New comics received on October 7:
PAPER GIRLS #16 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. An exciting start to the new story arc, which is really more of a continuation of the old story arc. As usual, a ton of stuff happens this issue, and I can’t remember or understand all of it. Notably, we get a solution to the Frankie Tomatah mystery, which turns out to be a bit disappointing. I was hoping that the name Frankie Tomatah was a clue that the reader could solve by looking carefully at earlier issues. It turns out that Frankie Tomatah is the name of a comic strip that appeared on the letters pages, and the protagonists just have to go visit the cartoonist who created the strip. I wonder if those letters pages are included in the collected editions.
MOTOR CRUSH #7 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Babs Tarr, [W] Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart. Another excellent issue. Dom discovers that Lola has started seeing someone else since Dom apparently died, but then she finds Catball and her father. I guess that doesn’t sound all that exciting, but it is. I notice that there’s a really sharp color contrast between Dom and Lola, but the creators mostly avoid any suggestion that Dom’s darkness and Lola’s brightness have moral implications.
MOONSTRUCK #3 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. I thought Moonstruck #2 was disappointing because of the lack of any conflict, but this issue was significantly better. The conflict (Chet’s loss of his horse half) is kind of contrived, but Ellis and Beagle handle it quite well. I especially like Chet’s line about colonialism. And the parade scene is full of funny mayhem and cute sight gags.
USAGI YOJIMBO #162 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “The Body in the Library, Part 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. An exciting conclusion to last issue’s mystery. The murderer’s motives and true identity are left unclear, creating a hook for a future story. Usagi and Kitsune’s interactions are funny, but also very familiar from other Kitsune stories; however, it’s fun to see Kitsune interacting with Inspector Ishida.
KIM & KIM: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #3 (Black Mask, 2017) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. This issue is incorrectly labeled as #4 in the indicia, which made me afraid that I’d missed the actual #3. Otherwise, this issue is witty and well-drawn, but not significantly different from the previous two.
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #59 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. Yet another issue that’s a sequel to a season 8 episode – in this case, an episode that I hadn’t seen when I read the issue. Specifically, this issue is a sequel to “Secrets and Pies,” in which we learn that Rainbow Dash dislikes pie. In MLP: FIM #59, Pinkie Pie attempts to cure Dashie’s pie-phobia by making her try every kind of pie. However, Rainbow Dash turns the tables by demonstrating that Pinkie also hates Dashie’s favorite pastime: sitting around doing nothing. This issue is an effective sequel to “Secrets and Pies” – as Dave van Domelen, I think, suggested, it completes the friendship lesson from that episode – and I wish I’d seen the episode before I read the comic.
GIANT DAYS #31 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Another typical issue. Esther causes a huge friendship problem when her new girlfriend Ingrid runs up an unpayable heating bill. Then for some convoluted reason, Ed and McGraw almost get beaten up by Spanish dudes. Then Esther pays the bill by selling her scooter, but the underlying friendship rift remains.
HAWKEYE #11 (Marvel, 2017) – “Countdown to Doom!”, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. After some very well-drawn action sequences, Kate defeats Madame Masque and kisses that one character whose name I forget. But she still has no clue to her mother’s location. I hope that will be the next storyline.
ELEANOR & THE EGRET #4 (Afterhshock, 2017) – “Jailbreak,” [W] John Layman, [A] Sam Kieth. Eleanor and the egret finally decide team up with Belanger and the cat against Anastasia Rue. As usual, this issue is short on plot but has beautiful art. We still haven’t gotten a real explanation of the egret or Anastasia or how they’re connected.
MANIFEST DESTINY #31 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. Sacagawea is an unenthusiastic mother. Charbonneau shows up in time to name the baby. Lewis and Clark’s men are getting insubordinate again. This issue feels like a lull between bigger storylines.
ALIEN WORLDS #4 (Pacific, 1983) – several stories, [W] Bruce Jones, [A] various. This issue is most notable for “Princess Pam,” one of Dave Stevens’s few non-Rocketeer stories, though he’s only credited with the inks. It’s a clever riff on Sleeping Beauty. “Girl of My Schemes,” drawn by Bo Hampton, has a shock ending that makes no sense; it’s about a sexbot who turns out to be an actual woman, except that doesn’t explain her behavior earlier in the story. “One Day in Ohio,” drawn by Ken Steacy, is pointless, though it reminds me a bit of WALL-E. “Deep Secrets,” drawn by Jeff Jones, is just average, but rather misogynistic – which is not an uncommon trend in Bruce Jones’s writing. The last story is drawn by Al Williamson but is far from his best work, and the plot isn’t great either.
VERTIGO: WINTER’S EDGE #2 (Vertigo, 1999) – “The Minx,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sean Phillips & Kent Williams, with many inset stories. This 100-page special consists of stories about many different Vertigo characters, linked together by a somewhat mediocre framing sequence. The Death story by Gaiman and Jeff Jones should have been the high point of the series, but it’s crippled by poor reproduction. In particular, it looks pixellated. This is especially obvious on the Death logo on the first page. Next is a Sandman Mystery Theatre story which is drawn by Paul Rivoche and explores some of the same ideas about architecture as Mister X. Next is a pretty good Books of Magic story which contains Jason Lutes’s only artwork in a DC comic book. Brubaker and Lark’s Scene of the Crime story, about an abused child who gets shot by accident, is perhaps the high point of the issue. The other three stories in the issue feature Nevada, The Dreaming, and Constantine, but by that point my attention was flagging a bit. The Dreaming story is an interesting exploration of Nuala’s reaction to Morpheus’s death.
DAREDEVIL ANNUAL #4 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Name of the Game is… Death!”, [W] Marv Wolfman & Chris Claremont, [A] George Tuska. Despite the Claremont script, this issue is a waste of space. The plot is needlessly convoluted, and the writers fail to take advantage of the potentially exciting combination of Daredevil, Namor, and the Black Panther.
XIII #1 (Alias, 2005) – “The Day of the Black Sun: I,” [W] Jean Van Hamme, [A] William Vance. This comic reprints the first half of the first XIII album. I don’t know why Alias decided to publish it in comic book format, and it’s obsolete now, since Cinebook has reprinted all of XIII in album format. But at least this issue is a good introduction to one of Europe’s most popular thriller comics. An elderly couple discovers an amnesiac man who has no idea who he is, except he has a tattoo that reads “XIII,” which becomes his name. Some assassins promptly show up at the old couple’s cottage and kill them, but XIII survives and has to uncover his own identity. As Kim Thompson said in his article “A Modest Proposal: More Crap is What We Need,” XIII is an example of “solid, unpretentious, accessible genre fiction.”
ROCKET GIRL #10 (Image, 2017) – “Only the Good…”, [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Amy Reeder. There are two big surprises in this issue: first, that it’s the last issue, and second, that it ends with Dayoung dying. I’m not exactly sure what she died for, since I don’t quite understand the plot of this series, and her death seems like a waste of a great character. On the letters page, Brandon suggests that Rocket Girl will be back. I certainly hope so, because otherwise this series will be remembered, if at all, as just a footnote to Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur.
