Pre-vacation reviews

I should finish these reviews soon because I’m about to go out of town. Two more comics from the week of June 30:

BUG! THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #2 (DC, 2017) – “Snow Job: Domino Effect Part 2 of 5,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. Another weird and confusing story full of Kirby characters. This series is doing a good job of evoking the mood of Kirby’s ‘70s DC comics.

FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #10 (DC, 1976) – “We’re the Outsiders”, [W] Joe Simon, [A] Jerry Grandenetti. A truly bizarre story about a team of weird-looking with appropriately weird artwork. This comic’s writing and art are old-fashioned, and the characters have little interest other than shock value, so it’s no wonder that these characters never appeared again. But this issue is interesting as an oddball one-off story. This issue includes a major continuity error. The issue begins with a flash-forward in which the Outsiders head off to their latest mission, in which they recruit their newest member, a child with a giant head. But at the end of the issue, when we return to the same scene depicted in the flash-forward, the child with a huge head is already a member of the Outsiders.

New comics received on July 7. This was a long week because the next comics shipment didn’t arrive until the following Tuesday.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #29 (Image, 2017) – “The First Degree,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. I don’t remember this issue very well. There’s a lot of intra-group politics, and Persephone sleeps with Sakhmet.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #7 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jamie McKelvie, [A] Veronica Fish. This issue is narrated by Janet Van Dyne, who I guess is alive again. It has to be considered one of the best stories about this character, right up there with some of Roger Stern’s stories. Jeremy has a specific take on this character which is not necessarily mine, and he describes Hank’s abuse as an ongoing phenomenon rather than a one-time thing, which I don’t quite agree with. But he writes her as a woman who has a forceful personality and who really has her shit together. He correctly demonstrates that Jan’s flightiness and fashion obsession are deceptive. And Jan and Nadia’s stepmom-stepdaughter relationship is really cute. This was a really good issue, and I’m sorry this series appears to be ending.

RAT QUEENS II #4 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. Kind of an average issue. The painted art style on the last few pages is intriguing. The rock-cut temple is obviously inspired by the similar-looking building in Petra, Jordan.

KIM & KIM: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #1 (Black Mask, 2017) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. This is very good. It has witty dialogue, a complicated plot, and detailed and exciting artwork. I especially like how all the background characters look as if they have their own stories.

ZODIAC STARFORCE: CRIES OF THE FIRE PRINCE #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kevin Panetta, [A] Paulina Ganucheau. So far this miniseries is very similar to the first miniseries, but I’m glad that this comic is doing well enough to warrant a sequel. This issue has a cute page with a girl watching her turtle eat, and two monsters made of a blender and a washing machine.

GIANT DAYS #28 (Boom!, 2017) – “And So, They Didn’t”, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Some weird noises are coming from the garage that the girls aren’t allowed into, and they think it’s a ghost. It turns out their neighbor is using the garage to breed chinchillas. This issue has some excellent art.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #4 (IDW, 2017) – “Flash Magnus,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brenda Hickey. The story of how Flash Magnus saves some griffins from a storm, at the risk of causing an international border dispute. This issue was just okay. Legends of Magic is worse than the series it replaced, Friends Forever.

HAWKEYE #8 (Marvel, 2017) – “…They All Fall Down,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. We already knew Derek Bishop was a horrible person, but this issue we learn that he’s also a supervillain. Also, there’s another plot thread where Kate goes looking for a girl’s missing father and finds herself in a fight club.

I must have been pretty tired when I read these first eight comics, because I don’t remember much about them. Here’s one I do remember:

CHAMPIONS #10 (Marvel, 2017) – “The One Where Mark Waid Defends Internment Camps” (unofficial title), [W] Mark Waid, [A] Humberto Ramos. I’ve already said a lot about this comic book on Facebook, and I don’t want to repeat myself. I’ll just say that this is a terrible comic, and Marvel needs better editorial oversight so that they won’t continue to print comics like this. The main problem with this comic is the page where the mutant family decides to stay in an internment camp, and Amadeus Cho says that “as an Asian-American” he doesn’t like internment camps, but he supports their decision. This is horribly tone-deaf. There is perhaps an interesting story to be told about people who would rather stay in a concentration camp than be freed, but Mark Waid has neither the writing skill nor the sensitivity to tell that story. I also have issues with the way Mark reacted to the criticism of this story, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about that here. Suffice it to say, this will be my last issue of Champions, and I’ll have to think twice before buying any more Mark Waid comics, and I say that as someone who’s been a fan of his for almost 25 years.

SNOTGIRL #6 (Image, 2017) – “Since You’ve Been Gone,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Glad to see this series again, although it’s hard to remember the plot or the characters. This issue introduces Misty (Cutegirl)’s identical twin sister Bonnie.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: THE MISFITS: INFINITE #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite, Part Two,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. The Misfits follow the Holograms into Techrat’s alternate universe, which turns out to be a dystopia. Also, the Misfits finally learn Jem’s secret identity. I don’t know why this has to be a different series from Jem and the Holograms Infinite.

