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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 #32 (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.

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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…

Two weeks worth of reviews

I’ve already written some other reviews besides these, and I have even more reviews to post, but I’ll just post these now.

4-2-18

One comic I forgot to review before:

THE ONE #1 (Epic, 1985) – “The Big Sleep,” [W/A] Rick Veitch. I read this but I don’t remember much of anything about it.

4-26-18

Another 100-plus comics to review, and I expect to read even more before I finish writing this round of reviews. The following comics were left over from the week of March 23:

SPIDER-GWEN #30 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Life of Gwen Stacy, Part 1: Counting Sheep,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. This series is ending soon, and I don’t really mind; I think it’s worn out its welcome. This issue, Gwen visits another Gwen from a different universe. This issue has some funny interactions between two Watchers, and Robbi makes a sincere effort to draw like John Romita, but I can’t remember much about this issue at all.

KILL OR BE KILLED #17 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Dylan arranges a fatal accident for Perry the orderly, who’s been molesting Dylan’s fellow mental patients. Also, a newspaper headline says that the copycat masked killer was killed by police, but we have to wait until next issue to find out how, or whether the person killed was Mason.

HERO CATS #21 (Action Lab, 2018) – “Warm Hearts on a Cold Day,” [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Andy Duggan. Another cute story, in which the cats stop an alien invasion in the midst of a snowstorm. It turns out that the invasion was accidentally caused by two alien spouses trying to reunite. The female alien is much bigger than the male, which reminds me of Lindsey and Bud from Gunnerkrigg Court. Kyle’s editorial on the last page reveals that this is the final issue. I enjoyed this series, but I won’t miss it all that much; it was fun and cute, but never quite   lived up to its potential.

New comics received on March 30:

SAGA #50 (Image, 2018) – America’s preeminent comic book is back, but this issue was a little disappointing because it was so low-key. I’ve come to expect something shocking in every issue. This issue did include about five pages of oral sex, but for Saga, that hardly qualifies as shocking. The major plot developments this issue involve Upsher and Doff.

LUMBERJANES #48 (Boom!, 2018) – “Zoo It Yourself” (part 3), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. This is confusingly billed as part of “Zoo It Yourself” but is really a standalone issue, and it’s the first issue of Lumberjanes where the five Roanokes are not the main characters. Instead, this issue focuses on the Zodiacs, who are putting out the camp newspaper, except the horoscopes are disturbingly accurate. I enjoyed this issue more than the last two, and it was nice getting to spend some time with the background characters, although we still don’t know much about the other Zodiacs besides Barney, Diane and Hes. The highlight of the issue is the kitten dressed like a reporter. As an overall comment, I’ve basically accepted that the Lumberjanes’ summer camp session is never going to end. But it would be kind of cool if the series would jump ahead in time a year or two, to when the characters are all a bit older. I’m also curious to learn more about the world outside the camp.

MANIFEST DESTINY #34 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. Pryor has taken over the camp. Sacagawea escapes due to unexpected interference from Charbonneau, but Lewis and Clark’s attempts to take back the camp end in failure, and the Spanish ghost dude leaves them and decides to haunt Pryor instead. Things are looking grim.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #12 (IDW, 2018) – “Finale,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. The highlight of this issue is the right-hand page where Somnambula says that Stygian’s element is friendship, “and friendship… friendship is…” and then the page ends, and on the next left-hand page she says “…well, it’s not nothing!” Jeremy described this as “maybe my favorite comics form gag I’ve ever done… I won’t ruin it, but I love the fun things you can do with a build up and a page turn in comics” (https://twitter.com/jrome58/status/979029687933349888). I probably need to mention this page in my upcoming conference paper on Legends of Magic. The rest of the story underscores the point of this: Stygian and his friends almost discovered the Elements of Harmony and the magic of friendship, but not quite. This series is over now, but I’m glad we’re getting Ponyville Mysteries next, because one pony comic per month is not enough.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #29 (Marvel, 2018) – “1+2 = Fantastic Three, Part 5: The Four Corners of the Multiverse,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. A bunch of confusing stuff happens, including a fight with a villain called Cellar Dweller, master of the monsters under the bed. Then Lunella summons Devil Dinosaur from the past to become the fourth member of the team. Which means Brandon was straight-up lying when he said that Devil would never reappear in this comic, but oh well. I’m glad this storyline is ending soon because it’s been way too confusing.

ABBOTT #3 (Boom!, 2018) – “Lean Times on the Factory Line,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. This series has gotten better with each issue, and this is the best yet. As a frequent visitor to Detroit, I loved the scene at National Coney Island. I’ve never been there, but I eat coney islands every time I’m in Detroit, and this scene gave me a lot of nostalgia. It even gave me an idea for the paper on Omaha the Cat Dancer that I’m supposed to be writing: maybe comics are better than prose at evoking nostalgia for particular places. I really need to show this comic to my parents and some other relatives, because I’m very curious about how this comic would look to someone who grew up in Detroit. Anyway, lots of other stuff happens in this issue, and it ends with Abbott and her editor getting fired. I initially thought the fantasy aspects of this comic were kind of unnecessary, but in this issue the magic feels a lot more important.

LOCKJAW #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Call of the Wild,” [W] Daniel Kibblesmith, [A] Carlos Villa. I just realized how appropriate the writer’s surname is. This issue, Lockjaw and D-Man team up with Ka-Zar and fight some wolves, who are led by another of Lockjaw’s siblings. And it turns out that Spider-Ham and another unseen character are spying on Lockjaw. I was going to say it’s curious that Ka-Zar’s wife and child are nowhere to be seen, but this series is not really in continuity.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #302 (Marvel, 2018) – “Amazing Fantasy – Part Two,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Joe Quinones. I barely remember this at all. The issue ends with the Green Goblin invading Peter’s home and kidnapping Aunt May.

BATGIRL #21 (DC, 2018) – “Father Knows Best,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Scott Godlewski. A very cute story in which Batgirl teams up with Commissioner Gordon against a sentient cosmetics monster. However, again, I can barely remember anything about this issue. The scene at the end where Babs and Gordon meet for breakfast is heartwarming, and I like how it’s implied but not confirmed that Gordon knows his daughter’s secret identity, but I had to flip through the issue again to remind myself of these things.

BLACK MAGICK #11 (Image, 2018) – “Awakening II,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. Rowan saves the baby, but loses her partner’s trust. This is another issue I don’t remember very well.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #699 (Marvel, 2018) – “Out of Time,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Cap defeats King Baby and is elected the new president. Chris Samnee’s artwork in this issue is spectacular, but the writing mostly leaves me cold. Other than a couple great issues, I haven’t really been able to get into this Captain America run, especially since it’s ending soon.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #4 (IDW, 2018) – “Tasty,” [W] Sina Grace, [A] Hannah Templer, and “Jemojis,” [W] Kevin Panetta, [A] Abby Boeh. IDW’s final Jem comic (until further notice?) is a reasonable sendoff. The first story is about the Misfits appearing on a magazine cover, and the second story is about a Jem-based emoji app. I still hope Kelly Thompson somehow gets to write more Jem comics, because she left sone significant loose ends, especially Jem and Rico’s relationship.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #231 (Marvel, 1978) – “Aftermath!”, [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Sal Buscema. Cap and the Falcon part ways, then Cap encounters Peggy Carter, who tells him about the National Front – which, I now realize, is clearly based on the KKK. There’s a disturbing scene in which the Grand Director publicly burns a cross. Sadly, this issue is perhaps more relevant now than when it came out. See the review of Kill or Be Killed #18 below for another example of a comic about white male terrorism. Roger McKenzie was a fairly good Cap writer, though his Cap run is largely forgotten because of the Roger Stern-John Byrne run that came after it.

GROO THE WANDERER #43 (Marvel/Epic, 1988) – “Slave!”, [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [W] Mark Evanier. Granny Groo sells Groo as a slave in order to get rid of him. Groo misunderstands and thinks that she wants him to fake illness, so she can take him back and then sell him to someone else – because when he was a child, she previously tried to do exactly that. If that sounds confusing, it’s because I can’t think of a simpler way to explain this issue’s plot. It’s a pretty average Groo comic.

HATE #8 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Follow That Dream!” part one, [W/A] Peter Bagge. The first part of a story whose conclusion I read earlier in March. Buddy becomes the manager of a band, consisting of four hairy dudes named Kurt, Kurt, Greg and Kurt. After one of the Kurts quits, Leonard replaces him as the lead singer. The band members are happy as long as they have beer, so Buddy embezzles all their money. This issue is a hilarious satire of the grunge music scene, and is based on insider knowledge of that scene, since Bagge published it in 1992 while living in Seattle.

Y: THE LAST MAN #49 (Vertigo, 2006) – “Motherland, Chapter One,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. I couldn’t really follow this issue’s plot, since it’s from long after I stopped reading this series. At least there’s some good dialogue. On the week of March 30th I was suffering from comics reader’s block  and was also very tired, and I’m very tired again now as I write these reviews, so I have very little to say about some of these comics.

BLACK PANTHER #171 (Marvel, 2018) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 12,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. The penultimate chapter of the most long-winded Marvel storyline since “The Kang Dynasty.” This issue is mostly a long fight scene in which T’Challa finally defeats Klaw, except it turns out the real villain is the Adversary from Claremont’s X-Men.

MOTHERLANDS #3 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Meat is Murder,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Rachael Stott. This is perhaps my least favorite Spurrier title. The story isn’t nearly as exciting as that of Angelic or Spire, and the artwork is undistinguished. I’m pretty sure Rachael Stott was not Spurrier’s original choice of artist. This issue, there’s some more family drama that I don’t remember very well.

USAVENGERS #12 (Marvel, 2017) – “Maybe We Should All Be Praying for Time,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Diaz. I only ordered this because Squirrel Girl is in it, but it turns out this  storyline is pretty hilarious. This storyline has the same premise as the Star Trek episode “A Piece of the Action,” except the alien society is based on Archie comics rather than gangster films. As a result, this comic is a very funny Archie parody. Unfortunately this issue is hard to follow on its own; I should have read issue 11 first. See below.

HATE #10 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “The Nut,” [W/A] Peter Bagge. Buddy gets his crazy ex-girlfriend Lisa a job at the bookstore where he works. Lisa proceeds to cause all sorts of insane drama. This was a laugh-out-loud funny comic, but not as inspired as “Follow That Dream.”

USAVENGERS #11 (Marvel, 2017) – “Hey, Bugface, Where Are You?”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Diaz. Again, I wish I’d read this issue first, so I wouldn’t have spoiled the revelation that the Archie-esque characters are actually Skrulls. But the premise of this story is awesome, and Ewing executes it perfectly. One of my favorite things about this comic is that it’s full of subtle puns that depend upon a deep knowledge of Archie comics. For example, the Veronica character calls the Archie character “Ritchiecakes” (Archiekins), and the Reggie character is named Gerry Mays, after Willie Mays, who was a contemporary of Mickey Mantle.

KID LOBOTOMY #6 (IDW, 2018) – “Uncommon Lobotomies: Part 6 of A Lad Insane,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. I was surprised to realize that this was the final issue, but I’m not all that disappointed. Like many previous Peter Milligan comics, this series has gotten more incomprehensible with every issue. This issue mostly went right over my head.

THUNDERBOLTS #18 (Marvel, 1998) – “Career Opportunities,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. The Thunderbolts are offered employment by the new Masters of Evil. This issue includes some strong characterization, but I’ve never really been able to get into Thunderbolts, and I think the reason is that I don’t connect with any of the characters except perhaps Jolt. All of them are deeply damaged, and some of them, especially Moonstone, are just evil. This makes for storylines which are interesting on an intellectual but not an emotional level, and as a result, Thunderbolts is not my favorite Busiek comic.

THE WORLD OF KRYPTON #1 (DC, 2018/1987) – “The World of Krypton,” [W] John Byrne, [A] Mike Mignola. This freebie is a reprint of the 1987 comic of the same name, with a new cover. It’s much better than I expected. Mignola’s art in this issue is not bad, though it’s closer to P. Craig Russell’s art than to Mignola’s mature style, and Byrne’s writing is not bad either. I would get the other issues of this miniseries if I found them in a 50-cent box.

HELLBLAZER #59 (DC, 1992) – “Fallen Women,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] William Simpson. A demoness named Chantinelle escapes hell and warns Constantine that the First of the Fallen is coming for him. This issue is most interesting for revealing the origin of the First of the Fallen: he was already in hell when Lucifer arrived there.

ADAM-12 #5 (Gold Key, 1974) – “But Not in Real Life” and “Satan’s Children,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Jack Sparling. This mediocre comic is an adaptation of a mediocre cop show. The first of this issue’s two stories is completely forgettable. The second story is sort of intriguing, though, because it appears to be inspired by contemporary moral panics about Satanism. The Satanists in the story mention the spirit Haristum and the Clavicle of Solomon, which are actual Satanist concepts, so the writer must have done some research.

From April 5 to 8, I was in Gainesville for the UF Comics Conference, where I had the great honor of giving a keynote address. I may post the transcript of my lecture on this blog later. It was an awesome experience. My lecture got a very warm reception, and I heard some excellent papers, met some old friends and mentors, and made some new friends. Gainesville has changed a lot since my grad school days – there’s all sorts of new development along 13th Street and University Avenue, and even the old businesses that are still there may not last much longer. After the conference was over, I went to 2nd & Charles and bought some comics, including the following. (Incidentally, 2nd & Charles is just down the street from where Hoyt’s Cosmos of Comics , I have a recurring dream where I’m visiting a bookstore that’s somewhere far to the north of my house. I think this dream is inspired by Hoyt’s or by the old location of Dreamhaven Books.)

BLACK HAMMER #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “The Curse of Zafram!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. This issue is a spotlight on Golden Gail, and it reveals that her powers are the reverse of Captain Marvel’s. She changes into a nine-year-old girl rather than an adult, so as her human identity grows older, her superhero identity remains stuck in childhood. Which also explains why Gail hates Black Hammer Farm so much: she’s stuck in her child’s body, so she has to attend elementary school despite being 55 years old. So this issue is rather depressing.

ATOMIC ROBO #1 (Red 5, 2007) – “The Will to Power,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. This issue introduces Robo as well as his archenemy, the Nazi scientist Helsingard. It’s a strong introduction to Robo’s character and to Clevinger and Wegener’s unusual style of humor. However, this issue is mostly a long fight scene and has much less narrative complexity than later Atomic Robo stories.

KIM & KIM #4 (Black Mask, 2016) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. To avoid being evicted for nonpayment of rent, Kim and Kim accept a contract on a man named Merrill Frank. But Merrill Frank is killed by other mercenaries, and one of the Kims’ fathers pays the rent instead. This issue is a good example of how the Kims are not really heroes, but loveable screw-ups who can barely do anything right – which makes this comic a very realistic depiction of early adulthood.

BLACK HAMMER #3 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “The Warlord of Mars,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. Most of this issue is a flashback to the origin of Mark Markz, the Barbalien (a.k.a. J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter). We see that he’s a lonely outsider in two ways, as a Martian and as a gay man. There’s a heartbreaking scene where Mark, in his secret identity as a cop, shows tenderness to his partner and is brutally rejected. Also, Mark and Gail have a conversation in which Gail mistakenly thinks Mark is expressing his love for her, rather than the young pastor. And now that I’ve read this issue, my Black Hammer collection is complete.

New comics received on March 9, after returning from Gainesville:

RUNAWAYS #8 (Marvel, 2018) – “Best Friends Forever,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Julie Power is back! Although it’s really sad when Karolina stands her up at the airport. But Molly’s reaction to meeting Julie is incredible. Also, Abbie gives Molly a cupcake of eternal youth, and Doom invades the Runaways’ hideout, demanding Victor’s head back. This issue didn’t have any great Old Lace moments.

ISOLA #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. An epic fantasy series about a woman warrior and her animal companion, a queen trapped in the form of a tiger. Karl Kerschl’s art is fantastic, and this series’s premise is very promising, though we don’t know much yet about just what’s going on here. When Rook addresses the tiger as “your majesty,” I can just imagine my cat saying “Finally, someone who treats cats with the respect we deserve.”

GIANT DAYS #37 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Daisy’s homophobic grandmother throws her out, forcing Daisy to find somewhere else to live. After viewing several hilariously awful apartments, one of which is haunted, Daisy decides to become a residential mentor – what we in America would call an RA. A highlight of the issue is the scene where the accommodations officer “reminds” Daisy that she already applied to be an RM and her paperwork was “lost.” Also, at the end of the issue, Daisy’s grandma realizes she was wrong and apologizes.

MECH CADET YU #8 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Stanford and friends attack the alien vessel, but their attempt to destroy it fails because of Cadet Park’s interference. At the end of the issue, the cavalry arrives: Chief Max and all the other service robots. This issue includes the best line in the entire series: “If someone tells you there’s only one possible way to do something…. and that one possible way benefits them… maybe think twice.” This issue also further demonstrates that janitors, mechanics, etc. are just as vitally important as people with more glamorous jobs.

SEX CRIMINALS #23 (Image, 2018) – “My Epiphany,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. To be honest, I didn’t understand anything that happened in this issue. I’m not sure what Susie’s epiphany was, or which characters are on which side. A recap (a real one, not the joke recap on the inside front cover) would have helped a lot.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #35 (Image, 2018) – “1-2-3-4!” etc., [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. With this issue, this series’s confusing storyline finally begins to make sense. We begin with a flashback that happens right after the 1923 special issue, in which the Shirley Temple character kills Ananke. Which leads to a shocking revelation: the present Ananke is the same individual as the 1923 Minerva. Meaning that the present Minerva will be the next Ananke… I’m not sure if this is a universal pattern, but now I want to look at the other two flashback issues again. Oh, also it turns out that Baal, who seemed like the best of the gods, has been sacrificing children. This was a fun issue.

MOTOR CRUSH #11 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart, [W/A] Babs Tarr. The season-ending race is invaded by gangsters. Domino saves the day and leads her protégé Ya-Ya to victory, but is publicly unmasked. Lola decides to leave her new girlfriend for Domino, which is probably a bad decision, but it’s heartwarming, I guess. And then at the end of the issue, Decimus shows Domino a room full of clones that look just like her. This was an effective conclusion to the second story arc.

ASTRO CITY #51 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Down in the Depths,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. This issue contains probably the most shocking panel Kurt has ever written. In a flashback, a woman named Rose Wilkerson describes how she and her son were kidnapped by a giant spider-thing. The flashback ends with her saying “I held his hand the whole time,” and on the next page, she reveals her missing hand. Wow. After that, the rest of the issue is a letdown. Rose confronts Michael with evidence that his wife never existed, and Michael tells her his story (at excessive length), but it’s not clear whether she and the other support group members are willing to buy it. By the way, Michael reminds me a lot of Mr. Rogers.

SNOTGIRL #10 (Image, 2018) – “Weekend, Part 2: We’ve Only Just Begun,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Last issue ended with a girl falling to her death. This issue, the protagonists deal with the fallout (no pun intended) of that incident, as well as heading out to the desert and taking mushrooms. The dialogue in this issue was excellent, but the plot was rather confusing, as usual.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #8 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. Traveling on her own, Luvander teams up with some elves who are fighting in a local conflict. But it turns out the elves are a bunch of assholes who kidnap and sell slaves. I don’t know if Lu is able to carry a story all on her own; I miss Prince Aki and the other characters from the previous storyline .The best moment in this issue is the following exchange: “Just wait till I sound my battle hymn. The Baron’s men will turn and flee before we fire a single arrow!” “I don’t doubt it. I’ve heard you play.”