STRANGE ADVENTURES #210 (DC, 1968) – “Hide and Seek,” [W] Jack Miller, [A] Neal Adams. As usual this comic’s art is fantastic, but unfortunately the lead story is just 12.5 pages (the other half page is an ad). The plot revolves around a cop who gets fired for killing a suspect. It’s sad that in 1968, it could be taken for granted that a cop who unjustly killed someone would be fired. This issue also includes a bad reprinted story. It’s drawn by Nick Cardy, but you can’t tell.
SCENE OF THE CRIME #1 (Vertigo, 1999) – “A Little Piece of Goodnight, Part One,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Michael Lark. I was motivated to read this because of the aforementioned story in Winter’s Edge #2. This series is about a private eye who lives in his elderly aunt and uncle’s mystery bookstore. It’s an exciting and realistic piece of mystery fiction, with a shocking conclusion (“she was dead by morning”). Michael Lark’s art is not as good as in Gotham Central, but it’s getting there. I need to look for the other three issues of this miniseries.
THE DYING AND THE DEAD #3 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Ryan Bodenheim. After this issue, this series went on a two-year hiatus. It resumed in May of this year, but I either forgot or didn’t bother to order the remaining issues. This issue is a significant drop in quality from #1 and #2 because it focuses on the villains, instead of the elderly heroes, who are much more interesting. Also, it includes a preposterous scene where Hirohito kills Hitler and Mussolini with a sword. I’m willing to accept all the magical stuff in this series, but I’m not willing to believe that a Japanese emperor would negotiate personally with people who weren’t his subjects.
ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE #1 (Image, 2015) – “Flight Plan,” [W] Larry Young, [A] Charlie Adlard. I ordered this from DCBS at a time when I was ordering a lot of comics that I didn’t read, and I didn’t get any other issues. I’m not entirely sure what this series is about, but it seems like a fairly realistic and well-executed SF story about the US space program. However, there are lots of other comics I want to read before I read any more of this series.
KAIJUMAX #2 (Oni, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Zander Cannon. I lost interest in this series as soon as I realized that Ulises Fainas wasn’t involved with it – I’m not sure why I thought he was. And the rather grim tone of issue 1 didn’t appeal to me much. When I finally got around to reading issue 2, I had some trouble following it, but it’s funnier and more exciting than I expected. This comic basically has just one joke – namely, the idea of combining the prison and kaiju genres – but it’s a funny joke.
ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR #3 (Archie, 2015) – untitled, [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Fernando Ruiz. Another issue filled with disgusting and hilarious mayhem. This comic may actually be better executed than Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, if not Afterlife with Archie, because it has a clearer idea of the tone it’s trying to create.
SPIDER BABY COMIX #1 (SpiderBaby Grafix, 1996) – various stories, [W/A] Steve Bissette et al. This issue includes several different early stories by Bissette, along with a catalogue of all his published work until late 1979. None of this stuff is absolutely incredible, and some of it is just disgusting for the sake of being disgusting. But it’s a good demonstration of Steve’s gruesome horror artwork and his effective synthesis of various influences, and one of the stories is a prototype for Tyrant. In the text columns at the back of the issue, Steve repeatedly mentions Cara Sherman-Tereno, a Kubert School classmate of his who unfortunately died the year this comic came out.
HEAD LOPPER #7 (Image, 2017) – “Head Lopper and the Crimson Tower, Part 3,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. The dungeon crawl continues. Nothing truly unexpected happens this issue, but MacLean’s artwork is as brilliant as usual, and the conclusion will be exciting.
MIGHTY COMICS #44 (Archie, 1967) – “The Sinister Powers of the Mad Gadgeteer” and other stories, [W] Jerry Siegel, [A] Paul Reinman. This comic blatantly attempts to copy the ‘60s Marvel style, and fails to do so because of a lack of talent. Jerry Siegel’s stories are implausible and devoid of characterization, and Paul Reinman is a boring artist. Most of the letters on the letters page are rather lukewarm, suggesting that Archie had trouble finding positive letters to print, and no wonder.
CLASSIC STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI #2 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Return of the Jedi, Book Two,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Al Williamson & Carlos Garzon. This is a reprint of Marvel’s adaptation of ROTJ. Despite the high level of talent involved, this comic is disappointing because it’s a very literal film adaptation, and the art isn’t good enough to elevate it above the film it adapts (unlike in Williamson’s adaptation of the Flash Gordon movie). It’s not always easy to tell which pages were drawn by Williamson and which by Garzon.
HERO CATS #18 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Part III: Cosmic Showdown!”, [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Omaka Schultz. The Hero Cats of Skyworld invade the Crow King’s palace. This is an okay story, but the characters aren’t as exciting or well-developed as the Hero Cats of Stellar City.
HERO CATS #19 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Mystery on the Mountain,” [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Andy Duggan. This issue again stars the Hero Cats of Stellar City, who fight a snow monster and then have an adventure with the underground stone people. This issue was nothing spectacular, but it’s nice to have the familiar characters back again.
LIBBY’S DAD #nn (Retrofit, 2016) – “Libby’s Dad,” [W/A] Eleanor Davis. According to the copyright page, this is Retrofit #55. I wish there was a comprehensive catalog of all the Retrofit publications, because there doesn’t seem to be one. This is my first Eleanor Davis comic, and it’s a good place to start. Her artwork is gorgeous and expressive; it appears to be drawn in crayon, which creates a sense that the characters in the story are even younger than they are. The premise is that a girl named Libby invites her friends to her divorced father’s house for a sleepover, but Libby’s dad is rumored to have threatened to kill her mother. As a result, the story has a threatening, oppressive atmosphere, because the girls are worried that Libby’s dad will kill them, but he turns out to be an okay guy. But the narrator comes to the disturbing conclusion that “Libby’s mom is crazy and a liar,” so the happy ending of the story proves to be ambiguous: maybe this is a story about how women learn to distrust each other. I’d like to read more of Eleanor Davis.
AKIKO ON THE PLANET SMOO #1 (Sirius, 1995) – “Akiko on the Planet Smoo,” [W/A] Mark Crilley. This 40-page one-shot was a prequel to the ongoing series, which was just called Akiko. It’s about a ten-year-old girl who is taken by aliens to an alien planet, where she has an adventure that turns out to be a test of her worthiness to marry the planet’s prince. When it came out, this series must have seemed like a candidate for the next Bone, but it was nowhere near as successful as Bone. This may have been partly due to Crilley’s sloppy art: he makes excessive use of computer graphics, and he doesn’t bother to draw backgrounds, which severely hurts his worldbuilding. Still, this is a cute and funny comic.
JONAH HEX #67 (DC, 2011) – “Ghost Town,” [W] Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Jordi Bernet. Either just before or just after reading this comic, I read the first volume of Torpedo, which gave me a better understanding of Bernet’s style. His artwork in this issue is impressive, but not at the same level as Torpedo, which is an artistic masterpiece. Also, this issue’s plot is hard to follow.
PAST AWAYS #9 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Scott Kolins. In the conclusion to this series, Ursula gets killed, leaving Herb and Marge as the only surviving protagonists. And thanks to the timestream reediting itself, they forget that the other characters ever existed. This is kind of a depressing ending, but it was hard to care much about this series in the first place.
