Reviews for September and early October

New comics received on September 2:

SAGA #37 (Image, 2016) – Brian K. Vaughan [W], Fiona Staples [A]. The best comic book in America is back! But this issue was a bit underwhelming. All it does is advances a bunch of ongoing plotlines, but only a little bit each. I hope next issue will be better.

MS. MARVEL #10 (Marvel, 2016) – G. Willow Wilson [W], Takeshi Miyazawa & Adrian Alphona [A]. I am loving the flashback sequences at the start of each issue; they include some fascinating information about Kamala and her family. Kamala’s first encounter with Bruno is adorable (and I’ve worked it into my still-in-progress book chapter about this series). The problem with the rest of the issue, though, is that I’m thoroughly sick of both Carol Danvers and Civil War II. Carol has become a completely unsympathetic character, with her superior attitude and her unwillingness to think twice about her Ulysses scheme. And as I already pointed out in my review of Ms. Marvel #9, the Ulysses plotline was uninteresting to begin with because of its lack of moral ambiguity. Also, it will really suck if Bruno dies. ☹

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #18 (IDW, 2016) – Kelly Thompson [W], Jen Bartel [A]. Synergy saves Stormer from the bear, then Shana announces she’s leaving the band to do a fashion internship in Europe. Kind of an average issue.

THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #9 (DC, 2016) – Renae de Liz [W/A]. The best DC comic of the year is unfortunately over, but there’s going to be a sequel – or at least I hope so, although they said the same thing about Prez. The final issue was not as good as some of the others due to an excess of fight scenes, but it’s a good conclusion to Diana’s origin; it gives a satisfying explanation of how she acquires the powers of the gods. I look forward to hopefully seeing more of this series.

FUTURE QUEST #4 (DC, 2016) – Jeff Parker [W/A], Ron Randall & Evan “Doc” Shaner [A]. I enjoyed this issue, though I don’t remember much about it now; so much stuff happens in this issue that it was hard to process it all. In this issue, Jonny Quest’s mother’s name is given as Ellen. This is at least the third different version of Jonny’s mother; she was previously known as Judith and Rachel.

SILVER SURFER #200 (Marvel, 2016) – Dan Slott [W], Mike Allred [A]. This barely seems like an “anniversary” issue, except that it includes a cover gallery of all 200 issues. The story is a good one, but it could have been told in any issue of this series. Dawn and Norrin team up to defeat some energy-sucking cephalopods, and then Dawn’s mother completely rejects her. The main reaction I had to this story was fury at this unfeeling, callous woman who gave birth to Dawn. She may not have planned on being a mother, but she is one anyway, and she has no right to just abandon her children. I mean, it would be one thing if she had given Dawn and Eve up for adoption at birth, but she left them when they were old enough to remember her, and now she refuses to have anything to do with them, and I can’t sympathize with that. No wonder Dawn doesn’t want to stay on Earth anymore.

GOTHAM ACADEMY ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2016) – Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher [W], four different artists. In this annual, the Detective Club splits in half and solves two different mysteries, one involving a vampire and another involving a radioactive glowing skeleton. It turns out that the two mysteries are related, in a confusing and convoluted way. This was a really fun story and a good introduction to the upcoming second season. I wonder if the glowing skeleton guy is based on Dr. Phosphorus.

Over Labor Day weekend, since I had just gotten paid, I took a trip to a bookstore downtown. The bookstore was less than a mile away from Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, so I took the opportunity to go there too. I was kind of unimpressed with the Heroes store; they didn’t have any of the recent issues I was looking for, and I had trouble finding anything I wanted. I ended up buying just three comics, one of which was:

CIVIL WAR II: CHOOSING SIDES #4 (Marvel, 2016) – various [W/A]. I had no idea there was a Power Pack story in this issue until I saw it on the shelf at Previews. In fact, this issue has both a Power Pack story and a Punisher story, which has to be the greatest tonal mismatch since Archie vs. the Punisher. The Punisher story is predictably awful, and I despise this character anyway. But the Power Pack story is quite good. It’s written by John Allison, and like Giant Days, it has excellent dialogue and a minimal plot. The focus is mostly on showing how the three younger Power siblings have grown. I wish Marvel would do more with these characters; I think this is the first time Jack Power has appeared anywhere since 2010.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS #10 (Action Lab, 2016) – Jeremy Whitley [W], Rosy Higgins & Jason Strutz [A]. Most of this issue is a flashback sequence, representing a story that Sunshine tells to the unconscious Ximena about how her (Sunshine’s) parents met. It’s a cute Romeo-and-Juliet story about a human-elf romance. There’s a funny line about how the “story gets kind of vague” at the point that Sunshine is conceived.

ROCKET RACCOON & GROOT #8 (Marvel, 2016) – Nick Kocher [W], Michael Walsh [A]. This is only nominally a Civil War crossover. Rocket accepts a mission from Carol Danvers as an excuse to track down an old enemy of his, and while doing so, he runs into Gwenpool. Nick Kocher is a very funny writer, and he effectively plays Rocket, Groot and Gwenpool off of each other.

CIVIL WAR: CHOOSING SIDES II #2 (Marvel, 2016) – various [W/A]. I should have ordered this because of Jeremy Whitley’s War Machine story, but I forgot. It’s not a story starring War Machine, but a story about America Chavez, Monica Rambeau and Storm’s reactions to Rhodey’s death. It’s a touching piece of work that demonstrates Jeremy’s ability to write effectively about black people despite being white himself. The girl named Zuri who Storm encounters is named after Jeremy’s daughter. According to Jeremy on Twitter, I was the first person to notice this.

The other story in this issue is about Goliath. It has some interesting art by Marco Rudy, but it assumes too much knowledge about this character’s history, and does not make sense on its own.

HOWARD THE DUCK #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Chip Zdarsky [W], Joe Quinones [A]. I thought this was the last issue, but I guess there’s one more left. The Chipp and Jho characters are a really funny piece of metafiction (not to mention their colleagues, such as Ta-Nehi-C). There’s also a funny suggestion that Howard himself thinks Steve Gerber was a better writer than Chip. If the next issue is as good as this one, then this story will be the perfect conclusion to a very fun series.

THE SPECTRE #32 (DC, 1995) – John Ostrander [W], Steve Pugh [A]. In this self-contained story, the Spectre fights a murderer who has multiple personalities, only some of which are culpable for his crimes. The Spectre solves this dilemma by destroying all the man’s split personalities, even the good ones, and leaving just the normal unremarkable one. Steve Pugh’s artwork on this issue is reminiscent of that of Richard Corben.

TOMB OF DRACULA #8 (Marvel, 1973) – Marv Wolfman [W], Gene Colan [A]. Another comic that I’ve had for a long time, but never bothered to read because I had already read the story in reprinted form. This is the second issue of probably the best run on any ‘70s Marvel comic. The first six issues of ToD ranged from average to bad, but with his arrival on the series, Marv instantly turned the series around. His first story, in which Frank, Rachel and Quincy battle a bunch of mind-controlled kids, is frantic and tense from start to finish. The art this issue isn’t as good as in later issues because the third member of the team, Tom Palmer, had not arrived yet.

GREEN LANTERN #113 (DC, 1979) – Denny O’Neil [W], Alex Saviuk [A]. This issue is kind of dumb. On Christmas, Hal, Dinah and Ollie encounter a bunch of punk musicians. One of them has a wife who’s about to give birth. The wife is kidnapped by some hillbillies who want to use the baby to break a curse. The religious subtext here is too obvious to be interesting. In Flash #73, Mark Waid wrote a much better story with a very similar premise. Also, Alex Saviuk is a really boring artist.

