIMOSITY #15 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Power: Part Two,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael Delatorre. This issue gives us the backstory of the guy who was killed at the end of last issue. His story is tragic and depressing, but also kind of emotionally manipulative. I’m getting Animosity: Evolution next week, but after that I’m done with this series.

CONCRETE: THINK LIKE A MOUNTAIN #4 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “Weight of the World,” [W/A] Paul Chadwick. This issue showcases Paul Chadwick’s beautiful, Moebius-esque art. Chadwick is not only one of the smartest writers in the comics industry, but also a brilliant artist. In this issue, some radical environmentalists convince Concrete to join their cause. This issue shows evidence of extensive research into or preexisting knowledge of environmentalism. I don’t want to think about the environmental issues this comic raises, because it’s too depressing.

BACCHUS #13 (Eddie Campbell, 1996) – “King Bacchus, Part 12,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. Two characters I don’t remember get married. We learn that Collage is pregnant with Bacchus’s child. Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Dave Sim make guest appearances, and the latter gets beaten up. I figured out it was Sim when he complaned about a “noble male light being subsumed into merged permanence.” This issue also includes a chapter of “Doing the Islands,” which I’ve read at least twice already.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #12 (DC, 2018) – “Crash of the Titans,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Alain Mauricet. Buzz and Frankenstein battle an armadillo-bat-jaguar thing. This was a fun and exciting issue, and I’m sorry that it’s the last Future Quest comic.

VOID INDIGO #2 (Marvel, 1985) – “Spikes and Demons / Rapture and Violence,” [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Val Mayerik. This series was quickly cancelled after this issue, and you can immediately see why just by reading the first page. This page shows a naked flaming woman having sex with a pink-skinned giant man, and the caption mentions that the woman is possessing the body of a 14-year-old girl. So no wonder Marvel wanted nothing more to do with this series. In general, Void Indigo #2 is a typical example of Gerber’s bizarre writing. It’s also confusing and hard to follow, and I’m not sure if this series’ cancellation was that big of a loss.

CATWOMAN #8 (DC, 2002) – “Disguises, Part 2,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Brad Rader. Catwoman and Slam Bradley get involved in a complex plot involving corrupt cops and the Russian mob. This issue includes a number of panels depicting Selina’s cats. Brad Rader is a worse cat artist than Darwyn Cooke or Joëlle Jones, but he’s a pretty good artist in general. I wonder what happened to him.

BATMAN ’66 #26 (DC, 2015) – “Poison Ivy’s Deadly Kiss,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Jesse Hamm. Batman meets the ’66 version of Poison Ivy. This is a pretty funny and entertaining comic, with some good plant jokes. However, this series, like the show it was based on, is rather repetitive; it has the same basic jokes every issue.

FLASH GORDON #11 (King, 1967) – “Dream Devils of the Volcanic World,” [W] Bill Pearson, [A] Reed Crandall. Flash and Dale are captured by some pygmies, who use noxious gases to trap them in a dream state. I don’t like Reed Crandall nearly as much as Al Williamson, but his art in this issue is really good, with some very nice cross-hatching. Unfortunately some of the pages are badly printed, making it difficult to see the fine details of the art.

DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES #14 (Gladstone, 1943/1989) – “Donald Duck and the Mummy’s Ring,” [W/A] Carl Barks. A somewhat crude early Barks story in which Donald and two of the nephews travel to Egypt to rescue the third nephew from a mummy. The villain of this story looks very similar to Peg-Leg Pete. In 1965, Barks had to redraw three pages of this story because the original plates were damaged, and DDA #14 includes both the original and the redrawn pages.

ITTY BITTY HELLBOY #2 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “You Call Him Smitty” etc., [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco. This comic took about one minute to read, and is a demonstration of the principle that if you’ve read one Baltazar/Franco comic (besides the ones with continued storylines, like Super Friends), you’ve read them all.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP #4 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Javier Garrón. Again, this is a fun issue, but it’s not as good as Unstoppable Wasp. Also, Mark’s science is getting really really farfetched. This issue, Scott, Nadia and Burr Dalen get back to Earth, but it turns out to not be their Earth.

CHEVAL NOIR #23 (Dark Horse, 1991) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. There are three stories in this issue that I specifically want to mention. I’ve heard of both Makyo and Rossi before, but I’m not familiar with their story in this issue, “Jordan.” It turns out this story is part of a series called “Le cycle des deux horizons.” It’s about a boy whose abusive mother keeps his shoes locked up so he can’t go out, but he befriends another boy, and he sneaks out at night and they take turns carrying each other around. I don’t know what the larger plot of this series is, but this first chapter is interesting. In the conclusion of Tardi’s Adele Blanc-Sec album “Mummies on Parade,” Adele surprisingly gets killed, but then it turns out she was cryogenically frozen instead. Tardi decided to have her frozen during World War I, so that he wouldn’t have to explain what she did during the war. This issue also includes the conclusion of Cosey’s “Voyage in Italy.” It seems like a very poignant conclusion, but I don’t remember what this album is about, or who the characters are.

TARZAN #190 – “Tarzan and the Forbidden City, Part One,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Paul Norris. A mediocre story in which Tarzan gets caught up in a war between two cities. The people of the two cities are all white, even though this story takes place in Africa, and there’s no explanation of why this is the case. Gold Key’s Tarzan never recovered from Russ Manning’s departure.

Finally I have no more comics waiting to be reviewed.

Post-Heroes Con reviews

6-24-18

A few comics that I read just before Heroes Con:

VALIANT HIGH #2 (Valiant, 2008) – “The Big Test, Part Two,” [W] Daniel Kibblesmith, [A] Derek Charm. A lot more high school drama happens. At the end of the issue, Pete Stanchek and Ninja-K break into Aric’s shed and discover that he seems to be immortal. Derek Charm’s artwork has a very appealing simplicity. I’m interested in this series because it has kind of a similar feel to Faith, which was sadly cancelled.

AZTEC ACE #15 (Eclipse, 1985) – “Relax! Bridget Goes to Hollywood,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Dan Day. Caza and Bridget discover an old film that inexplicably includes Bridget as an extra. They travel back in time to 1930s Hollywood, where Bridget embarks on a successful film career, despite Caza’s warnings that she’s causing all kinds of time paradoxes. Lots of convoluted drama ensues. Like issue 11, reviewed above, this comic is less confusing than I expect from Aztec Ace, and the interplay between Ace and Caza is interesting. Doug Moench writes way too much text, but he always does that. Dan Day’s art resembles his brother Gene’s art, though it’s not as good.

<MR. MONSTER #3 (Dark Horse, 1988) – “The Death of Mr. Monster?”, [W/A] Michael T. Gilbert. I always had trouble getting into this series because it’s extremely overblown and histrionic, probably on purpose. But if you come into it expecting that, then it’s a pretty fun comic. In this chapter of the Origins storyline, the previous Mr. Monster, Strongfort Stearn’s father, decides to give up fighting monsters and get married, but suffers severe mental torment as a result. Ken Bruzenak’s lettering is a key part of this comic’s visual aesthetic. This issue’s backup story is a reprint from Commando Comics #21, one of the WWII-era Canadian Whites.

DC COMICS PRESENTS #94 (DC, 1986) – “The Challenge of the Volt Lord,” [W] Barbara Kesel & Bob Greenberger, [A] Tom Mandrake & Don Heck. This is one of very few comics written by Bob Greenberger, who was almost exclusively an editor. It guest-stars Harbinger, Pariah and Lady Quark, three of the new characters from Crisis. Lady Quark was the only one of these who had any success after Crisis; the other two seem more like plot devices. This issue effectively advances Lady Quark’s character, but fails to make the reader care about Harbinger or Pariah.

LOCKE & KEY: OMEGA #5 (IDW, 2013) – “The Fall,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. I have no idea how the plot got to this point, but this issue begins with a bunch of high school students fighting monsters that flee from the light (so grues, basically). Meanwhile, Rendell is dying of a gunshot wound. The most memorable thing in this issue is the opening scene, where a minor character named Mandy Sawyer says to herself “You are a nerd, girl, and nerds need to be brave” and attacks one of the monsters, only to get killed immediately. One reason why Joe Hill is an effective horror writer is that, like his father, he’s very good at showing the psychological effects of horrific situations upon even minor characters.

