Last week’s reviews

2-11-16

PAPER GIRLS #5 (Image, 2016) – I’m slowly starting to understand the plot here, but it’s confusing as hell, though also fun. The appearance of the future Erin at the end of the issue is a bit predictable but leaves me wondering what’s going to happen next. I love the idea of a “whenhouse” instead of a warehouse. In general, the plot of this series is intentionally difficult to understand, but BKV and Cliff Chiang are generating a lot of excitement.

ROCKET RACCOON AND GROOT #2 (Marvel, 2016) – So it turns out that when we saw Groot’s body covered with writing at the end of last issue, those were all clues to how Rocket can find him. The sequence with Groot following the clues is very cute, though full of unnecessary cameo appearances. And I guess somehow Groot thinks Lord Rakzoon really is Rocket. I’ve been unimpressed by some of Skottie’s recent Rocket comics, but this is a good one.

THE VISION #4 (Marvel, 2016) – An amazing series gets even better. The line about how Viv “didn’t live as long as she might have” is a horrible piece of foreshadowing, and confirms my impression that something awful is going to happen to Vizh’s family. The scene at the end of the issue is devastating. CK’s dad is a typical Trump voter; he scapegoats other people (well, androids) for his own problems, and refuses to accept responsibility for his son’s death, which is his own fault. It’s the toddler mentality: “look what you made me do.” In a way, this comic is a very typical American story: it’s about people (again with an asterisk) who just want to be left alone to live their lives, but whose neighbors refuse to let them.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS #5 (ActionLab, 2016) – Jeremy Whitley said on Twitter that this was the most divisive issue of the series yet, but I really didn’t understand why. It seems rather uncontroversial to me, at least compared to the issue with the “not all men” moment. The important thing this issue demonstrates is that even though all the characters are women, that doesn’t mean that they’re all the same or that they all agree with each other. The plot of this issue is driven by the personality conflicts between Raven and Ximena and between Jayla and everyone else. Besides that, we also see that the various pirates all come from diverse backgrounds and have a wide range of experiences. So to that extent, this issue is a model of what a comic with an all-female cast should look like. “Whose choice was it when I got dressed this morning” is a throwaway line but it’s a powerful rebuttal to a common Islamophobic argument.

HOWARD THE DUCK #4 (Marvel, 2016) – As usual with this series, I enjoyed this issue but I can’t remember much about it now. Scout, the would-be herald of Galactus, is a cool new character, and Chip’s dialogue is as funny as ever.

GIANT DAYS #11 (Boom!, 2016) – I’m sorry that this series is ending. I don’t know why it has to. The big plot element in this issue is that Susan is so chronically sleep-deprived that she gets stuck in the “night world.” Also, there’s some relationship drama. Overall, this is one of the best miniseries of the year and perhaps the second best Boom Box title after Lumberjanes.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #25 (IDW, 2016) – Barbara Kesel is not my favorite pony writer, but this was a pretty good issue. In this story, Rainbow Dash’s wings mysteriously vanish and Twilight Sparkle has to help her figure out why. Rainbow Dash’s wings are a fundamental part of her identity, so Kesel generates a lot of storytelling potential by taking her wings away. The problem with this issue is that the ponies who stole Dashie’s wings actually do have a good point – it is pretty unfair that some ponies get wings or a horn while other ponies get nothing – and Barbara never really addresses this point.

SHUTTER #18 (Image, 2016) – This issue is mostly devoted to exploring Kate and Huckleberry’s past relationship. I don’t even remember that they had a relationship to begin with, and I didn’t realize that Kate was interested in women, so this issue sheds some interesting new light on her character. Also, it gives us a bit more background information about the history of Prospero and Kate’s family. Leila del Duca comes up with some innovative visual means of distinguishing between the flashbacks and the main story. Her use of brushstrokes reminds me of Roy Lichtenstein’s brushstroke paintings.

