The first round of reviews for 2014-2015

6-11-14

This review project is now in its second year.

JONAH HEX #52 (DC, 1981) – A-. This issue has a hilarious and disturbing cover (a baby reaching out for a scorpion) and the mood of the story is a similar combination of humor and horror. The main theme of the story is that Jonah Hex is a loathsome man and a terrible husband and father; he lets his baby get bitten by a scorpion, then slaps his wife when he complains about it, and then leaves them both to go hunt down some criminals who have kidnapped his young friend Petey, even though his wife threatens to leave him and take the baby if he does so. These events are really quite tragic – the underlying message here is that Hex is so obsessed with maintaining his honor that he doesn’t care if it costs him his family. However, Mike Fleischer’s writing is so funny and so over-the-top that the reader ends up laughing at Hex rather than sympathizing with him. I felt a bit ashamed of myself for finding this story funny, since it involves spousal abuse, but again, the reader is not asked to sympathize with Hex or forgive him for doing this. The issue also includes a Bat Lash backup story by Len Wein and Dan Spiegle, which is very much in the spirit of the classic Bat Lash series.

SUPERBOY #172 (DC, 1971) – C. This is the first issue of Superboy that includes a Legion backup story. However, that story is a very boring one; it has one of the most overused plots in Legion history (Garth and Ayla vs. Lightning Lord) and it’s not particularly well written or well drawn. The lead story, in which Superboy battles Yango the Super-Ape (not to be confused with Yango of the Hairies, or Titano the Super-Ape), is only a little bit better.

WILDC.A.T.S #32 (Image, 1997) – B-. You remember when I said that Ryan Benjamin might be the worst artist Alan Moore has ever worked with? Well, some of the artwork in this issue is even worse. There are three credited artists (Mat Broome, Pat Lee and Jim Lee), and I can’t determine who did which pages, but on at least some pages, the artist completely ignores storytelling, composition and anatomy in order to draw stuff that looks cool. This is exactly the sort of artwork that gave Image Comics a bad reputation in the ‘90s, and it detracts from the story, which is composed mostly of a long fight scene. Even Alan Moore’s writing is not quite enough to save this comic, because it’s mostly a long fight scene, so the only thing that makes this comic interesting is the witty dialogue that accompanies the fighting. However, there is a pretty shocking plot twist at the end.

HALO JONES #2 (Fleetway/Quality, 1987) – A. After reading a bad Alan Moore comic book, I read a good one. This comic is a very low-quality reprint of the original 2000 AD stories – the artwork is reproduced at an excessively small size, and a lot of fine detail is missing. But it’s still possible to appreciate the story, which is a classic and a major early work of Alan Moore. It’s been a long time since I read the first issue of this series, so it took me a while to remember what’s going on, but the story is a powerful exploration of the theme of escape. Halo Jones, like so many real people both in 1980s Britain and in America today, is trapped in generational poverty; she lives in the Hoop, a floating island where all the poor people are kept so that the rich can ignore them. She manages to escape the Hoop by getting a job aboard a spaceship, but has to leave her best friend Rodice behind. This is very powerful stuff, especially the ending of this issue, where Halo leaves Earth while Rodice stays behind, making empty promises that she’ll follow Halo on the next ship. Yet Halo Jones is also one of Alan’s funnier works, though much of the humor is of the black variety. Ian Gibson’s artwork is highly impressive, reminding me of Kevin O’Neill, even if it’s difficult to appreciate the subtleties of his drawing at such a small size.

HALO JONES #3 (Fleetway/Quality, 1987) – A-. This one gets a lower grade because only half the issue is actually composed of Halo Jones material. The other half consists of two unrelated 2000 AD stories, which include some good artwork by Gibson and Mike McMahon, but are not nearly as well-written as Halo Jones.

THE STEEL CLAW #1 (Fleetway/Quality, 1986) – A+. This is another reprint of a classic British comic. Originally published in 1962, The Steel Claw is one of Paul Gravett’s “1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die.” It is a classic of Spanish as well as British comics, since the artist, Jesús Blasco, is one of the greatest Spanish cartoonists. The title character, Lewis Randell, is a terrorist who has the power to turn invisible, except for his prosthetic steel hand, whenever he charges himself with electricity. This is a very simple premise but it has a ton of narrative potential, and the writer, Ken Bulmer, succeeds in making Randall a threatening and scary villain. Blasco’s artwork is very impressive; his spotting of blacks reminds me a lot of Caniff, who was one of his major influences. This comic definitely deserves its classic status and I want to either hunt down the rest of the Quality reprints, or get the hardcover collection that came out in 2006.

AVENGERS WEST COAST #80 (Marvel, 1992) – D+. This was a waste of Roy Thomas’s talent. This issue is an installment in a pointless and forgettable crossover (Operation Galactic Storm) and it’s hampered by excessive continuity baggage. There is so much plot in this issue that there is no room for characterization, and most of the characters are pretty lousy anyway, especially Living Lightning, who is a blatant Hispanic stereotype. Also, Dave Ross’s artwork is not good.

MARVEL PREMIERE #8 (Marvel, 1973) – B-. It is really weird reading a Marvel story by Gardner Fox, one of the writers most closely identified with DC. Fox was a poor fit for Marvel comics because of his lack of interest in characterization. However, during his brief Marvel career he wrote mainly horror and fantasy stories, which makes sense since he was a fantasy novelist and his DC stories often had a strong fantasy element (I’m thinking for example of Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast). And this specific issue displays a strong Lovecraft and REH influence; even the villain, Shuma-Gorath, has a name that originally appeared in an REH story. However, the Lovecraftian themes are little more than window dressing; the actual story is a generic piece of superhero material. Not much happens in this issue except that Strange defeats some monsters by poorly explained methods. Jim Starlin’s artwork in this issue is surprisingly impressive.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #40 (Marvel, 1980) – C-. This issue has a potentially strong premise – Spider-Man gets infected by the Lizard’s serum and turns into a Spider-Lizard – but the writer, Bill Mantlo, does nothing original or exciting with that premise. The issue ends with a scene in which Spidey is trapped underwater and has to pry open a barred window to escape. When he succeeds in doing so, he says “I did it! We’re free!” I’m not sure whether this is an affectionate homage to Spider-Man #33, or just a rip-off.