ARCHIE #18 (Archie, 2017) – “No Reason,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Pete Woods. Archie and Veronica go on a date which is disappointing because of their lack of interests. Meanwhile, Betty and Dilton bond over their shared love of cars. This was an okay but forgettable issue.

SPIDER-WOMAN #17 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Veronica Fish. Jess holds another rooftop party, paralleling the one from the start of the series. Meanwhile, Gerry turns out to have wallcrawling powers, leading to a hilarious sequence where he almost gets himself killed. Roger (who wasn’t dead) helps save Gerry, helping Jess’s rather judgmental friends realize what Jess sees in him. This is a satisfying conclusion to Dennis Hopeless’s Spider-Woman run. I should have been reading this run while it was coming out, but as noted earlier, I was prejudiced against the writer because I’d heard bad things about Avengers Arena.

EXIT STAGE LEFT: THE SNAGGLEPUSS CHRONICLES #6 (DC, 2018) – “Going Underground,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Feehan. This issue takes place five years after #6, when a depressed, blacklisted Snagglepuss is recruited by Huckleberry Hound to work in the new medium of cartoons. This series is the latest in a string of extremely impressive works by Mark Russell, and I look forward to seeing what he does next. As usual, though, the Sasquatch Detective backup story is worse than no story at all.

ZERO ZERO #20 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – various stories, [E] Kim Thompson. This anthology collects a number of stories which are all surrealist in some way. It begins with the last chapter of Dave Cooper’s Crumple. I read one Dave Cooper comic a long time ago and didn’t really get it, but his art and lettering in this story are really good, although the story, in which all men on Earth are replaced by parthenogenetic aliens, is kind of pointless. Maybe the highlight of the issue is Al Columbia’s “Amnesia,” a brilliantly designed tribute to silent animation, with sepia-toned art that combines photorealistic backgrounds with Max Fleischer-style figures. The next two stories, by Glenn Head and Francesca Ghermandi, aren’t as good. The last story, by Mack White, is drawn in a style resembling that of Dan Spiegle or Doug Wildey, making it an interesting contrast to the rest of the issue. The strip on this issue’s back cover is Lewis Trondheim’s first American publication.

A1 #2 (Atomeka, 1989) – many stories, [E] Garry Leach & Dave Elliott. I bought this at Heroes Con last year, but couldn’t be bothered to read it because it’s 128 pages. It includes stories by a large number of mostly British artists, as well as a jam story in which each panel has a different artist. There’s so much material in this issue that none of it realy stood out, but it’s an exciting survey of the best British comics of the time.

KANE #2 (Dancing Elephant, 1993) – “Another Blast from the Past,” [W/A] Paul Grist. Kane investigates a bombing campaign. Meanwhile, a bunny-suited criminal named Mister Floppsie Whoppsie escapes from jail. This was a pretty typical example of Paul Grist’s style.

MARTHA WASHINGTON GOES TO WAR #1 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “The Killing Fields,” [W] Frank Miller, [A] Dave Gibbons. I’d forgotten I had this. As of the end of Give Me Liberty, America is now split into a lot of warring nations. Martha is nearly killed in a battle with soldiers from a hamburger franchise (it kind of makes sense in context) and finds herself in the clutches of the Surgeon General, an old enemy she thought was dead. And then she encounters her old friend Wasserstein, who she also thought was dead. I bought some of the other issues of this miniseries at Heroes Con, but haven’t read them yet.

SUPERMAN #14 (DC, 1987) – “Lost Love,” [W/A] John Byrne. I read this because it came up in a Facebook discussion for some reason. Also, I just noticed its title has the initials LL, no doubt on purpose. This issue is the post-Crisis debut of Lori Lemaris. It’s a very emotional and engaging story, although it’s basically a carbon copy of the classic “The Girl in Superman’s Past” from Superman #129. Clark does a couple really problematic things in this issue. First, when Lori turns down his marriage proposal, Clark (who at this point thinks Lori is a paraplegic, not a mermaid) says “Is it because of your paralysis? You know that doesn’t affect the way I feel about you. But… I could search the whole world…” That is a horrible thing to say to a disabled person.  Second, at the end of the issue, when Clark discovers that Lori is in love with a merman, he asks her “How could you be so unfair? So unfeeling?” At this point, Clark and Lori have been broken up for some time, and yet Clark assumes that he still has exclusive rights to Lori’s affections.

I was at Heroes Con from June 14 to 16. As usual I had a great time. The highlight of the convention was the panel I did with Matt Kindt, Derek Royal, Craig Fischer and Andrew Kunka, which was based on my new book Between Panel and Screen: Comics, Materiality, and the Book of the Future. You can hear that panel here: http://comicsalternative.com/on-location-heroescon-2018-the-between-pen-and-pixel-panel/ I also moderated a panel on publication design with Katie Skelly, Ben Sears, Chuck Forsman and Bryce Carlson. And I bought a lot of comics, including:

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #124 (DC, 1976) – “Small War of the Super Rifles,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Jim Aparo. This has one of the best covers of Aparo’s career – the one where a masked man threatens to kill Aparo unless he draws Sgt. Rock killing Batman. The interior story is just as thrilling and weird as the cover. It features Haney, Aparo and Murray Boltinoff as characters. As on the cover, some terrorists threaten to kill them unless they draw a story in which Sgt. Rock and Batman get killed, but the heroes and the creators both manage to save the day. The logic behind this story is left tantalizingly unexplained; it seems like the DC heroes and the DC creators exist in the same world, and yet the creators have the ability to influence what happens to the heroes. At the end of the story, Batman and Rock track the terrorists down to the same lighthouse where Jim Aparo is hiding out while drawing the story. Yet Batman and Rock never meet Aparo, so the reader is left to wonder just how the two diegetic levels of the story are connected. This story almost feels like Cortazar’s “Continuity of Parks,” in which a man is killed by a character in the book he’s reading. Perhaps the most implausible thing about it is that it depicts Aparo drawing an entire comic book in one night.

MS. MARVEL #16 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Deep Deadly Silence!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Jim Mooney. This was one of my collecting Holy Grails – it’s one of the two Claremont Ms. Marvels I was missing. After fruitlessly searching for it at every convention for the past year, I finally found a copy for $6, a major bargain. That just leaves #18, which will be the hardest of all, since it’s the first appearance of Mystique. Claremont himself was at Heroes Con, and I got to talk to him a little bit. Ms. Marvel #16 itself is a bit disappointing because most of it consists of a fight between Carol, Tiger Shark, and a giant squid. However, there are some nice scenes at the start where Carol hangs out with the Beast and the Scarlet Witch. Namorita also guest-stars, and Claremont effectively distinguishes the three female superheroes in the issue from each other.

UNCLE SCROOGE #36 (Dell, 1962) – “The Midas Touch,” [W/A] Carl Barks. This issue introduces Magica de Spell. Barks created her at the end of his active career, although he managed to use her nine times before he retired. Magica’s first appearance introduces all the major tropes associated with the character – her obsession Scrooge’s Number One Dime, her home on Mount Vesuvius, her foof-bombs, etc. Magica herself is an impressive character because she’s a formidable and strong-willed woman, and she’s sexy without being sexualized. “The Midas Touch” is an excellent story, although it’s just the standard example of the basic plot in which Magica tries to steal Old Number One. In later stories, Magica would come up with ever more elaborate means of accomplishing her goal. This issue also includes some other stories that are less notable.

SCOOBY-DOO MYSTERY COMICS #28 (Gold Key, 1974) – “The Ancient Astronaut” and “Curse of the Wishing Well,” [W] Vic Lockman (?) and Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. I’ve seen a few issues of this series at other conventions, but haven’t bought any because I wasn’t sure which issues were written by Evanier. It looks like he wrote #21 to #30, though I’m not even sure of that. This issue’s first story is just average, and, according to the GCD, was originally written for a special issue that was never published. But the second story is a classic example of Mark’s style. The plot is that some crooks are trying to steal the proceeds from a telethon, so it gives Mark an opportunity to display his sense of humor and his encyclopedic knowledge of Hollywood. Jackie Jacobs, the host of the telethon, is presumably based on some actual star of the time, though I’m not sure who. Also, Dan Spiegle’s art is as brilliant as ever. This comic is as good as other Evanier works like Crossfire and Hollywood Superstars, and I’ll be actively looking for the rest of Evanier and Spiegle’s Scooby-Doos.

