I have about a hundred of these to review, so let’s try to do these quickly.
ASTRO CITY #46 (DC, 2017) – “The Day the Music Died,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. Joke review: I think I read this comic but I can’t remember it at all. When I think of it, all I can recall is a bunch of dark tentacles and eyes. Serious review: So it turns out that the Jazzbaby/Glamorax/etc. character is the incarnation of music, who keeps reincarnating in different forms. But the Oubor stops him from reincarnating and also makes everyone forget about him. And that’s why he’s spent the entire series appealing to the reader for help. This issue finally explains the weird stuff that’s been going on since the beginning of the series, in an innovative and unexpected way, and hopefully sets the stage for an epic battle in issue 50.
SOUTHERN BASTARDS #17 (Image, 2017) – “Gut Check, Part Three,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Jason Latour. A good issue, but not a surprising one. The tensions between Coach Boss and Colonel Quick McKlusky continue to escalate, while Roberta Tubb finally starts to intervene.
RAT QUEENS VOL. 2 #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. The best part of the issue is the opening sequence, where each of the Rat Queens is reliving her greatest regret, and Betty’s regret is letting Hannah have the last piece of pie. What a perfect Betty moment. She’s my favorite character in this series, if I haven’t said so already. The moment with the cursed talking sword is also pretty funny. I wonder if the wizard dude at the end of the issue is a reference to Vaughn Bode’s Cheech Wizard.
SPY SEAL #1 (Image, 2017) – “The Corten-Steel Phoenix,” [W/A] Rich Tommaso. I hope that the social media controversy over this comic has led to higher sales, because this is an excellent comic. It’s obviously heavily influenced by the French Clear Line style, but is closer in tone to Chaland or Swarte than Hergé. The humor is witty and the art is painstakingly crafted. Also, this comic benefits from Tommaso’s excellent design sense.
SUPER SONS #7 (DC, 2017) – “Planet of the Capes, Part 2,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Another terrific issue of DC’s most fun comic. The best part is Kory’s interactions with Jon, especially the scene where she pinches his cheek. But this is just a really fun, cute and well-crafted superhero comic overall.
MISFIT CITY #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith & Kurt Lustgarten, (A) Naomi Franquiz. Oddly enough I received two issues of this comic on the same day. This issue was a bit hard to follow because of the delay since issue 2, but this series continues to be an exciting adventure comic.
MISFIT CITY #4 – as above. At the fair, all kinds of weird stuff happens and then it turns out Captain Denby is still alive. I’m glad that this comic, unlike so many other recent Boom! Box and Kaboom series, is not going to end after four issues.
SILVER SURFER #13 (Marvel, 2017) – “Timeless,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mike Allred. This one was kind of a heartbreaker. Surfer and Dawn try to travel back in time to see Dawn’s dad, but instead they get stuck in the previous universe, where they get married, and Dawn lives to a ripe old age and passes away. I guess it’s a reasonable conclusion, but I mean, Dawn is dead. And even if Norrin got to spend a full life with her, we, the readers, did not, and her death feels very sad and abrupt. I hope this isn’t the end of her story.
BITCH PLANET TRIPLE FEATURE #2 (Image, 2017) – three stories. The stories in this issue are the one about the neck models, the one about self-care, and the one about the biological clock. I think this anthology series may be better than the main title. The best story is probably the second one, which demonstrates the thin line between “self-care” and self-abuse. But the first one, in which a perfect female body is assembled out of the individual body parts of different women, is rather horrifying.
BITCH PLANET TRIPLE FEATURE #3 – as above. The first story is about a police massacre at a gay liberation dance, the second story is about the Family Asset Recovery Agency, and the third one is about a female robot who self-destructs because of the contradictory demands on her. Really that third story sums up this entire series. It’s about how women are forced to follow multiple conflicting demands at the same time, and when they can’t, it’s their fault, not the fault of the men who are imposing those demands. But the other stories are also very chilling. The first one, of course, is a barely fictionalized version of the police murders that occur regularly in real-life America.
On Sunday, August 20, I went to the local Charlotte Comicon. I’m sorry to say this was a very disappointing convention. I had trouble finding anything I really wanted, there were no truly great deals, and no one had any underground comics. I bought a bunch of comics, including three ‘60s Little Archies for $5 each, but I left feeling dissatisfied. I think the problem, as usual, was that my priorities were wrong. I would have had better luck if I had focused on slightly more expensive comics, rather than quarter-box stuff. Here are some of the comics I did buy:
USAGI YOJIMBO #2 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “Samurai! Part Three & Part Four,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. As a young student of Katsuichi, Usagi attends his first tournament and wins, receiving his own swords as a prize. This story was okay, but nothing great. The “Masked Apple” backup story is notable because of the large number of creators who are namechecked in it.
DEFENDERS #57 (Marvel, 1978) – “And Along Came… Ms. Marvel,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] George Tuska & Dave Cockrum. This is a surprising discovery because it’s guest-written by Claremont and it guest-stars Ms. Marvel. It’s not an indispensable Ms. Marvel story, but it is connected to her ongoing character arc (Mike Barnett appears in it). And it’s fun seeing Carol interact with characters like Hellcat and Nighthawk. Like many Claremont comics but few other ‘70s Marvel comics, it passes the Bechdel test.
ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #19 (Archie, 1961) – “Little Archie Puts Out the Cat” and other stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. One booth at the convention had several ‘60s Little Archie issues for $5 each. I bought one of them before I left the convention for lunch, then after lunch I went back and bought the other two. They were my most exciting finds at the show, although this issue unfortunately has a loose cover. As good as Bob Bolling was in the ’80s, he was even better in the ‘60s. The most interesting of his four stories in this issue is “Little Archie Puts Out the Cat,” in which Little Archie foils a burglary attempt because of his habit of leaving his toys around the house. A surprising moment in this story is when Archie shoots at the burglar and misses; there must be very few other comics in which Archie almost kills someone. Another notable story is “The Carson’s Creek Story,” in which the ghost of Riverdale’s founder tells Archie about the town’s history. This is an example of how Bolling made Riverdale a place with its own history and identity, not just a generic small town.
POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #59 (Marvel, 1979) – “Big Apple Bomber,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Trevor von Eeden. Luke and Danny encounter Bob Diamond, who looks like a ripoff of Oliver Queen, but is actually a preexisting character from the Deadly Hands of Kung Fu magazine. And then they get involved in a bombing plot. This is an okay issue but it’s not Duffy’s best, and the art is ugly at times.
METAL MEN #48 (DC, 1976) – “Who is Bruce Gordon and Why is He Doing These Terrible Things to Himself?”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Walt Simonson. This was part of a brief Metal Man run by Simonson. Pasko’s story is not that special, but he does a good job of capturing the Metal Men’s personalities, and Simonson’s art is excellent. As the title indicates, Eclipso is the guest star.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #73 (Marvel, 1969) – “The Web Closes!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. I bought this from the same dealer who sold me my copy of ASM #107, reviewed above, and it, too, has severe water damage but is fully readable. It’s a classic issue. It’s part of the long-running story arc with the ancient stone tablet, and includes the first appearances of Silvermane and Man-Mountain Marko.
ROCK’N’ROLL #nn (Image, 2005) – four stories, [W/A] Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá, Bruno d’Angelo and Kako. This is the kind of comic I love to discover. It’s an early work by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, and I’ve never heard of it before. It’s no Daytripper or Two Brothers, and the story is only average – it’s a wordless story in which a woman is kidnapped by a rock-and-roll cult – but the art is terrific.
JONAH HEX #32 (DC, 2008) – “The Matador,” [W] Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Jordi Bernet. The great Jordi Bernet’s artwork in this issue is perhaps not his absolute best, although I really haven’t read enough of his work to know what his best artwork looks like. I ought to get around to reading that volume of Torpedo that I bought several years ago. But Bernet’s art is at least very good. And the story, in which a Mexican mobster hires Hex to kill his wife’s matador lover, is surprisingly good. Gray and Palmiotti are underrated as writers.
COMICS FESTIVAL! 2007 (Legion of Evil, 2007) – various stories. This was one of three FCBD comics sponsored by the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, which was a biennial event at the time. This issue has an impressive lineup of talent, including Bryan Lee O’Malley, Cameron Stewart, Chip Zdarsky and Hope Larson. But the highlight is Darwyn Cooke’s four-pager “The Alex”, about an architect who persists in achieving his creative passion despite great adversity. As I correctly guessed, this story is an homage to Darwyn’s hero Alex Toth. I was also impressed by Zach Worton’s story “George Washington Carmack,” and I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of this artist before.
DESCENDER #23 (Image, 2017) – “Rise of the Robots 2 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Another good issue, but very similar to most other issues of Descender – at this point I know what I’m getting from this series. It turns out the evil Tim isn’t dead, but Dr. Quon very well may be.
POWER MAN #49 (Marvel, 1978) – “Seagate is a Lonely Place to Die!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Byrne. An unexpected creative team. This was also the last issue before the cover title became Power Man and Iron Fist. Luke, Danny and Misty invade Seagate Island to rescue Dr. Noah Burstein from Bushmaster. As usual with this series, the main interest comes from the interactions between the main characters, though John’s artwork is very good.
ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #23 (Archie, 1962) – various stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. Just two Bolling stories in this issue. In “Venus Revisited,” Archie befriends an octopus-like Venusian drummer named Herbnik and helps him launch his musical career. The GCD points out that “Herbnik’s musical downfall is an obvious reference to the copying of African-American music by white performers in the late ’50s.” “Ga Ga Over Gary” introduces Betty’s rarely seen big sister Polly. It has a cute plot of the type Bolling was really good at, in which Polly has to choose between dating the cutest boy in schoool and keeping a promise to play with her little sister. I forgot to mention earlier that Dexter Taylor was also much better in the ‘60s than later. These issues include some Taylor stories that I initially mistook for Bolling stories, such as (in this issue) a silent story about Archie’s dog.
CREEPY THINGS #2 (Charlton, 1975) – various stories, [E] George Wildman. Tom Sutton’s cover for this issue is excellent. As usual with ‘70s Charlton horror, the stories in this issue are very pedestrian but the art is reallly good. This issue begins with “The Greatest Treasure” by Enrique Nieto, perhaps the most underrated artist in ‘70s mainstream comics, though this story isn’t his best work. There’s also an okay story by Rich Larson, and a well-drawn story by Tom Sutton, about a boy who adopts a little swamp creature, although the swamp creature could have been even weirder.
CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #36 (Marvel, 1975) – “Weird Stone,” [W] David Kraft, [A] George Pérez. This Man-Wolf story is one of George’s earliest works. Even this long ago he was already very good. The story is nothing great but at least it’s not objectionable.
FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #1 (DC, 2017) – “The Quest Reborn!”, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Ariel Olivetti. This spin-off is an adequate replacement for the original Future Quest series, but the lack of the Jonny Quest characters is unfortunate. Ariel Olivetti’s photorealistic style is very different from that of previous artists Doc Shaner and Steve Rude.
GODSHAPER #5 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jonas Goonface. There wasn’t much about this particular issue that stood out to me, but this series is probably Spurrier’s best work yet, and Jonas Goonface’s art is also excellent, despite his stupid pen name.
