Didn’t manage to read a whole lot this week, at least not compared to last week.
RAT QUEENS #16 (Image, 2016) – Kurtis Wiebe [W], Tess Fowler [A]. I don’t understand why this comic is going on hiatus, because the quality certainly hasn’t declined and Kurtis doesn’t seem to be out of ideas yet. The Rat Queens’ return to Palisade results in a lot of cute and funny moments, and the story ends on a bizarre cliffhanger as Violet goes to bed with Dave, but then sees something horrible which causes her to castrate him and slice off half of his head. I’m excited and nervous to find out what was going on here.
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #19 (Image, 2016) – Kieron Gillen [W], Jamie McKelvie [A]. I am deeply grateful to Kieron and Jamie for including a chart of characters on the inside front cover. This feature makes the comic much easier to read, because I don’t have to remember the gods’ names or which god is on which side. I wish more comics would do this. Otherwise, this is a solid installment of the second best current ongoing comic. I think Minerva may be my second favorite character in this series after Laura.
THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #5 (DC, 2016) – Renae de Liz [W/A]. This is the best current DC comic. (It’s better than Gotham Academy, and I don’t count Astro City as a DC comic.) It shows us what Wonder Woman can be when she’s taken seriously and when she’s not hamstrung by sexism and poor writing. I think I wrote before about the time when I was looking through the 50-cent boxes at a used bookstore, and I encountered a little girl who was looking for Wonder Woman comics. I would unreservedly recommend this comic to that little girl, but also to an adult reader. This particular issue has two moments that really stood out to me – first, Diana’s question about what American warrior women wear, and second, Diana chowing down on the popcorn. But there’s also some good stuff here that’s more subtle. When I read this comic, I was so focused on Diana that I didn’t pay any attention to the subplot about Ettta Candy’s parents, but that subplot turned out to be important. I’m also impressed by the contrast between Etta and Diana; Etta’s flamboyance and humor make her a very effective foil to Diana, with her reserved, serious nature.
SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME #1 (Oni, 2016) – Natalie Riess [W/A]. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t order the second issue of this. I’ll need to get it from mycomicshop.com or something. This series has a brilliant premise: a human who participates in a cooking show for aliens. Natalie Riess, who I have not heard of before, succeeds in exploiting the potential of this idea. Her artwork is charming and distinctive, and her aliens look genuinely alien, especially Zorp the Octahedral. I’m especially curious to find out what sort of bizarre ingredients Peony has to cook with, although again, I may not be able to read the next issue immediately.
HOWARD THE DUCK #7 (Marvel, 2016) – Chip Zdarsky [W], Kevin Maguire [A]. It’s weird that the cliffhanger from the end of #5 isn’t going to be resolved until #8. I understand that issue 6 was a crossover, and I guess it made sense to do this story next, since it’s out of continuity. Kevin Maguire turns out to be very good at drawing dinosaurs, but the best thing about this issue is the interplay between the various guest stars, including Cap, Daredevil, She-Hulk, and Spider-Man. I previously mentioned that Ryan North writes some excellent Spider-Man dialogue, and so does Chip Zdarsky. Maybe the two of them ought to be the regular Spider-Man writers.
BEASTS OF BURDEN: WHAT THE CAT DRAGGED IN #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Evan Dorkin [W], Jill Thompson [A]. This issue is a spotlight on the cats of Burden Hill, as the title indicates. My main complaint with this story is that Jill’s cat faces sometimes look too much like human faces. Otherwise, this is an excellent comic – I was going to say it was the best comic of the week, but it was a really good week, so I’m not sure. It has this series’s usual combination of humor and ghastly horror. It also introduces a wonderful new character, Hoke the raccoon. In just one issue, Hoke develops into a deep and complex character. He’s loud and lazy and cowardly and loves garbage, yet he also shows surprising nobility, and on the last page, we see that he’s been deeply shaken by his encounter with evil. Overall, this was a great piece of work and a possible candidate for the Eisner for Best Single Issue.
ROCKET RACCOON AND GROOT #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Skottie Young [W], Jay Fosgitt [A]. Bizarrely enough, this is only the second best raccoon comic of the week. We must be living in a golden age of raccoon comics. This issue has kind of a dumb plot, but Jay Fosgitt’s artwork is excellent – he’s perfect for a comic like this, and he’s starting to become a significant talent. I’m going to have to look for some back issues of Bodie Troll.
HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY #5 (Action Lab, 2015) – Kyle Puttkammer [W], Marcus Williams [A]. After reading Beasts of Burden, I started a Facebook thread asking which comic artist draws the best cats. At least one person mentioned Marcus Williams, so I decided it was time to get caught up on Hero Cats. In this issue, the Hero Cats discover that Cassiopeia’s human roommates are secretly Galaxy Man and Galaxy Girl, and then they fight a bunch of alien bugs. It’s a fun self-contained story that also has implications for future issues. It’s really implausible that Galaxy Man and Galaxy Girl are father and daughter and yet neither of them knows the other’s secret identity. On the other hand, nothing else about this comic is plausible either.
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #28 (IDW, 2016) – Jeremy Whitley [W], Jay Fosgitt [A]. The featured characters this issue are Luna and the Cutie Mark Crusaders, “now with more cutie marks.” This issue, like most Luna stories, revolves around Luna’s guilt and shyness around other ponies. When Princess Celestia is unexpectedly absent, Luna has to supervise a sleepover at the castle, and the CMC have to help her do it. The new character in this issue, Thestra, is very cute, and I assume she was named after the thestrals from Harry Potter, but it seems as though her power and the monster she faces were each invented to fit the other. I Instagrammed the panel where Twilight asks Rarity “Do you ever worry you might be a character in a book?” and it got a lot of likes.
HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY #6 (Action Lab, 2015) – as above. This issue has a severely complicated plot that I’m not even going to try to summarize. Near the end of the issue, I even lost track of what was going on and I felt like I’d missed a page, although it turned out this was intentional – there’s a subsequent page that explains what happened. Maybe Kyle Puttkammer was trying to confuse the reader on purpose, I don’t know. The other thing I remember from this issue is Ace and Cassiopeia’s budding relationship. Which is another implausible thing about this comic, or to put it more kindly, another case in which this comic demands suspension of disbelief. I don’t think cats have romantic relationships, at least not the kind that can be shown in a children’s comic.
GIANT DAYS #14 (Boom!, 2016) – John Allison [W], Max Sarin [A]. When I started reading this comic, I wondered if I’d missed an issue. At the end of #13, Esther’s parents cut off her financial support, and there is no mention of this in #14. I am at a loss to explain why this cliffhanger was not resolved. Instead, this issue is all about Esther, Susan and Daisy’s attempts to find housing in Sheffield for next semester. This strikes close to home for me because I’m about to start looking for a new apartment myself. Otherwise, this is a normal issue of Giant Days.
REVIVAL #39 (Image, 2016) – Tim Seeley [W], Mike Norton [A]. I really wish I had time to read this whole comic from the start, because I’ve lost track of what’s going on. I understand that the yellow ghost things are the spirits of the Revivers, and that when one of them merges with its corresponding Reviver, that person dies for good. Otherwise, I’m just sort of confused by this storyline. I did enjoy the scene where Ramin attacks a soldier who’s about to say “sand n****r” – I hope that I would do the same thing if I were in Ramin’s position.
KLAUS #5 (Boom!, 2016) – Grant Morrison [W], Dan Mora [A]. This is an okay comic, but it doesn’t do much to advance the plot of the series. I feel like this miniseries could have been completed in five or six issues rather than seven.
HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY #7 (Action Lab, 2015) – as above. This issue introduces a new Hero Cat, Bandit and also leads into the Crow King story arc. After reading three issues of Hero Cats in a row, my overall feeling is that it’s no Princeless, but it is a very cute and fun comic that would be ideal for new readers.
BLACK WIDOW #3 (Marvel, 2016) – Mark Waid [W], Chris Samnee [A]. This was the least impressive issue yet, but it was still quite good. At times in this issue it became hard to distinguish between Natasha’s memories in reality, especially at the end, where Natasha is stabbed by a little girl who looks exactly like the little girl from her memories. As usual, Chris Samnee’s artwork is excellent, but his one weak point is his geography. The panel that shows Diana’s flight path to Russia is full of funny mistakes – Newfoundland and Great Britain are part of the mainland rather than islands, there are land bridges between Sweden and Denmark and between Morocco and Spain, and Corsica and Sardinia are a single island.
STEVEN UNIVERSE AND THE CRYSTAL GEMS #2 (Boom!, 2016) – Josceline Fenton [W], Chrystin Garland [A]. My least favorite comic of the week. The writer and artist fail to create any excitement or to make me care whether the Glass Ghost exists or not. I don’t know whether this comic is just badly executed, or whether the Steven Universe franchise isn’t for me.