UNCANNY X-MEN #269 (Marvel, 1990) – “Rogue Redux,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Jim Lee. I was surprised to discover that I didn’t have this issue already. This issue, Rogue goes through the Siege Perilous to the Savage Land, where she fights some kind of clone version of Ms. Marvel. This issue’s plot is a little flimsy, but Jim Lee’s art is spectacular. Back in 1990, his style was still fresh and new, rather than being the standard idiom of the entire industry. This issue continues the ongoing saga of Rogue’s rivalry with Ms. Marvel, which began back in the ‘70s. One of Claremont’s notable skills was his ability to plan storylines years ahead of time. I wish I’d asked him how far in advance he planned his stories, but I already asked him enough questions.

KIM & KIM #3 (Black Mask, 2016) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. I think this was the last Kim & Kim that I didn’t have. The Kims spend muuch of this issue fighting robot gorillas, and there’s also some other convoluted plot stuff. I think the first Kim & Kim miniseries is the best thing Mags has written so far, and I look forward to the upcoming third miniseries.

AQUAMAN #13 (DC, 1964) – “Invasion of the Giant Reptiles,” [W] Jack Miller, [A] Nick Cardy. This is Mera’s second appearance. My copy is in terrible condition, but is complete and readable. This issue’s plot is that some criminals from the future travel back in time and attack Aquaman using mind-controlled sea creatures, and then they also use their mind control on Mera, I forget why. Jack Miller wasn’t the best writer, but Mera was a very progressive character for the time – she had flashier powers than Aquaman, and was a queen in her own right – and Nick Cardy draws her beautifully.

FLASH GORDON #1 (King, 1966) – “Flash Gordon” and “Flash Gordon and the Mole Machine,” [W/A] Al Williamson, [W] Archie Goodwin and/or Larry Ivie. Another fantastic work by the greatest draftsperson in the history of American comic books. Al Williamson’s action sequences and cityscapes are unparalleled. Almost every panel is breathtaking. The scripts are maybe not the best, but you can’t have anything. This issue’s plot appears to be a continuation of the plot of the classic Alex Raymond strip. The second story takes place in an underground city called Krenkelium, named after Al’s friend Roy Krenkel.

INCREDIBLE HULK #125 (Marvel, 1970) – “…And Now, the Absorbing Man!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Herb Trimpe. This is another well-drawn comic, though not nearly at the same level as Flash Gordon #1. This issue, Bruce Banner is sent on a mission to destroy a rogue comet, only the comet turns out to be the Absorbing Man. Crusher Creel is depicted in this issue as an unrepentant murderer, so Saladin Ahmed’s much friendlier version of this character involved some retconning. This issue’s plot is rather flimsy. Bruce is sent on the mission to destroy the comet because the army needs a “scientifically trained human pilot,” but surely there are other people (like Ben Grimm) who could do the mision equally well without the risk of turning into a rampaging monster.

At this point I got another comics shipment:

EXILES #4 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodríguez. The Exiles’ next destination is the 18th century, where they join Blackbeard the Pirate, a.k.a. Ben Grimm, on a mission to stop the slave trade. This is another great issue. The two-page splash depicting the fight with the Juggernautical is brilliant, and it also includes a hilarious joke where Wolvie explains that he “used those bracket thingies” to understand the captive Africans’ language. This issue is also a funny tribute to the Blackbeard scene from Fantastic Four #5. See the review of Superman/Batman #51, below, for a possible inspiration for the Wolvie character.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #33 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. Using a previously unmentioned power, Squirrel Girl escapes the death trap by biting through the floor. And it actually makes sense that she can do this. Then she and her friends solve a bunch more puzzles, one of which the reader is invited to solve with them, although unfortunately it can’t be solved with just the information the reader is given. And it turns out the escape room was set up by Mojo II, a villain who hasn’t appeared since the ‘90s, though he does have his own trading card. At the end, Squirrel Girl and her friends are arrested for hanging out with Kraven.

NAUGHTY BITS #6 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Hippie Bitch Gets Laid,” [W/A] Roberta Gregory. Rebelling against her horrible parents, a teenage Midge discovers marijuana, pop music and tampons, and also loses her virginity and gets pregnant. This story is a funny, poignant and feminist depiction of growing up in the ‘60s, and was deservedly nominated for an Eisner. This issue also has a backup story about dogs having sex.

BY NIGHT #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. This series is about two recent college graduates, making it a natural counterpart to Bad Machinery (about high schoolers) and Giant Days (about college students). Needing a distraction from their boring lives, they break into an abandoned house where they find a magical portal. Like Giant Days #1 (see https://ogresfeathers.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/reviews-of-105-comic-books-give-or-take/#gida1), this issue didn’t impress me massively, and I’m not sure where it’s going, but I’m excited to find out.

UNCANNY X-MEN #116 (Marvel, 1978) – “To Save the Savage Land,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Byrne. This is one of Claremont and Byrne’s less memorable issues. The best thing about it is the scene where Storm tries to save Garokk, but fails because her claustrophobia flares up. Byrne and Terry Austin’s artwork is amazing; I’m especially impressed by Garokk’s intricately drawn fortress on pages 2 and 3.

NANCY DREW #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. An exciting YA detective story, with effective writing by one of the top writers in the industry. This comic does feel kind of like a generic teen girl detective story – it’s in the same genre as Goldie Vance, but lacks the elements that make Goldie Vance distinctive. However, this is forgivable because Nancy Drew created this genre in the first place. I never read Nancy Drew as a child (though I did read the Hardy Boys, and their appearance in this issue is delightful), and I’m not sure how heavily this series is based on the original books.

MECH CADET YU # 9 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. The fight with the Sharg gets even more hopeless, and the Mech Cadets have to choose between equally bad options. They succeed in destroying one Sharg mothership, but eight more show up, and Buddy decides to sacrifice itself to power the super-robo. I await the next issue with both excitement and dread. I do suspect that the Sharg aren’t as bad as they look, and that Central Command is concealing some kind of crucial information.

MISTER MIRACLE #9 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Scott and Barda negotiate a peace treaty with Kalibak, a horrible brutal monster. The table supported by captured New Gods is a striking example of Kalibak’s awfulness. Reading this issue, you almost feel angry with Scott and Barda for negotiating, rather than wiping the evil of Apokolips from the universe, whatever the cost. It feels like negotiating with these monsters just legitimates them. Of course there are parallels here to contemporary American politics. The issue ends with Darkseid demanding that Scott and Barda surrender their son to him. Unfortunately this plot twist was already spoiled in solicits for future issues.

NANCY #167 (Dell, 1959) – various stories, [W/A] John Stanley. This comic is in barely readable condition, but at least it appears to be complete. I bought a Little Lulu comic at Heroes Con that turned out to be missing its centerfold. I do want to try to start collecting John Stanley’s Little Lulu, but I need to be more careful when doing so. The stories in this issue are often rather farfetched, but are impressive because of their intricate and satisfying plots and their perfect comic timing. I’ll have more to say about John Stanley in another review below.

LASSIE #58 (Dell, 1962) – “Picaro’s Big Day” and “Antlered Fury,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Bob Fujitani. This comic was not on my radar at all until I read the Slings & Arrows Guide, which praises it very highly. And the praise is justified, because this comic has some really nice art, and the stories aren’t bad either. In the first story, Timmy meets a young migrant worker boy and adopts his pet raccoon. The raccoon is adorable, and Gaylord Du Bois’s script shows sympathy for Mexican immigrants, a quality which is sadly lacking in some contemporary Americans. In the backup story, Timmy and Lassie encounter two deer whose horns have gotten locked together, as well as a poacher who tries to illegally kill the deer. It turns out that male deer actually can get their horns locked, and it usually has fatal consequences.

MARVEL RISING: ALPHA #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Devin Grayson, [A] Georges Duarte. This is really good, and I’m sorry that it’s a special event and not an ongoing series. This issue is a team-up between Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl. Devin writes both these characters very well, and effectively differentiates them from each other. This issue’s villain, Emulator, is a girl gamer who has the power to summon objects from video games. After suffering constant sexual harassment and misogyny, she decides to use her powers for evil. It’s disappinting that her charater arc goes in this direction, but I guess the difference between heroes and villains is that heroes use their trauma as motivation for good rather than evil. And anyway, I expect Emulator will be redeemed in the end.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR: ODDS & ENDS #nn (Dark Horse, 1997) – various stories, [W] Harvey Pekar, [A] various. As this one-shot’s title indicates, it includes a heterogeneous range of material, including music and literature reviews and “Peeling and Eating a Tangerine (and disposing of the seeds)”. Probably the best story in the issue is “Breakfast at Billy’s”, drawn by Joe Sacco, which explores the topic of gentrification long before it would become a household word. “An Almost All-Expense-Paid Vacation,” drawn by Zabel and Dumm, is a foreshadowing of the American Splendor movie.

