The best reviews ever

These aren’t really the best reviews ever, I just think if I say so, more people will read this post. The following reviews are for comics I received on September 25.

ASTRO CITY #27 (DC, 2015) – Not my favorite issue. American Chibi’s origin is very cute, and the chibi Honor Guard members are very kawaii. Joe Infurnari is better at the anime style than Brent Anderson probably would have been, making him a good choice for a guest artist (or alternately, this story was a good choice for the issue where he was the guest artist). And also, the villains, besides He Who Lies Buried, are pretty cool. But the story was not very compelling.

RUNAWAYS #4 (Marvel, 2015) – One of the happiest comic books I’ve read this year. Given that this is Runaways, I was expecting that one of the main characters would get killed. And I was right, but it was Bucky, so whatever. At the end of the series, all the characters are still alive, and the two couples (Amadeus and Delphine, and Jubilee and Sanna) are together. The Jubilee/Sanna scenes are the clear highlight of the issue. I was initially skeptical about that comic, but it’s one of the best things that’s come out of Secret Wars. I hope that it gets revived as an ongoing series, or that Marvel gives Noelle Stevenson some other work, because she’s clearly one of the top writers in the industry.

HARLEY QUINN & POWER GIRL #4 (DC, 2015) – Otherwise known as “Guilty Pleasure Comics #4.” This comic book is just a long series of fight scenes, bad jokes, and sexual innuendoes, but it’s funny, and that’s all it’s trying to be. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t realize Vartox was based on Zardoz until someone told me. The giant caticore thing is pretty cute.

PRINCELESS: BE YOURSELF #4 (Action Lab, 2015) – I still don’t like this series as much as Raven: The Pirate Princess, and oddly, the lettering is one big reason why not. It’s ugly and the font is too large. It makes the entire comic look unprofessional. Other than that, this is an effective conclusion to the series, though the pacing was too fast and there were a lot of weird plot twists. I look forward to volume four.

POWER UP! #3 (Dark Horse, 2015) – This is probably the best issue yet; it’s exciting and it seems much less compressed than the previous two issues. I didn’t realize until now that the pet shop woman doesn’t have any powers herself; she’s just the custodian of the goldfish. The two apathetic teenagers are funny.

BATGIRL #44 (DC, 2015) – This issue is missing Babs Tarr, who is usually the best thing about this series, but Bengal is a reasonably good replacement, and appropriately named considering that this story is about tigers. I actually can’t recall whether last issue was drawn by Tarr or Bengal. The conclusion to the Velvet Tiger two-parter is reasonably satisfying.

SECRET WARS #0 (Marvel, 2015) – In the first story in this FCBD issue, Valeria and the Future Foundation discuss their plan to save the world. This story isn’t anything great, but it’s nice to see the Future Foundation again; I miss these characters. The backup story, a crossover between the Marvel Universe and Attack on Titan, is forgettable.

DRAWN ONWARD #1 (Retrofit/Big Planet, 2015) – I’d like to write a palindromic review of this comic, but I do not have the talent. Like much of Matt Madden’s work, this one-shot is an Oulipian experiment; in this case, the entire comic is a palindrome where the first half mirrors the second half. The similarity to Watchmen #5 is obvious, but in this case the story is built entirely around the palindromic constraint; it’s about the growth and decay of a relationship. And the two characters’ roles reverse from the first half of the story to the second half. Overall this is an impressive piece of work that effectively combines experimentation with storytelling, and I won’t be surprised if it picks up an Eisner nomination. The only disappointing part is that because the next-to-last panel says to “read back through what you just read,” I thought the story would make sense if read backwards, and as far as I can tell, it doesn’t.

TYSON HESSE’S DIESEL #1 (Boom!, 2015) – For some reason I didn’t order issue 2 of this, and it won’t come out in time for me to get it at NYCC. I guess based on the solicitation, I must have thought it looked unimpressive. But this debut issue turns out to be quite interesting. It’s a steampunk story that takes place on a floating island whose inhabitants don’t know that there’s land beneath the clouds, which is pretty cool. The main character is a serious brat, and I assume that her character arc will involve her becoming more mature.

At this point I realized I had every issue of Shutter except #5, so I went back and read Shutter #1 and #2, allowing me to read:

SHUTTER #3 (Image, 2014) – This issue introduces Shaw the assassin and Harrington the skeleton butler. It also establishes that Alain is a transgender character, althoug this fact slipped my mind. Alain Vian is the name of the brother of the noted French author Boris Vian; I assume Joe Keatinge knows this, though I don’t see what the joke is. In general, this issue is primarily setup for future stories.

