A highly idiosyncratic ranking of all the winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature

 

 

  1. T.S. Eliot
  2. Rabindranath Tagore
  3. William Faulkner
  4. George Bernard Shaw
  5. Gabriel García Márquez
  6. W.B. Yeats
  7. Samuel Beckett
  8. Pablo Neruda
  9. Toni Morrison
  10. Naguib Mahfouz
  11. Yasunari Kawabata
  12. Eugene O’Neill
  13. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  14. Ernest Hemingway
  15. Albert Camus
  16. Wole Soyinka
  17. Derek Walcott
  18. Saul Bellow
  19. Thomas Mann
  20. Bob Dylan
  21. Kenzaburo Oe
  22. Jean-Paul Sartre
  23. Isaac Bashevis Singer
  24. Rudyard Kipling
  25. Seamus Heaney
  26. Mario Vargas Llosa
  27. Nadine Gordimer
  28. Joseph Brodsky
  29. Czeslaw Milosz
  30. Octavio Paz
  31. Knut Hamsun
  32. Günter Grass
  33. Luigi Pirandello
  34. Boris Pasternak
  35. J.M. Coetzee
  36. Doris Lessing
  37. Heinrich Böll
  38. Hermann Hesse
  39. V.S. Naipaul
  40. Orhan Pamuk
  41. Sigrid Undset
  42. Bertrand Russell
  43. Henryk Sienkiewicz
  44. José Saramago
  45. Camilo José Cela
  46. Gabriela Mistral
  47. Halldor Laxness
  48. Tomas Tranströmer
  49. Ivo Andric
  50. Mo Yan
  51. Patrick White
  52. Alice Munro
  53. George Seferis
  54. Henri Bergson
  55. André Gide
  56. Nelly Sachs
  57. Odysseus Elytis
  58. Eugenio Montale
  59. John Steinbeck
  60. Selma Lagerlöf
  61. Shmuel Yosef Agnon
  62. John Galsworthy
  63. Mikhail Sholokhov
  64. Miguel Ángel Asturias
  65. Harold Pinter
  66. Giosuè Carducci
  67. Wislawa Szymborska
  68. Anatole France
  69. Elias Canetti
  70. Vicente Aleixandre
  71. Imre Kertesz
  72. François Mauriac
  73. Svetlana Alexievich
  74. Dario Fo
  75. Gao Xingjian
  76. Maurice Maeterlinck
  77. Ivan Bunin
  78. Patrick Modiano
  79. Frédéric Mistral
  80. Salvatore Quasimodo
  81. William Golding
  82. Grazia Deledda
  83. Pär Lagerkvist
  84. Juan Ramón Jiménez
  85. Gerhart Hauptmann
  86. Roger Martin du Gard
  87. Romain Rolland
  88. Sinclair Lewis
  89. J.M.G. Le Clezio
  90. Jaroslav Seifert
  91. Saint-John Perse
  92. Winston Churchill
  93. Theodor Mommsen
  94. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnsen
  95. Pearl S. Buck
  96. Wladyslaw Reymont
  97. Claude Simon
  98. Elfriede Jelinek
  99. Johannes V. Jensen
  100. Herta Müller
  101. Frans Eemil Sillanpää
  102. Sully Prudhomme
  103. Jacinto Benavente
  104. Karl Gjellerup
  105. Henrik Pontoppidan
  106. José Echegaray
  107. Verner von Heidenstam
  108. Paul von Heyse
  109. Carl Spitteler
  110. Rudolf C. Eucken
  111. Harry Martinson
  112. Eyvind Johnson
  113. Erik Axel Karlfendt

NOTES:

  • I didn’t put much thought into this. I just ranked each writer wherever they seemed to fit best. Also, I’m not personally familiar with most of these writers, so most of these rankings are based on reputation.
  • I originally had Rabindranath Tagore at #1, and I think that’s defensible.
  • I would say that only about the top 65 writers on this list actually deserved the Nobel Prize.
  • The writers at the bottom of the list are those who would be completely forgotten today if they hadn’t won the Nobel Prize. Erik Axel Karlfeldt is at the very bottom because he won the Nobel Prize posthumously. If they had to give the Nobel Prize to someone who was already dead, they could have made a much better choice.
  • If either James Joyce or Leo Tolstoy had won the Nobel Prize, they would have been ranked #1. Many other writers who never won the Nobel Prize (Borges, Twain, Chekhov, Ibsen, Proust, Woolf, etc.) would have been ranked in the top ten of this list if they had won it.
  • 1-19-17: Edited to add Bob Dylan at #20

Reviews for March and most of April

4-24-16 (still)

New comics received on April 1st. This was two days after I got my job offer from UNC Charlotte, so this week I was hugely relieved and was no longer under a crippling burden of anxiety and stress. I still had all kinds of stuff to do, though, and it was getting to be the grueling part of the semester, so I didn’t have much time to read comic books.

SAGA #35 (Image, 2016) – Another comic I read when I was too tired to appreciate it. Possibly for this reason, I thought this was the least exciting issue of the current storyline. The coolest thing in this issue is the hive-mine that turns out to be full of water-bears. Also, Ghus shows up again on the last page.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #6 (Marvel, 2016) – Another good comic that I couldn’t enjoy properly because I was falling asleep when I read it. This is the first part of a two-part Squirrel Girl/Howard the Duck crossover, and when I read the second part, I found I couldn’t remember the first part. I ought to avoid reading good comics when I’m exhausted, except at this point in the year, when am I ever not exhausted? I ought to read this again because it’s a very funny collaboration between Marvel’s two best humor writers. I love the use of two different fonts in the alt text. (By the way, didn’t Howard the Duck #6 include a pun on the term alt text? I can’t remember, but if so, it might be relevant to my research. Oh, yes, there was such a pun – it was the reference to alt text versus mainstream text.)

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #5 (Marvel, 2016) – I had multiple conversations about this comic book at ICAF, and the consensus seems to be that it’s good, but not as good as it should be. I probably have to agree with that. I like this comic more than some other people seem to, but it could be a lot better. One problem is that the Killer-Folk are uninteresting villains, so the scenes without Lunella are boring. Another problem is that Lunella seems to be acting older than her age. I’m not qualified to judge this, but her internal monologue doesn’t seem quite realistic for a nine-year-old. Though this objection also applies to Calvin & Hobbes, so whatever. Those are kind of minor problems; I think the real problem is that this series doesn’t have the same amount of substance or originality as Unbeatable Squirrel Girl or Ms. Marvel or Lumberjanes, and it’s hard to define why not. Still, this is a good comic and I’m glad that the rumors of its cancellation are false.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #13 (IDW, 2016) – This issue has possibly my favorite cover of the year so far – it’s the cover where Pizzazz is staring at her cat. This issue feels very much like the middle chapter of a five-issue story arc, which of course it is. The best things in it are the two splash pages showing the effects of Dark Synergy’s mind control. Sophie Campbell is quite good at creating effective page layouts and splash pages, though her skill in this area is overshadowed by other aspects of her art.

JUGHEAD #5 (Archie, 2016) – In this issue Jughead and the gang go to a neighboring town, where they encounter gender-swapped versions of themselves. The parody segment in this issue is a superhero story which is a tribute to the old Pureheart the Powerful stories. I’m trying to get through this and the next few reviews quickly, because I hardly remember anything about the comics from this week.

REVIVAL #38 (Image, 2016) – I can barely remember this comic either, except that it begins with a Cooper Comics sequence. Unfortunately this one isn’t drawn by Art Baltazar and Franco, like some of the earlier ones were. Also, in this issue Nikki tells cooper that she doesn’t understand how to read comics. Inability to read comics is a phenomenon I’ve encountered frequently in real life, but I don’t remember it being mentioned in any other comic book.

PAST AWAYS #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) – I ordered this entire series except for the first issue, and then at the Dark Horse booth at Comic-Con, I bought what I believed to be the first issue, but it turned out to be a duplicate copy of the sixth issue – they both have mostly white covers. So I had to order Past Aways #1 again, and I’m only now able to read it. I’m generally less interested in Matt Kindt’s collaborations than his solo works (see review of Dept H #1 below) and I have mixed feelings about Scott Kolins’s art. But this issue is a pretty exciting debut. The narrative begins in media res and is  somewhat confusing at first, but  it seems to be about a team of time-traveling adventurers. I haven’t had time to read the rest of this series yet, but I hope to get to them soon.

CATWOMAN #24 (DC, 2003) – This is a powerful conclusion to the story from issue 23, although it would have been even more powerful if I’d read the whole thing and not just the last two parts. Catwoman and Holly visit St. Roch, the home of Hawkman and Hawkwoman, and Holly is finally reunited with her brother. Holly and her brother’s reunion is a deeply satisfying moment.

COYOTE #7 (Epic, 1984) – Another convoluted and bizarre story, which is also confusing because I missed the five previous issues. This issue also includes a backup story by Englehart and Ditko, introducing a new character called the Djinn. On the aforementioned Facebook thread, some people had good things to say about this feature, but I didn’t like it. It’s extremely Orientalist and its artwork looks exactly like the artwork of every other late Ditko comic.

HERO CATS: MIDNIGHT OVER STELLAR CITY #3 (Action Lab, 2016) – The artwork in this comic is so dark that it’s hard to tell what exactly is going on, but the plot is that Midnight gets turned into a giant monster cat, but is returned to normal when he’s discovered by the little girl who originally adopted him. This is a very cute ending. One funny line in this issue is “What makes you happy, Midnight? We have to find your inner purr again.”

Now for some comics that I can actually sort of remember:

BLACK WIDOW #1 (Marvel, 2016) – Quite often the action sequences are the worst part of superhero comics. It often seems as though the writer and artist are required by the editor to include at least three pages of combat sequences every issue, and so they do include them, even if they’d rather not. In order for the action sequences to be the highlight of a superhero comic rather than the lowlight, you need a really good artist, like Gil Kane or George Pérez or Paul Gulacy. Chris Samnee is that kind of artist. This entire issue of Black Widow is a single extended chase sequence, with no flashbacks or out-of-costume sequences or anything else. But because of Chris Samnee’s amazing storytelling skill, this issue is one of the most thrilling comics I’ve read lately.