CLASSIC STAR WARS: THE VANDELHELM MISSION (Dark Horse, 1995) – “Supply and Demand,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Al Williamson. This is a reprint of Marvel’s Star Wars #98. In this story, Han Solo has to protect two bratty kids, who are visually based on Al Williamson’s own children. Goodwin and Williamson are an incredible creative team, and in this issue they turn in an excellent performance. Archie’s story is funny, cute and exciting, and Al Williamson’s art is as incredible as usual. As I read this issue, I got so absorbed in the story that I kept forgetting to admire the incredible craftsmanship of the art.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #81 (Marvel, 1982) – “The Road to Halwan,” [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Denys Cowan. Jeryn Hogarth sends Danny and Luke on a mission to Halwan, the native country of the princess from Marvel Premiere #24, which I reviewed last year. In Halwan, Luke and Danny encounter Boris and Ninotchka from issue 77. This is a good issue, but not as good as the last two Power Man & Iron Fist issues I read.

STRANGE SPORTS STORIES #4 (Vertigo, 2015) – various [W/A]. A mixed bag. The best story in this issue is probably the first, by Genevieve Valentine and Joseba Larratxe, which is an extended comparison between falconry and women’s oppression. The next story, by Brian Buccellato and Megan Levens, is an unimaginative rip-off of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” “The Time-Grappler!” by Aubrey Sitterson and Max Dunbar is a kind of funny story about a time-traveling professional wrestler. The issue ends with a solo story by Paul Pope, but it’s far from his best work, and I didn’t even realize it was him until I saw the credits.

DETECTIVE COMICS #501 (DC, 1981) – “The Man Who Killed Mlle. Marie!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Don Newton. This issue introduces Julia Pennyworth, the adult daughter of Alfred Pennyworth and Mlle. Marie. It’s also notable because it takes place in Paris and it’s about the legacy of the French Resistance. In 1981, World War II was recent enough that Alfred and Lucius Fox could plausibly be depicted as WWII veterans. The Batgirl backup story, by Cary Burkett and José Delbo, is less bad than I expected.

FANTASTIC FOUR #127 (Marvel, 1972) – “Where the Sun Does Not Shine!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. Suffering from one of his usual temper tantrums, the Thing heads off on his own to look for the Mole Man. He encounters the Mole Man’s fiancee Kala, Queen of the Netherworld, who makes her first appearance since Tales of Suspense #43. Meanwhile, the rest of the FF go looking for Ben, and in a typical piece of sexism, Reed tries to convince Sue to stay home with Franklin. This issue has some stunning John Buscema artwork.

ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN #1 (Image, 2017) – “One evening as the sun went down,” [W/A] Kyle Starks. This is a fantasy comic about Jackson, a veteran hobo with a mysterious past, and his sidekick Pomona Slim, a novice hobo. I’m not in love with the art in this comic, but the writing is funny, and the comic shows an impressive depth of historical research into hobo culture. This issue ends with an essay by Eric Newsom, a professor at the University of Central Missouri, about the song for which this comic is named.

ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN #2 (Image, 2017) – “The bulldogs all have rubber teeth,” as above. For some reason I don’t recall, Jackson visits a hobo fight club where he intentionally loses to another hobo named Hundred Cat.

ALL-STAR COMICS #65 (DC, 1977) – “The Master Plan of Vandal Savage,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Wally Wood. This series is worse than Paul’s other major works from the ‘70s (Legion and Huntress), mostly because Power Girl is the only truly interesting character. But this issue isn’t bad. There’s an exciting plot in which the JSA battles Vandal Savage, and Woody’s artwork is spectacular.

BATMAN #605 (DC, 2002) – “Courage,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Scott McDaniel. In the conclusion to the 18-part “Bruce Wayne, Fugitive” saga, Batman proves that David Cain, not Bruce Wayne, killed Vesper Fairchild. I suppose I’d have enjoyed this more if I’d read the previous 18 parts, but this story seems like a pretty average and forgettable crossover. Also, Scott McDaniel’s art is very unimpressive.

COLORFUL MONSTERS (Drawn & Quarterly, 2017) – various [W/A]. This FCBD comic includes stories by Tove Jansson, Elise Gravel, Anouk Ricard and Shigeru Mizuki. The best of the four are Tove Jansson’s Moomin story, which is really weird, and Mizuki’s Kitaro story. However, by the time I read this comic, I was feeling rather tired and I thought the length of the comic was excessive.

ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN #3 (Image, 2017) – “Beside the crystal fountain,” as above. The devil, who has been pursuing Jackson for the whole series, finally catches up to him. Jackson beats him in a fight, because he previously bargained with the devil for the power to defeat any single man in combat. And it turns out that the thing Jackson is carrying is the Spear of Destiny, which is an annoying cliché.

ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN #4 (Image, 2017) – “The Jails Are Made of Tin,” as above. Jackson and Pomona Slim are arrested and sent to prison. Jackson beats up everyone else in the prison, one at a time, then he and Slim escape, and Slim makes the surprisingly sensible decision to leave Jackson and go back home. Now that I’m caught up on this series, it’s not my favorite Image comic, but I’m going to keep reading it.

IMAGE FIRSTS: VELVET #1 (Image, 2014) – “Before the Living End,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Michael Lark. The protagonist of this series is the secretary for a spy agency, who turns out to be quite a badass herself. The overall aesthetic is pretty similar to that of any other Ed Brubaker comic, but Michael Lark’s artwork is spectacular.