DEPT. H #5 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Matt Kindt [W/A]. This series gets creepier with every issue. I mention it briefly in my in-progress book chapter about SF comics, but it may be closer to horror than SF. Mia watches the feed from Raj’s suit and sees… it’s not clear what, and then the entire habitat caves in. I have issue 6 of this series but have not read it yet.

AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #10 (Archie, 2016) – Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa [W], Francesco Francavilla [A]. I used to think this was the third best current comic after Saga and Sex Criminals, but this week it was the twelfth new comic book I read. This shows how badly my enthusiasm for this series has suffered as a result of its chronic lateness. This isn’t a bad comic at all, though; in fact, it’s quite impressive. It tells the story of the Afterlife version of Josie and the Pussycats, who turn out to be vampires. Roberto gives a compelling and well-researched account of their origin and their various incarnations as different pop groups.

ISLAND #9 (Image, 2016) – various [W/A]. Probably the worst issue yet. Brandon Graham seems to be a fan of Fil Barlow’s Zooniverse, and Frank Plowright’s Slings and Arrows guide has good things to say about it. But the Zooniverse story in this issue made no sense to me. Fil Barlow is good at drawing bizarre alien creatures and environments, but I was unable to tell any of the characters in this story apart, nor could I follow the plot. Lin Visel’s story “Balst” is boring and amateurish. The only piece in the issue that I liked was Joseph Bergin’s short piece. It makes little logical sense – it appears to be about a possessed garbage disposal or something – but at least the artwork is interesting.

TRUE BELIEVERS: STAR WARS #1 (Marvel, 2016, originally 1977) – Roy Thomas [W], Howard Chakyin [A]. I bought this because it was a dollar. Star Wars #1 was very important because it may have saved Marvel from bankruptcy, but is now mostly a historical curiosity. It includes at least one scene left out of the movie, Biggs Darklighter’s farewell to Luke, but otherwise it follows the first part of the movie closely. Howard Chaykin’s artwork is quite good.

WONDER WOMAN #5 (DC, 2016) – Greg Rucka [W], Liam Sharp [A]. The even-numbered issues of this title are worse than the odd-numbered issues, but still quite good. Greg Rucka’s writing is never spectacular, but it’s always consistently good, with the notable exception of Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1. I wonder what happened to Black Magic though. Liam Sharp’s artwork has gotten a lot better since the ‘90s. I think the best moment this issue was Steve Trevor’s reference to toxic masculinity.

ATOMIC ROBO: KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE #2 (Red 5, 2014) – Brian Clevinger [W], Scott Wegener [A]. Another average issue of Atomic Robo. I think I just don’t like this series as much as my friend Pol Rua does. The only Atomic Robo comic I unconditionally loved was Deadly Art of Science.

SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? #66 (DC, 2016) – various [W/A]. I was sorry to see that the backup story this issue was written by Chuck Dixon. It’s not particularly good or bad, but I regret having unintentionally given Chuck Dixon my money. But the first story this issue, by Ivan Cohen and Walter Carson, is quite good. On President’s Day, the Scooby Gang visit the White House where they encounter a villain who’s posing as the ghosts of various former presidents.

FLASH #253 (DC, 1977) – Cary Bates [W], Irv Novick [A]. Irv Novick is a classic example of a boring artist, but I kind of like his art. Like many Cary Bates comics, this issue has a confusing and convoluted plot, in which the Elongated Man turns into a villain called the Molder and seemingly kills the Flash. This issue is notable for having a scene where Sue Dibny and Iris West talk to each other. It doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test because they’re talking about Barry and Ralph, but at the time, it was unusual for these characters to interact at all without their husbands present.

JONESY #5 (Boom!, 2016) – Sam Humphries [W], Caitlin Rose Boyle [A]. Jonesy’s idol Stuff comes to town and casts Jonesy in his opera production, but he wants Jonesy to play the fat stupid character. I still don’t quite understand this comic, but it’s funny and it’s clearly a labor of love on the part of the creators.

SPIDER-GWEN #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Latour [W], Robbi Rodriguez [A]. This series slipped pretty far down my priority list after the awful Spider-Women crossover issues. This issue is hard to understand, but at least it feels like a classic Spider-Gwen story, if the word “classic” is appropriate for a series that’s only a couple years old. I notice that Gwen is wearing a Power Pack shirt.

SPIDER-GWEN #11 (Marvel, 2016) – as above. I remember liking this better than some other recent issues, but I can’t recall much about it. I like how in Spider-Gwen’s world, Reed Richards is a black teenager. And he builds Gwen a device that’s very similar to the old Thing rings.

HATE #22 (Fantagraphics, 1996) – Peter Bagge [W/A]. Brilliant work. This is as funny as any Hate comic, but also involves some serious relationship and family drama. Buddy’s girlfriend Lisa becomes the primary caretaker for Buddy’s sick father. Buddy and Lisa fight over this because Lisa is more worried about Dad than Buddy himself is. Then Buddy’s dad gets run over by a truck – and good riddance, because he was an awful old man, but still, his death is sobering as well as funny. I need to collect more of these late issues of Hate.

New comics received on September 9:

GOLDIE VANCE #5 (Boom!, 2016) – Hope Larson [W], Brittney Williams [A]. I mistakenly thought this series was written by Kate Leth, not Hope Larson. This issue, Goldie rescues an amnesiac astronaut and gets recruited for astronaut training, making Cheryl bitterly jealous. I thought Cheryl’s reaction was unfair, but oh well. This was a good issue, but in a by now familiar pattern, I was too tired to enjoy it as much as I should have.

PAPER GIRLS #9 (Image, 2016) – Brian K. Vaughan [W], Cliff Chiang [A]. More weirdness. Additional water bears. A giant steampunk airship. A future water-world filled with clones of Erin. I’m still enjoying this series but it continues to make very little logical sense.

DOCTOR STRANGE #11 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], Kevin Nowlan & Leonardo Romero [A]. Part of this issue is a flashback to Strange’s origin and his early encounters with Mordo. The other part takes place in the present day and follows Strange’s struggles with his new lack of power. This issue is a good introduction to the series’ new status quo. Kevin Nowlan and Leonardo Romero’s art styles effectively contrast with each other.

USAGI YOJIMBO #157 (Dark Horse, 2016) – An excellent conclusion to “The Secret of the Hell Screen.” The murderer is found and punished, it turns out there’s an actual secret to the hell screen, and the annoying Lord Shima is financially ruined. This three-parter was a good example of a long-form Usagi story.

REVIVAL #42 (Image, 2016) – Tim Seeley [W], Mike Norton [A]. I still can’t quite follow what’s going on here, but it’s clear that the world of the series is going to hell in a handbasket. This series is approaching what I expect will be a strong conclusion.

THE FLINTSTONES #3 (DC, 2016) – Mark Russell [W], Steve Pugh [A]. Another funny piece of satire. Bedrock is visited by alien teenagers on spring break, who proceed to cause mayhem and kill everyone, until recalled by their parents. This plot reminds me of the Star Trek TOS episode “The Squire of Gothos,” or the Fantastic Four story about the Infant Terrible.

