Reviews for late July and early August

8-25-16

I’m resuming these reviews after a long hiatus. I read so many comic books on the week of August 5 that I didn’t have the energy to review them all, and so they kept piling up. Also, because of the way my apartment is set up, the area where I usually sit to write my reviews was so dark that I couldn’t see the comics I was reviewing. I just bought a new floor lamp, which solves that problem. So here we go, starting with new comics received on August 5.

PAPER GIRLS #8 (Image, 2016) – Brian K. Vaughan [W], Cliff Chiang [A]. Another strong issue. After three weeks, I’ve forgotten most of what happened in this issue, but the image of the hockey stick floating in the air above the mall fountain has stuck with me. And the twist ending, where the hockey stick turns out to say DON’T TRUST OTHER ERIN, is quite a shock.

JUGHEAD #8 (Archie, 2016) – Chip Zdarsky [W], Derek Charm [A]. This is one of two recent comic books with a cliffhanger involving a bear attack, the other being Jem and the Holograms #17. It’s also a strong conclusion to the two-part story about camping. I like that Mr. Weatherbee is not willing to forgive the man who bullied him as a child, and that he refuses to romanticize his unhappy history with Ted Mantle. As a minor point, I also like how in the flashback, everyone is wearing ‘70s clothing. And I love that the camp formerly known as Camp Lucey is now Camp Bolling. At the Archie panel at Heroes Con, I asked the panelists if they had any interest in using the continuity that Bob Bolling introduced, and I think they misunderstood the question and talked about continuity instead of Bolling. So I’m glad to see that Chip is indeed aware of Bolling’s work.

GIANT DAYS #17 (Boom!, 2016) – John Allison [W], Max Sarin [A]. This is the one where Daisy goes on an archaeological dig, and meanwhile Esther and Susan participate in a natural language processing project that turns out to be a plagiarism operation. As a college writing teacher, I think the plagiarism racket is eerily plausible.

BOUNTY #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Kurtis Wiebe [W], Mindy Lee [A]. This is an okay comic but it’s no substitute for Rat Queens. I love the cover, but the kitten is much more prominent on the cover than in the actual comic.

ACTION LAB: DOG OF WONDER #3 (Action Lab, 2016) – Vito Delsante [W], Scott Fogg [A]. Like Hero Cats, this comic is lighthearted and fun if not exactly groundbreaking. I think it’s about the same level of quality as Hero Cats, with perhaps slightly better artwork. The conclusion to the first storyline is predictable but fun, and I look forward to the additional stories previewed on the last page.

LADY KILLER 2 #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Joëlle Jones [W/A]. The original Lady Killer was a fun combination of an adventure comic and a satire of ‘60s sexism, and this sequel, which is now written as well as drawn by Joëlle Jones, continues in the same vein. Joëlle Jones does an excellent job of capturing the look of ‘60s America, and Josie’s husband’s new boss is a truly vile character.

VOTE LOKI #3 (Marvel, 2016) – Christopher Hastings [W], Langdon Foss [A]. This is just an average comic. I’m not sorry that there’s only one more issue to go. I suppose Marvel can’t be too overtly political, but I think they could have gotten away with drawing stronger parallels between Loki and Trump.

SUICIDE SQUAD #29 (DC, 1989) – John Ostrander & Kim Yale [W], John K. Snyder III & Pablo Marcos [A]. This issue is part eight of a crossover with three other much lower-quality titles (Checkmate, Firestorm and Manhunter), so it doesn’t make much sense on its own, even compared to other issues of Suicide Squad. At least it does have Amanda Waller and the other Suicide Squad characters in it, but nothing about it stands out in my memory.

