Post-NYCC reviews

After writing the previous reviews, I went and read two more comic books:

THIS DAMNED BAND #1 and #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – I ordered these because they’re written by Paul Cornell. This series is not a major work, but it’s fairly entertaining. It’s basically This is Spinal Tap, but slightly less parodistic and with demons and magic. Cornell and artist Tony Parker do a good job of capturing the drug-soaked atmosphere of the ‘70s.

And then I went to NYCC, which was an awesome convention, though I don’t want to write a long essay about it. Of the comics I bought at NYCC, the first one I read was Usagi Yojimbo #73, but it turns out that I already had that issue, even though it was not listed in my database. The only other comic I read while I was still in New York was:

HERO FOR HIRE #9 (Marvel, 1973) – I couldn’t find an affordable copy of this issue at Heroes Con, but I was able to get it for about two dollars on the Sunday of NYCC. This is the one where Cage says “Where’s my money, honey?”, which is one of the great lines of ‘70s Marvel comics. And there’s even more to this comic besides that one line, because this issue also has an exciting story. When Cage arrives in Latveria to demand the $200 that Doom owes him, he gets involved in a local revolution, and unintentionally saves Doom’s life and earns his respect. Cage and Doom have an interesting dynamic and I wonder if Englehart ever used these characters together again. I’m glad to finally have this issue in my collection.

On coming home from NYCC, I found a package of comics waiting for me, and I felt obligated to read a few of them right away:

PAPER GIRLS #1 (Image, 2015) – BKV’s third current series seems closer to We Stand on Guard than Saga in terms of quality. I really like the protagonists, a bunch of spunky ‘80s early-teen girls, and the plot is intriguing, though it’s not clear yet what exactly is going on. Cliff Chiang’s artwork is excellent, especially the panel depicting the bizarre biomechanical Apollo capsule.

GROOT #5 (Marvel, 2015) – “Groot: Alone” is a funny story that offers a satisfying resolution to the entire series. I can’t even remember all the funny moments in this issue, but there are a lot of them. A particular highlight is Mantron falling in love with the other robot. It’s too bad there’s just one more issue of this series, because it was better than the second half of Skottie Young’s Rocket Raccoon run.

DOCTOR STRANGE #1 (Marvel, 2015) – On Facebook, I wrote: “I mostly liked Dr. Strange #1, but I prefer my Dr. Strange to have more dignity and less ego. Jason Aaron writes him as if he was Tony Stark.” In a reply to this, Jack Ayres made the insightful comment that the original Lee/Ditko Dr. Strange had no personality to speak of, and that the artwork mattered more in those stories than the writing, and that this is true of Dr. Strange stories generally. I think he’s probably right, and I think Jason Aaron’s characterization of Dr. Strange tends to detract from this series rather than add to it. However, the art in this comic is excellent, and I love the idea of a Lovecraftian approach to Dr. Strange.

At this point I finally had time to start reading my new comics from NYCC:

DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES #37 (Disney, 1993) – This was one of the first comics I bought at NYCC, and also the only Rosa duck comic I was able to find – nobody had Uncle Scrooge #292, for example. “The Duck Who Fell to Earth” is only a ten-pager, and it’s not as dense or as innovative as some of Don’s other works, though it’s still better than an average duck comic. The other stories in the issue are just filler.

DETECTIVE COMICS #476 (DC, 1978) – This was one of my most exciting finds at the show. This copy has some water damage and a large crease in the upper right corner, but it’s a complete and readable copy of an all-time classic issue. “The Sign of the Joker” is the final Englehart/Rogers issue and the conclusion of probably the greatest Joker story ever. Englehart’s Joker is insane in a truly terrifying way, and what makes this story especially disturbing is that Batman doesn’t manage to defeat the Joker – he only “wins” because the Joker lets himself get struck by lightning. This issue also offers an effective resolution to the plotlines involving Rupert Thorne and Silver St. Cloud, although it does so by writing them both out of the series, which is a shame. At this point I have all the Englehart/Rogers issues except #475.

