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 #183 (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.

Pre-Heroes Con reviews

This review post is even longer than the last one.

6-5-18

Another huge stack.

New comics received on May 11:

RUNAWAYS #9 (Marvel, 2018) – “Best Friends Forever Pt. III,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. The fight with Doom (or a Doombot) is resolved peacefully, but Karolina and Julie are going through a rough patch. Meanwhile, Molly gets more and more tempted to eat the cupcake of evil, because all her teammates wish they were 13 again. BTW, when I was 13, I certainly didn’t want to stay 13 forever; seventh to ninth grade were among the worst years of my life. Anyway, Molly’s decision is taken out of her hands when Julie eats the cupcake instead. I can’t help wondering if this was done on purpose because Julie’s current age is a continuity problem – her age is difficult to reconcile with Alex, Franklin and Valeria’s ages. But that seems really cynical. Anyway, another good issue.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #20 (Image, 2018) – “Gut Check Conclusion,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Jason Latour. I had the impression that “Gut Check” had taken over a year to complete, but the first part actually came out last November. This issue, Boone tries to kill Coach Boss and fails. Then Roberta has him dead to rights, but decides to leave him alive so she can tear down everything he built. That’s kind of an anticlimax, and also, that plan never works when supervillains try it.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #32 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. Erica Henderson is irreplacable, but Derek Charm is a reasonable substitute. As I flip through the issue, I notice the striking panel where Doreen unmasks herself to Kraven. This issue’s plot is that Doreen and her friends invite Kraven to accompany them to an escape room, which turns out to be a death trap. This is the second comic I’ve read in less than a month that had an escape room scene (cf. Batgirl #8). I kind of want to visit an escape room myself now.

EXILES #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodriguez. It was a pleasure to get to meet Saladin Ahmed at WisCon and to hear his powerful keynote speech about his great-grandmother. He’s both a great talent and a very nice man. This issue begins with two quick trips to two bizarre worlds, one that’s full of armored dinosaurs and another that’s based on hippie culture. Then the Exiles have a more extended adventure in a world where Peggy Carter is Captain America. This comic is hilarious and exciting, but it’s also impressive because of its stylistic range, both in terms of the characters and the worlds they explore. This comic includes serious stuff, like Nazis and an aging Kamala Khan from a dystopian reality. But it also includes Valkyrie and little Wolvie, and a squadron of armored dinosaurs and an octopus’s garden. Saladin is not afraid to mix the grim-gritty and wacky sides of the Marvel Universe, and only an excessively purist reader would be upset with him for doing so.

ISOLA #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. In an old ruin, Rook encounters a former comrade who tries to blackmail her into sleeping with him, and justifiably gets killed. She also meets a mysterious little girl who lives with wolves. Meanwhile, the tiger queen meets the old dude who looks like a monkey. This issue is exciting and its art is gorgeous, but I’d appreciate an explanation of just what’s going on in this world.

MONSTRESS #16 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika and Zinn enter the Shaman-Empress’s sanctum, where they fight a robotic monster. Ren and Kippa do not appear. At WisCon I moderated a panel on Fantasy Worldbuilding in Comics, which included Monstress’s editor, Jennifer Margret Smith. Monstress came up frequently during the panel, and she had a lot of interesting things to say about its creative process. At the panel, I mentioned the cat café scene in issue 13 as an example of how comics can effectively show multiple things happening at once.

BARRIER #1 (Image, 2018) – “Nos Llaman Coyotes,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Marcos Martín. Even before reading it, one can tell that this is a unique comic. It was originally published as a webcomic, and this weekly five-issue miniseries is intended to be its only print edition ever. To preserve the original reading experience, it’s formatted horizontally and is much taller than a normal comic, though it still fits in my boxes. The interior of this comic is also quite unusual. The first issue tells two parallel stories, one about Liddy, a Texas rancher whose horses are dying mysteriously, and another about Oscar, a Honduran undocumented immigrant trying to reach America. The artists make the surprising decision to use untranslated Honduran Spanish for Oscar’s scenes. This is going to annoy readers who can’t read Spanish, but that’s on purpose. The reader is supposed to be bewildered, just like in the sign-language issue of Hawkeye. Of course the reading experience is different if the reader does understand Spanish, as I do – there are some important points that aren’t clear from the art, such as the fact that one of Oscar’s fellow emigrants is transgender. Even then, Oscar’s scenes include a lot of words I didn’t recognize because they’re unique to Honduran Spanish. As I read this issue, I Googled those words, but that was probably a mistake because, again, I’m not supposed to understand anything. This comic is a fascinating reading experience, thanks in large part to Marcos Martin’s brilliant storytelling. Oh, yeah, and at the end of the issue, Oscar and Liddy are abducted by aliens.

BARRIER #2 (Image, 2018) – “Estamos Muertos y Esto es el Infierno,” as above. Liddy and Oscar wake up on the alien ship and find that they can’t understand each other, and also, Liddy is naked for some reason. The master stroke of the issue comes at the end, where the aliens summon Oscar and Liddy and speak to them – and the aliens’ speech is represented as jagged word balloons filled with solid color, and hearing it makes Liddy’s ears bleed. With these visual devices, BKV and Martín powerfully show that the aliens’ language is beyond human comprehension, to such an extent that humans can’t stand to hear it. This scene also reveals the central theme of the series: the “barriers” in the title are language barriers. This comic is all about language and how it makes us misunderstand each other, as Krazy said.

I also want to mention one other major theme of this comic: undocumented immigration from Central America. Just before I wrote this, a certain political figure said that Central American immigrants are “violent animals,” and that anyone who defends them is an “MS-13 lover.” His rhetoric demands that we see Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans as less than human. This comic helps to counter those narratives by showing that Oscar is a person with hopes and dreams, and that he’s exactly as human as Liddy is.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #304 (Marvel, 2018) – “No More – Part One,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. Peter, JJJ and Teresa return to the present, only to discover that it’s a dystopia where America is ruled by an evil dictator with bad hair. How farfetched. This was an okay issue, but I can’t remember much about it.

CRUSH FREE PREVIEW #nn (Yen Press, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Svetlana Chmakova. I really liked Awkward and Brave, and this FCBD issue is a preview of another work in the same vein. The protagonist this time is Jorge, a kid who is very big for his age and is developing his first crush. Svetlana Chmakova is one of the better YA graphic novelists; her style is very manga-influenced (hence why she’s published by Yen Press) but also original, and she has a strong grasp of kids’ personalities.

FCBD 2018: ALL AGES (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Lost Pets,” [W] Michael Dante DiMartino, [A] Jayd Aït-Kaci; and “A Call to Arms,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] Joe Ng. In the Legend of Korra story, Korra and Meelo go looking for a lost pet and discover a homeless man who takes care of animals. This story doesn’t require any prior knowledge of Korra’s story – it takes place in an evacuee camp, but I’m not even sure where its inhabitants were evacuated from, and it doesn’t really matter. But for that reason, this story is also lacking in substance. The Arms backup story, about characters with springs for arms, has appealing artwork but is just an extended toy ad.

ETERNITY GIRL #3 (DC, 2018) – “Weapon ∞,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Sonny Liew. This comic has some really nice artwork, especially the two next-to-last pages, but I can’t recall much else about it. Sonny Liew tweeted that he bought my book on Charles Hatfield’s recommendation.

SPIDER-WOMAN #4 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The conclusion of a three-part story in which Jessica goes to an alien maternity hospital that gets invaded by Skrulls. Jess gets an emergency C-section and gives birth, then immediately beats up an army of Skrulls. The post-birth fight scene is an awesome moment, precisely because it’s so implausible – this woman is a superhero, so of course she can fight a bunch of aliens just after having a C-section. And Javier Rodriguez’s artwork is amazing.

AIR #10 (Vertigo, 2009) – “Place of the Egrets,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] M.K. Perker. A flashback story taking place in ancient Mesoamerica. This is kind of a wasted issue, and overall Air has never impressed me.

KORG: 70,000 B.C. #5 (Charlton, 1976) – The Slings & Arrows Guide described this obscure caveman comic as one of Pat Boyette’s works. Indeed, it has strong characterization and humor, to the point where it almost reaches the level of Anthro, though not quite. In this issue, the protagonist rescues a woman, Zoni, from a brutal bald dude, Smyer. Both Korg’s brother and son fall in love with Zoni, but Smyer kidnaps her and she decides to stay with him, thus providing the earliest known example of Stockholm syndrome.

HAWKMOON: THE RUNESTAFF #3 (First, 1988) – “The Runestaff,” [W] Roger Salick, [A] Rafael Kayanan. This adaptation of a Michael Moorcock novel suffers from boring writing and lifeless art, but at least it makes me want to read the novel it’s based on. The letters page includes a useful guide to the order in which to read the Eternal Champion series.

STUMPTOWN #1 (Oni, 2009) – “The Case of the Girl Who Took Her Shampoo But Left Her Mini, Part One,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Matthew Southworth. This is the first Stumptown comic. It begins with Dex getting shot, then in a flashback, we learn that she’s a compulsive gambler and that she takes care of her developmentally disabled brother. This comic is a good introduction to the series, and Matthew Southworth is a better artist than Justin Greenwood.

Q2: THE RETURN OF QUANTUM AND WOODY #3 (Valiant, 2014) – “The Banjo” etc., [W] Christopher Priest, [A] M.D. Bright. This is an enjoyable Quantum & Woody story, though like most of Priest’s work it’s difficult to follow. The new Woody is a non-binary kid, and unsurprisingly the original Woody turns out to be quite a transphobe.

SPIDER-WOMAN #9 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Jess and Porcupine go to a Canadian ski resort to investigate some Wendigo appearances. It turns out the way you become a Wendigo is by eating human flesh while on Canadian soil, and the resort is serving smoked meat for dinner… uh-oh. Like the issue reviewed above, this is a fun comic with excellent art. The highlight of the issue is the scene where Carol Danvers calls Jess and refuses to hang up. This scene demonstrates why I hate talking on the phone.

TALES FROM THE HEART #4 (Slave Labor, 1988) – “Wa,” [W] Cindy Goff, [A] Rafael Nieves. A (semi?)-autobiographical series about a woman working as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Central African Republic. This issue, she witnesses a brush fire and is utterly terrified, but the local people are much less worried, because for them such fires are a regular occurrence. This comic could easily have become a racist white savior narrative, but the writer effectively portrays the protagonist’s naïveté and ignorance of the local culture. Cindy Goff was one of the first comics pros I ever met, at an event at the Comic Book College.

CINDER & ASHE #1 (DC, 1988) – “Book One,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] José Luis García-López. An incredible comic. The two title characters are New Orleans private detectives or bounty hunters. In flahsbacks, we learn that Cinder is the child of a black American soldier and a Vietnamese woman. When her parents are killed in the Tet Offensive, an evil man named Lacey takes her in and trains her as a thief, as well as brutally raping her. Ashe, a Cajun soldier, presumably rescues her from Lacey, but now, back in America, Lacey has returned for revenge. Despite its obscurity, this comic is one of the best works of either of its creators. JLGL’s artwork is, of course, spectacular, and Conway’s story deals intelligently with the legacy of the Vietnam War.

SPIDER-WOMAN #14 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Veronica Fish. I had more issues of this series I realized, but that’s a good thing, because I really like it. I had a poor opinion of Dennis Hopeless because of Avengers Arena, but he’s an impressive writer. This issue, Roger/Porcupine has just been killed, and his ex-wife gives Jess a well-deserved chewing-out for taking advantage of him. Then Jess goes on a mission to avenge Roger’s death.

IRON MAN #12 (Marvel, 2013) – “The Secret Origin of Tony Stark Part Three,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dale Eaglesham. In a flashback, with Tony Stark about to be born, Howard Stark and Recorder 451 go on a mission to fight some aliens. Tony is born at the end of the issue. This is an okay comic, but the storytelling is occasionally confusng – on the two-page spread with the captions “The Kitten” and “The Bear,” I had trouble figuring out what was going on. Overall this series doesn’t seem like the best use of Kieron Gillen’s talents, but then again, Iron Man has never been my favorite Marvel title – it’s the only major Marvel comic that’s never been on my pull list.

IZOMBIE #22 (DC, 2012) – “Collections,” [W] Chris Roberson, [A] Mike Allred. Later adapted into a TV series which was more successful than the comic, iZombie is about a zombie woman who has to eat brains to survive. This issue is reasonably fun and well-drawn, but hard for a new reader to follow.

DAREDEVIL #133 (Marvel, 1976) – “Mind-Wave and His Fearsome Think Tank!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Bob Brown. Quite possibly the dumbest Marvel comic of the ’70s. This issue guest-stars Uri Geller, who, in real life, is a charlatan who falsely claims he can bend spoons with magic. But because this comic takes place in the Marvel Universe, it depicts Uri Geller as having actual mental powers which he acquired from aliens or something. In this issue he uses those powers to help Daredevil defeat a villain called Mind-Wave. This comic bends over backwards to depict Uri Geller as a superhuman magical prodigy rather than the fraud he actually was. In the letter column, Marv states that Geller came to the Marvel offices and performed a trick where he bent Marv’s key, thus “proving” that Geller was actually magical. In a 1997 interview, Marv admitted that he wasn’t actually fooled by this trick. He also admitted that he wrote this comic because Marvel had already agreed to publish a comic guest-starring Geller, and nobody else wanted to write it. See https://www.cbr.com/remember-to-forget-daredevils-team-up-with-uri-geller/ for more information on this ridiculous issue.

HAWKMOON: THE MAD GOD’S AMULET #2 (First, 1987) – “The Mad God’s Amulet Book Two,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Rafael Kayanan. Only marginally better than the other Hawkmoon comic I reviewed above.

MICHAEL MOORCOCK’S MULTIVERSE #4 (DC, 1998) – “Moonbeams and Roses, Part Four: Loser Wins,” [W] Michael Moorcock, [A] Walt Simonson. This issue’s first story has some excellent Simonson artwork, but a confusing plot. It mentions the Spammer Gann, which also appears in Elric: The Balance Lost. It appears that to understand this story, one would need to read Moorcock’s Second Ether trilogy. The other two stories in this issue are less interesting. This comic itself isn’t all that great, but it does make me want to read more Moorcock.

I was going to review Imagine #3 here, but it looks like my copy of it is missing the middle eight pages, which include a P. Craig Russell story. So I’ll be needing a new copy of that issue. Crap.

STORMWATCH #42 (Image, 1996) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Tom Raney. Stormwatch battles a terrorist who’s trying to take over Japan. This comic has lousy art and a fairly average story, but at least it shows more than a rudimentary knowledge of Japanese culture. For example, we’re told that when Fuji was a sumo wrestler, his rank was ozeki – not yokozuna, which is the only sumo rank most people have heard of.

DETECTIVE COMICS #488 (DC, 1980) – “The Spook’s Death Sentence for Batman,” [W] Cary Burkett, [A] Don Newton, plus other stories. This issue’s lead story has some excellent art, but an unimpressive story. Also, the premise is that Batman is trying to stop the Spook from freeing a criminal from death row, meaning that Batman is complicit in state-sanctioned murder. I guess Batman won’t kill criminals, but he will help the government do it. The highlight of the issue is Denny O’Neil and Johnny Craig’s “The Last Duty,” about a subway cop who’s about to retire without ever having drawn his gun. In a departure from the usual cliché, he manages to defeat a criminal while still preserving his perfect record. I don’t know if cops like this have ever existed, but I sure wish there were more of them, and fewer of the kind of cops who shoot people at the drop of a hat. This issue also includes Batgirl, Robin and Elongated Man stories, which are fun but not great.

TIGER-MAN #3 (Atlas, 1975) – “Hell is Spelled… Hypnos!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Steve Ditko. Another in a long line of bad Atlas/Seaboard comics. Ditko’s art and Conway’s story are both equally uninspired. This comic’s protagonist gained superpowrs when he was injected with tiger blood while living in Zambia. This is rather odd since tigers aren’t native to Africa.

GREEN LANTERN #46 (DC, 1966) – “The Jailing of Hal Jordan!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Gil Kane, and “The End of a Gladiator!”, [W] John Broome, [A] Gil Kane. This issue starts with a dumb story in which Hal battles some petty criminals. As the series went on, writers seem to have realized that stories like this aren’t appropriate to Green Lantern, and that he should be having cosmic adventures instead. The issue improves with the second story, in which Hal is mourned by his fellow Green Lanterns after having been seemingly killed by Dr. Polaris. Katma Tui’s grief over Hal’s “death” is a nice touch.

PUNKS NOT DEAD #4 (IDW, 2018) – “Teenage Kicks, Part 4,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. This is another fun issue, but it’s just a straightforward continuation of the plots of the last three issues. This issue, Fergie and Sid finally solve the mystery of the dancing pensioners.

COMICS FRIENDS FOREVER #nn (First Second, 2018) – “Be Prepared,” [W/A] Vera Brosgol, plus four other stories. This FCBD comic includes previews of five YA or middle-grade graphic novels. I’ve already read one of these, Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl, and I have two others, Vera Brosgol’s Be Prepared and Hope Larson’s All Summer Long. The Vera Brosgol story looks like a great follow-up to Anya’s Ghost, and the Hope Larson story is very cute. The other two pieces in the issue are previews of Charise Mericle Harper’s The Amazing Crafty Cat and Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham’s Real Friends. The Harper book is intended for really young readers, but Real Friends is a bit more interesting. My friend Lee Skallerup Bessette’s daughter read and enjoyed it.

DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES #16 (Gladstone, 1989) – “The Magic Hourglass,” [W/A] Carl Barks. I was a few pages into this story when I realized I’d already read it, in Uncle Scrooge #341. What tipped me off was the line “I can’t go on like this – losing a billion dollars a minute! I’ll be broke in 600 years!” I didn’t remember much else about this story besides that line, though, so it was worth rereading.

WHAT IF? #6 (Marvel, 1977) – “What If the Fantastic Four Had Different Super-Powers?”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Jim Craig & Rick Hoberg. The premise of this story is evident from the title. Reed gets the short end of the stick, transforming into a disembodied brain, and meanwhile Ben grows a pair of wings but is otherwise human. This sets up a mildly interesting romantic tension between Reed, Ben and Sue. But at the end of the issue Reed takes over Dr. Doom’s body, and we don’t get to see who Sue ends up with, if anyone. Otherwise this comic is pretty boring. This version of the Fantastic Four reappeared in What If? vol. 2 #39, one of the first comic books I ever read.

TRUE BELIEVERS: SPIDER-WOMAN #1 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This is a reprint of Spider-Woman vol. 5 #5. I assume they chose that issue to reprint because it’s the first issue drawn by Javier Rodriguez, as well as Jess’s first meeting with Roger. It’s a pretty fun issue, as usual with this series. However, Javier’s art looks weird because it’s colored in a three-dimensional style. Later issues havemuch flatter coloring, which suits his art better.

