February reviews

New comics received on February 10. This was a very light week. I think I’ve already finished reading all but two of the comic books I received in this shipment.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #17 (Marvel, 2017) – “Cat Thor Meets Dog Hulk!”, (W) Ryan North, (A) Erica Henderson w/ Chris Schweizer. The first issue of the next major storyline introduces Melissa Morbeck, a villain who can talk to animals and knows Squirrel Girl’s secret identity. Like Unstoppable Wasp #2, this comic is unusual in that it depicts multiple female characters who are engineers. The emotional high point of the issue is the “fight” with the Rhino. But the part that I remember best, two weeks after reading it, is the last page, where the bear chef cooks Alfredo the chicken for Melissa’s dinner. I just now realized that this comic has an extra page at the end, in which Alfredo tries to defend himself with a knife.

MS. MARVEL #15 (Marvel, 2017) – “Damage Per Second, Part 2,” (W) G. Willow Wilson, (A) Takeshi Miyazawa. Kamala fights someone who she thinks is the Doc.X virus’s creator, but it turns out the person is brainwashed. Also, Kamala befriends another girl who’s being trolled. This is a reasonably good issue, and an important statement about Internet trolling, but I do kind of wish that this comic would be more overtly political.

MOTOR CRUSH #3 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Babs Tarr, (W) Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart. The last line of this issue, “I know what you really are,” suggests that Domino is some kind of human-motorcycle hybrid. Also, there’s a mysterious new character who wears a mask and who knows Domino’s secret. This conclusion makes me excited to see what happens next. Babs Tarr’s artwork this issue is fantastic as usual, but another thing that stands out to me is the coloring. In the scene in Lola’s apartment, the difference between Babs and Lola’s color schemes is very striking.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #26 (Image, 2017) – “Parental Guidance,” (W) Kieron Gillen, (A) Jamie McKelvie. The Great Darkness attacks Baal’s family – i.e. his mother and younger siblings, not his wife and his children, as I had initially thought – but the other gods drive it off. And then they vote against forming a united front against further Great Darkness attacks. I wish I’d been paying more attention to the relationships in this comic. I keep forgetting how the characters feel about each other, or who’s been sleeping with who. And that makes me feel like I’ve been missing the point.

WONDER WOMAN #16 (DC, 2017) – “Godwatch, Part 1,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Bilquis Evely. This story is effectively “Wonder Woman, Year Two.” Phobos and Deimos team up with Veronica Cale, who has designed a technology with the suggestive name of Cyber, and Diana fights a chimera. This was an okay issue, but Bilquis Evely is no substitute for Nicola Scott.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #6 (DC, 2017) – “Second Semester, Part 2,” (W) Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, (A) Adam Archer & Michelle Sassyk. One of the best things about this series is the way it creates a sense of mystery, curiosity and exploration. Sometimes it reminds me of those Barks and Rosa stories, like “The Old Castle’s Secret,” where Scrooge and the nephews explore an old ruin filled with traps and hidden passages. This issue in particular reminds me of that sort of story. The other great thing about this comic is the characterization, and this issue has a lot of that too. The Colton/Kyle scene is rather touching.

INCREDIBLE HULK #221 (Marvel, 1978) – “Show Me the Way to Go Home,” (W) Roger Stern, (A) Sal Buscema. An average issue. Walter Newell (Stingray) takes Bruce Banner to Manhattan, not knowing who he is. When Walter realizes he’s let the Hulk loose in Manhattan, a Hulk-Stingray battle ensues. As usual, Alfredo Alcala’s inking in this issue is so heavy that it completely overwhelms the pencils, although the pencils are rather generic and boring to begin with.

DOCTOR STRANGE #37 (Marvel, 1979) – “And Fear, the Final Victor!”, (W) Roger Stern & Ralph Macchio, (A) Gene Colan. This issue is a chapter in the Dane Whitman-Victoria Bentley saga which extended across a large number of Marvel comics over many years, from approximately Defenders #4 to Avengers #226. This issue, Ningal, the Dweller in Darkness, animates Dane Whitman’s statue and uses it to attack Dr. Strange. Apparently the last time the statue appeared before this run of Dr. Strange stories was Avengers #157, and after this issue it didn’t appear again until Avengers #226, meaning it was left as a dangling plot thread for quite a long time. Other than that, the main thing I remember about this issue is that Clea gets jealous whenever Doc acts nice to Victoria Bentley.

JONESY #10 (Boom!, 2017) – “Fight 4 Ferrets!,” (W/A) Caitlin Rose Boyle, (W) Sam Humphries. I notice that Boyle gets top billing this issue. After a successful social media campaign, Jonesy convinces the mayor of Shepard City to reopen the ferret center. But then she decides to move back to Plymouth in order to confront the as-yet-unexplained situation that caused her to leave. This was a fun issue, with an obvious but fairly subtle political subtext. I’m sorry this series is only going to last two more issues. I hope we see more from Caitlin Rose Boyle.

DOCTOR STRANGE #16 (Marvel, 2017) – “Blood in the Aether, Chapter Five: The Dread,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Chris Bachalo & Cory Smith. It’s been announced that Aaron and Bachalo are leaving this title. I’m fine with that; I’ve enjoyed their version of Doctor Strange, but I think it’s run its course. This issue, Doc finally confronts Dormammu, and barely survives thanks to assistance from Mordo. The surprise Shuma-Gorath appearance is a nice touch.

XENOGLYPHS #4 (OSSM, 2013) – untitled, (W) Omar Spahi, (A) PJ Catacutan. This comic book is about as bad as a comic book can get without being overtly racist. I can’t imagine why anyone would ever have paid $3.99 for this when there were so many better and cheaper entertainment options available.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #133 (DC, 1970) – “Jimmy Olsen Brings Back the Newsboy Legion!”, (W/A) Jack Kirby. This is one of the essential DC comics of the ‘70s, and the most important issue of Jimmy Olsen. It’s the first Fourth World comic, and it introduces the Wild Area, the Outsiders, the Whiz Wagon, Habitat, Flipper Dipper, and Morgan Edge as well as reintroducing the Newsboy Legion. I have of course read this story before, but on reading it again, what strikes me about it is how heavily it’s influenced by ‘60s subcultures. Despite already being over 50 at the time, Kirby must have been fascinated by ‘60s youth culture. He didn’t have an insider’s understanding of phenomena like biker gangs and hippies, but he did his best to understand such phenomena through the lens of his own sensibility, and the result, at least for this one issue, is a bizarre and fascinating blend of Kirby with ‘60s counterculture.

STEVEN UNIVERSE ONGOING #1 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Melanie Gillman, (A) Katy Farina. I was unimpressed by the previous Steven Universe comic, but this one is much better. Steven finds an injured baby bird and nurses it back to health with the aid of Lapis Lazuli and Peridot, until it can fly away on its own. Like the TV show, this comic is very cute and heartfelt. I’m not caught up on the TV show, so I had no idea who Lapis Lazuli and Peridot were; an explanation would have been useful.

WIMMEN’S COMIX #11 (Renegade, 1987) – “Fashion Confidential,” (W/A) various. This issue is devoted to fashion. It contains a large number of short pieces by artists including Alison Bechdel, Joyce Farmer, Dori Seda, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, and the underrated Sharon Rudahl, who was the subject of Maggie Galvan’s paper at MLA. All the stories are quite brief, and some of them, such as the one by Krystine Kryttre, were unappealing to me. But overall this was an entertaining and thought-provoking comic, which explores a fascinating subject that’s rarely mentioned in other comics. It makes me want to collect more of Wimmen’s Comix.

UNWORTHY THOR #4 (Marvel, 2017) – “War of the Unworthy,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Olivier Coipel et al. This series has been kind of average, but this was probably the best issue yet, because of the flashbacks. The two-page Frazer Irving flashback with teenage Thor was perhaps the best. Also, it’s always nice seeing Thori the hell-puppy again. I do find it hard to believe that Thor and Jane Foster were sleeping together back in the Silver Age.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #13 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) David F. Walker, (A) Elmo Bondoc. This issue is all right, but this Alex Wilder story has been less interesting than any of the previous stories in this series. I’m sad that this series is ending, although it will be replaced by a different Power Man series also written by Walker.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #106 (Marvel, 1985) – “No Fury,” (W) Peter David, (A) Luke McDonnell. I read this last month, but forgot to review it because I misplaced it. This Spidey/Wasp/Paladin team-up is mostly a humorous story. PAD is very good at writing Spidey’s witty banter, and he also effectively portrays Janet van Dyne as a strong-willed woman who merely pretends to be silly and shallow. Amusingly, the letters page spoils the fact that Jean DeWolff is going to die next issue.

THOR #209 (Marvel, 1973) – “Warriors in the Night!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) John Buscema. The only unique thing about this formulaic, boring story is that it takes place in England, and is therefore full of English stereotypes. Thor encounters a new villain called the Demon Druid who turns out to be an alien, trying to get to Stonehenge so he can use it as a launching pad back home. This story probably contradicts other Marvel comics that offer alternative explanations for Stonehenge, including Captain Britain’s origin story.

SENSATION COMICS FEATURING WONDER WOMAN #11 (DC, 2015) – “Vendetta,” (W) Josh Elder, (A) Jamal Igle. This is a reasonably well-written and well-drawn story, but it annoys me because of its reliance on stereotyped narratives about Africa. The plot is that Wonder Woman brokers a peace deal between two warring factions in Central Africa, but Ares interferes and tries to make the war worse. So the first problem is that this story is a white savior narrative. The Africans can’t make peace with each other on their own, so Diana has to do it for them. Second, the writer seems uninterested in the causes of the war; he presents both sides as equally bad and equally unwilling to reconcile. It seems as though the war is driven by personal conflicts between the leaders of the two factions. That’s not how wars work in real life. Clearly this story was inspired by the Rwandan Genocide and the Second Congo War, but those events had complex causes, including the legacy of European colonialism. So this story is a trivialization of very serious real-world issues.

MS. TREE #12 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Deadline, Chapter Five: That Was No Lady – That Was My Life!”, (W) Max Allan Collins, (A) Terry Beatty. At one time, Ms. Tree was the only work in the mystery/crime/thriller genre that I had any interest in. Lately I’ve gotten much more interested in mystery fiction, so maybe Ms. Tree was a gateway drug. This specific issue is a standard example of the Ms. Tree formula, though it does have one awesome underwater action sequence. Terry Beatty’s artwork is easy to criticize, but I think it was perfectly appropriate for Max Collins’s stories.

FLASH GORDON: KING’S CROSS #4 (Dynamite, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Jesse Hamm. Another exciting and funny issue. Ming captures the heroes using spores that cause them to hallucinate. Embarrassingly, Flash and Dale have visions about sleeping with each other. Then, Ming gets himself elected the ruler of Earth.

MERRY MEN #1 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, (W) Robert Rodi, (A) Jackie Lewis. I thought about ordering this when it came out, but for some reason I didn’t. This queer take on Robin Hood is funny, cute, and fairly historically accurate, but somehow it left me kind of cold. I had trouble caring about the characters. I feel that the premise of this comic is awesome, but the execution could perhaps have been better.

New comics received on February 17:

LUMBERJANES #35 (Boom!, 2017) – “Might as Wheel” (part two), (W) Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, (A) Carolyn Nowak. Part two of the roller derby story is perhaps even better than part one. It’s full of sweet and funny moments, like Mal’s sudden growth spurt, or the description of derby names as “comically over-violent combined with some sort of wordplay.” This is one of three recent comics about roller derby, and it’s notable that all three of them (the other two being Roller Girl and Slam!) are very different in tone and are targeted at different audiences.

SEX CRIMINALS #16 (Image, 2017) – “Goals,” (W) Matt Fraction, (A) Chip Zdarsky. An early candidate for the best comic book of the year. It begins with a recap of the entire series, which is hilarious and also useful, since it’s been nine months since the last issue. The scenes with Jon and Susie discussing their relationship are very realistically written, and the “good old days” sequence is adorable. It’s really nice to see these characters again, and I’m glad that Chip still has time to work on this comic, given how much his popularity has exploded since it began. My only problem with this issue is the ending where Ana gets fired. I guess they placed her on administrative leave instead of firing her. But in real life, if a tenured professor was fired for having had a previous career as a porn actress, it would be at least as big a national scandal as Steven Salaita’s firing.

PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT #15 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kate Leth, (A) Brittney L. Williams. I’m very sad to hear that this series is ending. It was the third best Marvel title, which sounds like faint praise, but the two best are Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl. Besides Squirrel Girl, it was perhaps the most adult-female-friendly Marvel comic. Kate Leth says that she’s ending the series on her own terms, but the impression I get is that this was not a planned ending. I think the series was cancelled for low sales, and Kate was given the opportunity to finish it on her own turns. Of course I could be wrong, and I hope I am wrong. This issue, Sharon holds a holiday party, which turns into a disaster because Patsy is still infected with the magic from Bailey’s bag.

Also:

PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT #14 – I read this comic but forgot to review it.