FRESH ROMANCE #1 (ComiXology, 2015) – This was one of several free exclusive variants that were distributed at the ComiXology table, each of which was a print edition of a digital comic published through ComiXology Submit. I think I got all of these variants, and this was the one I was most excited about, since it’s an attempt to revive the moribund genre of romance comics. Each of the three stories in this issue is interesting. Perhaps the best is the last one, about a Cupid-esque alien who’s trying to earn passage back to her homeworld by making mortals fall in love with each other. I vastly prefer reading paper comics to digital comics, and I hope that the future issues of this series will be published in print form eventually.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #198 (DC, 1970) – This and the following issue are the third of three classic stories in which Superman races the Flash. The first two appeared in Superman #199 and Flash #175. Until now I hadn’t been able to find any of these four issues. The plot of this particular issue is highly farfetched, and it’s hard to believe that Superman could ever outrun the Flash (because if he could, then what would even be the point of the Flash?). But this story does have an impressive sense of epic-ness. The reprinted Johnny Quick story in this issue is ridiculously sexist, even taking into account that it’s from 1952. A woman named Joanie Swift accidentally says 3X2(9YZ)4A and gains superspeed, and Johnny Quick tricks her into forgetting the formula and losing her powers, because “a girl partner would never do.” I don’t understand why anyone thought this story was worth reprinting.

AMAZING ADVENTURES #16 (Marvel, 1973) – This is one of a number of ‘70s Marvel and DC stories that took place at the Halloween Parade in Rutland, Vermont and that included guest appearances by real-world comics creators. In this issue, Len Wein, Glynis Wein, Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart visit Rutland and get caught in the middle of a fight between the Beast and the Juggernaut. This issue is also the beginning of an unannounced cross-company crossover that continues into Justice League of America #103 and Thor #207, in which the same creators appear. So this issue is not just a fun comic, but also a nice piece of ‘70s nostalgia, with a bunch of in-jokes. One of these jokes is so obscure that its meaning may have been lost to history. On page 22, Roy says “Anyway, Jeanie, I said, that’s the first time I ever saw the Invisible Girl with dimples” and there’s a footnote that says “You remember Roy and Jeanie what’s-their-name from Avengers #83 and Feature #2 (Jim Warren, take note).” Why Jim Warren’s name is mentioned here is a mystery. Andrew Kunka went to the trouble of asking Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart to explain this, but neither of them was able to remember what this footnote was referring to.

AVENGERS #93 (Marvel, 1971) – This is quite possibly the best Marvel comic of the 1970s. In particular, the “Journey to the Center of the Android” sequence is one of the great moments in Marvel history, and one of Neal Adams’s crowning artistic achievements. It’s too bad that my copy of this comic isn’t in better condition – it’s complete and readable, but it’s literally held together with tape. Maybe someday I can afford a higher-grade copy.

MS. MARVEL #22 (Marvel, 1979) – Another excellent ‘70s Marvel comic. This story is part of Claremont’s larger X-Men universe because it includes an appearance by Deathbird. Claremont created Deathbird one year after Lilandra, and I wonder if he always intended for them to be sisters or if he only came up with that idea later. But there’s a lot of other stuff going on in this issue. On page one, Carol gets fired from Woman magazine, and surprisingly, her first reaction is to smile – she’s proud that she got herself fired rather than be the kind of editor Jonah wanted her to be. Later in the issue, Carol’s former coworkers throw her a going-away party, and Michael Barnett exhibits some creepily possessive behavior toward her. He says to himself that he loves her and wants to take care of her, but what he really wants is to control her. Reading this issue, I realize that Kelly Sue’s portrayal of Carol as a strong and independent individual is very much indebted to Claremont’s version of the character.

JUGHEAD #1 (Archie, 2015) – I didn’t know quite what to expect from this, but it’s a wonderfully strange piece of work, and another demonstration that Chip Zdarsky is probably the best humor writer in the industry. The “Game of Jones” dream sequence is amazing, especially the line “He died for burgers and there is no greater death.” But the rest of the story also obeys the same sort of bizarre humor logic – like when Jughead realizes for the first time in his life that it’s possible to make food, and instantly becomes the best cook ever. I can’t wait to see what else Chip and Erica can do with this series.

ATOMIC ROBO: THE RING OF FIRE #2 (IDW, 2015) – In this issue Robo comes back to life, which is good because his absence from the last issue was frustrating. But other than that, this issue is mostly plot and it’s not all that exciting. I much prefer the Robo stories that are set in the pre-WWII period.

