Final review post of 2016

12-25-16

I got lazy and didn’t write any reviews for two weeks. This will be the last review post of the year.

SHARKNIFE/HYSTERIA FCBD 2005 (Oni, 2005) – “Sharknife,” (W/A) Corey Lewis, and “An Uzi on the Island,” (W/A) Mike Hawthorne. This FCBD comic is a very early work of Corey Lewis. I think it may be included in the Sharknife book that I already have, but I haven’t read it yet. This early work is quite well-drawn, though it tells a simplistic story about a fight between two monsters in a sushi restaurant. This flip book also includes a story by Mike Hawthorne, which I did not enjoy.

INSEXTS #5 (Aftershock, 2016) – “Cynocephali,” (W) Marguerite Bennett, (A) Ariela Kristantina. An average issue. There’s not much difference between one issue of this series and another, which may be why I stopped reading it.

New comics received on December 9:

MOTOR CRUSH #1 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart, (A) Babs Tarr. This was one of my most eagerly anticipated debut issues of the year, and it did not disappoint. Domino Swift is an excellent protagonist. The motorcycle action sequences are excellent, but this comic also has an interesting plot, and the shock ending was truly unexpected. This comic is very similar to the Batgirl run by the same creative team, but different enough that it should hopefully be able to attract both existing Batgirl readers and new fans.

GOLDIE VANCE #8 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) Hope Larson, (A) Brittney Williams. This wasn’t my favorite issue, but it was an effective conclusion to the scuba diving story. Overall, Goldie Vance was the best new series of the year. My Eisner ballot for Best New Series would be Goldie Vance, Black Panther, Slam!, Motor Crush, Animosity, and Future Quest.

SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME #7 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Natalie Riess. Neptunia saves Peony from the cannibal cooking show, but then he stupidly gets himself disqualified from SBL, so next issue Peony will have to battle the watermelon-headed dude for the championship. Peony was a bit too much of a helpless hostage this issue, though at least she got to deliver the final blow to Princess Magicorn. I look forward to the last issue, and I’m excited to see what this cartoonist does next, whether it’s Space Battle Lunchtime II or something else.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #24 (Image, 2016) – “Once Again / We Return / Tempting Fate,” (W) Kieron Gillen, (A) Jamie McKelvie. Part one of the “Imperial Phase” story arc is full of sexual and political drama, as Woden tries to blackmail the other gods with a video of Ananke’s murder. The characterization in this issue, as in the series in general, is brilliant. I find it especially interesting how Persephone is gradually losing the reader’s sympathy.

GIANT DAYS #21 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) John Allison, (A) Max Sarin. Esther, Daisy and Susan’s house is burglarized, and they investigate who did it. I’ve heard that police departments hate it when laypeople try to solve crimes on their own, but it’s funny when the Giant Days characters do it.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE TEMPLE OF OD #5 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, (W) Brian Clevinger, (A) Scott Wegener. I disliked this miniseries at first, but each issue has been better than the last. As usual, the science in this comic makes no sense, which is kind of the entire point, and the action is thrilling. Unsurprisingly, at the end of the miniseries, Robo does not get the girl. The letters page of this issue has an interesting description of how Brian Clevinger writes this series.

ANIMOSITY #1 (Aftershock, 2016) – “The Wake,” (W) Marguerite Bennett, (A) Rafael De Latorre. My copy is a reprint, and I’m glad this comic was reprinted because I didn’t know about it until I saw scans from it on social media. I’ve already seen some of the best pages from this issue, but it’s fun seeing them in context. And of course the idea behind this series is fascinating. A possible weakness of this series is that all the animals have human-like personalities regardless of their species, though this was probably a deliberate choice.

REVIVAL #45 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Tim Seeley, (A) Mike Norton. This series has moved quite far away from the things that initially attracted me to it – the rural Wisconsin milieu has become an incidental part of the series, where it used to be the primary appeal. But this is still a fun comic. The best part of this issue is the line “our kids think we’re superheroes.”

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #271 (DC, 1981) – “What is the Dark Man?”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Jimmy Janes. I think this was the last issue of LSH v2 that I hadn’t read, and there is a reason for that: Gerry Conway was the worst Legion writer ever. This issue shows all of his characteristic faults. It has a stupid and forgettable plot. The answer to the question in the title is that the Dark Man is Tharok’s clone, which is neither surprising nor exciting. It focuses too much on Timber Wolf at the expense of all the other characters. This is an example of Gerry’s tendency to overemphasize the most Marvel-esque Legionnaires – that is to say, the Legionnaires with obvious flaws and histrionic personalities, like Timber Wolf and Wildfire – and to ignore the characters with more subtle and nuanced personalities. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning had the same problem, but at least their stories were much better.

FLASH GORDON: KING’S CROSS #2 (Dynamite, 2016) – untitled, (W) Jeff Parker, (W/A) Jesse Hamm. An exciting story by the most underrated writer in the industry. I’m not familiar with any of the continuity that led up to this series, but this comic is not confusing at all; rather, it makes me want to go back and read Dynamite’s other King Features comics. While Jesse Hamm is no substitute for Doc Shaner, his art is quite effective.

BOUNTY #5 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kurtis Wiebe, (A) Mindy Lee. I can’t summarize what happened in this issue, but it was a fun conclusion to the series. However, this comic didn’t excite me nearly as much as Rat Queens did. I’m not sorry if this is the last issue (no further issues have been solicited yet), because I’d rather have Kurtis spend his time writing more Rat Queens and Pisces. The best thing in this issue is the scene where the protagonists are robbing a museum exhibit of old video game systems.

BUCKY O’HARE #3 (Continuity, 1991) – untitled, (W) Larry Hama, (A) Michael Golden. Perhaps the only good comic from this publisher. Larry Hama’s writing is entertaining, though not especially deep, and Michael Golden’s artwork is brilliant. The number of panels on each page of this issue is very low – most pages have three panels at the most – and I wonder if this was either because of an experimental printing technique, or because Golden was trying to draw like a manga artist.

