New comics received on September 15:
LUMBERJANES #42 (Boom!, 2017) – “Time After Crime” (part two), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. Jo’s invention causes time to run at weird rates, and then either Ripley becomes huge or Jen becomes tiny. I remember enjoying this issue, but I can’t remember much about it now.
MS. MARVEL #22 (Marvel, 2017) – “Mecca, Conclusion,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marco Failla. An effective conclusion that also resists providing easy answers to the questions this story has raised. Lockjaw and (perhaps unfortunately) the police and the legitimate government save the day, but Kamala realizes that “the places and people you thought were safe look different once you’ve seen them from another perspective, and you begin to wonder whether they’ve been this way all along, and whether you belong anywhere at all.” The real villains of this story, in other words, are “normal” white Americans like Josh who, thanks to Trump, are now revealed as having been racists and fascists all along.
RUNAWAYS #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “Find Your Way Home,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Rainbow Rowell is a very popular YA writer (whose books I haven’t read because they’ve never been released in paperback). And her comic book debut is also a revival of the best Marvel comic of the 2000s. So this comic comes with very high expectations, but it does not disappoint. This issue is very exciting and shows a deep understanding of the characters, and also, it’s great to see Gert again. Unlike most of the Runaways writers since BKV, Rowell seems to understand what this comic means to its fans. The only problems with this issue are that it doesn’t provide a whole lot of story, and that we’re not going to see Molly Hayes for a while.
SLAM! THE NEXT JAM #1 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Pamela Ribon, [A] Marina Julia. It’s a relief to see this series again, though I don’t see why the new numbering and subtitle are necessary. As suggested in my LARB review, I think Slam! is one of the two best Boom! Box titles besides Lumberjanes, and I was disappointed when it went on hiatus after four issues. This new issue is a pretty good follow-up to the first series, with lots of relationship and derby drama, but Marina Julia is a much less effective artist than Veronica Fish.
UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #24 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. Squirrel Girl and Antonio the Doombot battle dinosaur Ultron. To my annoyance, I can hardly remember anything about this comic, and I had to look through it again just to make sure I had read it. In fact, I have trouble remembering most of the comics I read that day. I must have been tired.
MISTER MIRACLE #2 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Another good issue. Scott encounters his abusive “mother,” Granny Goodness, and has to endure her gaslighting and her lack of regret for what she did to him. There are also some cute scenes with Scott and Barda.
BABYTEETH #4 (AfterShock, 2017) – “Always Faithful,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This issue is excitingly written but barely advances the story at all. The assassin shows up at Sadie’s house but Sadie’s dad holds her off. Meanwhile, Heather fights some purple-skinned guy.
DARK HORSE PRESENTS #9 (Dark Horse, 2015) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. As usual this issue is a mixed bag. The new chapters of Groo and Dream Gang are better than the Tarzan adaptation by Mike Grell, whose art doesn’t seem to have evolved at all since the ‘80s. Alex de Campi’s Weird Detective is surprisingly good and deserves to be spun off into its own series. Victor Santos’s “Polar” is drawn in an intriguing Italian/Spanish/Argentine style, but has kind of a trite plot. One of the characters in it is named after Guido Crepax.
TIME & VINE #3 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. Megan identifies her aunt that she never knew about, and then she and Jack go back in time to the Civil War and get caught in a fire. Another exciting issue, though as is often the case with Thom’s work, it’s somewhat lacking in genuine conflict.
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #58 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Agnes Garbowska. This was an average issue, but the fascinating part about it was that it included two unfamiliar characters, Mage Meadowbrook and her descendant Cattail, and it seemed to assume that the reader already knew who they were. As I correctly guessed, these characters were going to be introduced in the next TV episode, “A Health of Information,” which aired after the comic was published. So for the week after I read this comic, I was looking forward to seeing the next TV episode so that I could learn who these two new characters were. This is a good example of how a transmedia franchise can use one part of the franchise to build enthusiasm for another part. Overall, this season IDW has done a great job of creating synergy between the comics and the TV show.
MECH CADET YU #2 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. I liked this issue much better than last issue. After a month, I don’t remember why exactly, but my general impression was that this issue had a lot more narrative content. The three principal characters – Yu, his mother, and Cadet Park – are starting to become more well-defined. Yu’s mother is an especially fascinating character; she seems like a typical Asian parent, but women like her are rarely depicted in comic books.
STINZ #1 (Fantagraphics, 1989) – “Draft Horse,” [W/A] Donna Barr. Like Desert Peach #8, reviewed above, this was another exciting discovery. It’s the first chapter of a series starring a centaur who lives in early 20th-century Germany. This issue, he gets drafted into the army and leaves his isolated valley for the first time, encountering people who have never seen a centaur before. This comic is warm and funny and shows a deep knowledge of German culture. I already read one other Stinz comic, but this issue gives me a better idea of what the series is about, and now I’m excited to read more of it.
