New comics received on Saturday, September 9:
ASTRO CITY #47 (DC, 2017) – “Who’s a Good Dog?”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mike Norton. The most adorable Astro City story ever. A petty criminal acquires the power to merge with his (stolen) corgi, resulting in the cutest and least threatening superhero I’ve ever seen. Because his personality also merges with the dog’s, the criminal acquires the dog’s honesty and loyalty, causing him to turn his life around and become a solid citizen. But his superhero days are numbered because… well, I won’t spoil it. This is another excellent Astro City story, and I eagerly await part two, which will guest-star Kitty Hawk. When the cat says “Birds. Clawrip. Bonesnap. Throatbite. Land, birds,” I’m pretty sure that’s an accurate depiction of what cats think about.
MOTOR CRUSH #6 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Babs Tarr, [W] Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart. This comic is also very cute, since most of it is a flashback to when Domino was twelve years old. But it’s also quite depressing, since it shows us how Sullivan Swift lost his leg thanks to his refusal to act as a mob enforcer. This issue is excellent and I’m glad this series is back.
MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #5 (IDW, 2017) – “Somnambula and the Snake,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brenda Hickey. I read this issue the same day I saw “Daring Done,” which introduced Somnambula, and this comic is a strong sequel to that episode. After defeating the sphinx, Somnambula confronts a giant snake, which keeps getting bigger and bigger thanks to having swallowed a magic stone. Brenda Hickey’s art includes some nice sight gags, such as the page where the snake eats the three guards in the background while Somnambula is talking to Hisan in the foreground.
POPE HATS #5 (AdHouse, 2017) – “Things to Come,” [W/A] Ethan Rilly. This is my pick for the best comic book of 2017. At 61 pages, it’s also one of the longest and densest. While this story has some fanciful elements, like the panel where Castonguay’s pants fall down, it’s at bottom a very realistic story about the inhumanity of the business world. Frances becomes such a rising star in her law firm that she’s offered the position of office manager. But her professional success comes at the cost of everything else in her life. We see that she works constantly, she suffers from impostor syndrome, and she has no time for her boyfriend. Meanwhile, Frances’s friend (whose name I forget) becomes a Hollywood star, but she knows it’s not sustainable. We also see that Frances’s firm has no loyalty to anyone and that it subjects all its employees to the same pressure Frances is facing. When I read this comic, I feel grateful that I do genuinely important work that I value for its own sake, and that I didn’t go into the corporate world, because if this comic is an exaggeration, it’s not much of one. It also feels like a parable of contemporary capitalism in general, even though it’s a very specific story about two particular people.
SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. I was looking forward to this because it’s written by one of the writers of Shirtless Bear-Fighter, but I was not impressed. So far it seems like just a bunch of trite fantasy tropes. I do like the art, and I’m willing to give this series a few more issues.
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #31 (Image, 2017) – “I Don’t Love Anyone,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. I still think this is one of the best comics on the market, but I don’t particularly look forward to reading it. Perhaps this is because the characters, other than Baal and Minerva, are just too unsavory. Also, depressing shit keeps happening, such as Sakhmet tearing Amaterasu’s throat out, which is the big event this issue.
MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE PREQUEL #4 (IDW, 2017) – “Tempest of Equestria”, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. Finally this issue introduces an actual pony: Tempest, a unicorn with a broken horn. I’m curious to see what’s going on with her, especially since (as someone else, probably Dave van Domelen pointed out) Andy is careful to not let us see her cutie mark. But other than that, this is kind of an insubstantial story.
JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: THE MISFITS: INFINITE #2 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St-Onge. On the wrong side of the wall, the Misfits meet the alternate versions of Kimber and Stormer. So I guess Jem’s dad wasn’t telling the complete truth when he said the Misfits were dead. Also, we learn that the alternate world became a dystopia because the secret of Synergy’s technology became public knowledge. This was an okay but not great issue.