LUMBERJANES #3 (Boom!, 2014) – A+. With this issue, Lumberjanes is becoming less of a realistic summer-camp comedy and more of a fantasy comic which happens to be set at summer camp. The very first scene of the series included three-eyed animals, so it was obvious from the start that this story wasn’t taking place in the real world. But I still didn’t expect that there would be an entire issue set in an underground booby-trapped dungeon with talking statues. Not that I have any objection to that sort of thing; it’s just surprising. In temrs of the actual merits, Lumberjanes continues to be a fantastic all-ages comic, on the same level as The Amulet or Katie and Andy’s My Little Pony. None of the challenges that the Lumberjanes face in the dungeon are especially original, but the comic is a thrill to read because of what these challenges reveal about the characters. The creators have come up with an amazing ensemble cast; Riley and April continue to steal the show, but the quieter characters also have some cute scenes in this issue, and I’m starting to suspect that Mal and Molly are or will be a couple. I still have no idea where the overall plot of the series is going, but there are carvings of three-eyed creatures in the dungeon, so clearly this issue is relevant to the plot in some way that is not yet clear.

PRINCESS UGG #1 (Oni, 2014) – A+. I very much enjoyed Courtney Crumrin but I didn’t get into it until the end of its run, so I appreciate the opportunity to follow Ted Naifeh’s latest project from the start. Deconstructionist fairy tales are becoming almost as common as deconstructionist superhero comics, and Princess Ugg isn’t even the only recent comic with this theme. However, Ted Naifeh’s original and hilarious intervention is to mash up Disney princesses with Conan the Barbarian. The other awesome thing about Naifeh’s work is his deadpan humor. This issue includes a scene where a princess falls off her palanquin into a pile of mammoth dung, and yet I almost forget to laugh because this story takes itself so seriously, or pretends to. But Princess Ugg is also more than just a humor comic. Despite the hilariousness of her situation, Ulga is not a joke character; she is a confident young woman who is comfortable with who she is, but she also has a deep curiosity about the world and a desire to expand her intellectual horizons. Even in a comics industry which is full of fascinating female protagonists, Ulga stands out. I eagerly await issue 2.

MANIFEST DESTINY #7 (Image, 2014) – A-. This issue doesn’t have enough Sacagawea, but it’s still fun. Easily the highlight of the issue is the amazing reveal on the second page. On page one, we see three small panels of a ladybug plodding along the ground; in the third panel, the ladybug suddenly has some sort of rope harness around its back. Then we turn the page and discover that the ladybug is the size of a grown man – we can tell because Sacagawea and Charbonneau are capturing it in a giant net. We only assumed it was the normal size because there was nothing to compare it to. This sort of reversal of scale would be difficult to pull off in any medium other than comics.

SHE-HULK #5 (Marvel, 2014) – B+/A-. As far as the plot goes, this issue is mostly setup; we don’t learn anything about the Blue File except that people go crazy when it’s mentioned. But this issue does include some cute character interactions. I especially like the notion that Tigra has a giant jungle gym/kitty tree outside her house. The thing I don’t like about this issue is Ron Wimberly’s artwork. I suppose his weird perspective and his extremely crude drawing are deliberate stylistic choices, but I don’t understand what the appeal of this art style is supposed to be.

ASTRO CITY #13 (DC, 2013) – A. This is a fascinating and difficult issue. The story takes place on a single day, but is not presented in chronological order, so initially it appears as if the various characters in the story have nothing to do with each other. As you read more, though, the connections start to become clear, and you realize that the story is about love, and about how modern urban citizens are prevented from being with their loved ones because of the excessive demands on their time and energy. The line about the cold bed and the note on the fridge is especially poignant. The cool part about the structure of this story is that it keeps you guessing; I initially thought that the (unnamed) dude with the beard and glasses was the bank teller’s boyfriend, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was wrong and that he was actually Zvi’s boyfriend. Also, the Dancing Master has kind of a silly name but I love this character anyway. His dialogue is bizarre and full of nonsensical references (and it’s set in a gorgeous old-fashioned typeface), and every time he appears he’s drawn in a different style, which is never the same style as that of the surrounding artwork. All this makes him seem like a truly otherworldly and incomprehensible character. In retrospect, I think this may have been the best single issue of the current series.

ALL-NEW DOOP #1 (Marvel, 2014) – B-/C+. This issue tries to make some kind of a statement about marginality – we are told that Doop is a marginal character, and this somehow gives him the power to slip through panel borders. This sort of metatextual self-reference is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating effects that comics can use, so I should have loved this comic. But I didn’t because I had no idea what was going on. The story appears to be taking place concurrently with the Battle for the Atom crossover, but the writer (Peter Milligan) doesn’t bother to explain the plot of that crossover, so the parts of the story that don’t directly involve Doop are impossible to understand. Another annoying thing about this issue is the Doopspeak. Even though I’ve been reading Doop comics for over a decade, I still need to use a Doop translator to read his dialogue. I don’t mind having to do this once or twice an issue, but it becomes extremely annoying when Doopspeak appears on almost every page.

STRANGE TALES #134 (Marvel, 1965) – A+. The Thing/Torch story in this issue is pretty stupid. The villain of this story is Kang, and his plan is to travel back in time to Camelot and usurp the throne of England from King Arthur, so that he can change the past and ensure that the Fantastic Four will never be born. Of course there is a glaring plot hole here: if Kang changes the past in this way, then won’t that prevent Kang himself from being born? Kang repeatedly brags about his advanced futuristic technology, so it’s pretty obvious that he was born after King Arthur, meaning that anything he did to the past would affect him as much as the FF. Another bizarre thing about this story is that Kang thinks the Fantastic Four are his enemies, yet as far as I can tell, this is the first story in which Kang ever met the FF (ignoring the later retcon that Kang was the same person as Rama-Tut). I wonder if Stan just forgot which heroes were associated with which villains.

Of course the main draw of this issue is the Dr. Strange story, which is a masterpiece from probably the greatest era of Ditko’s career. The scenes taking place in New York are beautifully atmospheric and moody, while the scenes set in the Dark Dimension are mind-blowingly bizarre. This story also prominently involves the Mindless Ones, who are among Ditko’s most visually striking creations. This story is an obvious classic and I regret that I don’t have as much to say about it as about the Thing/Torch story.

The last round of reviews for 2013-2014

6-6-14

I started this review project on June 5, 2013, so this project has now reached its one-year anniversary, and I have now reviewed a full year’s worth of comic books.

DEADPOOL #18 (Marvel, 2010) – C-. I’m very interested in this series because of its metatextual aspects, but this issue was just not good. It was a generic superhero story with fairly good artwork (by Paco Medina) but an uninteresting plot and bad dialogue. I think the Deadpool issues I need to be reading are the ones by Joe Kelly.