YOUNG JUSTICE #44 (DC, 2002) – This is a very atypical issue, and not necessarily in a good way. It’s part of the “World Without Young Justice” crossover, so it takes place in an alternate universe, and the main characters either don’t appear at all, or they appear in weird alternate-universe forms. There’s no explanation of why this is happening, and the other parts of this story were published in other comics that aren’t worth reading.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #21 (IDW, 2015) – Spike and Zecora are an interesting pair of characters, but Ted Anderson is maybe the most boring pony writer, and this story is just mediocre. The best thing about it is Zecora’s rhyming and Spike’s attempts to imitate it.

MARVEL FEATURE #6 (Marvel, 1972) – Mike Friedrich was not one of the better writers of his generation, but I’ve always liked this Ant-Man/Wasp series, especially because of the excellent art by Herb Trimpe. This issue is a fairly exciting story in which Hank and Jan battle Whirlwind (though it seems odd that they don’t recognize him immediately), and it includes some cute characterization.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS #1 (Marvel, 2007) – This series was much better than the comics it was based on. The original X-Men, prior to Neal Adams’s arrival, was perhaps the worst ‘60s Marvel superhero comic, but Jeff Parker approaches these stories with a modern sensibility and invests these characters with the excitement that they originally lacked. In this first issue of the ongoing series, Professor X realizes that Jean Grey needs a positive female role model, so he assigns her to work with Sue Richards. This is such a simple premise that it’s amazing no one else ever thought of it before – I guess the reason why not is because these characters are from separate parts of the Marvel universe. And it turns out that Sue and Jean have a lot in common; meanwhile, Jean’s temporary absence from the team helps the male X-Men realize how much they need her.

LEGENDS OF THE LEGION #2 (DC, 1998) – Each issue of this miniseries was the origin story of one particular Legionnaire. The “Archie Legion” was my favorite comic when I was in junior high, and Spark, who stars in this issue, was one of the best characters in that series, and Jeff Moy, who drew this issue, is the artist who’s most identified with that period of the Legion. So this issue is a nice piece of nostalgia. It’s also one of the few solo stories about this character, along with LSH v3 #6. One notable thing about this issue is that it explores Winath’s twin-focused culture, including the discrimination faced by Winathians who are separated from their twins.

DALGODA #5 (Fantagraphics, 1985) – This completes my run of this series, a mostly forgotten minor classic. This series is one of the best works of Jan Strnad, an excellent writer who tends to be overshadowed by his collaborator Richard Corben. The artist, Dennis Fujitake, had very little style of his own that wasn’t borrowed from Moebius, but his art is nice-looking at least. The main thing I remember from this issue is the Canidan version of “love is blind”: “love can’t smell.” The backup story, “Grimwood’s Daughter,” is not as well written but is a notable early work of Kevin Nowlan.

I need to write shorter reviews because I have about 80 more of these to get through.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #11 (Image, 2015) – We still haven’t seen any more of Roberta Tubb, which is very annoying. This issue is a spotlight on another minor character, Deacon Boone, who lives way out in the country and prides himself on how country he is. What makes this character both disturbing and plausible is that he’s proud that he has no education and lives a premodern lifestyle and engages in superstitious religious practices and lost his mother in childbirth. It’s people like him who vote for Donald Trump. But this issue offers some penetrating insight into the psyche of a man who has very little in common with me.

ROWAN’S RUIN #1 (Boom!, 2015) – I ordered this because it has the same creative team as Lucifer. Coincidentally I ran into Mike Perkins at NYCC while he was talking to Eric Nolen-Weathington, and I realized who he was when he mentioned that this issue had just come out. This comic is open to some criticism for having a rather trite horror premise – it’s just a standard haunted-house story – but Mike Perkins’s art is excellent, and the story is interesting because it’s an exploration of cultural differences between England and America.

WE STAND ON GUARD #4 (Image, 2015) – I was surprised to learn that this is a six-issue miniseries, not an ongoing series. I’m not going to miss it much when it ends. It’s okay but it’s not Saga. I do like how this issue shows us what’s been going on in America during the war with Canada. I assume the satirical point here is that in this series, the U.S. government has started a war with an alleged foreign terrorist state as a distraction from its failed domestic policies, only this time that state is Canada and not Iraq.

At this point I received my new comic shipment for Friday, October 16, and as usual, I was too exhausted that day to really enjoy any of the new comics.