MANIFEST DESTINY #26 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Chris Dingess, (A) Matthew Roberts. The second part of this untitled storyline is very similar to the first part. As I read this issue, I found myself wondering just how many men the Corps of Discovery had to begin with, and how many of them are still alive. Because it seems like just about every issue, at least one of the men gets killed or mutilated.

SUPER SONS #1 (DC, 2017) – “When I Grow Up…”, (W) Peter J. Tomasi, (A) Jorge Jimenez. I was looking forward to this, and it does not disappoint. It’s cute, funny and sweet. Damien and Jon’s relationship parallels that of their fathers, but because of their young age, they exaggerate their fathers’ more extreme tendencies. I loved the Super Sons story in the main Superman title, and I’m glad it’s been spun off into its own series.

ANIMOSITY #5 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Here There Be Dragons,” (W) Marguerite Bennett, (A) Rafael De Latorre. The novelty of this series has worn off a bit, and I’m starting to see the logical problems with the premise. As discussed in the plankton’s conversation on the first page, it’s not entirely clear where you draw the line between animals and other organisms like bacteria, and it seems logically unsustainable to imagine that every virus and bacterium in the world is now intelligent. My other difficulty with the premise is that the animals are all too similar. They all seem to think and act like humans, and in particular American humans. Maybe there’s a plot-related reason for that, but I feel that the animals’ behaviors and speech patterns should be more reflective of their species. We have seen that the principal dog character is extremely loyal, but there seems to be little difference between the cat, the buffalo and the humpback whale. Besides all that, this is an okay comic.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #37 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jeremy Whitley, (A) Agnes Garbowska. Rarity visits Manehattan to design costumes for Sapphire Shores’s concert, but discovers that she will have to work with Trixie. Mistrust and disharmony ensue. Like all the best Friends Forever stories, this story ends by stressing what the two protagonists have in common – in this case, “an almost irritating persistence.” Agnes Garbowska does a great job of depicting the characters’ emotions.

ANIMOSITY: THE RISE #1 (Aftershock, 2017) – “The Rise,” (W) Marguerite Bennett, (A) Juan Doe. I think I liked this spinoff title better than I liked the latest issue of the main title. This issue is about a city where the animals and humans have managed to coexist without killing each other. I particularly like the opening scene, where we see six different human/animal encounters happening at once, and then we realize that all these encounters are happening in the same place.

MIGHTY THOR #15 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Asgard/Shi’ar War, Part Two: The Challenge of the Gods,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Russell Dauterman. Thor battles the Shi’ar gods Sharra and K’ythri, a pair of awful jerks whose power makes them completely blind to the concerns of mortals. Their power is effectively established when one of them beats up Gladiator, Marvel’s version of Superman. But I think what I like best about this issue is Volstagg’s filibuster, which begins with a detailed description of his breakfast. Another cute thing in this issue is Shadrak, god of daffodils and documentation.

HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY #15 (Action Lab, 2017) – “The Secret Origin of Rocco” and other stories, (W) Kyle Puttkammer, (A) Peter Cutler. This is a little confusing because it’s not clear where it fits into the series’ timeframe. Why do only Rocco and Rocket appear in this issue and not the other Hero Cats? Is this story taking place before the rest of the series? Otherwise, this is another fun issue. I forget if we’ve seen Kjarl before, but he’s a funny new character.

SPELL ON WHEELS #5 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kate Leth, (A) Megan Levens. An effective conclusion to a pretty good miniseries. It turns out the real villain is Andy’s dead grandmother Ada. The protagonists exorcise her ghost, take revenge on Claire’s evil ex-boyfriend, and go off to look for more magic. Clearly this conclusion is intended as a hook for a sequel miniseries; I wonder if that sequel is going to materialize.

BETTY BOOP #1 (Dynamite, 2016) – “Enter the Lizard,” (W) Roger Langridge, (A) Gisèle Lagacé. I’ve ordered every issue of this series, since it’s written by Roger Langridge, but I just now got around to reading it. This first issue is a pleasant surprise because its tone is very similar to that of the original Betty Boop cartoons. Just like in his Popeye adaptations, Langridge shows a deep understanding of the original material. The Fleischers’ earliest Betty Boop cartoons were super weird, disturbing and creepy as well as being full of sexual innuendo, and Langridge effectively captures that tone. The plot this issue is that Betty and her grandfather are evicted from their house by a talking lizard and a bunch of ghosts. Also like Langridge’s Popeye, this comic shows deep historical knowledge; it’s full of references to jazz and contemporary popular culture. And this issue even includes rhyming dialogue that scans properly. I want to read the rest of this series soon, but first I decided to read another comic that’s based on similar inspirations:

SHADOWLAND #2 (Fantagraphics, 1989) – “The Crafton Curse!”, (W/A) Kim Deitch. Langridge’s Betty Boop may be inspired by the darker aspects of early animation, but Kim Deitch has made an entire career out of delving into the dark heart of early 20th century popular culture. This comic is the conclusion of a two-issue story which is tangentially related to Stuff of Dreams and Alias the Cat. I’m not going to summarize the plot, but it’s full of horror and debauchery and creepy pseudoscience, and it ends with a woman climbing a bonfire to retrieve a broken painting. It’s one of Deitch’s major works.

DOCTOR STRANGE #17 (Marvel, 2017) – “State of Misery,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Frazer Irving. There’s not as much story in this issue as in a typical Jason Aaron comic, but in exchange, Frazer Irving’s art takes center stage. I was already impressed with this artist’s work when he did Seven Soldiers: Klarion, and since then, his style has become even more distinctive and unusual. I especially like his version of the Man-Thing, and I also like the opening scene where Doc resolves a dispute between two bizarre creatures that inhabit his living room. This issue makes the ridiculous claim that Dr. Strange’s entire career has lasted just five years, which shows how unsustainable Marvel continuity has become.

INVINCIBLE #133 (Image, 2017) – “The End of All Things, Part One,” (W) Robert Kirkman, (A) Ryan Ottley. As I have statd many times before, I think this series has jumped the shark. I’ve hated almost every issue since #111. I decided I would give it yet another chance since it’s about to end. I shouldn’t have bothered, because this is another frustrating issue. It begins at Oliver’s funeral. The fact that Oliver is dead is bad enough, but on top of that, Mark’s grief causes him to act like an immature jerk; he attacks Allen the Alien for no reason. Also, the wedding in this issue is perhaps the most disappointing wedding in the history of superhero comics. Given that we’ve been reading about Mark for 126 issues, it seems insulting to devote only two pages to his wedding. It’s too late for me to cancel my order of #134, but after that, I’m done with Invincible.

BRAT PACK #3 (King Hell, 1991) – untitled, (W/A) Rick Veitch. In four separate sequences, each of which occupies one quarter of each two-page spread, the four new sidekicks are trained by their mentors. Veitch makes excellent use of parallelism here. For example, there’s one two-page spread where each quadrant of the two pages is a close-up of the face of one of the superheroes. Later in the issue there’s a sequence where each of the superheroes comments disparagingly on the other three. In terms of content, this issue is mostly devoted to showing us how horrible the four superheroes are. I need to look for the last two issues of this miniseries.

SPIDER-GWEN #15 (Marvel, 2017) – “I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight! (With Yooouu!)”, (W) Jason Latour, (A) Robbi Rodriguez. I’ve fallen behind on this series, but that’s not because it’s bad. This was a fun and well-drawn issue. However, Gwen’s limited number of “power-ups” is a severe and frustrating restriction. At the end of this issue, Matt Murdock suggests that he can give Gwen as many power-ups as she needs, and I think that deal might be worth taking.

THE BACKSTAGERS #6 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) James Tynion IV, (A) Rian Sygh. This was another fun issue, but it’s kind of hard to care about this series, given that it’s ending just as it’s getting interesting.

SPIDER-GWEN #16 (Marvel, 2017) – “Sittin’ in a Tree, Part 2,” (W) Jason Latour, (A) Robbi Rodriguez. Annoyingly, this issue is part of a crossover. The Spider-Women crossover killed the momentum of this title, and I’m sorry to see that it’s already embroiled in yet another crossover. At least the interactions between Gwen and Miles Morales are a lot of fun.

ULTIMATE COMICS: SPIDER-MAN #21 (Marvel, 2013) – untitled, (W) Brian Michael Bendis, (A) Sara Pichelli. This is a forgettable comic, but at least the dialogue is less annoying than in most Bendis comics.

AUTUMNLANDS #14 (Image, 2017) – “The Touch of a Goddess,” (W) Kurt Busiek, (A) Benjamin Dewey. This was the best Autumnlands in a while, with the caveat that this series has been unimpressive lately. The Galataeans decide to disobey the goddess’s command to commit suicide, but several of them have to sacrifice themselves to save the others. I do wish we would finally get some answers about what the hell is going on in this world. I feel like at this point we still don’t know much more than we knew when the series began.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #559 (DC, 1998) – “The Day of the Super-Comet,” (W) Karl Kesel & Jerry Ordway, (A) Tom Grummett. Like the previous issue, which I read last year, this issue was part of “The Dominus Effect.” In this crossover, three of the four ongoing Superman titles featured stories based on earlier eras of Superman. In the case of Adventures of Superman, that era was the Silver Age. So “The Day of the Super-Comet’ is a Silver Age-esque story in which Luthor and Brainiac give superpowers to everyone in Metropolis– except Dan Turpin, because he’s the only one who doesn’t want to be a superhero. And Turpin ends up saving the day because he’s the only person in town who’s immune to kryptonite. This story feels a little inauthentic because it includes characters like Turpin and Maggie Sawyer who didn’t exist in the Silver Age, but otherwise it’s an effective pastiche of Silver Age Superman, and it makes me wish that the original Silver Age Superman stories had been better than they usually were.

ATOMIC ROBO: THE FLYING SHE-DEVILS OF THE PACIFIC #2 (Red 5, 2012) – untitled, (W) Brian Clevinger, (A) Scott Wegener. This is better than an average issue of Atomic Robo because of the title characters, a group of hard-drinking female pilots and engineers. I especially like Lauren, who reminds me a bit of Ripley from Lumberjanes.

GREAT LAKES AVENGERS #4 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Zac Gorman, (A) Jacob Chabot. My favorite thing about this issue is the cover, which depicts Flatman saying “Shh! I’ve disguised myself as a copy of the Great Lakes Avengers comic book!” It’s a nice piece of self-referentiality or materiality or something. The story was fun as usual, but I’m a bit disappointed that Good Boy didn’t really kill Dick Snerd – he certainly would have deserved it.

ACTION LAB: DOG OF WONDER #5 (Action Lab, 2017) – “The Comet’s Tale, Part Two,” (W) Vito Delsante & Scott Fogg, (A) Reilly Leeds. I really don’t like the art in this issue; it looks sub-professional, though this is partly because of the poor reproduction. The art isn’t bad though.

DOCTOR STRANGE #1.MU (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Chip Zdarsky, (A) Julian Lopez. When I read this I may have been too tired to fully appreciate it, but I felt it was below Chip’s usual level of quality. Googam and Goom have a lot of funny dialogue, but otherwise this is just an average crossover tie-in issue. I hope Chip’s growing popularity does not cause him to lower his standards.

MULTIVERSITY: PAX AMERICANA #1 (DC, 2015) – “In Which We Burn,” (W) Grant Morrison, (A) Frank Quitely. As discussed in an article I recently read (http://www.break.com/article/alan-moore-and-grant-morrison-occult-war-for-25-years-3080666), this issue is Grant’s attempt to one-up Watchmen. It stars the Charlton characters who inspired the Watchmen, and its pages are based on a 16×16 grid, in contrast to Watchmen’s 3×3 grid. It has an intricate structure that resembles the symmetrical structure of Watchmen #5, but is even more complex; it consists of eight segments that are arranged in non-chronological order. As usual with Grant, I had trouble figuring out what exactly happened in this issue, and I felt like I would have to read it multiple times, and possibly backwards, to understand it. But whereas Grant’s recent work often seems to be complicated just for complexity’s sake, I think this issue would repay the effort needed to decipher it.

CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #5 (DC, 2017) – “Night Pudding,” (W) Jon Rivera & Gerard Way, (A) Michael Avon Oeming. Another good issue. This issue gives us some insight into Muldroog’s history and its culture, which appears to involve a lot of casual nudity.

BLACK WIDOW #6 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Chris Samnee, (A) Mark Waid. So Natasha’s big secret is that she was responsible for kidnapping Ho Yinsen and delivering him to Wong Chu. Why is that such a big deal, if she did it before she defected? I mean, I suppose it impairs Tasha’s relationship with Tony Stark, but whatever. As usual, the primary and perhaps the only reason to read this comic is Chris Samnee’s brilliant artwork.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #49 (IDW, 2016) – “Speak, Memory, Part 2,” (W) James Roberts, (A) Hayato Sakamoto. I’m more than a year behind on this series. I’ve kept buying it out of loyalty, but I haven’t been reading it. I suppose it’s finally time to get caught up. This issue is about a villain who has the power to make Transformers forget how to transform.

