TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #2 (Marvel, 2016) – I’m reading so many Marvel comics lately that I almost don’t have time for all of them, and if I have to remove some Marvel titles from my pull list, this will be one of them. It’s enjoyable but not spectacular. I like Frank Cho’s artwork (though I feel ashamed to say it) and of course I love the idea of a world where everyone loves monsters, but I have trouble sympathizing with Amadeus Cho, who seems rather annoying and immature.
DESCENDER #9 (Image, 2016) – I think I’m enjoying the artwork in this comic better than the writing, which is somewhat predictable and formulaic. Without Dustin Nguyen’s art, I don’t think this comic would be all that great. The conversation between the two Tims is the highlight of the issue.
IKEBANA #1 (Retrofit/Big Planet, 2016) – A fascinating piece of work. In this one-shot comic, an art student does a project where she walks around in nothing but a flower bra and thong, and refuses to say anything or interact with anyone. Unsurprisingly, the result is that she’s subjected to immense harassment, no one is willing to leave her alone, and she ends up committing suicide. Yumi Sakugawa’s minimalistic and deliberately crude artwork invests this story with great emotional power. One scene that particularly spoke to me is where the art teacher’s students are threatening to give him poor evaluations.
HELLBOY: IN THE CHAPEL OF MOLOCH #1 (#36) (Dark Horse, 2008) – I love Mike Mignola’s artwork and storytelling, but his plots are sort of forgettable. In this issue, Hellboy investigates a Portuguese painter who is being possessed by demons, and all sorts of mayhem ensues. It’s okay but it’s not “The Corpse” or “Pancakes.”
DARK HORSE PRESENTS #3 (Dark Horse, 1986) – The striking thing about these early DHPs is the massive gap in quality between Concrete and everything else. Even in 1986, Paul Chadwick’s style was already fully developed and he was already a master storyteller, while all the other strips in DHP were barely publishable. I don’t know if Dark Horse would still be in business today if not for Paul. In this issue’s Concrete story, Concrete gets knocked unconscious by a car, and Maureen has to somehow get him back home without anyone seeing him. There’s one funny panel in which a ten-year-old kid turns out not to know who Bob Dylan is.
THE ISLAND #5 (Image, 2015) – This issue begins with the continuation of the Sheehan-Ward story, in which the crazy billionaire dude has half of his houseguests murdered. I don’t know what’s going on here, but it’s very disturbing and creepy, in a good way. Next is the second chapter of Simon Roy’s “Habitat.” This chapter doesn’t provide a whole lot of new information about the milieu, but it’s very well drawn and it makes me excited for the next part. Finally there’s a new Pop Gun War chapter which, like much of Farel Dalrymple’s work, is beautifully drawn and makes no logical sense. Overall this continues to be a very high-quality anthology title.
TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #48 (IDW, 2016) – I don’t remember much about this issue. It has something to do with mnemosurgery and repressed memories. I think the most confusing thing about this series is that every issue seems to introduce an entirely new cast of characters.
DARK HORSE PRESENTS #3 (Dark Horse, 2014) – There are two interesting stories here: the chapter of Brendan McCarthy’s ongoing epic, and Ricardo Delgado’s Age of Reptiles piece, which is brilliantly drawn but light on storytelling. The rest of the material in this issue is pretty lousy. This anthology was not worth the $4.99 cover price.
GROO #4 (Image, 1995) – I’ve been fairly unenthusiastic about Groo lately, but “A Drink of Water” is all right, especially compared to Groo: Friends and Foes. The trouble is that this story initially looks like it’s going to be a satire on misguided water policies, and then halfway through, it turns into a satire on excessive bureaucracy, with no real transition between one topic and the other.
WHAT IF? #30 (Marvel, 1991) – This issue presents two different answers to the question “What If the Fantastic Four’s Second Child Had Lived?” The first version of this story is absolutely insane. Sue’s second child (named Suzy in this reality) turns out to be a literal demon. She murders her teachers, her classmates, and finally her family, and only Franklin realizes what’s going on, but Reed completely refuses to believe him. Finally, after Suzy murders Reed too, Franklin exiles her to the Negative Zone, where she proceeds to attempt to murder Annihilus. I can’t imagine what the writer, Jim Valentino, was thinking when he wrote this, but it’s terrifying in a hilarious way, or vice versa. The second version, in which the child is named Mary, is much less interesting. Mary becomes a political activist, but we’re never told what exactly her politics are, just that she’s trying to reform the country in an unspecified way, and this means the story loses whatever impact it might have had.
EXCALIBUR #21 (Marvel, 1990) – In this installment of “The Cross-Time Caper,” Excalibur visits a world where the British Empire never ended. This issue is reasonably fun and convoluted, but it would have been better with Alan Davis artwork.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #243 (Marvel, 1991) – This issue concludes the three-part story with Zukala and Karanthes, and leads into Roy Thomas’s adaptation of Black Colossus. It’s pretty fun. It’s interesting that in the first full story of his new Conan run, Roy chose to revisit characters and settings from his previous run.