ATOMIC ROBO PRESENTS REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES #6 (Red 5, 2012) – D+/C-. Most of the stories in this issue are so short that they never get the chance to build any narrative momentum, and they end abruptly and unsatisfyingly. This spin-off did not live up to its parent series.

SEX #2 (Image, 2013) – C-. I bought the first few issues of this series because it looked like a quality production. I was intrigued by the lettering and graphic design, and the title of the series led me to expect that it would be a forthright and honest treatment of sexual matters. I never got around to reading it, and subsequently, I read some of the pompous, arrogant things Joe Casey has said online – for example, he claimed that he’d figured out what made Spider-Man tick, and that because of this he could write a better Spider-Man story than anyone else. Comments like this made me lose confidence in him as a writer; if he was really as great a writer as he claims to be, then he wouldn’t have to butter himself up so much. When I finally did read Sex, I was not impressed. This issue’s plot is completely incomprehensible; there is a list of characters at the beginning, but it leaves many characters out, and the story jumps from one plotline to another without showing how any of the plots are connected. It took me a while to even understand that the protagonist was supposed to be a retired superhero. Probably the story would only have been a little clearer if I’d read the first issue, because according to one review that I read, Sex #1 was equally difficult to understand. The other problem is the sex part. If this story is trying to say anything controversial or intelligent about sex, then it escaped me; it seems like the title Sex and the (sparse) sex scenes are included just as a cheap sales device. This comic does have excellent production values – it has a two-page title illustration which is reminiscent of the title pages of Mister X, and I really like the font used for the lettering. And Piotr Kowalski’s artwork is interesting because of its stylistic similarity to BD; he started his career in the European industry. However, the use of different-colored highlights instead of bold text is very distracting.

Oh, one more thing. Joe Casey’s essay at the end of the comic is just infuriating and made me lose most of my remaining respect for him. In response to a letter that very matter-of-factly mentions the appearance of a vagina in Sex #1, Casey writes: “I don’t know this guy at all. Never heard of him. But from that passage alone I’m going to let shit get real here: Do not fear the vagina, W. Allison. Embrace it […] It’s finally time to get yourself out of those XXL Superman Underoos once and for all, slip into some boxer-briefs and Talk. To. A. Woman.” (He does helpfully add “Unless you’re gay.”) With statements like this, Casey reveals himself as pompous, egotistical, and willing to make unjustified assumptions about other people. And besides, his prose style drives me crazy.

SEX #3 (Image, 2013) – D+/C-. This issue has the same problems as last issue, but gets a lower grade because of the concluding scene in which a woman masturbates with a vibrator. The problem with this scene is not its content, but rather the fact that it has nothing to do with the story and seems to have been inserted just for shock value or to titillate the reader. (And if Joe 72) – Casey thinks that masturbation is something shocking and unexpected, then he needs to get out more.) Again, this scene also reveals a larger problem, which is that Sex isn’t trying to say anything serious or original about sex; it’s just using sex scenes as a source of cheap thrills. When you compare Sex to another similarly titled series that came out around the same time, Sex Criminals, you realize just how little Sex accomplishes.

SUPERBOY #181 (DC, 1972) – B-. It’s too bad that this issue doesn’t have a new Legion story, but all three stories in this issue are intriguing in one way or another. In the first story, a person claiming to be Jules Verne arrives in Smallville via a time machine. Of course it turns out to be a hoax, but the story shows great fondness and affection for Verne and his works. The artist for this story, Bob Brown, has become a classic example of an old-fashioned and boring artist, but Murphy Anderson’s inking is excellent, and the story begins with a really cool double-page splash. Next comes a reprint of the story in which Insect Queen becomes an honorary Legionnaire. Like many pre-Shooter Legion stories, “The Six-Legged Legionnaire” is pretty silly, but at least it has some nice Curt Swan artwork; I especially like how Curt used vertically formatted panels to make Colossal Boy look majestic. The backup story, “Super-Marriage or Super-Flop,” is ridiculously sexist and racist even for 1972. And I’m not even going to try to explain the premise because it doesn’t make any sense. The notable thing about this story, though, is that it’s a rare Superman story written by Frank Robbins.

DETECTIVE COMICS #473 (DC, 1977) – A+. I’ve read “The Malay Penguin” before, but not for a long time. This is a perfect story by the perfect Batman creative team. Englehart and Rogers’s Batman was a dark, brooding figure of mystery but also a human being; his commitment to his mission didn’t prevent him from loving Silver St. Cloud or kidding around with Robin. No other writer has balanced the tragic and comic sides of Batman’s character more effectively than Englehart did. In 1977, Marshall Rogers was the top artist at DC; his storytelling is as impressive now as it was at the time. In terms of this specific issue, “The Malay Penguin” is only 17 pages, and yet Englehart and Rogers succeed in delivering a satisfying story which is fully self-contained while also advancing the ongoing Hugo Strange/Rupert Thorne plotline. I especially love the twist ending, where it turns out that the Penguin didn’t pass up the chance to steal the Malay Penguin, because he already stole it before it arrived in Gotham.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #191 (DC, 1981) – B+. Zatanna was obviously Gerry Conway’s pet character in this series, and she plays a significant role in this issue, in which her powers are reduced by half. I assume this was done for practical reasons, so she wouldn’t be another Superman. The main plot involves the Key and Amazo, who is a fairly sympathetic villain in that all he wants is to sleep, and he hates anyone else who wakes him up as much as he hates the JLA. Overall this is not a classic Justice League comic but it’s not a bad one either.

IRON MAN #249 (Marvel, 1989) – A. This and the following issue are a spiritual sequel to the Dr. Doom story from exactly 100 issues before. David Michelinie writes an excellent Dr. Doom; his version of Doom is nasty, arrogant, and scary. Doom’s best moment in this issue is when he tells Tony that he had four Renoir paintings, but destroyed one of them because it displeased him. Doom and Iron Man are effective as adversaries because they both have such strong personalities, and both of Michelinie’s Doom stories are classics.

ACTION COMICS #587 (DC, 1987) – B+. Like most of John’s Action Comics stories, this Superman/Demon team-up is a very basic and almost generic superhero story whose primary draw is the artwork. This Superman/Demon team-up is from the very end of John Byrne’s good years. At this point his artwork was already starting to degenerate, but he could still draw some impressive action sequences and machinery. The annoying thing about this issue is that it includes a scene where Superman travels back in time to the 12th century, and succeeds in making himself understood to the local people by saying “thee” and “thou”. Obviously John did no research at all, or he would have learned that Middle English is much farther from contemporary Engilsh than that.