BATGIRL #13 (DC, 2017) – “The Truth About Bats and Dogs,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. This may be Hope Larson’s best issue of Batgirl. Babs discovers Esme, the seven-year-old hacker, searching for a kidnapped celebrity dog. They run into Catwoman, who’s looking for a kidnapped celebrity cat. Obviously both problems are related, and a team-up ensues. This issue is full of cute cats and dogs and cute Esme moments, and it’s a funny investigation of the phenomenon of Internet-famous pets. A nice moment is when Batgirl guesses that Esme is from South Burnside, and Esme says “Why? ‘Cause I look poor, and that’s where the poor kids live?”

BIFF BAM POW! #1 (Slave Labor, 2007) – “The Fight of the Millennium!” and other stories, [W/A] Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer. I didn’t know this comic existed until I bought it – from my favorite dealer at Heroes Con, the one who has the $1 underground and alternative comics. This issue consists mostly of kid-oriented humorous superhero stories. The main story is about a female professional boxer turned superhero. There’s also a backup story starring Kid Blastoff, a character created for Disney Adventures, as well as a couple reprints. This is a fun and well-crafted comic. There weren’t any other issues of this series, although Evan said on Twitter that he’d like to do more stories in this universe.

LUCIFER #1 (Trident, 1990) – “Hi, I’m Lucifer,” [W] Eddie Campbell, [A] Phil Elliott. This has nothing to do with the better-known Lucifer comic from Vertigo, except that they’re both inspired by the Biblical Lucifer. The “Lucifer” in this series is a crazy drifter who manages to inveigle his way into hell and is given a guided tour. This comic has rather modest intentions and not much of a plot, but it’s well-drawn and it demonstrates Eddie’s subtle style of humor. The highlight of the issue is when Lucifer discovers that there’s a special place in hell for people who don’t buy their round at the pub.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #158 (Marvel, 1976) – “Hammerhead is Out!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Ross Andru. A classic Doc Ock/Aunt May story, with the odd complication that Doc Ock is being pursued by the ghost of Hammerhead. There are also some nice bits of characterization. Early in the issue, Len has Robbie Robertson summon Peter to the Daily Bugle offices for no real reason, just so that Peter can be present when a news flash comes in that reveals where Doc Ock is.

AVENGERS #42 (Marvel, 1967) – “The Plan – and the Power!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. This issue has an awesome splash page, in which Hercules leans back in his chair eating grapes while the other Avengers yell at him. Here and throughout the issue, Roy demonstrates that Hercules is quite different from Thor despite being a potentially very similar character. The plot of the issue is that Diablo is trying to create an army of Dragon Men.

EGYPT #2 (Vertigo, 1995) – “The Book of the Shadow,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Glyn Dillon. Vincent Me meets a nice girl named Hopi, but the Pharaoh’s agents find them, cut Hopi’s tongue out (eww), and force Vincent to betray his co-conspirators. Hopi’s mutilation is a very painful scene that emphasizes the depth of Vincent’s self-centeredness, but overall this is a fun and sexy comic, and it shows evidence of at least some knowledge of ancient Egypt. I just hope this series doesn’t become less coherent as it goes on, as is common with Peter Milligan’s  miniseries.

THE PHANTOM #74 (Charlton, 1977) – “The Phantom of 1776,” [W/A] Don Newton. The last issue of this series is a special bicentennial story, in which an earlier Phantom travels to America in 1776 to rescue the enslaved son of an African chief. This is an exciting and unique comic that features some of Don Newton’s best art, and it’s become something of a classic. Unfortunately at times it comes perilously close to making excuses for slavery, but it does end by suggesting that America, as imperfect as it is, is going to get better – although that’s hard to believe on a day like today, when the Supreme Court has just affirmed Trump’s Muslim ban.

BABYTEETH #11 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Cradle,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Sadie wants to go to the Red Realm to rescue her son, but the adults tell her not to. There’s a flashback in which Olivia cuts off her son’s arm to save him from a trap. This issue is kind of problematic because it denies Sadie any agency. Sadie has been taking a very passive role throughout this entire series, and I was fine with that because I assumed she would eventually grow a backbone. But now that she has found some motivation, her dad is telling her that her mission is too dangerous for a girl.

DOCTOR SOLAR AND THE KINGDOM OF LOST TOMORROWS #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Max Fiumara. I should mention here that I’m glad Dark Horse has changed its anti-transgender policies, because otherwise I would have felt guilty about writing this review. This issue is a very sad story about a father witnessing his son’s death (and also his wife’s death, but the son’s death is more untimely). This comic still has no clear connection to the world of Black Hammer, but that’s fine; like Astro City, Black Hammer is a vehicle that Jeff can use to tell different kinds of stories. I’m sorry we didn’t get to see more of the Star Sheriffs.

GRIP: THE STRANGE WORLD OF MEN #2 (Vertigo, 2002) – “Gripping Fear and Romance,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. This issue has little to do with issue 3, which I reviewed earlier this year. It’s a convoluted story that revolves around a little girl named Esme, who kind of resembles Venus, and an animated empty sack of shed skin. Besides the shed skin, this issue is not as weird or disturbing as #3.

THE SPECTRE #5 (DC, 1968) – “The Spectre Means Death?”, [W/A] Neal Adams. This issue has fantastic art but a very convoluted story. With his powers drained, the Spectre has to overcome both the Psycho-Pirate and Jim Corrigan, who, at this point in continuity, is a separate character whose body the Spectre shares. As usual with Spectre stories, the writer has to depower the Spectre and to make him fight enemies who he can’t just overpower, or else there wouldn’t be any suspense.

SUPER DINOSAUR #23 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Jason Howard. I thought I had bought this entire series when it came out, but it turns out that in addition to this issue, there are also two others that I missed. This issue, Derek’s parents set off a bomb that defeats all the evil dinosaurs, but unfortunately it also makes Super Dinosaur sick. The issue ends on a cliffhanger that I doubt will ever be resolved. Super Dinosaur was a fun series while it lasted, but compared to other more recent series like Lumberjanes and Goldie Vance, it doesn’t look quite as impressive anymore. In particular, it’s annoying that Derek gets to be the hero just because he’s a boy, and Jason Howard’s kids have the same faces as his adults.

MONSTRESS #17 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. This issue is a giant fight scene. It’s pretty thrilling, although I sometimes have trouble keeping track of who’s on which side. Sana Takeda’s art in this issue seems looser and less detailed than in earlier issues, though that could just be my imagination.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #90 (Marvel, 1970) – “And Death Shall Come!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gil Kane. Again, my copy of this issue is in awful condition and has been heavily repaired with tape. Most of this issue is a straightforward fight between Peter and Doc Ock, but it ends with the death of Captain Stacy. His death is a shocking and tragic, and also historically important.  Besides Uncle Ben, Captain Stacy may have been the first of Peter’s loved ones who got killed during one of Spider-Man’s battles. Nowadays Peter’s habit of getting his friends killed has become a cliché, but back in 1970, it would have been genuinely shocking that such a thing could happen.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #305 (Marvel, 2018) – “No More – Part Two,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. The two Peters and the surviving superheroes team up to defeat Norman Osborn, and Peter, Teresa and JJJ go back to their native timeline.  The highlight of this issue was Captain America shouting “Avengers assemble!”

PROXIMA CENTAURI #1 (Image, 2018) – “A.L.F.O.”, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. This new series appears to be a sequel to Farel’s serialized story from Island. As usual I can’t make head or tail of its plot, but I don’t read Farel’s comics for the plot, and his artwork, design, and lettering are as brilliant as usual.