JUGHEAD #9 (Archie, 2016) – Ryan North [W], Derek Charm [A]. This is the “burger girl” story. Surprisingly this was the best comic of the week. It’s very similar to an issue of Squirrel Girl, and that’s good because it means we get two issues of Squirrel Girl a month. Ryan North’s bottom-of-page commentary has become his trademark as a writer, and he uses it here very effectively.

NIGHT’S DOMINION #1 (Oni, 2016) – Ted Naifeh [W/A]. As Ted said to me at Heroes Con, this is his first comic in many years that’s not cute. Instead, it’s a somewhat dark and grim version of Dungeon & Dragons, or of Conan stories like “The Tower of the Elephant.” So far I like this, though maybe not as much as Courtney Crumrin or Princess Ugg.

BOUNTY #3 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Kurtis Wiebe [W], Mindy Lee [A]. I think the best thing about this comic is the coloring. The story and characters just aren’t grabbing me as much as Rat Queens did, and it lacks the political subtext of Pisces. I’m sorry that this is Kurtis Wiebe’s only current comic.

BLACK PANTHER #1 (Marvel, 2016) – Ta-Nehisi Coates [W], Brian Stelfreeze [A]. I finally found this comic at Heroes (see above), and I finally got around to reading it after seeing some negative commentary on this series on Facebook. I was very impressed with this first issue. It’s not hard to understand despite my lack of familiarity with previous Black Panther runs, and it’s an impressive achievement for someone who’s only ever written nonfiction. Somehow this feels like a very African story. It also seems like a deep and serious meditation on the concept of nationhood; I feel like the key question in this story arc (and I may be unconsciously quoting this from somewhere) is whether Wakanda belongs to its king or to its people. Brian Stelfreeze’s artwork here is also very impressive.

BLACK PANTHER #2 (Marvel, 2016) – as above. Another good issue. Changamire is an interesting new character; he reminds me of Chip Delany somehow.

BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 2016) – as above. This issue was also good, though nothing about it particularly stands out to me.

BLACK PANTHER #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Ta-Nehisi Coates [W], Chris Sprouse [A]. By this point this story was starting to remind me of “Panther’s Rage,” if “Panther’s Rage” hadn’t been written by someone who never used one word where three would do. The noteworthy scene in this issue is the one where T’Challa consults with representatives of all the evil Marvel countries – Madripoor, Genosha, etc. This is a significant moment because it’s the sort of thing that a superhero would never do, but that a dictator would certainly do.

New comics received on September 16. Yet again, I was utterly exhausted that day after having spent the morning in meetings.

LUMBERJANES/GOTHAM ACADEMY #4 (Boom!/DC, 2016) – Chynna Clugston Flores [W], Rosemary Valero-O’Connell [A]. This series has just not been what I expected to be, and I wasn’t all that excited about this issue; I only read it first because of a sense of obligation. But I liked this issue better than I expected. The plot is becoming clearer, and the Lumberjanes and the Detective Club are getting the opportunity to do what they each do best. I love the line about Simon dying in a macarena-rollerblading accident. And Mal’s “collective strength” line is a nice moment.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #1 (DC, 2016) – Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl [W], Adam Archer [A]. Very glad to have this series back. This issue introduces Olive’s new roommate Amy, who is just horrible; I expect she’s going to turn into a villain. The last page, where all the other Detective Club kids come back, is a heartwarming moment.

BLACK PANTHER #6 (Marvel, 2016) – Yet another good issue. The Ife folktale has the ring of authenticity to it, even though it was quite possibly made up. At this point in the story, I am seriously losing my sympathy for T’Challa; I feel like he’s really the villain of this piece, while Aneka and Ayo are the protagonists.

WONDER WOMAN #6 (DC, 2016) – Greg Rucka [W], Nicola Scott [A]. Another entertaining chapter of “Year One.” This issue has one of the most adorable covers of the year (the one with Diana and the animals), and the scene where Diana is visited by the gods is equally cute. But why is Hephaestus a mouse? There’s also a very sad scene where Steve Trevor has to inform his comrade’s widow of her husband’s death. Greg Rucka often gives the sense that he genuinely understands and sympathizes with military personnel, and this scene is an example of that.

ASTRO CITY #38 (DC, 2016) – Kurt Busiek [W], Brent Anderson [A]. This is a strange one. It continues Mister Cakewalk/Jazzbaby’s story into the ‘20s. The plot, with Destiné and the Star of Lahkimpur, is reminiscent of a ‘20s Weird Tales story. Kurt and Brent seem to have done an excellent job with their historical research; I was delighted to see a chop suey restaurant in the background of one panel.

DOOM PATROL #1 (DC, 2016) – Gerard Way [W], Nick Derington [A]. This is seriously weird, though in a good way, I think. I liked the artwork but was unable to follow the story. There seemed to be very little logical connection between one scene and another. Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol was really weird, but only at the level of content; the stories usually had a clear narrative logic to them. I am curious to see where this comic is going, though.

THE UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #5 (Marvel, 2016) – Christopher Hastings [W], Irene Strychalski [A]. I guess “The Unbelievable” is part of the title. This issue, Gwen teams up with Miles Morales. It’s a fairly fun comic, but I don’t remember much about it now.

THE UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #6 (Marvel, 2016) – as above. Due to a misunderstanding, Gwen gets in a fight with Miles and is thrown in jail. This issue has a slightly more serious vibe than earlier issues; it ends with Gwen saying “this isn’t fun.” As I type this, it occurs to me that Gwen is kind of the Marvel version of Pinkie Pie. Gwen’s bedroom is just adorable.

THE MIGHTY THOR #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], Russell Dauterman [A]. Roxxon Island becomes the scene of a battle between Exterminatrix’s Mindless Ones and Dario Agger’s Hulks. Russell Dauterman draws some awesome Mindless Ones, and I love how their thought bubbles are full of exclamation marks. And “ROXXON STRONGEST COMPANY THERE IS!” is an awesome line. But although I liked this issue, I still haven’t gotten around to reading the next one.

ARCHIE #10 (Archie, 2016) – Mark Waid [W], Veronica Fish [A]. Veronica takes an incriminating video of Betty’s uncle, who is a popular high school teacher and Mr. Lodge’s opponent for mayor. The video goes viral, leading to a rift between Archie and Betty. I’m just not enjoying this series nearly as much as Jughead.

ARCHIE #11 (Archie, 2016) – as above. Betty and Veronica each participate in a talent show. During the talent show, Archie and Betty are reconciled to each other and they give each other a friendly hug, but Sayad and Veronica are both watching and they misinterpret what’s going on. Again, this is still just an average comic, though it’s not average enough that I’d consider dropping it. I don’t think Mark is as good at writing teenage protagonists as he used to be.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #45 (IDW, 2016) – Thom Zahler [W], Tony Fleecs [A]. It turns out that the magic dust had the effect of exacerbating each of the ponies’ worst qualities, making them care about their private concerns to the exclusion of everything else. Spike, the CMC and Zecora use their knowledge of the Mane Six to their advantage in order to cure them. The highlight of the issue is how Twilight Sparkle thinks she’s immune to being cured because she’s prepared for absolutely every strategy that might be used against her – and then she falls victim to Pinkie Pie’s super-simple trick. The line “You see, both characters’ mothers have the same name” is a nice Easter egg. I really miss Katie Cook’s writing on this comic and I wish she’d come back, but Thom Zahler is a reasonable substitute, and I thought this latest story was quite good.