AQUAMAN #15 (DC, 1995) – “Chronicles,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jim Calafiore. I really like this series. It’s certainly the best Aquaman run since the ‘70s. It combined superheroes with sword-and-sorcery in a unique way. This issue, we learn that there’s a giant skull hidden under Poseidonis, and Kordax makes his reappearance.
TIME & VINE #1 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. Thom’s latest series is about a winery where the wines can be used for time travel. Like most of Thom’s work, this comic is notable for its witty and plausible dialogue and its emotional maturity. The premise isn’t quite as interesting to me as that of Love & Capes or Long Distance.
FANTASTIC FOUR #105 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Monster in the Streets!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. Crystal has to leave Earth because the environment is making her sick. Meanwhile, Reed has to choose between helping Sue fight a monster, or finishing his latest attempt to cure Ben. Jazzy Johnny’s artwork is excellent, but the plot not so much; it feels like in the absence of Kirby, Stan was just rehashing old cliches.
I HATE FAIRYLAND #15 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. The newly good Gert almost escapes from Fairyland, but gets assassinated just before she makes it through the door. She ends up in hell, which is now ruled by the blue-haired girl from earlier in the series. This is a good issue but no different from the standard formula for this series.
DOCTOR STRANGE #20 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Weird, the Weirder, and the Weirdest,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Chris Bachalo & Kevin Nowlan. Zelma and Doc find themselves on Weirdworld, where Zelma allows herself to be contaminated with Doc’s magic in order to save him. This was an effective conclusion to Jason Aaron’s Doctor Strange, which, despite some flaws, was the best Doctor Strange run since the ‘80s. I especially liked the idea that Strange’s magic always comes at a physical cost, because this means that Strange’s powers work logically and have limitations, neither of which was the case before.
MIGHTY THOR #22 (Marvel, 2017) – “A Fistful of Brimstone,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Valerio Schitti. The War Thor invades Muspelheim, but the Jane Thor intervenes and tries to make Volstagg realize that he’s doing the same thing to Muspelheim that they did to the dwarves. The revelation that the dwarves kidnap fire elemental children to feed their forges is very disturbing. Jason is making me very excited for issue 700.
CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS SPECIAL #1 (Pacific, 1983) – “The Space Musketeers,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. I don’t understand why this is a special and not an issue of the regular Captain Victory series (unless because it’s printed on better paper). I don’t understand anything else about this comic either. The artwork and character design are up to Kirby’s usual standards, but the story makes no sense at all. By this point in his life, Kirby was somewhat past his prime.
‘MAZING MAN #4 (DC, 1986) – “Over the River and Through the Woods…”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Stephen DeStefano. This series is a minor classic, a cute and subtly humorous superhero parody. It’s the only great work of either of its creators. This issue contains one story where Maze’s neighbor Katie’s grandmother shows up and causes havoc, and another one where Maze takes care of Bill and Enid’s cat, with disastrous results. There’s also a Zoot Sputnik story with art by Hembeck.
THE POWER OF SHAZAM! #27 (DC, 1997) – “The Tenants of Time,” [W] Jerry Ordway, [A] Peter Krause. Thanks to Sivana’s meddling with the timestream, Billy and Mary’s parents survive and become the Marvel Family instead of their children. I had the impression that this series was kind of bad, but this issue is not bad at all. In the scenes taking place in the timestream, there are a bunch of names hidden in the background (see https://www.instagram.com/p/BYKg56qlUW_/?hl=en&taken-by=aaronkashtan for an example); the first of these names is Neal Adams, who had a habit of hiding messages in his art.
MELVIN MONSTER #2 (Dell, 1965) – “The Door in the Cellar” and related stories, [W/A] John Stanley. I’ve never really understood John Stanley, and I’m not sure this is his best work, but it’s a pretty exciting story. Melvin, the little monster, discovers a door in his parents’ basement that leads to an underground dungeon, leading to a lot of convoluted hijinks. Also, we meet Melvin’s guardian demon, who is a complete fraud, like Mr. O’Malley from Barnaby.
New comics received on August 25:
LUMBERJANES #41 (Boom!, 2017) – “Time After Crime,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. In the first issue of a new storyline, Jo creates a device for recording temporal anomalies, then Molly sneaks out and uses it after having a nightmare about her mother. Also, the girls make paper airplanes. Molly’s abusive relationship with her mother has been a major theme or at least a subtext of several recent storylines, and here it’s taking center stage again. I don’t mind because I think this topic is fascinating, but it is odd that Molly is the only character in the series who seems to have a character arc; the other girls are mostly static. It would be interesting, for example, to see what sort of conflicts April is dealing with. Ripley’s sleeping position is hilarious.
SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER #3 (Image, 2017) – “Tricks & Traps,” [W] Jody Leheup & Sebastian Girner, [A] Nil Vendrell. Another stellar issue. We learn more details about Shirtless’s origin and the death of his wife, and it turns out that the old grizzled army dude is in league with the enemy. Also there are more references to toilet paper than in any other comic book I know of.
MOONSTRUCK #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. I was not in love with this issue. It felt almost too cutesy and lacked any genuine conflict. The cliffhanger, where the centaur character gets turned into a human, felt like a contrived attempt to create such a conflict. But this is still a really promising series, and I have faith in Grace Ellis.
JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: INFINITE #2 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite, Part Three,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jen Hickman. The first new Jem comic in over a month, which is an unusually long gap. Jem and the Holograms meet the alternate version of Emmett Benton, only to discover that the alternate universe versions of themselves are dead.