SUICIDE SQUAD #10 (DC, 1987) – “Up Against the Wall,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Luke McDonnell. Batman infiltrates Belle Reve Prison to gather information about the Suicide Squad, but Amanda Waller successfully convinces him to back down, by threatening to reveal his secret identity. The Waller/Batman scene is memorable because it’s a suspensful confrontation between two very formidable characters. Also, Batman’s method of sneaking into the prison is kind of brilliant. It’s too bad John Ostrander didn’t write more Batman comics.

POPE HATS #1 (self-published, 2009) – “Wherein Frances Scarland Quietly Battles Demons,” [W/A] Ethan Rilly (a.k.a. Hartley Lin). Part one of “Young Frances” is quite different from the rest of the story. The art and lettering are cruder, possibly because part of the issue was originally published as a minicomic. And at this point Frances hasn’t yet taken the job at the law firm, so the central theme of the rest of Young Frances – the cutthroat nature of her professional life – is missing. Instead, this story focuses on Frances and Vickie’s relationship. Still, I’m glad that I’ve finally read the whole thing.

GENE WOLFE’S THE SHADOW OF THE TORTURER #1 (Innovation, 1991) – “Torturers’ Apprentice,” [W] Scott Rockwell, [A] Ted Naifeh. I found this in a five-for-a-dollar box, and I had to buy it for its weirdness value. Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun is a very poor candidate for a comics adaptation because Wolfe has the most literary prose style of any SF writer. Half the point of reading his work is the rhythm of his prose. The Book of the New Sun is one of the densest SF series ever, and it’s full of things that are hard to visualize because the reader doesn’t know what they mean (e.g. destriers, which are like horses but not quite, and the color fuligin, which is darker than black). Faced with the impossible challenge of adapting this unadaptable book, Scott Rockwell and Ted Naifeh do a surprisingly good job. There’s not too much text, the page layouts help to create a sense of visual rhythm, and the characters and settings look reasonably close to how I imagined them. Also, it’s nice to be able to revisit the beginning of The Shadow of the Torturer, because I haven’t read it in a long time, and when I read it, I wasn’t quite sure what was going on.

MYSTERY IN SPACE #95 (DC, 1964) – Space Ranger in “The Moon Pygmies of Callisto,” [W] Dave Wood, [A] Phil Kelsey; and “The Hydra-Head from Outer Space,” [W] Dave Wood, [A] Lee Elias. This issue’s first story is more of a waste of space than a mystery in space. The Adam Strange story is better. Its plot is pretty dumb, but Alanna is a really cool character. Much like Mera (see the review of Aquaman 13 above), Alanna is a fairly equal partner with the same powers as Adam, rather than just a damsel in distress.

THE FLASH #177 (DC, 1968) – “The Swell-Headed Super-Hero!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Ross Andru. An excellent issue. The Trickster shoots the Flash with a “swell-head ray” that both turns him into an egomaniac and causes his head to swell to giant size. The Trickster is a great villain, and his interactions with Wally are really fun to watch. He even has a pet mynah, who may be the best thing about this issue. I tend to think of Gardner Fox as a stodgy, old-fashioned writer, but he could be really fun.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #51 (DC, 2008) – “Li’l Leaguers, Part 1,” [W] Michael Green & Mike Johnson, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. This comic is utterly hilarious and adorable. Batman and Superman encounter their counterparts from a parallel world, where all the Justice Leaguers are little kids, and everything is kid-friendly. Little Superman was sent to Earth because Krypton was too rainy, and little Batman decided to become a superhero when a bully pushed his parents to the ground. There are also kid versions of Wonder Woman, Zatanna, etc. The kids’ optimism and naivete provide a powerful contrast to the grim grittiness of the regular DC Universe. This story reminds me a lot of the character of Wolvie in Exiles, and I actually just tweeted at Saladin Ahmed and asked him if he was familiar with Superman/Batman #51. Michael Green and Mike Johnson have worked mostly in animation rather than comics, but they clearly have a lot of writing experience.

YEAH! #3 (DC, 1999) – “Stalky,” [W] Peter Bagge, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. This series is a sort of science fiction version of Josie and the Pussycats, starring a musical group whose biggest fans are aliens. I bought the previous issue of this comic when it came out. The series only lasted nine issues, and I somehow have the impression that it wasn’t as good as it should have been, given the creators involved. But this issue is fairly entertaining, and it includes some excellent dialogue. The plot is that Yeah!’s manager convinces them to play a free gig as the backing band for Miss Hellraiser, who they can’t stand.

BATMAN #263 (DC, 1975) – “Riddler on the Move!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Ernie Chua. The Riddler is one of my favorite Batman villains, but I’ve never read a Riddler comic book that was as good as the Riddler sidequests in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Batman #263 is no exception to that, though it’s a reasonably good Riddler story. Some of the riddles in this issue are unsolvable without mind-reading; for example, the Riddler asks Batman to come up with the question corresponding to the answer “A centipede with fallen arches!”, and the question turns out to be “A giraffe with a sore throat!” This riddle does provide an excuse for a scene where Batman pole-vaults off the neck of a live giraffe.

ATOMIC ROBO: DOGS OF WAR #1 (Red 5, 2008) – “Operation Husky,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. I bought a bunch of cheap Atomic Robo back issues at Heroes Con, and also met Scott Wegener. This story takes place during World War II, when Atomic Robo assists in the invasion of Sicily and has to fight some giant tank robots. It’s a pretty typical Atomic Robo story.

GOOD GIRLS #6 (Rip Off, 1991) – “Face to Face, Mano a Mano,” [W/A] Carol Lay. This was the last issue, and the only one published by Rip Off. After a lot of complicated drama, Irene ends up with her blind boyfriend, Kurt, and defeats two villains who are plotting to steal her money. A supporting character in this issue is Erma from Burma, who has an absurdly long neck. In general, Good Girls is a hilarious comic that effectively blends romance, mystery and satire, and I’m sorry there isn’t more of it.

THIRTEEN #9 (Dell, 1994) – “Strange Story” and other stories, [W/A] John Stanley. This teen humor comic is an impressive display of John Stanley’s mastery of storytelling. It’s hard to quantify why exactly this comic is so perfect, but Stanley’s dialogue is witty, his jokes are funny, his scary momens are suspenseful, and his comic timing is perfect. You can see why his style heavily influenced the Hernandez brothers. After reading this issue, I feel like I get John Stanley in a way that I didn’t before, and now I want to collect his work more actively.

DRY COUNTY #2 (Image, 2018) – “The Blue Lantern,” [W/A] Rich Tommaso. It turns out I actually did order this from DCBS, but my order was cancelled. They were shorted on their order, and the shortage was not made up. But I bought a copy from Rich Tommaso at Heroes Con, and he did a sketch in it. This issue, Lou Rossi investigates Janet’s kidnapping on his own, since he’s been told that she’ll be killed if he calls the cops. Besides being a brilliant designer, Rich Tommaso laso does a good job of evoking the mood and visual appearance of Florida.

BLOODSTRIKE BRUTALISTS #0 (Image, 2018) – “Dead Meat Club,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. For most of my collecting career I’ve believed that Rob Liefeld is a blight on the industry, a terrible artist and a bad influence on later generations. But some younger artists, like Michel Fiffe and Ed Piskor, have absorbed his influence and used it as inspiration for exciting and original work. This issue is a good example of a comic that takes Rob’s influence in a direction that Rob might not have predicted. It has a fairly conventional plot, and some of its characters are blatant ripoffs of Marvl characters (which is not Michel’s fault), but it’s elevated to a different level by Michel’s brilliant art, lettering and coloring. I do think it’s unfortunate that this comic is printed on slick paper, because Copra’s use of newsprint is a big part of its visual aesthetic. (We talked a lot about paper during my publication design panel; see the review of La Mano del Destino below.) But this is a visually stunning comic anyway.

INFINITY 8 #2 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Love and Mummies, Part 2,” [W] Lewis Trondheim & Zep, [A] Dominique Bertail. I didn’t get this until after #3 was already out. This issue, Agent Keren and Sagoss, her creepy alien stalker, try to save the Infinity 8 from being destroyed by insane Kornaliens. Bertail’s artwork in this issue is often breathtaking, especially in the two-page spread depicting a ship full of zombies. This level of draftspersonship is rare in American comic books because it’s cost-prohibitive, but it’s standard in French comics, which have a much slower production schedule (and also the artists are better paid). But Bertail is impressive even compared to other French cartoonists.