DOCTOR STRANGE #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Another disturbing and fascinating issue. Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo are doing a good job of writing Doctor Strange as essentially a horror title. I think it’s really really creepy that Doc has a team of Asian monks who absorb spiritual damage on his behalf, but Jason does not try to justify this as a good thing, and I also get the impression that Doc doesn’t know about this and that the “secret disciples of Dr. Strange” may be a secret to everyone except themselves and Wong.

KENNEL BLOCK BLUES #1 (Boom!, 2016) – An exciting debut issue about a cartoon dog who’s sent to a prison for much less cheerful cartoon animals. Unlike a lot of anthropomorphic comics, e.g. Usagi and Omaha, in this one the characters act like the animals they’re depicted as. For example, there’s a funny sequence where a lizard, a rodent and a cat are bribed with a radish, cheese and catnip respectively. (Though I didn’t realize that lizards like radishes.) Of course the main source of humor is that the main character incorrectly perceives the world as a Disney cartoon. I look forward to reading the rest of this.

KLAUS #3 (Boom!, 2016) – This is pretty fun, but it doesn’t advance the plot very much. The only new information we get is that the ruler of Grimsvig is not just a mean jerk, he’s also in the service of some kind of demon.

A-FORCE #2 (Marvel, 2016) – I enjoyed this one, though I still think this series isn’t as good as I would expect from G. Willow Wilson. In this issue Singularity continues to recruit allies to protect her against Antimatter, including Nico Minoru. Probably the best thing in the issue is the page where Antimatter invades the wedding and Jen and Nico don’t even notice until the fourth panel. Singularity is still an utterly delightful character.

BATGIRL #48 (DC, 2016) – This issue was just okay, though much better drawn than last issue. Babs fights some villains who use a video game gimmick, then realizes that she’s losing her memory for some reason. Then she teams up with Black Canary to fight the Fugue, a character I don’t remember at all (maybe I’m suffering from the same problem as Babs). I’m curious what Cameron and Brendan and Babs Tarr have planned for issue 50.

MYSTERY GIRL #3 (Dark Horse, 2016) – This is a significant improvement over last issue, as we finally learn why the Siberian mammoth burial site is such a big secret. The villain this issue is wonderfully evil – his sadistic glee when he thinks he’s about to kill Trine is quite impressive, and I can’t wait for him to get his comeuppance. I’m pretty sure that there are live mammoths in Siberia and that next issue Trine is going to be saved by them.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #2 (Marvel, 2016) – A drop in quality from last issue. Cap and her team explore a spaceship full of dead alines, but nothing especially exciting happens.

UNCANNY X-MEN #208 (Marvel, 1986) – I don’t think I’ve ever read this story before in any form. I thought I had read it before as an X-Men Classic reprint, but that series was cancelled just before it got to this issue. In “Retribution,” the X-Men and the Hellfire Club both search for the missing Rachel Summers, who Wolverine has just unsuccessfully tried to kill, and this leads to a big fight which is then interrupted by Nimrod. This isn’t a top-quality issue, and it introduces some hideous new costumes for the Hellfire Club members which were thankfully never used again. But it’s fun to read an unfamiliar story from Claremont’s classic period.

ADVENTURE COMICS #349 (DC, 1966) – Another classic comic that I’m surprised I hadn’t read already. “The Rogue Legionnaire” is Jim Shooter’s fourth Legion story and the first appearance of Universo. When Universo tries to join the Legion and is rejected, he sends the Legionnaires back in time (as usual for this period, only six Legionnaires appear in the story), but they’re saved by an unnamed young boy. Probably the highlight of the issue is the last page, which reveals that the boy, later named as Rond Vidar, is Universo’s son, although this was obviously no surprise to me.

DARK REIGN: FANTASTIC FOUR #2 (Marvel, 2009) – An average early issue of Hickman’s FF, with some nice art by Sean Chen. Probably the best thing about the issue is the sequence depicting various alternate-universe versions of the FF, including one where Sue is a medieval queen and Ben says “Milady, ‘tis the clobbering hour.”