MARVEL MILESTONE EDITION: IRON FIST #14 (Marvel, 1992, originally 1977) – This reprints Iron Fist #14, the first appearance of Sabretooth, and is probably as close as I’ll ever get to owning that issue. Besides being the first appearance of Sabretooth, Iron Fist #14 is a forgettable comic. Iron Fist is the worst Claremont/Byrne collaboration  because of its boring premise and characters. I just can’t get particularly invested in Danny Rand or Colleen Wing or any of their forgettable villains, and the series has very little connection to Claremont’s larger universe. At least this issue does have some brilliant combat sequences.

New comics received on April 8. This was a fairly light week.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #18 (Image, 2016) – This is probaby the second best current comic after Saga – I know I already gave that title to Sex Criminals, but I was wrong. Probably I forgot this comic was still being published because the last issue came out in December. This issue, Jamie McKelvie finally returns to the series after an extended absence, and there’s a lot of plot that I didn’t understand, except that we finally learn that Laura isn’t dead. I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise, but in the age of Game of Thrones, I no longer assume that characters are alive unless proven otherwise.  I’m glad to see Laura and McKelvie and WicDiv again, and I look forward to the rest of this story.

THE VISION #6 (Marvel, 2016) – One thing that makes this comic great is that it’s a horror comic disguised as a superhero comic. I forget if I made that point already, but I should have. In this issue, the Vision family’s problems continue to spiral out of control. A dog digs up the Grim Reaper’s corpse and electrocutes itself, then the dog’s owner, George, comes looking for it, and I don’t know if they ever specified what happened to George, but I get the distinct impression that the Visions killed him and put his brain in the dog’s body. Oh, and at the end of the issue, Vizh decides to deal with his family’s problems in the most direct way possible, by taking over the world. So next issue should be interesting. One cool thing about this issue is its extended discussion of the P versus NP problem; I don’t think I’ve ever seen this referenced in a comic book before.

GIANT DAYS #13 (Boom!, 2016) – This issue, Esther drops out of university and goes back home, and Daisy and Susan independently decide to visit her and persuade her to go back to school. They succeed, but then Esther’s parents decide to cut her off. In short, there’s a significant plot to this issue, but it’s less interesting for the plot than for the humor. I’m glad this is an ongoing series; I somehow thought it was going to end with issue 12, but there’s no reason it has to. I don’t think this series deserved an Eisner nomination for Best Continuing Series, given all the competition, but I love it anyway. There’s a different artist this issue, but I didn’t even notice because his style is so similar to that of the previous artist.

BLACK WIDOW #2 (Marvel, 2016) – This issue explains what the hell was going on last issue, and also includes some more amazing action sequences. I don’t particularly care about the plot of this comic, but Chris Samnee’s art is reason enough to keep reading it. He may be the top artist at Marvel right now, unless there’s someone else I’m forgetting – he’s kind of like a young David Mazzucchelli.

BATGIRL #50 (DC, 2016) – Congratulations to Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher and especially Babs Tarr on the completion of the most important DC comic of the decade. This series had some significant flaws and was involved in a couple unfortunate controversies, but it was the first DC comic in years that genuinely tried to reach out to new audiences, and it helped make DC Comics matter again. I look forward to following the creators to their next projects – their forthcoming Image comic Motor Crush looks awesome. This issue wraps up all of the series’ ongoing storylines in a satisfying way, as Batgirl and her friends team up to defeat all the villains from the entire run. Given the importance of maps in Batgirl and Gotham Academy, it’s appropriate that the highlight of this issue is the giant map of Burnside. I told Aaron King that he should include this map on his Comics Cartography blog. I also like the fighting-game-esque splash pages that appear before each of the fights.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #27 (IDW, 2016) – This issue stars Pinkie Pie and Granny Smith. It’s an unusual MLP story because it depicts a friendship problem where one party is clearly in the wrong. Usually the friendship problems in this franchise are the result of a mutual misunderstanding. But in this issue, the dispute between Granny Smith and Pinkie Pie is entirely Granny Smith’s fault, because she’s a cranky old battleaxe who refuses to accept that she needs help. It’s also refreshing that this issue shows the positive side of Pinkie Pie, who has been depicted rather unflatteringly in recent seasons.

DC COMICS ESSENTIALS: BATMAN: DEATH OF THE FAMILY #1 (DC, 2016, originally 2012) – This is a reprint of Batman #13. I should have been buying Scott Snyder’s Batman from the start, because it seems to have been one of the top DC comics of the decade, but I missed my chance, and now it’s too late. This issue is a very dark and grim Batman story, explicitly inspired by the Christopher Nolan movies (Commissioner Gordon even looks sort of like Gary Oldman), but it’s extremely well-executed. I need to collect the rest of this run, though I expect that the original issues will be very expensive.

DETECTIVE COMICS #620 (DC, 1990) – This is the issue where Tim Drake’s mother gets murdered (behind the scenes) by the Obeah Man. It’s really quite brutal and depressing. To distract himself from thinking about his mother’s kidnapping, Tim goes out and solves a crime all by himself, and even has fun doing it – it turns out that the criminal is Anarky, a very funny character. But then he comes home to discover that Bruce has some bad news for him. I don’t think I even want to read the next issue. 😦 An annoying thing about this story is that it depicts of voodoo, or obeah I guess, as an evil and superstitious practice. This sort of derogatory depiction of African-American religion is unfortunately extremely common, and it’s why we need Afrofuturism.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #15 (DC, 2010) – Frazer Irving’s artwork in this issue is spectacular, but I barely remember anything about the plot. As with many Grant Morrison comics, the story doesn’t make sense unless you’ve read the entire thing in one sitting, and probably not even then.

ARCHIE #7 (Archie, 2016) – I’m still willing to buy this comic, but it’s not nearly as exciting as Jughead. I can’t think of anything interesting to say about this issue.

BATMAN #320 (DC, 1980) – In “The Curse of the Inquisitor,” Batman goes to Spain and investigates a series of killings that turn out to be based on the seven deadly sins. It’s a formulaic story that vanished from my memory almost as soon as I read it.

Okay, now maybe I can review some comics I actually remember reading. From April 13 to 17, I was in Columbia, South Carolina for the International Comic Arts Forum. It was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended – I heard some fantastic papers and lectures, and met lots of old friends and made some new ones. I had a great time. On Thursday evening after the conference, Andrew Kunka and I went to one of the local comic stores, Scratch N’ Spin, where I bought a small stack of comics. The next day I went by myself to another store, Heroes & Dragons that had a much bigger back issue selection, and bought a bigger stack, although I was a bit disappointed by the prices. Most of the interesting stuff was at least $10. I think I’ve hit a wall with my collecting; I’m having trouble finding stuff that I want and can afford and that I don’t already have. I already have most of the acknowledged classic comics from the ‘70s and later, and I also live in a place where I have limited access to comic book stores or local conventions. I expect that will change once I move to Charlotte, but I think I also need to look for new stuff to collect. Anyway, the most exciting thing I got at the second comic book store was this:

SUPERBOY’S LEGION #1 (DC, 2001) – I only managed to get the second issue of this when it came out. I never even saw a copy of the first issue. I’ve been able to read it in various reprinted or online formats since then, but an actual copy of Superboy’s Legion #1 has been one of my collecting Holy Grails for a while now, so I was thrilled to discover that Heroes & Dragons had it. This two-issue miniseries by Alan Davis was probably the best Legion comic of the last twenty years (and it may not be surpassed for quite a while, given DC’s abandonment of the franchise). It’s an Elseworlds in which Clark Kent arrives on Earth in the 30th century, and founds the Legion on his own without help from his foster father RJ Brande. Besides being a brilliant artist in general, Alan Davis is incredibly good at drawing teenagers, and his Superboy is a perfect depiction of a headstrong but well-intentioned 14-year-old boy. All the other Legionnaires are also characterized very well – though Chameleon Boy is a notable exception, with his near inability to talk coherently, and Davis’s Legion has no nonwhite members. And the plot is just as thrilling as JLA: The Nail. In short, nearly everything about this series works perfectly, and if DC had made this the primary version of the Legion, they might not have had to cancel the series. Unfortunately, this comic is forgotten today, though DC did reprint it a few years ago, and it now stands as a monument to the creative potential that DC foreclosed upon when they stopped publishing Legion comics.

UNCLE SCROOGE ADVENTURES #51 (Gladstone, 1997) – This was my second most exciting find at Heroes & Dragons, but it proved to be disappointing. I didn’t realize there was such a thing as a formulaic Don Rosa story, but “The Treasure of the Ten Avatars” is one. It’s yet another story where Scrooge and the nephews explore an ancient booby-trapped dungeon, like pacifist avian versions of Nathan Drake, and discover a fabuous treasure. (Side note, I just realized that with his last name and his career as a treasure hunter, Nathan Drake could be a relative of Scrooge.) The gimmick this time is that the dungeon is in India, and each of the booby traps is based on one of the ten avatars of Vishnu. The story seems well-researched – it’s inspired by Alexander the Great’s invasion of India – and it’s exciting and funny, but there’s little to distinguish it from other Rosa stories like “The Dutchman’s Secret” or “The Sharpie of the Culebra Cut” or whatever. The villain of the story is an evil maharaja who wants to keep his subjects ignorant and poor, and there’s no mention of colonialism or the partition of India, though this story must be taking place in the late 1940s.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #560 (1986) – I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this issue consists entirely of Little Archie stories by Bob Bolling. I think they’re all original stories – at least, the GCD doesn’t list any of them as reprints. None of these stories are all that great on their own, because they’re all just a few pages, but together they help depict the breadth of Little Archie’s world. A cool thing about Little Archie is that it takes place in its own little world, separate from the world of the “grown-up” Archie comics. Most of Bolling’s Little Archie stories take place in the forest surrounding Riverdale, not Riverdale itself. Bolling also creates a mild sense of continuity, in that he sometimes uses footnotes to reference his own earlier stories, which is odd since he couldn’t have assumed that his readers would have been familiar with those stories. Also, Bolling’s stories are exciting and adventurous but they also create a sense of nostalgia for childhood, and this sense of nostalgia is powerful precisely because Bolling doesn’t seem to be creating it on purpose (unlike with Herobear and the Kid).

