AQUAMAN: SWORD OF ATLANTIS #41 (DC, 2006) – B/B+. I have trouble getting into this series because I honestly don’t understand its premise. Who is this new young Aquaman and what does he have to do with the preexisting version of Aquaman? However, to the extent that I understand this story, I do like it. Aquaman is one of my favorite DC heroes, and as an added bonus, this issue features Mera, one of my favorite DC heroines. This Aquaman series also effectively builds on the aquatic fantasy themes of Peter David’s Aquaman. Butch Guice’s artwork is very gloomy and dark, which is appropriate for the setting.
ACTION COMICS #839 (DC, 2006) – A-. Part six of “Up, Up and Away” is perhaps the climax of this story, because it involves a repowered Superman accepting his dual role as Superman and as Clark Kent. It ends up making the same point as the classic Mr. Xavier story in Superman #296-299 – Superman has to be both Superman and Clark Kent at once, and he can’t survive without either of them. I kind of think the story could have ended here, though, without the need for two extra installments. Renato Guedes’s artwork is excellent but perhaps relies too heavily on photo reference.
SHE-HULK #7 (Marvel, 2014) – A-. I don’t know where I would rank this series among current Marvel titles, but I love it. Charles Soule focuses on different aspects of Jen’s character compared to Dan Slott, and yet it seems like they’re both writing the same character. Also, Javier Pulido’s faces look weird, but his compositional skills are amazing. This issue is less focused on the law than previous issues, and it’s almost more about Hank Pym than Shulkie, but it offers an interesting new take on Hank, reminding the reader just how terrifying it would be to actually have shrinking powers. Also, in this issue Shulkie and Hellcat beat up a bunch of cats. This should be offensive since I’m a cat person, but I found it funny.
HOLLYWOOD SUPERSTARS #2 (Marvel/Epic, 1991) – A+. Mark Evanier likes to make fun of this series, but the truth is that it’s a forgotten masterpiece, and a spiritual sequel to one of the great ‘80s independent comics, Crossfire. Evanier is not just a hilarious writer, he also writes brilliant plots. This issue is a murder mystery whose solution is fairly obvious early on, but it’s exciting anyway because of Evanier’s sense of pacing. Dan Spiegle draws in a rather cartoony style, but he uses light and shadow so effectively that his images look three-dimensional anyway, and maybe the highlight of this issue is his visual storytelling. The issue begins with a wordless sequence in which a middle-aged man gets drunk at a bar because he’s been dumped by his girlfriend, and a woman lures her to his apartment and then murders him. The first page of this sequence is particularly incredible; there’s no dialogue but the man’s sense of despair is palpable. As an added bonus, this issue ends with a fascinating story about how Evanier almost got hired as a weatherman.
ACTION COMICS #299 (DC, 1963) – C-. The first story in this issue is insane – actually, so is the second story, but the first story is more obviously so. I can’t really summarize it except to say that it’s about a series of bizarre occurrences which all relate somehow to the letters LL. This story is by Jerry Siegel, who must have been pretty much washed up as a writer by this point. He had written “The Death of Superman” just two years before, and yet it seems that by 1963 he had lost his ability to write intelligibly. Jim Warren has said that at some point, he tried to give Jerry Siegel some work, but Siegel’s scripts were completely unpublishable and had to be rewritten by Archie Goodwin. (http://twomorrows.com/comicbookartist/articles/04warren.html) Based on Siegel’s story in this issue, I can believe that. The backup story is better only because it’s at least marginally coherent and it features Supergirl. However, this story is not devoid of stupid stuff either; the plot involves “Rax-Rol, a child prodigy who was Kandor’s top baby movie star.”
USAGI YOJIMBO #68 (Dark Horse, 2003) – A-. Part three of “Sumi-E” is a bit of a letdown after the first two parts, mostly because the main villain gets defeated on page five. But this is still a terrific Usagi story. Maybe the star of this issue is Jotaro, who gets a chance to be the hero for once, saving a bunch of other kids from the insane monster Neneki. Oh, and the other highlight of the issue is the scene where Usagi draws a giant Godzilla to fight the giant samurai that the villain drew. I love the premise of this story, with the magical sumi-e brushes that use children’s blood to draw objects into existence. And Stan is careful to make sure that the brush set is still around by the end of the story; I hope it will appear again someday.