DOCTOR STRANGE #36 (Marvel, 1979) – This issue is plotted by Roger Stern but scripted by a much worse writer, Ralph Macchio. The art is by Gene Colan, but it’s not top-tier Gene Colan work. This series declined significantly after Steve Englehart left and it didn’t recover until Roger Stern took over all the writing duties. This issue kind of illustrates why. It has an overly convoluted plot involvin the Dweller in Darkness and a demon whose name I forget and the Black Knight and Victoria Bentley, and it’s just not all that interesting. Rog’s later run on Doctor Strange was much more straightforward and simple.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES 75TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL #1 (IDW, 2015) – This anniversary issue begins with a very funny Barks ten-pager, “The Mighty Trapper,” but surprisingly the highlight of the issue is the Mickey and Goofy three-parter by Carl Fallberg and Paul Murry. Mickey and Goofy try to reopen a mine which Grandma Duck has inherited, but they run into difficulties because of sabotage by some villains. This story has a length and scope which make it exciting, despite my general lack of interest in the characters. Also, in reading this story, I realized that Mickey is pretty much the same character as Astro Boy. The other good story in this issue is the one by William Van Horn, which features perhaps his best creation, the singing flea Baron Itzy Bitzy, plus Magica De Spell.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #312 (Marvel, 1989) – This Michelinie-McFarlane story is nominally an Inferno crossover, but the plot isn’t about Inferno. Instead, it involves a battle between the Grene Goblin and the Hobgoblin. It’s not one of the better issues by this team, and probably the best moment is when Norman tells Spider-Man (whose secret identity he no longer remembers) that “maybe you’ll understand some day if you get married.”

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #189 (DC, 1981) – Like many of Gerry Conway’s JLA comics, this issue heavily features his pet characters, Firestorm and Red Tornado. It’s nice that Gerry was able to use Firestorm and Reddy to inject some fun character moments into a series that was too often lacking in characterization, but on the other hand, his excessive reliance on these particular characters is a bit annoying. The plot of this issue involves Starro, who is depicted as a seriously creepy and disturbing villain, though not nearly as much so as in later stories by Grant Morrison.

DAREDEVIL #6 (Marvel, 2014) – This issue is mostly about Matt’s attempt to deal with a repressed memory in which his father is beating his mother. Since I already read the next issue and I know the context behind this memory, this issue is somewhat lacking in suspense. It does make an interesting point about how Matt’s hero worship of his father is kind of unhealthy. This issue includes an amazing two-page splash that shows Matt listening to all the sounds in the Wakandan embassy at once.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #2 (DC, 1990) – Given that this is only the second issue, it doesn’t provide quite enough context for what’s going on, but it’s still a pretty interesting exploration of the Kennedy myth.

DETECTIVE COMICS #587 (DC, 1988) – This Wagner-Grant-Breyfogle story introduces the villain who later becomes the Corrosive Man. The entire story is narrated by a radio DJ who keeps playing songs that somehow relate to the plot. Norm Breyfogle’s art here is kind of amateurish compared to his later work.

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #22 (DC, 1996) – This is another comic where I never quite understand what’s going on, but I enjoy reading it anyway because Tim is such an adorable character. In this issue, Tim is captured by a woman whose name I didn’t catch. She thinks that he’s going to grow up to be a monster, so she gives him a giant magical tattoo to prevent that, and also Tim spends part of the issue as a cat.

ARCHIE #666 (Archie, 2015) – The final issue before the renumbering. The story here is that Archie has been sent to detention for the 666th time, and a large part of the issue is devoted to flashbacks depicting all the previous reasons why Archie went to detention. Unfortunately this issue is rather boring and it’s not an effective conclusion to the first volume of Archie.

JUDGE DREDD: MEGA-CITY TWO – CITY OF COURTS #1 (IDW, 2014) – The main appeal of this issue, and this series in general, is Ulises Farinas’s spectacular artwork, including a breathtaking two-page spread that depicts a panoramic view of Mega-City Two. Ulises is a prodigiously talented artist, and it’s a shame that so far he hasn’t worked on any project that allowed him to reveal his full potential.