USAGI YOJIMBO #161 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “The Body in the Library Part 1 of 2,” [W] Stan Sakai. Kitsune tries to burglarize a rich doctor’s house, only to discover that someone has been there ahead of her and killed the owner. Usagi and Inspector Ishida investigate. I’ve read so much Usagi that I often take Stan for granted, and I forget just how good his storytelling is. This issue also includes a “Chibi Usagi” one-pager co-written by Stan’s wife Julie.
WHAT IS A GLACIER? (Retrofit/Big Planet, 2017) – “What is a Glacier?”, [W/A] Sophie Yanow. The cool thing about the Retrofit line is that it gives me a chance to sample the work of artists whose graphic novels I haven’t read yet. I’ve heard good things about Sophie Yanow’s War of Streets and Houses, but haven’t read it. This comic is drawn in a much simpler style than that graphic novel, but it’s a deep and complex meditation on climate change, as well as travel and aging. It makes me want to read the rest of her work.
GIANT DAYS #30 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. When I posted a Facebook status asking if anyone could explain this comic’s title, Brian Cronin spontaneously decided to pose this question to John Allison and to publish the answer at CBR. That’s kind of cool. It turns out the title is meant to suggest the perceived hugeness of the stuff that happens to you in college. This issue, all the girls are embroiled in relationship drama: Esther and Susan disapprove of Daisy’s romance with Ingrid, but Esther is secretly friends with Emilia, whose boyfriend, McGraw, has secretly been hanging out with Susan.
ROCKET GIRL #9 (Image, 2017) – “Foregone,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Amy Reeder. I still love the idea of this comic, but I still have trouble following the plot. This current storyline has taken about two years to come out, and this issue doesn’t include any kind of recap page. This wouldn’t be a problem if I was reading this series in trade paperback form, but since I’m reading it one issue at a time, it’s a major problem. At one point this issue I found myself wondering if Dayoung was mind-controlled or something, since her behavior seemed very reckless. That point was during the scene in the Javits Center, which I hadn’t realized was in existence in 1986.
HAWKEYE #10 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Enemy Within,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Kate and her friends go out to a club, but it quickly becomes clear that “Kate” is either an LMD or Madame Masque. The writing in this issue is good, but the art is amazing, especially the mostly pink page with the giant BOOM. Leonardo Romero has quietly become an excellent artist.
KING: FLASH GORDON #4 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] Lee Ferguson. Zarkov fakes his and Flash’s deaths in order to spark a revolution against Ming. This was a pretty good issue, with very funny dialogue.
CHAMBER OF CHILLS #1 (Marve,l 1972) – “Moon of Madness, Moon of Fear!”, [W] George Alec Effinger, [A] P. Craig Russell, plus other stories. The first story this issue is fairly good; it’s about a reverse werewolf who turns into a human when the moon is full. Then there’s a reprint of an excellent EC-esque story by Stan Lee and Russ Heath, about a brutal prison warden. The third story is much worse. It’s an adaptation by Roy Thomas and Syd Shores of a Harlan Ellison story, but Roy focuses on including as much of Ellison’s prose as he can, and as a result the story becomes unreadable.
STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #148 (DC, 1970) – “Luck is a Puppy Named Schatzi!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Joe Kubert. Simply an incredible comic book. Enemy Ace adopts a stray puppy, Schatzi, who becomes his good luck charm… until Schatzi falls out of Enemy Ace’s plane to his death. Kubert’s art is some of the finest of his career; he is a master aviation artist and storyteller, and he makes the dog look very cute. Schatzi’s death is a stunning moment. These Enemy Ace stories are absolute classics and I’m sorry I waited so long to read them. The backup story, drawn by Ric Estrada, has better art than I expected.
CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #28 (Marvel, 1973) – “Mountain of Thunder!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Vicente Alcazar. Alcazar’s art in this issue is quite good, but the story is a quite literal adaptation of a Thongor story by Lin Carter. The Carter story is just a bad Conan rip-off, and Gerber adapts it so closely that he has no room for originality. The reprinted backup story, by Lee and Ditko, is probably better than the main story.
DC COMICS PRESENTS #24 (DC, 1980) – “The Man Who Was the World!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] José Luis García-López. One of my Facebook friends – I forget who – said that this was their favorite Len Wein story. I don’t agree (I don’t think I have favorite), but this is certainly an excellent story. It’s a true team-up story because the two heroes work together to solve a problem that neither can solve on their own. A scientist, Alex Atley, tries to stabilize his irregular heart rhythm by tying it to the rhythm of the Earth, however that works. But it has the opposite effect, causing the Earth to vibrate in resonance with the scientist’s heartbeat. So Deadman has to keep the scientist alive, at the same time that Superman dives into the earth’s core to retrieve the device the scientist put there. The climactic page, where Deadman literally defeats the Grim Reaper and saves Alex’s life, is an amazing moment.
DAREDEVIL #367 (Marvel, 1997) – “Cruel & Unusual Punishments,” [W] Joe Kelly, [A] Gene Colan. Not all that great. Gene’s artwork is very loose and lacking in detail, and the story, involving the Gladiator and Mr. Fear, is quite hard to follow. Back in the late ‘90s, I had been reading Daredevil but dropped it after Karl Kesel was replaced as writer by Joe Kelly, and it’s probably just as well that I did.
JONAH HEX #84 (DC, 1984) – “Carnival of Doom!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Tony DeZuñiga. Another hilarious Western story. Jonah buys some new guns, then visits New Orleans, where he is hired to protect a rich man’s daughter from assassination. The daughter’s fiancé turns out to be a coward, so she decides to leave him for Jonah – although Jonah’s previous marriage worked out so well, as we are reminded in a brief scene with Mei-Ling and her son.
BACCHUS #19 (Eddie Campbell, 1996) – “A Breath of Fresh Air” and other stories, [W/A] Eddie Campbell. The problem with this series is that so much of it consists of material I’ve already read in other formats. This issue includes chapters of “Banged Up” and “Doing the Islands with Bacchus” plus some Alec McGarry one-pagers. Little if any of this material is new to me. I still want to collect this whole series if I can, just for completism’s sake.
JACK STAFF #3 (Image, 2003) – various stories, [W/A] Paul Grist. Jack Staff fights the Hurricane, who is basically the Hulk. Also lots of other stuff goes on that I couldn’t quite follow. As usual with Paul Grist’s work, I loved the art but didn’t understand the story.
SPLAT! #2 (Mad Dog, 1987) – various stories, [E] Tom Mason. An anthology of mostly British artists, published by Jan Strnad. This issue features an impressive lineup of talent, such as Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell, Hunt Emerson and Peter Bagge, but only includes minor early works by each of them. The best things in the issue are some Maxwell the Magic Cat strips by Moore, and Eddie Campbell’s story about working in a fish and chip shop.
DARK HORSE PRESENTS VOL. 3 #17 (210) (Dark Horse, 2015) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. The first three stories in this issue are quite bad, even (especially) the one written by Paul Levitz. The issue subsequently redeems itself with some better work by Carla Speed McNeil, David Chelsea, Alex de Campi and Jerry Ordway, and Brendan McCarthy. The Finder story appears to be about Rachel, the oldest Grosvenor-Lockhart sister.
DEADLINE USA #4 (Dark Horse, 1992) – various stories, [E] Chris Warner. A much better anthology of British comics, consisting of material reprinted from a British comic of the same name (without the USA part). The highlight of the issue is a chapter of Philip Bond’s “Wired World”, a science-fictional story about two girls who go to a zoo to buy a pet. The issue would be worth reading for this story alone, and I hope I can find some more chapters of it. Other creators featured include Shaky Kane, Peter Milligan and Brett Ewins, and Dave Cooper.