ASTONISHING X-MEN #15 (Marvel, 2006) – This was the only issue of Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men that I was missing. It’s an early installment of the story arc where the new Hellfire Club invades the mansion. It’s probably most memorable for the last panel, which is based on the last panel of X-Men #132, but with Kitty instead of Wolverine.
S.H.I.E.LD. #11 (Marvel, 2015) – This issue guest-stars Dominic Fortune and is drawn by Howard Chaykin. It’s a funny and nostalgic piece of work, but Howie’s artwork has declined significantly since he created this character.
HELLBLAZER #58 (DC, 1992) – “Body and Soul” is the end of a multipart story about a man who uses corpses, and sometimes living people, for ballistics research. Constantine defeats him by summoning the ghosts of the people whose bodies he’s descrated, and then Chas kills him in cold blood. The thing that stood out to me the most about this story is Steve Dillon’s mastery of facial expressions, especially in the panel showing Constantine and Chas’s reaction to the news that their bodies are going to be used for target practice.
DOOM PATROL #38 (DC, 1990) – “Lost in Space” is so weird that I won’t even try to summarize it. But that’s a good thing. It includes the line “Each side would ignore the other in an attempt to irritate the enemy into submission.”
SUPERMAN ADVENTURES #13 (DC, 1997) – Surprisingly delightful. In “Grand Slam,” Superman and Lois go to a baseball game, which is interrupted by an alien invasion. The aliens force Superman to fight a duel with their champion, and the announcers for the baseball game provide commentary on the battle, in exactly the same style they were using to comment on the game. Besides being clever and cute, this comic makes me nostalgic for when baseball was a genuine national pastime, rather than an arcane sport that only appeals to obsessed fans.
DEATH RATTLE #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1985) – This is a revival of an anthology that was previously published in black and white in the ‘70s. It begins with Rand Holmes’s “Killer Planet,” which is basically an X-rated version of a Wally Wood story from Weird Science. Rand Holmes is one of my favorite underrated cartoonists, though this isn’t his best work. Next is “Ill Bred” by Charles Burns, a horror story that’s sort of a preview of Black Hole. The issue also includes a three-pager by Charles Dallas, in a style that’s reminiscent of Jack Jackson’s historical comics. I’m not familiar with Dallas at all, and in the first page that comes up when you Google him, it says that he vanished from the industry in about 1976, which is obviously false.
DNAGENTS #10 (Eclipse, 1984) – An average issue of an unjustly forgotten comic. The most notable thing that happens in this issue is that the DNAgents encounter the new Crossfire and discover that he’s not the old Crossfire. As usual with Will Meugniot’s comics, this issue includes some gratuitous T&A.
NEW X-MEN #132 (Marvel, 2002) – One of the few Morrison x-Men comics I hadn’t read. In “Ambient Magnetic Fields,” a ghost is haunting the killing fields in Genosha, but it turns out to be Polaris. Phil Jimenez’s artwork in this issue is very effective.
New comics received on January 22:
MS. MARVEL #3 (Marvel, 2016) – A fun but predictable conclusion to the Dr. Faustus story arc. I like that Kamala is okay with Bruno and Mike’s relationship. I don’t know where this series is going next.
LUMBERJANES #22 (Boom!, 2016) – I think this was Kat Leyh’s best issue yet, and not just because of the sea shanty, which can be sung to the tune of “Blow the Man Down.” After an unimpressive first storyline, Kat Leyh is finally showing that she understands the Lumberjanes aesthetic.
ASTRO CITY #31 (DC, 2016) – This is a fairly standard superhero story, but the gimmick is that it’s narrated by every person in Astro City at once, since the protagonist is the Living Nightmare, who’s the embodiment of the dreams of everyone in the city. This results in an interesting story, but I feel that Kurt could have done even more with this premise. The people powering the Living Nightmare all sound very similar to each other; there’s not much linguistic diversity among them.
PATSY WALKER AKA HELLCAT #2 (Marvel, 2016) – Maybe my favorite comic of the week. I hope this comic sells well, because it’s really exciting; it has a very similar vibe to Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but seems slightly more mature. In this issue, Patsy gets fired from her job, then runs into her evil former best friend Hedy, then goes out for hamburgers with all the other superheroines.
SILVER SURFER #1 (Marvel, 2016) – The new Silver Surfer series is exactly the same as the old one; it has funny writing and thrilling artwork, and it blatantly panders to Doctor Who fans. I think I was able to identify about half of the protagonists involved in the battle at the end of the issue. Eve’s sister’s pregnancy was quite a surprise.
USAGI YOJIMBO #151 (Dark Horse, 2016) – One of the better issues since the revival. “The Bride” reminds me of my favorite Usagi story, “Images of a Winter’s Day,” in that in both stories Usagi gets fooled because he misunderstands the motivations of the people he’s working with. In “The Bride,” a woman hires Usagi to protect her from assassins, but it turns out she’s actually using him to kill the man who’s trying to assassinate her. It was obvious to me from early in the story that the bride wasn’t being entirely honest with Usagi, and I enjoyed the suspense of finding out what she was really up to.
