Reviews for April and May

Resuming on May 16. I’m about a month behind. This is because 1) I was swamped with work since it was the end of the semester, and 2) I’m running out of room in my boxes and have not yet been able to order more, so I’m reluctant to put any comics away.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #19 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Ryan North, (A) Erica Henderson. An excellent sort-of conclusion to the Melissa Morbeck three-parter. In monologuing, Melissa reveals that she was responsible for a lot of things, including the US Airways Flight 1549 crash and Squirrel Girl being in the same dorm as Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi. Then Doreen saves the day, but Melissa escapes. Meanwhile the bear and the chicken get married. Lots of other stuff happens that I can’t remember. It’s been about a month.

RAT QUEENS II #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kurtis Wiebe, (A) Owen Gieni. This is a classic Rat Queens story, if a series that’s only about five years old can be said to have a classic style. The girls defeat the giant bird monster that ate Betty, then they go back to the bar and drink. It’s a fun, exuberant story, free of the excessive angst that characterized the last few issues of the previous series. There’s also a backup story by Patrick Rothfuss. While it’s kind of cool that they got a famous fantasy writer to do a guest story, he clearly has no comics experience and the story is pointless; it’s just a series of stories within stories, none of which ever ends.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #4 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jeremy Whitley, (A) Elsa Charretier. Another good one. Nadia beats up Titania and Poundcakes, who have come for Priya’s mother’s protection money. Then Nadia meets her old friend Ying, but Ying has been implanted with a bomb that will go off in 36 hours unless Nadia rejoins the Red Room. One of the highlights of this comic is Jarvis. I love his long-suffering but affectionate attitude toward Nadia. I think this may be my third favorite Marvel title now that we’ve lost Patsy Walker.

MOTOR CRUSH #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Babs Tarr, (W) Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart. The conclusion to the first storyline. It turns out there’s some kind of giant pyramid thing that’s looking for Domino, and the Dark Rider is its representative. The pyramid thing returns and Dom takes a whole bunch of Crush to try to catch it, but instead catapults herself two years into the future, which reminds me of Max Mercury. Next issue is in August.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #28 (Image, 2017) – “They Fuck You Up,” (W) Kieron Gillen, (A) Jamie McKelvie. Lots of stuff happens this issue, most of which I don’t remember. Most notably, Sakhmet kills a lot of people, perhaps including Amaterasu, after learning the truth about Ananke.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #8 (DC, 2017) – “Second Semester Finale,” (W) Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, (A) Adam Archer & Michelle Sassyk. With so many creators involved, you would think this would be a case of too many cooks, but this series has always had a strong, unified vision. I assume Fletcher is the primary auteur behind it, but I could be wrong. This issue, I forget if we learn any new information about Olive’s family history, but Olive goes nuts and heads off to seek revenge on the descendants of Amity Arkham’s killers. Meanwhile, Pomeline and Colton are freed by Maps’s Clayface roommate. Oh, and I forgot to mention this series is ending after issue 12. I’m going to miss it, but it seems like this was a planned conclusion.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #1 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jeremy Whitley, (A) Brenda Hickey. This new series includes stories of Equestria’s distant past history. This issue is about Celestia’s youth and how Starswirl convinced her to stop bullying Luna. It’s a fun one-shot story, but it does raise the uncomfortable question of who was ruling Equestria while Celestia and Luna were underage.

CHAMPIONS #6 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Mark Waid, (A) Humberto Ramos. In the first half of the issue, the Champions play paintball. This is a cute scene which is obviously inspired by the classic trope of the X-Men playing baseball. In the second half of the issue, we’re reintroduced to a group of villains called the Freelancers. This half of the issue is less successful because the Freelancers are just cartoonishly evil for the sake of being evil.

SILVER SURFER #10 (Marvel, 2017) – “Bound for Eternity,” (W) Dan Slott, (A) Mike Allred. Dawn and Norrin encounter Galactus, who has somehow turned into a bizarro-Galactus who creates planets instead of eating them. He sends Surfer and Dawn on a mission to obtain two objects from opposite ends of the universe, which they do, but then they have no power left to get back to each other. Desperate, Surfer prays to Eternity, who brings them back together. The splash page where Eternity reunites Surfer and Dawn together – by touching its fingers together – is one of the most powerful and creative moments in this series.

CHAMPIONS #7 (Marvel, 2017) – The Freelancers frame the Champions for a bunch of crimes. The Champions defeat the Freelancers and clear their names. But it turns out the Freelancers have gotten revenge by taking out a trademark on the Champions’ name and logo. I’m not an intellectual property lawyer, but I find this impossible to believe (even though I’m willing to believe in Terrigen mist and androids and radioactive spiders, yeah, I know). Can you really trademark something that’s been released into the public domain by its creator? I should point out that when I asked that question on Facebook, a couple people suggested that this story is a metatextual commentary on Marvel’s legal battles with Hero Games, who published a pen-and-paper RPG called Champions.

TWO GUN KID #84 (Marvel, 1966) – “Gunslammer!”, (W) Larry Lieber, (A) Dick Ayers. An obnoxious punk kid tries to establish a reputation by beating the Two-Gun Kid in a gunfight. This story is a competent but unexciting example of the Western genre. Marvel’s Western comics are far less interesting to me than their superhero comics.

DRIFTER #1 (Image, 2014) – “Personal Disaster is Imminent,” (W) Ivan Brandon, (A) Nic Klein. I bought this when it came out, but didn’t bother to read it until Black Cloud #1 came out, which motivated me to look into Ivan Brandon’s other work. This comic has brilliant art and coloring, but the story fails to grab me; it seems like an unoriginal blend of the SF and Western genres.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #15 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) David F. Walker, (A) Sanford Greene. The Alex Wilder story concludes with Luke, Danny and Señor Mágico joining forces to defeat some kind of demon. Then the series ends with Luke hugging Danny. Overall, this was a really good comic and it deserved more than 15 issues, although it will be replaced by a solo Luke Cage series (not to mention a solo Iron Fist series which I don’t plan to read).

STRANGE DAYS #2 (Eclipse, 1985) – three stories, (W) Peter Milligan, (A) Brendan McCarthy & Brett Ewins. Two stories drawn by McCarthy and one by Ewins. All this material is fascinating, if not always easy to follow, but I think my favorite is “Paradax!”, partly because of the protagonist’s costume – McCarthy could have been a great superhero costume designer.

SCORPIO ROSE #2 (Eclipse, 1983) – untitled, (W) Steve Englehart, (A) Marshall Rogers. As is typical of ‘80s Englehart, this comic has a convoluted plot with some rather disturbing sexual implications, and also features a guest appearance by Mantis. Here she’s called Lorelei, but she points out that she’s known by many names. Besides the unexpected surprise of the Mantis guest appearance, the best thing about this issue is the Marshall Rogers artwork. This issue includes a backup story, “Doctor Orient,” which has more excellent Marshall Rogers artwork, but a forgettable story by a writer I’ve never heard of, Frank Lauria.

HELLBOY IN HELL #5 (Dark Horse, 2013) – untitled, (W/A) Mike Mignola. Unlike some other recent Hellboy stories, this one makes sense on its own without knowledge of the ongoing storyline, and it feels like a classic Mignola work. In hell, Hellboy encounters a deserter from the Napoleonic wars who sold his soul to a demon. But the deserter can save himself by answering an impossible question: what meal will the demon serve him in hell? Hellboy gets the demon’s mother to trick the demon into answering the question, and the deserter’s soul is saved. This story has the atmosphere of deadpan weirdness that’s characteristic of Hellboy at its best.

HIP HOP FAMILY TREE #12 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Ed Piskor. This final issue includes the origins of such “characters” as KRS-One, the Beastie Boys, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. There’s going to be a fourth volume of the graphic novel series, but this is the last issue of the monthly comic book, which is unfortunate because I prefer the comic books to the graphic novels.

STRANGE TALES #164 (Marvel, 1968) – Dr. Strange in “Nightmare!”, (W) Jim Lawrence, (A) Dan Adkins; and Nick Fury in “Black Noon!”, (W/A) Jim Steranko. Obviously the highlight of this issue is the Fury story, which is part of the ongoing Yellow Claw epic. But the Dr. Strange story is not bad either. Dan Adkins is quite good at drawing bizarre otherworldly creatures, including a giant slug and a leather-winged bat demon.

JONESY #12 (BOOM!, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Caitlin Rose Boyle, (W) Sam Humphries. The conclusion of a series that failed to reach its potential. The evil city commissioner tries to force Jonesy to pledge never to use her powers again, but Jonesy refuses. Then Jonesy concludes the series by telling readers to fall in love with themselves, which is cute. I wonder what Caitlin Rose Boyle will do next.

WONDER WOMAN #20 (DC, 2017) – “Godwatch, Part 3,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Bilquis Evely. My interest in this series is fading. There’s too much Veronica Cale and not enough Wonder Woman. This issue is the worst example of that yet. It has 20 pages, and Diana only appears on 7 of them. Ridiculous.

BLAKE & MORTIMER VOL. 1 (Cinebook, 2012, originally 1950) – “The Secret of the Swordfish, Part 1,” (W/A) Edgar Pierre Jacobs. The first album of probably the best Franco-Belgian adventure comic besides Tintin. I’ve read two other Blake et Mortimer albums, The Time Trap or The Yellow M, and this album is just as exciting and energetically drawn as those were. However, the tone is quite different. Instead of a globe-trotting adventure thriller, it’s a war story. With the aid of supervillain Olrik, the Tibetan empire conquers the entire world, and Blake and Mortimer have to reach the mysterious “Swordfish” in order to mount a counterattack. (What the Swordfish is will be explained in a later volume, I guess.) You can tell that this comic was written in the shadow of World War II; at the time, the idea of a dictatorial empire conquering the world would have seemed like a very credible threat. Overall, I really enjoyed this comic. Cinebook has done Anglophone readers a great service by translating so many classic BD albums, and I want to get as many of their publications as I can.

Week of April 21:

MS. MARVEL #17 (Marvel, 2017) – “Damage Per Second, Part 4,” (W) G. Willow Wilson, (A) Takeshi Miyazawa. The scene at the start of the issue, where everyone comforts Zoe after she’s been smeared on social media, is one of the emotional high points of this series. Well, I hesitate to say that because there are emotional high points in nearly every issue, but it’s a beautiful scene. After that scene, Kamala goes on to defeat Doc.X by getting all the players in World of Battlecraft to behave in a kind and altruistic way. The implicit message here is that Internet culture can be a force for good as well as evil – that the Internet can be a tool for encouraging kindness and community. And I think this is an encouraging message, in these dark days of the online alt-right.

SEX CRIMINALS #18 (Image, 2017) – “Totems,” (W) Matt Fraction, (A) Chip Zdarsky. This issue is part of a growing subgenre of comic books that include scenes that take place at fan conventions. In this issue, obviously, the scene in question takes place at a porn convention, where Jazmine St. Cocaine has a table. Meanwhile, Jon and Suzie’s relationship becomes strained when Jon buys lots of sex toys and asks Suzie to act out various fantasies. This is a good issue, but it feels like just a minor chapter in a longer storyline.