THOR, GOD OF THUNDER #19 (Marvel, 2014) – Jason Aaron [W], Esad Ribic [A]. This is a prequel to the current Thor run, and features Roz Solomon and Dario Agger. Reading this issue has given me a slightly clearer understanding of current events in Mighty Thor. I like Esad Ribic’s art, though he’s not as good as Russell Dauterman. I ought to go back and collect the rest of this run.

ROCKET RACCOON AND GROOT #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Nick Kocher [W], Michael Walsh [A]. Pretty much the same thing as issue 8. I love the metatextual comment about the convenient rips in Gwen’s clothing.

AVENGERS TWO #2 (Marvel, 2000) – Roger Stern [W], Mark Bagley [A]. This Wonder Man-Beast team-up is a lot of fun; it feels like a classic Roger Stern Avengers comic, and Hank and Simon are an excellent comic duo. The plot of this issue is heavily based on the ‘90s Wonder Man series, which I’ve only read one or two issues of, but Stern provides enough explanation to ensure that the comic still makes sense.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #9 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – Ed Piskor [W/A]. Lots of interesting stuff here, though I thought the backup story, by a different artist, was rather boring. This issue includes one panel that describes events in the ‘90s and is drawn in a style based on that of Rob Liefeld. I assume this will become the primary style of the series when we get to the early ‘90s.

A-FORCE #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Kelly Thompson [W], Paulo Siqueira [A]. This issue is an example of why I’m sick of Civil War. Carol and Medusa’s actions this issue are heavy-handed and cruel, and while Medusa was never a sympathetic character to begin with, Carol is on the verge of losing the reader’s sympathy as well. (On this point, see my review of Ms. Marvel #10 above.) It turns out there’s a good reason why Nico is supposed to kill someone named Alice. And this demonstrates the stupidity of putting your trust in prophecies as Carol and Medusa have done.

And now, for the first time since arriving in Charlotte, my stack of comics waiting to be reviewed is empty – except for the comics I read this week, but I’ll review those later.


One more comic I read before receiving my new comics shipment:

SUPERMAN #300 (DC, 1976) – Cary Bates & Elliot S! Maggin [W], Curt Swan [A].I I’ve known about this comic for a long time but have never read it. “Superman, 2001” is an imaginary story in which Superman arrives on Earth in 1976, the year of the comic’s publication, making him 25 years old in 2001. The story is a rather strange one in which Superman stops two different Communist plots. Obviously, Bates and Maggin’s predictions for 2001 were wildly inaccurate. As an anniversary issue, Superman #300 is significantly inferior to Superman #400.

New comics received on September 23:

PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Kate Leth [W], Brittney Williams [A]. Hedy imprisons Patsy in a dream version of Centerville High School, and tries to make Patsy feel guilty about ruining her life and the lives of everyone around her. It doesn’t work. This was not the best issue of the series; I hope Kate Leth isn’t running out of ideas.

CHEW #58 (Image, 2016) – John Layman [W], Rob Guillory [A]. Finally things are starting to make sense. It turns out that Tony is supposed to eat Amelia in order to use her powers to kill everyone who’s eaten chicken, because otherwise the aliens will kill everyone in the world. I guess the aliens must be giant chickens or something. I’m looking forward to the next issue; I haven’t been this excited about Chew since I started reading it.

THE VISION #11 (Marvel, 2016) – Tom King [W], Gabriel Hernandez Walta [A]. Just one more issue left of perhaps the saddest Marvel comic ever. I’m not sorry because I’m not sure I could take much more. Vision fights the Avengers in order to get into Victor Mancha’s prison cell and kill him, but Virginia beats him there and kills Victor instead. Virginia was clearly intended to be a tragic character; it feels like her entire story arc has been setting her up to die horribly. I’m sorry if Victor is dead, but Marvel wasn’t using him anyway.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #19 (IDW, 2016) – Kelly Thompson [W], Meredith McClaren [A]. Meredith McClaren’s art is bizarre; she draws some weird facial expressions. Still, I like her art better than Jen Bartel’s. The main thing I remember from this issue is the ending, where the Stingers agree to sign with the Misfits’ recording company only if the Misfits are dropped. Over the course of this series, the Misfits have evolved from villains to friendly rivals, and it would be interesting to see them allied with the Holograms against a greater threat.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE 1831 nn (Image, 2016) – Kieron Gillen [W], Stephanie Hans [A]. Best comic of the week. This one-shot introduces the 19th-century gods, who are based on the Romantic poets. Specifically:

Hades = John Keats
Woden = Mary Shelley
Inanna = Claire Clairmont
Morrigan = Percy Bysshe Shelley
Lucifer = Byron
Morpheus = Coleridge
Angel of Soho = Blake
Perun = Pushkin?
Thoth = Poe?
Hestia = unknown (Jane Austen according to Wikipedia)
Other 3 gods = the Brontës

According to my Victorianist Facebook friends, the idea that the Romantics were the equivalent of modern celebrities is not entirely new. But Gillen and Hans’ execution of this concept is brilliant. Kieron has clearly done his research; even the departures from the historical record seem intentional rather than accidental. (Some of the rela-life versions of the gods were dead by 1831, or survived more than two years afterward.) Of course the whole story revolves around the famous 1816 party at Villa Diodati. The whole issue creates a powerful feeling of claustrophobia, oppression and doom. It’s one of Kieron’s best single issues.

GIANT DAYS #18 (Boom!, 2016) – John Allison [W], Max Sarin [A]. This issue mostly deals with the aftermath of last issue’s plagiarism scandal. It occurs to me that John Allison is a gifted storyteller, but his stories tend to be structured as a series of jokes and gags, out of which a plot develops so gradually that you don’t even notice. Paul Tobin’s writing is kind of like this too.

MANIFEST DESTINY #23 (Image, 2016) – Chris Dingess [W], Matthew Roberts [A]. In this issue, we realize that the Helm/Flewelling flashback is closely related to the main plot of the series. When we know the message that Helm and Flewelling brought back to Washington, we’ll also know why Sacagawea’s baby is so important, and what the Lewis-Clark expedition is supposed to accomplish. Helm carrying Flewelling’s head is a shocking image, reminding me of Head Lopper.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #32 (IDW, 2016) – Ted Anderson [W], Jay Fosgitt [A]. Jay Fosgitt has done a lot of excellent work this year, and I’m glad that he’s starting to achieve more widespread success. This issue stars Fluttershy and Daring Do, perhaps the most dissimilar characters in the entire franchise. Daring Do needs Fluttershy’s help because she has a quest that involves spiders, and she (Daring Do) is terrified of spiders. As in the best MLP:FF issues, the humor comes from the conflict between the two main characters’ personalities. The map spiders are an adorable and hilarious idea. It’s a weird coincidence that this issue came out the same week as “Every Little Thing She Does,” which also involves Fluttershy and spiders.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #8 (Marvel, 2016) – David Walker [W], Sanford Greene [A]. The prison storyline continues. At the end of the issue, Luke gets in a big fight with Carol Danvers, whose character has been absolutely destroyed by Civil War II; in just a few months, she’s gone from Marvel’s flagship superheroine to a borderline villain. More on this later. The most memorable thing in the issue is Luke castigating Danny for “playing the role of the goody-goody white liberal trying to make a point that only other white liberals understand.” The racial politics of this series are perhaps the best thing about it.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #65 (Marvel, 1980) – Mary Jo Duffy [W], Kerry Gammill [A]. I’m not very familiar with Jo Duffy’s writing, and I was pleasantly surprised at how witty and entertaining this issue was. I need to collect more of this series. The main plot involves a villain called El Aguila and Jeryn Hogarth’s harem of action girls. But easily the highlight of the issue is a scene where Luke goes to a tailor to pick up some shirts (since he goes through so many of them), and on his way out, Bruce Banner comes in to pick up some pants. Finally we know where all those pairs of purple pants come from!