A-FORCE #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Kelly Thompson [W], Ben Caldwell [A]. I guess Kelly is the sole writer now. I wonder what else G. Willow Wilson is working on besides Ms. Marvel. I think I liked this issue better than most of the issues that Willow cowrote, though. (Is Willow what people call her? I would assume so.) Ben Caldwell is a much better artist than Jorge Molina; the opening splash page with the gigantic dragon is particularly impressive. And the writing in this issue is just more fun, especially the bar scene, though it does seem kind of cruel that Singularity and Nico have to just sit there for hours and watch the adults drink. Introducing a new alternate-dimensional Dazzler is a strange narrative choice, but I’m curious to see what Kelly has in mind for this character.
X-MEN: WORST X-MAN EVER #3 (Marvel, 2016) – Max Bemis [W], Michael Walsh [A]. The new character this issue, Miranda, is interesting because she’s a black girl who’s not conventionally attractive, and she’s also ridiculously overpowered. I’d like to see more of her, although I feel obliged to note that this issue sometimes comes close to fat-shaming her. Otherwise, this issue is very similar to the last two. I like Michael Walsh’s art a lot; he’s not at all like a typical X-Men artist.
SPIDER-GWEN #7 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Latour [W], Bengal [A]. This and the next issue are part of the Spider-Women crossover. Osvaldo Oyola said some nice things about my blog the other day, and I will return the favor by quoting him. He said about Spider-Woman #6: “This was a pointless issue, part of a crossover that spreads across multiple Spider-themed female superheroes called “Spider-Women.” I am not against such a story, but am against the transparent attempts to artificially bump sales by spreading the story out this way among multiple books and creators. The story always suffers, as does the book itself.” Unlike Spider-Woman #6, Spider-Gwen #7 is at least marginally interesting because of the interactions between the three protagonists, and also because of what it tells us about Spider-Gwen’s world. For example, I guess this is a world where Howard the Duck’s Presidential campaign was successful. But this issue does suffer from being part of a crossover; it doesn’t make sense on its own, and the reader who chooses not to buy Spider-Woman and Silk is punished for that choice. (As a footnote to that, I had been buying Silk, but not reading it, and I’ve decided to give up on it.)
SPIDER-GWEN #8 (Marvel, 2016) – as above. If Osvaldo’s critique is only partly true of Spider-Gwen #7, it’s completely true of Spider-Gwen #8. This issue makes no sense at all if you haven’t been following the entire crossover. This kind of crossover, where you have to read every issue to understand any of them, is the worst kind, and Marvel should be ashamed for taking advantage of their fans in this way.
BLACK CANARY #10 (DC, 2016) – Brenden Fletcher [W], Moritat & Sandy Jarrell [A]. Like Batgirl #51, this issue feels pointless because the series is about to be rebooted. At least the scenes with Babs and Dinah in this issue are funny. And the story makes a reasonable amount of sense, which is more than I can say of some Brenden Fletcher comics.
2000 AD PRESENTS #7 (Quality, 1986) – Dan Dare: Gerry Finley-Day [W], Dave Gibbons [A]. Skizz: Alan Moore [W], Jim Baikie [A]. This comic has higher production values than some of Quality’s other reprints of 2000 AD material. Its first 30 pages are reprints of Dan Dare strips from the late ‘70s. Dave Gibbons’s artwork here is somewhat crudely drawn and some of his page layouts are hard to follow, but you can clearly tell that it’s Dave Gibbons; his storytelling is already fairly well developed and his compositions are often quite powerful and dramatic. However, all of these stories have tedious plots with generic one-note characters. The Skizz backup story has worse art but is far better written. I’ve never read Skizz before, but it appears to be about a 15-year-old girl who tries to help an alien return home. While this is obviously the same plot as ET, it has a much darker tone, with lots of grim foreshadowing, and the reader feels genuine sympathy for both the girl and the alien. I want to read more of this series.
JONAH HEX #61 (DC, 2011) – Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti [W], Jordi Bernet [A]. Having Jordi Bernet draw Jonah Hex was a great idea, the kind of idea that no one at DC seems to be capable of coming up with anymore. It’s sadly uncommon for European star artists to work on American comics or vice versa, even in this age of globalization. I don’t absolutely love Bernet’s artwork in this issue, but his graphic storytelling is excellent; he reminds me a lot of Alex Toth, who he replaced on Torpedo. I also like the plot of this comic. Jonah Hex and Mei-Ling’s somewhat antagonistic relationship was one of the most fun things about the original Jonah Hex comic. This issue takes place during Jonah and Mei-Ling’s honeymoon, and their relationship is essentially the same as in their previous incarnations.