AVENGERS ACADEMY #17 (Marvel, 2011) – B+/A-. I can’t remember why I decided to start reading my backlog of issues of Avengers Academy, but I’m glad I did. I generally prefer Marvel’s teen superhero comics to their adult superhero comics, perhaps because titles like Avengers Academy and Young Avengers and Runaways remind me of the Legion comics of my adolescence. Avengers Academy was not as well-crafted as either version of Young Avengers, and Christos Gage’s dialogue is sometimes wooden and unrealistic. But like Claremont, he has a real knack for making you care deeply about his characters – even Finesse, whose whole thing is that she doesn’t care about anyone. This specific issue is a little too heavily involved in the Fear Itself crossover, but it has some really nice character moments, in which the characters attempt to deal with the fact that some of them have killed people. I should also point out that I love the shirt Hazmat wears in this issue.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #296 (Marvel, 1988) – C. This issue has too much Doc Ock and not enough Spidey. Or rather, it focuses too much on Doc Ock’s insane obsession with Spidey, which is not one of the more interesting aspects of his character. Also, Alex Saviuk’s artwork in this issue is very boring. This is not one of David Michelinie’s better Spider-Man comics.
SCRATCH9: FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2014 nn (Hermes Press, 2014) – B-. This comic includes two Scratch9 stories, both of which are too short to really be interesting. I love the premise of a cat who can summon his ancestors from the past, but I think this premise could be executed better. As a cat comic, Scratch9 is not as exciting as, say, Cleopatra in Space. The story on the flip side of the comic is a preview of another series called Run & Amuk, which, again, is potentially funny but is not well executed, and it seems to assume that the reader is already familiar with its premise.
BLACK BEETLE #1 (Dark Horse, 2013) – B-. I’ve been wanting to read this for a while, but it’s somewhat disappointing because the story is not very interesting or original. Based on this issue, it seems like this series is a very standard noir superhero comic, and it’s written in a formulaic and boring style. In terms of the writing, it compares unfavorably to things like Sandman Mystery Theatre or Darwyn Cooke’s Spirit. And I don’t particularly like the noir genre anyway. Of course the attraction of this series is not the writing but the artwork, and Francesco Francavilla is one of the top artists currently working in American comic books. His compositions, his lettering and especially his use of color (particularly orange) are just incredible. Too bad about the story, though.
BATMAN: LI’L GOTHAM #7 (DC, 2013) – B+. This is an average issue of my favorite recent DC comic. It’s not the best issue of this series, but it does include some cute and/or awesome stuff, including a Pacific Rim-esque battle between a giant “Robin-Bot” and a giant squid. As usual, Dustin Nguyen’s artwork in this issue is adorable.
THE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #38 (Archie, 1966) – A-. After I bought this at Comic-Con, I showed it to Jaime Hernandez and he said it was the last good issue of the series. It seems to have been Bob Bolling’s last issue of the title until the ‘80s, although the GCD is contradictory on this point; it says that Bolling also had a story in the following issue. Anyway, the Bolling story in this issue is “The Terrible Tornado Machine,” starring Mad Dr. Doom and Chester. I think I prefer Bolling’s pure adventure stories to his stories with these characters, but Doom and Chester are a pretty funny combination. This issue also includes two additional stories that look like Bolling’s work to me, but that are credited to Dexter Taylor by the GCD. Both of these are very exciting adventure stories; in particular, one of them involves a battle between Archie and a wolverine, although not the Marvel version.
LITTLE NEMO: RETURN TO SLUMBERLAND #1 (IDW, 2014) – A. The idea of reviving Little Nemo seems sacrilegious. But if anyone is qualified to do it, it’s Eric Shanower – his Oz adaptations show that he understands the early 20th-century sensibility. And his story shows understanding of and respect for Winsor McCay’s work. As with the original Little Nemo, the story here is mostly an excuse for the artwork, but it’s fairly effective anyway; I especially love the scenes with the quarreling wise men. And while the stuff that happens in the story is funny, it also has overtones of grim seriousness, as if we’re supposed to laugh but at the same time feel worried about what might happen to Nemo. Now as for the art, I didn’t particularly notice Gabriel Rodriguez’s artwork when I was reading Locke & Key, but in this series he emerges as a massive talent. Clearly he doesn’t have McCay’s incredible visual genius, and his artwork mostly seeks to imitate McCay’s style, but he does a great job of that. The two-page splash depicting Slumberland is breathtaking. His panels are full of fascinating detail, and his facial expressions are beautiful. He should at least be nominated for this year’s Eisner for Best Penciler/Inker. Overall this series is an effective tribute to one of the giants of American comics, and I think Winsor McCay would have approved of it.