BANANA SUNDAY #2 (Oni, 2005) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin (as Root Nibot), [A] Colleen Coover. I read this when I was too tired to really appreciate it, but it’s an awesome comic. It’s similar in tone to Bandette, though it has a completely different premise (it’s about a high school girl who has three superpowered monkey companions). As in Bandette, Paul and Colleen do a brilliant job of characterizing even the minor characters. A funny moment is the dream scene on the first page where Kirby, the girl-chasing monkey, is awarded three harems.
New comics received on 10-13:
UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #25 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. I decided to read this first because I feel like I haven’t appreciated this comic enough lately. This issue, Squirrel Girl and her friends use the power of friendship and programming to defeat Dino-Ultron. Besides the dinosaurs, this issue isn’t that different from any other Squirrel Girl comic, but it’s exciting, witty and warm-hearted. I should stop taking this series for granted.
MS. MARVEL #23 (Marvel, 2017) – “Northeast Corridor, Part One,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Diego Olortegui. Kareem (the hero from Pakistan) shows up at Coles High School as a transfer student. In a complete coincidence, the Red Dagger shows up in Jersey City, and he and Kamala have to team up to stop a runaway train, even though they can’t stop bickering. This issue was fun, but it’s a bit of a letdown after “Mecca.”
SLAM! THE NEXT JAM #2 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Pamela Ribon, [A] Marina Julia. This is still a very well-written comic, but Marina Julia is a much less effective artist than Veronica Fish. She fails to create the same level of energy. At least this issue has some cute cats, and a scene where three women who delivered vaginally are standing on a diving board and talking about their loose bladders.
RUNAWAYS #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “Find Your Way Home, Part II,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Gert comes back to life, but is not happy to discover that the team broke up in her absence. Meanwhile, we get glimpses of Victor (or at least his head) and Molly, who is being stalked by red-eyed cats. There wasn’t a lot of plot in this issue, but Rainbow Rowell shows a deep understanding of the characters and premise of Runaways. After reading this comic, I read her novel Landline and loved it, and I finally got a copy of Fangirl.
ROYAL CITY #6 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This issue is a flashback to about a decade ago. As we observe the past versions of the characters, we can see them developing the problems that have ruined their lives in the present. The POV character is Richie, who is suffering from the neurological problem that must have killed him. I kind of got the impression that Richie died in childhood, but I guess not.
MISTER MIRACLE #3 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. One of the best comics of the week. This issue picks up on an idea that was briefly explored in Kingdom Come: that Orion is no different from his father. We learn that Orion is throwing away the lives of Forager and his people, and then Orion beats the crap out of Scott for daring to question him. And because of his worsening depression, Scott is unable to stand up to his “brother.” In this series, as in The Vision, Tom King is creating a truly oppressive and ominous atmosphere. The hilarious cameo appearance by Funky Flashman is a much-needed piece of comic relief.
BABYTEETH #5 (Aftershock, 2017) – “I Was a Teenage Apocalypse,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Heather defeats the Prairie Wolf by driving a truck into her, and then some red-eyed wizard in a suit shows up and claims to be Sadie’s bodyguard. This issue was okay but not as good as #2 or #3.
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #32 (Image, 2017) – “The Red Shoes,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. The fact that this was the eighth comic I read this week is evidence that my interest in it is flagging. Perhaps this is because of the lack of sympathetic characters other than Baal and Minerva. And this issue Minerva is traumatized by being forced to kill Sakhmet (who totally deserved it). Also, Dionysus gets functionally killed fighting against Woden – I didn’t quite get what was happening here. Also, there’s a hidden passage behind Ananke’s machine, which goes who knows where. Given the number of characters who have been killed lately, this series seems to be approaching its conclusion, which will be something of a relief.
BOOM BOOM #3 (Aeon, 1995) – “Eyeless Ease,” [W/A] David Lasky. I’m only familiar with this artist from his Carter Family graphic novel with Frank M. Young. This issue is his 24-hour comic. It follows dream logic rather than narrative logic; that is, it consists of a series of narrative strands that are connected to each other by shared symbols and characters rather than causality. It’s interesting but not great. The backup story, about a fictionalized version of Jack Kirby and his adaptation of Joyce’s Ulysses, is better than the main story. This story is credited to “Tim Redwing,” but that’s a pseudonym for Lasky, and is meant to indicate that he’s emulating the style of Jim Woodring. That makes more sense to me now that I’ve read an issue of Jim (to be reviewed later).
THE GOON: THEATRE BIZARRE #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “Theatre Bizarre,” [W/A] Eric Powell, [A] John Dunivant. I was motivated to read this when I realized that I have a ton of unread Eric Powell comics. Fleeing from something or other, the Goon and his companions have an adventure in a haunted theme park. This park is based on the real-life Theatre Bizarre, which, according to Wikipedia, is an annual Halloween event held in Detroit. This comic’s art is spectacular at times, but other than that it’s forgettable.
HILLBILLY #8 (Albatross, 2017) – [W/A] Eric Powell, [A] Simone Di Meo on the backup story. I keep ordering this comic but not reading it. This issue includes two stories. The main story, with art by Eric Powell, is mostly forgettable, but the second story, drawn by Simone Di Meo, is more interesting. In this story Hillbilly encounters the ghosts of two brothers who found a treasure. One of them reburied it elsewhere, and the other killed him out of jealousy, but then died of despair because he didn’t know the treasure’s new location. This story feels like an Appalachian version of Hellboy. An uncanny thing about this series is that it’s based on Appalachian culture, but it’s set in a fantasy world and has no specific geographical references to America.
TIME & VINE #4 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. Megan finds her long-lost aunt, then Jack goes back in time for good and leaves the winery to Megan. At the end, Megan encounters a potential love interest. This series was quite stylistically similar to Long Distance, but it was a sweet and touching story, which was less about time travel than about the sad experience of watching one’s parents grow old.
HULK #11 (Marvel, 2017) – “Is Love in the Air for Hulk?”, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Bachan. Jen goes on a blind date which starts out poorly, and gets even worse when her date turns out to be an evil robot. Mariko was trying to have fun here, but I’m not sure that she succeeded. I think humor is not her forte. The fourth-wall breaking was funny but also kind of jarring, since Jen has never previously broken the fourth wall in this series.
MECH CADET YU #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Stanford and his teammates have their first battle, even though they’re supposed to be evacuated. I was lukewarm about this series’ first issue, but it’s gotten really good. The protagonist is kind of a blank slate, but his mother is the real gem of the series. She seems like a terrible person at first, but turns out to be a formidable person with hidden depths.
SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. I think the protagonist of this comic, and I like the artwork and coloring, but the plot is a series of unoriginal fantasy cliches. I’m ambivalent as to whether I want to keep reading this series.
ROCKET #6 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Blue River Score, Part 6: The Mourner,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Adam Gorham. Rocket gets killed, but survives thanks to Joyboy’s powers. He recovers the deeds, but ruins his chances at romance with Gatecrasher, and the end of the issue finds him sitting alone and drinking. I assume this is the last issue. This was a pretty fun take on Rocket Raccoon, but I wish Marvel would stop starting new Rocket series and then cancelling them immediately.
