Last week’s reviews

12-8

I’m trying to keep my resolution to write reviews every week. Here’s one comic book I read, but forgot to review:

SPIDER-GWEN #13 (Marvel, 2016) – This was okay, I guess.

Only eight new comics this week, including two that I can’t read yet because I’m not caught up on those series (Black Widow and Totally Awesome Hulk).

SAGA #40 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Brian K. Vaughan, (A) Adrian Alphona. This was an okay issue; I like the talking mushroom and the giant planet-sized baby. Butit seems like not a whole lot happened. Compared to the previous storyline, the current “Battle for Phang” storyline has had less stuff going on in each issue.

MS. MARVEL #13 (Marvel, 2016) – “Election Day,” (W) G. Willow Wilson, (A) Mirka Andolfo. I don’t want to review this comic; it hurts too much. I wish it had come out before the election and not after. In the context of the election, it creates a false and naïve sense of hope that we can actually change anything by… never mind. You see why I didn’t want to review this comic.

SHUTTER #24 (Image, 2016) – “The Ballad of Huckleberry,” (W) Joe Keatinge, (A) Leila del Duca. This is the origin story of Huckleberry, who turns out to be the child of a lizard sharpshooter and an Impressionist painter. There’s also one scene where Huckleberry and the other protagonists try to process the horrible tragedy at the end of #22. This is a fun issue, but I do wonder how Joe and Leila can complete the entire storyline within the next few issues, and why they’re bothering to try. I feel like this series could go on indefinitely; the ongoing Prospero storyline is not as interesting as the characters and the worldbuilding.

JUGHEAD #11 (Archie, 2016) – untitled, (W) Ryan North, (A) Derek Charm. Probably the best comic of this very light week. Sabrina’s hysterical attempts to conceal her magical nature are hilarious. Jughead’s explanation of why he went on a date with Sabrina is very touching, and also answers the question of why Jughead is going on dates if he’s asexual.

MONSTRESS #8 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Marjorie Liu, (A) Sana Takeda. This comic deserves to be nominated for an Eisner for Best Ongoing Series, even if it’s not my personal favorite. If I could choose the ballot, the nominees would be Saga, Wicked + Divine, Lumberjanes, Monstress, and some combination of Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, Southern Bastards, and Goldie Vance. This issue, the sea voyage begins, Maika almost drowns, and there’s lots of intrigue that I can’t quite remember.

GREAT LAKES AVENGERS #2 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Zac Gorman, (A) Will Robson. I liked this better than last issue. I can’t remember the plot very well, but Zac Gorman’s writing is very witty and even kind of cruel sometimes.

ARCHIE #14 (Archie, 2016) – untitled, (W) Mark Waid, (A) Joe Eisma. I think I missed an issue. At this point, Archie is trying to plan an anniversary party for his parents, but is depressed over I don’t know what. Meanwhile, Veronica is at a private school in Switzerland where her rival is Cherry Blossom, who is like Veronica but with none of her good qualities. This issue was good, though not great.

BOUNTY #4 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kurtis Wiebe, (A) Mindy Lee. At this point I’ve mostly forgotten the story of the first three issues, but the plot and dialogue this issue are reasonably fun. I still hope to get Rat Queens back soon.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #33 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, (W) Christina Rice, (A) Tony Fleecs. The stars this issue are Applejack and Cherry Jubilee. This story also introduces two new characters, Wild West performers, Buffalo Bull and Calamity Mane, who Cherry Jubilee hates for some reason. It turns out that Cherry herself was the original Calamity Mane and Buffalo Bull’s lover, and that she’s jealous of Buffalo Bull for replacing her. This revelation surprised me a bit because it seems like a fairly significant piece of continuity, but I guess it’s okay because Cherry Jubilee is a minor character.

NIGHT’S DOMINION #3 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Ted Naifeh. I forgot to order issue 2 of this series, so I’m missing a big chunk of the story. This comic is okay, but it feels overly similar to “The Tower of the Elephant,” and I’m not enjoying it as much as Courtney Crumrin or Princess Ugg. Of course, I was feeling exhausted and overworked when I read this and most of the previous comics on this list, so maybe I came to this comic at the wrong time.

DEPT. H #8 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Matt Kindt. This is Bob’s origin story. It turns out that he has a seriously checkered past. This issue, like the series in general, creates a powerful feeling of claustrophobia; this comic is almost closer to horror than mystery. But I still feel like each issue is too similar to all the others. Matt isn’t doing anything creative with the comic book format, the way he did with MIND MGMT.