DRY COUNTY #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Lou’s quest for Janet continues, although his comic strip gets cancelled. This is another exciting and suspenseful issue. Dry County is a good example of what Kim Thompson was talking about when he said that “more crap is what we need.” By “crap” he meant well-executed, entertaining genre material without the highest artistic intentions.

CODA #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. I hesitated to read this because the previous issue was really long, and a bit tedious. But Coda #2 is a really good comic. Spurrier’s worldbuilding is impressive, as usual, and Matías Bergara is one of the best artists he’s worked with. In this issue the protagonist encounters a crazy old wizard and his bandit daughter. I don’t think this protagonist has a name yet.

INFINITY 8 #3 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Love and Mummies, Part 3,” as above. Keren defeats the  Kornaliens, and apparently finds a man to father her child. That’s the end of this story arc. The next one will have a different artist.

SAN FRANCISCO COMIC BOOK #5 (Print Mint, 1979) – various stories, [E] Gary Arlington. I was specifically looking for underground and alternative comics at Heroes Con, and I found a fair number of them. As usual with underground comics, the stories in this issue are of mixed quality. The highlight of this issue is two stories by Bill Griffith. I’m only familiar with Griffith from Zippy. It’s exciting to see what he can do when working in a more realistic style, and when drawing full pages rather than strips. Other notable contributors to this issue include Kim Deitch, Trina Robbins and Robert Williams. This issue’s cover is drawn by Willy Murphy, who died before it was published.

New comics received on Friday, June 22, rather late in the day:

RUNAWAYS #10 (Marvel, 2018) – “Best Friends Forever, Part IV,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Another amazing issue of what would be my favorrite Marvel title, if not for my brand loyalty to Squirrel Girl and Runaways. In a flashback, we learn that Abigail got the cupcakes of eternal youth from the Enchantress. Even in this very brief scene, Rainbow shows a deep understanding of the Enchantress’s character. Then Julie and the Runaways get the antidote to the cupcake from Abigail, and Julie returns herself to her proper age, only to then break up with Karolina because she feels neglected. And I’m afraid that I can’t disagree with Julie’s decision. In this issue Julie says that the cupcake made her younger than her little sister, so Katie is at least 14, which means Franklin must be around 13… but figuring out the age of Marvel characters is like figuring out what state Springfield is in.

FLAVOR #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Wook Jin Clark. Another amazing issue. This issue gives us lots more information about The Bowl, the food-obsessed city where the comic takes place. It turns out The Bowl has bars that serve ice cream on tap, and an underground black market that has a secret Iron Chef fight club. I kind of want to live there, even though it’s surrounded by monsters or something. Also, we meet Xoo’s childhood friend Anant Kaur, a student in an elite cooking academy. Besides the art and story, this comic’s coloring, by Tamra Bonvillain, is spectacular.

BLACKWOOD #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish. This new series is a very spooky piece of Lovecraftian horror. It takes place at a small college of esoteric sciences, where the new first-year students find themselves all having the same dreams. This is somewhat standard horror material, but Dorkin demonstrates a mastery of that genre (much more so than in his and Sarah Dyer’s graphic novel Calla Cthulhu, which I did not like). I’ve only seen Veronica Fish’s artwork in humor and superhero titles, but she turns out to be an impressive horror artist as well. One thing that makes this comic work is Evan Dorkin’s dialogue and characterization. His teenagers all have distinctive personalities and realistic flaws, and they don’t all hit it off immediately.

FENCE #7 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Nicholas barely beats Aiden, setting up an epic confrontation with Seiji. This comic is still really fun, but its pace has gotten a bit slow. Its pacing is similar to that of a shojo manga, but it has fewer pages at its disposal than a shojo manga, so I’d lke to see it move a bit faster.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. The new Black Hammer meets some really obvious ripoffs of the Endless, minus Desire and Despair, and they help her get back to her native storyline. On the way there, she takes an accidental side trip to the world of Sweet Tooth. The Sweet Tooth page is a cute Easter egg, and I wonder if the page before that, with the zombies, is also a reference to some other Lemire comic. Meanwhile, back on Black Hammer Farm, Madame Dragonfly has been manipulating the citizens so they’ll make her teammates happy. The next-issue blurb says that “all is revealed” in issue 4, and I hope that’s true.

USAGI YOJIMBO #169/THE HIDDEN #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden, Part 4,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This issue only advances the plot a little bit. We still don’t know what’s in the box, or who the killers are. I can’t remember if Inspector Ishida’s infant son has appeared before. I seem to recall that in his first appearance, he and his wife had just lost a child, so I guess they had another one. I wonder if Hama the carpenter is named after Larry Hama.

MY LITTLE PONY: PONYVILLE MYSTERIES #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Those Pins Really Tied the Room Together,” [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. That’s not the actual title, but it is a line of dialogue in the issue. This issue, Walter and Jeff Letrotski ask the CMC to find some stolen bowling pins. It turns out the thief is Snips, who didn’t want Walter and Jeff to break his grandfather’s bowling record. This issue is full of Big Lebowski references, including some that probably went over my head because I haven’t seen that movie in years.

GIDEON FALLS #4 (Image, 2018) – “Twin Shadows,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. It looks like I forgot to order issue 3. This issue mostly just continues the plot of the previous two issues, but what particularly impresses me about it is Andrea Sorrentino’s page layouts. The two-page splash with the infinity symbol made out of cubes is spectacular, but many of the other pages have layouts that are impressive in less flashy ways.

KINGS WATCH #3 (Dynamite, 2013) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Marc Laming. I didn’t know this miniseries comic existed until I bought it at Heroes Con, but it takes place before King: The Phantom and the other four series that takes place along with it, and explains how Ming took over the Earth. It has a sequel called Kings Quest, and then Kings Cross was the sequel to that. In this issue, Flash Gordon, Phantom and Mandrake team up against Cobra and Ming. It’s an exciting and well-written adventure comic, as usual with Jeff. Marc Laming’s art is fairly effective, and reminds me of Doc Shaner’s art.

THE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #27 (Archie, 1963) – “The Missing Astronaut Mystery,” [W/A] Bob Bolling, and other stories. This may be the best Little Archie comic I’ve read. It begins with a 25-page story in which Archie saves America’s first female astronaut from Communist spies. (The female astronaut doesn’t play a very active role in the story, but in creating this character, Bolling was twenty years ahead of his time. Sally Ride didn’t go into space until 1983.) This story is drawn in a more realistic style than most Little Archie comics. According to the GCD, Bolling also used this style for the two Little Archie Mystery comics that were published that same year, and “The Missing Astronaut Mystery” may well have been intended for that series. The 25-page length and the realistic art style enable Bolling to show what he was capable of, and the result is a thrilling adventure story that’s worthy of Barks. It ends with a surprising but logical twist, when Archie shoots down the fleeing Russians using an experimental harpoon that was introduced at the start of the story. If Little Archie Mystery #1 and #2 are anything like this comic, then I really want to read them. This issue also includes another Bolling story, “210 Oak Street,” about some glasses that allow the wearer to see into the past, as well as some Dexter Taylor stories.

MUTANT, TEXAS: TALES OF IDA RED #2 (Oni, 2002) – untitled, [W] Paul Dini, [A] J. Bone. This rather obscure comic is Paul Dini’s other creator-owned property, besides Jingle Belle. Its protagonist, Ida Red, is a native of a Texas town where everyone has super powers or is some kind of mutant. It’s a funny comic with cute characters and a complicated but logical plot, and it effectively blends the Western genre with… I’m not sure what other genre it is. J. Bone’s art is notable for its cuteness as well as its effective spotting of blacks.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Javier Garrón. Scott and Nadia find themselves in a microverse full of bizarre creatures who look like many-mouthed potatoes. This issue emphasizes how weird Marvel’s microverse is. It also provides some insight into Scott and Nadia’s characters. For example, we learn that Nadia learned English from Downton Abbey. This series has been fun so far, though it’s not as good as Unstoppable Wasp.

FRENCH TICKLERS #3 (Kitchen Sink, 1990) – various stories, [E] Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficer. This was the final issue of this French humor anthology series. Its cancellation is unsurprising, but also unfortunate because this series contained some really good material. In particular, this series included the only American publications by Daniel Goossens, a major French cartoonist. His story in French Ticklers #3 is unimpressive, but it’s exciting to see his work in English at all. This issue also includes a five-page excerpt of Dupuy and Berberian’s pre-Monsieur Jean work, Henrietta, as well as stories by Franquin, Moebius, and Binet (not to mention yet another Carmen Cru story by Lelong).