USAGI YOJIMBO #4 (Mirage, 1993) – “Shi, Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi meets a farmer who grows delicious daikon radishes. What the farmer doesn’t know is that there’s gold on his land, and some local villains have hired a group of four assassins (hence the title, which means both “four” and “death” to collect it. Also, the farmer’s daughter has a puppy-love crush on Usagi, who needs to find a way to let her down gently. In the following issue, which I read a long time ago, Usagi kills the assassins and convinces the daughter to stay with her boring fiancee, and the gold is forgotten because all the people who knew about it are dead. This is a realistic but somewhat depressing conclusion. The four assassins in this story are a different group from the other four assassins who appear in #75 of the Dark Horse series.

WEIRD WORLDS #5 (DC, 1973) – John Carter in “Deathknell,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Sal Amendola, and David Innes in “Combat!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Dan Green. Both stories in this issue are pretty average, but at least the first story is a rare example of Sal Amendola’s art. This artist drew one of the greatest Batman stories ever, “Night of the Stalker” in Detective Comics #439, and his artwork in this issue is comparable in quality. However, he stopped drawing comics regularly after the early ’70s.

LEAVING MEGALOPOLIS: SURVIVING MEGALOPOLIS #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jim Calafiore. I ordered this comic when it came out, but I shouldn’t have. It’s some kind of story about evil superheroes, kind of like Empire, but Gail doesn’t explain what the series’ premise is or who the characters are. The issue is impenetrable unless the reader has read the miniseries that preceded it. Jim Calafiore’s art has either declined or stagnated since his stint on Aquaman.

CLEAN ROOM #3 (DC, 2016) – “Good Things and Celebrity Deaths,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. This is better than the last comic I reviewed, but still not great. I read the first two issues of this series, then continued to buy it without reading it. As a result, I’ve forgotten what’s going on in this comic, except that it’s about a cult, and I didn’t understand what was going on in this issue.

GRASS KINGS #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Again, I’ve been buying this series but not reading it. I didn’t bother to read the first three issues before I read this one, and so I couldn’t figure out what was going on in it.

WANDERING STARS #1 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “The Wanderer,” [W] Stuart Hopen, [A] Sam Kieth. This science fiction comic is the only issue of what was intended as an ongoing series. This comic is very long and somewhat tedious to read (especially since I spent the entire month of May in a state of exhaustion – it took me a while to get into summer vacation mode). But it shows effective worldbuilding and characterization, and if it had continued, it could have been a notable work. Stuart Hopen went on to publish one novel with Tor in 1995 before vanishing into obscurity. Sam Kieth’s art in this issue is excellent. This issue includes a cameo appearance by the Isz creatures who appear in The Maxx as well as several other Sam Kieth comics. I’ve always imagined the grues from Zork as looking like the black Isz from The Maxx.

New comics received on 5/18:

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #36 (Image, 2018) – “Monster” etc., [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Brian K. Vaughan. The opening sequence of this issue is a tour de force. It consists of eleven whole pages of battles between Ananke and Minerva, each of them occurring 100 years apart, with one panel for each battle. Each panel shows the characters dressed in historically and culturally accurate clothing. This sequence reveals the epic scope of human history, as well as the fact that most of that history took place outside the so-called West. These pages do remind me a bit of Shaolin Cowboy, which I hated, but the similarity is only coincidental. In the second half of the issue, we learn that Baal has to sacrifice children to survive. The unfair death of children is a constant theme of this series (as well as Kage Baker’s Children of the Company, which I just read).

FENCE #6 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Nicholas finally wins a match! And in the process, we learn a bit about fencing strategy. And there’s a massive line at the door of the men’s room. This was another fun issue.

BARRIER #3 (Image, 2018) – “…”, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Marcos Martin. After hearing the alien language, Oscar and Liddy are both temporarily deaf, so this issue is mostly silent. This issue has some impressive dream/hallucination sequences, but is generally less impressive than #1 or #2.

FLAVOR #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Wook Jin Clark. One of the better debut issues of the year. It takes place in a walled city where everyone is obsessed with food. The protagonist is an underage chef who’s running an illegal restaurant and supporting her disabled parents. And her dog can apparently read. And the city is surrounded by a vast forest filled with monsters. What makes this comic so exciting is Wook Jin Clark’s art, coupled with Tamra Bonvillain’s coloring. Clark fills every panel with detail, invests the characters with life, and blends European and Japanese influences. This will be a fun series.

RAT QUEENS #9 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. I thought that things would start getting clearer soon, but instead we get another issue that doesn’t make sense. Half the issue is a flashforward to a time when several of the Rat Queens have married and had children. This comic is still a lot of fun, but I’m completely unable to follow its plot, and I wish we’d get some clarity soon.

USAGI YOJIMBO #168 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden, Part Three,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This is a fun issue with some cute moments, like when Usagi pretends to see a blood stain, or intentionally almost damages a priceless vase. The two-page spread of the antique dealer’s shop is pretty cool. But this issue doesn’t advance the plot much, and I wonder if “The Hidden” could have been a bit shorter.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #66 (IDW, 2018) – “The Applewood Follies,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Tony Fleecs. The ponies visit Applewood (i.e. Hollywood), where they make short films about their own lives – or rather slide presentations, since Equestria has photography but not film. The films are pretty cool, espeially Pinkie Pie’s surrealist film that makes no sense, but otherwise this is just an average issue.

ASSASSINISTAS #5 (IDW, 2018) – “Pack Some Heat with That Lunch!”, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. Another good issue, but very similar to the last few. The best moment is when Carlos proposes to Octavia, and she pulls out a gun. Als, there’s a panel where the lizard licks its eye, and a fake ad for a “Bulletproof Baby-Pod.”

QUICKSILVER: NO SURRENDER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Eric Nguyen. This is Saladin’s first comic that hasn’t really impressed me. Perhaps that’s because the entire issue is a monologue delivered by an unlikable character. Quicksilver gets stuck in a frozen world, and spends the entire issue running around and monologuing. But I’m going to keep reading and see where this series goes.

X-MEN: THE WEDDING SPECIAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Dream Before,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Todd Nauck, plus two other stories. I had such mixed feelings about this issue. Chris Claremont’s story is badly written by modern standards – there are some pages where the caption boxes take up almost as much space as the art. And yet it summoned such powerful memories of other, better X-Men stories, that it almost brought me to tears. It’s implausible that so many major events have happened to Kitty in her teens and twenties, but the combined weight of all that history is very powerful. In contrast, the Marc Guggenheim story is boring and mediocre. If this story is representative of his talents, then no wonder the X-Men franchise is doing so poorly. Kelly Thompson is, at the moment, the best of the three writers in the issue, but her story is also just average, although it’s a nice sequel to the Rogue & Gambit miniseries.

LUCY DREAMING #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Michael Dialynas. This issue’s dream sequence is based on either Buffy or Teen Wolf, I’m not sure which. On the last page, Welsey (sic) kisses Lucy. This miniseries is entertaining, but it’s no Abbott.

DODGE CITY #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Josh Trujillo, [A] Cara McGee. This issue has the same problem as the last two: there’s not enough story or characterization to complement the sports action. We have no reason to care whether the protagonists win or lose. At least the rules of dodgeball are finally making sense. It looks like issue 4 of this series will be the last, and I’m not sorry.

BLOODSHOT: SALVATION #9 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ray Fawkes with Jeff Lemire, [A] Renato Guedes. A waste of an issue. The entire issue is the origin story of Bloodshot’s dog. It takes place during World War I, and it’s full of blood, gore and misery, with no particular artistic motivation.

ETHER: THE COPPER GOLEMS #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] David Rubín. The first Ether miniseries was really not that well written, but it was worth reading anyway because of David Rubín’s art, and so is this. The plot of this issue is that Boone has to return to the Ether to find out how some copper golems ended up on Earth. David Rubín has an amazing visual imagination, and Kindt could be doing more to utilize his artist’s talents.

HUNT FOR WOLVERINE: CLAWS OF A KILLER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Butch Guice. I bought this comic because it was written by Mariko Tamaki, and I’m not sure that’s a sufficient reason. In this miniseries, Lady Deathstrike, Daken and Sabretooth team up to search for Wolverine. Butch Guice’s art is better than I expected, but the interactions between the three very different protagonists are less exciting than they could be.

AVENGERS #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Still Avenging After All These Years,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ed McGuinness. This wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. It lacks the strong characterization and character interaction that makes for truly great Avengers comics. I’m not sure if these last five comics really were unimpressive, or whether I was just tired when I read them.

LOCKE & KEY: SMALL WORLD #1 (IDW, 2016) – “Small World,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. I don’t know how this one-shot fits into the continuity of Locke & Key, but it’s excellent. It takes place in Keyhouse in the early 20th century. The Locke family of the time includes four children, and as a birthday gift, they’ve received a dollhouse that contains portals to the actual Keyhouse. When a spider enters the dollhouse and becomes gigantic, the four children have to use the dollhouse and the real house together to save themselves. This issue reminds me of a Power Pack comic because of the interactions between the four kids, and the microcosm-macrocosm magic is really cool. Also, this issue features a giant cat.

MIGHTY THOR: AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Tomorrow Girls” and “The Lord of the Realms,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Jen Bartel & Ramón Pérez. In the first half of this issue, Thor’s three granddaughters, from the far future, have an adventure in the Viking Age and then meet Jane Foster. This sequence was very fun. The second half of the issue was less so. In this sequence we see what Malekith has been doing during the Mangog war. Malekith is such a horrible monster that it’s difficult to believe in him, let alone hate him. He’s an example of “motiveless malignity.”

STAR WARS ADVENTURES FCBD 2018 (IDW, 2018) – “Hunter vs Hunted,” [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Derek Charm. I read this because I’ve been trying to read ten comics a day, in order to clear out some of my backlog of unread comics before I go buy even more comics at Heroes Con. And I’ve been reading a lot of comics, but I haven’t managed to meet my quota every day. Anyway, because of that, I wanted something quick and easy. This Han/Chewbacca prequel story is a quick read with appealing art, but the story is trivial and it ends on a cliffhanger.

MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS FCBD 2018 SPECIAL (Boom!, 2018) – “Shattered Grid,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Ryan Parrott, [A] Diego Galindo. This issue is mostly a recap of the original MMPR series. My problem with it is that in my opinion, the Power Rangers franchise is really stupid. I was ten years old when it originally aired, and even then I thought it was stupid. Kelly Thompson’s MMPR: Pink miniseries wasn’t good enough to change my mind, and this comic is worse than that one.

THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #2 (Marvel, 2013) – “The God Butcher, Part Two: Blood in the Clouds,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Esad Ribic. In the Viking Age, a young Thor, not yet worthy of Mjolnir, fights Gorr the God Butcher. This is an okay comic, but not as good as later issues. Esad Ribic draws some nice sound effects.

TRILLIUM #8 (DC, 2014) – “Two Stars Become One,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This comic has excellent art, and I expect I would also be really impressed by the story, if I understood it. However, this is the last issue of the series, and it doesn’t provide any background on what’s going on. It ends with two characters going through a black hole and emerging in a different world.

GIVE ME LIBERTY #4 (Dark Horse, 1991) – “Death & Taxes,” [W] Frank Miller, [A] Dave Gibbons. I couldn’t be bothered to reread issue 3 before reading this issue, so I wasn’t 100% sure what was going on, though it eventually became clear. This issue, Martha and Moretti finally get rid of Moretti for good. Dave Gibbons’s art is spectacular, and Frank Miller’s script actually has something interesting to say about America and American values. This is surprising given his latest career trajectory, although to be fair, the precipitous decline of Frank’s career has tainted my opinions about his earlier work.

DRY COUNTY #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. I forgot to order issue 2 of this series. In this issue, Janet’s ex-boyfriend has kidnapped her. Lou is trying to send a message to her through his comic strip, and surprisingly it works. Dry County is a fairly average mystery comic, which is elevated to very good thanks to Tommaso’s art.

ENCOUNTER #3 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “The Wrath of Ribbon Rhonda!”, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco. I also forgot to order this series’ second issue. This is a fun kid-oriented superhero comic, with more narrative complexity than is typical for Art and Franco.

CRUDE #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Garry Brown. A rather grim crime fiction comic, whose protagonist, Piotr, is a former assassin living in the Russian city of Vladimir. Piotr’s son decides to move to a place called Blackstone for work, and is promptly murdered, forcing Piotr to go to Blackstone himself. Garry Brown’s art effectively conveys the grim atmosphere of Putin’s Russia, and this comic feels very stifling and depressing.

CRUDE #2 – as above. Piotr arrives in Blackstone and discovers that it’s run by various rival gangs. This issue’s story was hard to follow, and its premise really doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t like comics that are this violent and grim. I already ordered issues 3 and 4, unfortunately, but after that I’m done with this series.

AW YEAH COMICS: ACTION CAT & ADVENTURE BUG #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Tooth-a-Cornea!”, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco. Action Cat and Adventure Bug fight a giant animate tooth. This comic is basically Tiny Titans with original characters, and it has a similarly low level of narrative sophistication.

THREE STRIKES #2 (Oni, 2003) – “Needles,” [W] Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir, [A] Brian Hurtt. This comic’s protagonist, Rey, is a young man who was sentenced to 22 years in prison for shoplifting. He escaped and he and his sleazy friend Billy are fleeing from the law. The main problem with this comic is that it’s not clear why we should sympathize with Rey. DeFilippis and Weir clearly want him to be an innocent victim of California’s harsh three-strikes law, and Rey’s sentence is indeed quite harsh, but he does seem to have committed the crime he was sentenced for. Also, he makes his family accomplices in his crime, and he doesn’t seem to have any kind of endgame in mind.

LOCKE & KEY: HEAD GAMES #6 (IDW, 2009) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. This issue focuses on Ellie, a single mother of a learning-disabled son, who has become the prisoner of the comic’s primary villain, Lucas Caravaggio. Using a key that unlocks Ellie’s head, Luke witnesses Ellie’s awful life with her abusive mother. Ellie’s mother is a brilliant portrait of an evil old battleaxe, and the reader is overjoyed when Lucas kills her, although that just means Ellie gets to be tormented by Lucas instead. I want to collect more Locke & Key.

When I got back from WisCon, a package of comics was waiting for me:

LUMBERJANES #50 (Boom!, 2018) – “Board, Board, Board,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. The first story in this issue is fantastic. Jo and Hes’s board game gets increasingly complicated and bizarre, while Mal, Ripley and April get attacked by a giant centipede. The backup story, by Shannon Watters and Brooklyn Allen, is a flashback to Rosie and Abigail’s encounter with the Grootslang. It’s well-drawn, but it’s too short to have much impact on the reader.

BARRIER #4 (Image, 2018) – “El universo es un lugar oscuro y malparido pero seguimos luchando,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Marcos Martin. Oscar and Liddy capture one of the aliens and Oscar says “Llévanos con tu lider,” which is a nice pun if you can understand it. Otherwise I have nothing new to say about this issue.

PRINCELESS VOL. 2 #4 (Action Lab, 2013) – “Get Over Yourself, Part 4,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. This was the only comic book I bought while in Madison, from a dealer at WisCon. He also had some underground comics, including Sharon Rudahl’s The Adventures of Crystal Night, but they were all too expensive. In this issue, Adrienne figures out how to defeat the lion that’s guarding Angelica.

SUPER SONS #16 (DC, 2018) – “End of Innocence, Part Two,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi & Brent Peeples. This final issue begins with a flashforward where an older Jon (or someone else, I guess) is telling his grandchildren about the Super Sons’ adventures. Then, the present-day Jon and Damian team up with Cyborg to defeat Kid Amazo. Thankfully, although this is the last issue, a sequel has been announced.

THE TERRIFICS #4 (DC, 2018) – “The Girl from Bgztl!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Doc Shaner. This issue is narrated by Phantom Girl, and she’s just as cute and spunky as her 31st-century namesake. (So why couldn’t this character have been named Tinya instead of “Linnya”? Grrr.) Oh, except in this issue she gets back to Bgztl, only to discover that she’s been away for decades, and her father has died. Sad. The worst part of this series is still Plastic Man, although this issue does have a nice moment where he comforts Linnya.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS: YEAR TWO #7 (Action Lab, 2018) – “Love and Revenge, Part 7,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Christine Hipp. This series should just be called Raven: The Pirate Princess, because it no longer has any connection to Princeless. This issue we’re finally back with Raven and her shipmates. As usual this issue is full of queer relationship drama. Most notably, Raven tries to train Ximena to fence, and instead they get in a big fight. This issue has the best line of the entire series: “Oh, come on, it’s just a practice sword.” “WELL, THAT IS NOT MY PRACTICE BOOB, RAVEN!”

BATGIRL #23 (DC, 2018) – “Strange Loop, Part Two,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Minkyu Jung. Babs figures out how to wake herself up, then defeats the wife-beater. This appears to be Hope Larson’s last issue, though it wasn’t announced as such. It certainly feels like a conclusion. Hope Larson’s Batgirl was an effective follow-up to Babs Tarr’s run, and a very enjoyable comic in its own right.

MANIFEST DESTINY #35 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. The men get increasingly sick of Pryor’s heavy-handed leadership. When the Mandan show up with Toussaint Charbonneau as a hostage, Pryor tries to negotiate with them, and they kill him. Good riddance to bad rubbish. I suspect that Charbonneau was not actually a hostage, but was working with the Mandan to lure Pryor out of the fort. The best line in the issue is when one of the men tells Pryor that “Indian” isn’t a language.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. Since this is a Dark Horse comic, I might mention that I’m writing this just after reading Jay Edidin’s tweets about DH’s anti-transgender policies. I’m not going to stop reading DH comics because of this, but Jay’s revelations are disappointing, and it seems like Mike Richardson is personally to blame for this and other problems at Dark Horse. As for this issue of Black Hammer, not much happens in it.

INCOGNEGRO: RENAISSANCE #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Pigeons,” [W] Mat Johnson, [A] Warren Pleece. Lots of great stuff in this issue, including the line “Hell no! Check’s already cleared! Go do your damn job!”, and the conversation about black people not being able to get a taxi. The solution to the mystery is becoming clear: it looks like Van Horn killed Xavier because Xavier actually wrote Van Horn’s book.

ANIMOSITY #14 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Power: Part One,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Sandor spends the first half of the issue searching for Jesse. Then we learn that Jesse has been taken to a creepy human breeding colony. This premise is interesting enough that I almost want to keep reading this series, but I’ve already decided to drop it.

NAUGHTY BITS #38 (Fantagraphics, 2003) – “Those Bitchy Blues” and other stories, [W/A] Roberta Gregory. This issue only includes a five-page Bitchy story. There’s also a six-page story about Roberta’s move to a different neighborhood. This is interesting, but contains more text than artwork. The second half of the issue is an illustrated prose piece about the artist Louis Wain. I wasn’t familiar with him, but apparently his artwork has been used (somewhat deceptively) to illustrate the progress of schizophrenia; supposedly, the crazier he got, the weirder his artwork became.