BRAVEST WARRIORS #11 (Boom!, 2013) – B+. I still haven’t watched the YouTube series this comic was based on. But this comic is funny and well-drawn, and I enjoyed it enough that I added the latest issue of this series to my mycomicshop.com order. The two stories in this issue are funny in a sarcastic and self-referential way, and Mike Holmes’s artwork is very cute.
THE ELTINGVILLE CLUB #1 (Image, 2014) – A. I was initially skeptical about the idea of reviving this series because it seemed so tightly bound to a particular historical moment, the ‘90s and early 2000s. The Eltingville Club members are exaggerated examples of the stereotype of the comics fan as basement-dwelling nerd, and that stereotype is becoming increasingly less true as comics fandom becomes more diverse. But when I talked to Evan Dorkin at Comic-Con, I mentioned this to him, and he said that he thinks the stereotype represented by the Eltingville Club is still true. And unfortunately, a lot of recent incidents (like the Janelle Asselin thing) have shown that even as the comics industry and comics fandom become more diverse and welcoming spaces, our community still includes a bunch of misogynistic and racist assholes who still think comics should be an exclusively white and male preserve. And this comic demonstrates that. The most powerful scene in this issue is when a woman walks into a comic book store and asks for the new Saga trade, and all the men in the store start leering at her and taking pictures, and she literally runs out the door. Sadly this does not seem farfetched at all. Similarly, the comic book store owner in this issue is a complete monster who exploits his employees and who takes pride in having cheated an old lady out of her valuable collection – even though this man makes his living selling comic books that are all about altruism and heroism. And again, I have no trouble believing that such people actually exist. As usual with Evan Dorkin’s best work, this comic is ridiculously over the top, and yet it also reminds us of uncomfortable truths.
LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #5 (Marvel, 2014) – B. This is the worst of the Marvel titles I’m currently reading, though I’m enjoying it enough to continue reading it. I don’t have much to say about this issue except that I really hate Old Loki.
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS #2 (IDW, 2010) – B+. This comic is not as exciting now as it was when it came out, because now there’s Rat Queens, which is pretty much the same thing, but better. Still, John Rogers’s dialogue in this issue is terrific, and there are some very funny moments here, including the duel where the orc chooses to fight with a rock. I am not a huge fan of the Dungeons & Dragons universe; it seems like the most generic fantasy setting there is.
CRIME SUSPENSTORIES #12 (Gemstone, 1995) – B+. These stories all have rather predictable shock endings, but they’re funny and well-crafted. The best story in the issue is probably the first one, with its excruciatingly detailed description of an execution. This story also mentions the trusty system, which I’d never heard of before, but apparently it was a horribly unjust system of prison labor that still existed in the South at the time this issue was published.
SAVAGE DRAGON #196 (Image, 2014) – B. The best thing about this issue is the cover, which is a brilliant homage to Nick Cardy’s cover for Action Comics #425. The issue itself suffers from poor pacing and confusing storytelling, which are among Erik’s greater flaws, although his artwork is as stunning as ever. On the Facebook thread about modern imitators of Kirby (see my review of Ragnarok #1 above), at least one person mentioned Erik as a current artist working in an extremely Kirbyesque style, and his work shows a deep understanding of Kirby, despite being much more violent. Unusually for this series, the backup story, in which Neutron Bob’s elderly mother beats up a bunch of villains, is actually better than the main story.
JEZEBEL JADE #3 (Comico, 1988) – A-. Most of the stuff I said about Jezebel Jade #1 applies here as well. This issue has an absurdly complicated plot, involving a bunch of different villains and an ancient immortality serum, but the wild complications and plot twists are part of the fun. The frame story for this series is that Jonny and Hadji are reading it in Race’s old papers, and the creators remind us of this by including various silhouette images of Jonny and Hadji reading. These are both cute and funny; one of them shows Jonny trying to stab Hadji with a fork. As noted previously, Adam Kubert’s artwork in this series is extremely similar to his dad’s.
X-MEN #42 (Marvel, 1968) – C/C-. There was a reason why this series was cancelled. Prior to the arrival of Steranko and Adams, it was easily Marvel’s worst superhero title. Both the stories and the characters were severely lacking in interest. The big hook of this issue is the alleged death of Professor X, but given what a creep Professor X was in the ‘60s, it’s not clear why the reader should be sad about this death. And of course I know he later turned out to not actually be dead. This issue also includes a backup story which is a flashback to Scott Summers’s origin, but Scott’s history has been retconned so heavily that I wonder if this story is even still in continuity.