DOCTOR STAR AND THE KINGDOM OF LOST TOMORROWS #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Max Fiumara. Doctor Star travels into space, where he saves some weird-looking aliens from a space dragon. But when he gets back, he discovers that eighteen years have passed on Earth while he spent mere hours in space. Again, this comic wasn’t bad, but I don’t know why it’s a Black Hammer spinoff.

BLACK BOLT #12 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. Black Bolt defeats the Jailer and reconciles with his wife. Crusher, Titania and Blinky live happily ever after, at least until some other writer comes along. This was an excellent series that deserved a longer run than it got, although I expect even better things from Saladin in the future.

EXIT STAGE LEFT: THE SNAGGLEPUSS CHRONICLES #2 (DC, 2018) – “A Dog’s Life,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Feehan. For some reason I got this issue two months late, on the same day that I got #4. This issue, Snagglepuss hires a new stage manager named Squiddly Diddly, Lillian Hellman tells him about the existence of the blacklist, and at the end of the issue Snagglepuss is subpoenaed by the HUAC. Besides being another brilliant piece of political satire, this issue shows an effective command of 1950s English. I especially love the line “You are asking me for my pen and that I cannot give.” Unfortunately, the Sasquatch Detective backup feature is a complete waste of space.

X-MEN UNLIMITED #38 (Marvel, 2002) – “Yartzeit,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Darick Robertson. This is an excellent but rather obscure issue. I must have read about it on Scans_Daily or in the Slings & Arrows Guide or something, because otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it. On the sanniversary of Peter Rasputin’s death, Kitty Pryde mourns for him and becomes obsessed with a police officer who resembles him. After Kurt Wagner stages an intervention, Kitty realizes the cop isn’t Peter, but there’s a suggestion that he might become her love interest anyway. This character, Danny Wyzcenko, never appeared again, and this story became irrelevant anyway when Peter came back to life two years later. Still, this is a very touching story, one of the best Kitty Pryde comics not written by Claremont. I should point out that this story’s title is spelled wrong (it should be yahrzeit or yahrtzeit) and that it’s not customary to observe the yahrzeit of a non-Jew. But these are less egregious errors than Mark Guggenheim thinking that, at a Jewish wedding, the father walks the daughter down the aisle.

ROGUE & GAMBIT #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ring of Fire Part 4,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Pere Perez. Rogue and Gambit battle the clones, and it turns out that each time one of them defeats a clone, they get that clone’s memories and powers. It’s confusing, but leads to some interesting scenes where each character experiences a flashback from the other’s perspective. The flashback to X-Men #30 made me groan inwardly because it’s been many years since I read that issue, and it’s kind of embarrassing in hindsight. I’m glad that Kelly got an Eisner nomination for Hawkeye; she has been an extremely underrated writer.

EXIT STAGE LEFT: THE SNAGGLEPUSS CHRONICLES #3 (DC, 2018) – “Actors and Stars,” as above. SP gets involved in the love triangle between Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller. I was kind of delighted when I figured out who they were. The issue begins and ends with SP’s metatextual comments on his own plays.

ARCHIE #17 (Archie, 2017) – “Get Your Head Outta the Rainclouds,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Joe Eisma. Cheryl and Jason Blossom arrive in town and engineer an elaborate plot to meet Archie, having received a misleading account of him from Veronica, Meanwhile, Veronica uses trickery to get out of her boarding school and back to Riverdale. This issue was okay, but it was just lighthearted fun, unlike the more serious stories that followed it. Seeing the name Joe Eisma reminds me that Morning Glories has been on an indefinite hiatus for several years, not that I really care.

SUPERMAN: REBIRTH #1 (DC, 2016) – “Superman: Rebirth,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Doug Mahnke. Like Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1, this issue is a terrible starting point, requiring far too much knowledge of previous storylines and providing no explanations. Superman himself doesn’t appear in the issue at all. The issue focuses on Lana and the Superman from a different Earth, presumably the post-Crisis/pre-Flashpoint Earth, as they search for the real Superman.

ARCHIE #19 (Archie, 2018) – “When All is Said and Done,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Pete Woods. Veronica and Archie are on the outs. In order to find Veronica a boyfriend other than Archie, Mr. Lodge creates a phony achievement award competition for teenage boys, with the winner to be chosen by Veronica. Jughead engineers a plan to get Archie and Veronica back together, and in gratitude, Veronica gives Jughead the achievement award. This was a funny and touching issue, but again, it was forgettable compared to “Over the Edge.”

I HATE FAIRYLAND #18 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. Duncan Dragon and Larry team up to recruit Gert to defeat Dark Cloudia. This was a very average issue.

EXIT STAGE LEFT: THE SNAGGLEPUSS CHRONICLES #4 (DC, 2018) – “Doomtown,” as above. Huckleberry Hound is sleeping with a male police horse. The same horse is forced to participate in a raid on the Stonewall bar, in which Huck is caught. Meanwhile, SP introduces his wife to his boyfriend. The issue begins and ends with scenes depicting a nuclear test. This series is better than Prez, and at least as good as Flintstones; it’s a very moving depiction of love, politics, art, and queer identity. Too bad about the awful Sasquatch Detective backup.

SECOND CITY #1 (Harrier, 1986) – “Contact” and other stories, [W] Paul Duncan, [A] Phil Elliott. I bought this at 2nd & Charles because it was 25 cents and it was published by Harrier, a company that specialized in comics by British alternative cartoonists. It consists of four stories set in a city governed by clockwork. The Slings & Arrows guide gives this comic a poor review, which is unfortunately justified. Second City is similar to Mister X but worse, which and Mister X wasn’t that good to begin with. However, Phil Elliott’s art is very appealing.

INCOGNEGRO: RENAISSANCE #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Libretto,” [W] Mat Johnson, [A] Warren Pleece. Mat teams up with… I guess her name is Miss Bette, who wants him to recover Xavier’s manuscript in exchange for information on Xavier’s murder. And it turns out Bette is also a black woman passing as white. And then some cop steals the manuscript. At this point I’m getting curious about what exactly is in that manuscript that makes it such a hot potato. From a tweet Mat Johnson posted, I just learned that he himself is a black man who can pass for white. So perhaps the reason this comic has such power and verisimilitude is that it’s inspired by personal experience.

THE FROGMEN #9 (Dell, 1964) – “The Strange Experiment of Doctor Vogar,” [W] Don Segall, [A] Mike Sekowsky. I’m glad I own this comic because it’s old, but it’s also boring as hell. In this issue, our protagonists, two scuba divers, are kidnapped by a mad scientist who’s breeding giant undersea creatures. Don Segall is better known for writing some really weird issues of Kona, but he shows none of that brilliance here, and the only redeeming quality of this comic is Sekowsky’s depictions of undersea life.

 

Tentative Eisner votes

The Eisner nominees were released today. Here are my preliminary thoughts on how I might vote, with the caveat that there are lots of nominees I haven’t read. My comments are in parentheses.

Best Short Story
Best Single Issue/One-Shot
  • Pope Hats #5, by Ethan Rilly (AdHouse Books)

(I’m thrilled that this was nominated. I thought it was easily the best comic book of the year.)

Best Continuing Series
  • The Wicked + The Divine, by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie (Image)

(I read or am reading all five of the nominees, but few if any of them are among my personal top five. I think Saga should be nominated every year.)

Best Limited Series
  • The Flintstones, by Mark Russell, Steve Pugh, Rick Leonardi, and Scott Hanna (DC)

(World of Wakanda didn’t deserve to be nominated.)

Best New Series
  • Royal City, by Jeff Lemire (Image)
Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)
  • Good Night, Planet, by Liniers (Toon Books)
Best Publication for Kids (ages 9–12)
  • The Tea Dragon Society, by Katie O’Neill (Oni)

(I didn’t read any of the nominees in either category.)

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)
  • Spinning, by Tillie Walden (First Second)

(Again I’m sorry not to see Lumberjanes nominated. Spinning is an easy winner and probably the second best book of the year.)

Best Humor Publication
  • Baking with Kafka, by Tom Gauld (Drawn & Quarterly)

(Tough choice between this and Flintstones.)

Best Anthology
  • Now #1, edited by Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics)

(I haven’t even heard of any of the others.)

Best Reality-Based Work
  • Spinning, by Tillie Walden (First Second)
Best Graphic Album—New
  • My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)

(I haven’t read the others, but this was far and away the best comic of the year.)

Best Graphic Album—Reprint
  • Boundless, by Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)

(Haven’t read this yet, but it looks great.)

Best Adaptation from Another Medium
  • Beowulf, adapted by Santiago García and David Rubín (Image)

(Haven’t read any of these.)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material
  • Flight of the Raven, by Jean-Pierre Gibrat, translated by Diana Schutz and Brandon Kander (EuroComics/IDW)

(I have this but haven’t read it yet. IDW deserved more than one nomination.)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia
  • Golden Kamuy, by Satoru Noda, translated by Eiji Yasuda (VIZ Media)

(Haven’t read any of the others. The Fantagraphics Moto Hagio books are way too expensive.)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips
  • Foolish Questions and Other Odd Observations, by Rube Goldberg, edited by Peter Maresca and Paul C. Tumey (Sunday Press Books)
Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books
  • The Collected Neil the Horse, by Arn Saba/Katherine Collins, edited by Andy Brown (Conundrum)

(I haven’t seen this but it deserves to be back in print.)

Best Writer
  • Jeff Lemire, Black Hammer (Dark Horse); Descender (Image)

(I was thinking Tom King instead, but I haven’t read any of his work this year other than Mister Miracle, and he’ll probably be nominated for that again next year.)

Best Writer/Artist
  • Emil Ferris, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Fantagraphics)
Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
  • David Rubín, Black Hammer #9 & #12, Ether, Sherlock Frankenstein #1–3 (Dark Horse); Beowulf (Image)
Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art)
  • Sana Takeda, Monstress (Image)

(Jean-Pierre Gibrat is incredible, but I don’t think he should win an Eisner for a book that was originally published in 2002.)

Best Cover Artist
  • Nick Derington, Mister Miracle (DC); Doom Patrol (DC Young Animal)

(With the shift away from periodicals to graphic novels, this award should maybe be retired soon.)

Best Coloring
  • Emil Ferris, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Fantagraphics)
Best Lettering
  • Emil Ferris, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Fantagraphics)
Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism
  • Hogan’s Alley, edited by Tom Heintjes

(Mostly because I know him)

Best Comics-Related Book
  • How to Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels, by Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden (Fantagraphics)

(I really need to get this)

Best Academic/Scholarly Work
  • The Comics of Charles Schulz: The Good Grief of Modern Life, edited by Jared Gardner and Ian Gordon (University Press of Mississippi)

(I haven’t seen any of these, so I’ll go with the one that’s edited by my own editor. My own book will be eligible for this category next year.)

Best Publication Design
  • My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, designed by Jacob Covey (Fantagraphics)

(X-Men: Grand Design should have been nominated.)

Best Digital Comic
  • Bandette, by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover (Monkeybrain/comiXology)
Best Webcomic

Over 100 reviews

As usual I have over 100 comics to review. Let’s get started.

BLACK PANTHER #11 (Marvel, 1999) – “Enemy of the State, Book Three,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Mark D. Bright. This issue is an early appearance of Nakia and Okoye, and is notable for a scene where Nakia fakes Monica Lynne’s death. There’s also a flashback where Nakia interrupts T’Challa and Monica while they’re getting romantic. Nakia as depicted in this comic is a fascinating but largely negative character, whose primary motivation is jealousy that T’Challa thinks he’s too old for her. The film’s version of Nakia seems to have little in common with the comic version but the name.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #119 (Marvel, 1985) – “Daughter of the Dragon King,” [W] Jim Owsley, [A] Mark D. Bright. This is an early work by Owsley/Priest. Most of it consists of an extended flashback to Danny’s past in K’un L’un and that of his parents. It’s difficult to understand, and not especially good.

HOOK JAW #1 (Titan, 2016) – untitled, [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Conor Boyle. A revival of a classic ‘70s British comic that was cancelled for excessive violence. It’s the same idea as Jaws, except that it takes place in the Indian Ocean. It’s full of funny gore and violence, and Spurrier deserves credit for depicting Somali pirates as people with realistic motivations, rather than faceless criminals.

KILL OR BE KILLED #6 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue introduces a policewoman named Lily who’s figured out that there’s a serial killer (Dylan) who’s been murdering evil people. But her supervisors refuse to believe her theory. Lily is an interesting character, and Brubaker effectively depicts the struggle she faces as a woman in a male-dominated profession. But I kind of sympathize with her bosses, who don’t have the benefit of knowing that Lily’s theory is correct, as the reader does. For them it could just be a crackpot theory.

BLACK PANTHER #15 (Marvel, 2000) – “Smash,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Sal Velluto. Everett battles the Hulk alongside T’Challa’s new bodyguard, Queen Divine Justice, who is woke AF before that term existed. Back in Wakanda, Everett is forced to lead a ceremonial elephant hunt. Meanwhile, T’Challa encounters an old lover of his. Killmonger returns at the end of the issue. After reading this issue, I’ve now read all the Priest Black Panthers that I have, and it’ll be difficult to get more. The one unfortunate thing about the success of the movie is that old Black Panther comics are now going to go way up in value, especially the first appearances of characters like Nakia and Okoye.

New comics received on February 23:

FENCE #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. This has become one of my favorite current titles, and I may write an entire article or review essay about it. This issue, the tryouts for the team begin, but Nicholas gets his ass kicked in his first match, thanks to excessive anxiety.

SEX CRIMINALS #22 (Image, 2018) – “Follow the Honey,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. This issue is full of plot developments that I don’t remember clearly. In particular, Suzie apparently makes contact with her father’s ghost. The best moment in this issue was Suzie saying that Uber and Lyft “don’t exist in this continuity.”

MULTIPLE WARHEADS: GHOST THRONE #1 (Image, 2018) – “Ghost Throne,” [W/A] Brandon Graham. A new Brandon Graham comic is always cause for celebration. This oversized issue is the conclusion to the story that ran intermittently in Island. Its plot is hard to follow, as usual with Brandon, but it’s full of gorgeous compositions, beautiful women, and cute puns and sight gags. I hope there will be more Multiple Warheads or King City soon.

LUKE CAGE #170 (Marvel, 2018) – “Danielle’s Fairy Tale,” [W] David Walker, [A] Guillermo Sanna. (That’s not the actual title.) David Walker’s last issue of Luke Cage is also his best,  besides the Sweet Christmas Special. David didn’t get many opportunities to write Danielle Cage, probably because Bendis had dibs on her. To help Danielle deal with bullying at preschool, Luke tells her a story, except Danielle tells most of the story herself. David clearly has firsthand experience with children this age, because Danielle’s dialogue and thought processes seem totally realistic. This comic has echoes of both X-Men #153 (with Jessica secretly listening to the fairy tale from outside the room) and Axe Cop (because of the bizarre narrative logic), and it’s incredibly fun. Danielle’s age is inconsistent between this series and Jessica Jones, but who cares.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO #5 (Action Lab, 2018) – “The Kiss,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Christine Hipp. Sunshine finds herself in an undersea realm, where the queen, Pavarti (a misspelling of Parvati?), uses a scrying pool to show her a vision of her former crewmates. Sunshine watches as Raven and Ximena almost kiss, and summons a lightning bolt to break them up. Meanwhile, Zoe writes a terrible love poem for Quinn.

DESCENDER #27 (Image, 2018) – “Old Worlds 1 of 3,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. By the time I read #28, which I will review below, I had totally forgotten about this issue. It takes place 4000 years before the main timeline, and stars Master Professor Osris from the planet of Ostrakon, who discovers a race of intelligent machines. The significance of this will be clear next issue, but maybe the reason I couldn’t remember anything about this issue was because I couldn’t tell how it was connected to the rest of the series. I think there’s an Optimus Prime cameo appearance on the last page.

When I returned from work on Wednesday, February 28, I was very surprised to find my new comics shipment waiting for me. That’s the first time in years that I’ve gotten new comics on Wednesday – usually they show up on Friday – and I’m not sure how it happened.

SAGA #49 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. I am of course thrilled to have Saga back, but not much happened in this issue. Prince Robot considers letting Upsher and Doff reveal Hazel’s existence, and Hazel gets in a fight with Squire and Ghüs.

LUMBERJANES #47 (Boom!, 2018) – “Zoo It Yourself” (conclusion), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. This was a fun issue, with lots of cute animals and a sentient tornado. But this issue felt less rich and dense than earlier issues. There weren’t as many funny jokes or sight gags, and there wasn’t much character development either. I hope the next storyline will be a bit more substantial.

RAT QUEENS #8 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. This issue didn’t make any sense at first. In one storyline, the Rat Queens invade a dungeon full of snail creatures, and Hannah engages in a level of wanton cruelty that’s disturbing even in this series. In another storyline, Hannah is sent to some kind of wizard prison. And all the Rat Queens except Betty seem to have forgotten that Violet exists. Things become a little clearer when the Cheech Wizard character shows up, and the issue ends with the line “Sometimes love isn’t enough,” which was the last line of the previous volume of the series. So it seems like the confusing nature of this story arc is deliberate, but I wish it would be explained soon.

ABBOTT #2 (Boom!, 2018) – “Do Right Woman,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. This was a bit less impressive than issue one, but still very good. Abbott travels around Detroit looking for information on the murder from last issue, and encounters various magical phenomena. The magic in this series is almost gratuitous; I feel like this comic would be good enough if it were just an investigation of racial politics in ‘70s Detroit. (Here I may be repeating something I read in someone else’s review.)

MOTOR CRUSH #10 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart, [W/A] Babs Tarr. I don’t remember this one very well. Domino and some friends invade a casino to rescue Domino’s dad, then Juli shows up via the pyramid and destroys the casino. This issue was just OK, I guess.

DOCTOR STAR AND THE KINGDOM OF LOST TOMORROWS #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Star Child,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Max Fiumara. Another Black Hammer spinoff. This series’s protagonist is heavily based on James Robinson’s portrayal of Starman/Ted Knight, and is actually named James “Jimmy” Robinson. After discovering a cosmic power source, Dr. Robinson becomes so obsessed that he neglects his wife and child, and then he becomes a member of the Black Hammer version of the Justice Society. At the end of the issue, he visits his son in hospice. This was a pretty good issue, but I don’t see how it fits into the overall narrative of Black Hammer.

LOCKJAW #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Who’s a Good Boy?”, [W] Daniel Kibblesmith, [A] Carlos Villa. I was excited when Marvel announced a Lockjaw solo title, and this debut issue did not disappoint. As expected, this issue is incredibly cute – among other things, it includes a battle between Lockjaw and D-Man and a squad of flying alien hamsters.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #11 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. The Pillars arrive at Mistmane’s greenhouse, where they get in a big fight with Mistmane’s plants. Then Mistmane joins the team, and they encounter Starswirl. This was a good issue, but not spectacular.

THE MIGHTY THOR #704 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Gospel According to Jane,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. While the Mangog is beating the crap out of Asgard’s defenders, Jane reminisces about her life. Jason Aaron takes this opportunity to answer a question that’s been bothering me for a long time: What happened to Jane’s husband and son? I even asked Jason this question at Heroes Con, and I’ve forgotten what exactly he said, but he gave me the impression that he wasn’t ever going to mention these characters. Well, in this issue we learn that Keith and Jimmy were killed in a car accident. This is a shocking revelation, especially given how long it was deferred. At the end of the issue, Jane accepts the inevitability of fate and becomes Thor for the final time. This is a powerful but very dark issue, with the only comic relief coming from Thori’s obsessive pursuit of anyone with a hammer. Overall, this is an excellent chapter of the best Thor comic since the ‘80s – more on that later.