GUARDIANS OF INFINITY #3 (Marvel, 2016) – “Guardians of Infinity, Part Three,” (W) Dan Abnett, (A) Carlo Barberi; and “Guardians of the Lower East Side,” (W) Darryl “DMC” McDaniels & Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, (A) Nelson Faro Decastro. The main story this issue is boring and formulaic; it lacks the excitement of DnA’s previous run on Guardians of the Galaxy. The reason I bought this comic is the backup story, written by DMC of Run-DMC, in which the Thing and Groot explore the Lower East Side. This story shows a certain lack of experience on the part of the writers, but I’m willing to forgive that because it’s so well-intentioned and it shows so much heart. One key part of this story is the scene where a Puerto Rican woman describes Groot as the ceiba tree spirit from Puerto Rican mythology.

Giant review post

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The first of what I hope will be many comics I’ll read in 2017:

JONNY QUEST #18 (Comico, 1987) – “Bannon’s Last Case,” (W) William Messner-Loebs, (A) Marc Hempel. Similar to the Jezebel Jade miniseries, this issue has a frame story in which Jonny and Hadji listen to a tape-recorded narrative of Race Bannon’s adventures. This time around, Race tells the story of his brief stint as a private investigator. This issue is designed to look like a film noir, and in film-noir fashion, its plot is convoluted and difficult to follow. It’s fun, but not the best Jonny Quest comic.

X-MEN AND THE MICRONAUTS #2 (Marvel, 1984) – “Into the Abyss!”, (W) Bill Mantlo & Chris Claremont, (A) Butch Guice. Despite the excellent artwork, his comic suffers from too much Mantlo and not enough Claremont. I don’t care about the Micronauts, and the X-Men don’t show up until near the end of the issue. Even when they do show up, my favorite X-Man, Kitty Pryde, is mostly absent because she and Baron Karza have switched bodies. I have issue 3 of this miniseries, but have not yet felt like reading it.

JOURNEY #14 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Chapter Sixteen: Hunter’s Moon,” (W/A) William Messner-Loebs. An average issue of a very strong and consistent series. The best sequence this issue is when White Bear, an Iroquois, visits some people from another Native American tribe and discovers that they really hate the Iroquois. Bill Loebs’s portrayal of Native Americans in this series was unusually sensitive. He was aware of the richness and diversity of Indian culture and the fact that Native American tribes had rivalries with each other as much as with whites. Also, the moment when Tecumseh “causes” an eclipse is pretty cool.

DONALD DUCK #276 (Gladstone, 1989) – “Links Jinx,” (W/A) Carl Barks, plus other stories. In the Barks ten-pager that begins this issue, Huey, Dewey and Louie set up a round of golf between Donald and Gladstone, with the intention of fixing it so that Gladstone wins. However, Donald wins without the nephews’ help, while Gladstone has all sorts of awful luck. What? How could Gladstone have bad luck? Well, it turns out that Gladstone wins a $50 prize for being the unluckiest golfer of the day. This ending was very predictable, but still funny. This story includes an (I assume) unintentionally funny moment where Donald hides in the closet. As usual with these Gladstone comics, the backup stories in this issue are much worse.

MIGHTY THOR #14 (Marvel, 2016) – “Ljotsalfgard’s Burning,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Steve Epting. After a series of fight scenes, Malekith is finally driven out of Alfheim, but only after having done irreparable damage. This comic is somewhat depressing to read, given that we’ve just elected a government that intends to treat America the way Malekith treated Alfheim.

ROCKET RACCOON #1 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Matthew Rosenberg, (A) Jorge Coelho. I was kind of unexcited by yet another Rocket Raccoon comic, but this was a really fun issue. Matthew Rosenberg writes Rocket somewhat differently from his predecessors; his Rocket is much more animalistic, to the extent that he digs in a trash can for food. And I think that’s an exciting and perfectly appropriate take on this character.

1-27-17

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #1 (Marvel, 2017) – I forgot to review this comic earlier, and I’m writing this review (and the next four) on February 8, after having already read issue 2. Jeremy Whitley’s first issue of an ongoing Marvel title is a super-fun comic. Nadia is an infectiously charming character, with her exuberance and her imperfect English. Her line “I am a happy scientist!” is the most memorable thing about the issue, and sums up her character perfectly. It’s mostly because of the ending that Bleeding Cool described Unstoppable Wasp #1 as possibly Marvel’s “most feminist activist comic” ever. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but the GIRL project is a great idea not only in the Marvel Universe but in real life. As a former Georgia Tech faculty member, I know that there is a massive shortage of women in STEM professions and that women face significant barriers to entering such professions. It would be nice if this comic made even a tiny contribution to rectifying those problems.

BTW, I just read a negative review of this issue which included the line “Certainly, more female-focused comic books would be great, but they don’t all have to be about saving the world from a misogynistic society.” Based on the rest of the review, as well as the general tone of the website on which the review appears, I think the reviewer’s real problem is that she doesn’t think there should be any comic books about saving the world from misogyny.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #22 (IDW, 2016) – “Enter the Stingers, Part Four,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Meredith McClaren. Since I’m writing this review after having read #23, issue #22 has mostly faded from my memory. The main thing I remember about it is the scene where Fox quits the Holograms just before they go on stage.

HAWKEYE #2 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Leonardo Romero. Same problem as with the previous review. This is a fun comic and a good follow-up to the first issue, but I can’t recall much about it. The villains of this storyline are obviously based on real-life Internet trolls.

ACTION COMICS #486 (DC, 1978) – “Superman’s Time-Killing Trip!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) George Tuska. I don’t remember much about this issue – I’m not even sure why I read it when I did. The lead story is a confusing and poorly drawn time-travel adventure. It ends with an example of a predestination or bootstrap paradox, which was already something of a cliché by this time. The backup story is more interesting than the lead story. It’s one of just three Superman stories written by Elizabeth M. Smith, a notable letterhack and the wife of big-name Legion fan Mike Flynn, who also wrote romance novels under the name Ellis Flynn. In this story, Lex Luthor escapes from prison in order to deliver a birthday present to his nephew Val Colby.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #25 (Image, 2017) – “Riddles in the Dark,” (W) Kieron Gillen, (A) Jamie McKelvie. The good guys try to talk Woden about his blackmail plot, but fail, and then the Great Darkness shows up. I enjoyed this issue, as usual, but I can’t remember much about it anymore.

GIANT DAYS #22 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) John Allison, (A) Max Sarin. Esther starts a same-sex relationship with a German girl. I enjoyed this issue, but after two weeks, I don’t remember anything about it. As an off-topic comment on forgetting comics I’ve read, the other day Captain America #275 was in the news because of recent discussions of violence against Nazis. When I saw that issue referenced in a Bleeding Cool article, the cover looked familiar, and I checked my boxes and determined that I indeed own that issue and have read it, but I can’t recall anything about it at all.

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #54 (DC, 1973) – “Blood Brothers,” (W) Robert Kanigher, (A) Murphy Anderson; and “Into the Land of Noobol,” (W/A) Michael Kaluta. This issue includes stories by two great artists. In the lead story, Korak fights for the chieftainship of an African tribe and wins the love of the current chief’s sister, but leaves her because he’s still looking for Meriem. This story is notable for including a very early example of an on-panel interracial kiss. The Carson of Venus backup story has a stupid plot (about a prison with multiple doors behind each of which is a different deadly peril) but excellent artwork.

MOTHER PANIC #2 (DC, 2017) – “A Work in Progress, Part 2,” (W) Jody Houser, (A) Tommy Lee Edwards. Mother Panic #1 is the only Young Animal comic I haven’t read, and now I wish I had read it, because issue 2 does not make sense on its own. At least Tommy Lee Edwards’s art is surprisingly impressive.

SUPERMAN #12 (DC, 2017) – “Super-Monster, Part One,” (W) Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, (A) Doug Mahnke. I’m annoyed that I forgot to order issue 11, which was the second part of the Super Sons story. This issue instead focuses on Lois, who gets hired at a small-town newspaper and promptly has to defend one of her coworkers from Frankenstein (from Seven Soldiers). This is an okay issue, but Chris doesn’t appear in it, and without him, much of the appeal of this series is missing. I don’t understand why Lois needs a job at a local newspaper.

HERO CATS OF STELLAR CITY #14 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Back on the Streets!”, (W) Kyle Puttkammer, (A) Marcus Williams & Tracy Yardley. A very average story in which the Hero Cats team up with Cosmic Girl to defeat a criminal. I’m not sure how this issue is related to the previous story arc.

FAITH #3 (Valiant, 2016) – “The Long Con, Part One,” (W) Jody Houser, (A) Pere Pérez & Marguerite Sauvage. Archer and Faith go to a comic convention where they have a superheroic adventure. This is not the first comic book = that takes place at a convention, but it’s probably the best, other than Eltingville Club #2. Jody shows a deep understanding of contemporary fandom and conventions, and the issue is full of “convention tips” for first-time attendees, all of which are also ironic comments on the plot. I just noticed that on the first page, Pere Pérez is sleeping at his convention table, and Jody Houser is standing behind him looking nonplussed.

NEW SUPER-MAN #3 (DC, 2016) – “Made in China,” (W) Gene Luen Yang, (A) Victor Bogdanovic. I’m glad this is the last issue of this series I bought. I just don’t think Gene is particularly good at writing superhero comics. His plots are boring and formulaic, and he fails to generate any kind of excitement. Also, my critique of issue 1 is still correct: there is nothing specifically Chinese about this story, and it could have been set in New York instead of Shanghai, with only cosmetic changes.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #8 (Marvel, 2016) – “Peace in Our Time,” (W) Greg Pak, (A) Alan Davis. I’ve been buying this title only intermittently, but this issue is quite good, perhaps the best of the series, and not just because of the Alan Davis art. Bruce and Amadeus help each other go through rehabilitation, with the aid of She-Hulk and Rick Jones. As the title indicates, it’s a very sweet story with a happy ending. Of course, since this is a Civil War II crossover, we know that the happy ending is only temporary, but let’s try to forget about that.

WEIRD WORLDS #1 (DC, 1972) – “The Area of Sudden Death,” (W) Len Wein, (A) Alan Weiss; and “Trial of Fear,” (W) Marv Wolfman, (A) Murphy Anderson. I was nearly asleep when I read this comic, and it took me forever to finish it. This issue includes chapters of DC’s adaptations of At the Earth’s Core and A Princess of Mars. Confusingly, each of these adaptations began as a backup story in a different title, and this is not stated anywhere, leaving the reader confused as to what happened to the earlier chapters. The writing and art in this issue are fairly effective, but neither story is nearly as good as Joe Kubert’s Tarzan.

TARZAN #4 (Marvel, 1977) – “A Beast Again!”, (W) Roy Thomas, (A) John Buscema. This issue is adapted from Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar. Thomas and Buscema’s Tarzan was very short-lived, but it was an interesting take on the character. Compared to Joe Kubert, Roy placed more of an emphasis on Tarzan’s animalistic savagery, which was concealed behind a thin layer of refinement. Big John’s artwork is excellent as always. Roy only wrote Tarzan for a little over a year, which perhaps explains why his Tarzan has been almost forgotten, but it’s a very underrated comic and I need to collect the rest of it.

FANTASTIC FOUR #98 (Marvel, 1970) – “Mystery on the Moon!”, (W) Stan Lee, (A) Jack Kirby. This issue begins with an unintentionally funny moment where Sue asks Reed what he wants for dinner, and he replies, “Quiet, honey! I’ve intercepted some sort of strange alien message!” What a great husband. And of course, as people reminded me when I posted this scene on Instagram, this was not even the worst example of Reed’s sexist behavior toward Sue. Anyway, other than that, this was an amazing comic. The plot is that the FF have to stop the Kree Sentry from interfering with the Apollo 11 mission. This issue came out right around the time that humans first landed on the moon, and it powerfully conveys the sense of wonder that people must have felt about this achievement. For Marvel readers, it must have felt like the FF’s amazing feats were becoming real.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #149 (Marvel, 1975) – “Even If I Live, I Die!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Ross Andru. I already have the Marvel Masterpieces replica edition of this issue, but I prefer to own the real thing. The original Clone Saga’s reputation has suffered because of its association with the later Clone Saga, but if not for that, it would be considered a classic Spider-Man epic. This issue is full of action, soap-opera drama, and emotion, just like all the best Spider-Man stories. It famously concludes with the death of the Jackal and the Spider-Man clone (both later revived), but the two epilogue pages are what really make it a classic. First, the Gwen Stacy clone puts flowers on the original Gwen’s grave and then walks out of Peter’s life. The Gwen clone appeared again many years later, but I prefer to ignore that, because this scene is such a perfect end to their story. Then, Peter goes back home feeling depressed, but finds Mary Jane there already, and he enters his apartment and closes the door – mirroring the last page of issue 122, where it’s MJ who closes the door. This was Gerry Conway’s last issue of ASM, and it’s a deeply satisfying conclusion to his entire run on the title.

