Last comics of 2017:
FLASH #241 (DC, 1976) – “Steal, Flash, Steal!”, Cary Bates, (A) Irv Novick. A fairly generic Mirror Master story, in which Dexter Myles saves the day by dressing up as Heat Wave. This issue also includes a Green Lantern backup by O’Neil and Grell, which is also fairly generic.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #223 (Marvel, 1978) – “Call Me Animus,” Steve Gerber, (A) Sal Buscema. Gerber’s Captain America run was truly bizarre and confusing. This issue begins with Cap fighting a hairy red-skinned dude with a giant head, who’s dressed in a caveman’s animal-skin costume. I assume there’s some sort of bizarre psychonalytic explanation for this character, and he would be fine in a weirder title like Howard the Duck or Man-Thing, but a character like this seems poorly suited to Captain America. Gerber was not temperamentally suited to writing high-profile superhero titles, and it shows. Another thing that’s going on in this issue is that Cap is having trouble remembering his past. This plot thread leads into the revised origin story in issue 226, which was so weird that it was retconned away less than two years later.
LUMBERJANES #33 (Boom!, 2016) – “Might as Wheel,” Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, (A) Carolyn Nowak. Another fantastic issue of my favorite current comic. This issue, Diane leads the Zodiacs on a fake treasure hunt, which turns into a surprise party for Barney. The ending of this issue was a pleasant surprise, and also a nice misdirection, because for a minute I really did think Diane had her powers back. It was also nice to spend some time with the Zodiac cabin and to get to know them better. A cute subtle moment is the panel where the Scouting Lads are sitting outside their cabin having a tea party.
HULK #1 (Marvel, 2016) – “Deconstructed, Part One,” Mariko Tamaki, (A) Nico Leon. Mariko Tamaki’s first two superhero comics both came out this week. This is the better of the two (the other is reviewed below) and it’s a terrific debut. I am not sure what trauma Jennifer Walters is suffering from, but this issue is a realistic and powerful portrayal of a woman dealing with PTSD. Unlike her predecessor on this title, Charles Soule, Mariko Tamaki is not a lawyer. However, her portrayal of Jen’s interaction with a client has a ring of truth to it. I love the two-page spread with all of Jen’s bizarre clients, and I especially love how one of them is just a normal-looking woman. I assume that this woman must have the strangest problem of all.
MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #14 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder, (A) Ray-Anthony Height. A cute and funny story (as usual) in which Lunella meets Ben Grimm and breaks up a fight between him and the Hulk. I guess every issue of this storyline is going to have a different guest star; next issue guest-stars Ironheart.
MONSTRESS #9 (Image, 2016) – untitled, Marjorie Liu, (A) Sana Takeda. As usual, this issue is fascinating, but raises more questions than it answers. Kippa’s loyalty to Maika is very touching; at the end of the issue, she nearly drowns herself in order to get on Maika’s boat.
SHUTTER #25 (Image, 2016) – “In the Beginning, the End Was Born,” Joe Keatinge, (A) Leila del Duca. This is a weird issue, but they all are. Kate has a meal with a bunch of other Image characters, then she and her friends go off to confront Prospero, who has control of a jellyfish monster called The End. Which is a surprise, because I don’t remember The End being mentioned before. This series is excellent overall, but has suffered from excessively fast pacing. I wish we’d gotten more time to get to know the characters and their world, rather than moving through the plot so quickly.
PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS #12 (Action Lab, 2016) – “Issue Twelve,” Jeremy Whitley, (A) Rosy Higgins. After a long fight scene, Raven convinces Leilani to heal Ximena. There is a lot of great dialogue in this issue, and I ended up hating Leilani for her smugness, even though she redeemed herself in the end. I notice that there hasn’t been a new issue of Princeless: Make Yourself since April; I wonder what’s been going on with that series. It was supposed to last five issues, but the last two issues haven’t been solicited yet.
WONDER WOMAN #13 (DC, 2016) – “Angel Down,” Greg Rucka, (A) Renato Guedes. This issue is an extended action sequence in which Steve tries to save himself and an amnesiac Diana from Veronica Cale’s soldiers. It was exciting, but not the best issue of the series.
SUPERGIRL: BEING SUPER #1 (DC, 2016) – “Chapter One: Where Do I Begin?”, Mariko Tamaki, (A) Joëlle Jones. The second of Mariko Tamaki’s two debut superhero comics is an exciting and original take on Supergirl. It’s not Mariko’s greatest work, and it drags at times. But it does show a sensitive understanding of teenage girlhood, as one would expect from the author of This One Summer. It also reminds me a bit of Superman: Secret Identity.
While checking to see whether issue 3 of this series had been solicited yet, I found a review which complained that this series was not “relatable” to men, because “whenever stories start to be written for them, they’re no longer written for us.” My response to that is unprintable.
