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 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.

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