HELLBOY’S WEIRD TALES #8 (Dark Horse, 2004) – “Fifteen Minutes,” [W/A] Jill Thompson, etc. This issue begins with a Jill Thompson story about some skeletons who are hired as extras for one of Hellboy’s battles. It’s insubstantial, but funny and beautifully drawn. Next is “Toy Soldier,” by Kia Asamiya and C.B. “Akira Yoshida” Cebulski, about some dead kids whose ghosts summon giant toys. This is pretty funny, though it’s tainted by the knowledge that its writer was a white man passing as Japanese. Last is Evan Dorkin’s “Professional Help,” in which Hellboy battles some Scandinavian neo-Nazis. This was a pretty good issue.

WILD.C.A.T.S #23 (Image, 1995) – “Spaceside” and “Earthside,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ryan Benjamin and Jason Johnson. Void travels around Khera looking for their teammates, while back on Earth, Majestic and Ladytron fight a giant robot. Alan’s dialogue, characterization and worldbuilding are fantastic. However, this issue suffers from terrible artwork. Jason Johnson is okay, but Ryan Benjamin refuses to draw backgrounds, and on page 16, he makes Voodoo’s legs twice as long as her head and torso combined.

MAGNUS, ROBOT FIGHTER #2 (Dark Horse, 2010) – “Metal Mob, Part Two: Deliverance,” [W] Jim Shooter, [A] Bill Reinhold with Mike Manley. This is an okay comic, but it suffers from Shooter’s typical misogyny. All the female characters in this issue are scantily clad damsels in distress. And the artwork is only average. This series was cancelled after four issues due to irreconcilable differences between Dark Horse and the copyright holder. However, I suspect it may not have lasted much longer than that anyway.

SOVEREIGN #2 (Image, 2014) – “Ghost Eaters” etc., [W] Chris Roberson, [A] Paul Maybury. This issue consists of a series of vignettes taking place in an Asian-influenced fantasy world. Paul Maybury’s art and coloring are very nice, but this comic has no plot to speak of. It’s all worldbuilding, and the world isn’t even all that interesting. Chris Roberson seems to have devoted all his effort to creating a world, without coming up with a story to go with it.

ARCHIE #13 (Archie, 2016) – “Worlds Apart,” [W] Mark Waid with Lori Matsumoto, [A] Joe Eisma. In Riverdale, Archie and Betty miss Veronica and Sayid respectively. At boarding school, Veronica meets Cheryl Blossom, who cruelly torments a poor classmate and blames Veronica for it. Cheryl’s first appearance reveals her basic personality: she’s like Veronica but with no conscience or empathy. The backup story is a reprint of Cheryl and Jason’s first appearance from 1982, but the characters in this story are just random teenagers. The versions of Cheryl and Jason we know today were created in 1994.

POWERPUFF GIRLS #8 (IDW, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Charm. I was surprised to see who wrote and drew this issue. In this story, a monster called Steve leads a monster attack on Townsville, and the Powerpuff Girls defeat him using some of Mojo Jojo’s robots. This comic is funny, but lacks the substance or depth of IDW’s My Little Pony comics.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #19 (Eclipse, 1991) – “Upsidedown & Backwards,” [W/A] Larry Marder. An ordinary Chow Sol’jer turns into Heyoka, the Upsidedown & Backwards Bean, and starts floating upward. This gives us a chance to see what’s above the Beanworld in the Big Picture, including the Inspiration Constellation, which is fascinatingly weird. In a subplot, the Goofy Service Jerks visit Mr. Teach’m and learn about the Influences, which are the kernels of new Pod’lpool worlds. I don’t quite understand everything in this issue, but it provides us with lots of new information, and creates a sense of a bigger universe beyond the Beanworld we know.

EAST OF WEST #8 (Image, 2013) – “The Street is Burning,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Nick Dragotta. I read this, as well as some of the other comics above and below, just to clear out some unread comics I’ve had for years. The main plot of this issue is that an evil politician brutally suppresses a riot, telling her people that they should be grateful for what little they have. I don’t quite understand what’s going on in this issue, but that line struck a chord with me, because it’s the same thing the rich have been telling the poor since at least 2008.

ITTY BITTY HELLBOY #5 (Dark Horse, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco. This is readable in about five minutes and is only of interest to the youngest readers. The trouble with Baltazar and Franco’s style is that no matter what intellectual property they’re working on, the results are always the same.

MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA #5 (Marvel, 2009) – “A Whole Lot of Paper,” [W] Kurt Busiek & Roger Stern, [A] Jay Anacleto. Phil learns he’s got terminal cancer, and his health deteriorates to the point where he can’t work on his book. In fiction as in real life, it’s tough when someone you love gradually declines. Phil hears about the original Secret Wars and the trial of Magneto without being able to witness them in person, but at the end of the issue he encounters someone he never expected to see again: Maggie, the mutant girl from Marvels #2. I think I have issue 6 somewhere, but I don’t know where. This miniseries is, of course, less of a classic than the original Marvels, but it’s a worthy sequel.

THE BOOK OF NIGHT #2 (Dark Horse, 1987) – “Children of the Stars” and other stories, [W/A] Charles Vess. Every story in this issue is beautifully drawn by Charles Vess, who was already one of the top draftspeople in American comics. However, the writing never reaches the same level as the art. The first three stories in this issue are all reprints from Epic Illustrated. “Children of the Stars” is overly convoluted and confusing. It has characters named after Bran and Branwen from the Mabinogi, but beyond that I can’t figure out what’s happening in it. Next is “Jack Tales,” which is printed poorly, so that some panels are too dark to read. Then there’s “The Legend,” written by Laurie Sutton, about a subterranean creature who discovers the surface. The issue ends with “Priest,” which previously appeared only in a comics industry magazine called Media Showcase, but is so pointless that it didn’t deserve to be reprinted.

EGYPT #1 (DC, 1995) – “The Book of the Remains,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Glyn Dillon. An excellent issue. Vincent Me, a homeless ne’er-do-well, is recruited by some college students who are in some kind of cult. It turns out they’re trying to perform an ancient Egyptian ritual in which pharaohs had near-death experiences, and they want to experiment on Vincent first. This leads to a funny exchange: “You’re insane! You’re all insane!” “How can we be insane, Vincent? We go to college.” They perform the ritual, and Vincent wakes up in ancient Egypt. This comic is quite entertaining, and contains a fair amount of tasteful sex and nudity. I want to read the rest of this miniseries.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #614 (Gladstone, 1997) – “Airheads,” [W/A] William Van Horn, plus other stories. As usual with this era of WDC&S, this series contains a lot of stories of widely varying quality. This explains why I have a bunch of ’90s WDC&S that I have not read. The main attraction in this issue is Don Rosa’s “Attack of the Hideous Space-Varmints.” But it’s only eight pages out of a longer story, and it’s at the very end of the issue, so you have to suffer through a bunch of lesser stories to get to it. In the letter column, a reader complains that the comic needs to be shorter and less expensive, and I agree. Gladstone and Gemstone’s fundamental problem was that Don Rosa could only draw a limited number of pages, and compared to his work, most of the other stuff they published felt like filler material. Of the non-Rosa stories in the issue, the best are Van Horn’s “Airheads,” in which Donald and the nephews enter a remote-control airplane contest, and Gottfredson’s “The Robin Hood Adventure.”

WIMMEN’S COMIX #13 (Renegade, 1988) – various stories, [E] Lee Binswanger. This issue is dedicated to Dori Seda, who died while it was in production, and has an occult theme. It begins with a Trina Robbins story in which some women from various countries get together, and the reader gradually realizes they’re all volcanoes. Next is a three-pager by Carol Tyler, in which she witnesses a house fire. Another highlight is Rebecka Wright and Barb Rausch’s “Clair de Lune,” in which women literally go to the moon when they menstruate.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #58 (DC, 1994) – “Deadly Encounter,” [W] Tom McCraw, [A] Stuart Immonen. The “Legion on the Run” fights some Khunds. There are way too many characters in this issue, and not enough attention is paid to any of them individually. This issue isn’t unreadable, but it does nothing to dispel the impression that the Legion is convoluted and confusing.

LEGIONNAIRES #76 (DC, 1999) – “The Fire This Time!”, [W] Tom McCraw & Roger Stern, [A] Jeffrey Moy. This issue comes from a slightly later, but similarly bad, period of Legion comics. At least it’s not as bad as the previously reviewed issue. In this story, Element Lad and Umbra help to merge the ghosts of Atom’X and Blast-Off, creating the postboot version of Wildfire. This issue has a heavy focus on the postboot Tasmia Mallor, by far the worst version of the character ever. But at least it shows her as having weaknesses. She spends most of the issue in a state of fear and revulsion, though it’s not 100% clear why.

HITMAN #11 (DC, 1997) – “Local Heroes, Part Three,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John McCrea. This issue includes a famous scene where Hitman buys Kyle Rayner a drink, and Kyle can’t reciprocate because he has no pockets in his costume. That scene is funny, but otherwise this is a standard Hitman comic, and I really don’t like Hitman. In retrospect it may be the point where Garth Ennis’s career jumped the shark, because it caused him to focus on gross-out humor. Kyle’s portrayal in this issue has little in common with Ron Marz’s version of the character. You get the impression that Garth had never read any comics featuring Kyle, and that he just invented Kyle’s personality from scratch, giving him the exact opposite personality traits to Tommy Monaghan. But this isn’t a big deal because Kyle was a terrible character to begin with.

SAVAGE DRAGON #84 (Image, 2001) – “Breakout from Command ‘D’,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. The title is an obvious homage, but this issue has little to do with Kamandi. In Australia, Dragon battles Madman and the Atomics, who are under the control of Brainiape, and ultimately defeats and kills Brainiape. This has the effect of removing the psychic shield that Brainiape put up around Australia, so at the end of the issue, Sebastian Khan’s army shows up. This issue was just okay.

DAN O’NEILL’S COMICS AND STORIES #1 (Comics & Comix, 1975) – “Fred and Hugh and 5$ Are Dead!” and other stories, [W/A] Dan O’Neill. I’m glad to have this rare comic in my collection, but it’s not that great. Most of the issue consists of one-page strips about three characters named Fred, Hugh, and Bill, who have been condemned to hell. These appear to be reprints of O’Neill’s syndicated strip Odd Bodkins. They were obviously not intended for comic book format and are somewhat difficult to read, and not that funny either. Their primary characteristic is that they’re heavily influenced by Feiffer. The issue ends with some Disney and comic strip parodies which are more interesting. Unfortunately, Dan O’Neill’s most important works will probably never be reprinted.

IMAGINE #1 (Star*Reach, 1978) – “Flightmare,” [W] Neal Adams, [A] Frank Cirocco, plus other stories. In this issue’s first story, an old pilot imagines that he’s flying a naked woman the size of an airplane, and that he’s having a dogfight with a woman flying a naked man the size of an airplane. For a Neal Adams story, that’s actually kind of logical. The highlight of the issue is the central color section by Marshall Rogers, in which a hero saves a virgin from being sacrificed, and meanwhile a different character renders her unfit to be sacrificed by taking her virginity. This story is almost wordless, but it displays Rogers’s brilliant compositions and sexy women. The rest of the stories in this issue aren’t worth mentioning.

AQUAMAN #13 (DC, 1995) – “Judges,”[W] Peter David, [A] Marty Egeland. A villain called Thanatos forces Aquaman to experience some scary visions, starting with one where Aquaman is about to be guillotined. There are also subplots involving Mera, Koryak, etc. The funniest moment in the issue is when Mera cleans her son’s face (it’s left ambiguous whether this son is Arthur Curry Jr or not) and he says “C’mon, Ma, cut it out. I’m fine.” I remember my own mother doing that, and I hated it too. In general this is an exciting issue, and Marty Egeland’s art is really good. It’s too bad that this run of Aquaman was his only notable work.

BILLY BATSON AND THE MAGIC OF SHAZAM #5 (DC, 2009) – “Mr. Who? Mr. Atom?”, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco, [A] Byron Vaughns. I didn’t like the last few Baltazar/Franco comics I read, but this one was much better. When they’re not just doing gag strips, they’re capable of strong plotting and characterization. In this issue, Billy and Mary fight Mr. Atom, while also dealing with sibling rivalry and Billy’s crush on Helen Fidelity.

LETTER 44 #2 (Oni, 2013) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jiménez Albuquerque. The new President adjusts to the knowledge that Earth is being watched by aliens, while the space station crew does some extravehicular activity. I remember this comic being somewhat unpopular when it came out, but it was an Angouleme selection, and I like it. It’s a nice combination of political thriller and science fiction, and Charles Soule seems fairly well informed about space exploration.

LOVE & ROCKETS #5 (Fantagraphics, 2018) – various stories, [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez. This issue we finally find out what happened when Maggie and Hopey were being stalked by Eugene. After a long scary walk, they find some momentary safety with other people, but the other people turn out to be worse than Eugene. Luckily Maggie and Hopey make it home okay, but the whole sequence is very scary and unsettling. This issue also includes some other stories by both Jamie and Gilbert. As usual, the Gilbert stories didn’t grab me as much as the Jaime stories.

INVINCIBLE #141 (Image, 2017) – “The End of All Things, Part 9,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley. On his deathbed due to wounds suffered fighting rogue Viltrumites, Nolan asks Mark to take over for him as leader of the Viltrumites, then dies. This is a powerful moment, but otherwise this issue only took a few minutes to read.

SPIDER-WOMAN #2 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This is an earlier chapter of the alien maternity ward story from #4. The various pregnant aliens are fascinating – my favorite is the one who looks like a giant carrot. And Javier Rodriguez’s art is, as usual, excellent. Otherwise I have little to say about this comic.

I AM GROOT #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Forgotten Door, Part 2,” [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] Flaviano. Groot has some adventures on a weird alien world. This series was probably the worst of Marvel’s recent run of Rocket Raccoon and Groot comics, as evidenced by the fact that I stopped rading it after the first issue. Writing a story with Groot as the protagonist is uniquely difficult because he can only say “I am Groot.” There are two ways around this. First, you can write a story where all the dialogue is “I am Groot,” but that’s only funny once, and Skottie Young already did it. Second, you can add other characters who carry the primary weight of the story and characterization. In this issue Christopher Hastings tries to do that, but doesn’t quite succeed.

I AM GROOT #3 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Forgotten Door, Part 3,” as above. This is similar to the last issue. Hastings also introduces a bunch of bizarre alien concepts, like an army of robots that turn into a giant baby’s head. However, there’s no clear theme to all the stuff that’s happening on the alien world, and the issue just feels like a parade of random ooweirdness.

I received the following new comics on June 2:

SAGA #52 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. Squire almost gets eaten by a giant mouth with worms for arms. Because this is Saga. The Will stupidly leaves the mole-faced assassin alive, then encounters Prince Robot, who proposes that they work together to kidnap Hazel. This story already took a dark turn with Doff’s murder, and now it threatens to get even darker, although in Saga’s world there’s always a sense that doom is lurking around the corner.

MS. MARVEL #30 (Marvel, 2018) – “Something New, Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Much more relationship drama happens. The awful new girl reveals herself as Doc.X, the evil computer virus. She tries to blackmail Kamala using her knowledge of Kamala’s secret identity, but Kamala and Red Dagger team up to defeat her. Red Dagger goes back to Pakistan. Bruno tells Kwesi “I love you.” This is a cute moment. I remember reading a tweet recently about how in America, it’s unheard-of for men to say “I love you” to other men, but in other cultures it’s common. BTW, I just read Willow’s memoir The Butterfly Mosque, and besides being an excellent book, it gives me a better idea of what inspired Kamala Khan. I kind of want to go to WisCon next year so I can meet her (G. Willow Wilson, not Kamala).

ABBOTT #5 (Boom!, 2018) – “Someday We’ll Be Together,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. Elena defeats Bellcamp with the help of her friends, takes a job at a black newspaper, and starts a relationship with Amelia. Overall, Abbott was one of the best new comics of the year, and I’m sorry it’s not an ongoing series. I hope there’ll be a sequel.

BARRIER #5 (Image, 2018) – “La uniformidad engendra enfermedad,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Marcos Martin. Lily and Oscar convince the aliens to negotiate, and the aliens use some bizarre technology to get themselves, Lily and Oscar to understand each other’s languages. Universal translators are a standard science fiction cliché, but this comic is the best depiction I’ve ever seen of how they would actually work. An actual universal translator would be mind-altering and scary. We then get three flashback sequences, depicting Lily, the aliens and Oscar respectively, but using the alien language, English and Spanish in that order. It’s important that in the aliens’ flashback, they communicate in Spanish; this reduces them to the level of foreign humans rather than extraterrestrials. In Lily’s flashback, we almost get a sense of what the different colors of the alien language might mean. And Oscar’s flashback allows non-Spanish-literate readers to understand his heartbreaking story and to sympathize. The end is ambiguous: the aliens transport Oscar and Liddy to an Arabic-speaking country, and we’re not told what happens then. Ultimately this comic is all about both linguistic and territorial barriers. It not only advocates for the importance of overcoming those barriers, but also, through its unique narrative structure, it helps readers to do so themselves. It’s one of the best comics of the year.

STREET ANGEL’S DOG FCBD SPECIAL (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Jim Rugg, [A] Brian Maruca. I read the original Street Angel miniseries when I was in college, but I kind of stopped following Jim Rugg’s career after that. I bought a couple of the recent Street Angel albums, but haven’t read them yet. So this FCBD comic is exciting. The story is simple: Street Angel finds a lost dog, they fight ninjas together, then she finds a better home for him. But Jim Rugg’s writing and visual storytelling are amazing, and his work looks even better in color than in black and white.

ROYAL CITY #11 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. We get confirmation that the new character from the end of the last storyline is Tommy’s daughter. Tara gives Richie some money to pay off his creditors, but like the awful person he is, Richie leaves town instead. Only three issues remain. This issue’s cover depicts the same sort of faux-marble notebook that I discuss in my book, in the section on Lynda Barry’s Syllabus.

MY LITTLE PONY: PONYVILLE MYSTERIES #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. I’m glad there’s a new ongoing series to replace Legends of Magic, because one pony comic a month isn’t enough. This comic is based on a series of children’s books, but is understandable without that context. In this first issue, the Cutie Mark Crusaders think that a janitor who resembles Groundskeeper Willie is stealing hospital supplies, but it turns out that some birds are actually responsible. Which means that this comic has the same twist ending as The Castafiore Emerald.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN THE PIRATE PRINCESS: YEAR TWO #8 (Action Lab, 2018) – “The Storm,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Christine Hipp. The two plotlines finally come together, as Sunshine and Ananda escape back to the ship, while Raven and Ximena express their love. Besides the big emotional kiss, Sunshine introducing the crew as “my family” is another cute moment. A point that came up in one of the panels I was on at WisCon is that found families are an important element of queer literature.