SEEKERS INTO THE MYSTERY #1 (Vertigo, 1996) – “The Pilgrimage of Lucas Hart, Chapter One: The Little Man with the Knives,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Glenn Barr. This is part of JM DeMatteis’s large and underappreciated body of work in the fantasy genre. The protagonist of this story is a burned-out, washed-up Hollywood screenwriter who, at the end of the issue, encounters a homeless man with magic powers. This first issue is a bit of a slow start, but I’m curious to see where this story goes.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #34 DIRECTOR’S CUT (Marvel, 2008) – “The Burden of Dreams, Part Four,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Bucky and the Black Widow team up against the Red Skull. This is an exciting story with excellent art, but it also reminds me that I quit reading Ed Brubaker’s Captain America because all the stories resembled each other too much. This issue is a “director’s cut” edition, meaning it includes Brubaker’s original script, which is of limited interest because Brubaker provides very few directions to the artist.

BAREFOOTZ #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1976) – various stories, [W/A] Howard Cruse. Some interesting but uneven early work by the pioneer of gay comics. Most of this issue consists of one- or two-page strips about a character named Barefootz. These strips are not particularly funny and include no references to gay themes. They’re only interesting because of Cruse’s slick draftsmanship and lettering and his effective use of crosshatching and pontillism. A more interesting story is “Gravy on Gay,” in which Barefootz’s gay friend Headcrack encounters a homophobic jerk. This story is also kind of unfunny, but it shows that Cruse was at least starting to think about the gay themes that would be central to his major works.

JONNY QUEST #12 (Comico, 1987) – “Buried Treasure,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Dan Spiegle. I have raved about this series before, and this is one of its best issues. It’s a perfect depiction of a stepmother/stepchild relationship. Benton Quest is falling in love with Kathy Martin, but Jonny doesn’t want her to replace his mother. Meanwhile, Kathy is afraid that she can’t compete with Benton’s late wife, who (in this continuity) was a reckless adventurer, exactly the opposite of Kathy. When the Quest family go on a mission to rescue a missing girl from a Neanderthal tribe, Kathy nearly gets herself killed trying to be more adventurous, but then saves the day because of her trusting and empathetic nature. And this experience helps Jonny and Kathy to start to feel comfortable with each other. This is just a beautiful story, and it’s a shame that it’s out of print. Based on a conversation I had on Facebook, I understand that there are both technical and legal difficulties with reprinting this material, which is very unfortunate. Jonny Quest was not only the best licensed-property comic book of the ‘80s, but one of the best comic books, period.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #6 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Yeah! Yeah! The Clang Twang!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. This is similar to other Beanworld comics, but radically different from any other comic book. The Boom’r Band and Proffy invent a new style of music, and meanwhile, Beanish falls in love with a mysterious floating-head woman from an alternate dimension.

VALERIAN AND LAURELINE #1 (Cinebook, 2010, originally 1976) – “The City of Shifting Waters,” [W] Pierre Christin, [A] Jean-Claude Mézières. This is the first Valerian story to be published as an album. An earlier story, “Les Mauvais Rêves,” was published earlier in serial form but was not collected until much later. In this comic, Valerian and Laureline travel back in time to a New York which has been sunk by a massive flood (maybe this is prophetic). This album is exciting, but the artwork is much looser and cartoonier than in later albums, although there are some really nice splash panels. The most intriguing thing about the story is that it includes one character based on Sun Ra, and another based on Jerry Lewis’s character from The Nutty Professor.

YOUR BLACK FRIEND (Silver Sprocket, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ben Passmore. This is an important piece of work and should be an Eisner contender. I already sympathize with the argument of this comic, but even then, I found it disturbing. My complaint about this comic is that $5 for eleven pages is exorbitant.

SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL #4 (Marvel, 1973) – “Cry – Mandrill!”, [W] Carole Seuling & Steve Gerber, [A] Ross Andru. I didn’t know this comic existed until I bought it at Heroes Con. It’s one of the more obscure examples of Marvel’s early-‘70s line of feminist comics. This issue, Shanna and her leopards Ina and Biri encounter the Mandrill and his army of mind-controlled women. Shanna at this point was a somewhat different character than she would eventually become; her primary gimmick is her pet leopards.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #180 (Fawcett, 1978) – various uncredited stories. The stories in this issue includes one where Dennis gets Gina’s mother to feed him, one where Dennis and his dad raise some butterflies, and another where Dennis’s dad gets bursitis. One of the short pieces in this issue is reprinted from another issue that I already read. I guess Fawcett reused a lot of material.

SUPERMAN #266 (DC, 1973) – “The Nightmare Maker,” [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Curt Swan. Kind of a weird story in which Superman battles an abominable snowman that’s really a giant alien statue. The best moment in the story is where Steve Lombard sticks Clark Kent with a taxi fare, and in revenge, Clark ruins Steve’s date by making his corsage wilt. There’s also a World of Krypton backup story in which two young siblings encounter a space probe sent to Krypton by the ruler of Atlantis.