FANTASTIC FOUR #169 (Marvel, 1976) – This Roy Thomas/Rich Buckler story is reasonably fun even though the 1970s was a terrible period for the FF. It begins with a powerless Ben Grimm getting into a bar fight, and then his replacement, Luke Cage, gets mind-controlled and attacks his teammates. The issue ends by introducing Ben’s new replacement, which is either a robot Thing or a Thing battlesuit, I forget which.

WONDER WOMAN #60 (Marvel, 1991) – This late Perez issue is sadly unimpressive, with boring art, ugly lettering, and an incomprehensible plot that involves Lobo and the Bana Migdall and the War of the Gods crossover.

BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES #14 (DC, 1999) – In this issue, Batman Robin, and Batgirl battle Harley Quinn, who has a convoluted plot to brainwash the citizens of Gotham. This is a fairly enjoyable comic, but Ty Templeton and Craig Rousseau are no match for the classic Batman Adventures creative team of Kelley Puckett and Mike Parobeck.

STALKER #2 (DC, 1975) – I picked this up on a whim and was surprised to realize that it was by the all-star creative team of Paul Levitz, Steve Ditko and Wally Wood. I don’t know how much Woody personally contributed to this issue, but the artwork certainly looks like him, and it reminds me of his other fantasy work, like The Wizard King. However, the plot of this comic is really boring; it’s a generic cookie-cutter fantasy title, one of several such titles that DC was churning out at the time, and it’s a waste of Paul’s talents.

WHAT IF? #4 (Marvel, 1989) – “What If the Alien Costume Had Possessed Spider-Man” is unusually good considering that it’s written by Danny Fingeroth, whose writing has never impressed me. As the title indicates, Peter gets possessed by the symbiote, then when it separates from him again, he turns into an old man and dies of old age after a poignant last meeting with Aunt May. The symbiote goes on to possess the Hulk and then Thor, before being defeated by Black Bolt, and then Black Cat shows up and kills the symbiote as revenge for Peter’s death. Unusually for this series, the plot of this issue is driven primarily by Felicia Hardy’s character, and it ends up being quite effective.

SHOWCASE #47 (DC, 1963) – I had trouble concentrating on this comic because as I was in the middle of reading it, my iPhone stopped working, and this ended up ruining my whole evening. “Doomsday for Planet Earth” is the last of several Tommy Tomorrow stories in Showcase, and it involves a giant floating antimatter cloud that threatens to destroy the solar system. This premise reminds me a bit of the Sun-Eater. But other than that, this is a pretty forgettable comic, and it’s no wonder that this was the final Tommy Tomorrow story, since there’s not much to distinguish this franchise from any of DC’s other science fiction comics. Given that this story is full of ‘50s science fiction clichés, I assumed it was written by Gardner Fox, but it’s actually by Arnold Drake, though the series was previously written by Otto Binder.

Reviews for 2-5-16

This was such an awful week, even comics couldn’t make it much better.

SANDMAN #12 (DC, 1990) – This is the one where Morpheus kills Hector Hall, captures Brute and Glob, and tells Lyta Hall that he’ll be coming to claim her unborn child. Reading this story again, I get the distinct feeling that Morpheus is deliberately trying to antagonize Lyta Hall and make an enemy of her. After he kills her husband, he treats her with callous rudeness, as well as telling her that her child belongs to him. I assume Morpheus does this because it’s part of his master plan to commit suicide, although I forget how exactly.

WELCOME TO SHOWSIDE #3 (Z2, 2016) – I liked this better than the previous issue. It’s a reasonably good example of Adventure Time-esque humor. I may want to continue reading this series now.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #4 (Image, 2016) – Like Chew or Groo or Teen Dog, this series only has one joke, but it’s a funny joke. The giant skull dude in this issue is pretty cool, and there’s a nice pinup by Katie Cook after the main story.

New comics for Friday, January 29. I don’t want to explain why, but this was one of the worst days of my entire adult life, and I’m afraid that from here things might get even worse. When I started to read my new comics, I was in such a horrible state of anxiety and depression and anger that I was unable to concentrate fully. So the first few reviews here are of limited usefulness.