CEREBUS #122 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 9,” (W/A) Dave Sim. The individual chapters of “Jaka’s Story” are really not readable out of context. I have no idea what’s supposed to be going on here or why I should care. My general impression is that “Jaka’s Story” is a story in which nothing happens at all, and surely that can’t be true. I look forward to reading it in collected form, but I have to read three other Cerebus phone books first. I do like all the ancillary material in these issues, and Dave and Gerhard’s art is excellent, especially compared to Dave’s early work.

FANTASTIC FOUR #94 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Return of the Frightful Four!”, (W) Stan Lee, (A) Jack Kirby. This issue includes two significant milestones: the Richards baby is officially named Franklin Benjamin, and Agatha Harkness and her cat Ebony appear for the first time. Ben Grimm’s amazed reaction at hearing Franklin’s middle name is an adorable moment. Agatha’s introduction is also an exciting scene. She defeats the Frightful Four more or less singlehandedly, and Ben is terrified of her. Unfortunately, my copy of this issue is in barely readable condition and I wish I could replace it.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #557 (Disney, 1991) – “Avalanche Valley,” (W/A) Carl Barks, plus other stories. This issue begins with a Barks ten-pager from 1951. Having just made a lot of money by selling a song he wrote, Donald takes the nephews to a mountain resort. He insists on playing his own song constantly, even though it appears to be causing avalanches. It turns out the song is causing the avalanches, but not in the way the reader initially thinks, and the explanation of the avalanches is somewhat surprising. However, at the end of the story, Donald is stuck under a pile of snow for the entire winter, which makes me wonder how the nephews are supposed to provide for themselves until he escapes. The other stories in this issue are all quite bad.

DEFENDERS #94 (Marvel, 1981) – “Beware – the Six-Fingered Hand!”, (W) J.M. DeMatteis, (A) Don Perlin. I only have a few issues of Defenders from after Gerber left. My impression is that the last 110 issues of this series were pretty undistinguished, and this issue does not change my mind, although it does have some characters I like, including Son of Satan, Hellcat and Valkyrie. It’s also the first appearance of Gargoyle. But the best thing about this issue is the Michael Golden cover.

FLASH GORDON #5 (Dynamite, 2014) – “No One Shall Pass,” (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Sandy Jarrell, Richard Case and Evan Shaner. Flash, Dale and Zarko are eaten by a giant piece of space biomass, then after they escape, they visit Sky World where Flash and Zarko fall victim to flying sirens. Doc Shaner only drew the second half of this issue. His art is brilliant, especially the establishing shot of Sky World, but the other artist is much worse.

MICKEY MOUSE #253 (Gladstone, 1989) – “Bellhop Detective, Chapter III,” (W/A) Floyd Gottfredson, (W) Merrill de Maris. This story is reprinted from a 1953 newspaper sequence. I’ve never fallen in love with Gottfredson the way I’m in love with Barks, but this comic is an exciting and well-drawn piece of work, with a classic cozy-mystery plot that ends with a parlor scene. Mickey’s bellhop uniform in this story is very similar to Spirou’s costume. I guess both these costumes were based on actual bellhop uniforms of the time.

DOOM PATROL #2 (DC/Young Animal, 2016) – “Negative World: Brick by Brick 2,” (W) Gerard Way, (A) Nick Derington. This series’ first issue made no sense to me at all, hence why I didn’t read the second issue immediately, but the second issue is easier to understand. Casey encounters Robotman and the Men from NOWHERE, and then at the end of the issue she meets Flex Mentallo and Danny the Street. In case I forget this when I write my review of issue 3, I should mention how in this issue, as in Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, Robotman plays the role of the straight man. He tries to understand the illogical events around him from a human perspective. The fact that Robotman plays his role is ironic because his defining character trait is that he’s stuck in a nonhuman body, and yet he’s the only member of the team who thinks like a normal human being.

New comics received on December 16. That week I was in the middle of my end-of-semester crunch and I had a Giant Stack of Grading to get through. So I couldn’t read very many comics at first, though I made up for it later in the week.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #15 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Mighty Mewnir,” (W) Ryan North, (A) Erica Henderson w/ Zac Gorman. As a cat owner, I was obviously very excited that the star of this issue would be Mew, and I was also curious how Ryan and Erica would pull it off. The answer is that they executed it with their usual brilliance. The story of Squirrel Girl’s encounter with Mew is told entirely from Mew’s perspective, so we only get to witness the events for which Mew is present, and most of the panels show us only Mew herself or things Mew can see. I like this idea of showing the events from a cat’s literal point of view, which is very low to the ground. It reminds me of how Temple Grandin diagnoses problems with livestock behavior by physically positioning herself so she can see what the animals are seeing. There’s also a cool visual device where many of the word balloons are cut off by the edge of the panel, indicating things that Mew either can’t hear or doesn’t care about. The plot is also very clever. Mew indirectly defeats Taskmaster, in a way simple but logical way. And the dream sequences are cute. This issue is obviously reminiscent of the Pizza Dog issue of Hawkeye, and while it’s not as artistically ambitious as that issue was, it does offer an original, creative approach to the problem of telling a story with an animal protagonist.

WONDER WOMAN #12 (DC, 2016) – “Year One, Part Five,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Nicola Scott. I think I missed at least one page while I was reading this issue, because when I looked at it again just now, I didn’t remember the “it is very sugar” line. Perhaps I missed this page because I was somehow distracted by the giant eight-page foldout in the middle of the comic. I wish DC would stop including such things in their comic books. Anyway, this issue reveals that just like in other Wonder Woman origin retellings, Diana was summoned to Patriarch’s World to battle Ares. Besides that, there’s a cool training montage in which Diana talks to a falcon and sticks her tongue out at a lizard. And then she drops the bombshell that she had a female lover named Kasia. The idea that Themyscira is a lesbian society is no longer truly controversial. But I believe this is the first official confirmation that Wonder Woman has had a same-sex relationship. And I think this moment is something of a milestone, given Wonder Woman’s importance as a character. (I guess Rucka already revealed that Diana was gay back in September, but this is the first story that explicitly describes her as such.)

MEGA PRINCESS #2 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Brianne Drouhard. This is a cute and fun comic. One measure of how fun this comic is, is the sequence with the river crossing puzzle. This puzzle is a tired old cliché and I would normally be annoyed to see yet another instance of it. But Kelly’s version of this story is so cute and entertaining that I was interested in it anyway. (And also, this comic is intended for an audience that doesn’t know this puzzle already.) My problem with this comic is that it’s trying to do too much. There are too many different things happening in it at once, and it’s not clear what the central theme is.

