I have bought and read a massive number of comic books since the last time I wrote reviews. First, I went to Minneapolis in early June, where I visited the Comic Book College, probably for the last time before they move out of Uptown, and also Dreamhaven Books, which I haven’t visited since they moved out of Uptown. These are some of the comic books I bought on those trips:
POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #56 (Marvel, 1979) – “The Scarab’s Sting!”, [W] Mary Jo Duffy, (A) Trevor von Eeden. I bought about twelve issues of PMAIF from the Comic Book College’s 50-cent box, and there were even more I didn’t bother with. This is Jo Duffy’s first issue, and it shows a certain lack of polish. There’s an exhibit of Egyptian artifacts, and the Egyptian government liaison, Dr. Abdol, hires Luke and Danny to provide security. (By the way, a pet peeve of mine is that “Abdul” is not a name. It’s a prefix meaning “servant of.” It must be followed by one of the Arabic names of God, such as Karim or Jabbar.) But it turns out that Dr. Abdol is secretly the Living Monolith. Compared to the next two issues of this series that I read, this one wasn’t nearly as good.
SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME #2 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Natalie Riess. This was the issue I missed when it came out. It fills in some holes in the plot, such as by introducing Cannibal Coliseum. Also, in this issue we learn that Neptunia is female. I honestly didn’t realize that – I just assumed Neptunia was male, and if her gender was ever mentioned anywhere, I missed it. If I’d known Neptunia was female, it would have significantly changed my reading of the rest of the series.
CRITTERS #10 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – Usagi Yojimbo in “Homecoming!”, [W/A] Stan Sakai, plus backups. In this short story, Usagi returns home for the first time since he moved away, and discovers that Mariko has a child. The basic outlines of Usagi’s love triangle with Kenichi and Mariko become clear, though we don’t yet know Jotaro’s parentage. Also, we see how Usagi’s father died. As I read this story, I realized that at this early point, the series was really focused on the ongoing plots – Lord Hikiji’s conspiracy and Usagi’s relationship with Mariko and Jotaro. As the series has gone on, these plots have receded in the background as the story has become more episodic. As I suggested on Facebook, I think this is because Stan is no longer interested in ending the series. If Usagi ever confronts Lord Hikiji, the series will end, and Stan wants it to go on indefinitely. And Usagi is never going to publicly acknowledge Jotaro as his son, except on his deathbed. The Senso miniseries essentially shows us how the series would end if it ever did, which it won’t. (In response to my Facebook post, Jim MacQuarrie also suggested that Stan chose to do episodic stories because those stories were easier for him to do while he was dealing with other projects and with severe personal tragedies.)
(I need to write shorter reviews because otherwise this will take forever)
THOR #293 (Marvel, 1980) – “Twilight of Some Gods!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Keith Pollard. The issue after this one was one of the first old Marvel comics I ever read. This issue, Thor talks with Odin’s disembodied eye, who gives him an account of an earlier Asgard that was destroyed in an earlier Ragnarok, around the time of the birth of Jesus. This story is kind of fascinating and weird, but was retconned into nonexistence during Walt Simonson’s run.
VIOLATOR VS. BADROCK #2 (Image, 1995) – untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Brian Denham. This is one of the worst-drawn comics of Alan’s career, and it’s not one of his better-written comics either. There’s some good dialogue, but the plot is typical Image crap. Alan must have taken this job because he was desperate for work.
IRON MAN #77 (Marvel, 1975) – “I Cry: Revenge!”, [W] Mike Friedrich, [A] Arvell Jones. Part of a long-running story arc in which the Black Lama stages a war between a bunch of super-villains. This issue, Firebrand wins the war and accepts the prize, a golden globe. I might as well look for the other issues of this storyline, since I’m running out of better ‘70s Marvel comics to collect.
DC COMICS PRESENTS #5 (DC, 1979) – “The War of Undersea Cities!”, [W] Len Wein & Paul Levitz, [A] Murphy Anderson. The Ocean Master manipulates Aquaman’s Atlantis (Poseidonis) into fighting a war with Lori Lemaris’s Atlantis (Tritonis). According to Kurt Michell, this issue was the first time these two cities were given individual names, though they had been established as separate cities much earlier. Highlights of this story include Superman’s battles with a giant squid and a giant telepathic jellyfish, and Superman and Lori’s affection for each other even though Lori married someone else.
KA-ZAR #7 (Marvel, 1974) – “Revenge of the River Gods!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Buscema. This has a somewhat complicated plot, but it’s basically a mediocre Conan story, with Ka-Zar in the role of Conan. The character names and plot devices could have been borrowed from an REH story, although they weren’t. At this point, Ka-Zar’s speech and personality were barely distinguishable from those of Tarzan. It was only later that other writers started to make him a more distinctive character, by emphasizing how he was torn between civilization and savagery.
<a name="pmaif77"POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #77 (Marvel, 1982) – “What’s Black and White and Red All Over?”, [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. This is much much better than #56, and is a truly impressive superhero comic. The premise is that Luke, Danny and Daredevil are trying to protect two Russian ballet dancers from two Russian spies (named Boris and Ninotchka, an obvious reference to Boris and Natasha). What stands out about this issue is the complexity of the plot. There are tons of characters, and there are some scenes where six or seven characters are talking at once. Yet it all makes sense somehow, and the complicated chaos makes the plot more interesting, like in an Altman film. Also, Jo Duffy’s characterization is very good and her dialogue is hilarious. Overall this was an amazing issue. It is rather creepy that the female ballet dancer is only 15, and a major plot point is that she’s about to marry the male dancer.
USAGI YOJIMBO #124 (Dark Horse, 2009) – “A Town Called Hell! Part 1,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This was one of two issues of Usagi Yojimbo v2 that I was missing, and I got the other one at Heroes Con, so I now have a complete run of this series. This issue, Usagi visits a town that’s being torn apart by a gang war, which the local sheriff is completely powerless to stop, and then the sheriff gets himself killed anyway. This story was concluded in the next issue, and there was a sequel a year or two later.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #242 (Marvel, 1980) – “Facades!”, [W] Steven Grant, [A] Don Perlin. A bizarre and eerie story. The Manipulator subjects Cap to a series of disturbing fantasy scenarios, seeking to drive Cap crazy. For example, one of the scenes has the other Avengers giving Cap the Hitler salute, and in another scene, he witnesses Sharon Carter’s death again. Cap escapes and discovers that the Manipulator is a robot and doesn’t know it. This is a potentially fascinating story, though Steven Grant doesn’t quite do justice to it.
I read the following comics the day I got home from Minneapolis:
SUPERBOY #168 (DC, 1970) – “Leave Us… or We Perish!”, Frank Robbins, (A) Bob Brown. This was pretty dumb. During WWII, some Nazi agents issue an ultimatum to Superboy: leave Smallville or the town will be destroyed. Showing true courage and loyalty, the people of Smallville turn against Superboy and force him to comply with the Nazis’ demands. Of course Superboy saves the day anyway, and Smallville welcomes him back. Also, Pa Kent apparently dies, but it turns out it was a Pa Kent robot. The really disturbing thing about this story is that the people of Smallville are very quick to betray Superboy, and they never apologize or show any remorse for their actions. You have to wonder how the Kents were able to live in Smallville afterward. Also, it seems very hard to believe that Superboy was a teenager during World War II; that would mean that in 1970 he was at least in his late thirties. Continuing the theme of rejection and betrayal, this issue also has a backup story where Ma and Pa Kent reject Superboy in favor of a new “negative” Superboy.
SPIDER-GWEN #20 (Marvel, 2017) – “Predators,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. Gwen encounters Wolverine and Shadowcat, who, in this reality, is an assassin with claws. This was an okay issue, but I don’t recall much about it. Probably the best part was the revelation that the character who looked like X-23 was in fact Kitty Pryde. Wolverine’s samurai origin story was also kind of cool.
BLACK PANTHER: WORLD OF WAKANDA #4 (Marvel, 2017) – “Dawn of the Midnight Angels, Part 4,” [W] Roxane Gay, [A] Alitha E. Martinez. I forgot to order issue 3 (and, for reasons that will soon be clear, I’m not sorry about that). This issue, Aneka and Ayo go on a solo mission to a village whose chieftain is kidnapping girls and exercising his droit du seigneur. The plot here is potentially interesting, but the problem is that Roxane Gay’s dialogue sucks all the life out of her story and characters. To quote my own Facebook post: “The plot and characterization are delivered entirely through the dialogue rather than the art. We know how the characters feel because they tell us explicitly, not because we can read their emotions on their faces. Thus, it feels more like a series of dramatic monologues than a comic.” This problem is compounded by the fact that so much of the story is driven by Aneka and Ayo’s emotions, but Alitha E. Martinez is not particularly good at drawing facial expressions. So in short, this story falls completely flat.
BLACK PANTHER: WORLD OF WAKANDA #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “Dawn of the Midnight Angels, Part 5,” [W] Roxane Gay, [A] Alitha E. Martinez. This issue has the same problems as the previous issue. This series was cancelled just before I read these two issues, and I think this was an unfortunate decision, but only because of the bad publicity it generated. This series was the worst Marvel comic I’ve read lately, and it deserved to be cancelled. The lesson is that when you hire writers with no previous fiction writing experience, let alone comics writing experience, it doesn’t always work out. And let me again point out that there are WOC writers out there who have comics experience – the first one who comes to mind is Ngozi Ukazu, since I’m writing this on the same day that the First Second edition of Check, Please was announced. Maybe Marvel should hire writers like her, rather than trying to import talent from other media.
BLACK PANTHER: WORLD OF WAKANDA #6 (Marvel, 2017) – “Death of the White Tiger,” [W] Rembert Browne, [A] Joe Bennett. This is a solo story about the current incarnation of the White Tiger. It’s an average comic, which means it’s better than the previous two issues of this series. Rembert Browne is another writer who seems to have no prior fiction writing experience.