DARK HORSE PRESENTS #4/197 (Dark Horse, 2014) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. Another seriously mixed bag. None of the stories are positively bad, but they’re of varying quality. The highlights of the issue are Evan Dorkin’s House of Fun, Brendan McCarthy’s Dream Gang, and de Campi and Ordway’s Semiautomagic, in approximately that order. Tyler Jenkins’s “The Chaining” suggests that one of his major influences is Jeff Jones.
JONAH HEX #58 (DC, 1982) – “The Treasure of Catfish Pond,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Dick Ayers. Jonah befriends Ben, a giant intellectually disabled man (kind of like Hodor but with a bigger vocabulary) who knows the location of a lost treasure. Unfortunately, some local villains are on the trail of the same treasure. I was expecting a tragic ending in which Ben and/or his dog would be killed, but the story ends happily. This issue also includes an El Diablo backup story.
THE MAXIMORTAL #1 (Tundra, 1992) – “Cheek, Chin, Knuckle or Knee,” [W/A] Rick Veitch. A gruesome and disturbing reinterpretation of Superman. The main character in this story is the son of a human man and an alien superwoman. Even as a newborn, he looks like a tiny adult, which is very creepy. He is found by a human couple – a prospector and his celibate, obsessively religious wife – and proceeds to terrorize them and destroy their home. This isn’t exactly a fun comic, but it’s intriguing and I ought to read the rest of it. This issue’s letter column includes some Rare Bit Fiends strips.
HULK #10 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Julian Lopez. Jen tries to rescue Oliver while also dealing with her own trauma. Again, Tamaki effectively depicts Jen’s psychology, but this story has been going on too long and it hasn’t been as good as the previous story.
SPY SEAL #2 (Image, 2017) – “The Corten-Steel Phoenix, Part 2,” [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Another issue that’s full of exciting action sequences and gorgeous Clear Line artwork. I’m not sure how innovative this story would be in France, where this style of artwork is nothing new, but Clear Line artwork of this level of quality is almost unknown in American comics.
DESERT PEACH #7 (Mu Press, 1990) – “Spoiled Fruit,” [W/A] Donna Barr. A hilarious comic book. Pfirsch Rommel accidentally takes psychotic drugs, causing him to transform from a carefree layabout into a dedicated and effective general. He leads his men all around North Africa, defeating every Allied unit he encounters and endangering his brother’s plans. At the end, Pfirsch transforms back into his normal laid-back self. Besides being funny, this issue also effectively illustrates Pfirsch’s character by turning him into his own opposite.
RICHARD DRAGON, KUNG-FU FIGHTER #15 (DC, 1977) – “The Axeman,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Ric Estrada. This comic has some pretty good Toth-esque artwork, but the writing is horrible. Ben Turner (Bronze Tiger)’s fiancee gets fridged on page five, and he barely seems to care that she’s dead.
BLACK HAMMER #11 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “The Fury of the Robotanist,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. Part of this issue is a spotlight on Barbalien, and it becomes clear that he’s based on the Martian Manhunter. This is an interesting choice; I can’t think offhand of any other superheroes that are explicitly based on J’onn, whereas there are lots of alternate versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, etc. Also, there’s more relationship drama with Barbalien, Golden Gail and the priest.
BLACK HAMMER #12 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubín. This issue is about Lucy, her conflicted relationship with her father’s memory, and the circumstances behind her arrival at Black Hammer Farm. David Rubín’s guest artwork is a little bit underwhelming.
BLACK HAMMER #6 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “The Cabin of Horrors!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. This issue’s featured character is Madame Dragonfly. We learn that she’s a sort of hybrid of Madame Xanadu and Abigail Arcane, and also that she has a baby whose whereabouts are unknown. Also, Barbalien has a really awkward moment with Golden Gail, which explains the poignant encounter between them in issue 11. Reading this series out of order is a bit annoying, but actually not as confusing as you might expect, since this series’ story is presented out of chronological order to begin with.
SWAMP THING #140 (DC, 1994) – “Vegetable Man,” [W] Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, [A] Phil Hester. I had been under the impression that Swamp Thing jumped the shark after Rick Veitch left, but this run might be worth reading. Alec Holland wakes up in a hospital in the Amazon and is informed that his entire life as Swamp Thing was a dream. Then he encounters an indigenous shaman who gives him a really powerful drug, which leads to a really bizarre two-page splash. Then some other weird stuff happens. This story is clearly heavily influenced by Moore and Veitch’s Swamp Thing, and I’d have to read more about it to understand what, if anything, is original about Morrison and Millar’s version of Swamp Thing.