ASTRO CITY #43 (Image, 2017) – “My Dad,” (W) Kurt Busiek, (A) Brent Anderson. The Gentleman’s origin story is one of the most creative, unexpected Astro City stories ever. It took me a while to figure out what was going on, but once I got it, I was deilghted. The story is narrated by a little girl named Tillie who is raised by her single father, until he gets killed in a robbery. Except he’s not really dead, because whenever Tillie needs him, he comes back as the Gentleman. Gradually it becomes clear that Tillie’s dad really is dead, and that the Gentleman is Tillie herself – or more precisely, Tillie has the power to turn her image of the perfect father into a physical being. And as a side effect of doing so, she prevents herself from aging. It’s not clear what exactly is going on here, and yet it all makes perfect emotional sense.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDS FOREVER #38 (IDW, 2017) – “Battle Royal!,” (W/A) Andy Price. The final issue of the series is also, I believe, the first pony comic both written and drawn by Andy Price. Appropriately, it’s about Andy’s two favorite characters, Celestia and Luna. Celestia and Luna decide to compete at the Sisterhooves Social, which requires them to take a potion to remove their powers so they don’t have an unfair advantage. Their competitive spirits flare, and hijinks ensue. Like every other pony comic drawn by Andy, this issue is hilarious and full of funny in-jokes. Andy turns out to be a good writer as well as a good artist.

GANGES #6 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – “The End” and other interrelated stories, (W/A) Kevin Huizenga. Kevin H. is one of my favorite current cartoonists, and I’ve even published two papers about him. However, I’ve only been following Ganges intermittently because it’s not always easy to find. I had some trouble understanding what went on in this issue; however, that was not because I’ve missed a few of the previous issues, but rather because this comic is just hard to follow. Kevin H.’s style is at its most experimental here, and he uses most if not all of the bizarre drawing techniques he developed in earlier issues. Overall, I get the sense that Ganges is one of Kevin’s major works, but I hope he publishes it in collected form, so that it will be easier to read and study the whole thing at once.

COADY AND THE CREEPIES #2 (BOOM!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Liz Prince, (A) Amanda Kirk. This is a significant improvement over the first issue, which was okay but not great. The band’s van breaks down in the desert, leading to all sorts of shenanigans and misadventures as well as relationship drama.

MONSTRESS #11 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Marjorie Liu, (A) Sana Takeda. I still feel reluctant to read this comic when it comes out, which is very unfair, because it’s more fun and easier to follow than I’ve given it credit for. This issue, Maika talks with the old Blood Fox dude, and he tells her that her mother gave birth to her as part of her (the mother’s) plot to control the Monstrum. This is not directly stated, but I guess Maika’s father must have been the last descendant of the Shaman-Empress, so I wonder where her father is, unless this was stated somewhere and I missed it. Anyway, after that, the Blood Fox demands that Maika free him, leading to a big fight that will be continued next issue.

TRUE STORY, SWEAR TO GOD #13 (Image, 2010) – “Jagged Lil’ Pill,” (W/A) Tom Beland. It’s been a long time since I read this comic, and returning to it now, I have mixed feelings about it. To put this rather bluntly, judged by the standards of autobiographical comics, Tom’s work has some severe limitations. He has a limited ability to think critically about himself, or to draw connections between his personal life and anything else. His prose style isn’t the best either. What makes this comic valuable, besides Tom’s compelling style of drawing, is the exuberance and passion with which he approaches his work. Even if his words aren’t the best words, you get the sense that he deeply cares about every word he writes and every line he draws.

THE MAXX #12 (Image, 1994) – untitled, (W) William Messner-Loebs, (A) Sam Kieth. I forget if I said this before, but this series was historically important because it was the first Image comic that had any kind of serious artistic aims. However, I didn’t understand what was going on in this issue, though I liked the art. I probably have to make an attempt to read this series in order.

DESCENDER #21 (Image, 2017) – “Orbital Mechanics 5 of 5,” (W) Jeff Lemire, (A) Dustin Nguyen. Lots of stuff happens this issue, but I’ve forgotten most of it. In particular, Telsa apparently gets killed, and Tim (the good one) and Andy each finally discover that the other is alive.

SUPER SONS #3 (DC, 2017) – “When I Grow Up…”, (W) Peter Tomasi, (A) Jorge Jimenez. Damian and Jon battle Kid Amazo and his robot doubles. This was another fun issue, but I barely remember anything about it now. In a couple months this may be the best ongoing DC title, which is kind of sad.

WEIRD WESTERN TALES #29 (DC, 1975) – “Breakout at Fort Charlotte,” (W) Michael Fleisher, (A) Noly Panaligan. Jonah is challenged by a teenage boy who believes his father was killed at Fort Charlotte during the war, thanks to Jonah’s betrayal. Most of the issue consists of a flashback explaining what happened at Fort Charlotte. It turns out Jonah really did surrender to a Union officer because he was opposed to slavery. However, although Jonah refused to reveal any information about his former comrades, the Union commander figured out that information anyway and blamed Jonah, and was also even more racist than Jonah’s former Confederate friends. In general this is a very good Civil War story, with nice art by a nearly forgotten Filipino artist. However, this story does engage in false equivalence by suggesting that Northerners and Southerners were equally racist. That may be true in some sense, but at least the Union wasn’t fighting to preserve slavery.

SPIDER-GWEN #18 (Marvel, 2017) – “Sitting in a Tree, Part 6,” (W) Jason Latour, (A) Robbi Rodriguez. Yet again, this issue is part of a crossover and is difficult to understand without also reading the Miles Morales title, which I don’t want to read because it’s written by Bendis. If this series was even a little bit worse than it is, I would have dropped it quite a while ago, because these constant crossovers have been a huge annoyance. The cool thing about this issue is that part of it takes place in an alternate reality where Gwen and Miles have gotten married and had kids. And meanwhile, Spider-Ham has gotten married, possibly to an actual pig, and has sired a litter of piglets. This kind of thing is why I’m still reading this comic.

DEPT. H #13 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Matt Kindt. I’ve forgotten most of what happens in this issue. There’s some sort of revelation about how all the undersea creatures are part of a group mind, and then it turns out that one of the characters will have to stay underwater. I wonder if this series is going to end after 24 issues, because that’s the number of increments on the depth gauge in the margin of each page.

DOCTOR STRANGE #18 (Marvel, 2017) – “The World’s Finest Super-Surgeons,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Chris Bachalo. Doctor Strange and Thor team up to save a bunch of people who Strange previously treated for brain tumors, and who are now possessed by Mister Misery. This issue is a fun team-up between two characters who Jason Aaron is currently writing.

DOCTOR STRANGE #19 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Power of Strange Compels You,” as above. Mister Misery has now possessed Wong, and Doc has to free him. This issue suggests some disturbing things about Strange and Wong’s relationship; it almost implies that Wong is Strange’s slave (I’m writing this review just after reading Alex Tizon’s article “My Family’s Slave”). However, the idea that Wong has no life outside Strange is a bit of a retcon, since Wong has had a couple notable romantic involvements. On the other hand, Wong’s romance with Sarah Wolfe was nipped in the bud because of his obligations to Strange, so I guess that proves that Wong really does have no life outside of working for Strange.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #11 (DC, 1994) – “The Brute, Act Three,” (W) Matt Wagner, (A) R.G. Taylor. A rather horrifying story. The villain in this story arc is a rich man who runs an illegal bare-knuckle boxing operation. The co-protagonist is a homeless down-on-his luck boxer who gets roped into this scheme as a way of buying medicine for his sick little daughter. And at the end of the issue, we learn that the daughter was raped by another homeless man. This issue demonstrates the stark contrast between the idyllic lives of New York’s rich and the squalid, violent lives of its underclass.

ENIGMA #2 (DC, 1993) – “The Truth,” (W) Peter Milligan, (A) Duncan Fegredo. I believe I have this entire series, but I’ve only gotten to issue 2 so far. The problem with this comic is that it doesn’t make sense at all. It has something to do with a comic book superhero and a serial killer, but otherwise, I have no idea what’s even going on here. I think I need to read the entire series, then read it again.

FAT FREDDY’S COMICS AND STORIES #1 (Rip Off, 1983) – various stories, (W/A) Gilbert Shelton et al. This issue includes a bunch of stories, each drawn by a different artist and parodying a different style of comics. The artists include Shelton, Jack Jackson, Spain and S. Clay Wilson among others. The stories are parodies of EC horror, EC science fiction, Conan, war comics, romance comics, Superman, Howard the Duck, and the work of Robt. Williams (I think). Perhaps the most interesting thing in this issue is the SF story by Hal Robins. I’ve never heard of this artist before, but his draftsmanship is beautiful and distinctive. It appears that he’s better known as a voice actor than as a cartoonist. Fantagraphics or someone else should do a collection of his work.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #5 (DC, 1990) – “Hollywood Babble On,” (W) Peter Milligan, (A) Chris Bachalo. Some Hollywood types are making a movie, but every time they watch the film, it reveals the actors’ and the director’s darkest secrets. Shade and Kathy arrive in Hollywood to try and figure out what’s going on. This story is an interesting examination of American national hypocrisy, but it’s perhaps not as interesting as later issues that focus more on Shade and Kathy themselves.

ROYAL CITY #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Jeff Lemire. This issue is just a continuation of the plot from last issue. I’m starting to get really annoyed at most of the characters in the comic, in particular the mother, who is never satisfied with anything her children do. Patrick is perhaps the most sympathetic character, but only because he’s inflicting pain on himself rather than anyone else. But I guess the whole point of this series is that Richie’s early death tore his family apart, and each of the family members perceives Richie as personifying all the good qualities that the rest of the family lacks.

CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #7 (DC, 2017) – “Have I Ever Told You the Story About When I Saved Superman?”, (W) Jon Rivera & Gerard Way, (A) Michael Avon Oeming. Superman appears and saves the day, but then it turned out that Superman’s appearance only happened in Cave’s head, and he’s back on the surface and the monster from underground is invading. This issue includes some extremely trippy and abstract pages that depict Cave’s visions.

GODSHAPER #1 (BOOM!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Simon Spurrier, (A) Jonas Goonface. Si Spurrier’s latest original series takes place in a world where everyone has a personal god, the power of each god being proportional to that of its person. The protagonist is a “godshaper” who has no god himself, or at least claims not to, but who has the power to enhance other people’s gods. Like Six-Gun Gorilla and The Spire, this comic has a fascinating premise, and the art is pretty good too, despite the artist’s ridiculous pen name. I want to read the second issue after I finish writing these reviews.

MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN #3 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, (W) Roger Langridge, (A) Felipe Cunha. At this point in the overarching King universe, Ming has invaded Earth and has somehow caused advanced technology to stop working. And Mandrake and another character named Karma have to escape from prison and defeat Ming’s ally Princess Karma. I think. I don’t remember most of what happened here, but it was an exciting adventure story.