BITCH PLANET #10 (Image, 2017) – “You Can’t Jail the Revolution,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Valentine DeLandro. This issue, the revolution begins for real. I’ve kind of lost track of what’s happening in this comic, but it’s a gripping and powerful piece of work. This comic has quietly become very important. At Heroes Con, I saw lots of people with NC shirts or tattoos. Heidi MacDonald revealed that according to Bookscan, Bitch Planet volume 2 was the best-selling graphic novel for the week of June 21, and she attributes its success to “its huge social media following and the wide reach of its ‘non-complant’ theme.” (http://www.comicsbeat.com/this-weeks-bookscan-chart-is-a-wake-up-call-for-the-comics-industry/) I don’t think that the comics press, in general, has realized just how big of an impact Bitch Planet is having.
TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #4 (Eclipse, 1986) – “Beanish Breaks Out!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. I was going to write about this series for Sid Dobrin’s Ecocomix anthology, but I changed my mind. Someone should write about it because it’s such a perfect depiction of ecology. This issue, an anonymous Chow Sol’jer does some experiments with twinks, the only one of the Four Realities that Professor Garbanzo hasn’t found a use for. He has a conceptual breakthrough, becoming Beanish and inventing the Look-See Show, i.e. art. I don’t know if I realized this before, but Beanworld seems to have only two dimensions, so for example, Slats and Hoops are literally just flat lines and circles.
The following new comics were waiting for me when I came back from Minneapolis:
PAPER GIRLS #15 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. To save the future girl, Kaje kills one of the three caveman dudes. This will clearly be a key moment in Kaje’s character arc. Also, we learn that the time travel device used to belong to “Frankie Tomatah,” but I haven’t had time to look through all the previous issues to see where we’ve heard that name before. Googling reveals nothing except that there’s a letter from Frankie Tomatah on the Peter Roy page, and that letter only makes a vague reference to “the funnies.” Speaking of which, Jared Fletcher was on one of the panels I moderated at Heroes Con, and he pointed out that he intentionally changes the fake letters page so it reflects the time frame in which each issue is taking place. I hadn’t noticed that. Anyway, after the girls enter the time portal, Tiffany finds herself in a future where the Y2K bug caused civilization to collapse. She appears in front of a burning Applebee’s, which may or may not be intentional reference to the meme about milllennials killing Applebee’s.
UNSTOPPABLE WASP #6 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Elsa Charretier. This series was not on the list of the 53 Marvel Legacy titles. If it’s cancelled, that sucks because it’s currently my third or fourth favorite Marvel title, but I’m sure Jeremy will go on to something else exciting. This issue, the GIRL members save Ying by duplicating the Vision’s powers, and Nadia defeats Mother, but then Ying has a stroke or something. Just like in Princeless: Raven, half the fun of this series is the interactions between the girl protagonists.
BRAVE CHEF BRIANNA #4 (Boom!, 2017) – “Calamari Sushi,” [W] Sam Sykes, [A] Selina Espiritu. Brianna invokes an ancient law which entitles her to challenge Madame Cron in a cooking contest. She wins, despite being forced to use monster ingredients, and gets to stay in Monster City. The series ends there, but it’s a very satisfying ending. However, this is one of several recent Boom! series that were only given four issues, even though they could have gone on much longer. I wonder what’s up with that.
ROCKET #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Blue River Score, Part 2: Nobody Runs Forever”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Adam Gorham. Another wild and wacky comic which is very much in the spirit of Alan Davis’s Excalibur. The clear highlight of the issue is the Seeing Being, an alien lizard lawyer who’s the opposite of Daredevil, in that he’s the only member of his race who can see.
JEM AND THE MISFITS #5 (IDW, 2017) – “The Misfits Get Real, Part 5,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. Jetta’s “dark secret” is that she’s not actually British, because she moved to Britain at age sixteen. Roxy tells the other band members about her illiteracy, and the Misfits make a successful comeback. This was a really good miniseries.
MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #3 (IDW, 2017) – “Mistmane and the Mystery of the Unbuilding Castle,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brenda Hickey. Mistmane is a beautiful unicorn who gave up her beauty to save a friend – we’re not told how this happened. The construction of Canterlot Castle is delayed because the building materials keep vanishing, and Mistmane discovers that this is because the animals from the Everfree Forest, worried about losing their habitat, are tearing the castle down every night. With Mistmane’s help, Luna solves the problem by designing the Canterlot Gardens. This issue is a bit more satisfying than the last one, because it explains the origin of something we already knew about, whereas Rockhoof’s story had no connection to anything else in the series.
HAWKEYE #7 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Madame Masque sends Kate a necklace which belonged to Kate’s mother, but when Kate fights her way into Madame Masque’s office, she finds her dad there instead. It’ll be nice if Kate’s troubled family issues are finally resolved, because I believe that her relationship with her dad was a dangling plot point in Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series. Leonardo Romero does some amazing action scenes in this issue, and I like the coloring in the flashback scenes.
THE FLINTSTONES #12 (DC, 2017) – “Farewell to Bedrock,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. This issue is narrated by Gazoo, and it ties up most of the plot threads in the series. It’s not the best issue of Flintstones, but overall, Flintstones was one of the best comic books of the year. Like The Vision, it was a 12-issue miniseries that was much better than I could have predicted.
GIANT DAYS #27 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. A pretty standard issue of this series. Esther participates in a protest against the building of a new “Bestfresh” supermarket, which succeeds, but accomplishes nothing; instead of a Bestfresh, another supermarket is built which is owned by the same corporation. Also, Esther tries to seduce a boy she meets at the pursuit, but he flees in terror when he sees her bedroom.
FAITH #12 (Valiant, 2017) – “The Faithless, Part Three,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Joe Eisma. This may be the first issue with no Marguerite Sauvage artwork. Faith uses her wits to defeat the Faithless, thanks in part to the cat getting drunk on champagne. And that’s the end of the series, but it will be relaunched as Faith and the Future Force.
MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #8 (Marvel, 1975) – “Silent Night… Deadly Night!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Sal Buscema. As usual for Gerber, this story – a Thing/Ghost Rider team-up – is really weird. On Christmas Eve, three wise men follow the Star of Bethlehem to Wyatt Wingfoot’s Indian reservation, where the baby Jesus appears to have just been born. It turns out the whole thing is a set-up created by the Miracle Man, an old Fantastic Four villain. The baby was real, and Gerber suggests that he’s significant somehow, but I doubt if this dangling thread was ever resolved.
USAGI YOJIMBO #36 (Dark Horse, 2000) – “The Mystery of the Demon Mask, Part 3,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. The conclusion of a three-part mystery. I would have enjoyed this story more if I’d had the time to reread the first two parts. The depiction of Japanese fire-fighting in this issue is interesting.
ANIMAL MAN #68 (Vertigo, 1994) – “Mysterious Ways, Part 2,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] Steve Pugh. I didn’t understand what was going on in this story. Most of the characters are new to me, and there are important premises which are not explained; for example, Maxine seems to have gone crazy, but it’s not clear why.
And now here are the comics I bought at Heroes Con. This was one of the best conventions of my life. I moderated two panels, hung out with lots of old friends, and bought a ton of stuff. It was nice that I actually live in Charlotte now, so I was able to go home every night and drop off my own purchases and sleep in my own bed.
MS. MARVEL #9 (Marvel, 1977) – “Call Me Death-Bird!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Keith Pollard. This was one of the five issues of Ms. Marvel I was missing. It was also the easiest to find; I bought it on the first day of the con, and I saw several other copies of it later. This issue is the first appearance of Deathbird. We don’t learn that she’s Shi’ar until many years later, but Claremont must have known or suspected this, since he had already introduced Lilandra and D’Ken the previous year. Besides that, this issue is full of cute moments. There’s a scene where Carol rescues a little boy from a fire and then comforts him. This could be seen as sexist, but also as progressive, since it demonstrates that Carol can both beat people up and be good with children. Later, JJJ forces Carol to take on a completely unqualified personal assistant who also happens to be JJJ’s friend’s daughter.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #107 (Marvel, 1972) – “Spidey Smashes Thru!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. I bought this and three other old Spider-Man comics at the same booth. All four have severe water damage and rusted staples, but are complete and readable, and were very cheap. This issue, Peter defeats Alistair Smythe’s Spider-Slayer, and foils Smythe’s plot to rob a bunch of banks by using surveillance cameras to track the police. There’s not a lot of soap opera or romance, but Romita’s action scenes are amazing; I’ll have more to say about Romita later.
AMERICAN SPLENDOR: WINDFALL #2 (Dark Horse, 1995) – “Candor,” [W] Harvey Pekar, [A] Joe Sacco, plus other stories. In the lead story this issue, Harvey locks himself out of his house in the middle of the night. This story is classic American Splendor. Harvey brilliantly portrays how mortified he is at the situation, not just because he’s locked out in the rain, but also because he knows that Joyce is going to be justifiably furious. The next story is written by Joyce without Harvey, and is about Joyce’s relationship with Harvey’s oncologist. In “Windfall Lost,” by Harvey and Frank Stack, Harvey gets into yet another car accident. In general, this is a great American Splendor comic.
UNCLE SCROOGE #279 (Disney, 1993) – “Back to Long Ago!”, [W/A] Carl Barks. Another Barks classic. After being hypnotized, Scrooge remembers a past life in which he buried a treasure on a remote Caribbean island. However, Donald visits the same hypnotist and retrieves the same memory, and Scrooge and Donald compete with each other to be the first to recover the treasure. After a long series of hijinks and gags, Scrooge and Donald discover that the “treasure” is nothing but potatoes, which were unknown in England at the time. One of the best gags in the issue is when Scrooge tries to rent a boat in the middle of a hurricane, and in the next panel, a tree falls on the boat.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #317 (Marvel, 1989) – “The Sand and the Fury!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Todd McFarlane. Despite the title, this issue’s villain is Venom, not Sandman. It’s the conclusion of the second Venom storyline, and Venom’s second cover appearance, which is why I couldn’t find it until now. This issue, Peter and Venom battle after Venom directly threatens Peter’s family. Spidey realizes he can’t beat Venom physically, so he decides not to try; instead, he wins by tricking the symbiote into possessing both him and Eddie Brock at once. This story was included in the Very Best of Spider-Man collection in 1994. I don’t know if I agree with that, but it’s certainly an excellent story, and it reminds me that there was a short time when Venom was Marvel’s best villain.