DAN DARE #1 (Titan, 2017) – “He Who Dares Part One,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Alberto Foche. The latest revised version of perhaps the most famous character in British comics. This comic is okay, but it assumes the reader is already familiar with Dan Dare, and I would guess that there are better introductions to this character. I already have one volume of the classic Dan Dare comic strip, but I haven’t read it yet.
ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR #4 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Fernando Ruiz. A hilarious conclusion. The Predator kills Archie, but Betty and Veronica capture the Predator and use Mr. Lodge’s healing machine to turn it into a substitute for Archie. This was a fun series.
HILLBILLY #4 (Albatross, 2016) – “The Fiddle That Screamed for Blood,” [W/A] Eric Powell. Hillbilly encounters a ghost fiddle that possesses people. He defeats it, but only after it kills all the people of a village. This issue is good, but I suspect that if you’ve read one issue of Hillbilly, you’ve read them all.
ARYA #1 (Antarctic, 2017) – “Adventure Quest,” [W/A] Akimiya, and “Grocery Quest,” [W/A] Sofia Davila. I ordered this on a whim and I’m not sure what it is. I think it’s intended an anthology of comics by women. The first of the two stories this issue is about two schoolgirls who become friends thanks to a video game. It’s okay, but it’s so similar to manga that I don’t see why you’d want to read it instead of reading actual manga. The second story is drawn in a more original style. It’s about a girl who goes to the grocery store, but takes a detour and winds up in a magical forest, and in order to escape she has to collect the items she needed from the store. I’m vaguely curious about what happens next, but not curious enough to keep reading this series.
MOONSHINE #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Eduardo Risso. The art in this comic is excellent, but the plot is impossible to follow. And even if I could understand what was going on, I wouldn’t care, because there are no interesting characters.
MOONSHINE #6 (Image, 2017) – as above. At this point, I had completely lost interest in this comic’s story and was only reading it for the art. Even then, I was annoyed by this issue’s ending. This miniseries ends on a cliffhanger that resolves absolutely nothing; at the end, we still don’t know which character is the werewolf. Azzarello completely fails to offer any kind of resolution to his story. The last page says “End Book One,” but I doubt there’ll be a Book Two. After reading this series, I suspect that Azzarello was never that great a writer in the first place, and that he just had the good luck to work with Eduardo Risso.
THE UNEXPECTED #210 (DC, 1981) – “Vampire of the Apes,” [W] George Kashdan, [A] Jess Jodloman, and other stories. The stories in this issue are all pretty stupid, though Mike W. Barr’s “Johnny Peril” is at least part of an ongoing continuity. This issue does have some good art by the Filipino artists Jodloman and Vicatan.
RAY BRADBURY COMICS #1 (Topps, 1993) – “A Sound of Thunder,” [W/A] Richard Corben, and two other stories. This issue provides the reader with the unique opportunity to read two adaptations of the same story by two different artists. Besides Corben’s new adaptation of “A Sound of Thunder,” it also includes Al Williamson’s adaptation of the same story from Weird Science-Fantasy. Somewhat to my surprise, Corben’s version is far better. Williamson’s version was hamstrung because the writer, Al Feldstein, decided to include nearly all the text from the original story. The captions and word balloons are so huge that they take up about half the space of each page, rendering Williamson’s artwork nearly invisible. For example, we can barely see the butterfly at the end. Corben’s version isn’t perfect either – for example, his dinosaur is pretty ugly – but at least he tells the story with pictures instead of text, avoiding unnecessary words. So this issue is a good example of what you should and shouldn’t do when adapting prose fiction to comics. The issue also includes an adaptation of a different Bradbury dinosaur story by an artist I’ve never heard of, Antoni Garces.
ORIENTAL HEROES #1 (Jademan, 1986) – untitled, [W/A] Tony Wong. This is one of a number of translated Hong Kong comics published by Jademan in the ‘80s. According to the editorial at the end, its creator, Tony Wong, was personally responsible for 90% of the comics published in Hong Kong at the time. This comic is mostly a series of martial arts action sequences illustrated in a manga-esque style. However, they’re fun action sequences, and the comic has a definite Chinese sensibility. It’s about a courageous hero who defends people against corrupt officials, which seems like a classic Chinese plot. This issue also includes one very funny sequence, where one of the heroes tries to rent a boat (see https://www.instagram.com/p/Baa42o7l7vO/?taken-by=aaronkashtan). I will plan on buying more of these Jademan comics if I find them at a low price.
VERTIGO: WINTER’S EDGE #3 (Vertigo, 2000) – various stories. This issue’s marquee story is “How They Met Themselves” by Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli, in which Desire encounters Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lizzie Siddal and Algernon Charles Swinburne. The characters in this story are not explicitly named, and part of the fun of reading it is figuring out who they are. After this there are a bunch of other stories that are more or less forgettable. The Transmetropolitan story is probably the best of these, but I also liked the Books of Magic story, in which Rowland and Paine encounter a gender-swapped Tim Hunter. The Constantine story is especially annoying because it’s illustrated text and not comics. If I wanted to read a lot of prose, I would read a book and not a comic book.
THE DESERT PEACH #2 (Thoughts & Images, 1989) – untitled, [W/A] Donna Barr. Despite his peaceful nature, Pfirsch gets in a bar fight with a belligerent Russian soldier. This story isn’t as complex as the other Desert Peach comics I reviewed last time, but it’s good. It also includes some slight fourth-wall-breaking (on the third page when Rommel drains the black out of the art). The story effectively demonstrates that while Pfirsch doesn’t enjoy violence, he will do so in defense of his men. The best moment in the issue is when the Russian soldier beats up Pfirsch’s assistant, and Pfirsch stands up ramrod straight and says “Mein Herr, your difference is with me, not with my orderly.”
HAWKWORLD #3 (DC, 1990) – “Winged Fury,” [W] John Ostrander & Tim Truman, [A] Graham Nolan. Katar and Shayera pursue some flying criminals into the Cabrini-Green housing projects. They learn to their surprise that they can’t just kill the criminals, because Earth has laws about that. However, they also learn that those laws are not always consistently applied, because they are aided by a black single mother, who is rewarded for her good deed by being arrested for illegal gun ownership. This issue is a good example of what made Hawkworld effective: it’s an exciting and tense story with a strong political angle.
JINGLE BELLE’S ALL-STAR HOLIDAY HULLABALOO #1 (Oni, 2000) – various stories, [W] Paul Dini et al, [A] various. I read one of the other Jingle Belle series and had mixed feelings about it, but this issue is pretty good. It has a good lineup of talent, including Sergio Aragonés, Jeff Smith and Stephen DeStefano. All the stories are funny, and are held together by Jingle Belle’s rebellious and naughty personality.
KAIJUMAX #3 (Oni, 2015) – “No Such Thing as a Halfway Monsta,”[W/A] Zander Cannon. More of the same as last issue. This comic’s plot is not easy to follow, but at least this issue includes a guide to all the monster gangs.
JACK KRAKEN #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Race Relations,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Sophie Campbell, plus other stories. I bought this comic when it came out because of the Sophie Campbell art, but never got around to reading it. The first story in this one-shot was originally published on a digital comics app called Double Feature, and its protagonist is based on a character Seeley created when he was five years old, though neither of these facts is mentioned in the comic itself. Jack Kraken is a half-human, half-squid superhero who lives in some kind of postapocalyptic world. All the three stories in the issue are reasonably good, but Jack Kraken has never appeared again as far as I know, and I don’t understand why Dark Horse chose to publish just one issue with this character.