SHUTTER #4 (Image, 2014) – This issue begins with an explanation of why Harrington is a living corpse. This scene might be the first time in the series that we meet the Prospero characters. Subsequently, we meet the General for the first time, and Christopher is introduced on the last page. At this point I was finally starting to understand what was going on in this series, and I was enjoying it much more than I had when I was reading the issues out of order. This is definitely a series that would read better in collected form.

A-FORCE #3 (Marvel, 2015) – This series has been a huge disappointment considering the caliber of talent involved. This issue has too little characterization and too much plot, and the plot is not interesting. Again, the only thing I like about it is the mysterious starfield girl.

THE SPIRE #3 (Boom!, 2015) – I hope they do a sequel to this series called PROUD STANDS THE SPIRE, because that would be an awesome title. I previously wrote that this series reminds me of Miyazaki, and I’ve seen other people make that comparison but without necessarily explaining why. The specific reason is because Spurrier’s linework resembles Miyazaki’s linework in Nausicaa, and also, his designs, especially the costumes of the desert people, look very much like some of the designs in Nausicaa. As for the story, it’s fairly exciting, although it’s sometimes difficult to remember what happened in previous issues.

HELLBOY IN HELL #8 (Dark Horse, 2015) – I have not followed Hellboy regularly in a long time, so I didn’t quite know what was going on in this issue, although Mignola does provide some useful background information. The reason I bought it is because it’s a by-now-rare example of a Hellboy story drawn by Mignola. Mike is one of the most influential artists of his generation – he’s a master of mood and atmosphere, and he achieves such powerful effects with such economy of linework. It’s a pity that he doesn’t draw more comics.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #196 (DC, 1970) – It’s sobering to realize that all the people credited on page one of this comic book are now dead (Bob Haney, Curt Swan, George Roussos, Mort Weisinger, E. Nelson Bridwell and Carmine Infantino). “The Kryptonite Express” is a blatantly idiotic story, even allowing for the fact that Haney wrote it. After a deadly fall of Kryptonite meteors, the U.S. government decides to send a train around the country to collect all the Kryptonite. And Superman is stupid enough to ride on the train himself, instead of staying at home in a lead-lined room until it’s safe for him to come out. And then Clark Kent also has to ride the train, so Superman has to change identities repeatedly, and also Jimmy Olsen and Robin are on the train but it turns out they’ve been replaced by spies. It’s a story that just does not stand up to logical scrutiny.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #246 (Marvel, 1980) – This is not a bad issue, though it was completely overshadowed by the following issue, which was the beginning of probably the greatest run in the history of this series. In this issue, Peter B. Gillis reintroduces A Guy Named Joe, one of the more obscure villains from the first 38 issues of Spider-Man, and this results in a rather touching story about disability and poverty. There’s also some nice art by Jerry Bingham, who was very talented but never fulfilled his promise.

WEIRDWORLD #4 (Marvel, 2015) – The art in this series continues to be more interesting than the writing. Arkon is a very flat character; he’s just like Conan but less interesting. Still, I love the idea of a forest full of Man-Things, and I was delighted to learn that the Queen of the Man-Things is Jennifer Kale, a mostly forgotten Steve Gerber creation. I plan to keep reading this series when it’s rebooted.

TARZAN #153 (Gold Key, 1965) – This was one of the last issues drawn by Jesse Marsh, who died the following year. I know there are lots of people who love Jesse Marsh, but to me his artwork just looks crude and basic. I do get the impression that his artwork was better in the ‘40s than in the ‘60s. What’s much more exciting to me is that this issue includes a Brothers of the Spear backup story with artwork by Russ Manning. In this story, Dan-el goes off on a mission to kill some lions, and tells his wife Tavane to stay home because “this is man’s work,” but she follows him anyway and saves his life, which is rather progressive for 1965.

MIGHTY SAMSON #16 (Gold Key, 1968) – Apparently I have two issues of this series, but either I haven’t read the other one, or I completely forgot about it. This is a post-apocalyptic science fiction series which reminds me a lot of Kamandi, except without the animals, or more specifically Hercules Unbound. In this issue, which is by Otto Binder and Jack Sparling, the title character defends a teenage girl and her father from some primitive “gnarly men” who live in the ruins of New York. It’s a fairly average comic; I think it’s worse than Hercules Unbound, let alone Kamandi. The primary appeal of this series is that Frank Thorne drew some of the earlier issues. I hadn’t realized that Otto Binder was still writing comics or even still alive in 1968 – it turns out he died in 1974.