SANDMAN: OVERTURE #3 (DC, 2014) – A-. I still think this series is a cynical money grab – if Neil still had any Sandman stories that were worth telling, he would have told them back in the ‘90s. There’s some fascinating narrative material here (like the cat-Sandman thinking they should play with their enemy before killing it), but it all seems somehow lacking in conviction. Of course the real attraction here is J.H. Williams’s artwork. As I have said many times before, he is the best artist in commercial comics, and he continues to prove that here, with his stylistic versatility and his incredible page designs. In terms of the art, the best thing in this issue is the two-page splash with the bridge, which reminds me a bit of the Mobius strip page from Promethea.
STAR*REACH #1 (Star*Reach, 1974) – B+. The quality of the work in this series was highly uneven, and much of it seems embarrassing today. A lot of the creators seemed to just be using it as an excuse to write about sex and drug use and other stuff that wouldn’t get past the Code. For example, the Cody Starbuck story in this issue includes some oral sex for no particular reason. Still, this series is historically important both for launching the work of several important creators and for helping to pave the way for the ‘80s independent comics. The highlight of the issue is the aforementioned Cody Starbuck story, which suffers from very poor reproduction but is an excellent example of Chaykin’s work from this period. It would be nice if someone would do a collection of all Chaykin’s material featuring Ironwolf, Cody Starbuck, Monark Starstalker, Dominic Fortune and Scorpion, although this is probably impossible due to rights issues. As with Moorcock’s Eternal Champion, these characters (plus Reuben Flagg) are all the same character in different incarnations. Anyway, this issue also includes an early Walt Simonson story, which is very poorly written (by someone named Ed Hicks) but interestingly drawn. It lacks the polish of Walt’s Manhunter stories, which came out earlier, and I wonder if it’s actually a piece of pre-professional work. There are also a couple interconnected stories by Starlin, which have some good artwork but which suffer from the same problem that plagues most of Starlin’s work: the writing seems extremely deep and profound, but when you actually think about it, you realize he isn’t actually saying anything. In summary, this is not a great comic but it’s a very interesting one.
PROPHET #45 (Image, 2014) – A-. Well, this is certainly an issue of Prophet. There’s nothing to really distinguish this issue from any other issue of this series, but that’s not a bad thing. It looks like this title is going to end with the Earth War miniseries, and I’ll be kind of sorry to see it go .
(There was originally to be a review of Dungeons & Dragons #8 here, but after I wrote the review and went to file the comic, I discovered that it was a duplicate and I already had a copy of it. Therefore, that review has been deleted because these reviews are supposed to be about comic books I haven’t read before.)
Now finally we come to the new comics from two weeks ago:
LUMBERJANES #5 (IDW, 2014) – A+. I think this issue is the single best comic book of 2014 so far. This series is exactly what the comics industry needs right now: it’s an exuberantly fun and extremely well-crafted comic which appeals to all ages, and which also happens to have a diverse all-female cast and an all-female creative team. It even qualifies as a queer text because of the way it challenges standard gender roles. And I think the creators are fully aware that they’re doing something revolutionary here. The “HOLY bELL hOOKS!” panel is hilarious, but it also suggests that if the creators know who bell hooks is, they also understand the feminist implications of this comic. Maybe this was why when I posted that panel on Facebook, it got likes from people who are not comics readers. Oh, and it’s even funnier because when Jo says that, she’s reacting to the sudden appearance of a bunch of velociraptors with eyes on their chests. Returning to the actual issue, though, the “HOLY bELL hOOKS!” scene is only one of many amazing things in this issue. In particular, (spoiler warning) “How long has your hat been a live raccoon?” is probably the best line of dialogue of the year. And that moment came as a complete surprise to me, even though Molly says it should have been super obvious. (It does, however, explain the scene in an earlier issue where Molly risked her life for her hat.) It was really cool seeing the other girls in the camp; they seem like a very diverse group and it’s clear that a lot of thought went into their design, even though they’re just background characters. And the third best line in the issue is “I THOUGHT ADRENALINE WOULD TAKE OVER BUT IT DID NOT.” This is also a good example of this series’s unique dialogue style. Finally, I’m still wondering what a raccoon rodeo is, but I think maybe it’s funnier if I don’t know. In short, this is an incredible piece of work and everybody ought to be reading this series. My only complaint is that I’m still having trouble keeping the characters’ names straight; I think I have them down now, but until halfway through the issue I thought that April was named Grace. I wish the characters’ names would be mentioned more often.