ADVENTURE COMICS #394 (DC, 1970) – “The Mysterious Motr of Doov!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Win Mortimer, plus another story. This issue’s lead story is a clever pastiche on The Wizard of Oz, and its opening caption box includes an acrostic that reads “The Wizard of Oz.” Unfortunately I spoiled this story’s gimmick for myself because I looked at its GCD entry before I read it. The backup story, by Robert Kanigher and Kurt Schaffenberger, is just awful, though it has much better art than the lead story.
HERO CATS: MIDNIGHT OVER STELLAR CITY VOL. 2 #1 (Action Lab, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Alex Ogle. I liked this better than the most recent storyline in the main Hero Cats title. In this issue, Rocket teams up with Cassiopeia to defeat some villains who have escaped from prison, starting with two space pirates. Alex Ogle’s art is heavily based on that of Frank Miller, which creates a humorous effect because this story is about cats and not grim dark superheroes.
JONNY QUEST #26 (Comico, 1988) – “Reputation,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Marc Hempel. Race Bannon is captured by an evil criminal mastermind. Rather than pretending to be scared of the villain’s world-conquering schemes, Race taunts him by telling him a bunch of stories about his (Race’s) history with the Quest family. For example, one of the stories is about an incident when Jonny betrayed his father’s trust, and another is about how Hajji captured some escaped snakes. At the end, it turns out Race told these stories to distract the villain so the other Quests could capture him. As usual with this series, this was a heartwarming and extremely well-crafted story.
HELLBOY AND THE B.P.R.D.: 1953 – BEYOND THE FENCES #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paolo Rivera. A young Hellboy battles a giant mutated dog. This was just an average Hellboy comic, but Paolo Rivera’s art is excellent.
New comics received on 10/20, when I was exhausted from spending the day at my department’s annual conference. This was one of the biggest new comic book days of the year; I got about 20 new comics this week that I had to read immediately.
LUMBERJANES #43 (Boom!, 2017) – “Time After Crime” (part three), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. Rosie gets hit by a bubble and becomes an old lady. The girls use pulleys and ropes to defeat a giant golem. And it turns out that to save the day, the Lumberjanes have to use the axe belonging to the first Lumberjane. This storyline has been fun, but not quite as fun as the previous two. The best line of the issue is “Yeah, it was in my axe corner. Where I keep my axes.”
ASTRO CITY #48 (DC, 2017) – “Dog Days,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mike Norton. Andy Merton meets the previous owner of his amulet, who tells him about his powers. Then as G-Dog, he joins a team of superpowered pets, including an awesome new character, Dr. Monkey. But in the end, the inevitable happens: the dog dies of natural causes, and Andy leaves the amulet for someone else to find. In the best Astro City tradition, this comic uses superheroes as a metaphor for real life. Andy and his dog become a single entity, but because of the dog’s short lifespan, their closeness is only temporary. As a cat owner, I know how this feels. My cat is my other half, but I won’t have him forever. It seems appropriate that I read this comic while petting my cat.
SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup & Sebastian Girner, [A] Nil Vendrell. Shirtless defeats the Logger and Brother Bear, then returns to his life of fighting evil bears. This was kind of a one-joke comic, but it was a really funny joke. I’m sorry it only lasted five issues, and I hope there’s a sequel.
SHERLOCK FRANKENSTEIN AND THE LEGION OF EVIL #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Part One: Whatever Happened to Sherlock Frankenstein?”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubín. Lucy Weber tries to track down her missing father by contacting all his old enemies, starting with Mectoplasm, who reminds me of Validus. I’m sorry that Black Hammer is on hiatus, but this series is an adequate replacement, and it gives us a lot of interesting new information on Black Hammer’s world. The two-page spread where Lucy is walking to the bottom of Spiral Asylum is very intricate and difficult to follow.
MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #7 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. An unnamed new character encounters some sirens who proceed to brainwash all the people of his town, so he recruits heroes to defeat them, starting with Rockhoof. Now that I’ve seen “Shadow Play,” I know that this new character is Stygian, the future Pony of Shadows. (And I guess maybe this issue was forgettable, because I didn’t recognize Stygian when I saw him in the episode.) The fact that I’ve seen “Shadow Play” also means that I already know where this story is going, but it’ll be fun to see how we get there.
MISFIT CITY #6 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kristen Smith & Kurt Lustgarten, [A] Naomi Franquiz. The girls head through the cave, but fall through a trap and wind up in a sewer. Which makes me wonder how, or if, they can get back to the cave and take the correct path. They also find a clue that points to a location out at sea, but they go there and find nothing. So I’m not sure where the story is going now, and the writers have just two more issues to resolve it.
MIGHTY THOR #700 (Marvel, 2017) – “Blood of the Norns,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman et al. An excellent anniversary issue with contributions by many great artists, including Walt Simonson, Jill Thompson, Mike Del Mundo and Andrew MacLean. Thor doesn’t actually die in this issue as promised, but there are several different plotlines that intersect in a satisfying way, and it turns out that the Frog Thor subplot is essential to the overall story. It’s appropriate that this issue includes a collaboration between Jason Aaron and Walt Simonson, the two best Thor writers other than Stan Lee.
SUPER SONS #9 (DC, 2017) – “Planet of the Capes, Part 4: It’s a Madhouse!”, [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Jorge Jimenez & Carmine Di Giandomenico. It turns out that Hard Line and Big Shot are clay dolls created by Kraklow, but Kraklow (the good one) stays on their planet to help them, and creates some kid superheroes for them to train. I’d like to see Hard Line and Big Shot again. This was a good issue of one of DC’s best titles. I especially love the panel where Damian says “I have a plan, but it requires everyone to ignore your emotional state and do exactly as I—” and Jon cuts him off.
DESCENDER #25 (Image, 2017) – “Rise of the Robots 4 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Tim and Bandit’s psychic connection allows Tim to locate Telsa and the evil red-haired Tim. This was an okay issue, but no different from any other issue of Descender.
KID LOBOTOMY #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Do Not Disturb: Part One of A Lad Insane,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. This is an intriguing comic with excellent art, but I had to read it carefully to figure out what was going on, and now I’ve forgotten what it was that I figured out. I’m going to have to read this comic again when issue 2 comes out.
SUPERB #4 (Lion Forge, 2017) – “No More Secrets,” [W] David F. Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Eric Battle. This issue is mostly a series of fight scenes. I like the page at the end of the issue where Jonah tries to get Abbie and Kayla to stop arguing.
FLASH GORDON #19 (Gold Key, 1978) – “Return to Mongo,” [W] John Warner, [A] Carlos Garzon. This is a very average Flash Gordon story, but Carlos Garzon’s art is interesting. Garzon was a Colombian artist who was brought to America by Al Williamson, and you can see why Williamson liked Garzon’s work, because his style is sort of a watered-down version of Williamson’s.