New comics received on Monday, April 18, after I got back from ICAF. Going to have to write shorter reviews if I want to finish before I have to go to bed.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #41 (IDW, 2016) – Let’s see if I can write this entire review in rhyme; it may be annoying to read but at least I’ll have a fun time. Like a Little Golden Book, this issue is designed to look. It is narrated in rhyme by Zecora, and is about a day on which Rainbow Dash feels very poor-a. Zecora’s poetry in this issue is pure doggerel, though that is true of her poetry in the show as well. This issue’s plot is rather slight; however, I think this is all right. The rhyming gimmick makes the issue exciting enough, without the need for a lot of other stuff. I‘m very sorry that this is Katie Cook’s next to last issue; this makes me so sad that I need a tissue. I’m really going to miss Katie; writers like her are one in a million and eighty.

WEIRDWORLD #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Not as good as last issue, but still very funny and beautifully drawn, or painted rather. This issue brings the plot to a sort of climax, as Morgan le Fay and Jennifer Kale’s forces battle each other. I think my favorite thing this issue is the new character, Max the Dog Fighter, who is an actual dog.

GOLDIE VANCE #1 (Boom!, 2016) – Another exciting debut from Boom! Box. This miniseries is a detective story taking place in a Florida hotel in the 1960s, and it seems to be set in some kind of alternate universe where segregation didn’t exist, because the fact that the protagonist is black is not explicitly mentioned. I think this is a good thing; we need more stories with black protagonists where blackness is not presented as a marked category. In general this comic is quite well done – Goldie Vance is a cute and spunky protagonist, and the story is well-plotted. I think this series maybe deserves more than four issues. This issue also includes a preview of Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy, which I can’t wait for.

PRINCELESS: MAKE YOURSELF #1 (Action Lab, 2016) – I wish the letterer for Princeless: Raven: The Pirate Princess was also lettering this series. I’ve complained several times about the lettering on the Princeless comics, and it continues to be a problem because it makes the comic look amateurish. Otherwise, this is a pretty good start to the series. Most of the issue focuses not on Adrienne but on some dwarves from Bedelia’s tribe, who, like the pirates in the other Princeless title, are a diverse and interesting group of characters. I just think there ought to be a universal rule that female dwarves must have beards.

LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #4 (DC, 2016) – Diana spends most of this issue as a passive observer rather than an active protagonist; first she’s recovering from her escape from Themyscira, then she’s getting introduced to Man’s World, specifically Holliday College. But Diana’s lack of an active role is fine because the other characters in this issue, specifically Steve Trevor’s grandma (I mean, that’s obviously who she is) and Etta Candy, are also very entertaining. Overall, this issue is a lot of fun and it effectively gets Diana from Paradise Island to Man’s World. Also, it has a cute cat in it.

SHUTTER #20 (Image, 2016) – This is another flashback issue, depicting Chris Kristopher’s childhood, his first romance, and the birth of his (I assume) oldest child Maieli. At the end of the issue, Maieli and her son, Kate’s nephew, are seemingly written out of the story, though I expect we may still see them again. The artistic gimmick this issue is that the flashback segments are illustrated in the Clear Line style. Leila del Duca pulls this off quite well, and the fact that she’s able to do it is evidence of her stylistic versatility.

NO MERCY #9 (Image, 2016) – This issue deserves an Eisner nomination for its brutal and accurate depiction of the “troubled teen” industry. We already knew that Charlene had a horrible upbringing, but this issue shows just how horrible it was – her parents sent her off to a concentration camp disguised as a reformatory, where she was tortured and witnessed other teens being raped. What’s infuriating about this issue is that this sort of thing happens all the time in real life, and the government can’t stop it because these troubled-teen schools are located in places that have extremely lax regulation. The troubled-teen industry is a form of legally sanctioned child abuse and possibly legally sanctioned murder; the issue includes two whole pages listing the names of teens who have died at facilities like these. Alex and Carla deserve a lot of credit for shining a spotlight on this horrible blight on American society. What does puzzle me about this story is that I don’t get why Charlene’s parents were willing to let her go to Princeton; why would they let her out from under their thumb and allow her to associate with non-crazy people?

STARFIRE #11 (DC, 2016) – I’m sorry we’ve only got one more issue of this but I’m also sorry this issue, like last issue, focuses so much on Atlee. I want more Starfire. Basically every page of this comic on which Starfire doesn’t appear is a wasted page. Also, the dude who only lives two days is kind of disturbing. And the ending of the issue seems like a setup for a contrived ending to the series. Stella tells Kory to leave Key West because she’s a danger to her neighbors, and Kory agrees. The obvious problem with that argument is that it’s an example of NIMBY-ism. Where is Kory supposed to live where she won’t be a danger to everyone?

GOTHAM ACADEMY #17 (DC, 2016) – I think I actually was reasonably awake when I read this comic, and I still can’t remember it very well. I think it’s because none of the three stories in this issue were as good as those in the last couple issues. The first story is a crossover with Black Canary, where we learn that Pomeline and Heathcliff used to be a couple, and the next story guest-stars Klarion and Teekl.

ROCKET RACCOON AND GROOT #4 (Marvel, 2016) – One of the funnier Marvel comics in recent memory. Tony Stark gets tired of playing role-playing games against Rocket, and challenges Rocket to a game of football instead. It turns out that the football game takes place in outer space, on a field that covers an entire planet, and Rocket and Tony’s teams consist of giant monsters and giant robots respectively. Rocket wins in the end, and imposes a hilarious penalty on Tony. The story in this issue is extremely funny, but the art is also a highlight. I hope Aaron Conley got paid a hell of a lot for this issue, because the two-page splash introducing the two football teams must have taken at least a week to draw. I enjoyed Conley’s art on Sabertooth Swordsman, but his art works even better than color; without color, it’s very difficult to parse.

SNARKED! #9 (Boom!, 2012) – Scratch n’ Spin had all of the four issues of Snarked that I was missing, but I decided to just get this one. This issue finally starts to bring the story to a conclusion. Princess Scarlet finds her father, who tragically does not recognize her because they never see each other. And it turns out that he’s okay with being kidnapped and is not trying to escape Snark Island, because he hates being king. See, it turns out this comic actually has some serious and disturbing implications, even though it’s for children – that’s how fairy tales are supposed to work. Also, the end of the issue suggests that we’re about to meet an actual Snark.

SILVER SURFER #3 (Marvel, 2016) – The first time I tried to read this comic, I was unable to concentrate on it because I had just spilled a cup of coffee on my laptop, causing damage which proved to be not worth the cost of repairing it. I was able to recover all my data and I think I’ll be able to replace the laptop at no cost, but I was pretty worried and depressed for a couple days. I mention this because these reviews have sort of turned into my personal diary. Anyway, even ignoring the whole laptop business, this issue was kind of disappointing. It’s mostly a long fight between the Surfer and Shalla Bal and her minions. At the end of the issue, the Surfer sacrifices himself. I’m very pleased that Slott and Allred picked up an Eisner nomination for Silver Surfer #11, which really was the most inventive comic book of 2015, but this issue is much less exciting than that one was.

MONSTRESS #5 (Image, 2016) – A bunch of people on social media have been sharing the panel with the one-eyed five-tailed cat warrior. It really is an awesome panel. Besides that, this is another good issue, but my principal problem with this series (other than its extremely dark tone) is my inability to distinguish between the characters. There are too many identical-looking villains and I can’t remember which of them are part of which factions. I wish this comic would include a recap page. No, actually it does include a recap page. I wish it would include a page listing all the characters’ names and faces.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #34 (Marvel, 1975) – This Spider-Man/Valkyrie team-up is just average. As usual, Valkyrie is depicted as an aggressive feminazi; I think the only writer who gave Valkyrie any depth to her character is Steve Gerber (this issue is written by Gerry Conway). The villain this issue is Meteor Man, who is powerful enough to defeat Spider-Man singlehandedly, but whose motivations are not interesting. There’s also an unrelated subplot with a cult leader called Jeremiah.

Come on, just 21 more. We can do this.

GWENPOOL #1 (Marvel, 2016) – This comic is blatantly stupid and pointless, but in a funny way. I think I like it better than actual Deadpool. I expect I may get tired of it quickly, but I’ll keep reading it for now. I like the scene with Gwenpool drawing dollar signs on her mask.

VAMPIRELLA #2 (Dynamite, 2016) – I keep forgetting to order this comic – I usually ignore the Dynamite section of the DCBS order form. But I’m interested in it because number one, it’s written by Kate Leth. Number two, it seems like an attempt to return Vampirella to her feminist roots (and she sort of has feminist roots, insofar as her costume was designed by Trina Robbins). This issue has somewhat boring art and the plot is not well explained, but it’s a fun comic, and I want to keep ordering this comic if I can remember to do so.

THE AUTUMNLANDS #10 (Image, 2016) – Last issue we met the sheep; this issue we meet the goats. The goat character this issue is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a sentient goat. Besides that, this issue is kind of light on content. It seems a lot shorter than previous issues.

FAITH #1 (Valiant, 2016) – A good start to a really interesting series. Faith is an exciting character and a good example of fat-positivity, if that’s the correct term. I’ve written a lot before about my admiration for Marguerite Sauvage’s art, but Francis Portela’s art in this issue is also impressive; there’s one panel where Faith’s boss has an utterly horrifying facial expression.

New comics received on Friday, April 22.

HOWARD THE DUCK #6 (Marvel, 2016) – I already mentioned the alt text/mainstream text pun in this issue. I had trouble following this comic because I was barely conscious when I read Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6, as mentioned above, and I couldn’t remember what the story was about. Still, this was a really fun comic and was probably the best single issue of Chip Zdarsky’s Howard. Biggs the cyborg cat, an obvious reference to We3, is probably the highlight of the issue.