DETECTIVE COMICS #459 (DC, 1976) – “A Clue Before Dying!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] José Luis García-López. This issue’s lead story is a murder mystery in which the victim is a mystery writer named Elliott Quinn. This name is an obvious homage to Ellery Queen, and one of the suspects is named Inspector Dannay, a reference to Frederic Dannay, the assumed name of one of Ellery Queen’s creators. I assume this story includes other Ellery Queen references I didn’t notice. This issue also has a OMan-Bat backup story by Pasko and Pablo Marcos.

FOUR WOMEN #1 (DC, 2001) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth. A slice-of-life story about four women whose car breaks down while they’re on a road trip. Sam Kieth’s art is quite good, but his dialogue reads like a man’s idea of what women talk about to each other.

A1 #1 (Atomeka, 1989) – various stories, [E] Dave Elliott & Garry Leach. ([E] means edited by.) This anthology has an amazing lineup of talent. The most exciting story is “Ghostdance” starring the Warpsmiths, by Alan Moore and Garry Leach. This story, set in the Miracleman universe, was never published anywhere else until the Marvel edition of Miracleman #4. Other creators featured include Barry Windsor-Smith, Eddie Campbell, Brian Bolland, Bill Sienkiewicz, John Bolton, Dave Gibbons, Ted McKeever, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, and Glenn Fabry, doing very rare interior art. There’s even a convincing fake Golden Age strip by Paris Cullins and Dave Elliott. In short, this anthology represents the best in ‘80s British comics. The only bad story in the lot is “Wayfarer: A Taste of Gold” by Paul Behrer and Una Fricker. I bought two other issues of this series at Heroes Con, but haven’t gotten around to them yet.

DEATH RATTLE #6 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – various stories, [E] Denis Kitchen & Dave Schreiner. An excellent horror-themed anthology comic. This issue begins with Tom Veitch and Steve Bissette’s “Roadkills,” about some people who scavenge for roadkill and then become roadkill themselves. “Catcalls” by Jan Strnad and Rand Holmes is a more EC-esque horror story, about a negligent babysitter who kills her clients’ baby and tries to blame it on the cat. Finally, Jaxon’s “Bulto,” part four of a multi-part story, combines his usual Southwestern historical themes with cosmic horror. Jaxon’s depiction of a Lovecraftian god is amazing; I didn’t realize he was so good at that sort of thing.

VANGUARD ILLUSTRATED #3 (Pacific, 1984) – various stories, [E] David Scroggy. This anthology title was intended as a showcase for new talent. The best things in it are the gorgeous Al Williamson cover and the “Freakwave” story by Milligan and McCarthy. It has a weird metatextual ending in which the Drifter, one of the characters in the story, assassinates Milligan and McCarthy themselves. Next is the third installment of Baron and Rude’s encyclopedia salesman story, which was commissioned before Nexus began, but published after. This story isn’t that great but it does demonstrate Rude’s amazing talent. Rex Lindsay’s “Killer in Orbit!” is a bad Ditko pastiche. David Campiti and Tom Yeates’s story is well-drawn, but the story is a gushing homage to Ray Bradbury, a writer who I’ve never liked as much as some people do.

HUNDREDS OF FEET BELOW DAYLIGHT (Drawn & Quarterly, 1998) – “Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight,” [W/A] James Sturm. This is the second installment of the American historical trilogy that began with The Revival and ended with The Golem’s Mighty Swing. It’s a harrowing and exhaustively researched story about a 19th-century Idaho mining town. The characters are powerfully depicted and the story is compelling, although the conclusion leaves a bunch of mysteries unresolved. I didn’t like this story quite as much as The Golem’s Mighty Swing, but it’s at a comparable level of quality. James Sturm is doing great work as the director of the Center for Cartoon Studies, but I hope we see more comics from him soon.

THE ELSEWHERE PRINCE #2 (Epic, 1990) – “The Princess,” [W] Moebius & R.J.M. Lofficer, [A] Eric Shanower. This is a spinoff of Moebius’s Airtight Garage, a comic which is currently unavailable in English, and I hope Dark Horse gets around to reprinting it soon. It’s about an unnamed young man who gets involved in some kind of a war. The writing is fairly similar to Moebius’s usual style, though I assume the Lofficers wrote the script. The artwork is excellent, maybe a smidge below the quality of Age of Bronze, and the coloring is awesome. I should look for the rest of this miniseries, while I’m waiting for Dark Horse to publish more Moebius books.

THE BOOK OF NIGHT #3 (Dark Horse, 1987) – various stories, [W/A] Charles Vess. An obscure work by perhaps the world’s best fantasy artist. All the stories in this issue are reprinted from old issues of Epic Illustrated. These stories were originally in color, but when they’re reprinted in black and white, Charles Vess’s unequalled draftsmanship comes through even more strongly. As with Book of Ballads and Sagas, the stories are a little weak, but it hardly matters when the art is this good. This issue also includes some illustrations done by Vess as early as 1977, proving that he was a world-class artist from the very start of his career.