MARVEL UNIVERSE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Steve Melching [W], Joe Caramagna [A], sort of. I bought this comic because it has Rocket Raccoon’s family in it. I shouldn’t have bothered. First of all, this is not an original story but an adaptation of an episode of the GOTG TV show. As a result, the artwork looks really weird – the characters look like two-dimensional cutouts on top of a three-dimensional background. And the story suffers from having been compressed from a 22-minute TV episode into a 22-page comic book. Not that the story was particularly good to begin with; it’s a very average piece of children’s entertainment. I regret buying this comic.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #42 (DC, 1966) – Gardner Fox [W], Mike Sekowsky [A]. I’m not sure if “Metamorpho Says No!” is a classic, but it’s certainly a memorable story. Metamorpho’s reason for joining the Justice League is both plausible and sad. Unlike the other JLAers, he views his powers as a curse, and does not want to be obligated to remain a superhero if he has a chance to give up his powers. As I write this, I realize that Metamorpho had more in common with Marvel superheroes like the Thing and the Hulk, who also saw their powers as curses, than with most DC heroes. Also, the villain in this story, The Unimaginable, is really cool. He’s a creature that can’t be seen or even conceptualized by human beings, and some of the panels in which he “appears” are so abstract that they almost remind me of Alex Toth art. I’m surprised that he didn’t become a recurring character – he seems like an ideal villain for a Grant Morrison story.

DENNIS THE MENACE #163 (Fawcett, 1979) – unknown [W/A]. I’ve heard that the Dennis the Menace comic books were a big influence on the Hernandez brothers, and that they’re sometimes considered superior to Hank Ketcham’s original comic strips. The classic creative team on this series was Fred Toole and Al Wiseman, but I have no idea whether they were still working on it at this late date. In this particular issue, Dennis and his parents visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center at Huntsville, Alabama. The staff of this museum appear to have collaborated with the creators of this issue, and the issue includes all sorts of interesting information about NASA and the space program. It doesn’t have much of a story, but it’s very cute and charming, and also kind of nostalgic because of the optimistic attitude toward the space program that it reflects. At the end of the issue, Dennis learns about the then-new Space Shuttle program. In 1979, the Challenger disaster was still seven years in the future. Anyway, I liked this comic and I want to build a collection of these Dennis comics.

WEIRD WESTERN TALES #40 (DC, 1977) – Michael Fleisher [W], Dick Ayers [A]. This is the first appearance of Scalphunter. It’s written in Fleisher’s distinctive style, and is full of hilarious dialogue and enjoyable mayhem. However, when I read it, I was annoyed by its negative portrayal of Native Americans. Scalphunter’s native Kiowa people are portrayed as ignorant savages with few positive qualities.

ATOMIC ROBO: KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE #4 (Red 5, 2014) – Brian Clevinger [W], Scott Wegener [A]. Another Western comic, but a very different one. It’s reasonably fun, though because this is issue four, it’s hard to tell what exactly is going on. I vaguely recall issue one of this series, and its plot seems to have little to do with that of issue four.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #4 (Fantagraphics, 2015) – Ed Piskor [W/A]. This issue completes the reprinting of material from the first treasury-sized volume. Unfortunately it’s also the last issue that contains Piskor’s annotations. In the notes to page 11 of this issue, Piskor points out that his version of Rick Rubin is based on Buddy Bradley, which inspired me to go and read some back issues of Hate.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #583 (Archie, 1988) – Bob Bolling [W/A]. This includes three new Bob Bolling stories. The first and longest of them reintroduces Mad Dr. Doom and his hippie sidekick Chester. I hope Chip Zdarsky is familiar with these characters because I’d love to see him bring them back. The second, and perhaps the best, is about Archie and Jughead’s attempt to catch the Perilous Pike of Logger’s Pond. Bob Bolling was what Craig Thompson calls a great nature cartoonist; his stories in which Archie explores the hinterland of Riverdale were some of his best work. In the last story, Archie saves a lost dog from the pound by spending money he was saving for a baseball glove.

MS. TREE #14 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – Max Allan Collins [W], Terry Beatty [A]. I’ve already read the later chapters of “Skin Deep,” but not the first chapter, which appears in this issue. In “Skin Deep,” a national beauty pageant winner hires Ms. Tree to retrieve some photographs of her which are about to be published in a porn magazine. This is obviously based on the then-recent scandal where Vanessa Williams resigned as Miss America because Penthouse was about to publish nude photos of her. In fact, now that I read about that scandal on Wikipedia, I realize just how closely “Skin Deep” was based on it, although the fictional version of this scandal had a happier ending than the real one.