THE GODDAMNED #5 (Image, 2016) – “Before the Flood, Part 5: God’s Monsters,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) R.M. Guera. This issue was a nice surprise; I honestly thought this comic might have been stealth-cancelled. In an exciting but bleak and depressing conclusion to the first story arc, Cain rescues Lodo and his mother from Noah, but Lodo then murders his own mother because he thinks she’s making him weak. It’s a moment of horrific bleakness which makes you feel like God was right to kill everyone. It’s hard to see where this comic will go from here, though the inside back cover states that another story arc is coming next year. As usual, R.M. Guera’s artwork is incredible, and he may deserve an Eisner nomination for best artist.

THE MIGHTY THOR #13 (Marvel, 2016) – “The League of Realms Rides Again,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Steve Epting. Another Jason Aaron comic, but with a completely different tone. Like Marguerite Bennett, Jason is impressive for his range and versatility. This issue introduces (or, based on the title, maybe reintroduces) the League of Realms, a team of characters from each of the Norse realms. This group is a mix of old and new characters; the highlight is the female frost giant who speaks one word at a time. Steve Epting’s art is effective, but I still prefer Russell Dauterman.

ACTION COMICS #763 (DC, 1999) – “Sacrifice for Tomorrow,” (W) Joe Kelly, (A) Germán García & Kano. This is a good average Superman comic – I mean, compared to other average Superman comics, it’s good. Joe Kelly’s writing is exciting. The plot is that Superman, Luthor and Brainiac are all fighting a super-advanced Brainiac 13, and at the end of the story, Luthor trades his infant daughter to Brainiac (not sure which one) for some sort of power or something. Kelly effectively conveys the sense that Luthor acted in accordance with his nature, but that he’s not happy with it.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #10 (Tower, 1966) – “Operation Armageddon,” (W) Ralph Reese, (A) Wally Wood, plus four other stories. The highlight of this issue is a Wally Wood-drawn story in which Dynamo and NoMan battle some villains who have stolen a gun with atomic bullets. Next is a mediocre Lightning story, and then a NoMan story in which he battles Dynamo’s recurring enemy Andor. Reading this, I was again reminded that NoMan’s powers have really poor synergy. NoMan has a cloak that makes him invisible, and he can also shift his brain between multiple bodies. That means that whenever he moves to a new body while wearing the cloak, he has to go back to wherever he left the previous body and retrieve the cloak. And this happens twice in the present issue. The second best story in the issue is “Kitten or Killer,” in which Kitten is brainwashed into trying to kill her fellow T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad members. This story is an unfortunate relic of its time; one of the villains is a knockoff of Fidel Castro, and the other is an offensive Asian stereotype. But at least this story has one scene where Kitten beats up two men who are trying to kidnap her. The issue concludes with a Raven story by Manny Stallman. This artist is notorious for his weird and incoherent art, but at least his art was distinctive, if not necessarily in a good way.

YOUNG JUSTICE #37 (DC, 2001) – “War of the Words,” (W) Peter David, (A) Todd Nauck. This is the first Peter David comic I’ve read since NYCC, where he made some offensive comments about Roma people. After I read about his comments, I went and spoke to him at his table and said something like, dude, I’ve been reading your work for twenty years, and you’ve made such efforts toward diversity in superhero comics, and these comments are unworthy of you. In response, he basically reiterated the stuff he had said at the panel. To his credit, a couple days later he apologized and recanted his comments, but it was frustrating that he said that stuff in the first place, and I think it may have done lasting damage to his reputation with some fans. Anyway, maybe that’s why it took me so long to read this comic. This issue, the kids are on Apokolips, where Granny Goodness is subjecting them to a series of horrible nightmares – all of them except Secret, who Darkseid is trying to groom as his apprentice. Then Slobo saves the day with his rarely-mentioned power of creating clones of himself. It’s an exciting issue, though not the best issue of YJ.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #535 (Gladstone, 1988) – “The Olympian Torch Bearer,” (W/A) Carl Barks, plus other material. The ten-pager that begins this issue is originally from the Olympic year of 1964. Donald carries the “Olympian Torch” from Goosetown to Duckburg, and mayhem ensues. This story includes some funny gags, but Don Rosa’s “From Duckburg to Lillehammer” is a better version of the same idea. This issue also includes a bad Mickey story and a worse Brer Rabbit story, which shouldn’t have been reprinted at all because of its racist baggage.