DOOM PATROL #120 (DC, 1968) – “The Rage of the Wrecker,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Bruno Premiani. The main plot is about a villain who destroys machines. This is sort of interesting because it’s an early example of anxiety about the role of computers in society. But what’s far more interesting is the subplot, where Gar Logan gets Jillian Jackson to go on a date with him, and ends up at the same nightclub as his adoptive parents Rita and Steve. Both these romances are very cute and funny. A highlight of the issue is Rita’s line “We’ve found the formula for feeling old before your time, Steve! Just adopt a teen-ager a few months after you marry!” This run of Doom Patrol was a seriously well-written and well-drawn comic, and I need to collect more of it.
SUPERMAN #271 (DC, 1974) – “The Man Who Murdered Metropolis!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Curt Swan. Brainiac plots to destroy Metropolis, but Morgan Edge helps Superman save the day. This story is most notable because Brainiac keeps calling Superman weird names – “old Ohio college town,” “old county in southeast England” etc. – that are synonyms for Kent. This implies that Brainiac knows Superman’s secret identity. However, the reader is never explicitly told what these names mean, and Superman never figures it out either. On Facebook, I asked Elliot what was going on with these names, and he said that he and Julie Schwartz included them as a joke, to see if readers would figure it out. Elliot said that he only got one letter from a person who figured out the names. Of course, this puzzle was a lot harder to solve back in 1974; nowadays, you can just go on Google and see that, for example, the “father of modern gardening” was William Kent. This issue’s Fabulous World of Krypton backup story, by Elliot and Dick Giordano, is kind of embarrassing; it’s about a Kryptonian version of Red Sonja (who was introduced a year earlier), except she loses a fight and gives up being a warrior.
FANTASTIC FOUR #176 (Marvel, 1976) – “Improbable as It May Seem – the Impossible Man is Back in Town!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] George Pérez. The Impossible Man accompanies the FF back to Earth, having just helped them save Earth from Galactus. On Earth, Impy decides to relieve his boredom by invading the Marvel offices, where Roy and George are trying to come up with a plot for the latest issue of FF. (As established in Fantastic Four #10, within the Marvel Universe, every issue of FF is based on actual events.) After a series of hijinks, Stan gets Impy to leave by promising to do a story about the Impossible Man, but then retracts his promise, saying that “Marvel Comics hasn’t got time to waste on silly-looking characters” – while standing in front of a poster of Howard the Duck. The metatextual humor in this story is amazing, although Roy sometimes lays it on a bit too thick. Also, this issue includes cameo appearances by a large number of Marvel staffers.
TALES OF SUSPENSE #95 (Marvel, 1967) – Iron Man in “If a Man Be Stone!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan; and Captain America in “A Time to Die – a Time to Live!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. The Iron Man story is notable as the first appearance of Jasper Sitwell, a hilarious character. The main plot, involving the Grey Gargoyle, is less interesting, though Gene’s action sequences are great. The Cap story has some brilliant art, but is notable for its sexism. Cap proposes to Sharon Carter, but she refuses because SHIELD needs her. Regardless, Steve decides to quit being Cap, and meanwhile, Nick Fury promises that as soon as he can, he’ll fire Sharon so that she can marry Cap. Sharon herself is given very little agency here. The emphasis of the story is on Cap’s conflict between his duty and his love, but the writer seems to forget that Sharon is facing exactly the same conflict. Oh, and at this point we don’t even know that her name is Sharon – she’s still just Agent 13 – and this is further proof that she’s not a fully developed character.
KIM & KIM #2 (Black Mask, 2016) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. A science fiction comic about two bounty hunters, both named Kim. I didn’t quite understand the plot of this issue, but it was exciting and well-drawn and well-written, with a lot of sarcastic humor. It also seems to be a good example of POC and trans representation. I look forward to reading the first issue of the second miniseries, which is coming out this week as I write this; hopefully that issue will be a better jumping-on point.
ACTION COMICS #335 (DC, 1966) – “Luthor’s First Victory Over Superman!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Al Plastino; and Supergirl in “The Prize of Peril,” [W] Otto Binder, [A] Jim Mooney. Part of the Lexor/Ardora story arc. Luthor and Brainiac execute a plot to destroy Superman’s confidence. It turns out Luthor is doing it for revenge on Superman, because Superman told Luthor’s alien wife, Ardora, that Luthor was a criminal and not a hero. Superman redeems himself by using amnesium to make Ardora forget that Luthor is a criminal. I guess this story is meant to be touching, but still, Luthor is lying to his wife, and Superman is not only enabling him, but also compounding the problem by interfering with Ardora’s mind. As with Tales of Suspense #95 above, Ardora’s own agency is not a consideration; the writer does not consider that maybe it’s better for Ardora to know the truth. The Supergirl backup story has a stupid plot where Supergirl uses trickery to win an intergalactic beauty contest, because she’s learned that the winner is destined never to return to her home planet, and she wants to save some other girl from that fate. It turns out that the beauty contest is being run by an alien Bluebeard type who delights in making pretty girls ugly, and he succeeds in doing so to Supergirl. This story is continued next issue.
MS. MARVEL #17 (Marvel, 1976) – “Shadow of the Gun!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Jim Mooney. Issues #16-18 of Ms. Marvel are the hardest to get, besides #1, because they’re the first three appearances of Mystique. I got #17 on the last day of Heroes Con, for $6, and it was a bargain. Mystique appears in this issue in a variety of shapeshifted forms, and I was kind of delighted when I finally realized it was her. The other main plot of the issue is that Carol is suffering from overwork, and her somewhat creepy friend Frank Giannelli tries to cheer her up with a snowball fight, and then they make out. I don’t think Carol’s romance with Frank was ever followed up on. He reappeared in Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel, but I didn’t even realize it was the same character as the one in Claremont’s run.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #40 (DC, 1993) – untitled, [W] Tom Bierbaum & Mary Bierbaum, [A] Stuart Immonen. This issue’s cover mistakenly implies that Wildfire is coming back, but it’s really his brother Squire. However, the main event this issue is the first business meeting of both the adult and the SW6 Legions. The encounter between the adult Legionnaires and their younger clones leads to some amazing moments. Big Ayla and little Ayla love each other at first sight. Little Vi is shocked at how different her adult self is, but big Vi convinces little Vi to stand up for herself – which she promptly does, by refusing her boyfriend Devlin’s request that he join her in the adult Legion. Most powerfully, big Jo stays away from the meeting because he doesn’t want to see little Tinya. His “own” Tinya is dead (not really, but he doesn’t know that) and he doesn’t want to be reminded of her. But little Jo, showing his usual tactlessness, forces big Jo into a face-to-face encounter with little Tinya, and all three parties are traumatized. In general, this issue has some of the best scenes in the entire 5YL Legion. The v4 Legion was often a very depressing, confusing and mean-spirited series, but it was also capable of producing stories like this one.
BABYTEETH #1 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Mother of God,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This comic has been heavily hyped. I bought the first issue from the Aftershock booth at Heroes Con, and got Donny Cates to sign it. This story is about a teenage mother whose baby is the future Antichrist. It’s an intriguing setup and I’m curious to see where it’s going.
Some new comics received the Tuesday after Heroes Con, i.e. June 20:
MS. MARVEL #19 (Marvel, 2017) – “Mecca, Part 1,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Adrian Alphona. A brutal issue. Willow said on Twitter that “This arc has been painful to write. First arc I’ve written in an entirely post-Trump landscape,” and it shows. We begin with the pleasant surprise that Kamala is about to be an aunt. Then there’s a heartwarming scene showing the Khan family’s celebration of Eid. This struck a chord with me because the day before Heroes Con, I went to an iftar dinner at a local mosque, and I got the same feeling of warmth and community as I get from this issue. More generally, this scene reminded me of how I used to feel on Jewish holidays. I mostly hated going to synagogue as a kid, but at their best, Jewish communal events gave me a feeling of warmth and togetherness. So that’s what’s going on when we learn that Chuck Worthy, from the gentrification story arc, has taken control of Jersey City in a coup, and he promptly has Aamir kidnapped for being an unregistered Inhuman. And Kamala realizes that the (white) people of Jersey City are fully on board with all of this. The relevance of this story to current American politics is really, really obvious. “Mecca” is going to be a painful story to read, but it’s going to be important. G. Willow Wilson is exactly the sort of progressive voice that America needs right now.
UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #21 (Marvel, 2017) – “Boys’ Night Out!!!”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. With Doreen and Nancy vacationing in the Negative Zone (I hope we get to see this story), Koi Boi, Chipmunk Hunk and Brain Drain go on patrol by themselves. They unmask a plot in which people dress up as superheroes to commit crimes. This issue suffers from comparison with Ms. Marvel #19, but it’s still a fun self-contained story.
LADYCASTLE #4 (Boom!, 2017) – “The Black Knight Rises,” [W] Delilah S. Dawson, [A] Becca Farrow. Aeve defeats the Black Knight, who turns out to be the wizard who cursed King Mancastle, and the castle’s curse ends. This was an incredibly fun miniseries, but my complaint is that it deserved more than four issues. And I have the same complaint about several other recent Boom! comics. It seems kind of ominous that so many Boom! comics are getting just four issues.
JONNY QUEST #23 (Comico, 1988) – “The Prisoner of Starfgrau,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Mark Wheatley. This is the first part of a two-part story that’s a pastiche of The Prisoner of Zenda. The Quests visit a tropical island which turns out to be inhabited by a European kingdom that never progressed past the 19th century. Dr. Benton Quest is forced to impersonate the prince of the kingdom, who is identical to him but exactly opposite in personality. Benton is logical, responsible, and predictable, while the prince is a n adventurous and athletic but irresponsible ne’er-do-well. It’s a funny story but I wish I hadn’t read it out of order.
JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #26 (IDW, 2017) – “Truly Outrageous, Part Three,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Gisele Lagace. The Misfits and Holograms save Kimber from the volcano. Jerrica and Rio break up. My main impression from this story is that Rio’s behavior is frustrating, and he and Jerrica/Jem are better off without each other.