CRITTERS #12 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – various stories, [E] Kim Thompson. This issue includes Waller and Worley’s only other “Speaking Stone” story, besides the one in Critters #20, reviewed earlier. It’s a cute piece of work that includes a surprising fantasy element. The archaeologist and his assistant discover a lost temple of Bast, which turns out to be guarded by giant cat statues that turn into real giant cats when the moon is full. Based on their depiction of the cats, you can tell Waller and Worley are/were cat people. This issue also includes Sam Kieth’s “De Grand Wa-Zoo: Missing Is,” a prototype for The Maxx. The third story is a chapter of Steven A. Gallacci’s “Birthright,” and I thought it was confusing and poorly drawn.
WHITEOUT #1 FCBD (Oni, 2007) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Steve Lieber. This is a reprint of Greg Rucka’s first comic. Like most of his work, it’s a realistic adventure story with a female protagonist. Its unique element is that it takes place in Antarctica. The real revelation here is Steve Lieber’s black and white art, which is exquisitely detailed and reminds me more of Italian or Spanish than American comics. I wonder what happened to him; he seems to have done very little work in comics in the past decade.
THE ADVENTURES OF JERRY LEWIS #71 (DC, 1962) – untitled, [W/A] Bob Oksner. Thanks to his habit of loitering outside science classes so he can carry the female students’ books (that sounds really creepy when I write it out), Jerry gets hired as a rocket scientist. Through a further series of mishaps, he ends up on a rocket headed for the moon. He crashlands and encounters some aliens. This sudden turn from marginally plausible comedy to SF shocked me at first, until it turned out that he was still on Earth and the aliens were midget astronauts from a Communist country. Overall, this was a cute piece of screwball comedy.
ASTONISHING TALES #18 (Marvel, 1973) – “Gog Cometh!”, [W] Mike Friedrich, [A] Dan Adkins. A sequel to Amazing Spider-Man #103-104, except not nearly as good, though Adkins’s art is fairly impressive. At the end of the issue, Gog destroys the Statue of Liberty’s torch. I wonder if this incident was the basis for Web of Spider-Man #29. … No, it seems not. In that issue, the torch was removed because the statue was being renovated, which happened from 1984 to 1986 in real life.
DARK CORRIDOR #3 (Image, 2015) – “Seven Deadly Daughters” and “Red Circle” part 3, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Again, I can’t follow this issue’s plot because I’ve been reading the series out of order, but Tommaso’s artwork and design are really impressive. I especially like the Eisner-esque title page of the first story.
DARK CORRIDOR #5 (Image, 2015) – as above. Much like the previous issue. This series lasted seven issues, but I didn’t order the last two.
New comics received on September 22:
SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER #4 (Image, 2017) – “Trees Falling in the Woods,” [W] Jody Leheup & Sebastian Girner, [A] Nil Vendrell. Much like the three previous issues. The highlight of the issue is the panel where one of the villain’s human flunkies says “Can’t believe we quit our jobs as comic book editors for this!” and another replies “Maybe we can make our own comic about a guy that fights b—”
GENERATIONS: MS. MARVEL & MS. MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Paolo Villanelli. This was easily the best of the Generations issues that I’ve read, both because it’s just better written, and because it feels like the writer actually cares. Kamala finds herself in the past, where J. Jonah Jameson hires her to work on Woman magazine. Because of Marvel’s sliding timeline, Wilson is careful not to specify exactly when this story is taking place, but it feels like the ‘70s. The sepia tone of the coloring creates a sense of old-fashioned-ness. Besides helping Carol Danvers defeat a villain, Kamala also tells Carol that Woman magazine needs to combine activism with humor. She has two great lines about this: “Umm… protesting stuff? And unicorns?” and then later “People want equal rights, but they also want permission to have fun and be frivolous sometimes.” This is also a description of the political project of Ms. Marvel as well as other comics like Lumberjanes. Like many Boom! Box writers (as I argued in my LARB article), G. Willow Wilson sees fun and activism as allied; having fun can be a political act, and a story can be entertaining and progressive at once.
MISFIT CITY #5 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kirsten Smith & Kurt Lustgarten, [A] Naomi Franquiz. An exciting Don Rosa-esque dungeon crawl. The girls head through Captain Denby’s cave in search of Black Mary’s treasure, but just as they’re about to find it, the villains show up. It looks like this series may be ending with issue 8, which would be a pity.
WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #1 (DC/Dark Horse, 2017) – “A Crown Without Mercy,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. I haven’t been all that impressed with most of Gail’s recent work, but I like this issue a lot. Conan and Diana are a logical pairing, Gail understands both characters quite well, and the two characters’ childhood friendship is very cute.