SUPER ZERO #2 (Aftershock, 2016) – Another good issue of what may be Conner and Palmiotti’s first serious work. In this issue, Dru tries to become Spider-Man, having previously failed to be Batman.
BATGIRL #47 (DC, 2016) – This issue suffers from a lack of Babs Tarr artwork. I don’t remember much about it except that it’s a Batgirl/Spoiler team-up.
PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #6 (Image 2016) – I still don’t quite understand Phonogram, but this issue is a fairly effective conclusion to the entire franchise. Emily’s facial expression when she says “I’ve tried everything else. I may as well try changing” is just beautiful, and it’s a good example of Jamie McKelvie’s talent.
LUNA THE VAMPIRE #1 (IDW, 2016) – I was unenthusiastic about this comic at first, but Yasmin Sheikh’s artwork is beautiful. She reminds me of Joann Sfar more than anyone else. The best gag in the issue is where the batcat gets switched for the useless fat worm.
DOCTOR FATE #8 (DC, 2016) – I gave up on Paul Levitz because Worlds’ Finest was extremely unimpressive, but I finally bought an issue of this series, because it’s been getting excellent reviews. I thought this issue was just okay. Besides the talking cat, nothing in it particularly stood out.
UNCANNY X-MEN #224 (Marvel, 1987) – “The Dark Before the Dawn” is part of the build-up to “Fall of the Mutants.” Most of the issue focuses on Storm’s quest to kill Forge. Claremont’s work started to drop in quality after the Mutant Massacre, and this issue is just okay and not great.
SUPERMAN’S GIRLFRIEND LOIS LANE #102 (DC, 1970) – A typical bad Lois Lane comic. The new story in this issue is an offensive piece of Orientalism, in which Lois falls in love with an Indian rajah who turns out to be the devil. In the reprinted backup story, Lois drinks a de-aging potion because she wants to look younger, but it ends up de-aging her to infancy. Superman knows what’s going on and declines to do anything about it in order to embarrass Lois, and the story ends with a disgusting scene of Superman bottle-feeding baby Lois in front of Lana. Even for the Silver Age, this is some awful stuff.
HARLEY QUINN #24 (DC, 2016) – Another fun but forgettable Harley Quinn comic, in which Harley and her friends massacre a bunch of assassins. I’m starting to suffer from Harley fatigue, and I won’t be buying the new Harley title that was just announced.
AMAZING FOREST #1 (IDW, 2016) – I love Ulises Farinas’s art and I love reading his Facebook posts, so I had high hopes for his and Erick Freitas’s new anthology title, so I’m sorry to say that those hopes were not fulfilled. All the stories in this issue suffer from boring plots and unexciting shock endings, and the second and third stories are poorly reproduced. The best story in the issue is the last one, and that’s entirely because of Yumi Sakugawa’s artwork. I’d be more excited about future issues of this comic if Ulises were drawing instead of writing them.
FANTASTIC FOUR #213 (Marvel, 1979) – Even John Byrne artwork can’t save this boring Galactus/Terrax story. It includes Marv Wolfman’s pet characters, the Sphinx and Veritas, who were never as interesting as Marv thought they were.
HALO JONES #6 (Fleetway/Quality, 1987?) – Speaking of poor reproduction, this comic is so shoddily reproduced as to impair its readability. The material in this comic was meant to be seen at a much larger size, and it becomes difficult to parse when reduced to the size of a comic book. The Halo Jones story in this issue is amazing, but it’s only 10 pages, and this reprint series is probably the worst possible way to read this material.
OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #3 (Marvel, 2008) – As I was typing the title of this comic, my cat walked over my keyboard and typed an omega. I wonder if this is a coincidence or what. The main appeal of this comic is that it’s a showcase for Farel Dalrymple’s amazing storytelling skills. The actual story is not all that interesting and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
STARMAN #59 (DC, 1999) – This chapter of “Stars My Destination” reveals what’s been going on with Will Payton and Prince Gavyn – Will Payton is actually dead, and the Will Payton Starman was a reincarnation of Prince Gavyn, projected into Will’s body. Then Jack and his allies break into Jediah Rikane’s fortress but are betrayed by Medaphyll. This is all setup for the conclusion of the story, which I think happened in the next issue.
ADVENTURE TIME #32 (Boom!, 2014) – I am not a regular Adventure Time viewer, but this comic is pretty fun. It includes stories by both Kat Leyh and Ryan North.
SUPREME: THE RETURN #1 (Awesome, 1999) – An excellent comic, despite Rob Liefeld’s best efforts to ruin it with poor publication design. This issue must have continued a story that ended on a cliffhanger in the previous incarnation of this title, because it begins in media res, with Supreme and Suprema trying to capture a lot of escaped villains. An interesting wrinkle that Alan introduces in this story is that Radar (i.e. Krypto) can kill people even if Supreme (Superman) can’t.