SUPER SONS #13 (DC, 2018) – “The Parent Trap! Part One,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. I can’t remember much about this issue. Damian and Jon are going to the same boarding school for some reason. Talia shows up at their school, and Damian and Jon learn that she’s accepted a contract to kill Lois.

DEPT. H #23 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. On her way to the surface, Mia thinks about all the evidence and realizes that the killer is Blake. He got rid of Hari to ensure that no one could cure the plague, because he (Blake) wants to kill half the world’s population. As usual, people who are worried about overpopulation are only willing to solve the problem by killing other people, never themselves. The issue ends with Mia struggling to reach the surface.

HEATHEN #1 (Comixology, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. I saw some positive reviews of this comic on Twitter, and remembered that I had gotten the first issue of it at NYCC – it was a free comic distributed at the Comixology booth. This series is a gender-swapped version of Siegfried, in which a female warrior tries to rescue Brunhilde from the magic fire. It feels like a very progressive and queer story, and Alterici’s art is fascinating. Her style is hard to describe, but it feels both line-drawn and painted at once. It appears that this series was initially published only on Comixology, but is now being released in print form by Vault. I ordered the latest issue, and will be looking for the others.

DEE VEE #1 (Dee Vee, 1997) – various stories, [E] Marcus Moore & Daren White. An anthology of Australian comics. The lead story is by Eddie Campbell, and I believe it was later incorporated into Alec: How to Be an Artist. Most of the other stories in the issue are quite short and insubstantial. Besides Eddie, creators represented in this issue include Pete Mullins and Bruce Mutard.

MONSTRESS #14 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika tries to activate the Pontus shield, but instead destroys it. Meanwhile, Kippa discovers a refugee camp full of other foxes. More on this series later.

WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #6 (DC, 2018) – “A Feast of Forbidden Flesh,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Diana defies her mother’s orders and leads an Amazon army to help Conan. They free the slaves, including Yanna. But it turns out Yanna is already married with children, so she and Conan don’t end up together. Then, in the present day, Diana encounters a man who looks a lot like Conan. I wonder if Gail was thinking of the “Conan the Salaryman” Twitter account here – I doubt it though. Overall, this issue is a slightly weak conclusion. I think Gail has trouble writing satisfactory conclusions, though I can’t think of any other specific examples of this problem.

PUNKS NOT DEAD #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Don’t Let Them Take You Alive: Teenage Kcks, Part One,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. This is the only Black Crown title whose creators are completely new to me. I took a bit of a risk by ordering it, but I trust Shelly Bond’s ability to spot talent, and it turns out that this is a pretty good comic. It stars a lonely, fatherless teenage boy who encounters the ghost of Sid Vicious. It’s a fun comic that makes good use of ‘70s nostalgia, and Simmonds’s art style is distinctive and unique.

SUPERB #7 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”, [W] David Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Alitha Martinez. Corinna betrays Kayla and Jonah and summons her other teammates to recapture them. This is still a funny and cute comic, but its plot has been moving very slowly. I think the last five or six issues have all taken place on the same day.

KID LOBOTOMY #5 (Black Crown, 2018) – “The Boy with Two Hearts,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. This series gets more confusing with every issue. This issue, lots of confusing stuff happens, Adam Mee shoots his own hand off, Kid Lobotomy is renamed “Milligan,” and then he falls into a hole into some kind of desert filled with goblins.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #2 (Tower, 1966) – “Dynamo Battles Dynavac,” [W] Len Brown, [A] Wally Wood, plus other stories. Most of this issue’s stories revolve around the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents’ battle with the Warlord, who dies at the end of the issue, except it turns out he was just one member of an entire alien race of Warlords. Wally Wood’s amazing artwork is the primary appeal of the issue. Also, Alice and Kitten get a few chances to do useful stuff rather than just being hostages. Some of the non-Woody stories in this issue are a bit tedious.

ONI DOUBLE FEATURE #13 (Oni, 1999) – Jingle Belle in “Sanity Clauses,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Stephen DiStefano, and “The Honor Rollers, Part 2,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Tom Fowler. This is the last issue and is billed as “Dini Double Feature” on the cover. In the first story, Jing struggles to win her father’s respect, only to immediately forfeit it once she gets it. The backup story isn’t as good; it makes no sense if you haven’t read the previous issue.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #28 (Marvel, 2018) – “1+2=Fantastic Three, Part 4: Three is Not Enough,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella, Ben and Johnny defeat the Super-Skrull with help from the Silver Surfer, then because of some complicated handwaving, Lunella needs to recruit a fourth member for her Fantastic Four. This storyline has been much less impressive than the previous one.

BLACK PANTHER #170 (Marvel, 2018) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 11,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. While the fight goes on, Changamire has a long conversation with Killmonger. Asira shows up at the end of the issue. Google indicates that this is the same character as Queen Divine Justice. I can’t remember much about this issue now, and I think Avengers of the New World has been going on way too long. Ta-Nehisi ought to end it already and move on to something else.

ROYAL CITY #10 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. All four Pikes go to a party where Tara has an uncomfortable conversation with her babydaddy, and Tommy loses his virginity. So I guess there are two possibilities as to which of the siblings is the parent of Patrick’s niece. Or even three, because who knows what Richie’s been up to.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SPECTRE OF TOMORROW #5 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Robo defeats Helsingard with help from his drones and ALAN. I don’t remember who ALAN is, but apparently he appeared in Ghost of Station X, and he was an evil AI created by Alan Turing. At the end of the issue, the drones introduce themselves as ALAN. The best thing about this issue may be the cover, which shows Robo’s two assistants looking in a bathroom mirror.

MOTHERLANDS #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Two,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Stephen Byrne. This is only issue 2 and it already has a guest artist, which is not a good sign. And speaking of the art, I couldn’t initially tell that the assassin at the end of the issue was supposed to be tiny in size. This issue, Tabitha and her mother continue their quest for Tabitha’s brother. This series is okay, but not as exciting as Spire or Angelic.

THE TERRIFICS #1 (DC, 2018) – “Meet the Terrifics,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Ivan Reis. This issue introduces DC’s version of the Fantastic Four, consisting of Mr. Terrific, Phantom Girl/Lady, Plastic Man, and Metamorpho. This is a very entertaining comic and a good debut issue. However, it comes with two major annoyances. First, Phantom Girl is probably my favorite Legionnaire, and I’m annoyed that the Phantom Girl in this series is Tinya Wazzo in everything but name. Why couldn’t they have just named her Tinya instead of “Linnya”? It’s not as if DC had any other plans for the original Tinya Wazzo, and there’s a long tradition of Legionnaires getting stuck in the 20th century. Second, Tom Strong appears at the end of the issue. Incorporating Tom Strong into the DC Universe is not as much of a crime as incorporating the Watchmen into the DC Universe. Tom Strong has already been written by writers other than Alan Moore, with Alan’s full support. However, Alan went to great lengths to ensure that the ABC characters wouldn’t become DC’s property, even when DC unexpectedly bought Wildstorm, and it’s very annoying that Alan wasn’t able to protect his characters from DC. Neither of these annoyances are bad enough to get me to stop reading Terrifics, but they do diminish my enjoyment of this series.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #144 (Dell, 1952) – untitled (Spending Money), [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. This is one of the oldest comics I own. Just after I moved to Oxford, I bought this and two other old duck comics from a local antique store, at a very cheap price. Somehow I never got around to actually reading them, but I feel proud just to own them. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Scrooge has too much money to keep anywhere, so he hires Donald to spend the excess money. Scrooge and the nephews go out and make all sorts of wasteful purchases, but it turns out that they made all the purchases at businesses Scrooge already owns, so Scrooge ends up with more money than he started with. This story can be read as a satire or reductio ad absurdum of capitalism. Barks said that if Scrooge really existed, he would never spend any money and would steadily grow richer while everyone else grew poorer. (I don’t know the source for this quotation; I read it in Ana Merino’s El comic hispanico, where it’s quoted from Charles Bergquist’s Labor and the Course of American Democracy, but I don’t know where Bergquist got it.) This story illustrates that point. The other stories in this issue are much worse, and one of them, starring Little Hiawatha, is horribly racist.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89 #9 (DC, 1989) – “Second Chances,” [W/A] Keith Giffen, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Speaking of characters who aren’t Phantom Girl… This is a fun comic with a lot of concurrent plotlines, but is most notable for introducing Phase, who was clearly supposed to be Phantom Girl. This character was later retconned multiple times: first she was revealed to be Tinya’s cousin, Enya Wazzo, and then it turned out that Apparition was half Cargggite and Phase was one of her three bodies. This sort of convoluted continuity is why if DC ever revives the Legion, they should just restart it from scratch.

DOOM PATROL #31 (DC, 1990) – “The Word Made Flesh,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case. Will Magnus builds a new body for Robotman. Willoughby Kipling, a character rather similar to John Constantine, enlists the Doom Patrol to help him defeat the Cult of the Unwritten Book. This was an okay issue.

DINOSAUR REX #3 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – untitled, [W] Jan Strnad, [A] Henry Mayo. I don’t know what I expected from this comic, but I certainly didn’t expect a P.G. Wodehouse parody with dinosaurs. It works surprisingly well, though – but I guess P.G. Wodehouse can be mashed up with just about any genre. More specifically, this issue is about a rich, airheaded dinosaur hunter with an extremely competent lizard butler. It’s a very entertaining and funny story, and it’s too bad this series has been completely forgotten. This issue also has a backup story, “The Dragons of Summer,” by William Messner-Loebs and Dennis Fujitake.

FRENCH ICE #4 (Renegade, 1987) – Carmen Cru in “Sunday Afternoon” and other stories, [W/A] Jean-Marc Lelong. I buy a lot of comic books, and as a result I have a lot of unread comic books – about seven and a half long boxes of them, at the moment. My unread comics are organized in the order in which I bought them, so the comics I bought the least recently are the furthest back. French Ice #4 was at the very back of the last box. I bought several issues of this series some years ago, but never read most of them. After finally reading this issue, I understand why. This issue contains a series of stories about a hideous old crone living in some French city. Lelong’s artwork is quite realistic, but these stories all have the same joke: that Carmen Cru is an awful old battleaxe who drives all her neighbors crazy and doesn’t care. Reading several of these stories in succession is very tedious. It would have been better if this series had been an anthology, with one Carmen Cru story per issue, plus stories by other artists.

BATGIRL #20 (DC, 2018) – “Cold Snap, Part Two,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Sami Basri. While trying to figure out who hacked some weather satellites, Batgirl discovers the Penguin’s plot to brainwash Gotham’s citizens into trusting him. It turns out the other villain behind the plot is the Penguin’s son, who is pissed at Batgirl for giving him a scar. This issue’s plot reminds me a bit of that of Batman Returns. The highlight of this issue is when Babs tells the mayor that “something smells fishy,” meaning it metaphorically. And the mayor replies “of course” and points to the Penguin’s penguins, who are being fed raw fish.

ARCHIE #26 (Archie, 2018) – “If I Could Reach His Face,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Audrey Mok. Archie and Veronica have a heart-to-heart talk which ends with Veronica asking him to choose her or Betty. Meanwhile, Dilton professes his love to Betty and asks her to choose him or Archie. I know I complain about Mark Waid a lot, but the issues of Archie from #20 onward are perhaps the best-written Archie comics I’ve ever read. They’re funny and powerful at once. I should also note that this issue includes an effective critique of the sexist notion of the “friend zone.”

NOW #1 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – many stories, [E] Eric Reynolds. This counts as a comic book because it has an issue number and it fits inside a longbox. This anthology is a collection of a wide variety of avant-garde comics, some very abstract and others more straightforward. Highlights include: Eleanor Davis’s “Hurt or Fuck” makes little logical sense but is beautiful to look at. Dash Shaw’s “Scorpio” is a possibly autobiographical story in which a baby is born on election night in 2016, while his father is obsessively checking exit poll results. At the end, the father doesn’t have the heart to tell the mother who won. This is kind of heartbreaking. Jean-Christophe Menu’s “SOS Suitcases” feels like an account of a dream, but is beautifully drawn. Noah Van Sciver’s “Wall of Shame” was my favorite story of the issue. Noah returns to his hometown for an art show, but the trip is ruined by his brother’s boorish behavior (not his best-known brother, another one). The story is an insightful and honest account of a complicated sibling relationship. Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward’s “Widening Horizon” is an interesting piece of alternate history.

A1 #4 (Atomeka, 1990) – various stories, [E] Dave Elliott & Garry Leach. There’s lots of interesting stuff in this issue, although it’s much more uneven than Now #1. One section of the issue is devoted to rare work by Moebius, including an autobiographical story from 1974 in which Moebius is interviewed. There’s also a new Dalgoda story by Jan Strnad and Kevin Nowlan, which was a surprise, since I had thought I’d read all of Dalgoda. This story appears to take place after Flesh & Bones. This issue includes two stories I’ve read elsewhere: “A Lot on His Plate” by John Bolton, and “Song of the Terraces” from the Bojeffries Saga. After rereading the latter, I had the refrain “Sun, Sun, Sun, Sun, Sun, Guardian, Sun” running through my head. Other stories in this issue feature art by Jamie Hewlett, Phil Elliott and Glenn Fabry.

THE BEEF #1 (Image, 2018) – “Mudsville,” [W] Richard Starkings & Tyler Shainline, [A] Shaky Kane. This miniseries stars a bullied young boy who grows up to work at a slaughterhouse, while still being tormented by his childhood bullies. After a lifetime of emotional abuse and of absorbing chemicals from beef, he turns into the Hulk, more or less. This issue’s plot is surprisingly effective, although the highlight is Shaky Kane’s Kirbyesque art and his impressive sense of design.

KILL OR BE KILLED #7 (Image, 2017) – “What Kira Sees,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Dylan’s girlfriend Kira goes to a therapist and discusses her traumatic family history. Then she talks with her old, sick mother, who’s in the hospital. This issue is an effective exploration of Kira’s psychology, but I didn’t remember much about it before I looked at it again.

WEIRD SCIENCE #6 (EC, 1951/1993) – four stories, [E] Bill Gaines. This issue begins with Al Feldstein’s “Spawn of Venus.” This story is not bad, but Wally Wood did a better version of it, which went unpublished until 1969. The highlight of the issue is Kurtzman’s “Man and Superman,” which stars two brothers-in-law: Niels Urey Vannever, a nerd (probably named after Niels Bohr, Harold Urey and Vannevar Bush), and Charlemagne Farbish, a bodybuilder. Charlemagne tries to use a machine built by Niels to increase his body mass, but kills himself. While this story’s plot is kind of dumb, Kurtzman does a brilliant job of contrasting Niels and Charlemagne, while also showing that they’re both equally awful. I was reading Bridget Blodgett and Anastasia Salter’s book Toxic Geek Masculinity when I read this comic, and “Man and Superman” is a perfect demonstration of that book’s thesis that geek masculinity is potentially just as bad as normative masculinity. Of the other stories in the issue, Woody’s “The Sinking of the Titanic” is super-predictable but well-drawn, and Jack Kamen’s “Divide and Conquer” is really creepy.

KILL OR BE KILLED #12 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Dylan tracks down Tino, a member of the Russian mob, and gets a bunch of information out of Tino before killing him. Tino tells Dylan that the mob will never stop looking for him because he killed the big boss’s cousin. This was not the most memorable issue.

KILL OR BE KILLED #13 (Image, 2017) – as above. Dylan and Kira go to Dylan’s mother’s house, where Dylan looks through his dad’s old artwork for clues about the demon that’s possessing him. Then Dylan goes off to hunt down the big boss, and that leads us to the point of the flashforward from issue 1.

THE HIGHEST HOUSE #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Obsidian’s Bargain, Part 1,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. I was surprised to discover that this comic is magazine-sized, and that it takes place in a medieval fantasy world, rather than present-day Earth. I expected something more like Locke & Key. This comic’s protagonist is a poor boy who is sold as a slave to the master of the namesake house. He gets trained to be a roofer, but he obviously has some kind of magic powers. I’m curious to see where this is going.

ZERO ZERO #6 (Fantagraphics, 1995) – various stories, [E] Kim Thompson. The clear highlight of this anthology comic is Kim Deitch’s “The Strange Secret of Molly O’Dare.” This is a very typical Deitch comic. It blends fairy-tale fantasy with Hollywood nostalgia, and has a framing sequence starring Kim himself. Like much of Kim’s work, it’s also very creepy, sordid and unsettling. This story was later collected in the book Shadowland, along with the series of that name, which also stars Molly O’Dare. The other longer stories in this issue are by Bob Richard Sala and Ted Stearn. Besides Deitch, the creators represented in Zero Zero seem to have been among the lesser Fantagraphics artists, and I actively disliked the Ted Stearn story in this issue.

CHEVAL NOIR #19 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. I have a bunch of issues of this series, but I haven’t been reading them because they’re quite long. This series included a wide variety of excellent French comics plus some Anglophone material, although unfortunately it was in black and white, and some of the material in it was really meant to be seen in color. This issue includes chapters of Andreas’s Rork, Rosinski and Van Hamme’s The Great Power of the Chninkel, Cosey’s Voyage to Italy, and Tardi’s Adele Blanc-Sec. I’m already familiar with a couple of these, but I was really impressed by the Cosey story, and I want to read the rest of this album. However, the Rork story was confusing and abstract and difficult to understand. The low point of this issue was a chapter of Marvano’s overly literal and uninspired adaptation of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.

NOW #2 (Fantagraphics, 2018) – various stories, [E] Eric Reynolds. This wasn’t as good as issue 1.  The best stories were Tommi Musturi’s “Samuel,” Susan Jonaitis and Graham Chaffee’s “Sharpshooter,” and Ariel López V’s “A Perfect Triangle,” and none of them were as good as the Van Sciver story from #1. Some of the other stories in this issue were really not to my taste. James Turek’s 30-page “Saved” makes no sense and is drawn in an ugly style. Another big chunk of the issue is taken up by Fabio Zimbres’s “The Apocalypse According to Dr. Zerg,” originally published as a minicomic in Brazil. Matt Madden translated it, and he really likes it, but I don’t share his enthusiasm. I suppose this story has an interesting message about capitalism, but it’s so crudely drawn that the message is hard to appreciate.

My next new comics shipment arrived on March 9:

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #34 (Image, 2018) – “The Grace of Loving Machines,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. We begin with a flashback to 6000 years ago, when Ananke kills her own sister and collects her head, adding it to a bag of other severed heads. I guess that sort of explains why Minerva was also collecting severed heads, but I still have no idea what’s going  on here.

MECH CADET YU #7 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. It turns out that Central Command is murdering robots in order to use their hearts for a super-robot. Stanford tries to stop this evil plot, with unexpected assistance from Park. The revelation that Central Command is killing robots is disappointing, but somehow not surprising; we’ve already seen that this organization is somewhat corrupt and non-transparent.

DODGE CITY #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Josh Trujillo, [A] Cara McGee. This is an attractively drawn comic with a multicultural cast, including a rare example of a Sikh character. However, this comic suffers from a lack of clarity. It’s about a dodgeball team, but I can’t tell if it’s a professional or a high school team, or if the characters are adults or teens. In general, there’s not enough background on the characters. So far, this comic is very similar to Slam, but worse.

ASSASSINISTAS #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Don’t Find Me – I’m Allergic to You!”, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. In the present day, Octavia, Dominic and Tyler’s rescue mission continues. In the flashback, we learn that Roz has a daughter, Roxana. This was another really fun issue of what has become a very entertaining series, especially compared to some of Beto’s other recent works like Blubber.