A.D. AFTER DEATH BOOK ONE (Image, 2016) – untitled, Scott Snyder, (A) Jeff Lemire. Despite the superstar creative team and the beautiful art and coloring, this comic was kind of a chore to read. It’s full of long blocks of text, and its premise is not well explained. This comic appears to be set in a postapocalyptic world where no one dies anymore, but beyond that, I’m not sure what’s going on.
ISLAND #10 (Image, 2016) – various (W/A). The first half of this issue is another chapter of Farel Dalrymple’s Pop Gun War. At MLA last weekend, I moderated a panel during which Phoebe Salzman-Cohen spoke about The Wrenchies and It Will All Hurt. She pointed out that if Farel’s work doesn’t make logical sense, this is because, to him, life doesn’t make sense either. She also said that his stories follow dream logic rather than narrative logic. She was not talking specifically about Pop Gun War, but her comments apply to that series as well. This paper helps me understand why Farel’s work is fascinating and why its lack of logical structure is a feature, not a bug. The other long story this issue is a chapter of Gael Bertrand’s “A Land Called Tarot.” This story is beautifully drawn in a style that combines BD and manga influences, but is hard to understand because of the creator’s perhaps questionable decision not to include dialogue.
MIRROR #1 (Image, 2016) – untitled, Emma Rios, (A) Hwei Lim. This came out months ago, but I never read it, perhaps because I haven’t always been impressed with Emma Rios’s comics. I didn’t quite understand the story here, but Hwei Lim’s art is beautiful, and even the lettering appeals to me for some odd reason. I need to get around to reading the rest of this series.
FAITH #2 (Valiant, 2016) – “Her Greatest Enemy,” Jody Houser, (A) Pere Pérez & Marguerite Sauvage. Another comic I’ve been buying but not reading. This issue is actually excellent. The villain is a Chris Pratt/Chris Evans type who grew up reading superhero comics, but identified more with the villains than the heroes. Given that a minority of the American population just elected a supervillain President, I think this mentality is very common. I also enjoyed the scene at the end where Faith’s costume designer friend discovers her secret identity.
THE DEMON #45 (DC, 1994) – “Hell’s Hitman, Finale: King of Hate,” Garth Ennis, (A) John McCrea. This has the same creative team as Hitman, a series I am not a huge fan of, and it’s full of gratuitous violence and gross-out humor. But at least there’s a more serious subplot about Jason Blood’s pregnant lover, and Garth Ennis writes Etrigan’s rhymes very well.
ISLAND #11 (Image, 2016) – The first story this issue is a truly weird, cosmic conclusion to Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward’s “Ancestor.” The beginning of this story is a fascinating portrayal of godlike beings who have no respect for individual mortals, and then the end of the story brings things back down to earth. The second long story in the issue is Grim Wilkins’s “Mirenda,” a fantasy story with a topless cavewoman protagonist. As with the Gael Bertrand story in the previous issue of Island, this story is beautifully drawn but would have been much easier to follow if it hadn’t been wordless.
GREAT LAKES AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, Zac Gorman, (A) Will Robson. The highlight of this issue is Big Bertha’s comment about the Bechdel test. Otherwise, this comic was well-written, but I don’t remember much about it.
FUTURE QUEST #8 (DC, 2016) – “Aliens & Alliances,” Jeff Parker, (A) Ariel Olivetti. The painted artwork in this issue is a jarring departure from the usual style of this series. But the story is quite good. It’s especially fun seeing Johnny and Hadji interact with other kid heroes. A very cute moment is when Hadji refers to Benton Quest as “our dad.”
TARZAN #162 (Gold Key, 1966) – “The Pit,” Gaylord Du Bois, (A) Doug Wildey. I was pleasantly surprised to see who drew this issue. I have very few other Doug Wildey comics in my collection, and most of them are either Rio or Jonny Quest. His draftsmanship this issue is not perfect, but his visual storytelling is great. The plot is that Tarzan has to free some native miners who are trapped in a pit. It’s an exciting story, though a bit formulaic. The miners look more like Amazonian Indians than Africans. (Also, they’re depicted as helpless cowards who can’t do anything without Tarzan’s help, so this issue is a classic white savior story, but that almost goes without saying since it’s a Tarzan comic.)
JONNY QUEST #24 (Comico, 1988) – “The Prisoner of Starfgrau, Part Two,” William Messner-Loebs, (A) Marc Hempel. I do not have part one of this story, so I had some difficulty figuring out what was going on. Apparently the plot is that the Quest family is visiting a small, isolated European country, and Benton Quest is mistaken for the heir to the throne, who looks exactly like him. So this story is an obvious homage to The Prisoner of Zenda (which I have not read). It’s a lot of fun, but I need to read it again after I’ve read issue 23.
And the last of the 1,243 comics I read in 2016:
PLANETARY #5 (Wildstorm, 1999) – “The Good Doctor,” Warren Ellis, (A) John Cassaday. This issue focuses on Doc Brass, an obvious homage to Doc Savage. It includes several text-heavy pages that are designed to look like pages from a pulp magazine. As usual with Planetary, this issue is well-drawn but hard to follow.