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.

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