BLACK HAMMER #13 (Image, 2017) – “Spiral City Boxing,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. This issue, we finally get to see how the protagonists got to Black Hammer Farm. Then Lucy does the obvious thing and picks up her father’s hammer, causing her to transform into the new Black Hammer. Until after I read this issue, I didn’t realize it was the last issue of this volume. After this, there’s a four-issue Sherlock Frankenstein miniseries and then another volume of Black Hammer. So this cliffhanger will remain unresolved for a while.
HAWKMAN #12 (DC, 1966) – “The Million-Year-Long War!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Murphy Anderson. Kind of a silly story. Some Thanagarian archaeologists accidentally revive two ancient alien conquerors who have been in suspended animation for a million years. The two aliens restart the war, each using half the population of Thanagar as an army. Katar and Shayera somehow manage to save the day using weapons from their museum on Earth. There’s no character interaction to speak of.
SNOTGIRL #7 (Image, 2017) – “New Face,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. I still have trouble following this series because of how infrequently it comes out. Lottie and Caroline/Coolgirl have some relationship drama, Charlene (the one who fell off the building) is recovering, and the cops are getting closer to Lottie. Also, Lottie and her friends go to Comic-Con.
ANGELIC #1 (Image, 2017) – “Heirs and Graces, Part 1,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Casper Wijngaard. The latest in a series of fascinating new series from Simon Spurrier. Besides the misfire of Cry Wolf, all of his recent limited series have been fascinating and well-drawn, and each has been very different from the others. This new one takes place in a post-apocalyptic Earth populated by intelligent animals, like Kamandi or Autumnlands. The protagonist is a female winged monkey who keeps getting reprimanded for her curiosity about the world, and who learns that she’s scheduled to have her wings cut off and become a broodmare. Conveniently, she encounters a seal (I think it’s a seal) who is looking for a female monkey to make a deal with. I’m excited to see where this goes, and I’m annoyed that I forgot to order issue two.
SUPER SONS #8 (DC, 2017) – “Planet of the Capes, Part 3,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Jorge Jimenez. This story begins in media res, and I honestly can’t remember how we got from last issue to this one. Otherwise, this is an exciting story in which Damian and Jon team up with two black girl superheroes, Big Shot and Hard Line, against an evil planet.
PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #4 (Marvel, 2017) – “Tinkerer Tailored: Soldier Guy!”, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. I forgot to order issue 3. This issue is reasonably exciting, and Chip is really good at writing Spider-Man’s witty banter. However, the potential of this series has been hampered by its reliance on bad continuity and its lack of soap-opera relationship drama. I enjoyed Kaptara more than I’m enjoying this comic.
EPIC LITE #1 (Epic, 1991) – I’m not sure if this humor anthology was a one-shot or the only issue of an intended ongoing series. The highlights of the issue are a “Murder Family” story by Evan Dorkin and “Al Space” by Kyle Baker. The latter is a brutal mockery of comics speculators. There’s also a Normalman story by Valentino, which is much better than the last Normalman comic book I read. Other creators in this issue include Hilary Barta, Scott Saavedra and Mike Kazaleh.
BITCH PLANET TRIPLE FEATURE #4 (Image, 2017) – three stories, [E] Lauren Sankovitch. This issue’s first story, “Life of a Sportsman” by Marc Deschamps and Mindy Lee, is about Bitch Planet’s toxic effects on men. It’s about an athlete who’s a hero one day – despite murdering his wife and injuring other players – and a washed-up has-been the next. This story is so similar to much of what goes on in the NFL that it barely qualifies as science fiction. The second story is about women with gruesome body modifications. The third story is about a female thief who gets caught trying to steal a birth control handbook.
KING: THE PHANTOM #3 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Ryan Cody. Another chapter in the ongoing crossover story about Ming’s invasion of Earth. I can’t remember much of this issue’s plot, but it has the same clever style of dialogue as Atomic Robo.
DEPT. H #18 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. The characters in the sub try to get back to the surface, but fail. This felt like an issue in which not a whole lot happened. I realized after reading it that I had forgotten to read issue 17.
ONI DOUBLE FEATURE #2 (Oni, 1998) – “Car Crash,” [W/A] Paul Pope, and “Secret Broadcast, Chapter II,” [W/A] Arnold and Jacob Pander. “Car Crash” is a weird slice-of-life autobiographical story in which Paul and his friends meet a woman from Venezuela. It’s drawn in a watercolor style that’s quite different from any other Pope story I’ve read. It illustrates his stylistic range. The other story in the issue is a waste of space.
GOOD GIRLS #2 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “Number 23” and “Polite Society,” [W/A] Carol Lay. The first story this issue is grimmer and more realistic than I expected. Monica, the advice columnist, goes out with two mean women who pretend to be her friends, and they betray her and almost cause her to be raped. The second story is much lighter, though still with some rather grim implications. Irene Van der Kamp is invited to a Mary Kay party by some snooty women who are only interested in her for her money. The women’s façade of politeness collapses when they see Irene’s disfigured face and are terrified. But the evening is a total loss, because one of the women has a little daughter who thinks Irene looks cool.