TRILLIUM #2 (Vertigo, 2013) – “Binary Systems,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. I believe that someone on my “Between Pen and Pixel” panel mentioned this series as a example of productive uses of materiality. This issue is kind of a prototype for Barrier. It focuses on two characters, a woman from the far future and a man from 1921, who don’t speak the same language. Each of the first twelve pages has either a red or a blue background. On the red pages, only the woman’s dialogue is legible; on the blue pages, only the man’s. As a result, the reader is almost as confused as the characters. The issue ends with a two-page splash where the two characters eat a flower called trillium and learn to understand each other. Lemire comes up with a fascinating visual device for depicting their moment of understanding. I can’t really describe it, but see http://www.nickgregorio.com/2015/02/13/jeff-lemires-trillium-stretching-the-limits-of-comics-with-purpose-and-precision/. According to the review at that link, there are other interesting tricks in the other issues of this series, so I will have to collect them.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Paper Trail,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mike Allred. This issue’s main story is told from JJJ’s perspective. People like him are horrible in real life (a certain American president comes to mind), but they’re funny to read about, and Chip’s story displays both JJJ’s awful and his lovable aspects. The plot is that JJJ’s rival, Barney Bushkin, tries to kill JJJ with a Jonah-Slayer robot. I don’t know if Mike Allred has drawn Spider-Man comics before, but he’s good at it. The backup story is awful, though Chris Bachalo’s art is quite good. The writer, Mike Drucker, appears to be a successful stand-up comedian, but that doesn’t mean he can write comics.

ANIMAL MAN #29 (DC, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire, [A] Travel Foreman. I stopped reading this series after Travel Foreman left, but this, the final issue, is notable because it includes art by both Foreman and Lemire himself. The central section of the issue, drawn by Lemire, is a bedtime story that Maxine tells to Buddy. It’s the same idea as Luke Cage #170, but it’s not as impressive because all the pages are splash pages, and Lemire is less successful than David Walker at writing a small child’s dialogue. But this is still an enjoyable issue, and a nice conclusion to the run. Also, it turns out Cliff isn’t actually dead, but has been turned into an insect, which I guess is an improvement.

LA MANO DEL DESTINO #1 (Castle & Key, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] J. Gonzo. Some people at my publication design panel mentioned this comic because of its use of newsprint, and I heard that after the panel, people came to J. Gonzo’s table and asked to smell his comics. Because the smell of newsprint is one of its important material properties. It kind of makes sense in context. So after that, I went to J. Gonzo and bought this comic. It’s a visually impressive artifact with good publication design and an unusual blue, pink and yellow color scheme, and it tells an entertaining story about lucha libre. This is a topic I know nothing about, but J. Gonzo seems to know a lot about it. The next time I see him at a convention, I’ll buy something else from him.

SHANGHAI RED #1 (Image, 2018) – “Life Amongst the Rats,” [W] Chris Sebela, [A] Joshua Hixson. Some shanghaied sailors are released from their two-year impressment. One of them proceeds to kill the entire crew of the ship, take command of it, and sail it to Portland, Oregon. Also it turns out she’s a woman. And she’s trying to find her mother and sister, whom she lost track of when she was shanghaied. This comic has a very high level of violence and it’s not the sort of thing I usually like, but it’s very well done. Chris’s grim writing and Joshua Hixson’s murky art create a strong sense of atmosphere, and Portland in the 19th century is an interesting setting. I plan to stick with this series.

AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Where Space Gods Go to Die,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Paco Medina & Ed McGuinness. This one, on the other hand… I’m a fan of Jason Aaron, but I tend to avoid big flagship titles, and this issue demonstrates why. It’s all plot with only incidental characterization, and the plot isn’t grabbing me. The best Avengers writers (Busiek, Thomas, Englehart, Stern, etc.) wrote exciting cosmic epics, but they also wrote scenes where the characters just sat around and talked, and Jason has yet to do that. I’ll give this series a few more issues to impress me, but it’s on the chopping block.

THOR #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “God of Thunder Reborn” and “The Grace of Thor,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike Del Mundo & Christian Ward. Jason Aaron’s Avengers hasn’t excited me yet, but he is the best Thor writer since Walt Simonson, and in this issue he collaborates with two of the most skilled artists in superhero comics. This issue’s first story resumes the ongoing plotline about Malekith’s takeover of the Nine Worlds, which was interrupted by the Mangog saga. It issue also includes some scenes with characters who we haven’t seen in a while. I was actually wondering what had happened to Balder before he showed up on the last page. Mike Del Mundo’s art is a lot blurrier here than in Weirdworld, but it’s still impressive. In the backup story, the far-future Allfather Thor attends the deathbed of Jane, the progenitor of the new human race he created, and then meets a very elderly Wolverine.

WORLD’S GREATEST CARTOONISTS: FCBD 2018 (Fantagraphics, 2018) – various stories, [E] Eric Reynolds. Just like last year, Fantagraphics’s FCBD comic is a collection of original short stories by their current artists. This is a great idea, but its execution is a bit disappointing. Many of the stories are too short to create any narrative momentum. For example, Anne Simon’s story is just a preview for her graphic novel, and makes little sense on its own. The highlight of the issue is Dash Shaw’s “Loony Reunion 2018,” a realistic story of a breakup. I wasn’t all that impressed with Shaw’s Cosplayers, but I should read more of his work. Also, I haven’t heard of Charles Glaubitz before, but his artwork in this issue is spectacular. This issue also includes a wordless story by Jim Woodring, which reveals that Frank has somehow lost a leg and a hand.

SPIDER-GWEN #33 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Life of Gwen Stacy, Part 4,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez & Chris Visions. Gwen goes to prison – I’m not sure what she was charged with, or why she was willing to stand trial – and then gets into a bunch of fights with other inmates. I really don’t get the appeal of Chris Visions’s art, and this issue would have been unimpressive even if Robbi had drawn the whole thing. I’m glad this series is almost over.

XOMBI #3 (Milestone, 1994) – “Silent Cathedrals, Part Three: Screaming Meat!”, [W] John Rozum, [A] J.J. Birch. Xombi and Nun of the Above encounter a bizarre creature made of meat. This issue didn’t impress me as much as other Xombi comics I’ve read, though it does have an absurdist, spooky sensibility that reminds me of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol.

THE DARK MANSION OF FORBIDDEN LOVE #2 (DC, 1971) – “Honeymoon of Horror,” [W] Sy Reit & Jack Oleck, [A] Tony DeZuniga. This is an example of DC’s short-lived line of gothic romance comics. I haven’t read any of these comics before, so this was a really exciting find. It has a beautiful Joe Orlando cover, and the story inside isn’t bad either. A newlywed couple, David and Ellen Drew, get into a car accident. David is killed, and when Ellen wakes up, a man named Edwin claims that she’s not Ellen Drew but his fiancee Mary Cartwright. Ellen/Mary gives in to Edwin’s gaslighting and marries him, only to discover that she’s been the victim of a complicated plot. Reit, Oleck and DeZuniga tell an exciting and atmospheric story that seamlessly blends the horror and romance genres. There’s also a backup story which is forgettable.

MOONDOG #3 (Print Mint, 1973) – several untitled stories, [W/A] George Metzger. This issue contains multiple stories set in a postapocalyptic California. George Metzger’s plots aren’t all that exciting, but his storytelling is fascinating. Most of the underground cartoonists used fairly standard page layouts and camera angles, but Metzger draws his characters from weird perspectives, and his panels often run the entire length of the page. In terms of storytelling, his work is closer to manga or Steranko than to most other underground comics. (I previously made a similar observation in my review of San Francisco Comic Book #3.) Fantagraphics ought to publish a collection of his work, like they’ve done for other artists such as Rand Holmes and Rory Hayes.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #10 (Marvel, 1975) – “Is This the Day the World Ends!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Bob Brown. This is a good team-up comic because it pairs two very different  characters – the Thing and the Black Widow – and they combine  their unique skills to solve a problem that’s beyond either of them alone. In this issue’s climactic sequence, the Thing has to pull a bomb attached to a three-mile-long rope into an aircraft, while Black Widow fights off some goons who are trying to make Ben drop the rope. Of course they succeed, but it’s an exciting challenge. Claremont shows a solid understanding of both characters, even though he didn’t use them very often (though he later used Natasha in Marvel Team-Up #82-85, a classic story). It’s too bad that Bob Brown’s artwork is very boring.

