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.

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