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.