SUN BAKERY #4 (Press Gang, 2016) – “Layered Jacket #2: On the Edge of Dream” and other stories, (W/A) Corey Lewis. More exciting, fun comics in a graffiti-esque style. I think the highlight of the issue is LJ pulling Carl Sagan out of his jacket. I still think Corey Lewis’s style is very similar to Brandon Graham’s. And Rey himself admits, somewhere in one of these issues, that he’s not the best writer. But he’s very talented and I want to see what he does next.

HAWKEYE #1 (Marvel, 2016) – “Prime Suspects,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Leonardo Romero. Yet another really impressive debut issue. The villain is an Internet troll, so that alone makes this the best comic ever. As an aside, I really think that Internet harassment is a crime, and that it needs to be policed much more aggressively. When the victim in this issue says that “even the nice [cops] didn’t know what to do,” that rings very true. At least in this issue, the troll is caught and punished, which almost never happens in real life. Besides that, this comic is truly well-written and well-drawn. Leonardo Romero’s art is both excellent, and very reminiscent of David Aja’s art, which creates the sense that this series is a follow-up to Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye.

NO MERCY #12 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Alex de Campi, (A) Carla Speed McNeil. Most of this issue focuses on Deshawn and Tiffani, who are being held captive by Central American guerrillas. The scene where Tiffani reveals that she can speak Korean is really cool; it suggests that the kids have some agency, despite the awful situation they’re in. But that agency only goes so far, because the rebels don’t keep their promise to free Tiffani and Deshawn if she gets them a better deal.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #35 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, (W) Rob Anderson, (A) Jay Fosgitt. The stars this issue are Twilight Sparkle and Starlight Glimmer, who I think is worst pony. Jay Fosgitt’s art is up to its usual quality, but the story is kind of boring.

BLACKEST NIGHT: WONDER WOMAN #3 (DC, 2010) – “Wonder Woman: Blackest Night,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Nicola Scott. This issue has the same creative team as the even-numbered issues of the current Wonder Woman series, but is nowhere near as good. It’s so heavily tied in to the Blackest Night crossover that it’s not worth reading on its own. Diana becomes a Star Sapphire, then fights a Red Lantern version of Mera, and there’s no reason why the reader should care.

CEREBUS #126 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 13,” (W/A) Dave Sim. One reason why I’m reading all these Cerebus issues is just to get them out of my unread boxes. It’s almost worth reading them just so I don’t have to read them anymore. The main story in this issue is as incomprehensible as usual. At least it includes a preview of “The One” by Rick Veitch, with an introductory essay by Alan Moore, though neither of those makes much sense either.

DESCENDER #17 (Image, 2016) – “Orbital Mechanics 1 of 5,” (W) Jeff Lemire, (A) Dustin Nguyen. Finally we’re done with the origin stories and we can move on with the main plot. This issue, Andy has make-up sex with Queen Between, Telsa and Quon try to escape, and Tim-22 pursues the good Tim and seemingly kills him. This is a fun issue, and a good start to the new storyline.

DOOM PATROL #3 (DC/Young Animal, 2016) – “It’s a Doomed World After All: Brick by Brick Part 3,” (W) Gerard Way, (A) Nick Derington. This comic has perhaps my favorite cover of the year – it’s the one where Casey is reading an issue of Danny Comics and Fugg is peering out of it. The inside of the comic is almost as good. We finally learn what’s been going on so far: Casey is a fictional character created by Danny the Street, who thinks she’s real. Kind of a cool idea. I already said once that I like Nick Derington’s art, and I repeat it now.

CEREBUS #123 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 10,” (W/A) Dave Sim w/ Gerhard. I read this comic out of order, but it’s hard to tell. I assume that once I read this story all the way through, I’ll understand why some lines of dialogue keep repeating – for example, Pud telling Jaka that his wife died, or the conversation that starts with Pud asking Jaka if she’s happy here. But when I read the comic out of order, these repetitions just create a sense of déjà vu.

THE FLINTSTONES #6 (DC, 2016) – “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” (W) Mark Russell, (A) Steve Pugh. This series has settled into a familiar pattern where each issue is a parody of some aspect of modern society. This issue is about apocalypse predictions. Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm work as interns for a scientist, who predicts that a comet is going to strike the planet. Everyone believes him, and as a result society completely collapses, until it turns out that he was wrong. Of course the issue is full of various other puns and sight gags.

SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL #3 (DC/Young Animal, 2016) – “As Bad as Mad,” (W) Cecil Castellucci, (A) Marley Zarcone. This was my favorite Young Animal title at first, but I had trouble understanding this issue. I don’t quite get who Shade is or what she’s doing. Also, I don’t understand where or what Meta is, although that may be deliberate.

12-28-16

Resuming these reviews after a couple days off.

DOOM PATROL #48 (DC, 1991) – “Entertaining Mr. Evans,” (W) Grant Morrison, (A) Richard Case. I enjoyed this, but I can’t remember much about it now. It involves a bizarre villain called Shadowy Mr. Evans who is causing the people of a place called Happy Harbor to engage in bizarre sexual behavior. I do remember thinking while I read this issue that, although Richard Case was not a brilliant artist, he was somehow perfectly suited to Grant’s Doom Patrol.

ROCCO VARGAS VOL. 2 (Catalan, 1990) – “The Whisperer Mystery,” (W/A) Daniel Torres. This is a translation of a Spanish album. It presupposes knowledge of the previous volume of the series, and does not include a plot summary. As far as I can tell, Rocco Vargas is an action hero/bar owner who lives in a world inspired by Golden Age science fiction and ‘50s futurist design. The artist, Daniel Torres, is part of the same Clear Line revivalist tradition as Yves Chaland and Joost Swarte. While the plot of this comic is somewhat hard to follow, the artwork is amazing and the writing is sophisticated, witty and exciting. After finishing this comic, I wanted to buy the 1998 Dark Horse hardcover volume that included this volume as well as three others – but that volume was over $100 on Amazon! Though now that I look again, the price has gone down quite a bit, so maybe I will be able to afford it.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #44 (DC, 1993) – “Projectra Returns, (W) Tom Bierbaum & Mary Bierbaum, (A) Stuart Immonen. I had a dream about the Legion of Super-Heroes the other night, and it made me want to read some Legion comics. As I have said before, I really miss the Legion of Super-Heroes. I lived with this comic for more than half my life, and it had a massive influence on me. I love My Little Pony for many of the same reasons I love the Legion, but it’s not quite the same.