A curious footnote about this issue is that the letter column includes a statement apologizing for the unauthorized use of Mr. Michael Betker as a character in Action Comics #569. I will quote Jim MacQuarrie’s explanation:

“As far as I can tell, Michael Betker is/was a big comic collector, convention organizer/promoter and authority on all things Superman. This story was written by one Michael J. Wolff, who used Betker’s name for a character in the story; he supposedly claimed that it was intended as a birthday present for Betker. Betker was portrayed in the story as a weak and snivelling runt, and it turned out that Wolff was a former employee of Betker and had recently been let go. He argued persuasively that this was personal and intentionally derogatory.”

ROCKET GIRL #5 (Image, 2014) – A-. This is the best issue yet and it wraps up the opening story arc in a satisfying way. Dayoung Johannsson is really starting to impress me. As a teenage heroine of color, she’s comparable to Kamala Khan. The scene where the local people protect her from the cops is heartwarming, and the panel where she’s dressed in mismatched clothing is adorable. It’s not clear where the story is going to go from here, with Dayoung trapped in the present and Annie fired from her job, but I’m curious to find out. The relationship between Dayoung and Annie almost reminds me of the relationship between James-Michael, Amber and Ruth in Omega the Unknown.

BATMAN & ROBIN ADVENTURES #9 (DC, 1996) – A. I’m not very familiar with the creative team of this issue, Ty Templeton and Brandon Kruse, but this issue is a very strong example of the Batman Adventures aesthetic. Batman does not appear in this issue, which instead focuses on a fight between Batgirl and Talia. The creators show an excellent understanding of both the primary characters. As expected, Talia beats the stuffing out of Babs in single combat, but Babs saves the day because of her smarts and determination. and what’s especially powerful is Batgirl’s refusal to give up, despite facing overwhelmingly superior opposition. Meanwhile, Talia fails at her mission (to kidnap a scientist named Siddiq el Fazil, an obvious reference to Star Trek actor Siddiq el Fadil) because she’s arrogant and underestimates her opponent.

SECRET ORIGINS #27 (DC, 1988) – D+. This is advertised as the origin of Zatanna and Zatara, but it’s really the origin of Dr. Mist. Zatanna spends the entire issue in suspended animation while Dr. Mist tells her his origin story, which eventually explains her origin and her father’s. Furthermore, that origin story is the worst kind of continuity porn; it engages in massive retconning of DC Universe history seemingly for no purpose other than showing that Dr. Mist is responsible for everything magical in the DC Universe. The reader is left with the impression that Zatanna and Zatara have no agency of their own and are merely pawns in the struggle between Dr. Mist and Felix Faust. This issue contributes nothing to the reader’s understanding of either character, and is best ignored. There is some interesting artwork here by Tom Artis, who reminds me a bit of early Mignola.

Explanation of the grading scale in my comics reviews

A: This is an excellent comic book which I am proud to have in my collection.

B: This comic book is readable and enjoyable, but has flaws that prevent it from being truly excellent.

C: This comic book is average and unmemorable, without either strong positive or negative qualities.

D: While this comic book is better than nothing, it has few redeeming qualities.

F: It would have been better if this comic book had never been published. I would have enjoyed myself more if, instead of reading this comic book, I had stared at the wall for the same amount of time.

Lots more reviews

5-31-14

When I posted my last set of reviews, I had read 982 comic books since I started this list on June 5th of last year, and I needed to read 18 more comic books in order to reach 1000 for the year. I have now comfortably exceeded that total.

QUANTUM & WOODY #1 (Acclaim, 1997) – A. I’ve read this before in TPB form, but not for a while. This first issue is a terrific introduction to the world’s worst superhero team. Clearly the main draw of this series is the hilarious relationship between the straight man Eric and the comic foil Woody, and we get a lot of that here. This issue has a very complex narrative structure, with events occuring out of order, but Priest is able to use this to show connections between temporally distant events – like when one panel shows Eric and Woody meeting at Eric’s dad’s funeral, and then there’s a two-page splash showing them at a future moment, striking their wrists together and activating their powers. The disturbing part is that Woody is shockingly racist (e.g. he accuses Eric of “chucking his spear”) and the comic doesn’t always seem to condemn him strongly enough for it. If this comic had been written by a white writer, it would have been seriously offensive.

PROPHET #41 (Image, 2013) – B. It’s hard to review the individual issues of this series because they’re all very similar: they all have gorgeous artwork, evocative but incoherent stories, and disappointing backup material. This one was no exception.

FANTASTIC FOUR #15 (Marvel, 2014) – C-/D+. This one was pretty bad. I couldn’t follow the story, and when I could follow it, I didn’t care. It was just a series of fights between two alternate-dimensional Fantastic Fours and Doom the Annihilating Conqueror. This issue didn’t even include Franklin and Valeria, who, in this FF series, were typically more interesting to read about than the adult FF members. Probably the trouble is that Karl Kesel was filling in for Matt Fraction at this point.

FANTASTIC FOUR #16 (Marvel, 2014) – C+/B-. This was an improvement on the previous issue because it included a short epilogue segment with artwork by Mike Allred, although some of those pages also appear in FF #16.

THE IRON AGE #2 (Marvel, 1998) – B+. Like Untold Tales of Spider-Man, this is a new Iron Man story that fits precisely into Silver Age continuity; also, unusually, it’s narrated from Happy Hogan’s perspective. This story doesn’t add anything to Iron Man’s mythos, besides explaining the origin of Roxxon Oil, but it’s a good example of Kurt Busiek’s ability to imitate the Silver Age Marvel aesthetic. Patrick Zircher’s artwork is adequate though not great. I would buy the other issue of this miniseries if I saw it for a dollar or less.

WONDER WOMAN #56 (DC, 1991) – A. I have said before that I think George Pérez is the best Wonder Woman writer. This issue demonstrates why. For reasons that are not clearly explained (though Dr. Psycho is somehow involved), Diana and her fellow Amazons are under suspicion of murder, and this acts as a catalyst which drives the people of Boston to start expressing their latent hostility toward Amazons. It is very powerful to watch Diana face sexist opposition from all sides, without wavering in her determination to help her sisters. Another highlight of the issue is Ed Indelicato, the police detective who Pérez introduced in “Who Killed Myndi Mayer”; his steadfast faith in Diana, even against the opposition of his superiors, is inspiring. The only trouble with this issue is that Joe Phillips’s guest artwork is pretty boring.