DEPT. H #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Matt Kindt’s follow-up to MIND MGMT is a really exciting debut. There’s nothing metatextual or self-reflexive about it yet; so far, it’s just a really exciting and well-executed SF mystery story, about a murder that takes place in an undersea habitat. Matt Kindt’s artwork and Sharlene Kindt’s coloring are as impressive as on MIND MGMT; I think Sharlene should have gotten an Eisner nomination for Best Coloring.

ASTRO CITY #34 (DC, 2016) – I was reluctant to read this issue because I’m tired of Steeljack, but it turns out this is the last issue of the current story. I guess I assumed this story was going to be as long as the previous Steeljack epic. This issue is also a very satisfying conclusion. Steeljack finally gets a chance to be a hero, and people are truly grateful to him. At the point where the villain says that Steeljack is just a lump of metal, I wanted him to say, “My body may be a lump of steel, but so is my heart!” The villain of this story is particularly appropriate in the present cultural moment; he’s a rich, overprivileged white dude who already has enough money, and commits crimes just because he’s bored. An interesting factoid is that I have now reviewed all 34 issues of this Astro City series since I started doing these reviews. The only series that I’ve been reviewing for more than 34 consecutive issues is My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and I started doing these reviews when that series was already on issue 6. Kurt and his artistic collaborators should be congratulated for having maintained a monthly schedule for such a long time.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS #7 (Action Lab, 2016) – So much stuff happens in this issue that I don’t know where to start with it. Actually that’s kind of a problem; like the last issue, this issue consists of a lot of moving parts that don’t all fit together harmoniously. But it does look like all the plot threads are coming together, because the issue ends with Raven finally meeting her brother. This is another series that would be easier to read if it included a list of all the characters.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #14 (IDW, 2016) – The scene where Kimber and Stormer say the L-word to each other (not lesbians, the other one) is one of the highlights of the series. It shows that their relationship is serious and not just an infatuation, and that they’re committed to each other despite their Capulet-and-Montague situation. It’s also just a really cute moment. Pizzazz’s conversation with her father is really depressing; with such a heartless man for a father, it’s no wonder she grew up to be a villain. In general, this is another satisfying chapter of Dark Jem.

SUN BAKERY #1 (Press Gang, 2016) – This first issue of Corey Lewis’s anthology series is very exciting. I have his Sharknife book but haven’t read it yet, and this issue is a good introduction to his distinctive style, which is sort of like a mix between manga and Brandon Graham. There are three stories, one which is an obvious takeoff of Metroid, another which is about swordfighting, and a third which is about skating. I hope that there are going to be more issues of this series. On the last page, it says that this issue is the result of a Kickstarter and that it took years to be completed. I hope future issues will come out in a more timely fashion, and I also hope this comic will lead to wider exposure for its artist.

HEAD LOPPER #3 (2016) – This came out a while ago and I just never got around to it. By now I’ve sort of forgotten the plot of this comic, but Andrew MacLean’s artwork and storytelling continue to be really impressive. This issue also introduces an exciting new character who appears to be based on Red Sonja. No, that’s not true, this character was already introduced earlier. I really have forgotten the plot of this comic. I think the highlight of the issue is Agatha Blue Witch’s one-sided conversation with a skull.

DIESEL, TYSON HESSE’S #2 (Boom!, 2015) – This is another comic that I forgot to order when it came out, and had to get from mycomicshop.com. Reading this issue, I quickly realized that Diesel is just not a sympathetic protagonist. She’s an immature brat who repeatedly puts herself and everyone around her into grave danger, and the main reason we sympathize with her is because she is the protagonist. I hope she’s going to start maturing over the next couple issues. Otherwise, the main thing I noticed about this issue is that Tyson Hesse’s artwork is really impressive.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #1 (Fantagraphics, 2015) – I already have all of the content in this issue, but it’s still worth owning. This material is much easier to read in the single-issue format than in the oversized graphic novel format, and I think the former format is also more appropriate for this comic, given that it was inspired by ‘70s comic books. Also, Ed Piskor’s annotations at the end are really valuable, especially his observations about coloring and lettering. There was one point that he made that I thought was really interesting, but now I’m not sure what it was.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #36 (Marvel, 1975) – This was a lot better than #34, reviewed above. The guest-star this issue is Frankenstein’s Monster, and this issue is a self-conscious parody of horror films; the villain is a stereotypical mad scientist named Ludwig von Shtupf. (“Shtupf” doesn’t seem to be a real German word; all the Google hits for it are references to this character.) And then the issue ends by introducing Werewolf by Night, so I guess the next issue is going to be a parody of Frankenstein Meeets the Wolf Man.

PLUTONA #3 (Image, 2016) – I somehow never ordered this, but I found a copy of it at Scratch ‘N Spin. The plot of this comic is moving at a glacial pace, but it’s exciting anyway because Jeff Lemire is so good at writing teenagers and preteens. The way the characters in this comic think and act is absolutely spot-on. For example, at the end of the issue, the two younger kids try to give themselves super-powers by doing the blood-brother ritual with Plutona’s corpse. This seems like exactly the sort of thing a junior high kid would think of.

BATMAN #467 (DC, 1991) – I have such a strong distaste for Chuck Dixon’s politics and public persona that I’m unable to form an impartial opinion on his comics. I thought that this Batman comic was pretty bad and that it relied too much on stereotypes about Chinese criminals. There’s one throwaway scene where Batman observes that a Chinese criminal is eating burritos and rice, and the reply is “What can I say? I hate Chinese food.” I thought this was kind of offensive – I mean, I see Chinese people eating non-Chinese food all the time, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to judge their diets – but again, I’m not sure if this was really offensive or if I’m just looking for ways to find fault with Chuck Dixon.

Come on, almost done.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #88 (DC, 1970) – This is a typically convoluted Bob Haney story. Batman and Wildcat go to the World Youth Games in Vienna as coaches of the U.S. fencing and boxing teams, and then they have to work together to foil a Communist plot. Cold War politics are obviously a major theme in this story. This issue is not as good as the issues on either side of it, since it’s not drawn by Neal Adams, but it’s still pretty fun. The letters page has some fascinating letters about issue 85. Even back in 1970, people realized that that issue was a major step forward for Green Arrow, turning him from a pointless character into an interesting one.

THE MIGHTY THOR #6 (Marvel, 2016) – Most of this issue is a flashback to Thor and Loki’s past encounter with a villain named Bodolf, who Loki turns into a Viking version of the Hulk. This sequence is illustrated by Rafa Garres in a style which is completely different from that of Russell Dauterman. I love Dauterman’s art, but this sequence is a nice break. It’s awesome that this issue ends with the line “Hrph. Puny god.”

ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #8 (Marvel, 2016) – This is a complete waste of an issue. It makes no sense to me since I haven’t been reading the Standoff crossover, and even if I had been reading that crossover, I don’t think my enjoyment of this comic would have been improved significantly. I was already feeling lukewarm about this series, and this issue is the last straw; I’ve already ordered issue 9, but that will be my last issue of ANADA.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #3 (Marvel, 2016) – This is easily the best issue yet, and it turns this series from an average comic into a great one. The main reason why is the business with the Supersoul Stone. The fact that Dr. Strange doesn’t know about this item is an obvious and funny analogy for white Americans’ ignorance about black people. The panel where Luke says “Same reason Black History Month is the shortest month of the year” deserves to go viral. The splash page depicting the history of the Supersoul Stone is also notable, because it’s the first case I know of where a mainstream comic book has deliberately referenced Afrofuturism or used Afrofuturist visual tropes. I hope there’s going to be more explicit Afrofuturism in this comic. Also, this issue introduces Senor Magico, an awesome new character, and it includes an adorable scene with Danielle. I was only sort of excited about this issue before, but now I can’t wait for issue 4.

INCREDIBLE HULK #223 (Marvel, 1978) – This is the last comic I have to review tonight. I really didn’t think it would take me until after 2 AM to finish these reviews, but I was wrong. This issue is written by Roger Stern and is surprisingly entertaining. Bruce Banner is finally cured of the Hulk, but when he goes back to Gamma Base, he discovers it’s been taken over by the Leader. All of this is sort of formulaic, but Stern’s dialogue is so good that this comic is fun despite its unoriginal plot.

And that is that. Phew.

Oh, one more:

BAKER STREET PECULIARS #2 (Boom!, 2016) – I know I read this comic, but somehow it didn’t make it into my pile of comics waiting to be reviewed. Anyway, it was good.

Reviews for most of March

4-7-16

For reasons I won’t go into here, this past month (i.e. March 2016) was one of the low points of my adult life, and reading and reviewing comic books was the least of my worries. As a result I didn’t read as many comics as I did last month, and it’s taken me forever to review any of them.

We begin with new comics received on March 12. Annoyingly, they came one day late, on Saturday rather than Friday.

SENSATION COMICS FEATURING WONDER WOMAN #7 (DC, 2015) – One particular scene from this issue has gone viral on social media, the scene in which Diana says “people were talking about my cellulite more than the relief effort.” After I saw that panel on Facebook, I realized I already had this issue and had never gotten around to reading it. The cellulite scene is indeed brilliant, and Robyn, the astronaut to whom Diana is speaking in that scene, is a fascinating new character – a black high school teacher and mother of two, who wants to show her students “that a Trenton kid can reach the stars.” This character overshadows the rest of the story, but there’s also a funny plot here, involving giant monsters in the atmosphere of Venus. Overall this is one of the two best SCFWW stories along with “Wonder World” in the following issue, and it makes me sad that the series was cancelled. The backup story is also quite good; it’s about a female soldier in Afghanistan who has a possibly hallucinatory vision of Wonder Woman.

MS. MARVEL #5 (Marvel, 2016) – The meeting between the Hillman and Khan families is one of the best things in the recent history of this series. Both families come off very well, and the panel with Tyesha’s mother putting her hand in her son’s face is adorable. The rest of the issue is pretty much the Ms. Marvel version of “Too Many Pinkie Pies,” as I mentioned before, with the twist that the clones all merge together into a giant monster at the end. Ms. Marvel has had some ups and downs lately, but I think it’s replaced Lumberjanes as my second favorite current comic.