THE TWILIGHT ZONE #51 (Gold Key, 1973) – various stories, [E] uncredited. The reason I bought this issue is the last story, Al Williamson’s “Telephone from the Tomb.” It’s not badly drawn, but it’s not his best work either, and it suffers from poor reproduction. The other material in the issue is of no interest.
CATALYST PRIME: SUPERB #3 (Lion Forge, 2017) – “Identity Unveiled,” [W] Sheena Howard & David Walker, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Alitha Martinez. One of the two pencilers in this issue is much better than the other, but I’m not sure which is which. The highlight of this series is the two protagonists, Kayla and Jonah. They’re both very different and very realistic characters, and the interactions between them are excellent. Judging by this and Power Man & Iron Fist, David Walker has a particular talent for writing buddy comics. This issue also introduces Jonah’s friend Kayla, and in the cliffhanger, we learn that Kayla has superpowers.
CASANOVA: ACEDIA #8 (Image, 2017) – “Hail, Hail the Frog Queen,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Gabriel Bá. The main story this issue is about a young heiress whose father keeps assassinating all her friends. I’ve completely lost the ability to follow the plot of this comic, but Fraction’s dialogue is effective, and Gabriel Bá’s artwork is brilliant.
ELRIC: STORMBRINGER #5 (Topps/Dark Horse, 1997) – “The Chaos Shield,” [W/A] P. Craig Russell. This is the best comic adaptation of Moorcock, and it shows why Craig Russell is such a master of the art of adaptation. Unlike some people (e.g. Roy Thomas in Chamber of Chills #1, reviewed above), Russell is careful to limit how much of Moorcock’s prose he includes. He understands that his job is not to reproduce every little detail of Moorcock’s novel, but to replicate in another medium the feel of reading Moorcock, and he does that perfectly. In particular, he succeeds in imagining what things like the Sad Giant and the Chaos Shield should look like, and then realizing them on the page.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #91 (Marvel, 1978) – “Savage Doings in Shem!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. Conan, Bêlit and Zula are reunited with the Black Corsairs, then they infiltrate the Shemite city of Asgalun. This is a fairly good issue, but its curious aspect is that it includes a flashback sequence which introduces a lot of seemingly irrelevant new characters. The letter column explains that this sequence was written for continuity purposes. Marvel had just recently acquired the adaptation rights to Lin Carter’s “Hawks over Shem,” which takes place in Asgalun a few years after “Queen of the Black Coast,” and the flashback sequence in Conan #91 is intended to provide the background for the upcoming adaptation of “Hawks over Shem” in Savage Sword of Conan. As Roy himself admits, this results in a boring scene that kills the momentum of Conan and Bêlit’s story.
ADVENTURE COMICS #384 (DC, 1969) – “The Heroine Haters!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Win Mortimer. This story is shockingly progressive considering that it was published by DC in 1969, and was written by the man who killed Iris West. Supergirl uses a computerized dating service to pair herself up with Volar, the superhero champion of an alien planet. When Supergirl arrives on Volar’s planet, she discovers that he has no interest in her at all and that he has some kind of mysterious secret. She also learns that on his planet, all the women are domestic slaves and are taught from birth that they’re inferior to men. (So basically this planet is not all that different from Earth. ^_^ ) As you might guess from the above summary, Volar’s secret turns out to be that “he” is a girl disguised as a boy. So her romance with Supergirl goes nowhere, but thanks to Supergirl’s example, she decides to stop pretending to be male: “It won’t be easy to shatter prejudices that have prevailed for centuries! But […] I’ll do it some day!” “The Heroine Haters” turns out to be quite an inspiring example of feminism, which, again, is all the more surprising given that it looks like a very conventional ‘60s DC comic. The backup story is pure crap, but oh well.
MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #17 (Marvel, 1974) – “In the Shadow of the Serpent!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Jim Mooney. To save the world from the cosmic dragon Kometes, the Son of Satan travels back in time to the original Atlantis, where he meets the sorceress queen Zhered-Na. He helps her defeat a creature called Spyros, who turns out to be Adam, as in Adam and Eve. This story is an example of Gerber’s unique ability to combine epic cosmic scope with bizarre silliness.
BUG! THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #4 (DC, 2017) – “Hook, Lion & Stinker: Domino Effect Part 4 of 6,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. Another incomprehensible but exciting story. This issue, Bug teams up with Deadman, who is not a Kirby character but seems somehow appropriate to the overall tone of this comic.