MY LITTLE PONY MOVIE PREQUEL #3 (IDW, 2017) – “Capper of Abyssinia,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. Another story that focuses on the two cat thieves, one of whom betrays the other. Andy’s art is excellent as usual, but it’s weird reading a pony comic with no ponies in it.
BATGIRL #14 (DC, 2017) – “Summer of Lies, Part One,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. Babs and Dick Grayson team up against a villain called the Red Queen. Also, there are some flashbacks to their youth. Chris Wildgoose (his real name?) is not as gifted an artist as Rafael Albuquerque, but this is a fun issue, and I’m glad I started ordering this series again.
HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #1 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Nina Vakueva. My favorite comic of the week besides Lumberjanes. Like Misfit City, this latest Boom! Box series is based on a movie I haven’t seen, in this case Empire Records. But I understand it anyway because I grew up in the ‘90s. Usdin and Vakueva’s depiction of the grunge music era seems very accurate. The protagonist, Chris, is the newest employee at an alternative record store, where it turns out that all the other employees are members of a “teen girl fight club.” This looks like another triumph from Boom! Box, and I look forward to reading more of it.
THE INFERNAL MAN-THING #2 (Marvel, 2012) – untitled, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Kevin Nowlan. Gerber’s last work would probably be of little interest to people who aren’t already fans of his. For a Gerber fan like me, it’s an effective coda to his career, though it’s not his best work. This issue also includes a partial reprint of Man-Thing #12, to which this miniseries is a sequel.
ASTONISHING TALES #10 (Marvel, 1972) – “To End in Flame!”, [W] Roy Thomas & Gerry Conway, [A] Barry (Windsor-)Smith. Ka-Zar visits an area of the Savage Land inhabited by World War II veterans, the shipwrecked crews of a British and a German vessel. They and their children are still fighting the war, until Ka-Zar forces them to make peace. BWS’s art in this issue is only average; it wasn’t until about a year later that he got really good.
BARON WEIRWULF’S HAUNTED LIBRARY #46 (Charlton, 1978) – “A Real Gone Guy,” [A] Charles Nicholas, plus other stories. All the stories in this issue are reprinted from issue 6 of the same series. Artists in this issue include Nicholas and Alascia, Wayne Howard, and Demetrio Sanchez Gomez. The last of these was a Spanish artist who seems to have been a member of the same studio as José Luis García-López, although he wasn’t as interesting an artist. The Wayne Howard story is the best-drawn of the three. The Nicholas/Alascia story is annoying because the protagonist is a bank manager who breaks into a client’s house in order to prove that the client is performing evil sorcery. A policeman even warns him not to do this, but he does anyway, and suffers no negative consequences. It turns out the client is in fact an evil sorcerer, but you have to wonder who the real villain of this story is.
ARCHIE #219 (Archie, 1972) – various stories, [A] Harry Lucey. A well-crafted but thoroughly average issue. Probably the best story is the one where Reggie makes fake signs to fool Archie.
On Saturday, August 26, I went to Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, which was having a moving sale, and bought a bunch of 50-cent comics plus a few other things. This was a much more satisfying experience than the convention the previous weekend, perhaps because I had lower expectations, and it made me feel excited about reading comics again. Here are some of the comics I read after the show, some of which I had bought earlier:
BABYTEETH #2 (Aftershock, 2017) – “The Prairie Wolf,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This issue introduces the protagonist Sadie’s father, a surprisingly decent and kind man. His relationship with his daughter is an interesting contrast to Em’s relationship with her own father in Revival. Also, it turns out the baby drinks blood. The first issue of this series was just okay, but this second issue is seriously compelling and makes me very excited for this series.
KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #17 (Marvel, 1982) – “Tag You’re It!”, [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Ron Frenz. This is my favorite version of Ka-Zar, and it’s one of only two occasions, besides the Mark Waid run in the ‘90s, when Ka-Zar was more than just a Tarzan clone. In both these series, the overarching theme was Ka-Zar’s conflict between his jungle lifestyle and his nostalgia for the modern world. There is a lot of that in this issue, in which Ka-Zar goes insane and thinks he’s the protagonist of a hard-boiled detective story he’s reading. This issue, like the rest of the series, is also notable for its fairly realistic depiction of Kevin and Shanna’s relationship.
BABYTEETH #3 – as above. Sadie can’t produce enough blood, so her sister Heather goes looking for the baby’s no-good father, who turns out to be dead. Also, a demon raccoon thing falls out of the sky. This was another fun issue.
BODIE TROLL #1 (Red 5, 2013) – “Bodie’s Bargain,” [W/A] Jay Fosgitt. This is Jay’s first major work, and he’s just announced that it’ll be reprinted along with new material. This issue suffers from poor reproduction but is extremely cute and amusing. Bodie is an adorable character, partly because he tries to be scary and fails. I’m glad we’ll be seeing more of this character.
VICKI VALENTINE #2 (Renegade, 1985) – “Let’s Pretend with Vicki and Angel Cake,” [W] Bill Woggon, [A] Barb Rausch. Another example of a comic I’m excited to have discovered. I’ve never read any of Bill Woggon’s comics before, but this comic appears to be very similar to his classic Katy Keene series, except with art by his longtime fan Barb Rausch. The plot is very cutesy and devoid of conflict, but most of the emphasis is on the characters’ costumes, which are designed by fans. Many of the pages of the comic consist of paper dolls of the characters, complete with costumes. I don’t think I could stand very much of this sort of thing, but in small doses it’s not bad.
ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #34 (Archie, 1965) – various stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. The two Bolling stories in this issue are “The Incredible Cat-Caper” and “The ‘Cuda Complex.” The first of these was reprinted in the 2004 trade paperback, but the second is new to me; it’s about Mad Dr. Doom and Chester and their submarine. Overall this was a good issue as usual, but not my favorite. I need to look for issue 20, which includes Bolling’s masterpiece, “The Long Walk.”
JONAH HEX #51 (DC, 1981) – “The Comforter!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Dick Ayers. Jonah’s wife Mei Ling is about to give birth, but Jonah has to go to town to get her a present. Of course, while in town Jonah runs into a young upstart who challenges him to a fight, then accuses Jonah of cowardice for refusing the challenge. This story is funny and sweet because of the conflict between Hex’s new family duties and his fearsome reputation, but in the very next issue, that same conflict leads to the end of his marriage. This issue also includes an excellent Bat Lash story by Len Wein and Dan Spiegle.
CHAMBER OF CHILLS #24 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Underground Gambit!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Herb Trimpe, plus other reprints. I’m writing this review on the day Len Wein died. I guess he’s been in poor health for a while, but his death is an unfortunate shock. He seems to have been a wonderful man. My Facebook feed is full of sad and affectionate reminiscenes of him, including many from people who aren’t comics creators. “The Underground Gambit,” reprinted in this issue, is the last story of his that I read before he died. It’s about an underground cartoonist, Roger Krass, who secretly hates his fans and his work, so when a wealthy patron offers him an exclusive contract, he jumps at the chance. But of course it turns out the patron is Satan. I had wanted to ask Len whether Roger Krass was based on Robert Crumb or on anyone else in particular, but it turns out he was already asked about this story in an interview, and he couldn’t remember anything about it. Which is no surprise, because it was just one of the thousands of stories he wrote. It’s unfortunate that there won’t be any more.
TIME & VINE #2 (IDW, 2017) – “Vintage 2017,” [W/A] Thom Zahler. On another trip to the past, Megan encounters her own deceased mother and discovers that she has an aunt she never knew about. I couldn’t care less about wine, but the time travel aspect of this comic’s plot is very interesting. I am a big fan of time travel stories (like Iain Pears’s Arcadia, which I just finished today) because of the bizarre narratological tricks they’re capable of. So I’m curious to see where this plot will go from here.
FLASH GORDON #6 (Dynamite, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. On Sky World, Flash and Zarkov are kidnapped by sirens who require men for breeding purposes. Hilariously, they’re more interested in Zarkov than Flash. Other than that, this is just another exciting and well-crafted story by an excellent creative team.
THE FURTHER FATTENING ADVENTURES OF PUDGE, GIRL BLIMP #3 (Star*Reach, 1971) – “This Can’t Be Right… It Feels Too Good,” [W/A] Lee Marrs. This comic book is very long and dense, but worth the effort. It’s a long, rambling story about the life of a… full-figured woman who’s trying to lose her virginity. It’s funny, sensitive and plausible, similar in tone to the work of Roberta Gregory or some of the Wimmen’s Comix artists, and it’s drawn with passion and sincerity. Lee Marrs deserves to be better known. This entire series was reprinted recently, but only in a print-on-demand edition. I want to get the other two issues.
CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA #7 (Archie, 2017) – “Witch-War, Chapter One: The Truth About Demonology,” [W] Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa, [A] Robert Hack. This series was doomed from the start by Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa’s chronic lateness. I almost think it would be better to cancel it than to publish one issue of it every six months. This issue is the origin story of Sabrina’s dad, who is currently inhabiting Harvey’s body. It’s not bad, but it wasn’t worth waiting a whole year for.
BROTHER POWER, THE GEEK #2 (DC, 1968) – “A Visit from the Dead!!”, [W/A] Joe Simon, [A] Al Bare. This is perhaps the weirdest and silliest DC comic I’ve ever read, and that’s saying a lot. Brother Power decides to stop being a hippie and go to work in an aviation plant, which is promptly besieged by an evil engineer called Lord Sliderule. Subsequently, Brother Power fixes a snag in the assembly line that’s costing the factory a million dollars a year. It turns out the solution is to have a left-handed man do a certain job instead of a right-handed man – and somehow “the nation’s leading engineers” couldn’t figure this out. Meanwhile, the hippies start a protest outside the plant, which is about to launch a rocket with Brother Power in it. Also, teenage Nazi reenactors are involved somehow. The issue ends on a cliffhanger, which is never resolved because there was no third issue. This comic is fascinating because of its weirdness and mostly unintentional humor, but it’s no surprise that it only lasted two issues.
BLACK AND WHITE COMICS #1 (Apex Novelties, 1973) – “Squirrely the Squirrel” and other stories, [W/A] R. Crumb. A series of cruel and mean-spirited stories, including “R. Crumb vs. the Sisterhood,” in which Crumb depicts himself climbing inside a woman’s vagina. I previously read this story a while ago, and the image of the woman running around with Crumb inside of her is etched in my memory, and not in a good way. If this comic is a classic, it’s mostly because of the disturbing insight it offers into Crumb’s psychology. I can’t say I enjoyed it, though. I still don’t think I quite get Crumb.
JONAH HEX #54 (DC, 1981) – “Trapped in the Parrot’s Lair,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Tony DeZuniga. Now returned to his nomadic lifestyle, Jonah has a second encounter with El Papagayo, the Mexican bandit from earlier issues. This issue also includes a backup story by Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn and Tom Yeates, which is notable for what is, as far as I can tell, an accurate portrayal of Comanche people. I wonder if Dan and Gary had read Jaxon’s Comanche Moon trilogy.
DETECTIVE COMICS #596 (DC, 1988) – “Video Nasties,” [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Eduardo Barreto. Part one of a two-parter about a villain who makes films of people being beaten. I reviewed the second part of this story a while ago. The only thing I really remember about this issue is that Batman identifies one of the villains by observing that one of his legs is shorter than the other.