THE BARBARIANS #1 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “The Mountain of Mutants,” [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Larry Lieber. The only issue of this series, which was a spinoff from Ironjaw. I thought this was Ironjaw #1 at first, since the cover displays the name Ironjaw more prominently than the name The Barbarians, and I didn’t understand why the story began in media res. The Ironjaw story is notable only for a scene of near rape which made it past the Comics Code. What’s much more interesting is the backup story, “Andrax.” This is credited to “Rolf Kauka/Bardon” but is actually by Peter Wiechmann and, of all people, Jordi Bernet. It originally appeared in 1973 in a German-language Swiss comic called Primo, and I can’t imagine why Atlas chose to reprint it (I asked David Roach this, and he didn’t know). It’s a fun adventure story, although I wouldn’t have guessed the art was by Bernet if I hadn’t looked it up.

MEGATON MAN MEETS THE UNCATEGORIZABLE X+ THEMS #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1989) – untitled, [W/A] Don Simpson. This one-shot was published after the end of the Megaton Man ongoing series. As the title indicates, it’s an X-Men parody. The parody elements of this comic are kind of outdated and unfunny by now, but there’s more to this comic than that. Besides the scenes with the X-Men stand-ins, there’s also a parallel plot thread involving Trent Phloog, the depowered former Megaton Man, and his friends such as Preston Percy. Don Simpson seems to genuinely care about these characters; they feel like people and not just superhero parodies. Also, this comic is set in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has a strong sense of local specificity. These aspects make this comic more than a bad superhero parody. This issue has one really disturbing scene where the Golden Age Megaton Man commits statutory rape with a character based on Kitty Pryde, but Simpson does seem to understand how creepy this is.

SPOOF #2 (Marvel, 1972) – “Tales from the Creep,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Marie Severin, plus other stories. This looks like a bad Mad Magazine ripoff, and it kind of is. But it has some excellent art by Marie Severin, even if some of the jokes fall flat. The second story, a Tarzan parody by Roy Thomas and both Severins, is a somewhat witty parody of colonialist cliches; the joke is that Tarzan returns to Africa after decolonization. The third story, an All in the Family parody by Henry Scarpelli and Stu Schwarzenberg, includes parody versions of a number of comic strips and political cartoons.

GREEN LANTERN #143 (DC, 1981) – “Call Him Auron! God of Light! God of Death!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Joe Staton. I read this bad comic to decompress after reading a number of more emotionally taxing and artistically accomplished comics. This is a Green Lantern story in name only; it’s part of Marv’s Omega Men saga, which ran through Action Comics and New Teen Titans as well as GL, and Hal Jordan only appears on 10 of 17 pages. The Adam Strange backup by Laurie Sutton and Rodin Rodriguez is actually better than the lead story.

New comics received on July 17, several days late:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #22 (Marvel, 2017) – “Enter the Savage Land,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. As usual, this issue is hilarious. Doreen and Nancy win a vacation to the Savage Land, where they see some dinosaurs, encounter some Latverian college students, and get involved in a plan to save the Savage Land from dying. Doreen and Nancy’s excitement at seeing the dinosaurs is adorable, and this issue is full of funny jokes, like a book called “Eat, Pray, Doom.” My Facebook friend Bernadette Bosky has a letter published in this issue.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #11 (DC, 2017) – “The Ballad of Olive Silverlock, Part Three,” [W] Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, [A] Adam Archer. Maps gives Olive a piece of her mind, then Maps and some of the other kids go off to Wayne Manor to look for something in the Wayne family vault. This leads to some hilarious interactions between Maps and Damian. I would totally buy a comic that was just Maps and Damian teaming up. For that matter, I would buy a Maps Mizoguchi solo series. I’m sorry that this is the next to last issue.

KIM REAPER #4 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Kim and Becka fight a bunch of zombies, Becka kills the Grim Reaper CEO with a rolling pin, and then Kim gets her job back and Becka’s scheduled death is cancelled. This was a fun miniseries. I hope there will be a sequel.

ROCKET #3 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Blue River Score, Part 3: Breakout!”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Adam Gorham. Another in a long series of stories in which Rocket escapes from prison. This was funny, but less original than last issue, and I’m not excited about next issue’s Deadpool appearance.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #56 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. It turns out that the dragons declared war on the yaks because the yaks violated an ancient treaty by declaring Pinkie Pie an honorary yak. This issue is less interesting because of the plot than because of what it does with Spike’s character. On a number of occasions in the TV series, especially in “Dragon Quest,” Spike has chosen to identify as a pony instead of a dragon. This is really problematic because it suggests that Spike should be ashamed of what he is and should try to be something different. In this issue, however, when people say mean things about dragons or tell Spike that he’s more of a pony than a dragon, Spike gets visibly annoyed. And in the climax of the issue, Spike is able to resolve the conflict because he understands both ponies and dragons. I think this is a vast improvement over the way the TV show usually depicts Spike’s cultural identity, because it suggests that he identifies with both his original and his adopted culture. (An earlier MLP comic that makes this same point is Friends Forever #14.)

BLACK PANTHER #15 (Marvel, 2017) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 3,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Wilfredo Torres & Adam Gorham. (How does Adam Gorham manage to do one and a half comics a month?) The Dora Milaje and the other Wakandan heroes fight a bunch of yeti-esque monsters. Meanwhile, T’Challa has a frank conversation with Storm. This issue was only average, but at least it almost makes me believe in T’Challa and Storm as a couple.