DESCENDER #30 (Image, 2018) – “The End of the Universe 2 of 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. The conflict intensifies as everyone on both sides tries to use Tim for their own purposes. In perhaps the most emotional moment of the series, Tim finds Andy again and gives him a huge hug. As I just noted, everyone in this series wants to take advantage of Tim, and I think the series is going to end when Tim finally figures out what he wants to do.

SPIDER-GWEN #32 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Life of Gwen Stacy, Part 3: Spider-Gwen!”, [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. Gwen passes up yet another good chance to kill Matt Murdock. I still think she ought to have killed him the first chance she got. Also, Jean DeWolff arrests Gwen. And the girl who wears a cat for a scarf makes another appearance, along with said cat. This series is getting repetitive, and I’m glad it’s over soon.

KILL OR BE KILLED #19 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Dylan finally meets Lily Sharpe, just as the Russians invade the insane asylum. After a long action sequence, Dylan and Lily seem to have made it out okay… until another Russian appears out of nowhere and shoots Dylan. And he dies. And it turns out he’s been narrating the whole series from beyond the grave. I certainly wasn’t expecting that. The next issue is the last.

LOCKJAW #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Chasing Rabbits,” [W] Daniel Kibblesmith, [A] Carlos Villa. Lockjaw and D-Man encounter Sleepwalker and his pet Dogwalker (heh), then they rescue Lockjaw’s final littermate from Annihilus. Franklin and Val appear on one page. The end of the issue depicts Black Bolt and Medusa sleeping together, which seems like a continuity error. This was a somewhat inconsequential but very fun miniseries.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #2 (Eclipse, 1985) – “Too Much Chow!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. The Beans have a giant mound of Chow, which proves to be a bad thing, because without having to work to get more Chow, they get bored. And the Hoi Polloi get bored too without needing to defend their Chow from the Beans. The problem solves itself when some ants come from the area below the Hoi Polloi Ring-Herd, steal the extra Chow, and lay eggs. This whole issue is an example of what happens when a delicate ecology is disrupted.

CONAN/RED SONJA #3 (Dynamite, 2015) – “The Age of War,” [W] Gail Simone & Jim Zub, [A] Randy Green. Conan and Red Sonja almost have sex, then Thoth-Amon forces them to fight each other to the death. This was an unimpressive issue. I guess it’s no longer the case that Sonja can only have sex with a man who defeats her in battle.

SHAFT #4 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] David Walker, [A] Bilquis Evely. This comic is a well-researched depiction of New York in the ’70s, but the plot is just a lot of typical crime drama, and the characters aren’t all that interesting.

VALIANT HIGH #1 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Daniel Kibblesmith, [A] Derek Charm. As the title indicates, this comic takes place in a high school where all the Valiant characters are students. It would be funnier if I was more familiar with the characters, but Derek Charm’s art is very appealing, and the writing is funny. I got issue 2 yesterday but haven’t read it yet.

SUPER SONS/DYNOMUTT SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “The Dog Knight,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Fernando Pasarin. This comic begins by doing something annoying: it asks us to accept that Blue Falcon and Dynomutt have always existed in the DC Universe, and we just never heard of them before. In my opinion, this is an ineffective means of introducing a crossover story because it insults the reader’s intelligence. Readers are well aware that Blue Falcon was never part of the DC Universe until this issue. Otherwise, this is a highly effective Super Sons story, whose primary theme is Jon’s initial discomfort with, and growing acceptance of, the fact that people die. The funeral scenes at the beginning and end of the issue are very well done. Blue Falcon and Dynomutt are mostly overshadowed by Jon and Damian, although the comic also provides a touching depiction of a human-dog relationship.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Our Doom,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jim Cheung. Not a great conclusion to the Galactus-Doom story. I had trouble following this issue’s plot, and I can’t remember why there are two different versions of Dr. Doom. I am glad it ends with Galactus repopulating the universe, because the idea of a universe with only one planet in it was rather depressing.

THE LAST SIEGE #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Landry Q. Walker, [A] Justin Greenwood. In an epic fantasy world perhaps based on Eastern Europe, a drifter visits a town ruled by a tyrannical noble, and reveals that he’s been sent to replace that noble and become the new ruler. So far, this seems like a trite and boring piece of medieval fantasy, and the coloring is too dark. I’m going to give this comic one more issue before I drop it.

DOOM PATROL #20 (DC, 1988) – “Cautionary Tales” (Crawling from the Wreckage, part 2), [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case. This issue begins with a scene where a priest sees a partially obscured sign reading “HAVE FAITH IN COD,” then fish start falling out of the sky – but not any cod – and then a refrigerator falls on the priest and crushes him. I read a summary of this scene in Wizard many years ago (well, it must have been many years ago if I read about it in Wizard), but somehow it wasn’t until last week that I read the issue where this scene occurs. Also in this issue, Negative Man/Woman takes the new name Rebis, whch is derived from alchemy. I should reread the “Aenigma Regis” issue and see if it makes any more sense to me now. And the Scissor-Men inflict lots of damage on reality.

GEN13/MONKEYMAN & O’BRIEN #2 (Image, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Art Adams. Rather disappointing compared to other Adams comics. There are a lot of sexy (underage) women, but not enough giant monsters, and too much of the issue is devoted to talking. The plot, which is based on the mirror universe from Star Trek, is incomprehensible if you haven’t read issue 1 recently.

Q2: THE RETURN OF QUANTUM & WOODY #5 (Valiant, 2015) – “Hats” etc., [W] Christopher Priest, [A] M.D. Bright. This comic is also hard to follow, but that’s mostly because it’s a Priest comic, and the most important scenes make sense. The new Woody (who, it turns out, identifies as female) is revealed to be a synthetic human who’s permanently stuck at age 14. She sacrifices herself to save the older Quantum and Woody, who become bound together again by their bands, and are forced to resume their partnership even though they hate each other more than ever. The younger Woody’s death scene is touching and shocking.

STUMPTOWN #5 (Oni, 2015) – “The Case of the King of Clubs, Part 5,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Justin Greenwood. I don’t remember what happened in parts one through four, but in this issue, Dex breaks up a ticket-scalping ring which is also a racketeering ring. Much of the issue takes place at the Moda Center, which I’ve walked past because the 2017 CCCC was held right near there, but at the time I didn’t realize it was a sports arena. One thing I like about Stumptown is its strong sense of local specificity.

LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE #14 (DC, 1999) – “Evolution,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Steve Rude. A brilliant tribute to Kirby’s Fourth World, written by Kirby’s former assistant and biographer, and drawn by one of Kirby’s greatest successors. The main plot is that Mokkari and Simyan plot to de-evolve the people of Metropolis, and Jimmy Olsen and the Guardian have to save the day. There’s a subplot about a doorman who refuses to ever take any risks, and this character’s timidity is contrasted with Jimmy’s heroism. The whole issue is an amazing epic and an intelligent reworking of Kirby’s Jimmy Olsen stories, and I think Kirby would have been proud of it. One flashback panel contains a clever tribute to Whistler’s Mother (https://www.instagram.com/p/Bjq2JRaF-IT/?taken-by=aaronkashtan). (After writing this review, I discovered I had already read this comic before.)

KLAUS AND THE WITCH OF WINTER #1 (Boom!, 2016) – “Klaus and the Witch of Winter,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Dan Mora. Klaus has just escaped from imprisonment on the moon – I don’t think the story of his imprisonment has been told yet. On returning to Earth in the present day, he has to rescue two children who have been kidnapped by a Snow Queen/White Witch type. This story is heavily based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” but I’m not familiar enough with that story to comment on Morrison’s use of it. Overall this is a strong one-shot, and the art is even better than in the Klaus miniseries. Oddly, in this issue Grant Morrison either steals or independently invents the idea of Gepetto turning evil and creating an army of wooden soldiers. This idea, of course, was previously used in Fables.

SURGE #2 (Image, 1984) – “The Science of Getting Even!!”, [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Rick Hoberg. It’s unfortunate that Surge is the only DNAgent who got his own miniseries (not counting Crossfire & Rainbow) because he’s easily the worst DNAgent. He’s an angry jerk who’s obsessed with getting revenge for a dead woman he never really knew. And he has no positive qualities that I can see. In this issue he hijacks a plane and treats his new girlfriend Kathy quite rudely. It’s not clear why the reader should root for him. Luckily this issue also includes a backup story starring Amber, my favorite DNAgent, in which she helps an Olympian reach the stadium in time to win a medal. Evanier’s column at the end of the issue includes some stories about ’60s fandom.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #11 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Notworm Madness!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. The Goofy Service Jerks return and steal Mr. Spook’s fork. Meanwhile, Beanish leaves his universe to participate in the Total Eclipse crossover (see next review). In the letter column, Larry Marder provides a lengthy explanation of why he agreed to let his characters appear in Total Eclipse.

TOTAL ECLIPSE #2 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Nightmares,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Bo Hampton. This is a weird idea: it’s a crossover between all the Eclipse comics, even though most of them took place in separate universes. The main participants in this issue are the New Wave, the Liberty Project, and the Airboy characters. I’ve only read a few issues of any of those titles, so I couldn’t quite tell what was going on in this issue or why I should care. Miracleman also appears in this issue, but only on one page. Marv did write the ultimate intra-company crossover story, Crisis on Infinite Earths, but Total Eclipse is not as good, especially since it lacks George Pérez art. I do want to get the issues of this series in which Beanish appeared.

GODZILLA: THE HALF-CENTURY WAR #5 (IDW, 2013) – “2002: The End of the World,” [W/A] James Stokoe. The protagonist, Ota Murakami, puts on a Mechagodzilla suit and battles Gigan and King Ghidorah. At the end of the issue he sacrifices himself to suck the kaiju into a black hole. I don’t much care about the plot of this comic, but James Stokoe’s art is phenomenal, although often so dense and beautiful that it slows down the flow of the story.

THE SPIRIT: THE NEW ADVENTURES #7 (Kitchen Sink, 1998) – “Golf Anyone?”, [W] Dennis Eichhorn, [A] Gene Fama. Three stories, one about golf, one about Russian roulette, and one about trick or treating. This comic has very high production values and includes art by Eddie Campbell and Paul Pope – as well as Gene Fama, who I’ve never heard of, but he does a good job of imitating Eisner. However, I was very low on energy when I read it, and it didn’t make much of an impact on me.

STAR*REACH #12 (Star*Reach, 1978) – various stories, [E] Mike Friedrich. A disappointing issue. It begins with an adaptation of Zelazny’s “The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth,” illustrated by Gray Morrow. However, this comic is not an adaptation, but rather consists of the entire text of the story, together with illustrations. The illustrations actually detract from the story by preventing the reader from imagining the complicated concepts Zelazny describes. Next is a three-pager by Michael T. Gilbert in which a single three-panel sequence is repeated six times, filling two pages. Then there’s an eight-pager by Mike Nasser which, again, is hardly a comic at all: there’s no dialogue, and each page is just one panel. The issue ends with a chapter of Dean Motter and Ken Steacy’s “The Sacred and the Profane,” a recurring feature that suffered from unappealing art, way too much text, and no plot to speak of.

QUANTUM & WOODY #16 (Acclaim, 1998) – “Magnum Force, Round 5: Fear,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] M.D. Bright. This is much less dense than most of Priest’s comics. Most of the issue consists of Quantum and Woody trying to escape a death trap, and there are only a couple flashbacks or flashforwards. At the end of the issue, their bands are deactivated, and they go their separate ways.

THE SPECTRE #41 (DC, 1996) – “Merchants of Vengeance,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. Jim Corrigan loses his Spectre powers and has to accompany Captain Fear in a battle between ghost pirates, who ride through Manhattan in flying ships. It’s a potentially fantastic premise, but Ostrander doesn’t do enough with it, although one of the pirates has the awesome name of Rupert Murder. I was very pleased when I realized who he was based on. As I may have pointed out before, the main problem with this and other Spectre comics is that the protagonist is omnipotent, so once Jim Corrigan turns into the Spectre, the story is over. That’s also a problem with Superman comics, but unlike Superman, the Spectre usually seems to battle common criminals, rather than other superpowered enemies.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARTHA WASHINGTON #nn (Dark Horse, 1995) – “Insubordination” and other stories, [W/A] Frank Miller. This one-shot consists of three stories, two of them reprints. “Collateral Damage,” from the Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary TPB, is a crossover with Hard Boiled, though I only knew this from looking it up. “State of the Art” is a four-pager reprinted from San Diego Comic Con Comics #2, a giveaway comic which is now extremely expensive because it’s also the first appearance of Hellboy. The new story in this issue, “Insubordination,” is the best of the three. Martha Washington is sent to help out Captain Kurtz, an obvious Captain America knockoff, though named after Kurtz from Apocalypse Now and/or Heart of Darkness. Her real mission is to harvest his blood, which contains the last supply of his super-soldier serum. But he gets killed, and she abandons his blood out of respect. All three stories in this issue suffer from excessive computer coloring, which is not appropriate to the flat clear-line style of Gibbons’s art.

THE CHAMPIONS #2 (Marvel, 1975) – “Whom the Gods Would Join…”, [W] Tony Isabella, [A] Don Perlin. In Los Angeles, Hercules, Black Widow, Angel, Iceman, Ghost Rider and Venus team up to fight Pluto. This comic has an exciting premise and some awesome characters, but its boring creative team manages to suck the life out of it.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #90 (Marvel, 1980) – “Death in the Air,” [W] Steven Grant, [A] Mike Vosburg. This, by contrast, was much better than it should have been. Spider-Man and the Beast team up to battle Killer Shrike and Modular Man, two villains who previously appeared only in Rampaging Hulk. This comic’s plot is forgettable, but Spidey and the Beast’s interactions are hilarious. I especially like how Hank is irresistible to women because of his blue fur, and Spidey is jealous of him for it.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’91 #23 (DC, 1991) – “I, Durlan,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Jim Fern & Richard Piers Raynor. This oversized issue is the origin story of the L.E.G.I.O.N. co-founder known only as the Durlan. We learn that the Durlan escaped from his xenophobic home planet and crashlanded on Durla, where he became the companion of the young Vril Dox II. As Dox grows, the Durlan essentially becomes his mother, protecting him from his father’s abuse, while also suffering Dox’s abuse in turn. This comic doesn’t make the reader feel sympathetic for Dox, but it does help us understand why he’s so screwed up, and why he’s not even worse than he is: the Durlan’s influence helped counteract his cold and cruel upbringing. At the end of the issue, we learn that the Durlan will later found another famous superhero team under a new name, R.J. Brande.

LOVE FIGHTS #1 FCBD EDITION (Oni, 2004) – untitled, [W/A] Andi Watson. I haven’t read a lot of Andi Watson comics, but his art impresses me. While seemingly very simple, it displays an amazing command of anatomy and composition. This series is a romantic comedy that takes place in a city of superheroes. The story is a bit trite, but cute. On the flip side of this issue is a preview of Greg Rucka and Scott Morse’s Everest: Facing the Goddess, a series that was never published. The preview is reproduced directly from pencils, making it hard to read.

AZTEC ACE #11 (Eclipse, 1985) – “Reflections in a Demon’s Eye,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Dan Day. This series has perhaps the most confusing plot of any comic ever published, and also suffers from major overwriting. But this issue is rather exciting, and not that difficult to understand. The protagonist, Caza, and his new girlfriend Bridget get involved in a fight between the main villain, Nine Crocodile, and his wife Shakreen, who is also Caza’s ex-lover. Although Caza thinks he may have fathered Shakreen’s child, he ultimately chooses Bridget over Shakreen.

WHAT IF? #11 (Marvel, 1990) – “What If the Fantastic Four All Had the Same Power?”, [W/A] Jim Valentino. This issue has four stories, corresponding to the Fantastic Four’s four powers. In the first story, the FF all get the Human Torch’s power. During the events of Fantastic Four #3, they accidentally burn down a building and kill a little girl, and Sue is so guilty about this that she becomes a nun. This could have been a touching story, like FF #285, but it’s told in a such a perfunctory, summary fashion that it’s hilarious instead. The stories where the FF all get Reed, Ben and Sue’s powers are stupid in less funny ways.

GRIMJACK: THE MANX CAT #5 (IDW, 2009) – untitled, [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tim Truman. Truman’s art in this issue is a serious downgrade from the original Grimjack series. It’s much cleaner and it lacks his usual gritty, Kubert-esque quality, and the coloring is also worse. The first half of this issue’s story is just a big fight scene in an alternate dimension, though the second half, where Grimjack returns to Cynosure, is better.

THE SPECTRE #33 (DC, 1995) – “Fatal Tissue,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Hugh Haynes. Kind of a Frankenstein knockoff, in which a mad scientist creates an artificial woman who murders people and steals their souls. As in the original Frankenstein novel, the woman criticizes her creator for not fulfilling her obligations to his creation. This issue is okay but not great.

GHOST RIDER #39 (Marvel, 1979) – “Into the Abyss!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Don Perlin. Ghost Rider battles a cult of death-worshipping motorcyclists, which now that I type that out, I realize how stupid it is. They begin every meeting by having two of their members play chicken, which makes me wonder how they haven’t run out of members. This comic is kind of exciting and funny in a bugfuck way, but it could have been better.

FANTASTIC FOUR #120 (Marvel, 1972) – “The Horror That Walks on Air!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. This issue introduces Air-Walker, who arrives on Earth and proclaims himself as the archangel Gabriel, come to herald the end of the world. This issue has some snappy dialogue, including a very funny confrontation between the FF and their landlord, and Big John’s art is excellent. However, the absence of Kirby is sorely missed, and much of this issue feels like a retread of old Kirby cliches without the advantage of Kirby’s art.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #155 (DC, 1979) – “Fugitive from Two Worlds!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Jim Aparo. This issue tries to do way too many things and doesn’t accomplish any of them. Batman and Green Lantern are both pursuing the same criminal, and they get into a jurisdictional dispute over which of them has should capture him. Also, he steals a meteorite that’s preventing Gotham from being destroyed in an earthquake. And he’s a Jekyll-and-Hyde type with both a good and an evil personality. All of this in just two pages. If this story had just been about the custody battle over the criminal, it could have been interesting, but Haney insisted on throwing in a bunch of other pointless nonsense.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #32 (Marvel, 1975) – “All the Fires in Hell…!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Sal Buscema. In one of the few MTU issues that doesn’t star Spider-Man, the Human Torch teams up with Son of Satan to free Wyatt Wingfoot from demonic possession. Conway sadly fails to do anything interesting with this idea.