USAGI YOJIMBO #15 (Mirage, 1995) – “Kaiso,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. In the same vein as other Usagi stories like “Shoyu” or “Taiko,” “Kaiso” is an exploration of a unique aspect of Japanese culture – in this case, seaweed farming. Usagi meets a seaweed farmer and helps him prove that a local merchant is trying to ruin his business. As Stan must have intended, this story is both fun and educational.
SAN FRANCISCO COMIC BOOK #3 (Print Mint, 1970) – various stories, [E] Gary Arlington. This underground comic features interesting work by a large number of artists, including Kim Deitch, Trina Robbins, Justin Green, Willy Mendes, R. Crumb, and Spain. Trina’s story is perhaps her best-drawn story that I’ve read, and the Crumb story is similar in tone to “R. Crumb vs. the Sisterhood”, but more substantial and less horrifying. The real revelation of the issue is an insanely detailed two-page spread by Jim Osborne. I was also impressed by the fourth-wall-breaking strip by George Metzger, drawn in a Steranko-esque style.
New comics received on September 1:
SAGA #46 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. This was a pretty quick read, but the scene where Hazel says goodbye to her never-to-be-born brother is perhaps the most heartwrenching moment of the series.
MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #22 (Marvel, 2017) – “Girl-Moon, Part 4 of 5,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella tricks Ego into acknowledging his daughter. Meanwhile, Lunella’s parents continue to be the most oblivious parents ever and are unable to tell that their daughter is a robot. I still think this is the best Moon Girl story yet.
KIM & KIM: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #2 (Black Mask, 2017) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. One of the Kims consults her grandmother in the afterlife, then the other Kim berates her over her toxic attachment to her evil girlfriend Laz. I like this comic a lot; it’s like Rat Queens, but… I never found a way to finish that sentence. I guess I wanted to point out that it feels more serious somehow, and also it’s written by a woman.
LADY KILLER II #5 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Joëlle Jones. Josie finally gets rid of Irving, with help from her husband and Mother Schuller. But Josie’s husband finally figures out what’s been going on and leaves her, taking the kids. This was a funny series, but the art was better than the writing, and the joke is getting old. Joëlle Jones should move on to something else.
FAITH AND THE FUTURE FORCE #2 (Valiant, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Barry Kitson & Diego Bernard. The Future Force’s second attempt to defeat Do-Bot is just as unsuccessful as their first, so they try again, this time with a team of superheroes. The best part of this issue was when I figured out that Do-Bot was quoting Plato.
HEAD LOPPER #6 (Image, 2017) – “Head Lopper and the Crimson Tower, Part 2,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Another fantastic piece of art and storytelling from Andrew. I don’t have anything to add to my review of issue 5, but I should note that in this issue one of the two surviving warrior women gets killed.
PEEP SHOW #10 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1997) – “Fair Weather, Part Four,” [W/A] Joe Matt. The conclusion of an autobiographical story about Joe Matt’s childhood. Like much of Joe Matt’s work, it’s rather disturbing, it presents the author in a very negative light, and it engages with unsavory topics like shoplifting and voyeurism. But it also has a lyrical, affectionate tone that’s absent from earlier issues of this series; it ends with a cute moment when Joe reconciles with his friend after they’ve been fighting. Therefore, this story feels like an advance over earlier issues of this series.
ANYTHING GOES! #5 (Fantagraphics, 1985) – various stories, [E] Gary Groth. The clear highlight of this issue is Crumb’s “The Goose and the Gander Were Talking One Night,” an emotionally charged, ambivalent story in which two spouses have a pessimistic conversation about the future of the world. I remember once hearing someone say that this was the only Crumb story they liked, and I can see why. Other notable pieces in this issue are a Wolverine McAllister story by Bill Messner-Loebs, and a selection of classic Little Orphan Annie strips.
GENERATIONS: THE UNWORTHY THOR & THE MIGHTY THOR #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. A time-travel story in which the Odinson Thor encounters the Jane Foster Thor. This was a funny and enjoyable comic and an effective illustration of the difference between the two Thors. I also like the running joke about Thor comforting the dead men’s wives. But this still felt like a comic that didn’t need to exist. It had no significant impact on the plot of the ongoing Thor title, and I wouldn’t have missed much if I hadn’t read it. This comic was published primarily in order to fit into the Marvel Legacy crossover, and only secondarily in order to tell a good story.
SPIDER-GWEN #23 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Hannah Blumenreich, with a framing sequence by Latour and Rodriguez. I couldn’t recall who Hannah Blumenreich was until I Googled her and reminded myself that she drew those adorable viral Spider-Man fan comics. Kudos to Marvel for giving her an opportunity to draw Spider-Man “for real.” This issue interrupts the Gwenom story arc to focus on Mary Jane and the band, back in New York. Blumenreich’s work looks worse here than in her online comics, but her dialogue is fantastic. And the scene where MJ beats up Glory’s creepy stalker is brilliant, precisely because it depicts the sort of harassment that happens to women on a daily basis in real life, but is rarely depicted in popular culture.
SAD SACK AND THE SARGE #145 (Harvey, 1980) – various uncredited stories. This is indistinguishable from Beetle Bailey except that it’s even more tedious.
KING: JUNGLE JIM #3 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Sandy Jarrell. This is a fairly exciting story and it’s drawn in a style that resembles Evan Shaner’s, but it’s not all that memorable. The best part is the character who gets drunk so she won’t turn into a snake.