SEX CRIMINALS #13 (Image, 2015) – This issue introduces a new character, Alix, who is asexual. Like many of the best Sex Criminals stories, this issue is important because it explores the unstated assumptions and prejudices about sex that exist in American society. The teenage Alix has no interest in sex, but her so-called friends pressure her into having sex anyway, and make her think that there’s something wrong with her because she doesn’t enjoy it. I especially like the one guy who claims he’ll have to go to the doctor if he can’t get blowjobs – I’m sure there are people who literally believe this.

MS. MARVEL #19 (Marvel, 2015) – I wanted to read this first, but I felt obligated to read Sex Criminals first instead, I don’t know why. This is such a perfect conclusion to the first volume, and it may be the best issue of Ms. Marvel yet. This issue was full of powerful moments, including Kamala’s reconciliations with Zoe and with Nakia, but the final scene with Kamala and Bruno is one of the high points of the entire series. “I’m not ready to be anything else” is such a perfect line – it acknowledges that Kamala does love Bruno, but that she knows her limitations and is not ready for an adult relationship yet. In some way that’s hard to explain, this scene makes me admire Kamala more than I already did.

LUMBERJANES: BEYOND BAY LEAF #1 (Boom!, 2015) – If I was tired when I read the previous two comics, I was exhausted when I read this one, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have. I generally love Faith Erin Hicks’s writing, but this series has a very distinct style of dialogue, and for part of the issue I felt that Faith was not writing in that style. I also felt that the story in this issue was a little too simple. On the positive side, at least this issue is a spotlight on my favorite Lumberjane, Ripley. I ought to read it again when I’m not falling asleep.

STARFIRE #5 (DC, 2015) – This continues to be the best guilty-pleasure comic on the market, but I think the writers are aware of the silliness and frivolity of this comic, and they’re doing it on purpose. Jimmy Palmiotti’s Mary Sue interview suggests that Kori is consciously acting more naïve than she really is – he said “She knows what she’s doing, but she’s kinda playing with it.” High points this issue are Kori (I guess I have to use that spelling) being able to talk with dolphins, and her facial expression when she says “work sucks, life is unfair” etc.

SPIDER-GWEN #1 (Marvel, 2015) – I was way too tired when I read this. It was fun, but I don’t remember much about it at all, and even when I flip through it again, the only thing that sticks out to me is the panel with the cat sleeping on Gwen’s face. I think it’s cute when cats sleep on people’s faces, but I expect it wouldn’t be much fun for the person involved.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #1 (Image, 2015) – Another one I barely recall. It looks promising, though. It’s a funny parody of Skottie’s own earlier work on Marvel’s Oz adaptations, and it also has some funny interactions between the protagonist and the narrator, and perhaps the best Blambot lettering I’ve ever seen.

DEVIL DINOSAUR #1 (Marvel, 1978) – I’ve never collected this series heavily, since there are so many other Kirby comics out there. But I expect it’s going to go up in price once the new series comes out, so I’m glad I got a cheap copy of #1 when I had the chance. This issue is very light on plot even for a Kirby comic, but has some typically beautiful Kirby-Royer artwork.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #93 (DC, 1971) – “Red Water, Crimson Death” is the only B&B story by O’Neil and Adams. I’ve read this story before in reprinted form, but I was initially unimpressed by it and I barely remembered anything about it, so it was worth coming back to. Coming to this story right after reading a Kirby comic helped me realize just how innovative Adams’s artwork was back then – compared to Kirby, his draftsmanship was far more realistic and his page layouts were more dynamic and varied. This is not to criticize Kirby, I just forget sometimes what an innovator Adams used to be. The plot is also pretty good; the issue is set on a remote island in Ireland, so I assume it draws upon Denny’s Irish heritage, and the relationship between Batman and the young boy at the center of the plot is rather touching.