SAGA #33 (Image, 2016) – Disappointingly, this issue does not resolve the cliffhangers from either of the previous two issues. Instead, it centers around the two reporters, Upsher and Doff. It’s been such a long time since we saw these characters that I couldn’t remember their names. Overall this was just an average issue, and much less interesting than the previous two. When I read this issue, I was confused as to how Ginny could have a daughter who was older than Hazel, but I guess Ginny’s daughter already appeared in issue 21.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #4 (Marvel, 2016) – I need to read this again later, because the first time I read it, I was in such a horrible state of mind that I couldn’t pay attention at all. That’s not Ryan or Erica’s fault; this was a pretty good issue, I just didn’t have the presence of mind to enjoy it as it deserved. I was also not able to find all the hidden stuff on the splash page.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #3 (Marvel, 2016) – I’m a bit concerned that this exciting series is not getting the sales or the critical attention it deserves. Jeremy Whitley expressed some concern that the continuity behind this series might be too difficult for young readers, and I can definitely see that. Also, personally, until I read this issue, I didn’t get that the Killer-Folk were the bad guys. I thought they were Moon-Folk. So besides all that, this was a very good issue. Lunella is another in a long line of great new Marvel characters, and her relationship with Devil is very cute. It strains credulity that Lunella managed to build all that stuff in the school basement without anyone finding out, but I should be willing to accept that if I’m willing to accept the existence of a giant time-traveling tyrannosaurus.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #11 (IDW, 2016) – I think I enjoyed this more than any of the previous three comics, though it wasn’t necessarily better. Sophie Campbell is finally back, which means that the artwork this issue is massively improved compared to the last few issues. The Dark Jem story arc could have been set up more effectively – I don’t remember any previous hints that Synergy was going to turn evil – but Kelly Thompson’s dialogue is as sparkling as ever. And I love Jerrica’s killer whale swimsuit.

PROPHET: EARTH WAR #1 (Image, 2016) – This was delayed so long that I assumed it was never coming out. I’m glad it did. This series never made any sense to me, and it still doesn’t. But it’s a brilliant piece of science fiction, to the extent that it depicts a world which is bizarre and unfathomable and yet internally consistent.

REVIVAL #36 (Image, 2016) – This issue mostly expands upon plot points from previous issues, but it also introduces a new character, an Amish swordswoman. One thing I like about this series is its depiction of the ethnic diversity of the upper Midwest – I can’t imagine that there’s another comic book with both a Hmong and an Amish character.

ODY-C #9 (Image, 2016) – I’m not a huge fan of this pseudo-Arabian Nights storyline. I think it’s sapped much of the momentum that this series had. I want to get back to the adventures of Odyssea and her crew. However, Christian Ward’s artwork on this series continues to be fantastic. I think he’s the most J.H. Williams-esque artist since J.H. Williams.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #13 (Image, 2016) – I think I was wrong about who the protagonist of this series is; the real protagonist is not Earl’s daughter Roberta, it’s Coach Boss. Though I guess we are going to see Roberta again next issue. This issue shows Coach Boss at his lowest point, losing against Wetumpka and then beating up a high school kid in a petty attempt to avenge himself. My theory is that the giant Wetumpka running back is not really a Wetumpka student and that he was brought in as part of some kind of conspiracy to embarrass Coach Boss. This comic is also about football; perhaps more than any previous issue, this issue reveals the insane and unhealthy emotion that surrounds football in the Deep South.

THE SPIRE #6 (Boom!, 2016) – We’re coming to the end of this series, and I’m still having trouble keeping track of what exactly is going on, but it’s still a fun ride. In this issue we learn the secret of Julietta’s birth, though I’m not quite clear on what that secret is.

ATOMIC ROBO: THE RING OF FIRE #5 (IDW, 2016) – Unsurprisingly, in this issue Robo defeats the giant Pacific Rim monster and saves the day, despite an unplanned encounter with a Nazi robot. And the miniseries ends with a return to the status quo from before Knights of the Golden Circle. So this comic is predictable, though fun.

ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #4 (Marvel, 2016) – This is kind of a generic, by-the-numbers superhero comic. This issue didn’t have any particularly memorable Kamala moments, though it is notable that Kamala and Nova are becoming less hostile to each other. I don’t think the new Thor and the new Captain America are a convincing couple.

MONSTRESS #3 (Image, 2016) – Another exciting chapter of this splendid work of dark fantasy. It’s worth noting that all the significant characters in this comic, both the heroes and the villains, are female. I’m surprised that the giant multi-eyed monster is real and doesn’t just exist in the protagonist’s mind.

BLACK CANARY #7 (DC, 2016) – A satisfying conclusion to the first story arc. Dinah and Bo Maeve team up to defeat Quietus using sound. This whole issue is kind of like the battle against Kyle and Ken Katayanagi in the Scott Pilgrim movie, but maybe even better in terms of its visual depiction of sound. I love the page with Dinah and Quietus battling on top of a treble clef.

BLACK MAGICK #4 (Image, 2016) – Another pretty good issue, though there’s not much difference between one issue of this series and another. I don’t like the prose stories at the end of each issue, yet I feel obligated to read them anyway. I’d rather have an extra letters page or even an ad page.

CHEW #54 (Image, 2016) – A lot of stuff happens in this issue and most of it makes relatively little logical sense, but at least I get the impression that this series is getting close to its conclusion, and that’s a good thing.

CRY HAVOC #1 (Image, 2016) – After I read this I could hardly remember anything about it. I guess it’s about werewolves and other types of were-creatures. It’s not the most impressive debut, but I like Simon Spurrier’s writing enough that I’m willing to stick with it. The anatomical details about female hyenas at the beginning of this issue are correct.

LAST GANG IN TOWN #1 (Vertigo, 2016) – I had no idea what this was about, so I was pleasantly surprised by it. This comic is a rambling and confusing story about punk rock musicians who become criminals, but Rufus Dayglo’s artwork is a revelation. His artwork seems much more influenced by British comics than by American comics – I can’t say who exactly his influences are, but his style doesn’t remind me of any American cartoonist. It’s extremely cartoony and busy and frenetic, and includes a lot of hand-lettered annotations. I’m willing to continue reading this comic for the artwork alone.

LAST GANG IN TOWN #2 (Vertigo, 2016) – See above.

HELLBOY WINTER SPECIAL #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – This was reasonably good. I think the best story in this issue is the one about the ghosts of massacred Chinese miners, which appears to be based on actual history.

JONNY QUEST #10 (Comico, 1987) – Another solid issue of what was not only the best licensed-property comic book of the ‘80s, but one of the best ‘80s comics of any kind. This time-travel story is heavily based on Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, which I just read and found to be unimpressive. Loebs and Hempel do a great job of integrating Jonny Quest into the story of the Princes in the Tower. I wouldn’t say this story is exhaustively researched, but oh well. A curious historical detail that appears in this story is that in medieval England, pillows were supposedly used only by women in childbirth. I’ve never heard that claim before and I’m having trouble confirming or denying it.

TRUE BELIEVERS: PLANET HULK #1 (Marvel, 2015) – This is a reprint of Incredible Hulk #92, the first chapter of Planet Hulk. It’s an exciting introduction to one of the better recent Hulk stories. The plot is a bit of a cliché, but the issue effectively introduces the reader to a new and strange world.

BRAVEST WARRIORS #30 (Boom!, 2015) – This is the first chapter of the summer camp storyline from issue 31, reviewed above. It’s not an incredible comic but it’s fairly enjoyable.

ALL-STAR COMICS #64 (DC, 1977) – This issue is most notable for the spectacular artwork by Power Girl’s co-creator, Wally Wood. Woody was incredible at drawing action sequences and science-fiction machinery and stunning women, and he gets to do all of that in this issue. The plot, involving time travel to Camelot, is not all that interesting, and the characterization is too histrionic sometimes, though Paul Levitz writes Power Girl quite well.