SUPERMAN #201 (DC, 1967) – “Clark Kent Abandons Superman!”, (W) Cary Bates, (A) Curt Swan. Superman blames himself for causing the death of a certain Dr. Steele. He leaves Earth for a planet with a red sun, where he lives a normal lifestyle and falls in love with a girl named Lloru. But despite Clark’s best efforts to stop being a superhero, he ends up having to save the planet from a criminal, who proves to be Lloru’s father. This experience teaches him that he can’t give up on being Superman, and he returns to earth. In the last panel, Clark wonders if he’ll ever see Lloru again, but as far as I know, he never did. This story has a lot of stupid stuff in it, including a monster that consists of a giant hand and arm with an eye in the palm. But it also has a much more realistic and dark tone than most Superman stories of this time, and it almost feels like a preview of the Bronze Age Superman. This issue also includes a reprinted backup story which is just jaw-droppingly bad, especially considering that it was published as late as 1960.

UNWORTHY THOR #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Thief of Asgard,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Olivier Coipel. This is the lesser of the two current Thor titles, but it’s still good. This issue, the former Thor and Beta Ray Bill encounter the Collector, who is an awesome villain, though his heartless murder of an alien child is almost too comically evil.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #10 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Greg Pak, (A) Mahmud Asrar. This Civil War II crossover has some good art, but the story, in which Hulk encounters Black Panther, is not memorable or interesting.

SUPER POWERS #1 (DC, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Art Baltazar, (A) Franco. This looks like a standard Baltazar/Franco comic, but is in fact a sequel to Superman Family Adventures, which was Baltazar and Franco’s only comic that had a sustained narrative instead of being a series of gags. I wish they would tell continued stories more often, because they’re good at it. Their work reminds me of the old Marvel Adventures line, or Jeff Parker’s X-Men: First Class. The most interesting thing about this comic is Lara’s pregnancy; as far as I know, this is the only comic in which Superman has had a younger biological sibling, outside of some old imaginary stories.

CHAMPIONS #3 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Mark Waid, (A) Humberto Ramos (the same creative team from Impulse in the ‘90s, come to think of it). Let me quote my own Facebook post: “I expected this comic to be a train wreck, but it pleasantly surprised me. Mark Waid shows he understands that 1) superheroes beating people up doesn’t solve anything on its own, and 2) the greatest enemies of ISIS and the Taliban are liberal Muslims.” To expand on that a bit, this comic could easily have been awful if it had just been about the Champions going into Pakistan and fighting Taliban soldiers. Instead of solving the problem by violence, however, they “save the day” by helping the local people resist the local Taliban on their own. Also, Mark avoids the common trap of presenting Islam as the enemy, because the schoolgirls in this issue are just as devoted to Islam as the villains claim to be. So overall, this issue was a pleasant surprise. BTW, I wonder if the name Sharzad is derived from Shahrazad, the great Islamic heroine.

CHAMPIONS #4 (Marvel, 2017) – as above. This wasn’t nearly as good as the previous issue. On their way back from Sharzad, the Champions are ambushed by Atlanteans, resulting in a pointless fight that achieves nothing.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #57 (Marvel, 1975) – “Incident in Argos,” (W) Roy Thomas, (A) Mike Ploog. Conan and his companions Tara and Yussuf travel to the city of Argos, where Conan promptly commits a bunch of crimes and has to escape alone. This is a fun comic, though it portrays Conan as unusually savage and unrestrained. But its main purpose is to set up the Queen of the Black Coast epic that begins next issue. Mike Ploog’s guest artwork is very effective.

UNWORTHY THOR #3 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Sin Unpardonable,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Olivier Coipel. The Collector story arc continues, and Thanos is also involved somehow. This comic is just okay. The best thing about it is seeing all the bizarre creatures and items in the Collector’s collection.

SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL #4 (DC, 2017) – “All Apologies,” (W) Cecil Castelucci, (A) Marley Zarcone. I probably had this issue’s namesake song in my head for the entire time I was reading it. This issue is okay, but very similar to the previous three issues, and I’m not sure if this comic is going anywhere. The Element Girl backup story is very insubstantial, but at least has art by Paulina Ganucheau.

FAITH #4 (Valiant, 2016) – “The Long Con Part Two, Double Whammy,” (W) Jody Houser, (A) Pere Pérez & Marguerite Sauvage. The conclusion to the comic convention story is unexpectedly dark. Faith is cloned, and the clone has to sacrifice herself to save the city from being blown up. This issue has the same funny convention jokes as last issue, and Faith’s interactions with her clone are a lot of fun. Overall, I really enjoyed this two-parter.

X-MEN #138 (Marvel, 1980) – “Elegy,” (W) Chris Claremont, (A) John Byrne. At Jean Grey’s funeral, Cyclops flashes back to all his previous adventures with her and the other X-Men, In a Facebook post, I described this as the worst issue of Claremont and Byrne’s X-Men, and perhaps of Claremont’s entire first decade. Some people pushed back on that, saying that when it came out, they appreciated the recap of the X-Men’s entire previous history. It is true that back in 1980, when there was no Internet, a capsule summary of all the old X-Men stories would have been useful. But I still maintain that this issue is objectively terrible, and is also a disappointing follow-up to the Dark Phoenix Saga. When I first read this issue, as a Classic X-Men reprint, I was very disappointed, and I still don’t like it. Scott’s retelling of X-Men history is dry and boring, devoid of any emotion. Maybe this is because he’s traumatized, but I think that’s giving Chris too much credit. The other characters are almost absent from this story, and there is none of the powerful emotion and catharsis and character interaction that you would expect from Claremont. Clearly Chris and John needed a break after creating the greatest X-Men story of all time, especially since issue 137 had to be extensively revised, and they chose to do a recap issue rather than a Dreaded Deadline Doom reprint. I almost think the latter would have been a better choice, though.

GOLD KEY SPOTLIGHT #6 (Gold Key, 1977) – “Death Flies on Scarlet Wings,” (W) Don Glut, (A) Jesse Santos. This is the last original Dagar the Invincible story. At this point, Dagar’s girlfriend Graylin has left him, and Dagar, now single again, has gotten together with the three beautiful witches from issue 10. This appears to be a wish-fulfillment fantasy, since Don Glut was going through a divorce at the time, and Graylin was based on his ex-wife. So to compensate, Glut gives Dagar not one but three new girlfriends. The actual plot of the issue is that Dagar and the witches help each other defeat a demon, even though Dagar thinks the witches’ powers are useless. They don’t seem to be bothered by his blatant sexism, and he decides to stay with them for a bit before going off to seek new adventures. Despite the poorly concealed wish-fulfillment element, this is a fun comic and a good send-off for Dagar.

As a reminder to myself, I need to look for Kull the Destroyer #21 and #22, which are an unannounced crossover with Dagar.

IRON FIST #9 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Dragon Dies at Dawn!”, (W) Chris Claremont, (A) John Byrne. I think this is the worst Claremont/Byrne collaboration, but I decided to read it anyway because it can’t be worse than X-Men #138. This issue, the crimelord Chaka poisons Iron Fist, and Danny has only an hour to defeat Chaka and retrieve the antidote. There are some good action sequences in this issue, but the plot is not all that interesting.

My next comic book shipment was supposed to arrive on Saturday, January 14. It did not. USPS made a failed delivery attempt at 6 PM Saturday, and the tracking information was never updated again. I went a little crazy and spent the entire weekend worrying about where the package was and whether it would ever come. Numerous phone calls to the local post office resulted in no useful information. By Tuesday, I fully believed the package was lost, and I was shocked when I came home on Tuesday and found the package at my door. I guess what happened was that they didn’t finish making deliveries on Saturday, and then they didn’t try again until Tuesday, because Monday was a holiday. Which makes sense, but the lack of communication was very frustrating. It was an annoying weekend. Though to be fair, I was in an irritable mood after going to MLA and then working for five days straight.

Anyway, I was thrilled when the package did come because of this:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #16 (Marvel, 2017) – “25th Anniversary Celebration,” (W) Ryan North with Will Murray, (A) Erica Henderson. This issue is an affectionate tribute to Doreen Green, and it also reveals a lot of new information about her. The ten-year-old sequence is especially good, in particular the moment when Monkey Joe says “why are you already deciding there are things you can’t do.” The 15-year-old sequence is written by Will Murray, who is a far less proficient writer than Ryan North, but Murray’s affection for his creation is clear. And the last two epilogue sequences are brilliant. This is perhaps the best issue of Squirrel Girl, and that’s saying a lot.

SAGA #41 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Brian K. Vaughan, (A) Fiona Staples. I unfortunately have to write this review after having already read issue 42, but I’ll try to pretend I haven’t read that issue yet. Saga #41 is an excellent chapter of a somewhat underwhelming storyline. The ending of the issue delivers two powerful moments in three pages. The March is/are perhaps the most disgusting, loathsome villain in a series that’s full of villains, and their death is a deeply cathartic moment. And then two pages later, we see who killed them: Marko. Marko the pacifist, the man who utterly renounced violence, who hasn’t lifted a fist in anger in 40 issues. Because Marko’s nonviolence is such a deeply ingrained part of his character, his renunciation of nonviolence is a bigger shock than The March’s death. What will be the long-term impact of this act upon Marko’s character? Well, unfortunately, I now know that before Marko even has time to deal with that, he’s going to face an even worse trauma.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #16 (Image, 2017) – “Gut Check, Part Two,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Jason Latour. It turns out I somehow forgot to order issue 14, which was a spotlight on Roberta Tubb. All this time I’ve been waiting to see this character again, and now she’s come back and I’ve missed her. Anyway, this is still a powerful issue. Coach Boss sacrifices his last remaining shreds of principle; he visits Theron Goode, the star player for Craw County’s next opponent, and breaks his leg, as well as nearly killing Theron’s parents. It gets worse. Theron shows up at the game anyway, having escaped the incident with only a minor leg fracture, and Coach Boss orders all his defensive players to target that leg. And even then, Craw County only manages to tie the game. This issue feels like Coach Boss’s final descent into depravity; it’s bad enough that he’s a murderer, but he’s also sacrificed the integrity of the game of football, which was the one thing he cared about. I can’t remember if we’ve seen Colonel Quick McKlusky before, but his speech pattern is hilarious.

MOTOR CRUSH #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Babs Tarr, (W) Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart. After three such amazing comics, this one suffers a bit by comparison, but it’s still good. Babs draws some amazing combat and racing sequences, and the plot is very dramatic. Domino’s public and private lives are starting to collide, with awful consequences.

MS. MARVEL #14 (Marvel, 2017) – “Damage Per Second, Part 1,” (W) G. Willow Wilson, (A) Takeshi Miyazawa. When I get back the edits on my Ms. Marvel book chapter, I will need to add some discussion of this story arc. Kamala’s favorite video game, World of Battlecraft, has been mentioned repeatedly throughout the series, but this issue we get to see it on-panel for the first time. I have never played an MMORPG, but G. Willow Wilson’s description of such games and her use of MMO jargon have the ring of truth; I get the impression that she plays World of Warcraft herself. The subplot is that Kamala is feeling isolated after losing Bruno and Carol Danvers, and she turns to World of Battlecraft for consolation. But that doesn’t work, because one of the other players in the game knows who she really is. In general, this was a strong issue. Willow’s original plans for this series must have been badly derailed by Civil War II, but she’s doing a good job of compensating for that.

ROCKET RACCOON #2 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Matthew Rosenberg, (A) Jorge Coelho. Rosenberg’s take on Rocket Raccoon is both grim and funny at once. This issue Rocket looks for a ride off Earth, but the people he encounters keep dying mysteriously. Then he has a fight with Miles Morales, and at the end of the issue Kraven captures him. I guess Kraven has had enough of hunting sea monsters, and is no longer reformed.

Resuming on February 5.

WONDER WOMAN #14 (DC, 20170 – “Year One, Finale,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Nicola Scott. Diana defeats Ares, and it turns out she intentionally sacrificed her knowledge of how to get back to Themyscira. This is an effective conclusion to the Year One story, though not the best issue of the series.

JUGHEAD #12 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, (W) Ryan North, (A) Derek Charm. Jughead and friends play a video game obviously based on Mario Kart, which Reggie wins, earning the right to form a band with all his friends. This issue was a lot of fun. The depictions of the video game are hilarious, the coloring is excellent, and I like the hired hunks and the characters’ wildly different visions of what their band will look like.

SNOTGIRL #5 (Image, 2017) – “05. Same Ol’ Mistakes,” (W) Bryan Lee O’Malley, (A) Leslie Hung. I’m not even sure what’s going on here. I’ve lost track of what’s going on in this series, and I feel like it might be easier to read in collected form. Sometimes my obstinate attachment to the comic book format is an inconvenience.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #12 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) David F. Walker, (A) Sanford Greene. This is part two of the Alex Wilder story arc. It’s a pretty average issue. I can’t remember anything about it really.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #5 (DC, 2017) – “Second Semester, Part 4,” (W) Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, (A) Adam Archer. I did not read issue 5 of this series because DCBS sent me a misprinted copy, in which the middle of the comic was replaced with pages fom some other DC comic. To add insult to injury, I can’t even get a refund because I’ve misplaced the misprinted copy, and DCBS wants me to send them photo evidence of the misprint before they’ll replace it. Oh well, I expect I’ll find it at some convention sometime. (UPDATE: Wihle writing these reviews, I did find the misprinted comic and was able to submit photos of it.) Anyway, because of that, this issue was kind of confusing, but Gotham Academy is confusing at the best of times. The most interesting thing in this issue is that Eric, the creepy sickly-looking kid, has a crush on Maps.

