Going to write these reviews now, while the comics are fresh in my mind.
ADVENTURE TIME #10 (Kaboom!, 2012) – I am not a regular Adventure Time viewer or reader – shocking, I know – and I only bought this because it’s a Choose Your Own Adventure story, which is relevant to my research. This is the only CYOA comic I’ve seen that’s even remotely comparable to Jason Shiga’s Meanwhile in terms of its exploitation of the comics medium. Instead of just giving the reader a choice at the end of each page, like Unwritten #17, it uses trails, like Meanwhile, and the trails go all over the place and branch off in multiple directions. Also, there’s an in-story explanation for the CYOA format: the Ice King has cast a spell that deprives Jake and Finn of their free will and gives control over them to another person, namely the reader. This comic is not as successful as Meanwhile, but it comes close, which is an impressive achievement in itself. I need to read more of Ryan North’s Adventure Time comics.
CHEW #53 (Image, 2015) – I’ve complained before about how this series isn’t going anywhere, but this issue at least advances the plot somewhat, and also has some fun scenes with dinosaurs. Still, the jokes in this comic aren’t as funny as they used to be.
THE ISLAND #4 (Image, 2015) – This is perhaps the best issue yet because it includes long stories by two of my favorite current cartoonists, Brandon Graham and Farel Dalrymple. I love Farel’s draftsmanship and his visual storytelling, but I typically find it impossible to understand what’s going on in his comics, and the Pop Gun War story in this issue is no exception to that. I don’t think it would have made sense even if I had read the previous Pop Gun War book. The artwork is spectacular, though. The story includes both a color segment and a black-and-white segment, and both are equally masterful. The Multiple Warheads story is a bit odd because it includes Nik but not Sexica, and it introduces some new characters and plot threads whose relevance is not clear. But it’s a Brandon Graham comic, so it’s good. The issue ends with a wordless story by Gael Bertrand, whose draftsmanship is excellent but whose work is rather derivative of both Moebius and manga.
WARP GRAPHICS ANNUAL #1 (WaRP, 1986) – The cover of this issue promises “eight great stories” but I think only the first and the third of those words are accurate. All the stories are at least readable, though, and together they present a good overview of fantasy comics in the mid-‘80s. Most of the work in this issue seems heavily influenced by Elfquest in one way or another. The one that interested me most was the Thunderbunny story, but it’s not nearly as metatextual or in-jokey as the other Thunderbunny comic I just read.
PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #5 (Image, 2015) – The cover of this issue is based on Dire Straits’s “Money for Nothing” video, but I didn’t detect any references to that video in the issue itself. Of all the issues yet, this one was probably the most understandable; I was more or less able to figure out what was going on here, which is often not the case with Phonogram.
THE CHRONICLES OF CORUM #4 (First, 1987) – I’ve read the novel that this is based on, but it’s not one of Moorcock’s better works, and I hardly remember anything about it. What’s most interesting about this comic is that it’s an early work by Mike Mignola. At this point in his career, Mike was still developing an individual style, and his art here looks more like P. Craig Russell’s art than like his own later work. There were only a couple panels in this issue (e.g. the panel on page 4 with Corum kicking the door down) where I was like, yeah, this looks like a panel by Mike Mignola.
TRUE LOVE #1 (Eclipse, 1986) – I bought this comic mostly because of the Dave Stevens cover, but the other contents are interesting too. This is a collection of romance comics published by Standard from 1952 to 1954, including two stories by Alex Toth and one by Nick Cardy. The two Toth stories are the most intriguing things in the issue; his storytelling is excellent, as usual, and he uses an interesting visual device where each caption box contains a visaul representation of what the caption is about. (For example, one caption reads “Then one Sunday afternoon, when we were entertaining friends…” and below the caption is a drawing of some records.) The Nick Cardy story doesn’t look much like Nick Cardy to me, but it’s unintentionally funny because the male love interest is named Todd Reynolds, and I know a real person by that name. Unsurprisingly, these stories are full of ‘50s sexism. In one of them, a woman helps a man fix the engine of his boat, and she has to explain that she knows how to do this because “my dad’s an engineer! He wanted a boy and he’s tried to make one out of me!”