ROCKET #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Blue River Score, Part 5: Plunder Squad,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Adam Gorham. Rocket teams up with the Technet in order to steal the Tarka’s World title deeds from a wealthy beaver. But Otta betrays Rocket yet again and shoots him. I’ve been a bit unimpressed by this series now that the novelty of Ewing’s take on Rocket has worn off, but it’s exciting, and I think I want to read issue 6 after I finish writing this review. (Update: I did)
ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #2 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Bishop’s Man, Part Two of Three,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Ramón Pérez. This is reasonably well-written and well-drawn, but it’s not all that exciting and it feels like a ripoff of Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye. Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye is a better sequel to that of Fraction and Aja, because it doesn’t try to be exactly the same as that series.
SUPERBOY #56 (DC, 1999) – “Demons!”, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. Thanks to a cursed magic glove, the Guardian thinks that it’s still World War II and the employees of Project Cadmus are Nazis. Superboy and Etrigan team up to save the Guardian and recover the glove, except Etrigan has his own agenda. This was an exciting and very Kirbyesque comic.
New comics received on September 29:
SAGA #47 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. Hard to believe this series is already on #47. This issue is a series of flashbacks to notable scenes from The Will’s past. Midway through the issue, we learn that he’s having these flashbacks because he’s being tortured by a mole woman, whose husband he killed on Sextillion. This may be the first issue of Saga in which neither Marko, Alana nor Hazel appears.
SOUTHERN BASTARDS #18 (Image, 2017) – “Gut Check, Part 4,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Chris Brunner. I thought the art in this issue looked a bit different from usual, and it turns out that that’s because Jason Latour wrote it and Chris Brunner drew it. This issue’s first panel is a sign that says “Grit Pit” in the characteristic Waffle House font. I think I’m going to start referring to Waffle House as Grit Pit, if I ever need to refer to it again. Then we witness the moment when Earl’s as-yet-unseen wife left him and took Roberta with her. In the main story, Roberta tortures Materhead in an attempt to get him to reveal who kills Earl. When that fails, she apparently kills him. I’ve been waiting a long time for Roberta to play a more active role in this series, but she was worth waiting for.
MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #23 (Marvel, 2017) – “Girl-Moon, Part 5 of 5: There’s More than One Way to Skin Schrödinger’s Cat,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella says goodbye to Ego and Girl Moon, and then, in a surprising move, she takes Devil Dinosaur to his original time and leaves him there. This is an impressively mature decision on her part, I guess, but it also ruins the entire premise of the series, so I have a feeling that Devil will be coming back. But maybe not for a while, since the next storyline is about Lunella’s search for a new sidekick.
HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #2 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Nina Vakueva. Chris joins the fight club. Her new teammate/coworker Dolores doesn’t like her, but she finds herself falling for her other teammate, Maggie. Also, there are some new developments in the kidnapping mystery. I didn’t like this as much as the first issue, but it’s a cute coming-of-age story and also an accurate depiction of teenagers in the ‘90s.
RAT QUEENS SPECIAL: ORC DAVE #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] Max Dunbar. This issue is Orc Dave’s origin story. It turns out that he and his father/son are part of a bizarre two-person succession, in which each of them protects the forest for twenty years at a time, then turns into a baby and is cared for by the other. At least I think that’s how it works. The continuity here is a bit weird. The story clearly takes place before the original Rat Queens series, because it depicts Dave’s first meeting with the Rat Queens. But I don’t recall any mention of Orc Dave having an infant son.
MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #6 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brenda Hickey. Mage Meadowbrook saves a village whose inhabitants have all been turned into zombies, thanks to eating grain that was contaminated with frog secretions. The frogs are cute, but otherwise this is an average story. At the end of the issue, Sunburst realizes that the six ponies represent an earlier version of the Elements of Harmony. I assume that Rockhoof = strength, Flash Magnus = bravery, Meadowbrook = healing, Mistmane = beauty, Somnambula = hope, and “sorcery” is either Starswirl himself, or some other pony we haven’t met yet. I suspect that this information is going to be important in the TV show as well as the comic.
DESCENDER #24 (Image, 2017) – “Rise of the Robots 3 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Instead of resolving last issue’s cliffhanger, this issue presents Driller’s adventures on Dagobah with Yoda. Of course that’s not what they’re called, but the resemblance is obvious. This was a cute issue, and I like Driller a lot, but I think I’m more interested in seeing what happens to Tim and Telsa and so on.
ZODIAC STARFORCE: CRIES OF THE FIRE PRINCE #2 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kevin Panetta, [A] Paulina Ganucheau. Another exciting issue, though nothing spectacular. Zodiac Starforce fights the Fire Prince, then at the end of the issue, they encounter some other people who also claim to be Zodiac Starforce. I have trouble remembering the names of any of the characters in this comic.
JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: INFINITE #3 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite, Part Five,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jen Hickman. The Holograms and Misfits resurrect Silica in order to break Synergy’s control over the world. This was an okay issue, but “Infinite” has not been my favorite Jem story.