GRIMJACK #18 (First, 1986) – John Ostrander [W], Tim Truman [A]. I mentioned Grimjack in my Cambridge SF Encyclopedia article on SF comics, from the 1980s to the 2010s, so I was inspired to read an old Grimjack issue. This issue is the culmination of a story in which a bunch of corporations start a war against the Cynosure government. It’s a bit hard to follow, and Truman’s art is unusually crude. The Munden’s Bar story is also confusing; it feels like it’s the second half of a two-parter.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE TEMPLE OF OD #2 (IDW, 2016) – Brian Clevinger [W], Scott Wegener [A]. A rather average issue. The only thing I remember about it is the “one raid, three fortunes” conversation. I’m losing some of my confidence in this series.

FANTASTIC FOUR #187 (Marvel, 1977) – Len Wein [W], George Pérez [A]. The FF return from New Salem, where they defeated Agatha Harkness’s evil son, only to find that Klaw and the Molecule Man have invaded the Baxter Building. The Impossible Man defeats Klaw, but the Molecule Man possesses Reed’s body. The Molecule Man’s continuity is confusing; I think the one in this issue is different from the one in Secret Wars II. Gentleman George’s art in this issue is not bad at all, though not up to the level of his Avengers or Justice League.

ARCHIE #12 (Archie, 2016) – Mark Waid [W], Thomas Pitilli [A]. Mr. Lodge loses the election and moves out of town. I’m feeling lukewarm about this series. Mark has mostly failed to convince me to sympathize with Veronica.

DEPT. H #6 (Dark Horse, 2016) – Matt Kindt [W]. Another issue that raises a lot of questions but no answers. At the end of this issue, Mia demands answers from her brother, and I hope she gets them; I’d at least like to know what this undersea installation is even for.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #9 (Image, 2016) – Skottie Young [W/A]. For perhaps the first time this series, this issue is a one-off with no connection to any ongoing plotline. Gert offers her pet “catastrophon” as a bet in a poker game, then has to go inside her “hat of holding” to find it. Gert’s trip inside her hat is a hilarious and beautifully drawn sequence, reminding me of the scene in Scud the Disposable Assassin where Scud travels inside Drywall. I love how the catastrophon turns out to be savage and vicious but also adorable, kind of like Lockheed. Overall this was one of the better issues of the series.

VOTE LOKI #4 (Marvel, 2016) – Christopher Hastings [W], Langdon Foss [A]. A very disappointing conclusion. Loki’s supporters all abandon him when they discover that he has no concrete positions about anything. Hello? Donald Trump has no policies or platforms either, other than “build a wall,” and his supporters love him anyway because of who he is. That’s not necessarily enough for him to be elected President, but it proves that you can be nominated for President despite knowing nothing and having no ideas, which means the ending of this issue is silly. Ultimately, this series was an ineffective piece of political satire because of its lack of courage. It played everything too safe, and failed to stress the obvious similarities between Loki and Trump. Of course it’s inevitable that this series failed to deilver effective political satire, since it’s published by a huge corporation that can’t afford to offend people, but Prez was also published by a huge corporation and it was much more hard-hitting than Vote Loki.

THE MIGHTY THOR #11 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], Russell Dauterman [A]. This was the best issue of this series because the ending was just so unexpected. I can’t explain the ending without inadvertently spoiling it, so I might as well just spoil it. It turns out that the character posing as Thor is… Mjolnir. This is a powerful plot twist because we are conditioned to see Mjolnir as just an inanimate object; in the past fifty years, Mjolnir has never spoken a single line of dialogue, and has never been depicted as animate or sentient. The other cool thing is that when you reread the issue, you see that the fake Thor was never shown holding Mjolnir. Kudos to Jason Aaron for delivering a truly effective surprise. Though I do wonder if this episode was inspired by the Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife.”

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #9 (DC, 2015) – Sholly Fisch [W], Dario Brizuela [A]. Another very fun issue, in which the Scooby Gang teams up with Superman and his friends to fight a bunch of classic Superman villains. Funny moments include the appearance of a literal Great Caesar’s Ghost, and Krypto talking to Scooby in dog language.

THE THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR PRESENTS: BEYOND BELIEF #1 (Image, 2015) – Ben Acker & Ben Blacker [W], Phil Hester [A]. Beyond Belief stars a pair of urbane, witty paranormal investigators who drink all the time. They’re obviously based on Nick and Nora Charles except they drink even more, which is quite a feat. This issue is a lot of fun and it makes me want to read more about these characters. There’s also a backup story explaining how they met.

STRANGE FRUIT #2 (Boom!, 2015) – J.G. Jones [W/A], Mark Waid [A]. This comic book should never have been published. After the overwhelmingly hostile reaction to issue 1, Boom! should have said “Sorry, we made a mistake” and killed the rest of the series. Unfortunately, I’m stuck with this comic because I had already ordered it before I saw the reviews for issue 1. It turns out that issue 2 is almost equally bad. Other people have diagnosed the problems with this issue; see for example Emma Houxbois’s review at . I would add that this is the kind of story that’s intended to be anti-racist, but that in fact reinforces racism. Because of its old-fashioned setting, it presents racism as a thing of the past, inviting the white reader to think, “White people sure were awful back then; good thing we’ve learned better now.” By contrast, March constantly reminds the reader that the problems of the civil rights era are still relevant today, and that neither the civil rights movement nor Barack Obama’s inauguration is the end of the story.

New comics received on September 30. For the first time in quite a while, I received a new Saga and a new Lumberjanes on the same day. It was tough to decide which to read first. In the end I decided that Saga takes priority over anything else, but it could have gone the other way.

SAGA #38 (Image, 2016) – Brian K. Vaughan [W], Fiona Staples [A]. I notice Fiona has top billing on the cover, which seems quite appropriate. This issue picks up where #37 ended, but then skips ahead six months. It’s jarring to see Alana suddenly very pregnant, and I’m kind of annoyed that we didn’t get to see Hazel’s reaction to the news that she’s going to be a big sister. But the end of the issue is a far greater shock. Izabel’s (second) death comes completely out of left field, and is almost as traumatic for the reader as it is for Hazel. For once things were looking good for the Hazel family, but now everything’s turned to shit again. I’m almost afraid to read the next issue.

LUMBERJANES #30 (Boom!, 2016) – Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh [W], Carey Pietsch [A]. Another awesome issue. Surprisingly, it turns out that Ligo the gorgon is quite nice (much nicer than Diane) and is not responsible for turning people to stone; instead, the culprit is a pair of ridiculous-looking cockatrices. Also, we are introduced to the Always Locked Peculiar Situations Weapons Cabinet, which is just what it sounds like. The most memorable moment this issue, though, is the explanation of what’s been going on with Molly. It turns out her parents don’t approve of her lifestyle, and they sent her to camp to “fix” her, thinking it was a different kind of camp. The implication is that one of the things Molly’s parents are trying to “fix” is her sexuality, so there are some very disturbing implications here, though presented in language appropriate for young readers. It turns out that maybe the world of Lumberjanes isn’t as utopian as it looks. Besides that one counselor from the boys’ camp, all the characters we’ve seen in this series so far have been comfortable with fluid gender roles, but maybe in the world beyond the camp, there are people who still have outdated notions about gender.