WONDER WOMAN #57 (DC, 1991) – A+. Luckily, Jill Thompson returns as the regular artist for this issue. In this story, the situation deteriorates even further; having previously cooperated with the police investigation, Diana finally reaches her breaking point when a male policeman tries to handcuff her, and flies off to deal with the situation her own way. It’s a powerful moment, and also demonstrates how deeply Diana is feared and mistrusted by the men around her, other than Ed Indelicato, because she refuses to accept their authority. The themes of the recent Winged Victory story in Astro City are also lurking beneath the surface of this story. The reason George is the best Wonder Woman writer is because he truly understood the character’s revolutionary potential and treated her as more than just a female Superman; hardly any other writer has had his intuitive grasp of the character.

ATOMIC ROBO PRESENTS REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES #4 (Red 5, 2012) – D. This anthology series is significantly below Atomic Robo’s typical level of quality. Of the five stories in this issue, the only good one is the one where Atomic Robo meets Bruce Lee. The others range from forgettable to unreadable. The first story in the issue, “To Kill a Sparrow,” has no obvious connection to Atomic Robo at all.

ATOMIC ROBO PRESENTS REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES #3 (Red 5, 2012) – B-. (Yes, I read these two issues out of order.) This one is significantly better because of the second story, “Tesla’s Electric Sky Schooner.” It begins in media res, during a battle between the titular airship and some other ship, and I don’t think the story ever explains the reason for the fight or identifies who the bad guys are; it’s funnier that way, though. And it guest-stars a series of colorful characters from the 19th century, all of whom are real people, including Winfield Scott Lovecraft, H.P.’s father. There’s also another chapter of the Bruce Lee story, plus another one-shot story that has a rather incoherent narrative but excellent coloring.

PROPHET #43 (Image, 2014) – A-. This is better than the last issue of Prophet I read. It begins with a flashback describing the origin of Hiyonhoiagn, one of Brandon Graham and Simon Roy’s many bizarre and compelling alien creations. There is also another sequence which takes place in an alien maze and is beautifully illustrated by Roy. The artwork and storytelling in this issue are almost up to the standard of Graham’s work as writer/artist.

SEAGUY: THE SLAVES OF MICKEY EYE #2 (Vertigo, 2009) – B-. In retrospect, I think Seaguy was the beginning of Grant Morrison’s descent into incomprehensibility, but at the time it was an entertaining piece of absurdist-surrealist adventure, which was also surprisingly poignant at times. This second miniseries is more of the same, although there is some funny new stuff, like ½-an-Animal-on-a-Stick and dinosaur skeletons made of animal parts. Somehow Cameron Stewart’s artwork here is not as exciting as on Catwoman.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #61 (DC, 1968) – C+. This is a confusing and implausible story, especially by the standards of Gardner Fox, who usually at least tried to come up with scientific-sounding explanations for everything. In this story, Green Arrow announces he’s leaving the Justice League because he’s facing an unspecified danger, and then all the other Justice Leaguers independently decide to disguise themselves as him so they can save him from whatever the danger is. (That is, all of them except Wonder Woman, who puts on a Green Arrow costume but decides it’s too revealing and she can’t get away with it; this is easily the best thing in the issue.) And then each JLAer battles a different villain, loses, and mysteriously switches identities with the villain. And then things get even more complicated, if that’s even possible. It turns out Dr. Destiny caused all this stuff to happen with his materioptikon, whose capabilities are so ambigious and poorly defined that it can essentially do whatever the writer wants. Overall this story is very unconvincing.

USAGI YOJIMBO #16 (Fantagraphics, 1989) – B+. Part IV of “The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy” is not as thrilling as previous chapters, since neither Usagi nor Tomoe is in any imminent danger. Also, the major source of tension in the previous chapters was whether Usagi or Tomoe could survive long enough to let Lord Noriyuki know about the conspiracy, but in this issue Usagi just tells Shingen to send Lord Noriyuki a messenger, which is kind of anticlimactic. The centerpiece of the issue is a duel between Gen and Ino, the latter of whom is perhaps the greatest swordman in the Usagi universe. Ino was written out of the series many years before I started reading it, so it’s pretty cool to see him in his prime.

SOULSEARCHERS AND COMPANY #59 (Claypool, 2002) – D. I got this for free at Comic-Con many years ago, but never bothered to read it. Soulsearchers is a creator-owned work of Peter David, and is written in much the same humorous style as Young Justice, but unlike YJ, this comic is never anything more than a series of bad puns. It doesn’t succeed in making the reader care about any of the characters. Perhaps this issue would have had a greater impact on me if I had been reading the series long enough to become familiar with the characters, but none of them seems to have any significant depth.

FCBD AND BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER/THE GUILD: BEACH’D #nn (Dark Horse, 2012) – C+. This is an okay comic book; Felicia Day’s writing in the Guild story is very witty and it’s clear that she has a lot of talent. However, this is a terrible FCBD comic because it assumes the reader is already familiar with its characters and settings. Therefore, if the reader is not a fan of Buffy or the Guild, this comic makes no sense. I had to read almost the entire Guild story before I realized that the characters were members of an MMORPG guild. To me, an FCBD comic should not cater exclusively to existing fans of its series but should also try to attract new readers, and that means it has to be accessible, which this comic is not.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #19 (IDW, 2014) – A. So much amazing stuff here. It’s a little disappointing that this issue is mostly a flashback and doesn’t show us very much of the alternate universe (I’m especially curious about the alternate Mane Six). But the depiction of Celestia and Sombra’s romance is touching, and they are an adorable couple. Andy Price continues to be one of the top artists in commercial comics; he reminds me a bit of Don Rosa because of the amount of detail packed into each of his panels. The thing in this issue that’s most relevant to my interests, though, is the panel where Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle argue about continuity, especially Pinkie Pie’s line “Our world doesn’t even make sense! Why should this one? Who needs continuity?” That’s probably going to make it into my MLP book chapter.

MS. MARVEL #4 (Marvel, 2014) – A-. This was my least favorite issue so far. I think that was less because of the merits than because I read it when I was exhausted, but this issue seemed to have less narrative content than the first three; the business with the robbery took up about half the issue. Still, Kamala continues to be the most important character in current Marvel comics. She’s so awkwardly cute (“adorkable” in TVTropes terms) and yet she has such a strong desire to be a hero. Reading the #YesAllWomen hashtag has reminded me of how important it is to have characters like her in comic books.