ART OPS #3 (Vertigo, 2016) – I still don’t quite understand this comic, though the art is fantastic. Grant Morrison’s “The Painting That Ate Paris” must have been a big influence on this series.

ART OPS #4 (Vertigo, 2016) – Another confusing issue. I love the idea behind this comic, but the execution could be better. I’m confused as to how the art chores on this comic are being divided up; Rob Davis is credited with the breakdowns, but both Mike Allred and Matt Brundage are credited with the art.

DOOM PATROL #39 (DC, 1990) – This issue continues a story that’s so confusing I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s about a war where one side is led by some dudes with spiderweb bodies and rectangular heads, and I’m not even sure what the other side is. And the issue ends with Robotman’s lower body being replaced with that of a spider. So, yeah.

MARVEL PREMIERE #19 (Marvel, 1974) – This is notable as the first appearance of Colleen Wing, who I assume is the unidentified ninja at the end. Otherwise it’s an average ‘70s Marvel comic. Larry Hama’s artwork is a bit unexciting.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #43 (DC, 1993) – I think I used to have more comics from 1993 than from any other year, but that may no longer be true. John Constantine guest-stars in this issue, as he, Shade, Kathy and Lenny are somehow transported back in time to a 17th-century witch hunt. Overall this is a fairly enjoyable comic, but the over-the-top evilness of the chief witch hunter is annoying.

TINY TITANS: RETURN TO THE TREEHOUSE #5 (DC, 2014) – At this point I was falling asleep but still wanted to read a couple more comics before I went to bed. Therefore I chose to read this one, which is a very typical Tiny Titans comic. The candidate treehouse location this issue is on Paradise Island.

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #14 (DC, 2016) – The guest star this issue is Aquaman, and the villains include both Ocean Master and Black Manta. There’s a scene in this issue where Black Manta kidnaps Aquababy; this will go right over the heads of the comic’s intended audience, but will send a chill down the spine of a knowledgeable fan. I notice that most animated versions of Aquaman seem to include both Mera and Aquababy, who was never reintroduced into the comics after his death.

HELLBLAZER/BOOKS OF MAGIC #2 (DC, 1998) – The idea of a team-up between John Constantine and Tim Hunter is exciting, but I don’t think the execution is very effective, even allowing for the fact that I didn’t read the first issue of this two-part miniseries.

AVENGERS ACADEMY #16 (Marvel, 2011) – The first half of this issue is annoying because it focuses on Hank and Jocasta rather than the main characters. The issue is redeemed by the second half, in which Veil has a massively traumatic experience. She rescues a little girl’s mother from a collapsed building, only to see the woman shot dead by a man in a battlesuit, so she avenges the woman’s death by killing the man. This scene is an example of Christos Gage’s greatest strength as a writer, which is his ability to depict powerful, raw emotion. This is why he reminds me of Chris Claremont or Louise Simonson.

GROO THE WANDERER #74 (Marvel, 1991) – The gimmick this issue is that Groo loses his memory every time someone hits him on the head, but he gets his memory back when someone hits him again. Meanwhile, Taranto and Pal and Drumm are trying to take over Grooella’s kingdom and steal Rufferto’s collar. Hilarity ensues. This is a pretty good issue of Groo.

BRAVEST WARRIORS #32 (Boom!, 2015) – This issue concludes both the summer camp story, and the backup story about the planet of Bravest Warriors fans. Again, it’s not spectacular, but it’s fun, and it’s a good example of Kate Leth’s writing.

NO MERCY #5 (Image, 2015) – I should have read this the week it came out. I need to get better at reading stuff in a timely fashion. I can’t quite follow what’s going on with El Indio and the cocaine, but lots of other interesting stuff happens this issue. Most notably, one of the girls (I forget her name) gets left for dead by Travis, and then her eye gets plucked out by a vulture. That last scene is maybe the most disturbing thing in a very harrowing series.

NO MERCY #6 (Image, 2016) – This issue is better than the previous one, which was already quite good. Chad’s interaction with his parents helps explain how he became such a monster. This issue also helps me understand Travis a little better, though he’s still the worst hipster dudebro ever. I’m a bit surprised that the stranded kids are all going off in completely separate directions rather than reuniting.