GIANT DAYS #36 (Boom!, 2018) – “Daisy Finally Comes to Her Senses,” [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. That’s not the real title. The main event of this issue is that Daisy finally breaks up with Ingrid, who outs Daisy to her grandmother in revenge. A subplot involves Esther and her Middle English class. The best moment of the issue is when Esther says “Wel oghten we to doon al oure entente,” and it’s lettered in Gothic lettering.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #7 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. Esther and Prince Aki reach the treasure, but it turns out that the dude with the two dogs got there first, and that he, like Lu, is a dragon. This leads to a giant fight scene, which includes the best line in the issue: “Am I the only one here who isn’t a dragon?” Unfortunately, the storytelling in the fight scene is less clear than it could have been. At the end of the issue, Lu and her companions go their separate ways, but this isn’t the last issue. I guess the next storyline will focus on Lu alone.

BINGO LOVE (Image, 2018) – “Bingo Love,” [W] Tee Franklin, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. Bingo Love is of the best and most important comics of 2018. Its story and artwork are straightforward, appealing and accessible, but it explores characters and experiences that are completely invisible in most other comics. It tells the story of two black girls who fall in love as teenagers, but who are separated and forced into marriage by their families, and don’t meet again until they’ve both become grandmothers. As a queer, disabled black woman, Tee Franklin has firsthand knowledge that’s unavailable to most comic creators, who tend to be straight white non-disabled men, and she effectively conveys that knowledge. Another thing that struck me about Bingo Love is that it’s about black people, but it’s not about racism. It’s unquestionably an African-American story – it relies on cultural practices and beliefs that are specific to African-Americans. But it’s not about the African-American struggle for freedom. The oppression that the characters struggle against is black homophobia, not white racism – indeed, there are almost no white people in the book. This is important because as pointed out in Denene Millner’s NYT article “Black Kids Don’t Want to Read About Harriet Tubman All the Time,” black readers need books that explore all aspects of their experience. Bingo Love shows black people leading rich emotional lives that are not defined solely by racism, and we need comics like that, as well as comics like March.

A couple minor criticisms are that Tee Franklin’s dialogue is occasionally somewhat wooden, and that one important plot point is left out; to learn James’s secret, the reader has to read Bingo Love: Secrets, which isn’t out yet. However, it’s pretty clear that James’s secret is that he too is gay – notice that he never mentions his lover’s gender. Also, this story covers a very long timeframe, and a lot of important events happen off-panel. Usually this is fine, because the main focus of the book is Hazel and Mari’s relationship, and the other aspects of their lives aren’t as important. But it does feel like handwaving when Hazel says “We eventually started family therapy. It took some time, but our family healed.” I feel like that event is important enough that it deserved more than a single dialogue box.

INCOGNEGRO: RENAISSANCE #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Cotton,” [W] Mat Johnson, [A] Warren Pleece. Here, on the other hand, is a black-authored comic that’s explicitly about racism – and I didn’t mean that such comics weren’t important, just that comics should depict other aspects of black life as well. This issue, Zane passes as white and infiltrates the Cotton Club to gather evidence, but he accomplishes nothing, and experiences both racism and hostility from other black people. (Though the scene where the coat check guy helps Zane escape is kind of touching.) Among the many brutal scenes in this issue, one that struck me was when the dude refuses to talk to Zane because he’s a reporter for the black press, not the “real press.” Unfortunately, that mentality is still common today.

HAWKEYE #16 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family Reunion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. A sweet conclusion to a series that really shouldn’t have been cancelled. Kate and Clint defeat Madame Masque, and Kate convinces Eden Blake to have a change of heart. And we learn that Kate’s mother is alive. And that’s the end. I really hope Kelly gets to tell the rest of this story somehow.

GREEN LANTERN #107 (DC, 1978) – “The Man Who Murdered Green Lantern!”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Alex Saviuk. A bad fill-in story by a mediocre creative team. It guest-stars Air-Wave, who I think was Bob Rozakis’s pet character or something. There’s also a backup story starring Katma Tui. BTW, this story mentions how in Katma Tui’s first appearance, she decided to remain a Green Lantern rather than get married. Was this plot point mentioned when Katma actually did get married? I can’t remember.

ROGUE & GAMBIT #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Pere Pérez. This issue begins with a flashback to the Antarctica story in X-Men #348, which I have never read – it was just after I quit reading X-Men – but now I kind of want to track it down. Then Rogue and Gambit have sex, which is rather heartwarming, since I grew up with these characters and I always assumed that their passion was hopeless. And then Rogue and Gambit fight a bunch of copies of themselves. The nice thing about this series is that it draws heavily upon the early ‘90s X-Men, but it’s better written than those X-Men comics were.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #17 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. Duncan Dragon becomes a postal courier and delivers a package to a witch, who uses it to summon a demon, which I assume is Gert. This issue had some nice jokes, including the scene with the devil hanging out at the beach, but it was otherwise forgettable.

GIDEON FALLS #1 (Image, 2018) – “The Speed of Pain,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This is a new Jeff Lemire comic, so I have high expectations for it, but I’m not sure what’s going on in it. This issue has two storylines – one about a crazy man who collects nails, and another about a priest who takes over a church whose previous priest died mysteriously – and it’s not clear what these storylines have to do with each other.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Mr. Follow Follow,” [W] Evan Narcisse, [A] Paul Renaud. T’Challa invites a bunch of foreign dignitaries to Wakanda, one of whom turns out to be the Soviet superheroine Darkstar, and she’s accompanied by the Winter Soldier. This was a pretty good issue, and it was interesting to compare the foreigners’ and the Wakandans’ reactions to each other. However, I had trouble remembering anything about this issue until I looked through it again just now.

TRUE BELIEVERS: VENOM VS. SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 1988/2018) – “Venom,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Todd McFarlane. I had never read this story before – an original copy of Amazing Spider-Man #300 is outside my price range, and somehow I’d never read it in reprinted form. This story is a classic, despite Todd’s exploitative depictions of Mary Jane. It has a lot of cute moments, like when Peter and MJ invite some friends to help them move, and one of the friends is Alfred E. Neuman. But the key themes of the story are Venom’s irrational hatred of Spider-Man and MJ’s traumatic reaction to being terrorized by Venom, and those themes come across powerfully.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #300 (Marvel, 2018) – “Showdown,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert & Juan Frigeri. This issue’s main story is essentially just a big long fight scene, which ends with Peter, Teresa and JJJ going back in time to acquire the technology they need to stop the Tinkerer’s plot. The backup story is far more memorable. The Black Cat proposes marriage to Spider-Man, but it turns out she just did it to throw off his spider-sense so she could escape from him with her loot. This scene is hilarious even if you don’t realize it’s a parody of the scene where Catwoman proposes to Batman.

NO BETTER WORDS #nn (Silver Sprocket, 2018) – “No Better Words,” [W/A] Carolyn Nowak. This small-format comic is also labeled as Silver #080. It’s a simple but very effective story about a young woman who has sex with her boyfriend for the first time. It’s a powerful, sex-positive depiction of female desire. I couldn’t remember where I’d heard of Carolyn Nowak before, but she’s drawn a bunch of Lumberjanes stories. Now I wish I’d ordered her upcoming collection Girl Town.

SHE-HULK #162 (Marvel, 2018) – “Jen Walters Must Die,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Jahnoy Lindsay. Jen visits Flo for a therapy session. This comic reminds me of X-Factor #87 or Hulk #393, but it’s worse than either. I didn’t feel emotionally connected to Jen’s mental struggle, which is odd, since Mariko Tamaki’s depiction of Jen’s trauma has been the best thing about this series. Maybe I didn’t give this issue a fair chance.

SHE-HULK #163 (Marvel, 2018) – “Jen Walters Must Die” (again), [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Diego Olortegui. This was a better issue, and a reasonably satisfying conclusion to this run. Jen and Patsy attend a prom as guests of New York’s first mutant class president. The prom is invaded by anti-mutant terrorists. I like how this issue directly references alt-right terrorism.

CHEVAL NOIR #10 (Dark Horse, 1990) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. The highlight of this issue is a chapter of Schuiten and Peeters’s The Tower, about a fat, awkward scholar who lives in an infinitely tall tower. Ever since I read a different chapter of this same album in another issue of Cheval Noir, I’ve been fascinated with Schuiten and Peeters. I wish IDW would get around to releasing a new edition of this album; they’re supposed to be publishing the entire Obscure Cities series, but only three volumes have come out so far, and no others have been solicited. The other impressive story in this issue is a chapter of Tardi and Legrand’s Roach Killer, which, like much of Tardi’s other work, is a gritty, disturbing film noir-esque mystery. This entire album is included in the Fantagraphics book New York Mon Amour. Of the other comics in this issue, Marvano’s Forever War adaptation is not good, Andreas’s Coutoo is difficult to understand, and Druillet and Lob’s Lone Sloane: Delirius is crippled by the lack of color.

MOEBIUS COMICS #5 (Caliber, 1997) – various stories. A collection of random Moebius material, including storyboards from some kind of film, and a silent story starring the characters from The World of Edena, and a Western story from the ‘50s which is one of Moebius’s earliest works. The second of these appeared in Concrete Celebrates Earth Day, so I must have read it before, but I don’t remember it. The Western story is undistinguished, but it does remind me that Moebius’s biggest influence was Jijé, probably the most important French cartoonist whose work has never appeared in English. This issue also includes two Moebius pastiches by Ladronn and Steve Leialoha.

CHEVAL NOIR #5 (Dark Horse, 1990) – as above. This issue includes chapters of three albums I’ve already read: Schuiten and Peeters’s Fever in Urbicand, Tardi’s The Demon of the Eiffel Tower, and Druillet’s Lone Sloane. Stories in this issue that are new to me include Eddie Campbell’s Eyeball Kid, Andreas’s Rork, and Cailleteau and Vatine’s Fred & Bob, which is pure crap.

JEREMIAH: THE HEIRS #2 (Malibu, 1991) – “The Heirs,” [W/A] Hermann. I read the first half of this album a while ago, and I had to reread it to remind myself what’s going on. Jeremiah is basically a post-apocalyptic Western about an itinerant gunslinger and his dumb sidekick. In this album, Jeremiah encounters some rich people who are forcing the local poor people to work for them or starve. Hermann’s action sequences are exciting, and his draftsmanship is excellent, though it reminds me a lot of Moebius. This reprint is in black and white, though, which makes the artwork difficult to parse. French comics are often difficult to read when reprinted in black and white, because they make such heavy use of color to distinguish objects from each other.

SUPERBOY #130 (DC, 1966) – “Prince Rama’s Super Stand-In!”, [W] Jerry Siegel, [A] George Papp. Superboy visits a kingdom in Asia, presumably somewhere in India, whose prince is an exact double for him. This story is really dumb, and Siegel obviously knew nothing about India other than the most common stereotypes. The backup story, in which Superbaby tries to find a pet and causes all sorts of mayhem, is only a little better.

BLACK BOLT #10 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Midnight King Returns to Earth,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. Black Bolt and Titania chase Lash and the kidnapped Blinky to the ruined city of Orollan. Black Bolt has a partial reconciliation with Medusa. Blinky is possessed by the Jailer’s ghost. In this issue Christian Ward’s art and Saladin Ahmed’s prose style are really good, as usual. But I won’t miss this series all that much, because I know that both these creators are going on to other things.

BLACK BOLT #11 – as above. The battle continues. Inside the Jailer’s mind, Blinky encounters Black Bolt’s son, and they witness a scene from Black Bolt’s childhood. This issue is very similar to the previous issue, though that’s not a bad thing.

HATE #9 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Follow That Dream, Part 2,” [W/A] Peter Bagge. Buddy becomes the manager of Leonard/Stinky’s band, and takes advantage of his position in order to sleep with a girl and embezzle money. However, Buddy can’t stand Stinky’s music, or Stinky himself, for that matter. When the band goes on tour, tensions come to a head, and Stinky throws Buddy out of the van and abandons him in the middle of nowhere. And then the band also gets stuck in the middle of nowhere when the money runs out. This issue is a hilarious send-up of the early ‘90s alternative rock scene.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #291 (Western, 1964) – “Delivery Dilemma,” [W/A] Carl Barks, and other stories. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Scrooge signs a contract to deliver some eggs to a remote Pacific island. But it turns out the other party to the contract is the Beagle Boys, and Scrooge has to pay them his entire fortune if he can’t deliver the eggs. This leads to a thrilling chase where Scrooge does everything he can to reach the island, and the Beagle Boys do everything in their power to stop him or break the eggs. Oh, also it turns out the contract describes the eggs as rabbit eggs, which are logically impossible. This story is very similar to “The Doom Diamond” – they both include an ocean voyage to a remote island, and a technological arms race between Scrooge and the Beagle Boys. I wonder if Barks was running out of ideas. The only other interesting thing in this issue is a Mickey Mouse story by Fallberg and Murry.

GIANT-SIZE CONAN #2 (Marvel, 1974) – “Conan Bound!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane. In this chapter of an adaptation of The Hour of the Dragon, Conan meets his future queen, Zenobia, for the first time. This is a really impressive story, a powerful demonstration of Conan’s character and of Roy Thomas’s writing skills. Zenobia is an exciting character and you can see why Conan falls for her, even if she’s more traditionally feminine than Bêlit or Red Sonja. This story is not to be confused with Conan Annual #4, in which Conan goes back for Zenobia. Giant-Size Conan #2 also includes a reprint of “Zukala’s Daughter” from Conan #5, my least favorite issue of BWS’s run.

SELF-LOATHING COMICS #2 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – “A Couple a’ Nasty, Raunchy Old Things,” [W/A] Robert Crumb & Aline Kominsky-Crumb. There is currently an ongoing debate on the comix-scholars list about Crumb’s legacy and his history of sexism and racism. This comic is one of Crumb’s less offensive works because it’s a collaboration with Aline, although it still contains some misogyny and some mild anti-Semitism. I feel like in order to enjoy Crumb, you have to make an effort to ignore or forgive his offensiveness, and it’s not fair to expect female or minority readers to make that effort. This issue also contains a bit too much obsessive navel-gazing. The value of this issue is its depiction of Bob and Aline’s relationship. It’s kind of heartwarming that they still find each other desirable after so many years of marriage. This issue also touches on their ambivalence about the fact that their daughter is growing up. Some panels in this issue are drawn by Art Spiegelman, Charles Burns and Pete Poplaski.

UNCANNY X-MEN #231 (Marvel, 1988) – “…Dressed for Dinner!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Rick Leonardi. A surprisingly enjoyable issue. Colossus visits Limbo to help out hs sister Magik, who still thinks he’s dead. Magik thinks Colossus is a demon she’s summoned and not the real thing, which makes the story extra poignant. The art is by Rick Leonardi, perhaps the most underrated Marvel artist of the ’80s and ‘90s. I don’t know why he never became a superstar; he was far more gifted than many other more famous artists.

TWISTED TALES #1 (Pacific, 1982) – variouus stories, [W] Bruce Jones. This horror anthology comic is very reminiscent of a classic EC comic. It consists of four stories with twist endings, and the first story even has Leroy lettering. My favorite is probably “A Walk in the Woods,” in which a couple gets lost in the woods and encounters situations from various fairy tales and nursery rhymes, ending with Jack and Jill. The best artwork is in Corben’s “Infected,” in which a man sleeps with a woman who has crabs, except not that kind of crabs. The story by Alfredo Alcala is disappointing because the quality of the artwork goes way down after the first page. The fourth story is about a boy who dies during a Halloween prank gone bad, and then comes back as a ghost and forces his murderers to go trick or treating with him.

MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA #4 (Marvel, 2008) – “Deep Wounds,” [W] Kurt Busiek & Roger Stern, [A] Jay Anacleto. This issue continues Phil Seuling’s story into the ‘80s. Even more so than the original Marvels, this is a comic for hardcore fans. Nearly every page contains multiple references to ‘80s Marvel comics. To a reader like me, this comic offers unique pleasures, but it doesn’t offer much else besides that. A reader who didn’t get the references would miss most of the fun of this comic, and unlike the original Marvels, it’s not worth reading just for the art.

SUPERSTAR: AS SEEN ON TV #1 (Image, 2001) – “Superstar!”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Stuart Immonen. This one-shot introduces a new superhero who gets his power from “bio-energy” donations from other people – so to maintain his superhero status, he has to be a celebrity, so that lots of people will give him their energy. This is a really interesting premise. However, Kurt doesn’t sufficiently explore the fascinating implications of Superstar’s powers, and Superstar himself is overshadowed by his father, a horrible sociopath who takes advantage of his son. Superstar’s relationship with his father overshadows everything else in the comic, and I kept wishing that Superstar would stop being such a doormat and that he’d just cut his dad off already. There’s also an implication that Superstar’s dad is actually bankrolling all his supervillains (which is a plot twist we’ve seen at least once in Astro City, such as in the Mock Turtle/Red Queen story), but this is never confirmed. A further question this comic raises is why it wasn’t an issue of Astro City, because it easily could have been. In a 2000 interview, Kurt was asked that exact question, and he replied:

“If I put Superstar into ASTRO CITY, he’d be an ASTRO CITY character. ASTRO CITY is a vehicle for exploring the genre and finding out what life is like within a superhero reality — it’s only secondarily about adventure and thrills. So that would change the tone of the stories I’d do right there. And if I did Superstar in ASTRO CITY, I’d only be able to tell stories about him every now and then, since he’d share the book with the rest of the cast of dozens of superheroes and millions of ordinary people.” (https://www.cbr.com/shockrockets-and-superstars-kurt-busiek-interview/)

I wonder if Kurt still stands behind that answer. I feel like Astro City is varied enough in tone that it could easily accommodate a character like Superstar. And the part about not wanting Superstar to share the spotlight with other characters is ironic, because Kurt unfortunately never published any other Superstar stories. If Superstar had been an Astro City character, Kurt would have been able to tell more stories about him, not fewer.

New comics received on March 19. This was a very short week because I didn’t get my new comics until Tuesday:

MISTER MIRACLE #7 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. I’m a little annoyed that they skipped through Barda’s entire pregnancy, but the birth scene is thrilling and heartwarming, and is probably the best such scene in any comic book since Miracleman #9. As usual in this series, this issue combines cosmic characters with very mundane situations. I love the scenes with the Female Furies sitting in the waiting room. The use of the Fahren-Knife to cut the umbilical cord is a powerful scene, though I’m not sure what it means.

THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #30 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Forbidden Pla-Nut” conclusion, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. This was my favorite issue in a while, perhaps because there were few other new comics this week, so I was able to give this issue my full attention rather than being distracted by other stuff. Having dealt with the fake Surfer, Doreen faces the even more difficult task of getting hundreds of enemy alien races to reconcile. My favorite line in this issue is “a-whooby whooby whooby woo,” but this issue is full of great moments, such as Tippy becoming the Silver Squirrel, and Nancy being baffled by the alien bathroom. Also, Erica does a great job of drawing aliens that really look alien. I’m sorry to hear that she’s leaving this comic, but I congratulate her on an amazing run.

ETERNITY GIRL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Jumper,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Sonny Liew. An excellent debut issue, starring a former superheroine who can’t control her powers and is losing her grip on reality, and who keeps trying to kill herself but failing. This issue is a powerful depiction of depression and the difficulty of recovering from it. My one question is why this character is called Eternity Girl and not Element Girl, because that’s more or less who she is, and it’s obvious that this comic is inspired by Sandman #20.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #301 (Marvel, 2018) – “Amazing Fantasy – Part One,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Joe Quinones. This is probably Chip’s best issue yet. Peter, Teresa and JJJ’s visit to Peter’s past leads to all sorts of great moments, and Chip writes a lot of good dialogue. Especially fun moments include young Peter saying “Nice try, Mysterio”; the two Spider-Men joining forces to drive Doc Ock crazy with their banter; and the older JJJ being indistinguishable from the older JJJ.