THE TWILIGHT CHILDREN #1 (Vertigo, 2015) – Probably the flagship title of the newly revived Vertigo line, this series is a collaboration between two of the greatest cartoonists in America, Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke. I have to wonder how Vertigo was able to attract such high-profile talent, because I know that recently they’ve been having trouble competing for talent with Image. I assume they must have started offering better deals to creators, or something. Anyway, some reviewers have said that this issue is a disappointment considering the creators involved, and I can’t disagree. Darwyn’s artwork is fantastic, but besides that, this comic reads like a typical recent work from Beto, and like much of Beto’s recent work, it lacks the sophistication and depth of his Palomar and Luba sagas.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #8 (IDW, 2015) – If nothing else, this is certainly not the worst Jem adaptation that was released this month. I hope the awful performance of the movie doesn’t somehow have a negative impact on this comic. This is a good issue that progresses the storyline effectively, though there’s nothing particularly special about it.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #15 (Image, 2015) – This is another comic I don’t remember particularly well, and I’m having trouble remembering all the characters in this comic – it would really help if each issue began with a character guide. But this issue, which focuses on Amaterasu, raises some very interesting questions about ethnicity and cultural appropriation, and I love how the future Amaterasu has a keychain that represents the character of the same name from Okami. A section of my dissertation was on Okami but I never got around to publishing it.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #14 (Marvel, 2014) – This is the first Bendis comic I’ve read in several years. When I was in college, there was a point when I was reading three or four Bendis comics at once, but it wasn’t long before I got tired of his dialogue, and now I avoid him like the plague. The main story in this issue is a typical example of why I don’t like his work, and I’m sorry that Nick Bradshaw’s talents were wasted on it. The reason I bought this comic is because of the backup story, which tells Groot’s origin. I’ve already seen some of the best panels from this, including the adorable panel with the maintenance mammals climbing on Groot’s outstretched arms. But this story is worth owning because it’s a cute and unexpectedly poignant piece of work, which explains both Groot’s exile from Planet X and his affection for Rocket.

SHE-HULK #13 (Marvel, 2006) – At some point on the first or second day of NYCC, I bought a couple other issues of She-Hulk, as well as Astonishing X-Men #15 and some early issues of Astro City, for a dollar each, but I must have misplaced those comic books somehow because they didn’t make it home with me. It was embarrassing, though luckily I didn’t pay much for those comics and they won’t be hard to find again (I even bought another copy of AXM #15 later in the convention). Anyway, much of this issue is devoted to an exploration of Thanos’s past history and Eros’s possible role in turning Thanos into a villain, but it also advances Jennifer and John Jameson’s relationship in an interesting way. I wouldn’t like to see Dan Slott write She-Hulk again because this series was directed exclusively at hardcore fans like me, and was not appropriate for the sort of new readers that Marvel is trying to attract. It was a fun series, though.

ASTONISHING TALES #1 (Marvel, 1970) – The first story in this issue must be one of the last Marvel comics by Lee and Kirby, and I assume it’s also the first encounter between Kraven and Ka-Zar. It’s less interesting than the Dr. Doom backup story, which has beautiful Wally Wood artwork as well as fairly intriguing writing by Roy Thomas. I wondered if this issue was the first reference to Dr. Doom’s lover Valeria, but that character was introduced the previous year in Marvel Super-Heroes #20. This story does introduce Rudolfo, the rightful heir to the Latverian throne, whose brother Zorba was the villain of a memorable story by John Byrne.

INFINITE LOOP #2 (IDW, 2015) – I met Elsa and Pierrick at NYCC, and I was surprised to learn that they were primarily inspired by American comics and that this comic was always intended for the American and not the French market. The artwork does seem to have been drawn for the comic book format rather than the album format, though it has a level of detail and complexity which is more characteristic of French comics. As for the actual comic, though, on the one hand, I enjoyed Elsa’s art, and I obviously sympathize with this story’s politics. On the other hand, I thought that the artwork was sometimes overly complicated, there was too much text, and the story made its points with a sledgehammer. I haven’t yet felt motivated to read the other four issues of this miniseries.

A-FORCE #4 (Marvel, 2015) – This continues to be the most disappointing Marvel comic of the year. It has not lived up to the hype. Marguerite and Willow keep telling us how wonderful Arcadia was before Loki screwed everything up, but I wish they had shown us that rather than just telling us.

ALL-STAR SECTION EIGHT #4 (DC, 2015) – This is worse than the previous issue, and that takes some doing. This comic has no redeeming value whatever. I’m ashamed of owning it. I’m just glad that I didn’t order issue 5.

HARLEY QUINN #21 (DC, 2015) – An average issue of a fun series. The interplay between Harley and Deadshot was fairly effective, though I don’t know anything about the New 52 version of Deadshot.