BACCHUS #2 (Eddie Campbell, 1995) – “King Bacchus” and other stories, (W/A) Eddie Campbell et al. In the first story in this issue, Bacchus and his friends take over a pub on an island and declare it an independent nation, and also a character obviously based on John Constantine shows up. There’s also a chapter of “Immortality Isn’t Forever,” in which the Eyeball Kid hijacks an airplane, while Bacchus explains Joe Theseus’s origin. I think I’ve read that story before somewhere.

SPACE USAGI #3 (Mirage, 1992) – “Death and Honor, Chapter 3,” (W/A) Stan Sakai. I usually don’t like Space Usagi as much as regular Usagi, but this issue was quite good. In the final chapter, Usagi kills the primary villain in combat, then (in a reversal of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) discovers that the woman he thought was Princess Masayo is actually her handmaid, meaning he’s free to romance her. And her name turns out to be Tomoe. Sadly, it turns out this woman gets killed in one of the later miniseries, and Usagi’s eventual wife, depicted in Usagi Yojimbo: Senso #6, is another woman named Mariko.

ADVENTURE COMICS #452 (DC, 1977) – “Dark Destiny, Deadly Dreams,” (W) David Michelinie, (A) Jim Aparo. This is the issue where Aquababy dies, after Aquaman tries to save him and barely fails. You have to wonder what David Michelinie was thinking when he decided to kill off Aquababy. Not only was this a waste of a potentially good character, it also ruined Mera’s character permanently, since most subsequent writers have been unable to see her as anything but the mother of a dead son, and it made the Aquaman franchise significantly darker. This issue may be the point where Aquaman jumped the shark, at least until Peter David arrived in the ‘90s. This issue also has other problems. At the end, Aqualad refuses to sympathize with Aquaman because he’s butthurt that Aquaman tried to kill him in order to save Aquababy’s life. Also, the revelation that Black Manta is black is delivered in a slightly offensive way. I have to think that with even a couple more years of writing experience, David Michelinie would not have written this story, or at least he would have written it more tastefully.

HELLBLAZER #50 (DC, 1992) – “Remarkable Lives,” (W) Garth Ennis, (A) William Simpson. After reading a story about a fake John Constantine (see Bacchus #2 review above), I wanted to read about the real one. Besides the rather poor art, this issue is really good. Constantine spends the night in a graveyard, talking to the King of the Vampires. Their conversation is interspersed with splash pages depicting scenes from the King’s long life. The King demands that Constantine work for him, which Constantine of course refuses. Then the King challenges Constantine to name one way in which being a human is better than being a vampire, or else the King will cut his throat. Constantine replies “Why don’t we sit here together and watch the sun come up in an hour or so?”, which must be one of his best lines ever.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #136 (DC, 1974) – “Wonder Woman: Mrs. Superman,” (W) Cary Bates, (A) John Rosenberger. Superman announces his engagement to Wonder Woman, then Lois stalks them both until she proves that they’re trying to trick her. This issue’s story is stupid and sexist, as is typical of this series, but at least the art is not bad, and Lois’s black colleague Melba is a somewhat interesting supporting character.

DAREDEVIL #59 (Marvel, 1969) – “The Torpedo Will Get You If You Don’t Watch Out!”, (W) Roy Thomas, (A) Gene Colan. As with most Daredevil comics from this period, the highlight of this issue is Gene the Dean’s incredible art, and the story is rather forgettable. In terms of the story, the most interesting thing about this issue is that it reintroduces Willie Lincoln, the blind veteran from issue 47 (“Brother, Take My Hand”). Willie Lincoln’s only appearance after this issue was in Daredevil #258, many years later.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #122 (DC, 1999) – “Legion of the Damned, Part One,” (W) Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, (A) Olivier Coipel. This Legion run was very popular, but my problem with it at the time was that DnA didn’t really “get” the Legion; for them, it was just another superhero comic. This issue is well-drawn and conveys a powerful sense of desperation, but it doesn’t feel like a Legion comic. Also, I’m annoyed with the scene where Chameleon breaks down and cries after his teammates are assimilated by the Blight. Maybe this is just my headcanon, but I prefer to believe that Legionnaires never give up, and that when faced with impossible odds, they just get angrier.

USAGI YOJIMBO #11 (Mirage, 1994) – “Daisho,” (W/A) Stan Sakai. This issue begins with a flashback depicting the origin story of Usagi’s swords. In this sequence, Stan gives us a seemingly accurate depiction of how Japanese swords are made. Then we’re reminded that Usagi’s swords have been stolen by some brigands. Usagi fails to recover them, and in his determination to hunt the brigands down, Usagi becomes so furious that he starts acting like a villain himself. The high point of the story is the moment when Usagi realizes that his anger has caused him to fall below his own moral standards.

Week of 4/28:

LUMBERJANES #37 (BOOM!, 2017) – “Let’s Be Prank,” (W) Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, (A) Ayme Sotuyo. I’ve been waiting for this one for a while, and it did not disappoint. The parents arrive for Parents’ Day, and both the campers and the counselors have to work overtime to prevent the parents from realizing that the camp is full of supernatural phenomena. The highlight of the issue for me is Mal’s mom, who is just as exuberant and energetic as her daughter is quiet and shy. I’m instantly in love with this character. And it’s also cute how she basically adopts Molly, whose own mother is nowhere to be seen. Ripley’s Teen Vogue-reading grandma is also pretty cool, though we knew about this character already. Molly’s mother is nowhere to be seen, And I’m curious about the other two raccoons who are suddenly hanging out with Bubbles; I suspect that Bubbles is participating in Parents’ Day and the other raccoons are its parents.

PATSY WALKER A.K.A. HELLCAT #17 (Marvel, 2017) – “The End of All Things,” (W) Kate Leth, (A) Brittney Williams. A sadly premature conclusion to an awesome series. This issue is a lot of fun, as usual, and it wraps up the series in a satisfying way, but I get the feeling that Kate and Brittney didn’t really want it to end when it did. I look forward to seeing what they both do next, but I’d have liked to see more of this series.

LADYCASTLE #3 (BOOM!, 2017) – “When Harpies Attack,” (W) Delilah S. Dawson, (A) Becca Farrow. This series is so fun and so well-executed that it really deserves to be more than a four-issue miniseries. As usual there are all kinds of fascinating things in this issue, starting with the parody of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air song. This issue, the castle hosts a tea party for a flock of harpies, who demand to be treated with impeccable politeness or else. Also, their prophecies always come true. The harpies are not only the highlight of the issue, but also easily my favorite harpies in any work of fiction. Besides that, while this series has a large ensemble cast, Gwyneff is the central character, at least this issue, and her character arc is fascinating. She’s a princess, but she’d much rather be a knight. I guess the lesson she learns this issue is that she can be both at once, or something like that.

HULK #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “Deconstructed Part Five,” (W) Mariko Tamaki, (A) Nico Leon. I complained that Hulk #4 was too decompressed and that it didn’t advance the plot at all, and Hulk #5 has the same problem, but to a greater degree. Nothing really happens this issue. This story could have been completed in four issues instead of six. I still love Mariko Tamaki’s writing, but it’s clear that she’s more comfortable writing graphic novels than monthly comic books.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #18 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Smartest There Is! Part Six: Full Moon,” (W) Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder, (A) Natacha Bustos. Amy’s last issue represents a significant leap forward for Lunella’s character, as she realizes that “life is better when you need other people.” Also, all the characters from the previous issues of this storyline make guest appearances. Because of the sheer number of guest stars, this issue reminds me a bit of the Thanksgiving issue of Power Pack.

JEM: THE MISFITS #4 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Jenn St-Onge. This is the first comic I’ve ever read that deals seriously with the topic of adult illiteracy. I think we already knew that Roxy was illiterate, but this issue gives a plausible and tragic explanation of why: she had some sort of undiagnosed learning disability, then dropped out of school because of family problems and bullying. After the flashback, Jetta gives Roxy a pep talk and encourages Roxy to make another attempt to learn to read. In this issue Kelly Thompson does a great job of getting the reader to understand and sympathize with Roxy, despite the extreme stigma that attaches to adult literacy. This issue is comparable in quality to issue 2 (the one about Stormer and fat-shaming).

SUPERGIRL: BEING SUPER #3 (DC, 2017) – untitled, (W) Mariko Tamaki, (A) Joëlle Jones. This is another fantastic issue, though I’ve come to expect this series to be fantastic. The first memorable moment in this issue is the flashback where Kara’s maternal grandparents reject her because of her powers. Then Kara discovers that her gym teacher is performing experimens on a teenage male Kryptonian. However, this Kryptonian is named Tan-On, not Kal-El, and the reason why becomes clear when we learn that he wants to conquer Earth rather than become a superhero. And Kara decides to join him because she’s sick of being mistreated by humans. I look forward to seeing how this ends.

ALIENS: DEAD ORBIT #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) James Stokoe. I’m not especially interested in this franchise, but as usual, James Stokoe’s artwork is spectacular and it easily justifies the price of this issue.

MIGHTY THOR #18 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Asgard/Shi’ar War, Part Four: The Omega Kiss,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Russell Dauterman. I was wrong; the Ultimate Judgment is not the Mangog but the Phoenix, which makes a lot of sense. Thor recruits Quentin Quire, a character previously used by Jason Aaron, to deal with the threat. Overall this has been a really good story arc.

GROO: FRIENDS AND FOES #8 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “Pal and Drumm,” (W/A) Sergio Aragonés, (W) Mark Evanier. I stopped reading this comic because it was getting stale and unoriginal (I mean, even more stale and unoriginal than usual). I guess I just needed a break from it, because on returning to this series, I really liked it; this issue was a lot of fun. Pal and Drumm pretend to be the lost girl Kayli’s father so that they can claim her (nonexistent) fortune, while Kayli gets kidnapped and taken to an orphanage. However, Kayli takes advantage of her reputation in order to get al the children from the orphanage adopted. In particular, she baits Pal and Drumm into adopting a horrible little brat, Dorcas, as their daughter.

ROCKET RACCOON #5 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Matthew Rosenberg, (A) Jorge Coelho. Rocket frees the other aliens, defeats Kraven, and leaves Earth. This was a fun series. It really deserved more than five issues.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Raid on Marauder Island Part 1,” (W) Brian Clevinger, (A) Lo Baker, plus a backup story with art by Wook-Jin Clark. This spinoff title features the Flying She-Devils and the Sparrow, the guest stars from two of the best Atomic Robo miniseries. The artwork, especially in the first story, is worse than the art in the regular Atomic Robo series, but the writing is up to usual Atomic Robo standards.

GROO: FRIENDS AND FOES #10 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “Taranto,” (W/A) Sergio Aragonés, (W) Mark Evanier. Another good one. Taranto tries to kidnap Kayli for her fortune, but Kayli is saved by the parents of her pet baby dragon. Meanwhile, we start to see hints that Kayli’s father is the Minstrel.

HERO CATS #16 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Hero Cats of Skyworld, Part 1,” (W) Kyle Puttkammer, (A) Omaka Schultz. I guess the title of this series is just Hero Cats, not Hero Cats of Stellar City, because this issue’s cover says Hero Cats of Skyworld. We temporarily leave the usual cast behind, as Bandit and his robot friend (whose name I forget) find themselves on the Crow King’s world, which has its own superpowered cats. These new characters are all pretty intriguing, especially the cat who’s pursued by shadow cats that seem to represent his crippling depression.