DRY COUNTY #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Like Dark Corridor, Dry County is essentially a film noir story. In Miami, a cartoonist named Lou Rossi encounters an attractive woman who turns out to be hiding from her abusive boyfriend. This comic is another brilliant display of Tommaso’s artwork and design sense, but it’s not initially clear where its story is going. I guess the plot is that Lou will have to protect Janet from her ex-boyfriend.

ENCOUNTER #1 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Encounter!”, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco. This comic is obviously reminiscent of Aw Yeah Comics!, but it also reminds me of E-Man, because it’s about a shapeshifting alien who crashlands on Earth and is adopted by a human woman. The similarity to E-Man is a good thing, because Baltazar, Franco and Giarrusso have a cute, funny sensibility that’s similar to that of Cuti and Staton. I need to remember to keep ordering this series.

HANDS OF THE DRAGON #1 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “The Hands of the Dragon,” [W] Ed Fedory, [A] Jim Craig. Even compared to other Atlas/Seaboard comics, this comic is terrible. Like many mid-‘70s comics, it’s an attempt to catch in on the contemporary kung fu fad. But it offers nothing you wouldn’t find in any issue of Yang or Karate Kid or Iron Fist, and it’s significantly worse than any of those comics, let alone Master of Kung Fu.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Mad Company,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Valerio Schiti. Ben and Johnny visit Rachna Koul, a biologist who helps superheroes and villains with their powers. She reminds me a bit of Edna Mode, and has a nicely forceful personality. Hercules and the Mad Thinker also make guest appearances. This was an okay but not great issue.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Forward,” as above. Ben, Johnny and Rachna visit an alternate universe where Ben died fighting Galactus, and Doom stole Galactus’s power and ate the entire universe except for Earth. Again, this issue was good, but nothing spectacular.

New comics received on Friday, March 23:

MS. MARVEL #28 (Marvel, 2018) – “Teenage Wasteland, Part Four,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Naftali tracks down Kamala, who has been living at an exclusive snotty private school, and finally gives her her sandwich. Kamala teams up with Captain Marvel and the Substitute Kamalas to defeat the Inventor. The splash page where Kamala returns is an awesome moment. In general, this was a heartwarming issue, and it was the first comic in months in which Captain Marvel isn’t completely awful. This issue is also full of nice gags and visual puns. One that I noticed while flipping through it just now is the panel that depicts both sides of the private school’s wall, with light inside and darkness and graffiti outside.

RUNAWAYS #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “Best Friends Forever, Part 1,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. If not for my intense loyalty to Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl, Runaways would be my favorite current Marvel title, and this is another excellent issue. Molly goes back to school and has a wonderful time, except there’s something weird about her new best friend, Abigail. Molly’s happiness at school is just adorable, though the best panel in the issue is the one where Old Lace gulps down the cheeseburger. Also, Nico and Karolina have a long conversation, and Julie Power appears as a voice on the telephone. I do feel like Molly should probably be a couple years older at this point, but oh well.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO #6 (Action Lab, 2018) – “The Heart of the Sea,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Christine Hipp. In the undersea kingdom, Sunshine falls for a new character, Ananda. This issue effectively depicts Sunshine’s growing desire, but I’m concerned about the fact that none of the other protagonists appears in it. I almost feel as if Jeremy has stopped focusing on the main Princeless series because he was more interested in Raven, and now it seems like he’s repeating that pattern by ignoring Raven and focusing on Sunshine instead.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #64 (IDW, 2018) – “Everything Old,” [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Andy Price. This was a great issue. On a visit to Manhattan, Rarity is shocked to learn that ‘80s fashion is popular again, while Fluttershy learns that starting an animal shelter involves a lot of bureaucracy. As usual, each pony solves the other’s problem by accident. Andy’s artwork in this issue is some of his best in a long time. Because of this comic’s fashion theme, Andy gets lots of opportunities to display his design sense, and his nouveau-‘80s costumes look fantastic.

USAGI YOJIMBO #166 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden, Part 1,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This issue is also listed as Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden #1 and as #232 in a series. After a lot of shorter Usagi stories, it’s finally time for a seven-part epic. Most of this issue consists of a chase sequence in which a samurai is hunted down and murdered because of an item he was carrying, only we don’t learn what it is. In the epilogue, we learn that the murder has something to do with Kirishitans, or Japanese crypto-Christians. Stan previously addressed this theme in issue #76, where Usagi helped smuggle a package that turned out to contain a cross, but “The Hidden” will address Japan’s persecution of Christians at much greater length. I wonder if Stan has a personal stake in this story – I don’t know if he himself identifies as Christian.

DEPT. H #24 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. An ambiguous conclusion. Mia makes it to the surface, where she ends up stranded on a literal desert island. At the end, a ship comes for her, but I’m not sure whose ship it is – although I guess I could look through the previous issues and check if we’ve seen it before. This was a good series, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as MIND MGMT.

BABYTEETH #9 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Fathers of Daughters,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Sadie’s mom imprisons Sadie and her dad, just as the old assassin dude invades the compound. Heather wakes the baby, possibly at the cost of her own life, and even more mayhem ensues. I think it would actually make sense in terms of narrative logic if Heather died now, because she’s dominated the story so much that Sadie hasn’t had a chance to emerge from her shadow.

THE MIGHTY THOR #705 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sundown,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. In a flashback, we finally witness the moment when Jane lifts the hammer. There follows an epic fight scene, which ends with Jane tying the Mangog to Mjolnir and throwing them both into the sun. Of course, this also results in Jane’s inevitable but tragic death. “The Death of the Mighty Thor” isn’t over yet, but I’m already willing to declare it one of the best Thor stories ever – it’s the best run of Thor comics in thirty years, and Aaron and Dauterman are by far the best creative team on Thor since Walt Simonson left.

MONSTRESS #15 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. As usual, this issue’s main plot is impossible to understand. What’s really interesting about it, besides the art, is the subplots involving Kippa and Ren. Kippa wants to rescue her fellow foxes from slavery or death, but Ren’s evil cat bosses (well, that’s redundant) want him to betray Kippa and bring her to them.

SUPER SONS #14 (DC, 2018) – “The Parent Trap! Part Two: Blood Relative,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. Jon and Damian rescue Lois from Talia. This was a fun issue, though not the best issue of this series. It sucks that Super Sons only has two more issues left, but I assume DC has some kind of plans for these characters.

INFINITY 8 #1 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Love and Mummies,” [W] Lewis Trondheim & Zep, [A] Dominique Bertail. I’m excited that Lion Forge is publishing this new series by Trondheim, and in comics format no less. It’s a fairly conventional SF adventure story, about a  space adventurer who’s fighting an invasion of alien zombies while also looking for a prospective father for her child… actually that doesn’t sound conventional at all, now that I write it out. Dominique Bertail is a gifted artist who does a fascinating job of depicting aliens, especially the captain, an indescribable giant blue thing with a smiley face. This comic does have a lot of T&A, and the protagonist feels like a man’s sexist notion of a strong female character. But characters like her are not unusual in French comics – she reminds me a bit of Barbarella or Roxana.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #8 (DC, 2018) – “First Contact,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Steve Lieber. I haven’t read #7 yet because I wasn’t especially interested in the Birdman storyline. This issue is more appealing because it’s written by Jeff Parker, and because Mightor is a more exciting character. Parker writes him as a really good kid whose family inspires him to be a hero, so he’s a lot like Johnny and Hadji. The plot, in which Mightor battles an invading alien, is negligible but entertaining.

DESCENDER #28 (Image, 2018) – “Old Worlds 2 of 2,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Finally the relevance of the current storyline becomes clear. Professor Osris discovers that the sentient robots are called the Descenders (hence we finally know why this comic is called Descender) and that they may have created biological life, rather than vice versa. Osris uses the knowledge he gained from the Descenders to create his own sentient robot, but it turns against him and destroys Ostrakon, then vanishes for 4000 years until Dr. Solomon and Dr. Quon find him again. And it turns out that this robot created Tim, and Tim is the only one who can stop the Descenders from returning and destroying humanity, or something like that. This series is heading for a thrilling conclusion.

LUCY DREAMING #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Michael Dialynas. This new series stars a girl in her early teens who reads too many violent young adult books, until one day she falls asleep and finds herself inside one of those books, and is unable to escape. This series reminds me of I Hate Fairyland in that it has an unpleasant young girl for a protagonist, and is rather violent and not intended for kids of the protagonist’s age. It also seems a bit mean-spirited and pessimistic, like X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever. These comments might imply that I didn’t enjoy this comic, but I actually did like it. I’m not entirely sure where it’s going or who its audience is, but I guess we’ll see.

THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #9 (Marvel, 2013) – “Godbomb, Part Three of Five: Thunder in the Blood,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Esad Ribic. Three different Thors from different stages in their lives battle Gorr the God Butcher. This is an exciting issue, and the interactions between the old, young and regular-aged Thors are a lot of fun, but this comic isn’t as good as the current Mighty Thor series.

SUPERMAN #5 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman, Part Five,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Doug Mahnke. The Superman family and the Eradicator arrive at Batman’s lunar Batcave, where they spend another whole issue fighting. The notable thing about this issue is that Lois gets a chance to do some fighting too, using one of Batman’s battlesuits. This is refreshing because my only serious problem with this comic is its depiction of Lois; too often she seems like just a wife and mom who doesn’t get to do anything proactive.

SUPERMAN #6 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman” (conclusion), [W] Peter Tomasi, [W/A] Patrick Gleason. Clark and Jon finally defeat the Eradicator, Krypto comes back to life, and Clark introduces Jon to the Justice League as Superboy. There are some heartwarming scenes in this issue, but the Eradicator storyline went on too long.

SUPERB #8 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Things Fall Apart,” [W] Sheena Howard & David Walker, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Alitha Martinez. Another issue that doesn’t advance the plot very much. Jonah, Kayla and Abbie spend most of the issue fighting Corrina. Luckily the next issue blurb says “to be concluded next issue,” so I hope this comic’s plot will make some progress soon.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’92 #46 (DC, 1992) – “Transitions,” [W/A] Barry Kitson. An alien possesses Captain Comet and tries to use its power to kill Lady Quark. A bunch of LEGION members fight the alien. The highlight of this issue is the scenes starring Bertron Diib, the enormous dude with a potato for a head.

ABYSS #3 (Red 5, 2008) – “Genius of Love,” [W] Kevin Rubio, [A] Lucas Marangon. I got this for free at Comic-Con. This comic isn’t as bad as I expected, but it’s not all that good either. Its plot is incomprehensible since I haven’t read the first two issues, but it appears to be a parody of DC superheroes. While it includes some funny jokes, those jokes are only funny to an audience that’s intimately familiar with superheroes, so its appeal is limited.

PUNKS NOT DEAD #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Turn It Up to Eleven: Teenage Kicks, Part 2,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. This issue, Sid Vicious’s ghost follows Feargal Ferguson to school, while in a subplot, an old Margaret Thatcher-esque lady exorcises the ghost of John Profumo. This comic continues to make effective use of nostalgia for punk and for the ‘60s Swinging London era, and Martin Simmonds’s art is unique and fascinating.

ARCHIE #29 (Archie, 2018) – “And the Beat Goes On,” [W] Mark Waid & Ian Flynn, [A] Audrey Mok. Mark spends this issue basically marking time until we get to the big dance. Archie runs around town looking for his stolen guitar, but it turns out it wasn’t stolen after all. Meanwhile, the Blossoms’ dad escapes from prison.

SUPERMAN #7 (DC, 2016) – “Our Town,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Jorge Jimenez. A truly adorable issue. The Kents go to the local fair where they play carnival games, eat junk food, and stop a robbery. Ths comic is full of small-town nostalgia, as the title indicates, but it’s so cute that I don’t mind.

KILL OR BE KILLED #14 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Dylan successfully assassinates the Russian mob boss, so it looks like his troubles are over for now. But on the last page, he has a vision of Kira with the demon’s head. Meanwhile, Dylan’s roommate Mason is acting like a real jerk.

KILL OR BE KILLED #15 (Image, 2018) – as above. Shockingly, at the beginning of this issue Dylan is in a mental hospital. A flashback reveals how he got there. Not satisfied after Dylan killed all those mobsters, the demon kept tormenting him by telling him about all the sinners he was leaving alive. Finally, the demon provoked Dylan into beating up Mason, and Kira had Dylan committed. At the end of the issue, Dylan tries to tell his psychiatrist that he’s the vigilante killer, but the doctor doesn’t believe him, because someone else has been committing vigilante murders while Dylan’s been in the hospital. This issue makes me feel some sympathy for Dylan: he’s done some awful things, but it’s not his fault that he’s literally possessed by a demon.

DORK! #2 (Slave Labor, 1994) – various stories, [W/A] Evan Dorkin. This issue mostly consists of previously published material. Disappointingly, it begins with a Murder Family story that I already read in Epic Lite #1. Next are some strips that Evan and Kyle Baker did for an alternative music magazine callled Reflex. These strips barely qualify as comics because they have far more text than artwork. Also, they’re boring; they’re mostly a series of complaints about the audiences at various punk rock concerts. The other stories in this issue are just a couple pages each at most.

SPIDER-GWEN #29 (Marvel, 2018) – “Gwenom,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. This comic’s irreverent sense of humor is one of the main reasons I keep reading it, along with Robbi’s artwork. The scene with the two Watchers at the start is funny, though it would be funnier if I could remember where we’ve seen these Watchers before. This issue’s main plot is a continuation of the overly long and frustrating Matt Murdock storyline, which I’ve complained about often.

Second review post of 2018

New comics received on Monday, January 22:

FENCE #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. I was surprised when Fence was promoted to an ongoing series, because its subject matter seemed so esoteric. On the other hand, it’s very funny and well-executed, has a strong LGBTQ theme, and appeals to readers of manga, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. This is another good issue. It focuses mostly on the tryouts for the fencing team and the relationships among the players, but there is also a subtheme of class conflict. I like the scene where Robert complains about how many times he has to change clothes each day.

ANGELIC #5 (Image, 2018) – “Heirs and Graces, Part 5,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. This miniseries is Spurrier’s best work yet. This issue we learn what’s going on with this world: the animals were created by humans to take care of the world in the event of nuclear war, with the expectation that humans would eventually come out of cryogenic sleep and would take the world back. The dead humans in this series are pretty awful, and are matched only for their awfulness by the monkey and manatee leaders, who are perfectly fine with doing their dead creators’ will. Can Qora and Complainer change the entire world all on their own? I’m excited to find out. A highlight of this issue is the murderous teleporting cat who just wants attention.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO #3 (Action Lab, 2018) – “The Ballad of Katie Kling,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Panfil. The fight continues. Katie beats the crap out of Dana, and meanwhile the two engineer girls sink the other ship. And Helena kills someone and is very guilty about it. This is a really fun and progressive comic, but I wish that each issue came with a list of characters. I can’t remember any of the characters’ names besides Raven and Ximena, although the artist does an excellent job of distinguishing them visually.

MIGHTY THOR #703 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Fall of Asgard,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. Much like Spider-Gwen, this series gets bleaker and more depressing with every issue. Jane finally agrees to stop being Thor and accept medical care. But meanwhile the Mangog smashes through Asgard’s defenses, easily beating the Destroyer (controlled by Frigga, which is pretty cool). I’m afraid this isn’t going to end well.

ASSASSINISTAS #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Pregnant Pauses and Campout Makeouts!”, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. This is a fun comic, and it feels very much like a Gilbert Hernandez comic despite not being written by him. Perhaps Tini Howard’s writing is why this comic seems so fun; Gilbert’s solo work is often quite grim and ominous even when it’s funny. This issue both advances the plot, and explores the main characters’ relationships with their children. This comic bears obvious similarities to Kill Bill (I just noticed the reference to “many former assassins who hung up their guns in the past ten years in order to retire and have children”), but it’s an original story.

SUPERB #6 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Dressed for Success,” [W] David Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Alitha Martinez. Kayla finally chooses a code name, unless she did that last issue, and she and Jonah invade the prison. Corinna, one of the teen supervillains, joins forces with them. This was an okay issue.

WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #5 (DC, 2018) – “Like Blood from the Sky,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Disappointingly, it turns out that Yanna is dead and Diana is not her. Or maybe we learned that last issue. Diana gives Conan one of her bracelets, and they fight to save Diana’s fellow Amazons from the evil crow women. Then Diana has to go back to Themyscira, but she leaves Conan with her lasso. I didn’t enjoy this issue much; it felt disappointing somehow.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #697 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Kraven the Hunter kidnaps Cap and forces him to play The Most Dangerous Game, while also protecting an innocent bystander who keeps trying to get himself killed. This character must be related to Mark’s version of Archie. At the end, it turns out that the bystander is working for Kraven, and Cap gets frozen in ice. Neither of the last two issues of this series has been half as good as #695, although Samnee’s art is as brilliant as ever.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #299 (Marvel, 2018) – “Most Wanted,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. Spidey continues to flee from his enemies, who now include Hawkeye, while Hophni Mason turns out to be Phineas Mason inside a robot suit. Chip Zdarsky’s dialogue is getting really good; I especially like the line “Rethink your liiiiivessss…”

SUPER SONS #12 (DC, 2018) – “Super Sons of Tomorrow, Finale: Last Minute Saved,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Tyler Kirkham. A bunch of crossover crap happens that I don’t care about, then Jon asks to join the Titans and is rejected. This and the previous issue demonstrate the problem with crossovers. These two issues are incomprehensible unless you read the other parts of the crossover, and they probably wouldn’t be any good even if I did read the other parts; moreover, these issues have killed the momentum of the series.

UNCANNY X-MEN #220 (Marvel, 1987) – “Unfinished Business,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Marc Silvestri. This issue is a(n inferior) sequel to #186, “Lifedeath.” Returning to Eagle Plaza to look for Forge, Storm sees a bunch of videos depicting her past history with him. Then she finds Nazé, who is also looking for Forge, except I’m pretty sure Nazé is also the Adversary. This issue begins a storyline which had been set up as long ago as #187, though I’m not sure the payoff was worth it. The only other X-Man who appears is Wolverine, and he’s only on three pages.

SLASHER #3 (Floating World, 2017) – “Wandering Blade,” [W/A] Charles Forsman. The female protagonist kills a bunch of people for no clear reason, then sneaks back home. I can’t remember issue 2 very well, but even if I had remembered it, I don’t think issue 3 would have made much more sense; it seems like the senselessness of the murders is intentional.

STUMPTOWN #10 (Oni, 2016) – “The Case of the Night That Wouldn’t End,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Justin Greenwood. This is the last issue so far, which is too bad; this series was a lot more enjoyable than some other Rucka comics (cough cough Lazarus). A man hires Dex to find out if his wife is cheating, which is a very realistic touch, since actual private detectives are much more likely to investigate extramarital affairs than robberies or murders. This issue even made me wonder if there are any mystery novels about private eyes who track down cheating spouses. There’s a mostly wordless sequence stakeout sequence, which is exciting despite Justin Greenwood’s lifeless art. At the end, we learn that the wife’s apparent affair partner is actually her son by a previous relationship, and she agrees to tell her husband about her son.

SLASHER #4 (Floating World, 2017) – “2 Headed Snake,” as above. Christine somehow finds herself tied to a bed being tortured by two hicks. How this follows logically from the previous issue is unclear. They cut her hand off and throw her in a pit, where she finds Joshua’s body. Reading Leonard Pierce’s TCJ review of the comic, I realize that the two hicks actually were Joshua, or rather they were pretending to be Joshua in order to catfish Christine. This wasn’t clear from reading the comic. Then the two guys get killed in a shootout with police, and Christine gets her mask and runs away.