BLUE BEETLE #3 (Charlton, 1967) – The credited writer of this issue is D.C. Glanzman, Sam Glanzman’s brother, but it was really both written and drawn by Steve Ditko. The fact that Ditko wrote it is obvious from the heavy-handed moralizing; for example, the criminals gloat about how much they enjoy stealing money they didn’t earn. The story in this issue is complicated and exciting, and is part of a longer multi-part storyline; for reasons which are not explained, Ted Kord wants to see Dan Garret but can’t find him, and he still hasn’t found him by the end of the issue. The main draw of this issue for me is Ditko’s artwork. The ‘60s were probably the best period of his career. His art in this issue is amazingly energetic, full of vitality and vigor, and it has a roundedness and suppleness that contrasts with the harsh rectilinearity of some other Charlton comics.
AW YEAH COMICS! #5 (Aw Yeah Comics!, 2013) – The main story in this issue introduces Reaction Cat, who does the reverse of everything Action Cat does. One of the contributors to this issue is Chris Roberson and Allison Baker’s daughter Georgina, and there’s an interview with her on the inside back cover. I really like this comic and I want to read more of it, but I only ever see it at conventions, where there’s lots of other competition for my money.
MS. TREE #42 (Renegade, 1987) – This is a bit disappointing because the Ms. Tree story is only 12 pages. It does include a funny scene where some criminals kidnap Mike Tree Jr and his new girlfriend (who turns out to be Dominique Muerta’s daughter), and then they’re shocked to learn who Mike’s stepmother is. The issue also includes a Johnny Dynamite backup which, as usual, is both well-written and overly text-heavy.
Thanks to MLA and other general busyness, I didn’t manage to read many comics in the last 16 days. I did not buy any comic books at all while in Houston for MLA. There was only one comic book store in walking distance of the convention center, and its back issue prices sucked.
RAT QUEENS #14 (Image, 2015) – Overall fairly good. The highlight of the issue is the scene with Betty and the dragon. But this story has been dragging on for a while, and the series comes out so infrequently that it’s tough to remember what’s been going on.
JUGHEAD #3 (Archie, 2015) – I must have enjoyed this when I read it, but I barely remember anything about it now. The dream sequence this issue is based on The Man from UNCLE, I think.
JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #10 (IDW, 2015) – If Emma Vieceli was a big step down from Sophie Campbell, then Corin Howell is an even bigger step down from Emma Vieceli. I don’t like her artwork this issue at all. Her facial expressions are ugly, her draftsmanship is crude, and she leaves out the backgrounds. As a result, this was a disappointing issue, though it was nice seeing the story from Rio’s perspective.
ROCKET RACCOON AND GROOT #1 (Marvel, 2015) – The main thing I remember from this issue is the “Me are Shrub” character. Especially since his introduction comes right after a caption saying that Rocket and Groot are totally unique and can never be replicated. But so far I’m not enjoying this series as much as the Groot series that just ended.
HOWARD THE DUCK #3 (Marvel, 2015) – Another comic that I enjoyed but can’t remember much about. I do like the footnote about “not that Howard the Duck #2, the other one.”
HARLEY QUINN AND POWER GIRL #6 (DC, 2015) – Finally the wedding actually happens, but I don’t quite get why PG was willing to go through with it. Vartox’s robot family is very disturbing. This was only an okay miniseries and I’m not sorry that it’s over.
BLACK MAGICK #3 (Image, 2015) – I can’t remember much about this except that there’s a cute cat in it. Overall this is a fairly high-quality series.
REVENGER #1 (Comixology, 2015) – Another free Comixology Submit comic that was distributed at NYCC. Also the first comic I’ve read by Chuck Forsman. The artwork is deliberately crude but enjoyable. The story is intentionally quite violent; I can see the similarity to Ben Marra’s Terror Assaulter book, which I own but have not yet read. After reading this comic, I feel mildly interested in reading Forsman’s graphic novel TEOTFW.