CHEW/REVIVAL #1 (Image, 2014) – A. On reading this comic, I had not read any Revival (now I have, see below) and the Revival half of this comic was a good introduction to that franchise. It took me a while to understand the premise, and I’m still not sure I quite get what a “reviver” is, but I really like the story’s Midwestern setting, and the writing and the artwork are both quite high in quality. The especially weird thing about this story was seeing Tony Chu drawn in a realistic style. I’m used to seeing him depicted as a cartoony character, so this story almost gave me a glimpse of what he might look like in real life. Meanwhile, the Chew story is just a typical Chew story, which is a good thing. The last page is especially hilarious. I like how Layman and Guillory lampshade the fact that the two stories contradict each other (each story claims to depict the first meeting between the characters involved). I don’t think they really need to agree with each other; it seems obvious that these two series don’t share the same continuity.

UNCANNY X-MEN #265 (Marvel, 1990) – B-. This issue is from what was possibly the worst period of Claremont’s original run, when the X-Men were all separated and each of them was having solo adventures. At this point the tone of the series became really bleak and the stories and characters were often truly bizarre; for example, the villains this issue are Nanny and the Orphan Maker, perhaps Claremont’s silliest creations. Claremont does create an effective sense of tension with his focus on Storm, reduced to childhood and with no memories of her time with the X-Men, but I don’t know why he thought this story was worth telling to begin with.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #17 (Marvel, 2009) – B/B-. Matt Fraction is probably the best Iron Man writer since David Michelinie, but his stories somehow fail to connect with me on an emotional level. This is partly because I just don’t like Iron Man as much as other Marvel titles, and partly because of the excessive focus on Norman Osborn, a villain I truly loathe (in my personal headcanon, he never came back from the dead). Perhaps my favorite thing about this Iron Man run is Pepper Potts becoming Rescue, but she plays no significant role in this issue. Salvador Larroca’s artwork in this issue is excellent; I’ve always liked his art ever since the ‘90s, and I think he should be more of a superstar than he is.

UNCANNY X-MEN #227 (Marvel, 1988) – C+. This is a landmark issue; it’s the one where the X-Men die fighting the Adversary and are resurrected, but with the entire world still believing them dead. However, the importance of this issue is not matched by its quality. The Adversary is not an effective villain, because he’s so far above the X-Men’s power level that they require divine intervention in order to defeat him. And the whole Roma/Forge/Adversary storyline is just confusing and irrelevant to any of the central themes of the X-Men series. The only really effective moment in this issue is when Kitty learns about the X-Men’s deaths on TV, but that reveals an additional flaw in this story: Claremont never gives a convincing explanation for why the X-Men refused to tell their loved ones that they were still alive. In this issue, he even has Dazzler say that it’s unfair and cruel to let their families believe they’re dead, and then the other X-Men reply that it’s necessry to do so in order to protect their loved ones, but I don’t really understand why this is the case. So this ends up being another instance in which the X-Men act like assholes for no good reason (see also Cyclops leaving his wife and child).

REVIVAL #8 (Image, 2013) – A-. I already had this, but I didn’t feel motivated to read it until I read Chew/Revival. I grew up in the Upper Midwest, and although Minneapolis is very different from rural Wisconsin, the setting of this comic still seemed familiar to me. Seeley and Norton do a nice job of depicting the Midwestern landscape and culture. I even like how some of the characters have Swedish names (in Minnesota, names like Gunderson and Larson and Olson are as ubiquitous as Smith and Jones). I can’t quite follow the story, but Dana Cypress is an exciting protagonist.

IRON FIST #3 (Marvel, 1976) – B-. This issue would have been much better if not for Frank Chiaramonte’s lifeless inking, which destroys all the fine detail of Byrne’s pencils. This results in generic-looking artwork which is barely recognizable as Byrne. And this detracts from the story, which is actually quite gripping. This issue reveals for the first time that Misty Knight has a bionic arm. Also, in this issue Danny tries to save a little girl, but she dies on the operating table; this is a surprisingly bleak moment in a ‘70s comic book.

WILDC.A.T.S #24 (Image, 1995) – A-. Ryan Benjamin, who illustrates the first half of this comic, must be one of the worst artists Alan Moore ever worked with (besides Rob Liefeld, of course). His draftsmanship is okay but his storytelling is awful. There’s one two-page splash where Maul describes a city as looking like something out of Blake or Piranesi, but you can’t tell because the entire left-hand page is covered up by Maul’s back, and there’s only enough room to show one or two buildings. It’s a testament to the quality of Alan’s prose that this issue is still very enjoyable despite such awful artwork. The depiction of Maul’s people, the enslaved original inhabitants of Khera, is fascinating. The second half of the issue, which takes place on Earth, is drawn by a better artist, but the story is not quite as interesting.

SEVEN SOLDIERS: KLARION #3 (DC, 2005) – A-. Frazer Irving, the artist of this series, is a major talent. What especially impresses me about his work is the sensitive and evocative digital coloring. His artwork creates an eerie atmosphere which is appropriate to the unsettling, uncanny tone of Grant Morrison’s story. As for the story, Klarion is a unique and fascinating protagonist, and Melmoth is a very creepy villain.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’90 #20 (DC, 1990) – A-. This series was better than the regular Legion title of its time, mostly because of the depth of characterization. This series had a large and diverse ensemble cast which, unusually for its time, included a large number of female characters (Strata, Stealth, Phase, Lyrissa Mallor, Marij’n), and Alan Grant’s writing conveyed the sense that these characters genuinely liked and supported each other despite their different backgrounds. And this, for me, is the most important theme of the Legion of Super-Heroes, so L.E.G.I.O.N. was actually a better Legion title than the main one. I also like how the characters all distrusted their leader, Vril Dox, and were not shy about letting him know it. The artist in this issue is Jim Fern, whose storytelling is solid although his draftsmanship is boring. This issue also features some nice work by Gaspar Saladino, the best letterer in the history of American comics.

METAMORPHO #7 (DC, 1966) – B+/A-. This is perhaps the quintessential Bob Haney comic because of its glorious and unapologetic weirdness. This issue has a bizarre and convoluted plot which is impossible to summarize except by saying that it involves geologists and volcanoes somehow, but it’s not really supposed to make sense. Unfortunately, Sal Trapani’s artwork is not weird enough to capture the craziness of Haney’s plotting. Besides the insane storytelling, the other main draw of this series is the fascinating dynamic between Rex, Stagg, Sapphire and Java.

STRANGE TALES #166 (Marvel, 1967) – A+. The Doctor Strange story in this issue hardly seems like a Doctor Strange story at all. The villains, a scientist named Yandroth and his pet robot, seem like more appropriate opponents for Iron Man or the Avengers. Because the story has no magical elements, it could have had any other Marvel superhero as the protagonist. Therefore, the A+ rating is exclusively for the Steranko story, which is one of the best art jobs of his short career. I especially love the page that’s formatted like a maze, but every page of this story is full of dynamic storytelling, improbable machinery, and thrilling action. At this point in his career Steranko was the leading artist in superhero comics other than Kirby, although that didn’t last long.