SLASHER #5 (Floating World, 2017) – “Mommy Mommy,” as above. Christine returns home, where she tells her brother that she can only have orgasms from violence, and then commits hara-kiri. She somehow finds herself back in the pit with Joshua’s body, and the series ends with her kissing him. This is a compelling, disturbing comic, but the storytelling was confusing and fragmentary, and I’d need to read it again to really get it.

THOR #196 (Marvel, 1972) – “Within the Realm of Kartag!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Buscema. Like most of Conway’s Thor comics, this is a forgettable and overly convoluted story, though at least it has John Buscema art. The plot is that Thor and the Warriors Three are seeking the “Well at the Edge of the World” for some reason, while the Mangog is attacking Asgard.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #6 (DC, 2018) -“Son of Birdman,” [W] Phil Hester, [A] Steve Rude. This issue’s artwork is better than the story, though the story is not terrible. Birdman learns he has a son he didn’t know about, then Mentok tries to get his son’s mother to kill him, and the issue ends on a cliffhanger.

TWO-FISTED TALES #16 (EC, 1953/1996) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. In Jack Davis’s “Signal Corps,” some Signal Corps soldiers defeat an enemy ambush, demonstrating that they’re soldiers too. John Severin’s “Outpost” takes place in modern-day Afghanistan or Pakistan and is both boring and Orientalist. “Pearl Divers!” is a rare EC story by Joe Kubert, though the plot is not great. Wally Wood’s “Atom Bomb!” is the highlight of the issue; it depicts both the human cost of the bombing of Nagasaki, and the subsequent recovery of the city. It’s not comparable to Barefoot Gen, but it’s not bad. Overall this issue was a significant drop-off in quality from earlier issues of the series.

ANIMOSITY #10 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Honeywine,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael De Latorre. I’m losing enthusiasm for this series and for Marguerite Bennett’s work in general. This issue, Jesse and Sandor hunt for the bees and find themselves in a human/animal colony that seems perfect, except there are no women. Jesse has a good line: “If you’re a girl, and you go into a place, and there’s no other women there, you need to be careful, or else just leave.”

MEASLES #4 (Fantagraphics, 1999) – “The New Adventures of Venus,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez, plus other work. Beto’s stories in this issue are much more heartfelt and enjoyable than most of his stories with Venus and her family. This issue also includes less interesting work by Mario Hernandez, Steven Weissman (who I’m not familiar with) and Sam Henderson.

On January 27, I went to the Charlotte Mini Con at the Grady Cole Convention Center. This was another amazing local convention. I fond some awesome stuff, and then as I was on my way out, I discovered a second dealer’s room I hadn’t known about, with two booths with dollar boxes. I’ve literally had dreams like that. When I got home, my weekly shipment of comics was waiting for me, and it was hard to decide what to read first.

PRINCELESS #4 (Action Lab, 2013) – “The Arduous Business of Getting Rescued,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] M. Goodwin. Adrienne and Bedelia escape from Bedelia’s burning shop, then Bedelia meets Sparks, and they all go off to rescue Adrienne’s next sister. This is a fun comic, and it reminds me that I miss the regular Princeless title, and that I enjoy it more than Raven. I do remember seeing a social media post from Jeremy that suggested that Princeless will be back soon, though I can’t find it now.

LUMBERJANES #46 (Boom!, 2018) – “Zoo It Yourself,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. This was my favorite issue in several months. Emmy’s creatures are adorable, especially the perfectly normal squirrel who may or may not have hatched from an egg, and who imitates Emmy’s hand gestures. There are lots of other cute moments in the issue, and it gives me high hopes for the rest of the storyline.

DAREDEVIL #9 (Marvel, 1965) – “That He May See!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Wally Wood & Bob Powell. I now own two single-digit issues of long-running Marvel titles, the other being Iron Man #2. The highlight of this issue is Wally Wood’s spectacular visual storytelling. The writing isn’t quite the equal of the art, although the art is very good. Searching for the only doctor in the world who can cure his blindness, Matt travels to a small fictional European country that’s ruled by a supervillain dictator and has a name starting with L… except it’s Lichtenbad, not the country you were thinking of. Matt defeats the dictator in battle, but the doctor sacrifices his life to prevent nuclear war, in a scene that reminds me a lot of Spock’s death in Star Trek III, and Matt loses his chance to get his vision back. The subplot in this issue involves a love triangle between Matt, Karen and Foggy, which is surprising since in later years, the latter two were depicted as just friends.

THOR #174 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Carnage of the Crypto-Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. A mad scientist saps Thor’s strength and uses it to create the robotic Crypto-Man. Meanwhile, a certain Mrs. Whyte contacts Don Blake and begs him to find her missing son Jasper. It turns out, of course, that Jasper Whyte is the mad scientist, and on realizing that the Crypto-Man is a danger to his mother, he sacrifices his life to destroy it. Don Blake has to tell Mrs. Whyte that her son is dead, which is a genuinely touching moment. Other than that the best part of this issue is the Kirby art. The Crypto-Man only made a few other appearances, but one of them was notable: in Incredible Hulk #205, it killed Jarella.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #19 (Image, 2018) – “Gut Check, Part Five,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Jason Latour. This series has become very irregular – part one of “Gut Check” came out in November 2016. At least it’s worth waiting for, and its lateness is understandable since both its creators have so many other projects. In the midst of yet another embarrassing football game, Coach Boss and his players murder McCluskey, giving the Rebels enough motivation that they finally win a game. On his way home, Coach Boss is confronted by Roberta, but some bearded dude stops her from killing him because he wants to do it himself. I forget if we’ve seen this character before. I hope issue 20 comes out soon.

KIM & KIM #1 (Black Mask, 2016) – “This Glamorous, High-Flying Rock Star Life,” [W] Mags Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. A promising debut for one of the most exciting new writers in the industry at the moment. This issue provides a queer, I mean clear explanation of who Kim and Kim are, and is extremely fun. I especially like the montage sequence in which Kim and Kim play chess with Death, and then have tea in a Victorian tea room.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #245 (vol. 21 #5) (Dell, 1961) – “Sitting High,” [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. One of the highlights of Charlotte Mini Con was one particular booth that had a ton of old comics for either 50 cents or a dollar each. And I mean old comics, like ’60s Dells and Gold Keys. I bought a lot of stuff from that booth, including this issue of WDC&S, and I should maybe have bought even more. In this issue’s new Barks story, Donald and the nephews travel to a resort frequented by celebrities, and Donald does a bunch of stunts in order to get Hollywood producers to notice him. And he does get noticed and his picture appears in the paper, but they misspell his name as “Ronald Dunk.” The most memorable thing about this story is that it includes characters based on popular actors of the time, including “Snarlin’ Grando,” “Jane Girlsfield,” and “Brigitte Van Doran” (Brigitte Bardot plus Mamie Van Doren, I had to look that one up). This issue also includes a Mickey Mouse story by Carl Fallberg and Paul Murry.

IT’S SCIENCE… WITH DR. RADIUM #1 (Slave Labor, 1987) – “Alien Terror! (oh, my!)”, [W/A] Scott Saavedra. The Slings & Arrows Guide includes reviews of multiple comics by Scott Saavedra, but I haven’t read any of his work. This issue’s cover is a parody of the cover of Mad #1, with the word “science” replacing “Melvin”. The main story is about a mad scientist and his bumbling assistant, and there’s also a backup story that parodies A Contract with God. This comic is pretty funny, and I’d like to read more comics by this author.

SEX CRIMINALS #21 (Image, 2018) – “Spaces,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. Six months after their breakup, Jon and Susie are both in new and unsatisfying relationships. This point is driven home when they both show up at the same party dressed in the same ridiculous outfit. This series has gotten difficult to follow because it comes out so rarely, and I hope we get another issue sooner rather than later.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #10 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. For some reason I got this issue before issue 9, though I didn’t realize this until after I read it. This issue begins as Flash Magnus is trying to stop a war between dragons and ponies. Meadowbrook saves the day by diagnosing and curing the dragons’ illness, then they all go off to recruit Somnambula. The highlight of the issue may have been Somnambula saying “Stay on target! Stay on target!”

JIM VOL. II #4 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Jim Woodring. This “Special All-Frank Issue” includes two stories black-and-white and one in color. In the longest story, Frank buys a top that causes the person who uses it to spin uncontrollably. He throws it away, and Manhog finds it and uses it and gets transformed into a cocoon. Then one of those giant spindle creatures finds him and adopts him, or something. I don’t know why I even bother trying to summarize Woodring comics.

ABBOTT #1 (Boom!, 2018) – “Just My Imagination,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. An important debut issue from another emerging star writer. Abbott is about a black female journalist in early 1970s Detroit, who gets involved in investigating a supernatural crime. Even without the fantasy element, this would be an awesome series because of its historical and local accuracy and its depiction of racial politics. Abbott effectively captures the spirit of the early ’70s, a time when segregation was illegal and you couldn’t say the N-word in public anymore, yet all the old racism was still buried just below the surface. (Actually that sounds like I’m describing America today.) Saladin Ahmed grew up in Detroit, and his depiction of Detroit seems extremely well researched. I’ve been to Detroit frequently, though not this part of it, and Ahmed’s depiction rang true to me. Abbott is going to be one of the best comics of 2018, and I think it may have significant appeal beyond the usual comics audience. For example, I have an uncle who works for the Detroit Free Press, and I think he and his family would enjoy this comic.

MUKTUK WOLFSBREATH: HARD-BOILED SHAMAN #1 (Vertigo, 1998) – “Mommy’s Girl,” [W] Terry LaBan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. This is still the only work of popular culture I know of in which the characters are indigenous Siberians. It’s basically just a hard-boiled detective story, and the joke is that it combines an old, clichéd genre with a setting that’s totally unfamiliar to American readers. In this issue, Muktuk goes to investigate some supernatural murders and encounters an old flame of his.

SUPERMAN #3 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman, Part Three,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Jorge Jiménez. Lois and Clark take an unconscious Jon to the Fortress of Solitude to heal him. On arriving there, they encounter the Eradicator. After a fight scene, the Eradicator offers to heal Jon, but it turns out he really wants to get rid of Jon’s human half, and a further fight ensues. There are some nice moments in this issue, but Superman’s rage at the Eradicator is rather disturbing. Until looking it up just now, I didn’t realize Jon was Lois and Clark’s biological child. I was confusing him with Chris Kent, who was nearly the same character, but was the son of Zod and Ursa.

PRINCELESS VOL. 2 #2 (Action Lab, 2013) – “Get Over Yourself” part 2, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. This issue begins with a confusing flashback in which Adrienne’s father encounters a mysterious Black Knight. Not having read issue 1, I was unsure what was going on here. Then Adrienne and Bedelia arrive at the town where Adrienne’s next sister, Angelica, is held captive. Angelica seems to be something of an evil version of Rarity.

OUR ARMY AT WAR #247 (DC, 1972) – “The Vision!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Russ Heath. This issue’s full-length story is about a reincarnated Joan of Arc, and features spectacular Russ Heath artwork. I need to collect more of the ’70s DC comics drawn by Heath. But the real highlight of the issue is “Color Me Brave!”, Sam Glanzman’s most famous U.S.S. Stevens story. During the Pearl Harbor raid, a sailor, Mac Stringer, rescues some trapped comrades at an incredible risk to his own life. But he gets no reward for his bravery, and on the last page we learn why not: it’s because “his color is black.” I already knew the ending to this story, but it’s still an impressive piece of work, and it was brave of Glanzman to publish such a story in the rather conservative forum of a DC war title. “Color Me Brave!” is also an effective use of color for narrative purposes. Most of the story takes place underwater, so everything is colored in blue tones; therefore, we don’t realize until the last panel that Mac Stringer is black.

SHERLOCK FRANKENSTEIN AND THE LEGION OF EVIL #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Undying Love of Sherlock Frankenstein,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubín. Lucy finally contronts Sherlock Frankenstein and learns his long and tragic history, including the fact that he’s in love with Golden Gail. Disappointingly, Lucy’s conversation with Sherlock takes up the entire issue. I thought this miniseries was going to depict how Lucy got to Black Hammer Farm, but the issue ends before that point.

MOONSTRUCK #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. Chet finally gets his horse butt back. This comic is fun, but it also seems kind of pointless; it doesn’t have a clear premise or a narrative thread. It’s not clear to me just what this comic is supposed to be about. I hope that with the next story arc, Moonstruck will develop more of an identity.

MANIFEST DESTINY #33 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. Madame Boniface… by the way, I couldn’t remember this character’s name and it was difficult to look it up. Madame Boniface confronts Lewis and Clark outside the fort, and they finally explain what’s really going on. The demon – the one who possessed the old Spanish dude – wants “a child born of two people at war” as a sacrifice, and that sacrifice is Sacagawea’s baby. So the central mystery of the series is finally cleared up, although I guess we still don’t know what the demon’s agenda is, or what the sacrifice is supposed to accomplish. Then they all return to the fort and discover that Pryor has mutinied and locked them out.

JOURNEY #1 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Chapter 1: Chase,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. This takes place around the same time as Manifest Destiny, in a different but almost equally wild part of America. It begins with an exciting action sequence in which Wolverine MacAlistaire encounters a bear and barely escapes with his life. Then he meets two men who ask him to deliver a package to the other side of Michigan. This issue lacks the narrative complexity of later Journey stories, but it’s a good start to the series.

THE VISITOR: HOW AND WHY HE STAYED #3 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paul Grist. I would have ordered this when it came out if I’d realized it was drawn by Paul Grist. This comic has a pretty standard Mignolaverse plot, in which the Visitor, a character very similar to the Phantom Stranger, battles a cult leader. However, Paul Grist’s dynamic storytelling and Clear Line-esque draftsmanship are brilliant.

UNCLE SCROOGE #70 (Gold Key, 1967) – “The Doom Diamond,” [W/A] Carl Barks. This is the only comic in my collection that includes a new full-length story written and drawn by Barks, although I have other comics with original Barks ten-pagers. I tend to assume that original Barks comics are outside my price range, but maybe not. In “The Doom Diamond,” Scrooge and the nephews sail to “South Miserystan” with a boatload full of cash, so that Scrooge can purchase the famous Zero Diamond. Scrooge builds all sort of anti-theft measures into his ship, but the Beagle Boys learn about his plans and build their own ship designed to defeat Scrooge’s. After some exciting naval battles, Scrooge makes it to South Miserystan, but the diamond turns out to be cursed. There’s a very funny scene where as soon as Scrooge touches the diamond, he stubs his toe, gets hit by a falling rock, and gets stung by a bee. Then Scrooge has to get back to Duckburg, leading to further adventures. “The Doom Diamond” is one of Barks’s last stories, but it’s very entertaining and shows little evidence of decline.

CRIME SUSPENSTORIES #1 (EC, 1950/1992) – various stories, [E] Bill Gaines. This reprint begins with a tribute page honoring Bill Gaines, who had just died. In Johnny Craig’s “Murder May Boomerang,” an unnamed man’s father is menaced by an escaped convict. The man kills another man who his father identifies as the escaped convict, but it turns out that the father got the wrong guy. This story’s shock ending is not great, but the story is a realistic depiction of how an ordinary man could become a killer. In “W. Allen Wood”‘s “Death’s Double-Cross,” a woman helps her husband’s identical twin brother murder her husband. Afterward, she realizes that she doesn’t know whether her brother-in-law killed her husband, or vice versa. This is probably the best story in the issue because of how its ending leaves the reader in suspense. In Graham Ingels’s “Snapshot of Death!”, a woman is diagnosed with a terminal illness, so she hires someone to kill her. Then it turns out she was misdiagnosed. The real surprise in this story is that it ends happily, because the person who was supposed to kill her is himself killed in an accident. In most other EC stories, the woman would have been murdered. Kurtzman’s “High Tide” is another good one. Five people are alone in a boat when they discover that one of them is an escaped murderer. Thanks to their panicked efforts to figure out which of them is the murderer, they all ensure their own deaths, except the one who actually is the murderer.

MONSTRESS #13 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika, Ren and Kippa arrive in the land of Pontus, and lots of complicated plot stuff happens. But the clear highlight of this issue is the café and pastry shop run by cats. I find it hard to imagine cats serving anyone, but the splash page with the cat café is just adorable. I’m glad this series is back.

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #8 (Gold Key, 1965) – “Lair of the Dragon,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Russ Manning. Korak and some stranded Peace Corps volunteers find themselves in a lost kingdom of Arabs. The Peace Corps was still new when this story was published, and it’s also notable that one of the volunteers is black. However, the real appeal of the story is Manning’s spectacular draftsmanship and his thrilling action sequences. The Arabs in the story are depicted in a rather Orientalist way, but at least they’re not completely evil.

PRINCELESS VOL. 2 #3 (Action Lab, 2013) – “Get Over Yourself” part 3, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. Adrienne discovers that Angelina doesn’t want to be rescued, because she’s perfectly happy living in a place where everyone constantly praises her beauty. Then Adrienne fights some dude wearing a lion skin. This is a good comic, but I still don’t understand what’s going on with the Black Knight and the elves.

ZODIAC STARFORCE: CRIES OF THE FIRE PRINCE #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kevin Panetta, [A] Paulina Ganucheau. The new Zodiac Starforce meets the old one, and drama ensues. This was a pretty good comic, but it was overshadowed by other better comics that I read this week.

DOOM PATROL #10 (DC, 2018) – “No Control,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. The Brotherhood of Dada storyline continues. It turns out Terry None is pregnant with Casey’s baby, which makes no sense because they’re both female, but this is Doom Patrol, it’s not supposed to make sense. I’m not sure how or if this story ties into the Milk Wars crossover.

BATGIRL #19 (DC, 2018) – “Cold Snap, Part One,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. This was a fun issue, but I can’t remember much about it now. The best part is the beginning, when Batgirl defeats some punks who are trying to run a black-owned donut shop out of business. In the main plot, Batgirl fights some hackers who have screwed with the city’s weather prediction system, and the Penguin makes a cameo appearance.

WEIRD SCIENCE #15 (East Coast Comix, 1952/1973) – various stories, [E] Bill Gaines. This is actually “EC Classic Reprint #2,” the second in a short-lived series of EC reprints published by two fans named Ron Barlow and Bruce Hershenson. I have no idea how or if they obtained permission to do this. According to the editorial material in this issue, they intended to reprint all the EC comics, in a somewhat random order, but they only published 12 issues. This issue is printed on worse paper and has worse reproduction than the later Russ Cochran reprints. Its first story is “The Martians,” which has a dumb plot but brilliant Wally Wood art. Al Williamson’s “Captivity” has equally good or better art, which is poorly served by the ugly reproduction, but it too has a dumb plot. Jack Kamen’s “Miscalculation” is even dumber – it’s about a man who inexplicably obtains a supply of dehydrated harem girls, just add water – but at least it’s funny. Joe Orlando’s “Bum Steer!” continues the trend of silly stories with good art; it has the best Joe Orlando artwork I’ve seen, but the characters literally tell the reader the shock ending in advance.

RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT #1 (Gold Key, 1965) – “The Mummy’s Hand,” [W] George Evans, plus other stories. The lineup of artistic talent in this issue is amazing: George Evans, Wally Wood, Al Williamson, and even Alberto Giolitti. Unfortunately, although the art in this issue is at the same level as the art in a classic EC comic, the same cannot be said of the writing.