GREEN LANTERN #130 (DC, 1980) – This issue is guest-written by Bob Rozakis, a seriously terrible writer. The only story of his that I like is the Bat-Mite backup from Detective Comics #482, and even that story isn’t that great. This issue is a typical example of his work. The best thing about it is the revelation that Sonar’s homeland of Modora is no bigger than a city block, although I think some earlier writer probably came up with that idea. A more interesting thing about this issue is the backup story, which introduces Arkkis Chummuck, and ends with the disturbing but funny revelation that he ate the previous Green Lantern from his sector. This appears to have been the first Tales of the Green Lantern Corps backup, although TGLC didn’t become a regular feature until later.

ATOMIC ROBO: THE KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE #1 (Red 5, 2014) – Somehow I failed to collect this series when it came out. The premise of this miniseries is that Robo has been sent back in time to the Old West, I assume because of whatever Dr. Dinosaur did at the end of the previous volume. This should be a fantastic premise, but it’s really not; this issue is basically just a litany of Wild West cliches, with few genuinely funny moments.

SHUTTER #6 (Image, 2014) – Prior to reading this issue I read issue 5 on my Kindle, but I’m not reviewing it here, because these reviews are only for comic books that I have read in print form and that will be stored in my boxes. I realize that’s an arbitrary distinction, but whatever. In Shutter #6, Kate and Christopher spend the whole issue running from Shaw, and Christopher shoots Shaw’s henchman in the chest with a shotgun, which is one of the more disturbing moments in the series. And then Kate and Christopher are attacked by a giant antlered dragon with a skull head. It was at this point that I started to see why Tof Eklund compared this series to Saga. Both Shutter and Saga take place in a world full of bizarre and unexplained phenomena belonging to multiple literary genres, and both of them rely heavily on shock value – like, every issue of each series contains at least one massively shocking moment.

At this point I went back and read Shutter #7 through #11, all previously reviewed.

SHUTTER #12 (Image, 2015) – This issue explains Prospero’s origin: they’re a cabal of secret manipulators who are collectively responsible for everything that’s ever happened in human history. And then they ask Kate to join them and she refuses, and they erase her from history, which is depicted in a fascinating way. In a series of five panels, Kate turns from a fully colored drawing to a black-and-white sketch to a pencil sketch and then to a thumbnail, reversing the creative process. She wakes up in Venice, with no memory but determined to kick some ass. This issue is an excellent conclusion to the first story arc.

SHUTTER #13 (Image, 2015) – This issue begins the second story arc, and introduces two new characters: Madam Huckleberry (who we haven’t seen much of yet) and Kate’s twin brother The Leopard. At this point, I was really starting to get into this series, but I didn’t have the energy to read any more of it.

And here are reviews for comics I read starting on October 2. This was a rather light week.

REVIVAL #33 (Image, 2015) – Dana does not appear in this issue, which focuses on Martha’s life at the Farm. It also introduces some new characters: an interracial lesbian couple with a young son. It’s a bit of a letdown from the extreme tension of the last few issues. I found myself thinking that if Janae is having trouble writing about food, she should interview some of the local Hmong people about their food practices. I probably had this thought because I just used a chapter of Kao Kalia Yang’s book in my food studies class.

ZODIAC STARFORCE #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – This was probably better than the previous issue. I’m having trouble distinguishing between the characters or keeping them straight, but Kevin Panetta writes some good teenage dialogue. Kim, the one with hair over her eyes, is easily my favorite character in this series.

ARCHIE #3 (Archie, 2015) – This was an excellent issue, though I was so exhausted and busy on Saturday that I wasn’t able to enjoy it much. This issue breaks with tradition by depicting Veronica as a truly awful character with no redeeming qualities. It occurs to me that Betty and Veronica are kind of similar to Applejack and Rarity respectively, except that Rarity is a far more positive character.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS OUTRAGEOUS ANNUAL #1 (IDW, 2015) – Maybe the most exciting comic of the week. Some cute and funny writing from Kelly Thompson, and some entertaining film parodies. This issue provides some useful insight into Aja and Shana, who have been overshadowed by Jerrica and Stormer. My one complaint is that the “Jem Wolf” segment could have been funnier; there could have been more wolf jokes.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #45 (IDW, 2015) – The highlight of this issue is the first page, which depicts a bunch of panels from previous issues of Transformers: Scavengers, a comic that never existed. The nonexistent comics summarized depicted here include one about a planet that turns speech into song, and another one about a two-dimensional world. In comparison to that, the rest of the issue is a bit disappointing. It focuses on some Decepticons who are hiding from the DJD, and the Lost Light crew does not appear.

FROM UNDER MOUNTAINS #1 (Image, 2015) – This debut issue is very disappointing. It’s a boring and unoriginal high fantasy story with crude-looking artwork. After reading this, I chose not to order issue 3.