MS. MARVEL #8 (Marvel, 2014) – A. This is the closest Marvel title to Lumberjanes, and that in itself is high praise. I actually thought Adrian Alphona’s artwork in this issue was a bit of a step down from Jacob Wyatt’s art in the last two issues, because Alphona’s draftsmanship has become very sloppy. But he still draws some gorgeous facial expressions and his art has an impressive level of detail. I also like the story in this issue a lot. Lockjaw is one of Kirby’s funniest creations, and he and Kamala are a hilarious combo. And probably the highlight of the issue is the classroom scene, with Kamala’s speech about “how can you write off a whole generation before it’s even had a chance to prove itself?” As a teacher, I honestly love it when students disagree with me in that way, and I think that the teacher in this scene is a disgrace to the profession.
GROO VS. CONAN #2 (Dark Horse, 2014) – A/A-. This was obviously always going to be an incredibly weird series, but it’s turning out to be weird in ways I didn’t expect. I’m surprised at how much this series is focusing on Mark and Sergio rather than the two title characters. Of course they’re both awesome people and I love reading about them, but the focus on them seems a little self-indulgent. The Groo-Conan material is awesome, though. I love how the contrast between Sergio and Tom’s art styles makes them seem like they’re from different universes. The portrayal of Conan in this series is a little odd; Mark is writing him as almost a superhero, when he should be more of an amoral mercenary. But I suppose this makes sense since it increases the contrast between him and Groo.
USAGI YOJIMBO: SENSO #2 (Dark Horse, 2014) – A/A+. Not a whole lot happens in this issue; it’s mostly devoted to establishing how powerful the Martians are. But it’s still a new Usagi Yojimbo story, which means it’s an extremely well-written and well-drawn piece of work. For me, though, the most memorable moment of this issue is the heartbreaking discovery that Tomoe is married to the loathsome Lord Horikawa. This is just the saddest thing ever, especially since Usagi seems to be justifiably bitter about it. I really, really hope this isn’t going to happen in the regular timeline of the series.
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #23 (IDW, 2014) – A+. This issue is a wordless story told almost entirely with graphic word balloons (i.e. word balloons containing pictures instead of words). I love graphic word balloons and I think they’re extremely underused, so I was delighted to see a whole story that used them almost exclusively. And they make sense in this context, since the story focuses on the Mane Six’s pets, and the ponies themselves don’t appear until the very end. This story is also a good example of how the creators of the MLP comics are willing to experiment with the formal resources of the medium. This is something that distinguishes this series from most comics adapted from TV shows, because such comics often tend to be drawn and written in a very conventional style. The story in this comic is also exciting because it stars the pets, who tend to be extremely marginal characters in the show, and it shows that the pets, especially Angel, are just as heroic as their equine companions. And I have yet to mention the last panel, with the giant Opalescence using a mountain as a scratching post.
SOUTHERN BASTARDS #4 (Image, 2014) – A. This issue features with one of the better shock endings in recent memory, in which we learn that the real protagonist of the series is not Earl Tubb but his biracial daughter. On the letters page, Jason Aaron writes that “I said lots of times that you wouldn’t really know what this book was about until we got to the end of issue #4,” but I missed where he said that, and the ending of this issue came as a complete shock to me. It also significantly changes my notion of what this series is about. In his review of issue 1, Jim Johnson wrote that “Aaron and Latour completely, and wisely, stay away from any racial topics, as their story isn’t about race or social issues.” I thought that this was a problematic statement because how can you tell a story about the South without discussing the issue of race? It’s the elephant in the room. But it turns out that Johnson was wrong and this actually is going to be a story explicitly about race (and gender); we just didn’t know it yet. I can’t wait to see where this goes next.
TEEN DOG #1 (Boom!, 2014) – A-. Compared to some of the comics I’ve just reviewed, this is a slight and inconsequential piece of work, but it’s funny. I assume Jake Lawrence has some connection with Adventure Time, because this comic has the same absurdist sense of humor as that series. (After writing that sentence, I looked up Jake Lawrence and discovered that he does not in fact have any connection with Adventure Time, other than having drawn the cover to Bravest Warriors #7.) Lawrence makes no attempt to explain why Teen Dog is a dog, and it’s funnier that way. As for the narrative, this issue is effectively a collection of one-page strips, which makes sense since it appears to be based on a webcomic, but it holds together effectively because the characters and the artwork are very compelling. I bought this issue on a whim and I’m glad I did.