STARFIRE #10 (DC, 2016) – This felt like a waste of an issue, especially since there are just two issues left. There was too much Atlee and Stella and not enough Kory. I know Atlee is one of Amnada and Jimmy’s pet characters, but she’s not why I’m reading this series. The best scene of the issue is probably the one with Syl-Khee.

THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #3 (DC, 2016) – Renae de Liz should have been given the post-Rebirth Wonder Woman assignment if Marguerite Bennett wasn’t available. Greg Rucka is an excellent writer, my third favorite Wonder Woman writer after George Pérez and Gail Simone, but it’s time to let someone else have a turn. And Renae de Liz would be a good choice because this series is one of the best Wonder Woman comics I’ve ever read. Some specific notes on this issue: Diana’s first meeting with Steve Trevor is very well-executed; Steve comes off as a sweet and gentle man, not the macho chauvinist he’s often been in the past, and Diana’s fear of him is obvious. I’m surprised at the fast pacing of this issue; I thought it would be at least one more issue before Diana won the tournament and left Themyscira. I can’t wait to see what Diana thinks about Man’s World.

SHUTTER #19 (DC, 2016) – This issue has an innovative format where each page has three tiers of panels, colored blue, yellow and pink and depicting the early lives of Chris, Leopard and Kalliyan respectively. Like Moore and Veitch’s “How Things Work Out,” which was probably an explicit influence, this story can be read either horizontally – all the blue panels, then all the yellow panels, then all the pink panels – or vertically, one page at a time. The vertical order is clearly better, I think, because it allows the reader to see the connections between each character’s life. This issue is also important on the level of form as well as content; it gives us some important insight into these three major characters, which is especially useful in Kalliyan’s case because she’s been portrayed very unsympathetically so far.

ROCKET RACCOON AND GROOT #3 (Marvel, 2016) – So when I read last issue, I didn’t actually get that Rakzoon was Rocket and that Groot’s entire quest was an elaborate joke Rocket was playing on him. Skottie could have made that more obvious. I think the best thing about this issue is the interplay between Rocket and Shrub, who bring out each other’s worst aspects because they’re effectively both the same character. Besides that, this comic was reasonably fun but was not one of the better recent Rocket and Groot comics.

THE VISION #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Tom King seems to have become a genuine superstar, as indicated by the fact that he was just announced as the new Batman writer. I didn’t order the first issue of his Batman series, because I find that it’s difficult for writers to do their best work on such high-profile comics, but I’m curious to see the reception it gets. This Vision series is a good example of why Tom King has achieved stardom. The whole issue is mostly fallout from Mrs. Vision’s actions last issue. But the scene where Vizh confronts the policeman, and lists all the times he’s saved the world before perjuring himself, is genuinely creepy. This scene demonstrates perhaps the overarching theme of this series: that Vizh is genuinely trying to be a regular human being, but cannot succeed because he doesn’t think like a human.

WEIRDWORLD #4 (Marvel, 2016) – There are so many great current Marvel comics that I’m not sure this one is even in the top five, but it’s still an excellent comic. The interplay between the three central characters (Becca, Goleta and Ogeode) is hilarious – they play off each other very well. But as the campfire flashback scene demonstrates, Becca is also a deep character, maybe unlike the other two. The opening scene with the candy village is amazing. I especially love how in the first couple pages of this scene, there are unsettling hints that something weird is going on, like at the top of page three where the pie is held by a tentacle.

BAKER STREET PECULIARS #1 (Kaboom!, 2016) – I initially had low expectations  for this, since Roger Langridge didn’t draw it himself, but it turns out to be an extremely fun comic, a Langridgian masterpiece in the same vein as Snarked and Abigail and the Snowman. So far I’m enjoying it more than the latter. The Baker Street Peculiars are a team of inter-war Londoners from radically different social classes, and the differences between them are one of this comic’s main sources of interest. There’s also an exciting Holmesian mystery plot, and a character who appears to be Holmes himself, though I have my doubts about this.

DOCTOR STRANGE #6 (Marvel, 2016) – I think I said this before, but I wish “The Last Days of Magic” had been the second storyline in this series, rather than the first. I think the series should have begun by showing us one of Doctor Strange’s regular magical adventures, so as to give us a better sense of the world that the Empirikul were trying to destroy. The main story in this issue is mostly a fight scene between Doc and the Empirikul. The backup story, about some of the people whose magic is disappearing, is significantly better.

AW YEAH COMICS: ACTION CAT & ADVENTURE BUG #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – I’m glad that this series is now being published by Dark Horse, because it was much harder to find before. Art and Franco’s work suffers from “you’ve read one issue, you’ve read them all” syndrome, but their comics are always incredibly fun, and this issue is no exception to either of those – that is to say, it’s very fun but also very similar to all their other comics. I do think this issue may be somewhat inaccessible for readers not already familiar with the characters.

GOTHAM ACADEMY #16 (DC, 2016) – The fact that this was the eleventh comic I read this week is a sign that either this was an extremely strong week, or I had very limited time to read comics, or both. This issue includes two Yearbook chapters, one by James Tynion and Christian Wildgoose and the other by Ken Niimura. The Niimura story has some cute artwork, but an anticlimactic plot; it turns out that the central mystery is something that Maps made up just to give the pizza club something to do. I liked the Tynion-Wildgoose story more. Maps goes to Gotham City so she can sit up by the Bat-signal all night and wait for Batman, but instead she falls asleep, like a little kid falling asleep while waiting for Santa. Except Batman does come and he leaves her his autograph. So cute.

HOWARD THE DUCK #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Most of this issue is spent wrapping up the Silver Surfer/Guardians of the Galaxy crossover epic. This part of the issue is entertainingly written and includes some very funny dialogue, but it’s mostly just a standard cosmic superhero story. The highlight of this issue is the last page, which reintroduces Beverly Switzler! Ever since the start of this series I’ve been wondering what happened to her, and I sort of suspected Chip had plans for her, and I was right. But it’s going to be three more issues before we see her again, because first there’s the Squirrel Girl crossover and then the issue after that will take place in the Savage Land.

MILLIE THE MODEL ANNUAL #12 (Marvel, 1975) – The title and indicia of this comic say that it’s QUEEN-SIZE MILLIE THE MODEL #12, but that’s not what the GCD calls it. I read this comic because I was doing some preliminary work on an article about female superhero comics fandom, and I started to wonder why the romance comic genre died out at the same time the direct market was getting started, and whether there was any casual connection between the two. When I asked about this on Facebook, people like Tim Schneider and Robert Beerbohm said that there was no direct connection (though there may have been an indirect connection), and that the romance comics genre died because it was outdated and stagnant. If this particular Millie comic is any indication, then it’s no wonder romance comics became obsolete. This issue is really not even a romance comic at all – it’s an Archie-esque teen humor comic, only the characters are nominal adults rather than teens. It’s even drawn by an Archie artist, Stan Goldberg. Also, it’s just really bad. The humor is unfunny, the characters are flat, and there’s no semblance of continuity – as in old Archie comics, each story ends by returning to the status quo. In the aforementioned Facebook thread, Rob Imes and Corey Creekmur pointed out that the younger creators emerging in the ‘70s were just not interested in romance comics, and it shows – this Millie comic reflects a definite lack of talent or inspiration. Again, it’s premature to make broader conclusions about the entire genre from this one issue, but this comic suggests that the romance genre was effectively moribund by the mid-’70s, and that’s a shame because it took about 40 more years before Marvel or DC started to make serious attempts to attract female readers.

ACTION LAB: DOG OF WONDER #1 (Action Lab, 2016) – I bought this comic mostly because of the punny title, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it’s a pretty good comic. The artwork is very appealing, reminding me of Marguerite Sauvage. I need to come up with a better term for this style of artwork. I guess when I describe artwork as similar to that of Marguerite Sauvage, I mean that it’s sort of like Clear Line, but softer and gentler and with warmer colors and linework that looks kind of like brushstrokes. In terms of the story, this comic follows the Hero Cats formula in that it’s a fairly conventional superhero comic whose protagonist happens to be a dog.

NO MERCY #8 (Image, 2016) – I don’t remember this one very well. The big reveal in this issue is that the villains appear to be running some sort of black market flower farm, rather than smuggling drugs. Besides that, this issue touches on all the current plotlines but doesn’t advance any of them in any major way.

New comics received on March 21. I was out of town when these comics arrived, and couldn’t read them until I got back home from ICFA. While in Orlando, I visited a comic book store for the first time since December; more on that later.

RAT QUEENS #15 (Image, 2016) – The end of this issue is heartbreaking. Hannah decides to engage in self-destructive behavior regardless of what her friends tell her, and they aren’t able to stop her. Betty saying “sometimes love isn’t enough” is perhaps the saddest moment in the entire series. And based on the last page, it looks like Hannah is no longer a Rat Queen, though I have my doubts as to whether this image can be taken at face value. The problem here is that I’m not sure exactly what Hannah did or why she did it, because I can’t remember what’s been happening in the story. This series suffers from overly long gaps between issues, which make it impossible to remember what happened in the previous issue. I wish they would include a recap paragraph on the inside front cover; there’s a lot of real estate there that’s not being used for anything.(MUCH LATER UPDATE: And it turns out this might be the last issue of the series ever. Sigh.)

LUMBERJANES #24 (Boom!, 2016) – This series still hasn’t recovered from the loss of Noelle Stevenson. I may have been overly optimistic when I predicted that her departure wouldn’t change anything. Still, this is one of Kat Leyh’s better issues yet, and it’s a satisfying conclusion to the Seafarin’ Karen story. The obvious highlight of the issue is Mal and Molly finally kissing. One of the most important things this series has done is to normalize Mal and Molly’s relationship.

AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER – SMOKE AND SHADOW #3 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Overall this was one of the better Avatar series. The conclusion to this volume is fairly predictable – the bad guys lose, and Zuko and Mai end up together again – but Gene and Gurihiru tell this story fairly well, and it’s just so nice seeing these characters again. The absence of Katara and Sokka is unfortunate, but we’ll be seeing them again in the next series, North and South.

SPIDER-GWEN #6 (Marvel, 2016) – My enthusiasm for this series is waning a bit. I still love Robbi Rodriguez’s artwork, but there are so many other great Marvel comics, and this one is getting lost in the shuffle. The only thing I distinctly remember from this issue is Gwen’s not exactly surprising decision to let Harry go.