MISFIT CITY #2 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith & Kurt Lustgarten, [A] Naomi Franquiz. Naomi Franquiz was at Heroes Con, but I missed my chance to speak to her. I forgot she was the artist of this series. This issue was good, but very similar to the last issue. I feel like it should be possible to break the code without a key, but I couldn’t do it. Googling reveals that this code is called the pigpen cipher.
GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #10 (DC, 2017) – “The Ballad of Olive Silverlock, Part Two,” [W] Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, [A] Adam Archer. Maps joins the Secret Society, or tries at least, until they make an attempt on her life. Kyle restores Olive to sanity by using the L-word. This was a fun issue.
KIM REAPER #3 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Kim is promoted from animal souls to human souls, but the first person whose soul she has to collect is Becca. Kim refuses to take Becca’s soul and is suspended from her job. This was another fun comic, and I wish more people were reading this series. Here’s a piece of free advice: if you’re fated to die in five minutes, don’t eat anything at all, because you’ll inevitably choke.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #63 (Marvel, 1968) – “Wings in the Night!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. The Vulture gets out of prison and seeks revenge on his former sidekick Blackie Gaxton. The reader is treated to the spectacle of two flying men fighting on a roof. There are also some subplots involving Gwen and Harry. I’ve read this story before, but it was fun to revisit it.
AVENGERS #50 (Marvel, 1968) – “To Tame a Titan!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. Not the best Silver Age Avengers story. The principal problem is that there are only three Avengers, which is too few for an interesting story, though there are some interesting interactions between Hank and Jan. Also, the story focuses on Hercules and Typhon, and Marvel’s Greek gods tend to be very boring.
HULK #7 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Georges Duarte. Jen tries to deal with her trauma by attending a support group, talking with Hellcat, smashing stuff. Meanwhile, she decompresses by watching a gay baking show. But her hobby and her real life intersect when one of the gay bakers turns into a Hulk because of a malicious prank. Mariko Tamaki’s depiction of trauma in this series is groundbreaking.
HATE #16 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – “Meet the Folks!”, [W/A] Peter Bagge. One of the themes of my Heroes Con 2017 was that I bought a bunch of underground and alternative and other non-mainstream comics. As I have probably observed several times, I’m running out of good superhero comics to collect, so maybe one way I can reinvigorate my collecting is by looking for other kinds of comic books. Underground and alternative comics are sometimes difficult to find at comic conventions or at stores, but at Heroes Con that was not the case – there were lots of dealers who had such comics, often for very cheap. Hate is one example of an alternative comic that I’ve been passively collecting for a long time, but it’s time I started actively looking for it. This issue, Buddy and Lisa visit New Jersey and decide to move back, and we get to see what’s going on with Buddy’s awful family – including his sister, who is now a parent and is repeating the mistakes her own parents made with her.
AVENGERS #219 (Marvel, 1982) – “…By Divine Right!”, [W] Jim Shooter, [A] Bob Hall. I am getting really close to a complete run of Avengers #100 to #300. This is one of the only good issues from that range that I haven’t read. It’s the first half of the two-parter where Moondragon enslaves the people of Ba-Bani, and Drax sacrifices his life (temporarily) to defeat her. This issue begins with some cute scenes showing what the Avengers are doing when Drax summons them, and then there are some rather eerie scenes in which the Avengers gradually figure out that something is wrong with Ba-Bani.
WET SATIN #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1976) – various stories. Subtitled “Women’s Erotic Fantasies,” this comic consists of many stories about sex, mostly by contributors to Wimmen’s Comix. The stories in this issue are of widely varying quality, but there’s some interesting work by Lee Marrs, Joyce Farmer, and Melinda Gebbie.
CHAMBER OF CHILLS #2 (Marvel, 1972) – “The Monster from the Mound!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Frank Brunner; and other stories. The cover story this issue has some nice Frank Brunner art but is otherwise forgettable. The most interesting thing in the issue is “Thirst!” by Steve Gerber and P. Craig Russell, about a vampire on a spaceship. By the time the ship’s crew realize that they need to defeat the vampire using the only wooden object on the ship (a cane), it’s too late. The logical problem with this story is, once the vampire drinks the blood of the whole crew, how’s he going to survive until the ship reaches its destination? There’s also a generic barbarian story by John Jakes and Val Mayerik.
LITTLE ARCHIE #144 (Archie, 1979) – “The Old Shell Game”, [W/A] Bob Bolling, plus other stories. Archie and the gang visit the Lodge family’s beach cottage, where they find an unexploded World War II shell while playing at the beach. They accidentally use the shell to blow up the wall of the Lodges’ garden, which is convenient since Veronica’s parents were arguing about whether to have that wall removed. This was not Bolling’s best story.
WONDER WOMAN #24 (DC, 2017) – “Godwatch, Epilogue,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Bilquis Evely. Another issue that focuses too much on Veronica and Barbara Minerva, to the exclusion of Diana. I am not going to miss this comic, and the excessive focus on Veronica and Cheetah is the reason why not. Unfortunately, the next major run on Wonder Woman is probably going to be even worse. DC is doing a terrible job of catering to people who are interested in Wonder Woman because of the movie. (By the way, at Heroes Con I saw a lot of Wonder Woman comics displayed prominently, but I dind’t buy any.)
SATELLITE SAM #12 (Image, 2015) – “Four Keys, Two Bills,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Howard Chaykin. Heroes Con happened right after the Divided States of Hysteria #1 controversy, so I had several conversations about Chaykin, and several people suggested that Satellite Sam was better than most of his recent work. (Of course this was before the Divided States of Hysteria #4 controversy, which would have changed those conversations quite a bit.) So that gave me a reason to read this Satellite Sam story I’ve had for a while. The plot is incomprehensible, but the art is okay. And it does seem like Howard is better when he draws a story written in his characteristic style by another writer, versus when he does his own writing.
SLASHER #2 (Floating World, 2017) – “2: She is Coming,” [W/A] Charles Forsman. I don’t know why I didn’t get the first issue of this; I must have missed it in Previews. I don’t quite get what’s going on here, but it seems to be about a young woman in a rural American town who goes around slashing people to death. The writing is powerful, especially the scene where the protagonist murders an abusive husband. And I also like the art, which uses Jaime Hernandez’s trademark 2×4 panel grid. I should check out Chuck Forsman’s graphic novels.
POPE HATS #2 (AdHouse, 2011) – “White Noise Machine,” [W/A] Ethan Rilly. I bought this directly from Chris Pitzer, who was also on one of the panels I moderated. He also had issue 5, but I’m waiting for that to come out from Diamond. I have raved about Ethan Rilly before, and this issue is another great example of it. In the main story, the protagonist, a clerk at an insanely competitive law firm, starts her new job while trying to deal with her irresponsible mess of a roommate. Based on that description, this story may not sound all that exciting, but Ethan Rilly makes brilliant use of the medium of comics to invest this story with emotion. This story is full of moments that make the reader feel the power of comics. One in particular is when the protagonist meets a new coworker and is told “You don’t need to know me … It’s my last day. You’re replacing me,” and the next panel is just the protagonist saying “Oh.” Ethan Rilly is the best cartoonist in North America who hasn’t published a graphic novel, and as soon as this story comes out in collected form, he will be a superstar.
CLASSIC STAR WARS: THE EARLY ADVENTURES #4 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Tatooine Sojourn,” [W/A] Russ Manning. This is a reprint of daily strips from 1979, in which Luke makes a return visit to Tatooine. I love Manning, but neither this daily strip format nor the Star Wars franchise was particularly well suited to his style. Manning’s aliens don’t look like Star Wars aliens, and it’s weird to see him drawing a grimy and depressing future, instead of the slick, clean future of Magnus.
BLACK #5 (BlackMask, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Jamal Igle. In this issue, some of the superheroes have infiltrated a prison run by a really smug racist dude. This is a well-written comic, and it benefits from Jamal Igle’s artwork, which makes it look deceptively similar to a Marvel or DC comic.
New comics received on June 23, the Friday after Heroes Con. I had nothing to do this week, so I read a lot of comic books.
LUMBERJANES: FAIRE AND SQUARE 2017 SPECIAL #1 (Boom!, 2017) – [W] Holly Black, [A] Marima Julia. This is the best Lumberjanes spin-off yet. It benefits from being written by a master of YA comics. The Lumberjanes go to a Renaissance Faire where they encounter a new character named Rowena. It turns out Rowena has a pet pterodactyl that she’s trying to save from being killed by well-meaning dragon-slayers. The Lumberjanes help Rowena return the pterodactyl to prehistoric times – or actually, as it turns out, North Yorkshire in 1561. This is an exciting story, full of cute moments, and Holly Black shows a solid understanding of all the characters. One of the oaths in this issue is “Oh my Octavia E. Butler!” The backup story is written by Gabby Rivera and focuses on Ripley’s Hispanic heritage, specifically her love of telenovelas. It’s better than a certain other comic by this writer that I could name.
SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER #1 (Image, 2017) – “Man vs. Nature,” [W] Jody Leheup & Sebastian Girner, [A] Nil Vendrell. Along with Royal City and Unstoppable Wasp, this is one of the best debut issues of the year. It’s exactly what the title indicates – it’s a comic about a shirtless bearded man who fights bears and loves flapjacks. What makes this comic hilarious is that it takes itself completely seriously; it presents the most ridiculous over-the-top nonsense, like Shirtless’s Bear-Plane, in the most deadpan way. This comic has a similar style of humor to Chew, and it’s a great replacement for that comic.
PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. This is a really good Spider-Man comic, although it feels more like Chip Zdarsky’s other comics than like classic Spider-Man. Highlights include the opening scene with Spidey and Johnny Storm, and the revelation that the Tinkerer has a brother named the Mason who makes all the superheroes’ technology. I’m glad that I can read a monthly Spider-Man title again.