GREEN LANTERN #140 (DC, 1981) – “As Ye Sow…,” (W) Marv Wolfman, (A) Joe Staton. Marv Wolfman was a terrible Green Lantern writer, but this issue was surprisingly not bad. Conrad Bloch, Carl Ferris’s former partner, kidnaps Carol and her parents and forces them to go along with his plot to sabotage Ferris Aircraft. Carl Ferris is usually a loathsome character, but this story almost makes me feel sympathetic for him. This issue also includes an Adam Strange story, which is of average quality.

New comics received on Friday, January 20 – the second new comic book day in a week (also a somewhat unfortunate day for other reasons, but let’s not talk about that).

SLAM! #3 (Boom, 2017) – untitled, (W) Pamela Ribon, (A) Veronica Fish. This is a really good issue. Slam! is quickly becoming the second best Boom Box title after Lumberjanes – I would even rank it above Goldie Vance. The collapse of Knockout and Ithinka Can’s friendship is depressing, but effectively set up. I also like how they’re both becoming veterans; in this issue, Knockout becomes a mentor to a new skater who’s at the same point in her career as Knockout was in the first issue. And I really like the workplace discrimination subplot. It’s very rare for Boom Box titles to explicitly acknowledge sexism or racism. They tend to deal with inequality by imagining a world in which it doesn’t exist, which is a point I want to explore in a future essay. But in this issue, Pamela Ribon shows a clear understanding of how everyday sexism works.

MANIFEST DESTINY #25 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Chris Dingess, (A) Matthew Roberts. An okay issue. Sacagawea’s insistence on hunting during pregnancy creates tension between her and Lewis and Clark; meanwhile, the men are seeing some kind of ghosts. This issue includes an editorial by Chris Dingess about the Standing Rock protests. I think this editorial is very politically astute, and shows sensitivity to the potential pitfalls of a white man writing a comic about Native American history. This issue also includes a backup story that provides some insight into Sacagawea’s back history. Clearly Sacagawea’s “sacrifice” has something to do with her pregnancy, and it means she expects to die very soon, perhaps in childbirth. But there’s also some bigger secret involved, which is probably what the entire comic is building up to.

MARVELS #0 (Marvel, 1994) – various features, (W) Kurt Busiek, (A) Alex Ross. Not really worth owning even for a completist like me. The only actual comics content in this issue is a twelve-page story about the original Human Torch. I distinctly remember having read this story before. I think it was published somewhere else before the original Marvels miniseries came out, but I can’t figure out where. Hero Illustrated or Comic Shop News maybe. The rest of this issue consists of uninteresting essays and sketchbook pages.

MONSTER HUNTERS #1 (Charlton, 1975) – three stories, (W) Nicola Cuti and Joe Molloy, (A) Wayne Howard, Pete Morisi and Paul Kirchner. This issue includes three stories which, as the title indicates, are all about monsters – a bug-eyed tentacled tusked thing, a mermaid, and the Loch Ness Monster. Its tone is more silly than scary, and none of the three stories is much good.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #142 (Marvel, 1984) – “Foiled!”, (W) David Michelinie, (A) Greg LaRocque. A rare example of a story starring Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) that was not written by her creator, Roger Stern. It’s also an early appearance of Spider-Man’s black costume; it includes a scene where some criminals see him in his new costume and don’t recognize him. Besides that, there’s not much here of any interest. The plot involves a villain (unsurprisingly, an old rich white man) who tries to solve the population crisis by transporting all the world’s capital cities into an alternate dimension.

CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #4 (DC, 2017) – “City of Ghosts,” (W) Jon Rivera & Gerard Way, (A) Michael Avon Oeming. Another good issue of either the best or the second best Young Animal title. Cave Carson, Chloe and Wild Dog finally get to Muldroog where they encounter the survivors, and we learn a bit more about Chloe’s background – it seems like she grew up with no knowledge of her mother’s origins. This issue also includes a Super Powers backup story by Tom Scioli. Tom’s artwork is amazing, but quite difficult to read, which explains why I haven’t read most of the issues of Transformers vs G.I. Joe in my collection. I like the gag in which Wonder Woman’s lasso behaves like Lassie.

MIGHTY THOR #15 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Asgard/Shi’ar War, Part One: A Day Which Will Live in Immortal Infamy,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Russell Dauterman. I’m pretty sure Russell Dauterman is the best Thor artist since Walt Simonson. This issue is just a series of fight scenes, but they’re really well-drawn and epic fight scenes. It’s also nice to see Kid Gladiator and Warbird again; these characters were introduced in another Jason Aaron comic, Wolverine and the X-Men. And this issue ends with what I believe is the first in-person appearance of the Sh’iar gods Sharra and K’ythri.

CAGE #5 (Marvel, 2002) – “Cage, Part 5,” (W) Brian Azzarello, (A) Richard Corben. This comic is referenced in Joshua Plencner’s article “Gentrifying Luke Cage: The Racial Failure of Nostalgia,” a negative review of Genndy Tartakovsky’s current Cage series. Plencner calls it “a frustrating turn … a five-issue ‘age of hip-hop’ restyling of Luke Cage that Adilifu Nama calls a ‘nearly unreadable mess” that morphed Cage into a ‘creepy…ghetto mercenary.’ ” This is an entirely fair assessment. The only reason to read this comic is for Corben’s grotesque, testosterone-filled art. The plot is a confusing muddle, the characters are all stereotypes, and the dialogue is a tone-deaf imitation of AAVE. This whole comic is an example of why it’s just not a good idea for white people to tell blaxploitation stories. Marvel seems to have learned this lesson only partially, since they’re publishing Genndy Tartakovsky’s Cage (which I haven’t read and don’t intend to read) as well as David F. Walker and Sanford Greene’s Power Man and Iron Fist.

DESCENDER #18 (Image, 2017) – “Orbital Mechanics 2 of 5,” (W) Jeff Lemire, (A) Dustin Nguyen. Another good issue. Two shocking moments: Tullis sacrifices himself to defend Andy and some other characters from a giant worm, and it turns out the UGC are building their own Harvester. And then an even more shocking moment at the end: we were misled about the result of Tim-21 and Tim-22’s fight last issue, and the character we thought was the good Tim is really the evil Tim.

SUPER POWERS #2 (DC, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Art Baltazar, (A) Franco. Another light-hearted and fun story by Art and Franco. The Unknown Superman from the Future battles the Composite Superman, and meanwhile Kal-El’s little brother Prym-El is born, but looks oddly similar to Brainiac.

SUPER POWERS #3 (DC, 2017) – as above. The newly formed JLA battles Brimstone. Meanwhile, Prym-El is subjected to Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome.

FAITH #5 (Valiant, 2016) – “Dark Star,” (W) Jody Houser, (A) Megan Hetrick w/ Marguerite Sauvage; and “Faith in Politics,” (W) Louise Simonson, (A) Pere Pérez. The first story this issue is about a teen actress, Zoe Hines, whose career is ruined by leaked photos. This is a reference to the 2014 celebrity phone hacking scandal, though I don’t know if Zoe Hines is supposed to represent any particular real person. As a result, Zoe is easy prey for a mind-controlling supervillain in the form of a black cat, which is an awesome idea. The backup story is about the Hillary Clinton campaign and is obviously quite depressing to read in retrospect, though not as much so as the election issue of Ms. Marvel, since by this point the pain of the election has healed a little. It’s a nice touch that they got a pioneering female superhero writer, Louise Simonson, to write it. I either forgot or didn’t even realize that there was also a second backup story, by Rafer Roberts and Colleen Doran. This is not Roberts’s first writing credit, but it certainly reads like the work of an inexperienced writer.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #126 (DC, 1976) – “What Lurks Below Buoy 13,” (W) Bob Haney, (A) Jim Aparo. This issue’s plot revolves around a satellite that can pinpoint locations of nuclear submarines. Batman and Aquaman battle each other, as well as American and Soviet forces, for possession of the satellite, until a villain called Baron Mannheim steals it. A weird plot point is that Baron Mannheim tells Aquaman he’s a representative of the UN, and Aquaman just gives him the satellite without demanding any more identification. The two most notable things about this story are, first, Jim Aparo’s underwater action sequences, and second, the anti-Cold-War tone of Haney’s story. Instead of presenting the Soviets as the bad guys, he suggests that both sides are equally guilty of creating a global climate of fear.

CURSE WORDS #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Charles Soule, (A) Ryan Browne. I had no idea what to expect from this comic, so I found it surprisingly enjoyable. It’s hard to summarize, but it appears to be about two rival wizards in contemporary New York. As one would expect from the artist of God Hates Astronauts, it’s full of ridiculous phenomena drawn in a deadpan style. I believe this is the first time I’ve read a funny comic by Charles Soule; he turns out to be rather good at humor.

JONESY #9 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Sam Humphries, (A) Caitlin Rose Boyle. I’m sorry that this series is ending with issue 12. I was unimpressed by the first few issues, but the last few issues have been much better, and this series deserves a longer run. In this issue, Jonesy moves in with her mother and needs to adjust to a new and unfamiliar city – a situation I have a lot of experience with. The new city is dreary and gross, no one knows what zines are, and as a final blow, the ferret rescue center where Jonesy wanted to volunteer is closed. But the issue ends on a note of redemption as Jonesy finds a store that sells zines, and the people there think Jonesy is the best zine creator ever. Awww.

FLASH GORDON: KING’S CROSS #3 (Dynamite, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Jesse Hamm. Another fun issue, though it’s part 3 of 5, so it doesn’t advance the plot much. It does introduce Prince Valiant and Jungle Jim into the story.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #192 (Marvel, 1975) – “Mad-Flight!”, (W) Marv Wolfman, (A) Frank Robbins. This issue is from the brief transitional period between Englehart and Kirby. It’s most notable as the first appearance of Moonstone, though she only appears in one panel, as Doctor Faustus’s flunky. The only reason we know that this character even is Karla Sofen and not some other blonde woman named Karla is because in her next full apearance, in Incredible Hulk #228, she was specifically identified as the same character from Captain America #192. Other than that, this is an average issue, despite some good Frank Robbins artwork. Cap boards a charter flight from London to America – in the process violating security in a way that would get him sent to prison nowadays – and discovers that the other passengers are Doctor Faustus and a bunch of mobsters.

MIDNIGHT TALES #14 (Charlton, 1975) – “The Time Machine,” (W/A) Wayne Howard; inset stories (W) Nicola Cuti, (A) Joe Staton and Don Newton. This is much better than the previous Charlton comic I read. In the framing sequence, the “Midnight Philosopher” and his niece Arachne test a new time machine, which sends them to a future where time travel is a capital offense. There are two inset stories that explain why time travel is illegal. The first one has pretty funny: a man murders a victim whose face he never sees, then travels back in time to stop himself from committing the murder, only to discover that he himself was the victim. The second inset story is forgettable, but does have one cool panel depicting a house that appears to be based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Overall, while this comic is not great, it does demonstrate that ‘70s Charlton horror comics were not always pure crap.

WARLOCK #5 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Day of the Death Birds!”, (W) Ron Goulart, (A) Gil Kane. Pre-Starlin Warlock was super-weird… I guess Starlin Warlock was super-weird too, but in a more consistent way. In this issue, Warlock stops a bunch of disasters and is worshipped as a god (a bit like Severian at the end of The Citadel of the Autarch), and then the president of Counter-Earth declares Warlock an enemy of the state. Ron Goulart had a long career as a SF writer but was probably best known as the ghost writer for William Shatner’s Tek War novels.

FAITH #6 (Valiant, 2016) – untitled, (W) Jody Houser, (A) Meghan Hetrick w/ Marguerite Sauvage. Kind of an average issue. A satisfying but predictable conclusion to the Zoe Hines/evil cat story.

MEGA PRINCESS #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Brianne Drouhard. I’m a fan of both Kelly Thompson and all-ages comics, but this series has been disappointing. It’s cute, but there’s too much going on at once, and the story has no clear direction. This issue, Max goes underwater and visits the city of Atlantis where she gets put in prison.

New comics received on January 27:

SAGA #42 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Brian K. Vaughan, (A) Fiona Staples. My reaction to this comic was affected by the fact that I knew something awful and tragic was going to happen in it. I read a tweet that said it was Saga’s version of the Red Wedding. But I didn’t know exactly what the tragic event was, so I automatically assumed the worst – I thought Marko and/or Alana was going to die. I mean, we know Hazel is going to live long enough to become the narrator of the series, but we don’t have any guarantees that her parents will survive. It turns out the characters who die this issue are Hazel’s unborn sibling and all the people on Phang. So the ending of this issue is a horrible moment, just not the exact type of horrible moment that I was expecting. I’m not sure how to feel about that. Also, it turns out that the tragedy is caused by the Last Revolution characters from quite a few issues ago. We only get to see these characters for a couple panels, but it’s clear that they’re complete fanatics who have no understanding of the human impact of their thoughtless actions, much like some Americans I could name.