WHAT IF? #2 (Marvel, 1989) – “What If Daredevil Had Killed the Kingpin?”, [W] Danny Fingeroth, [A] Greg Capullo. An alternate version of Daredevil: Born Again in which Matt shoots the Kingpin dead after the Kingpin ruins his life. This is an interesting premise, but Danny Fingeroth fails to stick with it. About halfway through, this comic turns into a variation on the “Name of the Rose” storyline from Web of Spider-Man, with the Rose (Richard Fisk) and the Hobgoblin battling for control of the Kingpin’s mob. In the end, Matt, who has gone insane in the meantime, dies saving Richard from the Hobgoblin’s bomb, and Richard becomes the new Daredevil. But by that point, the story has lost all connection with “Born Again.”

DETECTIVE COMICS #844 (DC, 2008) – “Curtains,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Dustin Nguyen. A breath of fresh air after all the bad comics I’d been reading. This issue reveals the origin of the new female Ventriloquist, Peyton Riley. A scion of a mob dynasty, she was forced to marry a fellow mobster who abused her. Peyton’s husband killed her father and then tried to kill her too, but instead she discovered Scarface, who inspired her to survive and take revenge. This flashback sequence is sordid and blackly humorous, and reminds me of The Spirit or Greyshirt. In the present, Peyton succeeds in killing her husband, but also gets drowned herself. She only made one subsequent appearance, which is sad because she was a fascinating character, and in this issue the reader feels much more sympathy for her than for Batman or Zatanna. The issue ends with Bruce and Zatanna deciding not to pursue a romance. By the way, I just learned that ventriloquists can’t make the “b” sound because they have to talk without their lips moving, and that this is why Scarface pronounces B as G.

New comics received yesterday, May 11:

PAPER GIRLS #21 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. This issue’s opening sequence, where an eleven-year-old Mac visits the library, is adorable. It reminds me of my own visits to the library as a kid. The kids wake up in far-future Cleveland, which has become a creepy police state, and go to a library, where they find a literal tree of knowledge. One thing that impresses me about this issue is Cliff Chiang’s artwork. I haven’t said enough about his brilliant worldbuilding and storytelling.

ISOLA #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. My enthusiasm for this series is waning a little. Karl Kerschl’s art is gorgeous, but I wish the story would move a bit quicker. Some bandits force Rook to join them and look for Olwyn, who has been traveling with an old man from the Moro tribe. At the end, Rook is reunited with Olwyn, who’s been turned back into a human except that she still has a tiger’s head. Also it becomes obvious that Rook and Olwyn are lovers. This comic reminds me a bit of Bone because of its high fantasy setting and specifically its use of aboriginal mythology.

GIANT DAYS #39 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Julia Madrigal. The three girls go to a career fair, where Daisy gets so many job offers that she has to fend recruiters off, while Esther proves to be utterly unprepared for professional life. Also, Susan and McGraw seem to be a couple now. I don’t remember when that happened. Julia Madrigal’s artwork is a step down in quality from Max Sarin’s. She doesn’t seem to have his effortless command of the characters and setting, though I expect she’ll improve with more experience.

VAGRANT QUEEN #1 (Vault, 2018) – “The Bezoar of Kings,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. A new series about an exiled queen turned adventurer. In this debut issue, she learns about her kidnapped mother’s whereabouts and goes off to rescue her. I’ve been looking forward to this series, and it’s pretty good so far. Jason Smith’s worldbuilding is pretty good, but his storytelling could be clearer.

MOONSTRUCK #6 (Image, 2018) – “Don’t Go Drinking with Faeries,” [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. I made up that title. This issue, the two protagonists go to a frat party at a faerie fraternity. Quite prudently, they refuse to eat or drink anything, but lots of hijinks happen anyway. This issue was an improvement over the last few issues, though I still think this comic should have a stronger central premise; it’s not clear just what Moonstruck is supposed to be about. Also, Shae Beagle’s art has gotten better. An interview at the end of the issue reveals that Shae Beagle is non-binary, which helps explain her affinity for the character Chet.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #10 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. Luvander attends a meeting of other dragons, including her own father. In the course of the meeting, we learn Luvander’s origin. She let a human have some of her treasure, thereby making herself look weak and hurting the reputation of dragonkind, and as punishment she was trapped in human form. This origin story is rather poignant, and gives us a much better understanding of Lu and her people.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #31 (Marvel, 2018) – “Bad Buzz,” [W] Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder, [A] Ray-Anthony Height. Anti-drug and anti-smoking comics are usually preachy pieces of crap, but this comic is awesome, because it has an actual story and it doesn’t talk down to the reader. The issue begins with a scene where Lunella and her mom are gardening. This scene is just perfect; it’s a completely realistic depiction of a child interacting with a parent. This scene also introduces the plot, which is that Lunella’s mother and everyone else on the Lower East Side are suddenly addicted to cigarettes. It turns out this is because of a plot by the Swarm, a villain made of bees, which actually makes sense because nicotine does make bees faster. (Though it also appears to harm them.) Lunella and Devil defeat the plot, and all the people who were addicted to smoking give it up. This issue does end with Lunella lecturing the reader about the dangers of smoking. But the reader is more willing to accept this message because Reeder and Montclare have conveyed their anti-smoking message in a subtle way, as part of a story which is interesting in its own right. Most other similar comics have no story to speak of, and they clobber the reader over the head with the lesson that smoking (or drugs, etc.) is wrong.

DAZZLER: X-SONG #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Laura Braga. This one-shot is one of Mags’s best comics yet. Dazzler resumes her musical career and cultivates an audience of young mutants and Inhumans, who are hungry for a safe space where they can be themselves. But Dazzler’s concerts are disrupted by bullies who want to exclude Inhumans from mutant-friendly spaces. The mutant purists in this issue are clearly analogous to TERFs, who think that female-friendly spaces should be exclusive to cis women, and that female solidarity should exclude trans women. This analogy is especially relevant since the writer of this issue is herself a trans woman. However, Mags never makes this comparison explicitly, and the issue can be read as an an analogy for any situation where members of a minority group try to act as gatekeepers and decide who gets to be in that group. This issue is an example of how the mutant metaphor – the analogy between mutants and actual minority groups – is powerful because of its versatility. Mutants don’t directly correspond to any actual group of humans. Therefore, they can be used as analogies for any group of humans who are perceived as different from the norm.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Javier Garrón. Thanks to a teleport gone wrong, Nadia Pym and Scott Lang get stuck on a microworld. This is a pretty fun and lighthearted comic, though not as much so as The Unstoppable Wasp (which is getting a sequel, yay!). Nadia’s speech pattern in this issue is different than in Unstoppable Wasp, and I don’t remember Scott Lang being quite this irresponsible.

ARCHIE #31 (Archie, 2018) – “The Gang’s All Here,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Audrey Mok. At the dance, Cheryl and Jason’s dad, Eddie Sheets, locks the doors to the gym and then threatens to shoot everyone. The issue ends on a cliffhanger. This is an exciting comic, which I coincidentally read on the same day as I finished Ian McEwan’s Saturday, a novel about a similar hostage situation. I don’t understand how Eddie got into the gym after he locked the doors, but I expect that will be a plot point next issue.

Enormous review post

New comics received on April 14:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #31 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. This issue’s cover contains the hidden message “BYE ERICA WE LOVE YOU,” and the story inside is a fitting end to Erica’s run, as well as one of the best issues of the whole series. Doreen and Nancy are hit by a weapon that causes them to move extremely fast, so they live out their entire lives over the course of a weekend. Stuck in a frozen, silent world, they labor to build a time machine before they die of old age. This issue is amazingly poignant. It shows us the strength of Doreen’s bond with her best friend, and it’s very sad when they have to wipe out their memories and return to their younger bodies. Also, you get the sense that Ryan North has thought deeply about this issue’s premise and has explored all of its logical consequences. Ryan seems like a lighthearted humorist, but he’s also just as much of a logical, exact thinker as Jason Shiga or Randall Munroe. A disturbing implication of this issue is that the Flash should age really fast, since he spends most of his life traveling at superspeed (though I guess there are some official explanations for why this doesn’t happen).

EXILES #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodriguez. I never read the previous Exiles series, except for some issues from very late in the run that I received for free. Luckily this issue does not require knowledge of other Exiles comics. In this new series, Blink, the main protagonist of the previous Exiles series, has to assemble a team of superheroes from various realities in order to defeat a universe-destroying monster. This issue only introduces two of the other team members, but the best character so far is the elderly, battle-hardened Kamala Khan. In general this issue is a promising debut, with strong artwork. I like how Rodriguez’s version of Blink looks like a black woman with pink skin, whereas most other artists’ takes on this character are totally de-ethnicized.

DODGE CITY #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Josh Trujillo, [A] Cara McGee. Like all Boom! Box comics, this comic is fun and exciting. But so far, Dodge City is inferior to Fence or Slam! because of its lack of clarity. After two issues, I still don’t know who these characters are, or how old they are, or what kind of dodgeball league they’re playing in, or why they play dodgeball. This comic doesn’t even explain the rules of dodgeball, and I could use an explanation because I haven’t played dodgeball since junior high.

ETERNITY GIRL #2 (DC, 2018) – “Signal,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Sonny Liew. Another issue that alternates between Caroline’s real life and her dreams about a bizarre Kirbyesque world. For me the most interesting thing about this issue is the scene where Dani takes Caroline to a comedy show, and then Caroline gets mad at Dani, saying “I can’t believe you thought I’d be into this.” This scene tests the reader’s sympathy for Caroline, because Dani was just trying to help Caroline, at her own expense, and she doesn’t deserve this vitriol. But this seems like a common scenario with depressed people: ironically, their very depression makes it difficult for them to help themselves or even accept help from others. So this series is quite a realistic and unflattering depiction of depression. Also, Sonny Liew’s artwork is spectacular.

DEAD DUCK AND ZOMBIE CHICK: RISING FROM THE GRAVE #1 (Source Point, 2016) – “The Demon Tuber of Queen Street” and other stories, [W/A] Jay Fosgitt. This issue reprints several of Fosgitt’s early works. The stories in this issue are a bit confusing and disjointed and contain some mildly sexist humor, but Fosgitt’s artwork and design are brilliant. This comic isn’t quite as good as Bodie Troll, but it is an important step in his artistic development.

GIDEON FALLS #2 (Image, 2018) – “All the Little Sinners Say Hallelujah,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This issue makes it easier to understand what’s going on: the insane dude, Norton, is collecting pieces of the black barn that the priest thinks he saw. But it’s not yet clear what the black barn is, or why only these two people can see it. A weird thing about this issue is that the reader is supposed to sympathize with Norton because he’s the protagonist, even though everyone thinks he’s crazy. Yet Norton’s therapist and all the other characters in the story are perfectly justified in thinking Norton is crazy. They don’t get to see the evidence of Norton’s sanity that the reader sees, and Norton acts exactly like a crazy person would act. So this comic is an interesting example of how works of fiction create a bias in favor of whichever character happens to be the protagonist.

SWORD OF AGES #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Nightmares” etc., [W/A] Gabriel Rodriguez. This continues to be one of the best-drawn comics of the year. It’s a rare example of an American comic whose art is at the level of a European comic. However, this comic’s plot is difficult to follow and also somewhat unoriginal.

SEA OF THIEVES #2 (Titan, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Rhoald Marcellus. I forgot to order the first issue of this video game adaptation, because I didn’t realize it was written by Jeremy. As a result, I didn’t understand the plot of this comic, which is about a bunch of opposing groups of pirates. And it suffers from the obvious comparison to Raven, because the characters aren’t as interesting.

BLOODSHOT: REBORN #0 (Valiant, 2015) – “Colorado,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Mico Suayan. Someone told me on Facebook that this series was good, and it’s written by Jeff Lemire, so I thought it was worth trying. In this $1 jumping-on-point issue, Bloodshot, a Punisher-esque killing machine with regenerative powers, is trying to live a normal life. But his mind keeps messing with him, and someone who looks like him is going on a killing spree. I usually don’t read comics that resemble Punisher, but this comic is effectively written and shows deep insight into Bloodshot’s personality, making me want to read more of the series.

BLOODSHOT: SALVATION #8 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Renato Guedes. This is the latest issue. It has more of a fantasy element than Bloodshot: Reborn #0, as Bloodshot fights to save his dying daughter from hell. The image of a powerful warrior carrying a baby reminds me of Lone Wolf & Cub. I don’t completely understand what’s happening in this issue, but it’s exciting.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Doom’s Day,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Valerio Schiti. Ben, Johnny and Rachna try to rally the heroes of Earth-Whatever against Doom/Galactus. This was an average issue with no particularly spectacular moments.

On Sunday, April 15, I went to the latest Charlotte Comic Convention. As usual I bought a lot of stuff. As I was running out of energy to buy more comics, I discovered a booth I hadn’t seen before, which had about ten 25-cent boxes full of indie comics from the ’80s and ’90s. Those are exactly the kind of comics I’m most interested in right now, and I love hunting through quarter boxes, so I wondered if maybe someone was setting a trap for me.

Some comics I bought at this show:

CATWOMAN #1 (DC, 2002) – “Anodyne, Part One,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Darwyn Cooke. This is the only issue of this run I was missing. It’s not Darwyn’s absolute best work, but it’s still bravura display of storytelling, and an effective introduction to the series. For me the highlight of the issue was Selina’s cat rubbing her under the chin. Every Catwoman comic should have scenes of Selina interacting with her cats.

JUDGMENT DAY AFTERMATH #1 (Awesome, 1998) – “Trial by Tempest” and other segments, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Gil Kane. I didn’t even know this comic existed, and it was a delightful discovery, especially given that it’s the only collaboration between these two Hall of Fame creators. This comic was meant as an introduction to the new Awesome universe. It consists of a series of segments featuring various superheroes, together with a framing sequence starring a character named the Imagineer who is obviously Gil himself. Despite low production values and glaring lettering errors, this comic is a joyful celebration of Silver Age superheroes. Even at the end of his life, Gil was as brilliant an artist as ever, though his style is not suited for computer coloring. The most interesting of the segments is the one that stars Glory; it includes a visit to the “realm of moonlight and imagination,” which seems like a prototype for the Immateria in Promethea.

BLACK PANTHER #10 (Marvel, 1999) – “Enemy of the State Book Two,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Mike Manley. I bought a bunch of Black Panther comics at the convention. I was surprised at how cheap they were because I expected that every Black Panther comic would go way up in price. This issue is most notable for revealing Hunter’s origin. The plot of “Enemy of the State” makes a lot more sense now that I’ve seen the movie.

VOID INDIGO #1 (Marvel/Epic, 1984) – “Killing to be Clever,” [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Val Mayerik. This comic is about ancient superhuman beings who are resurrected in modern-day California. It’s a sequel to an earlier graphic novel. It was intended as an ongoing series, but was cancelled after just two issues because of poor reviews and excessive violence. According to the Slings & Arrows Guide, it was better than any of Gerber’s subsequent works, and I can believe that. This comic’s plot is hard to follow, especially if one hasn’t read the graphic novel, but it’s exciting and bizarre, and highly reminiscent of Gerber’s cosmic stories from the ’70s. The violence is nothing special by contemporary standards. This issue includes a reference to Zhered-Na, a character from Man-Thing, although the story doesn’t appear to be set in the Marvel Universe.

SPIDER-WOMAN #40 (Marvel, 1981) – “Flying Tiger – Kills!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. Spider-Woman battles a villain called the Flying Tiger, suffers serious injuries, and starts training in martial arts to recuperate. This comic isn’t as good as Claremont’s Ms. Marvel, let alone his X-Men, but it is interesting; it has a complicated plot and interesting characters, and has nothing to do with Spider-Man except its name.

USAGI YOJIMBO #9 (Mirage, 1994) – “Slavers,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi meets a young boy whose fellow villagers have all been enslaved by bandits. Usagi sends the boy to get help, while disguising himself as a bandit so he can infiltrate the slavers. But Usagi’s scheme goes wrong and the slavers discover he’s a samurai, while also claiming to have found and killed the boy. To be continued. This story was so thrilling that after reading it, I rushed to my boxes to check if I had issue 10. It turns out I don’t, so I will have to wait to find out what happens next.

THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE #3 (Epic, 1993) – “The Garage Hermetic,” [W/A] Moebius. This is a comic-book-format reprint of one of Moebius’s most famous albums, which was itself assembled from chapters published in Métal Hurlant. On its own it makes basically no narrative sense, and this is not just because I missed the first two issues, but also because Moebius seems to have been making stuff up as he went along. The “plot summary” of one of the chapters even makes fun of the comic’s illogical nature: “Our story: Lewis Carnelian had a garage in which he parked all his vehicles. But… but this garage was airtight! Alas!” (Incidentally, Lewis Carnelian was originally named Jerry Cornelius, but was renamed because Moebius mistakenly thought Michael Moorcock disapproved of his use of the name.) What makes this comic a major classic is the artwork, which is at least as good as the art in The Incal. It reveals a visual imagination equal to Kirby’s, and somehow manages to look both slick and dingy at once. This comic needs to be reprinted ASAP. I wish Dark Horse would get around to publishing Moebius’s major works like The Airtight Garage and Arzach, instead of wasting time on minor late works like The Art of Edena and Inside Moebius.

WONDER WOMAN #227 (DC, 1977) – “My World… in Ashes!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] José Delbo. This is an underrated classic. It’s easily one of the best pre-Crisis Wonder Woman stories I’ve read, although that’s not saying much, because pre-Crisis Wonder Woman was usually quite bad. This issue’s plot is that Hephaestus is plotting to destroy Carnegie Hall during a concert by Julie Gabriel, a famous diva who’s notorious for stage fright and moodiness. Wonder Woman defeats Hephaestus, but at the cost of the life of Julie Garland, who burns to death while singing her signature song, “Confetti.” Julie Gabriel is a fascinating character, with a psychological depth that was rare in Wonder Woman comics at the time. All she knows how to do is sing, but her psychological problems make it increasingly hard for her to do even that. But Julie Gabriel became even more fascinating when, thanks to Google research, I realized she was based on Judy Garland – which shows how old this comic is, because readers in 1977 would have instantly realized who Julie Garland was. With that context, this comic becomes a beautiful tribute to Judy Garland’s brilliant career and her tragic death. The image of Julie dying even as she sings her greatest song is very striking. I especially like the lyrics of “Confetti,” which Martin seems to have written himself: “Snow used to fall when the world was a ball / but it broke and the snow was confetti.”

MY LOVE #12 (Marvel, 1971) – “The Look of Love!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Enrique Monserratt, plus other stories. At the show, I found this in a 50-cent box along with some other interesting old comics, but most of the best stuff in that booth was gone before I got there. This issue only has one new story, but it’s fascinating because of Monserratt’s artwork. I hadn’t heard of this artist before, but apparently he was a Spanish artist who worked with Josep Toutain’s agency. His design sense is brilliant, especially his fashions. This issue also includes some reprinted stories with art by Matt Baker and Jay Scott Pike. However, the writing in this comic is uniformly terrible, although the Jay Scott Pike story is at least unusual because it doesn’t have a happy ending.