Anyway, I used to hate the V4 Legion because of its dark and grim tone, but it’s a lot better than no Legion at all, and the creators were deeply committed to the franchise. The Bierbaums were fans first and creators second, and their work reflects their deep understanding of the franchise. This issue does have some rather dark moments. First, Mordru beats up his wife Mysa Nal, and then Projectra is traumatized by seeing her husband Karate Kid’s corpse rise from its grave. But this issue also has some warmer and friendlier moments. Notably, when Jeckie shows up at Legion headquarters, Ayla Ranzz gives her a hug. This moment stands out to me because Jeckie and Ayla were never depicted as close friends – I can’t remember any other time that they interacted at all. And yet it makes sense that Ayla would hug Jeckie, both because it matches Ayla’s personality, and because all Legionnaires are each other’s friends.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #46 (DC, 1993) – untitled, same creators as above. Like issue 44, this issue belongs to a story arc in which Mordru resurrects the corpses of dead Legionnaires. I neglected to mention that issue 44 introduced perhaps the four least significant Legionnaires ever, the Khunds Firefist, Veilmist, Blood Claw and Flederweb. In this issue, Blood Claw is killed by one of Mordru’s zombies, and no one particularly cares. The reader is far more affected by the multiple scenes in which Legionnaires are forced to confront their dead loved ones. Watching Rokk Krinn battle his dead brother’s corpse is just awful. In fact, it’s so awful that it feels emotionally manipulative.

FANTASTIC FOUR #167 (Marvel, 1976) – “Titans Two!”, (W) Roy Thomas, (A) George Pérez. George is listed as a “guest artist” in the credits box, but he became the permanent artist with #170. The best thing about this issue is Ben Grimm’s unintentionally funny statement that he and the Hulk are “an item.” One assumes that Roy Thomas did not know what “an item” meant. Otherwise, this issue is an unexciting Hulk/Thing story, though the art is very good.

FLASH #105 (DC, 1995) – “Through a Glass Darkly,” (W) Mark Waid & Michael Jan Friedman, (A) Ron Lim. This starts out funny, but takes an unexpectedly dark turn. Wally is trapped in the Mirror Master’s mirror dimension, and to free himself, he has to help the Mirror Master locate a certain woman. It turns out the woman, Emelia, is the Mirror Master’s former girlfriend, who left him because he abused her and threatened her life. To prevent him from finding her again, she had to hide in a house with no reflective surfaces at all. And even then he still finds her. Wally saves Emelia in the end, but this issue is a very dark and disturbing portrayal of a woman who can’t escape from her abuser. And I’m not sure if that was what Mark intended.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #50 (DC, 1993) – “A Transcendence,” (W) Tom Bierbaum & Mary Bierbaum, (A) Darryl Banks; and “A Battle with BION,” (W) Tom McCraw, (A) Stuart Immonen. The first half of this double-sized issue is the Bierbaums’ last story for this title. On his deathbed after he expended all his power to defeat Mordru, Jan Arrah has visions of what all his fellow Legionnaires are doing. This sequence is the Bierbaums’ affectionate farewell to the Legion; it serves as an excuse for them to check in on all their characters for one last time. It’s full of cute moments, like Imra realizing that her newborn twins are telepathic, and Tenzil marrying Saturn Queen. The second half of the issue is by the new creative team of McCraw and Immonen. As the title indicates, the entire story is taken up by a big fight between the Legion and BION, and it’s not as good as the first half of the issue. Tom McCraw was probably the worst Legion writer of the ‘90s.

STINZ: FAMILY VALUES #1 (Mu Press, 1994) – “Baby Games” and “Hit or Miss,” (W/A) Donna Barr. I’m friends with Donna Barr on Facebook, but this is the first of her comics I’ve read. It takes place in a country resembling Germany, where all the characters are centaurs. The protagonist, Stinz, is a former military commander who is now a family man. In the first story, Stinz’s son has to deal with the news that he’s unexpectedly becoming a big brother. In the second story, Stinz’s estranged older daughter returns home and discovers that her father is less abusive now than during her childhood. Overall, this is a warm and cheerful comic, but it also has a darker element; you get the sense that even if Stinz is older and more mature now, his past behavior has left an unremovable stain on his family.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #607 (Archie, 1990) – “Target for Tonight” and other stories, (W/A) Bob Bolling. The longest story in this issue is one in which Archie prevents Mad Dr. Doom and Chester from robbing a bank on Christmas Eve. This is a fun story that includes two of Bob Bolling’s trademarks: first, Mad Dr. Doom, Chester, and the Time Taxi; and second, stupid but clever puns. On the first page, Archie says “Mom told me the real Santa is stuck in a chimney somewhere in the Fiji Islands,” and Archie’s father replies, “Bet that doesn’t soot him at all!”

GWENPOOL HOLIDAY SPECIAL: MERRY MIX-UP #1 (Marvel, 2016) – “I Saw Mommy Kissing Galactus, Bringer of Gifts,” (W) Ryan North, (A) Nathan Stockman; and other stories. The premise of this issue is that Gwenpool’s world has different holiday traditions from ours; in particular, Galactus gives gifts instead of Santa. The Ryan North story in which Miles Morales meets Galactus is almost worth the price of the issue by itself. Unfortunately, the rest of the material in this issue is not as good. The Christmas Carol parody starring the Red Skull, written by Nick Kocher, is in very poor taste and probably shouldn’t have been published. In this day and age, we shouldn’t be treating Nazis as material for comedy.

WONDER WOMAN #36 (DC, 2009) – “Warkiller, Part 1 of 4: Heart of Fire,” (W) Gail Simone, (A) Aaron Lopresti. Diana has a funny encounter with Titania, which ends with them complaining about men rather than fighting. Hilariously, it turns out Titania was stood up for a date by the Atom. But during their conversation, Diana reveals that she wanted to marry Tom Tresser and have a child with him, and he refused because he’s afraid of commitment or whatever. That’s too bad, because Diana’s romance with Tom is just about the only interesting heterosexual relationship she’s ever had (I don’t think Diana and Superman are an exciting couple).