UNICORN ISLE #1 (WaRP, 1986) – “Unicorn Isle Betrayed: Chapter 1,” [W] Lee Marrs, [A] Romeo Tanghal. This issue is definitely the best place to start with this comic. Unicorn Isle’s plot and worldbuilding are so complicated that they don’t make sense if you start in the middle, as I did. In this issue we meet the protagonists, young twins Nils and Nola. Their mother gets killed trying to stop a plot to kidnap two sacred unicorns, and their father unfairly blames the twins for it. Nils and Nola are appealing characters, and their world is fairly original, though it suffers from “calling a rabbit a smeerp,” i.e. giving fantasy names to ordinary concepts; for example, having sex is called “cleaving.”

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Our First Adventure,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] John Dell. Looking for Reed and Sue (or pretending to), Ben and Johnny visit Monster Island and fight the Mole Man and his monsters. This comic has some good dialogue and some funny moments, like the “Victor von Doof” prank, but it’s forgettable.

DEPT. H #22 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. After a lot of drama, Q stabs Raj, who totally deserved it – he’s become the prime suspect in Hari’s murder. Then everyone agrees to let Mia try for the surface. Two issues left.

POWER MAN #26 (Marvel, 1975) – “The Night Shocker!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] George Tuska. According to its splash page, this issue was an inventory story inspired by the Night Stalker TV movie. It wasn’t needed immediately, and might never have seen print because it was no longer relevant, except that the Kolchak: The Night Stalker TV show came out two years later. It’s unusual for a Marvel comic to be so honest about its influences. I’ve never seen either the Kolchak movie or TV show, so to me this is just a fun but weird story, in which Luke tracks down a man who appears to be a vampire but isn’t. This issue’s plot is rather convoluted, and it’s hard to figure out who actually committed the murders the vampire was accused of, or why.

TALES TO ASTONISH #88 (Marvel, 1967) – “A Stranger Strikes from Space!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Bill Everett, and “Boomerang and the Brute!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gil Kane. In the Namor story, Attuma battles a robot that fell to earth from a passing alien ship, then figures out how to control the robot, and uses it to launch an invasion of Atlantis. The aliens who built the robot were never identified and never appeared again. This story has some excellent artwork, almost as good as Everett’s late issues of Sub-Mariner. In the backup story, the Hulk almost earns an amnesty from the government, but Boomerang shows up and ruins everything. Boomerang’s costume in this issue is one of the ugliest costumes of any Silver Age Marvel character.

NEW ROMANCER #5 (Vertigo, 2016) – “This Byronic Life,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Parson. It’s been a long time since I read the rest of this story, so I don’t remember what’s been going on, but this is a fun if convoluted comic. Milligan’s version of Byron is a really cute character.

NEW ROMANCER #6 (Vertigo, 2016) – “My Date with Destiny,” as above. In the conclusion, Lexy and her allies defeat Casanova, and the series ends with a triple wedding. We’re led to expect that one of the couples will be Lexy and Byron, but instead it’s Lexy’s dad and Mata Hari, and the series ends with Lexy driving off into the sunset. I think this ending makes sense, but I’m kind of sad that Lexy and Byron didn’t end up together, even if he would have been an awful boyfriend.

BLACK MAGICK #10 (Image, 2018) – “Awakening II, Part 5,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. Raven’s partner’s baby is born. A villain invades Raven’s house despite receiving a stern lecture from her cat. Another villain tries to kidnap the baby. This story is well done, but I’m still very confused about who the villains are or what they want.

ASTRO CITY #50 (DC, 2018) – “Aftermaths,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. Kurt and Brent celebrate this milestone issue with a sequel to their greatest story, “The Nearness of You.” Years after his encounter with the Hanged Man, Michael Tenicek is running a support group for other people who suffered collateral damage in superhero battles. As a hobby, he paints pictures of his wife, who was retconned out of existence. But it looks like the Hanged Man wants something else from him. We’ll have to see where this story goes, but it seems like a worthy sequel. As someone who prefers to buy single issues whenever possible, I’m sad that Astro City is going trade-only, though I see why it would make financial sense.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #62 (IDW, 2018) – “Convocation of the Creatures, Part Two,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. The best thing about this issue is the cover, a brilliant parody of Norman Rockwell’s “The Gossips.” This cover is a virtuoso display of Andy’s cartooning skill. The 15 characters on the cover all have totally different facial expressions which indicate their different personalities. The interior story is also pretty good. The assembled bureaucrats find proof that the griffons don’t actually own Equestria, but the tough part is delivering the evidence to Princess Celestia.

JLA/DOOM PATROL SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Milk Wars Part One,” [W] Steve Orlando & Gerard Way, [A] Aco. I was excited about this, but it left me disappointed. I could barely understand what was happening in this story, or how it fit into the continuity of the Doom Patrol series. This comic seems to assume the reader is also reading the ongoing JLA series. I do want to point out that even though this comic isn’t drawn by Nick Derington, it looks visually similar to a regular issue of Doom Patrol, because of Tamra Bonvillain’s distinctive and appealing colors. I’d vote for her for the Eisner for best colorist.

HUNGRY GHOSTS #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Kaidan” and other stories, [W] Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose, [A] Alberto Ponticelli & Vanesa del Rey. An anthology of ghost stories based on the Japanese hyaku monogatari tradition, with the twist that most of the stories are about food. I like the premise of this comic, but the execution is not spectacular.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SPECTRE OF TOMORROW #4 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Robo teams up with Helsingard against… something, I guess it’s the evil computer from Ghost of Station X. Then Helsingard switches sides and joins the enemy. I don’t quite understand this part of the plot because I can’t remember who Helsingard even is. What’s more interesting is the subplot, in which Robo’s allies figure out how to manipulate their HOA’s rules so they can start construction on their base. This subplot is funny because it reminds me of all the posts I’ve seen on r/legaladvice about tyrannical HOAs. I am now convinced that when I buy a house someday, I want to be very sure it’s not in an HOA.

ANGEL LOVE #3 (DC, 1986) – untitled, [W/A] Barbara Slate. On Twitter, Kurt Busiek pointed out that this series was intended for a nontraditional audience, but failed to reach that audience because it was only distributed through comic book stores. (https://twitter.com/KurtBusiek/status/957394674779488256) That explains a lot – both why this comic existed, and why it didn’t last. For my next project, I’d love to interview Barbara Slate and find out more about this comic and its intended audience. Angel Love #3 continues this series’ theme of discussing serious issues in a cartoony style, as Angel’s friend Cindy announces that she’s pregnant and considering an abortion. Cindy ultimately decides to have the baby, but not to marry the father. Also, there’s a silly subplot involving Angel’s blonde friend who wants to be an actress.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Face Off,” [W] Sarah Kuhn, [A] Siobhan Keenan, and “Stargirl,” [W/A] Sarah Winifred Searle. This issue’s first story is about a karaoke contest between the Holograms and the Misfits. It’s quite funny and cute. In the backup story, Shana’s friends help her organize a fashion show. This story has an interesting art style and includes a prominent new (?) character who’s a drag queen. Amusingly, this could easily have been a My Little Pony story instead of a Jem story, with Rarity replacing Shana, except that the plot involves Shana’s indecision between her two careers in music and fashion.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #9 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. As noted above, I received this issue after issue 9. At the end of issue 8, Meadowbrook’s home was besieged by “an army of huggably fluffy animals.” This issue, the other Pillars help Meadowbrook cure the animals of their madness, then they all head off to look for Flash Magnus.

MISTER MIRACLE #19 (DC, 1977) – “It’s All in the Mine,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Marshall Rogers. I had avoided this series in the past because it’s not by Kirby, but I believe Kirby always intended for his Fourth World characters to be used by others. This issue is mostly just a pastiche of Kirby’s Mister Miracle, rather than an original take like Tom King’s current series, but it’s not bad. Englehart and Rogers were DC’s top creative team at the time, and although this issue is not their best work, Rogers’s art is quite impressive. Englehart gets a few things wrong about the Fourth World: he suggests that only Apokolips gods can use Boom Tubes, and, more seriously, he has Metron fighting on the side of New Genesis, when Metron is supposed to be neutral.

KID LOBOTOMY #4 (IDW, 2018) – “The Chambermaid’s Tale,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. This issue is narrated by Ottla the chambermaid, who is based on Franz Kafka’s sister. The story isn’t bad, but I can’t remember much about it now.

STINZ VOL. 3 #6 (A Fine Line, 1998) – “A Marvelous Resistance,” [W/A] Donna Barr. In this issue Stinz tells the story of his return from the war, i.e. World War I, and in the process he clarifies a lot of things about his world that I hadn’t understood. It turns out that the war was ended by some kind of magical event that turned people into animals, except in Stinz’s case it had the opposite effect, turning him into a human. Compared to the current Moonstruck storyline, this issue is a much more “realistic” depiction of how a centaur would feel about having their horse legs replaced with human legs. Donna effectively shows Stinz’s confusion and embarrassment at having to walk on two legs. As soon as Stinz returns to his valley, though, he magically turns back into a centaur, which explains why he never wants to leave his valley again. Overall, this comic is quite long and visually dense, but excellent.

EIGHTBALL #13 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – “Blue Italian Shit” and other stories, [W/A] Daniel Clowes. This issue’s inside front cover is a bizarre parody of Peter Bagge’s characters Buddy Bradley, Stinky and Lisa. “Blue Italian Shit” is a rambling, emo story about growing up in the ’80s. It’s not Clowes’s best short story, but it’s moody and evocative. “Cool Your Jets” is a four-pager in which two misogynistic jerks complain about women. The second half of the issue is an installment of “Ghost World,” which I haven’t reread in many years.

HUGO #2 (Fantagraphics, 1985) – “It’s No Man’s Affair,” [W/A] Milton Knight. A series of lewd funny animal stories starring a medieval jester, drawn in a style that reminds me of Fleischer Studio cartoons. The first story is based on the medieval story of Phyllis riding Aristotle, and contains some near nudity, which is surprising since this looks like a kids’ comic. In the second story, the protagonist, Hugo, quits his job as a jester and starts drawing comics instead, until the local church shuts him down. Knight draws upon the same influences as Kim Deitch, though he’s not nearly as talented. Despite that, Knight’s stories are funny and raucous, and I’d be interested in reading more of his work.

SPIDER-GWEN #28 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. This issue explains the origin of this universe’s Matt Murdock. I’m still enjoying this series enough to keep buying it, but I’ve gotten thoroughly sick of the current plotline. Matt Murdock is a frustrating villain because he can do anything he wants to Gwen, and she’s powerless against him. That makes for an unsatisfying reading experience. Also, Gwen has been fighting Matt for way too long, and I’d like to see her do something else.

OMEGA MEN #2 (DC, 2015) – “Victory is Assured,” [W] Tom King, [A] Barnaby Bagenda. I have about half of this series, but I only read the first issue, and I didn’t understand it. Somehow issue 2 is clearer. On the planet of Ogyptu, the Citadel arranges a mass public execution as punishment for an Omega Men raid. It looks like Primus and the Omega Men are going to stop the execution, but instead they use it as cover to steal a spaceship and escape the planet. This issue was brutal to read because of the Omega Men’s blatant lack of concern for the people of Ogyptu. Primus explains that saving the victims would have backfired, but he explains this in such a smug and cruel way that he completely loses my sympathy. At the end of this issue, it’s clear that the Omega Men are almost as bad as the Citadel. The truly sympathetic character in the issue is Kyle Rayner, who has to watch these awful events and is powerless to intervene.

OMEGA MEN #3 (DC, 2015) – “Save the Princess,” as above. The Omega Men recruit Kalista, a beautiful princess who’s also a complete sociopath; her hobby is killing people in single combat. After reading these two issues, I really want to read the rest of this maxi-series. I have issues 9 through 12, but I’m not sure if I should read them yet.

ARCHIE #27 (Archie, 2018) – “I Built a Speedometer,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Audrey Mok. After a lot of relationship drama, Archie invites Betty – now able to walk again – to the spring dance, and she turns him down. Perhaps my favorite thing about this comic is the visual comedy. Audrey Mok’s depictions of Archie’s bad luck are very funny – an example is the page where Jughead steers Archie around a patch of wet cement and a barking dog.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #12 (Marvel, 1973) – “Wolf at Bay,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Ross Andru. This issue takes place right after Gwen Stacy’s death. Trying to get his mind off Gwen, Peter visits San Francisco, where he encounters Werewolf by Night. The main plot of this issue is boring, but the depiction of Peter’s psychology is quite good, and Ross Andru’s art is excellent. It’s kind of disturbing how on the splash page, Peter is thinking “Maybe here I can finally get my mind off Gwendy for a while,” but as he’s thinking this, he’s climbing on top of a bridge.

MOTHERLANDS #1 (DC, 2018) – “One,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Rachael Stott. Yet another in a string of Si Spurrier miniseries with fascinating and original premises. He has a real gift for worldbuilding. Motherlands takes place in a reality where humans are in contact with other humans from alternate realities. The protagonist, Tabitha Tubach, is a multiversal bounty hunter who’s trying to escape the influence of her domineering mother. Then Tabitha has to get in touch with her mother again, because it turns out her latest target is her (Tabitha’s) estranged brother.

CHEER UP #1 (Hic & Hoc, 2015) – various stories, [W/A] Noah Van Sciver. This small-format comic is a collection of blackly humorous short stories. It’s an effective demonstration of Noah’s art style and his depressing, cynical sense of humor. I need to read more of his work.

ARCHIE #21 (Archie, 2017) – “Over the Edge, Part 2,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Pete Woods. This may be one of the most powerful Archie comics ever. Betty’s car crash is not directly shown. Instead, the issue depicts various characters learning that something’s happened to Betty. We don’t see Betty herself until the end of the issue, when we see her lying comatose in a hospital bed while doctors frantically try to revive her. It looks like I stopped reading this series regularly after issue 12, but I’m glad I kept ordering it anyway.

New comics received on February 9:

RUNAWAYS #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Find Your Way Home, Part VI,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. An amazing conclusion to one of the best Marvel storylines in recent memory. The Runaways fight Molly’s grandma and her horde of telepathic cats, until Nico casts a “herd cats” spell. Molly is torn between loyalty to her grandma and her friends, until it turns out that Molly’s grandma had Molly’s parents cloned. Molly is reluctantly forced to admit that her grandma has gone off the deep end, and she leaves with her teammates. While all this gloomy stuff is going on, we learn that Old Lace ate the cats. As a cat person, I think this is… hilarious, actually. Especially the panel where Old Lace coughs up a hairball. And then the Runaways decide to go home, wherever that is.

PAPER GIRLS #20 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. Charlotte gets shot by people from the future. The girls figure out how to operate one of the robots, and they use it to time travel into the future. The plot developments in this comic have been so fast and relentless that I’ve never quite understood what’s going on. At some point I’d like to read the entire series in one sitting.

MECH CADET YU #6 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Baby Sharg invade the mech cadet academy. Showing true heroism, Stanford risks his life to save two of his comrades. At the end of the issue, the academy is demolished and the mech cadet program is terminated, but obviously that’s not the end of the series.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO #4 (Action Lab, 2018) – “Stitches,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Panfil. The pirates clean up after their battle, while each grieving the loss of Sunshine in their own way. It turns out that Sunshine isn’t actually dead, of course, but is in some kind of undersea kingdom. A cute moment in this issue is the conversation where Desideria says she was given something by “the girl… you know, the black one,” and Quinn needs three guesses to identify which character Desideria means. Another highlight of this issue is the editorial, where Jeremy states his commitment to his readers: “I am, after all, a straight white cis man writing a whole crew full of diverse queer women. That’s a responsibility I take very seriously.” Jeremy is saying exactly the right things here, and so far he’s been practicing what he preaches.

SNOTGIRL #9 (Image, 2018) – “Weekend, Part One,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Snotgirl and the other characters go to a conference. Snotgirl has visions of the ghost of Caroline. This is a fun comic, though I always have trouble following the plot of this series. I really like the eight-panel strip at the end where Cutegirl demands the smallest possible waffle.

MOON GIRL #27 (Marvel, 2018) – “Fantastic Three” (part three?), [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. This is an improvement over the last two issues, though still worse than the Girl Moon storyline. Ben and Johnny rescue a cat from a tree, there’s a funny meta-joke about Johnny being replaced by Herbie the robot, and the Super-Skrull shows up at the end – it was obviously him who was impersonating the FF.

TWISTED ROMANCE #1 (Image, 2018) – “Old Flames,” [W/A] Katie Skelly, [W] Alex de Campi (I assume, it’s not clear who did what). The first issue of a weekly anthology miniseries. The main story is about an encounter between an incubus and a succubus. I don’t remember much about this story now, but it’s witty and well-drawn. I’ve had one of Katie Skelly’s books for several years but have not read it, so this story was a good introduction to her. The backup story, by Sarah Horrocks, is visually impressive but makes no narrative sense. Unfortunately this issue also includes an eight-page unillustrated text story. I didn’t like this story much, but even if it had been better than it was, I really hate it when comic books include lengthy prose stories.

GIANT DAYS #35 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Ed suffers a concussion from his fall off the wall. The girls are forced to hang out with Lottie, Esther’s friend’s little sister, who, according to Google research, also appears in some of Allison’s other comics. Thanks to Esther, Daisy realizes she doesn’t actually like Lottie. This is another fun issue, and it includes more funny jokes and gags than I can list or remember.

ROGUE & GAMBIT #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ring of Fire, Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Pere Pérez. Rogue and Gambit go to therapy and remember their first couple meetings, then they fight some mutant dudes. I still have slightly mixed feelings about this series, and I think it’s a little creepy how the plot seems to be forcing Rogue and Gambit into each other’s arms, although I trust Kelly to not do anything truly anti-feminist to Rogue.

ARCHIE #28 (Archie, 2018) – “Riverdale’s: The Bachelor,” [W] Mark Waid & Ian Flynn, [A] Audrey Mok. This issue’s plot is mostly just a bunch of drama and hijinks surrounding the upcoming spring dance. Also, Jason and Cheryl’s dad plans to break out of prison. This issue has a lot of excellent sight gags; I think the best is when Archie inflates some balloons and they come out as cubes and pyramids instead of ovoids. This issue includes references to two other Archie comics, Cosmo and The Shield.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE 1923 AD (Image, 2018) – “And Then There Was One…”, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Aud Koch. This is the best TWTD special yet, because all the characters are still alive when it begins, and we get to see how their personalities interact. Also, the creators effectively capture both the political climate and the aesthetics of the ’20s. I love how the entire issue is colored in sepia tones, like a silent film, and how the caption boxes and text segments look like silent film title cards. It is unfortunate that so much of the story is delivered through unillustrated text pages, but even that can be justified as a reference to pulp fiction. The story is a powerful depiction of how the aesthetic scene of the interwar period helped lead to World War II. On Twitter, someone named RicG and I came up with the following historical models for the gods:

Neptune = Ernest Hemingway
Minerva = Shirley Temple
Dionysus = Pablo Picasso
Baal = Ezra Pound / T.S. Eliot
Set = Virginia Woolf
Woden = Fritz Lang / Joseph Goebbels?
Lucifer = Aleister Crowley

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #6 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. Dorma and Koro narrowly survive their encounter with the demon, after being subjected to Black Mercy-esque visions of their secret desires. Koro emerges as a complex character: she loves Prince Aki but resents having had to devote her life to him. Luvander and Prince Aki don’t appear in this issue, but I assume neither of them is dead.