GROO: FRIENDS AND FOES #11 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “The Minstrel,” as above. Kayli finally finds her father, the Minstrel, but he can’t prove he’s her father because they happen to be in a kingdom where the king has forbidden any kind of music. The local musicians try to circumvent the ban by teaching Groo to play music, since the king won’t dare to stop him, but the plan backfires and the Minstrel is thrown in prison while Groo apparently dies from poison. And that leads into:

GROO: FRIENDS AND FOES #12 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “Kayli,” as above. We finally learn the Minstrel’s origin story: he had a wife and daughter, i.e. Kayli, but he was drafted into a war and came back to find them gone, and now he wanders the world in search of them. While The Sage, Chakaal, Granny Groo and other characters save the day and reunite Kayli with her father, and they go off in search of Kayli’s mother, while Groo is restored to life. The cool thing about this story is how it turns the Minstrel from a one-dimensional comic relief character into a real character, with a personality and a past.

WONDER WOMAN #21 (DC, 2017) – “The Truth, Part Four,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Liam Sharp. This issue has much less Veronica Cale than #20, and it finally advances the plot, with Diana and Veronica getting to Themyscira or at least someplace close to it. However, since I know Greg is leaving this title, , I haven’t felt motivated to read the next two issues.

DENNIS THE MENACE #135 (Fawcett, 1974) – several uncredited stories. In this issue’s lead story, Dennis and his parents visit the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and there’s a beautiful silent page where Dennis dances in a room filled with strobe lights. This page reminds me a bit of that Calvin & Hobbes strip where Calvin and Hobbes dance to classical music. Of the other stories, the most memorable one is the one where Margaret comes over for dinner with Dennis, and proceeds to act as if she thinks Dennis and his family are beneath her.

Week of May 5. This week I was so busy with grading that I had almost no time to read comic books. I went to Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find for FCBD, and it was a lot of fun and I bought a bunch of stuff, but I have yet to read most of it.

PAPER GIRLS #14 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Brian K. Vaughan, (A) Cliff Chiang. As usual, lots and lots of stuff happens this issue, and it’s not completely clear how it all fits into the overall plot. The thing that most sticks out in my memory abut this issue is the disturbing revelation that Wari’s baby was “fathered” by all three of the caveman dudes. And then at the end of the issue, they steal the baby back from her. The two-page splash where Erin jumps across the chasm is spectacular, but I wish I could remember where she got those boots.

BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #3 (BOOM!, 2017) – “Buffalo Chicken Tater Tot Casserole,” (W) Sam Sykes, (A) Selina Espiritu. Like Ladycastle, this series deserves more than a four-issue run. In this issue, Brianna’s awful older brother Hans arrives in town and opens a food truck right across the street from Brianna’s restaurant. Brianna challenges him to a cook-off in order to get him to leave town, and she wins, but only because he unknowingly admits to using flour and sugar. And then Hans reveals that Brianna was using flour and sugar too, so Madame Cron shuts Brianna’s restaurant down, and Brianna’s depression demons take hold of her again. I assume this is all going to be resolved next issue, but there are so many fascinating ideas here – especially Brianna’s family issues and the cultural conflict between monsters and humans – that I wish Sam Sykes had more space to explore them.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “This Science Project is Life or Death!”, (W) Jeremy Whitley, (A) Elsa Charretier. This has become my most eagerly anticipated Marvel title besides Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl. This issue, Nadia and the members of GIRL work to solve Ying’s implanted bomb problem, with incidental help from Jarvis and Matt Murdock. Like Princeless: Raven, this issue has a large ensemble cast of young women, and their interactions are the best part of the issue. As stated in my review of issue 4, I also love Jarvis’s exasperated yet affectionate attitude toward the girls.

GOLDIE VANCE #12 (BOOM!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Hope Larson & Jackie Ball, (A) Noah Hayes. This is a satisfying conclusion to the Sugar Maple story, but I’m still annoyed that this series was cancelled. Oddly, there’s no indication in the issue itself that this is the last monthly issue, or that the series will be continuing in graphic novel form. I guess this series probably sells better in collected form anyway, and for people who only buy it in that format, the change won’t even be noticeable.

HAWKEYE #6 (Marvel, 2017) – “A Case, a Chase, a Shooting Ace,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Michael Walsh. The conclusion to the Rebecca Brown/Dhalia Dorian story guest-starring Jessica Jones. Not bad at all, but not spectacular either.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #53 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) James Asmus, (A) Tony Fleecs. The conclusion to the Shadow Lock story is kind of unimpressive. Too much stuff happens too quickly, and none of it has much impact. Andy Price could have made this an exciting story, but Tony Fleecs is not talented enough. I feel like either this story should have been four parts or more, or James Asmus should have tried something less ambitious for his debut story arc. On the bright side, it looks like next issue will be drawn by Jay Fosgitt.

NIGHTHAWK #1 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, (W) David F. Walker, (A) Ramon Villalobos. This was one of my purchases at FCBD. This series is brutally violent, but not purely for the sake of violence; it seems like David has a serious purpose in mind, though I’m not 100% sure what it is. The insane Dr. Nightshade is a fascinating sidekick.

PHONOGRAM #3 (Image, 2006) – “Faster,” (W) Kieron Gillen, (A) Jamie McKelvie. I missed this when it came out. Back in 2006, Tof Eklund recommended this series to me after this series had already come out. And I kind of can’t believe it’s been ten years since then. At that time, Kieron and Jamie were already very good, and Tof was prescient in spotting their talent. However, when I look at this comic now, what strikes me is how much better Jamie’s art is now than it was then. He drew some really good faces, but he hardly used any backgrounds, and his page layouts were much less creative than they are now.

FAITH #11 (Valiant, 2017) – “The Faithless, Part Two,” (W) Jody Houser, (A) Joe Eisma & Marguerite Sauvage. The members of the Faithless frame Faith for a whole bunch of crimes. As usual, the highlight of this issue is the villainous cat.

Week of May 12. I was again busy with grading this week, though I had a bit more time to read comics.

MS. MARVEL #18 (Marvel, 2017) – “Meanwhile in Wakanda,” (W) G. Willow Wilson, (A) Francesco Gaston. This is the first issue of the series in which Kamala doesn’t appear, except in a (surprisingly nonsexual) daydream of Bruno’s. Instead, this issue focuses on Bruno, who’s at school in Wakanda. Bruno has lost the use of his left side – I wish I could remember how this happened – and he’s also feeling homesick. And then his friend Kwezi coerces him into stealing vibranium from a government facility. And they get caught and have to be saved by T’Challa. But in an incredibly touching moment, it turns out Kwezi wanted the vibranium to make a prosthetic device for Bruno. Overall, this was a really good story, a powerful depiction of both disability and culture shock. I just hope Kamala and Bruno get back together soon.

FUTURE QUEST #12 (DC, 2017) – “Last Stand” (same title as last issue), (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Doc Shaner. The original creative team is reuinted as the heroes all team up to defeat Omnikron. The series ends very happily, but I’m sorry that it’s over. I hope that Jeff Parker or someone else will do more stories in this universe.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #9 (DC, 2017) – “The Ballad of Olive Silverlock, Part One,” (W) Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, (A) Adam Archer & Michelle Sassyk. Olive rampages around town hunting the descendants of Amity Arkham’s killers, including Two-Face and the Penguin, while the other kids try to solve the mystery of the Terrible Trio – a fox, a shark, and a raven. I don’t recall reading any stories with the Terrible Trio, but I believe they were a group of Golden Age villains, so these characters are a cute nod to old continuity.

TEX: PATAGONIA FCBD COLOR EDITION (Epicenter, 2017) – “Patagonia,” (W) Mauro Boselli, (A) Pasquale Frisenda. Tex is perhaps the most famous Italian comic besides Corto Maltese, but is almost unknown in America. I only know of one other English-language Tex comic, and even that one may have been created for the American market. So this FCBD issue is an exciting discovery. In this story, the cowboy Tex and his son Kit visit Argentina, where they join forces with a bunch of gauchos on a mission to negotiate with some Indians. Overall this is a really intriguing comic. The artwork in this story is fascinating; it reminds me of Hugo Pratt or Jordi Bernet, but is not nearly as stylized. The story is notable for its appearance of historical accuracy; it looks like the artist made a sincere effort to determine how gauchos looked, dressed and acted. The plot raises some deep questions about white-Indian relations, and Tex himself, from what we see of him, seems like much more than a generic cowboy; he’s more like Lieutenant Blueberry or Jonah Hex than the Lone Ranger. I don’t know when the full version of this book is coming out, but assuming it does come out, I plan on buying it. I hope this FCBD issue will make more people aware of the rich tradition of comics that Tex represents.

MANIFEST DESTINY #28 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Chris Dingess, (A) Matthew Roberts. This issue doesn’t really advance the plot at all, except that Lewis and Miss Boniface finally get the demon that’s brainwashing everyone to reveal itself.

SILVER SURFER #11 (Marvel, 2017) – “Zero-Sum Game,” (W) Dan Slott, (A) Mike Allred. One of the emotional high points of this run so far. Surfer and Dawn rush back to Earth to witness the birth of Dawn’s niece, but they get delayed because Warrior Zero keeps ambushing them, until Surfer finally gives up and defeats Warrior Zero by unleashing his full power. When Surfer and Dawn finally arrive, the baby has been born, but we shockingly discover that Dawn’s father seems to have died. The last page of this issue is a single panel with a giant black border, showing Dawn asking “Where’s Dad?” This may be an intentional homage to the last page of Fantastic Four #267, where Reed learns that Sue lost the baby. (Update: On Twitter, in response to my question, Dan Slott confirmed that it was an intentional reference.)

HILDA’S BACK FCBD (Nobrow, 2017) – “Hilda’s Back,” (W/A) Luke Pearson, plus “Garbage Night,” (W/A) Jen Lee. This comic has no indicia, so I’m just guessing as to what its official title is. I’ve resisted buying Luke Pearson’s Hilda books because they cost so much relative to the number of pages in them. I do have the one that was released in paperback, but I haven’t read it yet. So this FCBD issue was a useful introduction to Pearson’s work, which is amazing. His artwork is incredibly creative and colorful, and his storytelling is creative. The plot in this installment is that Hilda has been kidnapped by trolls and replaced by a changeling. I want to get the volume that this excerpt was taken from, so I can see what happens next. I just hope it comes out in paperback. I was much less impressed with the other story in this issue, an excerpt from Jen Lee’s forthcoming animal comic “Garbage Night.”

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #2 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jeremy Whitley, (A) Brenda Hickey. This issue is a bit odd because it’s the sequel to a story we’ve never been told. Its protagonist is Rockhoof, a character who seems to have been mentioned only once in the TV show (in “The Crystaling, Part 2” “Rockhoof’s Rapport” is one of the spells that Sunburst rejects using to reignite his friendship with Starlight Glimmer.) According to the intro to this issue, Rockhoof is most famous for digging a moat to save his village from a volcano, but this issue’s story starts after that, when Rockhoof has joined the local team of guardsmen. Now that he’s a hero, he stops training and spends his time partying instead, with disastrous results. The most interesting thing in this issue is the panel where Rockhoof participates in what is obviously supposed to be a drinking contest, except he’s eating oats instead of chugging beer.