BLACK CANARY #6 (DC, 2015) – Annie Wu is back. I hadn’t been enjoying her artwork on this series, but this issue is better. Just flipping through it, I’m impressed by the coloring in the battle-of-the-bands sequence. The reference to Pomeline near the end of the issue is surprising.
LIFE WITH ARCHIE #222 (Archie, 1981) – I must have read this issue before MLA, because I remember telling Bart Beaty about the first story in it. “The Silks of Svengasi” opens with an amazing page where Hiram Lodge is lying on the couch, his beard unshaven, his clothes loose, and his head surrounded by emanata bubbles. It turns out that this is because his new business partner has supplied him with clothes that cause extreme laziness. It’s a very funny premise which is executed well by George Gladir and Stan Goldberg. I can’t remember the other stories in the issue.
SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #135 (DC, 1973) – This issue is about a cult leader who tricks rich people into committing suicide. It’s a stupid and forgettable story, and it’s no wonder that this series only lasted two more issues.
LUCIFER #1 (DC, 2015) – I bought this because I’m interested in Holly Black’s writing (I have two of her books, neither of which I’ve read yet), but it’s hard to understand because it assumes knowledge of Mike Carey’s Lucifer. This is very odd considering that most other DC titles are fairly free of old continuity. This issue is okay, but I don’t know if it’s worth the effort to try to understand it.
LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #10 (Marvel, 2015) – I think I chose to read this because Lucifer reminds me of Loki. This comic is okay, but it’s slightly hard to follow with all the different Lokis, and it’s not clearly relevant to the current Thor series. Watching Thor beat up Loki was pretty frightening.
HELLBOY AND THE BPRD #3 (Dark Horse, 2015) – This comic is just not exciting. I’ve tried to get into the Hellboy spinoff comics, and I’ve failed because Hellboy without Mignola artwork is not interesting to me. There are more fun things I could be reading.
ODDLY NORMAL #4 (Image, 2014) – This is a reasonably fun comic, I guess, but Otis Frampton is just not capable of taking full advantage of his premise (a human girl in a world where imaginary things are real). There are other kid-oriented SF/fantasy comics out there that are much more creative, like Zita the Spacegirl or Cleopatra in Space.
New comics that came while I was at MLA:
A-FORCE #1 (Marvel, 2016) – This is a lot, lot better than the A-Force miniseries. Singularity finally gets to talk, and her voice is perfect; she speaks in single words and exclamation marks. It’s nice that She-Hulk is still an active part of the Marvel universe even though her title was unfortunately cancelled. After reading this, I’m looking forward to the next issue, and I couldn’t have said that about most of the issues of the miniseries.
THE VISION #3 (Marvel, 2016) – Tom King may be the best prose stylist in the industry right now; he seriously reminds me of Neil Gaiman in his darker moments. His writing in this issue is dark and grim and creates a sense of horror through understatement. And the scene with Agatha and Ebony is terrifying.
PAPER GIRLS #4 (Image, 2016) – This is another good issue, but I read it very late at night just after returning from MLA, and I can’t recall it very well. The giant sphere with all the eyes coming out of it is a brilliant image. And I like the horizontally formatted Arkanoid scene, though who knows what’s going on there.
ARCHIE #5 (Archie, 2016) – This is a fairly good issue, but I feel like Archie ought to be the company’s flagship title, and right now it’s not nearly as good as Jughead. Chip Zdarsky is probably a better writer than Mark Waid right now, and I’m very surprised that that’s the case. I think the highlight of the issue is the fake ID that says “Trip Zerdersky.”
DOCTOR STRANGE #4 (Marvel, 2016) – This opening story arc might have been better if it had shown Dr. Strange dealing with his usual mystical threats, instead of having a nonmagical villain. I say this because Aaron and Bachalo are quite good at depicting Dr. Strange’s magical environment. They make Dr. Strange feel like a Lovecraftian character, which is a logical and mostly original approach. (The name Shuma-Gorath comes from Robert E. Howard, but otherwise the links between Dr. Strange and weird fiction have not been sufficiently exploited.) And as a book historian, I thought that the scene with the books dying was both clever and tragic.