STEVEN UNIVERSE AND THE CRYSTAL GEMS #1 (Kaboom!, 2016) – I love the idea behind the Steven Universe franchise, but I’ve only had the time to watch about three episodes of the actual show. So I was excited to have the opportunity to read about Steven Universe in comics form, since I generally prefer comics to TV. This issue, though, has a trite and predictable plot: Steven and the Gems go camping and sit around a fire and tell ghost stories, and then one of the ghost stories comes true. I hope that the other three issues of this miniseries will be more original.

ASTRO CITY #33 (DC, 2016) – This must not have been the most memorable issue, because I had trouble remembering anything about it. The main thing that happens here is Steeljack visits a warehouse run by a collector of old supervillain gear, who then gets murdered by the people who are killing old supervillains. By far the best thing in the issue is where the Fixit Man shows Steeljack some glasses that enable you to see death coming, and then on the next page, Steeljack puts on the glasses and sees death coming for Fixit and Ismiri. Also, the Fixit Man’s warehouse reminds me of the Ackermansion or something. Other than that, this story has so far been less exciting than the previous Steeljack epic.

MYSTERY GIRL #4 (Dark Horse, 2016) – This whole series has demonstrated that Tobin without Coover is worse than Coover without Tobin, but this issue is a fairly effective conclusion to the miniseries. As I predicted, Mystery Girl escapes from Siberia by riding on a mammoth (hence the brilliant line “I am riding a fucking mammoth! I am the fucking mammoth queen!”) and then comes back home and saves the day. The problem is, as we discover in this issue, the ability to solve mysteries is an unfair superpower, because Mystery Girl can do just about anything as long as she can frame it as a mystery. This issue ends by setting up for a sequel, as Mystery Girl encounters a woman who knows where she got her powers. I will plan on reading Mystery Girl volume 2 if there is one, but I’m not as excited about it as I am about Bandette.

USAGI YOJIMBO #153 (Dark Horse, 2016) – I just noticed that the indicia says “Number 219 in a series.” 38 Mirage issues plus 16 Fantagraphics issues plus 153 Dark Horse issues equals 207, so the other twelve must be six issues of Senso, four Color Specials, one Summer Special (which I didn’t previously know existed) and Yokai. Like several other recent Usagi stories, “Kyuri” is kind of average. There’s a shocking moment at the end where Usagi’s arm is badly broken and he thinks he can never hold a sword again, but this is a false alarm, as the friendly female kappa heals Usagi’s arm. I think my other problem with this story is that the kappas seem overly naturalized. What I mean is, when supernatural creatures appear in Usagi comics, they’re typically presented as uncanny and weird phenomena. A good example of this is the foxes in “Kitsune Gari.” Whereas in this issue, the kappas just seem like normal creatures that coexist alongside humans. Not only does this make them less special, but it also seems odd that Usagi’s Japan is inhabited by a race of sentient nonhuman creatures who have almost no interaction with humans (well, “human” is the wrong word, but who cares).

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER#26 (IDW, 2016) – This is another issue that suffers from not being synchronized with the TV show: it stars Shining Armor, yet it doesn’t mention his impending fatherhood. The other guest star this issue is Prince Blueblood, who has only appeared in one episode, where he was basically a joke character. And the plot of the issue involves a visit to Yakyakistan, which was a rather unfortunate addition to the pony universe. “Party Pooped” was one of the worst episodes of season 5, and had some unfortunate racist implications. So in general, when writing this issue, Jeremy Whitley did not have the best materials to work with, and he was unable to overcome this limitation. The moral of the story is that Prince Blueblood is a much better diplomat than Shining Armor, which proves that Shiny’s initial negative impression of him was wrong. I find this somewhat unconvincing; after watching “The Best Night Ever,” I already know that Prince Blueblood is an utterly awful pony, and this issue did not do enough to convince me otherwise.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS #6 (Action Lab, 2016) – This was kind of an average issue, whereas most of the previous issues have been way above average. Probably the highlight is the scene where Ximena visits the potion store and is subjected to a lot of sexism and mansplaining. However, this would have been more effective if it wasn’t so reminiscent of the seashell story from the 2014 Avatar FCBD comic. A weird moment in this issue is where Sunshine punches out the pale-skinned girl whose name I can’t remember. I have said before that I like how the protagonists in this comic don’t always see eye-to-eye and how they have significant personality conflicts, but it’s surprising that one of them is being portrayed as a racist villain. To try to sum this all up, I think this issue was kind of scattershot – it included a lot of interesting stuff but I’m not sure how it all fits together.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #40 (IDW, 2016) – This is quite possibly the worst pony comic yet. In this issue, Princess Celestia forces Twilight to become a single parent to Spike, even though Twilight is attending school full-time, while Twilight was only a grade-school-aged child herself. What on earth was Celestia thinking? What did she hope Twilight would learn from this experience? Why does Twilight not resent Celestia for subjecting her to this unfair responsibility? Given the utter lack of logic here, I prefer to invoke Krypto-revisionism and declare that the events in this issue never happened. Also, I believe that Spike never went through early infancy as depicted here; I think when he emerged from the egg, he was more or less at his current level of maturity. The one thing I did like about this issue is the framing device where Twilight tells a story to Rainbow Dash, and then all the other ponies start listening in. It reminds me of “Kitty’s Fairy Tale.”

MIGHTY THOR #5 (Marvel, 2016) – This is another well-written and well-drawn issue; Russell Dauterman might be the best pure superhero artist at Marvel right now. But I continue to have trouble following the plot of this series. At the end of the issue, I don’t understand where Odinson is or why he’s in captivity.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #2 (Marvel, 2016) – This is a pretty good issue, though it’s not one of my favorite current Marvel comics. The interplay between Danny and Luke is clearly the highlight of this comic. Unfortunately this issue had no cute Danielle moments.

HELLBOY AND THE BPRD: 1953 – BEYOND THE FENCES #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – I’ve been mostly unimpressed with recent Hellboy comics, but this one was fairly good. It takes place in a Rockwell/Leave it to Beaver-esque small town, a setting which contrasts disturbingly with the bizarre events that are going on. I’m only familiar with Paolo Rivera’s art from Daredevil, but his style is unexpectedly well suited to horror comics.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #3 (Marvel, 2016) – This is a fairly average issue and it makes me question my commitment to this series. The cute character moments and interesting background cast from the first issue are mostly absent here. I think I’m going to give this series one more issue.

ODY-C #10 (Image, 2016) – The momentum of this series has been hurt by this current Arabian Nights storyline. Part of the initial attraction of this comic for me was seeing how Fraction and Ward played with the familiar story of Odysseus. My familiarity with the Odyssey helped me appreciate the variations that Fraction introduced. It’s hard to get engaged with the Hyrar-Zahman story in the same way, because it’s essentially original material, with only a tenuous link to the A(rabian Nights. I do enjoy the anti-rape message of this story, and Christian Ward is still one of the top artists in the industry.

MONSTRESS #4 (Image, 2016) – This series is a masterpiece, but it’s difficult to read because it’s so raw and brutal; the characters are subjected to such awful violence. Though there are some moments of levity here, including all the multi-tailed cats. This issue both advances the plot by showing us how the protagonist struggles with the demon inside her, and contributes to worldbuilding by showing us a previously unseen society of animal people.

DESCENDER #11 (Image, 2016) – The plot of this comic is just average – it’s a fairly conventional SF comic. What makes it excellent is, first, Dustin Nguyen’s art, and second, the character of Tim (and to a lesser extent, Telsa and Andy). I don’t have much to say about this issue specifically, except that it ends with a shock ending in which the new Tim tries to kill our Tim.

UNCANNY X-MEN #262 (Marvel, 1990) – A ton of stuff happens in this issue, but most of it is forgettable. The issue consists of a series of two- or three-page sequences focusing on different characters, and as a result, the story is not highly organized. The main focus of the issue a flashback to Forge’s Vietnam days, but even that only occupies a few pages. The highlight of the issue is probably the playful flirting between Sean and Jean. These are two characters who rarely interact, but Claremont reminds us that they were both X-Men from the very beginning and that they have a long shared history.

DETECTIVE COMICS #519 (DC, 1982) – The villain of this issue’s Batman story is named Colonel Blimp and is literally a colonel who steals battleships from a blimp. I haven’t even seen the movie The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and I just now learned that that movie was named after a British editorial cartoon. Even then, I couldn’t help thinking of that movie as I read this comic, and this made it impossible to take the comic seriously, which was already quite difficult given the idiotic premise. The only saving grace of this story is the Don Newton artwork. The Batgirl story is lacking even that. Instead, it’s drawn by Trevor von Eeden and suffers from overly convoluted page layouts that add nothing to the story.

OMEGA MEN #1 (DC, 2015) – While I was at ICFA in Orlando, Spencer Chalifour and Najwa al-Tabaa and Katie Shaffer (I hope I’m not forgetting anyone) said they were driving to a comic book store and that I could come along. This was extremely exciting to me because I haven’t been inside a comic book store since I was in Minneapolis in December. I don’t think I’ve gone three whole months without visiting a comic book store since I was seven or eight years old, and I was missing it. Unfortunately the store, Living Dead Comics, didn’t have much that I needed, and I only managed to find six comics I wanted, of which this is the only one I’ve read so far. I’ve heard really good reviews of this Omega Men series, but I’ve also heard that it reads better in trade paperback form, and from just this one issue, it’s hard to tell what exactly is going on or what’s so special about this comic.

NEW ROMANCER #3 (DC, 2016) – My enthusiasm for this series has waned a bit, and I still haven’t read issue 4, though this is partly due to lack of time. I still think this is a fun comic, though as with many other Peter Milligan comics, it doesn’t quite fulfill its potential. The main plot in this issue is that New Romancer runs a contest where the prize is a date with Lord Byron, and Alexa wins. Meanwhile, Mata Hari is introduced as a new villain.