ANIMOSITY #8 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Kingdom of God,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael De Latorre. A bunch of animals talk about religion, and Jesse reveals that she knows Sandor is dying. There are actually some really powerful moments in this issue. I’ve been thinking that I’m getting tired of this series and of Marguerite Bennett’s writing in general, but that may be unfair of me.

HULK #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Georges Duarte. Jen investigates the prank in which the gay baker dude was turned into a Hulk. This is a good issue but quite similar to issue 7.

KONA #18 (Dell, 1966) – “Undersea Peril,” [W] unknown, [A] Sam Glanzman. I felt motivated to read this because Sam Glanzman just passed away. This issue is much more straightforward and less insanely bizarre than earlier issues of the series, but it’s a well-drawn and exciting adventure story. I should collect more of this comic.

G.I. COMBAT #177 (DC, 1975) – “The Tank That Missed D-Day,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Sam Glanzman. Another Glanzman comic. I’ve stopped actively collecting DC war comics because it’s a genre I don’t enjoy, but I happened to have this one. The Haunted Tank story in this issue has some excellent Glanzman art, but an implausible, farfeched plot. That’s not unusual in a Bob Haney comic, and it would be fine if this were a superhero story, but it’s not appropriate to the more serious and grim tone of DC’s war comics. The backup story, by Robert Kanigher and Frank Redondo, has slightly worse art but much better writing. Kanigher actually cared about his war comics, whereas his superhero comics were often written just to pay the bills. “The Avenging Wind” tells two parallel stories about an American and a Japanese boy who grow up to kill each other in aerial combat in World War II. The story ends by depicting an American boy and a Vietnamese boy, suggesting that the cycle will continue.

ODDLY NORMAL #5 (Image, 2015) – “Sticks, Stones, Words & Bones,” [W/A] Otis Frampton. I didn’t like this series at all, and I should have quit ordering it after the first issue, but this issue isn’t so bad. The artwork is imaginative and creepy. Otis Frampton is no match for artists like Mike Maihack or Kazu Kibuishi, but this issue suggests that at least he’s getting better.

STARMAN #58 (DC, 1999) – “Familiar Faces, Some Forgotten,” [W] James Robinson, [A] Tony Harris. The sad thing about this series is that in 1994, Jack Knight was a new and distinctive character, but if he was created today, he would just be a typical hipster dudebro. This issue, Jack and his allies escape from a prison planet and invade Throneworld, where they finally discover Will Payton. Then Will vanishes and Prince Gavyn appears in his place. This was only an okay issue.

ADVENTURE COMICS #475 (DC, 1980) – Aquaman in “Scavenger Hunt!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Dick Giordano. Besides the Aquaman story, this issue includes a Starman (Prince Gavyn) story by Levitz and Ditko, and a Plastic Man story by Martin Pasko and Joe Staton. None of these are all that great, though the Plastic Man story is less bad than I would have expected.

ODDLY NORMAL #2 (Image, 2014) – “A Figment of Your Imagination,” [W/A] Otis Frampton. This issue is much worse than issue 5. This series has an interesting premise, but Frampton is not talented enough to exploit the potential of this premise.

GODSHAPER #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jonas Goonface. This is one of the best new series of the year. It has some awesome artwork and worldbuilding and an exciting story. This issue introduces (or reintroduces?) a character named Desdemona who appears to be central to Bud’s story. Maybe the highlight of the issue is the scene where Ennay publicly comes out as a Shaper, and an embarrassing silence falls.

WINGING IT #1 (Solo, 1987) – “Story One: Synnexus,” [W/A] Roberta Gregory. A rather obscure work, a fantasy story by a creator much better known for her feminist humor comics. It’s about a woman who tries to commit suicide, but instead encounters a fallen angel and a bunch of aliens who are trying to escape from slavery. It’s an intriguing piece of work, and I’d like to read the rest of this story, though the other parts will be tough to find. I believe that this was the only issue published as a comic book, and the story was completed in two graphic novels.

GRENDEL TALES: DEVILS AND DEATHS #1 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Part 1: Devil’s Lot,” [W] Dark Macan, [A] Edvin Biuković. I’ve never gotten into Grendel (and maybe I should), but this issue is one of the few works of Edvin Biuković, a very talented Croatian artist who died at just 30. This story takes place during a war between Grendel clans, whatever those are. Biuković’s art is excellent – it’s in the same artistic tradition as the work of Eduardo Risso or Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, and his composition, storytelling and lettering are awesome. And this comic has extra weight because it’s about war and it was created in the ‘90s by two Yugoslavian creators, so when you read it, you can’t avoid thinking about the Bosnian war.

TOWER OF SHADOWS #5 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Demon That Devoured Hollywood,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry [Windsor-]Smith, plus other stories. A surprisingly excellent issue. The three stories in this issue are each introduced by the artist, but are otherwise unrelated. Thomas and BWS’s lead story is about an actor who sells his soul in exchange for amazing makeup technique. The story is dumb, but BWS’s artwork is very good, and this story is one of his better early works. But the real gem of the issue is Wally Wood’s “Flight into Fear!” It has a flimsy plot about a crippled boy who gets transported into a fantasy world, but the artwork is Woody at his best. The story is full of bizarre creatures, stunning women and creepy castles. It’s very similar in style to The Wizard King, and feels like a prototype of or a lost chapter from that work. I need to look for Tower of Shadows #6 through #8, each of which includes another Wally Wood story. This issue ends with “Time Out!”, a trite haunted house story with good art by Syd Shores.