DRAGON CHIANG #nn (Eclipse, 1991) – untitled, [W/A] Tim Truman. A collection of five stories originally published in Europe. These stories take place in a rather bleak future in which there’s a highway across the Bering Strait and all of America’s wealth is draining into China. The protagonist is a trucker who drives between China and the American Southwest. This comic is fairly exciting and well-drawn, but not as good as Scout.
KANE #27 (Dancing Elephant, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Grist. This story revolves around an assassin wearing some kind of battlesuit. Like most Paul Grist comics, it features witty dialogue and excellent visual storytelling; however, its plot is very hard to follow.
WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #2 (DC/Dark Horse, 2017) – “Blade and Bracelets, Blood and Sand,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. I think that’s the title; I’m not sure where the first “and” is supposed to go. Conan defeats Diana in the arena, but then they both get sent to a slave ship. Then the ship gets attacked by pirates, and Conan and Diana are tossed overboard to be eaten by sharks. This has been a somewhat predictable story thus far, but it’s been fun.
FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #3 (DC, 2017) – “Ghosts,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Ariel Olivetti. Space Ghost defeats Metallus, the armored energy ghost, by showing him that he’s missed his chance at revenge on the Space Force. But now Space Ghost has some spare power bands, so in the next storyline, he, Jace and Jayna will be looking for people to wear them. This was a fairly good storyline, but I hope we see the Quest family again soon.
BITCH PLANET TRIPLE FEATURE #5 (Image, 2017) – various stories. This issue’s first story is about a feminist grandma who ruins Christmas. This is a clever variation on the present-day trope where the racist grandparent ruins Christmas. The second story is about two actors, one white and one Asian, who go through exactly the same training, but the Asian actor is passed over for a role in favor of the white actor. The trouble with this story is that it doesn’t even qualify as satire; it’s a realistic depiction of the sort of thing that happens in the film industry on a regular basis. The third story is about a white woman who dyes her skin black, because African-American clothing is fashionable, but then gets shot by cops who mistake her for a real black woman. Of course, the cops get off scot-free. This story is also very reminiscent of stuff that happens in real life, but unlike the previous story, it’s just a little bit exaggerated, so that it feels like a satire rather than just an accurate depiction of reality. This is the last issue of BPTF, which is actually somewhat unfortunate, because I’ve been enjoying it more than the main Bitch Planet series.
FAITH AND THE FUTURE FORCE #4 (Valiant, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Cary Nord. All else having failed, Faith recruits Chris Chriswell, who “defeats” Do-Bot by convincing it that destroying the world is not the best way to take revenge on humanity. This series was okay, but it was much worse than the regular QFaith series.
SPIDER-GWEN #25 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. Matt manipulates Gwen into taking revenge on the Rhino, even though Matt himself is standing right there and is a much better target for revenge. I’m starting to lose sympathy for Gwen because she’s allowed Matt to completely ruin her life. Matt is at the root of literally all her problems, and yet she lets him continue to manipulate and control her, and I honestly don’t understand why.
PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #5 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. I was reluctant to read this comic because I’ve been losing patience with this series. It’s neither a great Spider-Man comic nor a great Chip Zdarsky comic. Chip has had to spend so much time on plot and fight scenes that he’s had little opportunity for characterization, which is the whole point of Spider-Man. And since this series is a spinoff title, Chip is not able to make any substantial changes to Peter’s life. At least this issue ends with a funny conversation between Peter and JJJ. And I’ve heard some good things about issue 6 (which I won’t get to read until Monday at least), so maybe this series is going to get better.
DEPT. H #19 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. There’s a flashback to Bob’s past, and then the crew reaches the first of six underwater fueling stations. Not much happened in this issue.
SPY SEAL #3 (Image, 2017) – “The Corten-Steel Phoenix, Part 3,” [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Spy Seal and Kes get thrown off a train, then find themselves in an Alpine village that’s full of spies. This issue is exciting and beautifully drawn, but exactly the same as the first two issues. The train on the cover is named the Flupke Rocket, after one of Herge’s lesser works.
JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: THE MISFITS: INFINITE #3 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite, Part 6,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St-Onge. The Holograms and Misfits use the power of music to save the alternate world, then return to their own world, having agreed not to reveal the secret of Synergy. “Infinite” was an underwhelming story and a disappointing conclusion to the Jem saga. The next Jem series is going to be an anthology, but I hope that after that’s over, Kelly will be able to continue her story. In particular, she left Jem and Rio’s relationship unresolved.
ALIEN ENCOUNTERS #4 (Eclipse, 1985) – various stories, [E] cat yronwode. This issue’s first story, by Tim Conrad, is about a member of a brutal alien race who learns about love thanks to a human-created sexbot. The next story is about a little alien kid who destroys Earth by accident. The third story is the best, though none of them are very good. “Wish Upon a Jewel” is one of the last comics Gardner Fox wrote prior to his death the following year. It’s about an astronaut who lands on a planet that grants wishes, but gets himself killed by misusing his wishes. There’s also a two-pager by Tim Truman.
SEA DEVILS #16 (DC, 1964) – “The Strange Reign of – Queen Judy and King Biff,” [W] Hank Chapman, [A] Bruno Premiani. The Sea Devils find themselves on a mysterious uncharted island, where two of their members, Judy and Biff, become king and queen. The island turns out to be a Brigadoon-esque place that appears every hundred years. This comic is just okay, and the best thing about it is the beautiful Russ Heath cover. Heath also did interior art for the first ten issues of this series, which are supposedly very good.
CAP’N DINOSAUR #nn (Image, 2014) – “Cap’n Dinosaur and the Carnevil of Crime!”, [W] Kek-W (Nigel Long), [A] Shaky Kane. This comic is a cute, zany pastiche of Kirby, but not much more than that. It has very little plot. I remember liking That’s Because You’re a Robot more than I liked this comic.
THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO #3 (Topps, 1994) – “It Crawls! Part Three,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. The Lone Ranger and Tonto encounter an old Chinese martial artist, then the Lone Ranger reveals to Tonto that he was responsible for the death of Tonto’s tribe. Truman’s artwork on this issue is quite good, though not his best.
BAKER STREET #8 (Caliber, 1991) – “Children of the Night Act III: London After Midnight,” [W/A] Guy Davis. A female cop, Sharon, investigates a modern-day female Jack the Ripper who only kills men, while an American reporter, Sue, follows her around. This comic is a revelation. It’s a gritty murder mystery set in a realistically depicted version of London’s East End. The characters, many of them female, are complex and fascinating. I’m only familiar with Guy Davis’s art thanks to Sandman Mystery Theatre, but his art is even better in black and white than in color, and it benefits from his local knowledge. I hope I encounter some more issues of this comic.
HELLBLAZER #89 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Dreamtime,” [W] Paul Jenkins, [A] Sean Phillips. Constantine visits the Australian outback, where he teams up with an Aboriginal shaman who’s trying to prevent white people from stealing his mob’s land. This comic is well-intentioned, and it shows at least some knowledge of Aboriginal culture, but it also seems heavily reliant on tired old stereotypes of Aboriginal people. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but the idea of a white dude participating in Aboriginal religious ceremonies and playing the didgeridoo seems a bit offensive.