HATE #4 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – Peter Bagge [W/A]. I’ve had this comic for a long time, but I never bothered to read it because it contains material I’ve already read in reprinted form. However, I read “Buddy Bradley is Not His Brother’s Keeper” such a long time ago that rereading it was almost like reading it for the first time. In this story, Buddy’s awful younger brother Butch moves in with him unannounced and causes all kinds of havoc. Peter Bagge really was the funniest cartoonist of his generation; I need to seek out whichever of his comics I haven’t already read.

THE BATMAN ADVENTURES: THE LOST YEARS #1 (DC, 1998) – Hillary Bader [W], Bo Hampton [A]. I don’t know why this is called The Lost Years – I assume it fills in a gap between seasons of the TV show. This is a pretty good comic, though not quite as good as the previous Batman Adventures series. Although I’m a lifelong Dick-Kory shipper, I have to admit that this issue’s depiction of Dick and Babs’s relationship is cute. Batman’s patronizing attitude toward Babs is annoying, though at least he reveals his secret identity to her at the end of the issue.

On August 7, I went to the thrice-yearly Charlotte Comicon, which is actually in Concord. I had somewhat low expectations for this convention because I’ve been in a bit of a collecting slump lately; I’ve had trouble finding stuff that I really want and that’s within my price range. But it turned out that this convention was seriously impressive. The highlight was the Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find booth, which had a huge selection of Bronze Age and even Silver Age comics for 50 cents each! There were also other dealers that had interesting stuff. Overall I was very satisfied with my experience; it reminded me of the one-day comic conventions I used to go to in Atlanta. I look forward to attending the next one of these shows, which is in December. Of the comics I bought at this show, the first one I read was:

TALES OF SUSPENSE #84 (Marvel, 1966) – Stan Lee [W], Gene Colan and Jack Kirby [A]. This comic is not in great condition but is still complete and readable – unlike the Amazing Spider-Man #107 I got at the convention, which turned out to be missing its centerfold. In the Iron Man story, Tony finally has his hearing with Senator Byrd, but as soon as he gets on the stand, he suffers a heart attack. Happy Hogan then has to protect Tony’s secret identity by putting on the Iron Man suit. This plot device – a superhero getting someone else to wear his costume in order to protect his secret identity – was very common in Silver Age DC comics, but I can’t think of any other Silver Age Marvel comic that used it. In the backup story, Captain America battles the Super-Adaptoid, who is a really awesome-looking character, even though he’s basically just Cap with Hawkeye’s mask and the Wasp’s wings. Overall, this was a fun comic, and ToS is one of my favorite Silver Age Marvel titles.

THE UNTOLD LEGEND OF THE BATMAN #1 (DC, 1980) – Len Wein [W], John Byrne [A]. This is one of the first comic books I ever read. I read it at a childhood friend’s house – I can’t even remember whose house. I believe the version I read was much smaller than a normal comic book. Looking at Wikipedia, I see that this comic was indeed reprinted in a 9’’ x 6’’ format as a breakfast cereal premium. That was in 1989, when I was six years old, so I may have read it very shortly after that. But I never owned my own copy, and it’s been a long long time since I read it, so I’m surprised at how many details of it I still remember. It seems as though the earlier I read a comic book, the more of an impact it had on me.

This issue is a retelling of Batman’s origin, based heavily on “The First Batman” from Detective Comics #235. It has a gloomy and mysterious tone that I still remember from when I first read it. Len Wein introduces or reintroduces a number of details that were rarely if ever mentioned again, including the notion that Bruce Wayne’s housekeeper, Mrs. Chilton, was Joe Chill’s mother. I don’t know if this character ever appeared anywhere else. In general, as a Batman origin story, Untold Legend is clearly not at the same level as Batman: Year One. But it’s not bad at all, and rereading it was a fun trip down memory lane.