USAGI YOJIMBO #9 (Fantagraphics, 1988) – “Return of the Blind Swordspig,” (W/A) Stan Sakai. A good early issue. Usagi again encounters Ino, one of the three characters in the series who can beat him in a fair fight, the others being Master Katsuichi and Nakamura Koji. At this point Usagi is traveling with Spot the lizard, but in a touching scene, Usagi surrenders Spot to Ino, who has a greater need for companionship.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #87 (Marvel, 1970) – “Unmasked at Last!”, (W) Stan Lee, (A) John Romita. My copy of this issue is in awful condition and I am in the market for a replacement. This issue has a notoriously misleading cover; it shows Peter revealing his secret identity to his friends, and in the issue he does do that, but then later he convinces them that he was lying. Besides the anticlimax, this issue is a classic. This issue has some excellent Romita artwork and good characterization, although Mary Jane, in particular, seems very callous and unsympathetic. You have to feel sorry for Peter, who convinces himself that his sickness is due to the loss of his powers, only to realize that it’s just a nasty case of the flu.

YOUNG JUSTICE #54 (DC, 2003) – “Break on Through to the Other Seid,” (W) Peter David, (A) Todd Nauck. This issue has a funny narrative conceit where you think Robin is talking to the reader, though it turns out he’s really talking to Secret’s mother. The final Young Justice storyline focuses on Secret, the most important character who only appears in this series. Secret appears to have gone completely evil, and the rest of the team has to save her. It’s quite a strong issue.

ICON #26 (DC/Milestone, 1995) – “One Size Fits All,” (W) Dwayne McDuffie, (A) Francisco Velasco, Robert Walker & Jeffrey Moore. I think my problem with this series is that at this point, Rocket was literally the only black female protagonist in all of superhero comics, so it’s frustrating that she was turned into an example of the stereotype of the black teenage mother. That explains why I never bothered to read this comic even though I bought it years ago. But I ought to complete my Milestone collection. Like some other comics I’ve reviewed recently, Milestone was an important precursor to the current wave of “diverse” superhero comics, and it failed only because the market wasn’t ready for it. In this issue, the original Rocket and the replacement Rocket battle a monster from Icon’s home planet.

CAPTAIN ACTION #1 (DC, 1968) – “Origin of Captain Action!”, (W) Jim Shooter, (A) Wally Wood. This is a classic but very strange comic book. If I recall correctly, its continuity and creative team changed quite a lot in just five issues, and it had a surprisingly dark and grim tone for a licensed-property comic book. Captain Action is also historically important because the original toy was one of the earliest examples of the “action figure” concept, and the comic must have been one of the first comics adaptation of a toy line. In this issue, we are introduced to Clive Arno, who gains superpowers from coins that were blessed by the mythological gods. The list of gods in this comic is quite multicultural, although Shooter commits the error of describing Siva as a god of evil (see also Thor #301). Shooter’s writing and Wally’s artwork are both very impressive, and overall this is a classic series which ought to be reprinted, although I suspect that might be impossible because of intellectual property issues.

YOUNG JUSTICE #55 (DC, 2003) – “I’ve Got a Secret,” (W) Peter David, (A) Todd Nauck. Tim convinces Secret to stop being evil, and a disgusted Darkseid turns her back into a normal person, which is what she wanted all along. The conclusion to Empress’s story is less satisfying – she still has to take care of her infant parents, she’s just reconciled to it. Slobo apparently dies of genetic dilution, but really ends up in the world of DC One Million; I didn’t quite get what was happening here. Meanwhile, Kon and Cassie become an official couple. This issue ends on a rather inconclusive note, without really explaining how Young Justice becomes the Geoff Johns version of the Teen Titans, but in general it’s a solid conclusion to the best DC Universe comic of its time.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #619 (Archie, 1991) – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Maybe” and other stories, all (W/A) Bob Bolling. This is an extremely late Bob Bolling issue. I’m not sure when he stopped actively working for Archie, but he’s still living, and he did a new Little Archie story as recently as this year. I wish Fantagraphics or IDW or Papercutz would do a comprehensive reprinting of all of Bolling’s Little Archie material. He was Archie’s equivalent to Carl Barks, but his comics are very difficult to find, especially the ones from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and it’s hard to even find a comprehensive list of all the stories Bolling drew. Anyway, this issue, like Barks’s ‘60s duck stories, is a weird and uneven piece of work. The stories are wildly implausible, involving Martians and elves, and are lacking the realism of Bolling’s best work. But you can still tell these stories are by Bolling, and they’re full of his characteristic humor and excitement.