ROCKET #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Blue River Score, Part 1: The Damsel,” (W) Al Ewing, (A) Adam Gorham. This new Rocket Raccoon series is very different in tone from the last one; it feels like a film noir story with science fiction trappings. Hanging out at a bar on an alien world, Rocket encounters an old girlfriend, Otta of Tarka’s World (named after Henry Williamson’s children’s book Tarka the Otter). She asks him to do her a favor, and he enlists the aid of some of the members of the Technet from Excalibur. I haven’t always been super-impressed with Al Ewing’s writing, but this issue is a lot of fun and I look forward to the next one.

DRAWN & QUARTERLY PRESENTS HOSTAGE FCBD (Drawn & Quarterly, 2017) – “Hostage,” (W/A) Guy Delisle, and “Poppies of Iraq,” (W) Brigitte Findakly, (A) Lewis Trondheim. Again, no title listed in the indicia. “Hostage” is about the kidnapping of Médecins Sans Frontières administrator Christopher André. It’s a brutal depiction of captivity, reminiscent of Joe Sacco’s “Moderate Pressure, Part 2.” “Poppies of Iraq” is a memoir of Brigitte Findakly’s childhood in Iraq. Her grim story contrasts uncomfortably with Trondheim’s cartoony art. After reading this comic, I finally read Trondheim’s Approximate Continuum Comics and was kind of delighted to realize that Brigitte Findakly is Trondheim’s wife, who is a major character in that book. Anyway, both the books excerpted in this FCBD issue look fantastic, and I look forward to reading them eventually.

BATMAN #20 (DC, 2013) – “Nowhere Man, Part 2 of 2,” (W) Scott Snyder, (A) Greg Capullo. I have read very little if any of Scott Snyder’s Batman. I need to read more of it, because it seems that he’s the most critically acclaimed Batman writer since Frank Miller. This issue is the second part of a story where Clayface tries to steal Batman’s identity. Bruce finds a clever way to defeat him, which would take too long to explain. This was a good story, but I get the sense that it’s not Snyder’s best.

BARNABY AND MR. O’MALLEY FCBD #1 (Fantagraphics, 2012, originally 1942-1943) – untitled, (W/A) Crockett Johnson. This is a valuable introduction to one of the great American comic strips, which was nearly unavailable until Phil Nel and Fantagraphics started publishing the entire run. Crockett Johnson’s lettering was very bizarre, but everything else about this comic strip is perfect. Johnson was a beautiful draftsman, he had perfect comic timing, and he came up with some amazing plots. This FCBD issue presents the first couple Barnaby strips as well as an extended storyline where Barnaby and his fairy godfather Mr. O’Malley explore a haunted house. The house turns out to be “haunted” by actual gangsters who are using it to store stolen coffee (which would have been a hot commodity in 1943, because of rationing). The issue ends just as the story is getting interesting, so now I really want to buy the Fantagraphics volume that contains the rest of this continuity.

BLACK CLOUD #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jason Latour & Ivan Brandon, (A) Greg Hinkle. I didn’t understand this issue at all, and it hasn’t been that long since I read the previous issue. A recap at the start of the issue would really have helped. At this point I haven’t been impressed with either of the first two issues of this series and I’m on the verge of dropping it. Speaking of titles that I’m considering dropping…

AMERICA #3 (Marvel, 2017) – “Highway to the Danger Room,” (W) Gabby Rivera, (A) Joe Quinones & Stacey Lee. My comments about issue 2 apply to issue 3 as well. This comic is very important because of its representation of queer Latinos, but it also has some crippling problems. Besides the overly verbose dialogue, which I’ve already complained about at length, this issue has a scattershot plot that goes nowhere and changes directions repeatedly. It feels like Rivera has no coherent vision for the future of this comic. I really want to support this comic, but I also really want it to be better than it is.

MISFIT CITY #1 (BOOM!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith & Kurt Lustgarten, (A) Naomi Franquiz. I was hesitant to read this because it’s based on The Goonies, which I have not seen. But it’s understandable on its own, although I expect it contains a lot of references that went over my head. More importantly, this is another really good BOOM! Box debut. It’s about a bunch of girls living in a small Oregon town, who discover a map to a hidden treasure, only to learn that some nasty people are looking for the same treasure. It’s a trite plot, but as usual with BOOM! Box, the art and writing are really good, and it has a diverse cast of interesting female characters. So this is another high-quality BOOM! Box debut.

I HATE IMAGE FCBD #1 (Image, 2017) – “I Hate Image,” (W/A) Skottie Young. In this FCBD issue, Gert kills the casts of all the other Image titles, then kills the Image founders. So this is basically the same as a regular issue of I Hate Fairyland, except with more metatext. At the FCBD event at Heroes, the staff had to warn people that this comic is not suitable for kids, despite its appearance.

BLACK BOLT #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Saladin Ahmed, (A) Christian Ward. I ordered this because it’s written by Saladin Ahmed, and I loved his novel Throne of the Crescent Moon. But the real appeal of this issue is Christian Ward’s art. It’s a bit unfortunate that he probably can’t do this series and ODY-C at the same time, but this comic is almost as well-drawn as ODY-C. It’s full of creepy-looking machinery and ominous coloring. The story is not bad, but it doesn’t have much of anything in common with Throne of the Crescent Moon, and it’s a bit too dependent on events in other Inhumans titles. (Incidentally, I wish Marvel would get the X-Men license back so they could stop forcing us to read about Inhumans.) Still, I liked this comic.

CHAMPIONS #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Mark Waid, (A) Humberto Ramos. Kind of an unsatisfying conclusion to the Freelancers story. After some awkward sexual tension between Amadeus and Viv, the Champions respond to the Freelancers’ co-optation of their trademark by publicly calling for a boycott of all the Freelancers’ merchandise. That’s a bit of an anticlimax. I just noticed that on the letters page of this issue, Ryan W. complains that in issue #5, “our beloved heroes fall into the trap of writing off the people on the other side of a debate not as misguided but as downright evil.” This is a version of the “sympathy for Trump voters” argument, and it makes me want to tell Ryan W. that if anyone is downright evil, it’s him.

BIG BLACK KISS #1 (Vortex, 1989) – “Book One,” (W/A) Howard Chaykin. I bought this entire miniseries at the most recent DragonCon I attended, which must have been in 2014, but I never bothered to start reading it because each issue was very long – each of them is a compilation of three or four shorter-than-normal comic books. Black Kiss has a notorious reputation as a pornographic work, but it’s really not all that dirty by modern standards; it’s a lot tamer than Sex Criminals, for example. Beyond all the sex and T&A, this comic has an intricate and exciting plot, although that plot is tough to follow – it took me a while to figure out that there were two protagonists who looked nearly alike. The only issue with this plot is that the characters are all completely unsympathetic; none of them has even the deeply compromised moral integrity or patriotism of Reuben Flagg. Still, I would classify this as one of Chaykin’s major works, and I will get around to reading the rest of it soon.

TIME SHIFTERS FCBD #1 (Scholastic, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Chris Grine. This is a preview of a new Scholastic graphic novel. I was not impressed by it. Chris Grine’s art is pretty good, but this comic appears to be just a generic wacky middle-grade adventure story, without the visual or narrative depth of Amulet or Cleopatra in Space.

BLACK PANTHER AND THE CREW #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “We Are the Streets, Part 1: Double Consciousness,” (W) Ta-Nehisi Coates, (A) Butch Guice. This is an interesting story about police brutality and Black Lives Matter, though it suffers from slow pacing and uninspired artwork. Of course the real story behind this comic is that it was cancelled after two issues. Predictably, websites like Breitbart are framing this comic’s cancellation as a rejection of diversity, and they’re also misreporting the story by making it seem like it was the main Black Panther title that was cancelled. Personally I think this comic was cancelled, not because there was no market for it, but because that market was already saturated. People who would be willing to buy one Black Panther title are not necessarily going to be willing to buy two of them, let alone three. Also, some readers probably fail to even realize that Black Panther and the Crew is a separate title from Black Panther. So while the cancellation of this title is unfortunate, it’s also not any kind of proof that Marvel’s diversity initiatives are doomed.

GODSHAPER #2 (BOOM!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Simon Spurrier, (A) Jonas Goonface. This was better than the first issue, and it was a ton of fun. Our protagonist, Ennay, encounters a fellow Godshaper named Clench. Clench is toting around a little orphan girl who he foists off onto Ennay, after having sex with him. Then Clench steals all of Ennay’s stuff, only to be captured by thugs who mistake him for Ennay. So basically, lots of stuff happens here and it’s all hilarious and fun. I love how Jonas Goonface draws the gods; he does a great job of visually distinguishing gods from people, and his gods all look strange and unique.

ELEANOR AND THE EGRET #1 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Feathers and Felonies,” (W) John Layman, (A) Sam Kieth. I had low expectations for this, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The protagonist, Eleanor, is an art thief who somehow has a magical egret companion. Her nemesis is a bumbling detective who has a non-magical cat companion. This premise is already quite funny, but Sam Kieth elevates it to another level with his exquisite Art Deco-inspired artwork. I’m excited to read more of this.

BAD MACHINERY FCBD #1 (Oni, 2017) – “The Case of the Forked Road,” (W/A) John Allison. This has a very similar style of humor to that of Giant Days; indeed, it basically is Giant Days, except it takes place in a high school instead of a university. But it was a bit tedious to read because of my lack of familiarity with the characters and the premise. However, after reading this comic I am curious to learn the solution to the mystery. I have the pocket edition of the first Bad Machinery volume, but have not read it yet.

GIANT DAYS #26 (BOOM!, 2017) – untitled, (W) John Allison, (A) Max Sarin. This, on the other hand, is amazing. Dean gets engaged to a clearly unsuitable woman who he met in an online RPG, so the other characters conspire to stop the wedding. Reading this issue, I realized that just like Bad Machinery, Giant Days has two parallel groups of protagonists, three girls and three boys (Dean, Ed and McGraw). I just haven’t noticed the parallelism because the girls are so much more prominent.

SPIDER-GWEN #19 (Marvel, 2017) – “Predators, Part 1,” (W) Jason Latour, (A) Robbi Rodriguez. The plot of this series has gotten too convoluted to follow; at this point, it involves George Stacy, the Kingpin (Matt Murdock), the Lizard (Harry Osborn), and the Venom symbiote. What is clear is that Gwen, as usual, is under extreme pressure from all sides, especially because of her debt to the Kingpin. By the end of the issue, she’s in Madripoor looking for the Lizard, and Wolverine shows up on the last page.