SENSATION COMICS FEATURING WONDER WOMAN #12 (DC, 2015) – This issue wasn’t nearly as good as the previous issue I reviewed, which illustrates the principal problem with this series: lack of consistency. The first story is cute, though; it’s a team-up between Wonder Woman and Poison Ivy, and it ends with Diana refusing to turn Poison Ivy in to Batman, because Ivy didn’t do anything wrong. I can’t remember anything about the backup story, but it ends with Diana kissing Batman on the cheek, which is cute.

4-24

New comics received on March 25. Yes, I am a whole month behind on these reviews.

PATSY WALKER A.K.A. HELLCAT #4 (Marvel, 2016) – I always receive new comics on Friday afternoons, but by this point in the semester, I’m usually so exhausted on Friday afternoons that I just want to go home and flop down on my bed. But I feel obligated to read a couple of my new comic books first, and typically I am not able to devote my full attention to those comic books because I’m too tired. That was definitely what happened with this issue of Patsy Walker. It was good, but I was so tired when I read it that I can’t remember anything about it.

THE SPIRE #7 (Boom!, 2016) – This series got a well-deserved Eisner nomination and I think I’m going to vote for it. As previously mentioned in my review of issue 6, I have trouble remembering the story of this series from one issue to another, but in this issue Spurrier and Stokely create a powerful sense of dramatic tension, and I expect the final issue will be epic.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #4 (Marvel, 2016) – As I mentioned before, I decided to give up on this series after issue 2, but then I changed my mind about that because this comic is just such fun. It’s not particularly thoughtful or ambitious – Arthur Chu argued in his article “The Passion of Asian Hulk” that this comic had the potential to be an interesting commentary on and/or rebuttal to Asian-American stereotypes, but I’m not sure that potential has been fulfilled. Basically this comic is just a giant green guy beating up monsters. But that’s still a lot of fun – it’s the same sort of guilty pleasure offered by Savage Dragon, which I’m no longer reading. Also, Frank Cho’s artwork is really effective.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #13 (Marvel, 1987) – In this story, Graviton tries to take over the world and make Tigra his sex slave. He comes much closer to achieving the latter than the former. Englehart’s West Coast Avengers is one of his lesser works, and I think the most interesting thing about it is Tigra herself. This character is fascinating and extremely problematic. She has not only the body but also the personality of a cat,  including a cat’s sex drive. This means she’s basically a sex object, but I guess you could also view her more positively, as Englehart’s attempt to seriously explore what it would be like for a person to turn into a cat. This issue contains one very annoying line where Tigra claims she’s not a feminist; I don’t understand what Englehart was thinking here. My overall reaction to this issue was “Steve Englehart’s comics were bizarre, politically questionable, convoluted, and sometimes perverted. I wish there were more of them.” When I posted this comment on Facebook, it led to a discussion about Coyote; see the review of Coyote #1 below.

FIRESTORM #5 (DC, 1978) – This is the first issue of Firestorm I’ve ever read, and I found it surprisingly good. It’s very similar to Spider-Man, except that Ronnie Raymond is emphatically not a bookworm like Peter Parker; he’s just a completely average kid who has no idea what he’s gotten into. Probably the heart of this comic is his antagonistic relationship with Martin Stein, who shares his body. I ought to read more of this comic.

WONDER WOMAN #116 (DC, 1996) – This issue of John Byrne’s run is boring and poorly executed. For most of the issue, there are two stories running in parallel. The top 2/3 of the page are devoted to Wonder Woman, and the bottom 1/3 to Cave Carson and his crew. These two stories come together at the end, but while they’re running in parallel, they don’t interact in any way (unlike, say, the three concurrent stories in Shutter #19), and the reader is distracted by having to constantly switch from one to the other. Also, neither story is actually interesting, and John’s artwork is awful. His depiction of the invisible plane does remind me a bit of the beautiful machinery he used to draw, but otherwise, the art in this comic is just lazy and unoriginal.

TARZAN #196 (Gold Key, 1970) – I must have been really tired the night I read these comics, because most of them have disappeared from my memory. Also, I suspect I may have been reading them because I felt compelled to do so, and not because I was actually enjoying it. By this point in the semester, I was so exhausted and anxious that I was having difficulty enjoying anything at all. Anyway, the main story in this issue is about the Tarzan Twins, two teenage boys – one English and one American – who consider themselves to be Tarzan’s sidekicks. They visit Tarzan in the jungle and get themselves into a bunch of dangerous perils from which Tarzan has to rescue them, but Tarzan doesn’t seem to mind at all. This is a reasonably fun story, but it would have been better if it had been drawn by Russ Manning instead of Mike Royer. Manning did draw the Brothers of the Spear backup story, but it’s only four pages.

SUPERMAN #330 (DC, 1978) – “The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis” is probably the worst Superman story of the Bronze Age. In this story, Martin Pasko attempts to explain the improbable premise that no one realizes Clark Kent is Superman, even though Clark looks exactly like Superman except for his glasses. However, Pasko’s proposed solution is worse than the problem. It turns out that Superman is constantly hypnotizing every single person in the entire world to make everyone think Clark Kent and Superman look different, and that Superman himself doesn’t know he’s doing this. This explanation is much worse than no explanation at all. I think that the reader can just accept that Lois and Lana don’t realize Clark Kent is Superman, because this is covered by suspension of disbelief. If I’m willing to accept that Superman can fly, change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel with his bare hands, etc., then I’m also willing to accept that a pair of glasses are an effective disguise.

BATMAN #235 (DC, 1971) – This is the second appearance of Ra’s al Ghul, but is not drawn by Neal Adams, or else I doubt I could have afforded it. Compared to “Daughter of the Demon” or “The Demon Lives Again,” “Swamp Sinster” is kind of forgettable. This issue also includes a reprint of an old Broome/Infantino story, and an original story in which Robin visits a commune. This latter story is not very good, but it’s interesting because it reminds me that in the ‘70s, people actually did live in the sort of hippie commune depicted in this story.

INCREDIBLE HULK #106 (Marvel, 2007) – The Planet Hulk/World War Hulk epic is probably the most important Hulk story since Peter David’s first run, and I need to complete my collection of it. This chapter focuses on Amadeus Cho and She-Hulk, and the Hulk himself doesn’t appear. There is some effective characterization of Amadeus, Jen, and Doc Samson, and some good artwork by Gary Frank, who is probably my favorite Hulk artist.

X-MEN: WORST X-MAN EVER #2 (Marvel, 2016) – This wasn’t as memorable as the first issue. The main plot development is that Bailey gets seduced by Mystique, who takes a blackmail picture of him and then uses it to order him to assassinate Professor X. This is not a classic X-Men comic by any means, but at least it’s fun.

CIRCUIT BREAKER #1 (Image, 2016) – Kyle Baker’s first new comic in several years is kind of disappointing. (I thought it was his first since Special Forces, but he also did some Deadpool comics since then.) I saw one review that complained that this comic didn’t quite seem to understand what it was trying to do, and I agree. I also think that this comic’s use of Japanese culture is slightly problematic. Like, is it fair for Kevin McCarthy to create a comic that’s so heavily based on anime and manga when he’s not Japanese himself? Maybe it is fair, but the question is worth asking. Anyway, I’m probably going to keep reading this comic just because it’s Kyle Baker.

BLACK MAGICK #5 (Image, 2016) – This comic is kind of getting lost in the shuffle because there are so many other great Image comics, but it’s really, really good. In this issue, Rowan saves her friend Anna from a mystical assault by using her own magic. The magical phenomena in this scene are in full color, while everything else in the comic is in grayscale. I can’t remember if this is the first time this comic has used color in this way, but it’s a really cool effect. I hate the prose pieces at the end of each issue – I don’t read comic books because I like reading badly written unillustrated text.

SUPERMAN #42 (DC, 2015) – Gene Luen Yang’s Superman was maybe the biggest disappointment of 2015. I bought the first few issues, but didn’t even bother to read them because they got such a lukewarm reception. This issue suggests that that reception was justified. It’s a very formulaic piece of work, and even the big scene depicted on the cover, in which Lois discovers Clark’s secret identity, has very little impact. There is very little in this issue to suggest that Gene Luen Yang wrote it. It’s not about Asian themes or characters – which is fine, Gene doesn’t have to write about the same thing all the time – but it also lacks his usual creativity and vigor. I hope his new Superman series will be more interesting. Also, I’ve never understood why people are so in love with John Romita Jr’s art.

KLAUS #4 (Image, 2016) – This issue explains Klaus’s origin and his past history with Dagmar, whose name I had forgotten. When you read as many comics as I do, it becomes difficult to remember even the major characters’ names. That’s why Stan Lee gave all his characters alliterative names. Anyway, this is a pretty good issue. There’s one cute scene in which Dagmar plays with her son Jonas (again I had to look his name up) and we see evidence that Jonas is not a completely unredeemable little Joffrey-esque brat.

SUPER ZERO #4 (Aftershock, 2016) – I still think this is probably Conner and Palmiotti’s best work. The scene where Dru forgives her friend’s abusive father is a ethically troublesome, and the writers didn’t succeed in convincing me that this was the right thing to do, but at least they tried. What happens next is that Dru tries to reproduce the origin of the Fantastic Four, and the way she succeeds in getting herself onto a rocket is surprisingly plausible. I think it was also effectively foreshadowed in earlier issues – I believe we already knew she had a friend whose father worked at NASA.

JONESY #2 (Boom!, 2016) – This series is halfway over and I’m still not sure what it’s about. The main premises are that Jonesy hates everything and that she has the power to hypnotize people, and these premises don’t seem to be connected at all. The only way I can describe or explain this comic is as an example of Adventure Time-esque absurdist humor. It’s reasonably funny and well-drawn, but I’m not sure I get the point of it.

INCREDIBLE HULK #242 (Marvel, 1979) – I was surprised to realize this was written by Roger Stern. I didn’t realize he had ever written the Hulk – my Hulk collection from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s is very incomplete. This issue is the climax of the “They Who Wield Power” storyline, a sort of stealth crossover that had been running through a large number of different Marvel titles since 1979. The ultimate payoff is not really worth the buildup; this issue is mostly just a long fight between the Hulk and Tyrannus.