CALEXIT #2 (Black Mask, 2018) – “Moments Like This Never Last,” [W] Matteo Pizzolo, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. This comic got some positive buzz, and I probably should have been ordering it, although this issue is the most recent yet. Calexit is about a near-future dystopian America in which California secedes and descends into civil war. This comic is very long and is disturbing to read because of extreme violence, but it’s quite politically astute and well-drawn, and it contains some powerful scenes. Early in the comic, a man is stabbed to death with a pool cue. And it gets worse; later, a dying pregnant woman is refused an ambulance, and two characters trying to flee down the coast are beaten by militarized police wearing face shields. Again, this is quite tough to read, but seems very realistic. I will plan on ordering any future issues of this series if I see them in Previews.

BATGIRL #6 (DC, 2017) – “Beyond Burnside, Epilogue,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. At the convention, I was able to get most of the issues of this series that I skipped when they came out. This issue, while on her flight back to Gotham, Batgirl discovers that one of her fellow passengers is Poison Ivy, and they team up to defeat one of Ivy’s plants which has gone out of control. This was an okay issue, but not nearly as good as the three that followed it (see below).

BLUE DEVIL #1 (DC, 1984) – “How to Trap a Demon,” [W] Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn, [A] Paris Cullins. This series has the same writers as Amethyst, and I heard that it was comparable in quality to that series. This issue is a pretty basic origin story, in which a Hollywood stuntman encounters a demon who imprisons him in a devil suit. It’s not all that promising, but I’d be willing to read more Blue Devil comics.

THE JAM #1 (Slave Labor, 1989) – untitled, [W/A] Bernie Mireault. A confusingly plotted but effectively drawn debut issue in which an eccentric superhero prevents a suicide attempt. I don’t quite get the point of this series yet, but the Slings & Arrows Guide praises it highly, and I’d like to read more of it.

MICKEY MOUSE #249 (Gladstone, 1989) – “The Land of Long Ago, Part II,” [W/A] Floyd Gottfredson, [W] Merrill de Maris. The conclusion of a lost-world story in which Mickey, Goofy, and a certain Professor Dustibones are trapped on an island of cavemen and dinosaurs. It has Gottfredson’s usual combination of humor, suspense, and intricate plotting. These Gladstone Mickey reprints are a cheap way to obtain some amazing comics.

BLOODSHOT REBORN #10 (Valiant, 2016) – “The Analog Man, Part 1,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Lewis Larosa. The bulk of this issue takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, where an elderly Bloodshot is the guardian of a small town located just outside a giant walled city. Needing to get water for his town, he encounters a giant army of Shadowmen, and then Ninjak. There’s also a brief present-day sequence involving Bloodshot and his girlfriend Magic. This issue is an intriguing start to a new story arc.

THE JACKAROO #3 (Eternity, 1990) – “Down & Out in Dugga Dugga,” [W/A] Gary Chaloner. I bought this mostly because it’s an example of Australian comics, but it turns out to be very good. It’s an adventure story set mostly in rural Australia. Chaloner has a very distinctive and slick style, and his writing has a notably Australian feel to it. The backup story, with art by Jason Paulos, is not as attractively drawn. I believe Jason Paulos used to collaborate with an old Internet friend of mine, Paul Newell.

BLACK PANTHER #7 (Marvel, 1999) – “Caged,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Joe Jusko. T’Challa and Everett Ross are kidnapped by henchmen of Kraven. After they escape, T’Challa discovers that it was White Wolf/Hunter who hired Kraven. Nakia and Okoye have a brief conversation about Nakia’s unrequited passion for T’Challa, and the Busiek/Pérez version of the Avengers appear at the end of the issue. This issue was much easier to understand than most of Priest’s Black Panther comics.

BATGIRL #7 (DC, 2017) – “Son of Penguin, Part 1,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. Batgirl deals with gentrification, begins her new MALS program, and meets a potential love interest, Ethan, who happens to be the son of the Penguin. Also, Ethan is the creator of an app called Safestreets that hipsters can use to have homeless people kidnapped. This issue is very cleverly written and offers some insightful commentary on the issue of gentrification. By the way, the other day I was walking around NoDa, which is basically Charlotte’s version of Burnside, and I realized that I hate neighborhoods like that; they’re so phony and insincere.

THE VISITOR: HOW AND WHY HE STAYED #1 (Dark Horse, 201) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paul Grist. As noted in my review of #3, I should have ordered this comic when it came out, but I didn’t know the art was by Paul Grist. This issue depicts Hellboy’s early years from the perspective of the Visitor, an alien who was assigned to monitor Hellboy, but realized that Hellboy could be a force for good. It’s an intriguing story, and Grist’s artwork is beautiful, as usual.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #60 (DC, 1994) – “End of an Era, Part Three: Infinite Possibilities,” [W] Tom McCraw & Mark Waid, [A] Stuart Immonen. This is one of the last issues of v4 I was missing; I’ve assembled an almost complete run of v4 without realizing it. This issue is part of the “End of an Era” crossover that led to the reboot of the franchise. It contains a lot of pointless fight scenes and bad retcons, but it does contain a few cute scenes, including a two-page splash depicting all the surviving members of both Legions. I believe this issue is the final appearance of Catspaw and the Infinite Man.

THE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #26 (Archie, 1963) – “Reel Adventure” and other stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling & Dexter Taylor. I bought this issue from the same dealer who sold me a few other issues of Little Archie. It includes three Bob Bolling stories of more than one page. In “A Reel Adventure,” Little Archie accidentally films two criminals committing a crime, and they chase him to get the camera back. This story includes a funny exchange: “I always went to the toy department as a kid.” “It’s hard to imagine you as a kid, Sharkey.” “Well, you gotta start stealing somewhere.” In “Made for Trouble,” Little Archie meets a demon who offers to let Archie battle his entire lifetime of troubles; if Little Archie wins, he’ll never have any troubles again. But the fight is a draw, so the demon promises that Little Archie won’t have any more troubles than anyone else. This story is the highlight of the issue. “Daddy’s Diet” is a rare Polly Cooper appearance, in which Polly tries to force her dad to stick to his diet.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY #2 (Marvel, 1976) – “Vira the She-Demon!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. This issue is a self-contained story that follows the same plot structure as the book and movie it’s based on. The title character is a warlike cavewoman who encounters the Monolith, which inspires her to set herself up as a goddess. Vira’s story occupies half the issue. It ends with a brilliant segue, probably inspired by the famous bone-to-spaceship transition in the 2001 film, in which a panel depicting Vira sitting in a cave is followed by a panel depicting a female astronaut, Vera Gentry, sitting in a spaceship. (See http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/kirby/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2017/05/k009.jpg.) There follows a sequence in which Vera encounters another monolith and becomes a Star Child.

SHE WOLF #1 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. This miniseries, about a girl who turns into a werewolf, appears to be an homage to ’70s and ’80s horror films. However, its plot is so compressed and abbreviated that it’s difficult to figure out what’s going on. As a result this issue is inferior to any other Tommaso comic I’ve read, though his artwork and design are as fascinating as usual.

DOMINO #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Lottery,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeon. I’ve been kind of unimpressed with Gail’s comics lately, but this debut issue is cute, sexy and exciting, and it also has an adorable dog in it. I plan to continue reading this series.

IRON MAN #88 (Marvel, 1976) – “Fear Wears Two Faces!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] George Tuska. This is an early appearance of the Blood Brothers, Thanos’s henchmen, and thus a minor chapter of the ongoing Thanos saga. It also includes subplots involving Pepper and Happy and Roxanne Gilbert. It’s an okay issue but not great.

STARSLAYER #16 (First, 1984) – “S.A.M.,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tim Truman. The Starslayer story in this issue is only notable for Truman’s artwork. The plot is basically that Torin Mac Quillon acts like the jerk he is, and gets jealous of Tam for being attracted to someone else. It’s no wonder that Mike Grell abandoned Starslayer so quickly, because it wasn’t that great of a series. This issue is much more important for including an early Grimjack story, in which Grimjack is forced to kill a vampire who he used to regard as a little brother. This story deals with Grimjack’s origins on a Celtic-themed fantasy world. This aspect of his character was rarely mentioned later.

FBP #3 (DC, 2013) – “Paradigm Shift, Part Three,” [W] Simon Oliver, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. The premise of this series is not clear from this issue, but as I learned from reading issue 1 (see below), it takes place on a world where the laws of physics change without notice. This present issue doesn’t do anything all that interesting with this premise, and it’s mostly notable for Robbi Rodriguez’s art. However, FBP seems to have been much less suited to Robbi’s talents than Spider-Gwen, and it doesn’t really provide him with an opportunity to demonstrate what he can do.

SPIDER-WOMAN #44 (Marvel, 1982) – “Vengeance!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. This issue’s splash page feels like a ripoff of Frank Miller’s Daredevil. This issue explains the mystery behind the Viper’s obsession with Jessica Drew, by revealing that Viper is Jessica’s mother! That piece of continuity was retconned away less than a year later (https://www.cbr.com/the-abandoned-an-forsaked-is-the-viper-spider-womans-mom-or-what/). A subplot in this issue involves Jessica’s rivalry with Morgan le Fey.

INCREDIBLE HULK #192 (Marvel, 1975) – “The Lurker Beneath Loch Fear!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Herb Trimpe. The Hulk finds himself in Scotland and gets involved in a plot to kill the monster beneath Loch Ness, I mean Fear. Half the fun of this story is that it’s full of Scottish stereotypes, and all the characters except Bruce speak in exaggerated Scottish accents.

ANGEL AND THE APE #3 (DC, 1991) – “Family Feud,” [W/A] Phil Foglio. Angel and the Ape team up with the Inferior Five to battle Gorilla Grodd. It turns out that Grodd is Sam Simeon’s grandfather, and Dumb Bunny of the Inferior Five is Angel’s sister. The climactic fight scene in this issue employs a bizarre panel structure in which Grodd’s origin story occupies a giant panel in the center, and the fight scene is depicted in a ring of panels around the outside. This comic is reasonably fun, and I wouldn’t mind reading the rest of this miniseries, but it’s not as well-crafted as Bob Oksner’s original series.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’91 #30 (DC, 1991) – “Welcome to the War!”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. This is kind of like a Legion try-out issue, except that almost no one gets rejected. It introduces several notable characters, including Ig’nea, Bertron Diib and Amon Hakk. The narration, which consists of excerpts from a manual for L.E.G.I.O.N. trainees, is quite funny. This issue also includes a poignant moment where Lyrissa Mallor visits her mother’s statue, and a fight scene where Phase beats up Lobo.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #117 (Fawcett, 1973) – “The Menace of the Seas” and other stories, uncredited. This giant-sized issue consists of a number of cute, funny and well-crafted stories. My favorite is “Something Fishy,” in which Dennis takes a nap at the beach and dreams about encountering various sea creatures.

NEW MUTANTS #40 (Marvel, 1986) – “Avengers Assemble!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Jackson Guice. The conclusion to a three-part story in which the New Mutants transfer to the Massachusetts Academy and experience a series of nightmares. The explanation for the odd story title is that while trying to locate his missing students, Magneto gets in a fight with the Avengers. Unfortunately, the kids’ recovery from their mental illness is dealt with in just three panels, although there is one very poignant panel where Rahne sits on Magneto’s lap and asks to be returned to her mother.

SUPERMAN #5 (DC, 1987) – “The Mummy Strikes,” [W/A] John Byrne. Because of my disdain for Byrne, I haven’t been actively collecting this run of Superman stories. But in 1987, John could still draw quite well, and this is a very attractive issue. The most interesting thing in it is the silent opening sequence, which turns out to be a dream Superman is having about Wonder Woman. In the main plot, Superman follows Lois to a fictional South American country, where he battles a giant robot wrapped in mummy bandages.

FBP #1 (Vertigo, 2013) – “The Paradigm Shift, Part One,” as above. As noted previously, this issue explains this series’ plot. It’s set in a world where the laws of physics change randomly, resulting in things like localized gravity failures, and the protagonist is a member of an agency that enforces the laws of physics. Unfortunately, Simon Oliver is not capable of exploiting the full potential of this premise, and much of the issue consists of dialogue scenes, which are not what Robbi is best at. Robbi does do a good job of depicting the action sequences and the violations of normal physics.

SUICIDE SQUAD #11 (DC, 1987) – “Blood & Snow, Part One,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Luke McDonnell. Mari McCabe, a.k.a. Vixen, has retired as a superhero to become a model, but while she’s on a photoshoot, her coworkers are murdered by a Colombian drug lord. The Suicide Squad team up with Vixen and Speedy on a somewhat morally problematic mission to assassinate the drug lord. This issue is full of fun moments. Besides the just-summarized sequence with Vixen, there’s also a scene where the Mirror Master robs a bank, but surprisingly starts speaking in an Australian accent, and then you realize it’s Captain Boomerang using the Mirror Master’s equipment.

ACTION COMICS #424 (DC, 1973) – “Gorilla Grodd’s Grandstand Play!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Curt Swan. An excellent issue. When Gorilla City’s existence is inadvertently revealed to the world, Solovar visits New York to make a speech at the United Nations. And of course Grodd shows up to spoil everything. This issue’s premise – a gorilla speaking at the United Nations – is inherently very funny, and Elliot wisely allows the humor of this premise to reveal itself, rather than hitting the reader over the head with how funny it is. And there are some awesome fight scenes between Superman and the super-gorillas. There’s also a surprisingly poignant moment where Lois thinks Superman is dead and collapses into Clark’s arms. But then Clark says they’re reporters and they have a job to do, and Lois agrees, and Clark looks at the reader with a sad half-smile (https://www.instagram.com/p/Bh0n61dn2ly/?taken-by=aaronkashtan). At the end of the story, Lois rejects the idea of a romance with Clark, and Clark looks sad for three whole panels, then laughs his head off – but I’m not sure what he’s laughing at. This issue also includes an okay Green Arrow backup story, also written by Elliot.

New comics received on April 21:

MS. MARVEL #29 (Marvel, 2018) – “Something New, Part One,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. What an amazing comic book. It’s funny and heartwarming, and the whole time I was reading it, I was going AWWW. The issue begins with the birth of Kamala’s nephew, Malik Theodore. Then Kamala has her first kiss, with Red Dagger – and then realizes that Bruno is watching. A flashback depicts Bruno and his Wakandan friend Kwazi enduring the hell-on-earth that is Newark Airport. Then Kamala visits her sheikh, who gives her some very wise advice. In the midst of all the relationship drama, here’s also a very funny sequence in which Kwazi behaves just like a typical American visitor to a developing country (https://www.instagram.com/p/Bh1_ds3FAuR/?taken-by=aaronkashtan). This was one of the most emotionally affecting comics I’ve read lately, and I can’t wait for the next issue.

ANTAR: THE BLACK KNIGHT #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Eric Battle. I’m embarrassed to admit that this is only the second Nnedi Okorafor work I’ve read, after Who Fears Death. I loved that book, though, and I’ve been excited to read her comics. This new series is an adaptation of the Sirat Antar, an Arabian oral epic based on the life of the pre-Islamic Arab warrior poet Antar ibn Shaddad. This first issue depicts Antar’s birth, to an Arab magnate and an Ethiopian slave woman, and his tortured childhood. It ends with him killing a lion that’s just killed his best friend. This is a very emotionally charged story, which Eric Battle illustrates effectively. My main criticism is that this comic doesn’t provide very much background. I love the idea of a comic adaptation of a non-Western mythical/romantic tradition. But while Antar is (I assume) a household name in the Muslim world, his story is basically unknown in America – there isn’t even an English translation of the Sirat Antar. I am not saying that Antar’s story doesn’t matter, or that American readers shouldn’t be expected to do some research and learn more about him. I just think that some more explanation of this story’s cultural context and significance would help it reach a wider audience.

FENCE #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Seiji finally loses a match. Nicholas regains some of his lost confidence. This was a good issue, as usual, but was somewhat overshadowed by Ms. Marvel #29.

MISTER MIRACLE #8 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Another bizarre and perfect blend of domesticity and epic cosmic warfare. A beautiful, adorable depiction of Scott and Barda’s first year of parenthood is juxtaposed with a succession of horrific battle scenes. The issue ends with Jacob (who I hadn’t realized was named after Jack Kirby) saying his first word.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #65 (IDW, 2018) – “Queen for One Less Day,” [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Andy Price. Like Death or Haroun al-Rashid, Queen Celestia spends one day a year in the form of an ordinary pony, so that she can observe her subjects more closely. While Celestia is observing this tradition, an evil old hag pony steals the amulet containing her powers, and she has to enlist Twilight and Starlight’s aid to get it back. This is a terrific issue, with some of Andy’s best artwork in a while, which is unsurprising since Celestia is his pet character. And it effectively delivers a lesson about teacher-student relationships.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. This issue is disappointing because it teases the reader with the prospect of a solution to the series’ central mystery, only to yank that solution away. Back at Black Hammer Farm, Lucy announces that she knows where they are and how they can get home. But before she can say anything, she’s yanked away to an even weirder place: a bar full of monsters. So instead of answers, we only get more questions.

ASSASSINISTAS #4 (IDW, 2018) – “The Thing That Grew Inside Me!!”, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. The big revelation this issue is that the villain is not Rosalyn but her daughter. Beto’s artwork in this series has been as excellent as usual, but Tini Howard is also an impressive talent. She writes great dialogue and she does a great job of fleshing out the characters, although some of that is probably due to Beto’s skill at depicting emotions. I’d read a Tini Howard comic even if it wasn’t drawn by Beto.

BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #3 (DC, 2018) – “Crusader,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] John Paul Leon. Bruce learns that the Commissioner Gordon character is evil, and that his world is so corrupt and apathetic that even Batman can’t help much. This series is one of the grimmest, darkest things Kurt has written, whereas Superman: Secret Identity is one of the warmest and sunniest, and I think this is deliberate. The difference between the two series mirrors the difference between Superman and Batman.

USAGI YOJIMBO: THE HIDDEN #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden, Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Ishida collect more clues. It becomes clear that the Kirishitans are at the heart of the mystery, and that Ishida’s supervisor dislikes him. Because this issue is part two of seven, it doesn’t advance the plot much.

SUPER SONS #15 (DC, 2018) – “End of Innocence, Part One,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. A below-average issue which consists mostly of a fight between the two boys and Kid Amazo.

LUCY DREAMING #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Michael Dialynas. We get a pseudoscientific explanation of Lucy’s powers, and Lucy projects herself into another dream world, which is an obvious parody of The Hunger Games. At the end, Lucy meets a mysterious boy who must be important somehow. “This machine caused your brain to warp into the body of a living myth” is a terrible line, but otherwise this was a good issue.