NEW MUTANTS #50 (Marvel, 1987) – B. One of the things I like about Claremont’s work is the raw, unfettered emotion, but this issue almost has too much of that. For example, this issue contains three different scenes where one of the New Mutants tearfully hugs Professor Xavier, and two different scenes in which a New Mutant tells Xavier that he’s his/her real father. (And one of the New Mutants in question is Magik, who already has a father.) It’s almost creepy. The story in this issue is epic but also excessively convoluted, involving both Magus and S’ym. One cute thing about this issue was the number of references to other comics. Besides S’ym, who’s based on Cerebus, there’s also a character named Haggard who owns a bar called M’nden’s, obviously in reference to Grimjack (John Gaunt) and Munden’s Bar, and the patrons in the bar include Nexus and the Micronauts.

PROPHET #42 (Image, 2014) – D+/C-. This is probably the worst issue of the series so far. I’m not familiar with Ron Wimberly’s work, but this issue is not a good introduction to it; his artwork is so loose and crude that it seems more worthy of a coloring book than a comic book. I suppose he made a deliberate aesthetic choice to draw this way, but it doesn’t work for me.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #75 (DC, 1969) – C+/B-. The best thing about this issue is the cover, which shows Black Canary standing over some defeated JLAers and gloating. This issue is also historically important as the first appearance of the Canary Cry, and possibly the beginning of Ollie and Dinah’s romance. However, the story is just a series of fights between the JLA and duplicates representing their dark sides. The plot is narrated by Ollie and Dinah, but Mike Friedrich doesn’t do a great job of exploring their characters, although characterization was not his strong suit (really, he didn’t have a strong suit). As mentioned above, the issue ends by tentatively suggesting that Ollie and Dinah may be about to fall in love, but their relationship would be developed by other writers in other series.

X-MEN #108 (Marvel, 1977) – A+. This is the first issue of Claremont and Byrne’s X-Men and the conclusion to the M’Krann Crystal story. I’ve read this issue before when it was reprinted in X-Men Classic, but that version was substantially different, since it incorporated new panels and altered the panel structure of the original story in order to accommodate them. This issue is an effective introduction to Claremont and Byrne’s run; it includes both exciting revelations (like Jean discovering Corsair is Scott’s dad) and humor (for example, the two guardians of the M’Krann Crystal are named after Mutt and Jeff). It ends with Phoenix’s greatest triumph, as she draws upon the life force of all her fellow X-Men to prevent the crystal from destroying the universe. She does this by creating a pattern “shaped like the mystic tree of life, with Xavier its lofty crown and Colossus its base”; obviously Claremont was thinking of the Kabbalah here, but I imagine that most readers at the time would have had no idea what he was talking about. But that is just a minor nitpick.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #99 (Marvel, 1971) – A. This issue is a brief lull between the Green Goblin storyline that concluded in #98 and the six arms storyline that begins in #100. It’s perhaps the ultimate example of “who says we never give Spidey a happy ending.” Peter spends the entire issue unsuccessfully trying to make some money so he can take Gwen out to a nice dinner, but on the last page, he discovers that he doesn’t need the money because Gwen had planned for them to spend a romantic evening at home. There’s all kinds of other fun stuff in this issue, like Spidey appearing on a TV talk show and using it as an opportunity to complain about unfair treatment of prisoners. This was one of the last good comics Stan Lee ever wrote, but at this point in his career he still had a lot of talent left.

AVENGERS #35 (Marvel, 1966) – B+. This is only an average Avengers comic, with boring art by Don Heck, but it’s still a good example of Roy Thomas’s skill with plot and characterization. The Living Laser is a fairly silly villain, and the plot involves his attempt to take over a Latin American banana republic, which was probably already a cliché at the time. However, Roy manages to make this silly plot fairly exciting, and there is some nice banter between the three male Avengers. It’s unfortunate, though, that Jan spends the entire issue as a hostage. Oh, and I forgot to mention that this issue includes a character named Lucy Barton who appears to be no relation to Hawkeye. According to Kurt Mitchell, Roy had not yet revealed that Barton is also Hawkeye’s last name, but it’s surprising that he never went back and explained that Hawkeye and Lucy were related somehow.

DETECTIVE COMICS #407 (DC, 1971) – A+. “Marriage: Impossible,” one of the few Neal Adams Batman stories I hadn’t read, is a classic. It stars Man-Bat, who is a fascinating villain because of his moral ambiguity – his love for his wife Francine (and later their daughter) constantly clashes with his obsession with bats, and he is often as much a hero as a villain. Francine is an equally compelling character. This story is a good example of the complexity of Kirk and Francine’s characters. Kirk’s goal is just to marry Francine and live happily ever after, but he wants her to take his serum and become a bat first, as a proof of her love for him. And he emotionally blackmails her into agreeing, which is the only actual villainous thing he does in this story. In exchange, Batman almost becomes the villain of the story, since his goal is to make Kirk and Francine change back into humans, even if they’re perfectly happy being bats. It’s almost as if Batman is trying to force Kirk and Francine to conform to his standards of beauty and humanity (at one point he observes that Francine loves Kirk “enough to sacrifice her human beauty to become his animal mate”). I don’t know if this moral ambiguity is intentional or if Frank Robbins just assumed the readers would sympathize with Batman, but whatever. Neal Adams’s artwork in this story is incredible, especially the shocking splash page where Batman pulls off Francine’s human mask to reveal that she’s become a woman-bat. This issue also includes a Batgirl backup story which is just average.

X-MEN #123 (Marvel, 1979) – A+. This is another story by Claremont, Byrne and Austin, probably the greatest Marvel creative team other than Lee, Kirby and Sinnott. This particular issue is not one of their best, since it features Arcade, a fundamentally boring villain – every Arcade story is the same no matter what characters are involved. At least Arcade imprisons each of the X-Men separately, which means Claremont has an opportunity to shine a spotlight on each of them in turn. And even Claremont and Byrne’s lesser stories are still worthy of an A+.

AVENGERS #134 (Marvel, 1975) – B+/A-. This is one of the few Englehart Avengers issues I didn’t already have, and it gives me a complete run from #120 to #178. This issue is about as convoluted as Marvel comics get; Englehart is comparable to Thomas, Robinson or Busiek in his desire to make all the continuity pieces fit together, even if they weren’t meant to. Most of the story consists of a series of flashbacks retelling the origin of Mantis (or rather, the Priests of Pama) and the Vision/Human Torch. Unfortunately, while this material is interesting, there is so much of it that little room is left over for characterization, which is Englehart’s real strength.