ASTRO CITY #15 (DC, 2014) – B+/A-. This is a well-written and well-drawn story, but the conclusion to this two-parter is a little predictable. And Ellie and Vivi Viktor seem excessively similar to Dr. Gearbox’s daughter from the Beautie special. There’s no reason Kurt shouldn’t tell two different stories about female roboticists, especially since such characters are almost nonexistent in superhero comics, but I do wish he’d at least acknowledged that he’s used this theme before. Compared to the Winged Victory epic from a few months ago, this story arc was disappointing.
SCRATCH9: CAT TAILS #1 (Hermes Press, 2013) – C-. This comic has the same problem as the other Scratch9 comic reviewed above: the stories are too short. This issue consists of a series of very brief vignettes, none of which are long enough to have any narrative depth. Also, the story ends on the page after the staple. I won’t be buying any more issues of this series unless I see them for less than a dollar.
ROCKET RACCOON #3 (Marvel, 2014) – A/A-. Let me begin by saying that this issue includes a very annoying advertising insert. I just tore it out and threw it in the trash, and I really wish Marvel would stop stapling things into their comic books; it significantly impairs the reading experience. Anyway, this comic is a lot of fun. The “guppy warp” is a particular highlight, but there’s funny stuff on nearly every page. I do think that the impact of this comic might have been decreased because I read it late in the evening, after I’d already read a bunch of other funny comics. But Skottie Young is one of the top writer-artists in commercial comic books, and he’s doing some terrific work here.
MIND MGMT #22 (Dark Horse, 2014) – B+/A-. I’m reading this series because I’ve realized that I need to be writing about Matt Kindt in my book on comics and the future of the book. As I have said before, I have trouble understanding this series and I think its use of materiality is more interesting than its story. However, the plot of MIND MGMT Is finally starting to make sense to me, and I’m starting to see ways that the story and the physical properties of the comic intersect, which is the main point that interests me. I plan on returning to this issue sooner or later.
NOWHERE #1 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1996) – B+/A-. When this comic came out, Debbie Drechsler was a major emerging talent. But she seems to have abandoned comics after finishing Summer of Love, the graphic novel that was serialized starting in this issue. According to a 2008 interview, this was because she felt she had no further stories to tell. I feel like this is kind of a shame, though I shouldn’t say that because it was her own choice. As for this actual comic, when I read this story I felt like it was similar to Lynda Barry’s work but worse; however, that may have just been because I’d been reading Susan Kirtley’s book on Barry. This story is an interesting exploration of adolescence, with some beautiful and distinctive artwork and coloring. It does not work particularly well as a single issue – by the end of this issue it’s still not clear what this story is going to be about. This kind of story really does not benefit from being serialized in single issues, and maybe it’s a good thing that D&Q has almost entirely abandoned this publication model.
SHE-HULK #8 (Marvel, 2014) – A. This is another excellent issue. I have no idea why Captain America is suddenly 90 years old in this issue, but the story is mostly understandable anyway. Which illustrates a point I made on Facebook the other day: that I’m not really interested in cross-title continuity anymore. I’m currently reading a bunch of Marvel titles, and with the exception of Captain Marvel, none of them are heavily involved with the overall Marvel Universe, and all of them are understandable even to a reader who doesn’t read any other Marvel comics. And I think this is a good thing, because cross-title continuity too often functions as a straitjacket that prevents writers from telling the stories they want to tell. Practically every DC comic published since 1986 is evidence of this. The nice thing about a shared universe is that it allows for stories like the recent Ms. Marvel-Wolverine team-up, but that story made sense whether or not the reader was reading Wolverine’s comic, and that’s the way I think it ought to be. Anyway, back to this actual issue of She-Hulk. It was excellent. Charles Soule has a solid grasp of Captain America’s character. Somehow you don’t realize how old he actually is until you see him as a 90-year-old man. In this issue Soule also makes effective use of his practical knowledge of the law. And the shock ending is surprising and funny.
HERO CATS #1 (Action Lab, 2014) – B+. As a comic about superhero cats, this is far better than Scratch9. Though I don’t think either is as good as Monkeybrain’s short-lived Action Cats (not to be confused with Action Cat from Aw Yeah Comics). This issue introduces a diverse and interesting cast of cats, all of whom act reasonably close to the way real cats would, although I have trouble with the idea that cats would ever act in an altruistic manner. In this issue the creators don’t have time to do more than introduce us to the characters, but I’m intrigued enough that I want to keep reading this series.