JACK STAFF VOL. II #1 (Image, 2003) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Grist. By this point in the week, I was getting into a rut; I was reading comics because I felt obligated to, not because I was having fun. This comic, in which Jack Staff battles some villains apparently based on the Hulk and Iron Man (and maybe also Thor), is okay, but I didn’t love it.
CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #8 (DC, 2017) – “Rest in Peace, Michael Pembrook,” [W] Jon Rivera, [A] Michael Avon Oeming. I’ve fallen behind on this series, and I’m not sure why. In this issue, the underground monster has succeeded in invading the surface and killing lots of people, so there’s all kinds of creepy and disgusting artwork. I liked this comic better when it was taking place in Muldroog.
SUPERMAN #20 (DC, 2017) – “Black Dawn, Chapter 1,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason, [W] Peter Tomasi. I’ve been reading this comic very intermittently because it comes out twice a month, and I usually forget to order both issues. Also, it’s been involved in some crossovers with other comics I’m not reading. This issue is really good, though. Batman and Robin show up in Hamilton to investigate why Jon is losing his powers. It turns out Jon is drinking milk contaminated by aliens or something. Before we learn that, though, there are some really funny and cute interactions between the Kents and the Waynes, including a scene where Damian tells Jon, “Batman doesn’t eat pie.”
HERO CATS: MIDNIGHT OVER STELLAR CITY VOL. II #2 (Action Lab, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Alex Ogle. Midnight, Cassiopeia and Belle battle the evil paleontologist Dr. Ross Rex, who is trying to romance Galaxy Man’s housekeeper, just like Doc Ock with Aunt May. This is another cute story. With his Batman-like personality, Midnight is an effective foil for the other Hero Cats, who are much nicer.
HERO CATS: MIDNIGHT OVER STELLAR CITY VOL. II #3 – as above. Despite the title, this issue features all the Hero Cats, who team up with the people of Stone City to defeat Ross Rex. I liked this miniseries better than the main Hero Cats title.
New comics received on October 27:
SAGA #48 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. As is traditional, this issue begins with a shocking splash page that depicts Upsher preparing to murder Friendo the walrus. Things get better from there. Ghüs and Squire go on an unsuccessful hunt for food to feed themselves and their starving companions, but when they get back, they find that Marko and Alana have arrived. And Hazel meets Squire, “who would become my brother.” This is the last issue before a hiatus, so I’m glad it ends happily.
SILVER SURFER #14 (Marvel, 2017) – “A Power Greater Than Cosmic,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mike Allred. This one, on the other hand… Surfer lives through the end of the previous universe and the start of the current one, visits Dawn periodically throughout her life, and then leaves a copy of himself and Dawn’s family on the hologram planet, so the hologram Dawn can have a full life with them. I guess this is technically a happy ending, but I’m just so sad that Dawn is dead. To think that such a vibrant, lifelike character could be gone so fast. I wasn’t prepared for this. In the end, the Slott/Allred Silver Surfer was one of the best Marvel comics of the decade, and easily the best Silver Surfer comic not written by Stan Lee. I’m just sad about the way it ended.
MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #24 (Marvel, 2017) – “Girl-Moon: Epilogue,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos and three others. In three separate sequences by different artists, Lunella tries out three different partners: the X-Babies, Ghost Rider, and Daredevil. None of them works out. On the letters page, Brandon writes that “Devil Dinosaur will never, ever, ever, ever come back to this title.” I don’t believe that at all, but Brandon’s statement seems to offer little wiggle room, so who knows. I will have some nice things to say about this title in my ICAF paper this Friday.
HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Nina Vakueva. Chris and Dolores resolve their differences, then they solve part of the mystery about the kidnapped band. This is a really fun series that effectively depicts the culture of the ‘90s. I’m just afraid that like so many Boom! Box titles, it’s going to end just as it’s getting interesting.
KIM & KIM: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #4 (Black Mask, 2017) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. The Kims finally capture Laz and move on to bigger and better things. I hope this won’t be the last Kim & Kim miniseries, even if the writer is moving on to bigger assignments. In a very short span of time, Magdalene Visaggio has become one of the most exciting writers in the industry.
BATGIRL #16 (DC, 2017) – “Summer of Lies, Part Three,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. Another issue that combines flashback and present-day sequences. In the present-day sequence, we learn that Ainsley Deane can’t be the Red Queen because she’s dead, but I doubt that’s really true. Like Hope Larson’s first Batgirl storyline, this one involves nanotech-based drugs. This comic includes an ad for Doomsday Clock. I wish I could rip that ad out of the comic book, but I can’t because there’s a story page on the other side.
BLACK PANTHER #166 (Marvel, 2017) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 7,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. This is billed as “Klaw Stands Supreme Part 1” on the cover. This issue is mostly a flashback to Klaw’s past. I was unable to figure out if Klaw’s girlfriend Julia has ever appeared before, or whether she’s Coates’s invention.
MEAT CAKE #15 (Fantagraphics, 2006) – untitled, [W/A] Dame Darcy. I did not enjoy this. Darcy’s art style is kind of appealing, but much of this issue consists of heavily illustrated prose essays rather than comics. This comic has the same sort of Gothic subject matter as Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, although it’s more sophisticated than that comic, and I have no interest in this sort of subject matter. Also, Darcy’s lettering is so ornate that it’s difficult to read.
METAMORPHO #12 (DC, 1967) – “The Trap of the Test-Tube Terrors!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Sal Trapani. Metamorpho visits Simon Stagg’s old college, where he somehow gets involved in a football game against some monsters made of various obscure elements. This is a very bizarre and funny comic and a good example of the Metamorpho formula, but at the time I read it, I was too tired to enjoy it much.
ARCHIE #211 (Archie, 1971) – “Power Mad” and other stories, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey. A bunch of well-drawn but extremely formulaic stories. Maybe the most memorable is the one where Archie keeps trying to lie in a hammock, but fails every time.
On Saturday, October 28, I went to the annual Heroes Pop Swap, an event where people who aren’t professional comics dealers get together at the Heroes store to buy and sell comics and other pop culture stuff. Only about half the sellers had comics, but I made some amazing finds, and also bought a couple things at the Heroes store. Most of the following comics were among my purchases at this event:
JIM #5 (Fantagraphics, 1995) – “Dive Deep” and other stories, [W/A] Jim Woodring. One seller at the Pop Swap had a bunch of Woodring comics as well as other alternative comics. I’ve only read a little bit of Woodring, and have been reluctant to read more because I find his work extremely disturbing. Jim might be a better introduction to Woodring than Frank. This issue includes some of his black-and-white Frank stories, one of which is autobiographical, except not really; it’s a surrealistic, absurdist dream sequence whose main character resembles Jim Woodring. The backup story in Boom Boom is based on this story and others like it. Despite its title, this issue also includes two Frank stories, including one, “Peeker,” which is in color. Woodring’s silent storytelling is brilliant, but maybe an even better thing about “Peeker” is the colorful, curvilinear environment that Frank lives in. It feels like a real city, but one that was not built by humans.
SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #1 (DC, 1990) – “Execution Day,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Chris Bachalo. I’ve read a lot of issues of this series, but until now I didn’t know how it began. Kathy Greene travels to Louisiana with her black boyfriend Roy to visit her parents, but her parents are murdered by serial killer Troy Grenzer, and then Roy is killed by racist cops who mistake him for the murderer. Grenzer is executed, but then he comes back to life, claiming he’s really a man called Shade from Meta. And thus begins a brilliant series. Reading this issue, I realized that Kathy must be one of the most traumatized characters in any comic book. Besides all the stuff she suffered in this issue, she later had an unwanted pregnancy and died in childbirth along with the baby, although she got better.
ANGELIC #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. I forgot to order this, so I’m glad Heroes had it. Qora teams up with the flying manatees, and with one of them in particular, who is just as much an outcast among the manatees as Qora is among the monkeys. And they head off to look for Ay’s missing eye. At this point, it’s clear that “Ay” is really an AI. This is another in a series of brilliant series by Spurrier.
MADMAN COMICS #1 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “The Living End: A Proem,” [W/A] Mike Allred. Lots of stuff happens in this issue, none of which I can summarize, but it’s all exciting and dynamic and funny. This is perhaps the best Madman comic I’ve read, partly because of Allred’s art. After this comic, Allred developed a very standardized style that changes very little from one of his comics to another, but as of 1994, that style was not fully formed, and he drew with a lot more detail. I feel like now that I’ve read this comic, I have a much better idea of what Madman is about and why it’s appealing.
DEVIL DINOSAUR #5 (Marvel, 1978) – “Journey to the Center of the Ants!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Devil teams up with some other proto-humans to rescue Moon-Boy from some aliens. In this issue, Devil is depicted as much smarter than his human companions, which is a marked contrast to how Brandon Montclare writes him; however, even a really smart dinosaur would still seem stupid compared to Lunella. This issue has one unintentionally funny page where, due to an awkward panel transition, it looks like one of the aliens is about to step on Devil.
MARSHAL LAW #1 (Marvel, 1987) – “Stars and Strippers,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. In a post-earthquake San Francisco, normal people are being tormented by “superheroes” who are in fact hooligans. The protagonist is a superhero who hunts these fake superheroes. This comic is clearly intended as a parody of comics like Watchmen and DKR, but it’s hard to tell that it’s a parody or that we’re not supposed to admire Marshal Law.
HELLBLAZER #41 (DC, 1991) – “The Beginning of the End: Dangerous Habits – Part One,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Will Simpson. In Garth Ennis’s first issue, Constantine is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer thanks to a lifetime of smoking, plunging him into deep despair. The reader knows Constantine will get out of this eventually, but Constantine doesn’t know that, and this issue creates a powerful sense of despair. It also has one hilarious moment, where a waiter castigates Constantine for buying one cup of tea and then sitting for two hours, and Constantine demands a refill.
KILL OR BE KILLED #11 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. I started ordering this series after reading issue 3, but I hadn’t read any more of it yet. I guess the premise is that the protagonist has some kind of compulsion to put on a mask and kill criminals. This issue, he stops killing people and gets his life back together, but he soon gets violently ill, which convinces him that he has to kill people again. This issue is a good piece of work by a very consistent creative team.
SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #7 (DC, 1978) – “The Color Coma!”, [W/A] Steve Ditko, [W] Michael Fleisher. This is clearly a late-period Ditko comic, full of action, abstract art, philosophy, and characters with bizarre short names. This comic has so many characters and such a convoluted plot that it’s difficult to read, but it’s exciting, and Fleisher is a better scripter than Ditko is.
POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #60 (Marvel, 1979) – “The Terrorist Manifesto!”, [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Marie Severin. Much better than #59, which I reviewed earlier this year. Luke and Danny investigate the attempted bombing attack on the Ducal Cellar restaurant, leading to a lot of plot complications. The issue ends at the Halwani embassy, which was the target of the bombing. Halwan, which appeared in several other ‘70s Marvel comics, is a generic Middle Eastern/West Asian country, but it seems to be based on pre-revolutionary Iran in particular. At the climax, Luke discovers that a bomb has been sent to the embassy disguised as a samovar, and he heads to the embassy and asks Danny, who’s already there, if he’s seen a samovar. And Danny asks “What’s a samovar?” even though he’s standing right in font of it. A poignant subplot in this issue has to do with Misty’s resentment of Alan Cavanaugh, the former IRA terrorist who was wrongly suspected of planting the bomb. It turns out that Misty is angry at him because of her own trauma from having lost her hand in a terrorist attack.
AMERICAN SPLENDOR #11 (Harvey Pekar, 1986) – various stories, [W] Harvey Pekar, [A] Spain, Joe Zabel, etc. This and #15, which I haven’t read yet, were among my best finds at the Pop Swap. None of the stories in this issue are among Harvey’s absolute best, but they’re all funny and relatable. I think the best is one where Harvey listens to two bus drivers talking about how pedestrians don’t watch where they’re going, and then Harvey almost gets run over himself. (By the way, Harvey is depicts African-American English better than perhaps any other white comics writer.) All of these stories are faithful depictions of an America that’s gone, but still survives in the memory of people who experienced it. In the bus story, one of the drivers says “When ah was goin’ t’ school we didn’t have no computers, didn’t have nothin’ but them Chinese things.” And an old man replies, “When ah went t’ schoo’ we didn’ have nothin’ but our haids.” That man is very likely dead now, but his lifetime overlapped with mine, and the time when he went to school is not as far away from 2017 as it seems.
UNEARTHLY SPECTACULARS #3 (Harvey, 1967) – various stories, [E] Leon Harvey. This issue was part of Harvey’s short-lived Thriller line, which, like Archie’s Mighty Comics line, was an unsuccessful imitation of Silver Age Marvel and DC. The best of the various stories in this issue is a five-pager by Reed Crandall, which is actually a reprint from an earlier Harvey title. Of the other stories, perhaps the most interesting is Joe Simon and Jerry Grandenetti’s “Miracles, Inc.”, which has the same wacky, oddball sensibility as their Outsiders story in First Issue Special. It’s about a team of “superheroes” that includes a superheroic chef, a hillbilly with bad luck powers, and so on.
FROM THE ASHES #1 (IDW, 2009) – untitled, [W/A] Bob Fingerman. A story that stars Fingerman and his wife Michele, and is set in the aftermath of an apocalypse. The nature of the apocalypse is not stated, but Fingerman plays it for laughs. Rather than being horrified that nearly everyone in the world is dead, he and his wife are happy that they no longer have to work and that they can have sex outside. The most emotionally affecting part of this comic is in fact the flashback to before the apocalypse, when Michele keeps getting interrupted by her Blackberry whenever she tries to do anything.
DENIZENS OF DEEP CITY #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1988) – “Denizens of Deep City,” [W/A] Doug Potter. I bought this because it was recommended in Frank Plowright’s Slings and Arrows Comic Guide, which I am slowly reading. This is a rather bizarre and uncanny comic. On the first page, a woman eats her young. This is never mentioned again. The main story is about a man named Jason whose TV is stolen. He can’t recover it, nor can he find another TV that will work. He slowly goes insane until he shoots a paperboy and is sent to jail, where he finally has TV again. According to Plowright’s book, this issue is not representative of the rest of the series, so I’d be curious to see what the other issues are like.