LUMBERJANES #34 (Boom!, 2017) – “Might as Wheel,” (W) Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, (A) Carolyn Nowak. Another extremely fun issue. When I saw that the next storyline would be about roller derby, I was a little concerned because that sport seems incompatible with summer camp. It turns out it’s outdoor roller derby and the Lumberjanes are competing against a team of sasquatches. So that seems more appropriate to this series. Besides the main plot, the most interesting thing here is that Jo is trying to build an “anomalous temporal activity sensor array,” and we are not told why. I wonder if she’s trying to figure out why time never seems to pass in the camp.

LADYCASTLE #1 (Boom!, 2017) – “Welcome to Ladycastle,” (W) Delilah S. Dawson, (A) Ashley A. Woods. This is at least the fifth different comic I’ve read lately that was a parody or revisionist adaptation of princess culture. (The others are Princeless, Mega Princess, Princess Ugg, and Another Castle.) The surprising thing is that each of these comics has a very different sensibility. The twist in this series is that all the men of an extremely sexist fairy-tale kingdom are killed by a dragon, and the women take over. Overall, I thought this comic was both innovative and well-executed. It has a diverse and entertaining cast of characters, and it’s funny and tragic at the same time. I did have some issues with the premise; first, the women don’t seem particularly sad that all their male relatives have died; and second, it’s odd that there are no boys or old men in the kingdom. But besides that, this is a really fun and well-done comic, the latest in a long series of excellent Boom! titles.

HULK #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “Deconstructed, Part Two,” (W) Mariko Tamaki, (A) Nico Leon. My big problem with this issue is that the landlord’s behavior is implausible. He can’t just throw his tenant out on the street without notice, especially not if the tenant has a lawyer, and he ought to know that. Otherwise, this was a good follow-up to an excellent debut issue. The snowman scene was very powerful, as well as being a perfect demonstration of the value of trigger warnings.

SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME #8 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Natalie Riess. In the final round of Space Battle Lunchtime, Peony throws away her dish to save Chef Melonhead’s life. As a result, she loses the competition but comes out looking better than the winner, like Lightning McQueen in Cars. This scene would have been more effective if the reader had any reason to care whether Peony won Space Battle Lunchtime. I mean, she didn’t even know this competition existed until issue 1, so what is her stake in it? Also, the ending of the series is a bit of an anticlimax, as Peony goes back to Earth with her romance with Neptunia unresolved. This ending does leave the door open for a sequel, and I hope there will be one. I love the line about Neptunia having three hearts plus a fourth in storage.

WONDER WOMAN #15 (DC, 2017) – “The Truth, Part One,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Liam Sharp. This is an average issue. It’s a bit annoying that Diana still hasn’t recovered from being stuck inside her memories. The reappearance of Ferdinand the minotaur (or kythotaur) from Rucka’s previous run is a nice twist.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #23 (IDW, 2017) – “Enter the Stingers, Part Five,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Meredith McClaren. After Fox quits just before the concert, Raya from the Stingers fills in for her and becomes the Holograms’ permanent drummer – just as Shana returns from Italy. This issue was an effective conclusion to the Stingers storyline, and leads directly into the next story, which is also the last. I hope that there really will be a follow-up series after this one, and that IDW is not lying to us.

ETHER #3 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, (W) Matt Kindt, (A) David Rubín. This comic is extremely well-drawn, but the plot is a little underwhelming. It’s becoming clear that what this series is really about is Boone’s scientism, his chauvinistic insistence that the world of Ether can be described in scientific terms. That’s an interesting premise but it’s not where I thought the series was going.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #15 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Smartest There Is! Part Three: Code,” (W) Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder, (A) Ray-Anthony Height. The fun part of this issue is the interaction between Lunella and Ironheart – especially Riri’s line “…when you were a kid…” I love that we live in a world where a Marvel title with a black female protagonist includes a guest appearance by the black female protagonist of a different Marvel title – and neither of the characters in question is Storm. The hair-braiding scene is also really cute, although it suggests that Lunella’s mother knows Lunella is a superhero and is okay with it, and this demands explanation.

On January 28, I went to the Charlotte Mini Con at the Grady Cole Center. This was a pretty fun show, although as usual, I had some trouble finding old comics that I both wanted and could afford. The Grady Cole Center is an ugly old building that resembles a hockey rink, and the security guards were apparently not letting people leave and reenter, so I was unable to leave for lunch and come back, and accordingly spent most of the morning in a state of hunger and insufficient caffeination. (After the convention, though, I had an excellent lunch at Viva Chicken, though it was somewhat ruined by the breaking news of Trump’s Muslim ban.) I got to meet Rian Sygh and tell him how sorry I was that Backstagers was not renewed.

In terms of shopping, this convention was not as good as the Charlotte Comic Con in August, but I did buy a big stack of stuff, and it was nice buying back issues again for the first time since NYCC. Here are some of the comics I bought:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #130 (Marvel, 1974) – “Betrayed!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Ross Andru. A good issue of the somewhat underrated Conway run. This issue introduces the Spider-Mobile, which has gone down in history as a tacky, unsightly horror. According to Wikipedia, Gerry was ordered by Stan Lee to introduce the Spider-Mobile into the comic for merchandising reasons. Conway must not have been happy with this, because in this issue Spidey himself thinks the Spider-Mobile is an ugly “fiasco.” Also, it’s of limited usefulness to him because he doesn’t know how to drive. There’s other interesting stuff in this issue, including a scene where MJ visits Peter’s apartment and finds books by Sartre, Camus and Jung on his bookshelves. As far as I know, this was the first and last reference to Peter’s interest in philosophy.

MARVEL FEATURE #12 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Bite of the Blood Brothers!”, (W) Mike Friedrich, (A) Jim Starlin. This is a chapter of Jim Starlin’s first Thanos epic, which began with Thanos’s debut in Iron Man #55 and continued in Captain Marvel #25-33. Iron Man teams up with the Thing to battle the Blood Brothers from Iron Man #55, who turn out to be actual vampires. This issue is kind of incidental to the larger storyline it belongs to, but it’s essential for Starlin completists, and the art is not bad.

ACTION COMICS #392 (DC, 1970) – “The Shame of the Super-Son!”, (W) Robert Kanigher, (A) Ross Andru; and “The Legionnaires Who Never Were!”, (W) Cary Bates, (A) Win Mortimer. This issue begins with an imaginary story which is a notorious example of Superdickery. When 14-year-old Clark Kent Jr uses his powers to win an athletic competition, Superman uses gold kryptonite to take his son’s powers away. When Batman convinces Superman that this punishment is wildly unfair, Superman uses Kandorian technology to give his own powers to his son. Which is hardly an act of kindness on Superman’s part, given the amount of pressure that it puts on his son. Unusually, this story depicts Superman’s wife as having blonde hair.

In this issue’s backup story, Saturn Girl and Princess Projectra return home from a mission only to discover that the other Legionnaires don’t know who they are, and there are two mysterious new Legionnaires named Saturn Lad and Prince Projectur. It turns out that the whole thing is an exercise designed to test whether Projectra is likely to snap under pressure. To her credit, Projectra passes the test with flying colors, and isn’t even angry at her teammates for gaslighting her. This story also reveals that Projectra and Karate Kid are now a couple, as well as introducing Saturn Girl’s new costume, which was designed by fan Kim Metzger. Saturn Lad and Prince Projectur’s costumes are amusing because they look exactly like the costumes of their female equivalents.

INVINCIBLE #20 (Image, 2005) – untitled, (W) Robert Kirkman, (A) Ryan Ottley. This issue introduces that one black-haired scientist dude who created the Reanimen. Also, Amber becomes furious with Mark for running out on her in the middle of an emergency. Otherwise this is a pretty average issue, but it’s a lot of fun, unlike most recent issues of this series.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #144 (Marvel, 1971) – “Hydra Over All!”, (W) Gary Friedrich, (A) John Romita; and “The Falcon Fights Alone!”, (W) Gary Friedrich, (A) Gray Morrow. I’d be curious to learn why John Romita only did half this issue, and why the rest of it was by Gray Morrow, who almost never drew superhero comics. For whatever reason, this issue includes artwork by two great artists. In the first story, Nick Fury stages a demonstration of SHIELD’s new Female Furies program for President Nixon. In the second story, the Falcon shows off his new costume, solves a crime, and decides to break up with Cap, though that didn’t last long. “The Falcon Fights Alone!” is drawn in the realistic style that Morrow is best known for, and has few superhero tropes beyond the fact that the main character wears a costume. As a result, it feels more like an Archie Red Circle story than a Marvel story.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #14 (Image, 2016) – “Homecoming Conclusion: Boots on the Ground,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Jason Latour. This is, finally, the story told from Roberta Tubb’s perspective. As noted above, I somehow forgot to order it, but I found it at the convention. Roberta is a fascinating character, with her perspective informed by both the Army and her multiracial upbringing. I love her observation that her life in the South trained her to engage with women in Afghanistan. (Come to think of it, I really ought to teach this comic someday, especially since Jason Latour lives right here in Charlotte. He was at the Charlotte Mini Con, and I wish I’d spoken to him about a possible class visit. I need to talk to him at Heroes Con. Anyway.) The racism that Roberta faces is terrifying if not surprising. I already knew about the ending where the little boy calls her the N-word, but it’s not just that. There are also the constant microaggressions, like the question about how many kids she has, as well as the actual crimes such as the theft of the lawn mower. This is an infuriating story, and therefore an important one. I hope we see Roberta again soon; I feel like she, rather than Coach Boss, is supposed to be the protagonist of this series.

LOOSE ENDS #1 (Image, 2017, originally 2011) – untitled, (W) Jason Latour, (A) Chris Brunner. This is a reprint of the first comic Jason Latour wrote. It’s being marketed as a sort of prototype of Southern Bastards. Unfortunately, this comic clearly demonstrates Jason’s lack of writing experience at the time. Throughout my reading of this issue, I was constantly confused as to what was going on. I never understood who the characters were or how they were connected. I’m still planning to buy the rest of this miniseries, but I really hope it becomes clearer.

KULL THE DESTROYER #23 (Marvel, 1977) – “Demon Shade!”, (W) Don Glut, (A) Ernie Chan. As mentioned in my Gold Key Spotlight review above, this is part of an unannounced crossover with Dagar the Invincible. Kull’s female companion in this issue, Laralei, is the same character as Graylin. The plot, involving an evil hunchback and a shadow demon, is also a typical Dagar plot. Ernie Chan’s art is less exciting than Jesse Santos’s art, but this is a reasonably fun comic, and I want to collect the rest of Don Glut’s brief Kull run, if only for its novelty value. There’s one scene in this issue where the narrator explicitly mentions that Kull has little interest in romance, which is the reason for my pet theory that Kull and Brule are a couple. Now that I look at it again, this same scene also mentions that Laralei has lost her memory, but that she does remember swearing “never again to let myself love a man who exists by the sword.” The implication is that she swore that oath after she broke up with Dagar.

ANGEL LOVE #1 (DC, 1986) – untitled, (W/A) Barbara Slate. I must have seen dozens of copies of this comic in cheap boxes. I finally bought it at Charlotte Mini Con, perhaps because I faintly remembered seeing a review of it somewhere. Either that, or I mistook it for an Angel and the Ape spinoff. Angel Love turns out to be a fascinating comic which was several decades ahead of its time. It’s a romance comic whose eponymous protagonist works as a roller-skating waitress, lives in a roach-infested apartment, and has a crush on her restaurant’s bartender. Barbara Slate draws in a cartoony style that resembles that of Cathy Guisewite, and the overall tone of the comic is humorous – there are even some talking cockroaches – but this issue ends on a darker note when Angel’s boyfriend invites her to try cocaine. In general, this comic is a lot of fun, and if not for the dated topical references and art style, one might think it was published in 2016 and not 1986. It reminds me of something like Fresh Romance or The Cute Girl Network. It’s so far ahead of its time that I have to wonder why DC published it at all, given that by 1986, romance comics were already a long-dead genre. It only lasted seven more issues and one special (and I want to collect them all). Like other comics I’ve previously examined on this blog – e.g. Fast Willie Jackson – Angel Love is an example of an alternate direction the comics industry could have taken, and a forgotten precursor of contemporary comics targeted at diverse audiences.

INCREDIBLE HULK #127 (Marvel, 1970) – “Mogol!”, (W) Roy Thomas, (A) Herb Trimpe. Feeling lonely, the Hulk befriends a bald giant called Mogol. But it turns out that Mogol is a robot created by Tyrannus. Discovering this, the Hulk is so furious that he destroys Mogol, despite Mogol’s pleas that he’s the Hulk’s only friend. This is really a rather depressing moment, and it makes the Hulk seem like a murderer. Overall, this is a pretty good issue, by perhaps the best Hulk artist.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #67 (Marvel, 1981) – “Power Men,” (W) Mary Jo Duffy w/ Bob Layton, (A) Kerry Gammill. While trying to stop a bank robbery, Luke Cage is kidnapped by Joshua Bushmaster, not to be confused with the similarly named Serpent Society member, who needs Dr. Burstein’s help to stop him from turning into metal. This issue didn’t impress me as much as the last couple Duffy Power Man and Iron Fist issues I read, but it was fun.