SHUTTER #14 (Image, 2015) – One cool thing about this series is Leila del Duca’s ability to imitate lots of other kinds of comics, and this issue is a good example: it starts with a two-page spread drawn in a manga style. Later in the issue, Kate and Leopard meet their grandfather Nero, and we learn that there are seven total Kristopher siblings, including three we haven’t met. One of the backup stories is a one-pager by John Workman which appears to be an homage to Jeff Jones.

SHUTTER #15 (Image, 2015) – This issue begins with Kate and Nero’s acid trip, which includes one page that depicts Leila del Duca drawing Shutter. Then we’re reintroduced to some of the characters we haven’t seen in this story arc, including Christopher, Shaw, and Alain. At this point I’m finally caught up on this series, and while I don’t agree that it’s the third best comic on the market, I see why my friend Tof Eklund loves it. I’m looking forward to #16.

SANDMAN: OVERTURE #6 (DC, 2015) – Otherwise known as “Cynical Cash Grab Comics #6.” I suppose that’s unkind, but I still feel that Neil could have used his time more productively than by returning to Sandman yet again. However, JHW3’s artwork this issue was as stunning as ever. I continue to be amazed by his ability to draw in many different styles and even to blend multiple types of artwork in a single page – an example of this is page 3, which includes random Kirby machinery, realistic drawings of Sandman and Hope, and lots of other stuff. It was lovely to see Delirium again, though I don’t think I’d like piggables either. I don’t understand who Glory is – I assume he’s based on a real person, but I don’t know who. (Surprisingly no one has produced annotations to this series yet.) One of the best moments in the entire series is Glory’s line “But perhaps her name will be there for you, when you need it most.” I love this because it explains the reappearance of the line “I am Hope” in an earlier issue, and it adds an extra layer of depth to Sandman #4. It’s pretty cool that the main story ends with an actual panel from issue 1. In the epilogue, when Desire has the idea of getting Dream to kill a family member who’s also a vortex, she must be referring to Rose Walker.

SAVAGE DRAGON #207 (Image, 2015) – I have put up with a lot of crap over the last few issues of this series, but this issue is the last straw – it begins with a scene of Angel and Mr. Glum having sex, and then there’s another such scene later in the issue. Mr. Glum was Angel’s pet when she was a little girl, and I think this might even be the same Angel who appeared in the early #100s of this series. (I’m not quite sure of this because I don’t think anyone, even Erik himself, understands the relationships between the parallel worlds in this series.) On top of that, this story depicts both Angel and Mr. Glum as horrible mass murders and tyrants. This comic has always relied on shock value and deliberate excess, but Erik has lost all sense of restraint or good taste. I’ve had enough. I’ve already ordered the next two issues, but #209 will be my last issue of Savage Dragon.

SANDMAN #18 (DC, 1990) – “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” is one of the best issues of the series, mostly because cats. There are some lines in this story that grate on me when I read them again, like the cat’s description of her lover. But in general, this story is a fascinating exploration of the difference between what we think of cats and what they think of themselves. I suspect Kij Johnson had this comic book in mind when she was writing Fudoki.

ATOMIC ROBO: THE GHOST OF STATION X #2 (Red 5, 2011) – I just read the trade paperback that contains this issue, so I’m counting this as a comic book that I’ve “read.” The original issue includes a couple of pinups that aren’t in the TPB.

INVINCIBLE #27 (Image, 2005) – This issue continues the story with Nolan and the insect planet, but what’s almost more interesting is the scene on Earth, with the other superheroes battling a villain called Omnipotus. One of the cool things about Invincible was its large supporting cast, which included a lot of weird and nontraditional superheroes. It’s too bad that Kirkman decided to have Robot kill about half of these characters.

ACTION COMICS #370 (DC, 1968) – This is a surprisingly fun issue (and also my copy is in unusually good condition). “100 Years… Lost, Strayed or Stolen!” is a story that takes place during baby Clark’s flight from Krypton to Earth. According to this story, Kal-El landed on another planet where he grew up, got married, had a son, and then was deaged back to a baby. This is impossible to accept at face value and is probably best forgotten, but it’s unexpectedly poignant – it reminds me of the Star Trek episode “The Inner Light” (which I don’t think I’ve actually seen, come to think of it). The backup story has some very cute art by Kurt Schaffenberger, but a ridiculous plot: Supergirl falls in love with a man who turns out to be a complete heel, but feels obligated to marry him anyway because she already accepted his proposal. The unanswered question is why Supergirl agreed to marry this obviously horrible man in the first place.

And now, for the first time in several months, I have no unread comic books that still need to be reviewed.

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