DESCENDER #29 (Image, 2018) – “The End of the Universe 1 of 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. The war continues. The old Descender dude gets Tim to summon the Descenders, but they refuse to help. Telsa’s dad reveals that the GC has their own Harvester, but only Tim can operate it. Obviously the only way to save the universe is for Tim and Andy to act together, but how?

SUPERB #9 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Everything We Hold Dear,” [W] David Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Alitha Martinez. Another issue that advances the plot very little. I really like the ideas behind this series, and I enjoy the characterization, but the plot has been moving at a glacial pace.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC ANNUAL 2018 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brenda Hickey. The Pillars of Equestria travel to another dimension to rescue Celestia and Luna, who have been abducted by a villain who turns out to be Stygian’s alternate self. This issue was an exciting adventure story with some fun interactions between the team members, but it was not spectacular, and the twist ending was predictable.

THE VISITOR: HOW AND WHY HE STAYED #2 – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paul Grist. See the review of #1 above. This issue, the Visitor witnesses another of Hellboy’s early adventures, and forms a relationship with a woman named Ruby. I guess she’s the Kathy Sutton to his Red Tornado.

GREEN LANTERN #96 (DC, 1977) – “How Can an Immortal… Die?”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Mike Grell. Katma Tui travels to Earth to enlist Hal Jordan’s aid against a monster that’s enslaved the Guardians and the other Green Lanterns. The main plot of this issue is less interesting than the scenes back on Earth, with Ollie, Carol and Dinah trying to revive Katma. These scenes have some sexist moments, such as Dinah feeling jealous that Ollie is paying so much attention to Katma. But this issue does have one panel in which three different women all have lines of dialogue, which is unusual in a ’70s DC comic.

ACTION COMICS #1000 (DC, 2018) – “From the City That Has Everything,” [W/A] Dan Jurgens, plus many other stories. This was rather disappointing. The gold standard of anniversary issues is Superman #400, and Action Comics #1000 tries to achieve that same level of quality and talent, but fails. The Dan Jurgens story that begins the issue really grates on my nerves. I just can’t accept that Clark is as impatient as this story indicates, or that so much assistance from other superheroes was necessary just to get Clark to attend a ceremony. Most of the other stories in the issue are just average. It is nice that this issue includes a posthumous Curt Swan story, although it appears to be an old unfinished inventory story, with a pinup added as the last page. By far the highlight of the issue is Paul Dini and José Luis García López’s “Actionland,” starring Mr. Mxyzptlk and his rarely seen girlfriend Gspie. As for the preview of Bendis’s Superman, I have made no secret of my feelings about Bendis, so I will decline comment on this story.

KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #11 (Marvel, 1982) – “Children of the Damned,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Brent Anderson. One of Jones’s weirder Ka-Zar stories. Kevin, Shanna and a winged green dude named Buth travel through an amusement-park version of Dante’s Inferno. And we learn that before Dante wrote the Divine Comedy, he chased Belasco all the way to the Savage Land to rescue Beatrice. That seems rather improbable. As usual with this series, this issue has some excellent dialogue and characterization.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #127 (DC, 1976) – “The Command is Chaos!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Dick Dillin. The JLA battles a villain called Simon Elis, a.k.a. the Anarchist, who is siphoning power from Green Lantern’s ring. This was a very lackluster issue.

BATMAN FAMILY #7 (DC, 1976) – “13 Points to a Dead End!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Curt Swan. A fairly entertaining Batgirl/Robin team-up, in which Sportsmaster and Huntress force Dick and Babs to compete against each other in various sports. Dick and Babs’s interactions are the highlight of the issue. There’s also a reprint of “The Amazing Doctor Double X!” from Detective Comics #261.

HELLBOY IN HELL #4 (Dark Horse, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Mignola. This issue has good art, but I didn’t understand a word of the story. It appears to be some kind of crossover with another Mignola series, Witchfinder.

PUNKS NOT DEAD #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Wide Awake in a Dream,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. There’s a mysterious dance epidemic in Wigan. That one purple-haired girl, Nat, is pissed at Feargal. Also, this issue prominently features the “three for a girl, four for a boy” rhyme, which is used for counting magpies, and some giant magpie creatures are looking for Feargal.

CODENAME: KNOCKOUT #13 (Vertigo, 2003) – “Fleshback ’32: Arrivederci, Roma,” [W] Robert Rodi, [A] Amanda Conner. I don’t know anything about this issue, and I bought it because of who drew it. This issue is a flashback sequence in which a female African-American secret agent travels to Italy to stop an anarchist bombing plot. I don’t know what this comic is about or how this flashback story fits into its overall narrative, but Amanda’s art is fantastic, and she makes full use of her talent for cheesecake artwork. There’s one sequence where a woman (not the secret agent) spends three pages posing nude, and then later there’s a catfight between three women. And yet this is all depicted in a very tasteful, non-exploitative way. It turns out Amanda also drew three other issues of this title, and I will have to track them down.

BATGIRL #8 (DC, 2017) – “Son of Penguin Part 2,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. This issue confusingly begins with Babs and Ethan trying to stop Two-Face from bombing a bus, but it turns out this is an escape room that they’ve visited for their first date. After a scene where Babs meets an adorable little hacker girl, she discovers another app that Ethan has created: Walkhome, a version of Uber that allows people to hire bodyguards. And it turns out one of the bodyguards is an old supervillain, Magpie (which is an odd coincidence since I just read another comic about magpies). This is a really fun issue, and its only flaw is the scene where Batgirl stops Magpie from beating up a creepy sexual harasser, because that guy really deserved to get beaten. This last-mentioned character is also a good example of a very realistic portrayal of sexual harassment.

DEFENDERS #2 (Marvel, 2001) – “The Curse,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [W/A] Erk Larsen. This series has a somewhat poor reputation, but this issue, in which the classic Defenders team reunites to battle Pluto, is not bad. It has some nice Simonson-esque artwork and some cute characterization. This comic’s main flaw is that it tries too hard to imitate the original Defenders series.

BATGIRL #9 (DC, 2017) – “Son of Penguin, Part 3,” as above. Batgirl meets the tiny hacker again and teaches her about data mining. Alyssa and Jo are having further relationship problems. Babs tries to write a paper for her library science class, but is too preoccupied – this sequence feels especially realistic. At the end of the issue, Babs finally infiltrates the company that’s making all the suspicious apps, and finds the Penguin there. This is an excellent and very underrated series – it’s one of the best DC comics of the past couple years, and Hope Larson has quietly developed into one of the top writers in the industry.

NAZA #3 (Dell, 1964) – “Ambush!”, [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Jack Sparling. This caveman comic has a fairly intricate plot but a total lack of characterization or humor. It doesn’t compare favorably to Anthro, which came out just four years later.

STAR WARS: CHEWBACCA #2 (Marvel, 2015) – “Chewbacca, Part II,” [W] Gerry Duggan, [A] Phil Noto. Part of a story in which Chewbacca helps a young girl rescue her people from slavers. This comic is competently written and drawn, but not extraordinary, and as a more-or-less silent protagonist, Chewbacca is inferior to Groot.

INCREDIBLE HULK #222 (Marvel, 1978) – “Feeding Billy,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Alfredo Alcala. The Hulk encounters two innocent little children who introduce him to their little brother, Billy. It turns out Billy is a giant cannibalistic monster who’s already eaten their parents. While trying to kill and eat the Hulk, Billy buries himself in an avalanche. This story reminds me somehow of Theodore Sturgeon’s “Baby is Three,” probably because of the monstrous infant. Disturbingly, the fate of Billy’s two orphaned siblings is left unresolved. Len should have ended the story by having Bruce take the kids to the police or something.

GROO: FRAY OF THE GODS #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [A] Mark Evanier. In the previous issue, a king named Cuffi set himself up as a god. Groo overthrows Cuffi and replaces him with his brother Saffi, who turns out to be equally bad. Meanwhile, Cuffi finds some other gullible people and sets himself up as their god. This is an okay Groo comic, but very similar to every other Groo comic.

GROO: FRAY OF THE GODS #4 (Dark Horse, 2017) – as above. I actually mistook this for issue 3, so the story confused me until I realized I’d skipped an issue. But it doesn’t really matter because the conclusion to the story is quite predictable. Both kings get dethroned and Cuffi loses his status as a god. The best moment in the issue is that Groo discovers an echo that repeats everything he says. So he says “Groo is the handsomest, smartest, and bravest hero in the world”… and the echo is silent.

MISTY #2 (Marvel, 1986) – “Ms. Heaventeen is Ms. Understood,” [W/A] Trina Robbins. The first story in this issue is a bunch of high school friendship drama. The backup series is a parody of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” framed as a story that the protagonist tells to some kids. This comic is reminiscent of Bill Woggon’s Katy Keene, in that all the characters’ clothes have notes explaining who designed them. However, the designers mostly seem to be Trina’s friends (e.g. Barb Rausch, Gilbert Hernandez and Sharon Rudahl) rather than readers of the comic. Overall, this comic was okay but not great. On Twitter, Kurt Busiek described Misty and Angel Love as “two good books aimed at audience that largely weren’t looking at comic books or going to comics shops” (https://twitter.com/KurtBusiek/status/957394674779488256), but I think Misty is worse than Angel Love.

New comics received on Friday, April 27:

SAGA #51 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. The big event this issue is that Doff is murdered by that mole-headed woman, who is one of the worst villains in a series that’s full of awful villains. However, The Will escapes from her control – that’s the meaning of the empty manacles on the last page, as I just realized when examining the comic again. Also, Marco starts writing a manuscript, and Hazel encounters a mustached kingfish.

LUMBERJANES #49 (Boom!, 2018) – “Board, Board, Board,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. Due to rain, the Lumberjanes are trapped in the mess hall and are forbidden to go outside. Ripley, April and Mal obey the letter of the law, if not its spirit, by exploring a mysterious secret tunnel below the kitchen. Meanwhile, Molly and Jo play a board game with super-complicated rules. This story arc has a much better premise than the last one. I’m very curious to see where that tunnel goes. I’m a bit surprised that Mal joined Ripley and April in doing irresponsible stuff, but it’ll be interesting to see Mal and Molly separated from each other.

THE MIGHTY THOR #706 (Marvel, 2018) – “At the Gates of Valhalla,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. A strong conclusion to the finest Thor storyline since “The Surtur Saga.” Jane is dead and about to enter into Valhalla, but Odin and Thor team up to resuscitate her. Jane’s resurrection is heartwarming, and also surprising – I was sure she was dead for good. But Jane’s superhero career is over. The final page – with Jane leaning on a cane as she looks at the sky and imagines herself as Thor – is a sublime moment, because it reminds the reader what a great hero Jane-as-Thor was. As just mentioned, the Jane Foster Saga was the best run of Thor comics in thirty years.

ABBOTT #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. I thought this was an ongoing series and I’m disappointed that it’s just a miniseries, because it’s been amazing. Elena’s been fired and her friends are all abandoning her or dying, but she’s finally found the source of her problems: Philip Howard Bellcamp (note the similarity of the name to Howard Philip Lovecraft). This issue contains a couple moments that illustrate Saladin’s sensitivity to racial issues. First, Elena visits the police station, and the duty officer assumes she’s there to bail out her son or boyfriend. And then she visits the hall of records, where an older black woman welcomes her as “our very own Brenda Starr” and reminiscences about how she wanted to be a journalist too, but when she was Elena’s age it was impossible.

THE TERRIFICS #3 (DC, 2018) – “Meet the Terrifics, Conclusion,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Joe Bennett. I forgot to order issue 2. This issue, the Terrifics battle the War Wheel while also wrestling with their own problems. Tinya, excuse me, Linnya can’t turn solid, Rex and Sapphire’s relationship is suffering thanks to Simon Stagg’s meddling, and Mr. Terrific is hiding in his lab. The one weak link in this series is Plastic Man, who Jeff Lemire incorrectly portrays as a joker, rather than a serious man in an absurd world. This is the same mistake made by every Plastic Man writer except Jack Cole and Kyle Baker. Though on the other hand, the “hardball special” panel, where Plas uses his eyes as a slingshot, is brilliant.

KILL OR BE KILLED #18 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Sadly, it turns out that the dead copycat killer was not Mason, but a new character: Buck Thomson, a racist alt-righter Iraq vet. This issue is an effective depiction of white male terrorism, though that’s not its primary purpose. Now that Buck is dead, the police assume the killings are over, but Detective Sharpe realizes Dylan wasn’t the killer and figures out Dylan’s actual identity. The letter column mentions that there are metatextual references in this issue. I assume this means that Detective Sharpe is investigating Dylan in the same way that Lois Lane investigates Superman. Also, apparently the fact that Dylan has to kill someone every month is a reference to the monthly publication schedule of superhero comic books.

EXILES #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This issue introduces the remaining team members, Valkyrie and Wolvie. Valkyrie is an excellent character, but Wolvie is the high point of the series so far. Wolvie’s happy friendly world is hilarious, and I assume Magneto stealing the pies is a reference to Luthor stealing forty cakes. I look forward to seeing how he interacts with Marvel’s grimmer worlds. As Rob Barrett pointed out on my Facebook wall, Javer Rodriguez’s art in this series is excellent.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #303 (Marvel, 2018) – “Amazing Fantasy – Part Three,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Joe Quinones. Norman Osborn kidnaps Aunt May and throws her off the Brooklyn Bridge, but the older Peter saves her – by making a web net for her to fall into, rather than grabbing her by the foot. I guess it’s firmly established in canon now that Gwen died because Peter’s webbing snapped her neck. But the issue ends with the younger Peter throwing his costume in the trash and walking away. This issue is an effective tribute to old Spider-Man comics, while also adding some new stuff.

MARVEL RISING #0 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Devin Grayson, [A] Marco Failla. I wonder why this wasn’t an FCBD title. I gave up on Devin Grayson after her disastrous 1999-2000 Titans series, but this is a very fun story and a good introduction to a new title. And it offers the unique pleasure of seeing Doreen Green team up with Kamala Khan.

BATGIRL #22 (DC, 2018) – “Strange Loop, Part One,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Minkyu Jung. Babs is shot while saving a woman from her murderous ex-husband (an even worse character than the creep from issue 8), but recovers and defeats him. Then Babs encounters two characters from this series’ first storyline. At the end of the issue, Babs learns that she actually hasn’t recovered from being shot, and the events since then have all been happening in her mind. I was under the impression that Hope Larson was leaving after the next issue, because #24 was solicited as being written by Shawn Aldridge, but I guess that issue is just a fill-in.

BABYTEETH #10 (Aftershock, 2010) – “Son of a Bitch,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. We’ve finally reached the flashforward in issue 1, where Sadie says that when her son is old enough to understand her message, she’ll be gone. This statement turns out to be misleading, because as we learn in this issue, Clark is immortal and ages very slowly. So Sadie will die before Clark grows up. Also, Heather grabs Clark and travels through a portal into “the Red Realm,” and the old assassin dude sacrifices himself so Sadie and her dad can escape.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #30 (Marvel, 2018) – “1+2=Fantastic Three, Part Six of Six: World’s Greatest Comic Magazine,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Devil Dinosaur defeats the Super-Skrull by stepping on him, and with that, this overly long storyline is finally over. I expect the next one will be better.

DAYGLOAYHOLE #1 (Silver Sprocket, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Ben Passmore. This comic is exciting, but also confusing and difficult. It takes place in a postapocalyptic world and has two protagonists, an old bearded poet-wanderer and a younger adventurer type. It also contains a lot of fourth-wall breaking. I’m not sure yet what this comic is about, but its art is excellent and it clearly has high artistic aspirations, so I plan to continue reading it.

LOCKJAW #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Funny Business,” [W] Daniel Kibblesmith, [A] Carlos Villa. Lockjaw and D-Man find themselves on Spider-Ham’s Earth, where they battle the Wrecking Zoo and then meet Doc Jaw, Lockjaw’s hyperintelligent sibling. Sleepwalker shows up on the last page. This was another fun issue.

ARCHIE #30 (Archie, 2018) – “It’s the Final Countdown,” [W] Mark Waid & Ian Flynn, [A] Audrey Mok. It’s finally time for the prom or the spring dance or whatever, and there’s all kinds of drama. The high point of the issue is Moose’s disastrous date with Janet. I really like Waid’s version of Moose, although for that matter, I like his versions of all the characters. The issue ends with the Blossoms’ dad arriving at the prom.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #9 (DC, 2018) – “The Arrival of Animan!”, [W] Rob Williams, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Dorno, of the Herculoids, encounters an alien resembling Metroid, who makes Dorno’s parents disappear and then turns him into an adult. This was a competently written issue, but rather trite. Neither Williams nor Lopresti are at the same level of talent as the other creators who have worked on this series.

SPIDER-GWEN #31 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Life of Gwen Stacy, Part 2: The Bridge,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. The Groot cereal is a highlight of this issue. The main scene is that Gwen visits the Brooklyn Bridge, which is the central location in the life of all Gwens. This series is definitely approaching a conclusion, but I’ve gotten kind of lost and there’s all kinds of stuff in this issue that I don’t understand.

DOOM PATROL #11 (DC, 2018) – “At the Bottom of Everything,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. This issue does not benefit from having been published after another long hiatus. It introduces some new concepts, including the Eonymous – the gods who are going to destroy the world if they’re not distracted by entertainment – and a new Elasti-Girl. It’s also full of metatextual commentary. But it doesn’t explain what happened to Terry and Casey’s baby. This issue reminds me of a Grant Morrison comic, and not necessarily in a good way: it has all kinds of great concepts, but is well nigh impossible to understand.

IMAGE FIRSTS: REDNECK #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. I started buying this series because I was enjoying Babyteeth, but I never got around to actually reading it until now. So this $1 reprint is a good excuse to get caught up on it. This issue introduces a family of vampires who live in rural Texas. Their uneasy relationship with the local humans soon erupts into violence. This comic is an innovative blend of Southern Bastards and a vampire story, but what especially impresses me about it is the art. Lisandro Estherren’s art is European-influenced and reminiscent of Eduardo Risso’s art, which is natural since Estherren is from Argentina.

REDNECK #6 (Image, 2017) – as above. The first storyline concludes with all the characters either dead or transformed into vampires or both. The surviving members of the protagonists’ family all get in a boat and sail away on an underground river. I think the next issue is #9.