COADY AND THE CREEPIES #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Liz Prince, [A] Amanda Kirk. The Creepies escape from hell, Coady tells her bandmates that she’s a ghost, and the dead roadie, Marnie, gets reincarnated as the cat. And then the series ends. I was shocked to learn that this was the last issue, because I honestly thought this was going to be an ongoing series, although I guess it was solicited as a miniseries. This is the third of three really promising series from Boom! that have ended after just four issues. I’m worried that the Boom! Box and Kaboom imprints might be in trouble. Maybe it’s a mistake for Boom! to focus on the direct market instead of the bookstore market, given the demographics of their target audiences.
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #55 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. This issue is a direct sequel to “Not Asking for Trouble,” the seventh-season episode where Pinkie Pie becomes an honorary yak, and it also guest-stars Rainbow Dash’s parents, who were introduced in a different seventh-season episode. This sort of close coordination between the TV show and the comics was previously rare – when the Cutie Mark Crusaders got their cutie marks, it took months for this development to be reflected in the comics. On Facebook, one of the pony writers confirmed to me that IDW and Hasbro is trying for closer synergy between the show and the comics, which is good because that’s the whole point of transmedia storytelling. As for MLP #55 itself, it’s only an average issue, but that still means I enjoyed it more than “Not Asking for Trouble,” which was easily the worst episode of season 7 so far.
MIGHTY THOR #20 (Marvel, 2017) – “Baptism by Fire,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman & Valerio Schiti. This one really hurt to read. It was the most painful and depressing Marvel comic I’ve read in a long time. When the dark elves invade Nidavellir, Volstagg gets stuck with a bunch of orphaned dwarf children. He uses all his parenting skills to keep the children from panicking as he tries to escape with them to Asgard. And then despite Volstagg’s best efforts, the children get killed anyway. It’s the greatest trauma of Volstagg’s life, because for all his oafishness and gluttony, the one thing he’s best at is defending children, and now he’s failed to do that. And that’s why he picks up the Ultimate Thor’s hammer and becomes the War Thor. On Facebook, Dave van Domelen claimed that this was an assassination of Volstagg’s character, but I disagree. Ordinarily the idea of Volstagg becoming a revenge-seeking vigilante would be absurd, but that’s exactly why it works. Jason Aaron’s achievement in this issue is that he convinces me that the death of the children is traumatic enough to turn a gentle and silly god into a vengeful warrior.
SUPER SONS #5 (DC, 2017) – “Battle in the Batcave,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Alisson Borges. This is currently the best ongoing DC comic that’s not about to end, but that says more about the current state of DC than about Super Sons. This issue, Jon is depressed about having to move to Metropolis, so he sneaks into the Batcave and gets into a fight with Damian. Then, Clark and Bruce agree to let Clark use his powers in public as long as he stays together with Damian. In general, this issue is a touching and funny exploration of both Damian and Clark’s relationship and that of their fathers.
ROYAL CITY #4 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This is the worst issue yet. It has some good moments, but it barely advances the plot at all.
SILVER SURFER #12 (Marvel, 2017) – “Return to Euphoria,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mike Allred. In shock at her father’s death, Dawn gets the Surfer to take her to Euphoria, the perfect planet from an earlier story arc, so she can recover. The trauma Dawn suffers in this issue is kind of awful; it’s bad enough that her father is dead, but on top of that, she misses the funeral, and she blames herself for being more interested in her space travels than her family. In that context, Dawn’s decision to go to Euphoria actually seems like a very reasonable way to deal with her grief.
THE BLACK DRAGON #2 (Marvel/Epic, 1985) – untitled, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Bolton. I read the first issue of this a long time ago, but I just got the second issue at Heroes Con. This comic has some gorgeous John Bolton artwork. However, the story is very dense, and even though I skimmed issue 1 beforehand, I still didn’t quite get what was going on in issue 2. Also, this issue’s version of medieval England is based more on historical fiction (e.g. Ivanhoe) than actual history.
GODSHAPER #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jonas Goonface. This was another good issue of what may be Simon Spurrier’s best work yet. But I don’t have anything new to say about it.
MANIFEST DESTINY #29 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. The soldiers start recovering from hallucinations, and Sacagawea goes into labor. This issue could have been combined with last issue without sacrificing much.
SWEET SIXTEEN #1 (Marvel, 1991) – “The Invitation,” [W/A] Barbara Slate. I had never heard of this comic before, so when I saw it in a cheap box, I snapped it up. It’s by Barbara Slate, who also created Angel Love for DC. Unfortunately this comic is much worse than Angel Love. It’s a silly and historically inaccurate story of an ancient Roman princess who has to decide who to invite to her sixteenth birthday party. Still, the fact that Marvel published this comic at all is surprising, given that in 1991, there were very few comic books for girls. Marvel was publishing Barbie at the same time, to which Barbara Slate was a contributor, and maybe Sweet Sixteen was part of a short-lived attempt to expand Marvel’s offerings for girls. Barbara Slate is an interesting figure because her work was so different from most of Marvel and DC’s offerings at that time. It’s too bad that no one seems to remember her.
COMICS FESTIVAL! (Beguiling, 2015) – various stories. This FCBD comic was published by The Beguiling “under the auspices of” the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. It came out in 2015, the year after the only TCAF I’ve attended. It includes short stories by a really impressive list of creators, including Kate Beaton, Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang, Mariko Tamaki, Faith Erin Hicks, Svetlana Chmakova, etc. Some of these stories are insubstantial, but others are excellent, especially the Doctorow/Wang story, which is a sequel to In Real Life. And it’s a credit to the Beguiling and TCAF that they were able to assemble such a lineup of talent.
I HATE FAIRYLAND #13 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Dean Rankine. Most of this issue consists of a dream sequence depicting Larry’s early years and what his life would have been like if he hadn’t met Gert. As is traditional for this series, Larry’s origin story is horribly cruel and grim. Larry is the only survivor among a litter of 758 siblings. And if his first client hadn’t been Gert, he would have been the best quest guide ever, but then he would have gotten sick of his job, descended into drug addiction, and committed suicide. So yeah, this was a typical issue of I Hate Fairyland.
GUMBY’S WINTER FUN SPECIAL #1 (Comico, 1988) – “Gumby’s Winter Fun Adventure,” [W] Steve Purcell, [A] Art Adams. Man, what a weird comic. Gumby and Pokey travel underground to rescue some trapped “toy miners” (who both are toys and mine for toys). First they meet some mole people, then they travel further down and wind up in hell, where Santa Claus is imprisoned. Then they travel all the way through the earth to Japan, where they save Tokyo from kaiju. All of this is drawn in the characteristic Art Adams style. I have no idea why Comico decided to publish this comic, but I’m glad they did.
DEPT. H #15 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. A flashback issue focusing on Mia’s unsuccessful romantic and professional life. All these flashbacks have been interesting, but I wouldn’t mind if we could get on with the plot.
HERO CATS #17 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Part II: Rebels and Misfits,” [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Omaka Shultz. Bandit organizes a team of Hero Cats of Skyworld. This is a good issue, but nothing particularly new.
AMAZING ADVENTURES #1 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Inhumans!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby; and “Then Came… the Black Widow,” [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] John Buscema. In the Inhumans story, which is a rare example of an early-‘70s Marvel comic written by Kirby, Maximus manipulates Black Bolt into declaring war on the human world. In the Black Bolt story, Natasha is bored, so she visits Spanish Harlem and rescues a Puerto Rican boy from mobsters. This is an okay issue, but this series got better as it went on.
CAPTAIN MARVEL #40 (Marvel, 1975) – “Rocky Mountain ‘Bye!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Al Milgrom. I kind of assumed that this series jumped the shark after Jim Starlin left, but this issue is quite interesting. Mar-Vell and Rick return to Earth from space and separate into their own bodies. Rick gives a concert and gets laughed off the stage, while Mar-Vell encounters an alien possessing Una’s corpse. My favorite moment in the issue is the panel where Rick is shocked to see all the bizarre new fashions. Al Milgrom’s name is a byword for boring art, but in this issue he uses some interesting panel structures, probably in imitation of Starlin’s style.
POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #79 (Marvel, 1982) – “Day of the Dredlox,” [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. This is an amazing comic book. An actor named Robert Diamond is starring in a play in which his character, Professor J.A. Gamble, battles some robot monsters called Dredlox. But it turns out the props used for the play are actual real Dredlox, and they start attacking people and shouting “INCINERATE!” While trying to solve this mystery, Luke and Danny encounter the real Professor J.A. Gamble – an eccentric who travels through time fighting Dredlox, and who lives in a bookstore that’s bigger than it looks from outside. Also, the last time he met the Dredlox, he looked completely different. Get it? Yes, this issue is an unannounced Doctor Who crossover! Of course, Professor Gamble succeeds in defeating the Dal – um, I mean the Dredlox, and then vanishes, never to be seen again (though he did make one more minor appearance). But his single appearance is an unforgettable story.
SLOW DEATH #8 (Last Gasp, 1977) – “Special Greenpeace Issue,” [W/A] various. This underground coimc had an ecological theme, and this issue contains stories on topics such as whaling and seal hunting. Artists represented in this issue include Greg Irons, Michael T. Gilbert, Roger Brand and William Stout. As with many underground comics, the work in this issue varies widely in quality, but Greg Irons’s whaling story is pretty good, and Michael J. Becker’s story about clubbing baby seals has some brutal imagery, although the storytelling is bad. And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a comic book with Bill Stout artwork before. This issue predates the international whaling ban, so some of the environmental abuses this comic describes have gotten better.
SPACE USAGI vol. 3 #3 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “Warrior, Part Three,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This issue wraps up a bunch of ongoing plots, and represents the last appearance of Space Usagi, at least until the epilogue of Usagi Yojimbo: Senso #6. This issue is up to Stan’s usual level of quality, but I’ve never liked Space Usagi as much as Usagi Yojimbo. Space Usagi is pretty much the same thing as regular Usagi, just with less narrative complexity.