MADMAN ADVENTURES #2 (Tundra, 1993) – (W/A) Mike Allred. This is the earliest Madman comic I’ve read. In this story, Madman gets stuck in the Mesozoic Era, where a crazy old scientist, also a stranded time traveler, tries to seduce and/or kill him. This comic is reasonably fun, but it hardly looks like Mike Allred artwork at all – it looks more like the artwork of Mark Schultz, who did the inking.

FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #12 (DC, 1976) – “Starman,” (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Mike Vosburg. This was the only appearance of Mikaal Tomas until James Robinson brought him back in the ‘90s. If not for Robinson, this character would have been justifiably forgotten, because his origin story is boring and also suspiciously similar to Captain Mar-Vell’s origin. In the context of Mikaal Tomas’s later history, this comic becomes a bit more interesting. On the text page, Gerry Conway suggests that Mikaal Tomas might belong to the same species as Shadow Lass, and Robinson later established that this is indeed the case.

NEW MUTANTS #56 (Marvel, 1987) – “Scavenger Hunt!”, (W) Louise Simonson, (A) June Brigman. This issue has the same creative team as Power Pack. Weezie is very good at writing kids who act like kids, meaning that they’re often bratty, bad-tempered, and combative. This issue, the New Mutants and the Hellions compete with each other to find a new mutant, Bird-Boy, and the encounter brings out the worst tendencies of both groups. The focal character this issue is Magma, who is probably the worst New Mutant, and has been pretty much forgotten. But at least Weezie comes up with a good explanation for why Magma doesn’t fit in this series. As a lifelong aristocrat, she doesn’t feel at home with the New Mutants and would be better off as a Hellion, and indeed, at the end of this issue she does join the Hellions. Now that I think of it, June comes up with a nice visual shorthand for depicting the difference between the teams. At the beginning of the issue we see the New Mutants having breakfast, and they’re eating donuts and cereal and toast, and sitting with their feet up on the table. Then we see the Hellions having breakfast, and they’re sitting up straight and eating off fine china.

RAGMAN #2 (DC, 1976) – “75-25 or Die,” (W) Robert Kanigher, (A) “Redondo Studio” (with layouts by Joe Kubert). This must have been a personal project for Robert Kanigher. It draws heavily on his Jewish background, and it has a certain affectionate quality to it, whereas many of his other comics were just written for a paycheck. And Ragman is an awesome character. It’s too bad that the execution of this issue is somewhat lacking. Rory Regan saves a woman named Opal from criminals, then falls in love with her, to the point where he breaks up with the girlfriend he already has. However, Kanigher completely failed to convince me that Rory and Opal are attracted to each other, and that affected my enjoyment of the rest of the issue.

TARZAN #245 (DC, 1976) – “The Jungle Murders,” (W) Joe Kubert, (A) Redondo Studio. I read this because it has the same style of artwork as the previous comic I read. As with Ragman #2, the layouts are by Joe Kubert but the artwork is only credited to the “Redondo Studio.” I actually kind of like this collaboration because it combines Kubert’s brilliant storytelling with draftsmanship that’s more detailed and less sketchy than Kubert’s. The ultimate example of this sort of art was Rima the Jungle Girl, where Nestor Redondo drew over Kubert layouts. Anyway, this issue has nice art, but the story is a bunch of typical ERB cliches.

CRIME SUSPENSTORIES #13 (Russ Cochran, 1995, originally 1952) – four stories, (W) Al Feldstein, (A) various. The first story this issue, “Hear No Evil” by Jack Kamen, is about a woman who marries a rich deaf man, then plots to kill him and run off with another man. The twist ending is that the husband has regained his hearing, so he was able to eavesdrop on the plot, and the person whose death is shown at the beginning of the story is the lover, not the husband. I thought that the deaf man’s recovery of his hearing was unrealistic, and a better ending would be if the deaf man knew how to read lips, despite his previous statement that he couldn’t. The second story, drawn by Sid Check, is actually two stories about the same characters. In the first story, “First Impulse!”, a woman murders her fiancé because she thinks he’s cheating on her with her sister, but then discovers he’s faithful to her. In the other story, “Second Chance,” the woman instead decides not to murder him, but discovers that he really is cheating on her. Weird Fantasy #15, published the same year, also included two related stories with different endings, “The Quick Trip” and “The Long Trip.” The third story, “A Question of Time,” is drawn by Al Williamson, but it feels like he spent too much time on the beautiful opening panel and had to draw the rest of the story much more quickly. The last story, “Forty Whacks” by Kamen, is a retelling of the story of Lizzie Borden.

New comics received on Friday, December 23:

USAGI YOJIMBO #160 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “Death by Fugu,” (W/A) Stan Sakai. I’m a little surprised that this issue doesn’t resolve any of the dangling threads from last issue. Instead, it’s a mystery in which a chef is accused of killing someone with fugu. This issue inevitably reminds me of the “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish” episode of The Simpsons. But unlike the writers of that episode, Stan Sakai has clearly done his research on fugu, and he avoids reproducing the myth that eating fugu is a death sentence. Indeed, the whole point of the story is that fugu is only dangerous if prepared incorrectly (though I guess that was also part of the plot of the Simpsons episode). The end of this issue is very depressing and surprising, and I’m kind of surprised that the issue just ends there.

SLAM! #2 (Boom!, 2016) – “Pushy Riots vs. Meteorfights,” (W) Pamela Ribon, (A) Veronica Fish. Slam! #1 was an excellent debut issue, and this issue is perhaps even better. The two protagonists, Knocko ut and Ithinka Can, are now part of rival teams. But Knockout’s team, the Pushy Riots are serious and hypercompetitive, while Ithinka Can’s team, the Meteorfights, are fun and friendly. Therefore, Knockout is having a much harder time, especially since the star of her team hates her for no apparent reason. This issue is very enjoyable to read; I can’t help but love the characters, and I sympathize with their problems.