BLACK HAMMER #7 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Black Hammer Falls!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. An important issue because we finally learn how the characters got to Black Hammer Farm, and what happened to the title character. It turns out that Black Hammer got his powers from Starlok, i.e. Highfather/Odin, in order to battle Anti-God, i.e. Darkseid. There’s a touching scene where Black Hammer refuses a summons from Starlok in order to attend his daughter’s birthday party, but he has to pay the price for his decision, because Anti-God attacks Spiral City. Black Hammer and the other superheroes defeat him but find themselves in Black Hammer Farm, and when Black Hammer tries to leave, he dies (in the same way that Colonel Weird’s wife Eve died, as noted above). So we’re finally starting to get the big picture of what’s going on in this comic.
THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #16 (DC, 1995) – “Playgrounds, Part Two: Tag… You’re It,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Snejbjerg. Tim and Molly and their fairy companions are both stuck at tiny size. Meanwhile, Khara and Nikki (the demon and her half-angel child) are held captive by some kind of villain. I’m not sure what’s going on here, but it’s funny and weird.
CRITTERS #23 (Fantagraphics, 1988) – various stories, [E] Kim Thompson. I bought this issue because of the story “Teddy Payne: Right to the Blues” by Ty Templeton and A. Van Bruggen. It’s about some teddy bears who play in a blues band, and it’s both ridiculously cute, and rather melancholy. This issue was published with a flexi-disc recording of the teddy bears’ song, but my copy does not have the disc. Unfortunately, this issue is 64 pages and contains a lot of material I could have done without. There’s an Usagi Yojimbo two-parter and a chapter of Freddy Milton’s Gnuff, but there’s also a lot of very low-quality work by lesser artists.
THE HUMANS #10 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Keenan Marshall Keller, [A] Tom Neely. This is the last issue, which is probably a good thing. This series has an interesting premise, is well-drawn, and effectively evokes the spirit of the ‘70s, but it doesn’t have much of a plot, and I don’t care much about the characters.
MARVEL TEAM-UP #78 (Marvel, 1979) – “Claws!”, [W] Bill Kunkel, [A] Don Perlin. A Spider-Man/Wonder Man team-up. Like the classic Avengers #162, this issue focuses on Wonder Man’s fear of death and lack of confidence, but it’s not nearly as good as Avengers #162, although it’s kind of fun.
THE DESERT PEACH #8 (Mu Press, 1990) – “Dressing Down,” [W/A] Donna Barr. I’m Facebook friends with Donna Barr, but I had not previously read her major work, about Erwin Rommel’s gay younger brother Manfred. Now that I have read it, I am seriously impressed. This issue is a convoluted spy caper in which Manfred and his batman (in the military sense) are sent to England to impersonate two female spies. It’s an exciting and funny piece of screwball comedy, Manfred and Udo are an awesome comedic duo, and Donna Barr appears to have a deep knowledge of German culture. The fact that this comic is about WWII-era Nazis means it’s treading on dangerous ground, but to me it doesn’t feel offensive at all. After reading this comic, I read most of the other Barr comics I had (see reviews in next post) and I wish I had more.
CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS #5 (Marvel/Icon, 2010) – “The Sinners, Part Five,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. A story about a priest who becomes the leader of a gang of assassins. It’s fairly good. It has nothing to do with either of the other two issues of Criminal I read this year.
CRITTERS #20 (Fantagraphics, 1988) – various stories, [E] Kim Thompson. This issue begins with “Speaking Stone,” a rare non-X-rated work by Reed Waller and Kate Worley. It’s an anthropomorphic story about an absent-minded archaeologist and his more sensible assistant. It’s not Omaha, but it’s well-drawn, it has good dialogue, and it shows at least some knowledge of Andean culture. This series was unfortunately never finished. This issue also includes another Gnuff chapter and a story by William Van Horn.