WONDER WOMAN #204 (DC, 1973) – This issue ends the No Costume/Diana Prince era in an insulting and anticlimactic way. First, I Ching gets shot dead by an insane mass murderer. This scene was probably based on the 1966 University of Texas shootings, but it was clearly also just a cheap way of writing I Ching out of the series. In the same incident, Diana also gets shot and loses her memory. The only thing she can remember is that she needs to go back to Paradise Island, so she goes back there, puts her old costume back on, and the No Costume era is over as if it never happened. The rest of the issue is a typical example of Kanigher’s usual Wonder Woman nonsense, though it does briefly introduce Nubia, the black Wonder Woman, as well as giving Diana a new secret identity as a UN translator. After this issue, Wonder Woman’s brief period of originality was over, and the series wouldn’t be truly interesting again until 1987.

UNCANNY X-MEN #229 (Marvel, 1988) – This is the first issue of the period when the X-Men were living in the Reavers’ Australian desert base. The first half of the issue is devoted to a gruesome depiction of the Reavers’ crimes, so Claremont has to cram a whole lot of plot development into about 10 pages. For example, he introduces the Siege Perilous without really explaining what it is. At one point in this issue, Wolverine refers to Gateway by a very offensive three-letter word that starts with A; this should not have gotten past the Comics Code.

COYOTE #1 (Epic, 1983) – I read this because Michael Norwitz and Ben Herman mentioned it on Facebook. Michael has a theory that after the commercial failure of Coyote, Englehart stopped caring about comics and his career went into decline. But Michael also said that this first issue of the series was really good. After reading it, I’m not quite convinced. This ongoing series is a sequel to a graphic novel published by Eclipse, and is hard to understand on its own because it’s full of confusing backstory, although this is not unusual in Englehart’s work. What I do like about this series is the protagonist, who (see earlier comments on Tigra) is basically a dog in human form, and is completely carefree and ignorant of human society. Maybe I should look for the Image trade paperback that reprints the original Coyote graphic novel.

DETECTIVE COMICS #760 (DC, 2001) – This issue is drawn by Shawn Martinborough, who I have complained about in the past, especially in my review of Detective Comics #745. I didn’t have a problem with the artwork in this issue, though. Either Martinborough had gotten better by this point, or I’m more used to his style now. The main story has a somewhat interesting premise, in which the Mad Hatter hypnotizes people using coffeeshop reward cards (i.e. those cards that they punch every time you buy a cup of coffee). Of course the real highlight of the issue is the Slam Bradley backup by Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke. The splash page of this story, which depicts Slam exhuming Selina Kyle’s grave in the rain, is brilliantly Eisner-esque.

SUPERMAN #205 (DC, 1968) – This is one of the last comic books written by Otto Binder, and it’s a pretty stupid comic, though at least it’s a different kind of stupid from most ’60s Superman comics. This comic book fails not because it’s silly and trivial, but because it tries to accomplish too much; it’s too epic for its own good. The plot of this issue is that Superman teams up with Jax-Ur against a villain called Black Zero, who seems to be responsible for destroying Krypton. (The name Black Zero was later used for several other unrelated villains.) Black Zero tries to destroy Earth with a missile, but Superman foils his plan by boring a hole through the entire planet so that the missile passes through it. That’s the most ridiculous thing that happens in this issue, but not the only one. I feel like if this issue had been a multi-part epic, it could have been really good, but it was too ambitious for just 24 pages.

CATWOMAN #23 (DC, 2003) – This is part of a story where Catwoman and Holly are visiting a number of different fictional DC Universe cities to search for Holly’s brother. This issue takes place in Opal City and guest-stars Bobo Benetti from Starman. This comic is full of exciting action sequences and effective characterization, and Cameron Stewart’s art is so good that I didn’t even notice how boring his depictions of Opal City are, compared to those of Tony Harris. This Catwoman series was probably one of the top DC comics of its era.

ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #7 (Marvel, 2016) – This issue begins with two cute scenes, one between Falcon and Thor and another between Kamala and Vision. The rest of the issue is setup for the Pleasant Hill crossover, and is completely forgettable.

Eisner votes for 2016

Yay, Eisner nominations are out! Like every year, I’m going to list my votes with commentary.

Best Short Story
  • “Killing and Dying,” by Adrian Tomine, in Optic Nerve #14 (Drawn & Quarterly)

Didn’t read any of the other nominees.

Best Single Issue/One-Shot 
  • Silver Surfer #11: “Never After,” by Dan Slott and Michael Allred (Marvel)

Pope Hats #4 is also a strong contender.

Best Continuing Series 
  • Southern Bastards, by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour (Image)

I wouldn’t have nominated any of these (my nominees would have been Saga, Lumberjanes, Sex Criminals, Ms. Marvel, and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl). Of the five nominees, Southern Bastards is my favorite. I love Giant Days but I don’t think it was an Eisner-level comic, given the amount of competition. Invincible was terrible this year and should not have been nominated at all.

Best Limited Series 
  • The Spire, by Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely (BOOM! Studios)

Lady Killer is a distant second.

Best New Series 
  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, by Ryan North and Erica Henderson (Marvel)

I was going to vote for Monstress until I saw that USG was on the ballot. Paper Girls and Bitch Planet could each have won this award in many other years.

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)
  • Little Robot, by Ben Hatke (First Second)

I haven’t read any of these, and I’m basing this entirely on Michelle Martin’s presentation at ICFA.

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)
  • Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson (Dial Books)

This was an amazing book and a possible contender for Best Graphic Album.

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)
  • March: Book Two, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf/IDW)

It was a tough choice between this and Supermutant Magic Academy. I’m surprised Lumberjanes wasn’t nominated.

Best Humor Publication
  • Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection, by Kate Beaton (Drawn & Quarterly)

Not familiar with any of the others except Cyanide & Happiness.

Best Digital/Webcomic
  • The Legend of Wonder Woman, by Renae De Liz (DC Digital)

Bandette and Fresh Romance are also candidates, but I just heart Legend of Wonder Woman so much.

Best Anthology
  • Drawn & Quarterly, Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary, Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels,edited by Tom Devlin (Drawn & Quarterly)

This seems like an obvious choice, though I didn’t read any of the nominees.

Best Reality-Based Work
  • March: Book Two, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf/IDW)

I’ve read four of the nominees. This was a really strong category, and I could easily change my mind and vote for The Story of My Tits instead.

Best Graphic Album—New
  • Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen, by Dylan Horrocks (Fantagraphics)

This was the only nominee that I read. I’ve never heard of some of the nominees, and I think the ballot looks rather weak. I wonder why the judges decided not to nominate March or Roller Girl or The Story of My Tits for this category.

Best Graphic Album—Reprint
  • Nimona, by Nicole Stevenson (Harper Teen)

I really want to read Soldier’s Heart, but it’s so expensive.

Best Adaptation from Another Medium
  • Two Brothers, by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse)

Didn’t read any of the others.

Best U.S. Edition of International Material
  • The Eternaut, by Héctor Germán Oesterheld and Francisco Solano Lòpez (Fantagraphics)

I haven’t read any of the nominees, but The Eternaut is the obvious standout. This category seems very weak. Was Corto Maltese not eligible?

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia
  • A Bride’s Story, by Kaoru Mori (Yen Press)

I have Sunny but have not read it.

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips 
  • The Eternaut, by Héctor Germán Oesterheld and Francisco Solano Lòpez, edited by Gary Groth and Kristy Valenti (Fantagraphics)

Again, I haven’t read any of the nominees and I’ve never heard of the Niso Ramponi book.

Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books 
  • Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: The Don Rosa Library, vols. 3–4, edited by David Gerstein (Fantagraphics)

Seems like an obvious choice.

Best Writer
  • G. Willow Wilson, Ms. Marvel (Marvel)

Jason Aaron had a bigger overall body of work, but I liked Ms. Marvel better than any of Jason Aaron’s individual titles. I might have voted for Matt Fraction or Brian K. Vaughan instead.

Best Writer/Artist
  • Ed Piskor, Hip-Hop Family Tree, vol. 3 (Fantagraphics)

This is a surprising slate of nominees. They could have nominated Tomine or Horrocks or Jamieson. Of the actual nominees, Noah Van Sciver is the only other one who seems like a serious contender, though I haven’t read Fante Bukowski.

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
  • Erica Henderson, Jughead (Archie), Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Marvel)

A good slate of nominees, though Fiona Staples and Christian Ward seem like unfortunate omissions.

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist 
  • Dustin Nguyen, Descender (Image)

Voting for Dustin Nguyen over Colleen Coover because of the impressive range  of his work.

Best Cover Artist 
  • Amanda Conner, Harley Quinn (DC)

It’s a tough choice between her and Ed Piskor.

Best Coloring
  • Jordie Bellaire, The Autumnlands, Injection, Plutona, Pretty Deadly, The Surface, They’re Not Like Us, Zero (Image); The X-Files (IDW); The Massive (Dark Horse); Magneto, Vision (Marvel)

This category is often the toughest one to decide on.

Best Lettering
  • Lucy Knisley, Displacement (Fantagraphics)

I don’t think I’ve read anything by any of the other nominees. I have Trashed but haven’t read it yet.

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism 
  • Back Issue, edited by Michael Eury (TwoMorrows)

Didn’t read any of these. I’m surprised that only one website was nominated. What about The Comics Beat or The Comics Reporter?

Best Comics-Related Book
  • King of the Comics: One Hundred Years of King Features Syndicate, edited by Dean Mullaney (IDW/LOAC)

I didn’t read any of these, so I’m voting for this one, because it covers a topic which has not already been extensively written about.

Best Academic/Scholarly Work 
  • Unflattening, by Nick Sousanis (Harvard University Press)

Would have been a good candidate for Best Graphic Album – New and Best Reality-Based Work as well.

Best Publication Design
  • Eventually Everything Connects, designed by Loris Lora, Sam Arthur, Alex Spiro, and Camille Pichon (Nobrow)

Haven’t seen this, but it looks cool.

Overall, I feel like an even more informed Eisner voter this year compared to previous years. In most categories I’ve read at least one of the nominees, and in several categories I had a hard time choosing what to vote for.