INCOGNEGRO: RENAISSANCE #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Soaked,” [W] Mat Johnson, [A] Warren Pleece. I have not read the graphic novel this is based on, and I really should have; I’m adding it to my Amazon want list now. This issue takes place in New York during the Harlem Renaissance. Zane Pinchback, a light-skinned black reporter, attends a party held by rich white people who cultivate black acquaintances. One of the black celebrities at the party is murdered, and the police don’t care, so Zane, who can pass for white by putting his hat on, decides to get to the bottom of it. This is an important comic; it shows deep insight into racial issues that are just as relevant today as in the 1920s. Zane’s ability to pass as white is poignant because it lets him move in both worlds and hear things that white people only say to each other.

JOHN BOLTON’S STRANGE WINK #1 (Dark Horse, 1998) – several stories, [W/A] John Bolton. A collection of short pieces by the versatile and underrated John Bolton. The first story is a very effective adaptation of Goethe’s Der Erl-King, although it’s hampered by a bad translation of the German text. “A Lot on His Plate” and “Permanent Fixture” are short stories that I assume were previously published in some British comic. The highlight of the issue is Bolton’s brilliant adaptation of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market,” although it too has a significant flaw, namely the decision to include Rossetti’s entire poem verbatim. I’m not reading Bolton’s story because I want to reread “Goblin Market”; I’m reading it because I want to focus on Bolton’s illustrations and his narrative decisions. It’s hard to focus on those things when I have to read every word of Rossetti’s poem.

KING MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN #2 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Jeremy Treece. This issue continues the story of Mandrake and Karma’s battle with Mandrake’s ex-wife. It has excellent, snappy dialogue, but a forgettable plot.

HAWKEYE #15 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family Reunion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Hawkeye and Hawkeye fight a bunch of Madame Masque’s goons, then they fight more goons and kidnap Kate’s dad. The action sequences in this issue are really good, as well as the character interactions. It’s such a shame that this series was cancelled.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #16 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. Gert suffers the torments of hell, including having a vision of being returned to her home. I think this is the first time we’ve seen Gert’s home or her family. With its emphasis on gluttony, this scene reminds me of the transformation of Chihiro’s parents in Spirited Away. This scene also implies that even if Gert did get to go home, she couldn’t return to her life as a normal little girl (which I guess is also a theme of Spirited Away). The issue ends with Gert being returned to Fairyland, which is her real personal hell.

BLACK PANTHER #169 (Marvel, 2018) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 10,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. In his base, Klaw uses a massive dose of sonic energy to attempt to revive his sister. This creates a distraction that allows Ayo to escape from him. Because Klaw’s sonic energy drowns out all other sound in the area, most of this issue consists of silent sequences, which is a nice touch. However, this current storyline has been going on way too long already, and there’s no end in sight.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Shooting Stars,” [W/A] Nicole Goux, and “Haunted,” [W] Sam Maggs, [A] Rachael Stott. This issue’s first story is perhaps the worst Jem story IDW has published. It may have just rubbed me the wrong way, but I thought that the plot was implausible and that almost every line of dialogue was a cliché. The story is about characters who insist on performing in public even though they’re not ready yet, and I feel that this is also what the story’s author is doing. The backup story, in which the Misfits and the Holograms team up to escape a haunted house, is better.

SWEET TOOTH #23 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Endangered Species: Part Four,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This is a well-drawn and suspenseful comic, but it’s impossible to understand without having followed the entire series.

THE BACKSTAGERS: VALENTINE’S INTERMISSION #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Rian Sygh, plus backup stories. This is probably the best Backstagers story yet. It’s touching, funny, and full of both straight and queer romance. The plot of the main story is that Beckett, who hates Valentine’s Day, decides to sabotage the school’s Valentine’s Day show, but a visit to the pocket universe behind the stage causes him to change his mind. There are also some short backup stories. I’m glad to see Backstagers again, and I hope the series will return again soon.

SUPERMAN #4 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman, Part Four,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason, c[W] Peter J. Tomasi. Clark and Jon continue their fight with the Eradicator, who has somehow become a vessel for the dead souls of Krypton. This issue was not as good as later issues of this series.

POWER COMICS #2 (Eclipse, 1988) – “The All-Africa Wrestling Championship” and “The Return of Dr. Crime,” [W] Don Avenall & Norman Worker, [A] Dave Gibbons & Brian Bolland. I was reminded I had this comic after a conversation with Tayo Fatunla on Facebook. This issue is a reprint of stories which were produced in the ’70s by British artists for publication in Nigeria. The writers were veterans of the British industry, and the artists were a very young Gibbons and Bolland. The Superman-esque protagonist, Powerman, was renamed to Powerbolt for obvious reasons when the comics were reprinted in America (but the renaming was done inconsistently – there’s at least one panel where he’s called Powerman). These comics have fairly simple plots, and were clearly intended for an audience with no prior knowledge of comics. According to the inside front cover, Gibbons was instructed to put a number on each panel to indicate the reading order, even though his storytelling was already quite clear. Despite all that, these stories are exciting and vigorous, kind of like Golden Age Superman or Captain Marvel stories. And just the idea of an African Superman is quietly revolutionary. I wish there were more comics like this, by African rather than European creators.

BATMAN #409 (DC, 1987) – “Just Another Kid on Crime Alley!”, [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Ross Andru. Bruce Wayne enrolls Jason Todd in a boarding school that turns out to be a school for criminals, run by an old lady named Fay Gunn (i.e. Fagan – I needed help to figure this out). Jason helps Batman bring Fay Gunn to justice, and Batman decides Jason can be the new Robin. It strains credulity that Batman didn’t already know Fay Gunn was a criminal. It’s also disturbing how according to this issue, Batman only visits Crime Alley once a year, letting the criminals dominate it the rest of the year. I was also confused as to why Jason Todd wasn’t Robin already at this point. Apparently this story was Jason Todd’s completely revised post-Crisis origin, and the earlier stories in which he appeared were no longer in continuity.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SHADOW FROM BEYOND TIME #5 (Red 5, 2009) – “From Beyond,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. An excellent Atomic Robo comic. I enjoyed it more than most of the recent issues of the series, which suggests that Atomic Robo may be declining in quality a little. Two of Robo’s assistants create a “quantum decomputer,” which Robo instantly recognizes as evil, but they turn it on anyway, and it transforms into a Lovecraftian monstrosity. Robo defeats the monster with the assistance of three of his past selves. I haven’t read every issue of this miniseries, but apparently each issue of this miniseries takes place at a different period in Robo’s life (except #2, which takes place right after #1) and depicts this same encounter from the perspective of a different one of Robo’s selves. That’s a really cool trick, comparable to the adventure where Corum, Hawkmoon, Elric and Erekosë met each other.

BATMAN #413 (DC, 1987) – “The Ghost of Masahiko Tanaka,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Kieron Dwyer. The best thing about this issue is the Walt Simonson cover. In this issue, Batman and Robin battle a Japanese criminal who’s trying to steal a rare suit of Japanese armor. This issue demonstrates a basic knowledge of Japanese culture, but is nonetheless heavily based on stereotypes like samurai and ninjas, and it’s not very good either.

WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #38 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Pepe Larraz. I bought this when it came out, but never bothered to read it, becuase the series was already close to cancellation at that point. This is a surprisingly good issue, though, and it reminds me why Wolverine and the X-Men was my favorite X-Men comic until Grand Design. Two new students enroll at the Jean Grey School, one of whom has a squid for a head, and Broo gives them a guided tour, resulting in numerous funny moments. At the end, it turns out the students are spies working for Cyclops and Emma Frost.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Coffin for Head of State,” [W] Evan Narcisse, [A] Javier Pina. I just saw the Black Panther movie, which was amazing, and this comic would be a great introduction to the comics for fans of the movie. I hope Marvel is promoting it heavily. I didn’t remember having heard of the Heart-Shaped Herb before reading this issue, and I wondered if it was introduced in this comic because it appears in the movie, but I guess it already existed in the comics. This issue, T’Challa encounters Namor for the first time as they rescue Nigandan citizens who were kidnapped by an Atlantean warlord. Evan Narcisse effectively depicts the encounter between these two characters, who are both kings, but who have sharply different personalities.

BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 1999) – “The Price,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Mark Texeira. I read this and some of the following comics after reading Abraham Riesman’s article on Priest (http://www.vulture.com/2018/01/christopher-priest-made-black-panther-cool-then-disappeared.html). I had trouble understanding some of the earlier issues of this series, but Riesman points out that this is partly deliberate. Riesman says the following of Quantum & Woody: “Told in nonlinear fashion, it was a delightful challenge to read: Details were withheld, recollections were unreliable, and jokes often required a detailed memory of what had gone before.” That also applies to Priest’s Black Panther, and difficulty and lack of linearity seem to be his stylistic trademarks. This issue, T’Challa fights some Wakandan secret police, then beats up Mephisto with one punch.

THE BLACK MONDAY MURDERS #1 (Image, 2016) – “A Story of Human Sacrifice,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Tomm Coker. Thanks to Hickman fatigue, I only ordered the first issue of this series. That was a mistake, because this is a good comic. It’s a dense, complicated story about the 1929 stock market crash and the four families that run the finance industry. It looks like this series is still going on, and I ought to look for the other issues of it.

JUSTICE LEAGUE TASK FORCE #37 (DC, 1996) – “Rejoice,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Ramon Bernado. Surprisingly, this extremely low-profile comic was my favorite of the several Priest comics I just read. I heard from Facebook friends that this series was basically a joke; the JLTF were supposed to be the JLA’s secret weapon for emergencies, but they were never needed, and they were really the team where the JLA dumped all the people they didn’t want. This final issue of the series demonstrates Priest’s skill with characterization. It’s a difficult comic to understand without having read the previous issues, and I didn’t figure out that Will and Triumph were the same person until halfway through the issue. But the interpersonal drama is very well done, and Priest effectively shows what a jerk Triumph is.

BLACK PANTHER #8 (Marvel, 1999) – “That Business with the Avengers!”, [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Joe Jusko with Amanda Conner. This issue’s first five pages are a near-verbatim retelling of Captain America #100, drawn in a Kirbyesque style. I don’t think this sequence matters to the narrative, but it’s a surprising stylistic decision. Conner’s artwork contrasts radically with Joe Jusko’s photorealistic style. This issue is also notable for the revelation that T’Challa joined the Avengers to spy on them. It includes a guest appearance by Busiek and Pérez’s version of the Avengers, which makes me feel very nostalgic.

WEAVERS #2 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Dylan Burnett. This is one of the few Spurrier comics I haven’t read. Like most of Spurrier’s comics, it has an innovative high concept, as well as excellent artwork from an artist I’m not familiar with. Either Spurrier or his editor is really good at spotting artistic talent. This particular comic is a film-noir-esque story about people infested with alien spiders that give them superpowers.

New comics received on February 16:

MS. MARVEL #27 (Marvel, 2018) – “Teenage Wasteland, Part Three,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. The Substitute Kamalas battles the Inventor, and they use Kamala’s signal watch to summon Captain Marvel, who hasn’t appeared in this series lately (and good riddance). Meanwhile, Naftali continues searching for Kamala. This is the third consecutive issue in which Kamala doesn’t appear. It’s a testament to Willow’s skill with characterization that she’s able to tell an interesting story starring only her supporting characters, without using her main character at all. Still, I want to see Kamala again soon.

ANGELIC #6 (Image, 2018) – “Heirs and Graces, Part 6,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Casper Wijngaard. Qora recovers Ay’s Eye by petting the cat and making him/her cough it up. I feel a bit guilty for enjoying Runaways #6, in which a number of cats get eaten by a dinosaur (and see also Babyteeth #5 below). I feel a bit less guilty now that I’ve read a comic in which a character literally saves the world by petting a cat. Anyway, Qora sends the bird on a mission to restore Ay’s Eye, which will resurrect the humans or something. But Qora pulls a sleight-of-hand trick and replaces the Eye with the EMP pulse bomb, and Ay gets destroyed, leaving the monkeys and manatees free to choose their own destiny. Sadly, the bird gets killed in the process, making Qora realize that she’s sacrificed an animal for her own benefit, just like the humans did. The final surprise is that the last page says “Angelic will return,” so this could be more than just a miniseries. Overall, this is Simon Spurrier’s best work yet, and would be a great introduction to his work for new readers. I don’t know why he’s not more popular, because he’s an awesome writer.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #29 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Forbidden Pla-Nut” part ???, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. This series is starting to feel a bit repetitive, but that’s an uncharitable thing to say, because Ryan and Erica are still doing an amazing job. This issue, Loki summons a bunch of characters to fight the Silver Surfer, including Hocky Hoof Hank, the Thor who’s an actual horse. Eventually the misunderstanding about the Surfer’s identity gets resolved, but by then it’s too late, because the planet is being besieged by aliens who were robbed by the fake Surfer. Besides Hocky Hoof Hank, the best jokes in this issue are the Star Wars opening crawl, and the caption about Ulyaoth putting his reading glasses back on and returning to his book.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #63 (IDW, 2018) – “Ponies Versus Prohibition,” [W] Christina Rice, [A] Brenda Hickey. I made up that title. A new character named Temperance Flowerdew arrives in Ponyville and leads a campaign against sugar. She manages to enlist Pinkie Pie, of all ponies, to her cause. However, her campaign backfires: the other ponies open a speakeasy that serves illegal desserts, leading them to eat even more sugar than before. At the end of the issue, it turns out that Temperance hates sugar because she was deprived of it as a filly, and things go back to normal. This issue is a very funny parody of real-life prohibition, and includes some jokes that younger readers will miss; for example, the password to the speakeasy is “swordfish.” There’s also a song, with lyrics that scan perfectly.

BABYTEETH #8 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Marty and Me,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This is the second comic I’ve read this month in which a cat gets eaten by a monster, although in this case it happened before the issue began. This issue, Sadie’s mother turns out to be an awful person who drugs her own daughter. Also, the dark-haired guy in the maroon suit is Sadie’s brother. But Heather, Sadie’s dad, and the demon raccoon are going to try to rescue Sadie.

TWISTED ROMANCE #2 (Image, 2018) – “Twinkle & The Star,” [W/A] Alejandra Gutiérrez, [A] Alex de Campi. In this issue’s main story, an Indian-American, non-conventionally-attractive woman falls in love with a celebrity actor. The story powerfully demonstrates Twinkle’s low self-esteem, compared to the confidence of the people who work with, and her struggle to see herself as worthy of the star. Alejandra Gutiérrez’s art seems heavily influenced by Brandon Graham, but her style is not a carbon copy of his. My problem with this comic is the ending, where it turns out that Nick is asexual. I get that asexual representation is important, but Twinkle clearly does have sexual desire for Nick – there’s an entire page that shows her fantasizing about him – and it seems unfortunate that she should end up with a man who can’t satisfy her desires. This issue includes another prose story, but it’s much more enjoyable than the one from last issue, and I’d read it even if it wasn’t published in a comic book that I was already reading. It’s a touching portrayal of both college life and relationship angst. The backup story, by Meredith McClaren, is about a relationship between a human and an AI.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #698 (Marvel, 2018) – “Out of Time, Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Having been frozen in ice again, Cap wakes up in the future. In this era the U.S. is run by a capitalist fascist dictator named King Baby, who used a nuclear war as a pretext to seize total power. And it’s only 2025, so this all happened in seven years. Gee, it’s a good thing that this is a totally fictional and implausible scenario, and that there’s no contemporary American political figure to whom the name “King Baby” could obviously refer. After two unimpressive issues, Mark has gotten back to the level of quality he achieved in #695. This issue is powerful, political and exciting, and could be a spiritual sequel to Peter B. Gillis’s What If? #44. Meanwhile, Chris Samnee continues to be one of Marvel’s two best artists.

XERO #2 (DC, 1997) – “The Rookie,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Chriscross. This partially creator-owned series stars a secret agent who specializes in cleaning up after other secret agents’ mistakes. Also, he disguises himself as a blonde white man, but in his secret identity he’s a black basketball player. There is a lot of potential here, but this comic is so confusing and convoluted that I had serious trouble following it, and that’s especially bad since this is only the second issue. I would read more of this series, but I’d want to start with #1.

MOTHER PANIC/BATMAN SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Milk Wars, Part 2,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ty Templeton. Mother Panic is the only Young Animal title I haven’t been reading, although I’m behind on Cave Carson and Shade. In this issue, Mother Panic and Batman team up to rescue some children from a creepy milk cult. I’m not sure if these Milk Wars installments are all meant to be read together, or if they’re all separate takes on the theme of milk. Either way, this is a fun and creepy comic (I have “Cushy cow Bonny, let down your milk” running through my head) and Ty Templeton’s art and John Workman’s art create a nostalgic feel.

DIRTY PLOTTE #11 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1997) – “My New York Diary, Part 2,” [W/A] Julie Doucet. I’ve read the My New York Diary graphic novel, but I read it years ago, and it was my first Doucet comic. Now that I have a bit more familiarity with her work, I can see how this story was a big advance on her previous work, in terms of its narrative scope and realism. Also, I remember Julie’s boyfriend being a real asshole, but reading this story again, I see that he was an even bigger asshole than I realized.

SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Mother’s Milk,” [W] Cecil Castellucci, [A] Mirka Andolfo. This has no connection to the Mother Panic-Batman issue. In this issue, Wonder Woman is the priestess of a cult of domesticity and motherhood, and her servants are several different versions of Shade, each representing a different emotion. Eventually Shade helps Diana recover her true identity. I enjoyed this issue.

ARCHIE #22 (Archie, 2017) – “Over the Edge, Part 3,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Pete Woods. Betty’s friends all have flashbacks to their past lives with her. There’s even one sequence that shows Little Archie’s first meeting with little Betty, which I assume is an intentional homage to Bob Bolling. At the end, Betty wakes up but can’t feel her legs. I wish I’d ordered the next two issues.

KILL OR BE KILLED #4 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue begins with a sequence in which Dylan kills two muggers on the subway. Thankfully, it turns out that this was just a fantasy, and Dylan proceeds to explain why it was unrealistic and racist. Having trouble finding a bad person to kill, Dylan eventually kills a Russian sex trafficker, but is then forced to kill one of his girls in self-defense. Also, Dylan’s roommates are starting to figure out who he is. These events illustrate how difficult it would be to actually maintain a secret identity in real life, or to be a professional crimefighter. Sean Phillips’s artwork in this issue is spectacular, both realistic and attractive.

VIC AND BLOOD #2 (Mad Dog, 1988) – “A Boy and His Dog” and “Run, Spot, Run,” [W] Harlan Ellison, [A] Richard Corben. Since reading the first issue of this series, I’ve read Ellison’s original story. As a result, when I read Corben’s adaptation of the second half of Ellison’s story, I was frustrated by how much was missing. Corben leaves out a lot of important points, including the ambiguity as to whether or not Quilla June had sex with Vic voluntarily, and Ira’s incestuous passion for his daughter. The adaptation reads like a summary of the high points of “A Boy and His Dog,” rather than an adaptation, although the shock ending is still quite powerful. I know it’s not possible to adapt a prose work to comics without certain sacrifices, but I think Corben could have done better. The backup story in this issue, a sequel to “A Boy and His Dog,” is better because it was intended as a comic rather than a prose story. However, it has an anticlimactic ending in which Vic gets eaten by giant spiders, and Blood goes off on his own. According to Wikipedia, Ellison wrote this story because he was sick of being asked for more stories about Vic and Blood.

ARCHIE AND FRIENDS #147 (Archie, 2010) – “Twilite, Part 2,” [W] Angelo DeCesare, [A] Bill Galvan. A dumb but funny parody of Twilight, with Veronica as Bella. I assume it’s better than actual Twilight, but I wouldn’t know. This comic is not exactly poorly crafted, but it feels much lighter and less ambitious than Waid or Zdarsky’s Archie comics.

And now, for the first time all year, I have no comics left to review.