BLACK AF: WIDOWS AND ORPHANS #1 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Tim Smith 3. I have the trade paperback or one-shot that comes before this comic, but I have not read it yet. This series appears to take place in the same world as Black, but this issue is mostly a fight between two superpowered characters, and it’s not clear to me who the characters are or why they’re fighting. I don’t understand this comic, and I’m not sure I’d enjoy it anymore if I did understand it. I’m giving this series one more issue to impress me before I drop it.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’91 #28 (DC, 1991) – “Mommy’s Boy,” [W/A] Keith Giffen, [W] Alan Grant. This may well be the best issue of L.E.G.I.O.N. because of its sheer strangeness. As Stealth tries to give birth to her and Vril Dox’s baby, we learn about Stealth’s race through a series of flashbacks and quotations from their scriptures. It turns out the members of Stealth’s species are all female. They mate with males of other species, kill them, and give birth to offspring that resemble the fathers. Stealth is an outcast even among these creatures because of her mutant powers. The fascinating and disturbing thing about this comic is how it presents Stealth’s people from their own bizarre perspective, and almost makes the reader believe that males are a necessary evil, 28 is the sacred number, etc. This comic is an effective depiction of “a creature that thinks as well as a man, but not like a man.”

TRUE BELIEVERS: CAROL DANVERS #1 (Marvel, 1968/2018) – “Where Stalks the Sentry!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gene Colan. A reprint of the main story Marvel Super-Heroes #13, Carol Danvers’s first appearance and Mar-Vell’s second. This reprint is not a full facsimile edition of MSH #13, since that also included some Golden Age reprints, but it will have to do, since MSH #13 is probably outside my price range. In this early appearance, Mar-Vell is a very different character than he would be even a few years later. He’s just an elite Kree soldier with no powers other than his equipment, and Rick Jones is nowhere to be seen. Also, he has to take medicine every hour to survive on Earth, so he has an even more severe weakness than Aquaman. This issue, he poses as deceased NASA scientist Walter Lawson (remember that name) so he can infiltrate Cape Canaveral, where he meets Carol Danvers and battles a Kree Sentry. Carol only appears on two pages of this issue, and there’s nothing to distinguish her from any other Silver Age Marvel supporting character. Also, Mar-Vell thinks of her as a “girl.” Carol did go on to become a recurring character in Mar-Vell’s solo series, and I’d like to collect more of that series and learn more about her early evolution.

QUANTUM & WOODY #15 (Acclaim, 1998) – “Magnum Force, Round 2: Peace,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] M.D. Bright. A hilarious comic. The plot of this issue is just that Quantum and Woody have been kidnapped, apparently by a villain called WarLocke, and are trying to escape. But the issue is full of witty dialogue and humor, including a running joke where Woody accuses people of being gay.

THE AUTHORITY #4 (WildStorm, 1999) – “The Circle Four of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. A page from this issue is included on Vulture’s list of the 100 pages that shaped comics. The page is the one where the Authority’s ship crashes into Gamorra Tower, and it’s included as an example of the widescreen style. After reading this issue, I think that “widescreen comics” are overrated, and that the term itself is just a synonym for the style of Bryan Hitch (and I guess also Frank Quitely and John Cassaday). This issue consists of an extended fight between the Authority and Kaizen Gamorra, and it’s reasonably well executed, but I still don’t understand what was so great about this series.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89 #4 (DC, 1989) – “The Godfather Pulls the Strings,” [W] Keith Giffen & Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. A funny and exciting issue with excellent characterization. After successfully defeating the Computer Tyrants of Colu, Vril Dox tries to rebuild the planet’s society from scratch, while his teammates stand around with nothing to do. Then Lobo arrives on Colu looking for Garryn Bek, who killed one of Lobo’s pet dolphins. The best moment in the issue is when Lobo introduces himself to Bek, and Bek faints.

WEIRD WAR TALES #27 (DC, 1974) – “Survival of the Fittest,” [W] Jack Oleck, [A] Frank Robbins. This issue’s first story is about a Nazi submarine captain who sinks a ship full of refugees, then gets stuck in a time loop where he keeps getting reincarnated as a passenger on the ship. This story gave me a new appreciation for Robbins, because I found myself focusing on his excellent storytelling and settings, instead of his characters’ ugly faces. This issue also includes a very well-drawn story by Alfredo Alcala, and a rare example of DC comics work by Paul Kirchner.

MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA #1 (Marvel, 2009) – “Just One Little Thing,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Jay Anacleto. Here’s an example of the depth of Kurt Busiek’s research and knowledge: Page 2 of this issue depicts a newspaper article about Reed Richards’s rocket flight. That article quotes “rocketry expert Walter Lawson, Ph.D.” That character was only ever mentioned in one previous Marvel comic: Marvel Super Heroes #13, discussed above. I wouldn’t even have gotten this reference if I hadn’t just read a reprint of that issue. The rest of the issue isn’t quite as impressive as that, though. An aging Phil Sheldon has a series of flashbacks to his early career, and then he visits the doctor and learns he has lung cancer.

SCUD THE DISPOSABLE ASSASSIN #12 (Fireman, 1996) – “Race of Doom,” [W/A] Rob Schrab. This was one of the first independent comics I ever read. I read my friend Danny Dikel’s copy of it shortly after it came out. But I never owned my own copy until much more recently, so it was nice to revisit this issue. This series has not necessarily aged well, because it’s rather sexist and testosterone-filled, and Rob Schrab was clearly more interested in movies than comics. But what still impresses me about this issue is Rob Schrab’s creativity and restless energy. In this issue, Scud accidentally enters the “Mr. Tough Guy” competition, which is eventually won by his future lover Sussudio. Scud has to defeat a bunch of bizarre creatures in a series of equally bizarre competitions, like anti-gravity bullfighting and lava hockey. My two favorite moments from this issue are the sight of Scud in a hockey uniform, and the revelation that Scud’s opponent Patriot is also a disposable assassin, and for some reason his primary target is a plant.

SUPERMAN #283 (DC, 1975) – “Superman’s Mystery Masquerade!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. This feels like one of those comics where the cover was designed first and then the story was written to match the cover. This issue’s cover is brilliant – it shows Superman transforming into his secret identity, which is not Clark Kent but “Chris Delbart, the wolf of Wall Street.” But the interior of the comic does not live up to the cover. It turns out Superman is just posing as Chris Delbart in order to fool some mad scientist. The backup story, “One of Our Imps is Missing” by Maggin and Swan, is much better, even though it’s just an average Mr. Mxyzptlk story.

ANIMOSITY #11 (Aftershock, 2017) – “The Sting,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael Delatorre. This issue, Jessie finally manages to free the bees. I’m going to quit ordering this series because I’m no longer enjoying it.

ANIMOSITY: EVOLUTION #1 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Brave New World,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Eric Gapstur. This issue begins with a page where some mayflies are discussing their history, which is very short, since their species only lives for 35 minutes. This scene is a powerful depiction of animal intelligence, which makes it disappointing that the rest of the issue isn’t nearly as good. This series takes place in a city where a wolf named Wintermute keeps a fragile peace between humans and animals. The problem with this series, as with Animosity in general, is that the animals act too much like humans with animal bodies. If Bennett would write the animals as less similar to humans, then this comic would be better able to achieve its potential.

On May 5, I went to Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find for FCBD, and then I had some new comics waiting for me at home:

RED SONJA/TARZAN #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Walter Geovani. I only heard about this comic after it had already come out, so I bought it at Heroes. In this comic, Red Sonja and Tarzan both encounter a villain named Eson Duul in their respective eras, and then he somehow uses time travel powers to bring them together. This comic shows an effective understanding of both its protagonists, but what’s most memorable about it is Esan Duul. This villain is a terrifying combination of the things Tarzan and Red Sonja hate most, civilization and male sexual violence. This comic could have been called “Red Sonja and Tarzan vs. Toxic Colonial Masculinity.”

CODA #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This comic book is very long, and I’d have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been exhausted when I read it, but it’s quite good – yet another exciting debut issue from a brilliant, versatile writer. Coda takes place in a Tolkienesque fantasy world which has just suffered a catastrophe that killed all the elves. The technology in this world is powered by a substance called akker, and the adventurer protagonist needs as much of it as he can to revive his dead (?) wife. This comic is full of fascinating ideas – the hero rides a five-horned demon unicorn, and the issue begins with him exploring the skeleton of a dead dragon, which is just barely alive enough to curse at him while he’s doing it. Coda also includes a lot of parodies of standard fantasy cliches. I think this series’ s worldbuilding might be more interesting than its plot, but I look forward to reading more of it.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: SPARKS #1 (Graphix, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Nina Matsumoto. The first chapter of a graphic novel about a heroic dog who is actually two cats in a dog suit. This comic is intended for a very young audience, but is quite funny and is drawn in an attractive style.

DOCTOR STAR AND THE KINGDOM OF LOST TOMORROWS #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Max Fiumara. Doctor Star is summoned by the Star Sheriff Squadron, the Black Hammer version of the Green Lantern Corps. Max Fiumara draws the Green Lantern Corps better than most actual Green Lantern artists do. His Star Sheriffs include a bewildering variety of creatures, such as a giant manta ray, an even bigger snake, two little frog dudes joined at the arm, and a dwarf with a waist-length beard. I actually had a dream about this last character. But while the Star Sheriffs revere Jimmy as a hero, his wife and son justifiably hate him for abandoning them for 18 years. I still don’t see the connection between Doctor Star and the main Black Hammer title, but maybe there isn’t any. Black Hammer is Jeff Lemire’s version of Astro City: a ready-made superhero universe which includes all the classic Marvel and DC characters, but is not creator-owned or shackled to Marvel or DC continuity.

GIANT DAYS #38 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Julia Madrigal. This issue has a new artist, and her style was quite jarring at first, but she has a fairly similar sensibility to Lissa Tremain and Max Sarin. This issue, Daisy starts her new job as an RA and then resolves a pointless fight between Susan and McGraw.

SEX CRIMINALS #24 (Image, 2018) – “Would You Like Some Help with That,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. Each issue of Sex Criminals has been more difficult than the last, and finally, here’s an issue that just went completely over my head. The key example of this is the scene with the two balding men. I know one of these men is the one who’s obsessed with anime, but I’m not sure which one, or who the other one is. Though there are some brilliant moments in this issue, like the “Clitty” mascot character. I need to find time to reread this series starting with the most recent issue that I fully understood.

ROGUE & GAMBIT #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ring of Fire, Conclusion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Pere Pérez. Rogue and Gambit defeat Lavish, who turns out to have been yet another golem. At the end of the issue, it looks like Gambit is about to propose to Rogue, but instead he asks her how she feels about cats, which is also a very important question. This was a really entertaining series and an effective piece of ’90s nostalgia. I wish it was an ongoing.

RELAY #0 (AfterShock, 2018) – “The Farmer and the First World,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Andy Clarke. A science fiction comic about a race (possibly consisting of humans) that tries to impose a common culture on every planet in the universe. There are some intriguing ideas in this comic, but it didn’t make me want to read more of this series.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #9 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. The best issue yet. It’s a silent story where all the word balloons are pictures. I’ve read other comics with this gimmick before, but in this issue the gimmick is justified by the storyline: Luvander meets a man whose voice has been stolen by a mermaid, and she travels under the sea to get his voice back. Silent stories are a severe test of a creative team’s visual storytelling skills, and Girner and Galaad pass that test: they succeed in making the story intelligible without words. I especially like how the mermaid’s word balloons are just pictures of dark water.

ADVENTURE TIME WITH FIONNA AND CAKE 2018 FCBD SPECIAL (Boom!, 2018) – “What’s the Punchline,” [W] Kiernan Sjursen-Lien, [A] C. Larsen. Fionna and Cake, the gender-swapped versions of Finn and Jake, are taking some punch to Prince Gumball’s punch parade, but they keep encountering people who want their punch. This issue is fun, but nothing spectacular.

ZODIAC STARFORCE: CRIES OF THE FIRE PRINCE #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kevin Panetta, [A] Paulina Ganucheau. This is the last issue, which surprised me because the previous miniseries was four issues. The two Zodiac Starforces defeat the Fire Prince in an epic battle, but two of them are dragged through a dimensional portal along with him, and the series ends on a cliffhanger. I hope there will be a sequel.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2018 (AVENGERS/CAPTAIN AMERICA) #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Sara Pichelli. This FCBD issue begins with a preview of the new Avengers title. It’s set in 1,000,000 BCE and stars a team of prehistoric Avengers, including Odin, Phoenix, Agamotto, and a caveman Hulk. This story is pretty fun. The backup story, a preview of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Captain America, is not as promising.

AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Final Host,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ed McGuinness. Steve Rogers, Thor Odinson and Tony Stark form a new Avengers team to combat the imminent arrival of the Final Celestial Host. This is an exciting issue, a rare example of a Marvel flagship title that may actually be worth reading.

YUPPIES FROM HELL #1 (Marvel, 1989) – “First Date/Last Date” and other stories, [W/A] Barbara Slate. One of the most obscure Marvel comics of the ’80s, Yuppies from Hell is another work of the underrated and forgotten Barbara Slate. This first issue is a collection of interrelated short black-and-white strips about yuppies in late-’80s New York. Not all the jokes are equally funny, but this comic shows a keen understanding of money and gender politics, and a lot of its jokes are still applicable to hipsters today. Yuppies from Hell appeals to sort of the same audience as Cathy, but is better crafted (which isn’t saying much).

HATE #26 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – “Let’s Start a Crackhouse!”, [W/A] Peter Bagge. Stinky is back in town, and he, Buddy’s brother Butch, and their ex-con friend Jimmy want to use Buddy’s home as a crack house. Buddy is not happy about it. This issue is excellent, but the next one was even better. This issue also includes some short backup features, which are a mixed bag. Among them are a one-pager by Jaime Hernandez and a three-pager by Gilbert Hernandez.

EXIT STAGE LEFT: THE SNAGGLEPUSS CHRONICLES #5 (DC, 2018) – “Opening Night,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Feehan. Snagglepuss testifies before the HUAC and refuses to name names. Meanwhile, Huckleberry Hound hangs himself. This is another fantastic issue, whose strong points include Snagglepuss’s poetic dialogue and Russell’s depiction of the paranoid, oppressive atmosphere of 50s America.

DEATHSTROKE #31 (DC, 2018) – “The Falling Stars, Part 2 of 6,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Carlo Pagulayan & Roberto Viacara. This comic shows that Priest has still got it. Deathstroke #31 has all his trademarks – it’s structured as a series of vignettes with their own titles, and it has a convoluted plot and snappy dialogue. I’m glad I ordered this.

HATE #27 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – “Buddy Cleans House,” [W/A] Peter Bagge with Jim Blanchard. One of Bagge’s finest single issues, Hate #27 begins with perhaps the most shocking scene he’s ever drawn. Jimmy and Stinky are hanging out at the beach, shooting at beer bottles and complaining about Buddy, when Stinky says “Just wait ’til you get a load of this” – and shoots himself in the head! A low-key, funny scene turns (literally) deadly serious, with no warning and in the space of one panel. The rest of the issue is almost as good. Buddy gets increasingly pissed at Butch, Jimmy and Stinky’s childish antics and petty crimes, until he erupts in suppressed rage, as depicted in a single panel that fills a half page. It’s a turning point in Buddy’s life: he realizes he’s outgrown all this twentysomething drama, and he decides to buy out Jay’s share of the business, sell his monster truck, and start acting like an adult. The issue ends with Buddy visiting Stinky’s grave. Overall, this issue is an important moment in Buddy’s life and Bagge’s career, and it reminds me that Peter Bagge is not just a great humorist, but a great cartoonist, period. The best of the backup stories this issue is Bagge and Crumb’s “Caffy,” a parody of Cathy, although unfortunately it’s grossly sexist.

THE WORLD BELOW: DEEPER AND STRANGER #3 (Dark Horse, 2000) – “The Brain!”, [W/A] Paul Chadwick. On another trip underground, the protagonists encounter a giant alien brain that’s controlling a bunch of other creatures. Then they meet some deformed humans. This issue is an excellent showcase of Chadwick’s art, which usually takes a back seat to his writing. It’s kind of an ascended version of Cave Carson. It also has a powerfully written flashback scene in which a lunatic tries to shoot up an abortion clinic.

ARCHIE #15 (Archie, 2017) – “Don’t Be Absurd,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Joe Eisma. Due to the stress of planning his anniversary party, Archie has gone insane and switched personalities with Jughead. Meanwhile, Cheryl Blossom decides to move to Riverdale. This was an average issue.

ARCHIE #16 (Archie, 2017) – “You’ve Invented Yelp,” as above. This issue is a spotlight on Dilton Doiley. He invents an app that can be used to rate anything, but predictably, everyone in town starts using it to post negative reviews of people they dislike. This story also establishes that Dilton has a crush on Betty, which becomes relevant later.

RIVERDALE FCBD EDITION (Archie, 2018) – “Chock’lit Shop of Horrors,” [W] Ross Maxwell & Will Ewing, [A] Joe Eisma. Pop tells Betty a series of ghost stories, ending with a story about his encounter with a mysterious stranger, who predictably turns out to be the devil. This is an odd choice for an FCBD comic because it’s more suited for October than May.

THE WEAVERS #1 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Dylan Burnett. I already reviewed issue 2 of this series. This first issue explains the premise: The protagonist is the newest member of a mob. It turns out that each member of this organization is possessed by a superpowered spider, and when one of them dies, its spider is transferred to someone else, which is what happened to the protagonist. This comic is a blend of film noir and supernatural horror. It’s not Spurrier’s best miniseries, but not his worst either (that would be Motherlands).

SCION #1 (CrossGen, 2000) – untitled, [W] Ron Marz, [A] Jim Cheung. I liked this more than I expected to, given that I dislike Ron Marz’s writing. This comic’s setting is mostly an epic fantasy milieu but with some technology. Its protagonist, Ethan, turns 21 and goes to fight in a tournament, only to discover that he’s a sigil-bearer. Ethan is a very appealing protagonist, and Jim Cheung is good at both worldbuilding and emotion.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #17 (DC, 1991) – “The Last Battle,” [W/A] Keith Giffen, [W] Tom Bierbaum, Mary Bierbaum & Al Gordon. The Legion fights a desperate battle against the Khunds and their leader Glorith. Mysa Nal saves the day. This issue has some very exciting fight scenes, and one epic moment when Vi bursts out of Laurel’s earring, but it could have been better.

GRIP: THE STRANGE WORLD OF MEN #3 (DC, 2002) – “Gripping Romantic Western Mystery,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. Along with Blubber, this is one of the weirdest things Beto has ever written. It’s full of body horror and violence. And unlike Blubber it has a plot and characters, although the plot is so weird and convoluted that I can’t summarize it.

LOCKE & KEY: HEAD GAMES #1 (IDW, 2009) – “Intermission,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. I read the first trade paperback of this series and enjoyed it, but somehow I never got around to reading any more of it. In this issue, the ghostly villain, Luke, encounters an old high school teacher who knew him when he was alive. The teacher’s life and his grief for his dead wife are depicted in great detail, and then Luke murders him. Joe Hill’s characterization and dialogue are quite powerful. Gabriel Rodriguez’s art is not as spectacular as his art in Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland or Sword of Ages, but this issue does include one spectacular two-page spread depicting a performance of The Tempest.

And now I am FINALLY done with my current stack of reviews, until tomorrow when my new comics are supposed to come…