AVENGERS #48 (Marvel, 1968) – Roy Thomas [W], George Tuska [A]. I paid $6 for this, easily the most I paid for a comic at the convention. In this issue, Dane Whitman, who first appeared in #47, makes his debut as the Black Knight, and promptly gets in a fight with the Avengers because of mistaken identity. Meanwhile, Quicksilver and Wanda try to escape from Magneto. This is not Roy’s best Avengers story and it suffers from boring George Tuska art, but it’s a fun issue of perhaps my favorite classic Marvel title.

IRON LANTERN #1 (Amalgam, 1997) – Kurt Busiek [W], Paul Smith [A]. Unlike Doctor Strangefate, reviewed above, this comic takes full advantage of the Amalagm premise. Kurt is the perfect writer for Amalgam comics because of his encyclopedic knowledge of both Marvel and DC continuity. Half the fun of this comic is identifying the sometimes quite obscure characters who each Amalgamized character is based on – for example, Senator Ferris is Carl Ferris crossed with Senator Byrd. Paul Smith’s art is serviceable, though not his best, and this issue also includes a funny fake letter column.

DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES #11 (Gladstone, 1989) – Carl Barks [W/A]. This issue reprints “Adventure Down Under.” In this story, Donald is hypnotized into thinking he’s a kangaroo, so he buys tickets to Australia for himself and the nephews, and hijinks ensue. In general this is a fun Barks story, but it has a major flaw, in that it includes some highly stereotypical depictions of Aboriginal Australians. Barks depicts the Aboriginal people in the story as savage cannibals, and shows little interest in or sensitivity to their culture. Unfortunately this was a common problem in his work, though some of his stories, like “Land of Totem Poles,” do depict indigenous people in a more positive way.

DAREDEVIL #50 (Marvel, 1969) – Stan Lee [W], Barry Windsor-Smith [A]. This issue is mostly notable for the early BWS artwork, but at this point he was still mostly imitating Kirby and had yet to develop his familiar style. The story, involving Starr Saxon/Machinehead/Mr. Fear II, is rather forgettable. According to the Wikipedia page on Machinesmith, BWS intended for this character to be gay, but this is impossible to guess from the artwork.

HATE #3 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – Peter Bagge [W/A]. This is the other old issue of Hate that I’ve had for years. The first story is about Buddy’s mysterious roommate George, the backup story is about Buddy’s dysfunctional relationship with Valerie. It’s some very funny stuff, though I’ve read this story before.

THOR #200 (Marvel, 1972) – Stan Lee [W], John Buscema [A]. “Beware If This Be Ragnarok” is described as a classic in Mark Gruenwald’s essay in the back of Thor #294, which was one of the first old Thor comics I read and which made a strong impression on me. Now that I’ve finally read Thor #200, I’m not sure it’s a classic, but it’s certainly a strange and unique story. It retells the Ragnarok myth, closely following the version in the Eddas. What makes it a classic is the epic grandeur of Stan’s writing and Big John’s art. This story is weird, though, in that it’s an anniversary issue but it feels like a fill-in. Besides a short framing sequence, it’s unrelated to the then-ongoing storyline, which was written by Gerry Conway instead of Stan. And apparently it’s a retelling of earlier Tales of Asgard material. I would be curious to know how this story came to be published in this issue.

DOCTOR STRANGE #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], Chris Bachalo [A]. This is an okay conclusion to Last Days of Magic, but at this point I’ve long since grown tired of this storyline and I just want to move on to something else.