SILVER SURFER #8 (Marvel, 2016) – “Tall Tales,” (W) Dan Slott, (A) Mike Allred. This story is all about size and scale. Surfer and Dawn are swallowed by Jumbonox the Ginormous, and they escape by telling a story about the Surfer’s tiny herald (or Harold), Tindly Hardlesnop. The obvious moral of the story is that no matter how big or small you are, there’s always someone bigger or smaller. I like this idea, but I wish Jumbonox had been even bigger; even on the opening two-page splash, he doesn’t look big enough.

PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT #13 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kate Leth, (A) Brittney L. Williams. This issue is funny and cute as usual, but this Black Cat storyline has been the low point of the series so far. There are too many characters and I can’t tell them all apart.

ANIMOSITY #4 (Aftershock, 2016) – “Traps,” (W) Marguerite Bennett, (A) Rafael De Latorre. In a flashback, we learn that Jesse has an older half-brother we haven’t met. Then in the present timeframe, there’s a lot of violent death and murder. This was the least interesting issue yet; it felt like an issue of The Walking Dead where all the characters happened to be animals.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #49 (IDW, 2016) – “Accord, Part the Second: In All Chaos There is a Cosmos, in All Disorder a Secret Order,” (W) Rob Anderson, (A) Andy Price. Again, Andy Price’s brilliant artwork redeems what could have been a boring story. The best part is the sequence in Accord’s mind. Appropriately, Andy depicts Accord’s mind as a gray, rectilinear place full of bureaucrats in cubicles.

ETHER #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W) Matt Kindt, (A) David Rubin. This was fun, but not quite as good as last issue. I think the best part was the octopus taxi. This series runs the risk of becoming just a conventional murder mystery which happens to take place in a fantasy world (see my comments on Animosity #4 above), and I hope Matt and David can avoid that danger.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT #6 (Russ Cochran, 1993, originally 1950) – four stories, (W) Al Feldstein, (A) various. I wonder if EC’s twist endings were a bit overrated. In the EC comics I’ve read lately, there haven’t been any endings that really surprised me. This issue begins with “The Thing from the Grave,” drawn by Feldstein. This is a generic zombie story, although it does remind me a bit of the original Swamp Thing story, in that it features a character who comes back from the grave to avenge his murdered wife. “Blood Type V,” drawn by Ingels, is a fairly generic vampire story. “Death’s Turn,” with art by Jack Kamen, is probably the best story in the issue. The owners of a struggling amusement park hire a man to design them a new roller coaster, then murder him once it’s finished. But the first time they ride it, they break their necks, because it turns out that the roller coaster goes so fast that no one can ride it and live. I don’t know if that’s plausible, but it’s funny. Finally, in “The Curse of the Arnold Clan,” with art by Johnny Craig, a man’s family is cursed so that every fifty years, the oldest member of the family will be buried alive. The protagonist is the oldest member of the family, and he knows about the curse. Yet he goes digging in a graveyard on the night the curse is scheduled to take effect, with predictable results. Really, he deserved to get buried alive.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST: SWEET CHRISTMAS ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2016) – “Sweet Christmas,” (W) David Walker, (A) Scott Hepburn. Besides Slam! #1, this was the most entertaining comic of the week. Luke, Danny and Danielle visit a toy store at midnight to get the latest hot toy, and then Jessica Drew shows up and asks for parenting advice. And then it turns out that the hot toy of the season is a trick created by Krampus to steal children’s souls. Mayhem ensues, until Santa Claus shows up to save the day. This comic is exciting and also a deeply affectionate meditation on parenting. Luke and Jessica behave like real parents, and Danielle behaves like a real child. Even the story that Jessica tells Luke is an example of that. It’s probably the most disgusting thing in the entire history of Marvel comics, yet it’s the sort of thing that probably does happen to actual parents. You get the feeling that David is drawing on his own parenting experience. I do think that Danielle’s age in this issue is inconsistent with her previous appearances in this series, but oh well. I am glad that David got to use Danielle again; for a while Jessica Jones and Danielle were appearing in every issue of Power Man and Iron Fist, and then they mysteriously vanished with no explanation, because Bendis wanted to use them instead.

CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #3 (DC/Young Animal, 2016) – “Deep Issues,” (W) Gerard Way & Jon Rivera, (A) Michael Avon Oeming. Cave, Chloe and Wild Dog encounter a giant carnivorous plant and a giant worm. Then Chloe learns that her mother was a subterranean princess, and then it turns out that all the people from Muldroog are dead. The best thing in this issue is Chloe’s reaction to learning the truth about her mother. First she’s horrified and furious, then after she has time to think about it, she calms down and reconciles with her dad. Chloe’s behavior is unusually realistic. In most comic books, when a person learns a big secret, they react in a much more histrionic and angry way.

JEM: THE MISFITS #1 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Jenn St.-Onge. This is better than the current storyline in the primary Jem title. We begin with a scene where Eric tells Pizzazz that the only way she can save her career is by having the Misfits appear on a reality show. While we wait to see how the rest of the band reacts to this ridiculous idea, we flash back to Pizzazz/Phyllis’s childhood. The flashback effectively explains how she got to be the way she is: she grew up in an overprivileged environment, but with awful, neglectful parents. She decides to start a band, and she recruits all the other Misfits not through her money and privilege, but through force of personality. This scene emphasizes why Pizzazz is perhaps the best antagonist in comics at the moment. She’s mean and self-destructive and has a lot of other negative traits, yet she also has such spirit and willpower that the reader has to admire her. The brief origin stories of the other Misfits are also quite revealing. And I love the sequence where Pizzazz says “let me tell you what the new plan is” and then the next page is a splash page of all the other Misfits shouting NO!, and then the page after that is the Misfits appearing on TV to announce their new reality show.

BOOM BOX MIX TAPE 2016 (Boom!, 2016) – various (W/A). This anthology includes various stories featuring existing Boom! Box characters, most of them involving music – though oddly, my favorite may have been the Slam! story, which doesn’t mention music at all.

SPIDER-WOMAN #1 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, (W) Dennis Hopeless, (A) Javier Rodriguez. I didn’t buy this when it came out, because Dennis Hopeless wrote Avengers Arena and therefore I had a very negative impression of him. But I later acquired this issue for less than cover price, and it turns out to be excellent. It’s a realistic, well-written and well-drawn story about a superheroine trying to balance her career with pregnancy. The scene at the party, where Jessica electrocutes Tony Stark for asking who the father is, is excellent. And there’s some really fun visual gags at the end when Jessica visits the alien maternity hospital.