MS. MARVEL #11 (Marvel, 2016) – G. Willow Wilson [W], Takeshi Miyazawa & Adrian Alphona [A]. Just a devastating issue – the saddest Ms. Marvel comic yet. The good news is Kamala finally gets fed up with Captain Marvel’s bullshit, and decides to side with Iron Man instead. The bad news is that Carol is predictably assholish about it, and declares that her trust in Kamala was misplaced. Carol has become such an awful character that Kamala is really better off without her friendship (more on this below). But what makes it even worse is that Bruno is alive, but he’s equally disappointed in Kamala, and decides that he’s moving to Wakanda and doesn’t want to see her again. Ouch. An especially poignant touch here is that at the start of the issue, Kamala’s mom is singing “Yeh Dosti,” which – as I discovered when I looked up the lyrics – is all about an unbreakable bond of friendship. Male friendship in particular, but it’s clearly intended to refer to Kamala and Bruno’s platonic bond. Overall, at the end of this issue it felt like Kamala was at the lowest point of her entire life. I’ve had moments like that before, and I always recovered in the end, and I’m sure Kamala will too, but it won’t be easy. Poor kid.

I also want to comment on Carol Danvers. Civil War II has been a horrible disaster in terms of its effects on the Marvel Universe, and the worst thing it’s done is to assassinate Carol Danvers’s character. Carol has gone from being Marvel’s leading female character, to being almost as bad as many of her own enemies. And I blame Brian Michael Bendis and the editors who let him write Civil War. Ideally Bendis should not be writing any comics at all, but he certainly shouldn’t be writing comics that have negative effects on other comics by good writers.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #12 (Marvel, 2016) – Ryan North [W], Erica Henderson [A]. Not the best issue, though not bad at all. Doreen, Doreen’s mom, and Nancy go on vacation in the woods, while back in New York, a villain called Enigmo takes over the city. I think the best part of the issue is Doreen’s sheer boredom at being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no Internet. And also the magazines like “Earth Boring” and “Painting Quietly.”

ODY-C #11 (Image, 2016) – Matt Fraction [W], Christian Ward [A]. I’m glad this is back. With the intermittent schedule of most Image titles, it can be hard to know whether they’re on hiatus or whether they’ve been cancelled. For instance, I wonder if we’re ever going to see another issue of The Goddamned. Anyway, this issue is an improvement over the second storyline, which I thought was kind of a misfire. It’s a retelling of the history of the House of Atreus, mostly in limericks, although the limericks don’t always scan properly. I guess my criticism would be that it follows the mythological source material very closely. It tells almost the same exact story as Age of Bronze Special #1. Wouldn’t you expect that these events, especially the sacrifice of Iphigenia, would have played out differently if everyone involved had been female? However, Christian Ward’s artwork is as amazing as ever.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #11 (Marvel, 2016) – Amy Reeder & Brandon Montclare [W], Natacha Bustos [A]. Lunella encounters Ms. Marvel again, but then ends up in the hospital because she switches minds with Devil Dinosaur at the wrong time. Then Mel-Varr reveals that he loves (or rather, has a puppy-love crush on) Lunella. My problem with this issue is that it again has Lunella’s parents behaving in implausible ways; they’re even more oblivious and negligent than Jim and Margaret Power. And even in Jim and Margaret Power’s case, I prefer to believe that they knew about their children’s powers and just pretended not to. The fundamental difficulty with child superheroes is that no responsible parents would allow their child to be a superhero. Therefore, any story about chlid superheroes is obligated to explain why the parents either don’t know their child is a superhero (Power Pack), or why they do know and are okay with it (The Incredibles). But Reeder and Montclare have failed to convince me of either of those, so I have to accept that Lunella’s parents are either stupid or irresponsible.

ASTRO CITY #39 (DC, 2016) – Kurt Busiek [W], Carmen Carnero [A]. This is not the first Astro City story that revisits a character from an earlier story, but it’s strange seeing Marta Dobrescu again after 21 years. (17 years in my case, since I didn’t read Astro City v1 #4 until the first trade paperback came out.) Seeing Marta again creates a powerful sense of nostalgia for her previous story, but I also feel glad to see how well she’s done for herself, even if her love life is unfulfilling and her mother’s ghost keeps nagging her. One funny thing about this issue is how Marta accepts ghosts as just a normal part of life. This issue also reveals the origin of the Hanged Man, and it looks like next issue is going to include Raitha McCann and the Silver Adept. I hope we get to see the Tranquility Frog again.

SNOTGIRL #3 (Image, 2016) – Bryan Lee O’Malley [W], Leslie Hung [A]. This is such a weird comic. I’m not sure what it’s even about, and it doesn’t seem to have nearly the same importance as Scott Pilgrim or Seconds. Though James Moore suggests that this might be because it’s in single-issue format, so the overall pattern is harder to see. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is BLOM’s first comic book series. Maybe he’s just not used to this format. This issue surprises me in a couple ways. First, it turns out that Snotgirl is really quite privileged and gets invited to some amazing parties. Second, Coolgirl is alive, although that was kind of predictable.

THE BACKSTAGERS #2 (Boom!, 2016) – James Tynion IV [W], Rian Sygh [A]. This series continues to feel like a male version of Lumberjanes. Jory and another boy explore the mysterious, unstable, House-of-Leaves-esque tunnels behind the stage, where they encounter some “echo spiders.” There are some serious romantic sparks between Jory and the other boy, and I think this is a good thing – it would be nice if this comic worked to normalize male same-sex relationships in the same way Lumberjanes normalizes Mal and Molly’s relationship.

WONDER WOMAN #7 (DC, 2016) – Greg Rucka [W], Liam Sharp [A]. A good but not great issue. Diana and Steve’s hug is a cute moment. I like them much better as platonic friends than as a couple. I’m sorry to see that issue 8 will be the origin of Barbara Minerva, rather than the regularly scheduled Year One chapter.

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS #1 (Archie, 2016) – Marguerite Bennett & Cameron DeOrdio [W], Audrey Mok [A]. I’ve been ordering almost all of these new Archie titles, and there are almost too many of them – I even decided to skip Reggie and Me because it’s written by Tom DeFalco. Still, this issue is a reasonable addition to the Archie lineup. Easily the best part of the issue is the cat, Lord Cuteington, Duke of Kittenshire.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #46 (IDW, 2016) – Ted Anderson [W], Agnes Garbowska [A]. In the first half of a two-part story, Filthy Rich runs against Mayor Mare for mayor and wins, but is immediately confronted with a crisis that he’s unprepared to solve. The parallels with the U.S. election are obvious, but MLP is even less well-equipped than Vote Loki to present really hard-edged political satire, so it’s good that Anderson doesn’t really try to do that. I like how Lyra Heartstrings’s platform is “more benches”.

ROCKET RACCOON & GROOT #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Nick Kocher [W], Michael Walsh [A]. The conclusion of the Gwenpool three-parter. This is a hilarious issue, and Nick Kocher writes Gwenpool better than Christopher Hastings has been writing her in her own series. Probably the best scene is the page where Gwenpool wonders if she’s in a Bendis comic, because the entire page is a parody of Bendis’s style. I’m sorry that this is the last issue of the series, because they’re going to launch yet another new Rocket Raccoon series – the fourth new Rocket Raccoon or Groot series in three years. Nick Kocher is an impressive new talent, and I look forward to seeing what he does next.