VANGUARD ILLUSTRATED #1 (Pacific, 1983) – B+/A-. I didn’t know this comic existed until I came across it in a $1 or $2 box at Wizard World Atlanta (see, that show was good for something at least). This comic comes from the very earliest generation of direct market comics, but all three of the stories in it have a sensibility that reminds me of Star*Reach, from the previous generation of independent comics. The first story has some fairly good art by the chronically underrated Tom Yeates, but is written by David Campiti, who never amounted to anything, and you can see why. The story has two different premises (a man who’s been genetically engineered to be irresistible to women, and a living planet) which have nothing to do with each other, and it’s vaguely sexist to boot. This story may have been an unacknowledged inspiration for “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize,” but that story was much better written. The other two stories are far more exciting. The second one, “Encyclopedias,” is a Mike Baron-Steve Rude collaboration that apparently predates Nexus, though it was published afterward. The story is just kind of silly, involving encyclopedia salesmen in a post-apocalyptic universe, but the artwork offers a glimpse into the earliest stages of the Dude’s career; his work is rather crude but his style is still recognizable. The last story is the first U.S. work of Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy. The artwork here is fascinating, especially in terms of the coloring and the high level of detail. McCarthy is an artist I’m eager to learn more about. Overall, this issue was an exciting discovery.

REVIVAL #16 (Image, 2014) – B+. This issue is comparable to the last issue of Revival that I read, but gets a lower rating because the story is harder to follow. One cool thing in this issue is the scene where Dana falls through a glass door and ends up with shards of glass stuck in her back. This is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before; in most comic books, people can crash through panes of glass and walk away completely unscathed.

DETECTIVE COMICS #427 (DC, 1972) – A. This issue starts with another Man-Bat story, “Man-Bat Over Vegas,” which was deemed worthy of inclusion in the Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told TPB. I have that book, but have not read it in years, so this story was almost new to me. Possibly the reason it was included there is because of the plot twist, where it turns out that the titular Man-Bat is actually Francine, not Kirk. Unlike in “Marriage: Impossible,” this story does not depict Kirk as the villain, but the writer/artist, Frank Robbins (who also wrote “Marriage: Impossible”), implies that Francine’s transformation into a bat is the result of Kirk’s past foolish behavior. Robbins’s draftsmanship is, to put it kindly, an acquired taste which I have yet to acquire, but his storytelling is excellent. He deserves to be remembered for more than just the ugliness of his linework. This issue also includes a Jason Bard backup story, which is certainly not worthy of inclusion in any kind of Greatest Stories Ever Told collection. Notably, at one point there’s a footnote asking whether the reader noticed the clue hidden in page 3, panel 3, but there’s no clue there that I can see; either I’m missing it or the artist left it out.

LEGION LOST #4 (DC, 2000) – B. I have an ambivalent relationship to Abnett and Lanning’s Legion. They were clearly much better than the previous writing team, and their stories are often regarded as classics. They were also very good at using science fiction tropes. However, they tended to write the Legion as if it were a Marvel comic – I don’t know quite what I mean by that, but there is a certain light-hearted, optimistic sensibility that the best Legion stories have in common, and I felt that this sensibility was often missing in DnA’s Legion. I also didn’t like their excessive focus on the three founders and Brainy, and I hated what they did with Phantom Girl. This issue is a good example of their take on the Legion. It’s sort of a day-in-the-life story, depicting the Legionnaires’ typical activities as they try to get themselves back home, and it gives up brief glimpses of each of the characters individually, which is a tough thing to do when writing a series with such a large cast. The trouble is that the artist for this issue, Pascal Alixe, is an even worse draftsman than Frank Robbins; his art is just full of unnecessary linework. The other weird thing is that in this issue Saturn Girl and Phantom Girl talk to each other, and yet it’s later going to be revealed that Phantom Girl isn’t actually there, Imra is just making everyone believe she’s present. I don’t know what’s going on here.

LEGION WORLDS #4 (DC, 2001) – A. This is much better, although it’s about as bleak and grim as a Legion story can get. The featured characters here are Star Boy, Dreamer, and XS, who is easily my favorite post-Levitz Legionnaire. This issue gives her lots of opportunities to display her spunkiness and hyperactivity. The story is very very depressing – it takes place on Xanthu, where the Legionnaires are fighting a hopeless battle against Robotican invasion forces, and Thom and Jenni ultimately have to sacrifice their lives (or so it appears) so the few survivors can evacuate. Still, it ends on a positive note, as the Roboticans suffer their first major defeat. I never took any notice of Duncan Rouleau’s artwork before, but his art on this story is amazing, and suggests that he could have become a comics superstar if he hadn’t devoted himself to animation instead. This issue also includes a Dreamer solo story, which is perhaps even grimmer than the main story, but does significantly advance her character arc, by showing how she stopped being the ditzy airhead she used to be in this continuity.

BEE AND PUPPYCAT #1 (Boom!, 2014) – C-. I bought this comic mostly because the name “PuppyCat” kept running through my head. I liked the artwork and the lettering, but the story took about five minutes to read and had no substance at all. I won’t be coming back for issue 2.

GLORY #27 (Image, 2012) – A-. I think this was the only issue of this Glory series that I was missing. I loved this series because of Ross Campbell’s artwork, especially his ability to draw both (A) a wide range of realistic female body types and (B) a vast menagerie of fascinating and horrible creatures. This issue provides ample examples of both. It consists of a huge fight scene between Glory and her friends and an army of monsters, all of which are horrifying and completely unique. The plot is a bit of a weak point. It turns out at the end that the monsters are trying to protect Riley from Glory, not kill Riley. But if that’s the case, then they didn’t need to kill Fabrice, although his death is a poignant moment.

WONDER WOMAN #62 (DC, 1992) – A. This is Perez’s last issue and it’s a satisfying finale to his era of Wonder Woman. It touches base with each of the series’ many supporting characters, and gives some of them at least a temporary happy ending, but also suggests lots of storytelling options for the next writer. The story proper ends with Vanessa’s graduation ceremony, which is a very touching moment. Perez’s farewell letter to the fans is incorporated into the last page of the story.

UNCANNY X-MEN #1 (Marvel, 2012) – C+/B-. This is just an average X-Men story, not a great one. Its primary characters are Cyclops, perhaps my least favorite Marvel character, and Mr. Sinister, a villain I’ve never liked. I have the second issue of this series but I’m not in any hurry to read it.