SUICIDE SQUAD #35 (DC, 1989) – John Ostrander [W], Luke McDonnell & Geof Isherwood [A]. This is a fun one. The Squad go to Apokolips, I forget why, and fight an epic battle with the Female Furies and other Apokoliptians. Ostrander effectively contrasts the gritty realism of the Suicide Squad characters with the over-the-top histrionics of the New Gods, and conveys the sense that the Suicide Squad are out of their depth. He also does a good job of reproducing the unique personalities of each of the Kirby characters.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #171 (Marvel, 1977) – Len Wein [W], Ross Andru [A]. A disappointing effort from an underrated Spider-Man creative team that I really like. This issue is a crossover in which Spidey and Nova attempt to discover the true identity of a new villain named Photon. The answer is obvious from the first page: the person Photon murdered is pointing to the calendar pages for July, August, September, October, November and December, and one of the suspects is named Jason Dean. There is very little of the characterization and soap opera that I look for in a Spider-Man comic, besides one brief scene with Harry Osborn and Liz Allan.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #5 (Fantagraphics, 2015) – Ed Piskor [W/A]. This issue unfortunately has no annotations, but at least it contains material I haven’t already read. And I think I prefer reading Hip Hop Family Tree in this format rather than in the treasury-sized volumes. As I have said before (though not necessarily in this forum), I just prefer comic books because they take less time to read and are more materially rich. The theme of this issue is the interaction between the hip hop and punk subcultures, although a lot of other stuff happens in this issue too.

UNCANNY X-MEN #113 (Marvel, 1978) – Chris Claremont [W], John Byrne [A]. This was in the aforementioned 50-cent box, making it possibly the cheapest Claremont-Byrne X-Men issue that I’ve ever found. “Showdown!” is the conclusion of the Magneto three-parter, and is most memorable, at least to me, for the scene where Ororo picks a lock with her mouth. It also includes some fantastic action sequences, and it ends with Hank and Jean thinking the rest of the team is dead and vice versa, which sets up the next year’s worth of stories.

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #15 (DC, 2016) – Sholly Fisch [W], Dario Brizuela [A]. This issue, the Scooby Gang team up with the Flash to investigate a ghost in Gorilla City. Surprisingly, the ghost is not Grodd, although Grodd does make an appearance. This comic is a lot of fun. The best part is the running joke where gorillas can’t tell humans apart, but besides that, it’s just a funny and well-crafted adventure story, comparable to the old Marvel Adventures line.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #175 (Marvel, 1977) – Len Wein [W], Ross Andru [A]. This is better than #171, but still a bit disappointing. It’s one of the earlier appearances of the Punisher, a character I utterly detest. As a result, the main plot of this issue is less interesting than it could have been, although the plot does involve JJJ, Marla Madison and Robbie, and there’s one cool scene at the Statue of Liberty. The one major subplot this issue is that Bart Hamilton beats up Harry Osborn and claims the mantle of the Green Goblin.

MAGNUS, ROBOT FIGHTER #12 (Gold Key, 1965) – Russ Manning [W/A] with Don Christensen [W] and Mike Royer [A]. At the convention, I was thrilled to find two issues of Magnus that I didn’t already have, although both of them contain stories that I’ve already read, because they were reprinted in later issues of the series. Magnus is perhaps my favorite ‘60s comic not published by Marvel or DC. I think Russ Manning is an absolute master, with his brilliant action sequences, his cute faces, and his slick, futuristic robots. “The Volcano Makers” is a typical Magnus story. A mad scientist starts a series of volcanic eruptions, but after he repents of his actions, his robots try to finish the job he started and destroy the human race. Of course Magnus stops them. At one point Leeja saves Magnus’s life, which is unusual because she tends to be a passive damsel-in-distress.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #146 (Marvel, 1972) – Gary Friedrich [W], Sal Buscema [A]. This is a pretty fun issue, despite the unexciting creative team. I don’t remember much about it now, though. It has a confusing plot which involves Sharon Carter, Hydra, the Femme Force (a group of female SHIELD agents), and a barely disguised parody of Howard Hughes. The Femme Force was a cool idea that was never mentioned again after this storyline.

AUTUMNLANDS #12 (Image, 2016) – Kurt Busiek [W], Benjamin Dewey [A]. I’ve been rather unimpressed by this series lately, but this issue is a slight improvement. The origin of the Galatea creatures is rather sad, and also gives us some insight into how the world of this series got to be the way it is.

MS. MARVEL #2 (Marvel, 1977) – Gerry Conway [W], John Buscema [A]. This is the earliest issue of this series that I have. Too bad it’s from before Claremont took over. It’s still a fairly progressive comic book for its era; it includes one conversation between Carol and Mary Jane Watson that easily passes the Bechdel Test.