GUMBY’S SUMMER FUN SPECIAL #1 (Comico, 1987) – “Gumby’s Summer Fun Adventure,” [W] Bob Burden, [A] Art Adams. I liked this comic a little bit less than the Winter Fun Special, but it was still a lot of fun. While babysitting some robot kids, Gumby has an adventure involving space bears, space zombies, pirates, etc. In what I assume is Bob Burden’s typical style, this story is absurdist and ridiculous but is presented in a deadpan manner. And amazingly, the plot hangs together logically (at least according to its own logic) and there are few if any dangling plot threads.
TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #5 (Eclipse, 1985) – “The Float Factor,” [W/A] Larry Marder. Beanish makes his first trip to the alternate reality with the floating female head. Meanwhile, Proffy interviews some Hoi Polloi and learns about their surprisingly complex system of decision-making. The highlight of the issue is that it lets us see the Hoi Polloi’s perspective, which is quite different from that of the beans.
GENERATIONS: HAWKEYE & HAWKEYE #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Raffaele. Like Generations: Thor, this comic suffers from didn’t-need-to-exist syndrome. Kate and the younger version of Clint have some cute moments, but young Clint is basically the same character as the current version of Clint. So this comic didn’t provide much we’re not already getting in the regular Hawkeye title.
BLACK MAGICK #7 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. This is a good issue, but I don’t have anything new to say about it. The highlight is the scene where Rowan and her partner arrest the bigoted old lunatic.
BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT COMIC BOOK #7 (Marvel, 1992) – “Time is Up!”, [W/A] Evan Dorkin. This is hard to follow because I haven’t read the previous issues and it’s been years since I saw the films, but it’s an enjoyable time travel adventure, full of funny jokes and sight gags.
DOCTOR SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM #3 (Gold Key, 1963) – “The Hidden Hands,” [W] Paul Newman, [A] Bob Fujitani. This comic is on the borderline between the superhero and science fiction genres, because Doctor Solar doesn’t wear a costume – he started wearing one in the fifth issue. It’s a pretty average comic, and my copy is in awful condition.
ATOM AND HAWKMAN #44 (DC, 1969) – Hawkman in “The Ghost Laughs Last!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Murphy Anderson; and Atom in “Hate is Where You Find It!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Dick Dillin. I liked this issue a lot. The Hawkman story features one of the coolest Silver Age DC villains, the Gentleman Ghost, and has a touching story in which the Ghost falls in love with a blind woman. Hawkman and Hawkgirl have much more personality than other Kanigher characters, although their characterization mostly consists of bickering. The Atom story is written in a much more energetic and Marvel-esque style, and Atom engages in some witty Spider-Man-like banter. The plot involves a man who hates Germans because he thinks they’re all Nazis. Given the time when this comic was published, I suspect that Denny was using anti-German sentiment as a Code-approvable substitute for anti-black racism.
CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA #8 (Archie, 2017) – “Witch War Chapter Two: The Psychopomps,” [W] Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa, [A] Robert Hack. This was published just a month after the previous issue, which, as Bleeding Cool pointed out, is a record. This issue, Sabrina fights her aunts to a standstill after they forbid her to date Harvey. The aunts eventually give up their opposition, but that’s not a good thing because as we recall, Harvey is actually the reincarnation of Sabrina’s dad. This comic, in general, suffers from the lack of any sympathetic characters. All the characters have evil agendas of one kind or another, except Sabrina, who only wants Harvey – and even Sabrina is acting out of wishful thinking and willful ignorance. (She has been told that Harvey is evil, and she refuses to listen.) What sort of positive outcome are we supposed to hope for from this story?
WILD ANIMALS #1 (Pacific, 1982) – “The Land That Time Ignored!”, [W/A] Scott Shaw!, plus other stories. I’ve known Scott Shaw! personally for a long time, but I’ve read very little of his work. The main story in this issue, which is continued from Quack #3, was a pleasant surprise because of its humor and its witty artwork. It’s a convoluted funny animal story that parodies Tarzan, King Kong and a bunch of other stuff. This issue also includes a four-pager by Larry Gonick, a two-pager by Sergio Aragonés, and several one-page strips by Jim Engel, which are rip-offs of Vaughn Bodé and George Herriman. Overall this is an interesting comic that partakes of both underground comics and the emerging independent comics scene, and it’s too bad there wasn’t a second issue.
ALL-STAR COMICS #66 (DC, 1977) – “Injustice Strikes Twice!”, [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Joe Staton. The JSA battles the Injustice Society. There are a lot of fun moments in this issue, but Levitz and Staton never managed to generate as much energy in this series as in Huntress or Adventure Comics.
PROPHET #37 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Giannis Milogiannis. One Prophet clone, Brother John Atum, sacrifices its life to reawaken another one, Brother John Agro. Despite not being written by Brandon Graham, this is very similar to most of Brandon’s issues of Prophet, except maybe slightly less bizarre.
ANGEL LOVE #2 (DC, 1986) – untitled, [W/A] Barbara Slate. Another fascinating issue by an extremely underrated creator. After learning last issue that her new boyfriend, Don, is a cocaine addict, Angel regretfully dumps him. Meanwhile, Angel’s roommate, who is a bit of a black stereotype, gets dumped himself because he’s been neglecting his girlfriend, and her other roommate discovers an injured baby bird (see my review of issue 5 for what happens next). Two of this issue’s three plotlines are as humorous as you would expect from its cartoony artwork, but the Angel and Don plotline is unexpectedly touching and realistic.