BACCHUS COLOR SPECIAL #1 (Dark Horse, 1995) – untitled, (W) Eddie Campbell, (A) Teddy Kristiansen. The idea of Bacchus in color and drawn by someone other than Eddie is kind of strange, but in this case it works, because Teddy’s painted artwork is gorgeous. This issue, Bacchus visits Cadiz where he’s invited to a tasting of a wine he himself made 400 years ago, which supposedly has the power to grant wishes. It turns out the wine contains the spirit of Bacchus’s old girlfriend. It’s a touching story with an interesting moral: “Wishes are identical triplets; regrets are the legions of the damned.” An obscure reference in this issue is “Hugh Johnson’s remembering the other time he tasted a 400-year-old wine.” There really is a famous wine writer named Hugh Johnson, and he really did once taste a wine made in 1540.

Reviews for first half of April

I wrote these last month, but forgot to post them.

LUMBERJANES #36 (IDW, 2017) – “Might as Wheel” (part 3), (W) Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, (A) Carolyn Nowak. Allowing for the fact that I was sleepy when I read this, it was my least favorite issue in a while. The conclusion of the roller derby story arc was overly predictable, and the issue had a shortage of funny gags or emotional moments. But I’m eagerly anticipating the Parents’ Day story arc.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #17 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Smartest There Is! Part Five: X Equals,” (W) Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder, (A) Natacha Bustos. I read this before March 31, when Marvel executive David Gabriel ignited a massive scandal by claiming that diversity was hurting Marvel’s sales. As I hope to demonstrate at greater length somewhere, one problem with Gabriel’s claim is that it ignores sales in venues other than the direct market. Marvel’s “diverse” titles may not be doing great in the direct market, but there is evidence that these titles are doing much better in bookstores and in digital formats – although it’s unfortunately hard to find information about sales in these forums. But Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur is the best example of how the direct market is not everything, not even for Marvel. Moon Girl regularly sells 10,000 copies or less in comic book stores, which are sub-cancellation numbers, but it sells extremely well in bookstores and at Scholastic book fairs. I would even suggest that despite its terrible direct market sales, Moon Girl is the second most important Marvel title after Ms. Marvel, because of its ability to attract new readers to the Marvel Universe.

I have already voiced some criticisms of this series, but it’s tremendously fun and cute, and Lunella is a fun and refreshingly flawed protagonist. And #17 is one of the better issues of the current story arc. It’s fun to see Lunella interact with multiple other superheroes, and to see her playing the Kitty Pryde role with Wolverine and Storm.

HULK #4 (Marvel, 2017) – “Deconstructed, Part Four,” (W) Mariko Tamaki, (A) Nico Leon. This issue suffers from poor pacing. Jen’s conversation with Maizie Brewn is a touching moment, but besides that, this issue doesn’t significantly advance the plot, nor does it tell us anything we didn’t already know. This could have been a four-issue storyline. Probably the high point of the issue is the giant woman who keeps breaking chairs.

JEM AND THE MISFITS #3 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kelly Thompson & Sophie Campbell, (A) Jenn St.-Onge. This issue, we learn Blaze’s origin story (starting from when she was already living as a woman), and also Blaze announces she’s starting a side project, and Pizzazz is surprisingly fine with it. The emotional peak of the issue is when Blaze runs into her idol, Luna Dark. This issue was not nearly as powerful as the previous one, but that’s fine; I think two such devastating stories in a row might have been overkill.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #52 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, (W) James Asmus, (A) Tony Fleecs. Part two of the Shadow Lock story. Highlights of this issue include the “Ponybert” parody comic strip, and Pinkie Pie battling a Lovecraftian creature and winning. But overall this was a fairly average pony comic.

FUTURE QUEST #11 (DC, 2017) – “Last Stand,” (W) Jeff Parker, (A) Evan “Doc” Shaner. What it says on the tin. The entire team engages in an epic battle against Omnikron, with varying success. This was a really well-written example of an epic fight scene, and it reminds me a lot of the last issue of DC: The New Frontier. I’m sorry there’s just one issue left.

DESCENDER #20 (Image, 2017) – “Orbital Mechanics 4 of 5,” (W) Jeff Lemire, (A) Dustin Nguyen. Probably my favorite thing about this issue is the pink alien frog on page one, but that’s not to say that this was a bad issue. It advances the plot in a mostly unsurprising way, and introduces a new character, Mizerd, who reminds me of Yoda.

WONDER WOMAN #19 (DC, 2017) – “The Truth, Part Three,” (W) Greg Rucka, (A) Liam Sharp. The day I wrote this review, I learned that Greg was leaving Wonder Woman because its twice-monthly schedule was keeping him from working on other projects. It’s a shame, but I’m fine with his decision if it means we’ll get more Black Magick. I’m just sorry that Renae de Liz probably can’t be his replacement.

This issue, Diana recovers consciousness with Ferdinand’s help, and we get significantly less of Veronica Cale than usual, which is a good thing.

GREAT LAKES AVENGERS #6 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Zac Gorman, (A) Will Robson. I think this issue’s cover is based on the cover of Excalibur #4, which was itself a metatextual joke. This issue, most of the team fights Dr. Nod, while Doorman gets a new sidekick, an old dead man named Greg Garlick. The stories in this title are sometimes forgettable, but I enjoy its sarcastic tone.

WOLFF & BYRD, COUNSELORS OF THE MACABRE #19 (Exhibit A, 1998) – “Sonofawitch! Chapter Two,” (W/A) Batton Lash. This story is very hard to follow, especially given that I don’t remember what happened in part one, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s full of convoluted plot twists and relationship drama. It also raises some interesting questions about feminism. (One scene takes place at an event held by the Associates of Portia, based on the Friends of Lulu.) The funniest moment is when the opposing lawyer, Laura, says “I think it’s appaling that women’s rights have a lower priority than … than … ghosts and goblins at this firm!” and a goblin sitting on a nearby couch says “Hey!”

DOOM PATROL #5 (DC, 2017) – “Let’s Go Fast: Brick by Brick, Part 5,” (W) Gerard Way, (A) Nick Derington. Unfortunately this is likely to be the next to last issue because Gerard Way can’t keep a regular schedule. At least this is an exciting and fun and well-drawn comic, and an affectionate follow-up to Grant Morrison’s classic series. This issue, Casey’s parents get killed, and Crazy Jane finally shows up.

DEPT. H #9 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W/A) Matt Kindt. I got behind on this series because it was suffering from a lack of momentum. This current storyline seems to be focusing on one character each issue, kind of like the “Singularities” story arc in Descender. This issue focuses on Q, the quiet bald guy with all the tattoos.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #14 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) David F. Walker, (A) Sanford Greene. Another fun but unexciting issue of the Alex Wilder story arc. I hope the conclusion is more entertaining than the first three parts. The funniest thing in the issue is the chant “mamase mamasa mamakusa” (a reference to Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”).

DEPT. H #10 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Matt Kindt. This issue is a spotlight on Roger, the old guy with no legs. It’s mostly about Hari and Mia and Raj and their tortured family life. Roger’s version of this story is that Hari was completely committed to his mission (I don’t think we know what that was yet) at the expense of his family life, to such an extent that he shouldn’t have started a family to begin with. But there are hints that Roger is not a reliable narrator and that Mia’s version of this story is different. Also, Roger seems to have been in love with Mia’s mother.

DEPT. H #11 – as above. The characters are almost ready to return to the surface, but Mia goes back for something, and has a flashback to another period in Hari’s life. In this period Hari and Roger had a third friend, Blake, who drowned trying to rescue another person. It’s not clear how this relates to anything else.

NO MERCY #14 (Image, 2017) – “17927 and Descending,” (W) Alex de Campi, (A) Carla Speed McNeil. This issue focuses on Anthony, perhaps the most sympathetic character in the series, although that may be because he can’t make himself sound stupid by talking. It’s an interesting example of the representation of deafness in comics, though it’s not as innovative as the Pizza Dog issue of Hawkeye. It’s also an interesting story about the urban/rural divide. Anthony is from a dying rural Pennsylvania town and is the only kid in his school who’s likely to amount to anything. For Anthony’s friends, Princeton is as far away as Mars.

LADY KILLER II #4 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Joëlle Jones. Josie unwisely lets Irving live, then goes out and kills someone else, and then some as yet unidentified person breaks into Josie’s house. Compared to last issue, which was genuinely innovative, this issue is much more of a formulaic Lady Killer story.

THE FLINTSTONES #9 (DC, 2017) – “A Basket of Disposables,” (W) Mark Russell, (A) Steve Pugh. This issue is a really disturbing exploration of the bizarre implications of owning appliances that are alive. This topic has been covered before in this series, but never in this much detail. Fred throws away his old bowling ball, and the other appliances have to rescue it from a meat recycling facility. Ewwww. Meanwhile, Fred gets laid off because his boss finds other people who can do the job cheaper, but after the boss himself is subjected to a similar injustice, he has a change of heart and hires Fred back. This series is a fascinating and thoughtful piece of political satire, and unlike Prez, it’s not harmed by its lack of an ongoing plot.

SUPER POWERS #5 (DC, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Art Baltazar, (W) Franco. Lots of stuff happens in this issue, but the most surprising thing is that the Unknown Superman reveals himself to be Prym-El’s future self, then takes Prym-El with him into the future. And Jor-El and Lara seem totally unconcerned that they’ve just lost their newborn son. This gives me the sense that Art and Franco aren’t paying much attention.

SUPERMAN #18 (DC, 2017) – “Superman Reborn, Part 1,” (W/A) Patrick Gleason, (W) Peter J. Tomasi. I couldn’t care less about the bigger continuity implications of this story, but the scene where Jon Kent disappears is quite well-done. Unlike most comics that are lead-ins to a giant crossover, this one is quite readable and has an emotional charge to it.

ZOT! #27 (Eclipse, 1989) – “Ring in the New, Part Two,” (W/A) Scott McCloud. This was one of only two issues of this series that I was missing. The good guys defeat the Blotch and Dr. Bellows, in a scene that ends with some experimental, abstract panels that remind me of the “non sequitur” page from Understanding Comics. Then Zot and Jenny decide to visit Jenny’s universe, but get stuck there. The nine subsequent issues, which took place on Earth, were the high point of this series. Overall, Scott was really good back in 1989, and I wish he’d go back to Zot! His recent work has been far less interesting; I didn’t even bother reading The Sculptor because it got such poor reviews.

DEPT. H #12 (Dark Horse, 2017) – as above. The characters head for the surface in two submarines, only to be prevented from surfacing because of fears that they may be carrying a plague. And now I’m finally caught up.

New comics received on March 31. At this point in the school year, I was (and still am) super exhausted and slammed with work, and I don’t have much time to read comics.

LADYCASTLE #2 (Boom!, 2017) – “That Pesky Werewolf Problem,” (W) Delilah S. Dawson, (A) Becca Farrow. This is not a Boom! Box title, but it easily could be. It reminds me most of Slam!, in that the content is mostly suitable for kids, but the style of writing is mature and adult. This issue might be even better than the first one. The plolt is that werewolves are attacking the castle, but the issue is full of allk kinds of gags and emotional moments. Just as one example, it begins with a parody (or maybe just a direct quotation) of “I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight” from Camelot. I am really enjoying this series. I wish it was longer than four issues, and I look forward to seeing more from this writer.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #24 (IDW, 2017) – “Truly Outrageous, Part One,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Gisele Lagace. This issue is much better drawn compared to the previous storyline, and its plot is truly exciting. Shana rejoins the band as the bassist, and then all the major characters go to Hawaii on vacation. At the end of the issue, Jerrica reveals her secret identity to Rio, something which has apparently never happened before in this franchise’s history.