SUPERBOY #196 (DC, 1973) – “Superboy’s First Mission” and two other stories, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Bob Brown. It must have sucked to be a Superboy reader back in the early ‘70s, because some issues of the series had amazing Legion stories drawn by Dave Cockrum, while other issues were like this one. In this issue’s first story, a mad scientist kidnaps some nuclear physicists (one of whom has the significant name “Alex Crowley”) and Superboy has to put on his costume for the first time to save the day. The second story is about a Smallville man who’s cursed with immortality; it’s actually a little bit poignant. Then there’s an insultingly stupid Superbaby story in which Pa Kent’s friend participates in an auto race, and Superbaby helps him win.
AMERICA #4 (Marvel, 2017) – “An Army of Me,” [W] Gabby Rivera, [A] Joe Quinones. Like every previous issue of America, this comic is well-intentioned and has good artwork, but its plot is completely incoherent. It concludes the first storyline, but the conclusion is just as impossible to understand as anything else in the story. This is the last issue of America I’ll be reading.
WEIRD WAR TALES #3 (Vertigo, 1997) – “New Toys,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Frank Quitely, plus two other stories. “New Toys” is an impressive piece of work by the All-Star Superman creative team. Possibly inspired by Toy Story, it’s about some living toy soldiers who are nervous at having been replaced by new toys. The artwork is up to Quitely’s usual high level, and the story creates a powerful feeling of creepiness. However, the ending, where the new toys turn out to be some kind of alien insects, makes no sense. I assumed that this story was going to be a metaphor for something, and I was wrong. “Sniper’s Alley” by Joel Rose and Eric Cherry, neither of whom I’ve heard of, is the weak link in the issue. It’s supposed to be set during the Bosnian War, but the protagonist is a Croat sniper named “Bejo Villadanna,” which is not a plausible name in any language. And when he gets killed by his ex-girlfriend who’s also a sniper, the reader doesn’t care, because neither the sniper nor the girlfriend are fully developed characters. Finally, “Run” by Paul Jenkins and George Pratt is about an aristocratic British WWI commander who gets his men killed by forcing them to use archaic and suicidal tatics. George Pratt’s artwork is brilliant, but I’m not sure how plausible the story is, though I’m sure there were lots of idiotic British commanders in WWI.
KING-CAT COMIX AND STORIES #76 (Spit and a Half, 2016) – various stories, [W/A] John Porcellino. This miniature comic is about half stories, in John Porcellino’s typical minimalist style, and half letters and responses. Because of the sense of a close relationship between Porcellino and his readers, it almost feels like a fanzine. And Porcellino’s art is beautiful and evocative as usual.
SAVAGE DRAGON #167 (Image, 2010) – “The Way It Ends,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. I’ve lost interest in this series now that it’s become a softcore porn comic. This is an installment of “Emperor Dragon,” and like many issues of this series, it’s one big fight scene after another. The backup story by Kat Roberts, who I’ve never heard of, is kind of interesting.
ROSE #1 (Cartoon Books, 2000) – “Briar & Rose,” [W] Jeff Smith, [A] Charles Vess. This is a prequel to Bone, starring Rose and Briar, later to become Gran’ma Ben and the Hooded One. It’s been a long time since I read the second half of Bone, so some of the plot of this comic went over my head. But in general, this is a pretty effective story. It effectively shows the difference between Briar and Rose’s personalities, and it’s a creepy moment when one of Rose’s word balloons comes directly from her mouth, which is a trademark of the Hooded One. Charles Vess’s art is, of course, amazing. I don’t think it’s his best work, but it’s close. And there’s a nice trick where all the word balloons are transparent, so that they don’t interfere with the art.
MARVEL FEATURE #5 (Marvel, 1972) – “Fear’s the Way He Dies!”, [W] Mike Friedrich, [A] Herb Trimpe. This is the second in a series of Ant-Man stories. This issue introduces Trish Starr, Egghead’s niece and frequent victim. Trish Starr hasn’t appeared since 1983, and I kind of wish some historically minded writer would bring her back. For most of this story Hank is stuck at tiny size, and has to escape from normal-sized birds and other perils in order to get back to his lab. So this issue is full of entertaining action sequences.
I DIE AT MIDNIGHT (DC, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Kyle Baker. This is the funniest comic book I’ve read in a long time. On December 31, 1999, a man named Larry decides to kill himself because his girlfriend Muriel left him. Just as he swallows a bottle of pills, Muriel walks in the door. Larry has to find an antidote to save his life before midnight, when the pills will kill him (hence the title), but he can’t let Muriel find out about his suicide attempt. A series of ridiculous complications ensue, as Larry’s attempts to regain the antidote keep failing in the most absurd ways. Kyle Baker’s perfect comic timing and hilarious artwork make this comic a constant series of laughs. It’s a little bit dated because the Y2K bug plays a major role in the plot, but the humor is as funny now as it ever was.
DAREDEVIL #118 (Marvel, 1975) – “Circus Spelled Sideways is Death!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Don Heck. Daredevil battles the Circus of Crime and their new member, Blackwing. A very mediocre comic.
BATMAN #456 (DC, 1990) – “Identity Crisis, Part Two: Without Fear of Consequence…”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Not a bad issue. Batman investigates a series of senseless murders, while ordering Tim Drake to stay behind in the Batcave. Tim figures out on his own that the Scarecrow is responsible, then has to decide whether to disobey orders and put on the Robin costume to go rescue Batman. These very early Tim Drake stories were actually better than Chuck Dixon’s later work with this character.
SUPERMAN #281 (DC, 1974) – “Mystery Mission to Metropolis!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. The first appearance of Vartox, the most ridiculous-looking character of the ‘70s. When I posted an image from this issue’s title page on Instagram, it sparked a lot of discussion. This issue, Vartox’s wife mysteriously dies, and Vartox travels to Earth to take revenge on her killer – it’s complicated. And Superman surprisingly helps Vartox get his revenge. Compared to a typical Cary Bates story, this issue is not bad, and as noted, Vartox is hilarious.
RICK GEARY’S WONDERS & ODDITIES #1 (Dark Horse, 1988) – various stories, [W/A] Rick Geary. This is perhaps the only comic book that consists entirely of work by Rick Geary. It’s a collection of short stories and strips from reprinted National Lampoon and other venues. All this material is funny and well-drawn and disturbing, but reading so much of it at once feels repetitive.
CRY HAVOC #3 (Image, 2016) – “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Ryan Kelly. I missed issue 2 of this miniseries. I remember it had something to do with vampires, but otherwise I can’t recall what it was about, and this issue doesn’t help; the storyline of this issue is incomprehensible on its own. I get the sense that this is not one of Si Spurrier’s better works.
FANTASTIC FOUR #178 (Marvel, 1977) – “Call My Killer… the Brute!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] George Pérez. The Fantastic Four battle the Frightful Four, whose new member is the Brute, the Counter-Earth version of Reed Richards. The Impossible Man saves the day, but only after the Brute has switched places with Reed and thrown the real Reed into the Negative Zone. This was not the best run of Fantastic Four, but not the worst either. At one point in this story, the Wizard holds the city for ransom, and the then mayor of New York, Abe Beame, asks Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan to pay the ransom, but they all refuse.
ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #9 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Mahmud Asrar. This is the first appearance of Nadia Pym, the second Wasp. It’s not nearly as good as Nadia’s current solo series. The other Avengers’ reaction to Nadia are histrionic and exaggerated, and Nadia herself is not as cute as when Jeremy Whitley writes her. I will have much more to say about Mark Waid when I review Champions #10 later; as I write this review, that issue is the subject of massive controversy.
Finally that’s the end of that week. On the week of June 30, I read another large number of comics:
SAGA #44 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. Not much happens this issue. The family head off to Abortion Town, and Alana has a vision where she sees her never-born son. I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’ll be shocked if that really is Marko and Alana’s son.
LUMBERJANES #39 (Marvel, 2017) – “Let’s Be Prank” (part 3), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. It turns out the villain of this storyline is a giant talking fox, and he wants to recover his heart, which was stolen by the Bear Woman. (Her name is Nellie, and the names “Nellie” and “Fox” are a bad pun. One of the creators must be a White Sox fan.) The fox is an amazing villain; he reminds me of Loki, or Coyote from Gunnerkrigg Court. Besides that, as usual, this issue is full of amazing moments. For example, Ripley shouts “BUBBLES IS MOLLY’S HAT! A TALKING FOX KIDNAPPED MY ABUELA!” And Ripley’s grandma becomes friends with the Bear Woman by slapping her while she’s in bear form. I still think Bubbles’s parents are going to play a role in this story somehow, but we’ll see.
ASTRO CITY #45 (DC, 2017) – “When You Find Out What Happens to Glamorax, You’ll Totally Freak!” or “Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. Another chapter in the saga of Mister Cakewalk a.k.a. Jazzbaby a.k.a. the Bouncing Beatnik a.k.a. the Halcyon Hippie. In this issue it becomes clear that this character is an embodiment of the counterculture; s/he changes into a new form every time a new countercultural phenomenon becomes popular. This issue takes place in the ‘70s, so the character starts out as Glamorax, a superpowered version of David Bowie. Over the course of the issue s/he evolves into an unnamed embodiment of punk culture, with the help of Tom o’ Bedlam, a thinly disguised version of Tom Wolfe. And then something goes horribly wrong. This is a great Astro City story – it’s funny and original and it shows a keen understanding of ‘70s culture.
MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #20 (Marvel, 2017) – “Girl-Moon, Part 2 of 5: Gravity of a Situation,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Moon Girl and Girl Moon get to know each other, but Lunella’s plans go wrong somehow and she ends up in an alternate universe, where she encounters alternate versions of herself and Devil. I assume these characters are Devil Girl and Moon Dinosaur. Meanwhile, the Lunellabot causes a lot of havoc. This has been a fun storyline so far.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #112 (Marvel, 1972) – “Spidey Cops Out!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Romita. When Aunt May vanishes mysteriously, Peter deides to quit being Spider-Man and focus on Ant May’s welfare. That doesn’t last long because it turns out Aunt May was kidnapped, apparently by Doc Ock. What stands out about this issue is Jazzy Johnny’s artwork. I think he’s the greatest Spider-Man artist – greater even than Ditko. For me, his Spider-Man is the definitive version. My admiration for his work is partly because there’s so little of it. Romita stopped doing artwork full-time when he became Marvel’s art director in the early ‘70s, while Ditko continued drawing, sometimes very badly, well into the ‘90s.