ETERNITY GIRL #4 (DC, 2018) – “The Beat,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Sonny Liew. I’m not quite sure what’s going on in this issue, but it’s a brilliant display of Sonny Liew’s stylistic versatility. It includes multiple sequences drawn in different styles, including one sequence that’s based on Peanuts. Liew’s ability to switch between so many different styles of artwork is amazing. After reading this issue I decided it was finally time to read Liew’s The Art of Chan Hock Chye, which includes a number of similar sequences based on other comics, and I thought that that book was amazing.

PLASTIC MAN #1 (DC, 2018) – “Plastic Man,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. Plas is a tough character to write properly. Most writers, even Grant Morrison, have written him as a wisecracking jokester, but in Jack Cole’s original comics, Plas was a serious man with a stiff upper lip; it was the world around him that was bizarre and absurd. To my knowledge, the only Plastic Man writer who has understood that, besides Cole himself, is Kyle Baker. But in this revised origin story, Gail shows that she understands Plastic Man too. Her version of the character uses his shapeshifting ability in really weird ways, but Gail mostly allows the absurdity of Plas’s world to reveal itself. I look forward to seeing what else she does with Plas.

QUICKSILVER: NO SURRENDER #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Eric Nguyen. I felt lukewarm about this series’ first issue, but I enjoyed the second issue much more, largely because Quicksilver’s internal monologue is a lot more interesting. I really like Quicksilver’s discussion of anti-Roma racism, especially since people have publicly called for Marvel to address this exact topic (see http://www.comicsbeat.com/rromani-representation-peter-david-apologizes-and-roma-pop-responds-with-a-statement-and-goals/). And Pietro’s comments about his lack of a relationship with his daughter are both true and sad. Also, this issue Pietro follows the lead of Rainbow Dash by getting a pet turtle. I don’t recognize the mall in Minnesota that Luna is visiting; it doesn’t look like the Mall of America.

MEASLES #2 (Fantagraphics, 1999) – various stories, [E] Gilbert Hernandez. The stories in this comic are mostly about kids, but I don’t think actual kids are the audience. This issue includes two stories by Gilbert and one by Jaime, as well as one each by Rick Altergott, Sam Henderson, and Steven Weissman. These stories are well-done and inoffensive, but not all that great. The two Venus stories by Beto are the highlight. I really like Rick Altergott’s art style, but not so much his writing.

ACTION COMICS #325 (DC, 1965) – “The Skyscraper Superman,” [W] unknown, [A] Curt Swan; and “Ugly Duckling Teacher of Stanhope College,” [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Jim Mooney. In this issue, red kryptonite turns Superman into a giant, and he remembers a similar incident that occurred when he was Superbaby. This story is bad enough, but the next story is a monument to sexism. A new teacher at Stanhope College, Miss Sparrow, is depressed because she’s an ugly spinster and her students are bullying her. Supergirl could have befriended Miss Sparrow teacher and helped her to develop more self-esteem and to stop caring what some assholes think about her. Instead, Supergirl gets some Atlantean scientists to give Miss Sparrow a makeover and modify her personality. Miss Sparrow immediately gets engaged to a handsome man, who she previously met while he was disguised as a tramp. This story sends the message that every woman’s goal is to get married, and oh, by the way, it’s okay to change people’s personalities without their consent. See http://active-voice.net/jessplummer/?p=3503 for more on this awful piece of crap.

LASSIE #61 (Gold Key, 1963) – “The Yawning Pit” and “Spears Among the Shadows,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Jerry Robinson. The art in this issue is excellent. Jerry Robinson said that he hated drawing Lassie (http://www.tcj.com/jerry-robinson-been-there-done-that/5/), but he seems have put his full effort into the artwork anyway. This issue’s stories are problematic because they’re set in Nigeria, and they contain the expected neocolonialism. In the first story, Timmy and his dad convince some superstitious natives to leave their village so their land can be used for mining. They do it with the approval of the Nigerian government, but it’s still creepy. As a sort of nitpicky point, the natives in this story live on the Jos Plateau, but they seem to be Yoruba. The Yoruba are indigenous to Nigeria, but not that part of Nigeria. The backup story is better in terms of representation, though it’s still a bit of a white savior narrative. Timmy and Lassie befriend the son of a Fulani sultan and help save him from bandits.

JONNY QUEST #19 (Comico, 1987) – “Lesson One,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Ernie Colón. One of the lesser issues of this run. In the main plot, Jonny and Hadji become students of a yoga guru, Dr. Dharma. This part of the story is probably a satire of the New Age phenomenon, but not the funniest satire. In the subplot, Benton Quest and Race Bannon have a heart-to-heart talk. Here as elsewhere in this run, Bill Loebs heavily implies that Benton and Race are a couple, and it’s hard to believe he wasn’t doing this on purpose.

THE PEOPLE’S COMICS #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1972/1995) – “The Confessions of R. Crumb” and other stories, [W/A] Robert Crumb. The first two stories in this issue are basically just misogynistic sex fantasies, like many of the Crumb comics I’ve read. The last story, “Fritz the Cat Superstar,” is an improvement because Fritz faces some consequences for his sexist and narcissistic behavior; the story ends with Fritz’s jilted girlfriend stabbing him to death with an ice pick. (Which I just realized is probably a reference to Trotsky’s death.) After reading this issue, I posted the following status on Facebook: “I’ve read a moderate amount of R. Crumb, and I still have mixed feelings about his work. Some of his comics, like “Uncle Bob’s Mid-Life Crisis” and “The Goose and the Gander Were Talking One Night,” are really profound, but a lot of his other works are just misogynistic racist power fantasies. Is there something about Crumb that I’m missing?” The responses to this thread were very interesting and helped me understand Crumb’s appeal better, but I still think he’s very problematic.

FEATHERS #3 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Jorge Corona. I stopped reading this series after #2 because I forgot to order #3, but I finally bought it at Heroes Con. This is a fairly well-done series, but nothing spectacular. I think my favorite thing about it is the birdlike appearance of the main character.

WALLY THE WIZARD #3 (Marvel, 1985) – “Folkquest,” [W/A] Bob Bolling. In this issue, Wally the Wizard and his friend Vikk the Viking search for their missing parents. This issue has an intricate plot, to the point where I wondered how Bolling was going to wrap it up in the space available, and the characters are quite likable. But the art is not Bolling’s best. The evocative landscapes of Bolling’s best Little Archie stories are mostly absent, and the action sequences aren’t that exciting.

BATGIRL #5 (DC, 2017) – “Beyond Burnside, Finale,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. Batgirl finally defeats the Teacher and gets ready to return to Burnside. “Beyond Burnside”was Hope Larson’s worst Batgirl story; it was boring enough that it caused me to stop reading the series. Her Batgirl run didn’t hit its stride until issue 6.

BATMAN #266 (DC, 1975) – “The Curious Case of the Catwoman’s Coincidences!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Irv Novick. Batman battles the Catwoman, who has a cat that’s been trained to steal jewels. The cat is probably the best thing abut the issue. Also, I like how Catwoman is “one of the few people who have such utter rapport with felines that [she] can train them!” The story’s title refers to the fact that it includes a lot of coincidences, but this is just a dumb gimmick.

LOCKE & KEY: HEAD GAMES #3 (IDW, 2009) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Bode finds the key that unlocks people’s heads, and then Rendell experiments with it too. The two-page splash depicting the inside of Bode’s head is spectacular. The dialogue in this issue is also impressive. There’s a cute joke where Bode inserts a cookbook into his head, then tries to pronounce “tsp” and “tbsp”.

DAREDEVIL #2 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Paolo Rivera. Daredevil fights Captain America and investigates a mysterious plot against an accused criminal, Ahmed Jobrani. Mark was probably the best Daredevil writer since Frank Miller, largely because he avoided copying Miller’s grim-and-gritty film-noir style, and Paolo Rivera’s artwork in this issue is impressive too. I notice that Javier Rodriguez is credited as the colorist on this issue. Maybe it was his coloring that gave Mark’s Daredevil run such a consistent visual aesthetic, even though it had several different artists.