SPIDER-GWEN #12 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Latour [W], Robbi Rodriguez [A]. The best Spider-Gwen comic in a long time. For the first time in a while, I was able to follow what was going on, and the level of tension and drama in this issue was impressive. Gwen and her dad finally defeat the Punisher, who is correctly depicted as an insane, monomaniacal villain. But the price is that George has to give himself up (though I can’t remember what he’s guilty of) and Gwen decides she has to work with the Kingpin to free him. I’m excited for the next issue, and again, it’s been a while since I was able to say that about this comic.

DESCENDER #15 (Image, 2016) – Jeff Lemire [W], Dustin Nguyen [A]. This issue is the story of Andy and Effie’s relationship. It’s a rather depressing story of doomed love. Andy and Effie are an adorable couple, but their romance is doomed from the start. The course of Andy’s life has already been determined by his childhood trauma of losing his mother to robots, and his singleminded hatred of robots becomes more valuable to him than Effie’s love. I was surprised at how quickly Effie turned from a robot hunter to a pro-robot activist, but I guess it’s not unusual for real people to make similar 180-degree flips.

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #12 (DC, 2015) – Sholly Fisch [W], Dario Brizuela [A]. The Scooby Gang “teams up” with Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Catwoman, but it turns out they’re really teaming up with Batgirl to defeat the three villains. This is another funny and well-plotted issue.

THE THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR PRESENTS SPARKS NEVADA, MARSHAL OF MARS #4 (Image, 2015) – Ben Acker & Ben Blacker [W], J. Bone [A]. I never ordered issues 2 or 3. This issue is so fast-paced that it’s difficult to follow, but the basic idea is that Sparks has to team up with his parents, who are disappointed in him. It’s funny, but I liked Beyond Belief #1 better.

PAST AWAYS #5 (Dark Horse, 2015) – Matt Kindt [W], Scott Kolins [A]. An okay issue. On the first page, we learn about an “automaton predator” that failed because it “lacked lethal capabilities and had an adorable voice that children loved.” Heh. On the next page, the team fights a giant venomous tortoise. But later in the issue, the characters visit a Mayan temple in Chile, which is a historical impossibility.

STARSLAYER #11 (First, 1983) – John Ostrander [W], Lenin Delsol [A] on lead story. I’m not all that interested in the Starslayer series; it’s just an average Mike Grell comic, and there are enough of those already. I can’t even be bothered to read the back issues of Warlord, Jon Sable and Green Arrow that I already have, and all those titles are better than Starslayer. And this issue’s main story isn’t even by Grell, and is ruined by awful artwork, though John Ostrander’s writing is okay. What made Starslayer an important series was its backup features, which included Groo, the Rocketeer and Grimjack. I’ve gotten interested in Starslayer again because I just learned that the later issues, including this one, include the earliest Grimjack stories. The Grimjack backup story in this issue is, I think, the character’s second appearance. It has excellent Tim Truman artwork, and tells an exciting story in which Grimjack encounters a washed-up powerless god and defends him from a much more powerful one.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #104 (Marvel, 1968) – Stan Lee [W], Jack Kirby [A]. I’m surprised I haven’t read this issue already. My copy is in fully readable condition, although the cover is flaking apart. This classic Lee/Kirby issue includes a number of epic action sequences in which Cap and SHIELD battle the Red Skull’s old henchmen. The funniest moment in the issue is where the Skull says that the Nazis lost World War II because Hitler wouldn’t listen to him.

SUPERMAN #273 (DC, 1974) – Elliot S! Maggin [W], Curt Swan [A]. “The Wizard with the Golden Eye” is rather unimpressive. It depicts a battle between Superman and a stage magician who’s been driven crazy by the Golden Eye of Effron – not to be confused with the Emerald Eye of Ekron, even though it’s pretty much the same thing. If this story weren’t so obscure, some later writer would probably have tried to explain the connection between these two items. The backup story, in which Clark Kent goes blind, is a little bit better; it ends with a cute scene in which Clark plays with some blind kids.

DETECTIVE COMICS #579 (DC, 1987) – Mike W. Barr [W], Norm Breyfogle [A]. The Crime Doctor is a fascinating character, but I don’t know if I’ve ever read an actual story about him before. In this issue, Batman rescues a petty criminal, Schuyler, who the Crime Doctor is about to operate on. The writer does not state what the Crime Doctor was going to do to Schuyler. But as I read the issue, I came to the shocking realization that the Crime Doctor was going to cut out Schuyler’s heart and transplant it into the body of a crime boss, killing Schuyler as a result – and that Schuyler agreed to this in exchange for money for his wife and child. This whole story is an uncanny mixture of humor and horror; Jason Todd makes a lot of annoying jokes, and the Crime Doctor has a killer nurse assistant who behaves just like a regular nurse. I used to hate Mike W. Barr’s writing, but I think he’s actually an impressive writer, and Norm Breyfogle’s art is also quite good.

FANTASTIC FOUR #191 (Marvel, 1977) – Len Wein [W], George Pérez [A]. A very maudlin story in which the FF disbands, and everyone is very sad about it. The impact of the story is lessened because even back in 1977, the FF disbanding was already an old cliché. The reader could have been confident that they were going to get back together a few issues later. There’s one scene where Ben and Johnny hug each other, which seems very out of character for both of them.

DETECTIVE COMICS #615 (DC, 1990) – Alan Grant & Marv Wolfman [W], Norm Breyfogle [A]. The Penguin is maybe my second favorite Batman villain, after the Riddler, because of his combination of pompous foppery and brutal viciousness. Both of those are displayed in this issue, in which he kidnaps an actress known as the Heron, while also using birds to attack Gotham City. (I assume this is a reference to Hitchcock’s The Birds, which I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t seen.) Norm Breyfogle does a great job of drawing threatening-looking birds. However, one plot point in the issue is that the same bird is present at every bird attack, and you can’t tell this from the art.

ASTONISHING TALES #7 (Marvel, 1971) – Roy Thomas [W], Herb Trimpe [A] on lead story; Gerry Conway [W], Gene Colan [A] on backup story. The Ka-Zar story this issue has some nice art by Herb Trimpe, who was perhaps trying to draw like Barry Windsor-Smith. However, the story is overwritten and histrionic and is an example of some of Roy’s worst tendencies. The Doctor Doom backup story is also rather overwritten, though the encounter between Doom and the Black Panther makes the story interesting. Doom develops a grudging respect for T’Challa, and it would be kind of cool if he appeared in the current Black Panther series. (Latveria was not one of the evil countries that T’Challa consulted for advice.) One annoying thing in this story is that Doom describes Wakanda as a poor country with primitive people, which is inconsistent with every other portrayal of Wakanda.


Some reviews I wrote in August but never posted

New comics received on July 25:

FUTURE QUEST #3 (DC, 2016) – Jeff Parker [W], Steve Rude & Aaron Lopresti [A]. I was a bit surprised that the artwork this issue was by Steve Rude and not Doc Shaner. I love The Dude’s artwork, obviously, I just wasn’t expecting it. I also didn’t think the Birdman story was very interesting. But I liked the Herculoids story. I’m not familiar with these characters at all, but they’re very intriguing, especially Gloop and Gleep.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #10 (Marvel, 2016) – Ryan North [W], Erica Henderson [A]. Another fantastic issue. Mole Man falls in love with one of his own monsters, ending his creepy stalkerish attempts to win Squirrel Girl’s love. The reporter interviewing the squirrel is a particularly nice moment, but really, every issue of Squirrel Girl has so many funny and cute moments that I can’t remember them all.