USAGI YOJIMBO #29 (Mirage, 1991) – “Circles, Part 2” is a powerful piece of work. I think this issue represents Usagi’s first meeting with Mariko since Jotaro’s birth. At this point Usagi doesn’t know he’s Jotaro’s father, and I assume the reader isn’t supposed to know either until a couple issues later. The story takes on added poignancy when read with the knowledge of Jotaro’s parentage – especially the scene where Usagi wishes he could have given Mariko something better to remember him by, and she bursts into tears.

GROO: FRIENDS AND FOES #7 (Dark Horse, 2015) – I’ve allowed myself to get several issues behind on this series. This issue is better than some of the previous ones – there are some funny jokes involving Groo’s obsesssion with Chakaal. It does seem odd that we don’t learn Chakaal is the queen Groo is fighting until halfway through the issue, even though we can already guess this because she appears on the cover.

GROO: FRIENDS AND FOES #8 (Dark Horse, 2015) – The Weaver and Scribe issue is disappointing considering that these characters have been involved in some of the best Groo stories, such as “The Book Burners.” Reading this series, it’s hard to avoid thinking that either Mark is losing his touch, or Sergio is, or they both are. These stories just don’t have the same level of humor or narrative complexity as earlier Groo comics. “The Hogs of Horder” may have been the last great Groo story.

MS. MARVEL #7 (Marvel, 1977) – This issue is mostly a series of fights between Ms. Marvel and Modok, with rather little characterization. That makes it disappointing compared to the last issue of this series that I reviewed. Still, Carol is a really impressive character.

WONDER WOMAN #190 (DC, 1970) – I liked this one. Mike Sekowsky’s no-costume Wonder Woman stories are primitive by modern standards, but they were a vast improvement over what preceded them, in terms of both storytelling quality and politics. In this issue, Diana tries to visit Paradise Island but gets transported to an alien planet instead, where she teams up with a bearded barbarian dude to battle the local female tyrant. It’s not incredibly great, but at least it depicts Diana in a non-sexist way, showing her as the equal of her male ally.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #3 (DC, 2015) – Like A-Force, this series is not quite living up to the hype. Also, some of the stories in it are far more interesting than others. The Batgirl section is the highlight of the issue, especially the art, which I assume is by Marguerite Sauvage although this is not clearly stated.

INVINCIBLE #14 (Image, 2004) – This is the earliest Invincible in my collection. To extend my collection any further back, I’ll have to either get lucky or spend a lot of money. The letter column describes this issue as “the Big One,” but it’s a lot less dramatic than many later issues. However, there is a lot of interesting plot progression here, including the last scene, where Debbie breaks down in tears and asks Mark why he had to drive Nolan away.

ACTION COMICS #387 (DC, 1970) – “Even a Superman Dies” is a weird story in which Superman has to travel thousands of years into the future for reasons I can’t recall, and then has to relive his entire life starting from infancy. The villain of this issue is the Time Trapper, one of DC’s most confusing and wildly inconsistent characters; in this story he’s just a common criminal rather than the embodiment of entropy or whatever he later became. The Legion backup story, “One Hero Too Many!”, is very cute. It’s written by E. Nelson Bridwell, I think, but is very much in the spirit of Shooter and Hamilton’s Legion stories. In this story, the Legion has to get rid of one member to prevent their taxes from going up dramatically (which raises the obvious question of why R.J. Brande couldn’t have just paid the higher taxes, but ENB seems to have forgotten that that character existed.) About half of the Legionnaires volunteer to resign, each of them claiming to be the most useless Legionnaire, and Karate Kid and Brainiac 5 come up with various unsuccessful solutions to decide who to get rid of, until Superboy himself volunteers to quit for unexplained reasons. I’m not sure what the point of this story was, since I’m pretty sure that Superboy didn’t actually quit yet, but it’s a fun read.

ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR #1 (Archie, 2015) – I hadn’t gotten around to reading this yet because the Archie house-style artwork kind of repelled me. Alex de Campi’s writing here is pretty good and more sophisticated than the writing in a typical Archie comic, though I can’t recall any specific examples of this offhand. The one-page backup story in which Sabrina meets Hellboy is better than the main story.

