More reviews

2000 AD PROG 55 (1978) – This is the first British comic book (or rather, comic paper) in my collection. I was rather surprised by the format, which is closer to that of a tabloid newspaper than an American comic book: the cover is made of newsprint and both the front and back covers are used as story pages. (I wonder if Excalibur #55, where the cover is also the first story page, was a deliberate homage to this.) I  read this a couple weeks ago and I don’t remember any of the individual stories particularly well, but I was fairly impressed by the generally high level of craftsmanship and the deliberately over-the-top tone of the writing. Grade: B

LONELY NIGHTS COMICS #1 (1986) – This was the only solo comic book published by the late Dori Seda. It consists mostly of autobiographical stories about Dori’s bohemian lifestyle in ‘80s San Diego. These stories are hilarious but also in retrospect kind of tragic, because you can see signs of Dori’s unhealthy lifestyle, which probably contributed to her death a couple years after this story was published. Her style is very reminiscent of Robt. Williams, but her sensibility is quite unique; she has a sort of gently self-deprecating humor that I don’t often see in autobiographical cartoonists. These stories are about serious business but they’re not serious in a depressing way. Oh, and of course there are lots of jokes about whether or not Dori sleeps with her dog. Grade: A+

SUPERBOY #23 (1996) – Part one of “Losin’ It,” the last story of Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett’s initial run on this title. This issue introduces readers to Knockout, who on one level is a rather sexist character – practically everything she says is a double entendre – but also a lot of fun. I can’t recall much else about this issue. Grade: B+

SCOUT #10 (1986) – This series was a fairly standard postapocalyptic narrative which was interesting largely because the main character was an Apache, and Tim Truman seems to have made a sincere effort to represent him in a culturally sensitive way. The plot of this issue involves the government declaring war on some settlers in order to take over their land, and Truman highlights the obvious resemblance here to Native American history. Truman’s artwork here is only average, hampered by muddy inking and coloring, although I’ve always thought of him as a seriously underappreciated artist. Grade: B+

RED CIRCLE SORCERY #9 (1974) – The stories in this issue are fairly boring; three of the four are written by the justifiably forgotten Marvin Channing, and they’re all very standard horror fare. The highlight is the first story, which features gorgeous artwork by, surprisingly, Alex Toth – I hadn’t realized he had done any work for the Red Circle line. The artwork on the other stories is just average. Grade: B- but would have been a C- if not for the Alex Toth artwork.

RONIN #3 (1983)– This was groundbreaking for its time, but I don’t think I can read Frank Miller anymore. I’ve lost my patience with grim and gritty quasi-superhero  comics, and with Miller’s macho Hemingway-esque style of writing. This issue is interesting from a historical perspective in that it shows a very heavy manga influence, specifically from Goseki Kojima. It’s full of two-page spreads and horizontal panels, and of course the story is full of Japanese cultural references. I have one more issue of this series but I have little desire to read it. Grade: B-

HATE #5 (1991) – I think I read this story before, but it was worth rereading because it does such an effective job of defining Buddy Bradley’s character. The issue ends with Buddy lying in an apparent drunken stupor while two other characters talk about him, saying that they actually do appreciate his crudeness and brutal honesty, even if they’d never admit it to him. Then the last panel reveals that Buddy wasn’t asleep and heard every word. Heh. I think Peter Bagge was at his peak in the early ’90s; I stopped following his work after being disappointed in some of his Hate annuals. Grade: A+

GLORY #31 (2013) – The cover to this issue is both adorable and horrifying, a combination of affects which is a favorite of mine. This story is mostly a prologue to bigger things to come, but it includes a ton of cute scenes and character interactions, many of them involving food, as well as excellent artwork by both Ross Campbell and Ulises Farinas. Grade: A-

TARZAN #127 (1961) — I think this is the first comic I’ve read that had Jesse Marsh artwork. I find his art rather crude, though I guess I can see his mastery of composition and anatomy. All the stories in this issue are typical (presumably) Gaylord DuBois stuff — competently written but not classic — though the first story is notable for its positive portrayal of Africans. Grade: B-

SHOCK SUSPENSTORIES #1 (1992, reprinting material from 1952) — Unexpectedly the best story in this issue is the one by the worst artist in the issue, Jack Kamen; its ending is hilariously horrifying, reminding me of that in the notorious “Foul Play” story. The other stories in this issue are much more pedestrian. The story by Jack Davis involves a soldier being court-martialed and shot for cowardice, which is rather implausible as this only ever happened once (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Slovik) in the entire history of the United States military, and even then it was extremely controversial. Grade: A-

MARBLE SEASON FCBD (2013) — This issue made more sense after I read the essay by Corey Creekmur that appears at the end. I tend to be a bigger fan of Jaime than Gilbert, but this comic does seem like quite an accurate portrayal of the combined wonderfulness and idiocy of childhood. I am not in a hurry to read the entire graphic novel, but I would like to read it eventually. Grade: A