MOCKINGBIRD #2 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) Chelsea Cain, (A) Kate Niemczyk. I regret that I didn’t buy this comic while it was coming out, but there were so many good Marvel titles coming out last year, and it was inevitable that I would overlook some of them. Given that it’s by a writer with no comics experience, this comic is really impressive. The dialogue is sparkling, especially the witty banter between Mockingbird and her buffoonish sidekick Lance Hunter, and there are all sorts of funny jokes and sight gags, like the underground “Slave Minion Tea Station.” I need to collect the other seven issues of this comic.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #36 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) Christina Rice, (A) Tony Fleecs. This issue is a sequel to “Rainbow Falls” from season four, in which Rainbow Dash was asked to replace an injured Soarin’ on the Cloudsdale Equestria Games team. It turns out that Soarin’ never forgave Spitfire for that, and as a result he throws himself into his work to a dangerous extent, forcing Rainbow Dash to rescue him. This is kind of an average issue, though it’s an interesting exploration of Dashie’s relationships with the two main Wonderbolts.

AQUAMAN #20 (DC, 1996) – “Thy Keeper’s Brother,” (W) Peter David, (A) Martin Egeland. I wonder whatever happened to Marty Egeland. He did some impressive work on his Aquaman series, but after that, his career went nowhere. I don’t remember much about this issue, though. Perhaps this is because it’s just one chapter in a complicated ongoing storyline. The most notable scene in the issue is the discovery that Ocean Master has horrible facial scars.

GREEN LANTERN #31 (DC, 1964) – “Power Rings for Sale!” and “Pay Up – or Blow Up!”, (W) John Broome, (A) Gil Kane. This issue has a classic cover, which was redrawn by Brian Bolland for DC Comics Presents: Green Lantern #1 in 2004. It shows Hal Jordan inexplicably selling power rings. The (inevitably disappointing) reason why is because he’s being mind-controlled by some really cool-looking aliens. In the backup story, Hal Jordan attends his brother Jim’s wedding and has to help Jim save their hometown from being blown up. Jim’s bride, Sue, is convinced her husband-to-be is Green Lantern, despite his pleas to the contrary. That seems like a really poor foundation for a marriage – Sue thinks Jim is lying to her, while from Jim’s perspective, Sue refuses to believe him even though he’s telling her the truth. Of course, this was the same era during which Barry Allen married Iris West without telling her he was the Flash.

IRON MAN #14 (Marvel, 1969) – “The Night Phantom Walks!”, (W) Archie Goodwin, (A) Johnny Craig. I wonder why this era of Iron Man is not better known. Perhaps it’s because the creators involved, like Goodwin, Craig and George Tuska, were not part of the core Marvel bullpen. In this issue, Tony visits a Caribbean island where a (based on Haiti) where a creature from local folklore appears to have sabotaged one of his plants. It turns out that the “creature” is really a local curmudgeon, Hoyt, who is angry at Tony for ruining the island’s beauty. Goodwin shows unusual sensitivity to the tricky political issues involved in this premise, although he ultimately comes down on Tony’s side. When Hoyt accuses Tony of “destroying [the island’s] beauty and natural charm,” a local policeman replies, “Your concern would be more touching, Mr. Hoyt, if it included the islanders who never had employment or a decent living until projects like Mr. Stark’s existed!”

SHUTTER #26 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Joe Keatinge, (A) Leila del Duca. I’m kind of losing patience with this series. The creators seem determined to get to the finish line as fast as possible, even if that means sacrificing plot and character development. I don’t even quite understand what Prospero is, and here Cassius has already gone and killed them. Also, the “Taft Sturgeon” backup feature is not very good.

REVIVAL #46 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Tim Seeley, (A) Mike Norton. Here’s another Image title that’s rapidly approaching its conclusion, but this series has lasted 20 more issues than Shutter, and as a result the conclusion seems much more well-earned. As usual I’m not 100% sure what’s going on, but it’s clear that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and Em is trying to heal the breach between life and death by immersing herself in a river of blood. I’m excited to see how this series is going to end.

SWAMP THING #73 (DC, 1988) – “The Fire Next Door,” (W/A) Rick Veitch. Trying to get back to Houma, Swamp Thing is attacked by an insane member of the Parliament of Trees. Also, all sorts of things keep catching on fire for some reason. This is a fun comic and it’s full of Alan Moore-esque moments where the words and images are related in an ironic way.

JSA #56 (DC, 2004) – “Black Reign,” (W) Geoff Johns, (A) Don Kramer. Black Adam’s rogue Justice League, including characters like Eclipso and Atom Smasher, invades a fictional Middle Eastern country to rescue some kidnapped women. This issue is full of blood and gore and gratuitous violence, which illustrates the problem with most of Geoff Johns’s work. His project is to create a modernized, adult version of Silver Age comics, which is fine, except that he understands “adult” to mean excessively violent and brutal. As a result of its excessive violence, this comic is not fun at all, and if a DC Universe comic isn’t fun, what’s the point? Also, this comic promulgates offensive stereotypes about Middle Eastern people.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #15 (Marvel, 2001) – “Micro-Management,” (W) Peter David, (A) ChrisCross. Psycho-Man kidnaps Drax the Destroyer in order to force him to open a cocoon, which turns out to contain Genis-Vell’s clone. Meanwhile, Moondragon and Marlo try to convince Genis to save Una-Rogg, Yon-Rogg’s daughter, from being subjected to “psychic mutilation.” This subplot is interesting because “psychic mutilation” is described in such a way that it sounds exactly like female genital mutilation. Moondragon says: “Kree women are being subjected to painful procedures that deprive them of their ability to give and receive pleasure because the men feel threatened by such abilities. They want to control them.” The allegory here is pretty obvious.

INVINCIBLE #127 (Image, 2016) – untitled, (W) Robert Kirkman, (A) Cory Walker. I was not willing to pay full price for this comic, but I’m still curious about what’s going on in this series. So it was convenient that I found this and the next two issues for 50 cents each at the convention. This issue, Mark returns to his family after having been absent for five years – which, if you will check my review of issue 126, was the final straw that got me to stop reading Invincible. So this issue is rather grim and dark and full of histrionic emotion, although Terra’s cute antics create a bit of comic relief. It is really weird that Oliver and his giant bug girlfriend are now parents, considering that Oliver himself was born several years into the series.

DOOM PATROL #4 (DC, 2017) – “I’m Sorry I’m Late: Brick by Brick, Part 4,” (W) Gerard Way, (A) Nick Derington. Lots of weird stuff happens this issue, as usual. We’re introduced to a 15-year-old sorcerer named Lucius, whose significance is unclear. Cliff, Larry and Rebis are put on trial by a bunch of other negative spirits. Casey and Fugg escape from captivity, and Danny explains what happened to him and Crazy Jane after the end of the Morrison run. I didn’t like this issue as much as the previous two, but it wasn’t bad.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #336 (Marvel, 1990) – “The Wagers of Sin,” (W) David Michelinie, (A) Erik Larsen. Part three of “The Return of the Sinister Six” is notable as the final appearance of Nathan Lubensky, my least favorite Spider-Man supporting character of all time. During a battle between Spidey and the Vulture, the awful old curmudgeon suffers a fatal heart attack, and good riddance. Erik Larsen’s artwork in this issue is quite good, though heavily derivative of McFarlane.

INVINCIBLE #128 (Image, 2016) – as above. This is much better than either #127 or #129 because it includes a bunch of cute scenes with Terra. Terra is an adorable and realistically written child, and it’s nice how she instantly warms up to Mark, as if he hadn’t been absent for her entire life. I just wish this comic had more of this sort of thing, and less grotesque violence – of which this issue also includes quite a lot. In the subplot, Al the Alien is blown to pieces by a suicide bomber. The trouble with this comic is that Kirkman keeps trying to top himself by making each story more epic and shocking than the last – and as a result, he sacrifices the character development that made this comic exciting to begin with.

INVINCIBLE #129 (Image, 2016) – as above. This issue spends more time on plot than characterization, and contains a bit too much violence for my taste, though the most disgusting scene (where Robert Grayson crushes some guy’s head) happens off-panel. Eve finally confronts Mark’s rapist, Anissa, and then we discover that Anissa seems to have had a child from the rape. And by the way, this cliché – where a female villain rapes a male superhero in order to conceive a child – should really be retired. As far as I know, it only ever happens in comic books (Nexus, Starman, Tom Strong twice, and Invincible). It’s an offensive trivialization of rape, because its purpose is to emphasize what a stud the male protagonist is: he’s so sexually desirable that women are willing to rape him just to have his babies. I hope Invincible will be the last comic that uses this trope.

New comics received on Friday, February 3:

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #2 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jeremy Whitley, (A) Elsa Charretier. I was a bit too tired to fully appreciate this, but it’s an excellent comic. Nadia’s first two recruits for GIRL are Taina Miranda and Lunella Lafayette. My first thought on reading this comic was that my friend Rachel Dean-Ruzicka needs to read it, because I once read a paper she wrote in which she observed the lack of female engineers in children’s literature. Teenage female Puerto Rican engineers are probably even more rare, which makes Taina an important role model. And this issue shows Nadia and Taina solving actual engineering problems. There’s lots of other great stuff in this issue. Nadia continues to be an awesome character, and I’m impressed at the level of detail in Elsa Charretier’s art, especially her depictions of cluttered workspaces.

PAPER GIRLS #11 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Brian K. Vaughan, (A) Cliff Chiang. I still don’t understand what this comic is about. It’s very well-executed and exciting, but I have no idea where the plot is going. In fact, perhaps the main appeal of this comic is that anything might happen; characters and tropes from any genre might show up at any time. For example, in this issue the girls travel back in time and encounter a caveman warrior girl who turns out to also be a teenage mother. Also, this issue includes a giant ground sloth.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #50 (IDW, 2017) – “Accord Conclusion: And Chaos into the Order Came,” (W) Ted Anderson, (A) Andy Price. As with the two previous installments of Accord, the art in this story is better than the writing. The non-brainwashed ponies turn Accord back into Discord by convincing him that harmony and unanimity are not the same thing. I do like how this story includes flashbacks to a bunch of previous storylines from both the TV show and the comic. The story ends with a giant splash page showing all the characters, including the pony avatars of Andy, Katie, and their spouses. In the backup story, “For the Pony Who Has Everything” by Jeremy Whitley and Jay Fosgitt, Discord gives Princess Celestia a day off as her birthday present – although I feel like this idea has been done before, in the Micro-Series issue where Celestia and Luna switch jobs for a day.

GOLDIE VANCE #9 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Hope Larson & Jackie Ball, (A) Noah Hayes. The new creative team this issue was a shock. It doesn’t feel like Goldie Vance without Brittney Williams. I was wondering how she managed to draw two comic books a month, and I guess the answer is she can’t anymore. This issue, in which Hope joins the pit crew for a professional racing driver, is fun, but feels somehow less substantial than the previous eight issues.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS OUTRAGEOUS ANNUAL 2017 (IDW, 2017) – “An Exquisite Corpse,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Gisele Lagace et al. This is framed as an exquisite corpse story, but it’s really not. In a genuine exquisite corpse story, each chapter is written by a different person who has only read the last page of the previous chapter. But here, each chapter is written by Kelly Thompson (although according to the frame narrative, they all have different authors) and they all have a continuous narrative thread. That doesn’t mean this was a bad comic, just that it describes itself inaccurately. Well, okay, maybe the artists each only saw the last page of the previous chapter, but that’s not the same thing. Anyway, this issue consists of a frame narrative and an inset story – that’s the exquisite corpse part – in which the Misfits and Holograms participate in a space opera adventure. Just like other Jem annuals and specials, this issue is extremely fun, especially since it’s not bound by the continuity of the ongoing series.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE ANNUAL #1 (Vertigo, 1994) – “The Eyewitness” and eight other chapters, (W) Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle, (A) various. Unusually for this series, this annual is a self-contained story. It consists of nine chapters, each with a different narrator, but all focusing on a series of robberies in Central Park. The multiple narrators create an effect of Bakhtinian polyphony, as we see the same place and the same events from nine quite different perspectives. The solution to the mystery is disappointing; the mugger turns out to be a recent immigrant who’s stealing in order to feed his family. But lots of fascinating stuff happens along the way to the solution. I especially like the scene where Wesley thinks he’s interrupted a robbery, only to realize that he’s actually interrupted two men having sex. This is funny and poignant at once. The secret origin of Wesley’s butler is another high point.

HAWKEYE #3 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Hate for Kate Escalates,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Leonardo Romero. Another strong issue, though it definitely feels like the middle chapter of an ongoing story. It’s mostly focused on plot rather than characterization or politics. I particularly liked the pary scene for some reason.