THE FLASH #109 (DC, 1996) – Part 2 of “Dead Heat” is most significant to me because of the guest appearance by XS, my favorite minor Legionnaire who’s probably never going to appear again. (Paul Levitz was supposedly going to use her in the most recent Legion volume, but she only ever appeared in one backup story.) Jenni’s role in this story is rather limited, and most of the issue is devoted to an explanation of the origin of Savitar, a villain who never appeared again after “Dead Heat.”

HELLBLAZER #42 (DC, 1991) – “A Drop of the Hard Stuff” is the story where Constantine tricks the First of the Fallen into drinking holy water in order to save his friend’s soul. I knew the plot of this story but had never actually read it, and it lives up to my expectations. The context is that Constantine visits an old friend, Brendan, in search of a spell that can cure his cancer. But it turns out that Brendan himself is about to die of cirrhosis thanks to a lifetime of alcoholism, and has sold his soul in exchange for an unrivaled collection of wines and spirits, and so Constantine has to save Brendan’s soul instead of vice versa. Brendan is an interesting character because his drinking is the dominant passion of his life, yet it’s also killing him. To the extent that this story is about Irish drinking culture, it reminds me a lot of Eddie Campbell’s Alec and Bacchus. This issue is also a significant moment in the overall Dangerous Habits story arc, because it’s the point where Constantine reaches his lowest ebb of despair, but then decides that now is the time to get serious.

BACCHUS #51 (Eddie Campbell, 2001) – Like the last issue of Bacchus I read (#46), this issue is misnamed because the title character doesn’t appear in it. At this point Bacchus had turned into just an anthology title collecting miscellaneous work by Eddie. The highlight of this issue are Eddie’s two short autobiographical stories, including one that describes his childhood passion for Marvel comics. There are also some lesser works by other artists, and some reprinted strips that also appeared in the King Canute Crowd volume.

THE FLASH #301 (DC, 1981) – I’ve said before that The Flash was the only series that Cary Bates was ideally suited to write, because he was bad at characterization, but Barry Allen had no character to speak of. Reading this issue, though, I realize that Cary’s Flash stories weren’t necessarily any better than his other work. This period of The Flash was convoluted and confusing and ultimately led to the cancellation of the series, and it also suffered from terrible artwork by Carmine Infantino, who was long past his prime. This issue has a confusing plot in which Barry gets fired for chronic lateness, but gets his job back by saving his boss from a micro-nuclear warhead.

PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #3 (Image, 2015) – This is a good one. In this issue, Emily enters a music video, and this is visually represented by showing her climbing on top of Theban lettering and album covers and caption boxes. This sequence is a fascinating demonstration of Jamie McKelvie’s visual imagination. It turns out that the Theban writing can be translated into English, but I don’t have the energy to decode it, so I’ll take Kieron’s word that “if you needed to know it, we’d have written it in English.” Oh, also, the backup story with the werewolf dancer dude is pretty cool.

USAGI YOJIMBO #34 (Mirage, 1992) – In this story Usagi encounters an old former noblewoman, Lady Asano, who was driven into poverty after her husband was assassinated by his retainer Councilor Oda. Lady Asano is a convincing character because of the contrast between her great dignity and her impoverished state. The trouble with this story is its excessive reliance on coincidence. No sooner has Lady Asano finished telling her story than Councilor Oda himself shows up out of nowhere, and also it turns out that Gen’s father was Lord Asano’s chief general. This is a little too much to swallow.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #12 (Marvel, 1975) – This Iron Man-Thing team-up is by the unimpressive team of Bill Mantlo and Ron Wilson, and the villain is Prester John, perhaps the worst character who first appeared between Fantastic Four #40 and #60. It’s not quite as bad as you’d expect, though. At least Ben gets some good dialogue.

XOMBI #1 (DC, 1994) – John Rozum had a unique sensibility which was significantly ahead of his time, and it’s too bad that he didn’t have a more successful career. On the very first page of this comic, we encounter a bunch of “Nomatoads” that are “pulled from place to place by certain teleportation spells” and that speak in quotations from obscure old books. That’s the sort of comic this is. And the villains of this issue, the Rustling Hulks, are as creepy as anything from Morrison’s Doom Patrol. Not only that, this issue is full of witty dialogue and effective characterization, and it has a horrifying shock ending. I don’t know why John Rozum didn’t become a superstar.

That takes me up to October 23 when I received my next shipment of new comics, so I’ll stop here for now.

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