CASANOVA: ACEDIA #6 (Image, 2016) – “In This Garden,” (W) Matt Fraction, (A) Fábio Moon, plus backup story. I didn’t read this comic sooner because I’m hopelessly confused by this series. Fábio Moon’s art is brilliant, but the story makes no sense. There are lots of things going on at once and none of them make any sense. I don’t think I’ll be able to understand this comic unless I read it all at once after it’s finished, and maybe not even then.

BACKSTAGERS #5 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, (W) James Tynion IV, (A) Rian Sygh. This issue includes one utterly brilliant moment. Let me quote my explanation of it on Facebook: “ My thought process as I read Backstagers #5: Huh, these characters look like alternate reality versions of the Backstagers. Oh, they’re from Beckett’s old school. But some of them are boys, so Beckett must have transferred from a co-ed school. No, wait, they all have female names. But that means Beckett… oh my god.” And then Beckett and his former classmates have a conversation which is ostensibly about transferring schools, but is actually about transitioning. I guess James Tynion already said in interviews that Beckett was transgender, but I must have missed that, because this moment came as a pleasant shock to me. I think comics like Backstagers and Lumberjanes and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl are playing an important role in normalizing transgender identity. These comics have even made me subtly shift my own views on this topic.

Sadly, Ray Goldfield tells me that Backstagers has not been selling as well as the Boom! Box titles with female protagonists, and that it’s going to end with issue 8, rather than being renewed like Goldie Vance was. That’s a shame.

SPELL ON WHEELS #3 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W) Kate Leth, (A) Megan Levens. The best issue of a miniseries which has been unimpressive so far. On the trail of their stolen items, the protagonists encounter a woman who’s being tormented by her husband’s ghost, because she started a relationship with another woman after he died. The touching part about the story is how the widow convinces her husband – who would obviously have voted for Trump if alive – to overcome his religiously motivated bigotry. This issue was the first time I really cared about this comic.

HAUNT OF FEAR #3 (Russ Cochran, 1993; originally Haunt of Fear #17, 1950) – various (W/A). In “Nightmare,” (W/A) Johnny Craig, a man repeatedly dreams he’s been buried alive, then wakes up to find that he’s still dreaming. Finally, he really does get buried alive without trying to save himself, because he thinks he’s asleep. The really weird part about this story is that the protagonist is named John Severin. I wonder what the real John Severin thought of having his name used in this way. “Television Terror,” (W/A) Harvey Kurtzman, is very clever. The entire story is shown from the point of view of a television camera, so we never actually get to see the supernatural phenomena because they happen off-camera. “Monster Maker,” (W) Gardner Fox and (A) Graham Ingels, is a step down in quality; it’s a blatant Frankenstein rip-off. Finally, “Horror Beneath the Streets,” (W/A) Al Feldstein, is a funny piece of metafiction. It stars Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein themselves. It explains how they encountered the Crypt Keeper and Vault Keeper one night on the way home from work, and were forced to sign a contract to publish stories about them. Overall, this is the best EC comic I’ve read lately.

DOCTOR STRANGE #15 (Marvel, 2016) – “Blood in the Aether, Chapter Four: The Face of Sin,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Chris Bachalo and Jorge Fornes. The villain this issue is the Orb. He claims that he’s become the new Watcher and that he’s sworn to just watch people and not interfere, but his behavior is the reverse of that. The Orb is never quite as scary or as funny as he ought to be. Overall this is a lackluster issue, especially because half of it is drawn by Jorge Fornes, who is much worse than Chris Bachalo.

BATMAN/SPIRIT #1 (DC, 2007) – “Crime Consequences,” (W) Jeph Loeb, (A) Darwyn Cooke. Like almost everything Darwyn drew, this issue is a masterpiece. I hate Jeph Loeb’s writing and I think there are few writers who are more overrated. But Jeph’s script for this issue is competent, if unexciting. And Darwyn’s artwork plays such a major role in conveying the story, that it more than makes up for the deficiencies in the plot and script. Darwyn’s storytelling and draftsmanship in this issue are just incredible. One thing that amazes me about this issue is his visual characterization. There’s one panel this issue where seven villains appear at once (or eight counting Scarface separately), and you can deduce each villain’s personality from his/her/its posture and facial expressions. I do think this story exaggerates the differences between Batman and the Spirit, portraying Batman as a cold, humorless Batdick and the Spirit as a carefree figure of fun. But unfortunately, that is consistent with the way that DC has chosen to depict these characters.

DETECTIVE COMICS #447 (DC, 1975) – “Enter: The Creeper,” (W) Len Wein, (A) Ernie Chua. After Batman/Spirit #1, I felt like reading a comic that portrayed Batman in a more moderate way. The Batman story this issue, which guest-stars the Creeper, is reasonably good but not great. What really interested me about this issue was the Robin backup story, which is credited to Bob Rozakis, Martinez and Mazzaroli. I had never heard of either of the latter two artists, and the GCD entry for this issue did not give their first names. All I was able to determine by Googling was that Martinez’s first initial was A. So I went on Facebook and asked Bob Rozakis who they were, and he replied that they were South American artists who Neal Adams recommended to Julie Schwartz. Based on that, I was able to determine that they were both from Argentina. A. Martinez was a pseudonym for the late Chiche Medrano, and “Mazzaroli” is José Massaroli, who is still drawing Disney comics. It makes sense that Martinez is Argentinian because his Robin story is drawn in a characteristically Argentinian or Italian style, and looks rather different from normal DC comics artwork. I felt proud of myself for having figured all of that out. It’s odd that one of DC’s flagship titles would have included a story by two artists who never did any other work for DC; then again, it was only a backup story.

JONAH HEX #9 (DC, 1978) – “The Carlota Conspiracy,” (W) Michael Fleisher, (A) Ernie Chan. Unusually for a Western comic, this issue has a Bernie Wrightson cover. Otherwise it’s a pretty typical Jonah Hex story, in which Jonah visits Mexico and gets embroiled in a plot to steal a shipment of gold. As usual, this comic is a lot of fun, but the Mexican stereotypes are unfortunate. There’s one character who’s clearly a prostitute, even though the Comics Code didn’t allow the writer to say so.