WEDNESDAY COMICS #11 and #12 (2009) — I’ve discussed this series before. These two issues provide a satisfying conclusion to most of the stories. I still have no idea what’s going on in the Ben Caldwell Wonder Woman arc, as gorgeous as the artwork is. The ending of the Kamandi story is rather annoying because it involves the female love interest getting shot. I think overall my favorite stories from Wednesday Comics are the Adam Strange and Supergirl/Super-Pets stories, the latter of which ends in a suitably hilarious fashion. Grade: A-

BUCKY O’HARE #1 (1991) — This may quite possibly have been the only good comic Continuity ever published. I remember seeing one episode of the TV show based on this, long long ago, but the comic is much more interesting, kind of like a more raucous version of the StarFox video games. Michael Golden’s draftsmanship in this issue is incredible and his manga influence is very much in evidence, as each page tends to have just three or four panels. Grade: A

SUPERBOY #29 (1996) — This issue, which is part five of “Losin’ It,” is disappointing because of incompetent guest writing and boring guest artwork — especially disappointing given the importance of this issue to the overall storyline. The plot is interesting enough; this issue finally made me realize the double entendre in the title of the storyline, as Superboy and Knockout almost go all the way. However, the guest creators are unable to effectively realize Kesel’s intentions. Grade: C+

SUPERBOY #30 (1996) — This, however, is a much more satisfying conclusion to the storyline and to Kesel and Grummett’s entire run. Here Superboy finally frees himself from Knockout’s bad influence and the story ends on a hopeful note. Grade: A

INCREDIBLE HERCULES #115 (2008) — This was the only issue of this series I hadn’t read. This issue is mostly plot, which often doesn’t make sense because it’s heavily tied to the ongoing World War Hulk crossover, but there are some interesting interactions between Herc and Amadeus. This issue only includes a couple of the creative sound effects that were a trademark of this series. Khoi Pham’s artwork is unfortunately rather boring. Grade: A-

ADVENTURE COMICS #437 (1975) — This one is something of a low point in the Fleisher/Aparo Spectre canon, because of guest artwork by Ernie Chan. The weird thing about Fleisher’s Spectre is that they’re somewhat lacking in dramatic tension — because the Spectre can do absolutely anything, the bad guys never present any sort of plausible threat to him. The appeal to the stories comes, first, from the horrible things the villains do (in this issue, the villain hypnotizes people and turns them into suicide bombers), and second, the equally horrible ways in which the Spectre punishes them. In this sense these stories are almost like pre-Code EC horror or crime comics. The Aquaman backup story is a very pedestrian effort by Levitz and Grell. Grade: B+

THE PHANTOM #71 (1976) — I’ve only read one Phantom story before, in which the character was portrayed as a very conventional superhero, so I was pleasantly surprised by the aura of mystery and fear that surrounds him in this issue. Don Newton’s artwork is amazing and the story, by John Clark, who I’ve never heard of, is extremely solid. (I wonder if this is the same John Clark who worked for Gemstone.) I definitely want to read more of these Charlton Phantoms. Grade: A

THOR #133 (1966) — I am not a huge fan of Lee and Kirby’s Thor, which I tend to find rather boring, but the Ego the Living Planet story was a high point of their Thor run and their collaboration as a whole. It’s just so quintessentially Kirbyesque. The ending to this story is rather anticlimactic: Thor defeats Ego by brute force, which seems kind of hard to believe, given how much work Stan did to convince the reader that Ego was this incredible unstoppable threat. Grade: A

SAVAGE DRAGON #116 (2004) — I missed this one when it came out. This story focuses heavily on Dragon’s wife Jennifer, who, like many of Erik’s female characters, often seemed rather one-dimensional and stereotypical. However, that critique is not entirely fair since it also applies to basically every other character in the series besides Dragon himself. This story is reasonably fun, though also depressing as it ends with Jennifer losing her powers permanently. Grade: B+

ATOMIC ROBO: SHADOW FROM BEYOND TIME #2 (2009) — Trying to finish these reviews before I fall asleep and/or run out of creative things to say. Basically everything I said about previous issues of Atomic Robo also applies to this one; the difference is that this issue is a Lovecraft adaptation, involving a bizarre extra-universal creature that communicates in horrible-sounding nonsense syllables. Quite fun. Grade: A

NAUGHTY BITS #14 (1994) — Bitchy Bitch is something of a female version of Buddy Bradley. This issue, which seems as topical now as in 1994, revolves around a workplace conflict that occurs when Midge’s company hires an openly gay employee. Roberta’s satire of the religious right is witty and hilarious. Grade: A

HELLBLAZER #76 (1994) — Like many of Ennis’s stories, this one is less about plot than about atmosphere and character interaction. It involves John’s encounter with the ghost of an old dead friend, Brendan, who was apparently based on Brendan Behan. The issue is full of Ennis’s typically brilliant dialogue and characterization, as well as including one of his typical moments of shocking over-the-top horror. I did find myself wondering why so much attention was being given to the seemingly unimportant character of Brendan. Grade: A

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