SWAMP THING #87 (DC, 1989) – “Fall of the House of Pendragon,” (W) Rick Veitch, (A) Tom Yeates. This is Rick Veitch’s last issue, though there is no indication of this anywhere. I assume that when it was published, they didn’t know it would be his last issue. Though now I do notice that the next issue blurb says “Swamp Thing goes back to the beginnings of mankind,” which describes the published version of issue 88 and not the version that Rick originally intended. So who knows. More on this later. Anyway, in this chapter of the time travel storyline, Swampy travels back in time to Camelot – a very dark version of Camelot, where King Arthur has gone nuts and all the knights have been killed on the Grail quest. Swampy saves Camelot from Morgan Le Fay and Mordred’s troops by literally carrying the castle on his back. But when the Shining Knight shows up with the Holy Grail, it turns out to contain the piece of amber that’s been causing Swampy’s involuntary time travel. He goes back in time, causing Camelot to literally collapse. Unfortunately, Rick’s Swamp Thing run ends there, and we will never be able to read his intended ending. Most of this issue is in a sideways format which makes it quite annoying to read.

THE FLINTSTONES #8 (DC, 2017) – “The Leisure Class,” (W) Mark Russell, (A) Steve Pugh. Possibly the best issue yet. “The Leisure Class” includes three simultaneous plotlines that are related by the themes of family and economics. Betty goes back home to visit her mother, and we learn that she previously ran away from home to escape being sold into an unwanted marriage. At school, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm listen to an (apparently correct) explanation of Thorstein Veblen’s theory of the leisure class. And the new mayor, Clod, proposes to take funds away from a children’s hospital to buy new dinosaur armor. Fred gives an impassioned speech about how the only thing men are good for is impregnating women and protecting children, and why should they give up on doing the latter, but all the other men vote against him. I assume there’s an implicit critique of Trump here. Overall, while it’s not obvious how all the threads of this story fit together, it’s a powerful story that’s funny and sad at once, and that leaves the reader with a sense of profound discontent at how capitalism destroys families. I really liked this comic.

X-23 #9 (Marvel, 2011) – “Collision, Part 3,” (W) Marjorie Liu, (A) Ryan Stegman This issue’s story is hard to follow and I don’t care about it anyway. What makes this comic interesting is that it can be seen as a precursor to Monstress, because it’s all about X-23’s struggle with her animalistic and monstrous side. I almost feel like Marjorie Liu’s major theme is female monstrosity.

UNCANNY X-MEN #232 (Marvel, 1988) – “Earthfall,” (W) Chris Claremont, (A) Marc Silvestri. This is the first story featuring the Brood since #167. It’s a below-average story, focusing more on the Brood’s human victims than the X-Men themselves. The only notable piece of characterization is when Maddy Pryor discovers that Cyclops left her because Jean Grey came back to life.

JEM AND THE MISFITS #2 (IDW, 2017) – “The Misfits Get Real,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Jenn St-Onge. This is one of the best comics yet, and perhaps the best exploration of fat issues I’ve ever seen in a comic book. In an in-depth exploration of Stormer’s past, we learn that she’s been bullied all her life for being fat. And she’s still getting bullied for being fat, because in her first meeting with the reality show producers, they propose having her do a storyline about weight loss. At the end of the issue, Stormer gives a brilliant speech that explains why this sort of stigmatization is harmful. It includes the line “It’s a strange thing to walk around the world and know that it’s not meant for you. To be othered every waking moment of every day just by the vehicle that you’ve been given to travel in.” And honestly, out of context this could be read as a statement not just about what it’s like to be fat, but also about what it’s like to be anything other than an attractive, able-bodied white person. Of course, Stormer goes on to state that she refuses to accept being otherized in this way. Overall, this is an important comic, and it reinforces my belief that Kelly Thompson is a major writer. I think I prefer her to her namesake Kelly Sue DeConnick. She ought to be a superstar.

FAITH #7 (Valiant, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jody Houser, (A) Joe Eisma w/ Marguerite Sauvage. I enjoyed this issue, but I barely remember it now. It’s the beginning of a two-part story where Faith is tormented by the ghosts of dead friends and loved ones.

FAITH #8 (Valiant, 2017) – as above. This is the second part. I didn’t like this storyline that much. I think the comic convention story was the high point of the series so far, and the two subsequent storylines were a drop-off in quality. I do love that Faith has a Cactuar plushie. Also, “You’re a disgrace to voice actors!” is a great line.

SUPER POWERS #4 (DC, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Art Baltazar, (W) Franco. The JLA battle the Legion of Doom; meanwhile, newborn Prym-El grows into adult Superman-Prime. Which is predictable given his name. This story is kind of a repetition of old cliches. The one cool part is that the Green Lantern in this issue is Ch’p instead of Hal.

ACTION COMICS #510 (DC, 1980) – “Luthor’s Last Stand!”, (W) Cary Bates, (A) Curt Swan. I think the best part of this story is that Luthor has two robot servants named after Karel Capek and Isaac Asimov. Otherwise it’s lackluster. Luthor encounters a mysterious woman named Angela, who I initially assumed was either Lena Thorul or Ardora. But it turns out she’s really “the woman I was born to love,” and to find out what that means, we have to read the next issue.

SWAMP THING #88 (DC, 1988) – “Survival of the Fittest,” (W) Doug Wheeler, (A) Tom Yeates. As we all know, Rick Veitch left the series after the previous issue because DC refused to publish his story where Swamp Thing meets Jesus. In this issue’s letter column, Karen Berger suggests very obliquely that Rick left the series on bad terms (“neither he nor I expected the ending to be like this”), but she doesn’t explain why he left. It seems that in the original issue 88, Swampy would have used the Holy Grail from #87 to catch Jesus’s blood during the crucifixion. In the published #88, the Holy Grail and the shard of amber are instead created by the last Neanderthals, just before they’re killed by the first Cro-Magnons. This is a poor substitute for Rick’s original idea, and Doug is just not as skilled a writer as Rick was. As a result, this comic is more interesting for historical reasons than for its actual merits.

FLASH #180 (DC, 1968) – “The Flying Samurai,” (W) Frank Robbins, (A) Ross Andru. This issue takes place in Japan and is full of offensive Asian stereotypes. Most notably, the Japanese characters can’t distinguish between R and L. Frank Robbins at least seems to know a little bit about Japanese culture, but he falls short of showing genuine respect for it. Also, on page two of this issue, Barry refers to Iris as his “child bride.” At least this comic has some really good artwork and lettering.

SUPERBOY #75 (DC, 2000) – “My Greatest Adventure!”, (W) Karl Kesel, (A) Tom Grummett. In this issue, Kon has to decide what to do with his life after leaving Project Cadmus. He also has to come to terms with Tana Moon’s death – and that part was a shock to me, because I didn’t even know that Tana died in the previous issue. In general, this is an uncommonly sad issue of a series which usually had a bright and cheerful tone.

BLACK WIDOW #4 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Chris Samnee, (W) Mark Waid. I’ve been buying this series but not reading it. I’m not all that interested in this series’ espionage plot, but this comic is still worth paying full price for, because of Chris Samnee’s art. Chris Samnee is perhaps the best artist at Marvel right now. His art reminds me a lot of early Mazzucchelli, but also has its own unique quality. The high points of this issue include the scenes that take place in the snow, and the Steranko-esque maze page.

BLACK WIDOW #5 (Marvel, 2016) – as above. Another comic with a plot that’s not especially interesting to me, but brilliant artwork. I did enjoy the scene with the rude jerks who try to get Natasha to give up the files. The dialogue in this scene accomplishes its objective of making the reader hate these two characters.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #210 (DC, 1983) – “When a World Dies Screaming!”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Rich Buckler. In this issue Buckler imitates the style of George Pérez. I remember being rather tired when I read this comic, and it’s not all that good, so I had trouble finishing it. The plot is that a certain “X-element” which “affects all other elements on earth” has started to run out, with apocalyptic consequences. The X-element is an implausible and poorly explained piece of fake science. I was unwilling to suspend disbelief enough to accept that such a thing could exist, and as a result, I couldn’t get into the story. At one point this issue, Red Tornado has a long internal monologue about how he doesn’t trust himself to behave competently. I think Red Tornado was Conway’s pet Justice Leaguer, just like Timber Wolf was his pet Legionnaire, because Reddy was a Marvelesque character. He had all kinds of character flaws and hang-ups, whereas most of the other Justice Leaguers did not have that kind of neurotic, introspective, Freudian selfhood. (I’m sure there’s a term for the kind of selfhood or interority I’m thinking of here, but I can’t remember it.)

INCREDIBLE HULK #129 (Marvel, 1970) – “Again, the Glob!”, (W) Roy Thomas, (A) Herb Trimpe. Another fun classic Hulk comic. On his own again, the Hulk encounters an amnesiac drifter who turns out to be the Leader in human form. Then he fights the Glob, who, like Mogol two issues ago, is a dark mirror of himself.

SAVAGE SHE-HULK #3 (Marvel, 1980) – “She-Hulk Murders Lady Lawyer!”, (W) David Anthony Kraft, (A) Mike Vosburg. This isn’t a great comic, but it’s not terrible either. The basic plot is that Jennifer Walters is terrified of turning into the Hulk, and she also thinks she’s unknowingly killed someone (as the title indicates), though it turns out the murders were committed by a robot. Jen’s psychology in this issue is fairly effective, though I’m glad that her character arc eventually progressed to the point where she was more comfortable as She-Hulk than as Jen. The most prominent supporting character this issue is Dan “Zapper” Ridge, who was intended as Jen’s equivalent to Rick Jones, though he did not have Rick Jones’s longevity.

SPELL ON WHEELS #4 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kate Leth, (A) Megan Levens. Looking for their stolen possessions, the witches encounter a goat man with horns, fur, etc., and Claire falls in love at first sight with him. I guess this story has some disturbing connotations of bestiality, but I think Claire and the goat man’s mutual attraction is cute. Also, it turns out the villain of the series is Claire’s abusive ex-boyfriend. After an unimpressive start, this miniseries has gotten pretty good.

THE DEMON #14 (DC, 1973) – “Witchboy,” (W/A) Jack Kirby. This is one of my least favorite of Kirby’s ‘70s titles, though even unimpressive Kirby is still Kirby. This issue begins with a spectacular image of a monster called Gargora. In the rest of the issue, Klarion screws with Jason Blood and his friends, apparently just because Klarion is evil. Besides Gargora, the highlight of this issue is that it contains a number of panels depicting Klarion’s cat.

XENOGLYPHS #1 (self-published, 2012) – “The Great Pyramid of Giza, Part 1,” (W) Omar Spahi, (A) PJ Catacutan. I was given this comic for free at Comic-Con in about 2013, and I read it because I’m trying to get through some of the oldest comics in my to-be-read boxes. To put it bluntly, this comic should not have been published. It’s a sub-professional piece of work and it contains no original ideas. There are lots of good reasons why someone would self-publish a comic, but in this case, the creators shouldn’t have bothered.

INCREDIBLE HULK #236 (Marvel, 1979) – “Kill or Be Killed!”, (W) Roger Stern, (A) Sal Buscema. I’m not very familiar with this era of the Hulk, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that Roger Stern wrote this issue. It’s not his best work, though. I can’t remember much about it besides the fact that it guest-stars Machine Man. One of the supporting characters in this issue is Fred Sloan, who I’ve only encountered in one other Hulk comic, also from this same period. Oh, right, and Trish Starr is in this comic too. Seeing this character again gave me the idea of creating a Sporcle quiz about obscure Marvel supporting characters, which I am still working on.

XENOGLYPHS #2 (self-published, 2013) – See above.

STRANGE TALES #144 (Marvel, 1966) – “The Day of the Druid!”, (W) Stan Lee, (A) Jack Kirby & Howard Purcell; and “Where Man Hath Never Trod!”, (W) Roy Thomas, (A) Steve Ditko. I bought this at Dragon*Con in about 2012, but never read it because my copy is in terrible condition. I initially thought the Nick Fury story was the Doctor Strange story because it features a (perhaps phony) magical villain, the Druid. It’s also notable as the first appearance of Jasper Sitwell. The Dr. Strange story has spectacular, mind-expanding artwork, but kind of a boring plot, as was typical of Dr. Strange stories from this era.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #5 (Marvel, 2003) – “Au Pere,” (W) Peter David, (A) ChrisCross. This issue includes a seriously disturbing page where Genis-Vell screams, and little mouths appear all over his body. Eww. Besides that, it has a theme of sons who resent their fathers, but I had trouble understanding it out of context.

XENOGLYPHS #3 (self-published, 2013) – See above.

ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #5 (Valiant, 1992) – “Trouble in Paradise,” (W/A) Barry Windsor-Smith. This issue introduces Armstrong’s wife Andromeda. This comic is fun, but the art is not BWS’s best, and Armstrong is a bit too much of a wish fulfillment character. Sure, he’s ugly and uncouth, but he’s also immortal and fabulously rich and has a literal goddess for a wife.

And finally, I am caught up on all the comics I needed to review.