MASTER OF KUNG FU #76 (Marvel, 1979) – “Smoke, Beads and Blood!”, [W] Doug Moench, [A] Mike Zeck. Shang-Chi approaches a wise old man for advice, only to discover that the old man has betrayed him to Fu Manchu. Shang-Chi goes home to Leiko and complains about being unhappy. Like much of Doug Moench’s work, this issue is histrionic and full of purple prose, but it’s also rather touching and has some excellent action sequences.
MYSTIC FUNNIES #3 (Fantagraphics, 2002) – “The Hipman” and other stories, [W/A] R. Crumb. I enjoyed this much more than the previous Crumb comic I read (Black and White #1). The longest story in the issue is about a bearded mulleted dude who drives a tiny car, and who falls in love with a woman with huge thighs. It combines two of Crumb’s preoccupations: drawing full-figured women and making fun of dudes with inflated egos. “Don’t Tempt Fate” is about Crumb getting his front teeth knocked out as a child. It’s amusing to think that Crumb is one of two autobiographical cartoonists who have addressed this exact topic, and the other is Raina Telgemeier. There’s also a silly Donald Duck parody. “Cradle to Grave,” on the back cover, may in fact be the best story in the issue.
CATWOMAN #26 (DC, 2004) – “A Knife in the Dark,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Paul Gulacy. Catwoman and Slam Bradley attempt to rescue a kidnapped child. Also, the Penguin appears in one scene. I don’t remember much else about this issue. Paul Gulacy’s artwork is very moody.
CLAW THE UNCONQUERED #9 (DC, 1976) – “Long Die N’Hglthss!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Keith Giffen. An early effort by two creators who would go on to do much better work. This issue’s plot is very obviously inspired by Elric; it includes a scene where the Gods of Elder Light recruit Claw to serve as their champion in their struggle against the seven Shadow Gods, whose symbol is a bunch of arrows pointing in different directions (like Moorcock’s Lords of Chaos).
COMMIES FROM MARS #5 (Last Gasp, 1986) – various stories, [E] Tim Boxell. A very late example of underground comics. This issue is difficult to follow because all the stories seem to presuppose that Earth has been taken over by Martians, but the circumstances in which this happened are not explained. Artists featured in this issue include Hunt Emerson, Peter Kuper and Spain, as well as a bunch of people I’ve never heard of. Perhaps the best story is the one by Hunt Emerson, about some thieves who steal everything, then have to abandon it.
BLACK HAMMER #8 (Image, 2017) – “Introducing the Golden Family!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. This issue is mostly narrated from the perspective of Golden Gail, who, we realize, is based on Captain Marvel. We also learn that before being sent to Black Hammer Farm, she was having an affair with Sherlock Frankenstein, i.e. Sivana. Meanwhile, Lucy Weber discovers that all the books in town are blank, and Colonel Weird shoots Talky-Walky dead. I’ve been reading this series out of order, but I’m enjoying it anyway.
DETECTIVE COMICS #465 (DC, 1976) – “The Best-Kept Secret in Gotham City!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] Ernie Chua. Some criminals kidnap Commissioner Gordon because they think he knows Batman’s secret identity, but it turns out Batman has a contingency plan for exactly this situation. David V. Reed is not the most exciting writer, but this is a well-crafted story, and it deliberately leaves open the question of whether Gordon really does know Batman’s secret identity. The Elongated Man backup story is interesting because it’s set at a comic book convention.
BLACK HAMMER #9 (Image, 2017) – “The Ballad of Talky-Walky,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubin. In a flashback sequence, we learn how Colonel Weird met Talky Walky. Unlike some of the other protagonists in the series, these two don’t seem to be based on any particular characters. David Rubin’s art is as amazing as ever.
BLACK PANTHER #17 (Marvel, 2017) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 5,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Chris Sprouse. I realized as I wrote this that I forgot to order issue 16. This issue, T’Challa and Storm continue to investigate the returning gods. The fascinating part about this issue is how Storm accepts her role as a goddess, rather than trying to deny it, as T’Challa would. Storm’s decision seems ethically questionable, and yet it makes sense; as she points out, you shouldn’t take people’s faith lightly.
ANIMOSITY #9 (Aftershock, 2017) – “God Dam,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael De Latorre. For perhaps the first time in this series, we encounter animals that genuinely behave like animals: a colony of bees that speak with a single voice and are furious that their queen was kidnapped. I wish this series had more of this sort of thing, because I’ve complained before about how the animals in Animosity are too much like people.
BLACK HAMMER #5 (Image, 2016) – “The Odyssey of Randall Weird,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. This issue is Colonel Weird’s origin story. Among other things, we learn that he visits a dimension called the Para-Zone, that he has visions of his future self, and that he got his wife killed when he tried to enter the Para-Zone with her. And now that I look at this issue after having read issue 7, I realize that Eve’s fate is exactly the same as what happened to the Black Hammer when he tried to leave Black Hammer Farm. There’s a clue I missed.
BLACK HAMMER #10 (Image, 2017) – “Abraham Slam Gets Extreme!!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. In a parody of the Image Comics style of the early ‘90s, Abraham Slam tries to fight crime wearing a Liefeldian costume, but it fails miserably. Meanwhile, Madame Dragonfly kills the wife-beating local sheriff, after Abraham Slam had threatened to do so himself.
UNSUPERVISED EXISTENCE #1 (Fantagraphics, 1989) – “Morning Becomes Eccentric,” [W/A] Terry LaBan. A slice-of-life story about two lovers: Danny, a taxi driver, and Suzy, who doesn’t seem to have a job. This is quite an enjoyable comic; it’s funny and realistic and it’s drawn in a cute and distinctive style. It reminds me most of Box Office Poison, except without the references to geek culture. Annoyingly, issues 2 through 4 of this series were magazine size, and then the remaining three issues were comic book size.