THE NIGHTLY NEWS #6 (Image, 2007) – “Revenge,” [W/A] Jonathan Hickman. This issue is mostly interesting because of the innovative collage technique Hickman uses in his art. The story, about government attempts to control the media, seems less interesting than the art, though I haven’t read the previous issues.

TALES TO ASTONISH #92 (Marvel, 1967) – Namor in “It Walks Like a Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Dan Adkins; and Hulk in “Turning Point!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Marie Severin. Both stories in this issue are formulaic and boring; it feels as if Stan was preoccupied with something else when he wrote them. However, in both cases the artwork is really good.

MEGATON MAN #3 (Kitchen Sink, 1985) – “I Am Called Bad Guy, Mortal!”, [W/A] Don Simpson. As with the other Megaton Man comic reviewed above, the superhero parody scenes in this issue are the least interesting thing about it. What’s much more interesting is the scene depicting Pamela Jointly and Stella Starlight’s life in Ann Arbor after they left Megatropolis. The contrast between these two women, one much older and less naïve than the other, is fascinating. There’s also a subplot starring Yarn Man, which turns out to be a parody of the Mechanics stories from Love & Rockets. After reading these last two Don Simpson comics, I begin to realize that Simpson was more than just a superhero parodist, and his work was not such an inappropriate fit for a publisher like Kitchen Sink.

RIP OFF COMIX #8 (Rip Off, 1981) – various stories, [E] Gilbert Shelton. The first half of this anthology title consists of two stories by Gilbert Shelton, including the hilarious “Phineas Gets an Abortion,” and a chapter of Frank Stack’s “New Adventures of Jesus.” The second half of the issue is a bunch of reprinted British comics. The first of these is a short story by Leo Baxendale about a zookeeper who keeps getting his bosses killed. Baxendale’s style is very difficult to get used to, but at least now I can say I’ve read something by him. His work is very famous but completely unavailable in America. There’s also some work by Savage Pencil, Terry Gilliam and Hunt Emerson. And there’s “Three Eyes McGurk,” a very early work of Alan Moore and Steve Moore (apparently collaborating on both the writing and the art) which is notable for introducing Axel Pressbutton. This is not Alan’s first published work, but it’s pretty close.

New comics received on July 21:

MS. MARVEL #20 (Marvel, 2017) – “Mecca, Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marco Failla. This is such an important comic. Ms. Marvel is by far the best Marvel comic of the ‘90s, and issues like this are the reason why. In prison, Aamir gives a powerful speech about how racism leads to radicalism: “[People] get radicalized when they think the only way they can have a starring role in their own lives is by playing the villain.” Meanwhile, Kamala encounters Chuck Worthy giving a speech about how things will get better when all the superheroes are gone. This speech is about superheroes but it’s a thinly disguised version of Republicans’ racist diatribes about Muslims and Latinx-Americans. It’s no coincidence that Chuck’s slogan “Chuck them out” has the same rhythm as “Build that wall.” The idea of using superheroes (or mutants or Inhumans) as a metaphor for real-life ethnic minorities has a long history, and is now something of a cliché. But that metaphor has rarely been deployed with more rhetorical force than in this comic, whose writer and protagonist are both members of one of America’s most scapegoated minorities. Also, Chuck Worthy’s takeover of the Jersey City government is eerily similar to Trump’s destruction of the rule of law. And this is why Kamala is so important – because if Kamala can defeat Chuck Worthy in this comic book, then maybe the American people can defeat Trump’s racist policies in real life.

By the way, I’m calling it now: I think Lockdown is Kamran.

MOONSTRUCK #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. This is one of my most hotly anticipated debut issues of the year, and it mostly lives up to my expectations. It’s set in a city full of monsters (hence the comparisons to Brave Chef Brianna) and stars a barista who is also a werewolf. Shae Beagle’s artwork is charming and full of Easter eggs and weird background stuff, and Grace Ellis’s writing reminds me of the writing in Lumberjanes, which is a good thing. I do find some of the dialogue annoying – if I had to work with the gay centaur dude, I would probably strangle him – but this is a minor problem. Also, I love the advice column where all the questions are answered by a mermaid, and her solution to every problem involves drowning people.

BATMAN ’66 MEETS THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1 (DC, 2017) – “Atomic Batteries to Power, Flight Rings to Speed,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. This is the best Legion comic of the current decade, although that is really, really not saying much. Mike and Lee Allred show a solid understanding of the Legion franchise, and this issue feels like a classic Legion story, although (as was typical for the pre-Shooter Legion) the characters don’t have clearly defined personalities. It’s very frustrating that this is just a one-shot. The Legion is still my favorite comic book ever, and I feel that it has tremendous potential and that DC doesn’t understand how to exploit that potential.