BRAT PACK #1 (King Hell, 1990) – “A Novel in Five Parts,” (W/A) Rick Veitch. This series is something of a classic, and is probably Rick Veitch’s best-known work. Somehow I’ve never gotten around to reading it. This first issue is heavily indebted to Watchmen and DKR in its approach to the superhero genre, but is much more parodistic and blackly humorous. It begins with a radio talk show host asking his listeners to call in and vote on whether the local superhero sidekicks should be killed, and if so, how. This is an obvious and hilarious reference to the fan vote on whether to kill Jason Todd. After that, the plot is a little hard to follow, but it involves four teenage sidekicks of adult superheroes. Three of them are horrible, rude brats who engage in criminal and destructive behavior, while the one who’s based on Robin is a victim of rape, at the hands of both his mentor and his teammates. At the end of the issue, a villain named Doctor Blasphemy murders all four of them with a car bomb, and the reader is happy to see them go, or at least the first three. But now their superhero mentors need new sidekicks, and that’s where the next issue picks up. In general, this is a brutal piece of satire, with none of the human warmth of Watchmen, but it’s very funny and clever.

(Note: When I went to put this comic away in my boxes, I found that there was already a copy of Brat Pack #1 there! This is a surprise to me because I have no recollection of having read this comic before. Nothing in it rang a bell to me at all.)

TARZAN #253 (DC, 1976) – “Tarzan the Untamed, Part 4: A Death for a Death!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) José Luis García-López. The first story in this issue is so much worse than earlier DC Tarzan comics, that it makes me realize how briliant Kubert’s Tarzan was. (I’ve read most of that run, but I feel I may not have fully appreciated it while I was reading it.) Gerry Conway’s writing is verbose and histrionic; he wastes the reader’s time saying things that are already clear from the panels. In contrast, Kubert’s writing was succinct and free of purple prose, and he never let his words interfere with his visual storytelling. A further problem is that this story lasts only 11 pages. The rest of the issue is a reprint of one-third of issue #213. It’s no wonder this series only lasted five more issues.

DYNAMO #1 (Tower, 1966) – various (W/A). I bought this comic about three years ago and never read it, which is weird because it’s an amazing comic. I guess I was daunted by its length. In the first story, drawn by Wally Wood, Dynamo and NoMan battle some aliens on the moon. Woody’s artwork here is incredible. I think he’s one of the top five artists of American comic books, and this story demonstrates why. The science in this story is kind of ridiculous, but it’s surprising to remember that when it was published, people hadn’t been to the moon yet. At one point, NoMan says that he’s going to be the first man on the moon. Elsewhere in this story, Dynamo tells Alice he loves her, but then Alice never appears again in the story, which is kind of odd. The funniest story in the issue is “A Day in the Life of Dynamo,” (W) Ralph Reese, (A) Mike Sekowsky. Dynamo wakes up and decides to ask the boss for a raise – which was one of the unique things about this comic: the superheroes in it were employees. But as soon as he gets to the office, Dynamo has to go fight the Red Dragon and the Iron Maiden, while also trying to get Alice to go out with him, and he never even gets the chance to ask for a raise. “Back to the Stone Age,” (A) Reed Crandall, is mostly notable for Crandall’s ugly drawings of dinosaurs. “Dynamo Meets the Amazing Andor,” (A) Steve Ditko, is the origin story of the latter character, who shows up later in the main THUNDER Agents title. Finally, “Wonder Weed, Super Hero,” (A) John Giunta, is very similar to a Silver Age Jimmy Olsen story. Weed is hypnotized into thinking he’s a superhero, and for some reason I can’t remember, the superpowered THUNDER Agents encourage this delusion by making him think he’s doing super-feats.

THE FILTH #1 (Vertigo, 2002) – “01. Us vs Them,” (W) Grant Morrison, (A) Chris Weston. This issue has some excellent art, but like most Grant Morrison comics other than Klaus, it makes no sense. I feel like the only way to understand this comic would be to read the whole thing all the way through, twice.

A COSPLAYERS CHRISTMAS (Fantagraphics, 2016) – “The Quest for the Holy Grail” and “Last Minute Holiday Shopping,” (W/A) Dash Shaw. I probably shouldn’t have ordered this because I disliked the previous Cosplayers comic. It felt like a patronizing treatment of cosplay. But this one is better. In the first story, one of the protagonists, Annie, decides to get her friend Verti a replica Holy Grail for her Indiana Jones costume. After a frustrating (and very plausible) encounter with a thrift store owner, Annie ends up having to make the Holy Grail herself. The clever part of this story is that the Holy Grail is also a Holy Grail in the figurative sense, in that Annie has to go on a long and arduous quest in order to obtain it. In the backup story, Verti needs to get Annie a gift in exchange, so she makes Annie a wizard’s staff out of a stick. Compared to the original Cosplayers, this issue gives me more of a sense that Dash Shaw respects the people he’s writing about.

CASANOVA: ACEDIA #7 (Image, 2016) – “Head on Fire,” (W) Matt Fraction, (A) Fábio Moon. This issue is even more impenetrable than the last one.

CEREBUS #136 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “Jaka’s Story 23,” (W/A) Dave Sim. In this issue, something happens! A hideous old woman named Mrs. Thatcher tells Rick that Jaka aborted their baby. Rick punches Jaka and runs off. This is a powerful moment, though it would have been more powerful if I’d understood what led up to it.

BRAT PACK #2 (King Hell, 1990) – untitled, (W/A) Rick Veitch. This issue gives us a bit more context by telling us that True-Man, the analog to Superman, vanished nine years ago, and since then the city has been governed by vigilantes who have a zero-tolerance approach to crime. Then the adult superheroes start recruiting sidekicks. One of the four new sidekicks appears to be a Nazi, but the other three seem like much more sympathetic characters than their predecessors. On the other hand, in this issue we also meet the adult superheroes for the first time – besides the Mink, who appeared last issue – and they’re all just as bad as their late sidekicks. Moon Mistress, for example, is a blatant sex symbol. These first two issues of Brat Pack have piqued my interest, and I want to look for the other three.

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