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.

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