SUPER SONS #6 (DC, 2017) – “Planet of the Capes, Part 1: Teen Beat,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Jorge Jimenez. This is an incredibly fun comic, and if there were more DC comics like it, maybe the company wouldn’t be in such trouble. The second page of this issue — where Clark says “Damian’s dad dresses like a bat and gets hit in the head 28 times each night” – has deservedly gone viral. But the rest of the issue is almost as good. Jon goes on patrol with Damian, but then Damian leaves him behind to hang out with the Titans, and Jon’s feelings are badly hurt. Tomasi’s writing and Jimenez’s art are adorable, and Tomasi does a great job of making the reader feel Jon’s emotions.

ROYAL CITY #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. A significant improvement over the previous issue. The father (does this character have a first name?) has a near-death experience, allowing him to follow Richie’s ghost around as they observe what’s happening to the other Pikes. It turns out the Pike mother is having an affair, and the girl who Patrick encountered earlier is the child of one of his siblings, but we’re not told which one. There’s a lot of good stuff in this issue, and I like this series a lot.

DESCENDER #22 (Image, 2017) – “Rise of the Robots 1 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. This isn’t really a new story arc but a continuation of the previous one. Quon rips Tim-22’s head off, while a battle erupts between the robots and the UGC army, and the issue ends with Andy’s ship blowing up.

FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS #4 (Rip Off, 1975) – “The 7th Voyage of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers: A Mexican Odyssey,” [W/A] Gilbert Shelton with Dave Sheridan. The Freak Brothers travel to Mexico where they have a series of harrowing drug-filled adventures. This is an extremely funny comic, and it’s a prime example of both the underground comics aesthetic and the hippie subculture. It’s full of Mexican stereotypes, but Shelton seems to have at least some knowledge of Mexican culture. My complaint about this comic is that it’s very, very long. It’s something like 50 pages, and the artwork is very dense. Each page includes a topper strip starring Fat Freddy’s Cat.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #98 (DC, 1966) – “The Four Clocks of Doom!”, [W] Otto Binder, [A] Pete Costanza; and “The Bride of Jungle Jimmy!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Pete Costanza. This issue is famous because of the cover, where Superman dresses up as a witch doctor and conducts a wedding between Jimmy and a giant female ape. After that cover, the rest of that comic is almost an afterthought. “The Bride of Jungle Jimmy,” the story that corresponds to the cover, is almost as funny as the cover. Unfortunately, it also includes some highly racist stereotypes of African people. The other story in the issue is a typical piece of Weisingerian tripe.

THE PHANTOM #47 (Charlton, 1971) – “The False Skull Cave” and other stories, [W] unknown, [A] Pat Boyette. None of the stories in this issue is especially good, but they all have a slightly darker mood than most superhero comics of the time, and Pat Boyette uses some quite radical panel structures. This issue includes a one-page feature on the Swahili language which is credited to “Mwalimu Bahati Njema”, meaning something like “Teacher Good Luck.”

SUPERB #1 (Lion Forge, 2017) – “Do You Know What Your Kids Are?”, [W] David Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Ray-Anthony Height. This issue is notable because it’s co-written by Eisner-winning comics scholar Sheena Howard, and because it stars a superhero with Down syndrome. Besides that, this issue is interesting for its depiction of bullying and surveillance. It’s not the best debut issue I’ve read lately, but it shows a lot of potential, and I look forward to reading more of this series.

EERIE #88 (Warren, 1977) – various stories, [E] Louise Jones & Bill DuBay. A very bad Warren comic. It begins with a boring Rook story by DuBay and Luis Bermejo. Next is “The Key” by Budd Lewis and José Ortiz, which is allegedly set in Japan but shows an appalling ignorance about Japanese culture. Also, it includes a scene where a woman runs around naked for no reason. “Deathball 2100 AD,” by Bill Mohalley, Nicola Cuti, and Dick Giordano, is a stupid and pointlessly violent story about a basketball game between humans and aliens. The only good thing in the issue is Bruce Jones and Leopold Sanchez’s “Boiling Point,” in which a detective investigates a series of murders taking place in abandoned subway tunnels. Jones’s script is exciting and moody, and Sanchez does some excellent spotting of blacks.

CREEPY #75 (Warren, 1975) – various stories, [E] Louise Jones & Bill DuBay. This issue is famous for Jim Stenstrum and Neal Adams’s “Thrillkill,” one of the most highly acclaimed Warren stories. I’ve read this before, but it’s interesting to revisit it after the recent wave of mass shootings. Many people have observed that when a white man commits a terrorist act, the media characterizes him as mentally ill, but when a person of color commits a terrorist act, the media describes him as a terrorist or a thug. In other words, white terrorists are treated as individuals, POC terrorists as members of a group. This story is an example of that because it’s all about explaining how the killer’s abusive childhood drove him to do what he did. But in 1975, this was not as offensive as it would be today. Another difference between 1975 and today is that mass shootings are unfortunately less shocking now than they were then. “Thrillkill” is pretty closely based on the 1966 University of Texas shooting, an event that would have been shocking and unprecedented at the time. Nowadays, things like that happen practically every week, because our country has given up on sensible gun policy.

Anyway, that’s not the only story in this issue. Of the remaining stories, the best is Alex Toth’s ‘30s detective story “Phantom of Pleasure Island,” a demonstration of Toth’s mastery of visual storytelling. The other stories in the issue aren’t as good, but at least there’s some nice art by José Ortiz and John Severin.

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