ELEANOR AND THE EGRET #3 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Iced,” [W] John Layman, [A] Sam Keith. This issue begins with an enigmatic scene depicting a house with several occupants, each of whom has an animal familiar. Then, Eleanor infiltrates the museum and the egret eats all the Anastasia Rue paintings, but a creature comes out of one of the paintings and kills the egret. I still don’t understand what’s going on in this comic, but it’s a lot of fun, and Sam Keith’s art is terrific.
SUPERGIRL: BEING SUPER #4 (DC, 2017) – “Chapter Four: Who I Am,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Joëlle Jones. The conclusion to one of the best DC comics of the year. Kara finally decides to confide in her best friend Dolly about Tan-On, but Dolly has been kidnapped by Lexcorp, and when Kara and Tan-On rescue Dolly, Tan-On decides to kill her himself. Kara finally comes to her senses, defeats Tan-On, comes to terms with Jennifer’s death, and heads off to Metropolis. This was an incredible coming-of-age story, a brilliant exploitation of Mariko Tamaki’s skill at writing teenage girls. I just wish there would be a sequel.
JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS INFINITE #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite, Part One,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stacey Lee & Jen Hickman. Just as Jem’s secret identity is becoming increasingly unsustainable, an alternate-reality version of Techrat appears and asks the Holograms to accompany him to another universe, which is being destroyed by Emmett Benton’s hologram technology. This is as good as any regular issue of Jem, but the science fiction element is a bit jarring.
THE LAST AMERICAN #1 (Marvel/Epic, 1990) – “Goodnight, Poughkeepsie,” [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. This miniseries is by three classic Judge Dredd creators. I’ve read few if any Mike McMahon comics, and his style took some getting used to. I bought this issue a while ago, but decided to read it now because I got the last three issues of the miniseries at Heroes Con. As for the plot, this comic takes place in America after a nuclear holocaust. The title character is the literal last American, a soldier who was put into suspended animation just before the nuclear war. He emerges from his bunker and heads out into the corpse-filled wasteland of upstate New York, trying to find anyone else who’s still alive. As that description suggests, this comic is very bleak and brutal, even compared to other dystopias (like Station Eleven, which I just read). Only the fact that there are three more issues gives me any reason to hope. A major theme in this comic is nostalgia for the American past; Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” is an important intertext.
MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE PREQUEL #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Storm King,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. This comic introduces the Storm King, the villain of the upcoming movie. We watch him as he conquers a kingdom ruled by cats, and declares his disdain for friendship. The Storm King seems like an impressive villain, though much sillier than Queen Chrysalis or Tirek or King Sombra. Clearly the highlight of the issue is the cat kingdom, Abyssinia; it has buildings shaped like cat trees, and its exports and imports include catnip, milk, yarn and kibble.
WONDER WOMAN #25 (DC, 2017) – “Perfect,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Liam Sharp & Bilquis Evely. In the double-sized anniversary issue, Diana confronts Veronica Cale, gets in touch with the gods again, and sleeps with Steve. I think Diana and Steve are a terrible couple, but Greg Rucka almost succeeds in making me believe in them as a couple. Overall, this was an above-average Wonder Woman run, but as I have stated many times, there wasn’t enough Wonder Woman in it.
BLACK MAGICK #6 (Image, 2017) – “Awakening II,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. This is a much better Greg Rucka comic. I don’t know how accurately this comic depicts Wiccan ritual, but it at least has the air of authenticity. Rowan’s mother’s death is an awful moment. But what makes this comic incredible is Nicola Scott’s art. She draws with such great detail and makes such effective use of photo reference, and even her coloring is brilliant. I forgot how magic is the only thing in this comic that’s in color, so when Rowan uses magic for the first time, the sudden appearance of color is a pleasant surprise. I’m glad this series is finally back.
BITCH PLANET TRIPLE FEATURE #1 (Image, 2017) – “Windows,” [W] Cheryl Lynn Eaton, [A] Maria Fröhlich, plus other stories. Somehow I had low expectations for this, so I was surprised at how good it was. Each of these stories is a powerful exploration of the double standards and impossible expectations that are placed on women in Bitch Planet’s world (and in the real world). One character is a prison guard who gets unfairly blamed for the death of an inmate, ending her career. Another character works for a talentless dudebro of a boss, and gets sexually harassed by one of his colleagues. A third character loses a job she’s eminently qualified for because she’s a brunette with small breasts. All these stories are infuriating, especially since they’re only minimal exaggerations of how women really do get treated. Because of its ability to provide a wider-ranging picture of the world of Bitch Planet, this spinoff has the potential to be at least as good as its parent series.
BLACK BOLT #2 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. An intelligent and witty script is combined with Christian Ward’s usual spectacular art. Saladin Ahmed is exactly the kind of writer Marvel is trying to hire – besides being a person of color, he’s also an accomplished writer of genre fiction. One thing I like about this issue is that even after Black Bolt gains the ability to talk, he doesn’t say much, which makes sense because he’s not used to talking.
SNARF #8 (Kitchen Sink, 1977) – various stories. This humor-oriented underground comic includes a lot of impressive material. Just to describe some of the stories: “The Nightmares of Little L*l*” by Howard Cruse is an erotic Little Lulu parody. It makes me wish I’d read more Little Lulu so I could get more of the jokes. As usual Howard Cruse’s art is beautiful, with all that pointillism. In Kim Deitch’s “Keep ‘Em Flying,” Kim is hypnotized and has a vision in which he’s transported to a planet of Waldo lookalikes. In Sharon Rudahl’s “The Dying Swan,” an aging ballerina in occupied Paris sacrifices her life to save her ballet company from the Nazis. Justin Green’s “Zen Time” appears to be based on an actual Zen story, about a monk who meditates on the color of Amitabha. Steve Stiles’s “It’s the Pits” is about the then-new activity of comic book investing. It’s funny because number one, it tells us that Action Comics #1 was worth $850 in 1977, and that that figure was considered shockingly high. Number two, the story begins by pointing out that Snarf #8 itself might be worth a fortune someday. That day has not come yet, because I paid about a dollar for it.
BATMAN #314 (DC, 1979) – “Once Beaten, Twice Sly!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Irv Novick. During Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Batman and King Faraday team up to defeat Two-Face’s plot to steal some binary code. The binary code is just a McGuffin which was introduced as an obvious thing for Two-Face to steal, but it’s interesting that in 1979, binary code was considered new and advanced. Otherwise the only really interesting thing about this story is its New Orleans setting.
ISLAND #13 (Image, 2016) – “Mirenda, Part 2,” [W/A] Grim Wilkins, plus other material. The most notable story in this issue is another installment of Grim Wilkins’s wordless story “Mirenda,” about a topless female adventurer in some kind of fantasy world. This story has some brillaint and imaginative art, but its wordlessness is a severe drawback. The lack of words means that the reader has no hope of understanding what’s going on, and I’m not sure that’s intentional. I think Wilkins may have wanted the reader to be able to follow the story, and if so, he did not succeed. This issue also includes chapters of Fil Barlow’s Zooniverse and Lando’s “Island 3.” I already complained about both these comics in my review of Island #12. Cynthia Alfonso’s “Panic Attack” is readable in about one minute. At least Jack Cole’s opening illustrations are good (not the Jack Cole from Plastic Man, obviously).
GRASS KINGS #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. This comic is okay, but I still think Matt Kindt’s art and publication design are better than his writing.
THE OLD GUARD #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Leandro Fernandez. I finally decided to get caught up on this comic. This issue, Andy, the oldest of the immortal soldiers, meets up with Nile, the youngest, but when they get back to Andy’s safehouse, they find that one of the other soldiers is dead and the last two are missing. What amazes me about this comic is Leandro Fernandez’s art, which, as already noted, has improved radically since he collaborated with Rucka on Queen & Country. His linework is similar to that of Eduardo Risso, but his storytelling is much more radical. This comic is full of full-page layouts with unusual perspectives. It’s worth reading for the artwork alone.
THE OLD GUARD #3 (Image, 2017) – as above. This issue, Booker comes back to life, and he, Andy and Nile go off to rescue Nicky and Joe. Also, Joe gives a beautiful speech about his love for Nicky.
ISLAND #14 (Image, 2017) – various stories. I was sure this issue’s cover was by Brandon Graham, but it’s actually by M.L. MacDonald. This issue’s centerpiece is “Pop Gun War: Chain Letter – Part 4: Television & Holes,” by Farel Dalrymple. Like most of Farel’s work, this story doesn’t make much logical sense but is brilliantly drawn. It’s a science fiction story about Hollis the superhero, Frank Jean the cyborg boxer, and Gwen the wizard, all of whom are being observed by a girl named Emily. The setting of this story reminds me of that of The Incal, especially the splash page with John Difool falling off a balcony. The other stories in this issue aren’t nearly as impressive. For example, Troy Nixey’s “The Crime of Iron” has some gorgeous art but no story at all. Jess Pollard’s story is kind of cool, though, and Ana Galvan’s “Hotline to Death” has some interesting Michael DeForge-esque art. The important thing about this anthology was that it was a forum where new artists could get some exposure, and even if their work wasn’t the best, they would be judged less harshly than if they were doing a solo series. That’s why it’s a shame that this series was cancelled, even if I sometimes found it tedious to read.
THE OLD GUARD #4 (Image, 2017) – as above. Nile learns about the unique difficulties of being an Old Guard. Booker reveals that he betrayed his teammates to Merrick, a tycoon who wants to be immortal, because he (Booker) is sick of immortality and wants to die.
BORDER WORLDS #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – “I Live in a Space Suit,” [W/A] Don Simpson. I heard some people say good things about this comic when Dover announced they were reprinting it. This debut issue is a continuation of a story serialized in Megaton Man #6 through #10, so it’s a bit hard to follow. But the art is beautiful and evocative, and very different from the art in Don Simpson’s superhero parody comics. There are very few panels per page, which creates a manga-esque feel. I should read more of this series.