ANIMOSITY #6 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Wake Up,” (W) Marguerite Bennett, (A) Rafael De Latorre. This issue, it turns out that the villain is a giant bearded vulture, and it’s been harvesting other animals for food. I feel like this series’s premise is logically unsustainable and is likely to collapse under its own weight, but that hasn’t happened quite yet, and this issue was quite exciting and scary.

KAMANDI CHALLENGE #3 (DC, 2017) – “Bug in Your Ear,” (W) Jimmy Palmiotti, (A) Amanda Conner. Like DC Challenge from the ‘80s, this is a collaborative miniseries in which each issue has a different creative team. I didn’t read the first two issues, and I only bought this issue because of who drew it. The story is pointless and silly, but Amanda’s art is up to its usual level of quality. I just wish she could draw more than one comic book a year.

ROCKET RACCOON #4 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, (W) Matthew Rosenberg, (A) Jorge Coelho. Rocket escapes Kraven by crashing Kraven’s ship into the Statue of Liberty, but is caught and imprisoned in a refugee camp for aliens. He immediately builds a flamethrower and leads an escape attempt. This series has been really fun, and I’m sorry it’s being cancelled after just five issues. Some people have argued that Marvel’s poor sales are the result of their habit of constantly cancelling and restarting their titles. Rocket Raccoon is the best example of that. The upcoming Rocket series will be the fourth new ongoing series starring this character in as many years, and that doesn’t count the two Groot series.

UNWORTHY THOR #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Whisper,” (W) Jason Aaron, (A) Olivier Coipel. Odinson obviously chooses not to try to lift the other-dimensional hammer – I say obviously because it’s clear that his character arc was not going to end this way. Hela teams up with Thanos, forming a partnership that makes a lot of sense, and we learn that Nick Fury’s fateful words to Thor were “Gorr was right.” This revelation would have had a bigger impact if I’d known who Gorr was. I guess the point is that gods are just bad news in general. I think the highlight of this issue is Thori drinking some spilled beer and saying “This tastes better than murder!”

Resuming on May 1:

ETHER #4 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, (W) Matt Kindt, (A) David Rubin. This issue introduces Boone’s wife Hazel, unless she already appeared before and I forgot. As with earlier issues, David Rubín’s art is more exciting than Matt Kindt’s story.

ETHER #5 (Dark Horse, 2017) – as above. An okay conclusion to a series that didn’t quite live up to its potential. Boone proves that Ubel murdered the Golden Blaze, and the series ends with a flashback to one of Boone’s earlier trips to the Aether. According to the last page, this is the end of volume one. If there is a volume two, I might as well get it, but more because of the art than the writing.

THOR #175 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Fall of Asgard!”, (W) Stan Lee, (A) Jack Kirby. Loki invades Asgard with the help of some giants and steals Odin’s Ring Imperial, thus making Loki the king of Asgard. The Ring Imperial was mentioned for the first time in this issue, and has only showed up a couple of times since. This issue is beautifully drawn, but it suffers from a flaw common to many issues of Lee and Kirby’s Thor, which is that it seems very similar to all the other issues of Lee and Kirby’s Thor. Like, how many different stories were there in which Loki conquered Asgard?

GROO THE WANDERER #1 (Marvel, 1985) – “The Song of Groo,” (W/A) Sergio Aragonés, (W) Mark Evanier. The first issue of the Epic run is only notable because begins with a page in which Sergio inroduces the series, and it’s the first appearance of the Minstrel. It also introduces the running joke in which the Minstrel tells an unflattering story about Groo, only to discover that Groo is in his audience. At this point Sergio’s artwork still looks kind of off-model.

DAREDEVIL #119 (Marvel, 1975) – “They’re Tearing Down Fogwell’s Gym!”, (W) Tony Isabella, (A) Bob Brown. This issue, like its writer and its artist, is competent but not spectacular. On a visit to the gym where his father trained, Matt fights a promising young boxer who’s been turned into the Crusher, a villain from Iron Man #6. Tony Isabella writes Matt as a flamboyant man with an obnoxious sense of humor, which, to be fair, was consistent with Matt’s characterization at the time. There’s a funny line where the owner of Fogwell’s gym says that his neighborhood is a home for people with “strange names… like Flanagan and Morgenstein and Rocco and Murdock. Only the names have changed – to Raverez and Ortez and the like.” Raverez and Ortez are pretty strange names, come to think of it.

BLACK #1 (BlackMask, 2017) – “Chapter One,” (W) Kwanza Osajyefo, (A) Tim Smith 3 & Jamal Igle. This is the series about a world where only black people have super powers. It’s a well-written and well-drawn comic, and I love the premise, but there’s not enough narrative content in this issue for me to evaluate this series fully. I definitely want to read more of it though.

BLACK HAMMER #4 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, (W) Jeff Lemire, (A) Dean Ormston. Abraham Slam invites Tammy Trueheart home for dinner, but Golden Gail deliberately tries to embarrass him and ruin the date. Like the previous issue of Black Hammer I read, this is very well done, but I’m not 100% sure what this comic’s ongoing plot is about or how this issue fits into it.

GREEN ARROW #57 (DC, 1992) – “…And Not a Drop to Drink,” (W) Mike Grell, (A) Rick Hoberg. I like this series a lot, and it’s strange that I haven’t read more issues of it lately. The highlight of this issue is the opening scene, where Ollie and Dinah see Singin’ in the Rain, then Ollie starts singing the title song out loud in public. The main plot involves a terrorist who’s trying to poison Seattle’s water supply with radioactive iodine.

WEIRD WESTERN TALES #64 (DC, 1980) – “With Friends Like These…”, (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Dick Ayers. Some former Confederate soldiers put Scalphunter on “trial” for killing a Confederate general. Bat Lash deliberately ensures Scalphunter’s conviction as part of his plot to set Scalphunter free, which he does with the aid of a bunch of prostitutes (obviously not identified as such). Bat Lash and Scalphunter are a good comic pairing because the latter has no sense of humor and the former is incapable of being serious.

DEADFACE: DOING THE ISLANDS WITH BACCHUS #2 (Dark Horse, 1991) – “The Book-Keeper from Atlantis” and other stories, (W/A) Eddie Campbell. This is a collection of interlinked short stories previously published in a number of venues, including Dark Horse Presents. I remembered reading at least one of these stories before, but others were new to me. The basic plot thread is that Bacchus and Simpson find themselves on a Greek island with a bunch of yuppies, and Bacchus entertains them with stories while also driving them into a bacchanalian frenzy. In general, this is some fantastic work. The highlight is probably the sequence with the refrain “red is the cup and deep is the wine,” but I also like the black-humorous story where Bacchus accidentally burns down the library of Atlantis.

SWEET TOOTH #22 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Endangered Species, Part Three,” (W/A) Jeff Lemire. Jeff’s artwork is great, but I don’t understand this comic’s story at all. I probably should read it in trade paperback format instead.

DIRTY PLOTTE #6 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1993) – “If I Was A Man” and other stories, (W/A) Julie Doucet. This issue contains a number of stories, most of which are about women becoming men. I suppose this is an interesting example of transgender representation in comics. What is perhaps most interesting about it is that the stories are all very polymorphously perverse and very joyful and exuberant – like, Julie seems really excited about the possibilities opened up by suddenly having a penis. Her artwork is brilliant as always, but extremely busy and complicated, which makes this comic difficult to read when I’m tired (as I always am in the month of April).

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #169 (DC, 1979) – “The Doomsday Decision,” (W) Gerry Conway, (A) Dick Dillin. A very forgettable and mediocre story. Ultraa sues the Justice League in the World Court of the United Nations for… something, I’m not sure what. And it turns out Ultraa’s lawyer is some kind of alien neutrino creature. Besides the fact that this story is very boring, the biggest problem with it is that the World Court does not hear lawsuits filed by individuals, only governments. (Of course it’s odd that I’m not willing to accept that an private individual could sue someone in the World Court, but I am willing to accept that alien neutrino creatures could exist.)

New comics received on March 7:

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #25 (IDW, 2017) – “Truly Outrageous, Part Two,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Gisele Lagace. In the penultimate issue, Jem reveals her secret identity to Rio, and Rio really does not take it well. While Rio’s reaction is understandable, it also suggests that he and Jem are better off without each other, as Rio could certainly have been a more understanding boyfriend. There’s also a lot of other drama, including Kimber falling into a volcano. This issue’s depiction of Hawaiian food appears to be accurate.

BLACK CLOUD #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Jason Latour & Ivan Brandon, (A) Greg Hinkle. I was really tired when I read this comic (as I still am when writing these reviews), but I thought this comic was a bit disappointing. It appears to be about a homeless woman who lives either in some dystopian future world, or in contemporary America – it’s hard to tell the difference. And she has the power to project people into a fantasy world. I’m willing to stick with this comic to see where it’s going, but so far I’m not seeing much that’s exciting here.

PAPER GIRLS #13 (Image, 2017) – untitled, (W) Brian K. Vaughan, (A) Cliff Chiang. I think the best thing about this story arc is the prehistoric Virgin Mary character. “Is having a baby the most awesome thing in the world?” “It is painful and terrifying.” This issue also explains the origin of the hockey stick that said DON’T TRUST OTHER ERIN. Though you would think Erin could have clarified *which* other Erin. As usual, this comic’s plot is extremely confusing, and judging by the visions of the future that appear at the end of the issue, it will get murkier before it gets clearer.

GOLDIE VANCE #11 (BOOM! Box, 2017) – untitled, (W) Hope Larson & Jackie Ball, (A) Noah Hayes. I’m saddened to hear that the next issue of this series will be the last. I’m glad that it will be continuing in trade paperback format, which seems a more natural format for a comic like this, anyway. And I certainly plan to buy the trade paperbacks, assuming they actually do come out. But I was hoping that this comic could beat the odds by remaining viable in comic book format, despite all the factors working against its success. (A kid-oriented detective comic with a queer black female protagonist is not the sort of thing that sells well in comic book stores.) I wonder if the cancellation of Goldie Vance is a sign that the split between the direct market and the digital/bookstore market is only going to get wider.

As for Goldie Vance #11 itself, it’s another really fun issue. I love the scene at the end where Goldie compares her family to the Maple family. Goldie’s parents may be divorced, but they love her, and Goldie knows it and is grateful.

BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #2 (Boom!, 2017) – “Today’s Special: Bánh Xèo – Savory Vietnamese Crepes,” (W) Sam Sykes, (A) Selina Espiritu. Even better than last issue. Things in the restaurant are predictably chaotic, and Suzan thinks she’s a failure, but when a customer is mean to Susan, Brianna heroically defends her. Meanwhile, a certain Madame Cron visits the restaurant and is not happy that a human is invading Monster City. This comic is cute and funny but also explores serious issues like dysfunctional family relationships and cultural appropriation. I think Bleeding Cool is silly to suggest that Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle’s upcoming Moonstruck is some kind of clone or ripoff of Brave Chef Brianna. It seems clear to me that any similarities between these two comics are incidental – just like the similarities between Goldie Vance and Motor Crush, which are both about queer black girls who are interested in motorsports, but which are otherwise completely different comics.