MS. MARVEL #9 (Marvel, 2016) – G. Willow Wilson [W], Adrian Alphona [A]. The opening sequence in this issue confirms that it was Kamala’s great-grandmother who emigrated from Pakistan, and also suggests that there’s something weird about the Khan family. I’m curious where this is going. As far as the main story, I have serious problems with this Ulysses plotline. There is not much room for debate about the morality of Kamala’s actions – it is clearly wrong to imprison people who haven’t committed a crime yet. When the moral conflict at the center of a story is this one-sided, that’s a sign of an ineffective story. Willow is not responsible for the idea of Ulysses, but she could maybe have used it to create a greater sense of moral ambiguity. This issue does include some good characterization, especially the revelation that Zoe has a crush on Nakia. Zoe started off as just an overprivileged ignorant bigot, but Willow has turned her into a far more complex character.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #17 (IDW, 2016) – Kelly Thompson [W], Jen Bartel [A]. Compared to Sophie Campbell’s artwork, Jen Bartel’s artwork is rather bland, though her facial expressions are good. But this is a very well-written issue, with some deep characterization. And it ends on a scary cliffhanger as Stormer crashes her car in the woods and then gets attacked by a bear.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Amy Reeder & Brandon Montclare [W], Natacha Bustos [A]. As usual, this comic is both adorable and wildly implausible. Lunella and Devil’s rampage through New York seems to have had no consequences at all, and somehow Lunella has become a superhero, without her mother noticing, and also no one is calling Child Protective Services to report that this unsupervised nine-year-old girl is fighting criminals. But I have already observed that this comic requires a higher level of suspension of disbelief than is usual even for a superhero comic. I look forward to seeing Kamala’s meeting with Lunella, though I wonder if Kamala is making too many guest appearances.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #44 (IDW, 2016) – Thom Zahler [W], Tony Fleecs [A]. This is an okay issue, but it’s pretty much exactly what I expected based on last issue. Evil Pinkie Pie is basically a silly version of the Joker. And of course evil Princess Luna is Nightmare Moon; that’s too obvious to be exciting. Are we going to see an evil version of Princess Celestia? Because that would be a lot cooler.

USAGI YOJIMBO #3 (Dark Horse, 1996) – Stan Sakai [W/A]. “The Wrath of the Tangled Skein” is one of Stan’s creepier stories in the yokai genre. Usagi is hired to defend a woman who’s been possessed by demons, and has to save her from some truly horrible supernatural monsters. This story demonstrates that Stan has the ability to be utterly terrifying. This issue also introduces Sanshobo; he makes a cameo in the first story, and the backup story reveals his tragic origin.

GROO THE WANDERER #29 (Marvel, 1987) – Sergio Aragones [W/A], Mark Evanier [W]. “Rufferto” is the best Groo story I’ve read lately. I already know most of the details of how Groo and Rufferto met – Rufferto is bored with his pampered life, he meets Groo when Groo demolishes his palace by accident, Rufferto’s original owner wants him back because of his diamond collar, etc. But this story narrates all of these events in a very funny way. The running joke this issue is that Groo, as usual, does all sorts of ridiculously stupid things, which Rufferto always interprets in the most positive light. This issue is also full of funny jokes and sight gags, such as the panel where Groo has a completely empty thought balloon, and Rufferto assumes Groo is thinking “deep and heroic thoughts.”

SUICIDE SQUAD #43 (DC, 1990) – John Ostrander & Kim Yale [W], Geof Isherwood [A]. This issue is part 4 of “The Phoenix Gambit,” and I can’t remember if I’ve read any of the previous three parts. So I was pretty confused as to what was going on, but this issue was fun anyway, with all sorts of funny characterization. Probably the highlight of the issue is the opening scene where Deadshot is hired to kill Amanda Waller, and Waller pays him the same fee, plus one dollar, to kill the person who hired him. Later in the issue, Poison Ivy has the opportunity to take over the country of Vlatava, but decides not to do so because it’s too much work. (Anyway, isn’t Vlatava the size of a city block? No, that’s Modora.)

YOUNG JUSTICE #53 (DC, 2003) – Peter David [W], Todd Nauck [A]. In this issue, rescues her father from prison where he’s about to be executed, then for some reason Darkseid appears and tries to recruit her. This is confusing because I’ve forgotten the details of Secret’s origin. However, Secret is the most important character who was created specifically for this series, and it’s appropriate that the final storyline revolves around her. Also, this issue we learn that Empress has to take care of her parents, who have been reverted to infancy. This seems kind of unfortunate.

DETECTIVE COMICS #375 (DC, 1968) – Gardner Fox [W], Chic Stone [A]. Chic Stone’s art this issue is surprisingly good, but the plot, about a criminal who has prophetic dreams, is kind of forgettable. The Elongated Man backup story is better. Having just finished reading The Thin Man, I now realize how heavily Ralph and Sue Dibny were influenced by Nick and Nora Charles.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #23 (DC, 1995) – Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle [W], Vince Locke [A]. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Sandman Mystery Theatre storyline in the correct order, and “Dr. Death” is no exception. This is part 3 of 4, and I don’t know what’s been happening up to this point. It’s well-written and well-drawn, though. I wish I had time to sit down and read all my issues of SMT in the proper order. This issue, Wes and Dian have sex for the first time but it turns out that Dian has partly ulterior motives, in that as soon as Wes falls asleep, Dian goes looking for his hideout and costume. I’m curious to read issue 24.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #3 (Fantagraphics, 2015) – Ed Piskor [W/A]. I’m slowly working my way through this fascinating series. I believe I’ve read all the material in this issue before, but this issue is well worth owning anyway. The production values are excellent – every aspect of each issue, including the paper stock, is designed to resemble a Marvel comic from the ‘70s or ‘80s. This issue also includes Ed’s annotations as well as some pages from his very early student work.

MIGHTY THOR #9 (Marvel, 2016) – Jason Aaron [W], Russell Dauterman [A]. After having lost a lot of momentum thanks to the two disappointing flashback issues, this comic is good again. I don’t remember much about this issue, though.

BATGIRL #1 (DC, 2016) – Hope Larson [W], Rafael Albuquerque [A]. I’m not very familiar with Hope Larson’s work. This comic is not bad, and Hope Larson seems to have more than trivial knowledge of Japanese culture. However, this comic is less interesting than the previous Batgirl run, and I don’t feel highly motivated to keep reading it.

WONDER WOMAN #2 (DC, 2016) – Greg Rucka [W], Nicola Scott [A]. When I started reading this, my initial reaction was to wonder why we needed yet another Wonder Woman origin retelling, when Renae de Liz was already doing the definitive Wonder Woman story. But this story was surprisingly enjoyable. It’s much grimmer and more Rucka-esque than Legend of Wonder Woman, and I think WW is a sufficiently deep character to be the subject of two different and contradictory origin stories.

WONDER WOMAN #3 (DC, 2016) – Greg Rucka [W], Liam Sharpe [A]. I guess the odd-numbered and even-numbered issues of this series are telling two different stories. This Cheetah story is not bad, but also not as exciting as Year One. Liam Sharpe’s page layouts have gotten a lot less radical than in the ‘90s, but I still see some flashes of his old style.