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #24 (IDW, 2016) – This issue was underwhelming because it lost track of its own plot. Rarity goes to Griffonstone to make new uniforms for the boffyball team, but then she becomes a member of the team herself, and the uniforms are completely forgotten until the very end of the issue. It’s also weird that this issue is a sports story but it doesn’t include Rainbow Dash at all.
GIANT DAYS #10 (Boom!, 2016) – I’m surprised this series is already on issue ten. It’s one of the best humor comics on the market and I’ll be sad when it ends with issue 12; I think it could easily be an ongoing series. This issue introduces Esther’s giant metal-loving friend who turns out to be a teen mother.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: BEST STORY EVER #1 (Marvel, 2015) – I bought this one-shot because it has Rocket Raccoon and Groot in it, but I never got around to reading it. This story is heavily based on the movie continuity, and uses the movie’s version of Gamora and Nebula’s relationship. It’s a pretty average comic and I’m not sure what the point of it was.
WEIRDWORLD #2 (Marvel, 2016) – This ongoing series is far better than the miniseries that preceded it. Sam Humphries is doing a great job of exploiting Mike del Mundo’s prodigious talent. A highlight is page two, where Becca almost gets eaten by a giant frog and a giant snail and a giant spider and lots of other stuff. And I love the idea of Ogeode the wizard being turned into a little cat with horns.
SPIDER-GWEN #4 (Marvel, 2016) – This issue is just okay. I think the best thing in it was the flashback to Gwen, Harry and Peter’s past together.
MYSTERY GIRL #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – This series has a very similar tone to Bandette, but the lack of Colleen Coover’s artwork makes it much less exciting. Without the incredible energy of Colleen’s art, Paul’s writing seems bland rather than subtly charming. I’ll continue reading this miniseries, but it’s not what I hoped for.
BITCH PLANET #6 (Image, 2016) – I think this is the first time I’ve seen a trigger warning on a comic book, unless the cover of Miracleman #9 counts, and it led me to expect that this comic would be even more brutal than it was. But this is still an excellent issue that helps restore my somewhat flagging interest in this comic. The depiction of life on regular non-Bitch-Planet Earth is chilling and eerily plausible. Meiko’s father doesn’t look Japanese to me at all. I like the scene where he brushes away some thought balloons – it reminds me of the scene in the Scott Pilgrim movie where Scott brushes away the word “love”.
BRAVEST WARRIORS #31 (Boom!, 2015) – I went back and read this because I’ve gotten interested in Kate Leth’s writing, thanks to Patsy Walker. There are two stories here, one about summer camp and another about aliens who are fans of the Bravest Warriors. The highlight of the issue is the cliffhanger ending of the first story, which involves a giant white furry monster.
New comics received on Friday, January 15. This was a very light week. I think I’ll be able to finish all the comics I received in this shipment (besides one graphic novel, Rosalie Lightning) before the next shipment arrives, which will be a first. As usual, it was hard for me to give these comics the attention they deserved, because I was coming off of two very busy weeks.
STARFIRE #8 (DC, 2016) – A very satisfying resolution to Kory and Dick’s relationship. These two characters used to be my absolute favorite comics couple, but both of them have moved on, and Kory no longer needs Dick to be a fully realized character, pun intended. Also, the sexual tension in this story is hilarious. I LOLed at the line “When I wear jeans, this phone vibrates in my front pocket, but only for a few seconds, which is a shame.” This version of Kory is a genuine depiction of a “woman who [is] firmly in charge of her sexual agency,” as Scott Lobdell said about his exploitative and offensive version of this character.
GOTHAM ACADEMY #14 (DC, 2016) – I love how Maps is sticking her head out of her photograph on the cover. This issue is exciting because it includes short stories drawn by Dustin Nguyen, Katie Cook and Hope Larson. The stories by Dustin and Katie are excellent. One is about a flying vampire goat and the other is about cat videos, so either of these stories would have been worth the price of the issue on its own. But the Hope Larson story feels seriously out of place. I couldn’t tell what this story had to do with Gotham Academy (I didn’t even remember who Isla Macpherson was), and I ended up wondering if this story may have been originally intended for publication in another venue entirely.
ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2016) – Adam Kubert’s art this issue is seriously unimpressive. There were points where it was hard to even tell what was going on. Clearly the highlight of this series is Kamala, but she only got about one good scene this issue, though it was a really good scene (the one with the “fan turned pro” line).
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #38 (IDW, 2016) – I was surprised to discover that this issue ends on a cliffhanger, because it doesn’t seem like enough of a story for two issues. This story is a nice dissection of the relationship between the CMC and Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. But it does suffer from the fact that it was written before “Crusaders of the Lost Mark,” so it doesn’t reflect the massive changes that the characters experienced in that episode.
THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #1 (DC, 2016) – This is the best Wonder Woman origin story ever, besides George Perez’s first issue, and it does some things better than Perez did. I love the idea that only some of the Amazons are immortal, because it means that Diana gets to grow up with other children her own age. (And also that there’s a plausible explanation for Wonder Girl.) Ray Dillon’s artwork in this issue is very good; he has the unusual ability to depict women of multiple different ages. And I really like the conceit that Wonder Woman is different from the other Amazons because of her interest in war. It makes me think that she’s a great example of a red/white character, according to the Magic: The Gathering color scheme. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t order issue 2 of this series because I heard someone said something negative about it on Facebook. I’m also frustrated that Renae de Liz and Ray Dillon are stuck doing a Wonder Woman spinoff, when they’re vastly more talented than the people working on the regular Wonder Woman title.
SILK #1 (Marvel, 2015) – This is the first issue of the second volume of Silk. I didn’t read it when it came out. I think the reason for my lack of excitement about Silk is that she seems like a worse version of Spider-Gwen. They both have the same gimmick of being female versions of Spider-Man, but the out-of-costume portions of Gwen’s stories are more interesting. Cindy Moon’s main selling point was her ethnicity, but this has very little impact on the story. This comic is fun and easy to read, but it’s not one of Marvel’s better titles.
SILK #2 (Marvel, 2015) – This issue has a new artist with a very different style from the artist of the previous issue, but otherwise it’s quite similar.
SILK #3 (Marvel, 2016) – Another okay but not great issue. I like the scene with Cindy visiting a psychiatrist.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #316 (Marvel, 1989) – This is a rare example of a classic ‘80s comic that I hadn’t read before. Todd McFarlane’s run on Amazing Spider-Man was one of the first examples of a comic drawn in the ‘90s Image style, so it set kind of a bad precedent for the industry as a whole. Therefore, it’s easy to forget that Todd drew some very impressive Spider-Man comics, which were also David Michelinie’s best stories with the character. This issue is the first part of the second major Venom story. Venom has been thoroughly domesticated to the point where no one cares about him before, but in the ‘80s he was seriously terrifying, as indicated by the fact that Peter is primarily concerned with escaping from him rather than fighting him. The only thing I don’t like about this comic is the excessive amount of T&A in the artwork.
NEW ROMANCER #2 (DC, 2016) – Like most of the new Vertigo titles, this is a bit underwhelming, but it’s worth it for the scene with Byron hanging out the window while quoting from “She Walks in Beauty.” The line after the one he quotes is “a heart whose love is innocent,” which maybe explains something about Byron’s attitude to Alexia. Oh, and then on the page after that, there’s the exchange about the poem Alexia wrote when she was 14. I’m not thrilled by the plot of this comic, but the interplay between Alexia and Byron is fascinating.
THE MIGHTY THOR #3 (Marvel, 2016) – This is kind of a generic Thor comic, but it’s very well-drawn and even well-written. The climactic page where Jane realizes she’s stopped thinking about cancer is pretty good. I like the panel with all the different versions of Loki, including Cat Loki from Squirrel Girl.
TINY TITANS: RETURN TO THE TREEHOUSE #3 (DC, 2014) – This is a typical Tiny Titans comic, meaning it’s fun, but readable in five minutes.
VERTIGO ESSENTIALS: LUCIFER #1 (Vertigo 2016) – Half this issue is a reprint of the original Carey/Weston Lucifer #1, the other half is a catalog of DC graphic novels. Lucifer #1 is a good introduction to the series; it’s cleverly written and beautifully drawn.