ELRIC: STORMBRINGER #6 (Dark Horse/Topps, 1997) – “The Lords of Law and the Horn of Fate,” [W/A] P. Craig Russell. Again, PCR puts on a clinic in how to adapt literature to comics. I especially like the sequence set in the realm of Law, where everything is geometric and orderly. And PCR draws some horrible chaos monsters.
GODSHAPER #6 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jonas Goonface. Ennay encounters two singers who have discovered that they can merge their gods into one. Then he gives the musical performance of his lifetime and saves the day. I’ve lost track of the plot of this comic, and I would need to read the whole thing in one sitting to understand it fully. Despite that, I think this was one of Spurrier’s better works, and “Jonas Goonface”’s artwork has been brilliant. Spurrier seesm to have an unusual ability to identify talented artists – Goonface, Stokely, and now also Wijngaard.
BLACK PANTHER #18 (Marvel, 2017) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 6,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Chris Sprouse & Wilfredo Torres. I don’t remember much about this issue except the ending, which reveals that Dr. Faustus is in league with T’Challa’s greatest enemy, Klaw.
FAITH AND THE FUTURE FORCE #3 (Valiant, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Diego Bernard & Cary Nord. Faith and her superhero allies make yet another failed attempt to defeat the Do-Bot. So this issue is pretty much the same as last issue. Faith and the Future Force hasn’t been nearly as good as the ongoing Faith series, because it’s been just one action sequence after another, with no room to spare for Faith’s personal life.
FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #2 (DC, 2017) – “The Buried Past,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Ariel Olivetti. Space Ghost, Jan and Jace investigate a cave full of crystal monsters and ghosts. This comic is pretty fun, and Jan and Jace are really cute, but I still think Olivetti’s artwork is inappropriate for this series.
BATGIRL #15 (DC, 2017) – “Summer of Lies, Part Two,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. The flashbacks to Dick and Babs’s shared past are more interesting than the scenes set in the present. I still bristle a little at the idea of Dick and Babs as a couple, because I’m still a Dick/Kory shipper at heart, but Dick and Babs’s interactions in this issue are cute. As in Generations: Ms. Marvel, the flashback scenes in this issue are colored in sepia tones. It’s weird how Dick Grayson hasn’t been Batman’s full-time partner since 1969, and he hasn’t been Robin since 1984. And yet Dick’s career as Robin is always presented as having ended just a little while ago. Dick is always the previous Robin.
BLACK MAGICK #8 (Image, 2017) – “Awakening II, Part 003,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. Lots of exciting action and character moments, though it’s not clear just where this story is going. The next issue blurb suggests that the birth of Alex’s partner’s baby is going to be relevant to the plot somehow. I had assumed the baby was just a background detail.
SPIDER-GWEN #24 (Marvel, 2017) – “Predators, Conclusion,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. After a one-issue break, we’re back to the Gwen/Lizard/Wolverine plotline. Gwen gets possessed by Venom, and discovers that Matt sent her to Japan so she couldn’t protect her father. This feels more like a classic Spider-Man comic than Spectacular Spider-Man does. However, I just saw someone point out that this comic is really dark and depressing, and it’s true. There used to be a meme that Marvel never gave Spidey a happy ending, but Latour not only never gives Gwen a happy ending, he never even gives her an ending that makes her less unhappy than before. It would be nice if she could win a fight sometime soon.
POINT BLANK #1 (Eclipse, 1989) – Dieter Lumpen in “Game of Chance,” [W] Jorge Zentner, [A] Ruben Pellejero; and Marvin in “The Case of Marion Colbran,” [W] Giancarlo Berardi, [A] Ivo Milazzo. This magazine presents two black-and-white stories in the characteristic Italian-Spanish-Argentine style. There’s not really an official name for this style, but it’s the second most important tradition of European comics, after Franco-Belgian comics. The Dieter Lumpen story also appears in the IDW collection of that series, which I have, but I think Pellejero’s art actually looks better in black and white. In the IDW collection, the color makes it harder to see the slickness of his line or the brilliance of his spotting of blacks. The plot of this particular story is sort of similar to Corto Maltese or Torpedo: due to a gambling debt, an adventurer has to kill an old Greek man. The second half in the issue is a film noir detective story drawn by Ivo Milazzo, whose work is almost unknown in America; however, Francesco Francavilla once named Milazzo when I asked him who his influences were. Milazzo’s art on this story is gorgeous and demonstrates deep historical research. The plot is standard film-noir stuff, with the added wrinkle that the protagonist is a WWI veteran.
AIRBOY #8 (Eclipse, 1986) – “Down in the Darkness,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Stan Woch. I lost interest in this series because of my deep antipathy for its writer, but it seems like a fairly quick and fun read. Quick is the key word, though: each issue of this series was just 13 pages, and in that amount of space, it’s hard to deliver a satisfying chunk of an ongoing narrative. The artist, Stan Woch, is kind of similar to Steve Bissette or Tim Truman, but worse.