WALLY THE WIZARD #1 (Marvel/Star, 1985) – “A Plague of Locust,” (W/A) Bob Bolling. This obscure issue of a short-lived kids’ comic is fascinating because it’s Bob Bolling’s only major non-Archie work. It’s a fantasy story with an Arthurian setting, about a young red-haired apprentice wizard. Wally the Wizard is a very similar character to Little Archie, but because this series is not bound to the Riverdale setting, Bolling is free to indulge his creativity and to ignore real-world logic. As a result, this issue is full of weird magic spells and creatures, bad puns, and anachronisms. It doesn’t always work, but when it does work, it’s exciting. It’s a pity that Bolling only did two issues of this series.

SUN BAKERY #3 (Press Gang/Floating World, 2016) – “Layered Jacket” and other stories, (W/A) Corey Lewis. This is some really exciting and energetic work. Corey Lewis is a fascinating artist, although as I was reading this issue, I had the nagging feeling that his art is too similar to that of Brandon Graham. I think the difference is that Corey Lewis’s art is even more angular and two-dimensional; it looks like actual graffiti, rather than comic book artwork that’s inspired by graffiti. I think my favorite story this issue is the very crudely drawn “Layered Jacket,” about a hipster who tries to solve various problems by pulling stuff out of his jacket, but actually makes everything worse.

CEREBUS #124 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 11,” (W/A) Dave Sim. I’m currently in the middle of reading the first Cerebus phone book, so I thought I would read some of the Cerebus back issues I’ve had for years. This issue makes no sense at all out of context, and was clearly not meant to stand alone. But the improvement in Dave’s artwork since the early issues is tremendous. He started out as a clone of Barry Windsor-Smith, but by this point he had a well-developed style of his own, and was also working with Gerhard. Besides Cerebus, this issue includes a preview of From Hell and a letter column, which contains some bizarre material; you get the feeling that Dave printed every letter he received.

SUN BAKERY #2 (Press Gang/Floating World, 2016) – “Arem” and other stories, (W/A) Corey Lewis. The main story this issue is a parody of Metroid. I’m excited that this series has been picked up by Image. Corey deserves a bigger audience for his talent.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #11 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Ed Piskor. Major events this issue include the first meeting of Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, and the “origin” of LL Cool J.

BLACK HAMMER #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “Welcome to Black Hammer,” (W) Jeff Lemire, (A) Dean Ormston. I ordered the first issue of this series, but never read it, and then I stopped ordering it due to lack of interest. That was a mistake. Maybe I was confusing this comic with some other comic with Black in the title. This series is about a bunch of superheroes who are believed to have died saving the world, but who have somehow been stuck on a farm for seven years. I have no idea what’s going on here, but I want to find out, because it’s fascinating. This is one of the best recent Dark Horse debuts, and I want to get the issues I missed.

DOOM PATROL #119 (DC, 1968) – “In the Shadow of the Great Guru,” (W) Arnold Drake, (A) Bruno Premiani. I have read only a couple issues of the original Doom Patrol, and I need to remedy that, because it was a fascinating series. The villain this issue is a guru called Yaramishi Rama Yogi – obviously a take-off of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was famous at the time. He convinces each of the Doom Patrol members to turn evil by playing on their particular obsessions, and although each of them manages to break his control, he does succeed in convincing Madame Rouge to return to the Brotherhood of Evil. It’s too bad that this series ended two issues later, because Arnold Drake’s writing is very witty and fun, and Premiani’s art is exciting. Bruno Premiani himself was a fascinating character; he was really named Giordano Bruno Premiani, like the philosopher, and he had to flee both Italy and Argentina after falling afoul of Mussolini and Perón respectively.

JONESY #6 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) Sam Humphries, (A) Caitlin Rose Boyle. I forgot to read this when it came out. This issue is the conclusion of the Stuff two-parter. Stuff tries to guilt Jonesy into wearing the Tomato Girl costume on stage, but to her credit, Jonesy realizes that Stuff is being emotionally manipulative, and she abandons her crush on him. It’s a touching piece of work, and this issue is probably where the series got really good.

INVINCIBLE #37 (Image, 2006) – untitled, (W) Robert Kirkman, (A) Ryan Ottley. Mark defeats the mad scientist D.A. Sinclair and saves his victims, but unknown to Mark, Cecil Stedman recruits Sinclair instead of punishing him for his crimes. Of course I knew this was coming because I already read the issue where Mark discovers Cecil’s treachery. Also in this issue, Mark gets jealous of Amber for having another guy in her room, and is reprimanded by his dean for missing 80% of his classes. One cool thing about Invincible is that Mark was unable to balance his superhero career with college and a girlfriend; at one point in this issue, he realizes that he has “way too much crap going on.”

CEREBUS #120 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story, Book Two: The Poet,” (W/A) Dave Sim. Another comic that doesn’t make sense out of context. This issue focuses on a presumably new character who’s based on Oscar Wilde.

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