KIM REAPER #1 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, (W/A) Sarah Graley. I’m glad I ordered this because it’s the sort of thing that could easily have fallen below my radar. The title character is a young woman who’s working as a “part-time Grim Reaper” to pay her way through college. And her first job gets botched thanks to another student who has a crush on her. Also, Kim’s first job is to harvest the soul of a cat. Which is one of about thirty cats owned by a long-haired shirtless fitness enthusiast. Basically this is a hilarious and cute comic, and I hope it gets a wide audience.

DONALD DUCK #252 (Gladstone, 1987) – “Trail of the Unicorn,” (W/A) Carl Barks. In this classic Barks story, Donald and Gladstone compete to bring back a unicorn from “Shangri-Lala” in the Himalayas for Scrooge’s private zoo. This is an amazing story. It reminds me of “Lost in the Andes” because of its stark mountain landscapes. It has some awesome moments, especially the panel where Donald says “I imagine unicorns are very timid animals!” while right behind him, we can see a unicorn that looks anything but timid. It’s curious that at the end of this story, Scrooge pays Donald two million dollars for saving the unicorn’s life, but in every other Barks story, Donald is completely broke. And we never again see the giant limousine in which Donald is riding in the last panel. Clearly Barks wasn’t worried about continuity.

HAWKEYE #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “Persons of Interest,” (W) Kelly Thompson, (A) Michael Walsh. Hawkeye teams up with Jessica Jones to track down a kidnapped girl. The issue begins and ends with an homage to Sunset Blvd. This is a pretty good issue, but I don’t remember much about it.

AMERICA #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Girls Wanna Be Her,” (W) Gabby Rivera, (A) Joe Quinones & Ming Doyle. I have such mixed feelings about this comic. It’s important because of its radically progressive politics and its queer Latina representation. But it also suffers from severe overwriting and an aimless, illogical plot. Gabby Rivera’s lack of comics experience is evident from the way she crams 15 to 20 words into each word balloon, thereby slowing the story down and detracting from the art. On the positive side, I did like the Lunella Lafayette sequence, and one could argue that Gabby writes Lunella better than Brandon and Amy do. But I feel like there must be writers out there who are politically progressive and queer and Latina, and who have experience writing for comics. I think if Marvel is interested in promoting diversity (which is unfortunately not 100% clear at the moment), they need to do it by hiring diverse writers who are already in the industry, rather than writers from other media who have no comics experience.

FAITH #10 (Valiant, 2017) – “The Faithless, Part One,” (W) Jody Houser, (A) Joe Eisma w/ Marguerite Sauvage. Four of Faith’s old enemies team up to get revenge on her. The clear highlight of the issue is Dark Star the telepathic cat. In the first panel, one security guard asks another why they need so much security for a cat. Obviously he’s not a cat person, or he would understand. Also, in general, Joe Eisma is really good at drawing cats – Dark Star looks and moves just like a real cat.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #18 (DC, 1994) – “The Scorpion, Act Two,” (W) Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle, (A) Guy Davis. I don’t think I’ve read part one, although it may be somewhere in my unread boxes. The villain in this story is a Texan who murders people with a whip. As usual, in this issue Dian is at least as entertaining and as essential to the plot as Wesley.

GIANT DAYS #25 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) John Allison, (A) Max Sarin. Over Christmas vacation, Susan goes home for a reunion with her separated parents and her six older sisters. Susan tries and fails to get her parents back together, but they get back together anyway when Susan’s other sister moves in with her new baby. Also, I guess Susan is Greek. I forget if we were supposed to know that. I just finished a draft of a review essay on the BOOM! Box line, and I had trouble explaining why Giant Days appeals to me or how it fits into the overall BOOM! Box aesthetic – though that doesn’t mean I don’t love Giant Days.

CHAMPIONS #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “Gwenpions,” (W) Mark Waid, (A) Humberto Ramos. I think I already mentioned how this series has the same creative team as Impulse in the ‘90s. I didn’t bother reading this comic because I’m getting sick of Gwenpool, but like most of the other issues of Champions, this is better than I expected. The Champions investigate a rural town where the Muslim community keep getting terrorized, with the connivance of the Joe Arpaio-esque sheriff. And then Gwenpool shows up and refuses to believe that the sheriff isn’t a supervillain in disguise. I really like Kamala’s speech about how authority structures can get corrupted all by themselves, without any supervillain’s help.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #19 (DC, 1994) – “The Scorpion, Act Three,” as above. By the end of this issue, I had a pretty good idea of who the Scorpion was, and it turned out I was right. There is a funny scene where the other suspect, Buster Calhoun, turns out to be engaging in kinky sex with a prostitute, rather than killing someone with a whip. As usual, Dian plays a significant role in solving the mystery, while pretending to be just a brainless socialite. I like Dian a lot; indeed, half the fun of this comic is the interplay between the vivacious, aggressive Dian and the quiet milquetoast Wesley.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #20 (DC, 1994) – as above. A slightly predictable but satisfying conclusion to the mystery. It’s too bad that the other female character in the story – the Scorpion’s female coworker – ends up getting killed.

HOUSE OF SECRETS #80 (DC, 1966) – Prince Ra-Man in “The Death of the Six-Sided Sun,” (W) Bob Haney, (A) Bernard Baily; and Eclipso in “The Giant Eclipso,” (W) Bob Haney, (A) Jack Sparling. This is the last issue of the original version of HoS; it was relaunched three years later as a horror series. Given this series’ title, I kind of assumed it was always a horror comic, but its original incarnation was as a science fiction/fantasy comic. Of the two features in this issue, Prince Ra-Man is a bad Doctor Strange ripoff – I didn’t realize this strip was based on Doctor Strange until I looked it up, but it’s obvious in retrospect. The Eclipso story is a bit better, and since Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1 was one of the first comic books I ever read, it’s exciting to see the original version of this character.

RICHIE RICH RICHES #29 (Harvey, 1977) – various uncredited stories. I believe this is the first Richie Rich comic in my collection, and boy, does it suck. It consists of a series of gag stories which are implausible, illogical and unfunny. It’s not even as good as other Harvey comics I’ve read, let alone Uncle Scrooge or Little Archie.

JUGHEAD #14 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, (W) Ryan North, (A) Derek Charm. This issue concludes the story arc about Reggie being king for a month. It’s good, but it’s mostly a series of gags, and it’s not my favorite Jughead comic. I think Chip Zdarsky’s Jughead was better than Ryan North’s Jughead.

THE FLINTSTONES #10 (DC, 2017) – “Buyer’s Remorse,” (W) Mark Russell, (A) Steve Pugh. This comic is getting a lot of positive critical response; it might be the 2017 version of Tom King’s Vision. This issue, Betty becomes an actress in a film by Werner Herzrock, a hilarious parody of Werner Herzog. Meanwhile, Clod finally starts to face some consequences from his defunding of the children’s hospital and his crusade against the lizard people. I don’t know if this comic was initially intended as a satire of Trump, but it certainly has become that.

My tentative Eisner votes

In general, while the Eisner judges did not nominate exactly the works I would have nominated (I would have nominated Ms. Marvel and Lumberjanes for at least something), this is a strong ballot as usual.

Best Short Story 

  • “Mostly Saturn,” by Michael DeForge, in Island Magazine #8 (Image)

I don’t think I read any of the others.

Best Single Issue/One-Shot

  • Beasts of Burden: What the Cat Dragged In, by Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, and Jill Thompson (Dark Horse)

This was the only one I read.

Best Continuing Series

  • Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image)

Best Limited Series 

  • The Vision, by Tom King and Gabriel Walta (Marvel)

I’m a bit surprised this was considered a limited series.

Best New Series 

  • Faith, by Jody Houser, Pere Pérez, and Marguerite Sauvage (Valiant)

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8) – no vote

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)

  • Ghosts, by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic)
  • Hilda and the Stone Forest, by Luke Pearson (Flying Eye Books)
  • Rikki, adapted by Norm Harper and Matthew Foltz-Gray (Karate Petshop)
  • Science Comics: Dinosaurs, by MK Reed and Joe Flood (First Second)

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)

  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, by Ryan North and Erica Henderson (Marvel)

Best Humor Publication

  • Jughead, by Chip Zdarsky, Ryan North, Erica Henderson, and Derek Charm (Archie)

Best Anthology

  • Island Magazine, edited by Brandon Graham and Emma Rios (Image)

Best Reality-Based Work

  • Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir, by Tom Hart (St. Martin’s)

This is the first category so far that I’ve had to seriously think about; March volume 3 is the other strong candidate.

Best Graphic Album—New

  • The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, by Sonny Liew (Pantheon)

I haven’t read this yet but it looks like the best.

Best Graphic Album—Reprint

  • Demon, by Jason Shiga (First Second)

Tough choice between this and Incomplete Works. I have both but have not finished reading either.

Best U.S. Edition of International Material

  • Moebius Library: The World of Edena, by Jean “Moebius” Giraud et al. (Dark Horse)

I’d almost rather not vote for this because it’s material that was already published in English, but the only other one I read was Wrinkles, and it wasn’t as good as The World of Edena.

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia

  • Goodnight Punpun, vols. 1–4, by Inio Asano, translated by JN PRoductions (VIZ Media)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips (at least 20 years old)

  • Barnaby, vol. 3, by Crockett Johnson, edited by Philip Nel and Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books (at least 20 Years Old)

  • The Complete Wimmen’s Comix, edited by Trina Robbins (Fantagraphics)

I can’t afford this, but it looks like the best of the five.

Best Writer

  • Brian K. Vaughan, Paper Girls, Saga, We Stand On Guard (Image)

Best Writer/Artist

  • Tom Hart, Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir (St. Martin’s)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team

  • Fiona Staples, Saga (Image)

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art)

  • Sana Takeda, Monstress (Image)

Admittedly I am erring on the side of voting for someone who might show up to accept her Eisner.

Best Cover Artist (for multiple covers)

  • Mike Del Mundo, Avengers, Carnage, Mosaic, The Vision (Marvel)

Best Coloring

  • Matt Wilson, Cry Havoc, Paper Girls, The Wicked + The Divine (Image); Black Widow, The Mighty Thor, Star-Lord (Marvel)

Best Lettering

  • Tom Gauld, Mooncop (Drawn & Quarterly)

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism 

Best Comics-Related Book

  • Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White, by Michael Tisserand (Harper)

Looking forward to reading this.

Best Academic/Scholarly Work 

  • Forging the Past: Set and the Art of Memory, by Daniel Marrone (University Press of Mississippi)

I’m just guessing because I haven’t read any of these.

Best Publication Design

  • The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, designed by Sonny Liew (Pantheon)

Best Webcomic

Best Digital Comic

What’s the difference between these categories?