GREEN LANTERN #38 (DC, 1965) – Gardner Fox [W], Gil Kane [A]. A fairly typical Silver Age Green Lantern comic. The villain in the first story is an “atomic changeling” that reminds me a bit of Mutant X/Proteus. There’s a clever visual trick where every time the changeling transforms, we see a little mushroom cloud, whose significance does not become clear until later. The backup story is the first appearance of Goldface, though he’s not called that yet.

YOUNG JUSTICE #47 (DC, 2002) – Peter David [W], Todd Nauck [A]. In the first half of the issue, all the female protagonists have a slumber party. This sort of thing is what made Young Justice great – it had a large cast of realistically depicted female characters who interacted with each other in interesting ways. I can’t remember all the funny and cute moments in this scene, but there are a lot of them. Oh, right, one that sticks out to me is Traya being traumatized by her first viewing of Old Yeller. The rest of the issue sets up the Fighting MAAD storyline in which the YJers invade Zandia to avenge the murder of Empress’s mother.

SENSATION COMICS FEATURING WONDER WOMAN #15 (DC, 2015) – Adam Beechen [W], José Luis García López [A] on first story; Carla Speed McNeil [W/A] on backup story. I hated the main story in this issue; even JLGL’s artwork couldn’t save Beechen’s fundamentally flawed premise. The Cheetah escapes from pretrial detention and kills a bunch of people, and Wonder Woman takes her back into custody instead of killing her, despite knowing that she’s going to kill again. This is a plot that I’ve seen many times before, usually with Batman and the Joker. It’s a tired old cliché and Adam Beechen fails to add anything new to it. Moreover, this plot is not realistic. Or rather, this trope is “realistic” in the sense of “unnecessarily grim and gritty” rather than “plausible.” To quote what I said on Facebook: “One of the rules of superhero comics is that Batman (for example) can never kill the Joker, even though the Joker is inevitably going to escape and kill more people. This is fine as a dramatic conceit, but I don’t think it would work this way in real life. If there was a person who was committing mass murder and who couldn’t be stopped without killing him, I think we would just execute him. We wouldn’t just allow the Joker to kill people rather than violate his rights.” (Though I did also add: “On the other hand, that’s exactly what we’re doing right now with gun owners, so who knows.”) The other problem is that Wonder Woman, in particular, should be willing to kill someone when rehabilitation is impossible, like when she killed Deimos in #5 of the Pérez series.

Carla Speed McNeil’s backup story is much better, despite or because it’s less ambitious. Diana meets a man who adopted a lion cub, but wasn’t prepared to take care of it when it grew up, and sold it to an illegal zoo. Even though the man is clearly kind of an idiot, Diana takes care of his problem in a sensitive and creative way. Carla is really good at drawing lions, although I knew that already from reading “The King of the Cats.”

MARVEL PREMIERE #24 (Marvel, 1975) – Chris Claremont [W], Pat Broderick [A]. I didn’t know Pat Broderick’s career started this early. The most notable thing in this issue is a scene where Iron Fist participates in a softball game. His team is obviously based on the Marvel Bullpen softball team, though the only team member who I can identify is Claremont himself; all the others are drawn too indistinctly to be recognized. The plot this issue involves a royal visit by an Islamic princess. I wondered if this was based on the Iranian Shah and Shahbanu’s visit to America (which I know about because it was shown in Doonesbury), but that happened a couple years later.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #6 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – Ed Piskor [W/A]. This issue chronicles the making of Wild Style, the first hip hop film. While writing this review, I balanced this comic book on my chest and realized that it smells just like an old comic book.

DAREDEVIL #92 (Marvel, 1972) – Gerry Conway [W], Gene Colan [A]. This issue is from the Daredevil/Black Widow era, which was perhaps the high point of the series prior to Frank Miller. But this issue has just an average story, though the art is spectacular. Matt goes looking for a missing Natasha, and fights some boring villains named Damon Dran and the Blue Talon. Also, Matt protects his secret identity by having Black Panther wear his costume so that “Daredevil” and Matt Murdock can be seen in public together (see the review of Tales of Suspense #84 above).

MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #15 (Marvel, 1974) – Steve Gerber [W], Jim Mooney [A]. Steve Gerber’s Son of Satan is one of his few ‘70s works that I haven’t read. I can’t remember much about this issue now except that, like all Gerber comics, it’s really strange, and Jim Mooney’s art is much more outlandish and psychedelic than I expect from him. The story involves a Satanist coven on a college campus, which is probably something that really did exist back then. The story takes place in St. Louis, so I assume the university is Wash U. Oh, one minor point. In this story, there’s a busy city street directly under the Gateway Arch. I remember that when I visited the Gateway Arch, the area below it was a marshy wetland.

THE MAXX #2 (Image, 1993) – Sam Kieth [W/A], William Messner-Loebs [A]. This comic is seriously confusing and I’m not sure what it’s about, but it’s an intelligently written and well-drawn piece of work, unlike most other Image comics of this period. I never really got into Sam Kieth’s artwork, but he was much more interesting than many of his Image colleagues, although his panel structure is sometimes too ornate for its own good. I’ve always unconsciously imagined grues (from Zork) as looking something like the black Isz from this comic.

MANHUNTER #21 (DC, 2006) – Marc Andreyko [W], Javier Pina & Fernando Blanco [A]. This is not great, but it’s not bad either. Kate Spencer was one of DC’s better female protagonists from this time. For some reason, in this issue she has to defend Dr. Psycho. This issue includes one very implausible scene where Kate asks Dr. Mid-Nite if she has a fever, and he says no, and she says that now they have doctor-patient confidentiality. That doesn’t work in real life (and you also can’t establish an attorney-client relationship just by giving a lawyer a dollar, as depicted in shows like Breaking Bad).

NAUGHTY BITS #31 (Fantagraphics, 2000) – Roberta Gregory [W/A]. An excellent issue. First there’s a three-page story about Roberta’s cat, then a long Bitchy Bitch story in which lots of stuff happens. Bitchy breaks up with her boyfriend when she discovers child porn under his mattress, she finds a lump on her breast, and her awful coworker Marcie gets kidnapped by criminals, but unfortunately survives. There’s also a personal diary entry about Roberta’s breakup with her boyfriend. One panel in this issue that really stood out to me was Bitchy complaining that everything is geared toward rich people, and she’s worked her whole life with nothing to show for it. I certainly feel this way often.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #5 (Marvel, 2000) – Peter David [W], James Fry [A]. This issue has a clever premise in which Drax the Destroyer is kidnapped by Jarella’s people, who mistake him for the Hulk. Meanwhile, Moondragon tries to get Rick and Genis to go after her dad. I need to finish reading the Captain Marvels I already have, so I can buy more. Like many other Marvel comics from 1999 and 2000, this issue includes a chapter of an eight-page anti-drug story called “Fastlane.” I was strongly tempted to just tear these eight pages out of the comic, as I must have done with other comics that included these Fastlane inserts.

THE SPECTRE #8 (DC, 1993) – John Ostrander [W], Tom Mandrake [A]. This issue has a glow-in-the-dark cover, which really does glow in the dark, though faintly – I checked. In this issue, the Spectre tries to save Amy from a serial killer called the Reaver, since Amy is similar to the Reaver’s past victims. It’s a good example of Ostrander and Mandrake’s Spectre, and includes some very lurid and gruesome art.

SECRETS OF HAUNTED HOUSE #25 (DC, 1980) – various [W/A]. A very forgettable comic, whose only interesting feature is the Jun Lofamia artwork on the first story. I’m not familiar with this Filipino artist, but his style is similar to that of Nestor Redondo or E.R. Cruz. In the backup story, Destiny appears as a character as well as a horror host, and behaves in a way that’s wildly inconsistent with Neil Gaiman’s version of him.

And now I am FINALLY done with reviews for the week of the convention. Though I still have three or four more weeks’ worth of comics to review…

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