WORLD’S GREATEST CARTOONISTS (Fantagraphics, 2017) – various stories. This FCBD comic is a collection of stories by 16 current Fantagraphics creators. Each story is somehow related to that artist’s current book. These stories are a mixed bag, and some of them are much better than others – Eric Haven, in particular, seems to have phoned it in. But at their best, these stories are amazing. The highlight is Emil Ferris’s story, about the protagonist of My Favorite Thing is Monsters. I have that book but haven’t read it yet, and this story makes me want to read it soon. Emil Ferris’s writing is powerful, and her art is stunning. It’s amazing the things she can do by cross-hatching with a ballpoint pen. Ed Piskor’s autobiographical story is interesting, though very short. Ron Regé’s story is hard to read, but seems to be an adaptation of part of the Qur’an. Overall, this issue is a good demonstration of thediversity and quality of Fantagraphics’s line of comics.
THE OLD GUARD #5 (Image, 2017) – as above. The violence in this issue is brutal. The Old Guard track down Merrick and kill him and all his minions, and Leandro Fernandez illustrates all of it in gory detail. And in the end, this violence all seems pointless; the Old Guard don’t accomplish anything by it, other than getting rid of a pest. I usually don’t like this level of blood and gore in my comics, but I’m willing to put up with it for the sake of Leandro’s art.
MARVEL PREMIERE #42 (Marvel, 1978) – “Nightmare’s Evolution,” [W] John Warner & Ed Hannigan, [A] Mike Vosburg. This is not a great comic book, but it’s an important chapter in Tigra’s history. In particular, this is the story where Tigra’s mentor Dr. Tumolo dies, though Greer is not as sad about this as you’d expect. Also, this issue reveals that Tigra has the power to “project a living image to a loved one” at the cost of her life. I doubt this has ever been mentioned anywhere else. Finally, this issue includes a scene where Tigra calms a sabertooth tiger by petting it.
MOONSHINE #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Eduardo Risso. I ordered this entire miniseries, but didn’t read it. I should be more selective about what I order. I’m not a huge fan of Brian Azzarello’s writing, and this series’ storyline doesn’t interest me that much. It’s about a mobster who visits an Appalachian town in Virginia, looking for a man who makes incredible whiskey, but it turns out the town is also full of werewolves. On one hand, the Appalachian setting seems historically accurate, but on the other hand, this comic also perpetuates common hillbilly stereotypes. What makes it worth reading is Eduardo Risso’s art, which is at least as good as in 100 Bullets. His linework and his storytelling are amazing, and he brings life to a somewhat dull story.
MOONSHINE #2 (Image, 2017) – See above.
NAT TURNER #1 (Kyle Baker, 2005) – untitled, [W/A] Kyle Baker. I just got into a debate with Kyle Baker on Facebook, which I won’t discuss in detail, but it motivated me to read this comic that I’ve had for a while. This first issue begins before Nat Turner’s birth. We witness as her mother is captured by slavers and transported to America, where she watches another slave woman throw her newborn baby to a shark. The imagery in this comic is just brutal. Kyle’s greatest strength as a humorist is his bluntness and lack of subtlety, and here he uses that same quality to show the horror of slavery.
LITTLE ARCHIE #155 (Archie, 1980) – “Batter Up,” [W/A] Bob Bolling. The Bolling story in this issue is much better than the one in #144, reviewed above. Mr. Lodge goes off to his lodge, somewhere up north, to ruminate on his problem: he’s invested a lot of money in a terrible minor league baseball team (the Midwest Mudhens, probably named for the real Toledo Mudhens). Archie and Veronica come with him, and they encounter an abominable snowman, who turns out to be an amazing natural baseball talent. But Archie and Veronica realize that it’s not fair for the snowman to be enslaved by Mr. Lodge, so they set him free. This story has some beautiful depictions of Mr. Lodge’s private plane and the snowy northern landscape. Bob Bolling is a brilliant artist of the outdoors. And the story is quite poignant. This issue reminds me that Bob Bolling is not just a top-quality Archie artist, but a world-class cartoonist.
MOONSHINE #3 – as above. Among other developments in this issue, the protagonist, Pirlo, meets a strangely alluring black woman. This scene did not ring true to me; Pirlo seems improbably free of racism for a white man in the ‘30s. Besides that, I had difficulty following this issue’s story, even though I had just read the previous two issues. But the main appeal of this issue is the artwork, which is still terrific.
SPIDER-GWEN #21 (Marvel, 2017) – “Predators, Part 3,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. I’m losing enthusiasm for this series. But Latour’s depiction of the Kingpin’s tyrannical power over New York City is effective, and I love his version of Kraven. The Spider-Gwen part of the story is much less interesting. I honestly don’t understand what she and Harry are even doing in Japan.
THE ROCKETEER: CARGO OF DOOM #4 (IDW, 2012) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. This issue has some amazing scenes where the Rocketeer fights giant monsters that are rampaging through Los Angeles. However, the art was less impressive than in some of Chris Samnee’s other comics, and the story was not the best.
ISLAND #15 (Image, 2017) – various [W/A]. The series goes out on a high note. This issue was the subject of some controversy because of the alleged use of blackface on its cover. I honestly didn’t see this; I perceived the character on the cover as black. However, the Dilraj Mann story, which corresponds to the cover, s clearly the weak link of the issue. The art is good but overly slick, the lettering is ugly, and the story is an overly obvious critique of racism. The rest of the stories in the issue are much better. First there’s the latest chapter of Grim Wilkins’s “Mirenda.” As with the chapter in #14, this story is impossible to follow, but has great art. Then there’s the final chapter of Farel Dalrymple’s Pop Gun War serial. This chapter focuses on Emily. It’s evocative and beautifully drawn, though intentionally difficult to understand. Finally, there’s a chapter of Multiple Warheads by Brandon Graham himself. Brandon’s art, storytelling and puns are as amazing as ever. I look forward to reading more Multiple Warheads, wherever it appears.
INCREDIBLE HULK #103 (Marvel, 1968) – “And Now… the Space Parasite!”, [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Marie Severin. This issue’s villain is a one-eyed orange-skinned alien who sustains himself by draining energy from other beings. He resembles DC’s Parasite, introduced two years before, but was much less important; he dies in this issue and his next appearance was in 1999. What stands out about this issue is Marie Severin’s art. I haven’t paid much attention to this artist before, and I forgot how good she is.
MOTRO #1 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Ulises Fariñas, [W] Erick Freitas. I love Ulises Fariñas’s art, but I’m much less impressed with his writing. However, this story, about a superpowered kid in a world full of living vehicles, is better-written than I expected, and the art is as beautiful as usual.
ANGEL LOVE #5 (DC, 1986) – “The Search for Mary Beth, Part 1,” [W/A] Barbara Slate. Angel’s mother is dying of leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant, and Angel goes looking for her long-lost sister, who is the only possible donor. Bone marrow transplantation seems to have been a new and rare surgery at the time. I do think it’s kind of crummy to look for a relative you haven’t seen in 15 years, just to beg her for an organ donation. I’ve heard stories like that before, and they don’t end well. While all this is going on, Angel’s roommate Wendy is taking care of an injured bird, and Angel’s friend Everett tries to convince Wendy to stop babying the bird and let it fly on its own. The main plot and the subplot are united by the theme of mother-daughter relationships. On this issue’s letters page, “a concerned mother, S. Moreland” complains that Angel Love #1 was inappropriate for her 10- and 6-year-old children because it depicts cocaine use. Barbara Slate’s response is fascinating: she agrees that Angel Love is inappropriate for kids of that age, and states that the series’ target audience is girls aged 11 to 18. In the ‘80s, the idea of a comic book for 11- to 18-year-old girls was radically ahead of its time. It would be at least another 25 years before the industry would start taking this audience seriously. Angel Love was a short-lived series, but it fascinates me because it’s a forgotten precursor to today’s young adult comics.
Just six more to go!
TRUTH: RED, WHITE AND BLACK #4 (Marvel, 2003) – “The Cut,” [W] Robert Morales, [A] Kyle Baker. Faith Bradley tries to find out why there was a white man in her husband’s coffin. Meanwhile, several of the black super-soldiers kill each other in a fight, leaving Isaiah Bradley to undertake a suicide mission on his own, while also dealing with institutional racism. I love the panel where a scientist says that the soldiers’ “ferocious behavior can be explained only by unforeseen inherent native flaws” – it’s a perfect example of how white people use racism to excuse their own mistakes. Kyle Baker’s art in this comic is terrific.
SLEEPER #1 (WildStorm, 2003) – “Out of the Cold,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. A terrible debut issue and an inauspicious start to Brubaker and Phillips’s long collaboration. This is supposed to be a first issue, but it’s so immersed in WildStorm continuity that it barely stands on its own. I get that the protagonist is an assassin who kills superheroes, but other than that, it’s hard to figure out what’s going on. I assume that this series got better as it continued.
THE JUNGLE TWINS #11 (Gold Key, 1974) – “The Island of Dr. Strangekind,” [W] Gaylord DuBois, [A] Paul Norris. In this boring Tarzan spinoff, two jungle boys encounter a mad scientist who has been teaching gorillas to talk. At least Gaylord DuBois’s writing is competent.
LITTLE LULU #234 (Gold Key, 1976) – “Doll-Boy” and other stories, [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Irving Tripp. As suggested in my Snarf #8 review above, I need to read more of this series. I was surprised to realize that this issue contains original material, though it’s not written by John Stanley, who left the series around 1959. The first story is humorously bizarre: Lulu’s doll is in the doll hospital, so she forces Tubby to dress up as a doll instead. This story clearly shows the force of Lulu’s personality. The other stories in this issue aren’t as good, and some of them are awful.
CURSE WORDS #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. For some reason I stopped reading this series after the first issue. This issue, Wizord shrinks all the people who witnessed his display of wizardry, then makes a deal with an elderly Sri Lankan dictator, who gives him a powerful magical item in exchange for being twenty again. Wizord interprets his wish over-literally by turning him into twenty copies of himself, who all promptly kill each other.
MOONSHINE #4 (Image, 2017) – as above. More of the same. At this point I’m only interested in this series because of the art.