INSEXTS #2 (Aftershock, 2016) – I’m a bit worried that this series has limited storytelling potential, but this issue does introduce some interesting complications. The two main characters may have escaped from their stifling circumstances, but in this issue we see that Victorian society will not leave them alone. Lady Bertram’s awful husband may be dead, but his relatives are just as bad. Besides all the insect sex, this series is impressive because of Marguerite Bennett’s historical knowledge.

STRAYER #1 (Aftershock, 2016) – This debut issue by Justin Jordan and Juan Gedeon is kind of a generic barbarian comic, but it’s a fun one. I’m willing to stick with it at least for now.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #5 (DC, 2016) – I’ve been kind of unimpressed by this series, which is why I let myself fall four issues behind on it. This is another issue that’s just okay, although the Harley Quinn/Poison Ivy sequence is a lot of fun, and Catwoman has a cute cat.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #6 (DC, 2016) – I think it was at this point that I started to enjoy this comic more. I forget if Mera has appeared in this series before, but Marguerite Bennett has an interesting and original take on this character. And I love the idea of John Constantine having somehow been turned into a bunny.

ISLAND #6 (Image, 2016) – The previous two issues of this series were excellent, but this one is a disappointment. “Badge of Pride” by Onta, which takes up about half the issue, is a boring slice-of-life story. The mere fact that it’s about gay furries does not make it an interesting read. Gael Bertrand’s “A Land Called Tarot” is beautifully drawn in a Moebius-esque style. Bertrand reminds me a bit of Xurxo Penalta, and is almost as gifted. However, this story is hard to follow, especially since it has no text.

TWILIGHT CHILDREN #2, 3 & 4 (DC, 2016) – I’ll review all of these together. This series was reasonably good, but I think it was a waste of Darwyn Cooke’s talents. Beto could have drawn this series himself and it would have been more or less the same, except that Darwyn is maybe a little better than Beto at facial expressions and emotional subtlety. In terms of the plot and characterization and even the page layouts, this comic is very similar to any of Beto’s recent works, e.g. Speak of the Devil and Fatima: The Blood Spinners. The only difference is that this comic has the gimmick of Darwyn Cooke artwork. I guess what I’m saying is that I’d have liked this comic better if Darwyn had been more of an active partner; it seems like all he did was illustrate Beto’s script.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2016) – This series must be on something like volume 9 now. The fact that I can’t remember exactly is an example of why volume numbers have become useless. When I first flipped through this issue, I was unimpressed, and I was still unimpressed when I was halfway through actually reading it. I felt like Fazekas and Butters were Flanderizing Carol by putting too much emphasis on her aggressiveness and her straitlaced personality. (That may not be the word I’m looking for, but oh well.) But as I continued to read, I started to like this comic more. I especially like how each member of Carol’s support team is a distinctive-looking character, even the ones who only appear in one panel; it gives you the feeling that Butters and Fazekas actually created background information for all these characters. I wasn’t going to order issue 4 of this series, but now I will.

RINGSIDE #2 and #3 (Image, 2016) –Also reviewing these together, since I’m getting tired. This series has excellent dialogue and fairly good art, but the story is moving very slowly, and it’s hard to tell where it’s going. One line in issue 3 really spoke to me personally: “if you love the business, they’ll eat you alive for it, and if you don’t, it’s not going to seem worth it.”

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #7 (DC, 2016) – Easily the best issue yet. Most of the characters in this issue (Alysia Yeoh, Harper Row, Nell Little) are new to me, but I love the notion of a squad of teen Batgirls and Batboys in baseball gear. The characters in this story have so much youthful verve and vigor that they almost remind me of Legionnaires. I wish DC would do an ongoing series with this same cast of characters, possibly set in the present day. There are a couple pages in this issue where the panel layout makes much more sense on a screen than on paper.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #8 (DC, 2016) – Not quite as exciting as the previous issue, but still fun. This issue finally starts to bring the stories together, as Mera meets Stargirl and Supergirl.