B.P.R.D.: HELL ON EARTH – NEW WORLD #5 (Dark Horse, 2010) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] Guy Davis. I’m not sure what this issue’s story is about, but the art is impressive. Guy Davis is surprisingly good at drawing horrible ghostly monsters.
DEPT. H #17 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. This is the last in a series of issues each of which focuses on one particular character. This issue the character in question is Mia’s best friend, Lily, who has been so thoroughly relegated to the background that I didn’t even realize she was a character. At the end of the issue, the protagonists learn that the H-virus has spread to the entire surface world.
FREEDOM FIGHTERS #5 (DC, 1976) – “The Rise and Fall of King Samson,” [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Ramona Fradon. The only redeeming quality of this awful comic is Ramona Fradon’s art, and that artwork suffers from being inked by the worst inker in comic book history, whose name will not be mentioned here. My copy of this issue is signed by Ramona.
ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “To Live and Die in a Small Town,” [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Fernando Ruiz. This comic is fully aware of the absurdity of its premise, and it celebrates that absurdity instead of trying to overcome it. It’s full of brutal violence and bloody gore, but the violence is illustrated in the Archie house style, and therefore becomes funny rather than scary. What adds to the humor of this comic is the fact that the characters themselves don’t seem to take their situation seriously, even though they’re being pursued by a murderous alien. Like Afterlife with Archie, this comic is balanced between horror and humor, but unlike in Afterlife with Archie, the balance in this comic is heavily tilted in favor of humor.
TOM STRONG AND THE PLANET OF PERIL #2 (Vertigo, 2013) – “Masks and the Red Death,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Chris Sprouse. In search of a cure for Tesla’s pregnancy complications, Tom and Val Var Garm head to Terra Obscura, only to discover that the planet’s civilization has collapsed because of a horrible pandemic. Peter Hogan uses the characters and tropes from Alan Moore’s Tom Strong, but his writing is workmanlike and lacks Alan’s passion and creativity.
PAST AWAYS #8 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Scott Kolins. It’s taken me over a year to finish reading this series, which probably indicates that it’s not all that exciting. The plot is less interesting than all the little captions depicting future inventions. This issue, the three surviving protagonists (Herb, Marge and Ursula) travel back to the future, but are pursued by Phil’s disembodied head, grafted onto some kind of alien monster.
THE AUTHORITY #3 (WildStorm, 1999) – “The Circle, Three of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. This is an epic superhero story with impressive art, even if Bryan Hitch seems to me like a bargain-basement Alan Davis. But I don’t get what made this comic so innovative and exciting, or why it was any better than an average Marvel or DC comic.
YOU AND YOUR BIG MOUTH #5 (Fantagraphics, 1995) – “I Didn’t Want to Get My Hair Cut!”, [W/A] Pat Moriarty. I bought this thinking it was by Hunt Emerson, but I was confusing Big Mouth with Citymouth. Pat Moriarty is not as original an artist as Hunt Emerson, but the main story in this issue is not bad. It’s about a man, Doug, whose longtime friend, Guy, becomes more and more intolerable until he finally sleeps with Doug’s girlfriend. It’s kind of like some of the stories I’ve seen on r/relationships, except that all the characters are drawn with spherical heads, which is rather uncanny.
ARCHIE’S GIRLS BETTY AND VERONICA #239 (Archie, 1975) – “Make Believe,” [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Dan DeCarlo. A completely average Archie comic. The third story, in which Veronica gives Archie a massage, includes some perhaps unintentionally suggestive dialogue.
ACTION GIRL COMICS #13 (Slave Labor, 1997) – various stories, [E] Sarah Dyer. The execution of this comic is worse than the idea behind it. Easily the best story in the issue is a Scary Godmother three-pager by Jill Thompson. The second best story is by Elizabeth Watasin, an artist I hadn’t heard of before. It looks like she did a creator-owned series called Charm School but then quit comics. The worst story in the issue is the one by the editor, Sarah Dyer; it suffers from overly repetitive art.
POINT BLANK #2 – as above. This issue includes a new Dieter Lumpen story and the second part of the Marvin story from the previous issue. Unfortunately, this was the last issue, so the third and last part of the Marvin story was never published in English. As far as I know, these two issues of Point Blank are the only English translations of Ivo Milazzo’s comics. His major work, Ken Parker, would be a good candidate for IDW’s Eurocomics line.
THE BLACK BEETLE #2 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “No Way Out,” [W/A] Francesco Francavilla. Just like issue 1, this comic has gorgeous art and coloring, but an awful story which is made up of one film noir cliché after another. Francavilla would be better off working with another writer rather than writing his own material.